We failed to win a single battle, but we won the war! (Hugo Awards edition)

Well, we went through a lot of popcorn this year, didn’t we?

I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I’ve never paid much attention to the Hugo Awards before this year. I read the sci-fi I enjoy and I’ve never cared whether or not it won any awards or not. The only reason I paid any attention this year was because of the extremely unusual events related to the Hugos.

In short, a small group of people and an even smaller group of hardcore trolls decided that they didn’t like the way the Hugo awards were run and decided to use a legitimate but asshole-y tactic of lockstep nominations of a certain slate of books to ensure that they won awards. It turns out that most voters disagreed wildly with their tactics and voted not to give an award when the only nominees were on slates.

John Scalzi posted an excellent recap of the results and I agree with the majority of what he has to say:

The Hugo vote against the Puppy slates was not about politics, or cabals, or one species of science fiction and fantasy over another, no matter what anyone would like you to believe — or at the very least, it wasn’t mostly about those things. It was about small group of people acting like jerks, and another, rather larger group, expressing their displeasure at them acting so.

That’s how I read the results as well. I can’t know the intentions of all the voters, but the ones I’ve spoken to have said much the same thing as Scalzi. One person who read it very, very differently is Lou Antonelli:

They proved Vox Day right when they nuked five of the most important Hugo categories rather than let “the wrong kind of people” win them. He said they’d do that all along, destroying the credibility of the award, and they did.

Let’s do a little analogous thought experiment here.  Here’s a one question, multiple choice quiz:

What is the spiciest food in the world?

A) Wonder Bread

B) White rice

C) Frozen peas

D) A potato

E) None of the Above

For my money, the obvious answer is E and I suspect that’s true for you as well. I do not see how it can possibly damage the integrity of the quiz for most voters to select “None of the above.” Likewise, it is entirely possible, I would even say likely, that in every category where a slate was nominated, the best candidate for the award wasn’t on the ballot. If that’s the case, then the only way to maintain the integrity of the award is to vote “No award.”

And as for “proving Vox Day right…” I suspect Antonelli is aware that literally everything in the world proves Vox Day right. Day is the trollish alter ego of Theodore Beale, who may be a lovely person, but his Day character is a piece of work. He’s not a liar; he goes way beyond that to something I’d call “anti-truth.” If a liar punches you in the face, they might say “I didn’t do it!” An anti-truther would say “No, you punched me in the face!” Day will claim victory no matter the outcome in every event because he’s a persona designed to infuriate people, not to engage in thoughtful debate. As such, he has no commitment to any belief or any facts.

Anyway, the idea of claiming victory when all of your nominees are defeated is a little disingenuous. For that to be the case, then having their candidates walk away with awards would have been a defeat, and that’s just nutty. Even a child would see right through that one.  The awards emerged with their integrity intact and the Puppies roundly (and, for the most part, deservedly) defeated.

That doesn’t mean the Hugos are out of the woods Eric Flint’s post-mortem has some very wise words of warning:

Fact Three. Yes, there is a problem with the Hugo awards, but that problem can be depicted in purely objective terms without requiring anyone to impute any malign motives to anyone else. In a nutshell, the awards have been slowly drifting away from the opinions and tastes of the mass audience, to the point where there is today almost a complete separation between the two. This stands in sharp contrast to the situation several decades ago, when the two overlapped to a great extent. For any number of reasons, this poses problems for the awards themselves. The Hugos are becoming increasingly self-referential, by which I mean they affect and influence no one except the people who participate directly in the process.

This is essentially the complaint of the Sad Puppies before they were co-opted by their Rabid brethren. It’s a valid concern, but I don’t think the fix for a failure to reward popular books with a Hugo is to bulk-nominate even less popular works. That seems to kind of defeat the purpose, doesn’t it?

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