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Next Year’s Hugos

August 31, 2015 at 8:39 pm
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The Hugo Awards for 2015 have been announced, the rockets handed out, the post-mortems written and published. You can read analyses all over the internet. My own thoughts on the results can be found below, so I won’t recap them here. The Great Puppy War is over.

Or is it?

That’s the question. Where do we go from here?

I know where I’d like to go: back to normalcy, as old Warren G. Harding once said.

No one who truly cares about science fiction, fantasy, or fandom could possibly want a Second Puppy War. The past half year has been deeply unpleasant for writers and readers on both sides. Next year’s worldcon is in Kansas City, and it would be great if the Hugo ceremony next August could once again be a celebration of excellence, rewarding all the writers, editors, artists, and fans who had done outstanding work in 2015.

Can that possibly happen? Can we remember that “we are all science fiction,” as some of the ribbons I saw at Sasquan proclaimed? Can we have a reconciliation?

I think there’s a chance. But a chance is not a certainty. It depends. Mostly, I think, it depends on the Sad Puppies.

We already know that VD Beale and the Rabid Puppies are going to try to do it again. They want to destroy the award, and they will no doubt do their damndest, and there will be a rabid slate. Nothing can be done about that… except to ignore the troll. Fandom — liberal and conservative, Sad Puppy and Truefan, have all been paying too much attention to Beale. Our links and denunciations have driven his page views higher and higher. And too many people empowered VD and his slate… either by voting for the work he slated (often unread) or by voting AGAINST the work he slated. We should not be giving these toxic clowns the power to sway our votes either way. Beale will do a slate, no doubt. Just ignore it. Nominate and vote as if the Rabid Puppies did not exist. That’s certainly what I intend to do.

Which brings me to the Sad Puppies. Brad Torgersen has retired from the fray, he tells us. There will be a Sad Puppies 4 campaign, but it will be run by Kate Paulk. It is my understanding that she does not intend to generate a slate, but rather a recommended reading list, similar in scope and intent to the LOCUS Recommended Reading List, or that of NESFA, or LASFS. I think that’s good. Unlike the Torgersen list, which was carefully “curated,” Paulk has said that her list will focus on the works that receive the most suggestions from those participating, that it could include “even David Gerrold” if a lot of people suggest him. I think that’s VERY good. Could it also include “even” N.K. Jemisin and Rachel Swirsky and Ken Liu and Mary Robinette Kowal? Even better. Not that I think it will… the Puppies may not be all conservative, but certainly more of them tend right than left, and their literary tastes undoubtedly run to more traditional forms and styles too. But if Paulk is honestly willing to consider all the suggestions she gets, without litmus tests, I applaud that. It should enable her to produce a recommended reading list that is far more varied, and far more interesting, than the SP3 slate.

Slating was one of this year’s big problems. It was SLATING that produced the avalanche of “No Award” voting in this year’s Hugo balloting, the widespread perception in fandom that the slated nominees were illegitimate. If there is no slating (save for the Rabid slate, which I fear is inescapable), I think fandom as a whole will be far more open to the suggestions of the Sad Puppies.

Let’s make it about the work. Let’s argue about the BOOKS. And yes, of course, it will be an argument. I may not like the stories you like. You may not like the stories I like. We can all live with that, I think. I survived the Old Wave/ New Wave debate. Hell, I enjoyed parts of it… because it was about literature, about prose style, characterization, storytelling. Some of the stuff that Jo Walton explores in her Alfie-winning Best Related Work, WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT? That’s the sort of debate we should be having.

The elimination of slates will be a huge step toward the end of hostilities.

But there’s a second step that’s also necessary. One I have touched on many times before. We have to put an end to the name-calling. To the stupid epithets.

I have seen some hopeful signs on that front in some of the Hugo round-ups I’ve read. Puppies and Puppy sympathizers using terms like Fan (with a capital), or trufan, or anti-Puppy, all of which I am fine with. I am not fine with CHORF, ASP, Puppy-kicker, Morlock, SJW, Social Justice Bully, and some of the other stupid, offensive labels that some Pups (please note, I said SOME) have repeatedly used for describe their opponents since this whole thing began. I am REALLY not fine with the loonies on the Puppy side who find even those insults too mild, and prefer to call us Marxists, Maoists, feminazis, Nazis, Christ-hating Sodomites, and the like. There have been some truly insane analogies coming from the kennels too — comparisons to World War II, to the Nazi death camps, to ethnic cleansing. Guy, come on, cool down. WE ARE ARGUING ABOUT A LITERARY AWARD THAT BEGAN AS AN OLDSMOBILE HOOD ORNAMENT. Even getting voted below No Award is NOT the same as being put on a train to Auschwitz, and when you type shit like that, well…

The Pups have often complained that they don’t get no respect… which has never actually been true, as the pre-Puppy awards nominations of Correia and Torgersen have proved… but never mind, the point here is that to get respect, you need to give respect.

And before any of the Puppies jump on here to say, “you did or first,” or “you did it worse,” well… I think you’re wrong, but we’ve argued it before, and there is no point in arguing it again. A lot of things were said during the past few months. Do we want to keep rehashing them endlessly, or do we want to move on?

I am very proud of what I did with the Alfies; the reactions of the winners, and the way the awards have been received by fandom, pleases me no end. Sometimes it is better to give than to receive, and I got as much joy from giving out the Alfies than I have from receiving any of my Hugo awards, Nebulas, or World Fantasy Awards.

But I don’t want to have to give them again.

I voted No Award in several Hugo categories this year, because the finalists were unworthy of the rocket, but I was not pleased to do so.

I would rather not have to do that again either. Next year, I hope, the Hugo ballot will present me with so many excellent choices that No Award will be ranked last in every category.

If there are fans of good will on the other side who share these hopes, be they liberal or conservative, left wing or right wing, great… I am holding out my hand. Let’s talk about books. We may disagree… probably WILL disagree… but that’s not the end of the world, or even the Hugos. That’s just fandom. If you have ever been to a con, you’ll know that the best panels are the ones with a little lively disagreement.

((And for those of you who would prefer to continue to call names and throw stones and talk about cabals and conspiracies and death trains… sorry, not going to engage. Hatespeech is not lively disagreement. I am too old, too smart, and too rich to waste my time with assholes.))

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Back From Bubonicon

August 31, 2015 at 4:46 pm
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I’m back home from Bubonicon, our venerable local con, and the last one on my schedule for this year. No more cons on my schedule until the end of February, when I’ll be headed to Virginia.

Bubonicon — named after our state’s rep as “home of the flea, land of the plague” — is much bigger and livelier than it used to be, but still a very friendly, fun local con, with a strong literary flavor. This year’s incarnation featured a great lineup of guests including Cat Valente, Tamora Pierce, and Mary Robinette Kowal. I enjoyed hanging them with, and getting to know them better. Terrific guests, terrific writers, and wonderful people. Warm and witty.

A whole bunch of my Wild Cards writers and friends were also on hand, including the usual New Mexico gang, and out-of-towners like Caroline Spector and Carrie Vaughn.

The highlight of the weekend, as ever, was our evening with Pope Francis.

And so con season draws to a close… but football season is almost at hand!

The Alfies

August 27, 2015 at 5:41 pm
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Once I had decided to hand out the Alfies, as detailed on the previous post, I had to make a lot of other decisions. Again and again, I found myself returning to the original 1953 awards, and the spirit in which they were given.

The prestige of the Hugo, the history, the lineage, whatever career-boosting or financial rewards the rocket supposedly carries… there was no way for me to make up for any of that. But I could certainly give some losers an “Attaboy! You did good!” in the spirit of ’53.

In 1953, there were no losers, just winners. That appealed to me. I wanted these awards to be a celebration, a occasion of happiness. I would award some worthy people, but there would be no shortlist, no campaigning, and therefore no losers.

Of course, an “Attaboy!” is nice, but a cool trophy is even nicer. Right away I decided that plaques (boring) and “certificates suitable for framing” would not serve. We needed something much better. Something that could stand next to a Hugo, tall and proud and ready for blast off.

