Friday, February 14, 2014

Someone Disagrees With Me on the Internet

OK, I think a lot of people disagree with me, but that’s not really the point. Renay over at Lady Business doesn’t like my review of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. She disagrees with me (in fact a lot of people disagree with my opinion on that book), but that’s not really the point. She takes the biggest issue with how I end the review.
My ultimate takeway is simply this. Seeing this book get so many accolades, so much attention, only emphasizes just how stagnant SFF is as a genre. With relatively few exceptions, the genre that’s best suited to explore what’s possible, what should and should not be, what our own expectations say about us and everything in between doesn’t do any of that in regard to many fundamental aspects of our society. 
And I can’t decide if that depresses me or pisses me off.
Renay really disagrees with the idea of SFF as a stagnant genre and expands this to disagreement with the very commonly espoused idea that SFF is dead. Perhaps it’s mostly due a poor word choice on my part, but that’s not really the point I’m making here. The point I make stems from a rather simple observation – compare Ancillary Justice with pretty much any book that Ursual K. Le Guin wrote 40-50 years ago, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say The Left Hand of Darkness (my review if you're interested to compare my thoughts of each). How much progress is evident from that simple comparison? EDIT: For a more in depth comparison of these two books check out this post on
It seems to me that there is relatively little progress evident in that specific direct comparison given all the actual social change that’s occurred in the nearly 50-year time period covered. Or to put it another way, after 50 years the same issues keep coming up over and over again. Sure, it’s great to point out that the baseline (or perhaps goalposts?) shift every time these issues come up. But at least from my point of view, I can’t help but feel a bit saddened by apparent lack of progress evident in the SFF genre over that time period (admittedly, from a single comparison).
To go back to that excerpt from my review, I do consider Ancillary Justice to be an exception to the ‘stagnation’ I reference. And that’s why it depresses me, because after 50 years (or more) of this repeating cycle, a book like Ancillary Justice is still an exception, something outside of the mainstream of the SFF genre, something different. And it shouldn’t be. Not by a long shot. That’s what really pisses me off.
And as award season ramps up, Ancillary Justice is proving to be a shortlist favorite – and has already won its first with the Kitchies. Now, I personally would not have nominated it (I don’t really nominate for any awards so it hardly matters), but I am pleased to see it on the lists. To me it shows that a growing and increasingly vocal part of fandom craves books that push boundaries and expectations, just as the best of the genre always has. So, while not my choice, I am happy to see it gaining attention over the same old, same old that often populates award shortlists.
Oh, and by the way, I still thought Ancillary Justice was boring and an overall mediocre book. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about.
*A note that I hesitate to even mention, but another unfortunate part in all this is some of the discussions I’ve seen on Twitter about my review – apparently writing the review I did has regulated me to being just another male critic who doesn’t get it. I find that reaction terribly hypocritical, but it’s also one I don’t plan on engaging any further than this note.


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