The Countdown

Tonight, the Hugo Award votes are tallied and the awards handed out. What’s the result going to be?

I hope it matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like it to matter. And for a brief, flashing instant, it probably will. At least, for the reasons it should.

It should matter because the book/movie/whatever that wins the 2015 Hugo Award should be the award that fans of Sci-Fi/Fantasy voted for, and the one that the most Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans voted for. It should be the one that the largest number of fans agree on.

But for the last few years, that hasn’t mattered. For the last few years, the writing hasn’t mattered, the story hasn’t mattered, and certainly the fans haven’t mattered. That’s why this year came with reminders from a certain clique that newcoming voters to Worldcon weren’t real fans. And why if the Hugo Award actually functions as it’s supposed to, there’s going to be a brief flash of flame. Rage flame. Because the Insular hate-mongers that have been happily taking advantage of the fact that Hugo votership has been at rock bottom, at a point where just a few votes accounted for a win, are going to smear whoever wins if it isn’t them.

Hugo Voting is through the roof this year, compared to the last five years. This is good. But I fully expect that unless the Insulars get their way, any award handed out is going to be snubbed and then ground into the dirt over the next few weeks. Because they’re angry. They had their own little special-snowflake award they were riding high on, one that came with a decent heritage before they had it … and then a bunch of fans decided that it wasn’t going to happen anymore, and came back in.

Regardless of who wins, I think there’s an important lesson to be taken out of how things went down. There’s an old—and awesome—biblical saying: By their fruits ye shall know them. For modern audiences, it’s the concept that what someone says is not as important as what they do. Actions speak louder than words, than, regarding someones intent. And this simple rule, I think, says more about what’s going on more than anything else.

Look at what the Insulars have put forth for the last few years, for example. Despite all their claims of “we’re diverse” and “we’re for diversity,” it really hasn’t shown in who’s been winning. For a group that so quickly throws the labels of “white supremesist,” “racist,” and “misogynist” at newcomers threatening their established turf, the current Hugo Awards haven’t seen fit to separate themselves from the Insular’s own labels. While they’ve been very adamant that the Sad Puppies are some sort of racial inclusiveness movement trying to kick out people based on the color of their skin, the awards handed out for the last few years says that by actions, such a thing has already happened. The winners for last year, for example. the ones that the Insular group has adamantly campaigned for and defended have been  … with one exception, very inclusive.

Actions speak louder than words.

Now I’ve said before I find the whole “let’s judge you based on the color of your skin as if that’s all you are” thing stupid. No, stupid doesn’t begin to cover it. Pants on head insane doesn’t even come close to my dislike for the attitude of “let’s label everyone based on their skin color and then assign them societal status and history based on that color.” But since the Insulars have been so quick to point fingers with this mentality, and we’re judging based on actions, not empty words, we should look to see how they’re holding up that lens, even if only to see if their own actions line up with their words. Likewise, we can look at the ones they’re accusing under that same lens as well, if just to see if it holds up.

For all the accusations of racism and male white supremacy, even a quick, halfway informed glance at the Sad Puppies is pretty informative. Let’s see, among the three ring-leaders of SP, we have … someone who is Latino, someone who is Native American, and (at last, as I’m sure some see it) someone who is white. As for the misogyny claims, one of those three is also a woman.

Their nominations are pretty widespread too. For a group that, according to what the Insualars say, wants women out of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, there are definitely a good number of women on the SP suggested reading list. Actions say the SPs have no problem there, while the Insular’s words say otherwise.

And then the Hugos themselves. The Insulars have put forth a motion now, as I understand it, to change the rules of the Hugo Awards so that not just anyone can get in. To close it off, so that the award that, in its own words, is “… run by and voted on by fans” is instead only voted on by approved fans of some kind. Which, admittedly, does gel with the earlier claims they were making that most of the newcomers weren’t real fans.

Yes, this is diversity. Let’s make the Hugo Awards more diverse by only allowing those approved by a small group to vote. Surely that’s the best way to open this thing up. That was sarcasm, just for those who might be tempted to take that out of context.

Actions speak louder than words.

What have the Sad Puppies done? They’ve encouraged fans to vote, made it very widespread that fans should vote, and encouraged everyone they could find to make their voice heard at World Con. As a result, where in 2014 there were 1923 total ballots (source), in 2015 there were 5950 ballots (source). Three times the number of the prior year. And that’s just this year. The stated goal for next year from the Sad Puppies is to make the voting pool much more massive by again pushing as many fans of Sci-Fi/Fantasy as possible to participate.

And then you have the Insulars, who vocally don’t want that happening and are pushing the rules so that it can’t happen … unless someone else proves that voter fills the proper criteria.

Actions are louder than words.

This year’s Hugo Awards aren’t a failure, that much is certain. Three times the voting number from last year. That is an accomplishment.

But regardless of what happens tonight, the results aren’t going to matter as much as they should. The Insular group if it wins will crow to the heavens about how they’ve won for “diversity” (and won’t it be interesting to see how diverse the winners would be in that case, but they won’t want you looking, no peering behind the curtain!) and the SPs will just gear up for getting 15,000 or more fans from all swaths of Sci-Fi/Fantasy to vote next year, to add more voices to the fire. If the Insular group loses, then they’ll drag the winner’s names through the mud, sling bigotry at them, and go about making sure that next year, only “approved” fans get to have a voice at worldcon.

