Weird Kitties: An Organized Anti-Slate For The 2016 Hugos

(22 comments)

Weird Kitties is an organized anti-slate with a simple goal: to try to make sure every work on the 2016 Hugo ballot is there because of fans who nominated it because they liked it, and not because some bigoted jerk told them to nominate it.

This isn’t going to be easy. We already know Vox Day has 540 nominations for anything he wants to put on the ballot. John C. Wright’s got a novella out. SJWs Always Lie will surely be up for Best Related Work. And I’m sure a little thing like forgetting the existence of the number four isn’t going to keep the Voice of God from proclaiming himself best editor again. Given this, George R.R. Martin’s advice to ignore Vox Day is not going to accomplish anything other than letting a fascist jerk set the ballot. Again. 

In practical terms, anything that the majority of Hugo voters might actually prefer to No Award is going to need at least 541 nominations to be on the ballot. And that’s not going to be easy bar for anything to clear, especially not without sinking to the ugly and bullying tactic of slates.

The good news is that there are five thousand of us, united, if nothing else, by the facts that 1) We voted in the Hugos, and 2) We are not Puppies of any stripe. We are not a campaign. We are not a political movement. We are not playing some elaborate game of four-dimensional chess in order to topple Christendom. Indeed we, in the sense of “me and everyone reading this,” are not even all five thousand voters. But nevertheless, we are a bunch of fans defined by the simple fact that we’re eligible to nominate things for Hugos next year, and we’re not Vox Day’s pack of rabid dogs.

One of the most helpful things, then, would be if all five thousand of us nominated, and if we nominated a full ballot. Among us, we’ve got 25,000 open slots on our ballots in every category with which to push a work over the slate-busting threshold of 541. That’s doable, but it’s also hard. A lot of us, myself included, don’t identify five eligible Hugo-worthy items in every category in a normal year’s reading. In many categories, a lot of us don’t identify one. We don’t all have writing Winds of Winter to be distracted from, after all. And we could use some help.

So I’m creating Weird Kitties for exactly that. It’s going to be an ongoing conversation about awesome science fiction and fantasy that’s come out and is coming out in 2015, conducted for people who want to fill in their Hugo ballots with things they love.

First off, some promises. Weird Kitties is not and never will be a slate. It will never be some sort of stealth “slate by another name.” It will never have an official list of suggestions, of recommendations, or of anything else like that. It’s also not going to just reflect my taste, although I’ll obviously be contributing to it. At every step of the way, I will include as many interesting and exciting voices about science fiction in 2015 as I can get. If you intend to fill out your Hugo ballot with things you choose instead of things someone else chose for you, your voice is welcome here.

For now, it’s going to focus on two things. First, I’m going to make a series of open threads over the next few weeks for the various categories, and just ask people for suggestions of works to check out in those categories. Second, I’m soliciting positive reviews of Hugo-eligible work from anyone interested in writing them, subject to the rules below. And to be clear, I mean anyone. I mean you. Yes, you. Write reviews of Hugo-eligible work you loved and send them to me.

When we get to December or so, I’ll start tracking the many “Year’s Best SF/F” threads and posts that I’m sure will be popping up, trying to handicap what some of the natural frontrunners are. And finally, when we get into 2016, I’ll be running annotated nomination ballots from as many interesting people as I can find, and I intend to go looking for some very interesting people. The result will be your ongoing guide to what was interesting in science fiction and fantasy in 2015.

So basically, pull up a chair and join us. We’re going to be geeking out about science fiction for a while. And we’d really love to do it with you. The first open thread will be on Saturday, discussing potential Best Novel candidates, so please stop by and chip in.

Rules for Reviews

Reviews can be any length. I’ll compile short ones into occasional omnibus posts, and run longer ones as stand-alone posts, along with knocking up a central list to index them all. Send them to snowspinner at gmail. Please make sure to include the title, author, eligible category, and a link to a legal way to obtain it.

Some restrictions.

First, again, positive reviews. The point is to help people find work that they’ll love. Negative reviews, by definition, don’t do that.

Second, no reviews about anything you have substantial creative involvement in or stand to make a profit off of. This does not mean things you backed on Kickstarter, for heaven’s sake. If you didn’t make it and don’t stand to make money off it, review away. Honor system on this, and if you have reason to believe I’ve run something sent in against this rule, please let me know.

Third, and relatedly, no reviews about anything that I have substantial creative involvement in or stand to make a profit off of. Nothing from Eruditorum Press, nothing out of Pex Lives, nothing I’ve contributed to. I will not use the Weird Kitties banner to self-promote in any way.

