I've written in a descriptive fashion about the current brouhaha over the Hugo Awards. For those who haven't been aware of it, you'll find an overview in these two articles. I suggest you read them first, and follow the links each contains, before continuing with this one.
I find my overwhelming emotion over this whole fuss to be one of profound sadness. I honestly think that the extremists on both sides are callously and deliberately prepared to destroy the Hugo Awards - their credibility, meaningfulness and historical status - rather than see a different viewpoint win out. To my mind, this is far beyond any question of motive or political persuasion. It calls into question the basic sanity of those involved.
You see, I've personally experienced what happens when an entire society - an entire nation - gets caught up in ideological extremes. I've seen - with my own eyes - left-wing terrorist bombs that shattered the bodies and destroyed the lives of the innocent. I've seen right-wing terrorists respond in precisely the same measure. I've helped to pick up the pieces of the bodies afterwards (and I mean that literally). I'm not going to go into detail about the atrocities I've seen, heard, felt, smelled . . . the memories haunt me still, and sometimes move me to tears without warning as faces come flooding back into my mind. (I'm blessed beyond measure to have a wife who accepts me despite those memories, and does her best to help me deal with them when they rear their indescribably ugly heads.)
Lest you think that such atrocities have nothing to do with the current imbroglio over the Hugo Awards, let me remind you that all of them also began as ideological and intellectual and political disputes. They moved from disagreements, to expressions of intolerance, to hatred, until they became acts of hatred. The extremists on both sides of the Hugo debate have already moved the needle through 'intolerance' into the 'hatred' portion of the meter. We need to end that, right now. If we don't, we may see the future of - at least - civilized discourse over such issues (not to mention the Hugo Awards themselves) wither away before our eyes. I've seen completely false, defamatory and possibly criminally liable statements made about various principals in the present situation. I've come across posts online wishing various untimely and agonizing deaths upon them. We know what such wishes may lead to . . . to cite just the most recent example, remember what happened at Charlie Hebdo?
I find myself in agreement with some points raised by George R. R. Martin:
Death threats. Really? Really???
It really makes me wonder. Were there always so many toads out there, so many slimy squirming venomous cowards lurking in their parents' basements? Or did the internet somehow just bring them into being overnight, these children of Tsathoggua?
I really don't know, but it makes me despair. Is this what we are as a country, as a people? When we disagree, is it really necessary to spit and snap at each other, to throw around insults and obscenities, to make death threads, rape threats? Can't we just debate the issues?
. . .
There will always be haters, that's part of human nature. There will always be toads. But we do not need to tolerate them. Yes, I do believe in free speech, we should all be free to say whatever we want... but not without consequences. And if your free speech is hatespeech, if you want to exercise your freedom by denouncing black people as savages, suggesting that gays should be raped straight, or calling down rape and acid attacks on writers whose books displeased you, you should not be surprised when you are shunned, abandoned, and denounced by all decent human beings.
I want to be a part of a culture that has NO tolerance for death threats, rape threats, or hatespeech. We are better than that.
There's more at the link, and at this earlier essay. I don't agree with all his points, but both articles are worth reading.
This year's Hugo Awards have been unavoidably, and perhaps irredeemably, politicized. Those calling for a mass 'No Award' vote, or threatening to do the same to the Hugos next year if one side does it to them this year, are the extremists. They want to provoke not just dissent, not just disagreement, but a cultural war that can end - as they see it - in only victory or destruction (preferably the former for their side and the latter for the other side). They literally don't care about the Hugo Awards as such - only about their ideological purity and rightthink, and the impurity and wrongthink of the other side.
As a result, the extremists are poisoning the well for all future Hugo Awards. I've heard suggestions that as many as a dozen competing 'slates' of nominees may be put up for next year's awards. If the Hugos degenerate into competing political and cultural positions, they're finished. Over. Done with forever. When you consider how - until they became politicized - the Hugos were badges of honor for the great men and women of science fiction and fantasy (the Asimovs, the Clarkes, the Heinleins), that would be an absolute tragedy. (And yes, it's already a tragedy that due to his political views, Heinlein would almost certainly never have been nominated for a Hugo over the past couple of decades. That politicization of the Hugos by the left is what led to the 'revolt' of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies in the first place.)
I'd like to appeal to everyone who's already registered to vote for this year's Hugo Awards, or who intends to register. Please eschew all political considerations in choosing your candidates. Read the works concerned, then vote for the ones you consider to be the best of the available nominees. (Edited to add: Just as Brad Torgerson and a bunch of others are asking you to do as well.) Don't vote 'No Award' as your primary selection unless you truly think that none of them deserve a Hugo. Vote honestly, rather than politically. I'll be registering to vote this year, and I promise you, that's how I'll approach the nominees. If all of us do that, we may be able to overcome the partisan political and cultural poison that's slowly but surely draining the life from what should be the most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy.
If we let the extremists on either side win, it will be basically our fault. Let's not be guilty of that.