Pup­pies attack: Hugo Awards re­flect sci-fi/fan­tasy divide


Call it the in­va­sion of the Sad Pup­pies.

One of the sig­na­ture awards of the science fic­tion/ fan­tasy com­mu­nity, the Hu­gos, has been en­snared in a fierce de­bate over the genre’s fu­ture, with charges of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and elitism and coun­ter­charges of bigotry and dis­hon­esty. Writ­ers and fans have been feud­ing for weeks, at times in pro­fane and per­sonal terms, on blogs, Twit­ter and Face­book.

On one side: the “Sad Pup­pies,” a highly mo­ti­vated bloc within science fic­tion/ fan­tasy that be­lieves the genre is en­dan­gered by a lib­eral estab­lish­ment fa­vor­ing so­cial causes over sto­ry­telling. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Hu­gos’ open vot­ing process, the Sad Pup­pies ( and the more mil­i­tant Ra­bid Pup­pies) helped get more than a dozen of their pre­ferred can­di­dates on the list of nom­i­nees for the 2015 Hu­gos, an­nounced ear­lier this month.

On the other side, there is no of­fi­cial name — just au­thors who range from be­ing lit­tle known out­side of science fic­tion/ fan­tasy, to some, no­tably Ge­orge R. R. Martin, known world­wide.

Stan­dlee says any­one who is at least a sup­port­ing mem­ber of the an­nual World Science Fic­tion Con­ven­tion ( World­Con) can vote. The only re­quire­ment: pay­ing a US$ 40 an­nual fee.

The Sad Pup­pies, formed two years ago, are led by au­thors Brad R. Torg- ersen and Larry Cor­reia. Torgersen, him­self a for­mer Hugo nom­i­nee, said that his group’s goal was “to make the so- called ‘ most pres­ti­gious award in the field’ ac­tu­ally re­flect some of what the wider fan au­di­ence is still read­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Torgersen, the name Sad Pup­pies orig­i­nates from a joke by Cor­reia that “ev­ery time a te­dious, bor­ing, or oth­er­wise ‘ lit­er­ary’ piece of barely science- fic­tion wins an award, some­where, pup­pies cry.”

Torgersen cited a cou­ple of ex­am­ples from the 2014 Hu­gos: The win­ner for best novel, Ann Leckie’s “An­cil­lary Jus­tice,” was “ex­plic­itly play­ing with gen­der, and gen­der is a very hot po­lit­i­cal topic in the wider cul­ture right now,” he said. Of John Chu’s “The Wa­ter That Falls On You from Nowhere,” win­ner last year for best short story, Torgersen said that it was “ex­plic­itly about ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, while be­ing very thin on spec­u­la­tive or fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments. But be­cause gay mar­riage is a very hot po­lit­i­cal topic in the wider cul­ture, this story too got a boost.”

In re­sponse, Leckie told the AP that “Mr. Torgersen is, of course, wel­come to his opin­ion. I have quite a lot of read­ers wait­ing for my next book, and they are my pri­mary con­cern right now.” Chu said that he of­ten meets peo­ple who loved his story and that “Fandom, at its best, strives to be a big tent, ac­cept­ing of all gen­ders, races, and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions. The Hu­gos, at its best, re­flects the whole of fandom.”

Crit­ics of the Pup­pies, whether Sad or Ra­bid, call them hyp­ocrites who only ob­ject to po­lit­i­cal con­tent when it’s from the left. They note that best edi­tor nom­i­nee Vox Day ( a pseu­do­nym for Theodore Beale) has called be­ing gay a “birth de­fect” and said that mar­i­tal rape is im­pos­si­ble be­cause “mar­riage grants con­sent on an on­go­ing ba­sis.” On his blog ( https:// bradr­torg­ersen. word­press. com), Torgersen wrote that “maybe Vox is ter­ri­ble” but that calls to dis­avow him were “about me sig­nal­ing to the tribe that I can be bent to the tribe’s will.”

David Ger­rold, whose cred­its in­clude writ­ing for the orig­i­nal “Star Trek” TV se­ries and the Hugo- win­ning novelette “The Mar­tian Child,” wrote re­cently on his Face­book page that Torgersen “has com­mit­ted all the same sins he is now pro­ject­ing onto oth­ers.” Ger­rold, who will co- host this year’s Hu­gos cer­e­mony, added that “the ar­chi­tects of this squab­ble will have in­deli­bly dam­aged them­selves in the eyes of the SF com­mu­nity.”

Martin, in a se­ries of lengthy posts on his web site ( http:// www. georg­er­rmartin. com), dis­puted con­tentions by the Sad Pup­pies and their sup­port­ers that they have been threat­ened and os­tra­cized and re­jected al­le­ga­tions that white males have been pushed out of the nom­i­na­tions.

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