Sunday, January 8, 2017

Injustice Anthology Review: Forbidden Thoughts

Cower not, Fierce Reader! We must be of resolute mind and steadfast spirit. It is with a heavy heart that I write this review, and will thus abandon my usual format.  We should not shirk in addressing the shortcomings of those we admire, in the hope that these issues do not repeat themselves. While my view of the anthology is not as poor as my friend Rawle Nyanzi, he does have a good point.  I'll address his review after I address the anthology.

The Bad(let's get it out of the way)

There are stories here which in my opinion, have no place in an anthology set to and marketed to be a successor to Dangerous Visions. This is no slight on the authors, even great authors have off days and stories. I hope that all involved appreciate that I hope for better work from them in the future.

If You Were a Hamburger, My Love by Ray Blank- Completely fell flat for me. I even had to take a second run at it to finish the thing. I know, that part of that is the original work it is satirizing, but I've read better ones than that. I'm confused, in fact as to why "If You Were an Award My Love" wasn't in here instead. That one entertained more. 

Graduation Day by Chromium Oxide- Look, I get the point behind the story. But the amount of self loathing required for the narrator of this vignette(there's no conflict) and approval of the hypocrisy of standards within the system just didn't work.

A Place for Everyone by Ray Blank- This has some decent moments, but they did not, make up for the fact that the story ultimately is straight out of O. Henry. Some of it plods, as well, and the lack of TANJ, instead opting for propriety, hurts this story further.

Auto America by E. J. Shumak- Meh. It's better than the above works, and it's short enough to not feel like a waste of time.

Now, there are some questionable editorial decisions as well to address. Some of  these, I believe, stem from the fact that Mr. Rennie and Mr. Zwycky have been running SciPhi Journal as a single story at a time project for awhile. It works for that, but other factors come into play here.

The Code by Matthew Ward- This was ok. I would not object, in fact if the rest of the anthology were all stronger than it; every anth. has a weakest piece. Also, I'm unsure if the final point was the evils of CoCs, or that Feminism is Cancer. If both, fine, otherwise, which?

The Social Construct by David Hallquist- I have no problem with this piece. It entertained me. My issue is that it is immediately outshined by A.M. Freeman's story. I'd rather this placed away from it, or better yet, in a different volume; I'm fairly certain there will be more.

Imagine by Pierce Oka- I put this in the same category as The Code. It's not bad, just weaker than the expectations I had.

By His Cockle Hat and Staff by John C. Wright- I make no secret of the fact that I believe Mr. Wright to be the finest writer we have today. Given last year's Iron Chamber of Memory, Moth and Cobweb part 1, and Superluminary, I think this justified. Honestly, I'd rather have one less story and a little more room for Mr. Wright to work. The characters need to exist a bit more. Otherwise, this is fine.

The Good(yes, I think there's still a good amount to like)

Milo's Foreward- This is entertaining, and well informed. Milo continues to show that he knows more than one tune.

The Razor Blade of Approval by Ben Zwycky- This is a good poem, and helps set the expectations for the anthology.

Safe Space Suit by Nick Cole- This was amusing. While it has a few issues, the consequences of tokenism, diversity, etc., is clearly shown in a way to make me laugh. It does need more actual conflict, though.

The Secret History of the World Gone By by Joshua M. Young- This felt pretty good. Not quite to the levels of REH with contemplation or action, but it did remind me of it. Somewhat along the lines of Kull without the violence, which would improve it. Otherwise, GOOD WORK, Mr. Young!

At the Edge of Detatchment by A.M. Freeman- Like I mentioned earlier, this outshone Mr. Hallquist's story. In fact, this may be the best Pro Life story since Philip K. Dick's The Pre-Persons. I do not level that lightly. She brought emotion, action, and revelation decisively and quickly to the story.

A History of the Sad Puppies by Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen- I've read this elsewhere, and have no issue with it's inclusion here. It is entirely appropriate.

Hymns of the Mother by Brad Torgersen- This is ok. I'd like a little more conflict, but there's at least plenty going on.

World Ablaze by Jane Lebak- This was good. Conflicts are all around, there's paranoia that's justified, and revelation that brings peace as it increases tension in the internal society of the story.

The Rules of Racism by Tom Kratman- The colonel puts forth an amusing pair of lists and these do feel true to the establishment versions of the main USA political parties.

Amazon Gambit by Vox Day- Yeah. This was well written, and clever, on top of striking at the female power movement in favor of women's real power. Amusing, as well.

Elegy for the Locust by Brian Niemeier- This takes place within the Soul Cycle setting. In many ways, it accomplishes some of the things Mr. Wright did structurally and seemed to aim for with his characters. Again, needs more conflict.

Test of the Prophet by L. Jagi Lampwrighter- Mrs. Wright succeeded where Mr. Wright did not: the characters are far more realized. Or character, rather. Enough conflict for the tale, and good resolution.

Flight to Egypt by Sarah A. Hoyt- We've got characters, we've got conflict, and a story. Great.

