On Hugos, Puppies, and Remember that blog post I wrote…

If asked, I’ll tend to answer that one of the more important things to me is the idea of science fiction, fantasy, and the related speculative fictions being taken seriously. I think I expressed that best so far in my Realistic vs. Romantic Literature post.

I bring this up because one of the things that I feel like ought to matter for these sorts of literature to be taken seriously would be for their awards, at least, to be solid. For at least the fandom, the people who do care and who do take it seriously, to keep it together.

Which is why I have been so disappointed in the controversy over the Hugo awards. Because I want to see the Hugos taken seriously. Because I often turn to the Hugos to figure out what I should read – and I imagine others do as well. I’ve even thought of recommending the Hugo award winners as a complete set that should be held at the library. I want this to be a list of titles that matter.

For a full rundown on the controversy, I would recommend this Wired article. I read that, and it was pretty darn good. Covered a lot of the history of it, a number of good interviews on both sides. However, one of the saddest things to me was the extent to which even Wired was down on Science Fiction. Calling it a “maligned literary sub-genre” and talking about how the mainstream media barely touched it. Well, I’ll let you read it.

Wired Quote 1 part 1 Wired Quote 1 part 2

To even talk about it that way, for it to be the representation of the genre… sigh.

Meanwhile, Puppygate (ugh, can we stop calling everything -gate?), to a great extent, reminds me of the gaming gate we mentioned recently – and I think the videos we linked there apply really well here too. Even to the point of there being a more mild group that’s being used, and an extreme and strategic group using them. Which worked out kind of like this:

Wired Quote 2

I think it’s pretty awesome how many people turned out, and how many awards were actually not awarded. That there were people who declined their nominations. Because new ideas matter. Because representation matters. And because quality matters. And spiking a ballot – in any direction – doesn’t help with those things. It’s science fiction – a diversity of ideas is kind of the point.

Or, to close out with one more Wired quote:

Wired Quote 3

That would be Martin, George R.R. Who held a losers after party, because he’s that awesome.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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32 responses to “On Hugos, Puppies, and Remember that blog post I wrote…

  1. I think there might have been a misreading of maligned up there. What it was saying, I think, is that the Puppies were pushing back against change in a genre that is under heavy criticism at the moment from under-represented minority groups. And that would probably be true, like all of the scandals in SWFA over the last few years, and the need for things like “Women Destroy Science Fiction” and so on.

    The WIRED article was really good, though, I agree. And I was glad to see that the awards weren’t tainted by a group whose leader has since backpedaled (as predicted) to proclaim it was “never serious.”

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    • I don’t know. Other phrases like about the “nerd on nerd” violence and how science fiction is a literary “bad neighborhood.” They say these things because enough people believe them, and, we fans believe that others believe them.

      And ohhhh he said it was never serious? Because Wired had him set up expecting he would claim victory with literally whatever happened. And do it again next year. I guess the proof will be in what next year’s Hugos look like!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think SFF, but especially SF gets a bad wrap because in no other genre (really, when you think about it) do fans have lengthy debates over which author/series/book was better, and in no other genre do you see politics come into so much play. I think it’s because SF has the potential to shape our minds about our future that it draws out the best, and worst, in people… a sort of elevated, accelerated discourse on problems that have not even happened yet (in many cases). Sure, I can throw Twilight a bone about the fan feuds, but SFF is definitely where it happens the most.

        And that’s not to say it’s bad. It’s freaking amazing that SFF has a COMMUNITY built around it, a community that actually, actively does things to make the fiction real, or at least MORE real.

        I agree that the WIRED article, in places, sounds like an outsider reporting on the inside state of things, and that may be true…

        Liked by 2 people

        • They sounded half inside half outside. It was an odd tone.

          And you have a point about the fighting over who and what is best – maybe it’s without things like the Hugos that SFF would get more respect. Then we could be competing with all other fiction…

          Of course, I don’t remember the rest of fiction liking that, when Harry Potter owned the New York Times Best Seller list. They spun apart the list so that that wouldn’t happen again. Sure, that was on the YA side of things… But I still feel like a lot of the attitude is that SFF is juvenile, so there’s that…

          Some of why I turn to “the best” stuff is I read so slowly that it’s hard for me to be the one blazing a trail reading the new untested stuff… But also, I am realizing, that it’s partially because there is this chatter about who’s best. And that there’s always the argument if “you need to read this author.” Working on Ann Rice right now… Sitting on Clarke, Willis, and more that I’ve bought and not gotten to…

          I’ve been thinking about writing a post about how three types of stories are: that which was, that which is, and that which could be. The last being nearest and dearest to my heart. And representation matters when you’re writing a story about that which could be: if it’s full of today’s problems, is it really a story about what could be – or just a somewhat different now? Thoughts?

