When one of the most successful authors on the planet takes the time to talk about something you did, I figure that deserves an in depth response. I’ve got no direct line to Mr. Martin, but I am hoping that this will get back to him.
I am going to respond to some of the things Mr. Martin said to try and explain my reasoning. His words will be in italics, mine will be in bold. The link to his original articles is provided. Since I’ve read like 4,000 posts on this topic this week and written a novel worth of responses, I’ll not be going through everything he said and just be responding to things that I think need clarification or direct response. I will provide links to each of his posts so that you may read them in their entirety.
Let me begin with the basics:
Who owns the Hugo Awards?
You know, looking back, I am probably partly to blame for some of the misconceptions that seem to exist on this point. For years now I have been urging people to nominate for the Hugo Awards, and saying things like “this is your award” and “this award belongs to the fans, the readers.” I felt, and still feel, that wider participation would be a good thing. Thousands of fans vote for the Hugos most years, but until recently only hundreds ever bothered to nominate.
Still my “it is your award” urgings were not entirely accurate.
Truth is, the Hugo Awards belong to worldcon. The World Science Fiction Convention.
Mr. Martin, that is exactly one of the reasons I started this campaign.
When I started this the Hugo Awards were not portrayed as the awards that belonged to WorldCon. They were portrayed as the awards that represented the best of all of fandom. After my first experience seeing how the sausage was made, I publically said the same thing you said there, that the Hugo Awards don’t represent all of fandom, they represent one tiny part of fandom.
I was called a liar.
I too was nominated for the Campbell for Best New Writer. As a young, new writer, who had grown up reading the great ones, I was super excited by this incredible honor. See, I was born around when you got your Campbell nomination. I was one of those fans who grew up believing it when great authors said things like “this is your award” and “this award belongs to the fans, the readers”.
Because I was naïve.
I was overjoyed when I found out I’d been nominated. I was even dumb enough to think that I might have a chance. I had already read works from two of the other nominees and I knew that they were remarkable story tellers. I had read Wells and Beukes and knew the quality of their work was excellent. In any fair wordsmithing contest either could kick my ass, and I hadn’t even read Ahmed or Grossman yet, but if they were as good as the other two, then there would be a lot of quality works to choose from.
But that’s the kicker… I hadn’t realized yet that for many voters it wasn’t about the quality of the work.
Within a few days of the nominations being announced I not only knew that I was going to lose, I knew that I was going to be last place. Only it had absolutely nothing to do with my writing, but rather, who I was, and what I was.
I know you remember when you were starting out, Mr. Martin, because you talk about it in this very post, that scrimping, saving, and sleeping on couches phase of your career, where you are desperate to get your work out there in front of people, to get any exposure at all, and I’m betting that you were always really excited to hear what readers had to say about your creations. Right?
I know I was. So I went out on the internet and started searching my name, trying to find out what the buzz was for the Campbell nominees. I started calling friends who belonged to various writer forums and organizations that I didn’t belong to, asking about what people thought of my books in there.
You know what I found? WorldCon voters angry that a right-wing Republican (actually I’m a libertarian) who owned a gun store (gasp) was nominated for the prestigious Campbell. This is terrible. Did you know he did lobbying for gun rights! It’s right there on his hateful blog of hatey hate hate! He’s awful. He’s a bad person. He’s a Mormon! What! Another damned Mormon! Oh no, there are two Mormons up for the Campbell? I bet Larry Correia hates women and gays. He’s probably a racist too. Did you know he’s part of the evil military industrial complex? What a jerk.
Meanwhile, I’m like, but did they like my books?
No. Hardly any of them had actually read my books yet. Many were proud to brag about how they wouldn’t read my books, because badthink, and you shouldn’t have to read books that you know are going to make you angry. A handful of people claimed to have my read my books, but they assured the others that they were safe to put me last, because as expected for a shit person, my words were shit, and so they were good people to treat me like shit.
At first I was shocked, then I got angry. What the hell? This is supposed to be the most prestigious awards in scifi and fantasy?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not lumping all of the WorldCon voters in with that perpetually outraged, politically motivated clique. I know plenty of voters read my books and just didn’t think they were as good as the people I was up against. Awesome. I salute you for you being an honest person with an honest opinion, and let’s face it, people have different tastes.
But don’t tell me now that the Hugos don’t have whisper campaigns…
Though I knew I still had fans voting, and I figured there were a lot of honest people who would give my works a fair shake regardless of my politics, I also spent most of my adult life as an auditor who did statistical analysis for a living. I understood how Australian Rules voting worked, and the rankings are not most popular to least popular, but rather least disliked to most disliked, and 72 hours after the nominations came out it was pretty obvious I was going to be most disliked.
Then I went to my very first WorldCon.
