2016 Hugo Shortlist: More Thoughts and Reactions – and the Clarke Awards

There have been a few developments since my last Hugo shortlist reaction post.

Warning: Lots of links and neepery behind the cut:

For starters, File 770 is back. What caused it to go down was not puppy shenangigans (cause you can never be sure) via DOS attacks nor excessive traffic due to the Hugo announcement, since File 770 is the only place where you can view the Rabid Puppy list without visiting Vox Day’s site.  There is currently a lot of good discussion going on over there – this direct comparison of the Rabid Puppies slate and Sad Puppies list seems to be the most active post. There is also a reactions round-up at this File 770 post. Moreover, there is a good discussion going on at Metafilter here.

Meanwhile, at The Guardian, David Barnett offers a recap of the puppy saga so far with quotes by George R.R. Martin, Vox Day and unwilling puppy shield Alastair Reynolds in an article that went live before the shortlist was announced. David Barnett also reports about the actual shortlist.

At Electric Lit, Chelsea Baumgarten also offers a summary of the whole mess, as does Katharine Trendacosta at io9, while at the Los Angeles Times, Michael Schaub also offers an explanation of the puppy drama, focussing on everybody’s favourite absurd nominee, Chuck Tingle and his Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

Abigail Nussbaum, who would have been a most deserving best fanwriter nominee, seems to agree with me that this year’s puppy infested ballot is bad, but not nearly as bad as it could have been and better than last year’s.

I already linked to Aaron Pound’s reaction in an ETA yesterday, but here is is again, just an case you missed it. He’s also pretty angry.

At Nerds of a Feather (one of my fanzine nominees, which didn’t make it), Joe Sherry declares that he’s not angry, just disappointed, and that he still loves the Hugos.

At Conceptual Neighbourhood, Katster breaks down their reaction in a multi-part post, of which part 1 and part 2 are already up.

Let’s get to the reactions by the finalists, particularly those who ended up in the Rabid Puppy slate without their consent or knowledge. Lois McMaster Bujold points out that her novella Penric’s Demon was conscripted onto the puppy slate against her will and that her requests for removal were ignored.

Grey Carter, artist of the Erin Dies Alone webcomic (which, at least for me, was one of the “What the hell is this?” nominees) is considerably less than happy about being co-opted by Vox Day for his culture war.

The fanbase of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon are also less than pleased about being co-opted by the Rabid Puppies for whatever reason (since it’s not actually clear whether My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was intended to be a troll nomination a la Space Raptor Butt Invasion, whether Vox Dax is trying to drag the bronies into his culture war or whether he genuinely likes the show, because he detected a rightwing message inside a children’s cartoon about the magic of friendship). At FIM Fiction, horizon offers a pretty good summary of the background of the entire puppy mess and also offers some suggestions regarding what to do. At the furry site Flayrah, a My Little Pony fan named Brendan Kachel also offers a summary of the puppy drama.

Chuck Tingle, author of Space Raptor Butt Invasion and similar classics like Gay T-Rex Law Firm, shares his reactions to his nomination in an interview with Lauren Sarner at Inverse. Meanwhile, Mr. Tingle’s latest masterpiece Slammed in the Butt By My Hugo Award Nomination has already spawned a parody entitled Pounded in the Butt by Chuck Tingle’s Hugo by Tuck Chingle. I already said yesterday that I don’t think Chuck Tingle and his Space Raptor Butt Invasion are the worst thing ever on the Hugo ballot and in fact, I find myself quite liking him. Though I still feel sorry for whichever legitimate nominee was knocked off the ballot by Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

I already posted in my last post that we had the first withdrawal after barely twelve hours, since Thomas A. Mays has withdrawn his short story “The Commuter” from consideration. Kudos to Thomas A. Mays for what cannot have been an easy decision. Let’s hope the replacement is something a bit less puppyish.

Brandon Sanderson, whose novella Perfect State was also on the Rabid Puppy list, weighs in and explains his decision not to withdraw, though he had been asked not to be put on any puppy slates last year. Now Brandon Sanderson seems to be a good guy, though his fiction doesn’t do much for me, and given his popularity, he’s one of the nominees who might well have ended up on the ballot anyway. And I understand his decision not to withdraw.

