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What Now?

April 9, 2015 at 11:17 pm
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For all of you who are sick of Puppygate… I am too, but there’s still a few more things that I need to say. Another day, maybe, and I will move on to happier topics.

Yes, I know about Larry Correia’s response to my earlier posts and I will reply to him here… but not just now. There’s another topic I need to cover first, one that I have been leading up to all along — what the hell do we do now?

Whether you think what the Sad Puppies did is right or wrong, it’s done. The ballot is out. It is what it is. So the ball is in our court now. What to do?

(Here is where I will probably piss off everybody on the anti-slate of this mess. Sorry).

Over at Making Light, and on several other sites, various rules changes are being proposed to prevent this from happening ever again. There are so many different proposals they make my head spin. More nominating slots, less nominating slots, weighted voting, eliminating the supporting memberships, outlawing slates, limiting nominees to a single nomination, juried nominations… on and on and on. The worldcon business meeting is never exactly a funfest, but if the proponents of half these proposals show up at Sasquan, this year’s will be a nightmare. And will probably still be going on when MidAmericon II convenes.

I am against all these proposals. If indeed I am at Spokane, and if I can get myself up in time for the business meeting, I will vote against every one of them.

Most of them, frankly, suck. And the mere fact that so many people are discussing them makes me think that the Puppies won. They started this whole thing by saying the Hugo Awards were rigged to exclude them. That is completely untrue, as I believe I demonstrated conclusively in my last post. So what is happening now? The people on MY SIDE, the trufans and SMOFs and good guys, are having an endless circle jerk trying to come up with a foolproof way to RIG THE HUGOS AND EXCLUDE THEM. God DAMN, people. You are proving them right.

I hate what the Puppies did. It was based on false premises, and though it was not illegal, it was mean-spirited and unsportsmanlike. So how about we do NOT prove them right by rigging the rules against Sad Puppies 4? How about we try to be better than that? There is nothing wrong with the Hugo rules. If we want to defeat the Puppies, all we need to do is outvote them. Get in our own nominations. This year, the Puppies emptied the kennels and got out their vote, and we didn’t. Fandom danced the usual, “oh, too busy to nominate, I will just vote on the final ballot,” and for that complacency, we got blindsided. We lost. They kicked our fannish asses, and now we have the ballot they gave us. If we don’t want that to happen again, we need to get out our OWN vote.

But let’s not give in to our worst impulses. I do not want to disenfranchise anyone. (Well, okay, maybe a few, rabies is dangerous). The fandom I joined in 1971, the fandom I love, is open and friendly and welcoming, and has room for every shade of political opinion and literary taste. Those are values worth defending, a culture worth fighting for.

Oh, and there’s another (lesser, admittedly) reason not to change the Hugo rules. The Nebulas. I have been a SFWA member since 1972, and I swear, the organization spends half its time arguing about the Nebula rules, year after year, decade after decade. I have seen a dozen “reforms” in my tenure, all in the interests of making the voting “more fair,” but no matter what rules we adopt, a couple years later the bitching starts and members start demanding we change them again. It’s endless. We do NOT want to open that Pandora’s Box at worldcon. Change the rules to deal with the Sad Puppies, and a year or two from now we’ll be changing again. Aside from adding the occasional category, or splitting one, the Hugo Awards have operated more or less the same way for decades, and that stability is part of their prestige. Let’s not mess with that.

Which brings me to another proposed countermeasure: the No Award strategy.

This comes in two flavors. The hardliners propose we vote NO AWARD for everything. Every category, even the ones where the Puppies have no nominees. No Hugo Awards at Sasquan, whatsoever. We’ll show them. Rather than letting them move into our house, we will burn it to the ground. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” It worked so well in Vietnam.
All I’ve got to say about this idea is, are you fucking crazy?

The other approach is less radical. Vote NO AWARD in all the categories that are All Puppy. In the others, chose between the nominees (there are a few) that did not appear on either the Sad Puppy or Rabid Puppy slate, and place all the rest, the SP/RP candidates, under No Award.

That’s less insane than the “No Award For Everything” idea, but only a little bit. Sorry, I will not sign on for this one either. For a whole bunch of reasons. For starts, the Puppies are already proclaiming that “No Award” equals victory for them (though sometimes it seems as though they believe anything that happens constitutes victory for them). Also, near as I can tell from reading the blogs, it appears that some of the Sad Puppy candidates never consented to joining their slate, and that none of the Rabid Puppies were ever asked if they wanted to be included (I am ninety per cent certain that none of the films or TV shows in the two Dramatic Presentations category were ever contacted). There are also a whole bunch of people — all the editors except Vox Day, for starts — who may or may not have been contacted. No one has said, no one talking about it, we just don’t know.