Mr. Martin, you talked about your positive, joyous experiences at WorldCon. How you were welcomed as a peer, about how you had all these great, wonderful, memorable experiences.
But I’m betting before your first WorldCon a whole bunch of malignant lying bastards didn’t spread the word to thousands of complete strangers that you were a racist, sexist, homophobic warmonger who deserved to be shunned.
Side note, I’m not racist, sexist, or homophobic, but if that crowd (I’ll talk about the derogatory label my side uses that you don’t like in a minute) decides you are the enemy, they will smear you with those labels, regardless of the evidence. If you don’t believe me, read the many, many news articles about Sad Puppies that came out a few days ago working off that same script.
I met many wonderful people at that WorldCon. I also had many people treat me like garbage. I was berated by other panelists. I had people get up and leave the room when I entered. I had belligerent drunks challenging me at room parties because “Oh, it’s that fucker”.
A lot of people will tell you now that I bring this upon myself, because I am rude and abrasive on the internet now. Yes. Now. But back then I was still trying to play it cool, and didn’t think I could have a successful career if I made the wrong people angry. It wasn’t until after that WorldCon that I said screw it, they’re going to hate me anyway, might as well state my honest opinions.
So I mostly hung out with the Barflies, because they were cool. But I can hang out with Barflies at fifty other cons where I’m not assumed to be the second coming of Hitler because the internet said so. And while I hung out with them, I got to hear how many of them were shunned for various reasons too.
Then I went to the award ceremony, and the parties, and the various schmoozefests, and I discovered that the Hugo Awards were like one great big In Joke. And the cool kids told their cool stories to the other cool kids, and lorded it over those who weren’t part of the In Joke. Honestly, it reminded me of high school, and I was the poor fat kid who had inadvertently pissed off the mean girls.
Then I got to meet and hang out with a whole bunch of authors, artists, and creators who spent most of the con bitching about how broken and biased the Hugos were. Some of these were old school, and got the In Jokes. Some were so talented, so famous, so successful, that it blew my mind that here they were at dinner, pissed off and angry that they knew they would never get any sort of consideration.
After the awards were over and all the cool kids patted each other on the back about how brilliant they were, and everything shook out pretty much exactly how everybody predicted it would anyway, they released the actual numbers for nominations and votes, and I discovered just how freaking tiny the number of people involved in this supposedly most prestigious award in the world was.
The winners were those who played the game, and as I sat there with the losers, I watched the game already being played for next year. As an author, I was sad. As a fan, I was disgusted. But as an auditor, I marveled at how something so statistically insignificant could be taken so seriously.
That was my first exposure to how the process really worked.
So I went home, dejected. And when I openly spoke about my experience, and I said pretty much exactly what you just said there, Mr. Martin, that the awards don’t represent all of fandom, and that they just represent one tiny, insular, clique of fandom… I was called a liar.
I was attacked all over again. I was told it was just sour grapes from a loser, but what could you expect from a shit writer, making shit product? The Hugos represent greatness, worthiness, and all of fandom. WorldCon is inclusive. How dare you question it?
So I said I would prove it, and I did.
Here we are, a few years later, and oh how the narrative has changed. Now we are being told that the idea that the Hugos represented all of fandom and not just the tastes of one small convention were misconceptions. Now the most successful author in the world and editors for the biggest scifi publishing house are telling us that it belonged to just WorldCon all along.
Too late. When people like me kept getting told that it represented all of fandom, we believed you. When you told us that if we wanted the stuff we liked represented better we should get more people involved in the process, we believed you.
And we did. Now we’re the bad guys.
((Never believe anyone who states loudly and repeatedly that they don’t care about awards, especially if they don’t care about one award in particular. Aesop saw through that okey-doke centuries ago. Boy, them grapes are sour. If you don’t care about something, you don’t think about it, or talk about it, or try to change the rules so you get one. The people who keep shouting that they don’t care if they ever win a Hugo are the ones who want one the most, take that to the bank)).
I am many terrible things, but dishonest is not one of them.
Let me clarify something, because I have been personally attacked for this for three years now. Yes, like most authors I dreamed of winning a Hugo, because I was very naïve. In the past I did very much want to win a Hugo. Just like I was dumb enough for a couple days to think that I might actually have a shot at winning a Campbell.
However, I know that I will not ever win a Hugo. I’m way too good at statistical analysis. I had a snowball’s chance in hell before I upset the apple cart and made myself radioactive to the typical WorldCon voter.
I launched the Sad Puppies campaign with the idea that if I could get authors with the wrong politics onto the Hugo ballot, I could prove to the world that the Hugos were in fact what you are all now admitting that they are. (Mission accomplished) Plus I wanted to expose that the perpetually outraged crowd would react with vehemence, vitriol, lies, and career sabotage, so that the world could see that our genre is overrun with bitter culture warriors who have politicized everything, and that if you had the wrong politics they would do everything in their power to destroy you (mission accomplished beyond my wildest dreams).
