The Hugos 3


So here I am poking that sore tooth with my tongue again. I wasn’t going to but when you lie awake at night thinking about something, it creates a certain urgency. It’s my version of “I have to write,” I guess.

The whole Hugo thing is really starting to spin out of control. Revered figures in the field have announced they won’t present at the awards; some say they won’t even attend the convention. Meanwhile, two of the nominees — people who apparently weren’t consulted when put on the Sad/Rabid Puppies slate — have withdrawn their nominations. Not sure what that will do to the ballot but it has to add to the taint that this year’s awards will inevitably have. On the flip side, defenders of the Sad Puppies (most go out of their way to differentiate Sad and Rabid Puppies) produce elaborate — though flawed — data analysis of why there may be some basis for their complaints. {I could deconstruct them — as a policy analyst, it is what I do — but who has time in ten minutes?}

But that wasn’t what kept me awake at night. Really, the Hugos don’t matter that much to me. In the eight World Cons I have gone to, I’ve only attended the ceremonies twice. I like awards well enough — I’ve won a few myself and they always made me happy — but sometimes the process makes me tense and sad for those whose hopes are dashed.

The thing that bothers me most about this is the division it is creating among people who mostly have no ‘dog in this fight’ if you will excuse the expression. On a personal level, I think this kerfuffle taints the whole award process, not just the Hugos but every popular award process in the field of science fiction. Usually at this time of year I’m bringing things to people’s attention for the Canadian Aurora Awards. But in 2015 I’m reluctant to do so. I probably will anyway but it won’t be that enthusiastic.

Then there is the impact on people I know. I see people taking sides — arguing and even de-friending each other on social media. Even the most gentle suggestions that there might be merit in one side or the other, leads to arguments. Most of my friends are definitely outraged by events — especially by Theodore Beale (Vox Day) — but some have raised defenses of the Sad Puppy slate or at least of their stated mission. I happen to think they are wrong but I’m used to thinking people are wrong about their political views. I’m more than happy to debate with them and suspect that, if name calling is avoided and reason prevails, I can more than hold my own. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those in the field who are trying to have that debate or trying to make something good happen out of it all.

I don’t think that the Hugo controversy of the last two or three years will lead to the destruction of the awards altogether. Most people — believe it or not — are reasonable and a compromise that works for everyone might be found. But if not — if the Hugos simply become another casualty of the endless culture wars that Americans like to wage with themselves, so be it. Institutions have a lifespan just like people. Some things have to die so other things can grow. If the Hugos go away, too bad, but science fiction as a field will survive and probably thrive — even if we are all confined to our respective ghettos and made poorer both financially and culturally by that.

What I do regret is that some people are going to remain enemies forever — based on a matter of opinion. I’m a loyal person and I won’t abandon friends simply because we have a political disagreement (though I might feel sad about it). But because of that some of my friends might abandon me.

And that’s slightly more than ten minutes.


2 thoughts on “The Hugos 3

  1. jeanlouist

    Having just read or, to be more precise, having tried to read to the end a non-Puppy story that may end up among the nominees, I do have a smidgeon more sympathy for the Sad Puppies. And one can’t deny that recent Hugo novel winners have favoured fantasy works and British or ex-British authors in a context where there are no U.S.-specific science fiction awards while there are such things as the World Fantasy Con and British awards. Of course, that wasn’t raised as such (I think) or not very prominently, but it may figure in the sense of grievance.

    That said, I still think that it was a molehill turned into a mountain by the Sad Puppies who then used an asteroid to flatten the mountain and turn it into a crater of bubbling hurt and pain… If that wasn’t what they intended because they failed to plan for success, then it may not be so much about the political polarization of America as about the dumbing-down of American culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If it’s a certain fabulist story which I suspect you’re talking about I also read it today and it gave me a chuckle. It was an entertaining enough story as long as you don’t see it as Science! Fiction. Was it the best thing written all year? Heavens no! But if it remains the only short story that non-puppy voters have available, it’ll probably end up winning the Hugo. And then the puppies will be angry that again some piece of surreal non-true-science fabulism more interested in emotional resonance than whether a goldfish could survive for an hour in flat 7up has won yet again, cue more vitriol, and more divisiveness, only next year probably with more slates. And that’s not something anybody should want.

      The novel category was fine, but it’s scandalous that Skin Game was on the list and Three Body Problem was not (and I say that as somebody who read and liked both).

      Today I submitted my Aurora Award nominations. And it was great. I looked at the list of eligible titles and went, “what have I read this year that I would most like to see honoured?” And without consulting a single solitary soul (or indeed even mentioning who I was nominating to anybody else) I wrote down my nominations and sent them in.

      If only the Hugos could be the same.


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