Monday, April 06, 2015

Ancillary Sword

I used to bike past a place called Irish Acres in Nonesuch, KY. I say "used to bike" because whether you come into Nonesuch from the south, north, or east, you have to bike some bad hills. So I quit going there for a couple of years. I went once last year, I don't know if I'll try it this year.

Anyway, Irish Acres is an antiques place with a restaurant, and I thought my wife would enjoy a drive thru the beautiful Woodford County countryside to see it.

So we get there and look around. Furniture, knick-knacks out the wazoo, and of course a huge Christmas section. There were a couple of dozen customers browsing - I spotted only 1 Y chromosome besides mine.

We had a nice lunch at the restaurant, named The Glitz. It was decorated with huge garlands of 6 inch sparkly glass globe lights, in a variety of pastel colors. Kind of like Christmas on steroids.

As we were leaving, my wife summed up the experience succinctly: "This is what a world run by women would look like."

I kept thinking of this as I was reading "Ancillary Sword", by Ann Leckie. This is the sequel to "Ancillary Justice", which I posted about here, and which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards last year. I was somewhat surprised by that. It was an interesting novel, with human beings with brain implants slaved to a ship AI ("ancillaries"). There is a single human empire whose ruler for the last 3000 years shares her intelligence across multiple bodies, with old ones dying and new ones being added. So some interesting concepts. But I think it got the most buzz from its odd treatment of gender. Everyone is a "she", but some of them have penises.

Ms. Leckie writes well. The novel is a quick read. But, the plot is not advanced much at all from the 1st novel. Like maybe 3 plot events, tops. Meanwhile, there is much discussion of antique tea sets (which kept reminding me of my wife's comment at Irish Acres), and some teenage crushes. There's a little bit of a social justice theme, but I kept thinking of what someone once tweeted about "Dune": that space operas usually involve some form of fascist government.

This novel is nominated for a Hugo award. I find that harder to understand than I did for the 1st novel - the 1st novel raised several interesting concepts, the 2nd one breaks no new ground. I really didn't notice the gender thing much. But still, I'm afraid that my lack of enthusiasm for this novel is somehow sexist.

I am a huge fan of Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler, and read many other female SF authors. I really don't care what sex a SF author is. I raised 3 daughters to kick ass and take names. But my intuition is that some kind of feminist issue seems to be driving the popularity of this book. I am 1000% in favor of all forms of feminist progress, but, I feel like I'm missing something here. Maybe I'm just an white old fart after all.

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