Not only did I know going into this that I would never win a Hugo, I also knew that I was going to make myself a target, and that I would be slandered, threatened, and have my career sabotaged.
But I still did it anyway.
The thing I’m shouting about is bigger than just the Hugos. It is about freedom of expression, and the ability of authors to say what they want to say without fear. It is about exposing the malignant, destructive bullies who live to persecute others for crossing their invisible lines.
I got a nomination for my novel Warbound last year. The people I’m trying to expose rose to the occasion, formed lynch mobs and started attacking. I got a nomination again this year, for my novel Monster Hunter Nemesis, but I refused the nomination, specifically to prove that this isn’t about me wanting a Hugo. Apparently that still isn’t enough.
Allow me to demonstrate my conviction, and state for the record that I will never accept a Hugo award nomination for myself. However, I will continue to assist other authors who I believe have been unfairly blacklisted and shunned get theirs.
You will all have noted, no doubt, a common thread here: worldcon.
The Hugos belong to worldcon.
I am glad we are on the same page now.
If important people like you had said this to the people feeling disenfranchised before, then you wouldn’t be seeing this backlash now.
But instead of telling us the truth, that we were right and the Hugos belong to just WorldCon and didn’t represent all of fandom, my people were insulted, and told we were stupid, and that we liked stupid unworthy things. When an outsider dared to complain in public about how they would never get considered, they were told it wasn’t because WorldCon was biased, it was because they just weren’t good enough.
Worldcon continued… but the steady growth that had characterized worldcon through the 60s and 70s stopped. That 1984 worldcon in LA remained the largest one in history until last year at London. Meanwhile San Diego Comicon and Gencon and Dragoncon grew bigger than worldcon… twice the size, ten times the size, twenty times the size… Dragoncon even went so far as to break with a half-century old fannish tradition by moving to Labor Day, worldcon’s traditional date, a date that had up to then been inviolate. And why not? Dragoncon’s attendees were fans, sure, they were comics fans and Star Wars fans and cosplay fans, and some were even book fans… but they were not “trufans,” as that term was commonly used, and they didn’t care when worldcon was.
While WorldCon complains of the shrinking and greying of fandom, Salt Lake City ComicCon has been around for 2 years and has 150,000 attendees. For some people, books might not be their primary fannish outlet, but they still read books. Just because somebody plays Dragon Age or the Witcher doesn’t mean they don’t read fantasy novels too. Heck, I believe Halo tie in novels are some of the bestselling books in scifi.
If somebody was introduced to fantasy by watching Game of Thrones on HBO, and then they bought and read all your books, discovered they liked fantasy and read other books, and they thought some are awesome and deserving of an award, are they somehow lesser fans on the scales of fandom because they don’t know WorldCon trivia?
So do you not want those fans to vote in the Hugos because they don’t share the proud traditions of WorldCon, or not? Because I do.
(The term “trufans” is an unfortunate one in this argument, since some of the Sad Puppies and their supporters take it amiss, and understandly, when told they don’t qualify. The term is a very old one, however, probably dates back to THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR, a parody of PILGRIM’S PROGRESS about the search for “true fandom.” Like “SMOF,” it is at least partially a joke. And if any of this paragraph makes any sense to you, you are undoubtedly a trufan… but don’t worry, you don’t need to know what a mimeograph machine is to be a real fan, I swear).
Yes, part of the issue of why my side is very loud right now is that people like Teresa Nielsen Hayden have been very explicit that they aren’t welcome, and that they are the wrong kind of fans.
But now that we are talking terminology, let me explain why exactly the term SJW has come into common usage. Much the same way SMOF and trufan have taken on meanings representing groups with a shared mindset to your community, SJW has taken on a meaning representing a group with a shared mindset to my community.
The term SJW is way bigger than Sad Puppies, and predates Sad Puppies, and has entered the general lexicon of easily half our nation, but probably mostly the red state tired of getting yelled at half. We use the term SJW because it is far easier than typing out Perpetually Outraged, Searching For Offense, Quick to Accuse Racism/Sexism/Homophobia/Privilege/Patriarchy, Holier Than Thou, Politics Before Fun, Unholy Cross Between Communists and Puritans, Twitter Lynch Mob Forming, Career Sabotaging, Social Justice Crusaders.
The term has stuck, and shows up everywhere in America. Comet Guy with his “offensive” shirt did more to popularize the term SJW than anything my people ever did. It is here to stay.
