The Otherwise Award is pleased to announce that the award ceremony for the 1999 Otherwise Award winner(s) has been held, and the winners have received their award and accolades.

Award Information

Conference Information

  • Award Year: 1999
  • Award Year Number: Year 9
  • Conference: Diversicon 8
  • Date: 28-07-2000
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN

Award Winner

The 1999 jury chose 1 work for the Otherwise Award.

The Conqueror’s Child, Book Four of the Holdfast Chronicles, by Suzy McKee Charnas (Tor, 1999)

With this remarkable conclusion to the Alldera Cycle, Charnas brings to fruition the complex and compelling issues raised—and at the heart of feminist concerns for the past couple decades—in the previous novels, providing the cycle an inspiring and satisfying conclusion. With respect to the specific issues the Tiptree award acknowledges, this narrative also stands on its own and questions with acute vision human relationships in the context of gender, power, and history. While concluding on a hopeful note, the narrative refuses to sidestep the minefield of conflict women and especially men (who must work to overcome the consequences of what centuries of artificial gender differences have inculcated in society, resulting in unnatural distinctions that uphold male domination) must negotiate to understand and confront gender-based inequalities that inform society. — Bill Clemente

Demanding, rich, compelling, intelligent. This outstanding exploration of gender vastly expands our understanding of how gender works in significant areas of human experience and puts one of the major problems of political equality on the map in a way that has simply not been done before. In Charnas’s post-liberation Holdfast, we see that for society to become politically inclusive, not only do men have to cease to be masters, but also their conception of what a socially normative man is must change. This is science fiction as political laboratory at its finest. — L. Timmel Duchamp

A wonderful, wonderful, complex book. One of the great pleasures of being on the jury this year was the opportunity (excuse) to reread and think about all of Charnas’s Holdfast Chronicles, and then to concentrate on this book in particular. There’s a lot in it: the current society of the Holdfast is in flux. The past is exclusionary: religion, relationships, history and storytelling (the men’s books and the Riding Women’s self-songs) all split along gender lines. The future must include both sexes: the women of the Holdfast will give birth to sons as well as daughters. I take away three images: the abandoned open Grasslands, the dark, claustrophobic structure of the Endpath, and the memorial of stones that Sorrel builds for the male child, Veree, in the shape of a Riding Woman’s tent, attempting to build a future which will include both male and female. — Kelly Link

While The Conqueror’s Child rides on the shoulders of the previous three books in the Holdfast Series, it’s also a monumental work all by itself. It explores gender, power, and personal as well as social change. Far and away the best gender-bending novel I’ve read this past year — maybe in the past 20 or 30 years. Strong, thoughtful, relevant, and beautifully written.  — Diane Martin

Work Information

Title: The Conqueror’s ChildAuthor:
Series Title: The Holdfast ChroniclesSeries Number: 4
Publisher Name: TorCountry: USYear: 1999
Work Type: NovelOriginal Language: English
Suzy McKee Charnas – The Conqueror's Child
Suzy McKee Charnas – The Conqueror's Child

Award Honor List

The 1999 jury chose 7 works for the Honor List

If I Told You Once, (Picador/St. Martin's, USA, 1999)

A thoughtful and rich chronicle of women and children through a number of generations, beginning in the Old World and crossing to the New, the novel recalls The Painted Bird’s landscape though with less dreadful consequences as the women involved confront old battles in new territory. — Bill Clemente

Strikingly imaginative magic realism, subtle and complicated, often Angela Carteresque, that tells the story of several generations of women in a family that moves from the Old World to the New, focusing on “the pattern repeating. An endless procession of women following a single set of footprints in the snow.” — L. Timmel Duchamp

A novel about mothers and daughters, and sisters and brothers. The New World, like the Old World, is full of magic and strangeness, wolves, unobtainable heart’s desires and curses. The narrative which begins in Ilana’s voice, breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, spoken by her daughter and so on: the end shows us how the Ilana, the mother contains all of their stories within her own story, like an egg. — Kelly Link

More showing than telling, the gender exploration is not overt, but it flows throughout the whole book, telling the story of a family of strong women. — Diane Martin

In the Second Person,

A love story literally in the second person, about she, he and IT (Identity Transfer) in which minds, bodies, brain, and gender become inextricably tangled and changed. The details are telling—simultaneously claustrophobic and liberating. — Kelly Link

