I came to the science fiction and fantasy genre by way of pain and abuse. When I was young and thought the pain would never end, science fiction and fantasy stories kept me going. These stories offered me an escape. They offered me hope. They offered me a glimpse of a world expansive enough to hold a universe of beliefs and outlooks and backgrounds.
I still believe this. Which is why it pains me to see the community which saved my life inflicting such pain on each other.
I'm not naive. There's always going to be pain in the world. But I see no reason why I have to inflict pain on the world in return. And that's why I'm not going to simply dismiss any of the people and works up for this year's Hugo Award, no matter which group helped them make the ballot.
Anyone who follows science fiction and fantasy fandom has likely heard how two similar but separate organized voting campaigns (the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies) worked to overwhelmed the Hugo Award nomination process. Yes, I'm irritated by how these people gamed the Hugo Awards and used the awards to push a political agenda. Despite the protests of the Puppies, this has never before been done on such an organized scale. (For more on all this, I urge people to read Matthew David Surridge's excellent and detailed explanation on why he turned down a nomination for Best Fan Writer. )
Perhaps the best summary on this comes from George R.R. Martin, who points out that there has always been campaigning for the Hugo Awards. But until now, no one group controlled the award.
Now the Puppies do.
But despite my irritation at that, I also realize that if the Hugo Awards weren't broken in the first place none of this would have happened. So some of my irritation is aimed at the people who run the Hugo Awards for not fixing this problem despite many others, including myself, pointing out the flaws in the nomination process.
In truth, I'm no longer angry at Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen for running and promoting this campaign. They played by the Hugo Award nominating rules. They raised a few legitimate issues about the awards (mixed in with a massive amount of simply wrongheaded notions about our genre and the world).
But I'm not writing about that. I'm writing because people are being hurt by all this.
As a result of the campaigning which placed many of the Hugo finalists on the ballot, some people in the genre are attacking every finalist. Some people are also considering voting — without reading the nominated works — a straight No Award across the ballot or in certain categories. Doing so is seen as a way to both protest this political gaming and the motivations behind the campaign.
I understand why people feel this way and would vote No Award without even considering the finalists. But I won't do this. There are many people on the Hugo Award ballot who have not been involved in the Puppy campaign. And whether or not a finalist supported the campaign, not considering their nomination because of politics simply plays into the hands of those who see the Hugos as nothing more than a political weapon.
For example, the story “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet was on the Puppy slate and made the final ballot. Annie has written a moving essay describing her pain at this nomination, even though she did nothing wrong (and her politics definitely don't match up with those of the Puppy campaign originators). I haven't read Annie's story, but I plan to do so.
And I know Annie isn't the only one caught up in this through no fault of their own. Jim Butcher is on the final ballot for Best Novel. For the last week I've heard variations of "Did Butcher know about the Puppy campaign or didn't he?" Well, I for one don't care. I'll read Butcher's novel and judge it on it's own merits. I will not engage in a political litmus test to determine someone's literary worth. I refuse to join the Puppies in in turning the Hugos into nothing more than a political football.
And there are others on the award who should also be considered, such as Best Editor (Short Form) nominee Edmund R. Schubert.
As editor of Intergalactic Medicine Show, Edmund has been extremely supportive of new writers no matter their politics or backgrounds or beliefs. The list of writers who've earned one of their early publishing credits through Edmund reads like a "who's who" of the new generation of SF/F authors, and includes Tony Pi, Saladin Ahmed, Aliette de Bodard, Nancy Fulda, Eric James Stone, Eugie Foster, and many more.
And yes, I'm biased about Edmund because he accepted my first-ever professionally published story. He also published my first short story collection Never Never Stories while working as the editor of Spotlight Publishing. And he commissioned this amazing artwork from fellow Hugo finalist Julie Dillon for my story "The Never Never Wizard of Apalachicola."
