The Guardian has set the table for the Hugo shortlist announcement with today’s article featuring quotes from George R.R. Martin, Vox Day, and Alastair Reynolds. The piece even tries to explain how Hugo voting works, and the benefits of the proposed E Pluribus Hugo rules change.
You might think handing out awards for the best science fiction writing of the year would not be, ahem, rocket science. But you’d be wrong.
George R.R. Martin commented:
“When I saw [the 2015] ballot I felt I had to say something and refute the Puppies’ claims that there was discrimination against conservative fiction,” Martin says. “There have been plenty of conservative writers in SF. I think SF has always had both liberal and conservative writers, but there probably have been more liberals.
“This is a genre about the future, it’s about looking at different ways of living, of governing, of sexuality, all those things. It’s always been forward thinking. As the great writer Theodore Sturgeon said, SF is about asking the next question.”
This year, following the controversy of 2015, the Sad Puppies have published recommendations, rather than a “slate” for supporters to submit. “This works much better; anyone can publish lists of recommendations for books they want to win,” Martin says. He pauses. “The Rabid Puppies, on the other hand, that’s another matter. Their intention is to burn down the Hugos, to destroy everything. That’s pretty toxic.”
Vox Day (Theodore Beale) responded:
In 2015, Beale published a slate of 67 nominations and asked his followers to nominate them. Fifty-eight made it in, including two of his own works. But why? “For over 20 years, the mainstream science-fiction publishers have been trying to pass off romance in space and leftwing diversity lectures as science fiction,” Beale tells me. “The Puppies are a popular reaction to mediocrities and absurdities being presented as the very best that the field has to offer.”
Are people buying memberships to a convention they have no intention of attending, purely to vote on the Puppies’s slates? “I believe so,” says Beale. “The unprecedented numbers make it clear that people on both sides were buying supporting memberships in order to vote for and against the Puppy recommendations.” Doesn’t that make a mockery of the whole Hugo system and ethos, though? “No more than it has always been,” Beale says. “I think they [the Puppies campaigns] have successfully exposed the extent of the ideological bias in science fiction and fantasy publishing, and in the media. The media coverage last year was so insane and so over the top that it significantly boosted support for the Rabid Puppies.”
Alastair Reynolds offered his analysis:
“This is an attempt by various elements of the American right to regain the centre ground of SF from some perceived shift to the liberal left,” he says. “It’s predicated on a falsehood … as any analysis of recent Hugo nominations and winners will show: there is no demonstrable bias from within the field against writers of faith, or those who have right-leaning politics. And yet, the Puppies keep recounting the same doctrinal narrative, with a seemingly endless appetite for name-calling.”
Reynolds asked for Slow Bullets to be removed from both the Puppies’ lists, to no avail. “I do not want their endorsement; I do not want even the suggestion of their endorsement, and for that reason I requested that my story be removed from both lists,” he says.
And Reynolds shared his guess about the immediate future:
E Pluribus Hugo needs to be approved at this year’s Worldcon to get passed. If it does, a change to the World Science Fiction Society constitution can go ahead – and this time next year the Hugos nominations process could look very different. But overhauling the nomination system wouldn’t close out the Puppies – I’m told it’s about not allowing any one party to shut everyone else out. Even if it makes for a fairer, less easy-to-game system, has the reputation of the Hugo awards already been broken?
“Well, badly, I suspect,” says Alastair Reynolds. “Last year was a catastrophe and this year may not be much better.”