Fourthly, nothing from Castalia House. I just won’t. 

Finally, at the end of the day, I remain the sole arbiter of what goes on my webspace. I’m not going to just run reviews of things I like, or even of things that I think sound good. I’m actively interested in reviews I disagree with; I can write the ones I agree with myself, after all. But in the end, it’s my judgment call whether I run a review. My main criterion is simple: do I think this review will persuade someone to check out a work and go on to nominate it for a Hugo. But there are secondary ones - if I’ve already published a review of something, the odds drop that I’ll do a second one. Similarly if it’s an author we’ve already got covered pretty well. I'm sure pretty much every story in China Miéville's new collection is plausibly Hugo-worthy, but I'm not going to run a review on every one. And, as the Castalia House exclusion suggests, there are some views and positions I’m not willing to use my voice and my platform to support. If, you don’t think you can be a grownup about having a review rejected, don’t send one.

FAQ

Why you? You’re some nobody blogger.

Because I want the resource to exist, mainly. I want to fill out a full nomination ballot. I don’t imagine I’m alone in that. And I think there’s a lot of fans who haven’t been regular Hugo voters before but who care about protecting the awards who could use a resource like this. And that’s also kind of why me. Because I am a small-time blogger and fan, and nobody can accuse me of carrying water for John Scalzi or Patrick Nielsen Hayden or whoever, since I’ve never so much as had a conversation with any of them.

You’re just doing this on behalf of the SMOFs.

Nope. As I said, I don’t know any of them. Never been to a Worldcon, never been active in organized fandom. Pretty sure my best claim to being a SMOF is that Paul Cornell said some nice things about my Doctor Who blog once.

You’re just doing this to sell books/increase your Patreon.

I mean, I’m certainly aware that this might bring new readers to the site who could stick around for some of the other content and become fans. But I’m not going to directly profit from any of the Weird Kitties stuff, I’m not going to self-promote under the Weird Kitties banner, and frankly, I’d make a lot more money if I spent the time this is going to take editing my next book. 

You’re just doing this to advance your anarchic postmodern Marxist occultist agenda.

Well, yes, at least inasmuch as one of the reasons I care about the Hugo Awards is that I don’t want to see them hijacked by a neoreactionary creep like Vox Day. That said, I’m happy to run reviews of conservative-minded stuff, and if you point me towards conservative-minded stuff that’s good and interesting, I’ll even review it myself. Indeed, I’d really like it if some people who were previously sympathetic to the Puppies jumped ship and wrote some reviews here to try to promote conservative-minded sci-fi without being dicks about it. I’m a leftist, but other than being overtly opposed to the specific politics of Vox Day, this is not a consciously leftist movement. If you’re someone who wants to nominate work you choose instead of work chosen for you, welcome aboard.

So I can send you a review about how you should nominate “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” because of how awesome Sansa getting raped is?

No.

But you said

Go away.

OK, but seriously, surely the last thing fandom needs is another animal-based Hugos campaign.

I suspect the genie is already out of the bottle on that. And more to the point… Well, two things. First, I think we need an organized effort to resist the Puppies, because otherwise their slate tactics are going to win. But second, I want to show that it’s possible to be organized and diverse at the same time. I want to show that Vox’s ugly and bullying tactics can be defeated cleanly, even without E Pluribus Hugo (which I strongly support, and will continue to support regardless of how this effort turns out). I want to show that he’s not better than us, and that we can beat him fair and square, without compromising our values. I don’t just want to win, I want to show that a bunch of fans voting for what they love can beat a couple hundred goose-stepping jerks. 

Why “Weird Kitties”?

Well, the Kitties are the obvious choice. I mean, whoever decided to make the first conscious anti-Puppy organizing group was always going to call it the Kitties. As for “weird…” because it’s a word with so much meaning within SF/F. Not just the “weird fiction” tradition of H.P. Lovecraft and China Mieville, but the idea that science fiction and fantasy should be about strange new things, as opposed to trying to rehash a vision of the past that’s more nostalgia than history. That and the fact that Vox Day’s new book, SJWs Always Lie, makes much of contrasting Hugo voters with “normal” people. If Vox Day is normal, I sure as hell wanna be weird.

What can I do?

Participate. Watch the open threads and mention good things you’ve read. Write reviews. And more importantly, read the threads, read the reviews, and check out things that sound cool. Try to inform yourself about science fiction and fantasy that came out in 2015, and then, when 2016 rolls around, fill in a full ballot’s worth of nominations. 

Comments

camestrosfelapton 2 years, 1 month ago

How about double posting of reviews? A lot of people who blogged reviews of the Hugo packet are now posting reviews of Hugo eligible stuff. Can I send a link to a review or would you like a shorter review or something else?

