Extra, extra! The farce that is the Hugo Awards rolls over into 2014! Right-wing extremist coup attempt on nominations! Award process offers no defense!
I have previously pointed out the, ahem, gaps in the Hugo award process. But I know I am just a lone, weak voice in the crowd. I run a backalley, East Podunk, beyond the black stump blog where opinion matters naught in the face of the mighty Hugo. Guess I’ll just have to leave it to the award to shoot itself in the foot… Wait!! In 2014, thanks to the Sad Puppy campaign, it has!
Emergency room appraises wounds! Hugo in critical condition!
When Hugo nominations opened for 2014, Larry Correia, science fiction/fantasy author of, ahem, ‘midlist detective stories’ (some of which are set in a world subtly named ‘Grimnoir’), posted a list of authors and works that his fans could/should nominate. The campaign successful, five of the eight categories feature Correia’s suggestions. These names include: Brad Torgersen and the redoubtable Vox Day (Theodore Beale) for best novelette, and Correia himself for best novel. With the appearance of this group of authors on the ballot and alllllllll the ideological baggage they bring in tow, the Hugo process, and by default the organizers which oversee the process, have been caught with their pants hanging—at the ankles in a stiff breeze.
Police know culprit but remain mum! No statements forthcoming!
Correia and his gang’s political agendas are one thing: we live with the idea of free speech, after all, and I would be the last to say they should not be allowed to voice their opinions. The problem is, their opinions are now validated by the Hugo stamp: “Larry Correia, gun proponent and Hugo Award nominee” has a clear ring to it. Thus, the finger of blame for letting such opinions near a microphone that speaks with the voice of the genre is pointed squarely at Hugo organizers. They can enact changes to the rules which prevent this type of thing from happening. As it stands, they failed to do so. Letting bottom-feeder pulp, ahem, sorry, let me start over. Letting ‘midlist detective stories’ be nominated for the ‘best of the best’ in speculative fiction: bravo Hugo organizers!! Way to legitimize the quality of the literature awarded! Providing right wing gun enthusiasts (Correia’s posing with a massive gun on his website is great) and openly sexist bigots a platform on which their views can be aired: bravo Hugo organizers! Way to indirectly champion regressive ideologies! Facing the public with an honest face and saying: ‘We have a great crop of award nominees this year”: bravo Hugo organizers! But don’t pale when you speak! Say it loud and clear: “We are proud to have Correia and Day on our ballot!!”
In the slush-fest that is sure to follow this year’s Hugo finalist’s announcement (including this post), undoubtedly award organizers will stand aside and state simply: “We followed the agreed process to a T, the nominees the objective result. The people have spoken. We wash our hands.” What in fact they are directly saying is: “Religious discrimination, sexism, anti-multiculturalism, and pro-gun values, etc. are indirectly valued by our organization. Along with progressive worldviews which entail the repression of violence and appreciation of differences amongst people, we allow holders and purveyors of such anti-progressive cultural and social ideals equal footing on which to spread their worldviews.” In this day and age when social responsibility is an increasingly important element of public organizations, the indifference at this year’s ballot is inexcusable.
American genre values in the international spotlight! Chance for redemption!
Correia’s successful nomination campaign couldn’t have come at a better, ahem, worse time. The next worldcon to be held in London (one of the world’s major cosmopolitan cities and major culture seat of Europe), the presence of he and his gang’s fiction is a fine testament to the fact America has moved beyond the perception it is a gun-toting, religiously conservative nation which promotes individual differences. Oh wait, Correia and his gang only confirm that…. America too ethnocentric to be aware, many outside the country, particularly Europeans, perceive Americans as a backwards people ideologically. Little Billy (or Larry, or Theo, or Brad) is just as likely to get in a shootout as he is to get on a soap box and promote a narrow-minded agenda. This year’s Hugo ballot only bolsters this presumption. Speculative fiction an area of literature open to interesting and often forward-thinking ideas, reverting to the gun-fueled paranoia and xenophobia of Correia et al, does nothing to give people outside the US a chance to believe America might have progressed beyond the wild west.
Behind the scenes:
I doubt Correia and his gang possess the fan base to overcome Robert Jordan, Charles Stross, Ann Leckie, Ted Chiang, Andy Duncan, or the other more ‘well-known’ writers in final Hugo voting. But the fact they have been given the opportunity to draw more attention to themselves simply by being nominees and part of the inevitable award nominee discussion, indicates that the overriding popularity contest methodology is a major hole in Hugo proceedings. Allowing for worldviews that run contrary to the values award organizers would undoubtedly uphold were honesty the name of the day, the proof remains in the pudding: the Hugo name is now formally tied to right wing extremism.
If I were a nominee running alongside any of the above-mentioned writers, I would withdraw myself from the competition in protest. But I guess giving up the marketing value of being a “Hugo nominee” may be too much for them... Which is all the more proof juried awards, with their ability to dictate an agenda and therefore have an overview of works to be excluded, possess integrity beyond the simplicity of popular appeal. (Bestseller lists and Amazon sales provide just as good a measure as the Hugo.) Right wingers have/can have their own awards. There would be no pretense regarding the agenda. But with the Hugo, which claims to be an award that recognizes the best of the field at large, one expects a stronger degree of discrimination regarding which titles are able to worm their way towards the top, and therefore the public eye as representative of the interests of readers. I am a lover—bibliophile, in fact—whose main reading interests are speculative fiction. So to think that people outside the genre (might) believe that Correia, Day, Torgersen, et al represent the field blows my mind in many negative ways.
But there’s still one last question: how does 2014 affect the ballot’s future if action is not taken? Will more extreme writers start their own Hugo campaigns that entirely swamp the nominations, leaving voters no choice but to make someone like Day ‘best of’? Will groups, like political factions, come together and eventually dictate the final ballots, writer alliances needed if anyone is to have a chance at winning—like politics? Will the literary and artistic elements and award heritage continue to pale in favor of sensationalism and commercialism? There is only one solution to these inevitabilities. Like the Nobel, Booker, Pulitzer, World Fantasy, Arthur C. Clarke Award, etc., it’s time for the genre’s most prestigious award to go juried. Otherwise, I continue to laugh as…
Extra, extra! Read all about it! Hugo sinking! Passengers indifferent! Orchestra still playing on the foredeck…