Also… really, when you come down to it, this whole “were they contacted?” thing is a false issue. Torgensen says he contacted almost everyone, but missed a few. Some of his slate say no, they never heard from him… but does it really matter? I have been trying my damndest to get Alan Lee and John Howe nominated for Best Artist for years, and I never asked if I could. This year I wrote a long post about the brilliance of STATION ELEVEN and why it should be nominated in Best Novel, and I never contacted Emily St. John Mandel to ask if I could. I will not condemn Brad Torgensen for failing to do what I never do myself.

I do not believe in Guilt by Association, and that’s what we’d be doing if we vote against every name on the Puppy slates simply because they are on the slate. That was a classic weapon of the McCarthy Era: first you blacklist the communists, then you blacklist the people who defend the communists and the companies that hire them, then you blacklist the people who defend the people on the blacklist, and on and on, in ever widening circles. No. I won’t be part of that.

I have looked over the ballot, but I have not read all of it. Will I read all of it? Well, not every word…. but I will at least glance at every nomination. I know, from past experience, that there are some very talented writers on the list. There are also some very bad writers, and at least one whose picture probably appears next to MEDIOCRE in Websters. There are a lot of writers I have never read before, whose work I need to sample. Torgensen has claimed that the Sad Puppies slate is diverse, and a cursory glance at the names suggests he is not wrong.

I intend to consider every story and every finalist in every category, and vote for those that I think worthy of Hugos. I will vote NO AWARD, I promise you, but only where No Award is warranted. (Truth be told, I vote No Award every year in almost every category. Usually not in first, admittedly… but I don’t just look at a category and rank them one to five in order of preference, I rank the ones I think rocket-worthy above No Award, and the ones I don’t below).

This ballot is the worst I have ever seen, admittedly, and there are stories and writers on it who are not fit to polish a Hugo, much less win one. But there’s good stuff as well, and talented writers whose work I have enjoyed, and I am not going to vote against them just because the Sad Puppies like them too.

As I get further into my reading, I will let you know my thoughts on what I’ve read. But that may be a long process, so be patient.

Honestly, I don’t think any of the choices we have now are good ones. All roads seem to lead to perdition, but each of us will need to walk the one we think best. Meanwhile, I urge everyone who is reading this to go to the Sasquan website and join the convention. Attend if you can; if not, join as a Supporting member, just as the Puppies did. It is too late to nominate, but not too late to vote. The Puppies will be getting out their vote, you can be sure. We need to do the same, unless we care to see some poor guy hand Vox Day a rocket.

I wish I was more optimistic about how all this is going to turn out.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

(That’s Yeats, not me. Just to be clear).


April 9, 2015 at 8:57 pm
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Okay, I am getting swamped with comments on all my Hugo/ Puppygate postings. So many that I may having trouble keeping up… which is not helped by the way LJ makes it impossible to see the content of a comment on a comment without expanding it, so I don’t know what is screened or unscreened.

I thank everyone who has posted. There has been a lot of support, a lot of dissent, a lot of good discussion. The vast majority of you have kept your posts respectful and civil, even when you took issue with something I said, or with another poster. I appreciate that. I have only had to delete a handful of abusive posts.

However, I am going to delete a lot more, starting now. For a different reason. Too many posts are wandering off topic.

Each of my posts is focused on a specific aspect of the Hugo/ Sad Puppy controversy, and that’s what the comments should address.

I do not want to have to deal with long (or short) posts about GamerGate, the Tea Party, affirmative action, the Constitution, rape on campus, or any of the other myriad issues that people are beginning to drag into this. All topics worthy of discussion, to be sure, and maybe we will discuss them at some point… but not now, please.

Stick to the Puppies. Stick to the Hugos. Agree or disagree, engage with the points I am trying to make with each of the main posts.

[Comments closed on this one. I am still trying to moderate all the comments on the previous posts].

Where’s the Beef?

April 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm
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Now we get to the crux of the matter.

So… what is behind Puppygate? What is it the Sad Puppies want? They have been doing this for three years now, three separate campaigns, with a fourth threatened… and presumably a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh if this goes on. That’s a lot of effort, a lot of hours, a lot of commitment. To what end? What’s their grievance?

