So the Hugos happened and it was a quiet, run-of-the-mill affair with nothing out of the ordinary or unusual to speak of…
Unless of course you take into account that this was the most controversial and contested slate of nominees the award has ever produced. You know, other than that.
For those of you who don’t know, the Hugos are an annual science fiction award honoring the best in sci-fi/fantasy writing, TV, movies, etc. in a variety of categories. It’s the science fiction equivalent of the Oscars. Unlike the Oscars however, the Hugos very rarely go to a work or an artist that is undeserved or unjustified; often going to diverse and in some cases downright weird works. And it is this reason this year’s controversy emerged.
In recent years science fiction has expanded to include women, gays and lesbians, people of color and a variety of other ethnicities, religions and cultures. The Hugos have reflected this change and have given out awards accordingly. And I should point out that these awards were given because they were freaking great stories that would have been overlooked in decades past and it is because the Hugos have embraced diversity that great works have been recognized.
Well a group of mostly white men disagreed with that. They called themselves the Sad Puppies (along with a more radical splinter group the Rabid Puppies) and they believed that a more “traditional” form of the genre should be represented. This usually consisted of brave white guys battling evil monsters from space with ray guns overcoming an oppressive government with their best gal by their side. They balked at the idea that the genre should be used to explore ideas of gender or race or culture the and instead should just be a rollicking adventure of good vs evil.
And that is all well and fine. If you like that sort of thing, great. But science fiction is at it’s best when it uses the genre to explore and experiment. It is a unique genre in that way and has been used by authors like Aurthur C. Clark, Issac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and many others in the past to discuss and subvert what we consider normal or traditional views. It can use taboo subjects deemed too radical for “mainstream” genres simply by setting it in the future or on a different world and often delving deeper into a subject and ultimately we are enlightened and forced to think in different ways. Today’s more diverse writers and artists simply continue that tradition, just from a new perspective and adding new voices to the conversation.
The Puppies do not like that conversation.
So to accomplish their goal the Puppies (both sad and rabid) came up with a slate of nominees that reflected their ideals and proceeded to stack the ballots. Now mind you nothing they did was illegal; they simply took advantage of an outdated voting system that allows a relatively small group of people to dominate the ballot. This by the way is what the Puppies accused the “liberals” of doing in the past and that’s why (in their opinion) all that left-wing diversity got in there in the first place. An accusation that was proved incorrect by the very fact their slate got on the ballot in the first place. If there had been a vast, left-wing conspiracy the Puppies slate would never have seen the light of day. It did, so there isn’t.
The three main Puppies are Larry Correia, a gun store owner from Utah, Brad Torgensen, US Army Reserve Warrant Officer, and Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) a racist shithead. All of these men are sci-fi writers and have complained about the “social justice warriors” they feel are dominating the Hugos and science fiction in general.
The most noxious of these is Theodore Beale. He is an unabashedly horrible human being. I’m not being hyperbolic here, seriously read this and this. He is a terrible, terrible person. And it is Beale’s race-bating and misogyny that I feel is the ultimate downfall of the Puppies. It’s really hard to get behind a racist prick. With incendiary language and deplorable rhetoric the Puppies were seen as outright bigots at worst or petulant children at best. Correia even blogged at one point, “I’m Churchill, Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.”
As an aside: Torgensen has said in interviews that he believes Beale is only playing a character, Vox Day, and is trying to intentionally be offensive in the same way Andy Kaufman did; sort of a performance piece. This is interesting but ultimately meaningless. Pretending to be an asshole doesn’t make you any less of an asshole.
So the awards happened and the sci-fi community held it’s breath and prepared for the worst. And then and amazing thing happened – quality won. The Puppies were voted down with only one winner being on their slate and to be honest would probably have been nominated anyway without loading the ballot. There were a few “no prize given” in some major categories but that’s happened before and will happen again. George RR Martin said before the ceremony, “I think the Sad Puppies have broken the Hugo awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired.” I do not agree. The voters stepped up and voted for quality and not for politics. Good for them.
The Hugos remain an award I respect and I hope they continue uncorrupted into the future.