Fear and Loathing at the Awards Table, part 6

It’s rhetorical pogrom season, in the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction.

The 2016 Hugo award selection list (aka: final ballot) has been released, and we seem to be taking a trip down a familiar path. It’s Hatfields vs. McCoys, for yet another year. Or as one reader observed (last season) it’s just Campbellian vs. New Wave, for the umpteenth time. I’ve had several dozen e-mails cross my transom, all showing me what the “other side” is saying (behind both closed and open digital doors) and very little of it surprises me. The same personalities are involved. The same people are lobbying for the same result: NO AWARD for anything deemed to be part of Unfandom, so that Trufandom can rescue the Hugos from those nasty Unfans and their Unfannishness. Just gotta get Worldcon to Europe, so that rules changes can be cemented, and the Hugos will be even better insulated against Unfannery. Meanwhile, another bottle of vintage NO AWARD will be uncorked, to ensure that no rocketships are given to Unfannish types who aren’t properly bred and vetted.

I confess, the NO AWARD result (from 2015) was the only thing that truly surprised me, because not even I thought there would be enough resentful Trufans, all willing to cut the baby in half. But, not only was the baby cut in half, the ones wielding the blade cheered themselves doing the deed. They also handed out wooden CHORFholes, and thought that covering their wooden CHORFholes with a fig leaf of charity, would mask what was — beyond any shadow of a doubt — a complete and total dick move. Yeah, sorry, no. I realize that in the era of virtue-signalling slacktivism, charity is supposed to make dick moves bulletproof. But I am not sure that trick works anymore. That’s the problem with fig leaves: they cover so very little of the actual dickishness behind them.

But really, all of this has been talked to death in past iterations of the same conversation. Everyone knows its madness, and everyone also has an excuse. Everyone expects everyone else to admit wrong, and apologize, but everybody finds him or herself blameless. It’s not any single person that’s wrong with the Hugos, its the entire culture and concept of F/fandom (caps f, small f) that’s rotten. Oh, sure, there’s Scalzi and Beale, hammering away at each other with their egos, but that’s a bit like saying Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump invented the present 2016 Presidential mess, when they did not. Hillary and The Donald — two utterly self-serving narcissists — are merely emblematic of a deeper, much more pervasive problem in American culture. We (the nation) have lost our touchstones. We no longer have unifying identifiers, just as F/fandom (caps f, and small f) no longer has unifying identifiers. There are merely circles on a giant Venn diagram, not all of which overlap. And where there is no overlap, there is no commonality. No place in which to reach consensus. There is simply the jostling and friction of competing paradigms.

Which is what the Hugo Wars (or whatever we end up calling them) are all about: the F/fandom (caps f, small f) has ultimately fractured beyond repair. And the Hugos — the former totem for all — has been similarly fractured.

None of this happened overnight. None of it was the invention of a single individual. Just as dysfunctional families do not invent themselves from whole cloth. While the favored son stares in shock as his n’er-do-well sibling sets the drapes on fire, there’s much more going on than meets the eye. The burning drapes are merely the dividend of a thousand slights. And the favored son has the ignorant nerve to act surprised.

Don’t be shocked, then, that the Hugos are in turmoil for another season. There is no longer any unified agreement, about what the Hugos are for. Just as there is no longer any unified agreement about what science fiction is for, much less which types and kinds of science fiction are “worthy” of recognition — above and beyond publication or sales. Similarly, the Oval Office is in doubt. What is it for? What good does it do? Who is qualified to sit in that Oval Office? Some people want to use that office to inflict themselves and their ideas on other people. Some expect the Oval Office to be a single-shot solution to all the universe’s problems. Others have given up entirely on placing any faith in the Oval Office, and openly despise whichever man or woman sits there.

One of my favorite authors of all time — a man of considerable accomplishment and pedigree — remarked to me that he hated winning a major science fiction award. Because winning brought out all the worst, in so many of the people this author formerly considered his colleagues.

Maybe it’s for the best, that the Hugos self-immolate? We (of the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction) are evidently perfectly capable of manufacturing plenty of reasons to hate and despise each other. Do we really need another one? Especially with so many oily and competitive personalities involved? Catch the man who has fallen in love with his own mirror — with his self-perception of propriety — and you will typically find the worst sower of rancor. Because he doesn’t openly shout epithets at you across the length of the bar. He quietly poisons the well, with a thousand little shavings of rhetorical and emotional arsenic.