And to contrast SMOFs, who are mostly normal, sane, good people, Brad came up with the term CHORFs for the really snobbish elitists, because unlike SJWs, we have a sense of humor
Other conventions have other awards. Wiscon has the Tiptrees. The World Fantasy Con presents the World Fantasy Awards, or Howards. The Bram Stokers are given by the HWA, the Nebulas by SFWA. Libertarians have the Prometheus Awards, though I don’t know where they give them out. I just came back from Norwescon, where they handed out the Philip K. Dick Award. We used to have Balrogs and the Gandalfs, but they went away. The Japanese have the Seiun awards, the Spanish have the Gigameshs, the Czechs the Newts. Australians have Ditmars, Canadians Auroras. Gamers have Origins Awards, comic fans have Inkpots and Eisners.
I don’t denigrate any of these awards. I’ve won an Inkpot, I’ve handed out an Eisner. I won a Balrog too, but it was smashed before it reached me. I have a Newt and a bunch of Gigameshs and even a Seiun. Awards are cool. Awards are fun. Or should be. I don’t expect I will ever win a Tiptree or a Prometheus or a Dick, but that’s fine, I applaud them all the same. Writing is a hard gig, man. Any recognition is a plus. Big or small, any award is a pat on the back, a way of saying, “hey, you did good,” and we all need that from time to time.
The difference is that none of those awards claimed to speak for the entirety of fandom.
The barbaric outsiders shelling out their $40 to get involved now grew up being told that the Hugos were it, the Big Deal, the best of the best, and like me, they were naïve enough to believe it for a long time.
Yet, as the Hugos became increasingly politically skewed in one direction, people can now admit that is because they reflected WorldCon, not all of Fandom, only for all these years Fandom were the ones being told that they were dumb for liking the wrong things. They were wrongfan having wrongfun.
If the Sad Puppies wanted to start their own award… for Best Conservative SF, or Best Space Opera, or Best Military SF, or Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be… whatever it is they are actually looking for… hey, I don’t think anyone would have any objections to that. I certainly wouldn’t. More power to them.
Mr. Martin, up until a week ago, nobody in the upper echelons of fandom or publishing would say that the Hugos belongs to just one tiny convention. They kept claiming to represent the best, most worthy things in our whole genre. And we had stuff that we thought was great and worthy too, but it was ignored or shunned, so why would we go start another award when there was a perfectly good award right there already claiming to represent us too?
We started doing this 3 years ago. Maybe, if 3 years ago some VIPs had come out and said what you’re saying today, we would have done that instead. “Okay, Sad Puppies 2013 or 2014, you are right, you really are outsiders, and we’re insiders and we want to keep this our thing, so go do your own thing” would have avoided a lot of trouble. But you guys didn’t say that then, so you can’t get mad at us for taking you at your word that you represent everyone, and then get mad at us for not knowing the insider information that you guys claimed didn’t exist until last week!
But that’s not what they are doing here, it seems to me. Instead they seem to want to take the Hugos and turn them into their own awards. Hey, anyone is welcome to join worldcon, to become part of worldcon fandom… but judging by the comments on the Torgesen and Correia sites, a lot of the Puppies seem to actively hate worldcon and the people who attend it, and want nothing to do with us. They want to determine who gets the Ditmars, but they don’t want to be Australians.
I told my WorldCon experience above. I know Brad had a similar experience when he first got involved with WorldCon too.
Why do the many people involved in the Sad Puppies campaign seem to hate WorldCon? Because the SJW crowd (I know you don’t like that term, but it is the appropriate one to use here) hates my kind of fan, actively and routinely attacks my kind of fan, and calls them racist, sexist, homophobes without evidence, all day, every day.
I know the SJWs are only one small clique at WorldCon, however they are the loudest and the meanest. And sadly, the moderate, rational, normal WorldCon folks rarely seem to condemn them for their antics. So from over here on the Sad Puppies side, they take your silence and lack of condemnation against the hate mongers as tacit approval, and then they tend to lump you together.
So why then would they want to attend when they are told their kind is unwanted?
Why would they stick up for WorldCon, when in their minds they think the silent majority of WorldCon attendees are the same as the vocal minority of crusading social justice crowd who actively and openly despises them?
WorldCon claims to be inclusive, but scroll through the various comments threads on the various fan blogs on my side of the fence and get their perspective sometime. SFWA also claims to be welcoming, inclusive, and apolitical, but again, read how they are really perceived by many. Snobbish, snooty, bossy, self-righteous, etc. Don’t take my word for it—you know I’m terribly biased—but ask them yourself.
The prestige of the Hugo derives from its history. The worth of any award is determined in large part by the people who have won it. Would I love to win the Hugo for Best Novel some day? You’re damned right I would. But not because I need another rocket to gather dust on my mantle, as handsome as the Hugo trophies are. I want one because Robert A. Heinlein won four, because Roger Zelazny and Alfred Bester and Ursula K. Le Guin and Fritz Leiber and Walter M. Miller Jr and Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl and so many other giants have won the same award. That’s a club that any science fiction and fantasy writer should be thrilled to join.
