I was delighted when I first heard about the results of the Hugo Awards, last Sunday. But after a several days of reading the reactions within fandom on Twitter and blogs, I just feel kind of sad and tainted. There’s so much bad blood on both sides. And the Puppies/Gamergate people tend to be such tiresome, grandiose blowhards, it’s really hard to slog through their shit. I suppose there could maybe, possibly be something to their view that withholding so many awards is like destroying the Hugos to save them, but I still think this was the best possible outcome of the whole sad affair.
Briefly, if you’re not aware, there were two groups of people, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, who rallied movements to get slates of works that meet their aesthetic and ideological preferences onto the Hugo Award nominating ballot. The Hugo Award is nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention, so it is a very inside-baseball, old-school fandom thing, a very small voting group, and it takes a very small number of votes indeed to get nominated, a couple hundred. The Sad Puppies, led by authors Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, had the putative stated goal of returning tales that were fun and pulpy to the Hugo ballot — spaceships, lasers, dragonslayers and derring-do. They felt the Hugos had been “hijacked” in recent years by “the left,” and only rewarded works that were literary, excessively stylistic, and politically correct.
The Sad Puppies have fielded slates for the past couple of years, but only this year were they successful — helped it seems in large part by splinter group the Rabid Puppies, led by absolute piece of human garbage Theodore Beale AKA “Vox Day,” who fielded a slate with a more explicitly racist and chauvinist purpose — to return the White Man to his place of honor on the Hugo award stage. So, together, the Puppies, campaigning by web and social media, managed to ram their slates of chosen nominees through the balloting process of the Hugos, leading to nominee rosters that were dominated, or in some cases, completely composed of the Puppies nominees.
IO9.com has a pretty good overview of the controversy here.
Leaving the quality of the Puppies’ arguments aside, the real problem I saw here, as a marginal writer and member of fandom, was the process of slate voting. It is explicitly not against the rules of the Hugo nominations process, but it is certainly against the spirit of them, for the Hugo awards are supposed to represent the critical acclaim of best work by fandom as a whole, not the opinion of a vocal minority. (The Nebula Awards, by contrast, are voted on by the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America.) If you can’t win on your own merits, trying to win by rigging the elections is a douchebag move. It totally corrupts the whole process. To counter your slate, fans of other writers will have to organize slates of their own, and then the awards would just become another tiresome arena in the “culture wars,” or worse, some kind of high school student body popularity contest.
The Puppies have always vigorously maintained that there already were secret, left-wing cabals drawing up secret slates of nominees and shutting “their” type of authors out of the awards. But there has never been any real evidence that that is the case. And even if it were, two wrongs don’t make a right, now do they? If the Puppies think the “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a charmless term they seem to have co-opted from Gamergate) are so evil and corrupt, how does it behoove them to adopt their tactics?
No, slate voting is bogus and done in bad faith. And really, anything that follows the lead of Vox Day is nothing I can support. (The guy wants to strip women of the right to vote. How could I put any truck in someone who wants to disenfranchise me?) So in my own mind, I’ve been against the Puppies from the get-go.
That’s why I think the results of the Hugo vote are the best outcome of this whole wretched affair. The Puppies were soundly thwacked with a rolled-up newspaper. Far more fans bought a membership in Worldcon than ever had before, and more chose to vote in the Hugos, by a factor of 65 percent. Any category of award that was wholly dominated by the Puppies slate nominees presented No Award (which has always been a viable Hugo option, by the rules.) The only real exceptions were the Best Dramatic Presentation awards (film and TV, mostly) — where it was understood by all that the Puppies could have no real influence over the powerful Hollywood types who create those things, and where the winners, Guardians of the Galaxy and Orphan Black, were popular enough and good enough to have been nominated, and won, even without the Puppies.
Awards that had one non-slate nominee went to that work. Any award that did not have a clearly Puppy-rigged slate seems to have been judged on its own merits. The Best Novel Award went to The Three-Body Problem, written by Cixin Liu and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu — the first time a translated work has won that award. Take that, Puppies!
The Puppies’ gambit was a total failure. With the increased membership and attention, fandom as a whole stepped up and said, No, you’re not going to game this award. This is ours and we won’t allow it.
Recriminations by the Puppies across social media have been intense. They’re claiming now that this was their plan all along, that this was their victory condition, that No Award proves that the SJWs are totalitarian and McCarthyist. But I don’t think even they really believe that. No, this was a defeat, and they have to choke it down.
Efforts are in place to rewrite the Hugo rules to circumvent slate voting. But any such rules changes have to be ratified by the memberships of two Worldcons, meaning this year and next year. So the Puppies have a whole ‘nother year to continue their mischief. But I think they will be able to inflict much less damage. People are on to them now. Authors who might have this year idly rode the slates to nomination will probably recuse themselves next year, knowing that the slate nominees will be forever tainted. Who wants to be forever allied with the people who tried to burn down the Hugo Awards? And fandom is much more aware now, and will be watching, and reading, and nominating the books, comics, and movies they love.
TL; DR — trying to rig the Hugo nominations was a stupid, counterproductive move. The Puppies, are a tiny, reactionary, and not well liked subculture within science fiction fandom. And fandom will work to protect that which it loves — SF, and the Hugos — from being destroyed by haters.
Thank the gods. And thank you, fandom.