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.