Monday, August 24, 2015

What Annoyed Me About the 2015 Hugo Awards: The Most Everything Edition

Monday, August 24, 2015
Twelve Hugo Awards* were given out Saturday night. In five additional categories, No Award won the day. Prior to this year, only five times in the history of the Hugo Awards had No Award been presented for a category (source, paragraph two) with the most recent No Award being 1977's Best Dramatic Presentation. So, that happened. 

If you're curious, I didn't vote that way. I voted like this.  Of course, my nominations were far more in line with what might have happened if this whole mess with the Sad and Rabid Puppies didn't go down the way that it did.

I'm annoyed by a lot of things right now. They're all related and they are somewhat distinct.

I am annoyed that No Award was used as a mostly nuclear weapon rather than a surgical one.  I understand the use of No Award and I think it is a perfectly valid tool to have and to use. Sometimes you would rather have No Award be given out than for a particular work or individual to receive that award. That is completely fair. Sometimes it will happen that you will find no nominee in a particular category were worthy of receiving an award, so again you select No Award.

But the way No Award was used this year was as a weapon of protest. Mostly.  When so many nominees lined up with the proposed slates of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and there was so much anger about how the various Puppies went about their business in gaming how Hugo nominating works, No Award was used to protest what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did.  Mostly.

Some 5,950 votes were cast in the Hugo Awards and I have only seen the twitter and comment thread responses of a intensely small fraction of those who voted and talked about using No Award as a nuclear option for any Puppy affiliated nomination. Until the nomination and voting numbers were released, there was no way to tell just what the numerical impact of the Puppies were and what the impact of those who stated they would No Award over anything the Puppies touched would be.  Chaos Horizon breaks the numbers down in a very preliminary analysis. Apparently the number of people who wanted nothing to do with what the Puppies nominated was significant and they did so regardless of perception of quality. 

I can mostly understand the consistency of that stance except that when it came to Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, a category which had three nominees from the puppy slates - including Guardians of the Galaxy, the eventual winner. I believe the argument in favor of voting for the movies but not the rest of the slate is that Hollywood has nothing to do with the Sad or Rabid Puppies and thus should not be "punished" for the transgressions of the Puppies. Or, equally as likely, because those movies are "excellent" and the voters would have nominated Guardians of the Galaxy anyway so why not vote for it?  This suggests, of course, that inherently all puppy nominees are crap except for the very few that aren't - which mostly just the Hollywood ones so we're all good, right? 

This isn't true, of course. To get back to the previous point, I'd very much prefer that No Award voters would have across the board No Awarded everything the puppies touched, including Dramatic Presentation. Be consistent if you're going to do it.  When you're not consistent, it makes the stand you took on Best Editor really, really annoying.

The real reason I'm writing this massively long winded article is that I'm annoyed by how the voting went down for Best Editor Long Form.

George R. R. Martin wrote in his first essay on Handicapping the Hugos, in regards to Best Editor Long Form, that "the Nukes and the Moens will be No Awarding this category, since it is all slate, but I think (hope) there are not enough of them to matter. It would be a tragedy if we threw out four good editors just because the Puppies like them too."

This is exactly what happened to Toni Weisskopf, Anne Sowards, Sheila Gilbert, and Jim Minz. Minz is a more junior editor at Baen, so I suspect the appreciation Baen gets would be more directed towards Weisskopf. But I dare someone to tell me these are not worthy nominees, that they should not be seriously considered for a Hugo Award. I cannot imagine how someone can tell me that these four would be unworthy of a Hugo, but by voting No Award over the full category that is exactly what happened.

Oh, I understand. They were included on the Sad and Rabid Puppies slates, so they cannot be considered.  But you can vote for Guardians of the Galaxy.  Please, if you're going to do it - be consistent. Because voting for Guardians of the Galaxy but not Toni Weisskopf or Anne Sowards or Sheila Gilbert just makes the No Award folks look like a bunch of assholes.

Yes, most of the nominated fiction and nonfiction were simply not very good. Some of it was rubbish (I'm looking at you, Wisdom from My Internet and Revenge of Hump Day). I voted with a very light hand this year, but I can completely understand how most of that would fall under No Award. But the editors?  Now we're just being vindictive.  These are good editors. Part of me does wish that The Three-Body Problem was nominated by Vox Day as part of his Rabid Puppies slate (as he stated he would have, had he read the book in time), just to see if the No Awarders really would have buried that novel, after spending the previous months praising it as a serious candidate for Best Novel. Would the principle have held in the face of something they might have nominated themselves? Or, would it receive the Guardians of the Galaxy vote?  I expect that if the Rabid Puppies elect to troll the Hugo Awards next year by nominating works that would traditionally receive a nomination, the response will be to actually vote for those works rather than No Award them. But it would be an interesting experiment.

