Upcoming Book: Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers

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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-FiveFahrenheit 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.

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7 thoughts on “Upcoming Book: Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers

  1. If you’re not already aware of it, I’d like to encourage you to use some of the analysis from my article Slate Voting Analysis Using EPH Data: 2014-2016, posted on Rocket Stack Rank. I think it’s the most accurate analysis yet of how many people actually participated in the slating of the Hugos in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Failing that, feel free to make use of the Hugo Nominations Raw Data tables, which collect together a lot of information that otherwise has to be collected from several different sources.

    I look forward to your book!

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    1. Thanks for the links. I don’t plan to spend much ink on the rights and wrongs of slate-voting, as the book’ll be focused on the stories caught up in the kerfuffle, but the data might cone in handy somewhere 😊

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      1. The Hugo Nominations Organic Estimate identifies which stories would have been finalists without the Puppies, which stories wouldn’t have even been on the top-15 list without them, etc. There might be some useful story-based nuggets there for you.

        Of particular interest, I think, are some of the unsung heroes, like Jonathan Moeller, the author of Hyperspace Demons. Moeller quietly declined the nomination for Best Novelette, which allowed one more organic candidate on the final list, but no one knew it until after the Hugos were announced.

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      2. Interesting – I’ve read Hyperspace Demons (and am currently trying to decide whether to cover it in the horror or military SF chapters) but I didn’t know that bit of background. Thanks.

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  2. Sad Puppies: “…a pressure group focusing on the Hugos at the behest of an established author (that is, Larry Correia)…”

    If that is your starting point, you should probably go back and read the source material.

    For myself, this was all about Alex Daley McFarlane and her “end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.”

    Previously I had reluctantly assumed that whoever was in charge of the Hugos consistently picked terrible, depressing books, and there was nothing to be done about it. Larry Correia explained via Sad Puppies that I could vote too. Very interesting. But I didn’t really care enough to spend money.

    Along comes Miss Alex at Tor.com , demanding SF move to -her- choice of subject material, and the rest of us had better step along smartly. Now, I care.

    So I paid money, nominated what I liked and voted for what I liked. Best impact for money spent I have ever seen.

    There is no Sad Puppies. There’s me, times however many more like me. Quite a few, it turns out.

    It is not about, and has never been about, gender, orientation, race, etc. It is about me refusing to be pushed around by politically oriented twerps. Lying twerps at that, who pretend acceptance and tolerance, but in truth have none.

    The response to that refusal to be bullied has been quite interesting. We had the wooden Assterisks, the ugly applauding for No Award, the record number of No Awards, the endless smearing of Sad Puppies as Nazis, even unto the Grauniad and the US mainstream media, and finally the rule changes to limit outsider participation.

    All predicted by Larry Correia in Sad Puppies year one. Except the wooden holes, he didn’t see that coming.

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    1. Well, I did mention that I’d be discussing Alex Daley McFarlane’s article and the controversy around it on the chapter about Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch books. I’m aware that there are many strands to the whole kerfuffle, but I think it’s reasonable to take the beginning of the Sad Puppies campaign as the point at which things came together.

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      1. “I think it’s reasonable to take the beginning of the Sad Puppies campaign as the point at which things came together.”

        I agree. There have been rumblings of discontent about the Hugos since the 1980s that I recall. I’ve used the Hugo sticker on a book as a warning for that long. Lately it has been ridiculously blatant.

        But, nobody -did- anything until Larry Correia made up Sad Puppies. The point I made rather badly above is that it was never a “group” and there was no grand plan to “pressure” WorldCon. Larry made it as ridiculous as possible. Its a joke. The spokesman is a manitee.

        I think if you investigate the original blog posts you will find Larry pushed a little, then Hugo aficionados called him names, then he pushed a little harder, and the Twittersphere erupted, then by Year Three more people piled on and they went nuts smearing -everybody-.

        At that juncture Larry declared the point had been made, and handed the whole thing to his friends. Who took it much more seriously. That’s when things blew up, and that’s when Alex McFarlane stuck her oar in. A whole lot of people decided it was Time To Move.

        So, if you approach it as a “Larry Correia organized pressure group” with the goal of winning a Hugo for Larry, your investigation misses the point. It would be constructive to entertain the notion that one guy went to WorldCon, got p1ssed off, and played a practical joke on his blog to illustrate what he was p1ssed off about.

        What it is now, of course, is a lot bigger. These days its more the Puppy Alignment, a banner of intent attracting a confluence of readers and authors. Not bad for a practical joke, and an example of something nobody could ever organize deliberately.

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