Ancient, Ancient, by Kiini Ibura Salaam and The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

These were the two winners of the James Tiptree Jr Award, now the Otherwise Award, in 2013 for works of 2012. The award is for works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

Ancient, Ancient, uniquely for the Tiptree Award, is a collection of stories by a single author, Kiini Ibura Salaam, The second paragraph of the third story, “MalKai’s Last Seduction”, is:

The buzzing that had settled in Cori’s ears over the past couple of days was MalKai coming to get him. When the first “zzzzzz” licked his ear drums, Cori had swatted at the air around his newly-pierced ear lobes. A meddlesome mosquito—he imagined—hovering near. He made repeated attempts to shoo it away, but his arms soon grew tired. His shoulder ached from throwing his biceps into repeated attack arcs. His fist grew bored of finding no tender little bug crushed in its grasp. Eventually he shrugged his shoulders and rescinded the attack.

I hugely enjoyed this, a sexy and angry collection of short pieces, the longest and perhaps most effective being the last, “Pod Rendezvous”, which has a richly and economically depicted alien society. You can get it here.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R. Kieran, is:

Dr. Ogilvy suspects that my fondness of dates may be an expression of arithmomania. And, in fairness to her, I should add that during my teens and early twenties, when my insanity included a great many symptoms attributable to obsessive-compulsive disorder, I had dozens upon dozens of elaborate counting rituals. I could not get through a day without keeping careful track of all my footsteps, or the number of times I chewed and swallowed. Often, it was necessary for me to dress and undress some precise number of times (the number was usually, but not always, thirty) before leaving the house. In order to take a shower, I would have to turn the water on and off seventeen times, step in and out of the tub or shower stall seventeen times, pick up the soap and put it down again seventeen times. And so forth. I did my best to keep these rituals a secret, and I was deeply, privately ashamed of them. I can’t say why, why I was ashamed, but I was afraid, and I lived in constant dread that Aunt Elaine or someone else would discover them. For that matter, if I had been asked at the time to explain why I found them necessary, I would’ve been hard-pressed to come up with an answer. I could only have said that I was convinced that unless I did these things, something truly horrible would happen.

It is a queer time-travel ghost story set in Rhode Island (which I plan to visit in September). There’s some vivid reflexive stuff with the protagonist intervening in and rewriting the narrative. Mental illness and gender identity dance through the pages; it’s an intense but rewarding experience. you can get it here.

Unusually, one novel was on the final ballot for the Clarke, BSFA and Tiptree Awards and failed to win any of them; this was 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson. There were five other novels and a short story on the Tiptree honor list, but I have not read any of them.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, which won the Clarke Award, was also on the BSFA ballot; Intrusion, by Ken MacLeod, was also on both ballots. The BSFA winner was Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, and the other BSFA finalist was Empty Space: A Haunting, by M. John Harrison. I voted for Dark Eden. I have not rea the other three on the Clarke shortlist: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and Nod by Adrian Barnes. That year The Drowning Girl was also on the Nebula ballot, but the Nebula itself went to 2312, and the Hugo to John Scalzi’s Redshirts; I did not rank either very high.