Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Awards

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



Anonymous said...

Well, Peter, I'm a Sad Puppy supporter who was already leaning toward the Rabid side of things after the oh-so-tolerant SJW crowd drove Marko Kloos and Annie Bellot off the ballot. Last night's results just confirms Vox Day was right all along, just as SP1 and SP2 proved conclusively Larry Correia was right all along.

Vox's pick for Best Novel, "Three Body Problem," won - and it was on the ballot only because Kloos withdrew in the first place! - and they scorched-earthed the rest of the ballot out of spite, hooting and hollering like a pack of apes while they did it. And this is what SJWers call "victory." The hilarious thing that none of them seem to realize is that's what Vox also considers victory, perhaps due to Vox's talent at living rent-free in their heads.

That said, I wonder how many of the "No Award" voters were actually SJWs. Didn't (for example) Michael Z. Williamson say he was going to No Award everything as a protest himself, despite being one of the SP nominees and sympathetic to the Puppy point of view, simply due to the Hugos having already been politicized?

Myself, I think it's too late to burn the Hugos; everybody who cares already knows that the award is nothing more than a participation trophy for people with the right attitudes and the right connections and who is adept at kissing the right behinds. I'm coming to the conclusion that future Puppy campaigns, although greatly entertaining, are merely exercises in urinating on ashes already thoroughly charred by the literary Left immolating their own reputations.

--Wes S.

tweell said...

Your attitude is understandable as a man of God, Peter, but... I have to disagree. The behavior last night was the last straw, IMO. Call me names and spit on what I believe in because I had the audacity to stand up and be counted? Rabid, here I come.

Uncle Lar said...

Last night's actions by the elite SJW crowd aided and abetted by the Worldcon committee members apparently, was the final death throw of any respectability still attached to the Hugo awards. Let's just post a DNR and wait for that final death rattle, which I'm certain Vox will be more than willing to facilitate.
It's a shame really. The Hugo awards used to mean something, the nominees let alone the winners were the best of the best for that year in the science fiction and fantasy realm. Then a select clique managed to game the system and use the awards to flatter and reward each other and a group of their friends, folks who wrote the "right" sort of socially advanced stuff. And I suspect the rest of us would have simply let them had they not at the same time demanded that we acknowledge that the tripe they were giving awards to still possessed the same cache as those fine old winners of past years. And what that was doing was turning new potential fans away from the SF&F genre in droves. They tried the new Hugo winners, found them preachy and not at all entertaining, so went elsewhere with their dollars and time for leisure enjoyment.
I have it on good authority that there will be a Sad Puppies 4 and feel certain that barring the sudden mysterious disappearance of Vox Day there will also be another Rabid Puppies. Should be quite the entertaining event don't you think?

Comrade Misfit said...

I don't know who is at fault, if the fault is shared, and nor do I care. My takeaway is that as an indication that "this book is worth your time", the Hugos are valueless.

Old NFO said...

So, if I read the rules right, a second set of No Awards in the same category will kill that category forever... One wonders if they've really thought through what they've set up to potentially happen??? And that was truly sad last night. The bias was plain to see, starting with the pre-show interviews, progressing through the 'asterisk' BS, and the awards. Especially when Gerrold said it was okay to cheer a no award, but not boo one... RIP Hugo, you once meant something...

Iron Lady Visara said...

For anyone who is curious about Peter's statement that there have only been 5 No Awards previous to the 2015 Hugo Awards:

I went to the source at and went through the history.
1959: Best SF or Fantasy Movie--No Award; Best New Author--No Award
1963: Best Dramatic Presentation--No Award
1971: Best Dramatic Presentation--No Award
1977: Best Dramatic Presentation--No Award

Also, comments at show folks frothing at the mouth about Puppy ballot stuffing with clutching at pearls and calls for Someone to Do Something. Kevin Standlee is telling everyone that everyone has a vote and the Hugo Administrators will not be activists-you want a change, then buy a membership, nominate, and vote.

Sherm said...

I read very little SF but what I read I read because of what I've heard from others. No one I hear from every uses a Hugo award to tout anything to me. I realize, after watching all that's been happening the past few years with the Hugo, the lack of mention is because so much of what is winning awards is drivel.

I'll continue to mostly swear off SF. I've enjoyed what I've read by Kloos. I don't particularly like what I've read by Correia. I've a second by some guy named Grant in the chute to read.

However, in general, I'll stick with library books published at least 15 or 20 years ago.

Charlie Mitchell said...

I read a lot (I have read and enjoyed your book, War To The Knife).

I hope I speak for many others when I say that awards have never, do not now, and never will, enter into my decision to buy or not buy a particular book.

Those people can scream all they want - nobody else cares.

bmq215 said...

I've gotta agree with Sherm. More than anything else, the politicization of the Hugos has driven me away from Sci-Fi and Fantasy in general. I read to escape, and the idea of having to carefully pick my authors and publishing houses to avoid supporting the "wrong" side is, more than anything else, exhausting. There are so many good books out there and it's much easier to simply choose a category less fraught with recriminations.

I can't imagine why any young person would choose to dive into a genre where all of their literary heroes are engaged in an epic bout of schoolyard name calling...