An illuminating gender-bending story that illustrates how significantly the body mediates consciousness (something that should be obvious to everyone, since the brain is a biological organ, but as the film Being John Malkovitch demonstrates, is not). — L. Timmel Duchamp

Very much in the spirit of the Tiptree award. The writing is not always the smoothest, but the exploration of gender is most thorough, taking a clear and broad look at sex and gender roles. — Diane Martin

Pinkland, (Indigo, 1998)

A story about the flesh-mind disjunct of cyberspace that does not write off the flesh as something to be escaped and denigrated, in which the in-the-flesh gender identities of the two Internet lovers, the obsessive focus for most of the narrative, turn out to be far less important than other differences that open between them when they meet off-line. — L. Timmel Duchamp

Most of this story has the texture of a dream, in which two lovers settle down and construct a house and a life online together, and then one day decide to meet. A series of meetings ensue online and then finally, in a bar, face to face. Layers of identity and gender have been assumed and peeled away and turned upside down and finally cast off. At the end, the physical world has taken on a nightmarish, unreal fixed quality—fluid, abandoned Pinkland was Paradise. — Kelly Link

Uses the Internet as a venue to explore gender, sex, and communication. Unsettling, this story twists and turns in a series of switchbacks until you hardly know what is ‘real’. — Diane Martin

The Woman with the Flying Head: And Other Stories (Japanese Woman Writers in Translation), (M. E. Sharpe, U.S., 1998)

Offering a remarkable array of perspectives, sometimes provocative at others humorous, the collection moves in many and always satisfying directions. — Bill Clemente

A collection of strange and powerful stories that use Noh dramas and masks to explore how subjectivity operates through the ordinary, conventional, and sometimes extreme roles (all of which are, of course, gendered) that people assume in their relationships, roles depicted as aspects of the individual that shift according to circumstance. — L. Timmel Duchamp

A series of stories in which: a sister and brother achieve space travel by climbing between an alien’s legs and into its vagina; faces are put on like masks, cats behave like women and vice versa; women’s heads fly chastely to their lovers, while their bodies remain vulnerable, at home in bed. The borders between sexes, the commonplace and otherworldly, human and animal, taboo and familiar (familial) are trafficked and transgressed. — Kelly Link

A continuing metaphor of masks links these stories, as does a skillful ordering by the translator. Male/female, mortal/supernatural, parents/children, animals/humans, things are not always what they seem. — Diane Martin

5001 Nights, European Short Stories Book #4, (Fjord Press, 1998)

A delightful and delicious tale exploring the gendered character of literary conventions and gendered (and competitive) ways in which men and women read and write fiction. — L. Timmel Duchamp

Satisfying in so many ways: the bloodthirsty Sultan has been “tamed by narrative,” and this is the “happy ever after” math. Marriage has a structure, Lively suggests, like fiction, and Scheherazade has moved on from genies to Mansfield Park and the strange tale of Mrs. Dalloway. In self-defense, the Sultan becomes a storyteller too: Westerns, SF, Hemingway. In the end, we’ve circled back to the old good stories about fishermen and genies, and the children have climbed up onto the bed to listen. — Kelly Link

A retelling of The Arabian Nights with keenly described and hilarious gender role-reversal. — Diane Martin

The Iron Bridge, (Harcourt Brace, U.S., 1998)

An interesting historical science fiction novel, this story examines the ambivalent consequences of progress and history’s powerful, complex sweep, providing insights into the gender suppression behind magnificent yet potentially destructive creations. — Bill Clemente

Offers unusually fine insight into the nature of historical change, showing gender’s work and functions, using the future/past confrontation to illuminate not only gender’s differences, but how gender works as a part of the whole functioning of the social fabric. — L. Timmel Duchamp

In which a woman travels backwards, into the past, to save the world from its future. The iron bridge, the thing that links the two places, past and future, (which she has come back to bring down before it is even built) is beautifully described, and seems to take on gender as it is drawn, considered, constructed. Persons, historical artifacts, society, history itself seem to be unexpectedly gendered. — Kelly Link

