Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Hugo Awards controversy: a personal response

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.

Aren't we?

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.



Angus McThag said...

What prestige those awards had is long been of the residual variety.

I was a child when they stopped being representative of what they once were.

It's just taking this long for "the other side" to have enough clout to confront it, and because the people who changed things are nearly thirty years entrenched it's not a simple matter to change things.

Effectively that means those awards are dead, dead forever.

But since they've never mattered to me in making a buying decision... I suspect the cover art makes more difference than the awards to most people.

CenTexTim said...

Angus +1.

Hugos have been meaningless to me for years... similar to the Nobel peace prize.

Sam vfm #111 said...

Sorry to see you come down on thw SJW side. I expected it from George R. R. Martin, but notr you.

Anonymous said...

I've never considered a Hugo award--or any other, for that matter--when choosing my reading material, so having this one fall by the wayside doesn't mean anything to me. And if the process behind it is broken, why keep it?

Aside from the profit it generates, who actually pays attention to "The NYT Best Seller List"? Talk about a rigged system!


B said...

Angus has nailed it.

I used to eagerly read anything that was nominated, much less awarded a Hugo. That was about 30 years ago. Now I no longer care. The Hugo's are already dead. They died about 1980-85.

Chris said...

I started going to SF conventions in the late 1970s, and stopped going in the late 1980s. During that decade, I had gone from a tolerant conservative to a libertarian. I found the sameness of the con panels and speakers boring, as well as uniformly leftist.

It was also at about this time that I noticed that not only had I seldom read anything nominated for an award, usually I wouldn't have spent my money to buy the book, because either the theme was of no entertainment interest to me or I had previously read (and did not enjoy) a work by that author. I'm generally naive about vote-rigging and so forth because I would personally never consider such a course. Merit above all! But I'm not shocked that it's happened in this case.

But I am not going to blame those that are fighting back against the SJWs and their ilk. Self-defense is always a proper response.

raven said...

It is not going to stop. I have said over and over we are no longer two groups, with different ideas on how to get to a common goal- now the goal itself is changed, and to each side, the others goal is anathema. How then to compromise?
One side seeks a vast web of control over all human actions , speech, and thought, and the other desires a role of minimal interference with human action and enterprise. They are not necessarily political Left and right either- I prefer to call them statists and freemen. (you can guess which side the ones who object to the term "freemen" are on) .
The old live and let live , sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me society is gone, stolen in the name of PC.

Peter said...

@Sam Hall: I haven't "come down on the SJW side" at all. Clearly, you didn't read what I said, either in this article or in my previous two on the subject. I'm merely appealing for civility and mutual respect for an institution that should be bigger than political, social or cultural dissent . . . but sadly has proved to be vulnerable to them instead.

Sam vfm #111 said...

Brad Torgersen has just posteed a very good summary of the situation
Flaming rage nozzles of tolerance

Bob said...

It's difficult to contemplate how the Sad Puppies could have addressed the ideological voting and incestuosness of the Hugos without stepping on SJW toes and causing them to squeal in indignation. And, as SJW's, they've always fought by streetfighter rules, not Queensbury Rules. To try and meet their dirty tactics with the hand of friendship is naive, as the Republican party has proven time and time again.

Roy said...

Hugo Award? What's that?

Anonymous said...

I still read the Hugo nominees (library, normally). I've bought a couple, added a few to a reading rotation for deployments, and mostly paid little attention to who actually wins.

Honestly, having followed both sides of this, when even the supposedly 'evil' Vox has been more cool-headed and decent about it than anyone on the other side I read (minus maybe Scalzi, he's been relatively center and cool-headed on it lately...), I have no sympathy for the establishment on this one.

Heck, if they keep escalating the rhetoric I'm damn near buying a supporting membership myself. I haven't seen the death threats from anyone except some comments on ML, most of those towards Vox and his crowd, along with some 'let's burn down their careers for associating with this' towards those on the SP/RP lists that are far, far to the left of where I consider myself. Maybe I missed such coming from SP/RP, but I haven't seen anything more extreme than Toad of Tor and stating that it's not just the establishment that can nuke the board with NA votes.

Until last year I thought Correia was overstating the situation, last year I thought he might have a point, but now I'm thinking it's worse than he said it was. If it looks like a concerted NA slate vote this year, than the Hugo's will be dead to me, and I'll be buying memberships for the foreseeable future to vote straight NA. That's not a win, a win would be actually voting for the best work of what makes it through nominations. Not a win, but at least it's leaving the dead some dignity after the Weekend at Bernie's spectacle it's been turned into.

Old NFO said...

Well said. And sad that its come to this point.

Unknown said...

I started going to cons in the early 70's - stopped around 95. Sometime around 2000-2004 I stopped buying Hugo nominated books because more often than not, it was a struggle to finish them.