I’ve read Brad Torgensen’s statements on this point, and I’ve read Correia’s MONSTER HUNTER NATION, and I’ve read hundreds of comments from their supporters. As with any large group, there is a wide range of opinion. Some of the Puppies are relatively moderate and reasonable. Others, I fear, are beyond the pale, raging and ranting about SJWs and cliques and secret conspiracies.

Digesting all of this, and trying to filter out the rabid extremists who seem mostly just to want to hurt liberals and feminists and gays, the essence of the Puppy complaint seems to be that the Hugo Awards have been taken over by the left, by their “Social Justice Warriors,” and these “CHORFs” (another offensive made-up term, like SJWs) have rigged the awards somehow so that only members of their own leftish “clique” or those writer who are willing to “kiss their ass” win, while other books and stories are ignored or excluded, and other writers are “blacklisted.”

Breaking down the complaints further, this purported exclusion seems to take several different forms, which vary according to which Puppy is speaking:
(1) some say the exclusion is political in nature, that conservative and libertarian writers are being unfairly shut out,
(2) others charge religious discrimination, insisting the Christian writers and “writers of Faith” are the ones being excluded,
(3) there’s a racial component in some comments (not from the Puppy leaders, but from their followers), wherein we are told that “straight white men” are the victims here,
(4) and finally, there’s the literary argument, wherein we are told that the ballots are full of bad boring crappy stories that no one really likes, placed there in some nefarious manner by the secret SJW cliques, whereas good old-fashioned SF and fantasy, the stuff the readers really love, is shut out and ignored.

Do I have the essence of it, Puppies and Puppylovers? I am leaving out any of the charges? Is this the source of all the anger, of this “revolt,” of this determination to “take back SF?”

Because if it is… well, someone has sold you a bill of goods.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we? I accept and acknowledge that some of the Puppies may feel excluded, disrespected, shunned… but feelings and facts are two different things.

Number (3) is the easiest to disprove. Straight white men are being excluded. Really? Really? C’mon, guys. Go look at the last five, ten years of Hugo ballots. Count how many men were nominated. Count how many women. Now count the black writers and the Asian writers and the foreign-language writers. Yes, yes, things are changing. We have a lot more women and minorities being nominated than we did in 1957, say, or even 1987… but the ballots are still way more white and way more male than not. Look, I am hardly going to be in favor of excluding straight white men, being one myself (and no, I am not a fan of Tempest Bradford’s challenge). I am in favor of diversity, of inclusion, of bringing writers from many different backgrounds and cultures into the field. I don’t want straight white writers excluded from the ballot… I just don’t think they need to have ALL of it. I mean, we’re SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FANS, we love to read about aliens and vampires and elves, are we really going to freak out about Asians and Native Americans?

Let’s put that one aside, and look at the other three allegations. Are the Hugos biased against conservative writers, religious writers, or writers of the “good old stuff,” military SF, planetary adventures, space opera, sword & sorcery, hard science, and the like?

The Puppies say yes. I say no. The facts agree with me.

This chart is couple of years old, and therefore outdated a bit, but it still provides a very valuable overview of the history of the awards, who has won them, who has been nominated. So here are the records, albeit a few years out of date:

(Before we get into the listings, let me repeat once again my contention that IT IS AN HONOR TO BE NOMINATED. Sure, it’s a bigger honor to win. But being on the shortlist is nothing to sneeze at, and I say that as the co-founder of the Hugo Losers Club).

What do we see on that list? Well, for a start, it is much easier to rack up lots and lots of nominations in the categories where one votes for a person rather than a work (Best Artist, Best Editor, Best Fan Writer). British humorist Dave Langford leads everyone with 55 nominations and 29 wins. Mike Glyer of FILE 770 is close behind with 52 nominations but only 9 wins. Then comes the late Charles N. Brown, editor and publisher of LOCUS, and Tor/ Signet/ Timescape/ Berkley editor David G. Hartwell, and Mike Resnick, and then Stan Schmidt, editor of ANALOG.

