Review: Guided by The Beauty of Their Weapons

Book: collected essays, Hugo Category: Best Related Work

Technically this is a ‘Currently Reading’ as I haven’t read the whole thing yet but as it is derived mainly from blog posts I have already written I think I can safely judge it as a whole.

The book is a collection of essays from El Sandifer of Tardis Eruditorum fame. The first few essays deal with the Puppy Kerfuffle while the rest of the book covers other topics including excerpts from her project The Last War in Albion that covers the careers of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison.

So firstly as I’ve been on a bit of thing about book covers, the cover is brilliant. A Hugo-esque rocket on a tropical planet, partly covered in moss with a hint of a ringed planet rising behind. The typographical elements are all neatly done with the over-long title arranged so as to suggest ‘Weapons’ as the preferred short version of the name. The cover is by James Taylor and for a breakdown of his thinking on covers then this blogpost of his on the cover for a different Sandifer book is well worth a read:

For the contents themselves, it is a mix of previously published stuff that is either unchanged (e.g. transcripts of the Vox Day/Sandifer debate) or which have been expanded and reworked.

The title essay is an expanded version of Sandifer’s take down of the Rabid Puppy campaign from April of this year. The original essay was important in the immediate fallout of the nomination announcement, when it became clear how much success the Puppy slates had achieved. The expanded version has been updated to account for subsequent events but also includes more content. The discussion of the nominated works is more detailed and Sandifer now also includes, by way of contrast, Ursula Vernon’s Jackalope Wives as an example of the quality of writing that was pushed off the ballot by the Puppies.

The section of fascism has been expanded to include a discussion of Umberto Eco’s Ur-fascism essay, which provides a detailed framework against which the politics of the Puppy campaign is analyzed. This is a wise decision, as it gives the section on fascism a more rigorous point-by-point structure than the original essay.

The rest of the book covers more Puppy related stuff, including reviews of the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem, a discussion as to why Vox Day didn’t like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, and an open letter to John C Wright.

Non-puppy stuff includes TV reviews of Orphan Black, Hannibal, True Detective and Mr Robot. Essays from Sandifer’s Super Nintendo project include retro-reviews of Super Mario World, Mortal Kombat, Lemmings and Final Fantasy 2. The book concludes with some inevitable Doctor Who stuff including a previously unpublished interview with Peter Harness and with the re-published Recursive Occlusion, a long review/analysis of the 1981 Doctor Who story Logopolis framed as an occult choose-your-own-adventure.

While Sandifer’s blog might not be to all tastes, this collection is sufficiently diverse that at least some essays are likely to appeal to a broader audience than her usual readership. The title essay remains important and the additions have only helped the quality of analysis.

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