Revisiting the Night the Hugo Awards Burned

Revisiting the Night the Hugo Awards Burned

If the Hugos are such a niche matter today, why did a culture war happen? And why was it presented as a battle for the soul of science fiction?

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Sorry to see these go. As I always liked these articles. If you find a new home for them please keep us updated. I for one will definitely take a look. If not thanks for the column they were always and interesting read.

The whole debacle leaves me with the distinct feeling that the culture war wasn't fought over the Hugos as much as the Hugos became the battleground of choice for people who were already deeply engaged in a culture war (Rabid Puppies in particular). The result was that the Hugos got caught up in something that had, until then, largely been a fairly harmless, if unusually toxic, internet slap fight.

I was never actually clear what happened at the Hugos last year. Fans voted and then the officials ignored them, because of reasons, and...and so what?

I get that it looks bad, but I'd guess its been that way for most Awards for a very very long time.

Sorry to see you go. Don't forget to tell us where your next home is.

Gethsemani:
The whole debacle leaves me with the distinct feeling that the culture war wasn't fought over the Hugos as much as the Hugos became the battleground of choice for people who were already deeply engaged in a culture war (Rabid Puppies in particular). The result was that the Hugos got caught up in something that had, until then, largely been a fairly harmless, if unusually toxic, internet slap fight.

Silentpony:
I was never actually clear what happened at the Hugos last year. Fans voted and then the officials ignored them, because of reasons, and...and so what?

The problem was that it wasn't "the fans," but rather an orchestrated campaign by a group of culture warriors to essentially fix the nomination process in their favor by voting in block for a slate of right-wing stories, using the rules in a way that quite simply delegitimized the award itself as being indicative of quality or appeal.

As for why, the issue mostly has to do with right-wingers essentially left out of the awards as of late (which I attribute to largely finding that ideals that espouse capitalism and unrestrained freedom not quite being in vogue following/during a massive economic crisis and the rise of the internet as essentially where the worst of humanity can say and do whatever they want regardless of the consequences). My issue is that instead of writing stories that might appeal to a broad fandom that could win a Hugo award (like a modern equivalent to 1984 or Animal Farm, both blatantly right-wing stories but celebrated as essential reading), they instead opted to hijack the process entirely to pick stories based on political bent rather than good writing, interesting themes, or broad appeal. Unfortunately, what it ends up doing is taking away the prestige of the award by making the nomination and award contests into tribal political fights.

I'm sad to see this article go since I've really enjoyed what you've put out in them, but I'm happy that you will still put on content for the Escapist.

As for the Hugo Awards, I'm not really sure what to make of it. It's really sad to see people in a community as niche as that to be burned to the ground so easily like that, from what I can tell. Yes, every community needs to be shaken up and changed, but what happened at the awards was just... ugh.

It's sad when awards are not included by merit but rather for the sake of inclusivity.

I find the whole puppies thing to be a tad hard to follow, but I will state that really don't think "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" should have been nominated (or won a Nebula for that matter).

I find it funny when people say that the Rabid Puppies started a culture war. As if their actions were decided in a vacuum or that this (cold) culture war hasn't been going on for a while. They (and the Sad Puppies) were tired of the what they saw as an overwhelmingly leftist influence on the nominations, one driven more by political ideology than anything else. And which resulted in books getting nominated that most wouldn't consider even sci-fi. Those books might be good, even great, but they wouldn't be sci-fi or anything close to it. I'd argue that at least a part of the decline in prestige behind a Hugo is down to it not meaning what it used to i.e. "great sci-fi book".

The puppies didn't "game" the system any more than the original Hugo defenders did. Of course, the Rabid Puppies went overboard and, even when they had an overwhelming victory they didn't exactly brook a compromise. And the original clique had been going uncontested for so long that when they found themselves with some opposition, they didn't exactly handle it gracefully. For years their slate would usually get an overwhelming amount of nominations, because simply mentioning them was an endorsement in itself. Now they had a host of other books that were getting thrown into the mix, some of them filled with double-plus-ungood wrong-think. *gasp* And then they acted like petulant children, choosing to burn the house down rather than let anybody they didn't approve of win.

It was a mess and the Hugos didn't walk away the better for it. They could have, but they definitely didn't. I agree with Marks in so far as "guess we'll see how it goes this year" - because if the same shit goes down again the Hugo will just be seen as a joke of an award that isn't really worth a damn.

The Gentleman:

The problem was that it wasn't "the fans," but rather an orchestrated campaign by a group of culture warriors to essentially fix the nomination process in their favor by voting in block for a slate of right-wing stories, using the rules in a way that quite simply delegitimized the award itself as being indicative of quality or appeal.

