2015 Hugo Award Reaction

As if you wanted to hear more.

Too bad.

Wired published this article on the results of the 2015 Hugo Awards and the related Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies brouhaha that went along with them this year. If you’re reading this far, I’ll assume that you already know the background (if not, check out the article or do a search), and I’ll get right to my points.

First off, I’ve met Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen. They’re good people who are passionate about what they love. They are not bigots of any kind as far as I can observe—though they do have the tendency to be meaner online than they are in person. But what else is new on the Internet? I’m glad that Wired, unlike many other sources, took the time to interview them and get their side of the story for the article.

Vox Day, on the other hand, is a different story.

Every quote I’ve read of his seems to confirm that he is all the bad things that people accuse the Puppies of being. Wired quotes him as saying, “I love chaos. I am generally pretty destructive,” and later bragging about how his “390 . . . vile faceless minions” were “sworn to mindless and perfect obedience” to his every blogged command. Instead of trying to bring attention to a perceived bias in the Hugo awards (like Larry and Brad), Vox Day set out “to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” He wanted to tear down something people loved and respected because the people running it didn’t support his extreme viewpoints.

Vox Day is the Joker of modern SF’s Gotham. He almost said it himself—he is an agent of chaos. This wasn’t lost on the Wired author, who commented, “Some nerds just want to watch the world burn.”

It wasn’t lost on others in the SF/F community either. Annie Bellet, who withdrew her Hugo-nominated short story from consideration, also talked with Wired:

Bellet said she thinks Beale “rode” Correia and Torgersen “like ponies. I told Brad that. He said, ‘Just because we’re on the freeway in different cars heading the same direction doesn’t mean we’re together.’ I said, ‘Dude, you’re in the same car, and Vox Day is driving.’ He doesn’t get it. It makes me so sad.”

She’s right. Sad Puppies started out as a fun way of highlighting a legitimate concern. But somewhere along the way it got hijacked by the Rabid Puppies, and the distinction between the two movements has become so blurred on the blogosphere that outsiders have a nightmarish time trying to distinguish the good of the Sad Puppies from the bad of Vox Day. I was at Sasquan. People referred to “the Puppies” as a single unit, not the two distinct movements they actually are. And that’s a shame because it puts good people like Brad and Larry in the same box as people like Vox Day—guilty by association.

It’s the same thing that’s happened with today’s Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. The mainstream or “establishment” Republican Party is (at least ostensibly) about smaller government—a legitimate viewpoint worthy of consideration. Then the Tea Party came along in 2010, bringing with it an utter contempt for compromise or any governance that wasn’t exactly the way they liked it. Since they came to power, Congress has been the least productive it’s ever been, and the United States of America has been plagued by the constant threat of a government shutdown if the Tea Partiers don’t get everything exactly their way. The Tea Party would rather make government of, for, and by the people cease to function than allow somebody else to get what they want. Vox Day has achieved a partial success in getting the Hugo awards to cease functioning. But instead of an awards ceremony, the Tea Party movement has culminated in the candidacy of Donald Trump, who has already partly succeeded in getting media coverage of real issues to cease functioning.

What’s interesting to me is how many Mormons have been swept up in both movements. It’s the old ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ idea—expressed by Brad Torgersen as going to the same place in different cars. But the reality is that the car has been hijacked. You started out intending to go one place, but the people around you have steered you in a different direction, and the result is always bad. In the one case, “No Award” getting the most votes in five Hugo categories. In the other case, Donald Trump becoming a serious contender in the Republican primary.

Just because someone likes the same cool book as you does not make them a person you want to be in any way associated with. Just because a politician is against abortion (or for it) doesn’t mean they deserve your vote. Listen to everything else they represent, and then decide whether they’re really someone you want on your side. Howard Tayler said it best: “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more, no less.

We Mormons tend to see things in terms of black and white, pure good and vile evil—”He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). And while that’s true in a spiritual sense, it’s not the way we should live in the real world. For, as Lloyd Alexander said, within all men’s hearts “are good and evil mixed“—the divine child of God from the Primary hymn and “natural man” spoken of in Mosiah 3:19. (The wolf that wins, of course, being the one we feed throughout our lives.) A person can go back and forth throughout their lives, yielding first to one voice, then the other.