However, I disagree with one point, namely that the Sad Puppies were treated badly by fandom and the media last year. Now I understand that some of the Sad Puppies are his friends and I’ve also stated before that the Sad Puppies have improved this year by offering a recommendation list and including even recommendations for the sort of works they dislike, which is how e.g. Ann Leckie ended up on the Sad Puppy list. However, the Sad Puppies were not treated unfairly by fandom and the media last year, because let’s not forget that it was Larry Correia who started all this, because he was butthurt about losing the Campbell Award to Lev Grossman, and who brought in Vox Day in the first place. And Brad Torgersen amped up the hostile rhetoric in 2015 and not just denied everything that did not meet his personal definition of science fiction a place in the genre, he also engaged in all sorts of hyperbole and namecalling. And I don’t think that negative media articles, wooden asterisks which really offend puppies for some reason, and people applauding “No Award” was treating them unfairly, though I felt sorry for the few decent nominees on their slate. Besides, it’s rather obvious by now that the Sad Puppies aren’t the real problem here, but the Rabid Puppies.

George R.R. Martin weighs in on the Puppy debate as well, points out that the Rabid rather than the Sad Puppies are the problem and urges those finalists who were co-opted against their will and may well have been nominated anyway not to withdraw. Oh yes, and George R.R. Martin also announces that he will continue the Alfie Awards this year.

At the Los Angeles Times, John Scalzi also points out that a people like Lois McMaster Bujold, Andy Weir, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman may very well have been nominated anyway and that Hugo voters should trust their own taste and vote accordingly. At his own blog, Scalzi also adds that he doesn’t really want to get all worked about the puppies, even though he is a direct target of two of the more noxious finalists. Which made me think, “Well, that’s nice for you, but probably not an option for everybody.” Because let’s not forget that as a straight white man, Scalzi is something of an oddity among the puppy targets, since most of those they attack and harrass are women, POC or LGBT people.

And make no mistake, what Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies (as well as the nastier of the Sad Puppies) are doing is harrassment, as pointed out in the wonderful Fangirl Happy Hour podcast by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams, which was on my nomination list this year, in their special Hugo shortlist reaction edition by very angry Renay and a rather numb Ana.

Renay and Ana also point out that many of the slots on the Hugo ballot that were taken over by Puppy nominees, particularly in the fan categories, but also in the art and short fiction categories as well as the Campbell Award might well have gone to women, LGBT people and people of colour otherwise. And yes, I know that the puppies, both sad and rabid, have their women and POC shields, Toni Weisskopf being the most obvious one. However, the puppies, both sad and rabid, are also on record that they want to erase works which they dislike – often works by women, POC and LGBT writers, which privilege emotions, characterisation and the experiences of women – from the genre altogther. They don’t just want us not to win awards, they want us gone. And that’s pretty much the definition of erasure.

Though I disagree with them about Avengers: Age of Ultron, which I enjoyed quite a bit and which was also on my ballot.

Chuck Wendig agrees with Renay and Ana and points out that pop culture has a problem with toxic men and that the Rabid Puppies are but one facet of that problem. He also explains that he hopes that the toxic men which have infected many sectors of popular culture are largely a reaction to that fact that things are changing for the better, albeit slowly.

Of course, the question is what to do now and how to react.

Philip Sandifer points out that we must fight the puppies with every tool we have and pegs his hopes on the “E Pluribus Hugo” amendment. He also points out that the Retro Hugo ballot is really good this year, though sadly he can’t resist making an anti-German crack, while he’s at it. Honestly, people of whatever political stripe, please stop with the anti-German cracks. The overwhelming majority of us is far more leftwing than the US, pretty much everybody thinks that Donald Trump is a bad joke and even the AfD probably thinks that Vox Day and his ilk are too disgusting for their tastes.

In her reaction post, Dara Korra’ti points out that with the third puppy attack on the Hugos in as many years, confirming the proposed “E Pluribus Hugo” amendment is a requirement this year. She also points out that increasing the numbers of nominators didn’t help as much against the slates as we hoped, since the almost 4000 nominators also nominated a huge range of different works.

I like the idea of having more nominators – the problem this year and in past years was that a significant group of nominators was not nominating honestly, i.e. they were nominating somebody else’s picks rather than their own favourites.

I’m also ambivalent about “E Pluribus Hugo”, though it’s definitely worth a shot. But if it doesn’t work, then maybe more radical measures are needed. I’m pretty sure that the administrators of Sasquan and MidAmeriCon could easily compile a list of all bad actors, i.e. Vox Day and his dead elk, if they compared notes. So maybe just banning their arses would be the easiest option. After all, that’s what we do with sports stars who dope and cheat.

