Science Fiction has always feuded. I got the hint that I shouldn’t like both Zelazny and Niven when I was young, but it took years to understand the war. I remember when hard science fiction writers were militant about whether missile defense was good. People writing about faster than light travel were forming political committees to claim that the Patriot missile system could never work. I later learned that these fights have been going on since before the first World Science Fiction convention. Could I explain them. Why bother? Man is a political animal. Pfui!
Besides, I liked writers on both sides of these deadly disputes. Learning too much about these fights made it hard to enjoy good writers with whom I disagreed and made me angry when writers I agreed with wrote poorly. The writing was clearly less important to some than preaching.
I haven’t read much science fiction recently. Only an occasional book interests me. Last year I learned why. The Sad Puppies fiasco enlightened me, made me furious, and made me weary to the bone. Apparently, most of the people who publish and run conventions have decided that promoting ethnic minorities and those who practice ineffective sexual techniques is more important than entertainment. Very well. Darwin will claim his own. When a publisher wants only minority and LGBoring evangelists to print, and seeks to exclude the unenlightened from winning prizes, she will achieve a minuscule audience. Make that Adam Smith will claim his own. The Invisible Hand of the Market writes. And having writ, moves on….
The Sad Puppies was an attempt to nominate good writing – a highly subjective thing – for the Hugo Awards without regard to the writer. This sounds so eminently fair – even classically liberal – that the character of those rejecting affirmative action must be assassinated post haste.
At this point I grew bored and ignored the field.
Then something happened.
Lois McMaster Bujold is the finest Science Fiction writer of the last four decades. She is semiretired now but puts out an occasional book. She was not a supernova. Bujold has quietly built a couple of mighty oaks of great writing. She was first and still published by one of the publishers who is considered anathema to the pushy leftist crowd. Her politics are…. There is a technical term for those who ascribe beliefs to an author based on her characters: Blithering Idiot.
At the last Hugo awards her long time editor was humiliated and made sad. At least one famous reviewer said he would never review another book by her publisher.
It is Everything the inquisitors want: It is masterfully written. It has beautiful characterization. There is very little science. There is next to no conflict. The main character is bisexual. The author is a woman.
It has things the inquisitors hate: It is published by the evil publisher. It, I think, is edited by the editor they tried to wreck last year. It gives money and attention to the people of whom they disapprove. They don’t know the author’s politics.
This puts the social justice wankers in a quandary.
This isn’t just a good book. It is a hand grenade tossed to very deserving people.
A very lovely hand grenade.