Thomas A. Mays Withdraws His Hugo-Nominated Story

After learning during the official announcement that all the nominees in his category came from the Rabid Puppies slate, Thomas A. Mays says he has decided to withdraw his Hugo-nominated short story “The Commuter” from the ballot.

He explained on his blog:

I’ve known for some time that “The Commuter” had made the short list, having been emailed about it by Professor Adams, “The Voice of the Hugos,” on April 10th.  I provided copies of my story for the Hugo Voter’s Packet and accepted the nomination in the forlorn hope I would find my story among a mixed and diverse selection of other stories, stories which came out of fandom as a whole (a whole which includes Puppies . . . ) rather than from any single group’s agenda or manipulation of process.  I knew that it was unlikely, given that my little-known story was only up for the award due to its inclusion on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate, but I had hope.

To be clear, Vox Day and I have worked together before, but I did not request or engineer my appearance on his slate.  I’m very proud of my story “Within This Horizon”, that I contributed to the first Riding the Red Horse anthology, which allowed me to be in the same volume as friends and acquaintances Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, Ken Burnside, and one of my literary heroes, Jerry Pournelle.  I have been interviewed for Castalia House.  However, Vox and I disagree on many political and social points and I am neither a Rabid Puppy nor a member of his Dread Ilk.  My stories have no real ideological bent right or left.  And while I cannot dispute the experiences of others which brought the Sad and Rabid Puppy movements into existence, I did not approve of the straight-slate bloc voting that so damaged fandom last year.  I was very encouraged when Sad Puppies 4 answered the criticisms that had been levied against SP3.

… I did not ask to be part of any list, but I hoped at the very least that it might bring other eyes to “The Commuter”, readers that might appreciate it for what it was and perhaps honor me with an uncontroversial nomination (or at least a few Kindle purchases).  But, now that all hopes for a clean nomination are dashed, it is my turn to speak:

Rather than eat a shit sandwich, I choose to get up from the table.  

Thank you to all the people who actually read my story, enjoyed it, and nominated it for the Hugo.  I will forever be in your debt.

140 thoughts on “Thomas A. Mays Withdraws His Hugo-Nominated Story

  1. Steve Davidson:

    Disagree strongly. Recommendation lists are amazing. There is a huge volume of work out there; no one has time to read it all. I’ve been one of the most dedicated award readers out there, and I have to rely on recommendations to get there. Reading 500 short stories does not empty the short story barrel, and frankly, I doubt I’ll repeating the year when I did that unless someone gives me a Year’s Best anthology.

  2. I’m feeling slightly weirded out by the talk of the best way to reverse-game having been slated. 😉

    Regardless, I respect Mays a lot for making a tough decision. And, frankly, for making a long, public post about it.* He’s already getting sh** from a Puppy on his blog (the latest comment I saw).

    * I agree with@Cheryl S., who says it better.

  3. As long as I’m on here commenting vociferously… 😛

    Curation — curated lists are the only type I’d bother with, unless I had some reason to be interested in the community producing the list. I don’t really bother with the SFWA ones, except to look at the top 10-15 and see if there are any I’ve missed. The point of looking at a recc list, for me, is to identify a source whose taste I have reason to believe will help me sift through an unmanageable volume of stuff. I tend to find Lois Tilton orthogonal to my opinions, so her lists are uninteresting to me. I tend to overlap with Jason Sanford, so his are interesting to me. I mean, if I’m not looking for a curated reaction across teh whole field, then the next best step is to just read the magazines which are curated by editors whose taste I can also compare to my own. I know Neil Clarke, e.g., mirrors my taste closely, so I could just only read Clarkesworld, but I’d rather have a wider net to catch stuff that appears even in markets, like IGMS, which on the whole differ from my aesthetic.

    Influence, unintentional or deliberate — Well, yeah, presumably the lists have an intentional effect. The intention is “go read this stuff because it’s cool!” And if people like the stuff sufficiently, they make take other actions from there.

