Because it’s the only way to be sure!
After a bit of a lull in this kind of talk, it seems certain individuals — I won’t call them “high profile” because we’re dealing with an absurd level of relativity when we discuss the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction — have renewed calls to NO AWARD the voting ballot. Basically, they want to get as many people as possible to rank NO AWARD in the top slot in each category, so as to burn the categories — that way none of the “wrong” works, artists, editors, or writers, get to have a Hugo award this year. There will literally be no awards given. Scorched Earth!
I confess — as someone who is vocally critical of World Science Fiction Convention’s notoriously insular attitude — to being disappointed by the rattling of the nuclear saber. Mostly because even I don’t think there are enough Fans (caps f) in Fandom (also caps F) who are this selfish, cheap, and petulant. After decades of seeing the Hugos be quietly gamed, people are now going to blow the thing up, because a democracy was used democratically?
It’s not a matter of whether or not you think a slate is gauche, or you think the “wrong” people got to participate in the selection process.
What’s at stake right now is: do the Fans (caps f) of Fandom (caps f) love Science Fiction and Fantasy, or do the Fans merely love their insider club with its insider biases?
Are the people crying the loudest about how Sad Puppies 3 “gamed” the system, really concerned with the integrity of the award, or are they mad merely because they didn’t get to have their way?
Notice that some of the crankiest souls, are also among those who have benefited the most from the “old” way, with it’s numerous and sundry soft manipulations; multiple upon multiple Hugo nominations, and Hugo wins.
I mean, it’s not like this is some kind of shocking revelation. Harlan Ellison was talking about this 20 years ago. In a sea of annual production, the likelyhood that the Hugo is now (or could ever be again) given for purely meritorious reasons — without boosterism, without folks getting together to push for things — was nill. And since Harlan didn’t seem particularly bothered by it, I am not sure why anyone else is bothered by it. Folks have been lobbying (for themselves, or on behalf of others) behind the scenes for decades.
The internet merely made this lobbying public.
The chief sin of Sad Puppies 3 seems to be that we were transparent and we were successful beyond all expectation.
Many a red herring has been lobbed at us over the past three weeks. All of these are colossal distractions from the central question I’ve been asking my entire (short, so far) career: do the Hugos even matter anymore, and if they don’t, how to we get them to matter again?
My logic has been: get more people to vote, and bring those people in from diverse sectors of the consumer market, and the cachet of the award increases because more and more people from a broader spectrum of the totality of fandom (small f) will have a stake in the award, pay attention to what’s selected for the final ballot, and will view the award as a valid marker of enjoyability; or at least notoriety.
Especially since the Hugos have already been subjected to numerous manipulations (again, all behind the scenes) by authors, voters, and publishers, who all seem to want the Hugo to better reflect their tastes, their interests, their politics, and their pet points they want to make with the award.
So, Sad Puppies rolled up its sleeves and said, “Let’s see what happens if we really go to work,” and the answer was: Holy damn, look at that!
And now the response from some has been to say, “Fuck it all, the award is no good when the wrong people get to vote, so let’s just nuke the whole thing from orbit this year, and set about rejiggering the rules so that the wrong people don’t get to meddle with things next time.” (For all definitions of wrong which include, “Whoever David Gerrold doesn’t seem to like this week.”)
That grownups are deploying this argument — we will take our ball and go home! — merely reinforces every unfortunate stereotype anyone has ever had; about Fandom, about Worldcon, about nerds and geeks in general. That we pitch fits when things don’t go our way. That we love playing fair, until we don’t get what we want, and then it’s time to kick our feet and bang our plastic knives and forks on our high-chair tables, and throw our food at the wall.
Again, I like to think that Fandom is made of sterner stuff than this. Sure, there are a few spoilsports who seem to have taken it very personally — that the Hugo ballot doesn’t look the way they think it should look this year. As one notable editor remarked to me in confidence, “Now they know how we always feel!” To which I can only say, indeed.
And the cranks are certainly trying to rally as many people as they can to their cause. Which is fine. Again, this is Fandom and Worldcon on trial here. Not anyone involved with Sad Puppies 3. This is a mettle moment: when Fandom has to ask itself, “Are we really people who love Science Fiction and Fantasy? Or are we simply in love with ourselves instead?”
If the answer is the former, then NO AWARD will not carry the day. The grownups will have prevailed.
If the answer is the latter, then NO AWARD will nuke the categories, and the bigger SF/F world will have conclusive proof that both Worldcon and the Hugo awards are one-hundred-percent irrelevant in the 21st century.
If I were a committed Fan in Fandom, I’d stare long and hard at my ballot, before going with the second option.
Seriously, blowing up the Hugos with NO AWARD is not just terrible public relations, not just terrible sportsmanship, not just terrible (far moreso than any slate or list!) etiquette, it will totally and permanently turf whatever limited credibility the Hugo had left — in the wider world of SF/F fans, and fan regard. The Hugo will literally become the “little” award for “little” people, who like giving themselves shiny stuff, and making sure that the “bad” people don’t even get to have a seat at the table, nor have any of the shiny stuff.
I say, GO GROWNUPS! You know who you are. Read your packets. Don’t follow the cranks. You don’t owe the cranks anything anyway.
And if you are genuinely upset with Sad Puppies, by golly, get out your vote next year. Go around and rattle a few of your own cages. Wake up the electorate! If it’s the voted award, then the award relies on the health of its democracy. Don’t change the rules or call for the award to be spiked. Get people motivated to have a say. That’s all we at Sad Puppies 3 did: we motivated people to have their say.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not for anybody.