However, “E Pluribus Hugo” won’t be effective until next year, so we still need a strategy for what to do this year. And once again, there are several strategies.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories proposes the radical solution of no awarding anything that was on a slate and offers a puppy-free shortlist. Again, I already linked to this yesterday, but here it is again.

Matthew Foster also calls for no awarding any finalist that was on any puppy slate, regardless of how they got there. He also claims that even if we happened to nominate some of the same choices as the Puppies (and many of us did), we should still No Award them, because they weren’t our choices, they were Vox Day’s.

Now Matthew Foster has more reason than most to be bitter and angry at the puppies, since they denied his late wife Eugie Foster her last ever shot at a Hugo last year. Nonetheless, I strongly disagree with what he says here.

I nominated Penric’s Demon and Avengers: Age of Ultron and File 770 and Strange Horizons. I nominated them, because I genuinely enjoyed them, not Vox Day. My mother nominated The Aeronaut’s Windlass and Penric’s Demon, again because she enjoyed them, not because of anything that Vox Day did. In fact, she doesn’t even know Vox Day’s/Theodore Beale’s name, she knows him as “the son of the tax evader”.

And I honestly don’t see why I should no award works I nominated and genuinely enjoyed, just because Vox Day happened to slate the same works for reasons best known to himself. It’s not that I have never no awarded something I nominated, cause I did, back in 2014. However, in that case I later learned something about the nominee in question that made me reconsider their Hugo worthiness (and no, it was not Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I didn’t know about her until several days after she was outed). However, I am not going to let Vox Day dictate how I vote. If I like something, even if he happened to like it, too, I’ll rank it accordingly. If I dislike something, under “No Award” it goes, regardless of how Vox Day feels about that. And yes, even some of the reasonable nominees will probably go under “No Award”, because I simply don’t like that author/work.

Eric Flint also disagrees with No Awarding all slate nominates, which I actually agree with (and I don’t like his books, cause no one likes having their culture and history appropriated). He also thinks we’re all silly and childish for getting all upset about Vox Day, which I disagree with, because I think people have got plenty of reason to be upset. Meanwhile, Brad Torgersen has a massive freak-out in the comments to Eric Flint’s post and blames George R.R. Martin of all people for everything. You’d figure that he’d at least pick John Scalzi.

Spacefaring Kitten offers a puppy free voting guide and then urges people to no award only the crap, not all puppy picks, and to simply ignore the trolls. I can’t help but agree with them.

Katherine Jay shares her thoughts on this year’s Hugo finalists and also declares that she will not blanket no award all puppy picks, only those she finds unworthy. She also urges people to get a MidAmeriCon membership, vote for the Hugos and help to pass “E Pluribus Hugo”, if possible.

Jim C. Hines explains that Vox Day’s strategy of mixing in reasonable and independently popular nominees along with choices drawn from his publishing house and his reliably awful taste is pretty transparent and that he believes Hugo voters have enough sense to differentiate between the two.

At Feminist Fiction, Rhiannon Thomas takes the stand that she will give the reasonable nominees fair consideration and ignore the troll nominations, though she also points out that this approach may well hurt unknown writers who may have gotten caught up in Vox Day’s machinations against their will. She also sees no good solution to the problem.

I already stated yesterday that I will do what I did last year and in 2014. I will give all nominees a fair shot and vote accordingly. This doesn’t mean that I will read everything all the way through. If I clearly dislike a work, I will abandon it, no award it and go on to the next finalist. I also won’t bother with “Safe Space as a Rape Room” or “SJWs always lie”, what little I have read of those works was more than enough.

Bookworm Blues finally points out that even if the Hugos are wrecked for the second year in a row, there are still plenty of other genre awards to pay attention to.

One of these other awards, the Clarke Award, just announced its 2016 shortlist as well and it looks very good. I’m particularly pleased to see Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet there, since it was one of the standout science fiction books I read last year. Plus, Becky Chambers may well have lost her shot at the Campbell award to puppy approved mediocre white dudes. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor is also a fine choice. Arcadia by Ian Pears and Way Down Dark by J.P. Smythe (which I wasn’t even aware of) both sound intriguing as well and I have heard good things about Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson is the only nominee I don’t care for.

Comments are closed, go and whine elsewhere, puppies.

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