    I get that it was easier/better when there were fewer magazines, but in the absence of somehow having a manageable amount of content for voters to process, there will have to be things like recc lists. But the best outcome is for there to be many different voices recommending things, which is why I would have welcomed a good faith entry from BT originally.

    FWIW, I started my recc lists specifically because I noticed people tended to read only things by authors they already knew or associated with. “Go read more things” is not an action I had any reason to believe they would take. “Go follow this link and read that” is one that sometimes inspires people to take a look. (And it really only works if they can go read it immediately. Reccing stuff that’s not online doesn’t work nearly as well.)

  4. There are other people who are not exactly happy about how they ended up among the nominees. Grey Carter, the author of Erin Dies Alone, was rather… explicit on his Twitter (read from bottom to top).

    It’s telling that the puppies don’t care at all about the works&authors they nominate. Well, except for Beale, of course.

  5. @Rachel Swirsky

    First it’s great seeing you here. I’ve enjoyed a number of your works. I’m sorry you still are getting shit a year later. I hope you’ve found a way to laugh over the pups obsession with your story. I also hope you don’t mind the fun we’ve occasionally had dreaming up new titles similar to yours and know that many of us support you. 😀

    Moving on…

    Influence, unintentional or deliberate — Well, yeah, presumably the lists have an intentional effect. The intention is “go read this stuff because it’s cool!” And if people like the stuff sufficiently, they make take other actions from there.

    Some curated lists – ranked ones I find more so – may be less go read these and written more as I’m an authority, those of you reading this list haven’t possibly read as much as I have, this list is ranked best to not as good, it’s a list of five. It’s not quite a slate as there is no ideology other than I know better than you but it’s not worded in a way that says go read and see what you think against what else you’ve read. These are what I really have a problem with.

    In between are the way the nebula nominees were ranked by the number of people nominating them this year. It was great to have the list available mind you. I’m just nitpicking. I would have preferred the list non-ranked in alphabetical order by author or title or for it to randomly change each time I checked it. This would give it a neutral view. People tend to be unconsciously biased by ranked lists. Even alphabetical lists bias people – one going backwards would cause a different reading order for many people.

  6. Yeah, I know people tend not to read whole lists, so I tend to put mine in categories — like OMG THIS ONE (1 entry) THESE ARE COOL (6 more entries) ALSO ALL THESE (9 entries) Plus here are other things that are interesting I want to talk about (10 entries). I have been very conscious recently of making sure none of my lists have something that totals up to five (like, 2 entries under “OMG” and 3 under “Cool” unless I’d have to really doctor something up to get there).

    It’s all personal–just speaking up in favor of my preferences. 😉

    And I totally love the titles! 😀

    (Also, the puppies have honored me by — as far as I know — making me the first author to have fan fiction on the ballot. 😉 )

  7. @Rachel Swirsky: I think white folks have a pretty high capacity for denial and minimization around racism and neo-fascism. For instance, back in my libertarian days I was as strongly anti-war as I am now in my social-democratic dotage. But as an anti-war libertarian I was ideologically adjacent to a number of paleo-conservatives. Hawkish conservatives and mainstream liberals would constantly accuse the paleocons of anti-Semitism and/or racism. While I did not share the paleocons views on race and religion, mood affiliation gave me a powerful incentive to bracket off the less savory views of people like Pat Buchanan and even less presentable specimens of that ilk. And I did! I did it because I considered the attacks on the paleocons instrumental – for the purpose of delegitimizing yet another set of doves, as doves on the left have been repeatedly stigmatized over time. (Think back to the sliming of those of us who marched against the Iraq War in 2002-3.) And I think a lot of those attacks were instrumental. But there was nevertheless a lot of truth to them that was too painful and – this part is shameful – inconvenient to admit at the time. So I didn’t admit it. Or I admitted that they were guilty of lesser charges.

    There does seem to be a set of people who don’t share the Little Elkherd Boy’s views, but who are able to tell themselves that he’s engaging in a long-running trolling campaign (“playing a character”), or that he’s a harmless eccentric, or that his good qualities outweigh his bad. You and I reject all of those excuses and IMHO we’re right to do so, but I see how one could make them, because I’ve made shadow versions of them myself.

