First and foremost, let’s just get this out of the way:
Congrats to the winners of last night’s Hugo Awards, including the Not The Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell award for new writer. Well done, all of you. Including up and coming sci-fi superstar, Noah Ward, who I’m sure is drunk somewhere right now, joy-barfing off a balcony.
And, also, to the Sad and Rabid Puppies, those charm school rejects who thought they could wrest control of the awards away from some mysterious vile cabal of PC CHORF SMOF SJWS, one likes to hope that last night was a demonstration of your noses being rubbed in the mess you made. I know, I know, “it’s about ethics in award nominating.”
*eyeroll so hard, neck snaps and head tumbles off of shoulders into dirt*
Listen, I’m not a big believer that awards are some kind of glorious, unshakable metric for the health or the merit of a genre or the books and authors inside it — I think, like most, I think it’s a good way to celebrate fandom and the industry and those people who have left footprints across the genre both big and small. It’s not the end-all be-all of anything, but they matter in their own way. And this year any hope of that happening was squirted out onto a rancid pee-pad thanks to those aforementioned charm school rejects.
All along, if the so-called “puppies” had just done a blog post like, “HEY WE THINK LOTS OF COOL FOLKS NEVER GET NOMINATED, SO LET’S GET TALK ABOUT THOSE FOLKS AND DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN NOMINATE ‘EM,” and then they did a big-ass reading list and not a slate, one expects the response would’ve been a vigorous shrug. But that’s not what they did. They came out of the gate swinging with a proper slate, a slate championing its diversity while actually working to undo the diversity of years past. (And fellas, a little pro-tip here: when your version of diversity includes those who are against diversity as a principle, you done fucked up. Making sure to include bigots and homophobes and other social malefactors is a pretty good way to show your true intentions. At the very least, it exposes you for the shitbirds you are.) They’ve been called on their bullshit time and time again throughout this awards season, called to the mat and challenged on every point, and not once did I see a successful or substantive rebuttal to those challenges. (I did, of course, see about 3,291 blog posts done in support of the Sad and Rabid Puppies, to which I might suggest that those writers actually remember that they’re probably supposed to be writing stories and not some never-ending screed-ifesto about SFF fandom.)
And of course, the Puppies locked arms with the worst amongst us: those human canker sores known as Gamer-Gate. (Next year, I hear the Puppies slate will be decided by Donald Trump’s skull merkin, worked like a puppet by the ghost of a drunk, racist Ayn Rand.)
Last night’s awards were a strong rebuttal against the SP/RP slate, because they didn’t get a single one of their nominations through to the actual stage and statue itself. In fact, in several categories, voters opted to fling the award out of the airlock and into the void of space rather than give it to undeserving nominees — or, at the very least, those nominees who were poisoned by their inclusion on the slate in the first place. (And here again, time to offer kudos to folks like Annie Bellet, Matthew David Surridge, and Marko Kloos for washing that stink off them. Because believe you me, that’s some stink, I admire them for wanting to freshen up.)
The Puppies continued to put forth this idea that they were finally reclaiming the Hugo Awards from some narrow slice of SFF readership — some toxic, politically-minded cult of secret governors who have throttled the award with their AGENDAS and IDEAS and I GUESS LOVE FOR THEIR FELLOW MAN, those monsters. And our righteous saviors seemed keen on breaking the back of that cult and finally, finally, the awards would be properly returned to the hands of real fans who appreciate that SFF should, I dunno, just be about white guys on rocketships and dragons having uncomplicated white guy adventures without any of that intellectual or social or political mess intruding upon the genre.
Except, that’s not how this works.
That’s not how any of this works.
As it turns out, when you attempt to identify the narrow slice and rip the votes away from them and into the hands of a wider audience of thousands, you actually learn that the wider audience of fans still don’t want the Puppies mucking up the award with their poo-caked paws. You learn that the fans will ride over the hills like an army, and they’ll lock arms and form a line that shan’t be crossed. The awards were positioned this year as finally being for the fans, and the fans showed up. And they thwacked the Puppies on the nose with rolled-up newspaper.
In other words?
You learn that the narrow slice may have not been so narrow, after all.
Also, as it turns out, the genre is often, maybe even always, political. Even when it’s not expressly so, fiction isn’t about some rote operational telling of stories. Science-fiction and fantasy, when operating well, serve as a bellwether for the world in which we live. It’s always been that way. Through history, we examine both the small books and films and comics and also the really popular ones to see what ideas and fears and yes even politics have seeped out of the public consciousness and conscience and into the stories that the public loves and shares. (Plus, a-doy, the Puppies were always a political slate. They forever claimed to want to extricate the genre from politics, which was the dumbest fake-out I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even an act of artful misdirection. “I’m not stealing your hamburger,” they say, locking eyes with you as one big clumsy hand slides across the table noisily and indelicately steals your hamburger. When challenged on this, the thief offers the blistering rebuttal of, “…Nuh-uh.”)
The rebuke probably won’t stop the Puppies next year. But hopefully the same fans this year will come out for the nominating part, and not just the WHO GETS THE STATUE part, because that’ll be key to carrying this message through to the following season. At the very least, maybe it’ll spare us some drama, which overtook the award this go-round and, frankly, denied lots of folks a chance to get up on the stage (at Tobias Buckell’s place you can see who would’ve been on the menu had the Puppies not been a factor — that being a genuine fucking tragedy.) Hopefully the Puppies realize that they are marginal, and like Gamer-Gate aren’t puppies at all, but are rather a pack of sad dinosaurs shaking their tiny arms at the meteor above and these new wily mammals slinking around their clumsy, stompy feet. In a perfect world, next year we won’t hear their bleats and squawks of rage at a world that is changing. And in ten years, their existence will be a memory — fuel for our stories just as dinosaurs are fuel for the gas tanks in our automobiles.
I’m happy the awards experienced the push-back against the shitbirds.
I’m excited that fans and readers are maybe making a real representative push.
I’m sad that lots of folks near the ballot never got on it.
And I’m bothered that all this had to happen in the first place.
Just the same: fuck the Puppies.
The genre will keep on keeping on.
No matter what happens:
Go buy books.
Share the love of those books.
Talk about them. Give them to others. Get on social media and crow about them.
Don’t be afraid of ideas and politics and people who aren’t like you.
Embrace it. Come into the pool. The water’s warm. The drinks are cold.
The stories are amazing.