They messed with my head. I don't want to talk too many specifics because, especially in Fowler's case, it would involve rather significant spoilers. (And please, for the love of gods and little fishes, don't read the back cover or reviews of Fowler's book before reading it, or you will regret it. I don't know what her publisher was thinking! Leckie's is almost as bad.)
This paradigm-shifting is part of why I love science fiction, and why I am so glad to have written some now. Finally. It feels a bit weird, in the academy, talking about my new SF book. People have been kindly congratulating me on the Lambda nomination, but also are, I'm pretty sure, not certain how seriously to take this book. SF is not quite academically respectable still. And I get that. My recent space opera is, in some ways, just an adventure story. (So was Ulysses. And Beowulf. And Haggard's King Solomon's Mines.) And I don't even try to do anything as ambitious as what Leckie and Fowler manage in terms of paradigm shifting.
But still. In The Stars Change, there are two notable differences from the majority of fiction I see. Almost all the characters are non-white. And poly families are normalized. Neither of these issues are central to the plot, but I hope they mess with reader's heads, just a little. And, of course, the central theme of the book, the war between the humans, the humods, and the aliens, is focused on the question of what it means to be human. That is, I think, an awful lot of what science fiction is for. It is also, I think, an awful lot of what fiction is for.
I'm happy to be participating in that conversation. I've never been that concerned with being respectable. :-)