In 1953, legend says the Hugos were made from Oldsmobile hood ornaments. But as we now know (see previous post), they were not called the Hugos that year, and were not actually hood ornaments. That would need to wait till 1956. But what the hell, when the legend becomes truth, print the legend. I loved the legend, and I loved the way Alfie Bester talked himself into that first Hugo Losers party, so I decided that my awards would also be made from old 50s hood ornaments. I went up on ebay to look for some, and discovered… gods be good, that really was the “Space Age,” half the cars on the road had some sort of rocket or jet on their hoods (to go with those gigantic tailfins).

I decided to avoid the 1950 and 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 ornaments on offer (except for one I bought for show ‘n tell). The central rocket on those is too close to the Hugo rocket of today, and the Hugo and its iconic design are the trademarked property of the World Science Fiction Convention. I did not want to infringe, nor open myself up to charges that I was handing out ‘my own Hugos.’ The Alfies needed to look dramatically different… but still cool.

Fortunately, even with the Olds taken off the table, I had a wealth of choices. Fords, Chevys, Mercurys, Willys, Lincolns… there were some amazing rocket-shaped thingamabobs out there. Nobody was selling a lot of a dozen identical ones, however, so I realized that the Alfies would have to include a number of different designs. A whole fleet of spaceships, as it were. I set to bidding, and buying. Won some, lost some, dropped out on others when the prices got too high. When they started coming in, I saw right away that some were not as suitable as they’d looked, but others were perfect. None of them were in especially great condition, to be sure. That’s why most of them came cheap. Just like that DEMOLISHED MAN rocket from 1953, they were rusted, pitted, corroded by the passage of time.

So I turned to Tyler Smith, sculptor and metal-worker par excellence, the guy who made the Beast’s head for the Jean Cocteau Cinema and is working on the dragon’s head for Dragonstone Studios. Consider him the spiritual heir to the original Hugo-maker, Jack McKnight. Tyler sanded and smoothed the hood ornaments, ground down the rough bits and filled in holes, then had them all powder-coated and rechromed. Then he set to designing bases for them. We rejected the idea of fastening them to wooden backings, like the 1956 Hugo; instead Tyler cut some dramatic metal bases with his trusty plasma-cutter, so the Alfies looked as if they were taking flight.

Here’s the fleet, as it looked when Tyler finished:

Back in 1953, Jack McKnight worked all through the convention to finish the awards in time for the presentation. Thankfully, Tyler managed to finish the Alfies the day before we were scheduled to take off for Spokane. (Even so, that last week gave me ulcers). In 1953, the concom presumably told McKnight who the winners were going to be, so he could have their names engraved on the bases. We had no such knowledge, so the Alfies had no engraving, no names. We would not find that out who won them until after the Hugo Awards ceremony, when Sasquan released the voting totals. (We do plan to have name plates for the bases engraved now, and will mail them out to the winners).

As to who those winners would be… I decided, early on, that I would not attempt to give Alfies out in every category. The Puppies had dominated the ballot as a whole, beyond a doubt, but in most categories there were a couple… or at least one… legitimate nominee. In those races, at least, the voters had a choice.

But in five categories no such choice existed: Novella, Short Story, Related Work, Long Form Editor, Short Form Editor. In those categories the only choice was between the Sad Puppies and the Rabids and the Sad/ Rabids. The slates had taken EVERY slot in those races. Unless you were a Puppy, you were not even allowed in the starting gate. Even Secretariat could not hope to win a horserace under those conditions. (I suspected that No Award would win in some of these categories, as I said in my Hugo handicapping. I was shocked that NA won in all five).

And it should be stressed: I did not pick the Alfie winners, at least not in these five races. FANDOM picked the winners. The Alfie in each of these races went to the writer or editor who had received the most nominations while not part of any slate. I had no idea who the winners would be until after the Hugo ceremony, when I got my hands on the ‘pink sheet’ with all of this year’s voting details, and was able to check the nomination numbers.

My plan had been to reveal the Alfies and announce the winners at the Hugo Losers Party, as a midnight surprise. Turned out to be closer to one, since everything ran late that night. Rather than presenting all the awards myself, I asked a few friends to help me hand them out. Ellen Datlow, Pat Cadigan, David Gerrold, and Robert Silverberg — stalwart fellows, and Hugo Losers in good standing, all — came forward to lend a hand.

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM was the first Alfie handed out. The winner was JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, who had come in sixth behind the slates with 149 nominations (only 13 behind Vox Day — if only a few more fans had troubled to nominate, we might not have had No Award winning here). Adams was at the con, but unfortunately not at the party. I had never been able to track him down.

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM was presented by Ellen Datlow, one of our field’s leading editors for close on forty years. Ellen has won Hugos and lost more, and probably has more World Fantasy Awards than any other person. Her apartment looks like Easter Island; everywhere you turn, H.P. Lovecraft is staring at you. The winner was LIZ GORINSKY of Tor, with 96 nominations. Liz is a Hugo Loser in good standing, since she has been a finalist several times, but has never won. She’s still a Hugo Loser… but now at least she is an Alfie winner, and she was there to accept, which delighted me no end.

Next was BEST RELATED WORK. Jo Walton took this one, with 105 nominations, for WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT. Alas, though she was said to be at the con, I never found her, so she was not at the party. (Until I saw the nomination totals, I had been thinking the second volume of William Patterson’s Heinlein bio would take this Alfie, but I was completely wrong. And the Walton book is a perfect winner, one that epitomizes the spirit of the original Hugo Awards. It is a big book of Attaboys!, a fond and affectionate look back at the books that made us SF fans). David Gerrold made the presentation.

BEST SHORT STORY. “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. 76 nominations. Ursula was not at the con, but her friend Mur Lafferty came forward to accept on her behalf. Pat Cadigan made the presentation. Mur spent the rest of the evening having photographs taken of various editors, writers, and fans holding Ursula’s Alfie. Hope you don’t mind the fingerprints, Ursula.

BEST NOVELLA. Robert Silverberg presented the Alfie (a monster, the largest of the hood ornaments I secured, since novella has the biggest stories) to “The Slow Regard of Silent Things,” by Patrick Rothfuss, 124 nominations. Patrick was not at Sasquan, so the massive trophy was accepted on his behalf by Scott Lynch.

Those were the five Alfies determined by fan vote. I know, of course, that the story with the most nominations does not always win the Hugo in the end, so there is no certainty that John Joseph Adams, Liz Gorinsky, Jo Walton, Ursula Vernon, or Patrick Rothfuss would have won Hugos this year… but we do know, based on the nominations, that they would have been contenders. The slates deprived them of that chance. They may win Hugo Awards in the future, or they may not. This year’s rocket is gone forever. But they will always have the Alfie.

Attaboy, guys. Attaboy, girls. You did good!

But that’s not all, folks. Worldcons have the authority to give one special committee award each year, according to the WSFS constitution. I decided I would give some special committee awards as well, in the spirit of those ’53 Hugos, where none of the awards were voted on. Not being bound by the WSFS constitution, I could give out four extra awards, not just one.

These I presented myself.

One went to ERIC FLINT. Through these long months of vitriol and mud-slinging, Eric Flint’s blog remained an oasis of common sense, facts, and sanity. He kept his calm when everyone else was losing theirs, and he spoke truth, though he had no horse in this race, and no need to speak up at all. I did not always agree with everything he said about Puppygate, mind you, but that’s okay. Reasonable men should be able to disagree. His courage and calm words deserved an Alfie… and when next year comes around, I plan to nominate Flint for Best Fan Writer.

Two more Alfies went to ANNIE BELLET and MARKO KLOOS. Added to the slates without their knowledge or consent, both of these talented young writers found themselves on this year’s Hugo ballot, Bellet for her short story “Goodnight Stars” and Kloos for his novel LINES OF DEPARTURE. It was the first Hugo nomination for both of them, something that every science fiction writer dreams of, a day to be remembered and cherished forever. And yet, when they discovered the nature of the slates and the block-voting that had placed them on the ballot, both Bellet and Kloos withdrew, turning down their nominations. I cannot imagine how difficult and painful a decision that must have been. Bellet’s story actually had more nominations than any other short story on the ballot, regardless of slate, which suggests that she might well have been nominated even without the ‘help’ of the Puppies. And it was Marko Kloos’ withdrawal that opened up a space on the ballot for Cixin Liu’s THREE-BODY PROBLEM, the eventual winner. They lost their shot at a Hugo (this year, at least — I think both of them will be back), but their courage and integrity earned them both an Alfie.

