Monday, August 24, 2015

On the spaying and neutering of puppies, sad, rabid and otherwise

The 2015 Hugo Awards have come and gone, resulting in a record five (5) categories where "No Award" was given in response to the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy attempts to game the system and ensure the treasured rocket ship trophy went to those deemed appropriate by their particular clique. Log rolling's happened with the Hugo Awards before, as well as the Nebula Awards, but this is the first instance I am aware of where said efforts were fueled primarily by ideology as opposed to friendship and/or personal desire.

To put this in context, there have only been five total "No Awards" in the entire history of the Hugos up to this point. Here are the results (detailed breakdowns may be found here):

BEST NOVEL The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
BEST NOVELETTE “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried,” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
BEST SEMIPROZINE Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
BEST FANZINE Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
BEST FANCAST Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
BEST FAN ARTIST Elizabeth Leggett
By any measure, the Puppies' efforts have been a spectacular failure on their part, but they've been crowing loudly online that blocking otherwise worthy works from making the ballot, hijacking the awards and forcing no award in several categories if victory in their eyes. Essentially, they're gloating at others' misfortune. The whole mess is a blemish on the genre and just makes me sad more than anything else. There have been both Hugo and Nebula winners in the past that I did not agree with--heck, there have been some that incensed me (generally cases where a brilliant central concept or wish-fulfillment element pandered to the SF reader, masking excruciatingly clunky writing)--but never did it occur to me to organize a group to 1) ensure my genius prose was nominated and 2) ensure those other, lesser works rewere not nominated. Awards voting is driven in large part by tastes, and tastes change. Don't believe me? Check out the past winners of the Hugo Awards. Changes in readership tastes are reflected in the winners throughout the decades. If the Sad Puppies are upset by recent Hugo winners, I can only shudder at the thought of their outrage when the New Wave overtook SF in the 60s and started winning awards, or when Cyberpunk went nova in the 80s. Truly, I thought the Puppies' premise fatally flawed and their response misguided at best. I was acquainted with a few involved, but when I tried to broach the subject, it quickly became apparent there were very different worldviews at work. I'm not talking apples and oranges, I'm talking apples and polyester leisure suits. So rather than tilting at this particular windmill, I relegated myself to the sidelines, as I had little hope of changing any minds, not to mention the fact I had no works nominated nor was I voting on the awards this year. My biggest involvement came via reposting some of George R.R. Martin's clear-eyed analyses of the so-called "Puppygate" via my Facebook page. File770 also has an extensive round-up on Puppygate-related links, if that's a particular rabbit hole you choose to fall down.

Apparently, that was enough to earn membership in PC Parasites of the SFWA, an elite group of 20 writers defined as "Humanity replaced by PCness. Immoral, vicious, insane monsters feeding on society." I've never considered myself to be "Politically Correct," but then I don't go around intentionally being an asshole women and minorities or people with different ideas than my own to prove I'm not PC, so your mileage may vary. Maybe common courtesy and civility are passe now--I can never keep up with these things. In any event, fellow Parasites include George R.R. Martin, Jim C. Hines, Laura Resnick, Steven Brust, John Scalzi and Stephen Gould, among others. So the company I'm keeping is pretty damn impressive. Naturally, I'm going to add this to my official biography and resume. I'm just afraid someone will eventually realized I've allowed my SFWA membership to lapse and kick me out.

Alas, even though the Puppies lost in spectacular fashion, I doubt this means the end of Puppygate. The fact that they pooped in the punch bowl and gave unending amounts headache and heartache to many, many people is a badge of honor for them. They consider this heroic. Most rational observers consider it psychopathic. Even the authors only associated with the group on the fringes have shown a remarkable tone-deafness to the entire scope of the problem, refusing to see the forest for the trees (if I may badly mix metaphors). The bad blood and ill will engendered by this controversy will not dissipate any time soon, and I have to wonder about long-term consequences to careers and friendships.

I would hope that lessons have been learned, and that cooler heads will prevail in the future, but I fear the only lessons learned are bad ones and there's a big future in kerosene and matches.

Now Playing: John Williams Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. You're right on track. The main drivers on this suicide train include people who admit they like causing trouble and blowing things up, and a lot of the passengers are disgruntled and tone deaf.

    Like you, I've seen books in the past that won that I had voted for, and some I hadn't, and some I liked a lot and others I didn't. That's the nature of any award process--no winner will please everyone. In a civil society (be it a club or a nation) having something win that you thought wasn't quite as good as another entry is just part of the win some, you lose some, you accept that your opinion isn't Right-by-Universal-Decree. But of course some aren't civil, don't want to be civil, and prefer to make a stink. Frankly I think they're stuck in pre-K, maturity-wise, stamping their feet and yelling bloody murder if they don't get what they want right now but thinking so doesn't convert them to rational adults, either.

    They've done damage and, like you, I think they will do more. As with any divisive movement, middle ground gets blown up so the chasm will be clearer and the sides "purer." Friendships will shatter; some already have, probably. That's happened previously with divisive actions in the field (the "rabid weasel" crap, for instance.) Careers--will depend on sales figures as usual. How the sad/rabid puppies will affect readership and thus sales is still up for grabs, but I suspect more personal damage will be done than career damage. Readership for very different parts of SF/F is already separate; I doubt anything the sad/rabid pack does will keep people who like more liberal books from buying them. I left the rabbit-hole months ago because of book-in-progress and other complications, or I'd have been included in the infamous PC Parasites list, no doubt. Certain inflammatory phrases have risen in my brain (and never been uttered aloud or in print and, God willin' and the crick don't rise, never will be.)

  2. I think those at the core of the Puppy movement will benefit--they'll attract more true believers from outside the field boost their stature for standing up to the godless commie Illuminati who pull the strings. But those authors who just kind of went along for the ride, whatever their motivation, I suspect their careers will be tainted from here on out. Unintended consequences and all that.

    Curiously, as I look further, it seems the Parasites list dates back from 2013, although I only came across it recently and assumed it was puppy-related. Which baffles me greatly, because I don't recall being involved with SFWA or any other genre-related goings-on at that time. Clearly, some people think I'm far more influential than reality would substantiate.

  3. You may be right. It's a dismal prospect, isn't it? All the True Believers in Conspiracies moving in, all the people who were happy to throw tarballs only to find out their hands are still dirty. We could annoy them by suggesting they form their own awards group and specify that only conservative straight white guys writing stories in which only conservative straight white guys are protagonists win against evil (women, POC, aliens, and liberals) at great odds can win. Then watch some of them split away because the *wrong* straight white guys writing such stories are winning....and create a new rabbit hole into which they might all run forever and ever.

    They're certainly not doing anything for the field as a whole.

    1. That's that's the way ideological purity goes. One day, you're slaughtering White Russians in Siberia, the next, you're Trotsky in exile.

  4. I'm glad it's over, for THIS Hugo Award year, but am greatly afraid troublemakers will cause trouble in the future, as is their wont. It's a shame, really, that the Hugos can't just be recognition for quality, as originally intended- instead of a political ball to be kicked. One more round like this years and I think the award will be too tarnished to clean back up. Hope I'm wrong about that, because I'm sure those behind the slates will keep trying.