The Hugos, 2015

So, the Hugos, huh?

Every year I disagree with the inclusion of a good number of works or people on the Hugo (and Campbell) shortlists. And that’s fine – not everyone is supposed to have the same taste. If we did, the 5 works that make the shortlists would also be the only ones on the longlists. But tastes and opinions differ, and there will never be a year in which the Hugo Awards accurately represent my choices for the Best 5 of everything (and I doubt there will ever be a year in which the awards represent my choices for even a single category). But that’s the nature of democracy. Last year I was shortlisted for a Hugo for Best Editor (Long Form). Was I one of the best 5 novel editors in the genre across the English-speaking world? Hell, no. But enough people liked the work I did well enough to have nominated me. I may never get another Hugo nomination, but I will always know that the one I achieved was gained without trying to game the system. A few nominees (across multiple categories) last year were part of that year’s “sad puppy” slate. This year, the sad puppies (and their cohorts, the rabid puppies) managed to swamp the categories with works and individuals that might otherwise not have made the final ballots.

It’s a shame, because this year’s winners will win tainted awards. Those that appeared as part of the litters of puppies’ slates will always know that the puppies’ influence on the awards was at least partly responsible for their win (possibly majorly so) and that will surely devalue the award. Those that win who did not appear on the slates may well worry that their win was as a result of the members of the World Science Fiction Association voting against the puppies as a matter of principle. That will also devalue the award. This year, no matter who comes out on top, no-one wins.

The people I feel most sorry for this year are the ones who appeared on the slates, who might have made the list anyway, this year. Or next, or the year after. How awful to have your work tarnished by being associated with a bunch of political activists, who appear to be out solely to destroy the awards. Because, let’s be quite clear, here: that must surely be their endgame. If the works of the alpha puppies was good enough to appear on the ballots (or to be longlisted, even) they surely would be. Encouraging supporters to buy Associate Memberships purely to bloc vote not only goes against the spirit of the awards, it makes the awards worthless (some people believe that awards like this are worthless anyway, but that’s a discussion for another time).

After expressing my disappointment on Twitter and Facebook at the state of this year’s final ballot, I was contacted by someone who was on the ballot, and who was also listed as part of the puppies’ voting block. This person I know to be an extremely hard working person in his category, and he told me that my words had hurt him. I have no doubt that this person could have found himself nominated this year without the puppies’ involvement. If not this year, then at some point. How much more satisfying would it be though, to know for certain that your nomination came not as a result of political in-fighting, but as a result of the joy that your work has provided people over the years. If you’re reading this, Mystery Person X, I truly hope your work is allowed to speak for itself in years to come.

It’s important to remember, I think, that among the list of absolute dross that is listed on the puppies’ slates, there are also pearls. And not all of the people listed on the slates were aware of their inclusion (or what that inclusion meant).

 

So this year, as every year, I will be paying very close attention to the nominees, and will vote according to how I feel about each particular category.

If I feel a work does not merit inclusion on the final ballot, I will not include it in my vote. And if I feel that there are works (or people) on that ballot that do not deserve to be on there, I will be voting No Award.

But the system is broken. It’s always been open to abuse, of course. But this year the abusers came out in force and coordinated their abuse.

I have some further thoughts, but it’s Easter Sunday, and I’m going to go spend some time with my family. More later, no doubt.

I leave you with a few quotes from last night’s Twitter (unattributed by design):

  • If there’s one thing angry white supremacists on the internet have, it’s $40.
  • Stop talking about merit. If your people were capable of winning Hugos on merit, they’d already have Hugos.
  • It’s astonishing to me how pointlessly cruel people can be. Isn’t it supposed to be about the art, guys?
  • I think they’d be happy with No Award winning every category, because that spoils our fun.

19 Responses to “ “The Hugos, 2015”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Lee. Other than the obviously obnoxious nature of the various ‘puppies’ and the laughable quality of some of their slate, I’m frustrated because their list contains a few works that I would have considered voting for, particularly in the Dramatic Presentation categories, but also Jim Butcher’s novel nomination (not his best book, but worthy of consideration).

