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The Least Worst Option – Democracy, the Hugos and other Sci-Fi & Fantasy awards: Part 1

general_election_2_3143789aWith more than two weeks since the election in the UK, the usual politics fatigue has taken over conversations across the country. Social media has shouted itself hoarse (no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on), and those who are still passionate about the issues are waiting for the consequences of a bitter and mostly out-of-touch campaign to play out.

Hugo Award LogoSound familiar, SFF fans? Yeah. This year’s Hugo Awards nominations are a fiasco turning quickly into a disaster right before our horrified eyes, and there are many who are prematurely mourning complete Hugo death. People, calm down. Hugo may be old, but it’s not a corpse just yet, and the awards don’t get announced until Sasquan in August.

For those of you who have been living in the middle of the desert on Tatooine, what’s happened is that two writers (Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson) were annoyed that their works have never won a Hugo (despite being nominated, which is still a great honour). They decided that this was because what they considered old-fashioned, straight up entertainment in SFF has recently been overlooked in favour of SFF that is overly literary. In addition, they believe that recent winners were also only nominated because of affirmative action i.e. that winners and nominees of recent years only won because they were women, or LGBTQ, or people of colour.

sad_puppies_3_patch1If that sounds like grown-ass men crying because they didn’t win a Hugo, well, that’s because… it’s grown-ass men crying because they didn’t win a Hugo. Instead of doing what anyone else who was mature would do – which is to pick up that pen and go write a monumentally awesome story – they decided to hijack the voting process of the Hugos. Both of them selected a bunch of stories they said was old-fashioned, straight up entertaining SFF, called it the Sad Puppies slate, and told their audience to go vote for ALL OF THOSE STORIES.

What’s more, there is a troubling relationship between them and Vox Day, a guy who is one of the most hateful, bigoted, spiteful people you will ever come across on the internet, let alone in SFF. His track record includes calling N.K. Jemisin a ‘half-savage’ and countless other incidents of homophobia, racism and sexism.

Vox Day organised another, more extreme voting slate which overlapped with the Sad Puppies slate, and posted it only a day after Torgesen posted the Sad Puppies slate. Torgersen and Correia may be distancing themselves from Vox Day now, but past conversations between them and the similarity between the two slates (even down to the logos), means they can’t say Vox Day has nothing to do with them. The result of this orgy of poisonous resentment is that the Hugo nominations are full of what they think are REAL and CORRECT SFF stories.

It’s breathtaking, the hypocrisy in stacking an awards vote against everyone you don’t like, because you felt like an awards vote was stacked against you.

joe_abercrombieIf those stories were any good, maybe there would be a sort of really sad silver lining to this, but just look at those nominations. Where is Emily St. John Mandel? Where is Joe Abercrombie? Where is Stephen flippin’ King, for crying out loud???

Outrage hasn’t been the only outcome so far – one of the novelettes they nominated was withdrawn because of ineligibility. LOL. Ahem. Then the legend that is Connie Willis declined to present an award, then two nominees (Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos) who were on the Day/Torgersen/Correia slate withdrew their stories from consideration. In Kloos words, it was because ‘I cannot in good conscience accept an award nomination that I feel I may not have earned solely with the quality of the nominated work.’

black_gate_2008sumTo add to this horrendous mess, Black Gate then withdrew from the Fanzine category, and Edmund Schubert withdrew from the Best Editor: Short Form category. Both cited reasons similar to Markos Kloos.

Crikey. At this rate, the ceremony in August is going to be like walking through an abandoned city in an apocalyptic future – full of nothing but sad ghosts and angry zombies. I’d pick the apocalyptic city over the ceremony.

It is true that no awards vote is ever truly free from campaigning. The Locus Awards publishes a recommending reading list before the poll ballots are distributed. People blog about friends who’ve written books, draw up their own reading lists, and promote their own work. Sometimes it influences the people who vote, not usually to a huge degree. Sometimes it doesn’t influence them. Hardly any of this, however, is driven by spite, or a childish tantrum at not winning.

How do we fix this? Solutions have been agonised over by many, but to be honest, there’s never a perfect way of voting for something. Tomorrow we’ll examine how awards are selected and the pros and cons of each process.

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