DISCLAIMER: I still know as much as my pal Socrates when it comes to this and anything else. Make your own minds up, neckbeards!
Well, it’s been a month since my babbling about the Sad Puppies controversy was inexplicably noticed and linked to by someone who has an actual voice in the community, and apart from gushing over how much I enjoyed ‘The Three-Body Problem‘, I haven’t done much in the way of that follow-up I talked about. Here’s why.
Firstly, I am lazy.
But more importantly, as I began reading the various short stories associated with the Hugos; on the SP3 slate or on previous years’ nomination lists I realised that from the ruckus that has been stirred up I had actually expected the various works on offer to be filled with political propaganda from whatever side they were supposed to be on.
To make a long story short: they weren’t. Oh, I didn’t read all of them–frankly right now I can’t spare the money to get a hold of all of them, but I think I read enough to realise that–while arguments could certainly be made for some–if there was a political bias going on it was primarily for or against the author, not the work. And I’m sure you can guess what I think of judging a work by its author.
That’s not to say I believe in ‘Death of the Author’ either, but you might have gathered from the title of this post that I wanted to talk about the right/left conflict that’s been attached to this controversy. You’d be wrong, because that’s precisely what I don’t want to talk about. From what I’ve read at least, I don’t think you can attach the values of the right or the left to the works in question to enough of a degree that it bears talking about: to their authors, maybe, but I’m not interested in being the kind of person who wishes to deny a deserved award to someone whose politics I disagree with, nor foist one on an undeserving fellow-believer.
So let’s dispense with the dextrous and the sinister (of which I consider myself very much to be the latter). And–for brevity’s sake–with subjective notions of ‘quality’ as well. I mean, I didn’t like everything I’ve read either, obviously.
What are we left with?
For me, we’re left with two points that will please no one, because I have one for each ‘side’ as it were.
1. I vehemently disagree with rating, promoting, or detracting from books you have not read.
It’s the point I keep harping on about. I don’t know if the people involved in SP3 (not those who put that slate together, their fans I mean) can be said to be guilty of this; maybe some of them were, but I feel like most would be fans enough of SF literature in that they were familiar with Correia or Torgersen to a degree that they got involved; that I don’t think it would be too naive to say they’d read the works that SP3 recommended. But Rabid Puppies? That seems to be another story, and from what I’ve heard that was what really pushed the SP3 slate onto the ballot. Not to say that no one involved in that was on the up and up, just that it seems more suspect to me.
It’s not that these are sins unique to one side; I’ve heard enough of “vote ‘no award’!” without any consideration for the actual merits of the works on offer, but when there’s evidence that this was what got the SP3 short fiction nominated, can it really be said to be ‘fair’? Legal, yes–I’m not disputing that. Deserved? That’s up for discussion. But fair? I don’t think I can say that in good conscience.
However, then there’s point–
2. 2500 people are not representative of the entire SF fandom.
This is the number I’ve been hearing anyway, from various people–the estimate of who, in recent years, was actually submitting and voting on the books in question. And from what I can make out, these people are also mostly made up of the fan clubs of a certain select group of authors; suggesting they are perhaps not particularly diverse in their opinions.
Again, it’s not that anything untoward happened to lead to that–no one was stopping other people from getting involved, the whole event just seemed to have become more obscure in recent times, but the lack of mass involvement in recent years has been telling. Perhaps the event just hasn’t been publicised properly, I mean–it’s supposed to be like the Emmys for SF, right?
How was this ever going to change, but by some ‘radical’ action? I’m not saying it had to happen the way it did–I would have preferred it hadn’t since so many authors have felt the need to disassociate themselves–but for new life to be breathed into the Hugos, someone had to put them in the spotlight again. And I do think they needed new life.
Another thing I’d note, though I don’t think there’s enough evidence to draw any conclusions, is that the slates for the Hugos (popular award) and the Nebulas (elite award) have been similar, in recent years. Some more so than others, but it suggests there isn’t much difference in the tastes of those deciding on the awards, and why that is could be for several reasons. The obvious is that the works in question simply capture the minds of both the ‘elite’ and the wider public. But then, those ‘select’ authors whose fan clubs I mentioned are authors I’m pretty sure are involved with the Nebulas as well.
I’m probably talking irrelevant BS though, I don’t know.
I guess what I’m saying is, I have my doubts about SP, (and certainly dislike RP), but it didn’t form in a vacuum.
As I meander towards my conclusion, I can see why the awards this year have become suspect, and I can certainly see why so many declined their nominations because of the controversy. Maybe more worthy contenders were denied; maybe perfectly worthy contenders will be unfairly blackened by association with all this.
Before Sad Puppies, I had no idea what the Hugos were. Many people I knew, fellow sci-fi fans, either didn’t know or only knew about it in a vague way, didn’t understand that it was open for popular vote or didn’t know it was any different to any other myriad of awards that exist out there.
That’s changed now, and I hope enough attention has been drawn to the awards that if those on either side calling up their fan-mobs to ‘stuff the ballot boxes’ appear next year, the number of true sci-fi aficionados who are now interested enough to get involved will offset those simply following-the-leader, and produce a truly representative ballot.
As a natural cynic, I’m not getting my hopes up, but who knows? Maybe I’ll even be adding my own voice to the mix next year?
Or maybe I’ll just keep reading YA trash and laughing at it.
(Hey, I read ‘The Three-Body Problem‘! Surely I’ve challenged myself enough for one year!)