I am probably the last sci-fi nerd in all the world to broach this subject.
If you haven’t heard of the Hugo Award controversy, or if the term Sad Puppies makes you think of actual four-legged puppy dogs, then most of this is going to mean nothing to you.
It barely means much to me and I am a science fiction fan (fantasy, a little, unless its the 1,222,357,199th Tolkein rehash, then no thank you!)
The Hugo Award is basically science fiction’s (written science fiction mainly) Academy award, its Tony, its Emmy. But instead of these highly popular, televised (are Tonys televised?) events, the Hugo is virtually unknown – even among those that can be counted as science fiction fans. Unlike what some would claim (like George RR Martin) if you read a few science fiction stories a year and you’re excited about the new Star Wars (even though you should know better than to get your hopes up) I consider you a fan. Hell, if you simply enjoy a story or two a year I consider you a fan. Who am I to judge your time and a host of other factors I have no way of knowing?
However, as I noted above, George RR Martin does not:
A fan is not just someone who reads SF and fantasy. A fan is a member of a community called “fandom” whose roots go back to the 1930s.
Fans are tolerant, friendly, good humored, warm, welcoming. They love worldcon, they respect and value the Hugos, they honor fannish tradition.
Guess what, Harlan Ellison? You’re out!
Anyway imagine the gull of making a litmus test of character traits one should (must?) possess if one is to be TruFan. Is there a hair color trait as well? I have countless science fiction books, movies, I write science fiction, behind me is my poster of The Empire Strikes Back. I own all the original Star Trek series. I can get involved in a conversation about what is and is not science fiction and you will simply have to terminate the conversation because I will not be able to. I attend Norwescon when I can. I have never been able to watch The Wrath of Kahn without blubbering at the end. Etc, etc, etc and etc, etc, etc.
And I am pretty friendly, good humored (if crude) warm and welcoming. I have some views that would be deemed intolerant. Hey, if you want to convince me of something, I’m all ears. Literally, you should see the size of these fucking things.
But I don’t care too deeply about the Hugo.
Why? Because it is not really representative of the science fiction community as a whole – despite Mr. Martin’s attempt to rig a new definition of “fan” by equivocating the terms “fan” and “fandom”
-btw, if you ever want to read the coolest vampire book, try Martin’s Fevre Dream, it is excellent-
For instance, if you look at the total ballots for the 2013 Hugo award, you’ll see that there were a total of 1848 ballots for all categories. That is a very small pool. These are the attendees of WorldCon, or, at least those that buy a voting membership to WorldCon. Something like that. I could have bought a membership this year, voted, without ever attending the Con.
However, like a considerable number of people I suspect this year, I hadn’t read anything at all from the last year. Nor did I have the time to.
Digging through the numbers, one can see it is pretty much a popularity contest amongst a cloistered few. We are talking very small numbers here when you get into the nomination process. This is why it was so simple for the Sad and Rabid Puppies to cause such a stir.
Go here to see just how small this voting pool is. It makes you wonder how this was a controversy at all. I’ve lived in apartment complexes where someone’s car alarm going off at 2am has had an impact on more people. Scroll way down until you get to the novel nominations. John Scalzi, a pretty popular science fiction author with fans (sorry Martin! using the real definition here!) and the fandom (sorry George! this is a different word!) in general only got 168 votes.
Now why do I pick on John Scalzi here? Because his book was probably on the NY bestsellers list, he’s that kinda seller. But in the world of the Hugo, that will get you 168 votes. Now it is possible even without the Puppy slates he wouldn’t have got in. Either because his work wasn’t the best of the year or he didn’t grease the wheels as well as the next guy, or he didn’t have “it” that year against a hip up and comer. Whatever.
Side note: if any one claims that Hugo contestants don’t vie in some fashion to get their award, I will eat my underwear on film and leave it on YouTube for all the world to watch because we will have found true angels living on Earth. I’m basing my opinion on human nature, not on my knowledge of Hugo contestants.
Also, because it is such a cloistered corner of the general population of science fiction fans, the Hugo winner is by no means the best science fiction book or story of the year merely by that fact. That shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone: it’s not true of the Academy awards and it absolutely isn’t true of whatever the music award is that I can’t think of now because if there is an award on this earth that I really don’t give a rat’s ass about it is that one.