          Liked by 1 person

          • It could be that the traditional lists don’t want SFF to meld with the rest (unlike mystery, romance, and horror) is that SFF deals with things outside of the established world. It becomes a separate beast entirely in fiction when the human problems of the world can be solved by supernatural/engineered/magical options. Maybe they feel it takes the “challenge” of the spirit away (though I’d argue that it means that SFF must have multiple conflicts going on to be compelling to its readership, whereas a romance or mystery can get by with a single conflict and still do well.)

            As we’ve seen with cinema lately, SFF has dominated, and will likely continue to dominate…. the community can easily overwhelm other communities…. so in a way, maybe it’s good we have our own award shows. 😛 Though, I think that it has been a detriment, in some ways, because the books with the best PR (Tor) have the most visibility and therefore the most hype, and then get read the most. So yeah, I agree with you there. I think the Hugos could be fixed by a registered, but free, monitored (no multiple email addresses loophole) vote instead of one that requires a fee. I think that there should be some narrowing of the larger categories to include small presses and indie, and maybe even spec fic vs. fantasy vs. science fiction. They’re not the same, and it’s hard for them all to compete in the same place.

            I think your ideas for posts sound really interesting. But you know I like your posts… as evidenced by the essay I just left here. 😛

            Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah so far our comments section is representing another whole post or two… 🙂
            I am trying to remember who towards the end of the Wired article was talking about self-published… Maybe even Martin. And the problem there is that the really good stuff doesn’t get any extra publicity, so the problem is finding out what of it might be worth reading. And there’s oh so much of it. And back to my library thought on self published, indie and e-books – not many there. So young me, walking through browsing for a book, would never find them.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. It was more a case of one group of diverse writers lost in the nominations to another group of diverse writers, but because diversity was superimportantTM to the first group, the first group got their media friends to call the second group a bunch of racist white guys. Ironically, after Three Body Problem made it on despite not being on the slates, Beale came out and endorsed it, pretty much saying ‘wow, this was really good, you need to check it out, the only reason I hadn’t put it on the list was I hadn’t read it yet.’

    I’m not sure what was grosser, making fun of an eastern religion as a running joke or the thousands in the crowd cheering that they’d nuked a record number of categories, including one in which a woman would’ve won with a record number of votes in her category if she hadn’t been No Awarded.

    The Hugos are ruined. The Puppies have shown that they can lock down nominations and the “TruFans” have shown that they can keep nominees from getting anywhere once they’re locked in. While we don’t know how many years both sides will manage to drag this out, the one thing I’m sure of is the Hugos are not worth saving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll latch onto the discussion bit of this: why would you say the Hugos aren’t worth saving? Can’t be saved is one thing, but not worth it is another!

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      • What I mean is that it would take such a radical sea-change in the culture of worldcon that the amount of fighting it would take, mudslinging that must be endured, and what would certainly be a protracted battle for at the very least the next 3-5 years if not an entire generation, it would not be worth it.

        All sides proved that worldcon would rather burn than let outsiders take home trophies. One thing that’s important to note is that the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies had very different win conditions. The Sad Puppies were really hoping that they could get some awards and be accepted as part of fandom and put the vitriol being spat at them to rest. The worst thing the Sad Puppies did was not put forward the kind of science fiction their attackers claimed they wanted. I would’ve loved to have seen stuff like out of 1940s Planet Stories sweep the short fiction nominations.

        The Rabid Puppies however ‘win’ because they showed that the worldcon crowd really would rather put up a record number of no awards, ‘take the ball and go home’, AND the Rabid Puppies know that they can probably force them to do so every year from now on until one side gives out.

        At least Rat Queens didn’t take Best Graphic Novel. It would’ve been hard to justify nuking categories because of certain authors having the ‘wrong ideas’ while giving a trophy to a wife-beater.

        Liked by 1 person

        • See I still think the Sad Puppies are closer to the discussion about Gamer Gate in these videos: https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/on-the-gates-that-gamers-build/
          In other words, the worst they did was not completely stop the other group of Puppies, who rode their coat-tails into a win for the one and loss for the other. As Holly pointed out to me, if this is a one-year thing it’s not quite like Gamer Gate… But as you say, this is probably for years to come, so it’s going to keep going. And get uglier.

