By all accounts, this year’s Sad Puppy slate is set to sweep the Hugo Nominations, with the exception of Best Novel. We’ll find out tomorrow for sure, but it seems pretty likely. (Before we get started I should note, though it’s likely obvious, that my political leanings tie in closer to the opponents of the Sad Puppy slate. I will, however, try to minimize my jingoism here, and attempt to acknowledge and point out my biases wherever possible. This is editorial content, however, not journalistic, so keep that in mind.)
How exactly did they sweep the slates? Well, it’s a little weird, thanks to the way that Hugo Nominations and Hugo voting work, but put simply, no single work tends to get many nominations, since there are so many of them, and depending on the category, it can only take a few dozen nominations to lock something in. The Sad Puppy slate is the best organized Hugo voting bloc in existence. Actually, to be honest, they are the only formal voting bloc/ political party/ whatever you want to call it in existence, despite allegations of a monolithic SJW* voting bloc. You can find detailed explanations for how the voting system works readily enough, I’m not going to go into it in too great detail.
So what’s likely to happen because of this? Well, first off, it’s important to remember that this is, essentially, an internet flame war, albeit a bit more high-brow than usual. People who are perfectly polite, friendly people in real life will start frothing and accusing anyone who disagrees with them even slightly of, I don’t know, being baby eating Nazi lampreys. Accusations of conspiracy are already popping up on both sides.** Those few who try to keep the discussion reasonable will largely be drowned out. (Including me among the reasonable would be nice, but I’m perfectly capable of spewing plenty of my own vitriol, albeit in my own excessively polite manner.) As far as the actual election, I feel that there will be a strong backlash against the Sad Puppy list again- both from those labeled SJWs and from those who feel that the list is contrary to the spirits of the awards, if not the letter of the rules. It seems likely that any non-Sad Puppy nominees (outside of Sad Puppy Best Dramatic Presentation categories, which seem particularly bland and non-controversial) will be forced through by their opponents, with any Sad Puppy nominees ranked below No Award. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a reasonably large number of No Awards given out this year, depending on how many categories get locked in by the Sad Puppy slate. The Sad Puppy supporters are numerous enough to throw the nominations, but not large enough to so easily throw the actual awards. In the longer term, I think the growth of other formal Hugo voting blocs and an increase in the number of No Awards are both extremely likely.
None of this seems healthy for the Hugo Awards. They’ve had plenty of drama in the past- it is a popularity contest, after all. The formation of voting blocs and the increasing politicization of the process detracts from actually selecting works based off their merits- due to the structure of the voting system, pushing works through as a group requires consistent, monolithic voting, with minimal individual preference. It’ll turn into selecting which party you like more, instead of which book. I should reiterate, of course, that the Sad Puppy slate doesn’t violate any rules and doesn’t constitute cheating, but I do feel that it does run contrary to the spirit of the awards. Even then, of course, it has to be pointed out that countless authors have made recommendations for awards in the past, if never quite on this scale of organization. What do I think should be done? Well, I’ve seen a number of people suggest that the price of a voting membership be lowered from $40 to some lesser amount (usually $10 or $20), which seems like it could be quite productive in increasing the amount of voters, which can only be healthy for the award. In the meantime, I’ll probably just pretend like I always thought the Nebula was way more prestigious anyways, then go drink some fancy microbrews in my thrift store clothing and sulk. We’ll see tomorrow exactly how everything does play out, awards-wise.
*SJW, or Social Justice Warrior, for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, which tends to be a usually insulting catch-all for anyone advocating for certain social issues including LGBTQ rights, feminism, racial equality, etcetera. Note that this does not necessarily imply that ones using SJW as an insult oppose the issues themselves, but there does tend to be a correlation- SJW is an oft used term on 4Chan and Reddit, as well as by the Mens Rights movement. I can safely say that there are many people who don’t oppose advocacy for those issues, yet use those terms disparagingly for other reasons, largely perception of said SJWs being overly PC, easily offended, and censorious. I personally think they’d be better off ditching the term to avoid association with some of the more unpleasant sectors of the internet, though given my tendency to be overly polite in my writing, you can probably just read that as me just rolling my eyes and calling them shortsighted idiots willing to stand abreast of assholes who are damaging their credibility. One of the big reasons Larry Correia got tarred with so many unpleasant brushes during the Sad Puppy conversation last year was his willing association with Vox Day/ Theodore Beale, who is actually racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etcetera. (Though some of Correia’s detractors were almost certainly just being assholes.) I don’t believe Larry Correia is guilty of anything beyond enjoying arguing on the internet a bit too much, (and not putting page breaks/ read more buttons on his longer blog posts, forcing you to scroll forever to get to the next post.) Yay, overlong footnotes!
**One of the stranger on the Sad Puppy side seems to be some sort of claim that Terry Pratchett was cheated of Hugo awards by SJWs. It should be noted that he actually refused all of his Hugo nominations, since he preferred that they go to newer or lesser known authors, among other reasons. Most of the conspiracy allegations on the other side consist of various voting fraud allegations- which is a bit bizarre, since voting fraud doesn’t actually happen as much as certain gerrymandering politicians would have you believe.