Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Song of I.C.E. and Fire

As the last vestige of the men's adventure genre, paramilitary monster-hunting stories have fallen on hard times. Popularized most recently by Monster Hunter International, and fanned into an indie craze by Seal Team 666, the genre, like Navy SEAL fiction and other men's adventure genres, has been rendered safe for editor's tastes and politics through series like Joe Ledger until what was once a vibrant genre is now forgotten among a slew of monster girl harems and monster evolution fantasies.

Enter the Corona-Chan anthology.

In "A Song of I.C.E. and Fire", renegade author Jon del Arroz uses monster-hunting on the border to take a pot-shot at the idea that "all X must Y". In this case, it's that all Hispanics must be for illegal immigration. However, what should have been eye-rolling politics is kept to a mere scene as Gabriel Hernadez and his fellow I.C.E. agents hunt down a Mexican vampire clan preying on children trying to cross the border.

I am not a fan of politics in science fiction--real-world, fresh off the headlines screeds age horribly in a matter of weeks as the headlines change, but to deny that some of the best science fiction explores timeless social issues would be foolish. As in all things, Harlan Ellison's advice should be followed. Before one can educate, one must first entertain. And the admittedly real-world, straight from 2019 headlines immigration protests take a back seat to a simple tale of a man doing his duty by fighting monsters.

That's the key. The action comes first. And the action holds its own against the monster-hunting books of the early 2010s and the Dick Marcinko-clones they are patterned after. Honestly, Latino I.C.E. should have been as cringe-inducing as the standard fare from del Arroz's political opponents. In the hands of a lesser writer, it would have been. But del Arroz gets the banter right, gets the action right, gets the focus on the job right. While others would dwell on the politics (or even the ten thousand varieties of firearms and ammunition on the market), del Arroz writes Gabriel to focus on the task at hand.

If anything, "A Song of I.C.E. and Fire" is too short, reading as the introduction to what might be a classic monster hunter novel stripped of the normal excesses. But I'm not sure we can tear Jon del Arroz away from his beloved comics and steampunk to write it.

Check it out for yourself in the free pulp anthology, Corona-Chan: Spreading the Love.

No comments:

Post a Comment