This week I finally got my Tiptree prize back from the EMP|SFM, where it’s been on display for eight years. (I won for Ammonite in 1994.) I don’t think I’ve shown it here before. It’s a ceramic by sculptor Jean Van Keuren representing a scene from the book:
Marghe came up from her not-dream. She felt stiff from standing still so long, and her pattern singers were gone, except for Thenike. Marghe smiled at her, but said nothing; she did not want to talk yet.
In silence, Thenike helped her walk through the evening shadow of the trees until her joints unstiffened. Undergrowth rustled beneath their feet.
Marghe felt she had been gone a long time. Much longer than the two or three hours it had taken for the world to turn away from the sun and towards the arms of evening. She had been inside herself in a way she had never thought possible; listening to her body as a whole, a magnificent, healthy whole. And she had done more: reliving memories of her childhood she had forgotten, experiencing again days she had never been wholly aware of. Now she knew how it felt to be a baby just ten days old, and that baby had been as alien to her as any species she had encountered since. There had been more: what felt like days of communication between herself now, and herself of many thens. She had sent a question down all the avenues that opened before her: what is my name? And echoing back had come: Marghe. And again: Marghe. And then, whispered in a voice she knew: Marghe, and more.
She was on a thin and misty beach; her mother walked from the shadows and held out her hand. On her palm was the ammonite.
“Primitive cultures thought they were coiled snakes, petrified, and called them snake-stones,” Aquila said. “But the word ‘ammonite’ comes, of course, from the medieaval latin, cornu Ammonis, horn of Ammon, due to its resemblance to the involuted horn of Ammon, or Amun, the ram-headed god of Thebes.” She put the cold thing in Marghe’s whole right hand. “His name, Amun, means ‘complete one.’ He acquired the power of fertility formerly invested in Min, the ancient Egyptian god of reproduction.” She looked amused. “Min was very popular. But his time passed.”
Her mother had faded, leaving the ammonite. Marghe had not been surprised when it sank into her hand. And now she was herself, and more. The complete one.
Marghe smiled. “I have been so many places…”
“Yes,” Thenike said. “Mind this root here.”
“I see it.”
Two more chia birds called back and forth. The same ones? Marghe stopped and tilted her head to listen. “Do many women keep their child names?” she asked.
“Some. Not many.”
“What was yours?”
“Gilraen…” She considered the woman next to her, with her rich hair, pinned up, her soft brown eyes and strong fingers. “A nice name, but not yours.”
They started walking again. After a moment, Marghe said softly, “My name is Marghe Amun.”
The complete one.
Every year’s winner is presented with something unique. Here’e a close-up:
Every year, the winner is also presented with chocolate. Every year except mine. No chocolate for me. (One of my life’s biggest disappointments: you’ve no idea how much I’ve longed for a chunk of chocolate big enough to gnaw on. I used to dream about it. Seriously. And early Tiptree winners got a chocolate typewriter. I was ready.)
Now I’m simply determined. One day, I’m going to find a chocolatier who will make me some chocolate ammonites. Big ones and little ones. Bet on it. Meanwhile, I’ll have to figure out a way of displaying this plate safely. I had no idea I’d been missing it but now that’s it’s back, I want to keep my eye on it. It feels like some kind of harbinger. Life is strange but good.