OK, now there’s a problem. I’ve read three of the four Hugo-nominated short stories that are available online. There’s one left, and it’s written by John C. Wright. I have never read any of his fiction and I have no idea what it’s like. It’s possible that I’ll enjoy it. That is the problem.
Let me explain.
John C. Wright is a vocal ultra-conservative with a militant anti-gay agenda who has said some appalling things. When the children’s TV series Legend of Korra featured characters who were hinted as being bisexual, Wright blogged that the series’ creators are “disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth” who “have earned the contempt and hatred of all decent human beings forever”. He has also written that the “instinctive reaction of men towards fags” is “beating them to death with axhandles and tire-irons”, and he’s on record for voicing regret for not physically attacking Terry Pratchett when he saw the late fantasy author (who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease) giving a speech in favor of euthanasia.
I don’t feel like linking to all this crap but you can find the relevant links here. In case you want to read a thorough debunking of Wright’s “fascinating” views on a number of recent SFF scandals, I also highly recommend this post by Foz Meadows.
Bottom line is that John C. Wright entertains some fairly disgusting beliefs, which I’m opposed to as strongly as one can possible be. In general, I don’t mind disagreeing with the politics of an author and enjoying his/her works at the same time — I enjoy Dan Simmons and James Ellroy, after all — but advocating for violence and dismissing people’s human rights because of their sexual orientation place Wright quite far off on the dark side. I’m repulsed by his ideas and I feel there’s no way I can put that out of my mind.
There was a similar problem last year, when Sad Puppies managed to get Theodore Beale aka Vox Day on the ballot. He’s a guy who thinks women’s rights have to be resisted, blacks are half-savages and the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik will one day be “revered by Norwegians for his stand against the invaders”. So, Beale is a nasty person, no question about it.
Last year, his novelette “Opera Vita Aeterna” was on the ballot, and everyone who knew what he is up to had to decide whether they are ready to support that kind of a person getting a Hugo award or not if his story turns out to be any good. Luckily, it was all academic speculation and the quality of the story saved us from the difficult choice. Beale is on the ballot again this year in both editor categories, but the quality of the only story edited by him that I have read suggests that choice won’t be difficult this time either.
But what about Wright, then? I don’t know yet. The choice may be harder, because Wright is a real author, after all. His books have been published by a professional publisher and he has been on the Nebula shortlist.
I’ve decided to read — or try reading — everything on the Hugo ballot this year, and that means there’s more than one novel’s worth of fiction by Wright I have to slog through. There’s a human experiment aspect to all this, as well: it will be interesting to see a) if I can make it at all, b) if I can give a sensible account of the experience and c) if I can do a more-or-less balanced review of this stuff knowing what kind of a person has written it.
I don’t hold any delusions of being completely objective, of course, because there’s no such thing as complete objectivity outside mathematics. Acknowledging Wright’s beliefs probably affects my judgment of his fiction in some way. What the effect will be exactly, remains to be seen.
There are three novellas, one short story and one related work by Wright on the ballot. My plan is to do one post where I review all of it, because there’s a limit on how much time I want to dedicate to writing about this gentleman’s work. There’s quite a lot of reading, so it will probably take some time before I get around to writing it.
In the meantime, I’m going to skip to the next category.