    Everyone is diminished by this, from the nominated authors and artists to the people who genuinely nominated the various works without knowing anything about the slates.

  2. Matt Keefe says:

    So, alleged shunning perceived to be the result of reactionary responses to works that may or may not espouse objectionable political ideologies leads to a reactionary response amounting to an attempt to drown everyone else out… Awesome.

  3. Exactly what had crossed my mind–and that I posted–that the winner will have a tainted award, and so sad if they should have won legitimately. Though I do also think it is sad for those who didn’t make the list, but should have, but then that’s a personal matter.

  4. LInda Pierce says:

    I read your blog. I have also read Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s no vote blog. Quite honestly, you both come off as pouting that the sad puppy slate got on the ballot at all. I understand you do not agree with their politics. I do not agree with their personal politics. But what does politics have to do with talent? You call these nominations and eventual results tainted. How can they be tainted when the fans and other people who attend the con nominated and will vote for them? It sounds very political on your end. I am not taking sides here. But having heard so much about this, I decided to read blogs about it The Sad Puppies are not crowing about their nominations, they are writing about how honored they feel. It is sad to see the established people feel so threatened by talented persons that do not follow their politics. I get to vote this year for the Fantasy awards. I am really excited about that. I looked through the people that I had nominated and found I had an equal number of both sides. DO I hope some of my nominees will make the ballot…yes I do. They are wonderful writers and editors. They should get some recognition for their hard work. Was I approached by either side as to who to nominate? No. I think you and Deirdre need to on your adult panties and deal with the fact the world is not always going to go the way you want it. This idiocy is making us all look bad.

  5. Robert Boyer says:

    I find it rather ironic that you would call these awards devalued. Since being hijacked by folks who consider the gender and race of the author more important than the actual story, how could the variation from that new flawed paradigm be anything but a refreshing, and much needed spring cleaning of a previously worthless award. I find it unbelievable that you, and others with your narrow mindset would have the unmitigated gall to complain about the sad puppies campaign. Where do you think the idea for that came from if not from Scalzi’s similar endeavor in the past? The bottom line is this restores the Hugo awards to books that are good, entertaining stories with great plots and characters and eschews the sort of novel that has been the norm in recent years. The utter dreck of Ancillary Justice is a fine example of a very poor story that won a category that it had no business even being considered in. This is akin to President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. You have to laugh at the inconceivability of that win regardless of your political stance. If you feel it was deserved, you obviously shouldn’t make adult decisions.

  6. Lee says:

    Hi Linda, Hi Robert,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    It’s probably worth addressing your points as you raise them:

    Linda, first:

    I read your blog. I have also read Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s no vote blog. Quite honestly, you both come off as pouting that the sad puppy slate got on the ballot at all.

    Pouting? No. Disappointed that they gamed the system? Well, yes. It’s meant to be a democratc process, and while stacking the odds in the way that they have is technically allowed under such a democracy, it doesn’t really come across as working with the process, does it? And as I stated, there are some pearls there.

    I understand you do not agree with their politics. I do not agree with their personal politics. But what does politics have to do with talent?

    Nothing at all. Which is probably why I never made any claim to the contrary…

    You call these nominations and eventual results tainted. How can they be tainted when the fans and other people who attend the con nominated and will vote for them?

    The fans will vote on a list that is highly unlikely to be representative of the final ballots that they would have voted in, had there been no undue outside influence. Works (and people) that would otherwise have had a chance for inclusion will not be voted on.

    It sounds very political on your end.

    Well, if fairness is a political stance, then it’s political.

    I am not taking sides here.

    O K…

    But having heard so much about this, I decided to read blogs about it The Sad Puppies are not crowing about their nominations, they are writing about how honored they feel.

    Well, it’s wonderful that they feel honoured that their gaming of the system won them places in the shortlists that they might have not otherwise been awarded. If I persuaded someone to buy me an apple, I would be pleased. I wouldn’t be honoured, though. If they bought one of their own volition, though, I probably would feel honoured.

    It is sad to see the established people feel so threatened by talented persons that do not follow their politics.

    You keep bringing politics into this. Not sure why. Is it that you have a political agenda with respect to this issue, and are therefore assuming that everyone else must?

