May 19, 2015

The Hugo Project: "The Journeyman: In the Stone House"

(Note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of posts reviewing as many of the 2015 Hugo nominees as I have time for before the July 31 deadline, and explaining why I will or will not vote for them.)

I'm beginning to think it might be a good thing I haven't read Analog in recent years. Judging from its stories on the Hugo ballot, the quality has fallen way off. Now, you would expect this kind of thing from Castalia House (since everything I've read from that publisher is just awful), but I was still under the impression that Analog is supposed to be something a standard-bearer, the magazine of aliens and hard science and honest-to-goodness sensawunda.

Well, judging from this story, Analog is full of wonder, all right. The wonder of outright ridiculousness.

(Although, to be fair, this could be the fault of the people nominating for the Impacted Canines, since so far, with some rare exceptions, their judgment has proved to be spectacularly bad. Still, I always thought Analog had better editors than this.)

This story opens with a quote from Louis L'amour: "The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail." That right there sets the tone for the entire story: an uneasy melding of Western and science fiction tropes, full of cliches and idiotic names and grating dialect and horrendous dialogue, culminating in a sword-fight that's just...dreck. Long-drawn-out, incredibly unsuspenseful, and absolutely pointless.

I mean, fifteen minutes of a Firefly episode is better than this.

Let's test-drive a few character names: Sammi o' th' Eagles (Sherman Alexie would snarl and spit at this, especially since this character sounded uncomfortably like a dumbed-down Tonto), Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand, our so-called hero; Figa Anya Goregovona Herpstonesdoor (also known as "the princess," "Princess Anya," or, to Teodorq, simply "babe"), and Wisdom Sharee Mikahali Fulenenberk.

Dear Lord. Tolkien is thrashing in his grave.

Now: an excerpt of the story's wonderful dialogue.

“Well, Bowman and his crew are fixing to move out west. He’s been building carts and wagons and stealing all the horses he can lay hold of. If’n you don’t push him, he’ll be gone before the Sperm shoots out.”

The Wisdom paused, startled, his marking feather half-raised. “The . . . Sperm?”

“Stupid plainsman means Consort. Enters Sun when in heat. Later Sun give birth.”

The old man’s eyes brightened. “Ah, you mean the Red Sun!” He scratched the paper briskly with his feather.

“You spilled that readily enough,” said the princess. “I mean about Bowman’s plans, not your sperm.”

“Hey, babe, it’s bad cess to the Timberlake folk west of the stony river that Bowman’s gonna muscle in on ’em, but it ain’t no skin off my nose.”

“And what is meant by ‘babe’?”

“In the sprock, it is a term of respect for important women.”

I think we hit the trifecta there: sexism, terrible jokes, and all-around cringe-worthiness. I suppose there's an outside chance this could be some sort of Joss Whedon satire, but any way you look at it, it's just bad.

Sorry, folks. There's no way in hell I'm going to the Stone House, and as far as I'm concerned, the Rocket will blast right by it.

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