The Tiptree Award Motherboard today tweeted its intention to change the name of the award:
This reverses the decision they announced at the start of the month and had explained in-depth in “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award”.
The change comes in response to recent requests to drop the name because in her last acts the author shot her invalid husband before killing herself. The discussion included tweets by Carrie Cuinn (‘no one’s whole life excuses killing a disabled person in their care. It can’t, or what does that say about the value of my life, my son’s, any disabled person’s?”), Kelly Robson (“This [Twitter] is just not the place for a nuanced conversation. But Tiptree isn’t sacred to me. I’m tapping out. To be very clear: she was a murderer and murder is never excusable.”) and Natalie Luhrs (“She murdered her husband while he slept and then killed herself. And yet there’s a SFF award named after her. I am deeply conflicted about this.”)
Those involved in the conversation at File 770 have ranged from many fans with disabilities, to Tiptree’s literary executor Jeff Smith, who knew the author well.
Although there are fans who wanted to keep the Tiptree Award name, those who administer the award have always regarded their work as something of a movement, and they are showing that they plan to listen to people who have always been the source of their support.
[Thanks to Lenore Jean Jones and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]
@Meredith, thank you. I have been fumbling around trying to express this for some time now and you have summed it it perfectly.
As one with mixed feeling about the whole thing, who has experienced both sides, being disabled yet also having to spend 14 months as a caregiver for my terminally ill mom (long story) I decided at the outset that I will never call for a name change because I’m emotionally involved (even in the Ed Kramer business, where I think that, if there is a God, Kramer should have run over by a streetcar long ago).
I trust those in charge of various award will mostly do what they decide is the best for them to do.
This is an emotional topic and it’s been a long and difficult day (because of the hazards of being me). May you all have a happy and enjoyable evening. Be kind to each other, or not, as you choose.
I’d appreciate it if you’d remove the remainder of my comment above. My reactions were meant to be taken as a whole, not censored piecemeal. Sure, they were ad hominem, but so is this entire misguided discussion.
Thank you, that’s very kind! There were several drafts between that and what I started with!
(“Pbby Zbgvir; Fgvyy Zheqre” – gur Oebbxyla 99 nethzrag.)
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Clearly people are making up their own stories and refusing to investigate the situation in depth, and/or are too lenient with their own self-righteous discomfort. This trend towards pretending any human being has EVER fully escaped contradiction’s basket and deciding that zero tolerance for human darkness under all circumstances is the only option is ITSELF the lead-in to tyranny and oppression and not the reverse. The award administrators and all the armchair tyrants egging them on to neuter an edgy award are the bravest of cowards and the most cowardly of heroes.
Are we expecting perfection from out prominent writers and artists. Shame. They are nit more perfect than us.
Don’t change the name.
I think her WHOLE story is IMPORTANT to tell and it is one that I ALWAYS teach my students. It’s a tale of the struggle of women to be included, to be seen, to be heard, to be. Even the part about the suicide–it’s ALL important. To change the award name in this case is to silence a part of history that was a struggle to be heard in the first place. How can people be this myopic and, forgive me, stupid about this?
So what you are saying is that people who disagree with you are per definition cowards and tyrants and you are the only one that is totally open to investigating the situation in depth? The rest being a nameless “they”.
It is strange how many people think insults are arguments.
@Jennifer Marie Brissett–No, changing the name of the award isn’t silencing a part of history. It’s respecting the people who receive that award and are really, genuinely hurt by it being named for her because they see themselves as vulnerable to being seen as dispensable burdens.
Nothing is stopping you from continuing to teach her whole story as you have always done. Instead of the Tiptree Award, I think we need a Tiptree fund, as I think Hampus suggested, supporting research and support for those (maybe specifically writers?) struggling with clinical depression. That would really honor her struggle, without needlessly hurting other people.
