David Langford peers into the murk of the Hugos
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.