From the comment thread following this post. It seems to me that these remarks deserve to be seen by those Making Light readers who don’t necessarily read 300 or more messages into the comment threads.
My practical experience is that the artist’s work can’t be divided from the artist’s politics. Working relationships are an expression of how one party reads the other’s work. Some writers are never so good as when they’re being critiqued by a particular editor or beta reader or spouse. If you have a mismatch between a copyeditor and an author, that copyeditor will honestly and dutifully perceive a somewhat different set of errors than another copyeditor would. There’ve been comic books whose underlying premises only really worked when the right artist was drawing them.The thread is worth reading.
Have you ever read Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny? They just didn’t mesh. You can hear the gears grinding all the way through that thing, except for the scene with the dog.
Readers will judge the politics. There’s no way to keep that from happening. They may perceive it as (for instance) the difference between a strikingly original, a satisfactory, and a cop-out ending, but they will judge.
I can’t see that as wholly bad. Here’s an example: I hate it when a promising skiffy book ends with that stupid mainstream thing about how there can never be new answers to old problems, so for those trying to transcend the old answer set, it comes down to a choice between madness and death. Bleah! I want the ending where the character invents a completely unanticipated third answer in a cave, from a box of scraps.
I won’t take it well if someone tells me I have to believe a madness-or-death dichotomy ending is just as good as, or superior to, a wildly-different-third-answer ending, because the madness-or-death ending is characteristic of the author’s worldview. I can at most learn to see and understand that that ending grows out of a particular set of beliefs (which it does).
I do this all the time. I think we all do it. In Doyle & Macdonald’s Mageworlds books, spacefaring civilization would grind to a halt if ships that have just made planetfall didn’t stop to fill out a heap of paperwork. Spacefarers in series by other writers get along without the paperwork. Spontaneous peasant uprisings may succeed in many fantasy universes, but not in Westeros or Dragaera, where the authors know rather too much about the history of peasant uprisings. As readers, we pass from one to another, switching logics as we go.
Stretch it too far, though, and we break, snarling in irritation. That’s the basic malfunction in Mary Sue fiction — not the being good at everything, or the color-changing eyes, but having causality liquefy every time Ensign Mary Sue is near. Ayn Rand’s causality is also weird: holding certain principles can strongly affect your competence. And so forth. Enough bad causality makes a dent in my reading pleasure.
The only general solution I know is to become a better reader. The Hugos work in part because their rules accommodate the widest possible range of reading protocols. Changing that is almost certain to be a mess.