Magical Mondays: Sorcerer to the Crown and Magical Gatekeeping

The 2015 Hugo Awards were a huge mess. For those of you who weren’t following along, a group of disgruntled sci-fi authors decided that sci-fi and fantasy nowadays had way too many messages for their liking and were no longer “fun”. Disgusted by people they called “social justice warriors”, they set out to ensure that Hugo voting ballots were filled with stories written by people who were not women or people of color, and the ensuing chaos was widely reported by the media. Wired, in particular, has a great summary of all the events. As they say:

Like the sound of starship engines, the Hugos don’t exist in a vacuum. Consider: A woman named Adria Richards Twitter-shames two white dudes for cracking off-color jokes at PyCon, a tech developer conference (and then is fired and fields murder threats). GamerGate makes a political movement out of threatening with rape any woman who has the temerity to offer an opinion about a videogame. A certain strain of comic book fan goes apoplectic whenever Captain America gets replaced with a black man or Thor gets replaced with a woman. This is more than just hatred of change: When Thor once got replaced by a frog (yes, that really happened) no one uttered a peep (or a ribbit). The Culture Wars are raging at the highest levels (and all corners) of American society.

This conflict, this gatekeeping, is inescapable. And all of the Hugo hubbub makes for a spectacular segue into Zen Cho’s book, Sorcerer to the Crown, which will be eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards. Though Cho, a Malaysian woman living in England, insists that she didn’t set out to write a message novel, the idea behind of her book cannot be clearer. Who acts as the gatekeepers to a canon, and who decides who gets to contribute to that canon? Sorcerer to the Crown asks us: who gets to contribute to Britain’s magical canon? In short, who can be considered a sorcerer, and who cannot?

hugo awardsMinor spoilers for the book to follow.

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