Quick synopsis, for those not already aware: this year, Brad Torgersen organized the third iteration of the “Sad Puppy+” slate for the Hugo Awards, which, at least on the surface, was about campaigning to get conservative SF/F authors on the ballot (giving them the place they have been denied by their political opponents). Unabashed racist/sexist/homophobic bigot Theodore Beale/VD++ apparently also decided to organize a “Rabid Puppy” slate, on similar principles, only more so.
Between them, these two initiatives managed to have a huge influence on this year’s Hugo nominations, dominating the short lists for many categories. (Here’s a rundown on what they achieved.) This was met with a great deal of dismay in many corners of fandom.
We all caught up?
+No, I don’t know how that term came to be attached to this. If you know, please enlighten me in the comments.
++I find his chosen moniker sufficiently arrogant that I decline to oblige him by using it.
I’ve felt for years now that the Hugos are a thing I should maybe be more involved in. Two things have stopped me: first, you have to pay for a Worldcon membership in order to nominate or vote, and even a supporting membership is a non-trivial expense, at $40. Second, my reading is very disorganized; much of what I read in any given year was actually published long before, meaning I’m not very au courant with the stuff that’s eligible for awards. This latter point makes nominations in particular quite daunting, because there’s a whole swath of stuff to choose from, and I haven’t read most of it.
This year, for the first time, I’ve bought a supporting membership so I can vote on the Hugo Awards. I’d like to talk about why, and what exactly I intend to do with my vote.
( Cut for discussion of details. )
As always, the question is: what now?
There are a lot of proposals to change the Hugo rules in ways that will prevent, or at least discourage, this sort of behavior in the future. Going that route will be hard, though, for two reasons: first, it’s a minimum of two years to introduce any changes to the Hugo procedures (because of Worldcon’s bylaws), and second, many of the proposed changes would disenfranchise a lot of voters who have been participating in good faith. (A fact which, fortunately, I have seen many people point out. The problem is known, and I devoutly hope it won’t be accepted as the price of doing business.)
In the short term, and quite possibly the long one, the better answer is social rather than legislative.
As I said, I’ve bought a supporting membership; if you have $40 to spare and the inclination to officially register your displeasure with this situation, you can do the same. (This also, by the way, gives you the right to nominate candidates for next year’s Hugos — and, as a special bonus, the right to vote on the upcoming Worldcon bids! Look for another post later about the Helsinki bid and why I think people should support it; that’s enough of a digression I don’t want to go into it here.)
What’s the best way to use your vote? Well, the Hugos use an interesting system: instant runoff voting. This is a system built to discourage the triumph of small but dedicated voting blocs over the general sentiment of the electorate as a whole; it means the winner is likely to be a candidate most people thought was pretty good, rather than one a few people adored and a bunch of other people hated.
The Hugos also have “No Award” in every category. When you rank this on your ballot, you are saying that you would rather see no award given in that category at all, if the alternative is to see it go to one of the works you have ranked lower (or left off your ballot entirely: for a cogent explanation of the different effects between those two, see here.) This has happened before, though not recently; the last time No Award won, it was 1977.
I stand with those who say, the problem here is the entire “slate” approach: even if the slate consisted of works I like, I have a profound objection to the entire notion of organized campaigns of followers nominating and voting for the candidates their leaders have selected. That isn’t what the Hugos are for, and if five years down the road we have the Sad Puppy Slate competing against the Social Justice Slate competing against the Can’t We All Just Have Fun Slate, I will consider that a disaster for the Hugos, no matter what I think of the works on the slates themselves.
One way to speak out against the slate approach is to use IRV and the No Award option to register your disapproval. There is a Puppy-free list of candidates here (and if you needed a visual demonstration of how thoroughly they dominated certain categories, there you go). Rank non-Puppy candidates as you feel they deserve; when you’ve run out of candidates you think might be worthy of the rocket, rank No Award. Then rank everything else — Puppy candidates, and anything non-Puppy you thought really was just utter crap — below No Award, or leave it off your ballot entirely.
In other words: say you would rather see no prize given than these tactics rewarded.
This may mean voting against some works you’d ordinarily support. In the case of Dramatic Presentation (Long), for example, maybe you really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy or The LEGO Movie. But voting for them says, “well, I don’t like slates, but I guess they’re okay so long as they pick things I agree with.” That encourages us to form competing slates in future years, which is precisely what many of us are trying to prevent. If you think it would be wrong to give the rocket to Edge of Tomorrow or The Winter Soldier, then rank No Award first — that’s your decision. But please, don’t support the slate.
Because fundamentally, the slate approach is fundamentally not about fannishness or enjoyment of books. It’s about making sure your side wins. And in this case, it’s also about hurting people who have until now been nominating and voting for works they love, and stroking the egos of a few individuals who have felt disenfranchised by the fact that the Hugo electorate doesn’t like their stuff. (It is not even about supporting the kind of SF they claim to like: both Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and the second volume of Patterson’s Heinlein biography are right up their alley, and several SP/RP types, including both Larry Correia and Beale/VD, have commented that they probably would have supported those. So even their side gets hurt by this, as the decisions of the ringleaders locked out things their followers genuinely enjoyed and might have wanted to vote for.) It is about championing bigots like Beale/VD and John C. Wright. This is, in short, a move undertaken explicitly to upset and drive away people like me and many of my friends.
I will not be driven away. And I will not reward their efforts.
Is it idealistic to believe the Hugos should be about nominating books you, personally, enjoyed? Maybe. But I will do what I can to support that ideal.
Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.