The last Alfie of the night had… surprise, surprise… nothing to do with the slates, the Sads, the Puppies, or any of that madness. I wanted to give a token of recognition to one of the giants of our field, a Hugo winner, Hugo loser (if you look only at the fiction categories, he has lost more Hugos than anyone, I believe), SFWA Grand Master, former Worldcon Guest of Honor, and Big Heart Award winner… the one and only Silverbob. The coolest Alfie of all (the half-lucite one that lights up) went to ROBERT SILVERBERG, the only man among us to have attended every Hugo Awards ceremony since 1953. There has never been a Hugo given out without Silverberg watching. Just think of that!

And that was the night. The party resumed with much hooting and hollering.

A few last words. Some people are calling the Alfies an “alternative” award. I prefer to think of them as “supplementary” awards. A way to heal the hurt, spread some joy, reward good work.

I wanted them to be a surprise, so I did all I could to keep them secret. Aside from me and my team here in Santa Fe, no one knew about the Alfies ahead of time except the handful of people I asked to help me present them. None of the winners had so much as an inkling.

Some of the leading Puppies have oft said that the awards should be about the work. I agree. And looking at the Alfie winners, I could not be more proud of the quality of the work represented. Truly top-flight stuff, and no “boring message fiction” to be found (that was always an empty talking point). Any of them would have done the Hugo proud.

So let’s have a round of applause for Robert Silverberg, Marko Kloos, Annie Bellet, Eric Flint, Jo Walton, Ursula Vernon, Liz Gorinsky, John Joseph Adams, Patrick Rothfuss. Enjoy your rockets. But remember what Alfie Bester said… they’re hood ornaments, and in twenty-three years they may be so pitted and corroded that you’ll be welcome at the Losers Party.

What’s It All About, Alfie?

August 27, 2015 at 1:19 pm
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About those awards…

Let’s begin with another lesson in Hugo history. First stop, 1953. The first Hugo Awards were presented at the 11th worldcon, in Philadelphia. Robert Silverberg tells me that they were not even called “Hugos” back then, just “Science Fiction Achievement Awards.” Isaac Asimov was the Toastmaster. There were only seven categories that first year. Forry Ackerman was “# 1 Fan Personality,” Philip Jose Farmer was “Best New Author or Artist,” Willy Ley took one for “Excellence in Fact Articles,” Virgil Finlay was “Best Interior Illustrator,” Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller ‘tied’ for “Best Cover Artist,” ASTOUNDING and GALAXY ‘tied’ for “Best Professional Magazine,” and — drumroll, please — Alfred Bester won for Best Novel (the big one, then as now) with his soon-to-be-classic THE DEMOLISHED MAN.

Several things should be noted about the Philadelphia awards. First, they were widely regarded as a one-time thing; no one imagined at that time that they would become an annual event and the climax of worldcon. (And, indeed, no awards were given the following year, at the 1954 worldcon).

Also, there were no losers that year, only winners. No voting, no shortlist. These were all what we would call today ‘committee awards,’ the honorees chosen entirely by the members of the concom by some arcane process. The ‘ties’ did not result from an equal number of votes, therefore; it was just that the con runners felt both were worthy. Fannish legend tells us the first awards were made from Oldsmobile hood ornaments (but more on that later).

There has been much debate of late about the value of a Hugo. Whether or not it has actual monetary value, whether it can boost a writer’s career or lead to larger advances. Back in 1953, no one was thinking that way. Look at those first awards, and you can see what the rocket is all about. The Hugos are an “Attaboy! You did good.” They are SF thanking one of its own for enriching the genre, for giving them pleasure, for producing great work. Also, they come with a really cool trophy. Bottom line, that’s what matters.

After skipping 1954, the awards came back in 1955 at the Cleveland worldcon, and have been with us ever since. Clevention was well before my time, but my understanding is that this was the first time we had actual balloting for the winners. This may also been the first time the awards were called Hugos, though I have been unable to document that. The categories were slighly different from 1953, and have continued to evolve and change ever since.

Fast forward to 1976, and that first Hugo Loser Party in Kansas City. I have written, below, of how Gardner Dozois acted as a herald/ doorman at that bash, loudly announcing each guest who attempted to enter, and proclaiming them either a winner or a loser. Losers were cheered and welcomed, winners booed and pelted with peanuts, etc.

Which leads me to the moment when Alfred Bester himself appeared in the door. “ALFIE BESTER,” the great Gargoo roared at him. “You may not pass! You won the FIRST Hugo!!!” And the boos rose up like thunder. But Alfie was undeterred. “Yes,” he shouted back, “but it was an Oldsmobile hood ornament, and it’s all pitted and rusted and corroded now!” And the boos changed to cheers, and Alfie entered the party and proceeded to drink us all under the table, thereby establishing the principle that even legendary winners can become losers with sufficient time and corrosion.

Here’s a fiddling footnote, though. In the twenty-three years between the Philadelphia and KC worldcon, Alfie’s rocket almost certainly suffered pitting and rust. I have seen other Hugos from the 50s, and time has left its marks on all of them. But he was wrong as well; the ’53 rockets may have been inspired inspired by the Oldsmobile hood ornaments, but they were not actually made from same. Maryland fan Jack McKnight made those first awards himself in his machine shop, working all through the con and finishing just in time for the presentation. Which is not to say that the ‘hood ornament’ legend is entirely wrong. Just the date is off. It was the 1956 Hugos that are actually Oldsmobile hood ornaments. Dave Kyle made the awards that year. Kyle presumably lacked McKnight’s machine shop and metal-working skills, so he raided some junkyards for hood ornaments from the 1950 or 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, and screwed them to an upright wooden stand. Take a look for yourself:

1950 Oldsmobile hood ornament

1953 Hugo

1956 Hugo

[[You can find all this history, and pictures of every Hugo since the beginnings of the award, at the official Hugo site at Go check it out, it’s cool]].

Fast forward again, this time to present.

This past year has been a tough one for all of fandom, and especially those of us who love SF, fantasy, worldcon, and the Hugos. Puppygate injected a note of discord and division and vitriol into the awards process unlike anything ever seen before in the long history of the awards. You all know the facts; I am not going to rehash them again here.

I have been a Hugo winner, and a Hugo loser, and a Hugo presenter, many times. I hated this year’s discord, and I could see how much damage it was doing. I felt I had to speak out about what was happening, and I did. I engaged in dialogue (relatively civil) with the Sad Puppy leaders Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia in hopes of somehow finding some common ground and effecting some sort of reconciliation; sadly, that effort failed. With the passage of months, things got worse instead of better.

In any Hugo season save the first, there are more losers than winners. Five nominees per category means one winner and four losers. Multiply that by the number of categories, and the losers way outnumber the winners. Always have, always will. And, yes, it IS an honor just to be nominated… but that does not soften the sting when the envelope is opened and someone else’s name is called out. I know, I’ve been there many times, and not just at the Hugo Awards (six time Emmy loser here, and I will be going for seven next month).

And this year, thanks to the slates, we had more losers than ever before. This year, indeed, we were all losers. Some lost the usual way, finishing behind an eventual winner. Others lost to No Award, an especially galling sort of defeat. (Which also created five losers in those five categories instead of four). Even the winners lost, since their victories will always bear as asterisk in the minds of some because they triumphed under such unusual circumstances, over a weakened field, or whatever. (I don’t necessarily endorse this viewpoint. I think some of this year’s winners deserve an exclamation point rather than an asterisk. But I have heard a fair amount of the asterisk talk even on Hugo night itself). The Hugos lost: five No Awards is an occasion for mourning, not cheers. The genre lost: I don’t buy that even bad press is good, and we sure got a lot of bad press this year. Fandom lost: division and discord poisoned our annual celebration of love for SF, and left wounds that will be a long time healing. The nominees who withdrew from the slates lost; they walked away from a Hugo nod, a painful thing to do, and were abused for that decision. The nominees who stayed on the ballot lost; they were abused for that decision too, and some, who were NOT Puppies and never asked to be slated, saw their Hugo chances destroyed by the Nuclear option. Some nominees managed to catch flak from both sides.