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Neo Tuxedo 2 years, 1 month ago

If Vox Day is normal, I sure as hell wanna be weird.

"And Norman, if you're normal, I intend to be a freak for the rest of my life, and I shall baffle you with cabbages and rhinoceroses in the kitchen and incessant quotations from Now We Are Six delivered through the medium of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head. So there."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aolMV0oNCBE

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Justin Cawthorne 2 years, 1 month ago

Will be interesting to see if there ends up being any genuine crossover with the non-slate that the Sad Puppies 4 are proposing to compile. By genuine, I mean works that find their way on both lists purely through merit or recommendation, as opposed to works the Puppies may include out of spite in order to try and condemn them to No Award purgatory.

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camestrosfelapton 2 years, 1 month ago

..one other clarification...from your post this is just the *works* categories - so presumably not Best editor etc (which aren't really reviewable anyway). I assume from the exclusions you mention you do want Best Related Work and Best Podcast stuff. Do you want magazine/fanzine categories as well or just wait and see if somebody writes something?

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

I want all categories, though figuring out how to write reviews of the person categories is indeed a challenge. But basically, anything Hugo-eligible, I'll run a review of.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

Let's say put links in the appropriate open thread when it comes around, and I'll figure out what to do with it when compiling a larger guide.

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maniacprovost 2 years, 1 month ago

Good luck. I think you are ultimately going to accomplish something slate-like, but that's OK. In my opinion, which you will definitely want to ignore, the best way to generate a competing slate would be to have a long, public runoff process that acts as a recommended reading list and gradually ranks the best of Sci Fi. Some people will nominate #1 - #5, and some will nominate #12 because that's what they liked. It's not really a slate, more like fandom is all on the same page.

Logically, I think this is similar to what you intend to do manually. But it ends up being very slatelike, and anti-puppies will almost certainly nominate for the top 5 in each category.

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John Seavey 2 years, 1 month ago

Honestly, I think the absence of ranking is vital to the process. Once you've ranked them, you're telling people how to vote at least implicitly by suggesting that some works are better than others and have a better chance of being nominated/winning. This is the mistake SP4 is making, and I think that Phil's making a good move by simply letting a thousand opinions bloom. If Phil, or I, or anyone, convince people to read the things we love, and they all love them so much that they want to nominate them as well, then the work deserves to win on its own merit. Anyone nominating something sight unseen based on a recommendation is a failure.

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Prandeamus 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm just occasional poster here who came from the days of full-on Tardis Eruditorum, and still returns to see what's happening. I read sci-fi of various types from time to time, as long as other genres. I am not anarchic, postmodern, or Marxist and certainly no occultist. I'm a Christian, for heaven's sake. I care nothing for the Hugos, and have watched with mild bemusement as this whole Vox Day business has emerged. I can see the anger and disgust that Phil has eloquently expressed, although I have had some trouble coming to terms with every detail of his arguments.

I am one of the not-we. But wait - I do have a point.

I strongly support the idea of a thousand interesting and positive reviews of stuff I haven't read yet. Make me, the casual reader, actually want to seek out new books I wouldn't have otherwise tried. I'm glad I picked up "The Eyre Affair" because the back cover mentioned my home town. I'm a big fan of Jasper fforde now. I loved reading Desolation Road and Ares Express although I suspect my wife got them for me as a cheap stocking filler from a remainder bookstore a few years ago. I picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell at a book swap, and thought it a worthwhile read, after I'd slogged through the first hundred or so pages. I really enjoyed Rivers of London, from a recommendation I read here. I gave up on Wicked, though, and I suppose you can't like everything. My point is I get into new books at random and in a haphazard way, so I'd value any chance so read about what's interesting and fresh.

We don't have to get Pollyanna-ish about how everything is nice, but some positive focused book reviews sounds like a great idea.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

As I said, I'll be using the Year's End lists to try to identify some natural frontrunners, but there's never going to be any sort of compiled, ranked list. Those inclined towards tactical voting will be able to find useful information for doing so, but I'm not going to map out any tactics beyond what I already have: nominate five things in every category, and do the research needed for you to be happy with your nominations.

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Jeff Heikkinen 2 years, 1 month ago

The obvious way would be to simply post an overview of the person's recent work. More ambitious reviewers could search for common threads in much the same way you might, say, look for recurring elements in the Doctor Who episodes a given director was responsible for.

Seems like a useful starting point, anyway.

