Those of you in the SF online community are probably aware of the “Sad Puppies” project, which has been a pet hobby horse of a segment of the SF community who believe the Hugo awards and science fiction is under attack by soi-disant Social Justice Warriors. Larry Correia, Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, Brad Torgersen and John C Wright are the notable luminaries in this “counter movement.”
The Sad Puppies 2 program last year got a number of works onto the final Hugo ballot that were rather categorically different in tone, politics and (in my opinion) quality. In the final voting, these works all flamed out, some of them coming out below “No Award” in the final voting tallies.
This year, Brad Torgersen has decided to organize Sad Puppies 3, to further this cause. It is his latest post (https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/why-sad-puppies-3-is-going-to-destroy-science-fiction/) that has caused me to think about this whole fracas. The title in a bit of hyperbole is “Why SAD PUPPIES 3 is going to destroy Science Fiction!”
Read it, or not, as you will. I don’t use Do Not Links and other such devices. I can understand people who do, but I generally can’t be arsed to do that.
The centerpiece of his argument (seen in his graphic which I am going to borrow here) is that the Hugo awards, the hugo voters, are a tiny portion of SF fandom.
The amount of Hugo voters is in the thousands at best, and there are several orders of magnitude of readers more who read SF.
I think he makes a number of errors.
According to the graph (and his own words)
“the little yellow circle is the total body of “fandom” at Worldcon; which ignores games, tie-ins, comics, and other forms of popular SF/F. “
His implication, and the graph, is that a significant, even large portion of fandom at Worldcon ignores popular SF forms. That fandom intersects but is not wholly part of the General F/SF Consumer Audience.
Here I have to protest and say “really?”. I don’t know if his explicit intention is to “other” Worldcon voters as not being part of the General SF/F audience, but he certainly is implying that with the graph. His graph seems to suggest that Worldcon voters are by and large not
General F/SF Consumer Audience. And that’s crazy. If you look at the voting patterns of Hugo awards, the media categories get tons of votes, each and every year. Shows like Skiffy and Fanty (which I am a part of) talk about movies on a regular basis. There are recaps, rewatches, podcasts and more on everything from comics to videogames. Or does my review of Civilization Beyond Earth somehow not count?
the voting body of “fandom” have tended to go in the opposite direction: niche, academic, overtly to the Left in ideology and flavor, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun
Even if I buy this argument, Mr. Torgersen, they are still part of the General F/SF Consumer Audience. Its a portion you don’t care for, and frankly thing is anathema to the values of SF you treasure, but they are still part of the conversation, part of the audience. Some of us play Civ BE, Half-Life 2 and read BOTH Charles Gannon and Ann Leckie. (I was on a podcast that discussed the Nebula nominees last year, we covered FIRE WITH FIRE. Go look it up) . Oh, and Shaun, my Skiffy and Fanty co host, talked with Gannon at Worldcon (an interview I wanted to make but missed, to my chagrin).
So that pea of Worldcon fandom should be inside of the General F/SF Consumer Audience. To say otherwise is a categorical error.
Now, as far as this goal:
“Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion.”
Again, Mr. Torgersen, if the work is good, I don’t have any objections to it being on the ballot. What pissed a lot of people off last year wasn’t that it was necessarily Theodore Beale, or yourself, on the Hugo Ballot. Sure, Mr. Correia did his campaign to get a slate of people on the ballot. Fine. Logrolling happens in fandom, and has long since before the Internet. What pissed me off is the quality of the work. If FIRE WITH FIRE had been on the ballot, I’d have no issue with that at all. But “Opera Vita Aeterna”? Just, no. The story is boring, turgid and dull. The Sad Puppies 2 project did the exact same thing that the fans of L Ron Hubbard did with getting Black Genesis on the ballot back in 1987.
Get a work of quality on the ballot and I’ll read it and vote for it. I’ve seen Jack McDevitt’s name bandied about, and he has Nebula nominations aplenty and a win. But the Hugo voting audience seems to have not seen his work. I think that’s criminal, myself. Help a good work of his get on, and I’m behind you. Help get shit on the ballot, and that’s another matter entirely.
It’s not the politics, its the quality of the work that I care about. And what a lot more people than you think care about.
Oh and “As a tertiary objective, SAD PUPPIES would like to see the Hugo categories re-structured so that consumer sectors like gaming are not ignored”
I have absolutely no problem with this objective. I do tabletop roleplaying face to face, on Skype and email. And already indicate that I play a lot of video games. Bring it.
The rules on changing rules and categories for the Hugos are slow and arcane. It makes the US Senate seem positively speedy by comparison. Maybe there should be categories for RPGs, Videogames, and YA. But the process required to do that is so slow and byzantine, and the body that generally is active in that so conservative, that it hasn’t happened and would be difficult to do so. But should it? Yes.
Instead of a campaign of “stop the Social justice warriors” (I’m a social justice combat photographer myself), a campaign for recognizing worthy work is another matter entirely.
I am part of the General SF/F audience, just like you. And I care as deeply as you do.