As to the ideological battle The SJW's have been on the attack since Larry brought the subject up - using their typical tactics of personal attack and abuse. Threats to career etc. After a certain amount of that, it's unsurprising Sad Puppies told them where to get off.

Death threats are getting to be common - it's a consequence of anonymity. When you hate (and I really mean HATE) someone, and no one can pin it on you, it's unsurprising that it comes down to death threats. I put most of them right up there with a not uncommon SJW response to #GamerGate - #killallmen

Maybe it gives them a sense of power, I don't know. I don't understand the the psychology. I'm sure some folks will not bother reading the works and will vote according to their ideology - but historically that happened anyway - if not along ideological lines, then cult of personality, or something else.

The conclusion I've come to is that you can not negotiate with SJW's they are immune to facts and logic. As for the rest - the best alternative would be to get a lot of fan's involved because most will care about the political crap they just want good stories. If the participation doesn't increase, then I think the Hugo is done.

Dan Lane said...

If the Hugos die a nearly silent death, in the grand scheme of things, few will mourn.

I don't mean that they don't matter: to sci-fi readers and fans, they do. Given the response we've seen, surely they do. But to the culture at large? Hardly a ripple. Eh, that's how it is being a sci-fi nerd. It's not like we're getting Romance Novel numbers in the wider genre. *chuckle*

But the Hugos are a part of the wider culture conflict, with extremists digging trenches on both sides. I've been thinking and praying about it more than I've been commenting on it lately. In the wide world of things going on, we're getting all up in arms about... An award that's fan voted? That anyone with a couple of twenties can vote on, and get a ginormous packet of free sci-fi relates stuff to read? I agree with Mike Z. Williamson that it should be cheaper, to broaden the number of people who buy memberships and vote. Aside from that, though, how important is it when X and Y awful/wonderful/important other things are going on in life, elsewhere?

Actually, pretty important. And you're right Peter. These *are* ideological, intellectual, and political disputes. They have wider implications to the culture and that makes them important. I don't want to see a “Sad Puppies Only” Hugo anymore than I want, well, what we've *been* having for, oh, a good while now. Ideological purity. I don't want the extremists to win. That chops off both ends of the bell curve and leaves the great swell of the middle out. That way leads to the commissars purging out the moderating influences and reinforcing the sort of behavior that normal, sane men would scorn.

Better by far if we act as adults and not spoiled children. Better by far if we treat those we disagree with as we'd like to be treated: with dignity and respect. Those who post death threats and spew vile hatred are truly aberrations- they are examples of what *not* to do, for either side.

Anonymous said...

It seems a number of literary awards have the same problem. Like the Hugo, I used to look forward to the Man Booker Prize winner. Years ago, I would often buy an unknown author simply because of a Booker Prize or a Hugo. No longer.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I noticed that I didn't like most stuff with "Hugo award winning" on the cover a long time ago, to the point where it was just noise to me, and I stopped noticing it about 15 years ago.
...and it's still noise to me, a session that's reminiscent of the Oscars, Emmys and what have you's, an exercise in being asked to watch people applaud each other as they masturbate in front of a full-length mirror.
Despite the best efforts of some writers who I really like, it seems like it's far too late for the Hugos.

Rolf said...

I'm a member of the same group above, reading and loving older sci-fi and then getting away from it as the things on the shelf got less and less interesting, or even tolerable, in the 90s.

I became aware of WHY only in the last couple of years. Now, as a bit players in this whole thing, and because I'm likely going to Sasquan (haven't been to a con in decades), I'd like to second Vox in saying vote on the merits of the work, not the politics of the writers. Don't Vote "No Award" out of spite. Doing so will do nothing more than prove Vox was 100% right about the corruption of the award and the ideological blinders the SJWs demand their acolytes wear.

Anonymous said...

It would appear the brain has been dead for years but the Hugo corpse keeps twitching.

Civility is nice but I would refuse to be civil to some one who called my wife a shield or accuse me of spousal abuse.

Of course the internet make brave people when they feel the won't get the poke in the nose they so richly deserve.

Any thing that shows up as a Hugo Award winner over the last few years probably wouldn't be happy with me reading their work. I may just pass on anything from the House of Tor as a general rule.


Toastrider said...

Too late.

I applaud your call for civility, Mr. Grant, but you are too late by far.

I direct you to Larry Correia's remarks on the subject. The quote that jumped out to me in particular was how for FIVE YEARS prior to Sad Puppies he was treated in ways that used to be referred to as 'fightin' words'.

No, if the Hugos burn down, I will roast marshmellows. The treatment of Brad Torgerson in particular has hardened my heart. I'm just done with being nice to some of these lowlifes.

Chuck Pergiel said...

A coach was once famously quoted as saying that soccer was more important than life or death. The comment was made light of, but I wonder if he might have been on to something. People need an outlet for their aggression, if they don't have one, they'll make one.