With such a cloistered voting pool I am actually surprised no one took it by storm long ago. Basically a slate came in and took over the nominations. Quick number crunching gives me a number of about 300 people voting the slates. And they were answered by about 3000 who thought slates were a real bad idea and so voted by slate – the No Award slate. What they ended up with was probably the largest percentage of voting for an award in history by people who did not know what they were voting for or against.
There were some valid complaints to the Puppies side (although I think the slates were simply a bad idea which I’ll explain later). There is a lot of wanking about diversity in the science fiction community nowadays. Perhaps its because science fiction isn’t filled with engineers or military anymore but with English majors and Social studies majors and their heads are filled with the modern racism.
Look, I don’t give a shit what color or sex you are. If only short Jewish men from the Bronx had the ability to write good science fiction, then guess what? Looks like some short Jewish men from the Bronx are getting some of my money. This is, however, not the case.
Although the talk of women being marginalized in science fiction is ignorant at best and a brazen BIG LIE at the worst. I like data, so do you (yes you do!) so go look at the Hugo winners and nominees through time and you tell me women were or are marginalized in science fiction.
Here is the thing. Science fiction used to be a almost strictly white male thing. Rare was the girl or woman who was into it either as a fan or professionally. That changed a while ago. And speaking of white, it used to be an almost entirely white thing too. It was, at least, not a black thing. Sorry any politically correct people out there, I did say black, and I will continue to say black.
And you can say I am on the wrong side of history. And I will laugh and ask: how far ahead are we looking back? And then you’ll cock your head to the side not entirely understanding me…
If there are more minorities interested in science fiction (maybe that rumor about why Lucas cast Samuel L. Jackson in the prequels is true)… damn, how do I say this and not offend everyone? I don’t really give a shit!
There we go! That’s how I say it! If there is ever increasing diversity in science fiction or if it is just a bunch of pale pasty ehite kids who should hit a tread mill – I don’t give a shit. Why is there an effort one way or the other? Money? I can get my head around that. Greed is a simple human motivation to understand. But why the genital/pigmentation counting?
I’ll tell you what I give a shit about. Having good science fiction to fucking read. I don’t care if you’re a bushman from the fucking Outback or you crawled out of the river Ganges or were pampered in Whitetopia by mommy and daddy and their trust fund. GET SOME FUCKING PAPER ON MY DESK AND ENTERTAIN ME – OR STARVE. The rest is shit.
For instance, over at Mr. John Scalzi’s site there is this post. I believe the person he is mocking there is Vox Day otherwise known as Theodore Beale who I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. But Mr. Scalzi has a charity in mind: the plight of “people of color” to afford their science fiction convention memberships. This is dubious. Is this a real social concern? Are POC’s not able to save enough to go to a convention? If they are that poor perhaps food would be a better charity. I believe membership was $40. If they can’t save $40, they must be in some dire straits. Remember Mr. Martin’s definition of a fan, surely the dedication is there if you are a fan by this definition to have saved $40 over the course of a year to go to a Con.
Again I have to ask. Why does someone care about such a thing? Is it more votes for your Hugo award maybe? I’d much rather be giving these people food or something, not invite them someplace so they blow more cash on a bunch of shit (like I do at Norwescon) and then not be able to eat.
There has to be some motive. It is simply the stupidest charity I have heard of. You know why I think I can’t recall seeing a black person at a Norwescon (that is in the Seattle area, btw)? [Also can be phrased “why is it always me and three other pale dudes (and that scabby chick) in the sci fi isle at the bookstore?”] Because they don’t fucking care! I can’t see why I should care that they don’t care.
I know it says people of color on Scalzi’s site. I suppose that refers to Indians and Hispanics, etc, as well. Or maybe it doesn’t, I don’t keep up on “speaks”.
As for the complaint of message fiction. I cannot answer to this as I have not read many modern science fiction authors. Offhand I believe I have read two Hugo books since the year 2000. Michael Flynn’s Elfenheim, and Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky. I decided I am going to make some time (after I finish rereading A Deepness in the Sky again – it rocks!) from school to see where science fiction is at the moment. Unlike a lot of Hugo people (at least I suspect a lot Hugo people) I can’t make up my mind about these sorts of things without a first hand account.
So on that I decided to get one of the most touted authors of the modern science fiction landscape, China Mieville’s The Scar. And both Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. I heard some grumbling about the Leckie book. I’ve heard nothing about Mieville except that he is a drooling retard about economics. But unless The Scar is about economics, we should be fine.