The feels? They’re hurt! The natives? They’re restless! The shark? It’s totally jumped. And through it all there is this insistent pulse: the call for a leader. The desire for a consensus. The wish for things to be simpler than they really are. The demand that we carve out a side, don a jersey, put on face paints and then just scream scream scream.
It isn’t happening. Oh, there’s screaming alright. But things will not settle down. The genie will not go back into the bottle. A feedback loop between criticism and creation has been established and no one knows what will come out of it. It resists codification. And that suits me just fine.
Some people don’t want to believe it right now. But there actually is a real exchange of ideas going on. Muses are being emboldened. People are trying new things. If you don’t read the works under discussion you’re going to miss that. But it’s happening.
Just as one example check out Rawle Nyani’s take on Jon del Arroz’s novel:
From the moment I saw the cover of Jon del Arroz’s novel Star Realms: Rescue Run, I knew that it would hew closely to the Action Girl Mandate, which even my work adheres to. When I started reading, I was proven right immediately when I was introduced to the military-trained smuggler Joan Shengtu, who was no slouch in physical combat and covert action. I read on, enjoying the story — after all, Action Girls didn’t automatically make a story bad. Each scrape, each near-miss, and each bit of drama held my attention as I read this space opera that didn’t let up.
But then two-thirds of the way through the book, it hit me. This book had completely reversed the roles of male and female in the traditional heroic story.
This wasn’t merely a case of male/female interchangeability like is normally seen in modern fiction, where the only true sexual differences are “male is attracted to female” and vice versa, like opposite poles of a magnet. No, Joan Shengtu was literally written like a male hero, and corporate bigwig Dario Anazao was literally written like a space princess — I’d go so far as to say Relena Peacecraft in drag! (Seriously. Dejah Thoris has more testosterone than Dario.)
Wooo! That’s some biting criticism there. Can Jon and Rawle still be friends after this…? Ah, I think that’s a given. Rawle isn’t a jerk about it. And Jon knows the difference between brisk discussion and friendly fire.
Just like the Hollywood movies are currently a good two years behind the present zeitgeist, so too is the fiction hitting the market right now out of step with the ongoing discussion in the science fiction and fantasy scene. There’s a certain amount of friction this is going to result from that. But there is also a potential for synergy. And note that building an artifical opposition narrative undercuts the sort of dynamism that I’m looking for, anyway…!
Watch what happens. What are Jon Del Arroz’s next books going to be like now that he has had close encounters with the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Poul Anderson, and Leigh Brackett? Will we say “spot on!” or “regress harder!”? We don’t know!
Given the difference between, say, The Kings Drake and Sudden Rescue— between The Teenage Girl’s Robot Army and Sword & Flower even– I don’t think you can really underestimate the giant leap forward that is happening here. Whatever happens, this is going to be awesome. And even if we step on each other’s toes occasionally, Amazon’s algorithms are already hip to what’s really going on here:
Be not afraid! And as much as I want to say “all is proceeding as I have foreseen” right now, that really isn’t the case. It’s the fact that no one knows where all of this is leading that is the real reason why we’re all having so much fun. This strange combination of fear and wonder and excitement…? It’s what happens when fantasy and science fiction is alive again.
Let the good times roll!