So basically some right wingers did what left wingers have been doing openly for the past good while? Because looking back at the past decade of Hugo awards, it's pretty clear quality need not apply.

As for why, the issue mostly has to do with right-wingers essentially left out of the awards as of late (which I attribute to largely finding that ideals that espouse capitalism and unrestrained freedom not quite being in vogue following/during a massive economic crisis and the rise of the internet as essentially where the worst of humanity can say and do whatever they want regardless of the consequences). My issue is that instead of writing stories that might appeal to a broad fandom that could win a Hugo award (like a modern equivalent to 1984 or Animal Farm, both blatantly right-wing stories but celebrated as essential reading), they instead opted to hijack the process entirely to pick stories based on political bent rather than good writing, interesting themes, or broad appeal. Unfortunately, what it ends up doing is taking away the prestige of the award by making the nomination and award contests into tribal political fights.

I don't know what's worst, the implications that 1984 and Animal Farm are right wing (an impossibility to argue when one remembers they where written by a socialist critiquing communism), or the implication that the Hugo awards until now had not already been hijacked given the absolute garbage that has been nominated and won in the past decade.

Then there's the fact that the Sad Puppies was pretty damn apolitical in comparison to the other voting blocks, having people who where openly liberal and libertarian mixed with conservatives. If anything it was probably the only voting block that could be argued to have not been driven by politics when compared to the other pre-existing voting blocks.

You speak of good writing, interesting themes or broad appeal, but these are things that the Hugos of the past few years have openly gone out of their way to avoid. Which was how the issue became so blatantly obvious that the Sad Puppies got the popularity they did.

Silentpony:
I was never actually clear what happened at the Hugos last year. Fans voted and then the officials ignored them, because of reasons, and...and so what?

I get that it looks bad, but I'd guess its been that way for most Awards for a very very long time.

Essentially, a few years ago two right-wing straight white male authors were nominated for hugo awards (nomination in itself is a big honour, whether you win or not). At the ceremony, one of them had a few people be big meanie poo-poo heads to him over his political leanings, and neither won their their awards.

This was enough to convince both of them that there was a big conspiracy against right-wing straight white males, and they started the Sad Puppies to try and redress this. And for the first few years, tumbleweeds. They go no traction.

Then gamergate happened, and Vox Day went to his followers and gamergaters and went 'Hey, want to give the SJW's one in the eye?' and started the Rabid Puppies, cause his only real interest in the thing was tearing the hugo's down.

The result was a list stuffed with some pretty tepid work, (including Vox getting nominated twice) including authors known more for their political veiws than their qaulity of writing (one writer in particular was openly homopobic, called the ending of Legend Of Korra a vile perversion, and that Terry Pratchett was an evil man damning people to hell for being pro euthanasia).

Gethsemani:
The whole debacle leaves me with the distinct feeling that the culture war wasn't fought over the Hugos as much as the Hugos became the battleground of choice for people who were already deeply engaged in a culture war (Rabid Puppies in particular). The result was that the Hugos got caught up in something that had, until then, largely been a fairly harmless, if unusually toxic, internet slap fight.

That's probably the best summary I have seen of what happened.

I'm sorry that this the last Garwulf's Corner, I looked forward to them. Your prose style has a good flow to it and your articles always felt considered. I hope you find a new home for Garwulf's Corner. I look forward to reading your new content for the escapist.

As to the Hugo awards I don't think they matter anymore. The quality in Sci Fi as genre has fallen over the years. Gone are the days of Asimov, Blish, Anderson and Pohl. Gibson is just writing the same 3 novels with different window dressing. As to the politics of this mess its yet another case of total lack of perspective. Who cares that much over an award that means nothing now. There are 1000s of things in this world that legitimate anger should be expressed that are being ignored in favor of trivialities like this. We live in world where Russia is trying to redraw the borders of europe by force, the middle east stands on the brink of a full scale Sunni-Shia war and China is locking up the South China Sea using extremely debatable claims to sovereignty. And yet people are spending time and energy on getting the right sort of politics to win an award in genre fiction.

I didn't agree with the late Iain M Banks's politics but he did write a damn good sci fi novel. I don't agree with many of the public statements of Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman but they both have written good works. It's time to stand back and actually admit that many of the political nominations on both sides are just simply not very good and go for quality over ideological purity.

The Gentleman:

The problem was that it wasn't "the fans," but rather an orchestrated campaign by a group of culture warriors to essentially fix the nomination process in their favor by voting in block for a slate of right-wing stories, using the rules in a way that quite simply delegitimized the award itself as being indicative of quality or appeal.