But despite IGMS being one of our genre's few professional-level magazines, Edmund has never appeared on the Hugo Award Best Editor ballot. Again, I'm not naive — I know it's because of two reasons. First, Edmund has never been among the trendy insiders in our genre. And it's also likely some people never considered him for the award because the full title of his magazine is Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. That OSC name trips up people and they hold it against Edmund.
Which is a true shame. After all, OSC doesn't run the editorial side of the magazine. He merely supports the magazine. I am able to separate OSC's political views, which I disagree with, from his support of new writers. This is similar to how most people in our genre support the Writers of the Future contests and programs even though they were founded by L. Ron Hubbard and receive funding from Scientology-related ventures.
Edmund has posted a detailed comment about his nomination on his Facebook page and I urge people to read it. While it shouldn't be a concern with regard to his Hugo nomination, the post may surprise a few people because it reveals that Edmund's politics don't match those of his employer.
As if anyone's politics ever matches anyone else's.
I hope people will join me in saying congratulations to Edmund for becoming a Hugo finalist. He's earned the honor.
I'm also pleased about other nominees on this year's ballot, including Jennifer Brozek, who is a great person and a hard-working editor who has published 14 anthologies over the last five years. I'm also excited that Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G Willow Wilson made the ballot for Best Graphic Story. Likewise for Wesley Chu, who is up for the Campbell Award. And how can anyone be mad that Guardians of the Galaxy made the ballot because of the Puppies?
I could go on with the name of finalists. But I hope people get my point.
So yes, I intend to consider all of the finalists I've mentioned and more. But I'm also going to consider the people and works I don't already know or don't know well enough. I'll even consider those finalists who supported the Puppy campaign.
Make no mistake: If I judge something or someone to not be worthy of winning the Hugo, I won't vote for them. And if no finalists in a category merit the Hugo Award, I will vote No Award. Because that's what voters do with the Hugo Awards. They judge and vote based on their reactions to the ballot.
As I've said, I'm disgusted by how the Puppy campaign gamed the Hugo Award nomination process. I'm disgusted by the actions and attacks from people who saw the Puppy campaign as an avenue to spread their hate. No, Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen and most of the people who publicly supported or ran the Sad Puppy campaign didn't do it out of hate. They did it because they truly believe the genre is going down the wrong path and they wanted to change it back to some imagined perfection of yesterday.
But that doesn't change the fact that their campaign has hurt a lot of people. And also enabled others to use their campaign for their own purposes.
Based on how Edmund Schubert's editing has been overlooked by the genre, a few of the arguments put forward by Brad and Larry have some merit. I believe Edmund and some of the others on the ballot were never previously nominated both because of politics and because they weren't among the genre insiders and decision makers.
That doesn't mean there was some competing cabal of liberals who made a voting slate and checked their political list and decided who was worthy of making the Hugos and who wasn't. Again, George R. R. Martin describes pretty much what went on before.
But just because I don't agree with the methods or views of Larry and Brad doesn't mean the Hugos didn't need to be shaken up.
Their larger complaints that authors are receiving the Hugos simply because of their race or ethnicity or gender or a straight political litmus test is simply wrong. And their dream of returning the genre to some idealized past which never actually existed is not going to happen. No genre or artform or any human creation survives by going backwards. And even if this was possible, the SF/F genre is growing more diverse and far-reaching by the day.
I want to thank Larry and Brad for demonstrating how screwed up the Hugos are. Perhaps the awards will now finally be fixed. I have a proposal to do just that, as do others. But even if the Hugos aren't fixed our genre will go on. Great stories will still be told. Other awards will honor these stories.
But the genre will not go on if we go around hurting each other. Which is why I hope people will not use this controversy to inflict pain on even more people.
The SF/F genre is beginning to embrace all the worlds and people it should have always been open to. Our genre is now creating new stories and dreams that no one could have imagined even a decade ago. No campaign or voting slate or anything else is going to change that.
I came to our genre because of pain, but I stay because of love. I will state my opinions on what I see around me. I will stand up for what it right. I will try to improve the genre and the world. But I will not use our genre to hurt other people or cause pain simply to further a political goal.
I urge others to do the same.