There’s been a bit of a flurry about the Hugo Awards lately, and as a nominee (*snicker*) I suppose I should take a look at it.
So this was the first thing I saw on my news feed this morning, and so I took some time to read it and check out some connected stories and basically read up on this thing I had not heard about and really couldn’t give less of a fuck about, because I’ve been more interested in actually writing books these past few months. Which maybe these twats should do as well, regardless of their skin colour, gender or sexual orientation.
And this was the first thing I thought:
Oh, so this is good news for the white male author, huzzah! Finally we get a break and justice prevails, we’ve had a hard time for far too long.
Not really, but whatever. The whole idea seemed immediately dubious to me, just like any agenda-based attempt to sway public opinion or readership, viewership or sales of any kind. It’s interference, and I can’t think of many examples in which interference is a good thing. Ever.
My second thought, on seeing the #GamerGate thing dragged back into the spotlight like a flyblown carcass and that the Rabid Puppies were involved here too, was:
Enh, this is just a limelight-grab. More of the same bullshit, and now it’s going to ruin books as well as video games. Good job, idiots.
Then, as I read about the votes and the wins last year, and the shortlist nominations and driving factors of this year’s crop, it all got very strange, and murky, and confusing. This, for example, is the explanation from one of “the big bads” of this whole brouhaha. He sounds awful.
See, the whole idea behind “gaming the system” here is that it’s very easy to become a nominator / voter for the Hugos. You need a $40 WorldCon membership, and that’s about it. I mean, that’s how I got my nomination. And so the plan is to get the attention of as many people as possible, some percentage of whom will get riled up enough to pay $40 to get themselves a vote, and cast it in the activist – or reactivist – direction.
All basically legal, and fine and fair. It’s essentially your classic election campaign. The only difference being that people pay to vote. But “paying to vote” isn’t the problem here – it’s “convincing ill-informed people to pay to vote for an agenda they probably don’t understand and which has nothing to do with science-fiction and fantasy books.”
Part of my initial confusion was that I thought the Sad Puppies were the liberal guys trying to game the system to get more diversity onto the ballot, but it seems as though they’re actually the right-wing conservative ones trying to keep The Man in charge. Well, whatever.
I mean, let’s not get silly. I knew I was never really in with a chance at the short list, because hardly anyone’s even heard of my books. Still, a nomination was a fun thing to brag about and it’s a fact, meaningless though it is – I can put it on my book covers. I just want to be clear, I’m not questioning the short-list process out of any idea that it’s not fair to me, and that if things had been done differently I might have been in with a shot. This isn’t sour grapes talking. Not this time.
If anything, indeed, this unfair lashback would improve my chances … right? I guess I have a fairly female-hero-heavy narrative going on, quite by chance, but I’m a white guy and I write intentionally classical sci-fi with a good mix of genders. There are actually considerably more male heroes than female in The Final Fall of Man. It might just seem that the girls get a better showing because females are so under-represented in the genre. I don’t know. The point is, the right-wing swashbuckler party should be all over me like yeehaw on a redneck.
 I’ve also intentionally avoided assigning skin colours to the human characters. Glomulus Cratch is pale and blonde because he is borderline albino, but the rest I have always thought of as sort of neutrally coffee-coloured and dark-haired, a result of long-term post-Earth intermingling, advancement and adaptation to different planetary environments. It doesn’t really matter. You can imagine them as any skin colour you like. Janya Adeneo is described as pale, and Waffa has greying blonde hair, but those features can still go with any skin tone.
Anyway, the point is, I should be behind this move. It’s only good for me.
And yet, fuck this move. Let’s get some diversity in there. George RR Martin seemed to come down on the side of the progressives too, even though he is equally in the old white male establishment camp and stands to “lose” from any increased liberalism. And that’s good enough for me.
As soon as I read about their methods, I have to say I became sceptical:
For the last three years, Correia has led a small but vocal anti-progressive campaign called Sad Puppies in an attempt to game the Hugos by mobilizing people to vote for its preferred choices. The secret of the awards is that they’re actually very susceptible to manipulation—it costs just $40 for a supporting membership that gives one voting rights. Low participation, paired with the sheer breadth of eligible work, means nominees can get onto the ballot with as few as 50 nominations. After failing to move the needle the first year, Sad Puppies organized around another slate of candidates and garnered an additional 70 or so votes last year to edge a few of their chosen authors onto the ballot. The overall voting membership wasn’t impressed with these choices, and awarded other work in every category. But this year, Sad Puppies, buoyed by Beale’s more extreme, Gamergate-affiliated campaign Rabid Puppies, managed to secure the extra votes needed to dominate the nominations. The result? They managed to push out those seeking to make the Hugos more representative of the diverse works within the genre.
Will I become a minority sometime, and get a movement behind me to righteously bolster my claims and boost my publicity, without it making me look like a black-hatin’, woman-beatin’, gay-killin’ Nazi? Maybe.
Doesn’t matter. Everybody is a minority of one. My utopian end-game here is for every one of us to be a singular entity, without recourse to popular activism. Only then will our stories stand on their own merits, free of political and socio-cultural agenda.
So we’d better make ’em good stories, right?
Excuse me, I have more important shit to do.