Yet honestly, with the current state of the Hugos, how many of those greats that you list would win today? Sadly, I think we both know the answer depends on how well they could play the game.
My personal favorite on there is Robert Heinlein. Hypothetical question, if Robert Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers in 2014, could he get on the Hugo ballot now? Or would he be labeled a fascist with troubling ideas, and a product of the neo-colonial patriarchy?
And before you dismiss that question, maybe you should read up on what the voting clique that shall not be named says about Heinlein now.
Sadly, I suspect the only way Heinlein could get on the ballot today would be if my horde of uncouth barbarian outsiders got involved and put him on our suggested slate.
[[Once again, comments and dissent are welcome, but I expect courtesy from all parties. And yes, that means those of you who are on “my side” as well. Let’s not throw around insults, or charges of misogyny and racism, please. And Puppies, sad or happy, if any of you feel inclined to reply, please avoid the term “Social Justice Warriors” or SJWs. I am happy to call you Sad Puppies since you named yourself that, but I know of no one, be they writer or fan, who calls themselves a social justice warrior. Offending or insulting posts will be deleted. We can disagree here, but let’s try for respectfuldisagreement.]]
We do not mind being called Puppies, but for the record we are doing this on behalf of Sad Puppies, because good books being excluded over political message dreck is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.
We do not however like being called racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, fascists, hate mongers, the KKK, or wife beaters. Especially in major media outlets like Entertainment Weekly, Salon, Slate, the Telegraph, and io9. If you would like to compare the amount and level of vitriolic lies spread in this contentious debate, it is pretty obvious which way those scales are going to go.
As for the term SJW, as I said above, that isn’t going to happen at this point. It is entrenched. You might as well tell people not to say conservative or liberal, because though often inaccurate when applied to every single individual in a movement, they are useful, handy descriptors that get the point across quickly.
I find the above link to be an excellent article about the tone.
Yes, I do get angry, and yes, I have said some very mean things as part of that.
I know you’re not looking for excuses, Mr. Martin, but I’m a little nobody, no name, hack author, who sells a tiny fraction as many books as you do, who had the bright idea to expose the bias in a biased system. As a result I’ve had people who know better spread the vilest lies about me you can imagine, and even when they know it is a lie, they have continued.
For five years, nobody on your side said a damned thing about tone when I was the one being labeled a hatemonger, or a “rape apologist” by disingenuous SFWA presidents, or they were using fabricated “scare quotes” to show I was a homophobic woman hater in the Guardian.
So, yeah, I’m angry. When people who haven’t talked to my wife since high school reach out to her, worried for her safety, because they read about how her husband is a wife beater, I get angry. Right now in about 50 blogs going out to I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people, the narrative is that I’m an angry white man, trying to keep scifi straight and white and male.
And the fans who got involved with Sad Puppies? It turns out that one of their primary motivators to finally get involved was that they watched all this happen live. And as more of them voiced their opinions, more of them were publically attacked too, which motivated more to jump in, etc. etc.
But once we finally succeeded in making a big splash, and everybody started paying attention, and tons of people on my side are speaking up now too, and media outlets from the both sides of the political spectrum are reporting on it, and the insults are flying back and forth…
Now we get warnings about tone.
You know the most heartening things I’ve seen this week are? Writers who are my polar political opposites finally standing up and saying things like yes, Larry Coreia is an asshole, but he’s not any of these horrible things you are accusing him of, or yes, Larry Correia is an asshole, but please quit threatening to kill him and his entire family.
That’s been nice.
But yeah, I’ve said some pretty mean things during this debate, so you’ll have to forgive me if after the 1000th post calling me a bunch of things I’m not, I come off a little testy. When you have professional culture warriors like Brianna Wu and Arthur Chu, who make their livings off of generating political controversy, saying that Brad Torgersen’s two decades of interracial marriage is just a shield to hide his true secret racism, then yes, there is a serious tone problem.
People like us have been dealing with people like that for our entire careers. One of my goals was to get your people to notice it.
So thank you for calling for civility.
Personally, I will try to remain civil to anybody who disagrees and wants to debate, but I’m way past the point where I have any mercy left for people who just want to scream in my face, or the mind readers who ignore what I actually say and do to tell everyone what I really meant, and I will treat them accordingly.
Mr. Martin, on this last post of yours, there is actually very little that I disagree with, and it is actually extremely nice to see a writer of your caliber and level coming out and saying this stuff. For that, I am truly appreciative, and I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ll explain why below.
The Sad Puppies and their supporters have argued that they are not the first to campaign for awards in our (not so) little genre.
They’re right about that, of course.
I’ve been around a long time. So has campaigning, by one means or another.
