Guided By The Beauty Of Their Weapons (2015) by Elizabeth Sandifer

A collection of essays, the titular one revolving around the 2015 Hugo Awards controversies, a few circling around similar thematic material, and a few not really related beyond having come from Sandifer or friends. The book is not published anymore, and one is inclined to feel the scrappy assemble-enough-content-and-make-this-eligible-for-a-Hugo vibe, while both a logical and endearing direction to take with much of this material, mightn’t age as gracefully as some of the individually very strong work within.

Onto the essays themselves then. The title essay is a sprawling, fascinating journey through history, ideology, and culture, through which Sandifer always maintains an impressively sustained coherent throughline.

The two works following the titular essay (an interview with its primary subject, and a podcast recorded shortly after that interview as a reaction to it) are interesting codas very worthy of inclusion. The latter’s celebratory tone reads a tad oddly given the reader isn’t part of the group celebrating and the preceding interview lacked the clarity to assure such a triumph, but the title essay itself was a triumph greater than could have been achieved in that context anyway.

weapons

The next few essays, following different genre work timely and topical to the period covered, are generally good, although they see the book lose a bit of steam and focus and become more an essay collection than any sort of unified work in its own right. The two interviews with writer Peter Harness are absolute standouts; one hopes one day he’s enough work interesting enough to have a book revolve around too. I did not read “Recursive Occlusion” as included in this set because the premise interests me too much; I’d rather save it and experience the standalone physical copy of that work to enjoy the experience as singularly as possible.

It’s a scattershot collection of works, some more interesting than others, most not particularly unified, but the opening three works are distinctive, strong, fascinating, and well-told. Three puppies and a gate.

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