Greer Gilman, <I>Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter's Tales</i>, (Small Beer Press 2009)
Fumi Yoshinaga, Ooku: The Inner Chambers, volumes 1 & 2 (VIZ Media 2009)
Greer Gilman’s book, Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter Tales, prompted much jury discussion on its way to winning the Tiptree. It is a slow read -- a dense, poetic, impressionistic book, heavy with myth. Many of its images and elements are drawn from folk tales and ballads of the British Isles; patterns repeat, but also mutate in kaleidoscopic fashion and then mutate again. The language was especially difficult. Sometimes we felt we were floating through it; sometimes drowning.
It is a paradoxical work. To enter the novel you must give up on understanding every word. You have to read the book on an instinctual level, yet the effect of the book is almost entirely intellectual. Power shifts about, much of it gender-based; time eats itself like a mobius strip. These are stories about Story in a world in which power seems to belong to the male but reality to the female.
We on the jury admired Cloud and Ashes for its originality and found it a beautiful and highly memorable work.
We chose Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku, Volumes 1 and 2 as our Tiptree winner with some trepidation. No one on the jury has read much manga; no one is an expert in Japanese history. What we fell in love with was the detailed exploration of the world of these books -- an alternate feudal Japan in which a plague has killed 3/4s of Japan’s young men. In Ooku, the shogun and daimyo are women and much of the story takes place among the men in the Shogun's harem.
The first volume (set in a later time period than the second) shows us a world in which men are assumed to be weak and sickly, yet women still use symbolic masculinity to maintain power. The second volume focuses on the period of transition. Through-out the two books, Yoshinaga explores the way the deep gendering of this society is both maintained and challenged by the alteration in ratios.
The result is a fascinating, subtle, and nuanced speculation with gender at its center.
Alice Sola Kim, “Beautiful White Bodies” (online at Strange Horizons 2009.12.07-14)
Vandana Singh, Distances (Aqueduct Press 2008)
Caitlin R. Kiernan, “Galapagos” (in Eclipse 3 edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books 2009)
Jo Walton, Lifelode (NESFA Press 2009)
Maureen F. McHugh, “Useless Things” in Eclipse 3 edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books 2009)
Paul Haines, “Wives” (in X6 edited by Keith Stevenson, coeur de lion 2009)
L. Timmel Duchamp, The Marq’ssan Cycle (Aqueduct Press 2005-8)
More details about the 2009 award can be found here.