(I left out several paragraphs here about campaigning for the Nebulas, just because of space, because this blog post is already huge, but I would really recommend that everyone go and read the whole thing. The Nebulas aren’t the Hugos, but the communities are intertwined)
And what about the Hugos, you ask?
Yeah, there too. In the ongoing discussion of Puppygate, numerous people have cited one instance, wherein a stack of identical nominating ballots arrived with the same postmark, paid for by consecutive money orders. Those were disallowed. In 1987, members of the Church of Scientology campaigned successfully to place L. Ron Hubbard’s BLACK GENESIS on the Best Novel ballot. That was not disallowed — the Scientologists had done nothing illegal, after all, all they’d done is buy supporting memberships to a convention that they had no intention of attending, for the sole purpose of nominating LRH for a Hugo (hmmm, why does that tactic sound familiar?) — but their campaign created a huge backlash. Hubbard’s name was booed lustily at the Hugo ceremony in Brighton, and his book finished last in the final balloting, behind No Award. (The winner that year was Orson Scott Card, with SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, for those who are counting).
Of course, there were also recommended reading lists. That wasn’t campaigning, not strictly, but certain lists could have huge influence on the final ballot. The annual LOCUS Recommended Reading List, compiled by Charles Brown and his staff and reviewers, was the most influential. If your book or story made that list… well, it did not guarantee you a place on the ballot, but it sure improved your chances. NESFA (the New England fan club) had an annual list as well, and LASFS might have done the same, not sure. And of course the Nebulas, which came before the Hugos, carried a lot of weight too. Win a Nebula, and the chances were good that you’d be a Hugo nominee as well. Again, no guarantee, some years the shortlists diverged sharply… but more often than not, there was a lot of overlap.
One quick note, after SP2 made a little bit of a dent and I had said a bunch of things in public about the bias in the awards against people with the wrong politics, various incredulous fan bloggers started looking at it. These were people who don’t like me (which I am totally cool with) but they were honest, and figured my claims of political bias in this process would be easily disproven.
Except they ended up finding various things that indicated maybe all of us “right wingers” weren’t such liars after all. That prestigious influential LOCUS Recommended Reading List you mentioned? I think it has like 40 or 50 books but ZERO from Baen (a publishing house that gets a bad rap because it is willing to publish any author regardless of their politics, from capital L Libertarians to card carrying Communists as long as they can tell a good story). Most of the other various lists from various pro places? The politics of the recommend authors are either unknown or overwhelmingly fell in one direction. You can guess which direction that is.
Chaos Horizon picked two Hugo contenders to compare for 2015, one “right wing” (me, because of my showing during SP2) and one “left wing” (because this overtly political and opinionated author is a perpetual Hugo favorite) and they compared the buzz and reviews. What they found was so lopsided it surprised even me. Our books sold about the same, came out within a month of each other, and I had higher reviews on Amazon, except the left wing author had been plugged on ALL the recommendation places they checked. The right wing author was on ZERO.
So there were always these factors in play. Cliques, I can hear the Sad Puppies saying. Yeah, maybe. Thing is, they were COMPETING cliques. The NESFA list and the Nebula list were not the same, and the LOCUS list… the LOCUS list was always very long. Five spots on the Hugo ballot, and LOCUS would recommend twenty books, or thirty… sometimes more, when they started putting SF and fantasy in separate categories.
Yes, there were competing cliques, but the only cliques who mattered all looked virtually identical to us outsiders looking in. And hardly anything they ever nominated represented anything we liked. To most of us barbarian wrongfans, the competing cliques were indistinguishable from one another.
For example, correct me if I’m wrong but I believe with last year’s winners, every single one shared similar political viewpoints. And all but one of them was white, yet that year was hailed as a huge win for diversity.
You need to see this from Wrongfan’s perspective. You guys had competing cliques, but to us it was like an Eskimo having a thousand different words for snow, and you can tell us about your many diverse and wonderful types of snow, but all we saw was snow.
And in recent years when we looked at the ballots it was like, awesome, let’s choose between these five items of approved socially conscious message fiction. Yay! We’ve got selections from: religious people are stupid bigots, capitalists are raping the earth, capitalists are stupid bigots, bigots are stupid, and I’m not quite sure what the hell this last thing is about and I’m not even sure if it qualifies as fantasy or scifi but it has bigots in it… Oh man, tough call.
Again, now we can openly say that this all makes sense because my kind of people aren’t WorldCon regulars, and this award belongs only to WorldCon, so the stuff making the ballot wasn’t aimed at us… but sadly that wasn’t what you guys were telling us when we started this. This stuff was supposed to be the best stuff in the whole world.
So we formed our own competing clique and actually bothered to show up.
Bottom line, lots of people influenced the Hugos (or tried to), but no one ever successfully controlled the Hugos.
