I read a variety of books but science fiction and fantasy will always be two of my favorite genres. So you can imagine how disappointed I was with the Hugo controversy surrounding the Sad Puppies/Rapid Puppies.
But rewind a little, what are the Hugo awards? The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given every year to the best works of the science fiction and fantasy genre. Some categories include Best Novel, best editor, best dramatic work in short form (TV episodes)
How are the awards nominated? The nominees and winners are chosen by a group of people who attend WorldCon. How do you become a member? Simply pay the membership fee.
The 2015 WorldCon will be held in Washington on August 22nd where the winners will be voted on.
Sound good so far?
Key word: so far. Around 2013, a group called the Sad Puppies led by Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia came to try and dominate the ballot with more conservative scifi/fantasy works in response to the more libertarian works of recent years. In 2015, another group the Rabid Puppies led by Vox Day (whose blog boils my blood). Essentially they are the Sad Puppies on steroids. They came to dominate the ballot this year with works that value the traditional fantasy. You know, the white man saving the world, getting the girl at the end, type of deal. Like the Sad Puppies, the Rapid Puppies are a more severe response to the supposed “affirmative action” that prefers diverse characters and authors (female, lgbt, POC) the Hugos have supposedly undergone in recent years.
This makes me sad for a number of reasons. One of which is well it’s sad to think that we might have regressed when we should have been progressing in terms of inclusion of diversity in our literature. YA has a we need diversity campaign going on and yet here in a genre that is supposedly the most progressive (what with spaceships and robots and the like) is actually not. In the words of George RR Martin,
I mean, we’re SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FANS, we love to read about aliens and vampires and elves, are we really going to freak out about Asians and Native Americans?
But the fact of the matter is, Fantasy and scifi (mostly fantasy) has had a huge problem with sexism, homophobia, and racism in books.
I’m also sad that these works will represent the works of scifi and fantasy for years to come when, quite frankly, they are just came to be that way through blackmailing and bloc voting.
Is it affirmative action though? And even if it is, does this type of award that has such a history of excluding diversity need to have affirmative action? Or is “merit” enough?
Well I was curious so I decided to review some of the Hugo nominations this year, some on the Puppies slate and some that are not.
Let’s start off with the Hugo Short Stories (all of which are on the Puppies slate): I read the ones that were available for free online (through permission of the author)
- “On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli
- “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House): Basically a retelling of the origin of man. The dialogue was choppy and awkward and the story was just boring.
- “A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond
- “Totaled”, Kary English: (the author is not associated with the Puppies slate even though she was nominated by the group): I wasn’t impressed by this one however. I thought the writing was a little juvenile.
- “Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa
Moving on to novelettes:
- “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart: The worldbuilding was so confusing. They would talk about pillars and the like and then suddenly talk about air conditioning..I didn’t really understand the plot either.
- “Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner: I couldn’t even finish this story because it felt so pointless. All I could gather was someone is flying on a ship and there’s another race called the Snakes. All the scenes had no point. The dialogue had no point. It was just directionless.
- “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt: The only novelette not on the Puppies slate and it was a breath of fresh air. It was such a great concept and the worldbuilding parallels so well with the narrator’s emotional state. I would definitely voted for this one.
- “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn: Had the same problem as Championship B’Tok. Pointless.
- “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra
Best Graphic Story: Surprisingly I have read all of these except Sex Criminals (though I will read that soon) and Zombie Nation (the only Puppy nomination in this category). I’m glad that such a well rounded group of graphic novels were picked in this category.
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt
- Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics): I would pick this one to win. Love it!
- Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
- Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky
- The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
It should be noted that I also read one of the nominated novellas. A Pale Realm of Shade by John C. Wright (a Puppy). It is essentially about a dead man investigating how he died. I could not stand the awkward dialogue and the blatant misogyny. Also, the story meandered to really random places..at the end of the story, he ends by confessing to his sins to a priest. Though I did skim the half the story..But here are some of the lovely quotes that I picked out from it.
Lorelei,” I grunted. She was just wearing a blouse and skirt and a knee-length gray coat, but on her the outfit could have made the cover of a fashion magazine. Or a girly magazine. Her wild mass of gold-red hair was like a waterfall of bright fire tumbling past her shoulders to the small of her back. Atop, like a cherry on strawberry ice-cream, was perched brimless cap. My arms ached with the desire to take her and hold her. But I could never touch her, or, for that matter, anyone ever again.
A cherry on a strawberry ice cream…??? Really??
“That’s natural,” I said. “When bullets pass through the lung cavity, they naturally make a large holes. One of them went through my heart, and caused it to stop.
That seems obvious…
The Hugos have been leaning more towards literary merit as a factor of being nominated. However, I didn’t see that in a lot of these works. And it makes me even more sad that some of these works might be getting the award.
The accusations against the non Puppies work are entirely unfair as well. The supposed “diverse” works are not following an agenda to push diversity down people’s throats. It is not a campaign. The important thing is it’s a story with diverse characters. Not diverse characters with a story. And that’s what scifi and fantasy should be heading towards, where diverse is something normal, something that is just there and people can have a variety of works with a variety of diversity so they can see themselves represented and know that they matter.
Sorry for such a long post but I had to get my thoughts out there!