  8. HOLY SHIT, it’s Rachel Swirsky.

    I’m currently trying to convince my wife I need a T Rex head and a top hat for WorldCon.

  9. @Rachel Swirsky

    Curation — curated lists are the only type I’d bother with, unless I had some reason to be interested in the community producing the list.

    The other problem with voted lists (for short fiction, anyway) is that it requires absolutely enormous numbers of voters to get stable results. As everyone saw with the SP4 list but also with the Nebula list, you end up with a handful of works at the top, and then a whole bunch with just 1 or 2 votes–heavily slanted towards the most-read media. If the list is updated in real time, then earlier nominations influence people to read them and therefore collect even more votes. Meanwhile lots of excellent works are omitted simply because no one voting happened to read them.

  10. “How dare those people like my story!”

    If this action by Mr. Mays is representative of “The Right Thing To Do!” in SF/F these days, I await Mr. Glyer’s “principled withdrawl” of himself and File 770 from two Hugo nominations, due to his slating by the odious Mr. Beal.

    Or is that different?

    Either way, Sad Puppies wins another victory this year, already.

    The ultimate victory will be if/when the business meeting votes in some form of Byzantine voting control/obfuscation designed to exclude Wrongfans. Because some fans are more equal than others, y’know. The sowing of salt on the burnt ground, is what that will be.

    The question does arise, who are they going to get to make the Double Assterisk medals this year? Will they be cast from pot-metal or wooden again?

    Incidentally, from the Real World of actual science, it develops that the Reationless Thruster is now an actual, real thing. Accompanied by an improved theory of inertia into the bargain. EmDrive has passed from the world of Cold Fusion and entered the world of the transistor. After some suitable engineering, somebody is going to strap one on a spacecraft and defy the Conservation of Momentum all over the solar system.

    Constantly accelerating spacecraft are now do-able. Oh. Baby.

    So I think the SF community focus on who slated what may be slightly stupid. YMMV, of course.

  11. Pingback: Thoughts on this year’s Hugo finalists | stompydragons

  12. JJ:

    Those who wish to support Mr. Mays can purchase the story in question (non-Castalia) here for $.99 on Amazon US or on Amazon UK for £.99.

    Thanks for posting that. I have just purchased. I think his statement evinces dignity, civility, and self-respect, and I think that buying his short story is a great way to show corresponding respect for his announcement.

  13. Phantom, I believe Mr. Trump needs some more cartridges stuffed, could you run along and do that and not post here?

  14. If this action by Mr. Mays is representative of “The Right Thing To Do!” in SF/F these days, I await Mr. Glyer’s “principled withdrawl” of himself and File 770 from two Hugo nominations, due to his slating by the odious Mr. Beal.

    My gosh! It’s like you just stated that part of Beale’s strategy was to nominate his targets in a hope to make them withdraw or be accused of hypocrisy! Oh no, how did we not see his brilliant strategy until too late! Oh woo, oh us, oh he has won…

    Phantom, my stupid, we’ve been talking for about ten months regarding the fact that this was to be his strategy. Didn’t care then, don’t care now. Feckless morons making accusations of hypocrisy are slightly less credible than a Trump speech.

  15. Mark on April 27, 2016 at 10:59 am said:

    Could we, just for once, not feed the incredibly obvious troll?

    Yes, please.

  16. Greg:

    “If the list is updated in real time, then earlier nominations influence people to read them and therefore collect even more votes. Meanwhile lots of excellent works are omitted simply because no one voting happened to read them.”

    I dislike that the SFWA list was put out the way it was. :/

    alexvdl

    “I’m currently trying to convince my wife I need a T Rex head and a top hat for WorldCon.”

    😀 I’m planning to go–hope to see you their with or without!

