Happy non-denominational Spring/Autumn festival weekend everyone! I hope you had lots of [insert traditional food here], because for this post, you’re going to need it.
So. Easter weekend, as well as being Chocolate Day and Zombie Jesus Day, is also the day the World Science Fiction Society posts the nominees for the annual Hugo Awards.
The Hugos are one of the SFF scenes favourite popularity contests, sort of like the Oscars but with more beards. Nominees and winners for the awards are decided by an arcane system of rules that, for the purpose of this post, boils down to, “People who pay $40 to WorldCon.” Despite this free-for-all attitude, the voting pool is actually pretty small, around 2,000 people in 2014, and because of this size and because of the insularity of the English language SFF scene in general, the Hugos go through periods of being largely irrelevant interspersed with brief flare-ups of MASSIVE WANK when one group or another realises just how easy (and comparatively cheap) gaming the system can be. Got a spare $4k in your marketing budget? Then maybe you, too, would like to buy your way to rocketship fame.
“But why would anyone do such a thing?” you ask, aghast at the injustice of the world.
Well, funny you should ask, Dorothy, because for the last few years a group calling themselves the Sad Puppies1 has been trying vewwy, vewwy hawd to “re-take” the Hugos “back” for “true SFF”, wrenching it free from the evil, razor-sharp claws of the [cue ominous music] SJWs!!!
That’s right, people. Just when you thought it was safe to put down the videogame controller and pick up a good book instead, the culture wars have come to skiffy!
(And I mean “come” in the sense of “have been around for like decades”, but whatever. Did you see my rad picture of a werewolf? I stole it from Tumblr.)
Some of you might remember the Sad Puppies got laughed out of the building in 2014. Their problem, it seemed, was only putting up a single nominee in each category, under the belief that the Obvious Superiority™ of the Conservative White Male Author would drown out all those women and gays and people of colour who got onto their ballots with, yanno. Hard work and effort. Well, har har! Turns out not.
Never let it be said you can’t teach a sad dog new tricks, however, and the Puppies’ 2015 strategy has been to simply try and force things so that every single nominee on the Hugos ballot is Puppy Approved™. Because when you’re not ready to play with the big dogs, obviously the solution is for the puppy school to take over the dog park. I mean, when you’re not in competition with the flyball team, the achievement of not (always) pissing on the carpet looks pretty good, right?
So how’d that work out for the Puppies, then? Well, here are the 2015 Hugos nominees. And here’s the breakdown of how many of those are/aren’t Puppy Approved™.2 It’s a bit fucking woeful, with most categories left with only one or two un-Puppy nominees, and some with none at all. Exhibit A for the latter, Best Fan Writer, in which the Puppies have given us nominees like this (content warning for flippant rape comparisons):
Jesus fucking Christ fucking wept.
To those of whom this is all starting to smell a little bit familiar. Yes. Yes, this does, indeed, represent our shitty broken bicameral mode of modern “democracy” invading a popularity contest for books about fucking elves and laser guns. Like, seriously. This is what the culture wars have brought us to. Good work, everyone. As commenter Alex R. says over at Making Light:
You [the Puppies] have brought our ugly, vicious, modern American culture wars into the Hugo process. I will be registering for a supporting membership for the first time in my life and voting everything on your slate below No Award. I will be doing this because I hate your stupid, obnoxious, bullshit. I hate the nonsensical idea that people are prejudiced against your conservatism. I hate your association with Grand Master Racist Asshole Vox Day. I hate your ballot packing and your exploitation of the Hugo rules. I hate your bringing Gamergate scum into the SF community. I hate your selfishness. I hate your complete cluelessness about the history of SF.
You have the very spoiled and childish idea that your religious and political beliefs give you license to be an asshole. You will be treated accordingly.
These comments are true, incidentally. The Puppies aren’t just garden variety conservatives. They’re anti-progressive neo-reactionaries who’ve been doing their best to froth up GamerGate to come do to SFF what they been doing to videogames for the past year. I mean. Free speech is free speech, but this? This stuff is inciting a hate group with a documented (and recent) history of terrorism. You don’t get to shout fire in a crowded theatre and shrug it off when someone gets trampled to death in the stampede. Like. You’re literally not allowed to do that. Yeah, it’s a contentious ruling, but there’s still legal precedent about it. If you don’t like it, take it to SCOTUS.3
So this is what the Hugo awards have come to. In 2015 they are the shouting fire of SFF fandom. In their tantrum over their own perceived irrelevancy, the Puppies have pissed on the entire system. And they’ve pissed on a bunch of careers, too; it’s worth noting that not everyone on the Puppy slates is there by choice or consent, despite protestations of the Puppies themselves. The Puppies did, apparently, try to contact their Chosen Ones, which resulted in some horrified withdrawals. Other nominees claim no prior knowledge, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more posts from heartbroken individuals in days to come, as they realise their moment of glory has been tainted by a bunch of bigoted assholes.