And I truly don’t want to either. I don’t want to be Hugo Pope.
That became even more true when we entered the age of the internet. Suddenly blogs and bulletin boards and listservs were everywhere, and there were DOZENS of people drawing up recommended reading lists and suggesting books and writers and stories. Sweet chaos. It was glorious. So many people talking about books, arguing about books, reading books.
That was also when the practice of writers blogging about their own eligible books and stories took root. “Say, the Hugo nominations are coming up, and I had a few things out last year. Hey, check them out.” Some people were deeply offended by this practice. (Some still are. Check out the blogs of Peter Watts and Adam Roberts on the subject, for instance). Others, especially newer writers and those hungry for attention, seized on it at once as a way of getting their name out there. Publishers and editors began to encourage it. Publicity and advertising budgets being what they were (non-existent in many cases), new writers and midlist writers soon realized that if they did not publicize their books, no one would.
And once it really got rolling, there was no stopping it. “Everyone else is doing it,” you heard writers say. “I have to do it, in self-defense.” They were not wrong. Sometimes the difference between making the Hugo ballot and falling short is a single vote. The writer who refused to self-promote and then fell a few votes short… ouch.
[And yes, I have done all this myself. Mentioned my own work, drawn up recommended reading lists, blogged passionately about people I thought deserved a nomination. I am not condemning the practice, just reporting on it. It always made me feel awkward, but like many of my friends, I knew that if I refrained and then missed the ballot by a few votes, I would be kicking myself. I’d sooner see the practice die out. But until it does, you have to play the game.]
Of course, not everyone was equally good at self-promotion. Certain subfandoms were better organized than others (the DOCTOR WHO fans, for instance). Certain writers were more skilled at social media than others, and built up huge personal followings on Twitter and Facebook, or through their blogs… numbers that soon translated to multiple Hugo nominations.
You have no idea how incredibly glad I am that you wrote all of that, Mr. Martin. After the week I’ve had… Holy moly.
And that was pretty much where we stood, until the Sad Puppies came along.
Last year I didn’t do anything different than what was listed above. I talked about it on my blog. I tried to motivate and rally people to get involved. I plugged stuff I liked. And all of a sudden there was a little clique of Wrongfan nominating for LonCon, just big enough to get one item into every category. We were no different than the other above mentioned subfandoms.
Yet, somehow, when I did that, I was a filthy villain, breaking all the rules, with no respect for tradition. Just as I predicted, there was a wrathful terrible public backlash from the clique which shall not be named, and even though I went into it knowing that none of us would actually win, once the final results came in, the leaders of the clique which shall not be named out of respect for Mr. Martin, moved the goal posts, and danced in our blood. Articles were written about how these horrible racist hate mongers were soundly driven from the sainted halls of WorldCon. Back beneath your rock, foul barbarians! And anyone who supported Sad Puppies was motivated by racism! Booooooo!
That reaction did more to cause the avalanche that was Sad Puppies 3 than anything I could have ever done. It proved exactly what I’d been saying all along. I was joined by a whole bunch of other people, authors, creators, artist, and fans, who said enough of the lies and BS and slander, now we’re in this too. We’re tired of the Hugo awards being a circle jerk of like-minded people telling each other how brilliant they are.
To be perfectly frank, some things changed between LonCon and SasQuan. I’d proved my point about the bias and attacks, and was ready to hang it up. They poked the bear, the bear mauled them, and now the bear just wanted to go back to his cave and be left alone. But Brad Torgersen is an idealist, Mr. Martin, I can’t accentuate this enough. He would be dead in Westeros in fifteen minutes. Brad is TruFan. That man waves his nerd flag high. He looks at the Hugo with adoration like it is some sort of religious icon with a halo around it. He prays to his altar of Saint Heinlein 3 times a day and lights candles for Frank Herbert.
If I was naïve at first, Brad makes me look… hell… I don’t even have a good comparison. So when he grew up hearing that the Hugos represented the Best of the Best, bright shining light on the hill, he incorporated that into the very fiber of his being.
And Brad figured that with my insane stunt of SP2 actually working, let’s make the Hugos represent more of fandom, fans like him and his friends. So instead of a thousand words for snow, we might actually have some dirt, or grass, maybe even some trees, and no doubt some bullshit will show up once in a while, but damn it, our side is sick of freaking snow!
At that point Sad Puppies was no longer just about proving a point. It was about giving a voice to a whole mess of fans who didn’t think they would ever have one again. The mission changed, and it became about getting deserving worthy creators who would normally be shunned or ignored some freaking recognition for once in their lives. It was time to stand up to the clique that shall not be named and their lectures about how we were having wrongfun.
