Politics in Print: Why You Should Care About The 2015 Hugo Awards

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Tue, Aug 25 - 1:23 pm EDT | 3 years ago by
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Disclaimer: Two authors nominated for the 2015 Hugo Awards are contractors of Defy Media, LLC who write weekly and biweekly columns for EveryJoe.com. These authors had no involvement in this article. The opinions on the Hugo Awards expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Defy Media, LLC.

From the outside, the Hugo Awards have long been viewed as a prestigious recognition of the best of the best in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy writing. Many on the inside, however, saw the awards taken over by politically motivated nominations and winners, placing either the demographic of the author or the “inclusiveness” of the work on a higher pedestal than the quality of the work itself. Controversy surrounded this year’s Hugo Awards, with the ballot containing many names that liberals have denounced due to the political or ideological stances of those who nominated them.

In 2013 American novelist Larry Correia began writing blog posts, inviting readers to discuss and determine a shared list of Hugo nominations. This was done in an effort to give authors who would otherwise not receive any attention due to their political stances, or due to the overwhelming voices of particular “fandoms,” the opportunity to have their works recognized, and became known as the Sad Puppies slate.

In February, Correia announced the 2015 Sad Puppies slate for the Hugos, writing: “These are my suggested nominations. I am under no delusions that you guys do exactly what I suggest…. But I would encourage you to take a look at these, and consider nominating all of them. Everybody up there is someone who the ELoE talked about. Many of these are deserving, worthy types, who would basically be ignored because they don’t appease the SJW clique.”

“See, the Hugos are broken. Everybody who is sane and paying attention realizes that it is just a popularity contest that has come to be dominated by one tiny insular group,” he continued. “The Hugos are supposed to mean something. They’re supposed to represent what ALL of fandom thinks is awesome. Many of the regular voters still treat it seriously, but they’re outnumbered.”

Chief Warrant Officer in the United States Army Reserve and award-winning science fiction writer Brad Torgersen took the role as frontman this year for the Sad Puppies.

Alternately Theodore Beale, an American writer and publisher who is also known as Vox Day, organized the Rabid Puppies slate, which was motivated by the same principles as Correia’s Sad Puppies, but with different recommendations. The campaigns were both successful, with authors and works endorsed by the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates sweeping the field for this year’s Hugos.

Media sources have widely reported on the Sad and Rabid Puppies’ nominees as misogynistic racist white men attempting to keep the world of science fiction and fantasy writing free of women and racial minorities. Thankfully one source, Entertainment Weekly, corrected their article after admittedly parroting the claims of other publications.

“After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color,” the correction reads. “As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.”

In response to the success of the Puppies’ slates, thousands of people bought Worldcon memberships, which allowed them to vote on the final ballot. According to the Wall Street Journal, 5,950 convention members voted on the final ballot for the Hugo awards this year, a number topping the previous record by more than 65%. Members were encouraged to vote “no award” for a category that did not offer a nominee with acceptable politics that was not endorsed by the Puppies.

Prior to this year, members of the World Science Fiction Society have presented “no award” five times in the history of the Hugo Awards.This year alone, five different categories received “no award” votes.

“The members of the World Science Fiction Society rejected the slate of finalists in five categories, giving No Award in Best Novella, Short Story, Related Work, Editor Short Form, and Editor Long Form,” the official website for the Hugos reads. “This equals the total number of times that WSFS members have presented No Award in the entire history of the Hugo Awards, most recently in 1977.”

Best-selling author of A Song of Ice and Fire George R.R. Martin previously wrote that he felt the Sad Puppies, although they did not break any rules, had broken the Hugo Awards. “A group of writers and fans, many of them of a conservative political and/or literary bent, felt that they were not being adequately represented in the Hugo Awards, and put together their own slate of stories and writers they wanted on the ballot. They blogged, they organized, they got out their voters, and they were wildly successful… to the extent that this year’s Hugo ballot is dominated by their choices,” he wrote. “Call it block voting. Call it ballot stuffing. Call it gaming the system. There’s truth to all of those characterizations. You can’t call it cheating, though. It was all within the rules. But many things can be legal, and still bad… and this is one of those, from where I sit. I think the Sad Puppies have broken the Hugo Awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired.”

