Crying Foul at the Hugos and the Potential Alienation of What May Keep It Strong

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download (2)I’m going to put on my ranty pants here. You’re welcome to stay and enjoy the ranty show, or head on down the information highway.

A little background before I start ranting, questioning, and basically trying to wrap my head around this whole political farce in the art world called the Hugos. I know I’m a bit behind the power curve, as they say, about this issue, but I was busy writing this weekend (I’m in a writing class right now) and, you know, living my life away from the computer from time to time.

A fellow writer friend and his wife, both huge fans of science fiction (and fantasy) much like me, talked me into going to Sasquan this year. It was likely the closest opportunity to participating in the World Science Fiction Convention any of us would have. I’ve made it known often that Science Fiction writers like P.K. Dick and William Gibson were some of my earliest influences on the speculative fiction that I write. Being a part of WorldCon (its umbrella name) wasn’t to be missed. Bonus? I got to nominate for the illustrious Hugo Awards. Nice!


Right before the voting closed, I posted that I had some holes in my nominations ballot — mostly in Graphic Novels and Editors. I am very aware of the who’s who in SF editing, but I was not feeling ‘just’ in my nominations and was looking for outsiders to validate or make me reexamine my knee-jerk thoughts. This year I’ve been re-reading many of my favorites from my formative years and hadn’t explored many of the current inventory of Graphic Novels. I also posted in a couple of writing forums very early on if people had suggestions for works I “shouldn’t forget” to send them my way for consideration. There’s so much work out there. No one person can read it all. But, I did want to move forward with what I thought was deserving, especially if it widened the SF community to a more diverse representations of work.

People did send me suggestions. I read (okay, I devoured) many of them. Some of them made my personal nominations ballot, because I was like “Damn! This is way better than I was thinking,” but, also, there’s five nominations slots. I had lots of holes. I didn’t always nominate all five available, either. Just those I thought deserving.

download (3)I don’t necessarily consider myself a SJW, that pejorative Social Justice Warrior label that those who are okay in an oppressed world serve as something bad, especially when it comes to my media. But, this whole Sad Puppies bullshit (read the link, I’m not going to explain it here, thanks) makes me out to be one. Fine, you say SJW like it’s a bad thing. If seeking out literature from across the globe (nay universe) isn’t foundational to the whole science fiction world, I think I’ve interpreted everything wrong. I’m not sure how many others who voted had the kind of angle I did — looking at work not necessarily found on the shelves at Walmart or Walgreens. I hope I’m not the only one.

Of the people I nominated, how many were included in the final short-list for everyone to vote on? Two. Just Two. Both in the Semiprozine category. None of what I nominated made it. Really? You can’t tell me that none of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books made the cut? That The Three-Body Problem wasn’t on the ballot. UGH. The force with Sad Puppies was strong. Are there still deserving people on that final ballot that I will vote for? Yes. My ballot MAY look suspiciously like one suggested here.

As I’m personally examining the issue, I keep coming back to the thought about what would I do if my work might be the subject of such controversy. If one of the short-list noms happens to be a person who was voted in the Sad Puppies slate, but wasn’t necessarily a proponent of it, would you stay or go? Some folks have chose to not accept the nomination. I can’t say I blame them. But, a Hugo award does wonders for people to find your work, for other editors and publishers to take note of what you’re doing as a writer and artist. It would be a tough call.

oh-you-read-enders-game-tell-me-how-much-you-love-science-fictioThe call would have to be if there is such a political agenda to the Sad Puppies slate. Many have suggested it’s the old patriarchal guard doing its thing (one such nominee was published by Patriarchy Press, and there’s the seeming Orson Scott Card supporter nominee, too). Others have written, including those involved within the SP, that much of what they wrote to support their campaign for one particular slate was crying out against diversity That people, such as myself, that seek out such different voices, which includes world literature, are ruining science fiction fandom. To Brad and Larry, I would say, I believe I make it a more interesting fandom. Insert what they say about opinions adage here.