          I could see saving the Hugos by decoupling them from Worldcon… But then are they the Hugos? I guess I see your point. A small save could be more awards categories, but there’s some more fighting to come I’m sure.

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          • I don’t know that that’s an entirely fair assessment of gamergate, especially in light of the recognition of their concerns by the SPJ (I highly recommend watching those panels and the interviews following the bomb-threat evacuation during the 2nd panel if you have time. The entirety of the preceding can be found in this video https://youtu.be/1BNLi7EwAb8).

            In both cases, gamergate and Sad Puppies were victims of constantly moving goal-posts; just as those involved in Gamergate condemned the trolling and harassment, the Sad Puppies distanced themselves from Vox, to the point of several prominent figures saying “look, we’re not Vox, we don’t share or endorse his opinions”, but in the end, it’s never enough to appease their opponents who would rather see them destroyed than contrite.

            The Hugos can’t be decoupled from worldcon because worldcon owns them. It’s more a matter of which side can sway the culture of worldcon in their preferred direction.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Looks like I have some homework 🙂

            I would say this happens in pretty much any political situation – especially when it devolves into a binary. There’s always the moderates, and the radicals, but they end up on the same side. Most American conservatives probably hate being lumped in with their crazier wing but have to court or pander to them anyway – and similarly with our liberals. In a more parliamentary system, they can go be another party.
            And so while the Sad Puppies – or the Angry Jacks – might think they are “another party,” we’ve grown too used to the binary in America. They become not the radical party, just the radical wing of the party.
            Wow, I just made this a really really big systemic problem, didn’t I? Might need to go write this as a science fiction story… 🙂

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          • In both cases, the flames were fanned by hyperbolic media rhetoric that was provably false. If the mainstream media chose to cover either gamergate or the Sad Puppies fairly, neither the situation in gaming nor the situation with the Hugos would be near as bad as they are.

            Of course the die hard partisans on both sides will call people names. The problem is when the supposedly neutral media is pursuing a narrative of ‘white male misogynists trying to run women and people of color out of gaming/science fiction’, when that narrative is provably false in both cases. Those accusations being leveled are particularly egregious to the women and non-white individuals involved in both cases, and so when they’re made, yeah, folks get angry.

            But hey, I appreciate your open mindedness on these issues! One of the reasons why I stick around here 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah, I would say the media is one of the top reasons why – in both these cases, and in terms of our partisan politics – this idea of the binary persists.
            Science fiction answer again: I wonder what this will all look like when things like YouTube supplant traditional news media as the predominant source for people. When we’re finding a voice we like or that’s like us – rather than stuck with the few big options that feed into each other – what would that world look like?

            And at least name calling seems like some of the worst in Puppygate. The death threats etc. in Gamergate make that an overall worse situation, and it’s far more targeted on individuals I feel as well. So hopefully they don’t end up being all that similar…

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          • I also think part of the problem lies in the narrative aligning Baphomet with Gamergate, despite Baph having targeted numerous Gamergate supporters for doxxing and harassment as well as non-gamergate targets.

            Liked by 1 person

          • There’s a lot of problems!

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          • I know! That’s one reason why it’s difficult for someone from the outside to come into it to understand. There’s so much going on and so much history; I mean, it goes back even further than that guy who was fired for giving Kane & Lynch a 6.0 review!

            Liked by 1 person

          • That’s part of why I liked the video we shared – some of its most solid stuff is about the people who aren’t looking at it hard, who are coming in later, having a largely emotional reaction, and coming down on one side or the other. I think their psychological analysis in that sense was really good. And as you’re pointing out, it is a lot of work to actually get educated on these things!

            It reminds me of the Penny Arcade “dickwolves” controversy, and how there was a “debacle” tumblr account that added every reference and article about it. Tons of stuff! And we ended up in it lol: https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/pax-controversy/ Links to the tumblr in the comments.

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          • Dickwolves was long after I’d stopped reading Penny Arcade, but I’ll admit I was surprised it took them that long to get such a huge controversy surrounding them. It was really one of those cases where response to the response and subsequent damage control was much worse that the original offense. I think I would’ve respected Gabe & Mike more if they’d left it at a “Whatever…” and just been business as usual.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I think that the controversy I linked to was controversy two, when it came up AGAIN… the initial was more immediate. And yeah, moving on was the clear better choice on that one… not as cut and dry with the -gates, I guess.

