Jack Graham (of Shabogan Grafitti) asked me Sunday morning if I could spare time to cut a podcast with him and Andrew Hickey (of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!) on the Hugos. I could, as it happens. The results are here. Other than the frankly miserable subject matter, it was a good time, with the requisite meandering tangents and me probably talking over everybody because I’m a terrible person.
A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?
A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.
Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.
Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.
Do you see what I am trying to say here?
Jack, Andrew, and I skewer this quote in a variety of ways, but none of us as succinctly and on-point as Jill, who, upon hearing it, observed that it is literally a grown man whining about how he just can’t reliably judge a book by its cover anymore.
Oh yeah, and fuck the fascists.