And there was another class of loser, less visible, but still very much a victim of the slates. Those writers who produced outstanding work in 2014, and who, in a normal year, would have almost certainly received Hugo nominations. Some might even have won rockets. But this was NOT a normal year, and the usual word-of-mouth buzz and fannish enthusiasm that generally carries a story to a place on the Hugo ballot could not and did not prevail against the slate-mongering of the Sad Puppies and the lockstep voting of the Rabids. These were the invisible losers of the 2015 Hugo season. Losing is a part of life, and certainly of the Hugos… but it is one thing to be beaten in a fair contest, and another to be shoved aside and denied the chance to compete.

It was for those ‘invisible losers’ that I decided to create the Alfies. If one accepts that the Hugo has value, these writers had suffered real harm thanks to the slates. There was no way I could hope to redress that… but I could make a gesture. In the door of my room in KC in 1976, Alfie Bester told us that winners can become losers. If so, losers can become winners too. I would give my own awards… and of course I’d name them after Alfie.

So that’s how the Alfies came about.

Next rock, I’ll tell you about their creation… and who won them.

The Hugo Losers Party

August 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm
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The first Hugo Loser Party was held in my room in the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, during Big Mac, the first KC worldcon, MidAmericon. In the years and decades since the party has become somewhat of a worldcon tradition, and it has always held right after the Hugo ceremony… but that first one was held the following day, on a Monday.

It was an impromptu thing. The night before, at the ceremony proper, I had lost two Hugos — one to Roger Zelazny (novella) and one to Larry Niven (novelette). The winners had been celebrating afterwards, making the rounds of the parties with their Hugos in hand (except for Niven, who had dropped and broken his while exiting the stage). I remarked to Gardner Dozois — who at the time proudly claimed the title of Bull Goose Loser, the fellow who had lost the most awards without ever winning one — that we losers needed a party too. He thought it was a great idea, and somehow it was decided to hold it in my room. Which, mind you, was not a suite, but just an ordinary double, though it did have the advantage of being at the end of a hall, right next to the door that led out onto the pool deck, which would prove to be a crucial advantage.

Being losers, we had no money for booze or refreshments, but Parris and some other friends took charge of that, making the rounds of all the Sunday night parties (publisher parties, bid parties, even the con suite) and scrounging their leftovers. We ended up with some jugs of Gallo, some box wine, a bathtub of assorted bheer (some generic), and some stale pretzels and cheese curls. There may have been peanuts too. At this stage, I forget.

In any case, it was a great party. A legendary party. One of those parties where everything comes together just perfectly to create magic. I got as drunk as I have ever been in my life, and ended up standing on a dresser, leading the crowds in chants of LOOOOOOOOOSE (a play on Bob Tucker’s famous SMOOOOOOTH, with jug wine passed from hand to hand instead of Beam’s Choice). Gardner stationed himself at the door, like a herald, and announced each new arrival and whether they were a loser, or one of those hated winners. Losers were greeted with cheers and applause. Winners were boooed mercilessly, and sometimes pelted with peanuts and cheetos until and unless they proclaimed themselves to be true losers, and explained why. When Joe Haldeman appeared, having just won the Best Novel Hugo the night before for THE FOREVER WAR, the fans seized him, lifted him off his feet, carried him outside, and flung him into the hotel pool. (Fandom was different in those days).

((Okay, okay, Joe did get thrown in the pool, but it did not happen quite the way I tell it. But my version is better. When truth becomes legend, print the legend)).

The party raged all through the night, until the sun came up over Kansas City. (Fandom was younger in those days). Everyone came, though some (the humorless and stuffy) did not stay. LOCUS later proclaimed it the best party at the con.

So of course we had to do it again the following year, at Suncon.

A bit more planning went into that second party. That one was held the same night as the Hugos, which would henceforth be the tradition. Gardner and I still ran it. Of course, we still had no money for booze or snacks, but this year, instead of scrounging, we hooked up with a publisher and borrowed their suite and refreshments. Ace was our co-host that year, I believe. A much tonier party than the first one, but still fun, if not quite as raucous as year one. It was counted a great success for Ace… and thereafter, publishers began to court Gardner and I for the right to host the party. Every year we had a different partner. Berkley, Pocket Books, Baen, Bluejay… each of them joined forces with us for one or more Hugo Losers Party.

In 1980, at Noreascon II, I committed the ultimate sin for a Hugo Loser by winning two Hugos. When I turned up at the party with them in hand, Gardner was waiting with a spray can of whipped cream. He nailed me instead the door, turning my head into a sundae. He even had a maraschino cherry to put on top. (Sadly, no one seems to have taken a picture). (I did get my revenge years later, when Gargy began winning Hugos every year).

That double win had endangered my status as a loser, Gardner warned me, but I returned to his good graces the next year at Denvention II, when I lost again, this time to Gordy Dickson. And I’d been so confident of winning that I’d even rented a tuxedo. You can see me in it up above in the icon. It was crushed red velvet, and the lovely Parris said it made me took like a singing waiter in an upscale Italian restaurant. Rusty Hevelin was Fan GOH at Denver, and the con had given him a huge suite, so that year we borrowed Rusty’s room for the party rather than partnering with a publisher. Denvention became another legendary party. That was the one where I presented Howard Waldrop with the fake F&SF cover. He was up for “The Ugly Chickens” and we all expected him to win, since he’d taken the Nebula earlier that year for the same story. But he lost too, also to Gordy Dickson, so his victory gift became a consolation prize. The party got so crowded that Rusty finally got on a table and shouted, “If you are not a Hugo loser, or do not KNOW a Hugo loser, please leave.” I don’t think many did.

That was 1981. I continued to run the party for a few more years after that, usually teaming with a publisher… but in 1985 I went out to Hollywood to work on TWILIGHT ZONE, and I no longer had the time or energy to organize worldcon parties. I don’t recall exactly how or when the torch was passed, but it was. The parties went on, but I was no longer the one doing them.
I believe it was sometime in the 1990s when the Hugo Losers Party somehow became a quasi–official worldcon function, and a tradition arose — don’t know how — of each of them being hosted and run by the following year’s worldcon.

Some very nice Hugo Loser Parties have been held under that arrangement, but over the years I could not fail to note that the party was drifting further and further away from its roots. Some years it was very fancy indeed, with champagne and chocolate Hugos and lavish buffets. Winners were allowed to attend, unmocked and unmolested. To avoid the crowding that had marked the party in Rusty’s suite, door dragons appeared, armed with lists of invited guests. If you weren’t on the list, you were turned away. Even GARDNER was turned away one year. Depending on the location, the lists got more and more restrictive. Once the party had been open to anyone who had ever lost a Hugo; now only those who had lost that year (or won that year) were allowed in. These quasi-official parties often closed down early, only a couple hours in. And, the ultimate outrage, finally even the name ‘Hugo Losers Party’ was jettisoned, since some of the humor-impaired and irony-deaf among us found it offensive. (No doubt the same crowd who forced Oscar presenters to say “And the Oscar goes to –” rather than “And the winner is –” ) Everyone still CALLED it to Hugo Losers Party, mind you, but officially it was now the “Post-Hugo Nominees Reception.”

The nadir was reached last year at Loncon, when Sasquan threw the most dismal party in history in a brightly-lit function room with nothing to eat, hardly anything to drink (the booze was gone before three quarters of the guests arrived), and the most officious door dragon in worldcon history, so intent on checking her lists that the queue stretched all the way down the hall, and people were giving up and going away rather than wait. I still managed to have fun there, mind you, but even though I had just won a Hugo for GAME OF THRONES, no one sprayed me with whipped cream, made me wear a funny hat, or spoke a mocking word to me.

That was when I first began to think that maybe it was time I took the party back.