Some of these perennial nominees are liberal politically, I suspect, but none of those could be said to push a political agenda, or wear their politics on their sleeves. No SJWs here. On the other hand, Stan Schmidt edited ANALOG for longer than John W. Campbell did, and during all those decades it was the most conservative magazine in the field, the hard science mag, the choice of engineers everywhere, where the flag of Campbellian SF flew high. Now it is true, Stan never won, not until the year he retired. But he was nominated thirty-five times. Is that your definition of exclusion? Resnick… a very prolific writer, and by this list, the guy with the most nominations ever for fiction, rather than fanac or editing. Resnick, as I am sure the Puppies know, was at the center of the SFWA BULLETIN flap and lost the column that he and Barry Malzberg had written for decades… which hardly makes him a poster boy for the left. David Hartwell… well, Dave works for Tor, which some of the more extreme Puppies may count against him, but he’s also worked for many other publishers, and he’s edited many many writers from both right and left. I seem to recall it was Hartwell who first discovered John Wright, this year’s six-time Puppy favorite nominee.

So far I see moderates, conservatives, Campbellians, and the apolitical. I see no SJWs.

How about total number of WINS? Well, once again you’ve got Langford, the fannish humorist and wit, publisher of ANSIBLE, at 29, tied with Charlie Brown of LOCUS. Charlie was champion of a more ambitious, literary style of SF, but he loved the classic old stuff too. A Vance fan, a Heinlein fan. Gardner Dozois and Michael Whelan each had 15 when this list came out. Gargy’s an editor, a very important and influential editor, and yes, he’s a liberal… but once again, he also loves a good story. He’s edited space opera anthologies (THE GOOD OLD STUFF and THE GOOD NEW STUFF) and with me, OLD MARS and OLD VENUS, retro-SF that PLANET STORIES would have loved. Whelan’s an artist. A brilliant one. And next down… CONNIE WILLIS. It says here she’s won 11 times, but I think she’s won a few more since. Connie’s a woman, yes, and she’s liberal politically (though far from radical). She’s also religious. She has been singing in her Church choir for decades, she attends church regularly. Of course, she’s Episcopalian, so I am not sure that “counts” for some of the Puppies, who only seem to grant that a writer is religious if he or she shares their own religion.

Going further down the all-time list… there’s Richard E. Geis (politically hard right, sexually and socially left) with 34 nominations, Robert Silverberg (conservative) with 28. Further down, past some fans and artists, there’s liberal old me with 19 nominations (15 losses and 4 wins when this list was drawn up), tied with conservative Larry Niven.

One huge name not on the list: Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein did not rack up a lot of noms, since most of his short work was done before the Hugos were created. But he won Best Novel (the Big One) FOUR TIMES, a record that stands to this day (Lois McMaster Bujold tied him, but no one has yet exceeded him). RAH is not easy to characterize politically… he started out as a New Deal Democrat, even ran for office on the EPIC ticket, later became Republican and conservative on many issues… but socially was extremely progressive in his youth, and retained many liberal and libertarian opinions on sexuality and religious matter right up to his death in 1988.

If you’re looking for SJWs on this list, well… there’s Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin. Harlan was certainly a firebrand, and Ursula was the field’s most eloquent and respected feminist for decades. They are also two of the greatest talents that SF has ever produced. Both SFWA Grandmasters, both firmly ensconsced in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, beloved of generations of readers. It would be hard to argue that either was created by a “clique.”

Oh, oh, okay, I can hear the Sad Puppies barking out their objections. “We never said the Hugo Awards were ALWAYS dominated by a leftist clique,” they are barking. “We only said that the SJWs took them over recently, and ruined them. That’s when all the good books and all the writers we like got excluded.”

Okay, fine. Fair enough. Let’s narrow our focus, then, and look only at the recent past, at the ballots that somehow triggered Puppygate. No rhetoric, just facts.

We know about this year’s ballot, the Sasquan ballot. Puppies puppies everywhere, thanks to Sad Puppies 3 and the Rabid Puppies. Last year, the Loncon ballot… well, that was the year of Sad Puppies 2, and that campaign, if not quite the sweep, did put Vox Day and Larry Correia and several other Puppy faves on the shortlist, so we’ll pass over that one too. To see how powerful the liberal SJW cliques truly were, we need to go back to a time before Correia and Day and their followers rose up to smite them.

Let’s look at 2012. LoneStarCon 3, San Antonio, in that notoriously liberal state of Texas. 1343 nominating ballots were received. 1848 final ballots chose the winners.

