Science Fiction, The Hugos, and Diversity

If you are into reading Science Fiction you may have heard of the Hugo Awards. They are nominated and voted on by the fans of WorldCon and they are considered to be a prestigious honor. Sadly this may not be the case much longer, as a small cabal of straight white men have gamed the nomination process in a backlash against diversity. Why did they do this? Because liberal “Social Justice Warriors” have conspired against them.

Well Boo freaking Hoo.

You see, in the past several years SciFi has made great strides forward in recognizing the world consists of more than straight white dudes (SWDs). Accordingly, Hugo awards have increasingly nominated writers who looked at the world via a different perspective, and those writers have often won.

You can see what comes next a mile away, can’t you?

Yup, a few SWD writers, deciding that there was some sort of liberal conspiracy at work decided to game the system to get their own writers nominated. They named themselves the Sad Puppies as a satiric take on the ASPCA commercials featuring abused dogs – because animal abuse is absolutely hilarious, don’t you think?

As if that wasn’t bad enough another, more radical faction emerged who called themselves the Rabid Puppies. The leader of this faction is a man by the name of Vox Day (real name Theodore Beale). If you have not heard of Vox Day, consider yourself lucky because there is ample evidence in his own writings that he is a racist, sexist, homophobic pig of the worst order. Some say that’s just a persona he puts on, but at the end of the day if he is out there writing shit like calling a black woman writer “half savage” it doesn’t matter. Anyone who allies themselves with this swine loses all credibility.

Of course several other members of this little (and I do mean little) cabal have denied racism or homophobia play a part in their pity party, they just want to put the fun back into science fiction! According to them Science fiction has become preachy and political and snobbish. Plot and storytelling should come first! Never mind that plot and storytelling go perfectly well with a message of tolerance and diversity, see Octavia Butler if you doubt that. Besides, if it is all about the story, why go there with the hateful “Damn Liburruls” language? Why play the angry white guy card if you’re not a real angry white guy? And WTF is wrong with social justice anyway?

Reading interviews with the various SWDs involved, it feels to me like a couple of them were spectacularly stupid and naïve about letting Vox Day into their club and how they went about presenting their nominations. Maybe they all aren’t racist swine- one of them is married to a black woman, a fact he likes to drag out when challenged on his SWD slate of writers- and maybe they just like the classic space opera type of SciFi and want to see more nominees in that genre as they claim. But when you consider they let Vox Day into the Puppy club and used some pretty inflammatory language themselves, I rather doubt it. They really come across as stereotypical angry white guys.

Vox Day and his racist shtick aside, playing the White Male Persecution card against marginalized minorities was probably not a smart move. The nominees are voted on by the membership at large, a membership that is still mostly white guys, but the fandom is shifting. Perhaps as writers it time for some of these guys to challenge themselves to get inside someone else’s head for a while and try to stretch a bit.

It will warm your heart to know that out of the entire slate they nominated for this year’s Hugos, not a single one of their authors won. In categories where there were no alternatives to the Puppies slate, the fans voted for No Award. Guess who their most vocal opponent was? George RR Martin. Yup, the Game of Thrones guy and SWD. Martin even went so far as to give out his own awards to the people who would have won had the SWDs not gamed the system.

So there is indeed hope. I suspect next year will be a very different year for the Hugos. I hope so, I’d hate to see something like this get burned to ground because a couple of people decided to ruin it for everyone else.

Wired has an awesome write-up of the whole mess and the author takes pains to point out how it fits in the Culture Wars. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it, even if you don’t care for SciFi.

2 thoughts on “Science Fiction, The Hugos, and Diversity

  1. This was an eye-opening post.  I hadn’t heard of this uproar, although I’m not surprised by a long shot.  All I have to do is look no further than comics fanboys, and I can imagine how this went.  I’m sick of it.  Diversity isn’t a dirty word.

    1. No it’s not. I’m sick to death of the SWDs thinking every vote for an author who isn’t one of them is a vote against them. They don’t seem to get that this new crop of writers are actually good writers, just in a different way than what they are used to seeing. As GRRM himself said, “Why not vote for the guy who is doing something innovative?” It’s OK to not like the stories they are writing, but can the persecution narrative anytime someone who you don’t like wins.

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