That resolve solidified when the Puppy Wars broke out. I knew that KC folks would be throwing an official Post-Hugo Nominees Reception following the Sasquan Hugos, and I was certain it would be a LOT better than that farce in London (the KC fen know how to party)… but it seemed to me, after so many months of anger and division, something more was called for. The KC bash would be at a bookstore, would be restricted to this year’s losers (and winners), would be relatively sedate, and would doubtless end after a few hours. I wanted something old school. I wanted to go back to our roots. I wanted to have a blast, to howl at the moon and dance till dawn and mock the winners and console the losers, the way we used to.

So that’s what we did.

As it happens, I am not as poor as I was in 1976, so we did not need to scrounge for booze from other parties, and we could afford something nicer in the way of refreshments than peanuts and pretzels and cheezy poofs. Remembering the great crush of 1981, and being all too aware of the problems all cons are having with room parties of late, I decided against having the party in my suite and went off-site instead, to a swell Victorian house/ wedding venue called the Glover Mansion, a short cab ride from the hotel. The Glover was big enough to accomodate 250 guests, or maybe 300 if they really really liked each other and the fire marshall didn’t come calling.

So we rented the hall, had invites printed up, ordered up a great spread of hors d’oevres and cheeses and salads, engaged a local band, hired a limo to ferry the losers back and forth from the con hotels and the KC party, and had a huge custom cake baked, with crashing rockets and rogue moons and other cool SF decor. My faithful minions convinced me that we could not throw anyone into a pool or spray them with whipped cream in 2015, since we are all old now and wear expensive clothes, so instead we decided we would make the winners wear coneheads. That worked out pretty well, as WIRED documented in their account of the bash.

We did have a few bumps starting out, since the Hugo ceremony ran longer than expected, and many of our guests wanted to stop at the KC party before heading for ours (for the record, KC did a great job with their Post-Hugo Nominees Reception, and I wished I could have lingered there longer and had some of that great Kansas City bbq). But once we got going, we kicked ass. The food was terrific, the Glover was amazing — we had the whole place, with two bars, big rooms on the ground floor, smaller rooms upstairs with comfortable seats and old SF movies playing, extensive grounds and gardens — and our band, the Misfit Toys, rocked . No jug wine was on offer, but we had a special cocktail, the Demolished Fan, named in honor of Alfred Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN, winner of the 1953 Hugo for Best Novel. People talked. People laughed. People pontificated on the state of the field and the future of our genre. People flirted. People danced. I don’t know that anyone actually had sex at the party, but I am hopeful that a lot of the guests had sex afterward. We mocked the winners and cheered the losers with our old tried-and-true Losers Party refrains: “You wuz robbed” and “Wait’ll next year” and “It’s a honor just to be nominated.” (Which it is actually).

WE HAD FUN. Which is what the Hugo Losers Party is all about. What cons are all about.

And if ever there was a year when merriment was needed, it was this year. This was the year when everyone lost, I fear.

Not all the losers were there, to be sure. I had a pocket full of invitations throughout the con, as did Parris and my minions Raya and Jo and Tyler, but even so, we missed people. I never saw Mike Glyer, who I was especially eager to invite, since he had attended the first Hugo Losers Party in 1976, and had done such a great job of covering Puppygate in File 770. But we did get Liza and the LOCUS crew, and it was Charlie Brown and LOCUS who named that first party the best at Big Mac. I looked for Toni Weisskopf at the Hugo ceremony, but never found her. I saw John Joseph Adams at the ceremony, but he somehow escaped me during the picture-taking afterward, and my efforts to track him down at the KC bash came to naught. I never found Jo Walton, though I got messages that she was looking for me. There were others I missed as well… and some who were not invited. NO ASSHOLES, the invite warned. We had a small list, and no, I won’t tell you the names on it… but we wanted this party to be about joy and celebration and togetherness, not division, anger, and ugliness.

In that we succeeded. We had a great crowd. Old and young, fan and pro, male and female, gay and straight and trans, losers and winners, editors and publishers and artists and writers, all dancing and laughing and drinking and having fun. It wasn’t as crowded as that party in Denver, no, but there were probably more people; the Glover is a lot bigger than Rusty’s suite was.

And yes, a number of the guests were on the Puppy slates, and yes, the losers included people who lost to No Award, which has to be an especially hard way to lose. Maybe the party helped in some small way. I have to say, if there is any hope at all of reconciliation with the Sad Puppies, it is much more likely to be accomplished with drinks and dancing than by exchanging angry emails over the web.

We didn’t quite dance till dawn… the bar had to close at two, by law, and the guests began to drift off after that… but it was past three when the Misfit Toys played their last song, and four by the time I made it back to the hotel. Maybe not 1976, but pretty good for 2015.

Oh, and there were awards. The Alfies. You may have heard rumors. But I’ll save those details for my next post.

(Thanks to the amazing crew at the Glover Mansion, and to the Misfit Toys. We could never have done this without you. And a special thanks to Raya Golden, ace minion, who did all the actual work of organizing this party).

Will I do it again next year, I hear you asking.

That would be telling.

Hugo Aftermath

August 25, 2015 at 10:01 pm
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We are back from Sasquan, where we saw friends, bought books, were wined and dined by editors and publishers, partied, breathed a lot of smoke (cough, cough), and attended the Hugo Awards.

By now most of you reading this will know what happened. The news has been all over the internet. You can pretty well tell how the evening went from the reactions. The Puppies are howling in outrage and anger, while simultaneously claiming it as a great victory and what they wanted all along. Fandom is mostly relieved. No, not a great Hugo night — how could it be, with so many No Awards — but not nearly as bad as some had feared either.

And my own reactions?


I did pretty well handicapping the awards. Missed a few, sure, but I got more right than wrong. Actually, my predictions were more on the nose than they have been for a decade or so. Maybe the slates and their opponents simplified things, in a weird way. Anyway…

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer was first up. It went to Wesley Chu, as I’d hoped, and as I predicted that was a harbinger for the rest of the night. Chu defeated four Puppy nominees, and his win was the start of a landslide. The Puppies lost and lost big; not just defeated, but routed, finishing behind No Award in almost all cases.

I totally whiffed on Best Fan Artist. I picked Brad Foster to win, and he finished last. But Laura Mixon won Best Fan Writer (YES!), a big win over both the Puppy nominees, the Moen faction, the Nuclear Option, and the allies and enablers of Requires Hate. It was a great moment for fandom, and Laura gave a moving and eloquent acceptance, best speech of the night.

I missed on Fancast, but hit on Fanzine (JOURNEY PLANET) and SemiProzine (LIGHTSPEED), both popular choices that the audience applauded loudly. Julie Dillon won Best Professional Artist. I’d called that one too. At this point I was 5-2 as a handicapper.

Then I hit a bump. Two bumps, in fact. Both editing categories went to No Award.

I had picked Mike Resnick in Short Form and Toni Weisskopf in Long Form, and indeed, each of them finished above all the other nominees in the first round of voting… but well behind No Award. This was a crushing defeat for the slates, and a big victory for the Puppy-Free ballot of Deirdre Moen. Honestly? I hated this. In my judgment the voters threw the babies out with bathwater in these two categories. Long Form had three nominees who are more than worthy of a Hugo (and one, Jim Minz, who will be in a few more years), and Short Form had some good candidates too. They were on the slates, yes, but some of them were put on there without their knowledge and consent. A victory by Resnick, Sowards, Gilbert, or Weisskopf would have done credit to the rocket, regardless of how they got on the ballot. (All four of these editors would almost certainly have been nominated anyway, even if there had been no slates).

((Some are saying that voting No Award over these editors was an insult to them. Maybe so, I can’t argue with that. But it should be added that there was a far far worse insult in putting them on the ballot with Vox Day, who was the fifth nominee in both categories. Even putting aside his bigotry and racism, Beale’s credential as an editor are laughable. Yet hundreds of Puppies chose to nominate him rather than, oh, Liz Gorinsky or Anne Lesley Groell or Beth Meacham (in Long Form) or Gardner Dozois or Ellen Datlow or John Joseph Adams (in Short Form). To pass over actual working editors of considerable accomplishment in order to nominate someone purely to ‘stick it to the SJWs’ strikes me as proof positive that the Rabid Puppies at least were more interested in saying ‘fuck you’ to fandom than in rewarding good work)).

