Charting a different course for next year’s Hugos?

As Jason pointed out, this year’s Hugo Awards produced everyone declaring victory.  It would almost be refreshing to hear someone say they lost.  So I will.

I started writing scifi last year to have fun and get to know fun people. Watching this year descend into political bickering over an award was not fun and quite frankly bored the hell out of me.  To each his own I suppose, but is this really the future of scifi? If so, nuts.

Of course, it doesn’t look like I went down alone. Despite the hype, there are plenty of losers. I mean it seems obvious that unless Vox’s other name is No Award, he didn’t win.  And no offense to Jason, if you find yourself saying things along the lines of “just wait till next year”, or “you haven’t seen us really fight”, well… let’s be honest with ourselves… your side lost.  Take it from someone who spent years watching the Chicago Cubs. And it wasn’t just the puppies. Jason rightly pointed out that the showing for No Award was a Pyrrhic victory at best, whether the people realized it or not.

Clearly some didn’t realize it since they cheered for No Award. That was bad form, and a bit telling for those that cheered.  But it is unfair to paint everyone in fandom with that brush, as Jason seemed to be doing.  George RR Martin has now reported he didn’t cheer, those around him didn’t, and he thought it was bad form too.  As it is, he (an unquestionable part of fandom) was against No Award from the outset. Why artificially expand the scope of your enemies by writing off potential allies?  Also, it felt inconsistent for Jason to heap scorn on the applause, while apparently supporting the chuckles emanating from a certain skull fortress. Shouldn’t Vox have been sighing with melancholy while quietly saying “I wish it didn’t happen this way”?

I think GRRM earlier this year said that the Hugo Awards were in uncharted waters.  As it turns out, Camestros Felapton managed to make a map (reposted at SSF) showing the political terrain of the “puppy kerfuffle”. Most were ok with it.  As for me, I didn’t get how I’d fit into the picture. I clearly side with GRRM’s position, and am extremely liberal, but my writing appears at SuperversiveSF (and will at SciPhi).  Heck, SSF allowed me to publish an essay critical of the puppy slate strategy.  So it can’t be all that rabid can it? Or was I invading from the left?  I hope not.  Not my style.

Sadly, it sounds like Camestros’s skill will be required again next year.  By then continental drift will have pushed everyone further away, except the sad and rabid islands which, if Jason is correct, will merge to form a single, more heavily armed, land mass.

Is this really what people want?  I don’t. Not fun.

As far as I understood, the idea here at SSF is to challenge nihilism.  But declaring one will abandon one’s principles (namely play the system or outright cheat) to get an award, because someone else is doing it, is definitely nihilistic. Values have meaning for oneself, or they don’t. So I don’t get why Vox finds any traction here, beyond emotional provocation.

Ok, perhaps it makes sense to do something which reveals cheating is possible, supported or engaged in by others, or perhaps to let others experience the receiving end themselves.  But if that is the point, the mission was accomplished back at this year’s nomination process, and repeating it does nothing but make one the monster one set out to fight.

Honestly, if the method didn’t produce a clear win, alienated potential allies (people sympathetic to some puppy complaints were turned off by the slate), and is something you’d rail against when others do it… shouldn’t the idea be to not double down on that method next year?

That doesn’t erase complaints raised by many puppies, it just suggests other strategies should be sought to address them.  It is hard to imagine that alternatives based on one’s natural virtues, rather than the perceived vices of others, could do any worse than the method chosen this year (and suggested future abuse).  This is true for both winning awards and bringing the scifi community together… which is the ultimate goal, right? And the bonus is you get to walk away feeling clean.

I realize this is still pretty close after the event and cathartic “wait till next year” venting is natural.  I watched the Cubs, I know.  I just hope that as the months pass and a new year begins, it will come to be recognized as catharsis and not wisdom.

P.S. – Before I could place the post above, Jason added a new post calling for unification.  I don’t think that is a bad idea in itself.  The question is unification to do what exactly?  The devil will be in the details of specified goals and methods.  If it is to build a stronger force to do exactly the same thing as last year, well then my argument and recommendations above stand.

