The Hugo nominations have been announced.
Once again, they are dominated by a slate of nominations from ‘conservative’ SF fans, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. The latter were, it appears, much more successful this year than the former. 64 of the 81 nominations coincide with that slate. Others do appear on the Sad Puppies, however. In fact, the only work to appear in the fiction ballots without also appearing on any of the slates is N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Overall, only 9 of the nominations were not on either slate.
The question that remains, however, is what to do with this? The Hugo has basically become one big yearly troll event, where a bunch of people get up, nominate things they love, and nominate things they don’t, mostly to upset people and push a political point. No matter what you think of Chuck Tingle – and I personally think he seems decent and funny – the nomination of ‘Space Raptor Butt Invasion’, a gay erotica piece, is just the act of a troll who hates gays. It’s a power trip on the part of the Rabid slate, something for them to chuckle over, because gay is funny wrong. When you actually start peeling away the reasons for Tingle’s nomination, it’s actually pretty gross and awful, and continues the larger argument of the slate, which is that speculative fiction isn’t for everyone.
It’s an argument I’m tired of, personally. I could go back and forth about it, about the history of SF, about the cool stuff in it, but frankly, why bother? You don’t argue with trolls.
But what can be done? Well, personally, I’d advocate only voting for work that doesn’t appear on either slate, but people will have to make that choice. For some people, it would mean not voting for work that they actively liked. Depending on who you are, or where you fall, you’ll either like that choice, or not.
Beyond that, I think the solution lies with the authors of the work nominated from the slates. I think it’s time for those authors to step up and speak out against this. To take themselves off nominations, to deny awards if they appear on these slates. To deny themselves, basically. A lot of authors believe that to say nothing is the best response, to appear apolitical is safe, won’t hurt their sales, and alienate their fans (and, to be fair, some authors don’t do this). In some ways, it’s true. In others, it’s not. But it is also true that for the authors who appear on the slates – for Brandon Sanderson, Ann Leckie, Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and all the others – that they are being used as pawns. They have become political pieces that others have moved around on a board to make a point. Each author has a subtle and occasionally non-subtle meaning baked within his or her piece, and people use it, one way or another, to bluff the push another author, or as a point that they wish to make (mostly relating to populism equating quality, or adventure equaling fun, and so forth, and so on). I believe that most of the authors who know about the slates, and the Puppies, know this. And, in their desire to ensure that their careers remain safe, that they are not dragged into the bullshit of the Hugos, the silence of authors has allowed them to be moved and displayed across the board as others feel fit.
What can you do, they say. It’s the fans, they say. They do as they wish, they say.
Yet, the author is the creator, is the figure that is rewarded here, and ultimately, the power of the situation sits with them.
Of course, some authors will agree with what the Puppies are doing. Maybe they even think that they have a point. But it is clear that each year this continues, all it does is simply wreck the joint. Now, me, personally, I don’t care about the Hugos: they have never meant a thing to me. I figure it’s because I grew up in Sydney, but there are others who care who are here, so who knows? Maybe it’s just how I am. But this whole thing is not really about the Hugos. It’s about a message to the scene, a message that the yearly trolling is writing clearly, and that is that not everyone is welcome. That SF isn’t a safe place for everyone anymore. That it is not open and inclusive. I know that the Puppies argue that this is what is being done to them, and certainly, as the trolling continues, it becomes as true for them as it does for that new SF fan who is gay, or black, or transgender. Soon, SF will be just as difficult to be part of for those who are conservative as those who are not. Each year that this takes place, each year that fan favourite, popular authors are used as pawns because they are unwilling to speaking out – or because they support it, or because what they say is a nice deflection from other noms – is another year that the whole scene just gets trashed.
My hope is that the authors on the ballots will take themselves off the nomination. That they will do it so that it is clear to their fans that being on the ballot hurts the fans expression of love towards the work. I suspect that it is only this way that will make the Puppies will dry up, though it won’t happen over night. But those with voices – those with millions of fans – are the ones that need to speak. Of course, I could be wrong – and, of equal important, the authors involved have to be willing to take the hit to try and end the trolls. It’ll likely cost them something and maybe they don’t want to spend the personal currency. Hell, maybe they disagree entirely with my view.
Still, you have to wonder just how much longer the scene can stand being pissed on by a disgruntled bunch before people start walking away, and going elsewhere.