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          • One way to think of it is that Gamergate is more like the reaction to the Dickwolves than it is to the Dickwolves itself; bad actors with a habit of doubling down ultimately provoked a backlash against them. Just as there were people who weren’t offended by the Dickwolves joke itself but were annoyed by the response of PA to the original outrage, people were more offended by the media lashing out at those who were questioning their practices than they were by the original questionable practices. People joked about the Kane & Lynch thing, Dorito Pope and stuff like that, but when those platforms came out and said not only “how dare you question our integrity” but “you are X, Y and Z for questioning it”, THEN people were angry.

            Liked by 1 person

          • And then it has snowballed. Yeah, I can see it. There’s also, once it’s a big enough snowball, the folks who are piling on – on both sides – and it grows and lives on.
            I think one of the main conclusions of the videos about Gamergate is that this is all going to happen again, with a new instigation. And I 100% see that being the case. Not that we can at all predict what the cause will be, just that there will definitely be one.

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          • Oh, and thanks for sticking around, Alex 😀

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          • No problem! Oh, hey, and speaking of “win conditions” for the Puppies, Larry Correia, who started Sad Puppies has pretty much come out and said what I just said:

            “The real winner this year was Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies. Yep. You CHORFing idiots don’t seem to realize that Brad, Sarah, and I were the reasonable ones who spent most of the summer talking Vox out of having his people No Award the whole thing to burn it down, but then you did it for him. He got the best of both worlds. Oh, but now you’re going to say that Three Body Problem won, and that’s a victory for diversity! You poor deluded fools… That was Vox’s pick for best novel. That’s the one most of the Rabid Puppies voted for too.”

            He also brings up Toni Weisskopf’s category being No Awarded despite her receiving four times previous record number of votes for Best Editor. It’s an interesting read…

            http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/08/24/sad-puppies-3-looking-at-the-results/

            Liked by 1 person

          • More required reading… 🙂

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  3. I tried to read all the thread, and just couldn’t. I think the outcome of the awards themselves is about the best anyone could hope for, and I think the “no awards” and the people declining is good, given the circumstances.

    Also take your point up there. I’ll have to read the wired article and decide for myself, but I don’t like the whole sub-genre thing. One of the inspirations for Sourcerer was lengthy discussions between Me, Jeremy, @parttimemonster, and others, about the “ghettoization” of sci fi and fantasy. Jeremy even went so far at one point as to use the physical layout of bookstores as an example to illustrate the point, and he was compelling at the time, though it’s been two years and we never wrote about it, so I’m a bit fuzzy.

    Here’s one from the Guardian I picked up last night that might interest you.

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/aug/24/diversity-wins-as-the-sad-puppies-lose-at-the-hugo-awards

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a growing list of recommended reading and viewing in this thread… will have to follow up and do a follow-up post!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Also… yes and no on best outcome. If this spells the death-knell of the Hugos (it was as many or more No Awards as had previously been awarded in the whole history of the Hugos) then the question becomes, are the Hugos a big loss or not? Which is itself a question we’ve been chewing on in the thread. If the Hugos just become a culture wars battleground, they may be lost for good. Time will tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the ballot was loaded with unacceptable, if I understand the situation. “Best” in this case is the fandom did not bow to the unacceptable. You are right. Time will tell. If it happens again next year, maybe the Hugos are done. They have no value if they can’t reward quality. As to how big a loss that would be: a big one, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • From the sounds of it, it wasn’t necessarily a wholly unreasonably ballot – it was a business-as-usual ballot, however. So not like it was spiked with outright bad stuff, which kind of makes this all harder. Then, this ballot was co-opted by some bad apples (the “Rabid Puppies”) who proceeded to stuff the ballots with someone else’s list. That’s where I saw the strongest connection to ye gate of gamers: a radical, generally hate-filled group taking over and ruining a mild-mannered protest.

          For example, one of the people who did make the list was a self-published female author who was, to paraphrase her from the Wired article, “everything the Rabid Puppies hate.” But they didn’t think through the ballot at all – they just pushed it wholesale. Far more about breaking/controlling the system than about much else.

          To I think quote the Wired article this time… “Some nerds just want to watch the world burn.”

          Liked by 1 person

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  5. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – War | Comparative Geeks

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