Unlike a lot of Hugos commenters, I’m not against the concept of a politicised Hugos or the notion of voting slates in general. Human nature is human nature, and I think the only thing the Puppies have done per se is been a lot more public and organised about something that usually happens under the table, or as part of the WordCon SFF scene’s Old Boys’/Girls’ Network. But cynical acceptance over the tactic doesn’t mean I support the politics behind this instance of it in particular. I do have a voting membership for the Hugos this year, and, yes, I bought it mainly to send a message.4
I’m not yet sure what that message is, exactly. Only that it’s going to be a good year for Noah.
Oh. One more thing.
So the Puppies are 2015’s big Hugos wank, but there’s another one, too. That is, the nomination of Laura J. Mixon for Best Fan Writer. She’s the only non-Puppy on the slate, in fact, most likely due to Matthew David Sturridge dropping out after learning his nomination was Puppy-endorsed.
It’s pretty well accepted, not least by the woman herself, that Mixon’s nomination is due to the Mixon Report, her expose on Requires Hate a.k.a. Winterfox a.k.a. Benjanun Sriduangkaew. I wrote about things at the time the report broke, but the tl;dr version is that it’s an all-round shitty situation that’s been brewing in progressive fan circles for a while.
As Mixon herself says:
Requires Hate’s long-running pseudo-social-justice-inspired campaign of hostility and aggression toward fellow SFF writers and fans has made it that much harder for our community to deal in a unified way with attacks from the extreme right.
Requires Hate’s attacks on fellow writers and fans, under the guise of social justice, have been happening under the radar for most people in the SFF community-at-large, but the impacts are far-reaching. The attacks have had a serious and demoralizing impact on a range of people who either are themselves vulnerable or marginalized, or else who read and/or write stories in diverse settings or with characters from diverse communities. In other words, the people harmed have been the very ones we want to nurture, promote, and elevate—and note, who often share the views and are even some of the same people as those under attack by the Sad Puppies.
As a result of Requires Hate’s actions, valuable members of our community have been silenced, harassed, even chased out of the field—people whose voices we need as we respond to campaigns like Sad Puppies. And Requires Hate’s attacks are still ongoing. If we are committed to protecting our community from assault by haters, in other words, Requires Hate’s actions matter just as much as the Sad Puppies’ do.
One of the things I didn’t realise back when I wrote my first post on Sriduangkaew (she has a lot of aliases and alts) was that I have, in fact, been the target of her ire; she took exception to something I wrote back in 2011 praising the social justice themes in a work she deemed insufficiently “pure”, and hounded me for a good month or so over it. I got off lightly compared to most of her targets, I think because I disengaged and stopped writing publicly about social justice issues for a few years.5 As a result, there’s not much evidence of the encounter left online. Which, honestly? I’m glad about. There’s something about Sriduangkaew’s style of rhetoric that doesn’t make it pleasant to revisit.6
Even without the personal aspect, I still think the Mixon Report was a necessary thing and I applaud Mixon for having the guts to write it, even knowing the pushback she’d receive.
But the Mixon Report was a bit of inside baseball in the progressive community, the airing of our own dirty laundry. The fact that it’s included on a list stuffed with bullshit from outlets like “Patriarchy Press” is… not great by association, let’s put it that way. I’ve said previously that one of the nastiest legacies left by Benjanun Sriduangkaew is the fact she’s made herself into the Vox Day of the left, a perfect weapon for SFF’s anti-progressives, and a martyr for her own cause. Through no fault of Mixon’s own, her Hugos nomination isn’t going to help that.
Politics. Everything is politics.
Anyway. That was a bunch of nasty bullshit. So here. Let’s close off with a photo of a much cuter sad puppy. In this case, my own. And his first bath:
There. Much better.
- Yes, this is what they call themselves. It’s not a nickname given to them. ^
- What’s the difference between the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, you may ask after reading that link. Does it really matter, I answer. Tl;dr, the Rabids are the Puppies for whom the Sads aren’t foamingly anti-progressive enough, which is about where my interest in their ideological differences breaks down. ^
- Or don’t, as the case may be, because I get a nasty sinking feeling that the next time this precedent is tested, it will be over something exactly like this scenario. ^
- But also for the free swag. And, yes, I’m pissed off that even that is going to be mostly stuffed with Puppy Piss™. I have plenty of puppy piss of my own at home thanks to Beowulf. I don’t need any more to clean up. ^
- And it’s still the reason I don’t engage in comments sections when I do guest posts nowadays. ^
- If you’re wondering, I think it’s because she seems incapable of recognising humanity or good intentions in her “opponents”. Everyone says ill-thought-out things sometimes, or makes bad arguments, or changes their position on issues based on new evidence. But Sriduangkaew, in my experience, never engages with anyone in good faith. She’s never there assuming you fucked up, misspoke, or just straight-up misunderstood an issue. There’s no room for error or for growth in Sriduangkaew’s world. Everyone and everything must be 100% ideologically pure at all times, according to standards set by Sriduangkaew herself, and any deviation from this is Evil and must be eradicated in the most aggressive way possible. There is no learning, mutual understanding, amicable disagreement, or common ground. It’s exhausting, in other words, and very effective against anyone who does try and engage with her in good faith. Hence why she’s been able to burn through so many progressive communities, and yet is so ineffectual outside of them. ^