2016 Hugo Nominations Reaction


It's funny how a year of steeling yourself for something doesn't actually mask the taste of bile rising in your throat when it happens. It's hardly a surprise that the Rabid Puppies got sixty-two works on the ballot beating their haul of fifty-eight last year. Until E Pluribus Hugo passes, the voting system is flawed in a way that made stopping the Puppies at this stage impossible. This ballot has been predictable since last year. Still, it's sickening. Short Story, Novelette, Related Work, Graphic Story, Professional Artist, and Fanzine are all full-Puppy categories at present. All categories save for Best Editor Short Form and Best Novel are majority-Puppy. Most of what I have to say I said last year. You can buy the book if you want. But here's some scattered and off-the-cuff thoughts on this year's dogfucking.

First, as predicted, the Sad Puppies were a non-entity. That's a little tough to judge given their new "we're just a recommendation list" sheen of pointlessness, but it's notable that the most conspicuous omission from their list, The Fifth Season, got a nomination in best Novel, and that in Fan Artist, a category where they had four picks, three of which were not on the Rabid Puppies slate, none of theirs made it on. Indeed, at a glance I can't find anything that's on their list, wasn't an obvious contender anyway, and made it. These were Vox Day's Hugos, plain and simple.

Second, let's not have any silliness about pretending that what was picked reflects any agenda other than Vox Day's spite. He's been unambiguous that his sole goal this year is to disrupt the Hugos, not even making an effort to pretend that he was picking works on merit or because there's actually some body of quality sci-fi he thinks is being overlooked by the awards. His only goal was to ruin things. The nominees exist only for that purpose. They are political, yes. Avowedly so. But their politics does not have even the barest shred of a constructive project. This is fascism shorn of everything but violent brutality - political in the sense of an angry mob kicking a prone body.

And so once again, the course is clear: we must resist. With every tool we have, we must resist. The highest priority, of course, is passing E Pluribus Hugo, the repaired nomination system that will serve to prevent this from happening again. Also important is No Awarding. 

But, of course, that's more complicated this year than last because of Vox's tactic of poison pill nominees (which I also called last year, because for a supposedly brilliant tactician Vox sure is predictable). Some of these will hopefully correct themselves - both Stephen King and Neil Gaiman are occupying slots in all-Puppy categories and have the power to withdraw to make room for people that were kept off the ballot by Vox Day. I have a tough time coming up with any justification for such decorated writers not to do so.

Other categories are trickier. Alastair Reynolds. for instance, has been outspoken about not wanting to be on Puppy slates. But the odds are overwhelming that the #6 nominee in Best Novella is just the Puppy pick that got beaten out of the category, and frankly, I'd rather have an unwilling Puppy on the ballot. Similarly, I have a lot of sympathy for Andy Weir, who was kept off the ballot by Vox last year, and who almost certainly would have made it on his own merits this year, and it's as hard to suggest he should turn down his Campbell nomination because a fascist troll slated him as it is to suggest Gaiman shouldn't. Andrew Hickey has suggested putting the poison pill choices below No Award while excluding the other Puppy picks entirely, which is probably what I'll do. But I won't pretend it's not a genuinely hard decision.

Implicit in that is the fact that I'm going to buy a Mid-Americon II membership and vote, and I'm not going to vote No Award in all categories this year. More than that, I think you should too. For two basic reasons. The first is that there's still incredible stuff on the ballot. "Heaven Sent" and "AKA Smile" are both up for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form. Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road are facing off in Long Form. Binti got in for Best Novella, the lone non-Puppy of the category. And most importantly, you can have the utter joy of voting for The Fifth Season for Best Novel. I nominated those works. I'm glad they got on. And I intend to see that through to the end.

The other reason is that E Pluribus Hugo probably will pass, and a sense of normality will be restored to the Hugos. They'll return to being one of the handful of awards actually worth taking seriously. And it would be nice if the record books were not tarnished by SJWs Always Lie or the artist of a comic called "Gamergate Life" getting Hugos. This is the last line we have to hold against the fascist bullies before we can be done with them. Let's fucking win this.

Because for all that the nominees are frankly worse than last year (Space Raptor Butt Invasion isn't even one of the good Chuck Tingle books), there was, today, a reminder of why this is a fight worth having, and it was the Retro Hugos, awarded for work published in 1940 due to the lack of Worldcon that year. Overlooked by the Puppies despite the fact that there's presumably loads of German sci-fi that would be right up their alley, these ended up having 481 ballots cast, about 12% as many as the main Hugos. And the results are marvelous - a mixture of big, iconic classics and oddballs of the finest sort. Look at that Graphic Story category, where the debuts of Batman, Captain Marvel, The Spectre, and the Spirit face off against a classic Flash Gordon serial. Look at Best Short Story, where one of the finest horror stories ever, Borges's "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," is up against tales by Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. And look at the blunt proof that the Hugo crowd has never been hostile to conservatives, just to shitty and derivative crap, as both H.P. Lovecraft and E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series make the ballot. It's as phenomenal a list as the 2016 Hugos are a terrible one.