This is ‘big picture’ gender exploration, showing the intertwined effect of history, culture, and gender. A woman is sent back in time to change history. We see how she makes a difference, though not in the way she intended, and how doing so changes her as well as history. — Diane Martin

Sexual Dimorphism, (Voyager/Harper Collins, U.K., 1999)

This well developed hard-science fiction tale offers a disturbing slant on the scientific method; the narrator’s warped perspective demonstrates the power of persuasion to undermine analysis and to perpetuate myths concerning the biologically determined basis for gender differences. — Bill Clemente

A brilliant and subtle demonstration of how the theory Charnas delineates in The Conqueror’s Child would work in practice, in which the author uses hard SF protocols to show how a reactionary, essentialist ideological agenda that naturalizes gender produces bad science. — L. Timmel Duchamp

Personal loss, character, and desire inform a man’s scientific research. As his own life falls away, he begins to find in his work hints of explanations, clues for the puzzle of personal disasters. Unable to find a pattern for his own life, he looks harder for elusive patterns in the junk DNA of dolphins, and as is often the case, finds what he was looking for. He devises a sort of evolutionary take on Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and in the end, gives himself over to the sea, the desired, female, alien element. — Kelly Link

Polished, troubling, the gender stuff is so subtle it’s hard to see at first; it sneaks up on you. The real gender exploration comes out in the differences between the protagonist and the narrator. — Diane Martin

Award Long List

The 1999 jury chose 12 works for the Long List

  • The Actors, ,

    [One of two] installments of a continuing saga of stories of and about Hwarhath. This is a world where male/female social roles are divided up differently than what we’re used to. A young girl wants to be an actor and a playwright in a world where this is the exclusive purview of men. Because of (or perhaps in spite of) the characters being aliens, the gender differences are not as logically presented as they might be. — Diane Martin

  • Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance, ,

    [One of two] installments of a continuing saga of stories of and about Hwarhath. This is a world where male/female social roles are divided up differently than what we’re used to. A young girl wants to be an actor and a playwright in a world where this is the exclusive purview of men. Because of (or perhaps in spite of) the characters being aliens, the gender differences are not as logically presented as they might be. — Diane Martin

  • A Civil Campaign, (Baen, 1999)

    This novel expanded my understanding of the gendered implications of romance conventions and their relation to both women’s and men’s material lives. Its very title ironizes the overdetermined outcome of its marriage plots. I found it an entertaining read, but oh how fascinating it would have been if Miles had been forced to change to win Ekaterina the way Lord Peter Whimsy had to do to win Harriet Vane. Miles, alas, gets away without even so much as writing a sonnet. — L. Timmel Duchamp

    The portion of the novel that deals with gender (specifically a sex-change) is relatively minor to the story, but it is done very well, and makes its point effectively. It’s also very, very funny. — Diane Martin

  • Silver Birch, Blood Moon, Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling (eds.) (Avon, 1999)

    This is the penultimate volume of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s six fairy tale anthologies, and as in the earlier books, we are presented with fairy tales (many familiar) that have been turned upside down, shaken, turned inside out, and stitched back together again. There are various amphibians-Tanith Lee’s Frog Prince transformed stands out in particular–and examinations of the ever afters that must follow on happy endings. Gender (as well as all the other elements of these retellings) is given vigorous, thoughtful redress. — Kelly Link

  • Remailer, , , (Roc/Penguin, 1999)

    With a film noir/cyberpunk feel, considerable charm, and an innovative flair, this story centers on an oddball genetic detective in an age with three genders and truncated language, but the tale’s signal feature probably involves investigating and expanding genre considerations more than offering gender analysis. — Bill Clemente

    Essentially a mystery novel, the story takes place in a society where mutation has created a third sex, a go-between male and female. A detective is asked to find a missing person. Difficulties ensue. Would have been much better if more emphasis had been placed on showing how this mutation affected society, relationships, and individuals. More what, less why. — Diane Martin

  • Teranesia, (Gollancz/Orion, UK, 1999)

    It’s interesting how much of the work we looked at this year was concerned with transformation. In this novel, butterflies, protagonist,–the entire world–is being made new by a sort of genetic plague, the Sao Paolo gene. Even the feminist academic Amita (a caricature, rather than a character) wishes to transform the binary code, switching the vaginal “zeros” with the phallic “ones,” to create the transputer. — Kelly Link