And the science fiction field has a surfeit of such individuals.

It’s enough to make any decent person GAFIAte, permanently. Especially since the emergence of the new Dragon Award, basically puts the Hugos into a place of permanent twilight.


  1. “the emergence of the new Dragon Award, basically puts the Hugos into a place of permanent twilight.”

    While I am very happy to see Dragon Con bring out an award, I do think that it is going to take a few years before it gains enough of a foothold to become recognized. I also think that, when it does, it will be a better reflection of what SF/F thinks than World Con currently does. [no registration fee to vote will help.]

  2. I will continue to support Sad Puppies for as long as the movement continues, but I gave up on the Hugos ever being fixable. I must admit, though, I have found many new authors who’s work I enjoy, these were usually the authors that the CHORFs were lambasting as “evil, NAZI,” etc…
    I’m already signed up as a voter for the Dragon Awards, I’m curious to see how that turns out.

  3. Long, long time ago
    I can still remember
    Back when Hugo voting was pristine.
    Back then there were no politics
    No voting blocs, no fannish cliques
    And no Sad Puppies from the sticks
    To tarnish the whole Hugo scene.

    So we are crying
    Farewell to the Hugo Award
    Literary merit does not earn its reward
    Please don’t read the ballot
    Just fill out a blank card
    It’s the only way to save the Old Guard
    The only way to save the Old Guard.

  4. I’m headed for the Dragons, myself.

    I paid the fee to vote for Hugos two years running, and scored a perfect zero wins among the titles and other works which I voted for. I’m clearly too far from the consensus for my vote to matter, and it cost me $80 — which I have a _lot_ of other, in-hindsight-more-important, uses for — to find out.

    I thought I cared about the Hugos, and maybe I did, once. Now, however, they seem to me to be beyond repair (even if Vox Day weren’t putting burn on the less-popular categories). There are too many other ways to find good SF which I like — they are no longer a necessary, or even useful-to-me, indicator of quality.

    Frankly, the Baen logo is more reliable, as such an indicator. Not exclusively — I’m a big fan of LKH, and Patricia Briggs, and Jim Butcher, and a bunch of other people who don’t write for the Dragon/Rocket. But I’ll pretty much always give a new Baen author at least a look. No other publishing house gets that favor from me.

  5. At this point I consider the whole thing headshaking comedy… I admit I chortled when I saw the overlap between Puppydom and Nominations. _Someone_ is good at the predictions game… and I’m like… now we’ll see what the Faans _really_ want.

    Meanwhile, I like the concept of the Dragon Awards. A lot. As you say it’ll take a while to get momentum and recognition, but so does everything, and the way it’s structured will encourage growth.

    Hey Brad, somewhere around here you’ve got a long article re your take on LDS in modern thought; I wanted to pass it along to someone, but now can’t find it. Linkee, please?

  6. “One of my favorite authors of all time — a man of considerable accomplishment and pedigree — remarked to me that he hated winning a major science fiction award. Because winning brought out all the worst, in so many of the people this author formerly considered his colleagues.”

    Sayre’s law at work for sure.

  7. I’m not sure how long it will take the Dragon to become ‘recognized’. It could easily end up with more people participating in it’s first year than the Hugo. If so, that means the only thing the Hugos have going for them is name recognition, which isn’t really saying much for a fan award.

  8. “No voting blocs, no fannish cliques.”

    Good grief, Mr. Andrews, NO ONE is that old!

    Well, maybe Dave Kyle.

  9. I will also note that the entire evolution has occurred under an Administration that has ramped up Tribalism of all sorts on nearly any issue in the past 7 years.

    So, OBVIOUSLY. . . it’s Bush’s fault. How. . . unexpected. . .

  10. I see that Jim C. Hines is calling for civility on his own side. That would have been a great post to have made . . . a year ago.

  11. Chupik: calls for civility are indeed a day late, and a dollar short. Where was that civility on Sunday, April 5, 2015? The day 20+ news outlets all miraculously released the same sloppy, zero-research, slanderous, yellow journalism hit piece — about how the Hugos were being hijacked by pure evil? Yeah. The gerbils want to be “civil” after they’ve spent the better part of a year spitting in our eyes. Feh. 😛

  12. Frankly, TruFandom has earned every bit of what Vox, the Dread Ilk, and the Vile Faceless Minions are going to do to them.