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Daru 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm in. I welcome the opportunity to share works in an open way that could get nominated in the Hugos, and alongside this I am always up for new things to read and digest! So I look forwards to being a part of this and seeing what comes of it.

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Daru 2 years, 1 month ago

"Third, and relatedly, no reviews about anything that I have substantial creative involvement in or stand to make a profit off of. Nothing from Eruditorum Press, nothing out of Pex Lives, nothing I’ve contributed to. I will not use the Weird Kitties banner to self-promote in any way."

Your restrictions sound really fair to me, and easy for me to follow as I have no financial involvement or any kind of investment in any kind of work just now. With regards to the point above though, whilst really happy not to offer up reviews of things from Eruditorum Press, etc I will certainly be nominating some of yours and others work Phil in the next Hugos.

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steve davidson 2 years, 1 month ago

I think this is a mistake.
Regardless of your intentions, you yourself call this an "organized campaign".
We do not want slates, campaigns or any of that stuff.
This plays directly into puppy - particularly Rabid puppy - hands.
The puppies were countered this year WITHOUT a campaign. We do not need one for this year, or rather, another one.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

The resistance to the Puppies in the actual voting process was absolutely a campaign. Not a branded one, but a campaign nevertheless.

My feeling is that until E Pluribus Hugo passes, the nomination process cannot be defended without some measure of campaign.

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scamander360 2 years, 1 month ago

I really wish you wouldn't try to "identify some natural frontrunners" or attempt to help "Those inclined towards tactical voting". People who want reading recommendations can just read the lists themselves. They shouldn't need you to define the situation for them. You telling people what works are "naturally" ahead of the pack smacks of a slate. I can't see a principled difference between ranking the finalists and someone announcing to the readership what the "natural leaders" are.

And "tactical voting" is completely against the spirit of the Hugos and, IMO, really shouldn't be encouraged. Vote for what you want on the ballot, not what you think others will probably vote for. If we get another crappy ballot due to slating, we just No Award it and finalize EPH. Parts of what you're doing here sound no different in practice than SP4.

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maniacprovost 2 years, 1 month ago

The discovery process is what's tactical. The biggest problem with the Hugos used to be that everybody reads different stuff and nominates the best of what they read, but there's little overlap, so 50 different things got a few votes each. If Monster Hunter fans show up in force of course they're going to win. I want to know what the top works are from a broad array of fans, so I can read the best and then nominate the best of the best.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 1 month ago

I don't think tactical voting is against the spirit of the Hugos, honestly. I think it's what everyone does when they ask themselves things like "should I bother nominating this Big Finish audio" or "should I nominate this obscure short story that five people read?" The choice between using your five slots for oddball idiosyncrasies and things that might affect the final ballot is always there, and everyone makes it.

It's just that it doesn't usually matter which one you choose, because there aren't usually a bunch of jackbooted thugs trying to take over the awards.

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TheWanderfound 2 years, 1 month ago

As was shown by this year's results, Noah Ward is perfectly capable of "defending" the Hugos already. Your campaign is a spectacularly bad idea.

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Unknown 2 years, 1 month ago

I'd say that one or more slates, against one or more counter-slates, is materially worse than just "one or more slates". Slates are a bad idea, no matter if they happen to promote works I like well, or works I like less well.

I would be a much happier person if anyone who talks about "slates" instead present the top (say) 15-20 works in each category (work count chosen to be a healthy multiple of the 5 finalist slots), to let people form their own opinion.

If the problem is "people are not aware", reviews and/or larger lists accomplishes that fine. If the problems is "slates are anathema", anti-slates are not useful. If the problem is "stuff I don't like clog up the final shortlist", 'no award' may be appropriate. At no point is "anti-slates" useful

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Charles Rector 2 years, 1 month ago

First off, are you going to nominate blogs as "fanzines" and bloggers as "fan writers"? If you do that, then you are going to unnecessarily alienate traditional fanzine fandom just like the slates did.

Also, how are you going to compete with all those puddy tat websites for search engine rankings?

Charles Rector,
Editor, Fornax
http://efanzines.com/Fornax/index.htm

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Ken Marable 1 year, 9 months ago

I love your idea here! Now that we are hitting the end of the year and people are starting to talk more about nominations - would you consider an open thread for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) as well?

I am trying to collect links to recommendations from all over the place at my Hugo Recommendation Season blog (the idea being 3 seasons to the process - recommendations, nominations, and voting). Currently, I'm trying to get people to recommend Short Dramatic Presentations, and it would be great to direct them here if they don't have a blog or whatever and want a space to post recs. I will certainly point them here for the other open threads.

Either way, thank you for doing this! It's exciting seeing the increased interest in nominations this time.

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