  17. Re the issue of Beale putting progressive work on his rabid little list in what was that, a Xadadoh? meneuver:

    The quick skim that I’ve given the results (too. much. grading. plus doctor’s appointment this morning) reveal that several of my most favoritiest ever works that were on my noms list also appeared on Beale’s — which I did not look at before.

    Jemisin’s and Leckie’s novels; Bujold’s novella, and Mike Flyer and File 770.

    Since I am an impeccable and ancient SJW (thirty three years now, wow), I figure his oh so brilliant and subtle and completely undetectable (SNIRK) strategy of riding on SJW’s coattails is nothing I have to pay attention to, so I’ll have no trouble voting for those works.

    Anything published by Castalia House will not appear on my ballot (I am REALLY REALLY REALY PISSED about Letters to Tiptree missing a chance (how much of a miss I guess I have to wait to August to see).

    The others–I’ll read/look at and judge on their merits, even the *shudder* all Beale categories (though at my age, it doesn’t take long to determine if I think a work is total crap).

  18. TheYoungPretender:

    “It’s the language of self-help books and optimism, used as a license for why you don’t have to care about [group that you fear, never really liked, etc.] and that is enough in some peoples minds not to make it ragingly immoral. It turns into how they don’t hate [fill in the blank], they feel that [fill in the blank] threatens their self-actualization, their ability to fulfill their potential, etc.”

    Absolutely! There’s material on how white supremacists use this as a recruiting tactic when they, e.g., go into high schools…

    Jim Henley:

    “I think white folks have a pretty high capacity for denial and minimization around racism and neo-fascism.”

    Right? My parents used to tell me racism was over and the residuals were class issues, and they’re hardly illiberal; my mom dated black men when interracial marriage was illegal. I think it was just easy to not see.

    “And I think a lot of those attacks were instrumental. But there was nevertheless a lot of truth to them that was too painful and – this part is shameful – inconvenient to admit at the time. So I didn’t admit it. ”

    I expect a lot of us have. I made the mistake regarding RH. I thought her periodic incisiveness could compensate for the harassment. She did bring some valuable criticism to the field which no one else was positioned to say. But I was really, really wrong, and didn’t see how bad it was. She’s way less dangerous IMO than Beale because she doesn’t have storm troopers on her side, but they have some other stripes in common.

  19. @robinareid: Actually, Vox didn’t slate either the Leckie or the Jemisin novels for Rabid Puppies. Only two of his Best Novel choices made the list of finalists, the Butcher and the Stevenson.

    He did slate the Bujold novella and File 770 for Best Fanzine, but not Mike Glyer personally in the Best Fan Writer category.

  20. Dex on April 27, 2016 at 10:55 am said: My gosh! It’s like you just stated that part of Beale’s strategy was to nominate his targets in a hope to make them withdraw or be accused of hypocrisy! Oh no, how did we not see his brilliant strategy until too late! Oh woo, oh us, oh he has won…

    Oh. So it’s “different” then.

    Just wondered.

    TheYoungPretender on April 27, 2016 at 10:51 am said: Phantom, I believe Mr. Trump needs some more cartridges stuffed, could you run along and do that and not post here?

    Why would I be a Trump supporter? A) He’s a New York limousine liberal in favor of more government and higher taxes, B) I’m a -Canadian-, I don’t really much care who you people inflict upon yourselves down there unless they wreck the Canadian economy too, as Mr. Obama has been doing.

    Also, FYI, you -load- cartridges, you don’t stuff them. Ballots get stuffed, something which even the most rabid anti-Trumper must admit is something being done to him, not something he’s doing.

    Mark on April 27, 2016 at 10:59 am said: Could we, just for once, not feed the incredibly obvious troll?

    What’s the matter, Mark? You don’t like reactionless electromagnetic thrusters? The very nature of momentum and inertia being called into question insufficiently sciency for you?

    How about a meta-material that renders object -invisible- to Unruh radiation and therefore inertia? Lensman enough for ya? Interested yet?

    Oh, right. It’s not about gender, therefore nobody cares. Got it. Sorry. I’ll go back to my bridge now, got some goats roasting on the fire.

