A while back I contributed a series of articles to Women Write About Comics where I compared the stories nominated for the 2014 Hugo Awards with the stories on the 2015 Sad/Rabid Puppies slates; the total word count was around 40,000. I followed the articles up by reviewing the 2016 nominees, which took about 11,000 words.
I was surprised when I did the sums: had I really written that much? Had the combined word count of my Hugo reviews actually surpassed that of Slaughterhouse-Five, Fahrenheit 451 and The Great Gatsby? As hard as it was to believe, it was true. I had written a book’s worth of material.
Which made the next stage obvious: rework my articles into a book!
(After all, between Matthew M. Foster’s Welcome to the Doomsphere, Phil Sandifer’s Guided by the Beauty of their Weapons and Declan Finn’s Sad Puppies Bite Back, there’ll be no harm in adding another title to the shelf.)
And so we come to Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars. My plan is not simply to reprint my WWAC articles, but rather to use them as the starting point for a larger project. I will be expanding my coverage to include 2013, the first year of the Sad Puppies, with the intention of discussing every single prose story that was nominated for a Hugo or slated by the Puppies within the four-year, second-Obama-term timeframe that I’ve chosen, along with any others that I feel are sufficiently relevant to warrant a mention.
While my WWAC articles divided the stories by Hugo category, I want to try something more organic in Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers. Certain chapters will focus on the work of key authors, such as Larry Correia and John Scalzi, while others will cover genres and subgenres: military SF, horror fiction, space opera and so forth. My intention is to rework my WWAC posts from a pile of reviews into a set of cohesive essays that locate the stories within a more precise cultural context.
One of the topics that I would like to examine is how the Puppies have evolved from a pressure group focusing on the Hugos at the behest of an established author (that is, Larry Correia) to a brand that unites multiple authors, some of them newcomers who have made their names as Puppies. By joining the Puppy movement, new writers such as Declan Finn, Rawle Nyanzi and J. D. Cowan have benefited from a pre-existing readership eager to consume fiction written by an outspoken anti-SJW; whatever one makes of the ideology behind all this, it will be a potentially rewarding case study in regards to modern indie publishing. And so, I plan to include a chapter that looks at the world of Puppy publishing: Sci Phi Journal, Cirsova magazine, Superversive Press (publisher of the recent Forbidden Thoughts) and the concept of a “pulp revolution” championed by Jeffro Johnson.
Another subject that came up again and again in the kerfuffle is that of transgender/non-binary representation, which was (broadly speaking) embraced by one side as a cause célèbre and reviled by the other as the height of SJW absurdity. This is something I plan to cover in the chapter on Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, which will also discuss Alex Dally MacFarlane’s opinion-dividing call for “an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories” and see how transgender-themed SF fits into the contemporary media landscape which, between The Danish Girl and Laverne Cox, has found trans people a hot topic.
And, of course, there will be a whole chapter devoted to the single most controversial story in the entire kerfuffle: Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, along with the various parodies that it engendered.
In terms of current progress I have a rough draft of the chapter on horror stories, which is currently at 7,000 words. It includes the WWAC reviews I wrote for Charles Stross’ “Equoid”, Ruthanna Emrys’ “The Litany of Earth”, Mary Rickert’s The Mothers of Voorhisville, Eugie Foster’s “When it Ends, He Catches Her” and Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer. But I have also taken the opportunity to discuss a couple of authors whom I never covered at WWAC, namely Alyssa Wong and Declan Finn, and insert some thoughts about how the culture wars appear to have largely left horror fiction alone.
I will have to balance writing this book with working on my series of Amazing Stories retrospectives, so it will certainly be interesting researching two very different eras of science fiction simultaniously. Wish me luck…
Note: The above image was the result of about four minutes in Photoshop, so don’t hold it against me.