David Lang­ford peers into the murk of the Hu­gos

SFX - - Opinion -

The 2015 Hugo nom­i­na­tions caused wide­spread gloom and out­rage. There’d been dark fore­bod­ings about a short­list hi­jacked by pol­i­tics – gloat­ing hints on Face­book – and a news em­bargo bro­ken by the un­ex­pected tweet “Guess Who’s A Hugo Nom­i­nee?”

Last year’s Hu­gos suf­fered a bloc- vote cam­paign from con­ser­va­tive US au­thors claim­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against their favourite mil­i­tary ac­tion­ad­ven­tures. This made them sad; their “Sad Pup­pies” ( SP) slate pro­moted their own and their bud­dies’ work, boost­ing some ti­tles onto the Hugo short­list though not to victory. World­con vot­ers chose oth­er­wise.

The next SP cam­paign re­alised the best strat­egy was to al­low those pesky fi­nal- bal­lot vot­ers no choice. There’s a huge spread of nom­i­na­tions for each cat­e­gory, with thou­sands of World­con mem­bers’ pref­er­ences scat­tered across hun­dreds of pos­si­bles com­pet­ing for just five slots on the Hugo bal­lot. The SPs con­cocted a com­plete slate of five nom­i­nees for ( al­most) all Hugo cat­e­gories, and in­structed their sup­port­ers to vote the straight ticket cho­sen by the Cen­tral Coun­cil.

It worked. Us­ing th­ese morally dodgy but legally per­mis­si­ble tac­tics, a mod­est per­cent­age of the elec­torate can in­deed dom­i­nate the bal­lot. As first an­nounced, slate choices com­pletely filled both Edi­tor cat­e­gories, Re­lated Work ( non­fic­tion), Short Story, Novelette and Novella, with only two non­s­late fi­nal­ists for Best Novel. One novelette was later ruled in­el­i­gi­ble.

More com­pli­ca­tions! SP as­so­ciate Vox Day had cre­ated a vari­ant “Ra­bid Pup­pies” slate which ad­di­tion­ally, shame­lessly, pushed him­self and sto­ries from his own small press Castalia House. De­spite VD’s pub­licly ex­pressed racism, misog­yny and gen­eral ob­nox­ious­ness, RP was even more suc­cess­ful than SP, with seven Castalia sto­ries on the 2015 Hugo bal­lot. Not bad for a hith­erto un­known pub­lisher. Ap­par­ently VD has many sup­port­ers in games fandom who bought World­con mem­ber­ships and nom­i­nated as in­structed. Just why is a mys­tery.

Morally du­bi­ous, I wrote, but the SP/ RPs say it has to be okay since “ob­vi­ously” left­ist “So­cial Jus­tice War­riors” must have done this for years to deny past Hu­gos to Puppy- loved can­di­dates. Ge­orge RR Martin, who’s watched the SF awards scene since the 1970s, paused work on his lat­est Game Of Thrones novel for sev­eral long pa­tient posts at grrm. live­jour­nal. com, ex­plain­ing that there’s no se­cret Hugo- con­trol­ling ca­bal.

Alas, he used logic. The Puppy re­sponse was that GRRM is sadly de­luded.

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