Damien Walter’s Alternate History

Damien Walter, in his essay for the Guardian “Science fiction’s real-life war of the worlds”, sets out to give Larry Correia a verbal spanking (though without ever mentioning Correia by name, following the latest weasely fashion).

Heaven knows Correia deserves one for asking Hugo voters to put politics ahead of literary quality. Unfortunately, Walter’s attempt to deliver an apocalyptic knockout is so inept it’s the fans he ends up insulting.

Walter’s critique of Correia’s bloc voting campaign accuses it of interfering with the triumphant march of history:

Of course there is a certain irony in forming a political clique and launching an overt political campaign to de-politicise sci-fi– although registering the irony requires more self-awareness than these authors can seem to muster. And that irony is only made stronger when 2014 has proved to be a pivotal year in liberating science fiction from its own innate political biases.

For decades, science fiction’s major awards were given, year after year, to white male authors….

Year after year? What an insult this is to those of us who have been voting Hugos to women’s stories – for decades. Walter is guilty of what C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield called “chronological snobbery,” acting like people of the present-day have a monopoly on virtue.

Women have won 16 Best Novel Hugos since 1970. They won 4 out of 10 in the Seventies and 4 out of 10 in the Nineties.

Five times between 1974-2001 women won half the fiction Hugos awarded in a year.

Year after year? Women won the Hugo in 5 consecutive years from 1981-1985, and in 10 consecutive years from 1988-1997.

In short, in the past few decades a lot of major sf awards have been won by people who are not white dudes.

If Walter wants to point out that happened less often in the past than in this decade, there’s still no reason to act like it absolutely never happened before.

14 thoughts on “Damien Walter’s Alternate History

  1. The snobbery is selective and political as well. The majority of readers won’t know the history and background. And yeah, there have been times when someone got a Hugo because they were well liked, and not that the story was exceptional. Like Ted Sturgeon’s win.

  2. What is particularly insulting is the reference to *big boys toys* and the notion that there is a group of die-hard fans fighting possessively over their particular corners of fandom and ignoring modern trends. There may be writers doing that in order to sway certain sectors of the Hugo voting community, but it does not apply to fandom as a whole. A close friend and long-term fan has already decided to gafiate because of this article, although possibly because of his misreading of it as an attack on fandom as a whole. I don’t really blame him. I blame Walters.

  3. I agree the implication that women just didn’t win Hugos until the past few years is just flat out not true. Bujold pops to mind.

    However the suggestion that the hate slate is the brainchild of people who think that encouraging diversity in SF can only give rise to boring stories–“message fiction”–is right on the button, as far as I can tell. They seem to think that Hugo Voters vote for stories we hate–or that we *ought* to hate but stubbornly persist in liking despite their wise advice; I’m not quite clear on which.

  4. “They seem to think that Hugo Voters vote for stories we hate–or that we *ought* to hate but stubbornly persist in liking despite their wise advice”

    Citation, please.

  5. I said “seem to think” and here’s where I got that impression:


    “Only you can help support your favorite authors get a Hugo nomination, rather than literati message fic, so pretentious and boring that it is the leading cause of PRS. ”

    So this part gave me the impression that he thinks the typical WorldCon voter nominates stories that are pretentious and boring. Either they hate them, or they should, right?


    “If you can’t stomach the comments long enough to hear what a typical WorldCon voter sounds like, let me paraphrase: “Fantastic! I’m so sick of people actually enjoying books that are fun! ”

    Here we go again, apparently the typical WorldCon voter hates it that people like books WorldCon voters know are more fun than the pretentious and boring stories WorldCon voters nominate.

    “The typical WorldCon voter, when presented with 5 nominees for a category, and their clique’s personal favorite writer isn’t on there, and not having actually read any of the works, will go through the authors and rank them according to the order that best assuages their hang ups. Oooh, a paraplegic transsexual lesbian minority abortion doctor with AIDS who writes for Mother Jones? You’d need a wheelbarrow to carry all the Hugos.”

    “Quality? Popularity? Staying power? Influence? Isn’t that what makes something a classic? Not to the modern literati. We have to elevate works by people according to what they checked on their EEOC form. Meanwhile, hatey-McHatertons like me read books and like them, even when we don’t know anything about the author.”

    Here he states straight out that WorldCon voters don’t just nominate, but also vote, for stories based on the author’s “EEOC form” while conservative fans like him, by contrast, vote for stories they like.

    So that’s how I got that impression. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think it’s an understandable mistake, given what the man has written.

  6. If I don’t like a book, it doesn’t matter how PC it is, or the circumstances of the writer in question. Maybe I should get more consideration for my notes because I’m half blind, 75% deaf, dyslexic, have allergies and a sore on my nose. Or you can go with content and communication.

    There are no novels written that everyone will agree with. Clicking onto a classic novel of any genre in Amazon’s extensive files, you will find people writing negative comments on that much loved novel, and the reasons are often quite specific and hard to disagree with.

  7. As a male German/Irish/Welsh-ancestry “white” left-libertarian descended from dirt-eating-poor farmers (read “peasants”) on both sides of my family, I am sick unto death of “white”, male, big-government conservatives claiming they’re an oppressed group because they (mis)perceive that their privileges over other human beings are being taken away when they’re instead being equalized.

    The only bloc voters in the Hugo selection are ignorant fools such as the writer of the referenced newspaper article, themselves, and years ago, Perry Rhodan fans.

    If Mr. Correia wants to win a Hugo, it’s very simple: he has to write a novel, novella, novellette, or short story better than all the other ones in each category published in a particular year. It’s part quality and part luck of the draw against whoever your competition is that year, just as with the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, and many other awards. You can write the greatest fiction you’re ever going to be capable of writing, but if Stephen King or J. K. Rowling or somebody else has a blockbuster/doorstop in the running that year, you can still come up snake-eyes. If you don’t like the rules, you don’t have to play; if you don’t play you can’t win. It’s no more complex or simple than that.

    On the fourth hand, I like the phrase “chronological snobbery” — even though it might lead to neologisms such as “time-ism” and “time-ist”.

    On the fifth hand, to give some perspective, I was once was very tempted to write to ABC-TV Sports complaining about Frank Gifford’s leftism and being a leftist, because he said a kid in the football “Reach, Throw, and Go” pre-game competition was “pretty good, for a lefty.”

  8. On the fourth hand, I like the phrase “chronological snobbery” — even though it might lead to neologisms such as “time-ism” and “time-ist”.

    Well, “ageism” is a well-established word and concept. And a workhorse of psychological experiments investigating bias, because it’s so rarely muddled up by the subjects having thought about it, unlike the biases which are frequently discussed in society at large.

  9. The bias against being old is perfectly justified. There is nothing good to be said about being old. Heck, your bad habits aren’t even as bad as they used to be.

  10. Experience, knmowledge and an ability to use facts often come with age. The old farts I used to listen for information about SF had it first hand, and weren’t making it up as they went along.

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