    On the positive side, I think we’ve passed Peak Social Justice. We just need to keep pointing and laughing. . .

  13. In general its well to remember this: If you demonize and push aside the moderates among your ideological opposites long enough, eventually all you will have left to treat with is the extremists.

    I’ve been part of SP. I’ve tried to stay civil, and just sit back and vote for what I thought deserving. Were there mistakes made? Of course there were. There were mistakes made by the other side too, as well as a lot of stuff that wasn’t a mistake but rather outright nastiness.

    I’m going to continue to nominate and vote based on my personal likes and dislikes, and use the SP recommendations as a good place to find something new to try before I nominate.

    I have zero interest, however, in doing anything to stop or slow down VD. He’s not my problem. He isn’t my responsibility, nor does he care what I think anyway.

  14. I’m sorry. I’m not one of the cool kids. I don’t get the joke. Can somebody explain that Dinosaur Butt Blaster Invasion book and it’s author to me? Surely the genre hasn’t sunk that low, has it?

    I suppose if ya have to ask ya know the answer – especially now that only one in 5 novels aren’t about queers and other-gendered perverts….

  15. I’m not entirely sure since I never once looked at the RP list, but I think that VD put the Dinosaur Butt Invasion book on the RP list and it made the final list. Joke? Not a joke? Mean spirited trashing of the Hugo’s storied and respectable history? Not sure it matters. Pretty sure it doesn’t.

  16. I have to say that there are many on that Venn diagram with which I don’t want any commonality. Scalzi and Jemisin have shown themselves to be repugnant human beings with no sense of tolerance so I therefore have no tolerance for them.

  17. It is rather amusing (in a bleak way) watching Nora Jemisin try to goad Tingle into withdrawing. Thing is, if Nora wins, she will complain about how SF/F is still oppressive and hostile to minorities. And if she loses, she will complain about how SF/F is totally massively still hostile to minorities. In other words, there is no “win” for the Worldcon, with that lady. She will never say, “Everything is finally fine.” It will not happen. She is dedicated to The Struggle™ and will never admit that anything is actually improved, from, oh, say, 30 years ago. Everything in the present, is The Struggle™ while everything in the future belongs to her, and like-minded allies. Yet every year we advance into the future, The Struggle™ remains, and the future is still hers. Get the picture? The goal posts move, and move, and move some more. 😛

  18. They need to put wheels on the goalposts. The scraping sound when its dragged is hard on my ears. 🙂

  19. It’s even funnier when you consider that Mrs. Jemisin is herself a Hugo nominee. Even if Tingle isn’t in her category, isn’t it a bit . . . unbecoming of her to be telling other nominees to drop out?

  20. Except SF is massively hostile to minorities and will continue to be massively hostile to minorities for as long as people like Vox “anyone who isn’t white is an ignorant half-savage and oh yeah I’m totally really native american so I can’t be racist” Day and his cronies have influence.

  21. Congrats Unknown Prince, you’ve now reached the end of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

    I’m sure your father and Liu will be along any time now, and Turandot will make her apperance. My advice? Ignore the Ice Queen and run off with Liu. Much happier ending.

    Is Vox racist? Dunno. I do know people loosly on your side have accused so many people of being so on such flimsy ground so many times that my first instinct is to assume they’re lying.

    Besides, how bigoted of you, conflating an insult (unwarented or not) with an insult to an entire group of people. People aren’t interchangeable.

    An insult to you hardly tars all princes, nor need you be concerned with any anger I bestow on Prince Charming.

  22. “Massively hostile to minorities”?

    Well, considering how your side treats Hispanics like Larry and Sarah and gay guys like Chuck Tingle, I guess you might have a point . . .

  23. Either you’re so desperate that you must rely on Larry and Sarah being Portuguese and Vox’s spurious Native American heritage, or you have high standards of just what ethnic groups are and are not white.

  24. Except SF is massively hostile to minorities

    The evidence that Science Fiction is massively hostile to minorities is…?

  25. Dear Fresh Prince of Political Staleness,

    Is this the same “massive hostility” that kept women out of SF?

    The problem with modern Social Justice is that it deliberately amputates our collective memory, in order to create a false perception of present-tense oppression — for the sake of amping up the mightyfeels of all the Jenny-come-latelies, who want to pretend they are the original trendsetters and groundbreakers.