Now, by their fruits, right? I look at the Insulars, and I see a group of like-minded, close-minded individuals determined to defend what they think is some sort of mythical “promised land.” Kind of a similar mentality to the KKK really. And they seem to be willing to do almost anything to make that happen. Accusations of racism, sexism (no matter how hypocritical). whatever it takes. The Rapid Puppies? Yikes. I don’t think they’re any better. They’re angry, and willing to burn the Hugo’s the ground in their own words. Also not actions I’d agree with.

The Sad Puppies? Heck, they want you to vote. The ringleader who started the whole movement even pulled his works from nomination because he didn’t want people voting for him simply because he’d asked them to vote. He wanted them to vote for what they liked (though if it was his work, he was declining to participate, so you’d have to find someone else to like and vote for).

Personally? I think the awards tonight should matter. They should matter because they are the best, as fans have decided. But I worry that they won’t matter because no matter what, the Insular group isn’t going to just slink off and lick their wounds. They’re going to fight fight fight fight to keep their nice, isolated little world the way they had it. And in the process, probably make this years winners “matter” in an entirely different way.

But there is a bright, silver lining either way. If more and more voters come in, whatever cliques have formed to try and hold sway over the Hugos will simply fall apart. The awards will go to the author the fans find as the best. Will there be authors or Insulars who can buy a hundred of their fans voting memberships to get them to vote, as has happened before? Sure. But when 15,000 voters vote on something, a 100 is suddenly far less powerful than it would be when only a little over a thousand are voting.

Next year? I’ll be voting. Despite maybe not being a “real” fan in the eyes of the Insulars. I’m going to read the nominations, and pick the best.

And if 15,000 or 20,000 other voters nominate and do the same, whatever comes out? It’ll matter. In the right way.

Just like I hope this years’ will.

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2 thoughts on “The Countdown

  1. Don’t you think you’re smearing past winners by saying they didn’t win because of their writing? All because you don’t like those stories doesn’t mean others didn’t. I’ve read most of the winners over the years and have really enjoyed a number of them. Not all – some weren’t my thing but I wouldn’t say they didn’t deserve it. I think the Puppy campaign hurt themselves by framing their arguement that way. You complain when some people one one side say you’re not a real fan when you’re telling them they are reading real science fiction. It seems both sides are judgemental and enjoy insulting what the other side likes and then gets offended when it gets turned back on them. The winner will be the side that grows up first and takes a high road

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    • Don’t make the mistake of disassociating my comments. I said that the writing hasn’t mattered along with the story and the fans. And much of the fanfare supports this; many of the last few years winner’s have been praised with a similar association: writing and diversity, etc, etc.

      I wouldn’t even call it smearing (your choice of words is interesting). Certainly there were no end to the faults of last years’ winner, Ancillary Justice, as I wrote about after I read it. One would be hard pressed to find someone who would analyze the writing of the book and praise it while being in knowledge of its numerous, most basic errors—it simply had too many of them. If it is “smearing” to point out a book’s numerous flaws, well then that should be part of the Hugo process. After all, the point is for the fans to pick the best, not the merely okay or the average.

      You complain when some people one one side say you’re not a real fan when you’re telling them they are reading real science fiction.

      The difference is that what is Science-Fiction is easily settled. The genre has existed for quite some time, and there’s an agreed-upon genre standard that is both taught and understood. Meanwhile, a fan is a follower of that already established genre. One group is arguing that it is only certain members of the followers of that genre are fans, while I merely pointed out that Ancillary was near the edge of requirements to be Science-Fiction, holding less to the genre standards than Star Wars and falling under Soft Science-Fiction despite claims that it was Hard Science-Fiction. You kind of misspelled your response, though I got the meaning anyway, but as I read it, it was inaccurate.

      The winner will be the side that grows up first and takes a high road.

      No, the winner will be the fans. I don’t believe Insulars are ever going to grow up—not most of them, anyway. They’ve invested far too much into trying to sway audiences in their favor and trying to drag the rest of Science-Fiction and Fantasy through the mud to stop now. To stop would be to admit that someone else was right … and thus far I’ve seen none of the humility that would take.

      The Sad Puppies, on the other hand, have already seen verification in the sheer number of Science-Fiction/Fantasy fans they’ve managed to get to attention on Worldcon (a fact you deliberately avoided discussing in your response, I noticed). They’ve played straightforward, and now that it’s been shown they’re having an effect—more people at worldcon, voting. In fact, as a result one blogger I follow who attended Worldcon this year who had no desire and very little (if any) to follow the SP/Insular thing had this to say about it:

      … I found it the least diverse of all the types of cons I’ve been to. Very narrow demographics. The one this year is much more spread out across the age ranges.

      Which means that on some level, the Sad Puppies have done something good. They’ve brought the fans, and as I’ve stated before, the fans are the ones who win out of this. Worldcon needs to represent fans the world over, not just the tiny little slice of fandom that it has been for the last few years. The SPs want everyone who is a fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy to vote, and in the end, that makes the fans the real winners.

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