In two days time, WSFS will be announcing the short list of nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards.
This announcement has already been pre-empted by at least two individuals who were informed by the Hugo Awards Committee of their impending nomination last week as is customary (done so to give folks the opportunity to decline). This is as fine an example of disrespect for the institution as one could hope for – but not at all surprising given the constant disrespect that has been on display for the past two years from the Sad Puppy crowd.
Right now they’re probably anticipating the announcement with a certain amount of glee, since “leaks” (from the nominees most likely) seem to be indicating that a goodly percentage of those on the final ballot were championed by the Sad Puppy recommended voting slate.
Some have even voiced the fear that one or more fiction categories for the award may consist entirely of Sad Puppy nominees (or potentially worse, a combination of Sad & Rabid Puppy nominees).
That prospect is an entirely unwelcome one.
In case you’re not familiar, or in case you need a little more explanation:
Sad Puppies puts out a recommended Hugo voting slate under the false flag of seeking greater recognition for deserving yet underrepresented authors. They do so by by creating a false equivalence between a voting slate with a political agenda behind it and non-politicized eligibility mentions. Put simply, there is a vast divide between a post that says “btw, my novel X is eligible for the Hugo Awards this year” and “nominate these works by these authors in order to give greater recognition and influence to the political positions we embrace”.
Despite the obvious difference, Sad Puppies have managed to convince a lot of previously unconnected fans that there IS equivalence between the two and those fans, most of whom have never cared one whit about Hugos, Worldcons or organized fandom, have taken up the cause to “protect” their favorite authors from the depredations of the non-existent (yet real nonetheless) SJW cabal that is apparently bent on shoving message fiction about empowered women, empowered POCs, empowered LGBTQs down our throats through the simple expedient of insuring that the Hugo awards are only given to sub-standard works of non-science fiction. (I loosely paraphrase their own arguments.)
But that’s not what is really going on. At its base, Sad Puppies is about a few authors who have twigged to the fact that controversy, outrage and building an army of sycophants is good for their bottom line – especially if they can gin up a Judas goat for everyone to love to hate. The fact that the prize at the end of all of this bullshit might be a Hugo Award for one or more of them – along with bragging rights over how successfully they’ve managed to
corrupt fix the system – is the plum in the pudding. (You’d think that a handful of creative, think-outside-the-box science fiction and fantasy authors would be embarrassed to be caught red-handed copying Fox News’ methods, but if you think about that for a second…)
Right now, a lot of involved folks are starting to seriously ask how fandom is going to handle this growing problem. There’s strong evidence to suggest that Sad Puppies, or some faction of Sad Puppies, have begun to engage with the GamerGaters. (Look it up.) They’ve found another large, vocal and aggressive group that aligns with their beliefs and are suggesting that those folks join them in stuffing the Hugo ballot box. All the while snidely remarking that “this is what everyone wanted – right? More participation in the Hugo awards”, all the while snickering into their sleeves.
I’ve been reading a lot of the proposed solutions. They range from giving the Hugo Awards committee more power to identify block voting, to countering Sad Puppies with a different voting slate. (That latter just plays into Sad Puppy hands, btw.)
I’ve been looking for my own solution. The real, long term solution is to create more participation in the voting – by people who will not be trying to turn the Hugos, Worldcon and fandom into yet another mundane political arena. But that’s a long term solution and one that’s going to leave us with at least several more years of groaning over Hugo ballots that represent the choices of politicized fans, rather than the choices of fans. I need a short term solution and I think I’ve found one.
I’m going to place ANY nominee that is associated with advancing a political agenda BELOW No Award. If that means that No Award is my top pick in one or more categories, then so be it. (I’ll read the works in the voters pack so I can rate the works as #1 behind No Award, #2 behind No Award, etc.)
This will be a default position. I don’t want to play the Sad Puppy’s game – nor anyone else’s who decides that they can use the Hugo Awards for purposes other than originally intended – so I’m not going to. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum the voting slate comes from, nor what its motivations are, nor what the agenda is – good, bad or indifferent. If a work is on a voting slate (NOT an eligibility list) then it goes below No Award.
I’m hoping that others will see their way clear to adopting this method of protesting the corruption of the Hugo Awards. If you don’t like what Sad Puppies is trying to do (or anyone who adopts similar means), the only successful counter strategy is to not play the game the way they want you to play it. If you offer up counter slates – they win because you had to adopt their methods, which endorses their methods. If you refuse to read any of their recommended works on the final ballot, you’re being a hypocrite because you’re “not letting the work stand on its own merits” and are, in fact, advancing your own political agenda by conflating the work with the views espoused by the author. If you work at trying to get these new fans disenfranchised (by who knows what means), you’re supporting the argument that there is a special “cabal” of fans, an in-crowd and a not-so-in-crowd. And so it goes through all of the other counter-arguments.
By approaching things this way – by using a default that applies to all works and all individuals, what I’m saying is: I will not participate in the false choices that voting blocks are offering me. By doing so, I’m not making a judgment on the value of the works themselves. I’m not engaging with the political agendas of those involved. I’m just saying that the methods being used to get certain works onto the final ballot are unacceptable to me. I’m protesting the method, not the message. I may protest the message (and in the case of Sad Puppies I do), but those protests belong in other arenas, not the Hugo Awards.
Individuals who find themselves on a voting block who want to avoid being ranked below No Award should immediately remove themselves from those lists, or make a public statement disassociating themselves from that list. In cases where this happens (and it already has this year), I’ll give due credence and look into things on a case by case basis. Not removing yourself implies endorsement of the methodology, regardless of how deserving you think your work may be.
The Hugos are supposed to be a collective award, arrived at through the individual selections of individual voters. So far as I can tell, up until last year, that is exactly what the awards were. They’re not supposed to be a second-hand endorsement of any set of political beliefs. If we’re supposed to judge works on their merits alone (a position seemingly supported by Sad Puppies), then the mere existence of a recommended voting slate is contradictory to that aim, and blatantly so.
What this means in the long run (which is August of 2015 in this case) is that works associated with trying to advance a political agenda may very well win an award this year – but I’ll have no part in helping them do so, while at the same time I will be dealing with this issue exactly where it belongs, and without compromising any of the other associated ideals or things I stand for. I don’t have to worry about whether or not a nominated work is really good and deserving of the award: if it’s on a voting slate, it’s taken itself out of the running so far as I’m concerned (a position that is easily rectified as noted previously).
I’m going to publish my final ballot once I’ve submitted it. I’m curious to see how many categories will get the No Award treatment.