  21. Rachel Swirsky on April 27, 2016 at 11:21 am said: “…I made the mistake regarding RH. I thought her periodic incisiveness could compensate for the harassment. She did bring some valuable criticism to the field which no one else was positioned to say. But I was really, really wrong, and didn’t see how bad it was. She’s way less dangerous IMO than Beale because she doesn’t have storm troopers on her side, but they have some other stripes in common.”

    Are you seriously suggesting Beale is more dangerous than Requires Hate and her insane attacks on bloggers/writers because he’s got some friends voting in the Hugos? Are you seriously comparing people who voted in a literary contest (by the rules, be it noted) to Storm Troopers, AKA the SS?

    Please tell me you’re kidding, Rachel. Seriously, that’s messed up. And please note, I do not approve of Mr. Beale, I am not a Rabid Puppy.

  22. I’m just amused that the obvious troll, in his over-excitement, forgot that Sad Puppies was supposed to be completely separate to Beale

  23. Ray on April 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm said: I’m just amused that the obvious troll, in his over-excitement, forgot that Sad Puppies was supposed to be completely separate to Beale

    I didn’t forget. I didn’t nominate the Rabid Puppy slate either. Because clearly, -this- is not the best Fan blog out there, let’s be real.

    It’s just that if Thomas A. Mays is all holy and stuff for giving up his nom because BEEEEEEEALE!, where’s Mr. Glyer’s nom rejection? Because BEEEEEEEEALE!!!!!!11!!! .

    Unless it doesn’t matter what Beale does, as somebody said above. In which case, what the hell is so special about Mr. Mays?

    So I must assume that some animals are more equal than others. I’ll get back to my roasted goats now, they turned out really nice. Especially the big one, very tender. Mmmm, goat saag!

  24. Mr. Glyer, if you’re not going to release my extremely tame comments from moderation please have the decency to let me know I’m banned.

    Troubling that comments about reactionless thrusters are not welcome, but you’re letting through comparisons of legit Hugo voters to the SS by Rachel Swirsky. And you wonder why people like me comment negatively here. Storm troopers? Really? Come on.

    I’ll go spend my leisure time elsewhere if that is your desire, just say the word. It’s your blog, you decide and let me know, eh?

  25. The Phantom: I don’t guarantee to post any or all of your angry, venting comments. In the end it’s really up to you what gets posted. You don’t have a blank check. If that’s what you need, then there’s your decision.

  26. What Rachel Swirsky is writing nowadays will hopefully get the kind of attention it deserves rather than this ridiculous kind of attention. Everyone should check out “Love I’d Never Still”; it is a most interesting story juxtaposing the troubles of Galatea and Aphrodite. All kinds of love, all kinds of difficulties.

  27. >In between are the way the nebula nominees were ranked by the number of people nominating them this year. It was great to have the list available mind you. I’m just nitpicking. I would have preferred the list non-ranked in alphabetical order by author or title or for it to randomly change each time I checked it.

    Same here. Because a limited number of SFWA members make the recommendations that rank the Nebula Award stories, it seems vulnerable to subtle gaming.

  28. Camestros Felapton on April 27, 2016 at 11:44 am said:

    alexvdl on April 27, 2016 at 9:57 am said:
    HOLY SHIT, it’s Rachel Swirsky.

    That sounds like the title of a marvelous sitcom

    Aaron on April 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm said:
    Perhaps with Rachel Swirsky to be played by Rachel Bloom.

    I’d watch the heck out of that:

    Wow! she’s STILL EDITING!
    It’s been four hours.
    …to be continued in next week’s episode: I Forgot to Hit Save

    ETA – off to buy the Mays story.

  29. @The Phantom

    Unless it doesn’t matter what Beale does, as somebody said above. In which case, what the hell is so special about Mr. Mays?

    Mr. Mays wrote a story which, while it has its points, is not actually publication-quality, much less Hugo-quality. By putting him on the ballot, Mr. Beale held him up to public scorn. Withdrawing was the right thing for him to do, but the whole episode had to be awful for the man. Do you have no sympathy whatsoever?

