Hugo Awards 2016: Burn Them Down (and wait for 2017)

For the “too long; didn’t read” summary of this post: Hugo Awards 2016 are a Hot Mess and I’m Going to Make a Political Statement by ranking anything on the Rabid Puppies list below No Award. Some people don’t think that’s a good idea. I think those people are wrong.

Now for the longer version:

The 2016 Hugo nominations are out and the Rabid Puppies are all over the lists, again.1 This is disappointing, but expected. If you have no idea what I’m talking about there are several good summaries available. This post assumes you have a general familiarity with the furor surrounding the Hugo Awards, the Sad/Rabid Puppies, etc.

The RPs dominated this year’s nominations on nearly everything below Novel. A wonderful comparison of the nominations with the Rabid/Sad Puppies slates  is at File 770. It clearly shows items that were NOT on the RP slate. In the categories where only one item/person present is non-RP, that person/item will be getting my vote and I don’t need to bother reading any of the RP-nominated works2.

Amusingly, after declaring this on Twitter, I got a (weird-ass, right-wing, somebody-or-other) response saying “Shirker.” I assume this was intended to imply I was shirking my duty as a Hugo voter by not reading the nominated work. To which I say, “Fuck you. I don’t have the time for crap.” And that’s the core issue: I don’t have the time to spend on unworthy books and my experience with RP-nominated works is that they are crap. I will put a book down if I’m not enjoying it or if it actively angers me with its craptitude; I’ll read for a bit and give it a chance (sometimes more than a chance) before I decide it’s not for me.3 On “normal” Hugo years, I look forward to the nominated lists because I’ll find things there that I can read! That I didn’t know about! And then I’ll either have a new author I can pursue later, or I find authors I know are not for me. It’s all good.

However, the last few years of Hugo nominations have been a disaster in that department. The Rabid Puppies nominated things of such low quality it was damaging to your pysche to read them. The Sad Puppies tended to nominate the kind of popular writings they feel never get nominated (Mil SF, Chewing Gum SF/Fantasy, etc.) and having read a few of them I can say that most of them were fine and enjoyable, but not what I would consider up for The Best Work of the Year. In 2015, the Sad/Rabids managed to dominate the Hugos to the point that there was no point in spending any time on it. Anything nominated by the RPs was going to be useless, and I just didn’t feel like exploring the SP list to see if there was anything new and fun. Because, again, I had better things to do with my time. My precious precious time that could be used exploring things that aren’t almost certain to be crap.

Brandon SandersonJohn Scalzi, and George Martin have posted pieces about why we, the fans, the voters, should not cast aspersions on the innocent due to their inclusion on the lists, and while I understand their points, they’re coming at it from the position of Authors and Industry Insiders, not consumers. We small fry with things to do have a different perspective.

I am a fan, a rather major fan, of science fiction and fantasy. I know the authors on the lists that are “caught up” and am in a position to make value judgements about their works without worrying that I’m being led into a RP hatefest of a book. BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT.

It really isn’t the point. The point is this is all a waste of our unrecoverable time. Time we will never get back if stay on the high ground and read all the nominated works.

The Hugos have been damaged and dominated by the Puppies to the extent where we need to just get through this last season, slap a big red X on both 2015 and 2016, and move on. The patient has cancer, nobody really wants to remember the surgery so get them on anesthetic and cut away.  The Hugos will endure as the popular award they’ve always been; they have too much history and traction to not survive this. In fact, the best thing that can happen is for another slew of No Awards to come out this year to emphasize to everyone that this is bullshit and we’re not putting up with it. Does this damage the authors and creators that got placed on the RP’s list without their consent? I doubt it. It might hurt people’s feelings this year. The staff and volunteers of MidAmericon are probably stressed and sad and feel like someone pissed in their punch bowl. Some authors may get harassed from both directions4 to stay on the ballot or to withdraw. I hope that doesn’t happen beyond the realm of civility, but alas I watched last year’s shitshow and I doubt this will be better.

I’m sorry for all the creators that have been shafted the last couple years. I really am. But I’m not reading slated works5 and I’m blanket voting No Award above anything that was on the RP list. I’m taking the long view, that this is about the Hugos, and not about the creators. If their stuff is good, it’ll be discovered, and purchased, and nominated. The best thing you could do to make people like me take a second look at you is immediately and publicly divorce yourself from the Puppies6.  That kind of statement will make me sit up and notice because I care about the Hugos. I care about Science Fiction (and Fantasy). I care about authors and creators and fans, but this year we’re all just screwed. I’m voting politically in those categories that have one or zero non-slated nominees and I can only hope that some of the slated people withdraw to allow the more appropriately nominated works onto the ballot7.

Looking forward to 2017 and a more equitably chosen list of nominees when I’m not afraid to spend my precious bodily time discovering new works and new authors.



  1. I’m ignoring the Sad Puppies list because I can’t be bothered to compare it to the nominations. For reasons which are the core of this opinion piece. Read on. []
  2. Sidebar: Yes, I’m aware of such worthies as Brandon Sanderson, Alastair Reynolds, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ken Liu, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman who are nominated. But, catch my earlier point, this is a political statement, folks. I’ll be happy to vote for any or all of those next year. This year, they’ve been tarred by the puppies. []
  3. Note: “Not for me” does not necessarily mean “crap.” For example, while I admire Kim Stanley Robinson, I know that me, myself, personally, I have trouble with those books. That’s a personal issue, not a quality issue. Likewise, you’re not going to see me reading James Joyce. []
  4. Like I’m doing here. []
  5. Slight fib. I am going to be reading Seveneves and I’ve already read Aeronauts Windlass []
  6. Second Sidebar: Thank you Brandon Sanderson for your statements that you want nothing to do with the Rabids. However, your statement, similar to ones others have made that “I don’t believe I should be in the business of choosing which fans are allowed to like, or not like, my fiction,” is unfortunately off the mark. This puts you firmly in the camp of the Sad Puppies and their damaging rhetoric and I wish you had not used the language. If you had removed yourself from the SPs list this year, which [ahem] the SPs would not have allowed you to do, you would not be “choosing which fans are allowed to like …[your] fiction,” instead you’d be getting behind the notion that SLATING IS NOT THE WAY. As a prolific and honored author, you could have easily made this stance without any damage to yourself or your fan base. []
  7. Third Sidebar: I’ve seen several statements (including from Brandon Sanderson) saying “If I’d known I was on the list…” with reference to the Rabid Puppies. I find this disingenous from authors who are obviously engaged enough to make second-day statements on the matter. Someone, if not themselves, would have known they were on the list. The list has been out for an awfully long time. These statements smell like damage control, whether intentional or subconscious. []
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