I wrote this story to win an award. It didn’t, but “Lovestory” remains one of my favorite stories.
In 1997, I was asked to serve as a juror for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award . The Tiptree is “annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that explores and expands the roles of women and men for work by both women and men.” The founding mothers of the Tiptree Award charge the jury to find a work of fiction that combines literary excellence with some kind of “gender bending.” It is up to each year’s jury to decide what gender criteria to use. After spending a year reading for the Tiptree, I was of a mind to bend some gender myself. “Lovestory” was the result; it first appeared in the June, 1998 issue of Asimov’s. The story takes place in a marsupial alien culture in which there are three gender roles to each family unit: a mother, a wife, a father. The wife and father procreate but only the mother can bring the fetal scrap to maturity in her pouch.
When I brought it to be critiqued by the Sycamore Hill Writers Workshop, several people wondered aloud whether there was any percentage in creating a planet, an alien species and an advanced culture as a backdrop for a single novelette. Was this part of a series? An out-take from a novel? I confess that I have never been tempted to return to this world and these people. Maybe that’s because I was so pleased with the experience of writing “Lovestory.” It took me almost two months to research and write the first two sections. Then I cranked through the last section in five days; every other sentence felt like a breakthrough. I remember when I typed, “Reality was a decision -- and no one here was making it ….” that I was so excited that I had to get up from the computer and walk around the house. I hadn’t really known what the story was about until then.
“Lovestory” made the Tiptree short list for 1998. The winner was Raphael Carter’s brilliant "Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation." Sure, I was a little disappointed, but that didn’t last.
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