Booky McBookface, by Noah Ward

So Vox Day has managed to crap all over the Hugo Awards for the second year running, flooding some categories completely and getting stories with titles “If You Were An Award, My Love” and “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” on the ballot.

What muddies the waters is that Day has also taken some reputable authors who deserved to get nominated anyway and covered them with his stink, I feel for Alastair Reynolds, who’s novella “Slow Bullets” has made the nominations and now risks becoming a political football.

This year it’s important to note that The Sad Puppies, run this year by Kate Paulk and Amanda Green, did not run slates as such, with recommendation lists that ranged from two or three entries in some categories to as many as ten in each of the fiction categories. At no point did they recommend five and only five nominations for any category.

The heavy overlap between Vox Day’s and Brad Torgersen’s Rabid and Sad Puppies slates last year obscured the fact that it was Vox Day who really did the damage. Wherever the two slates differed, it was Vox Day’s choices that made the ballot. This year there is no room for any doubt who the villain is, and I’m going to assume anyone who continues to blur the difference between the Sad Puppies and the Rabid ones is either ignorant or has an agenda.

I’m not a Worldcon member, but that’s not going to stop me giving unsolicited advice. So here’s my off-the-top-of-my-head recommendations.

First, ratify E Pluribus Hugo. This is ought to be such a no-brainer than anyone that attempts to argue otherwise is not to be trusted. It won’t fix everything, but it will make it harder for any well-organised minority to swamp the ballot.

Second, think very hard about the wisdom of repeating last year’s block no-awarding everything tainted, throwing good people under the bus in an attempt to preserve the purity of the awards. That stank when they did it to people like Toni Weisskopf last year. The garbage from VD’s cronies you can no award to oblivion if it’s as awful as it sounds from the titles. But remember that burning down The Hugos is VD’s goal, and no-awarding deserving nominees like Toni Weisskopf or Alastair Reynolds gives him what he wants.

Third, recognise that the Sad Puppies and the Rabid ones are very different things, and try to build bridges with the some of the first of those groups, or at least avoid rhetoric or behaviour that further deepens the divide with anyone who’s not an actual acolyte of Vox Day. The mass no-awarding of last year did not help in that regard.

One problem with the Hugo Awards in recent years seems to be the lack of any consensus about what they’re supposed to represent. Do they represent the very best of science fiction and fantasy as a whole, or do they represent the favourites of a far narrower subset of fandom? Are they really publicly-voted awards, or closer to juried awards with an unusually large jury? And above all how much are they American rather than international?

At the moment they’ve neither quite one thing or the other, and that’s one root of the problem.

You could argue that the world of SF/F is now too broad and too diverse for a single set of awards to serve as a Gold Standard, there need to be alternative awards created for different crowds, and new awards like The Dragons are a step in that direction. So complaining that “Heroic Engineer” stories never get Hugo nominations is like complaining about the lack of rock and metal in the Mercury Music Prize when the Kerrang awards exist.

Only once Worldcon decide exactly what the Hugos are and who they are supposed to be for can they treat Vox Day as damage and route around him. At the moment he is still outmanoeuvring them, rendering last years Hugo Ceremony a pyrrhic victory.

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7 Responses to Booky McBookface, by Noah Ward

  1. Kat says:

    Hey there! Thanks for the unsolicited advice. :) Why not join us? Seriously!

    For what it’s worth, I did try to read and evaluate all the nominees last year, with the exception of some of the most obviously trolly entries. The reason I voted Toni Weisskopf below “No Award?” I couldn’t find any way to evaluate her work from the previous year! I dug through the Baen web site. A lot. I couldn’t find mention of any titles that she edited. She didn’t include any examples of her work in the voter’s packet, which would be really unusual anyway for a long form editor nominee. But she also didn’t include ANYTHING in the voter’s packet. If she had just sent in a list of the things she had edited, I would have gone and found them, if I hadn’t already read them. I can’t vote for someone if I can’t evaluate their work! I don’t have to be given your copyrighted materials for free. Point me in the right direction. I’ll find them. But give me a hint, at least!

    Regarding Vox Day, he’s just a troll. That’s it. Because he says any possible outcome means victory for him doesn’t make it so. He doesn’t win. He and some of his friends did successfully point out a flaw in the Hugo nominations process, which we’re fixing. Beyond that – well, you know what they say about trolls.

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  3. JJ says:

    I appreciate the intent of your post; and agree with the first half of it. The support for EPH is on-target.

    However, the rest of your recommendations are perhaps not as well-considered.

    The complaints from numerous quarters about Toni Weisskopf, at this point, have become really tiresome. First of all, there were 5 nominees for Best Editor Long Form last year, all of whom were No Awarded. Why is Weisskopf the only one people seem to care about? Some of the other nominees were arguably stronger candidates than Weisskopf. Secondly, she was given the opportunity to provide links to works that she edited in 2014. She refused to do so, claiming that at Baen (whose books are notorious for being rife with spelling and grammar errors), editing is a “team effort”. Why, then should she be worthy of a Hugo for editing, when she can provide no evidence of a basis for giving her that award? (Note that 2 of the nominees did provide creditable editing references.)

    You say: One problem with the Hugo Awards in recent years seems to be the lack of any consensus about what they’re supposed to represent… Only once Worldcon decide exactly what the Hugos are and who they are supposed to be…

    This is not correct. The consensus of Worldcon members is — and has always been — that the Hugo Awards are supposed to represent the convergence of preferences of Worldcon members. The fact that random other people and groups seem to be unable to agree on what the Hugo Awards represent is irrelevant. The only people whose consensus matters on this subject are the Worldcon members — the people who created the awards program, and have nurtured it for the last 6 decades.