    I get to vote this year for the Fantasy awards. I am really excited about that.

    And that’s fantastic! I’m pleased. Truly. The more people that engage with the process, the better the results. Democracy in action!

    I looked through the people that I had nominated and found I had an equal number of both sides. DO I hope some of my nominees will make the ballot…yes I do.

    As do I. See my comment, above.

    They are wonderful writers and editors. They should get some recognition for their hard work.

    As I mentioned (twice now, I think) I believe that there are some people on the ballots that deserve to be on there.

    Was I approached by either side as to who to nominate? No.

    I never assumed you did.

    I think you and Deirdre need to on your adult panties and deal with the fact the world is not always going to go the way you want it.

    I’ve not read Deridre’s blog, so can’t comment on her views, but no, the world is not always going to go the way I want it. That would make me god. But if I see what I believe to be an injustice, I’m surely allowed to talk about it?

    This idiocy is making us all look bad.

    On that, my friend, we agree.

    Rob, next:

    I find it rather ironic that you would call these awards devalued. Since being hijacked by folks who consider the gender and race of the author more important than the actual story, how could the variation from that new flawed paradigm be anything but a refreshing, and much needed spring cleaning of a previously worthless award.

    Not sure who thinks that the gender and race of the author is more important than the actual story, but if you speak to them, tell them that I agree. I believe that authors of all colours and gender are capable of creating compelling fiction.

    I find it unbelievable that you, and others with your narrow mindset would have the unmitigated gall to complain about the sad puppies campaign.

    Ah, and here I was, assuming you’d come for a discussion, but perhaps name-calling is more important to you…?
    Where do you think the idea for that came from if not from Scalzi’s similar endeavor in the past?

    Really? I don’t believe that’s true. Can you send me a link?

    The bottom line is this restores the Hugo awards to books that are good, entertaining stories with great plots and characters and eschews the sort of novel that has been the norm in recent years. The utter dreck of Ancillary Justice is a fine example of a very poor story that won a category that it had no business even being considered in.

    See? This is the wonderful thing about fiction. Everyone has different tastes. But saying that it’s “a fine example of a very poor story that won a category that it had no business even being considered in” surely suggests that you have a very narrow mindset, and believe that only stories that you consider worthy should be on the ballot. Oh, hang on – isn’t that what you’re accusing me of? How (to borrow your accusation) ironic… And as you picked out Ancillary Justice, it’s probably worth pointing out that it didn’t just win the Hugo. It won the Nebula, the Arthur C Clarke, the Kitcshie, the Locus Award and the British Science Fiction Award. I’m not sure, but (and I’m just throwing this out there), I wonder if it might be that your tastes don’t necessarily align with those of the majority of science fiction society members and juries across the world?

    This is akin to President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

    That’s a little bizarre, but ok…

    You have to laugh at the inconceivability of that win regardless of your political stance.

    Indeed.

    If you feel it was deserved, you obviously shouldn’t make adult decisions.

    I wouldn’t go that far, but again, it’s nice to end on a point that we don’t completely disagree about.

  7. Paul (@princejvstin) says:

    Hi Lee.

    I’ve had that thought too–if the SAd Puppies candidates win in a category, they win. If they get “Noah Awarded”, they can claim a win too.

    Slate voting versus SJW anarchy is a tough fight for the anarchists to win. If the rules aren’t changed, a disciplined slate will win on sheer numbers. The thresholds for nominations in every category go up to match the lockstep slate and so only the most popular non Puppy items get on, or none at all.

  8. Ian Sales says:

    2015 – the year a white supremacist small press got to put “Nominated for the Hugo Award” on some of its books. How much for the award’s credibility now?

  9. SCIFI EMMA says:

    As long as the nominations and voting have a cash entry requirement, the entire thing is driven by social status. So there’s no surprise that the protectors of that come out now and then.

    If you want an inclusive award, this isn’t it; it’s what people with spare money vote for. The SPs money is as good as anyone else’s. Their organisation skills are somewhat better. Unfortunate, but an award voted for by 2,000 of the more affluent people in only the English speaking parts of the world won’t hit it for me anyway. I haven’t bought anything post 70′s that was on the back of a “hugo award” book sticker. YMMV. But a Richard and Judy book club sticker is going to shift far more copies.