The Big One, Best Novel, went to John Scalzi for REDSHIRTS. He won out over 2312 by Kim Stanly Robinson, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON by Saladin Ahmed, BLACKOUT by Mira Grant, and CAPTAIN’S VORPATIL’S ALLIANCE by Lois McMaster Bujold. Three men, three women. Two white men, one Arab-American. Do the Puppies object to these nominees? Is this the clique slate? Hard to see why. One Tor book, one from DAW, one from Baen, two from Orbit; no publisher had a stranglehold here, certainly. Scalzi — look, I know Scalzi is liberal, and I know that the Puppies seem to hate him, though I can’t for the life of me understand why — but whatever you think of the writer’s politics, REDSHIRTS is a light, fun, amusing SF adventure, an affectionate riff off of STAR TREK, Ghu help us. And the other nominees… only the Robinson could even remotely be considered “literary SF” of the sort the Puppies seems to hate. Saladin’s book was sword & sorcery, a rollicking swashbuckler in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, Harold Lamb, and the Thousand and One Nights. Bujold, well, you could call her Miles Vorkosigan series space opera, or maybe military SF, but her novels are never less than entertaining, good reads all. The Mira Grant is a zombie novel. Zombies, guys.

Now, do I think these were the best five novels of 2012? Actually, no. As best I recall, I only nominated one of them… along with a couple of books that did not make the ballot. (You can find out which ones if you look back on my Not A Blog for that year’s recs). But it’s a pretty typical ballot, worse than some, better than others, with ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE of any kind of “social justice” agenda or conspiracy.

Let’s look further down the LoneStarCon ballot. Novella: won by “The Emperor’s Soul,” by Brandon Sanderson, a pretty traditional story by an epic fantasist who also happens to be Mormon. (Where is that religious bigotry? Did the SJWs miss him?) One of the other nominees was by Aliette de Bodard, who many Puppies seem to count as one of the despised SJWs, but if the secret cabal was working for her, they fucked it up, because she lost. The other nominees were Nancy Kress, Jay Lake, and (again) Mira Grant. So far maybe we have some evidence of a Mira Grant clique, but none of a Social Justice clique.

Go to Novelette. Won by “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi,” by Pat Cadigan. A brilliant story from a long time fan who had never won a Hugo before, and hadn’t even been nominated for decades. The most popular win of the evening; the crowd in the hall went wild cheering. Pat won over two stories by Seanan McGuire (also known as Mira Grant), one by Catherynne Valente, and one by Thomsas Olde Heuvelt. Was it this shortlist that provoked the Puppies? Four women and only one man there, is that the issue? A surfeit of McGuire/ Grant, maybe? Or were there some brilliant conservative novelettes that year that were overlooked? I honestly do not know.

Short Story only had three nominees. Ken Liu won over Aliette de Bodard and Kij Johnson. The SJWs are really letting down the side, that’s twice they left de Bodard lose. (I hope I remembered to give her a Hugo Loser ribbon, she certainly earned it). No other short story had 5% of the nominating ballots, which is why the list was too small. When there are no slates, that happens: everyone has their own favorites, votes scatter.

Further down the ballot, Brandon Sanderson won again for Best Related Work, together with a bunch of friends. SAGA won Graphic Story, damn good comic, damn good choice. That radical leftist film THE AVENGERS won Long Form Drama, and something called GAME OF THRONES won Short Form. And for editor — hey, Stanley Schmidt finally won for ANALOG… but oh, dear, Patrick Nielsen Hayden won for Long Form Editor. Now we see the power of the SJWs: they won, oh, wow, ONE whole Hugo at LoneStarCon.

That’s just one year, though. Let’s turn the clock back further, to Chicon 7 in Chicago, and the nominees for the best work of 2011.

The Big One went to Jo Walton and AMONG OTHERS. My own nominee, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, finished last. In between you had EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville (who is a vocal and passionate leftist, yes, but also a helluva powerful writer), LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey (a rousing space opera that any fan of the Good Old Stuff should love, soon to be a major TV series from the SyFy Channel), and DEADLINE by Mira Grant. Another zombie story, I seem to recall, same world as her other Best Novel nominees. Kij Johnson, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ken Liu won the Short Fiction Awards. Is there something about them or their stories that the Puppies object to? What could it be? Their literary style? Or…

Actually, looking at the other nominees, maybe THIS is the ballot that provoked the Proto-Puppies to sadness. Mira Grant has another nominee in novella. Mary Robinette Kowal was also up there, and MRK seems widely hated by the right for her work as SFWA Vice President ( a thankless job that I did once). Ken Liu won for Short Story but lost for novella. Catherynne Valente had a losing novella. And Short Story, seven hells, look at that ballot: beside Liu there is E. Lily Yu, the despised John Scalzi, Nancy Fulda , and… oh, look, Mike Resnick, however did the liberal cabal ever let HIM sneak in?