  30. The Phantom on April 27, 2016 at 1:41 pm said:
    I’ll get back to my roasted goats now, they turned out really nice. Especially the big one, very tender. Mmmm, goat saag!

    I had some very nice alpaca recently. I think if you like goat then you might enjoy alpaca meat also. Sort of a bit beefy but also a bit lambish. Quite nice. Apparently better done medium as a steak rather than medium rare.

  31. Greg Hullender on April 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm said:
    @The Phantom

    Unless it doesn’t matter what Beale does, as somebody said above. In which case, what the hell is so special about Mr. Mays?

    Mr. Mays wrote a story which, while it has its points, is not actually publication-quality, much less Hugo-quality. By putting him on the ballot, Mr. Beale held him up to public scorn. Withdrawing was the right thing for him to do, but the whole episode had to be awful for the man. Do you have no sympathy whatsoever?

    This, so much this.

    While I’m really annoyed at the hacking of an award I have respected most of my adult life, the real issue is the underlying cruelty of the whole project.
    It corrodes and ruins everything it touches: the slated, the genuine nominations that – even if they win – did not face their peers in the voting, and all the works frivolously blocked from the ballot so these brainless jokers could get their lolz pissing on stuff.
    It is just such a sucky thing to do.

    I will never, ever touch anything with Beale’s fingerprints on it.

  32. @Rachel Swirsky

    And I totally love the titles! ?

    (Also, the puppies have honored me by — as far as I know — making me the first author to have fan fiction on the ballot. ?

    Glad to know you’ve enjoyed our playing with your titles. Hey that is pretty cool to have fan fiction to you on the ballot. O_o Always looking for new ways to be first. Good for you.
    @Camestros Felapton

    alexvdl on April 27, 2016 at 9:57 am said: HOLY SHIT, it’s Rachel Swirsky.

    That sounds like the title of a marvelous sitcom

    I’d watch this. 😀

    @Greg
    You really can’t resist feeding the troll can you?

  33. Considering what “The Phantom” is writing which gets posted to these comments, I doubt I’d find any illumination in whatever he or she writes which doesn’t.

    Of course the “WordPress problem” which allegedly kept File 770 from appearing on the web was actually Mike’s Sooper Sekrit way of making sure posts by “The Phantom” don’t appear….

  34. I notice only one nonRP story made it to the Best Novella and Best Novelette list. I wonder if the one RP story that didn’t make it* was withdrawn before the final nominees were made public. If so, kudos to them.

    *Hyperspace Demons by Jonathan Moeller – Novelette
    Fear and Self-Loathing in Hollywood by Nick Cole – Novella

  35. @Ita

    Certainly possible, but Moeller is published by Castalia (admittedly that didn’t stop Mays), and Cole has demonstrated the exact qualities of a slater fairly recently, so I’m not ranking it as a high chance.

  36. @Ita

    I notice only one nonRP story made it to the Best Novella and Best Novelette list. I wonder if the one RP story that didn’t make it* was withdrawn before the final nominees were made public. If so, kudos to them.

    *Hyperspace Demons by Jonathan Moeller – Novelette
    Fear and Self-Loathing in Hollywood by Nick Cole – Novella

    My calculations (which might be wrong, of course), suggest that, yes, Moeller withdrew his submission but, no, Cole did not. Novella is a much more limited category than Novelette, and I’m estimating the top one got over 400 votes, which was enough to beat the slates. For Novelette, that number is more like 150.

  37. I think I’ve done Moeller an injustice, looking further it seems that was his only work for Castalia and he has a healthy self pub career, so he probably won’t have felt particularly beholden to VD.

  38. Ah, Phantom, that you are a Canadian makes me smile. From your past posts, I can imagine your thoughts on your current Prime Minister.

    Don’t worry, it’s okay to have strong thoughts about Justin Trudeau – some of us have been quite surprised by the strength of some of our emotions about him….

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