The 2017 Otherwise Award was announced on March 14th, 2018. Recommendations are now open for this year's Otherwise Award.

Award Information

Conference Information

  • Award Year: 2017
  • Award Year Number: Year 27

Award Winner

The 2017 jury chose 1 work for the Otherwise Award.

Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin (Macmillan UK, 2017)

Who Runs the World? is a young adult novel that tells an intricately layered tale of intergenerational struggle and cooperation, the dehumanizing force of gender stereotypes, and the moral courage it takes to challenge cultural and political norms. Bergin invokes a premise familiar in feminist science fiction—a plague that kills nearly everyone with a Y chromosome. Without relying on biological determinism, Bergin uses this premise to develop a vividly imagined feminist society, and to grapple with that society’s changes and flaws over time.

Born three generations after the plague, into a social order rebuilt around consensus, 14-year-old River views her world as idyllic––until she discovers Mason, a teenage boy who has escaped from one of the “Sanctuaries” where “XYs” are held. As River, along with her mother and grandmother, learns about the violence of Mason’s life, she sees her community’s norms upended and hidden biases exposed. But the story does not end with the exposure of the seeming utopia’s hidden subjugations. For River has been shaped by a society that built itself with purpose and care around principles of justice. Growing up amid those principles has given River the tools to challenge her own culture’s fundamental contradictions. In an ultimately optimistic vision, Bergin dares to depict a future in which principles of transformative justice can have, if not victory over, at least even footing with the incentives of profit and exploitation.

Work Information

Title: Who Runs the World?Author:
Alternate Title:
Title: The XY Publisher: SourcebooksCountry: USAYear: 2018
Publisher Name: Macmillan UKCountry: UKYear: 2017
Work Type: NovelOriginal Language: English

Award Honor List

The 2017 jury chose 9 works for the Honor List

This graphic and visceral dystopia shows trans people stripped of their legal rights, abducted, and operated on in the name of “curing” their gender identities. Harrowingly portrayed through the viewpoints of both victim and perpetrator, the story describes a medicalized torture resonant with real-world histories of violent “treatment” for gender deviance that was routine only a few decades ago. Showing how fragile the human rights of marginalized people can be, Anders gives readers a glimpse of what has been a lived nightmare for many, and remains a terrifying possible future.

The Devourers, (Del Rey, USA, 2016)

A fascinating, memorable novel that uses a nested narrative to thread its story through Indian history, from the 17th-century Mughal Empire to contemporary Kolkata. The structure uses multiple points of view to mirror the perspective of the book’s magical characters: a species of predatory shape-shifters who gain access to the memories of the people they consume. Inspired by mythological beings that include werewolves, djinn, and rakshasa, Das’s shape-shifters perceive gendered human behavior in illuminating ways, as the novel’s initial narrator–a queer present-day historian–comes to learn. The novel is beautifully written, using its original speculative framework to explore questions of gender, culture, and identity in new ways.

Dreadnought , Nemesis Book One, (Diversion, USA, 2017)

Work Information

Title: Dreadnought Series: NemesisSeries Number: 1Author: Work Type: NovelOriginal Language: EnglishPublisher: DiversionCountry: USAYear: 2017View on ISFDB

Sovereign, Nemesis Book Two, (Diversion, USA, 2017)

Sovereign and Dreadnought are the first two books of a trilogy. These novels follow Danny, a transgender teenage girl stuck living as a boy. A chance meeting with a dying superhero allows Danny to have her deepest desire granted, with the side effect that she’s now the most powerful superhero on the planet. Daniels’ familiarity with the issues faced by trans people invests these books with a rarely achieved feeling of authenticity. The novels explore the family stress experienced by trans youth and dive headlong into contemporary political controversies surrounding trans rights. That they are excellent superhero fiction as well should see them widely enjoyed, and their message received by a broad audience.

An Excess Male, (Harper Voyager, USA, 2017)

A novel of exquisitely deep, nuanced characterization, set in a future China where there are forty million more men than women. This book explores polyandrous marriage, non-neurotypical cognition, state-sanctioned homophobia, and the dynamics of bonding in male-only spaces. It also features an exciting and unusual plot structure, beginning as a contemplative study of family that gradually accelerates to the pace of a techno-thriller.

Her Body and Other Parties, (Gray Wolf, USA, 2017)

A collection of short stories that explore the cultural treatment of women’s bodies, written with stunning artistry. These formally inventive tales use the speculative to illuminate the interiors of gendered worlds, from a worldwide plague viewed through its last survivor’s erotic connections to a reinterpretation of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes that becomes a meditation on sexual violence. Machado offers a multifaceted view of the insides and undersides of queer kinds of femininity that we mostly never see, brought into the light in all their darkness and brightness, sweetness and ugliness.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, (Akashic, USA, 2017)

A powerful novel of individual and collective survival in the face of generational trauma. On a generation ship, the Black inhabitants of the lower decks live and work under brutal conditions that recall slavery in antebellum America. The story follows lowerdecker Aster as she struggles to survive and make sense of her world. The capacity to maintain culture and possibility within bondage are key to Aster’s story, as is the way that the main characters–none of whom are wholly neurotypical–give one another space for their difference even when they are incomprehensible or even dangerous to one another.

Black Tides of Heaven , Tensorate Book 1, (Tor, USA, 2017)

Work Information

Title: Black Tides of Heaven Series: TensorateSeries Number: 1Author: Work Type: NovelOriginal Language: EnglishPublisher: TorCountry: USAYear: 2017View on ISFDB

Red Threads of Fortune, Tensorate Book 2, (Tor, USA, 2017)

Black Tides of Heaven and Red Threads of Fortune are paired silkpunk novellas. Set in a society where children are without gender until they choose to be confirmed into a specific identity, these novellas follow aristocratic twins from their identical childhoods through increasingly divergent adulthoods. The first is a bildungsroman of Akeha, the male twin, who must learn himself at a young age because he lacks any defined place within his family or culture. The second is a recovery narrative of Mokoya, the female twin, whose relatively frictionless path through life demands of her little introspection, until a traumatic event upends her sense of self, requiring she build a new understanding of her identity to navigate her grief. Both stories explore the process of struggling past expectation to achieve self-definition.

Award Long List

The 2017 jury selected twenty-six additional works they thought were worthy of people’s attention beyond the winner and Honor List.

The 2017 jury chose 26 works for the Long List