On the Hugo Awards controversy, Sad Puppies, and why there are no winners here

Cixin Liu won the Hugo Award, the award handed out by the voters and attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention, for Best Novel with The Three-Body Problem. Originally written in Chinese and translated by Ken Liu, this is the first translated novel to win the Hugo. But this is not why his success—as well as the success of the (few) winners in the other categories—is so noteworthy. 

The winners of the Hugo Awards won despite the efforts of two groups (the Sad Puppies, headed by Brad Torgerson, and the Rabid Puppies, headed by Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day) to game the awards. The Puppies gathered a large group of like-minded people to nominate and vote for their own slate.

None of the Puppies' nominees won.

The ability to game the Hugo Awards stems from the fact that everyone who pays $40 can vote, plus the fact that fewer than 6,000 people vote each year. And the desire to rig the Hugo Awards may come from the fact that entrenched incumbents tend to garner more votes than newer writers ...

... as well as reasons that the Puppies call “political” but I call “whining.” According to Wired

Torgersen lamented what he called “the cognitive dissonance of people saying, ‘No, the Hugos are about quality,’ and then at the same time they’re like: ‘Ooh, we can vote for this author because they’re gay, or for this story because it’s got gay characters,’ or, ‘Ooh, we’re going to vote for this author because they’re not white.’ As soon as that becomes the criteria, well, quality goes out the window.”

Torgerson has it wrong—particularly in a genre where some of our best stories have protagonists who have three genders. Are blue. Are not even human

Although I haven’t voted in several years, when I did I voted for stories that I loved (plus, to be honest, stories written by my friends)—as do most readers. If readers deliberately voted for stories about gay characters and people of color, perhaps it’s because they speak of “alienation,” which a great many readers of science fiction happen to have experienced (readers of science fiction tend to be natural outsiders). 

Torgerson also told Wired, 

…He says the Hugos are beset by identity politics. “When people go on about how we’re anti-diversity, I’m like: No. All we’re saying is storytelling ought to come first.”

Yes, storytelling does come first. Many of the stories that have been published in recent years have intelligently crafted plots and tell truths about human nature and have characters who are sexually and racially diverse. It’s a reflection of the growing diversity of authors and their storytelling. Yet Torgerson does not concede that books can be both diverse and good—only diverse. It’s poor logic. 

As for author Beale/Vox Day, you can find some of his opinions here. Beale told Wired,

"I wanted to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were,” he told me before the winners were announced. “All this has ever been is a giant Fuck You—one massive gesture of contempt."

Unfortunately, the loss on all counts by the Puppies does not mean a win for the writers who were nominated without prejudice. In order to assure that none of the Sad/Rabid puppies won, most voters chose “No Award”—which meant that deserving authors of Best Short Story and Best Novella left the World Science Fiction Convention (a moveable feast held this year in Spokane, Wash.) empty-handed. Toni Weisskopf, who likely would have won Best Editor, was snubbed. In total, five categories earned the "No Award" prize. 

Worse to come, the Puppies have vowed to promote their own slate next year. (In 2016, Worldcon will take place in Kansas City, Mo.).

There needs to be a change in the way the Hugos are nominated and voted upon so that it cannot be gamed (for example, the Nebula Awards are voted on by the members of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America, that is, peer-review only). Yes, I’m aware how nigh-impossible this is. No, I don’t have a solution.

However, the best solution for fans of good fiction would be for the Puppies to have their own awards rather than try to co-opt the Hugos. That way, readers would be able to find fiction that they otherwise would not have read before. And yes, good fiction is good fiction, regardless of the gender/race/politics of the author. 

But a Puppy Award would have the added benefit of letting the followers of Brad Torgerson and Theodore Beale eventually try to leave a "smoking hole" in each other when they no longer have the Hugos as a common enemy. 

Congratulations again to Cixin Liu and his translator Ken Liu. Congrats also to Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, along with Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant, which won the Best Semi-Prozine award. Once upon a time, Adams wrote for Blastr, back when we were SciFi Wire. 

Via Wired.

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