And Two Poorer Reviews

Here are a couple more reviews of the Hugo nominated short story “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright. These reviews are not positive, but since they appear to be detailed enough as to indicate the reviewer did indeed give the story a fair reading, I will present them with no response.

First, from Strange at Escobar. The relevant section:

Loads the dice in the direction we expect, then pulls an unconvincing twist at the end. It is interesting in exploring deep ideas, but I think kind of fumbles this. It also depends overmuch on the context of the rest of the closely linked anthology it appeared in — but I’m voting for “Best Short Story” here, not “best part of a linked narrative”.

I know I sound as if I’m contradicting myself here somewhat since I’ve repeatedly mentioned that Josh Young’s “Felix Culpa” provides some context to the ending (and it does), but I will note that the story was originally submitted to stand on its own. I suppose this doesn’t affect the review, but it is worth mentioning.

Second, from The relevant section:

Unfortunately it is the worse of the Hugo nominees in this category, trying and failing miserably to derive theological creationist axioms through logic that is so flawed to be laughable. I also did not think that the sexual sadistic elements of the plot really worked as intended. Conclusion: more a religion-fiction story, than a sci-fi one, and quite a bad one.

I will not respond directly, but I will ask those who have read the story this: Is the logic really so flawed as to be laughable? Is it more flawed than, say, the AI in “Cat Pictures, Please” claiming that God does not exist because it knows who its creators are (the logic of that AI, it is to be noted, was not mentioned in the reviewer’s early commentary on that work)?

Just something to chew on.

  • Josh Griffing

    Having read the reviews but none of the stories, I’ll say this much about them:
    I found the Zennaro comments– on all of his reviews– rather telling. Apparently there is a sort of reader who figures that the function of writing IS message-fiction, especially on Approved Topics & Positions, and praises these works for their conformity to that standard. The Escobar reviewer covered the same stories, and ranked them in just about the same order, but didn’t find it necessary to point out rape-issues or misogyny-of-fairytales or transphobic hate-crimes or who’s queer in any of them, nor did he (openly?) assume that a story with a (presumably) theistic cosmology was either “creationistic” or of laughably-flawed logic for using such a premise, as Zennaro seems to do. He points out (as Zenaro fails to) that “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” (Brooke Bolander) seems actually very weak in the actual SF/F aspect that the Hugos are ostensibly about.

    Therefore Zennaro’s reviews and ballot can be plausibly discredited, as very little effort seems to be given to assessing the merits of the stories AS STORIES or the writing AS WRITING, but the fundamental rubric of quality is the RightThink of their messages.

    • Bellomy

      It is rather bizarre he somehow sees creationist aspects to the story since there, you know…aren’t.

      • Lorenzo Fossi

        He’s obviously saying “creationism” as shorthand for “anything Bill Nye would disapprove of”.

  • Lorenzo Fossi

    E io ch’avea d’error la testa cinta,
    dissi: «Maestro, che è quel ch’i’ odo?
    e che gent’è che par nel duol sì vinta?». 33

    Ed elli a me: «Questo misero modo
    tegnon l’anime triste di coloro
    che visser sanza ’nfamia e sanza lodo. 36

    Mischiate sono a quel cattivo coro
    de li angeli che non furon ribelli
    né fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sé fuoro. 39

    Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,
    né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
    ch’alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d’elli». 42

    E io: «Maestro, che è tanto greve
    a lor, che lamentar li fa sì forte?».
    Rispuose: «Dicerolti molto breve. 45

    Questi non hanno speranza di morte
    e la lor cieca vita è tanto bassa,
    che ’nvidiosi son d’ogne altra sorte. 48

    Fama di loro il mondo esser non lassa;
    misericordia e giustizia li sdegna:
    non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa». 51

    • Josh Griffing

      Dante, isn’t it?

      • Lorenzo Fossi

        It’s when they enter hell and first of all they meet the souls neither Heaven nor hell accepted. They envy all other kinds of life and they’re ultimatelly un worthy of mention. I thought it was appropriate.