This year's Hugo Awards were presented last night. It's been a vicious, biased, socio-political-cultural-oriented campaign, and the results reflect that. No fewer than five categories (Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Editor: Short Form and Best Editor: Long Form) were not awarded - in other words, the electorate deliberately voted not to present any award rather than give it to one of the nominees (many of whom were put forward by the anti-Hugo-establishment Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies campaigns). To put that in perspective, that equals the previous total number of 'No Award' winners over the entire 62-year history of the Hugo Awards.
I've written about this years' award controversy on several occasions. My personal response is summed up in these two articles, and I also endorse Eric Flint's perspective on the matter. However, I didn't actively campaign for any candidates, either as individuals or as a 'slate' presented by either the Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies. That's because I believe that voting should always be a matter for the individual's informed judgment, not something tied to political, social, economic or other perspectives.
Last night saw both triumph and defeat for both sides of the Hugo debate. Consider:
- The anti-Puppy side (variously known as Social Justice Warriors or SJW's, Puppy Kickers, and so on) clearly dominated the voting for the major categories, out-weighing Puppy voters by a massive margin. They mobilized all their support, and did so impressively. Five 'No Awards' in major categories where their preferred nominees had been 'shut out' was a clear demonstration of their determination to defeat the 'other side' at any cost.
- Unfortunately, it also illustrated their determination to ignore the letter and spirit of the Hugo Awards. They clearly did not vote for the nominated works based on their literary or other qualities, but voted on the basis of a partisan perspective, a determination to 'punish the other side' for daring to interfere with what they consider to be 'their' awards. Many of them openly campaigned for this to be done, and proudly admitted their intention to disregard the quality (or otherwise) of the works or individuals in question.
- As far as the Puppies are concerned (whether Sad or Rabid), their slates dominated the nominations in several categories, but clearly could not command enough support from a mobilized, partisan and highly motivated electorate to actually win them. This, of course, may change. The Puppies have now seen the extent of the opposition confronting them, and they realize that it had to mobilize almost all its resources, on an unprecedented scale, to defeat their slate of candidates this year. If the Puppies can organize their supporters and come back five to ten times stronger (an entirely achievable goal, IMHO), then future Hugo campaigns may be even more divisive, disruptive and negative than this year's. Indeed, I suspect that the scale of their defeat may drive many of the formerly-more-moderate Sad Puppies into the more radical Rabid Puppies camp.
The big losers in this years' Hugo controversy have been civility and reasoned discourse. The open bitterness, bias and confrontational attitudes expressed by some individuals on both sides during and after last night's awards is mind-boggling. This was evident at the award ceremony itself by jokes at the Puppy campaigns' expense, and loud applause at the announcement of 'No Award' results. I'll pick out a couple of the more polite responses (I'm darned if I'll demean this blog by sinking to the level of some of the more vitriolic commenters).
Speaking for the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day said:
I understand that Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books walked out of the ceremony after hearing all the jokes about this being the year of the asterisk. It is just as well, because the no-awarding of her, John C. Wright, and Jim Butcher is conclusive proof that the Hugo Awards are no longer fit for purpose and need to be burned down in their entirety. That was my original position, but this year we Rabids followed the Sad Puppies lead and pursued the "fair play" approach.
Now we know the result of that. This is a cultural war, not a literary sport. They are practicing a scorched earth strategy, and we can certainly assist them in that since we do not value their territory. I still think it was worth trying to take Berlin and end the war in one fell swoop, but even though our attempt [to] break them once and for all failed, that only means that the victory was less than complete. What the Puppies accomplished was incredible when you look at the numbers involved and clearly indicates that the Rabid strategy, not the Sad one, is the only viable strategy. There will be no reconciliation.
For the SJW side, let John O'Neill sum up their reactions:
In short, the Puppies insisted that their team had been unfairly shut out of the game for too long, and gamed the system so that their superstars could finally take the field. And when they did, it became painfully obvious fairly quickly that this team simply couldn’t play ball.
The Puppies have stayed in their echo chamber for long months, and to be honest, I don’t expect even this stinging repudiation of their selections to penetrate it. My guess is that they will lay this burden at the feet of another liberal conspiracy, or simply claim that the vast majority of the Hugo electorate voted against their slate without bothering to read it (just as I did).
But when your only defense is to convince yourself that the electorate spurned you because they found what you did to be against the very spirit of the Hugos and your ballot to be wholly illegitimate, then you’re hiding sub-standard taste behind moral bankruptcy.
I can see it's going to be a long, hard winter until next year's Hugo campaign . . .
Several months ago I said:
Some argue that if one side won't compromise, there's no point in the other side being 'gentlemanly' or courteous or civilized, because such approaches won't be reciprocated. Rather, the other side must respond just as forcefully (if not more so) in order to overcome resistance to its 'legitimate demands'. To them I can only say, look at human history in any sphere you like: academic, literary, cultural, economic, political, military, whatever. When such attitudes prevail, breakdown and destruction tend to take over. What is lost - often irretrievably - is some, if not all, of the good that existed prior to the breakdown. The baby is thrown out with the bathwater. The good is destroyed along with the bad. I'm trying very hard to prevent that happening here.
I fear it may be a losing battle . . . but that doesn't mean it's not worth the effort. I only wish some of the more partisan elements in this debate could see it that way ... Now it's up to those on both sides to decide whether they're going to go to the mattresses, or behave like civilized people. If anyone isn't sure who needs to take the first step in that process . . . look in the mirror.
I saw and heard nothing last night to make me reconsider that perspective. I can only hope and pray that others share it, and will work towards realizing it. If not, I daresay the Hugo Awards will be mired in controversy, libel, slander and mutual distrust for years to come. I don't think they can survive that.