There's a reflexive assumption that more participation in the Hugos is inherently good. And it's understandable. But let's remember, the Hugos were never a general popularity award. They were a fan award for the sorts of nerds who are inclined shell out money for Worldcon. And there has consistently turned out to be a degree of magic to that. Simply put, the uber-nerds have historically known their shit. They turn out to balance populism and aestheticism in compelling ways, with a decades-long track record of consistently picking worthy and deserving winners in all categories. There's a vanishing handful of awards that are worth taking seriously year-in and year-out. The Hugos have always been one. And the Retro Hugos show that they still know how to be, at least when they just get to be what they were designed to be - a snapshot of the taste of Worldcon-style sci-fi fandom.

In a few months they'll get to go back to that. Until then, it's time to fight again.


Andrew Hickey 4 years, 9 months ago

"Andrew Hickey has suggested putting the poison pill choices below No Award while excluding the other Puppy picks entirely, which is probably what I'll do. But I won't pretend it's not a genuinely hard decision."

Richard Gadsden (who is the person who I trust most in the whole world when it comes to tactical effects of choices in different voting systems) has since pointed out to me that that's probably counterproductive. The best tactic appears to be to rank everything if you're going to rank poison-pill nominees below No Award.

My suggestion, assuming you don't want to read them all, is to rank them poison pill, non-Castalia, Castalia, with No Award above all Puppy picks and any genuine nominees above that.

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Richard Gadsden 4 years, 9 months ago

I've run the numbers properly now. It doesn't make the difference I thought it did.

Off-ballot has exactly the same meaning as ranked below everything on the ballot.

If you're interested, I'd misread a minor clause in the "No Award Test" rule. I thought that your vote only counted in the NA test if it had both NA and the PW on the ballot. This is not the case; if you include only one of the two, then your vote is also counted.

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Andrew Hickey 4 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the clarification, Richard -- that makes a lot of difference.

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John Seavey 4 years, 9 months ago

'Fifth Season' was nominated.

Beale has to be spitting bile right now over that. :)

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Camestros Felapton 4 years, 9 months ago

I'll plug the same tactic I advocated last year (anticipating the Rabid strategy this year). A slated work needs to be exceptionally good to vote it above No Award.

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Eric Gimlin 4 years, 9 months ago

The Retro Hugos really are a thing of beauty to cling to given the mess 2015 is, aren't they?

I'm a bit fuzzy on how Lovecraft qualifies, though; given that he passed away several years earlier, and a glance at ISFDB doesn't suggest any qualifying publications.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 4 years, 9 months ago

Fan Writer is tricky, though. He could well have something posthumous in some 40s fanzine. I assume eligibility checked it.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 4 years, 9 months ago

I briefly wondered about them nominating Supernatural, but then I remembered that it has basically no female characters. That'll be why then. I'm surprised they didn't have a GoT up for nomination.

Quick question, I note that none of the games on the slate for short or long form presentation got nominated, is that an issue of eligibility or because they just couldn't garner enough votes?

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Andrew Hickey 4 years, 9 months ago

The latter. The votes for short story or fan writer or whatever were split between several thousand eligible, worthy, works, mostly with small non-overlapping audiences, so block-voting a slate can get results.
The dramatic presentation awards would essentially be block-voted by the entire selectorate anyway, as there are only a small number of eligible films and TV series (there was a joke for a long time that the short-form award should be renamed "Best Episode of Doctor Who", before Game of Thrones started competing) and so that makes them effectively slate-proof. Best Dramatic Presentation: Long-Form would have been identical without the Puppy influence (unless anyone *really* thinks that The Martian -- nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and based on one of the most wildly popular SF novels of recent decades -- or Avengers: Age of Ultron wouldn't have appeared without Vox Day's imprimatur).
(Similarly with the novels -- the Rabids only got one pick on there that wouldn't have made it without them -- Jim Butcher's one)

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James Wylder 4 years, 9 months ago

In short, i thought was ready for this, and it felt like even more of a punch in the gut than last year.


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Kate 4 years, 9 months ago

I was surprised that the ballot was so awful once again, which only shows I haven't been paying attention.