    I am not sure anyone outside of Worldcon is that bothered. This year’s kerfuffle doesn’t reference last year’s in the reporting; it’s just a blip on journalism’s radar.

  10. Robert MacAnthony says:

    If a white supremacist wrote the best SFF novel of the year, they they should be able to claim the award. But I don’t think that’s what happened here.

  11. Hi all,

    Lee, you invited people to comment here via your twitter post and since this subject has been very much on my mind, I think I will.

    To give some context for everyone else reading this, I run a podcast called ‘The Creative Writers Toolbelt’. Lee very kindly agreed to an interview with me for a future episode and we recorded this last week. (Lee the editing is going well!) We had a great conversation and the episode will be out at the end of April.

    I had no idea that this Hugo’s thing was going to kick off when we spoke. At the time a ‘sad puppy’ to me meant, well, a sad puppy (!) And at the end of our conversation I mentioned, in what was really a throw away comment, that there did seem to be a lot of talk about politics and diversity in British SciFi, and vanishingly little comment about the quality of the stories. I thought there should be a debate about encouraging writers from every culture, race, and gender, but maybe the balance is wrong. To his credit Lee gave me exactly the same answer as he’s given above, to the effect that people of any colour or gender can create a great story. That’s absolutely right, and I think all but the most perverse of people would agree with that.

    Anyway, three points on all of this:

    First, I share some of the SP objectives, as I interpret them. Some of what I’ve read recently in terms of comment on the genre from a UK perspective has been very preachy politically, it feels like I’ve stumbled into a ‘Dave Spart’ lecture, and I don’t much like it. I don’t care what someone’s political views are, or their gender or race, I care about the story. I don’t want to be preached at by people on the right or the left, I want to read great stories and talk about great stories, and I’d like to see more comment about how we can encourage and generate excellence in the telling of those stories. I don’t much like the extreme right either, I have to say – and on this subject having looked at the Hugo nominees list, there’s at least one person on there from the extreme right, NOT someone who is on the Sad Puppies list I hasten to add, who’s comments about another writer in the genre really are a disgrace – racist, rude, utterly indefensible. I have found these comments on this person’s website – not just attributed to them by one of their critics – and they are just offensive, this person needs to forget about a Hugo’s nomination and instead think about issuing a very public and very sincere apology (unlikely I think at this stage).

    Okay, that’s that out of the way.

    Second point, and more importantly, all this chatter has got me thinking about the genre and the books that I grew up with and still enjoy reading today. What a delight! It’s been a joy to read stories from the likes of Stephen Donaldson, Julian May, Iain M Banks, China Mieville, Asimov, Hamilton, Orwell, Attwood, Reynolds, Silverberg, Pohl, Card and Clarke. My list is far from exhaustive, and I am sure you have your own favourites; but thinking again about these great stories reminds me how much I love the genre. It’s been a source of entertainment and wonder for me, and it’s reminded me that I want to hold on, tenaciously, to Science Fiction’s potential to fill me with awe, to enjoy the challenge of the speculative and the unknown, the universe waiting to be explored in science and imagination. Science Fiction is also precious because it provides a context for exploring the human condition: our politics, our beliefs, our values, and our culture. So especially in the light of the Hugo nomination fallout, I want to celebrate and be proud of the genre. I treasure it, and look forward to what it will do to entertain and challenge me in the future.

    Finally, in all art forms, I find that the artists have views that are held with passion and conviction. To bring those convictions together and discuss them can be a great thing, if it’s done in the right spirit. Just as I want to hold onto the delight of the genre so also I want to hold on to right way to engage in the debate. This means that I want to treat others with respect and dignity, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with them. How can I hope to at least get a hearing from anyone, let alone those I disagree with, if I don’t approach them with understanding and respect?

    When things get heated and stressful it’s not a bad idea to revisit the wonder and delight we have in Science Fiction, to celebrate the art that the genre inspires, AND respect the artists who work in this area. It’s not naïve to aspire to this, and it’s not weak to take this attitude. It’s how people who are passionate about their art work stuff out. That’s my approach, I hope you’ll find some merit in it.

