Son of the Black Sword, was available for review on Edelweiss. It sounded like an interesting book, and I’ve had my eye on his Monster Hunter International series, so I wanted to request it . . . but I hesitated.
Yes, I saw a book that I wanted to read, but I hesitated. I wasn’t sure I should read it.
That, right there, is the greatest tragedy of this year’s Hugo Awards Controversy. It’s forced me to put authors before books, and to worry more about what they believe in than what they’ve written. I hate it. Knowing what people have said about politics, sexuality, gender, religion, etc. has forced me to reconsider whether or not I want to read them. Instead of allowing myself to be tempted by a flashy cover and a great blurb, I’ve allowed public personalities and opinions to tarnish those covers.
Ironically, that seems to be the exact opposite of what Larry Correia intended when he launched the first Sad Puppies campaign 3 years ago. From what I understand, all he originally wanted to do was get some more fun/pulp titles on the ballot (including his own, of course), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are days where I want to read something that’s full of progressive ideas and daring diversity, but there are also days where I crave the literary equivalent of a popcorn blockbuster. Ideally, I’d love to see a balanced awards ballot that caters to both of those moods, but there's no doubt that progressive work is often seen as being more award-worthy than fun fiction.
So, noble idea, it’s just a shame that so many ‘neglected’ authors had to step up and share their opinions about those other titles.
Unfortunately, as a result of the controversy, there are now authors I’ve felt compelled to remove from my shelves because of what I’ve read about their beliefs and their behavior. I’m talking about authors like Orson Scott Card, John C. Wright, and Theodore Beale (to name a few). It's sad, because 6 months ago I would have entered into such books blindly, knowing only what was written in the back-page bio. Depending on how much of their beliefs permeated the text, I might even have enjoyed some of those reads. In fact, I'm sure there are multiple 5-star reads on my shelves that I'd feel very different about if I knew more about the authors behind them. I'm not one to automatically assume that a character’s racist epithets are a reflection of an author I know nothing about, but I do have trouble not seeing the significance of limb-wristed, lisping, flamboyant villains if I know that the author is vulgarly homophobic.
How much is too much, and where do you draw the line?
For much of this week, I was concerned with what I saw as a double standard. I knew that there would be readers out there who would toss the books I sought out, and then buy extra copies of those that I banished from my shelves. How can I celebrate one group of authors for their beliefs, while condemning another? Ultimately, I've realized it's less about those beliefs, and more about how those opinions are expressed. We might both agree that black lesbian transsexual atheists in wheelchairs should be allowed to get married in a bouncy castle at the Vatican, but if you declare that any straight white Amish man in suspenders who disagrees is an ignorant savage, and go on to suggest that he should be beaten with a wooden leg . . . well, we're going to have to part ways, even if we started on the same page.
So, what was the point of all this anyway?
Anyway, to get back to where we started, I did end up requesting Son of the Black Sword, I was approved for the ARC, and I will give it a read. Despite how the Sad/Rabid Puppy mess has evolved, and regardless of the company that surrounds him, I can respect what I believe to be Larry Correia’s original intention, and that is to celebrate pure pulp. Nothing I’ve read – and I’ve read a lot over the last few days! – suggests he’s anything but a guy who sincerely loves his guns and girls, and his monsters and mayhem. For all I know, he and I might very well believe very different things, and that's fine. He's not out there calling people names and insulting their beliefs, and that's what matters.
So, give me that popcorn blockbuster, don’t skimp on the butter (even if it is fake), and let's get back to enjoying books for what they are, not who they come from.