Sad Puppies, Hugos, Entryism, and Social Cliques

So, yeah, it's stupid season in the land of sci-fi.

A relatively minor kerfuffle in fandom has blown up out of all reasonable proportion. Let me sum up one side: Oh, noes! People are voting in the Hugo awards in a fashion we don't like! And they're people we don't like! This is awful! They must be ! We should do somethings!

Wait. I think I summed up both sides. I tend to agree more with one side than the other, but I'm not entirely sure how much I care. Honestly, the last time I cared that someone had won a Hugo was when Ursala Vernon won for Digger. I can say truthfully at this late stage of my existence, I don't generally notice who wins the Hugos. Of the awards/nominations handed out this millennium, I read the ones I did completely irrespective of the awards.

Let's back up for a moment and talk about the Hugos. I'm going to talk about the Best Novel awards from here out, because it's the marquee award. Yeah, there's those other categories, but the novel is the big enchilada. What's there to say about it? A fandom popularity contest! Most prestigious award in sic-fi! Determined by very few people! Long and storied history! Not representative of the genre at any given time! Only award that affects sales! A list of sci-fi's great works! All of these things are, to a greater or lesser extent, true.

It's always been run by fans. Fans vote on it, fans run it, and ultimately fans are what make the Hugos possible. But only those fans that attend or pay money to Worldcon. It's not open to the rest of the vastly larger community of people who are sci-fi fans. The number of nominating ballots last year (2014, since the web is forever and the most recent data available, btw) was 1923 with 3587 ballots cast in the final voting. This is a tiny, tiny subset of the body of people who can be called sf/f fans.

Let's take me as an example. I've read, from a quick count, at least 123 of the novels that won or were nominated for the Hugos. Hell, I've got most of those on the bookshelf, including some Hugo winners I haven't read yet. But, despite my having been raised on and reading science fiction since I was knee high to a duck, I've never been to Worldcon, nor do I plan to go. That would involve leaving the house and interacting with large numbers of people, neither of which are on my shortlist of fun things to do. In the minds of a certain group of people, my not going to cons makes me a lesser fan than them. I don't support the community*. I should keep my mouth shut and let real fans, who go to cons and stuff, decide what the best works of sci fi are. In short I am not of the clique, so how dare I have an opinion on what the clique does. This attitude is a large part of the current problem, along with the idea that the 'real' con-going fans are the true arbiters of good sci-fi. It doesn't bother me, because who the fuck are these people and why should I care? There are, however, apparently a lot of people out there who resent this attitude.

But seriously, it's cliquish popularity contest all the way down, and more importantly, always has been. Look at the past Best Novel nomination lists: 64 years of nominations, usually 5 nominations per year, and a grand total of 136 authors. Either some of these people just happen to write one of the 5 best books each year they publish, or it's got more to do with popularity. Some people are a lot more popular with the fanbase than others, it appears. Bob Heinlein could have crapped on a ream of paper and they'd have nominated it for something. More recently, look at Short Form Dramatic Presentation awards where Dr. Who episodes written by Moffat take the award entirely too many times for the quality of his work. But hey, the fans liked Heinlein and they like Moffat, so that's great sci fi! Seriously, ask yourself if there's another industry where the fanboys & girls hand out the most prestigious award. I'm unaware of it.

Now let's shift gears and talk about entryism. There's some larger background you can go research, but in general, the left in America has been on a decades long crusade to infiltrate every organization in America and shift the paradigm to one more favorable to their worldview. This can be seen most notably in academia and journalism. Apparently, at some point when I wasn't paying attention, this process started in the sf/f fandom world. The 'personal is political' crowd crept in while nobody was looking. These are the people who think everything is an extension of your politics. Did you write an entertaining story? You might think that should be important for sf/f, that doesn't matter to them. What matters more are your views on everything else under the sun. The perceived politics of a work and its author are now critical, and this has bled over into the fans as well. You need to slavishly conform to the dominant progressive groupthink of the day or you are, again, not a real fan and generally an unperson. Certain people who have a long and storied pedigree in the industry were exempted from this, mainly because you can't kick out somebody like Jerry Pournelle. But new authors and incoming fans? Fuck 'em. Conform or die, bitches.

Not being entirely dim, certain people within the community noticed how things were going. So, they decided to game the system. They called themselves Sad Puppies and mounted a successful insurrectionist campaign against the Hugos, completely according to the rules. The Sad Puppies did a demonstration/proof of concept last year, and got a few things nominated. This year they went for broke and, along with another group called Rabid Puppies, swept the nominations. Somewhat predictably, the world went nuts. The old-line fandom cliques are totally distraught while the newer progressive wing is just calling everybody racist. Strangely enough, the main instigator of the Sad Puppies called the reaction before it happened. As always with progressives, dissenting voices must be silenced. So the campaign against these horrible people who dared interfere is in full swing. Too bad they paid their money and get to vote now, huh?

I don't really have to take a side, but if I do, I'll come down on the side that doesn't contain a mendacious racist and a fascist censor. See, this insulting people thing is so easy anyone can play! Of course, now most of you have no idea which side that is because of all the mud being slung about. For the uninitiated, that means I'm more philosophically inclined to agree with the Sad Puppies because of some shitty past ( and continuing!) behavior by people on the opposite side.

What's it all mean? I dunno. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Most of my reading recommendations come from reading things by people who are known to me from previous work and actual humans I know, not a bunch of random con attendees. There's lots of talk about how the system is broken and we shouldn't tolerate this sort of behavior and blah blah blah. One thing the Puppies have going for them is that they did the whole thing out in the open for everybody to watch. They're more than happy to tell you why they did it. The other side? No real coherent point, just insults and whining.

Some random closing thoughts, in no particular order:
Democracy is what it is. You let people pay $40 bucks and vote, you get what they decide. Sucks for you if you don't like it.

The implicit assumption that all of the people who voted for the Sad Puppies slate aren't 'real' fans is hilariously broken from the get go. Would people who didn't give a shit pay the $40 bucks to vote?

Valid nominating ballots this year as opposed to last year? 2122 vs. 1923. If 200 people are enough to break your election as thoroughly as some claim, your election was weak to begin with. There are a lot of things going on here somebody with more time than me could unpack.

I have little or no sentimental attachment to the Hugos. If they die, they die. Times change, the world moves on. Adapt or die.

*I figure I'm supporting the community by buying books new at retail. By my doing so, authors get paid, which means they keep authoring. Going to cons doesn't get authors paid.

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