Is there some legitimate way for a nominee to find out what work would enter their ballot if they withdrew theirs? No point in doing it if another Puppy pick pops up into the vacant slot.

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Tom Bither 4 years, 9 months ago

My only worry is that Dragon Con gets to use this to help push their new awards as the "legitimate" award for science fiction fans. After last year it looks like they saw the vulnerability with the Hugo Awards after the Rabid Puppy debacle there and have decided to take advantage. I can't say it's because of altruistic reasons because of Dragon Con's initial decision to schedule their convention against World Con, I suspect it might be to try to weaken WorldCon further and then try to put forth the argument that WorldCon should be subsumed into Dragon Con.

I don't think Vox Day is consciously trying to help them with this, I just think he's just wanting to blow things up and doesn't care what happens afterwards. It would be a shame though if because of him the Hugos don't get to recover.

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Andrew Hickey 4 years, 9 months ago

DragonCon can do what they like. They're basically a media-fandom con, and the crossover with literary-SF fandom is fairly small. And people can argue whatever they want about how Worldcon "should" become part of DragonCon, but it won't be.
DragonCon's award categories don't even overlap much with the Hugo categories.
The Hugos will be back to normal next year, once E Pluribus Hugo passes. There's no need to see the DragonCon awards as being rivals -- there's no limit on how many awards can be given out, and I'm sure they'll be very nice for people who have strong opinions on children's books and mobile games.

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Camestros Felapton 4 years, 9 months ago

I'd say, if anything, it is the DragonCon Awards that look in trouble as a consequence. The proposed set up will be freepable by Day (or any other nut). The notion was that because DragonCon was big that somehow weight of numbers will prevent somebody like Day running that kind of stunt. However that isn't the way these things scale up - more nominations this year didn't help several categories in the Hugos. More nominations mean more variety of things nominated and you need a lot, lot more non-slate nominations to beat a bunch of people voting together.

When faced with somebody willing to slate-vote and who has no shame about doing so, any simple popular vote is going to get freeped if there is somebody with sufficient motive and resources to do so.

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Cat 4 years, 9 months ago

I plan to put slate picks below No Award with a "GotG exception." In other words, where I think the Puppies were running out in front of a parade to pretend they were leading it, like Uprooted and Seveneves, I'll treat those nominees as honest (which doesn't mean they can't end up below No Award if I think they're crud, but it means they have a chance of scoring higher.) Where it's plain the nominee would never have made it without the Puppies, like Space Raptor, I'll probably No Award--if it really knocks my socks off I might reconsider. If it's by someone who has promoted the Puppies, like the Castalia House stuff I'll certainly No Award it.

I'll have to make some judgement calls on some nominees--can I *really* know that Uprooted would have made it?--but I use my judgement all the time, so I'm not too worried about that.

One thing to remember: For voting purposesm anything you leave off your ballot is effectively tied for the highest place you left empty. So if you give Great Story first place and Good Story second place and No Award third place and leave your ballot blank after that, you have left Slated But Good, Slated And Bad and OMG What Were They Thinking tied for fourth place. Certainly your prerogative, but if you want OMG What Were They Thinking to have that coveted sixth place spot you have to enter your ballot all the way down to sixth place.

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Cmm 4 years, 9 months ago

Some things I nominated made it through, probably because they were also VD poison pill nominees, but I can't see No Awarding something I liked enough to want to see on the ballot anyway. The only thing I know for sure is that no one who led or vociferously supported the puppies or is associated with VDs vanity press will ever, ever get above No Award on my ballot, this year or any year.

Any rabid nominee that is not directly published by Castalia House or written by a puppy leader/loud supporter, I will do as I did last year: read as much as I can stomach and then see what I was able to finish and decide if any are high enough quality to go above No Award. In a non puppy year my inclination would be to rank everything above No Award unless I utterly loathe it; puppy nominees are the opposite, based on how they got in, my inclination is to go NA, unless I really really like it.

Anything that I'm fairly sure would have been nominated without the slate I will not hold the slate against; I will treat those as any other nominee.

I'm just glad that VD wasn't strategic enough to sit out this year with the hope that fading memories, less drama, and general inertia would lead to the failure of EPH and other fixes. Then pop up again next year because the change would have to at least be voted on at the next Worldcon or even start over in the 2 year process. This way this is the last year one person will have so much sway over the nominees.

Phil, I did nominate your blog on my ballot, mainly for the long essay you did last year on the puppies and political philosophies. I'm sorry it didn't make the cut.

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Lovecraft in Brooklyn 4 years, 9 months ago

Have you written a Fury Road essay? I'd love to read one.

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