As is customary, all of the nomination information was released following the awards ceremony, including those who fell short of nominations. Even though Martin previously spoke out against the “No Award” voting strategy, the author hosted an after party where he handed out his own set of awards, dubbed the “Alfies,” to those who would have been included on the ballot if the Puppies’ slates had not won their bids.

Many feel that what began as an attempt to create a more demographically and ideologically diverse space morphed into a group of oppressively politically correct self-appointed arbitrators of moral appropriateness fueled by cliques, fandoms, and guilt-by-association shaming. It became a concern that voters focused more on what the person nominated believed in than the quality of the work they produced.

Philip Sandifer, a vocal critic of the Puppies and their slates, wrote in a blog post, and reiterated on Twitter, that his vote was determined by politics, although he did not believe that was the motivation behind all of the votes. He also confirmed that there were “sides” at play, and he felt as though the five “no awards” decisions were victories for his side.

“So yeah, my side only won five categories. What a crushing defeat; we only doubled the total number of No Awards in history in the course of a near complete repudiation of the Sad Puppies, with the only Puppy winner being something that would have made the ballot anyway, and helpfully shutting down the argument that the electorate only voted on politics, as opposed to considering politics alongside other things. (Even if I freely admit that I did vote on politics, clearly the electorate didn’t.)”

Theodore Beale wrote on his blog: “I understand that Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books walked out of the ceremony after hearing all the jokes about this being the year of the asterisk. It is just as well, because the no-awarding of her, John C. Wright, and Jim Butcher is conclusive proof that the Hugo Awards are no longer fit for purpose and need to be burned down in their entirety. That was my original position, but this year we Rabids followed the Sad Puppies lead and pursued the ‘fair play’ approach.”

“Now we know the result of that,” he continued. “This is a cultural war, not a literary sport. They are practicing a scorched earth strategy, and we can certainly assist them in that since we do not value their territory. I still think it was worth trying to take Berlin and end the war in one fell swoop, but even though our attempt break them once and for all failed, that only means that the victory was less than complete. What the Puppies accomplished was incredible when you look at the numbers involved and clearly indicates that the Rabid strategy, not the Sad one, is the only viable strategy. There will be no reconciliation.”

Alternately, Larry Carreia wrote: “We saw all sorts of arguments this year. They’d nitpick everything they could to make us the evil outsiders. When it was just me, they made it all about me. When it was bigger than just me, they spread the love (though I still got labeled as a sexist, racist, homophobic, woman hating, wife beater with zero evidence which is always a treat) and went after our supporters. People who agreed with us were misogynists and our female supporters became tokens.”

“There was lots of virtue signaling. They represented purity and tradition, basically all goodness, and since they used up all the goodness, ergo we could only be motivated by greed, spite, and hate,” he continued. “Since most of us never said anything outlandish or offensive, they picked the most controversial figure they could from an allied movement, and ascribed everything they’ve ever said about him to all of us, and if we failed to denounce sufficiently, said we must be the same. Meanwhile, they don’t have to denounce their assholes, and instead continue to shower praise and awards on literal NAMBLA supporters.”

And now for my take. As the determinations were made based off politics, I would be remiss if I did not touch upon this a bit. I personally find many of Theodore Beale’s political opinions distasteful and disagreeable. He is a man I could never see myself agreeing on much with. However, in spite of his desire to take extreme action, he is right in his assertion that the Hugo Awards have imploded, and this was done through no fault of his own. I find it more distasteful and disagreeable that politics are a more integral criteria in determining excellence in writing and editing than the actual writing and editing. Possibly most distasteful and disagreeable of all is the fact that different people, with different approaches and beliefs, are having the words of each other held against them. Correia, Beale, and their nominees are being reported on by the media as interchangeable people who should be held responsible not only for their own words and actions, but also for the words and actions of one another.

Winners are being determined based off the politics of those nominating them instead of the quality of work they are providing. A movement peddling promises of inclusiveness has become the most exclusive I’ve seen in recent years, and now the world is aware of it. I don’t have to agree with Beale’s politics to see what is happening, and what needs to change. And neither do you.

Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.

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