How the Hugos became a battleground

Nero chronicles the politicization of science fiction and fantasy and explains the reason for the existence of Sad Puppies:

New York Times bestselling author Larry Correia told us that SFF is currently in the grip of a “systematic campaign to slander anybody who doesn’t toe their line,” which is breeding a culture of fear and self-censorship. “Most authors aren’t making that much money, so they are terrified of being slandered and losing business,” he says. The only exceptions are a “handful of people like me who are either big enough not to give a crap, or too obstinate to shut up.”

After years on the back foot, that obstinate handful are preparing to fight back.

Sad Puppies

To the outside world, the Hugo Awards are known as the most prestigious honor that a sci-fi or fantasy creator can achieve. However, inside the community they are widely seen as a popularity contest dominated by cliques and super-fandoms. This can be seen most clearly in the dominance of Doctor Who in the TV award categories. The show’s enormous fanbase has garnered 26 Hugo nominations in the last nine years. Episodes from the show triumphed in every year between 2006 and 2012, save one.

The Hugos have an advantage, though: they are difficult for a single group to dominate if others rise to challenge them. All one has to do to vote in the awards is pay a small membership fee to the World Science Fiction Convention. For the few who are brave enough to defend artistic freedom openly, the Hugos are a good place to make a stand.

That is precisely what is now happening. Ahead of 2013’s Hugo Awards, Larry Correia began making public blog posts about his nominations, inviting his readers to discuss and agree on a shared list of Hugo nominations, and vote collectively. The idea was to draw attention to authors and creators who were suffering from an undeserved lack of attention due to the political climate in sci-fi. The “Sad Puppies” slate was born.

(The original idea was to call it the “Sad Puppies Think of the Children Campaign” – a dig at those who take their social crusades too seriously.)

What began as a discussion among bloggers has turned into an annual event. Last year’s Sad Puppies slate was extraordinarily successful, with seven out of Correia’s twelve nominations making it to the final stage of the Hugos. Among the successful nominations was The Last Witchking, a novelette by Theodore Beale, also known as Vox Day – a writer whose radical right-wing views had put him at the top of the sci-fi SJWs’ hit list. The fact that an author like Beale could receive a Hugo nomination was proof that SJW domination of sci-fi was not as complete as the elites would have liked.

In addition to humiliating the activists, the slate also triggered significant debate. Even Jon Scalzi, the privilege-checking SFWA President discussed above, was forced to admit that works of science fiction and fantasy ought to be judged on their quality, not on the politics of their authors. This greatly upset some of Scalzi’s more radical supporters, who openly called for exclusion on the basis of political belief. The debate also spread beyond sci-fi to the pages of The Huffington Post and USA Today.

Stirring up debate was, of course, precisely the point of Sad Puppies. As well as ensuring that quality works of fiction made it past the cliques at places like SWFA and to be considered by the fans themselves, the Sad Puppies slate also forced radicals to show their true colours. Those who supported political ostracism were outed as a tiny but vocal minority. As Correia explained on his blog, the slate managed to expose the “thought police” of the community before votes had even been cast.

This year, the Sad Puppies slate returns once more, championed by Hugo and Nebula-nominee Brad R. Torgerson. Although run by conservative authors, it includes many authors and creators who are left-wing, liberal, or non-politically aligned. In this way, the slate hopes to protect what radical activists want to eliminate: diversity of opinion and political tolerance.

It’s rather amusing how what is obvious to a reporter has managed to escape the pinkshirts for over a year now. We’ve never been into thought-policing or preventing anyone from getting published. They care more about that than they do about the history of the field, its traditions, or simply writing straightforward science fiction and fantasy.