Novelette is pretty interesting too. Charlie Jane Anders won out over Paul Cornell, the affable Brit, Geoff Ryman, the affable Canadian, Rachel Swirsky (author, a few years later, of that dinosaur story that has all the Puppy Panties in a twist), and… “Ray of Light,” by Brad R. Torgersen, from ANALOG.

Condolences, Brad. You are a Hugo Loser. But hey, congratulations. You are a Hugo Loser. It’s an exclusive club. We get together annually, clank our beers together, and chant, “It’s an honor just to be nominated” in unison. Were you at the con? Did I give you a ribbon? If not, I’ll be sure you get one, should we ever met. Wear it proudly. The rest of us do. If that list I linked to is right, I’ve lost fifteen. When you lose, the fannish tradition is to congratulate the winner and shake their hand, then go to our Hugo Loser Party to get drunk and bitter. When I lose, my friends all tell me I’ve been robbed. Makes me feel better. Even when I know it isn’t true.

Looking further down the Chicon ballot, we come to the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Not a Hugo. E. Lily Yu was the winner. She finished ahead of Karen Lord, Stina Leicht, Mur Lafferty, and… ah… Brad R. Torgersen again. Sorry, Brad. Two losses in one night, that’s hard to take. But it’s an honor too. Very few writers have ever been nominated for a Campbell and a Hugo in the same year. Actually, you may be the first. Being a Campbell Award loser does not officially qualify one for the Hugo Losers Club, but we usually let them in anyway. FWIW, I lost the very first Campbell Award, in 1973 at Torcon II. I was a nominee, but never really a contender, to tell the truth. Jerry Pournelle won that first Campbell, defeating George Alec Effinger so narrowly that the con gave him a special runner-up plaque, the first and last time that was ever done. I was way back behind both, so no plaques for me. But I did lose two Hugos in a single night once, in 1976 in Kansas City, Big Mac. Lost one to Larry Niven, and one to Roger Zelazny. The next night, Gardner Dozois and I founded the Hugo Losers Club, and held the first Hugo Losers Party in my room.

Onward and backward, though. Let’s go back to Renovation. Reno, Nevada, 2011. Best work of 2010. Connie Willis wins the Big One for BLACKOUT/ ALL CLEAR. The other nominees were Mira Grant (for FEED, the first of her zombie cycle, I believe), Lois McMaster Bujold, N.K. Jemison with THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, and THE DERVISH HOUSE by the amazing Ian McDonald.

I know what Vox Day thinks of Jemison, since I read his poisonous screed. (He is a Rabid Puppy, I know, not a Sad one, and I would hope most SPs would disavow his bile, regardless of their literary preferences or political affiliations). Vox attacked the GOH speech she gave at an Australian convention… but since the Sad Puppies here have stated often that they only care about the work, not the race or the views of the writer, surely there could not have been any objections to THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS… or the Bujold, or the McDonald.

The novella award went to Ted Chiang… a writer of literary SF, we may agree, but one of the most powerful to enter our field in many years. There’s a reason Chiang wins every time he is nominated for a award. He’s bloody good. Novelette, though… that went to Alan Steele for “The Emperor of Mars,” a classic retro-SF story that he actually wrote for OLD MARS, the anthology Gardner and I were putting together. When we were unable to place the project, however, Alan sold the story to ASIMOV’S, and it brought him home a rocket. Classic old style SF in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I will skip over the rest of Reno… except for the John W. Campbell Award. The fans chose Lev Grossman as the Best New Writer, over Lauren Beukes, Saladin Ahmed, Dan Wells… and Larry Correia. This, it seems to me, was BEFORE he started his first Puppies campaign. Dan Wells was also a Sad Puppy at one time… though this year he asked not to be part of the slate.

I have read Correia’s blog, and I know he says that he was treated very badly at the Reno worldcon, attacked for his views, denounced as a racist and homophobe. I was at Reno myself, but I don’t recall meeting him, so I don’t know the details of any of that. It shocks me to hear it, because the fandom I know has always been warm and welcoming to people of all political views. We are there to party and flirt and celebrate SF, after all. I regret any personal attacks or abuse that Correia may have suffered.

I will say, though, that there is no dishonor in losing to a writer as gifted as Lev Grossman, and many many terrific writers have lost the Campbell Award over the decades, starting with me. And it is an INCREDIBLE honor just to be nominated. Think about it. We have hundreds of new writers entering our field every year, all of them dreaming of careers, all of them fighting for recognition, trying to build their brand… and a few, maybe, lusting for rockets. Out of all those people, the fans nominated FIVE (sometimes six) for the Campbell.

