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Sad Puppies: A Reader’s View From Behind the Book

Joseph Capdepon II/Contributor

I first discovered science fiction in middle school, at least, that is the earliest memory I have of it. I found Anne McCaffery’s Pern novels in the school library and proceeded to devour them one by one. Sometime later, I found Dune by Frank Herbert at a flea market and bought it for a couple of quarters. My eyes were opened to the wonders of science fiction. From there, I bought books whenever I could. I would buy anything by all the Masters of the genre, anything with exploding space ships on the cover, or aliens menacing humans.

When I got my first job at seventeen, the money I did not spend on the weekends partying, I spent on books when I could get to a Barnes and Noble or other bookstore. Slowly, my library grew. I would lose myself in tales of brave men and women exploring the universe. Of far off planets with alien menaces, and alien invasion fleets.

I lost myself in the prose of Ray Bradbury, in the struggles of Dominic Flandry and the shenanigans of Lazurus Long. Eventually I started working at a Barnes and Noble and would spend a nice chunk of my paycheck on books(that employee discount is dangerous.) One day, I took home a stripped copy of a mass market title by a fellow named John Ringo. A whole new level of science fiction opened up to me. So many amazing authors and from reading those authors and discovering Baen’s Bar, I was turned onto other authors I’ve never read.

Authors who could weave a story that would pull you in. The type of books that you don’t want to put down. You want to keep reading them until you get to the last page and then feel a pang of sadness because the story is over. How can the story be over? These wonderful authors put story before anything else. Some may have had a message, Fahrenheit 451 being a prime example, but the story came first. The story pulled you in and refused to let go.

This is what the Sad Puppies campaign is about. It is about story first. It is about entertaining the reader, drawing them in and not letting them go, making them want more. It is not about putting the message before the story. It is not about checking off boxes to appease whatever the cause de jure of the day is. It is not about the sexuality, gender or lack of gender of the characters. It is about the story and recognizing those that put story first and entertain the Reader.

I want exploding space ships. I want big unknowable objects floating through space that must be explored. I want John Carter rescuing Dejah Thoris. I want high adventure, a damsel in distress, an alien conspiracy, an alien invasion, and all the rest. I want to be sucked into the story and walk on Mars beside John Carter and wield a sword to fight off the enemies. I want to be there when Dominic Flandry stops the plot to start a war. I want to be sucked in and experience it when Harry Dresden defeats the Big Bad once again. I want big expansive galactic empires embroiled in civil war. I want vast fleets of ships battling in space as the valiant crews try to secure victory over their enemies.

As a Reader, this is what I want. These are the kind of stories that should be awarded what was once the greatest award in Sci-fi and Fantasy. An award that was given to those who could weave a story together that took you away from the world for a little while. That should be our rallying cry. Give us story! Give us adventure!

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5 comments on “Sad Puppies: A Reader’s View From Behind the Book

  1. Good Lord, man. The first four paragraphs are my childhood. Admittedly, I have Dragonriders courtesy of the Science Fiction Book Club, ( Three-in-one, still have it, 30 years old and held together with tape), and I didn’t start working for Waldenbooks until I was in my 20s… but the rest. dang.

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  2. The post sounded so familiar, I couldn’t help but add what it reminded me of … from “Glory Road” by Heinlein

    What did I want?

    I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, Then pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur—I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilling of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.

    I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin. I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be—instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.

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  3. I’d rather be Jim DiGriz myself. *grin*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. James Retief, Slippery Jim DiGriz, and every other rogue and scallywag that inhabits the worlds of SFF. the gents and ladies that you know are not good company but you still cheer for them. 🙂

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