The Shame of Spokane

Despite being a Christian, it has taken me prayer and two days to get to the point to write on this subject with a civil pen. If Paul struggled with sin, the rest of us aren’t exempt, either. If you’re looking for alabaster saints, head over to statuary; you won’t find them here. Even when the object of ire is injustice, and last weekend, in Spokane, it happened in spades.

Unless you’re a science fiction and fantasy fan, you’ve likely never heard of the Hugos, or know of its decline, or of the Sad Puppies movement. If all you’ve seen and heard is the propaganda in the mainstream media, you’ve still haven’t heard about it, or, at least, haven’t heard the truth. When you hear a vote that prevented women, Hispanics, and a Jewish nominee from winning awards characterized as a victory for diversity, reach for the waders ‘cause it’s piled that high.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: The Hugos is a once prestigious award voted on by members at Worldcon. Worldcon is a self-styled “world” convention of science fiction and fantasy fans, and maybe it was, a long time ago. Attendance, always on the small side, jumped to nearly 8,000 in London in 2014. Compare that with DraconCon in Atlanta, which had 63,000 attendees, or ComicCon in New York, with 151,000 attendees. Worldcon now is hardly representative of the world, or fandom. Consider that the wildly popular Discworld series, never won a Hugo. Whatever Worldcon is, it hasn’t represented fandom for a long time.

The problem is particularly acute when you realize that many of us have come to see a Hugo award as a warning label of sorts, or that often names we’ve never heard of win the thing. You sort of wonder what’s going on. Shouldn’t an award that claims to represent fandom worldwide actually represent what the fans read?

Worse, it seems like there’s strange gaps in who get awards. The absence of Discworld is just one example. There are, shall we say, a curious absence of certain views and beliefs. When Tor has, on it’s short story guidelines page, that they look for writers from underrepresented populations, I doubt they mean Fundamentalist Christians. This also brings up another point: Shouldn’t stories be selected on whether or not they’re good, and not because they fit a certain ideology? Because the last time I looked, you can’t tell race, gender, religion, or sexual preference by reading a story, unless the author drags up a soap box and hits the reader over the head with it.

Enter Larry Correia. Mr. Correia is a writer who looked at what the Hugos had become, where it was going, and simply asked shouldn’t all authors have some consideration. That it went over like a lead balloon says much about the Hugos. Except Correia came back the next year and said the same thing, this time with more fans supporting him. That was Sad Puppies, and Sad Puppies 2 (sad because the books they actually read never get a Hugo nomination). When Correia came back with Sad Puppies 3, well that’s when things got interesting. Because Sad Puppies 2 started to make a dent to certain groups, and they were not happy with that at all.

Unfortunately, such things have happened before when people wanted to open up the vote. The status quo is seldom pleased. So it was that those who claim to support diversity wasn’t happy at the appearance of more diverse nominees and voters. There were the smears. There were the lies. There were the threats. All of which reminded me of the opposition to black voter registration in the Bad Old Days. We were treated to the spectacle of seeing Sad Puppies categorized as a group of white Mormon men, which the non-white, non-Mormon women Sad Puppies found amusing. It also says much about their “diversity” that they consider being white, a Mormon, and a male as bad things.

I came in late on this. Sad Puppies was something of a revelation, and a well-needed way to keep the Hugos from becoming the literary equivalent of the booby price. And, people being what they are, I wasn’t surprised that some would take things to extremes, nor was I surprised that these happened to be associated with the status quo. My opinion, though was more in line with Eric Flint’s, was more in support of Sad Puppies because it endeavors to return the Hugos to what they were, or perhaps make it what it claimed to be: A world award of Science Fiction and Fantasy. But just as Eric Flint began to look askance at the tactics of the status quo, I began to feel more akin with Sad Puppies than with the so-called gatekeepers of fandom. But it was all the sort of thing I’d seen in politics, so it wasn’t enough to really raise my hackles.

Then came the 2015 Worldcon awards program.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a display of crassness in my life, and that’s quite an achievement. From the preliminaries where “death” appears looking for Sad Puppies, to an “award” in an obscene image, to David Gerrold “impartial” MC of the awards, to the reportedly snide pre-awards video, to the slate of “No Awards” that was a slap in the face of the nominees.

It’s taken this long to where I could write about it without sinking to the same sort of vitriol used by the Puppy Kickers in Spokane. What happened there underscored that the Hugo status quo is morally bankrupt. And from the way the status quo reacted, I’m now a staunch Sad Puppy supporter, to the point I will no longer buy or read nor watch the works of Puppy Kickers.

The thing is, I usually don’t read what the Puppy Kickers write, because I don’t like their work. That includes George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. I got halfway through the first novel, saw it was going to be a protracted soap opera in a fantasy setting, and set it aside – and I’ve read and reread James A. Michener novels. If someone likes soap operas in a fantasy setting, more power to them. I didn’t even know the name John Scalzi until this all dusted up. That’s the problem with boycotts: they only mean something if you’re already a customer, and with Puppy Kickers I’m not.

I have suggested that since they No Awarded so many categories out of spite, it’s time to No Award every category. That hasn’t gained much traction, and probably won’t. Just as we’ll probably never see the Hugo’s become a real world award by opening it up to everyone for either free or for a fee so low anyone in the world can afford to voice their opinion. The status quo has proven the only “diversity” they want is people who think exactly like they do.

If you’ve happened to have read a Puppy Kicker account of what went down, here’s a view from the other side of the political spectrum:

Just linking to Breitbart is enough to get certain people’s knickers in a bunch. Tough. And for those who like to bandy the term “neo-Nazi,” if the jackboots fit, wear them. And I have on sandals.


Here’s a photo showing the 2015 Hugo Award winners after the minorities were No Awarded. That’s what passes for diversity in the Hugo status quo.