There were no Sad Puppies when Larry Correia was nominated for the Campbell, when Brad Torgersen was nominated for the Campbell, when Torgersen was nominated for his first Hugo. (Subsequent noms, yes, may have resulted from Puppy campaigns). That was the traditional Hugo electorate putting you on the ballot… you, and a lot of other conservative writers, religious writers, white male writers, and purveyors of space opera, military SF, and Good Old Stuff.

There was never any need for Sad Puppies to “take back” the Hugos. The feminists, minorities, literary cliques, and Social Justice Warriors never took them in the first place. That’s a myth, as the actual facts I have cited here prove conclusively.

Blogging for Rockets

April 9, 2015 at 2:46 am
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The Sad Puppies and their supporters have argued that they are not the first to campaign for awards in our (not so) little genre.

They’re right about that, of course.

I’ve been around a long time. So has campaigning, by one means or another.

The Nebulas were even more vulnerable to this than the Hugos, because the pool of voters is so much smaller. Once upon a time, you could see the log-rolling clearly, because the Nebula Awards Reports published the names of the members recommending a story beside the recommendation. You only had to look at the latest NAR to note, “oh, Bill has nominated Ted, and Ted and nominated Bill, and both of them have nominated Alice,” or, “hmmmm, gee, all these guys from Alabama, they’re in the same writer’s group and they are all nominating each other.”

Thing is, though, it didn’t really hurt. It all balanced out. And besides, it might have been above board. It’s only human for friends to read the work of friends and be predisposed to like it. Maybe there was vote-swapping going on and maybe there wasn’t. No way to prove it. It did bother me, however, when a certain segment of the membership demanded that the NAR stop listing the names. I suspect the same thing went on as before, only now it was hidden from sight.

(Oh, and lest I be accused of hypocrisy, my own stories were often recommended during those years, and sometimes by friends. And sometimes I recommended their stories. As I said, it’s normal and human to read and enjoy the work of people you know and like).

If the campaigning had ended there, it might have been fine. But things got worse. One year, there was a certain well regarded new writer who had a big novella in one of the magazines. He had never done a book before… but a major publisher had just signed him to a multi-book contract that would include his first novel. Well, the magazine and the book publisher got together for a mass “for your consideration” mailing. The magazine supplied copies, the book publisher mailed them out, and every member of SFWA got a copy of his novella. Needless to say, he won the Nebula in a walk… and when that first novel came out, it had NEBULA AWARD WINNER proudly displayed across its covers.

Only one writer has ever refused a Nebula. That was my friend and sometime collaborator Lisa Tuttle, who won the 1982 Nebula for her story “The Bone Flute,” and declined it… to protest the rising tide of Nebula campaigning. I love Lisa and I love her writing, but I said then and I say now, that was an odd decision. After all, it wasn’t Lisa who’d been campaigning. In fact, her story had WON over the guy who did the campaign (he had mailed out copies of his own story to the Nebula voters). Last I heard, Lisa’s Nebula was in David Hartwell’s house, serving as a bookend. She still doesn’t want it. I wish I could say that her grand gesture did some good, and shamed the members of SFWA to stop campaigning… but alas, nothing of the sort.

And what about the Hugos, you ask?

Yeah, there too. In the ongoing discussion of Puppygate, numerous people have cited one instance, wherein a stack of identical nominating ballots arrived with the same postmark, paid for by consecutive money orders. Those were disallowed. In 1987, members of the Church of Scientology campaigned successfully to place L. Ron Hubbard’s BLACK GENESIS on the Best Novel ballot. That was not disallowed — the Scientologists had done nothing illegal, after all, all they’d done is buy supporting memberships to a convention that they had no intention of attending, for the sole purpose of nominating LRH for a Hugo (hmmm, why does that tactic sound familiar?) — but their campaign created a huge backlash. Hubbard’s name was booed lustily at the Hugo ceremony in Brighton, and his book finished last in the final balloting, behind No Award. (The winner that year was Orson Scott Card, with SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, for those who are counting).