    VD has not “outmanoevred” anyone. He is just a tiresome, bratty infant who decided to take advantage of a vulnerability that, up until now, most people had too much class to violate. And starting next year, his slide into irrelevancy, as far as the Hugo Awards are concerned, will be complete.

  4. Bruce says:

    While I have a lot of respect for Toni Weiskopf as publisher of Baen, I’m uncomfortable with the Baen position that all of their editors team-edited the Baen output. Does that mean we should have had a tie vote for Toni and Jim Mintz, since they apparently both worked on everything Baen published? I only voted for one long form editor last year above no award, and that was Sheila Gilbert, who actually attempted to show the results of her editing in the Hugo Award nominee packet. I do hope that anti-slate discussions for this focus solely on the rabid puppies, because IMHO the SP4 organizers created a recommendation list and not a slate.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    Re: Toni Weisskopf – I’m going on GRRM’s words after last year’s ceremony. If he thinks the way she was treated was out of order, who am I to argue?

    @Kat – As far as SF fandom goes, I’m just some random guy with a blog. If you take a look at the rest of the site, my real fandom is music. I don’t really have the resources to travel all around the world to conventions on top of all the music events I go to.

    I did seriously consider paying for supporting membership this year, but decided against because whatever I voted for in good faith would still end up being used as a political football. Perhaps next year with a less obviously broken voting system…

    And the one thing I really wanted to support, Alastair Reynold’s “Slow Bullets” I haven’t been able to read since it’s not published yet in the UK. When is the publishing industry going to follow the music and film industry’s lead with international publication dates?

    @JJ – You speak of Worldcon as “the people who created the awards program, and have nurtured it for the last 6 decades”. But anyone can buy a supporting membership and vote, without pre-conditions. Who decides who’s a true fan and who’s an outsider?

    @Bruce I’m sure we’ll see plenty of tactical use of No Award, but try to use it as a scalpel this year, not as a bludgeon?

    And I’m sure I’m not the only person to think Chuck Tingle should be used in place of No Award in the Short Story category. Placing something below “Space Raptor Butt Explosion” sends a stronger message than a mere No Award.

  6. JJ says:

    Tim Hall: Re: Toni Weisskopf – I’m going on GRRM’s words after last year’s ceremony. If he thinks the way she was treated was out of order, who am I to argue?

    So you’re saying that you’re willing to have your opinions given to you by famous people, rather than developing them by thinking for yourself? Really?

    I have lots of good thoughts and feelings for Mr. Martin. He’s a good writer. He’s a clever person. But he’s not infallible. He sees things from his own point of view and experience, and that’s fine. He’s also incredibly busy — so he doesn’t get everywhere on the Internet or read everything that I probably do. He’s also got an Insider’s perspective — which, you know, good for him, but I don’t.

    I would argue that his experience is very different from the average fan experience. My fan experience is one of reading at least a half dozen Baen books every year and being dismayed by the crap copyediting and the horrible covers. I don’t care what GRRM thinks, I’m going to form my own opinion — and my own opinion is, I’m supposed to give a Hugo Award to someone whose publishing house produces that kind of shyte, to an editor who can’t even be arsed to provide a list of the books she’s edited in the previous year — either because she has that much contempt for the opinion of an average fan like me, or because she thinks she’s so entitled to the award she doesn’t need to provide any evidence of her work?

    I’ll say it again — I think that Sheila Gilbert and Anne Sowards demonstrated themselves to be eminently more qualified for the Best Editor Award, and I’m really tired of hearing all the whining about “poor Toni” — as if she was somehow entitled to be given that award.

    Tim Hall: But anyone can buy a supporting membership and vote, without pre-conditions. Who decides who’s a true fan and who’s an outsider?

    I’m not claiming that anyone who’s purchased a membership is an outsider. I’m pointing out that:

    1) the only thing the Hugo Awards were ever intended to represent is the opinions of Worldcon voters, while you’re claiming that there are all these other things that they should supposedly represent, and

    2) just because someone pays a membership fee, which gives them among other things the right to nominate and vote in the Hugos, it does not give them the right to demand that the results exactly reflect their own preferences.

    Also, “Slow Bullets” is good, but not, I think, close to Reynolds’ best, and not necessarily Hugo-worthy. I won’t be placing it after “No Award” on my ballot — but it won’t be first on the list, either. I hope you can get hold of it soon.

  7. Bruce says:

    @Tim Hall: Last year I voted for several several puppy nominees above no award, and a couple of non-puppy nominees below no award. Happy? My personal hope is that Worldcon voters and other commentators will recognize that the Sad Puppy 4 organizers tried very hard to ensure that their recommendation list was just that, and not a slate, and they succeeded. All of the slate hate should be on Vox Day and his stinking pile of self-promotion, plus his several “up-yours” nominees, plus his obvious attempt to burn several nominees that quite possibly would have been nominees anyway if there had been no slate. I intend to review as many nominees as I can, including the Castilia House, but like in previous years, if I deem anything to be did-not-finish caliber, it will go below No Award. It’s likely that I will have a lower bar for DNF for many of the slate nominees than I generally had in other years, but I blame last year’s RP slate for that.