Unlike the existing cliques, Sad Puppies 3 didn’t give a damn about politics, race, religion, or orientation. All we cared about was could they tell us a damned good story. The big game you describe, the campaigning, the favors, all that, our suggested slate was made up of the people who didn’t, wouldn’t, or couldn’t play that game.
I have very mixed feelings about campaigning for awards. Part of me agrees with my friend Lisa Tuttle. Wouldn’t it be great if each reader could make his own nominations, without being influenced by slates or lists or mass mailings? It would also be great if all the children of the world could get together and sing in perfect harmony, but that’s not going to happen either. Like it or not, campaigning is here to stay.
I can see where this is going. I am a Worldcon member and a SFWA member, but I am also a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which means I vote on the WGA awards and the Emmys… and so the flood comes in, DVDs and Blu-Rays and screeners and links to lockboxes, all full of TV shows and movies “for my consideration.” Way too many to watch. Way too many to count. Are there studios and directors and networks that don’t play the game, that don’t send out screeners and run ads in VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Sure there are. They are easy to recognize. They’re the studios and directors and networks who don’t win any awards.
Once you let the genie out of the bottle, he doesn’t go back in.
The Sad Puppies did not invent Hugo campaigning, by any means. But they escalated it, just as that magazine/publisher partnership did way back when. They turned it up to eleven.
If the people attacking us don’t chill out, more of my people are going to get pissed off, and it might hit a 12 or 13 next year. 🙂
Their slate was more effective that anyone could ever have dreamed, so effective that they drowned out pretty much all the other voices. They ran the best organized, most focused, and most effective awards campaign in the history of our genre, and showed everyone else how it’s done.
I used to be an accountant. We are monotonously efficient.
Truthfully, we never dreamed that we would block out whole categories with our suggestions. I underestimated how motivated my people became after seeing the childish, petulant, entitled reaction from the clique that shall not be named last year.
I’ve had a bunch of well-meaning SMOFs telling me that they nobody would be upset if we’d only gotten one or two things into each category, but that’s exactly what we accomplished last year, and they still freaked out at us.
The lesson will be learned. The Sad Puppies have already announced that they intend to do it again next year. Which means that other factions in fandom will have to do it as well. Just as happened with the “let me tell you about my eligible works,” the rest of the field is going to need to field slates of their own in self-defense.
Mr. Martin, we didn’t start this. We are the inevitable backlash that occurs when the pendulum swings too far in one direction.
I don’t look forward to that. It cheapens the Hugos. Will future winners actually be the best books or stories? Or only the books and stories that ran the best campaigns?
As far as we could tell, it was already like that.
Can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put the Hugos back together again?
I don’t see how. And that makes me sadder than all those puppies put together.
My honest opinion is that to a gigantic chunk of disenfranchised fandom, we felt like Humpty Dumpty fell off that wall a long time ago.
If you want to talk about going forward, from here, I don’t know what to tell you about your campaigning cliques. They were already there long before we showed up.
But you really want to “fix it” and make sure my people don’t screw it up anymore, and keep the Hugos sacred? Well, right now the ball is in your court.
You’ve got people out there who supposedly love the award so much that they are organizing block votes for No Award against absurdly deserving yet consistently overlooked people like Jim Butcher, Toni Weisskopf, and Kevin J. Anderson, all to burn the whole thing down, just because my people violated your secret gentleman’s agreement and plugged them on a slate. As Brad Torgersen pointed out already, that sounds suspiciously like the story with Solomon offering to cut the baby in half. And one mother saying, screw it, I’d rather the baby die than that bitch get him. (paraphrasing, obviously).
No matter how you change the rules, Sad Puppies will still obey the rules.
First and foremost, you guys need to decide, once and for all, what the Hugo Awards really are. There are two choices.
- It is the most prestigious award which represents the best works in all of fandom.
- It is a little award, for one little group of people, at one convention.
You can’t have both. Pick one, stake your flag on it, and we will proceed from there.
If it is just WorldCon’s little clubhouse award, and some of us aren’t welcome in the clubhouse, then fine. Duly noted, and Sad Puppies next move will be predicated upon that.
But if it is the most prestigious award that represents the best of all of fandom, then that means that all of fandom, including us, gets to participate.
You can’t have both.
I think you will find that the people who are involved with Sad Puppies are willing to talk about the future, but we are very tired of being yelled at and lied about.
No matter what happens, whether you like the term for them or not, you guys need to calm your SJWs down, and tell them to quit forming angry twitter mobs, and scaring the hell out of authors who cross their invisible lines. Most of us aren’t big and successful enough to be immune to their inquisition. I’m fine. You’re doing, holy crap, like mega bucks piles of gold bars fine. But many regular authors are being intimidated by these bullies, having their careers damaged, and it isn’t right.
Anyways, I hope you actually read this, and if so, I appreciate you taking the time.