    Nobody sends in a photo ID, with any manuscript, to any slush piles. Of all the fields of entertainment, literature is — without a doubt — the most open to minorities of all varieties. Which does not guarantee fame and fortune, of course. But then, fame and fortune are never guaranteed to Caucasian straight male authors, either.

    Here’s how it really works:

    1) Any editor worth her salt, doesn’t give a shit about the ethnicity, gender, or sexuality of the author.

    2) Any editor worth her salt, doesn’t give a shit about the ethnicity, gender, or sexuality of the characters in the manuscript.

    3) All any editor worth her salt will care about, is whether or not the manuscript has the potential to do well with the audience.

    4) If the editor can get it right in three out of five cases, she can keep her publisher in business.

    NOTE: the above scenario applies to commercial houses, not academic or subsidy publishing, which may be fixated (to an extreme!) on issues of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality — while caring not one whit about how many copie(s) might sell. Because capitalism is evil, yo.

  26. Once again, a prog comes screaming in whingeing about Vox to anyone but Vox. Ho hum.

  27. Hispanics aren’t a minority? Under which rock have you been living, Unknown Prince, that Hispanics aren’t considered a minority? They are touted as the largest minority in the US by every media and political organization. Perhaps you’re one of those Bernie supporters that is so bad at math that 55 million of 318 million is suddenly a majority?

    Here’s a clue, the US Census considers anyone descended from the Spanish and Portuguese Empires (Hispania) to be Hispanic. That means people like Larry and Sarah, as well as my wife, are considered Hispanic.

    As for Race vs. Ethnicity, 53% (that my friend is a majority) of those identifying as Hispanic are of the White Race. Race and Ethnicity aren’t interchangeable, even though quite a few people use them so. The melanin content of your skin does not determine your ethnicity.

  28. Here’s a clue, the US Census considers anyone descended from the Spanish and Portuguese Empires (Hispania) to be Hispanic. That means people like Larry and Sarah, as well as my wife, are considered Hispanic.

    After years of reading, I have been convinced of the following:

    Whether any given non-Mexican is properly Hispanic depends on the needs of the Social Justice advocate’s argument currently being debated, and occasionally some of the more Spanish Mexicans can be excluded as well. Likewise, whether or not Asians are minorities or even a part of the debate depends on the needs of the Social Justice advocate. Furthermore, racism doesn’t require a race, one can be racist against a particular ethnicity or culture if needed for a Social Justice advocate’s argument for make sense, and there is no need for any particular advocate to even keep the same definition from argument to argument.

  29. According to the United States Census of 2010, the population of Fall River is 88,857. The largest racial groups within the city were 87.2% (83.4 Non-Hispanic) White, 3.5% African American, 2.5% Asian and 0.2% Native American and 7.4% Hispanic or Latino. 49% of residents are Luso-American or have origins somewhere in the former Portuguese Empire. 37% of the population described themselves as being of Portuguese ancestry. The next largest groups by ancestry are French 12.4%, Irish 8.9%, Cape Verdean 8.1%, English 6.0%, French Canadian 5.9%, Puerto Rican 4.5%, and Italian 3.6%.

    Not according to that.

  30. Let’s go to the primary sources! (https://www.census.gov/topics/population/hispanic-origin/about.html) According to the census bureau, Hispanic is primarily a matter of self-definiton, but according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic_and_Latino_Americans), if you dig into it, the census does not consider native Portuguese speakers to be Hispanic. On the other hand, the same source cites other US Government agencies which do include Brazilians and Portuguese as Hispanic. IN other words, even the US government is not consistent as to what constitutes Hispanic, but since some agencies do consider Brazilian and Portuguese to be Hispanic, it’s accurate for those people to self-identify as Hispanic.

    This has been a public service announcement!

  31. “Not according to that.” – Huh? What’s your point?

    If you are looking for definitions of race and/or ethnicity, try the census bureau first. https://www.census (dot) gov/topics/population/race/about.html

    “People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.”

    “…race and Hispanic origin (also known as ethnicity) are two separate and distinct concepts.”

  32. I love that our troll doesn’t answer any of the many problems with your argument, Kamas, but merely drops in to nitpick your definition. And he only nitpicks by providing a vague quote from somewhere that’s tangentially related without any real explanation. I did the legwork he should have done, but because it doesn’t completely back him, he didn’t.

