Growing up back in the Stone Age, science fiction and fantasy were my favorite reading materials. I was able to fill my spare time with stories by Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and the other “golden age” writers. Being a normal boy of the era I could enjoy both the pulpy action of E E “Doc” Smith’s Lensman yarns and the more literary stories of someone like Bradbury or Sturgeon. Likewise for fantasy, I could find pleasure along the whole axis from Tolkien to Robert E Howard. To sum up, I was able to enjoy reading a gamut of styles in these genres that differed in literary sophistication but shared the quality of excitement.
Time passed. Other activities (school, girls, work, family) began to compete with reading for my time. Also a lot of the authors I knew so well disappeared from the scene. This combination of events meant that my knowledge of and interaction with the SF&F field became more limited. Also fewer of the new authors grabbed my interest as much as the old ones. I noticed that the stories weren’t as much fun. At first I wasn’t sure why. The sf still had a colony on Ganymede or time travel. But instead of adventure and discovery we had ennui and social issues. Characters were whining about their problems and their sense of alienation. I think the most extreme example was a book called Triton by Delaney. None of the characters were admirable or likable. The story was haphazardly written and highly depressing. Now this was a Nebula nominated novel. I had always assumed that Hugos and Nebulas were given out to really good stories. But over time I found that to no longer be the case. By the mid-eighties I had given up on SF&F. I reread old books I owned and read fiction outside these genres. Whenever I still bothered to pick up a science fiction story it reinforced that the stories now produced were wholly uninteresting for me and tended to openly antagonize my sensibilities. So I stopped looking.
Time passed. I came across an article on line (I think it was on Instapundit) talking about Sad Puppies and Social Justice Warriors (SJW). I read up on it and found out about Larry Correia, Vox Day (and his dreaded Rabid Puppies) and Sarah Hoyt and the madgeniusclub.com and Baen and Tor and all the other interesting characters. In a nutshell, the claim was that science fiction had been over-run by authors and publishing houses that pushed a social message based story type at the expense of what people actually wanted, fun. And that these SJWs controlled the Hugo and Nebula awards because of the small number of voters involved.
It rang a bell.
I decided to test the premise. I tried out Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books. I tried out Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.
And they were fun! If any of this story resonates with your own experiences, I recommend you try some of the Puppy recommendations and see if they work for you.
So now I’ve got a backlog of stories to read and I can also follow the soap opera that is the Sad Puppy movement. I can cheer for the Puppies and try out their books. I can boo the Puppy Kickers and mock their silly message fiction. I look forward to the day when fun science fiction is once again reliably identified by its garishly colored cover. I mean, you know you can’t go wrong when you see a scantily clad woman in the clutches of a tentacled space monster on the cover. Jack Williamson would have been proud.