royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779Looking through the reviews I’ve recently posted, you can see the different sides of the current Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies debate fairly clearly represented. On the left/SJW side, we have Ann Leckie’s gender-neutral space opera and Monette’s goblin novel with its warm, fuzzy inclusiveness and women seeking to be scientists. On the right/traditionalist side, there’s Wright with his characters’ search for Christ and sexist views of Marilyn Monroe. In between there’s a lot of other stuff, presumably aimed at entertainment. Reading through the main part of this, I can see why there are some issues.

I gather that Leckie is considered a problem. Since Leckie’s novel is space opera with slightly leftist views, I have to think this is an example of the “unreliable packaging” Torgersen was complaining about back in February (link from File 770). You’ll notice I’ve given it more stars than, for example, Anderson’s “more traditional” novel. Leckie is interesting but not preachy, and the SJW slant seemed to be about gender, imperialism, reforms and stamping out corruption. The gender thing is eventually funny, as we get to watch the protagonist AI struggle with gender identification in various unfamiliar languages. The imperialism is front and center, but Leckie uses this to explore the costs of human expansion and on whose back this will be built. She asks philosophical questions about man vs. superman and whether reform becomes a “weakness” in the drive to expand the Dyson sphere of human civilization outward. There is nothing wrong with this as space adventure. I would have voted for Ancillary Justice for the award, but Ancillary Sword comes across weaker as a stand-alone novel.

In response to comments, I have to admit I’ve scratched my head a few times at past Hugo winners, well before this year. I’d expect the winners should say something especially creative, profound or hard-hitting. Instead, recent winners have sometimes tended more toward sentimental, feel-good works without any real, serious inspection of costs and human tragedy. Compare Connie Willis’s win for Doomsday Book (1993) to her Blackout/All Clear (2011), for example. Compare Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” (1960) to Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie” (2012). There’s just no comparison for the gut impact in these earlier stories. Does this represent a change in who’s been voting at WorldCon? I suspect so, and of course that affects the nominations, too.

Tomorrow: More on the condition of traditional SF.