What to say about the current Hugo issue.

In a way, it’s disheartening. Like some I’ve read, I always imagined the SciFi community as THE place, where finally, we could all get along. That we had self-selected far enough down, that we had all reached a common point where we could finally be ourselves, accepted, and home… This, sadly, is not the case.

For three years now, Sad Puppies have impacted the field. The brain child of Larry Correia, grown to the point where it is not just making an impact, but it is, in fact, running amuck. Factions have formed, sides have been chosen, and that hope that we can all get along lies crumbling in the ashes. And the really sad part, is that might just be the best outcome that could be hoped for right now.

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For too long, the Hugo, called the most prestigious award in all of Science Fiction and fantasy, has been developing problems. The first is the sheer paucity of the voting field. When “the very best book in the SciFi community” is getting there on less than 50 votes, there are serious problems, both with the field and the community. The second is the drift. Like many navigational errors, just a little drift, left long enough, will eventually result in your arrival at a place well off from your intended destination

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Is it the fault of the Puppies group? In a way, yes, it is. We should have done this years, decades, ago. Not arguing for a return to the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”, but to push to include worthy, adventurous works. To recognize and include the message fiction that we might not generally like, but recognizing such works that might be well crafted. To bring to the front those works that might be otherwise be trashed as “Pulp” or Space Opera, again, recognizing that not all Pulp or Space Opera would be worthy, but still, David Weber deserves a Hugo nomination or three. We need to be there so that the works nominated represent a greater variety, not forceing the drift all the way right, but countering the natural drift that always will occur, especially when we don’t bother to show up!

But we’ve let the boat drift for decades, the course correction required is, inevitably, severe. And those people who are comfortable with the way things have been going in those decades? Not happy, not happy at all. Again, in a way, this is our fault. Any of us with children know that a child will push boundaries just as far as you let them, and then a little more. If you never say “no”, if you never correct, the child will eventually become a terror. And when you finally decide to impose the boundaries that should have always been there, you are treated to a spectacular meltdown, and deservedly so. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Are either side acting like adults? Not totally, of course, this is the arena, and everyone with an internet connection is invited. But still, there are bright spots, here and there. Brad Torgersen played nice for a long, long time. I think he may have lost his temper a few times, but after the attacks by Arthur Chu, and the article published by Entertainment Weekly, I find it difficult to the point of impossible to blame him. Before being forced into a correction, the EW article read, “Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign,”…Still, he, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt and some of the other “leadership”, I think, have behaved better than could have been reasonably expected (We organize, mostly, like a bag of cats. Leadership is therefor a bit of a challenge). Larry has been called a “rape apologist”, Sarah has been accused of being a white male (not that there is anything wrong with that), and of course, all of them have been called racists.

On the other side of the field, George R. R. Martin has made a reasonable statement. He thinks the Puppies are wrong, and have broken things, but his argument is at least rational, debatable, and seems to lack gratuitous insults. Mary Robinette Kowal has kindly asked that the folks arguing against Sad Puppies to try to refrain from Death Threats, so, there’s that…

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I’m not here to throw red meat, not yet. I’ve made my share of pithy comments, and I’ve thrown out the occasional insult. Clearly, I am not without sin. And I have chosen my side. I am on the side of no one telling me what is right fun and wrong fun. I am on the side that will say, “I honestly don’t know what politics that author has…” I’m on the side that can poke fun at anyone, and everyone who might step into the target zone. {Please note, there is a huge difference between “poke fun” and attempts to cleverly shame, degrade and drive out.). I’m on the side of the publisher who can successfully house, push and publish Trotskyites, Libertarians, Democrats and Conservatives, as well as gay, straight, and bi, all without making sure that is THE FIRST THING you see in the author bio.  I’m against the side that attempts to ostracize, the side that keeps blacklists, the side that makes ANYONE feel like they have to hide what they think or feel about certain issues. The side that whispers, the side that will accuse without proof in attempts to shut down the discussion. The side that says, “We’re open minded, but we won’t interview you, review your books, or ask about your side of the issue.” I have no use for the tolerant who are only tolerant of those who think like they do…

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Hopefully, we can remain the Happy Warriors. This is a fight worth having, but after, we are very much family. Sure, some of us are the embarrassing crazy uncle, many are the unreachable liberal that just makes you grind your teeth, one or two might be cousin that maybe has too many guns (Williamson, Correia, maybe me, someday…) (But really, can you have too many?). But almost all of us came to this place because we were pursuing a sense of the magnificent, of wonder, of magic, or science so advance it is indistinguishable from magic. After this all settles out, we need to argue about things we disagree on, sure (I will no longer be silent, thank you), but we also need to find the things we have in common. Maybe a little of, “I disagree on this book, here, brother, but have you read Pratchett?”, and a little bit of “Let’s argue about the parts of The Lord of the Rings that were not so good, and which parts were transcendent!” Books or movies, you ask? Why both, of course!

~Shib

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