Otherwise Award

The Otherwise Award, originally known as the James Tiptree Jr. Award, is an American annual literary prize for works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one's understanding of gender. It was initiated in February 1991 by science fiction authors Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, subsequent to a discussion at WisCon.

In addition to the award itself, the judges publish an Honor List, which they describe as "a strong part of the award's identity and ... used by many readers as a recommended reading list."[1]

The award was originally named for Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr. Due to controversy over the appropriateness of naming an award after Tiptree, the committee administering the award announced on October 13, 2019, that the award would be renamed the Otherwise Award.[2]


Choice of the Tiptree nameEdit

By choosing a masculine nom de plume, having her stories accepted under that name and winning awards with them, Alice Sheldon helped demonstrate that the division between male and female science fiction writing was illusory. Years after "Tiptree" first published science fiction, Sheldon wrote some work under the female pen name "Raccoona Sheldon"; later, the science fiction world discovered that "Tiptree" had been female all along. This discovery led to widespread discussion over which aspects of writing, if any, have an intrinsic gender. To remind audiences of the role gender plays in both reading and writing, the award was named in Sheldon's honor at the suggestion of Karen Joy Fowler.

Controversy and name changeEdit

In 2019, controversy arose over the appropriateness of naming an award after Tiptree. In 1987, Alice Sheldon shot and killed her ailing husband Huntington Sheldon before killing herself in the same manner. Although some have called the killing a "suicide pact" based on Sheldon's personal writings, others characterize the act as "caregiver murder"—i.e., the murder of a disabled person by the person responsible for caring for them. In light of these allegations, the Tiptree Motherboard received requests to change the name of the award. On September 2, 2019, in response to these requests, the Motherboard made a statement that "a change to the name of the Tiptree Award is [not] warranted now"; but nine days later, on September 11, they announced that the award "can’t go on under its existing name".[3]

On October 13, 2019, the Tiptree Motherboard released an announcement stating that the Tiptree Award would become the Otherwise Award. The name refers to "the act of imagining gender otherwise" at the core of what the award has always honored, as well as being "wise to the experience of being the other". The title also draws from the Black queer scholarship of Ashon Crawley around what is termed "otherwise politics".[2] According to the statement, "Otherwise means finding different directions to move in—toward newly possible places, by means of emergent and multiple pathways and methods."[2]


Fundraising efforts for the Tiptree include publications (two cookbooks), "feminist bake sales", and auctions. The Tiptree cookbook The Bakery Men Don't See, edited by WisCon co-founder Jeanne Gomoll, was nominated for a 1992 Hugo Award. Tiptree Award juries traditionally consist of four female jurors and one male juror (the "token man").[4] The funds are administered by the "Tiptree Motherboard" (currently consisting of Murphy, Alexis Lothian, Gretchen Treu, and Sumana Harihareswara, with Fowler remaining closely involved).[5]

Award to the Tiptree MotherboardEdit

In 2011, the Science Fiction Research Association gave its 2011 "Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service" to the Tiptree Motherboard. The Clareson Award was presented to the Tiptree Motherboard for "outstanding service activities – promotion of SF teaching and study, editing, reviewing, editorial writing, publishing, organizing meetings, mentoring, and leadership in SF/fantasy organizations".[6]


Selections of the winners, various short-listed fiction, and essays have appeared in four Tiptree-related collections, Flying Cups and Saucers (1999) and a series of annual anthologies published by Tachyon Publications of San Francisco. These include:

  • Flying Cups and Saucers: Gender Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by The Secret Feminist Cabal and Debbie Notkin (1999)
  • The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, and Jeffrey D. Smith (2005)
  • The James Tiptree Award Anthology 2 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, and Jeffrey D. Smith (2006)
  • The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, and Jeffrey D. Smith (2007)


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Notkin, Debbie (April 2016). "2015 Winners, Honor List, and Long List Announced!". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Lothian, Alexis (October 13, 2019). "From Tiptree to Otherwise « James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Lothian, Alexis (September 2, 2019). "Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Merrick, Helen. The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms ISBN 978-1-933500-33-1 Seattle: Aqueduct Press, 2009; pp. 172–176
  5. ^ "Motherboard « James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  6. ^ "Tiptree Motherboard Receives Clareson Award" Locus Online August 29, 2011
  7. ^ "2010 Tiptree Award Winner Announced!". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council. Archived from the original on April 9, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  8. ^ "2011 Tiptree Award Winner announced". James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council. Archived from the original on May 9, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  9. ^ "2017 James Tiptree, Jr. Award". Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Lothian, Alexis (January 17, 2023). "Ryka Aoki and Rivers Solomon win 2021 Otherwise Award! Honor List announced". Otherwise Award. Retrieved January 22, 2023.

Further readingEdit

On James Tiptree, Alice Sheldon and bake sales, archived from the original on November 26, 1996, retrieved February 16, 2013

External linksEdit