@Lis Carey actually the opposite is true about the story of what Sheldon did. She had to lose her life in order to giver her husband his desire to live and die the way he chose. It may not be my choice but it was HIS. He was not a burden to her; the opposite is true. And this is clear from their correspondences and from their close friends. In her mind this was an act of love. He did not want to die without his faculties and this was a decision they made together a full 10 years before the act. So the Tiptree/Sheldon story in the end is not just about who she was as a science fiction writer, but on a medical system that should have been there for them so that they could make choices for his end of life care. For anyone to inject themselves and their own personal stories into this is to totally miss the point. This is not a story about killing off disabled people. This is a story about personal choice–a choice that they should have been able to make with their doctor and without shame. And now this field is putting the shame right back into it. Just like the abortion issue is not about people liking abortion. It’s about people being able to make their own decisions about their own lives and bodies.
@Jennifer Marie Brissett–Sorry, no. The only things we know for sure in all this is that she had expressed suicidal thoughts and intentions for years, that he was seriously physically impaired, and that she was his caretaker. She was clinically depressed, and getting what treatment there was for that at the time, but the treatment available was pretty bad.
And caretaker relief services, limited as they are now, really weren’t available then.
I’m of several minds about exactly what happened, but the version you just stated, with Alice nobly sacrificing her life because Ting wanted to die, is pure fantasy.
@Liz Carey Pure fantasy, huh? Sure. https://twitter.com/jcfphillips/status/1168267581708546049
@Jennifer Marie Brissett–Wht you said, to which I was responding, was
You’re omitting the thing we all know, that she had been suicidal for years, and hung on because Ting wasn’t ready. Whatever else did happen, it didn’t include Alice dying sooner than she would have chosen, because Ting wanted to go. That’s the part that’s fantasy.
They may have mutually agreed that it was time. She may have believed they agreed it was time because the depths of her depression made it impossible for her to understand that he wasn’t ready. Or it may have been straight up murder because she had been ready to go for years and was done waiting for him to agree. All of those scenarios are possible given what we know.
What you describe, Alice killing herself only because Ting wanted to die, losing her life only for his sake, isn’t possible based on the known facts.
@Liz Carey since I brought the receipts (and you’ve only brought your opinion) now here comes the part where you twist a narrative to fit what you want things to be instead of what they were. Okay, I said what I said. I’ve proved my point. I’m done here. Have a good night.
I’m sure the award committee had a difficult job weighing the facts and considering what to do.
I’m glad to see they made the choice they did. I don’t think it diminishes Tiptree’s work in any way to remove her name from this award. Her stories remain, dark and brilliant and sad, and they won’t soon be forgotten.
The lives and the wellbeing of so many of our community members won’t be forgotten either. I think Hampus Eckeman’s suggestion of some sort of a Tiptree memorial fund to help those struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts is a compassionate one.
Meanwhile, it is good to listen to the disabled people in our community, to respect their fears and anger at the dreadful circumstances of everyday caregiver murders of the disabled, and to understand how much this story, and the arguments around this story, impact their lives.
I’m not sure what “brought the receipts” is supposed to mean, here. Yes, Julie Phillips believes that Ting consented to Alice Sheldon killing him that evening (not in an undefined future), and she has reasons for having reached that conclusion. But it’s at best a solid inference, resting on the assumption that Ting didn’t change his mind between the last time the two of them discussed the issue and the time Tiptree picked up the gun.
(This was in fact brought up in earlier File 770 discussions about possibly renaming the award. Those tweets aren’t a magic wand, that will convince everyone of your position.)
I don’t know what happened that night. Neither do you. Given that, if I was on the Motherboard, I’d be asking the question as “Given that we can’t know for sure what Ting wanted, only make educated guesses, and given what else we know about Tiptree’s state of mind, the state of mental health care at the time, caretaker murders […other relevant issues], what should we do?” Not “given that we know she did the right thing, but some people are claiming otherwise, what should we do?” nor “given that we know he didn’t want to die, what should we do?”
No. We’re expecting that people we celebrate are people we still want to celebrate. No one has the obligation to continuing honoring someone because they were honored in the past. Who we venerate is a reflection of our current values. As times change it’s perfectly natural to make changes like this. The organizers, who have the most invested in the effort, have listened to the public and decided that the name no longer represented the values they want to promulgate.