Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Old Man's War

John Scalzi Old Man's War (2005)
I haven't really been following the situation with the Hugo Awards and those science-fiction writers who have come to view said institution as pretty much a closed shop; at least I haven't really been following beyond some highly informative blog posts by Andrew Hickey, so some of my information may be in error here. Nevertheless my understanding of the situation is that a group of science-fiction authors - mostly but not exclusively politically conservative or even far right, and mostly but not exclusively authors of military science-fiction - are disgruntled at the Hugo Awards failing year after year to recognise their genius because racism is fine if it's against white males apparently, and maybe we should write something about a bunch of space lezzers on a planet of single parent Communist sand monkeys, maybe then they would take notice blah blah blah not fair blah blah blah blummin' right-on feminazis blah blah political correctness gone mad blah blah blah...

Well, something in that general direction. Most vocal amongst this contingent is one Vox Day, the author of award-resistant novels and a blog which seems to use up quite a few megabytes talking about John Scalzi, and about how John Scalzi would be a better writer if he spent more time writing his books and less time slagging off other writers on his blog. John Scalzi is, apparently, one of those humourless self-hating liberal atheist social justice warrior types, and his books aren't very good because he's essentially a Robert Heinlein tribute act and the multimillion dollar deal he signed with Tor Books just shows how he doesn't have much confidence in his own writing - with good reason, obviously - unlike Vox Day who is himself the lucky owner of bollocks so massive and full of manly Caucasian spunk as to facilitate his taking the much braver and more noble road of self-publishing. That's how it works, see.

I could be wrong about some of this of course, although googling the name of Vox Day pulls up a series of interviews and articles in which, amongst other things, our boy suggests that letting women vote isn't necessarily a great idea, and that black people are inherently less civilised than we crackers due to there being fewer generations between them and their primitive jungle bunny ancestors; or specifically, he doesn't actually suggest these things so much as draw our attention to dubiously qualified statistics, then shrug and tell us that science has spoken regardless of whether or not we like what it says. Perhaps unsurprisingly he is also a member of MENSA, which probably speaks for itself.

Anyway, someone at Tor Books opined that Vox Day was not a very nice man, and so Vox Day - or possibly one of his fellow warriors of manly truth - has called for a boycott of Tor Books in support of common sense and not having to apologise to no-one for telling funny jokes about bummers. The boycott in turn has inspired a buy more Tor Books campaign, which I'm happy to support given how many of the things I've read and enjoyed, and that I dislike right-wing arseholes as a general principle; and so it has given me immense and almost borderline sexual pleasure to support Tor Books specifically through purchase of a John Scalzi novel.

Okay, so military science-fiction: I don't really like the idea of it, but it seemed I should at least have a look so as to be able to hate it with authority; although I loved Joe Haldeman's The Forever War if that counts, which it probably should. Military science-fiction is apparently greatly inspired by Heinlein, which doesn't mean a lot to me given that I hated Stranger in a Strange Land more than almost anything else I've ever read and have no intention of reading anything by the big-faced polygamist ever again, regardless of Red Planet and some of those earlier short stories being decent. Anyway...

Old Man's War sends septuagenarians off to battle aliens on distant colony planets, furnishing them with extended lives in newly grown combat-ready bodies and sweetening the deal with the promise of forty acres and a mule or equivalent once their tour of duty is done. It's full of nice, big, head-twisting science-fiction concepts, all carried along by a lovely, retrained prose with the unhurried tone of a conversation between old farts enjoying lemonade on the verandah on a hot summer's day. It's almost an uptempo Bukowski with genetic engineering instead of booze, and maybe a touch of Rogue Trooper from the old 2000AD comics. Old Man's War is probably lousy as military science-fiction given that it has no political axe to grind, and seems to regard warfare as something senseless to which logic cannot be applied, which cannot be understood without direct experience, but it's nevertheless a pretty great book. In fact it's so good as to remind one of the entire point of reading science-fiction in the first place; which makes Vox Day more or less an idiot to my way of thinking, should further clarification be necessary.

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