When I was a kid, my favorite Shakespeare play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Typical answer from a fantasy nerd, right? But now, it’s probably Othello. From Act I to Act V, Othello is a damming critique of (17th century) English and European society. Iago is only able to orchestrate Othello’s fall because of the widespread bigotries that plague their society; racism, misogyny, and a general disregard for addicts.
Merchant of Venice and Hamlet were the other two contenders, but Othello wins hands down because the titular character has a full blown panic attack. Contemplating Desdemona’s (invented) betrayal and the reparative action required of him by the demented Man Code of his time (murdering her), Othello becomes so unhinged that he babbles half-incoherently before falling “in a trance” to the stage.
Yup, that’s a panic attack.
You probably get the idea that while elves and aliens are important to me, so are more meaty and realistic things. I like to see race, gender, and religion in my speculative fiction. I like to read about mental illness (and wellness). If the characters are fighting a daemon or a mega corporation that’s all well and good. But when it becomes clear the dragon is a stand-in for something else, something I or my friends have to deal with in real life, that’s when I’m jumping up and down in my seat.
So I don’t get the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies.
If you haven’t heard (you probably have, I’m about two weeks late to this party and in Internet Years that’s a millennia) a bunch of dimbulbs worked together to ensure that only “fun” stories were nominated for the Hugos this year. “Fun” as opposed to “niche, academic, overtly [leftist]”. Mainstream escapism for the overprivileged as opposed to anything else.
Trust me; I like fun speculative fiction. And I write fun speculative fiction — chock full of spells, swords, spaceships, and monsters. But there’s more to life than that, and there’s more to fantasy and sci-fi than that. The genres are transforming into what I wish they had been in my youth. They’ve grown up along with me, along with all of us.
Hopefully, the Puppies will grow up soon too.