Monday, July 25, 2011

Why I'm Voting for Larry Correia for the John W. Campbell Award

The short explanation: Correia writes glorious crack.

Consider, for example, the manner in which he opens his first novel, Monster Hunter International:

"On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window."

After reading those lines, are you interested in reading the rest of the book? I know I was. A hook like that announces right off the bat that the ensuing story is going to be as entertaining as hell. It also reveals that the author of said story has a great sense of humor.

If you'll permit me to digress for a moment: There are four basic things I look for when I pick up a science fiction (or fantasy) novel. Number one, I have to like the characters. They don't have to be saints, mind you. I have loved plenty of villains and anti-heroes. The characters just have to feel recognizably human and sympathetic on at least some level. And generally speaking, they also have to be people of action. There's nothing I hate more than a character who whines constantly about his or her crappy life without doing anything about it. Passivity really bugs me, especially when a character is impotent in the face of a terrible evil.

Number two, the plot has to move. I'm capable of appreciating well-written descriptions, but if your novel starts to get bogged down with them at the expense of your actual story, I get frustrated. It's okay to show off your extensive knowledge of, say, the city of Rome if you're writing a travelogue, but you should resist the temptation if you're writing a work of science fiction.

Number three, the author has to display some imagination. That, after all, is the whole point of science fiction and fantasy: to transplant mankind into the realm of the fantastic. SABR Matt and I frequently razz Gene Roddenberry for his myriad flaws as a writer, but in the opening credits of the original Star Trek series, he did get one thing right: "To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before." That, to me, expresses the fundamental spirit of the genre.

Lastly, I have to like the author's message. Your book may possess all three of the aforementioned features, but if you've marshalled such creative energy in order to pen a full-on assault on my Catholic Christian, conservative values, you've committed a deal-breaker. I'm sorry, but I'm not here to be belittled.

Now, back to Correia. Correia's novels, you see, satisfy me on all four of the above dimensions. His leading characters are extremely likable. His pacing definitely scores a perfect ten. His concepts are playful and, as I noted at the start, cracktastic. (Teleporting magic ninjas? Trailer trash elves? Seriously, this author is Completely. Frelling. Awesome.) And he doesn't go out of his way to insult those of us who hold to "fly-over country" values. As a matter of fact, Correia is truly "one of us". I don't know if he clings to his Bible, but he certainly clings to his guns. And he also has no use for the "literati elite". He's not here to impress the folks who are especially proud of their "large heads filled with learnings and special knowledge" (to borrow from a recent Brad Torgersen post). He's here to please the audience. As Correia himself put it this past Saturday:

"Why yes... I am a throw back. Pulp and proud, baby. So basically, **** your nuance. I’m going to go write about a ninja robot fighting a dinosaur on top of a flaming monster truck inside an exploding volcano. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of depressing sob-novels about losers wallowing in self pity to choose from."

This magnificent refusal to be pretentious is like a breath of fresh air. If my vote subsequently helps this guy make a good living, fandom will no doubt reap the benefits of his continued presence.

(And by the way, if Correia wrote a book that featured ninja robots fighting dinosaurs on top of flaming monster trucks, I would totally read it. That would rock. LOL!)

1 comment:

  1. LOL!!!!!

    Magic ninja robots fighting dinosaurs on top of flaming monster trucks in an exploding volcano...that has to be the funniest visual I've heard all year.

    I think I would like this guy...