    The US Census page on Hispanic Origin describes defines ‘ “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race’ without specifying what constitutes a Spanish culture; Spain obviously qualifies, but is a Basque Spanish? Is a Spanish Moroccan Spanish? Is a Gibraltarian or Falklander Spanish? Someone from Belize, the Dominican Republic or French Guyana? How about the Philippines? It’s only by going in and seeing what sub-category breakdowns the Census uses, which aren’t accepted by the entire government.

    Even Miriam Webster can’t make up it’s mind (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hispanic)
    Full Definition of Hispanic
    1 : of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal

    What’s more interesting here is that there is yet again another complete separation from claimed Progressive / Social Justice principles. We’ve seen privileged people like Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal get a pass on completely false claims, yet perfectly legit claims like Sarah and Larry and Vox get dismissed as invalid, and the only reason seems to be that people the Social Justice activists like are ‘good guys’.

  33. That should be “I love that our troll doesn’t answer any of the many problems with his argument, Kamas, but merely drops in to nitpick your definition.” Your argument is fine.

  34. Yup, completely agree with you. What matters to SJW is what side your on, rather than an actual consistent definition. I’ve got aunts that are darker without tanning than Tempest in a Teacup but who are of Teutonic descent rather than Hispanic or African. Yet what matters is appearance, at least until you disagree with them.

  35. You’re missing the point. Your clique is so undiverse that you have to really stretch the definition of Hispanic.

  36. I’m not sure how using the accepted US government definition is a stretch. Are you positive you don’t live in an alternate universe where unicorns fart rainbow colored candy?

  37. “Diverse”? Like last year’s Hugo winners? Mighty pale of you…

  38. I was at the library last week and saw a book with an interesting title. I picked it up and saw it won the Hugo in 2014. I scanned it and put it back on the shelf. It may have been a good book but it didn’t ‘grab’ me.
    Vox interested me and I asked him to mail me his files on his defenestration from SFWA. He sent them right over. I suspect I know what is going on. People who hated him suffered from a serious lapse in good judgement. They did him a grave injury and then walked away after manipulating the system nigh on to death to hurt him as much as they could. Scalzi, Gould and the rest left a live enemy behind them. It’s the kind of thing one sees in spaghetti western flix all the time.
    I admire the guy. He reminds me of Steve Jobs after the downfall. Retribution played out by a man with nothing to lose and some vile enemies.

  39. The “diversity” of the anti-Voxers can be summed up by staring at a bowl of milk, when you’ve gotten down to the last few bits of Lucky Charms: dingy white, with a tiny scattering of mushy not-white bits, and it all tastes the same no matter what.

  40. It was Puppy influence that kept Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Usman Malik, Kai Ashante Wilson, Xia Jia, Yoon Ha Lee, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carmen Maria Machado, and Ken Liu off the ballot.

  41. The problem with thinking that and talking that way is this isn’t a negative ballot, you don’t nominate against anything, you nominate for something. You wield those names like a talisman, but it fails to move us. Worthy works are always pushed off the ballot by things people thought worthy.

    Don’t like the choices of other people? Welcome to the party. There probably isn’t a single finalist that some voter doesn’t look at and say ‘really, they liked that?’

    The other problem is how freaking elitist you sound. Guess what? The puppies are fans too. We have different tastes than you, but neither yours nor ours are wrong. Though by talking that way you do prove Larry’s original point, which is funny after the years of vehement denials.

    We disagreed with the quality of your picks so we got off our butts and started participating more.

  42. The Sad Puppies have men, women, whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Canadians, Finns, Aussies, Samoans, pagans, straights, gays and trans.

    We even have bronies.

  43. Of course. We have white Mormon males who take the form of Hispanic women with great racks . . .

  44. Mormons are anti-diversity. Their missionaries actively reduce the amount of diversity in the world.

  45. Mormons are anti-diversity. Their missionaries actively reduce the amount of diversity in the world.

    Seriously? Are we on candid camera or something? This is too stupid to be someone making fun of the Social Justice mindset, so I’m forced to assume someone really believes it.

    Ok, oh enlightened one, please explain to us how Mormons actively reduce the amount of diversity in the world.

  46. “Mormons are anti-diversity. Their missionaries actively reduce the amount of diversity in the world.”

    It took me twenty seconds to process that little bit of utter stupidity.

    It is so stupid in fact that my mind reflexively rolled for “disbelieve illusion,” looked at the results and said, nah, that has to be unreal, and took 10 on the check.

    It blew so far past full potato that it reached the heretofore unrealized level of full parsley, a feat we may never see duplicated again.

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