Forbidden Thoughts and Unmet Expectations

Now, Rawle Nyanzi posted his review, and it is scathing. I don't entirely blame him. There's plenty we won't agree on, as I'm less a part of the Appendix N crowd than he is. But, the biggest thing we will agree on is disappointment.

Rawle  stated that he felt this anthology held largely the right wing versions of Cat Pictures, Please. I'm not going that far, but he has a point about how formulaic some of this felt.(also, Fat Pictures, Please, which also appeared on Vox's blog would make another fine sub for the burger) Hence part of my criticism being about editorial choices.

Now, Rawle also didn't read everything after the Sad Puppies entry, and that's too bad, because there's more good stuff after than before that point.  In many ways, this felt like one of the so-called Year's Best SFF anthologies, where some of it's good, some ok, and some "how'd that get in here", with maybe one great piece.

I do not begrudge Jason the success this has had so far, but I do hope he learns from his critics on this. I've nothing against vignettes, they can make for decent contemplative SFF, but there need to be more STORIES. While part of this may be the current size of the Superversive movement, there's no Tom Simon in here, and I'm sure Dave Freer might have a story lying around.  There's a deep bench with these and many more, USE THEM.

Please, next time get us the very best anthology you can. I can only say the good stories justify the price. 5 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.


  1. Thanks for the fair and in-depth criticism, Alfred. If you don't mind, I'd like to critique your critique.

    The difference between criticism and heckling is that the former provides actionable feedback that artists can use to improve, while the latter is just a subjective statement of "I didn't like this." I, for one, greatly appreciate you investing the time and careful thought to deliver objective criticism. Well done!

  2. It is interesting how different readers get different things out of stories. I just heard about a reader who was seriously struck by A Place for Everyone and has been talking about it repeatedly,and another who was quite struc
    Impressed with Thd Social Construct, finding it to be the best in the anthology.(Putting it before Edge if Detachment was my decision. anywhere else it was lost or overshadowed the other storybut. But you are right that, ideally, those two stories would be in different books.)

    I suspect that the stories in this volume will not seem as hard hitting to those who are familiar with the ideas expressws as it will to those who are somewhat new to them. I like them because they remind me of the thought provoking sf stories of my youth. But to anyone to whom the thoughts provoked are not new...the experience will not be as enjoyable.

    Thanks for the review.

    1. Jagi, I had hoped with the author pool for this to be the best anthology of the year. Planned better, there would be a clear demand for another volume, granting room for some stories that conflict a bit here.

      I do hope there's another volume, and that it is a clear improvement over this. I don't expect to love every story all the time. That's not reasonable for anthologies, but I don't enjoy feeling like I need to play critic.

  3. Gah! Sorry for the spelling errors. Hard to type on this device.😢

  4. Sigh. I have no idea why my comments appear more than once. That has never happened to me before. 😢. I hope you can remove them. Sorry!

  5. We'll do our best. On the other hand, we've received at least two dozen rave reviews, on Amazon and elsewhere, from people who claim this is the best anthology they've read in years, so we don't want it to differ tooo much.

    I wonder if it is an age thing. A lot of the stories are like the stories in the anthologies I read as a kid, and I really enjoyed reading that kind of story again. Quite a few of the reviews said almost the same thing. So the anthology has a clear appeal to those who remember back when sf stories were more like this.

    But I think the main issue for you and Rawle know this stuff. You're up-to-date on SJW nonsense. Reading a story where the effects of SJWs go awry isn't any big deal to you guys. The ideas are old hat.

    But for most of the audience out there, that isn't necessarily the case. To them, these ideas are still new and shocking...even if they are put forward in simple, swift format. (Really, most sf stories since the 1920 have only been a short introduction of some new idea. Only recently did they get more fancy.)

    To most readers, a message fiction ssf story is just fine as long as...the message is new. That has bee one of the main points of sf all along. The problems with the SJWs is that they are not introducing new ideas. They are introducing the same ideas, over and over and over. Once, an idea makes a reader think. A dozen times?

    That's not introducing a new thought, that's propaganda.

    Many people who like this volume like the stories because they have not thought these things through the ideas are disturbing, intriguing, shocking. That is what sf stories are supposed to do.

    The error, from our point of view, would be if we did another volume and just hit the same notes again. That is what Larry was complaining about, basically...a decade or two of SJW stories that hit nothing but the same now-sour note, over and over.

    But as an opening volume, I actually think this one is spot on. The majority of responses have been positive...meaning that for the majority of the audience, the ideas are still new...and that is what you want for an introduction.

    By Volume Two, if we can do one, we'll definitely need to step up our game...but now we have a lot more authors interested than before, so we can probably get a lot more stories to choose from.

    Whether those authors can give us even better, more challenging stories? That's a different matter entirely. ;-)

    Either way, thanks for your input. Glad you liked some of the stories. Maybe next time, there'll be even more that are to your taste. ;-)

    (I'm writing from my computer this time, so I hope it only posts once. ;-)