Regarding the name change.  Just puppies is better, more positive sounding, than sad or rabid puppies. However some may see that as a tantamount admission that both groups were the same all along.  Plus, if the idea is to reach people in traditional fandom as well, who might have sympathized with your issues but disagreed with the methods, then you might want to break symbolically from the past and change it to something non-puppy related.  Why not something scifi related?  You guys feel like you’re being alienated from the award’s processes, right? Treated as if you’re invading scifi fandom? So why not go with ‘aliens’?

By the way, at first (very quick) glance I thought the caption read “Adfertote Plus Cthulu”.

  • Physics and Art

    Thank you so much for putting my feelings into words with this post. I’ve been feeling nothing but shock and horror watching this whole controversy unfold. Reading your words has filled me with new hope.

    • ksterlingh

      I appreciate the compliments, hopefully it does start playing out along alternate lines. Jason pointed out to me via email that Frank Wu has offered an olive branch (toward the puppies) that involves a change of course for them that would be interesting and involve members of traditional fandom helping out as well.

  • Kieran, I have a lot of sympathy with your point of view. It may be pertinent to observe that tribes – no matter why they form, or what defines them – tend to work best for the people who lead them, and for the people who comprise the mainstream body of the tribe. They work less well for anyone on the periphery, or who is unaffiliated.

    Part of the problem here is the natural tendency for people to talk and generalize about the tribes. As far as these tribes have leaders, the varied leaders pull in inconsistent directions for all sorts of reasons. Unfortunately, part of the art of leadership is to pretend otherwise. And everyone below the level of leader can only make progress by displaying their loyalty to their tribe. Hence everybody in ‘our’ tribe is unified by our common good virtues, whilst everybody in ‘their’ tribe shares all the same wicked evil traits. So people like Cory Doctorow get treated like respected commentators even though he’ll paint all puppies as uniformly homophobic (see: http://boingboing.net/2015/08/23/sad-puppies-rabid-puppies-los.html). Meanwhile, others overlook that outspoken anti-puppies like GRRM didn’t believe in blanket No Awards… although he also chose to make this point gently, because he still wants to sell as many books as possible.

    Perhaps I’m too much of a classic liberal, but this looks to me like an example of a free market functioning correctly. Drinking Coke will make you sexy, but Pepsi gives you cancer! Eat carrots to see in the dark, whilst asparagus makes your pee smell! The Hugos this year have been a wonderful kerfuffle over marketing, and anyone who says otherwise is either blind to the truth or choosing to lie. Certainly the organizers of Worldcon will not be complaining about the extra revenues generated. What is the point of a book award, except as an aid to marketing? So let people get excited, if they want to get excited. Whatever circles people draw around ‘fandom’ is just guff anyway, as any group like this is self-selecting, hence making their opinions as representative as visiting the Mickey Mouse Club to canvass opinions about the Walt Disney Company.

    Who is ultimately influenced by this upsurge in marketing? Maybe those at the bottom of each tribe will buy more from their tribal leaders. But the scale of this brouhaha suggests the tribal leaders are appealing to the ‘silent majority’… which is a funny name for all those people with no obvious tribal affiliation. Being extreme is just one way to get the attention of ‘ordinary’ people, because they have better things to do than write 100 blogs a year on which novels they read yesterday and why they were better than the novels they read the day before. The goal is to appeal to outsiders, in the hope that they will consume more, and be turned into insiders. So if you don’t like that kind of divisive marketing, don’t engage in that kind of marketing, but you won’t be able to stop other people behaving like that.

    My advice is not to be like GRRM, or Cory Doctorow, or Vox Day, or anyone else who will do anything and everything to sell one more book, or add one more fan to their armies. You can be like me, and sell bugger all to hardly anyone. My personal strategy is to appeal to the anti-tribal tribe, and it is going terribly so far. I always knew it was a bit of a circuitous marketing strategy, so I’m hoping it’ll pay off in the long run. You can call it the Bill Hicks approach to marketing if you like…

  • ksterlingh

    Hi Ray, you definitely have me there. If it was a marketing scheme it certainly seemed to drive $ in. I hate divisive marketing strategies, but you are right that I can’t stop others from going for it.

    However, I can hope that Bill Hicks’s little seeds take root 🙂

    Just kidding, I’m to mellow for his suggested remedy. But points to you for an on the money Hicks reference.