I also misliked the roar of approval that went up at the announcement of the first No Award. I understand it, yes… fandom as a whole is heartily sick of the Puppies and delighted to see them brought low… but No Award is an occasion for sadness, not celebration, especially in THESE two categories. For what its worth, neither Parris nor I participated in the cheering. And the two No Awards dropped my score to 5 – 4.

Which brought us to my own category: Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. I was the designated acceptor for GAME OF THRONES, and I had some words from David Benioff and Dan Weiss in my pocket, but I didn’t think I would get to use them, and I didn’t. Even so, my call was wrong. I’d predicted “The Mountain and the Viper” would lose to DOCTOR WHO. Instead we lost to ORPHAN BLACK. The Doctor finished second. It is telling that the three shows that were on the slates — us, THE FLASH, and GRIMM — finished at the bottom, below the two the Puppies ignored. This was a clear defeat for the Pups, and another victory for Moen’s Puppy-Free ballot. Plainly a lot of voters ignored the shows on the slates. Nobody at HBO or GAME OF THRONES had any contact with the Puppies, mind you, and I am pretty certain the same was true of GRIMM and THE FLASH. By slating us, the Pups effectively destroyed our chances. I don’t mind… much. ORPHAN BLACK is a worthy win, an excellent show long overdue for some recognition, and GOT had won three years in a row. Even so, there’s a part of me that would have liked to have seen how GAME OF THRONES did against ORPHAN BLACK on a level playing field. Even chances we might have won a fourth, I say. But we’ll never know. The Pups poisoned the well.

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The only candidate from the slates to win all evening. I called that one. If not for the slates, I think GUARDIANS might have won even bigger… Puppygate drove some voters to the unslated CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER, I think. But a win is a win is a win. I was 6-5 by this point.

Graphic Novel was next, though. Another miss for me. I had loved MS MARVEL (yay! a very fun read, a great new character for the Marvel universe), but I predicted SAGA for the victory, and MS. MARVEL took the rocket. Should have gone with my heart instead of my head. 6-6. Urk.

That was followed by two more No Awards, for Related Work and Short Story, both of which I called correctly. Related Work was the weakest category on the ballot, with two truly odious finalists. “The Hot Equations” was the strongest of the bunch, but not strong enough to cop a Hugo… not when people like Gilbert, Weisskopf, and Resnick had already been passed over. In Short Story, “Totaled” was probably the strongest slate nominee on the ballot, aside from Jim Butcher… but the tide was running strong by then, and it was swept under. Which brought me to 8-6 as a handicapper.

I had picked NO AWARD in Novelette as well, but I missed that one. Nobody ran a strong race, but in the end the Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt eked out a narrow win with “The World Turned Upside Down” and took the rocket. He was the only non-slate nominee in the three short fiction categories. Novella did go NO AWARD, which anyone could have predicted by this point.

I did not cheer for the No Awards in Related Work, Short Story, or Novella either, but those decisions did not disturb me as much as the votes in the editing categories. The people around me were not cheering either. The mood was somber rather than celebratory, at least at the front of the hall. Even David Gerrold said, “Let there be some winners, please,” as he clutched the last batch of envelopes. Voting in these categories was very much a painful choice. What was worse, No Award or giving our beloved rocket to an unworthy nominee? There’s no good answer.

The night did finish on an up note, however. The “big one,” Best Novel, went to THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu, accepted by his translator, Ken Liu. That was pleased me greatly, and not just because I’d called it. (Fwiw, I would have been pleased by a GOBLIN EMPEROR win as well, and a win by Anne Leckie or Jim Butcher would not have disturbed me unduly). It’s a strong book, an AMBITIOUS book, a worthy winner… and the first Hugo to go to China, which is cool. Let us put more “world” in worldcon, by all means.

All in all, I finished 9-7. And left the hall feeling pretty good. My worst fears — a Puppy sweep, or across the board wins by the Nuclear Option — did not come true. It wasn’t perfect. I would have liked to see a couple rockets handed out in editor, and I would have liked less cheering for No Award, but it was a night I could live with.

The vote totals, when we saw them, were overwhelming. Conclusive proof that Puppygate was never a war between the Puppies and the “SJWs,” as their narratives would have it. There were no SJWs, then or now. There were only the Puppies… and the rest of us, who weren’t Puppies, and did not like having their choices imposed on us.

Oh, and before I close this, a few final words. Ben Yalow won the Big Heart Award. VERY cool; Ben is a SMOF, one of the people (oft vilified by the Pups) who work behind the scenes to put on these cons we love so much. He has been giving tirelessly of himself for decades, and it was great to see him get some recognition.

And the ceremony itself was terrific. The dynamic duo of David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were a delight from start to finish. David had vowed to keep politics out of the awards, and make the ceremony fun for everyone, and he did just that… even when he was being upstaged by the Dalek. I would think that even the most rabid of Puppies would have to acknowledge that David was as fair as he was funny. When some booing broke out in the hall, he moved to quell it instantly… and, even more crucially, he insisted that the crowd hold its applause until after all the nominees in a category had been read… a real kindness in my estimation, saving some of the Puppies from real humiliation. You’re a good man, David Gerrold.

The bits by Connie Willis and Robert Silverberg were very funny as well. I used to say that they should let Willis and Silverbob present the rockets every year, and I still think that would be a good idea… but now I’d add Gerrold to the list as well.

That’s all for now.

Next rock, I will talk about my Hugo Losers Party, and the Alfies.

No Place Like Home

August 25, 2015 at 6:14 pm
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I am back in New Mexico, after an eventful week in Spokane.

Lots to report.

I will have more posts soon.


Off to Spokane

August 18, 2015 at 9:50 am
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Bigfoot beware. We’re off to see him.

Heading for the airport, and for our family reunion — worldcon.

Win, lose, or no award, we intend to have a great time.

We’ll howl down the moon, and party like it’s 1976!

Handicapping the Hugos, Part the Second

August 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm
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Continued from last rock. My thoughts and predictions for this year’s Hugo Awards.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM. Which is pretty much “Best Television Episode,” though in theory various other types of “short form” are eligible. In certain years it has actually been the “Best Doctor Who Episode” category. Last year, for instance, episodes of GAME OF THRONES and ORPHAN BLACK went up against no fewer than four (4!!) DOCTOR WHO episodes. (GAME OF THRONES beat them all, and in the UK no less. No one was more shocked than me. Before the ceremony, I’d told David Benioff and Dan Weiss that we didn’t have a chance of beating the Doctor on his home turf. Which might be evidence that I am really rubbish at predicting these races, but there you go). This year the ballot is considerably more diverse. Episodes of DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES, and ORPHAN BLACK have been joined by the pilot from THE FLASH and an episode of GRIMM. This may be the first time since this category was created that five different series were represented, which I see as a good thing. FLASH, GRIMM, and GAME OF THRONES were all part of one or the other slates. ORPHAN BLACK and DOCTOR WHO were not. The relationship between the three “slate” picks and the Puppies is all one-sided, I promise you; no one at HBO has the vaguest notion who Teddy Beale and Brad Torgersen are, and I figure the same is true for the producers and directors of THE FLASH and GRIMM. Nonetheless, the followers of the “Puppy-free ballot” are crossing all three shows off their list, leaving only DOCTOR WHO and ORPHAN BLACK. GAME OF THRONES has actually won three Hugo Awards in a row, and might have a good shot at taking a fourth here… but I think the Whovians (still annoyed at losing last year), the Puppy-free voters, and the Loncon voters will swing the balance. I think DOCTOR WHO bounces back and wins here. Of course, I would be happy to be proved wrong, as I was last year. (And of course I cannot hope to be objective here, since I do have a horse in this race. If GAME OF THRONES wins, HBO has asked me to accept for David and Dan and the show).