    One of those books that didn’t go where I wanted/expected it to go. I really wanted more to happen with the protagonist’s sister, who was conceived and born on the island Teranesia. And, though not central to the plot, Egan’s extrapolation of academia in the mid-21st century was by turns side-splitting and infuriating. — Diane Martin

  • The Vintner's Luck, (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998)

    Perhaps one of the most innovative and well-written works considered this year, this historical SF novel chronicles the often tragic but ultimately wonderful consequences of an individual’s choices as well as describing the rich tapestry human experience can weave. — Bill Clemente

    A beautifully written book. Each chapter presents an annual meeting between a vintner and an angel, bottling the encounters like vintages of wine. The effect is rich and sensual, and the reader will come away drunk on Knox’s language. — Kelly Link

    Skillfully and thoughtfully written, the gender connection is less effective than it might have been, because the angel who visits the (male) protagonist once a year for 40 years is also male. Somehow, though, it’s not the kind of maleness we are used to. — Diane Martin

  • Dragonfly, , (Tor, 1998)

    A well-written and magical story about a strong-willed and intelligent young lady who overcomes patristic obstacles and creates her own destiny — Bill Clemente

    As in Tehanu, this novella is concerned with the workings of different kinds of magic (male and female), closed societies, the opening of things rather than resolutions, transformations. There are interesting parallels between the girl Tehanu and the protagonist of this story, Dragonfly, and of course, Le Guin’s work not only reflects upon the earlier Earthsea books, but on fantasy literature in general, and also on the world we live in. — Kelly Link

  • Speaking Stones, , (Avon, 1999)

    Sequel to Dark Water’s Embrace, this novel deals with a mutated human race. A lost colony isolated on a reproductively hostile planet, the settlers only gradually become aware of the tri-sexed natives, and feel threatened when they find themselves falling into the same biological pattern. What’s not clearly defined is why there is so much resistance. — Diane Martin

  • The Terrorists of Irustan, (Ace, 1999)

    Taking place in a quasi-Muslim society, the heroine deals somewhat uncomfortably with her sexuality and more importantly struggles with issues of gender inequality, attempting to make social change. — Diane Martin

    Calling to mind the gender apartheid under which women presently suffer in Afghanistan, Marley’s generally intriguing novel might have gained from following the dictum “less is better,” for in the final analysis the excessive violence erodes the narrative’s plausibility and dulls its otherwise thoughtful message. — Bill Clemente

  • The Fathergod Experiment, (Allau Press, 1999)

    The premise, as one might gather from the title, has something to do with gender and genre. But the real pleasure in reading this book is in the characters– especially the sensible, intelligent protagonist Lilz–and in the way L. A. Taylor conflates various genres: mystery, romance, sf, fantasy. There are orphans, villains, poetry, and poisons-something for everyone. A smart, blissful, Young Trollopian novel, which will hopefully find a large and appreciative audience. — Kelly Link

    What Kelly said. My absolute favorite of all the books we read, gender stuff not withstanding. A complete and utter delight. I read it cover to cover and then over again, immediately. It is a real shame that this is Taylor’s last work (she died in 1997). — Diane Martin

  • Singer from the Sea, (Avon, 1999)

    Political biology, secret technology, patriarchal oppression. Once again a brave woman saves the world from evil men. What sounds trite and simplistic in summary is nonetheless a heart-felt plea to see our current values as wrong, urging change before we destroy ourselves. — Diane Martin

    With an ecofeminist perspective that spans centuries and which will strike readers of Tepper as perhaps overly familiar, this latest effort, while complex and entertaining, resolves the horrors men visit on women but provides a romantic conclusion that will probably disturb many, for here in particular Tepper may well bend gender to an un-satisfying angle. — Bill Clemente

    In this book, which contracts and diminishes our understanding of gender, biology is destiny with a vengeance. Blood of lactating females=immortality; blood of males=death; and Special Genes enable the heroine to save her world from a long-term male conspiracy of unimaginably evil proportions. — L. Timmel Duchamp


  • Diane Martin (chair)
  • Bill Clemente
  • L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Kelly Link

Award Ceremony

The 1999 Otherwise Award was given to Suzy McKee Charnas at Diversicon 8, July 28, 2000, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.