The Hugo Award Nominations have just been successfully hijacked by neofascists.
I want to pause, before I make any comments on the implications of that statement, and make it unambiguously clear that this is what happened. There were, this year, two organized and overlapping slates of proposed nominees – the Sad Puppies, promoted by Brad Torgersen, and the Rabid Puppies, promoted by Theodore Beale, who writes under the pen name Vox Day. Of these slates, the latter was the more successful and influential, with 87% of its proposed nominees ultimately getting nominated, forming 68% of the total Hugo nominations. Every single work nominated in the categories of Best Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, and Editor (both long and short form) came from those two slates, including two nominations for Theodore Beale himself, one in each editor category.
Theodore Beale opposes women’s suffrage, saying, “the women of America would do well to consider whether their much-cherished gains of the right to vote, work, murder and freely fornicate are worth destroying marriage, children, civilized Western society and little girls.” He believes that black people are less human than white people, saying of a black woman that “genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens.”
I admit that these two quotes leave me slightly uncertain as to what to say. They are, obviously, preposterously vile things to say. But they are so vile that they defy the usual rhetoric with which we respond to loathsome views. They are not positions or claims that polite society is really equipped to engage with. They are so far outside the bounds of what is socially acceptable in 2015 that it is difficult to imagine many forums in which they would even be permitted to be aired. I’d go with something glib like “even Fox News would sack someone who publicly expressed those views,” but even that seems insufficient. Truth be told, I have trouble thinking of any mainstream groups or organizations where someone who publicly espoused those views would not be ostracized.
Except, apparently, orthodox sci-fi/fantasy fandom, in which Theodore Beale has sufficient clout within orthodox sci-fi/fantasy fandom to select 68% of the Hugo Award nominees.
The question of how this happened is simple enough – the Hugo nomination process is fairly easy to game if you’ve got a bit of organization and followers willing to splash out a bit of cash. It only took about 250 people to stuff the ballot box to this effect – about 12.5% of the overall people who sent in nominations, though closer to 25% in some of the smaller categories.
More significant is the question of what this means.
To be frank, it means that traditional sci-fi/fantasy fandom does not have any legitimacy right now. Period. A community that can be this effectively controlled by someone who thinks black people are subhuman and who has called for acid attacks on feminists is not one whose awards have any sort of cultural validity. That sort of thing doesn’t happen to functional communities. And the fact that it has just happened to the oldest and most venerable award in the sci-fi/fantasy community makes it unambiguously clear that traditional sci-fi/fantasy fandom is not fit for purpose.
Simply put, this is past the point where phrases like “bad apples” can still be applied. As long as supporters of Theodore Beale hold sufficient influence in traditional fandom to have this sort of impact, traditional fandom is a fatally poisoned well. The fact that a majority of voices in fandom are disgusted by it doesn’t matter. The damage has already been done at the point where the list of nominees is 68% controlled by fascists.
There are good works nominated this year. I am told that Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword is a truly brilliant novel that deserves awards. In Dramatic Presentation where, given the nature of the media, even the puppy slates were relatively harmless, nominating things like Grimm and Game of Thrones, there are several good nominees, including “Listen,” which was not on either slate, a fact that should have Doctor Who fans feeling properly proud. And the Best Graphic Story category is one of the best slates in the history of the category, and the only one to have four out of its five nominees not be on the puppy slates.
None of this, however, matters. An award whose nominations are, in six categories, dominated entirely by neofascists, and where Theodore Beale has that kind of influence has already lost legitimacy. The phrase “2015 Hugo Award Winner” is already not one that anybody should want. It is not something that anybody should desire for a work they love. “Listen” and Ms. Marvel are too good to win this award.
Obviously progressive voices within the sci-fi/fantasy community have to fight, and fight hard to reclaim fandom from the neofascist entryist movement that has just stolen it. But until that fight is won, it is also the moral duty of progressive voices to form a blocking majority, and to loudly admit that fandom as it stands is broken, and that any work proclaimed to be the best of the year by a fandom this broken is demeaned by the association.
Thankfully, the Hugo Awards have a mechanism to accomplish this. Every category allows for a vote of No Award Given. And this should be the goal. The 2015 Hugos should simply be blank. No awards given, in any categories. Let that sit in the history books – the year that sci-fi fandom said no. We can come back in 2065 and give out a set of Retro Hugos, and figure out with the lens of history what we demonstrably failed to figure out this year.
You can purchase a supporting membership for the 2015 Worldcon, this year called Sasquan, for $40. This will give you voting rights on the 2015 Hugos, as well as nomination rights for 2016 so you can help make sure this doesn’t happen again. Plus you’ll get the Hugo Packet, which will, alongside the fascist picks, also contain the bulk of the legitimate nominees, a body of work that would cost well over $40 even for just the stuff that doesn’t come Beale-endorsed.
If science fiction and fantasy are genres you care about, and if you can spare $40, I highly encourage you to join and, when the Hugo Ballot is released, vote No Award in all categories. Because otherwise, and especially if there are any awards in the six categories in which every nomination is neo-fascist endorsed, the cultural legitimacy of the Hugo Awards and of mainstream science fiction fandom will be permanently compromised.