Of course, there were also recommended reading lists. That wasn’t campaigning, not strictly, but certain lists could have huge influence on the final ballot. The annual LOCUS Recommended Reading List, compiled by Charles Brown and his staff and reviewers, was the most influential. If your book or story made that list… well, it did not guarantee you a place on the ballot, but it sure improved your chances. NESFA (the New England fan club) had an annual list as well, and LASFS might have done the same, not sure. And of course the Nebulas, which came before the Hugos, carried a lot of weight too. Win a Nebula, and the chances were good that you’d be a Hugo nominee as well. Again, no guarantee, some years the shortlists diverged sharply… but more often than not, there was a lot of overlap.

So there were always these factors in play. Cliques, I can hear the Sad Puppies saying. Yeah, maybe. Thing is, they were COMPETING cliques. The NESFA list and the Nebula list were not the same, and the LOCUS list… the LOCUS list was always very long. Five spots on the Hugo ballot, and LOCUS would recommend twenty books, or thirty… sometimes more, when they started putting SF and fantasy in separate categories.

Bottom line, lots of people influenced the Hugos (or tried to), but no one ever successfully controlled the Hugos.

That became even more true when we entered the age of the internet. Suddenly blogs and bulletin boards and listservs were everywhere, and there were DOZENS of people drawing up recommended reading lists and suggesting books and writers and stories. Sweet chaos. It was glorious. So many people talking about books, arguing about books, reading books.

That was also when the practice of writers blogging about their own eligible books and stories took root. “Say, the Hugo nominations are coming up, and I had a few things out last year. Hey, check them out.” Some people were deeply offended by this practice. (Some still are. Check out the blogs of Peter Watts and Adam Roberts on the subject, for instance). Others, especially newer writers and those hungry for attention, seized on it at once as a way of getting their name out there. Publishers and editors began to encourage it. Publicity and advertising budgets being what they were (non-existent in many cases), new writers and midlist writers soon realized that if they did not publicize their books, no one would.

And once it really got rolling, there was no stopping it. “Everyone else is doing it,” you heard writers say. “I have to do it, in self-defense.” They were not wrong. Sometimes the difference between making the Hugo ballot and falling short is a single vote. The writer who refused to self-promote and then fell a few votes short… ouch.

[And yes, I have done all this myself. Mentioned my own work, drawn up recommended reading lists, blogged passionately about people I thought deserved a nomination. I am not condemning the practice, just reporting on it. It always made me feel awkward, but like many of my friends, I knew that if I refrained and then missed the ballot by a few votes, I would be kicking myself. I’d sooner see the practice die out. But until it does, you have to play the game.]

Of course, not everyone was equally good at self-promotion. Certain subfandoms were better organized than others (the DOCTOR WHO fans, for instance). Certain writers were more skilled at social media than others, and built up huge personal followings on Twitter and Facebook, or through their blogs… numbers that soon translated to multiple Hugo nominations.

And that was pretty much where we stood, until the Sad Puppies came along.

I have very mixed feelings about campaigning for awards. Part of me agrees with my friend Lisa Tuttle. Wouldn’t it be great if each reader could make his own nominations, without being influenced by slates or lists or mass mailings? It would also be great if all the children of the world could get together and sing in perfect harmony, but that’s not going to happen either. Like it or not, campaigning is here to stay.

I can see where this is going. I am a Worldcon member and a SFWA member, but I am also a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which means I vote on the WGA awards and the Emmys… and so the flood comes in, DVDs and Blu-Rays and screeners and links to lockboxes, all full of TV shows and movies “for my consideration.” Way too many to watch. Way too many to count. Are there studios and directors and networks that don’t play the game, that don’t send out screeners and run ads in VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Sure there are. They are easy to recognize. They’re the studios and directors and networks who don’t win any awards.

Once you let the genie out of the bottle, he doesn’t go back in.

The Sad Puppies did not invent Hugo campaigning, by any means. But they escalated it, just as that magazine/publisher partnership did way back when. They turned it up to eleven. Their slate was more effective that anyone could ever have dreamed, so effective that they drowned out pretty much all the other voices. They ran the best organized, most focused, and most effective awards campaign in the history of our genre, and showed everyone else how it’s done.

The lesson will be learned. The Sad Puppies have already announced that they intend to do it again next year. Which means that other factions in fandom will have to do it as well. Just as happened with the “let me tell you about my eligible works,” the rest of the field is going to need to field slates of their own in self-defense.

I don’t look forward to that. It cheapens the Hugos. Will future winners actually be the best books or stories? Or only the books and stories that ran the best campaigns?

Can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put the Hugos back together again?

I don’t see how. And that makes me sadder than all those puppies put together.