Hugos 2016

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The World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) is over for another year and, as has been the case for the last few years, it was not without controversy. The culture wars that permeate American society have reached deeply into the doings of the science fiction community. The campaigns of the conservative Sad Puppies and loony right Rabid Puppies to subvert the Hugo Awards were again in play with a limited amount of success. One proponent of the slate was expelled from the convention for hijacking a panel discussion to rant against the evils of Social Justice Warriors and I’m sure other, less public, debates, filled many of the rooms and hallways.

I wasn’t there but it seemed to me that the whole thing had lost some of its sting. Perhaps people have grown tired of it (Man, are my dogs barking!) or perhaps the impending rule changes to limit the impact of slate voting took the wind out of their sails. None of the true puppy nominees won though there were a couple of categories where No Award was given. In the rest there was at least one non-slate candidate to vote for – and in most cases, more than one – and that’s who won.

As I say I wasn’t there but I did watch the ceremony on my computer. After all, having recently won an Aurora Award, I have some interest in the matter of SF prizes. I thought the hosts handled the situation with dignity and lots of humour and did a good job of keeping the tension out of the room. Only Neil Gaiman in his absentee acceptance took a shot at the whole Puppies’ slate – essentially pulling aside the cover that they had tried to hide behind of nominating a few works from outside their own numbers so they could claim victory when those more ‘mainstream’ nominees won. It’s an old trick and would fool no one with any experience in the world.

It made me wonder – just how big is the Puppies movement? Fortunately the voting results give us a clue. Theodore Beale aka Vox Day was up for a couple of awards; he is the leader of the Rabid Puppies so presumably his numbers should be fairly telling. And they were. For Best Novella, his total on the first pass was 67 out of 2903. For Best Editor it was 165 out of 2386. That then is the core group of Rapid Puppies – who presumably would show some loyalty to their putative leader. As for the larger Puppies group? That’s a little harder to pin down but can be winkled out from looking at the results of later passes – how many votes did they get before the ballot expired? Somewhere in the range of 450 (the number of nominations their slate received) to 650 (the maximum number of people who preferred them to No Award) it seems.

So the hard core RBs represent 5-7% of voting fandom and the more casual supporters less than 20%. While everyone denies there is an opposite slate – there is one telling number. A book by Jim Hines featuring John Scalzi and which, I guess (as I haven’t read it), represents the opposite camp, garnered about 188 nominations (out of 2080) in its category (and didn’t make the final ballot) . Conclusions can’t be drawn from a single case but I have to ask: What is all the fuss about?

Looks to me like most fans just want to have fun.

And that’s ten minutes.

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The Auroras

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The Canadian science fiction and fantasy awards (The Auroras) ballot was announced yesterday and I’m pleased to say that I was nominated in the ‘Best Related Work’ category for editing Strange Bedfellows — an  anthology of political science fiction. I’m particularly proud of this work which was crowd-funded and attracted some top science fiction writers from around the world.

What really impressed me about the ballot was its overall quality. If you look at the novel category, you find some of the top names, not just in Canadian SF&F but the top names in the field, including a couple of former Nebula and Hugo nominated and winning writers. The category of YA novel is equally impressive. Both lists feature award winning and best selling novelists (not to mention award-winning, bestselling novelists).

One friend said, ruefully — it’s as good as this year’s Hugo ballot. And he’s not wrong. The Aurora ballot is not always as amazing as it is this year but generally, especially in the novel categories, it represents the best of the year published by Canadian writers. It’s not always perfect and some writers have been neglected — though usually because people aren’t aware that those writers (published mostly in the USA) are even Canadians.

Unlike the Hugos over the past two years, there were no slates involved — though that wasn’t always the case. Some years ago there were examples of block voting that, one year, saw every nominee — including the nominees for the French version of the awards (now dealt with separately from the English awards) coming from the City of Toronto. Now Toronto is a nice place but it’s hardly the only place where good SFF is made. It actually turned out to be good for the awards as it lead to greater participation by other parts of the country in the process. A few simple rule changes (you’ll have to ask the admins what they were) and that problem seems to have gone away. In any case the slate was geographically based rather than political — ‘we’ll vote for all the people we know’ seems to have been the primary motive. Maybe the Hugo Awards folks can learn something from their example.

And of course there is often some gentle campaigning — along the lines of: here are the things I have eligible and, perhaps, here’s a sample of my work if you would be so kind… In fact, those who cross the line and get a little aggressive are mildly rebuked (and often don’t get on the ballot anyway).

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a situation where people felt they had to vote No Award as a first choice. By the way, we’d like to keep it that way — which will probably be the case, since only Canadians are eligible to nominate and vote. Canadians can be plenty passionate about our politics and our science fiction — but we’re just too damn polite to ever become Rabid Puppies.

And that’s ten minutes.