Charlie Mitchell said...

Actually, my comment above was not meant to be harsh - the awards are probably very important inside the industry for contract rates and so forth.
But I doubt that we the readers care much.

David Lang said...

Can anyone actually confirm that Toni walked out? That seems like a rather extreme measure for her to take. I would have guessed that she would stick it out rather than walk out as a way of making a statement, unless things got even worse than I've heard reported.

Iron Lady Visara said...

Mike Williamson is the person who reported it. I first heard it at Vox Day's Hugo Brainstorm last night. He had the person cite his source.

Anonymous said...

And people who seem to be unaware of your TOR boycott are posting their intention to never buy TOR again.For myself I want to see the hugo return to respectability and actually mean something besides "This is dreck do not attempt to enjoy you will be disappointed".

Jon said...

Yeah, I've been a reasonably passive sad puppy. The awards ceremony was the last straw for me. The only real question I have left to answer for myself is do I join the Rabid Puppies, or do I cry a pox on both your houses.

While I think the puppies underestimated the pushback, I think we saw the full deployment of the SJB side. I would be greatly surprised if Vox cannot surpass that number, if not next year, the year after that.

If Old NFO is correct about the "two in a row" canceling a category, I'm going to bet 2-3 of those categories are gone after the next Hugo's if not all five.

Yeah, there's an echo chamber on both sides. But the triumphalism of the Hugo award ceremony has made the rabid ones more determined and the SJB's more abusive. It's not going to destroy fandom, but it's not going to end well for the Hugo's or for Worldcon.

Without the Hugo's, worldcon doesn't exist. And most successful SF authors no longer see it as anything useful. Look at the SF writers who are actually making a real living at it and you don't see those people on Worldcon voter lists. Nor will you in the future I think.

After this year, you may not see Baen there any more either.

On a final note, I would not be proud to wear the "asterisk" they designed. It's the major component of the emoticon for (to be clinical rather than crude) anal sphincter.

Yes, I'm an old fart who speaks geek. :)

Leatherneck said...

I'm not a fan of the subject Genre, but I've noted your long-time passion on this topic with interest. Because I respect your intellect and insight on many topics that ARE of interest to me, I do the usual thing of aligning with allies.

As a childhood hero said (on a cereal box, IIRC), "When you know you're right, go ahead."
Good luck

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

I cut my teeth in reading for enjoyment on Mickey Spillane and Heinlien. Remem er vaguely that Heinlein had won something called a "Hugo", it meant nothing to me at the time. I learn of books by reccomendation of friends, or by reading other product of the author. (Such as yourself, Peter.) In short, the Hugos mean as much to me now as they did then; ZIP. Even less, because of the leftist takeover er of the Institution.

freddie_mac said...

@Uncle Lars -- exactly! When I first heard about SP (and by extension, RP), I checked the list of Hugo winners for novels on Wikipedia. For the older books, I've heard of them (even if I haven't read them); these books have filtered into the general populace as worthy SFF books. However, around the early 1990s, books start appearing that I've never heard of (for that matter, I've rarely heard of the authors), and therefore they haven't crossed into the general populace.

I think the SJWs have underestimated the importance of mass appeal; everyone's heard of Barbara Cartland (romance), Looks Lamour (western), Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle (mystery), Robert A. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury (sf); what SJW writers have made that jump?

Those genre names I listed are bridges for the general public, they can mention those and people almost always have a frame of reference. From my perspective, the SJW writers are busy creating ghettos (not bridges); then they wonder why the genres are dying.

David Lang said...

I've seen multiple confirmations on Toni walking out, the most direct and attributable at

apparently several walked out during the pre-presentation puppy hazing

quote (quoting Chris French)

An announcement was made by Someone With Authority (I don't know who), that as this was the 'Year Of Exclamation Points' (most supporting members ever; most Hugo voters ever, etc.), 'all nominees would be presented with "Year of the Exclamation Point Awards" -- and it's just coincidence that the six exclamation points are configured in the shape of a Giant Asterik [ * ]'....

At that point, The Lady Weisskopf said 'Are you kidding me', and left -- with me three feet behind her. (I wore my Ripple Creek T-shirt today; There Is A Reason For This.)

hightecrebel said...

Old NFO, where did you read that in the rules? I can't find it, but I only scanned through it a few times on my phone.

BB said...

"the scale of their defeat may drive many of the formerly-more-moderate Sad Puppies into the more radical Rabid Puppies camp."

Not the scale of the defeat, and not even the defeat itself, as it was quite expected, but rather the way in which it was handled and the overt glee and malice in which it was conducted.

Between that and things like this:
I have new switched from sad puppy supporter in spirit (but not voting) to rabid.

Furthermore, the implications by some that the puppies are just another group wishing to push their slate onto fandom/readers in place of the SJW/Torlings completely misunderstand. The ultimate goal is to expand participation to the point that NO SINGLE GROUP can dominate as has happened in the past.

When that happens, most of the current issues will become moot.
Until that happens, I am now rabid.

Wouter de Waal said...

Hmmm, they block-voted the party line? Sounds familiar