I'm annoyed by acronyms and insider terms. Brad Torgersen's invention of CHORF (Cliquish Holier Than Thou Reactionary Fanatics) to describe many on the "other side" of the Puppies was just, well, sad. It's childish and makes Torgersen appear to be a petulant child. Puppy Kicker is annoying. The use of SJW (Social Justice Warrior) as a pejorative is misguided (fighting for diversity and greater representation is not at the expense of quality) and generally when I see it used I can almost always recognize that I'm going to fundamentally disagree with both the message as well as how it is delivered. George R. R. Martin's constant use of "trufan" strikes me as exactly what the Sad Puppies say is telling them that they don't count and are not included.  The term refers to the convention going segment of fandom, the ones who go to Worldcon and participate. Those people are awesome that they enjoy going to cons (I don't) and can afford to go to cons (not everyone can) and have been doing so for many decades (I've only been participating as a "fan" for a single decade). "Trufan" suggests that if you're not a "trufan" you're not a "realfan" - which then allows for Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen to be able to talk about "wrong fans" having "wrongfun" as the reason why all of this was necessary in the first place.

But maybe it is wrongfun, because I'm annoyed that the Sad and Rabid Puppies did not nominate better works. I'll give a pass to the Best Novel nominations. I have long standing issues with Kevin Anderson's fiction (I don't think it's very good), but the rest of what was nominated (and declined) were solid. Maybe not what I'd consider the best of the year, but nothing I can complain about any more than I'd complain in any other year (I don't appreciate at least half of what Charles Stross writes and the half I do like doesn't get nominated).  I'd also like to thank Brad Torgersen, because if nothing else, I wouldn't have read Skin Game this year without the nomination and that's my first Jim Butcher. It was really damn good. I voted it third and above the eventual winner. I intend to read more from Butcher.

The other categories?  Outside of Annie Bellet's story (which she eventually declined a nomination for), the other stories were not Best of Class. True, I voted most of them above No Award but I was voting with a very light hand.  They were not among the best of the year (nor was the Heuvelt story not on the slate). I understand that tastes vary, but there are surely better more competent stories that would have and could have been nominated instead.  But there's really no excuse for Wisdom from My Internet. It is incoherent rambling and flat out embarrassing - much more so than any other nominee and is one of those that makes folks think the entire process of compiling a slate was about giving those who care about the Hugo Awards a big middle finger.  Friggin do better, people. Don't reward an author for a sub-par book even if you think that's happened in the past. You may want Kevin Anderson to receive a Hugo nomination, but if The Dark Between the Stars isn't one of the five best 2015 books you've read - don't nominate the damn thing. And if you don't have five nominees for a category (and you didn't for everything), that's okay - don't add Wisdom from My Internet just to hit five. It's crap and I think you have to know it is.

Be better. Be better, especially if you're complaining about other people being worse. Be better.

And that goes for a lot of the folks who I enjoy and appreciate and read and support and have literary love for.  Dropping No Award on five categories was not a victory.  It's just not. 

A point may have been proven that a group of outsiders who appear to have no respect or love of the traditions of fandom, Worldcon, or the Hugo Awards and want to take over the award will be shown the door with all haste, but that's not a victory. That's not something to celebrate. It happened, it's not pleasant, and I hope like hell it doesn't happen next year.

I hope next year will be a collective of individuals nominating works they truly think are best and are not influenced by outside slates. I don't care who the participants are. If you care about the award, nominate with your heart and with your head and do it as an individual. Have fun talking about the award and who you're considering for nomination. Expect that many of the nominees are not those you would have chosen. Maybe you haven't heard of some of them. Great, it's a new reading list! Maybe you think some of them suck. It happens! But if you care about the award and value it, nominate with integrity. Vote with integrity. Don't slide into second base with your spikes high looking to hurt the other player. Play the game the right way and if you think the other guy or gal is being a little shifty - be better. Don't sink to their live, rise above.

If you don't care at all about the Award and don't value it - why participate?  Why try to devalue or destroy something that someone else loves? Don't be that person. Be better than that.

*Yes, I am counting the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer as a Hugo.


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