Some folks have determined other ways of dealing with this, basically take the voting fraud of Sad Puppies and make it void. If WorldCon did something like that, which I highly doubt they will, would it mean the end to the Hugos? I don’t know.

I just can’t wrap my head around it. I think of myself as the average Speculative Fiction Reader. Where I’m not a typical reader is that if you put a small press book on a table next to a big press book and ask me to choose, I’m likely going to pick up the small press book. Additionally, many of the books in my library are author-published titles. I’m not prejudicial to how something is published, is my point. When the Sad Puppies campaign first hit the internet, I was thinking they had opinions and ideas about who should be on the ballot, much like I did, and I couldn’t fault them. But, then an uglier truth became apparent.

Tony Stark readingClearly it doesn’t matter thanks to the folks giving dogs a bad name everywhere. For a newbie to this whole thing, I’ve a bad taste in my mouth. This may be my last year as a WorldCon member (although I get to vote next year as a Hugo nominations qualifying member) or an attendee at the conference. I don’t know. My experience in August and what happens with the final award presentation may determine such a decision by me. There are some that are saying that my participation in this is a potential reason as to why the whole Sad Puppies 3 campaign was created, or that my participation and others like me is what will ‘save the Hugos.’

To all of this, I’m still processing and compiling. I’m not sure what my vested interest in this is. Do I think speculative fiction is important? Yes, I do. Do I think the Hugos help to bring great spec fiction to the focus of the constant rapid change or media consumers? Yes, I do.  Do I consider myself part of the speculative fictions, including science fiction, community? Yes, I do. I may not be a Scalzi or a Hines or even Gibson. Hell, I’m not even at the Jim Butcher level. But, whatever. I’ve been a longtime reader and this is what I write. It should be important.

Now there is the availability to vote a “No Award.” Will I do that? I don’t know. Most of what made the short list, I’ll have to investigate, although a cursory glance has already given me a healthy dose of side-eye. The fact that the final slate has people I haven’t heard of is not scary, but suspect. I’m keeping an open mind, as one is wont to do in Science Fiction especially. Has there always been that segment of the SciFi world that is close-minded and not ready for change? Sure. Every group has that minority. I’m not going to let their existence be the end all be all. In fact, there’s a part of my thought process that believes voters like me — just like the swing vote on Survivor, will be the ones that turn this whole thing around. I also will give some good attention to making sure the nominations I gave to The Hugos are counted in the Locus Awards.

Almost-Human-image-almost-human-36082367-700-700I think much like one of the authors I nominated as a Campbell contender said, much of this Sad Puppy Think of the Children blustering, will just fade away and the Hugos will continue to keep people like me, who are searching the nooks and crannies for good stuff. That much like Elizabeth Bear wrote, fandom will continue and will likely survive, as it has in the fires of other assaults. My hope is that the Hugos community comes on the other end of this as a smarter and better true anarchy.

I’m going to take off my ranty pants here. As you look away (or stare if you like — I was in the Army and have children, I’ve no modesty any more) you can check out what my ballot looked like in the end:

Your nominations for Best Novel:

Southern Reach Trilogy Jeff VandeMeer FSG Originals
Maplecroft Cherie Priest Penguin
The Bees Laline Paul Harper Collins
The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu Macmillian
The Peripheral William Gibson G.P. Putnam Sons

Your nominations for Best Novella:

The End of the Sentence Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howeard Subterranean Press
Where the Trains Turn  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Dream Houses  by Genevieve Valentine  WSFA Press
The Beauty  Aliya Whiteley  Unsung Stories

Your nominations for Best Novelette:

From the Nothing, With Love Phantasm Japan Project Itoh
Written on the Hides of Foxes Alex Dally MacFarlane Beneath Ceaseless Skies
The End of the World in Five Dates Claire Humphrey Apex

Your nominations for Best Short Story:

This Chance Planet Elizabeth Bear
Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology Theodora Goss  Lightspeed
Childfinder Octavia E. Butler  Unexpected Stories
Sarah’s Child Susan Jane Bigelow Strange Horizons
Lucky Strike Kim Stanley Robinson Strange Horizons

Your nominations for Best Related Work:

Special Needs in Strange Worlds  Sarah Chorn SF Signal
IFLScience Contributors
The Secret History Of Wonder Woman  Jill Lepore

Your nominations for Best Graphic Story:

Aama  Frederik Peeters SelfMadeHero
Ant Colony Michael DeForge Drawn and Quarterly
Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel Anya Ulinich Penguin Group

Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

Autómata Gabe Ibáñez Green Moon
Appleseed Alpha Shinji Aramaki Sony Pictures
The Quiet Hour  Stéphanie Joalland Frenzy Films
Flashes Amir Valinia AV1
Snowpiercer  Bong Joon-ho Opus Pictures

Almost-Human-586x310Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):

Unbound  J.H. Wyman Almost Human
Arrhythmia J.H. Wyman Almost Human
Long Into The Abyss Antonio Negret The 100
274 Cameron Porsandeh Helix
Boy Parts  Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy American Horror Story:  Coven

Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form):

Julia Rios
Alisa Krasnostein
William Schafer

Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Long Form):

Amanda Rutter
Ann VanderMeer

Your nominations for Best Professional Artist:

Abigail Larson
Kekai Kotaki
Kentaro Kanamoto
Yuku Shimizu

Your nominations for Best Semiprozine:

Strange Horizons Niall Harrison
Lightspeed John Joseph Adams

Your nominations for Best Fanzine:

Bookworm Blues Sarah Chorn
People of Color in European Art History

Your nominations for Best Fancast:
No nominations. I for the life of me could not figure out what qualified for this, and honestly, I think this should be separated into pro-podcast and amateur podcast. 

Your nominations for Best Fan Writer:

Liz Bourke Sleeps with Monster –
Sarah Mesle Breakers of Chains review
Genevieve Valentine  Strange Horizons

Your nominations for Best Fan Artist:

Finnian MacManus
Jane Patterson

Your nominations for The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):

Usman Malik Resurrection Points
Alyssa Wong Scarecrow –

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Thank you for thinking of me for artist!
I am just about maxed out of brain space for puppy related mess, but just added a whole bunch of things to my TBR list from your ballot.

Lois Buhalis

I know a lot of folks get all political and upset about stuff like this. The fact is, every year, LOTS of truly great and deserving folks never get nominated. Many excellent authors never get this award, EVER. To which I say, “So what?” It’s an award. That’s all. Awards are nice, it’s got to be cool to think the fans liked your work enough to nominate and vote for it, for whatever reason. Next year it’ll be someone else, and the year after that it’ll be someone else again, etc. And ultimately, awards, nice as they can be, aren’t really all that important. I agree with the person who said all this “sad puppy” business will just blow over, and I’m sure it will. The Hugos are, after all, just another popularity contest. They will continue. WorldCon will continue. People will enjoy SF books and media whether their favorites get awards or not. I’ve been in SF fandom since the ’70s, and I really can’t bring myself to care about this a whole lot. It’s another blip, that’s all. You should have been there for the panic and squalls when the Scientologists threatened to stuff the ballot for one of L. Ron Hubbard’s posthumously written books. Now THAT was something! And nothing came of it. Nothing at all.


That’s good historical knowledge to have. I was trying to find research regarding former controversies, and it didn’t seem beyond what any awards program ever has — I have so much to say about how the PK Dick awards are done, but until I’m part of the process, like with the Hugos now, I’ve little credibility to stand on. Regardless, I coudldn’t find much on the former controversies surrounding the Hugos. I can imagine that the L.Ron Hubbard thing was simply scandalous. And yes, today, after much thought, I stay with my last paragraph in that, it will continue and all this bruhaha will blow over.

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