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM. Three nominees from the slates — INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and THE LEGO MOVIE — against two that were un-slated — CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and EDGE OF TOMORROW. All pretty good to excellent movies, and one that I thought was great. (I voted for that one, but don’t think that it will win). Any of them would make a worthy Hugo winner. (So would PREDESTINATION, which sadly did not make the ballot). This category, more than any other, demonstrates the folly of those voting the “Puppy-free ballot.” I am quite sure that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, the folks at Marvel, and the Lego team have never heard of the Puppies, of either stripe; they may not even heard of the Hugo Awards. To throw their work aside, just because the Puppies put it on their slate, is as unjust as it is moronic. You don’t want VD and Brad Torgersen telling you who to vote for, so why in the world would you let them tell you who NOT to vote for? Me, I voted for the movie I liked best, and I hope you all did the same. I think GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to win, though THE LEGO MOVIE could upset. If WINTER SOLDIER takes it, it will be mostly because of the blowback against the slates. The Pups will likely try to claim a GUARDIANS Hugo as a victory for them, but it’s a hollow boast; their backing is irrelevent.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY. One Puppy nominee, a zombie story. Four finalists from fandom. From the comments I have seen on Puppy blogs, a lot of Puppies will be No Awarding this category. The Puppy nominee is the weakest here, in both story and art; the Puppy antipathy to the other finalists seems to come down to “they’re not ours” and “they are more of that social justice shit.” I know that many Sads claim they have been unfairly characterized as bigots, and sure, maybe so… but there are certainly bigots AMONG them. How else to explain their hatred of MS. MARVEL, which is a sweet, charming, entertaining superhero story, distinguished only by the fact that the hero is a sympathetic young Muslim girl? No, the comic wasn’t WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT, it broke no new ground, but it was well-told, well-drawn, fun to read, funny in places. Sure, you could argue SAGA was better, or RAT QUEENS… but the negatively about MS. MARVEL is way disproportionate. In any case, I liked several of these, but I think SAGA will win.

BEST RELATED WORK. Hoo boy. What can I say that dozens of reviewers have not said before me? This will be the first NO AWARD of the evening, I think… and deservedly so. The nominees are all Puppies. Two are simply undistinguished. Lou Antonelli’s LETTERS FROM GARDNER is more a short story collection than a “related work” and really should not have been eligible (and I have to wonder, if it wins, does Gardner get a rocket too for providing those letters?). And the last two nominees are… well, one is erudite and ugly, and one is stupid and repugnant. To get this chaff on the ballot, the Puppies crowded off Jo Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and the second volume of Patterson’s biography of Robert A. Heinlein, among other things. Even one of the Puppy nominees is urging a No Award vote here, in his own category… probably so that he can then claim victory when it comes to pass. If No Award does not win here, it won’t win anywhere.

BEST SHORT STORY. All Puppies, but a stronger lineup than Related Work. Kary English has a real shot here with “Totalled.” Of all the slate nominees, that’s the one that the non-Puppy readers and reviewers have found the most interesting. The Steve Diamond story was a late addition after Annie Bellet withdrew; straightforward adventure, and from a major house (Baen), it could be a dark horse. The two Castalia House stories have a shot only if there are a lot more Rabids among the new voters than anyone dreamed. So… English has a decent shot, but in a fairly close race this one goes NO AWARD.

BEST NOVELETTE. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is pitted against four Puppies. The Heuvelt slid onto the ballot only when a John C. Wright story was disqualified as ineligible. The Moens and others opposed to the slates will all be voting for it on those grounds, I guess, but it is not as strong as standard bearer as might be hoped, and if it carries the day it will be mostly because of backblow against the slates rather than its own innate literary quality. The four Puppy nominees range from “meh” to “not too bad,” in my opinion. I don’t see any of them as Hugo calibre. Three of them are from ANALOG, however, and ANALOG still has the highest circulation of any of the print magazines. One of those might emerge, as the others are eliminated and the ANALOG votes cascade. But I think this category goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVELLA. All Puppies. FOUR Castalia House stories, three of them by John C. Wright. If the Puppies have been winning earlier, if lots and lots of those new voters are Puppy supporters, maybe one of the Wrights will emerge. But the fifth nominees, “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, is from ANALOG, which is much more widely read than anything by Castalia House, and Andrews has not antagonized nearly as many fans as Wright and Kratman have. He may even get some non-Puppy votes. Enough to win? Likely not. Novella goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVEL. Aha. “The Big One.” Last award of the evening. Two finalists from the slates, against three that came out of fandom. This will be an interesting contest. There are, I think, four strong contenders. SKIN GAME is hurt by its association with the slates, and by being part of a long-running series, and by being urban fantasy, never a popular subgenre with Hugo voters. That’s three strikes right there… but it would be a mistake to count Jim Butcher out. He’s a very popular author, a megaseller with millions of fans, and one should NEVER underestimate someone like that (as I learned at Millenium Philcon, when I got schooled by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling). Internet fandom has been fighting the Puppy Wars for months now, and we assume the whole world is aware of them, but that’s far from true. A certain percentage of the Hugo voters may be entirely unaware of all of this, and many of them may vote SKIN GAME, a fast-moving and entertaining Harry Dresden. I think Butcher is the strongest candidate the Puppies have for a major win… though Butcher himself is not a Puppy, and has stayed entirely above this fray. That being said, his competition is pretty strong. I don’t think Anne Leckie will win for ANCILLARY SWORD. She took the big one last year with ANCILLARY JUSTICE, and — unlike the artist categories — it is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row. (Orson Scott Card did it, with ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, but he’s the only one I can recall). THREE-BODY PROBLEM and GOBLIN EMPEROR are very different books, but both them have real strengths. Here’s the thing, though: although THREE-BODY was not on the Puppy slates, some of the Puppies have praised it afterward, so if and when the Puppy nominees are eliminated in successive rounds of the Australian ballot, some of their votes will shift to Cixin Liu, enough to put him over the top. I think THREE-BODY PROBLEM wins a Hugo for China (but I won’t be too shocked if GOBLIN EMPEROR or SKIN GAME scores an upset). No Award has no chance here. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN remains the best novel I read last year, and I am going to be very curious to see how many nominations it got, and whether it came close to making the ballot).

And there have them. My picks.

Let me close with this. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If I am wrong, and the Nuclear voters or Deidre Moen’s Puppy-Free crowd prevail, I will be unhappy and sad, but I will be the first to admit that I lost. If it turns out those 2400 new voters were all Beale fans, and John C. Wright and VD emerge clutching rockets, I will be disgusted and sick to my stomach, but I will also tell the truth and say, “We lost. Bad.”

But if the vote goes the way I am predicting, with a mix of slate and non-slate victors and a few No Awards where they were earned, I will applaud that as the best result we could have hoped for, and a victory for worldcon, fandom, and the Hugos themselves.

I hope at least a few of the more honest Puppies will have the integrity to admit the same.

Win, lose, or no award, I intend to have a great time at the con with my fannish friends.

See you all in Spokane.

Handicapping the Hugos

August 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm
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I do not own a Tardis, nor a crystal ball, and I cannot gaze into the flames like Melisandre of Asshai to see glimpses of the future. So I really have no idea how the Hugo Awards are going to shake out this Saturday, when the rockets are handed out in Spokane.

I can make guesses, though. Educated guesses, but guesses nonetheless. Once upon the time, back in the 70s and 80s, I used to be pretty good at handicapping the Hugos. I had no special knowledge, but I knew the field and I knew fandom, so I could look at the list of nominees and predict the winners, and I’d be right at least half the time. Damned good ((for baseball)).

Admittedly, I seem to have lost that knack in more recent decades, and my batting average has gone way way down. Maybe I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the field as well, being too busy with my own books. But what the hell. You win some, you lose some, and some get no award.

I still have no special insider knowledge, so your guesses may be as good as mine… but I’m in a quixotic mood, so I’m going to take a run at it and tell you what I think is going to happen come Saturday… and what I WANT to happen, which will not always be the same thing. For the most part, I won’t tell you which nominees I vote for myself, though in certain categories you may be able to winkle it out.

