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Nerdy Ninth: Novels of a Particular Sort

I have, as anyone who knows me can tell you, a penchant for reading (devouring, consuming, blazing through) Science Fiction novels. Other people enjoy big thick-brick-of-prose fantasy novels where there's a fight every third page and everyone eats a lot of stew. Some folk like reading about big spaceship battles where there's a lot of lasers and dogfighting and possibly some shooting at people and to be fair, I will often read those novels, too; I'm not trying to say you shouldn't. There's a lot of great work out there and almost all of it is worth reading for someone. But the books I really love, the ones I really sink my teeth into, are what I like to call the Political Manuvering Novels.

The PMNs are, on their face, not for everyone. Let's face it, the delicate maneuvering and internal monologues of various characters as they reason their way to a solution (or more often out of a sticky situation) do not, for most people, make a tense and gripping read, nor are they particularly barn-burning in their action sequences; frequently there isn't actually any conflict at all, other than the implied conflict that is happening between the characters, or the threat of a major physical conflict if the characters themselves fail in their appointed duties.

The single best example of this that I can think of off the top of my head is the Foreigner series, from CJ Cherryh. This soon-to-be-twenty (!!) book series focuses almost entirely on a singular human diplomat trying to navigate the ins-and-outs of the intersections of several different alien and human cultures while preventing a war from breaking out. This is a book where the most important part of the entire series so far was roughly three hundred pages of four adults and three children (spread over three species and five cultural backgrounds) sit in a room and have tea together. This is not everyone's, ahem, cup of tea when it comes to stories to read.

And yet I seek them out. Because PMNs are often books about trying desperately (and often, though not always, about succeeding) to come to understanding. Which is something we in the modern world often undervalue and dismiss. These books are often about characters listening (or not listening) to each other, and finding paths forward together rather than paths against each other, separately. And that's a kind of picture of the future, a kind of Science Fiction, that I really want to see become reality, especially these days.

Also, the best of these sorts of novels turn out to be explicitly anti-colonial. Which is also something we need for the future.

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