Monthly Archives: October 2015

Still the definitive history of the 2015 Hugo Awards, even with Brad Torgersen’s valid objection

Amy Wallace updated her report on the Hugo Awards in Wired.

I think it’s a solid piece of reporting. It’s considerably more balanced than it would have been if I had written it, but, you know, I’m not a journalist. Lead Sad Puppies Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen are both given their say, as well as the Rabid Puppy Theodore Beale. Torgerson, however, is upset that Wallace told him that she would interview Sarah A. Hoyt and then did not do so.

That’s a damned fine point.

I don’t think it changes the substance or quality of Wallace’s report in any substantial way (I’ll explain below,) but it’s not cool to interview someone and then fail to live up to the promises that were made during the interview. I’ve no reason to suspect that Torgersen is lying or mistaken about this, so, yeah, that’s a pretty shitty thing.

The rest of his post, though, is a mess.

But Sarah A. Hoyt was not convenient to Amy Wallace’s narrative for the same reason Ben Carson is not convenient to progressive narratives on racial oppression: both Sarah and Ben *break* the narratives.

That’s a particularly silly example. Ben Carson is a black man and a conservative. Conservative politicians, particularly in the South, have endorsed racist policies to curry favor with racist voters. Both statements are true. Neither negates the other. The idea that the existence of Ben Carson somehow invalidates over a century of racism is patently false. It’s like saying that a single lottery winner disproves the idea that lottery tickets are a bad investment.

That’s relatively minor, though. Here’s where he really goes off the rails:

To add: did Amy ever go back and explain how 2,500 people sabotaging the win of Toni Weisskopf, for best professional editor, in any way was a victory for women and diversity in SF? How about the sabotaging of Sheila Gilbert, same category?

Actually, she did explain this, but apparently not explicitly enough for Torgersen. Let me lay it out here:

  1. The Sad Puppies were organized to make the Hugos “…less preachy and upper-crusty and more fun.
  2. The Rabid Puppies, meaning Vox Day, wanted “…to leave a big, smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were. All this has ever been is a giant ‘fuck you’—one massive gesture of contempt.”
  3. Anne Bellet, a Puppy-nominated author, believes that, for all intents and purposes, the Sad Puppies gave up control of their cause to the Rabid Puppies: “‘Dude, you’re in the same car, and Vox Day is driving.’ He (Torgersen) doesn’t get it. It makes me so sad.” (Wallace doesn’t mention it, but there’s empirical evidence that the Rabid Puppies were far more influential than the Sad Puppies)
  4. Vox Day is a sexist, among other things. He  “…opposes racial diversity, homosexuality, and women’s suffrage.” Again, Wallace goes easy on him. Here’s an unofficial bio.

The point is that voting against the Puppy slates, which were de facto Rabid Puppy slates, was a vote against a sexist’s attempt to game the system and destroy the awards. It wasn’t about sabotaging Toni Weisskopf or Sheila Gilbert; it was about punishing an attempt by Day to hijack the awards for his own purposes. I think this is reasonably clear from reading Wallace’s piece.

Day described his strategy as a  “Xanatos gambit”—“that’s where you set it up so that no matter what your enemy does, he loses and you win.” That’s overstating the case a bit. There’s no question that mainstream science fiction fans “lost” when the nominations were announced and the slates dominated several categories. That left fans-in-general with two choices: Either vote for the best candidates among the nominees that Day chose, or else vote “No Award.” Many fans felt that the later was the lesser of two evils and that voting “No Award” was the best way to preserve the integrity of the awards. 

It would be a mistake to interpret that as a victory for the Rabid Puppies. Their tactics were so widely regarded as shitty that a record number of voters paid for voting memberships just to vote against them. Day’s claim that the “No Award vote “demon­strates the extent to which science fiction has been politi­cized and degraded by their far left politics,” isn’t credible in the least. The voters voted against Day, and the fact that he’s going to define that as personal victory is interesting in a “he should probably talk to his therapist” sort of way, but not especially convincing. His “Xanatos gambit” (really more like “Xanatos Speed Chess“) wasn’t anything more than a politician adding a rider to bill that is never going to pass, something like a “We love Grandmothers!” amendment, so he can say his opponents hate grandmothers. It may amuse him to say so, but it’s not going to fool very many people.

Now, are there reasonable objections to Wallace’s story line? I think the characterization of the Sad Puppies is fair. I think the characterization of the Rabid Puppies is far, far more than fair. You might argue that she overstates the degree to which the two movements became one, but I think, in the mind of most people, it’s a fair statement, especially in light of the nomination numbers linked above. She certainly singles out the Rabid, not the Sad, Puppies for most of the negatives in her article, but at the end of the day, it was the Rabid Puppies who were calling the shots.

In that light, how, exactly, does including more Sad Puppy viewpoints in the story improve it? Even if she had interviewed Hoyt, would it have made any difference? The Sad Puppies were, again, I think fairly, described as marginalized by their own allies. Having another voice saying “This is what we were about before we were booted to the sidelines” wouldn’t have made the article any stronger.

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Hiatus…with Puppies!

Sorry for the hiatus. I’ve been wallowing in so much negativity that I had to take a break. Now, let’s get to the negativity.

I have spent many, many hours reading about the Hugo Awards fiasco this year. I have spent many hours listening to people who voted, many of them for the first time. I feel as though my understanding of the “meaning” of the “No Award” votes is very likely accurate.

“No Award” took home so many awards because people were angry about the hijacking of the nomination process.

Most of the people I’ve spoken to not only didn’t care about the personal politics of the individuals involved, they didn’t even know that personal politics were supposed to be an issue. It wasn’t about the merits of the people who were nominated; it was the fact that the nominations were a brute force attack, an attempt to force people to choose between either rewarding the slate-nominating tactic or voting “No Award.”

For the most part, it had nothing to do with making sure the “wrong people” didn’t win an award. Most of the people voting “No Award” didn’t even know who the “wrong people” were. The fact that there were some seriously deserving people on the slates tends to support this hypothesis. It was a vote against a tactic, not against a worldview.

Post-mortems which ignore this interpretation strike me as either naive or a disingenuous attempt to play the victim when you’ve essentially offered your so-called oppressors a no-win ultimatum. You don’t get to say “You must vote for the nominees on my slate or else you are throwing the women we put on our slate women under the bus!” That’s dishonest. That’s not just blackmail, that’s blackmail with a human shield.

Don’t get angry at voters for reacting to what they believe were unfair tactics. The Puppies didn’t get this kind of negative reaction (and, in my opinion, didn’t deserve this kind of negative reaction) until the slates got on the ballot. This was perceived as a punch in the face by the voters. You can’t claim victim status when people fail to reward you for punching them in the face.

Vox Day called it. He correctly predicted the result and seemed to be pleased with it. The goal was to set the whole thing up to play the victim. Once the fact that the nomination process had been co-opted by a slate became public knowledge, the backlash was predictably swift and angry. Again, this had nothing to do with anyone’s personal politics. These “No Award” votes were not against Larry Correia, nor were they a show of allegiance to John Scalzi, or anything like that. It was a response to the perceived hijacking of the awards.

Remember: Slate-nominating = No award

It’s not about politics.
It’s not about personalities.
It’s about the perception of unfair and dishonorable tactics.

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