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Hugo Awards 2016


Introduction

I’m pleased, and proud, to announce that my novella Perfect State has been nominated for a Hugo Award. I look forward to seeing many of you in Kansas City, at this year’s Worldcon.

I’ve prepared a deleted scene and annotation for Perfect State, which I’ll be releasing soon in celebration. I would normally put this up today, but I have something else I want to talk about first.

If you’re not interested in the behind-the-scenes of the Hugos, this would be a good place to stop reading. I know many of you are tired of hearing about the politics of the award. Starting next year the rules should be changing so that all this will be less big of a deal. So if you’re not interested, you can move on and safely know this is probably going to die down eventually.

Thank you to everyone who nominated.

For those who want to know my thoughts on the actual politics of it, feel free to keep reading. I’m going to assume you’re at least passingly familiar with Sad Puppies, and what happened last year.

Sad Puppies

For the 2015 season, and the one before, I proactively went to Sad Puppies and asked them not to include any of my works on their slates. I did this for a few reasons.

First: Many of the Sad Puppies felt that there was a behind-the-scenes cabal working in science fiction to prevent people with certain ideological views from winning awards. (They named Tor Books, my publisher, as a kind of illuminati-like force behind this.)

This is terribly inaccurate. I know a lot about Tor. I love Tor. Editors and staff at Tor couldn’t agree on what to order for lunch most days; I sincerely doubt they could pull strings on something like award nominations. Tor is a huge group of editors with vast ideological differences, and they represent some of the best people in fandom I’ve ever known. Some very vocal ones are ideologically opposed to many of those in Sad Puppies, but there are plenty who have other opinions.

Beyond that, I’ve seen many people who are conservative, or who write popular fiction, win Hugo Awards. I was sympathetic to the claim (made by the Puppies) that the stories they like weren’t getting nominations, and I encouraged them to participate and nominate. But I didn’t want to be part of their movement, because I felt it had shaky foundations.

Second: I didn’t like the way many of the Puppies talked. They could be belligerent and argumentative, using tactics that felt more likely to silence opposition instead of provoke discussion. In addition, they associated with people even worse. (More on this below.) Some leaders in the movement verbally attacked people I respect and love.

Third: I didn’t like the idea of a slate for the Hugos—a specific list of stories, which (at least implicitly) encouraged the followers to vote exactly the same as their fellows. I felt this put ideology ahead of quality, which is against the spirit of the Hugo Awards.

These awards are supposed to be about the best of sf/f. We are not supposed to vote or nominate simply for our favorite writers, nor choose things just because they advance our viewpoint. (Though things we nominate and vote for can indeed do both things.) We are to examine pieces outside of authorship and pick ones that represent the best of the community.

I am passionate about this award. (I wrote about this in the past, giving my reasons why.) As a Hugo laureate myself, I don’t want to see the Hugo being treated poorly. I felt that the slate the Puppies were advocating was dangerous for the award, and against its spirit.

Last Year: Behind the Scenes

Last year, I spent many months in communication with the organizers of Sad Puppies. Several of them live here in Utah. I considered myself in a good position to speak with them, as I was friendly and on good terms with them—but ideologically, I was on the other side: rather liberal politically, published by the very publisher they were disparaging.

We exchanged very long emails. My goal was to convince them there was no cabal against them, to encourage them to be more understanding in their posts, and to steer them away from slates. I felt that if they would present themselves better to those inside “mainstream” fandom, they would find themselves welcomed into the community.

I also wrote letters to people on what I’ll term “my side.” Many of these went to my editor, Moshe, who came to the forefront of many anti-puppies arguments on Facebook and on blogs. I argued to him that the Sad Puppies are a legitimately passionate group of fans, deserving of being listened to. I told him we should hear them out and encourage them to participate in the community. (So long as they can do so without being hateful.)

At the end of the season, I feel that in much of the media the Sad Puppies were treated poorly. People ignored many of their points, calling them names instead of looking at what they were actually saying. At the Hugo Awards ceremony, I was not fond of the way many in the audience applauded when No Award won. (I can understand voting No Award, mind you, but I feel the applause was in terrible taste—and in many cases it hurt members of our community who deserved better.)

My experiences with all of this last year led me to a great deal of introspection. I eventually decided not to ask Sad Puppies to remove me from their list. This is in part because believe that the Sad Puppies—though misguided in places and still way too belligerent—love science fiction and fantasy, and have evolved into a group that really does want to see the Hugo treated well.

More importantly, I don’t believe I should be in the business of choosing which fans are allowed to like, or not like, my fiction. And this is a more important point I think we need to discuss.

The Darker Side

As most probably agree, the Sad Puppies are not the big problem here. There is another group who are simply determined to burn the house down, with everyone inside. Though there might be people in this group who are sincere, I believe that their leader (and much of the movement) is instead just trying to stir up controversy. They paint targets on people expressly to subject them to hateful ridicule. They have targeted friends of mine this way, and have said terrible, terrible things. They worked to nominate things simply out of spite and amusement.

I want nothing to do with them at all. Unfortunately, this year they put me on their slate. (Along with some other fan-favorite authors like Lois Bujold, Stephen King, and Neal Stephenson.)

If I’d known I was on this list, I would have asked to be taken off of it. This year, their list seems to include some people (I can’t know if I’m one) who are mainstream. People liked in the community, or likely to get a nomination anyway. They’ve done this, I presume, in order to see whether these people too would get “No Award.”

I can’t know how much the nomination of my novella was helped by this group, and even contemplating the idea is distasteful to me. This puts me in the position of having to decide whether or not to withdraw my nomination. It wouldn’t be heartbreaking for me to do so. I’ve won a Hugo in this category before, during the pre-Puppy years. I think my story is strong, but I will write other, stronger stories in the future. I’d be fine sitting it out this year.

I think that would be bad for fandom, and the award. Though I agree with those who withdrew nominations last year, I think we’re entering into a dangerous area. If we withdraw anytime someone like this person puts us on a slate, that gives them an enormous amount of power over us and the award. In addition, if we vote something under No Award anytime someone we don’t like advocates for it, then that’s the same as letting that person win the award whenever they want. Either way, we’re just being pushed around by a troll.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned from last year, and I have decided not to withdraw my nomination. I realize I’m setting myself up for being part of a potential blanket “No Award” voting slate this year. I will accept that, if it happens. But I don’t think letting a troll dictate my actions is going to work out better for me. And I certainly don’t want to insult the fans who nominated my work in good faith.

Therefore, I will stand by what I’ve always said: Nominate and vote for me only if you think the story itself deserves the recognition. Don’t vote for (or against) any person or their ideas. Vote for or against the story. Even when the nomination rules change next year (assuming the proposal gets enough votes again this year), we’re still likely to have a candidate in every category that was nominated in by certain elements.

In many cases, I feel it’s going to be impossible to separate which nominees are the result of trolls throwing rocks at us and which are the result of passionate fans who simply have different views from the mainstream. We’re going to have to do better than counter-voting, a point which many voices in the community, including Scalzi and GRRM, made last year.

I request that my fellow nominees consider not withdrawing. And I request that voters continue to look at the individual stories, artists, and editors, and judge based on the nominee themselves—rather than judging based on who is advocating for them.

Brandon