Monday, April 20, 2015

The Battle for The Hugos

Every year since 1953, the World Science Fiction Society has given out The Hugo Awards for notable works in science fiction. Categories like Best Novel, Best Graphic Story, and Best Dramatic Presentation have been given to Star Trek, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and even The Avengers.

Nominations and winners are voted on by members of the society, who either pay to attend the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) or who buy a membership. A few thousands folks and a handful of rules assign some of the preeminent awards in science fiction to works and writers. 

Like most election systems, The Hugo Awards are not, nor have they ever been, marks of absolute quality. They designate the works which are able to garner the votes of the most WSFS members. They're marks of what's most popular that year among a handful of science fiction fans. Granted, you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the quality of those winners.

Hell, you pick one.

Back in 2011, a writer by the name of Brad Torgerson lost the Hugo for Best Novelette to Charlie Jane Anders, noted female and LGBT+ proponent. The following year, Torgerson teamed up with fellow Hugoless writer Larry Correia to address a problem Torgerson's website characterizes as
"...the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters."
He goes on to say that sales should factor into the awards process, results are too heavily influenced by the "fandom" community, and that voters should consider works that are both more entertaining and less populist and--I don't even know how to reconcile those last two.

But the big deal is that two cis-het white males (CHeWMs) feel that there are too many awards being given to non-cisgender, non-hetersexual, non-white, non-males. The infuriating conceit is that their chief point of concern translates perfectly into the "I've never seen people of color, women, or LGBT folks succeed before, so their success now can only be the result of apologetic liberals."

It's regressive and obvious, but they are not alone. Their organization, "Sad Puppies Think of the Children"--named so to mock the effluent compassion they attribute to their imaginary foes capable of human empathy and more bereft of self-serving prejudice--has enough followers that their slate of nominations comprised over 71% of this year's Hugo nominations.

So science-fiction public's annual declaration of, "this is what we like," has seen Sad Puppies jump the stage, wrench the mic out of their hands and declare, "no it's not; you like this!"

Presenters have canceled, George R.R.. Martin has gone on at length about it on his (Livejournal?) blog, and even some of those nominated by Sad Puppies have withdrawn. Comics Alliance has called it ballot stuffing and while the egregious abuse of the honor system voting doesn't quite qualify as ballot stuffing, it's pretty close.

This is what all the fuss is about. 
Image is from Wikipedia, whose silence on this is another issue entirely.

With a mobilized block, the Hugo Awards are now clinging to relevance. In the unlikely event that the center of science fiction forms a counter-block compete with SP, the awards would become a sport where two teams swipe credit cards to nudge their points up via extreme rhetoric and $40 memberships.

Without reaction, the Hugos will become an intellectual fapping ground for conservatives. The liberals will quit and leave, realizing they're beaten. Then, the conservatives, having jizzed all over the prestige of an award built long ago by their betters, will also leave Come Hill because it no longer provides them the ability to wank on something liberals enjoyed. Of course, the moderates who just wanted to read great science fiction will have gotten out aeons ago.

The hypocrisy of Sad Puppies is obvious, but bears stating. For fifty-eight years, The Hugo Awards were a series of works written predominantly by white men, published and produced by predominantly by white men, marketed and sold to predominantly by white men and voted for by predominantly by white men. 1992, 1993, 2010, 2011 were the only four of those years where men and women were almost equally represented on the ballot. Over a dozen of those fifty eight years saw  the representation of men drop below 80%.

Sad Puppies didn't give a fuck before that about the overwhelming systemic bias towards CHeWMs. They aren't calling for the invalidation of winners who were obviously only getting the award because white dudes were voting for white dudes. They're not digging up worthy women, non-white folks, or LGBT+ authors who were overlooked because they were shut out of the system. 

So the dramatically lit coke cans are a clear sign I've run out of relevant pics, but remain committed to the importance of putting images in text-heavy blogs.

That's because Torgerson, Correia, and Sad Puppies do not--nor will they fucking ever--give a shit about anyone who isn't them. They don't want a fair set of nominees who are judged on merit. They want to see nominees who don't look like them, who don't think like them, and who don't love or live like them shoved to the back so they don't have to consider living in a world where they might have to see those folks as equals.

Sad Puppies is so strong because they're so afraid and they should be.

They know--on some level--that the horizons of their imaginations are limited by the regurgitation of alien worlds they only know about second-hand. Their stories take refuge in the elitism of hard science because they can ensconce themselves in math and hard fact which can be spackled with a minute amount of creative spark*. Their outsider protagonists mouth words about oppression and rebellion from a life experience that has to actively manufacture such things. 

They know that when you put them head to head with an African-American or woman who write about oppressive systems; with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individual who writes about falling from a familiar, loving world into an unimaginable alien planet; with a person who has nothing but dreams and writes about dreams, they will lose.

Other Sources & Information
Science-Fiction's White Boys' Club Strikes Back
Winter isn't coming: Hugo Awards' own GamerGate is delaying A Song of Ice and Fire
How to Improve the Hugo Awards
It's too late to vote in the 2015 WorldCon.
Yes, the Sad Puppies campaign swept the Hugo Awards
The coming Hugo Awards ballot-stuffing arms race
George R.R. Martin's Reply to Larry Correia
Sad Puppies 3 Mission Statement - From Torgerson's site.

*I am by no means knocking hard sci-fi. Hard sci-fi is great because it plays by hard rules and depersonifies the infinite, impassive dangers of space. It's just a nice place for elitists to build structurally sound walls and claim "realism" as a shield for their own bigotry.

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