More Hugo ballots were cast this year than ever before: 5950 of them, to be precise. Last year, Loncon only received 3587 votes. That’s almost 2400 new voters. Virtually all the races are going to turn on who those voters are. Trufans? Sad Puppies? Rabids? Gamergaters? My own guess is “all of the above.” Ah, but how many of each?

The proof is in those ballots.

Past Hugo races were simple. You read the nominees, ranked them in the order that you liked them. Maybe you put some below No Award, the ones you thought unworthy… but No Award almost never won anything. Usually it finished last.

This year is very different. Thanks to Puppygate, we now have distinct groups of voters. There are the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, each seemingly committed to its own slate of nominees. Judging by the nominations, the two Puppy factions command at least 200 votes, and may well have doubled or tripled that number during the controversy. We have the “nuclear option” advocates, the most extreme of those on the other side, who want to vote No Award in every category. Their close cousins, not quite so radical, are those taking Deirdre Moen’s “Puppy-Free Ballot” as their bible, excluding all the finalists from the slates (plus Laura Mixon, just for pique) and choosing from what remains, voting No Award in the All Puppy categories.

And then there are the rest of us. I don’t like what the Puppies did, and have not been shy in saying so, but once it was done, it was done. So my own approach has been the simplest. Read the work, make your judgements, cast your vote. If there are nominees you feel are unworthy of a rocket, rank them below No Award. If ALL the works in a category are unworthy, vote No Award.

The interplay between these five groups of voters will determine who wins and who weeps.

I have already discussed the Campbell Award. Taking the rest of the ballot in turn, we have:

BEST FAN ARTIST. The only Puppy-free category. Either the Sads and the Rabids do not care about fan art, or they did not know any fan artists. I would like to see Steve Stiles win this one. He’s nominated almost every year, but never wins. Spring Schoenhuth came on strong last year, and could contend. But the award will probably go to BRAD W. FOSTER, who has won eight times before. In the artist categories, once you start winning you tend to keep on winning.

BEST FAN WRITER. The ballot pits four Puppy picks against Laura J. Mixon, who earned her spot with her devastating expose of the notorious internet troll Requires Hate. In a normal year, Mixon would be a long shot. Most fan writing is… well, more fannish, often featuring wit and humor. Trip reports, con reports, satires. Investigative journalism, of the sort featured in Mixon’s report, is seldom seen here, and might have had a tough go. But none of the usual fan writers made the cut this year. Most of those opposed to the slates are going to unite behind Mixon, I think. The strongest of the Puppy candidates is Jeffro Johnson, who seems to be mostly a book reviewer. And yes, book reviewers have won here before. Dick Geis comes to mind, and Charles N. Brown as well (though Charlie did a lot more). The other three are more purebread Puppies, most of whose writing seems concerned with attacking “SJWs” and other bugaboos. In their own way, they are minor league versions of Requires Hate… far less venomous, yes, and coming from the right instead of the left, but still more heat than light. Unless there are a lot more Puppies than I think, I doubt that any of them are contenders. The real threat to Mixon is No Award. The Puppies will all be ranking her last, since she’s all that opposes their foursome; Hate’s allies and enablers (yes, there are still some) will be voting against her, because How Dare She; the Nukes are No Awarding everything; and Deirdre Moen has crossed Mixon off her “Puppy-Free Ballot” as well, the only non-Puppy accorded that singular honor. Will the combination of all these factions be enough? I hope not. I think Laura Mixon’s courageous and compassionate article was not only the best piece of fanwriting out last year, but IMPORTANT as well. If there was ever a time to stand up against hatespeech and bigotry, whether from the right or the left, it’s now. If Sasquan gives out only one Hugo next Saturday, I hope it is Laura Mixon who wins it… for herself, and for all of the victims of Requires Hate. When I put on my handicapper’s hat, however, I rate the odds about even between Mixon and No Award. I will pick with my heart instead of my head, and predict a Hugo for LAURA J. MIXON.

BEST FANCAST. Not a category I have much interest in, if truth be told. Three of the finalists come from the slates, two from fandom. I am going to throw a dart and predict a Hugo for TEA AND JEOPARDY, by Emma and Peter Newman.

BEST FANZINE. Four nominees from the slates. Only JOURNEY PLANET stands apart. One of the Puppy choices, BLACK GATE, has withdrawn, but too late to be removed from the ballot. TANGENT, a long-running and venerable review zine whose roots go back to the 70s, has name recognition with pros and traditional worldcon fans as well as the Pups, which should make it a threat. But I think JOURNEY PLANET wins out in the end.

BEST SEMIPROZINE. This one should go to LOCUS in a walk… except, oooops, the rules were jiggered so that LOCUS is not eligible. Only two nominees from the slates, and one of those, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS, seems horrified to have been slated. No matter. I think that LIGHTSPEED takes this one.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST. The finalists are last year’s winner, Julie Dillon, and four Puppies. JULIE DILLON wins in a rout. As with fan artist, once someone starts to win in these categories, they tend to win a bunch in a row. Dillon would have had an excellent shot at repeating in any case, but the Pups made it much easier for her by displacing John Picacio, Marc Simonetti, Michael Komarck, Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, and a lot of other major artists, some of them past winners, who could have provided her with real competition.

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM. The first All Puppy category. If Vox Day wins, the end time is surely nigh for both worldcon and the Hugo Awards. VD is not the best editor in the field, or one of the best five, or one of the best fifty. His presence here is no more than a “fuck you” from his followers to those dreaded SJWs. I think… hope… he will finish last. The other four finalists are legitimate editors, however, and deserving of their nominations. I think the contest is between Sheila Gilbert of DAW and Toni Weisskopf of Baen. Jim Minz is a good guy and a good editor, but he’s at Baen, and the Baen voters are going to go for Toni, who is the senior presence there. Anne Sowards of Ace and Roc is a worthy choice too, and it’s nice to see her getting some recognition, but I think she’s a long shot this year. Weisskopf and Gilbert were both nominees last year at Loncon, and Weisskopf was the last one eliminated in the first round of voting, losing out to the eventual winner Ginjer Buchanan. And she had more nominations even than Ginjer last time around. I think this may be her year. The Puppies love Baen the best of all the publishers in the field and will rally around her, but Toni is a solid professional with a lot of friends in fandom and prodom as well, and she’s done a commendable job with Baen Books since succeeding the late Jim Baen. The Nukes and the Moens will be No Awarding this category, since it is all slate, but I think (hope) there are not enough of them to matter. It would be a tragedy if we threw out four good editors just because the Puppies like them too. So my prediction here is TONI WEISSKOPF. The first nominee from the slates to take a Hugo.

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM. All Puppies again. VD again. Last place again. Edmund Schubert of ORSON SCOTT CARD’S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW withdrew, but too late to be removed from the ballot. That leaves Jennifer Brozek, anthologist Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and Mike Resnick. I think the Hugo goes to MIKE RESNICK. And yes, he’s a deserving winner. He’s founded an interesting new magazine, GALAXY’S EDGE, at a time when the old magazines are dying. He’s a former worldcon GOH, a mainstay of midwestern fandom for decades, well known and much beloved. He’s edited lots of good anthologies. Oh, and the Puppies love him… albeit for the wrong reason (losing the column he and Barry Malzberg did for SFWA BULLETIN in a kerfuffle over sexism). More important than any of that, Mike has been a mentor to uncounted number of new young writers over the years, some of whom have gone on to become Hugo and Nebula nominees themselves. Discovering and nurturing new talent is one of the most important things an editor does. Resnick has won numerous Hugos (and lost more), but all for his writing; this would be his first win as editor. All that being said, I do think the slates seriously fucked up this category. A win here, whether for Resnick or one of the other nominees, would be far more meaningful if it came against stronger competition, against Sheila Williams and Ellen Datlow and Gordon van Gelder and Gardner Dozois and the other great editors who have long dominated this category. To be the champ, you need to beat the champ, I always heard; this year, the Puppies kept all the champs off the ballot.

I am only halfway done, I know. But this is very long. I will break here, and cover the rest of the categories in another post.

If any of you out there want to post your own picks, feel free. It could be fun to see who gets the most right. But remember… we’re handicapping here, not fighting another round in the culture war. Attack posts and abuse will be deleted.