As for why, the issue mostly has to do with right-wingers essentially left out of the awards as of late (which I attribute to largely finding that ideals that espouse capitalism and unrestrained freedom not quite being in vogue following/during a massive economic crisis and the rise of the internet as essentially where the worst of humanity can say and do whatever they want regardless of the consequences). My issue is that instead of writing stories that might appeal to a broad fandom that could win a Hugo award (like a modern equivalent to 1984 or Animal Farm, both blatantly right-wing stories but celebrated as essential reading), they instead opted to hijack the process entirely to pick stories based on political bent rather than good writing, interesting themes, or broad appeal. Unfortunately, what it ends up doing is taking away the prestige of the award by making the nomination and award contests into tribal political fights.

Well that's your side, the RP's claim that the awards were hijacked already by a left-leaning clique who were giving awards based on progressive ideology over quality writing.
So both sides are accusing each other of the exact same thing.

I was incredibly lost while reading this. You kept referring to a culture war at the Hugo Awards but what culture war? Does anyone have a link or reference to what this article is about?

Xyebane:
I was incredibly lost while reading this. You kept referring to a culture war at the Hugo Awards but what culture war? Does anyone have a link or reference to what this article is about?

Here you go.
http://www.wired.com/2015/10/hugo-awards-controversy/

It's a summary of the runners and riders in the story. Make of it what you will.

Albino Boo:

Xyebane:
I was incredibly lost while reading this. You kept referring to a culture war at the Hugo Awards but what culture war? Does anyone have a link or reference to what this article is about?

Here you go.
http://www.wired.com/2015/10/hugo-awards-controversy/

It's a summary of the runners and riders in the story. Make of it what you will.

Welp. It sounds like what GG wanted to be.

CaitSeith:

Welp. It sounds like what GG wanted to be.

It had a bit more actual traction than Gamer Gate.
1 - Most of the Right Wing White Men ranting is false. EW had a take on it that was so bad their lawyers made them edit it with an apology. The main guy behind it, Larry Correia, and one of the ladies leading it this year, Sarah Hoyt, are both libertarians of Portuguese decent (ie, Hispanic). In Sarah's case by birth. It's hardly "Angry White men" like they constantly state.
2 - Well, frankly the nominated works have been lack luster from my point of view for the last few years. It's not that they were not award worthy in somebody's eyes, just not mine. When people with taste more like mine got involved, we were shut out completely.
3 - Even if your dislike of the works themselves justified a no award in your eyes, Toni Weisskopf deserved a best editor win. TOR editors have dominated this for years and the only reason she was FINALLY in place to get this win was the sad puppies. Note that TOR editors are among the main and most vocal detractors of the SPs this last year.

This article is a clear example of why I love your writing. You manage to keep as neutral a stance as possible while reporting on something that can be very polarizing.

I've never been a huge reader but I had heard of the Hugo awards and had a modicum of respect for them. After all my favourite book, Dune, won one back in 1966. So take my opinion for what that's worth but I think, if what you say is true, the Sad Puppies have the right idea; The more people it's opened up to the more the common reader will be represented and the more the award would mean.

Appreciate the balanced coverage on this topic. Good luck finding a home for your column.

Xyebane:
I was incredibly lost while reading this. You kept referring to a culture war at the Hugo Awards but what culture war? Does anyone have a link or reference to what this article is about?

I was surprised that this article didn't start with this link, which is Marks' coverage of what happened while it was going on. I guess he assumed that anyone reading was caught up on his back catalog.

On a side note, I do look forward to seeing where this column ends up, and if Marks is going to do another series of thinkpieces for the Escapist. I enjoyed this and the magician show series, so I hope they do pick him up again for something.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Xyebane:
I was incredibly lost while reading this. You kept referring to a culture war at the Hugo Awards but what culture war? Does anyone have a link or reference to what this article is about?

I was surprised that this article didn't start with this link, which is Marks' coverage of what happened while it was going on. I guess he assumed that anyone reading was caught up on his back catalog.

On a side note, I do look forward to seeing where this column ends up, and if Marks is going to do another series of thinkpieces for the Escapist. I enjoyed this and the magician show series, so I hope they do pick him up again for something.

Leaving that out was, admittedly, an oversight, and that's on me. Apologies to anybody who was confused.

Some good news, though...you might all have noticed that we're on a weekly schedule for this one. Well, as you'll see next week, we couldn't resist sneaking another installment in. So, the final Emails from the Edge will be installment #29...and #28 will be going up next week.

 

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