    Andy

  12. Robert Boyer says:

    If I can be assured that my comment will make it past moderation, I’ll post the link. Our you can go look back in time in Scalzi’s blog. It kind of ruins your entire premise, so…

  13. Robert Boyer says:

    Here is one of Scalzi’s links. He does it every year it seems. This is his own eligibles, he also gathers recommended lists that he also posts around the same time(if you want that link, dig it up on his site). Just like the sad puppies did. They didn’t order people to vote for their slate, they simply recommended books they thought were worthy. Calling this a hijacking of the system is ridiculous and inaccurate. I could go on, but I find you tedious in the extreme. I need to get back to editing my friend’s Indie book.

    By the way, you should read more of Larry Correia’s blog. You can’t fisk worth a shit.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2006/01/02/the-full-extent-of-my-personal-award-pimpage-for-2006/

  14. Lee says:

    Robert – you’re suggesting that posting a personal eligibility list is similar to running a coordinated slate designed to overrun the awards? Well, that’s so ridiculous, I wouldn’t know quite how to respond to that, except to say that if that was one of the complaints of the sad little puppies, well, then they could all post eligibility lists, and I doubt there would be the reaction there has been. But then, provoking a negative reaction is all part of their fun, isn’t it?

    Oh, and you’ve posted twice, now (I’m not including the “if this should make it past moderation” line) and you’ve been personally rude, twice. Don’t do it again, or your comments will get blocked. Try to conduct a conversation without personal attacks. Yes, even with someone with whom you don’t agree. It’s character building.

  15. Greg M. says:

    Pretending that John Scalzi (and lots of others) post a list of their own works *which are eligible,* with no further campaigning, and putting together a full, politicized, five-nominee *slate* comprising multiple awards in most of the major categories, is the height of dishonesty, and it undermines pretty much everything else you might have to say. Obviously you guys are taking some heat for actually putting together a slate, but it’s pretty pathetic you have to try to rewrite history and say “But Scalzi did it TOO!” No, he didn’t.

    It is odd, this insatiable desire to lie.

  16. Robert Boyer says:

    You guys? I have no group affiliation or hive mind presence. I’m not taking any heat. I didn’t vote for any nominees, and I wasn’t planning to. I will NOW! I’m just a fan who is tired of SO MANY of these discussions being about the race or sex of the author rather than the excellence of the written story! I could go to ten different blogs about this and hear nothing about stories, but all about these terrible, straight, white men who wrote these cis male centered books! Really? First of all, how the heck do you know what race or sex each author is? Do you Google authors before you will buy their works? Because, to me that smacks of profiling. I saw another blog where it gave a list of “approved” authors and asked readers to not read anything by straight, white males. I can understand people wanting a diverse field, but when the diversity of the author is more important than whether or not the story sucks, that’s a problem. I mentioned Ancillary Justice and you responded that it won not only the Hugo, but a slew of other awards. All well and good. The problem I have with it, is it makes me wonder if I got the same book as everyone else. With that many awards it should start strong and run right up to incredible. Should be the greatest book since Dune, or the Foundation series, or the Vorkosigan books. I pride myself on sticking to a book even when it starts slow. In school I started on a book called Silverlock, and didn’t like it. I put it down for years. Then I picked it up again in a few years when I was Jonesing for something to read and I was short on funds. Maturity changed my perspective and I loved the book. I could not get through Ancillary. I tried. I found it to be terrible. Couldn’t even make 100 pages! You mentioned that people have different tastes and preferences. I agree, but a multi awarded book should have universal appeal. At my age, I have no hope that maturity will change my perspective again. Senility? Maybe.

  17. Robert Boyer says:

    Oh, and John Scalzi is campaigning for people to vote No Award in each category that was mentioned in sad puppies three. That’s not a problem though…

  18. Lee says:

    Thanks, Robert (and thanks for dialling back on the insults – absolutely anyone is welcome to come and voice their opinions here, and I’m happy to read and consider all of them).

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