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!