I’ve been inspired by people like Mike Glyer at File 770 in keeping up with the Hugo conversation.The “Big Guy” George R R Martin is weighing in too, now.
I have some further thoughts myself, now. Thanks go to Kari Sperring and Charles Stross, too, for urging me to talk this out. They’re smarter than me. You should listen to what they say.
One of the developments as the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Axis managed to garner most of the slots on the Hugo ballot by slate voting that Tammany Hall would be proud of is the insistence, especially on the Sad Puppies front, that they are aren’t affiliated with the Rabid Puppies at all. There is a strong decrying of any calls that *they* are racist, although they don’t quite throw Theodore Beale under any buses. Similarly, Theodore Beale has stated he is “not affiliated” with the Sad Puppies.
I think this is a facile and deeply misleading attempt at a difference, since the two slates clearly are connected together. Its akin to insisting the Tea Party is not part of the Republican Party. It just isn’t believable. And people like James May is more seen in Sad Puppy land, but acts in a very Rabid Puppy manner. Sarah Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club appear to partake of both types.
So what I observe, and think, is that the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies are overlapping (oh no, a Venn Diagram again!) but distinct portions of groups I am going to call Bourbons and Bakunins. Both groups seek to change the Hugo awards, in different ways.
I name the Bourbons after the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830). The Bourbon Restoration, in France, was a recapitulation of the Ancien Regime monarchy that had gotten throw over in the French revolution and Napoleon’s rise to power. It was an attempt to turn back the clock to the way things were as much as possible. It wasn’t a complete restoration and, in the end, it could not succeed or last. The world, and the people of France, had changed too much, and France convulsed as a result.
The Bourbons in science fiction, like Brad and Larry, want the Hugo awards to reward the things they used to, and what Brad and Larry like and value and write in their own fiction:
“That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
It’s a clear call and wish for the way things were. Ancillary Justice has Space Opera, but it does interesting things with gender. The Mirror Empire is big epic fantasy, but with all sorts of interesting societies and female characters in power. These books have an audience and reflect the diversity of SF readership, but not Brad and Larry’s tastes. To them, these books are “Social Justice fiction” and see them in terms of politics they don’t like. This must be turned back, and they’ve decided to turn the Hugos back. I think this is part of Brad’s admonition and hope that the nuclear No Award option doesn’t win categories this year. The No Award option IS a nuclear one, and they know it. It would hurt the Hugos, and that is not the Bourbons’ Goal.
The Bakunins are another matter. I name these after Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin a 19th century Russian revolutionary anarchist. The Bakunins, people like Theodore Beale and his crowd, and the more vile members of Gamergate, are vandals of the first order. They hate the “Social justice warriors” with even more fervor than the Bourbons, but their goals are different. Their goals, to my observation, aren’t to reform the Hugos, but to destroy them. The reason why they want to destroy the Hugos is simple—their political opponents value them, and so to destroy them redounds to their advantage. Some of the dark corners of the Rabid Puppies are truly dark, with Mens Right’s Activists, virulent sexism, racism, and homophobia on full display. The Bourbons can and do vehemently deny their racism (despite strong evidence to the contrary). The Rabid Puppies revel in the anarchical chaos and personal destruction they cause. A No Award Hugo night is no skin off of their nose.
“Revolution requires extensive and widespread destruction, a fecund and renovating destruction, since in this way and only this way are new worlds born” –Bakunin.
The Bourbons can sometimes be talked with and debated, even if I disagree with their agenda. Although, with politics hardening on all sides, I have seen that to become more and more difficult this year.
The Bakunins, however, seek only to ‘win’, especially if it means the Hugos are crippled or destroyed. There is no rational debating with them, as far as I have ever managed.