So I’m sad that Larry and Brad are undeservedly equated with Vox Day. I’m even sadder for editors like Anne Sowards and Toni Weisskopf, who had even less to do with the slates and who were denied an award just for doing their jobs. I’m sad for deserving stories like “Totaled” and “Turncoat” that, like the editors, were declared guilty of being nominated by the wrong people. I hope those authors and editors get nominated again.

I’m less sad about other things. The “No Award” option winning in the Novella and Best Related Work categories, I thought, was deserved. I read the entries and did not enjoy any of them, and my votes reflected my experience. I would much rather have read Patrick Rothfuss’s novella, and Shadows Beneath was a way better work than any of the nominees. There were several weak novelettes as well, which, had I been the editor who found them in the slush pile, I would have sent back to the author with a request for major revisions. If one of the Sad Puppies’ goals was to show that fun, deserving works were being ignored by the Hugos, I have to say that as a professional editor, I am less convinced of this now than I was before. I want a Hugo award winner to be so good that everyone else in the industry (including me) now has to work harder because it’s been published. The quality of this year’s nominees, including a couple of the novels, was disappointing to me.

Obviously, other editors had different opinions and published them anyway. That’s publishing. Editors are not some homogeneous bloc of literary elite all wired in to the same central computer. We have differences of opinion, and that’s good because it helps keep the field varied. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa, and that’s how it should be.

But a lot of the nominees this year didn’t do it for me.

Per Dan Wells’ post, I want to end on a happier note. I am glad about some things. I’m glad Ms. Marvel won Best Graphic Story, as I thought it was by far the best. It wasn’t R-rated, thank heavens, and it dealt intelligently with topics that I’ve found myself drawn to in my own fiction. The Dramatic Presentation: Long Form nominees were all excellent, and while I preferred Interstellar and Edge of Tomorrow to Guardians of the Galaxy, you can’t fight a tidal wave, and that’s OK too. And the show that presented the awards was quite entertaining. As for the applause when no award was announced, I like to think that people were cheering more for the fact that their preferred choice prevailed—that their voice was heard—rather than against any specific individual who didn’t win.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably noticed the three themes that I expect will be permanent fixtures of my blog: science fiction and fantasy, politics, and seeing them all through a Mormon eye. I believe that all these things are connected. They’re certainly inseparable in my own life as an active Mormon, a Democrat in Utah, and a freelance SF/F editor (though I am in the market for a less freelance type of job)—all in all, someone who tends to stir the pot. Or, as John Scalzi put it this weekend, a “troublemaker.” It’s a fitting monkier, so I’ll adopt it. If you’d like to hear more troublemaking on these topics, please give me a follow.

Oh, and keep it civil in the comments. Lewd, derogatory, or profane comments (and spam), as determined by me, will be deleted. My blog, my rules.

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2 thoughts on “2015 Hugo Award Reaction

  1. Nice post. I’ve spent a lot of time reading the Hugo award winning novels, and I’ve been looking forward to this year’s winner. I didn’t find out about all the controversy until just a couple of weeks ago, and for that I feel fortunate. For the most part, I’ve been able to patiently wait for the winners without getting involved in all the drama.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post, Daniel – and well done in expressing your opinions without attacking others.

    I am torn on this issue. On the one hand, the fiction I am both drawn to write, and often drawn to read, is decidedly not “puppy.” On the other, the “puppy” group has been, in my experience, far more willing to hear me out / give me the benefit of the doubt. (Dan Wells, on his blog, I think is having a different experience right now, however, so certainly grains of salt to be had with that.) My standard experience when I try to discuss/converse with hardcore puppy-kickers is vitriol and bile; the last time I engaged with Mary Robinette Kowal, for example, I was personally compared to neo-nazis, the KKK, and rednecks, for having the audacity to ask for clarity on a subject, after having made it clear that I am in support of inclusion. As a former sociologist who thoroughly believes that having a voice should NOT be limited to my own socio-economic/ethnic/gender group who has literally marched, campaigned, researched, and worked to make things better, this was very offensive.

    So, which side do I come down on? I don’t necessarily like the writing of one group (either group, actually), but that group doesn’t attack me immediately online like the other.

    There are some things I disagree with from your post, of course – but I really appreciate that there is a reasonable, curated place to have this discussion with someone I trust. Thanks for setting this up – I will probably be following your example sometime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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