Ruminations on Nominations

Published on April 20, 2015 by

The Hugo Award nominations are out, and once again there’s controversy over who made the ballot and who did not. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Time Machine: If I ever get access to a time machine, one thing I’ll do is go back to 2012 and try to convince everyone to nominate The Martian by Andy Weir for a Hugo Award. It’s almost a crime that it does not have a Hugo nomination. It’s the best science fiction novel I’ve read in several years, and it’s really too bad that the version Crown Publishing put out last year was ineligible due to the self-published version in 2011. (And I’ve never found a satisfactory explanation as to why John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War was eligible in 2006 after he self-published it on his blog in 2002. I originally wrote that sentence before John Scalzi posted an explanation. I don’t find the explanation entirely satisfactory, since it boils down to nobody at the time thinking that serializing the story on his blog was a form of publication, but I felt I should link to it.)  Anyway, I deliberately nominated The Martian this year even though I knew it was ineligible, just because I thought it deserved a nomination. Maybe the Sasquan convention can give Andy Weir a Special Committee Award.
  2. Disappointment: Of the eligible novels this year, I’m quite disappointed that Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (translated by Ken Liu) [When I originally wrote this paragraph, the novel was not on the ballot. But one of the nominees withdrew and it got added.], and Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal did not make the ballot.  I’m also disappointed that Monster Hunter: Nemesis by Larry Correia is not on the ballot, although I understand his reasons for not accepting the novel’s nomination. I enjoyed all of those books immensely. In short fiction, I was most disappointed that Eugie Foster’s beautiful final story, “When It Ends, He Catches Her“, did not make the ballot.  I’m also disappointed that Jonathan Laden and Michelle Barasso, who have been doing great work as the editors of Daily Science Fiction, did not get nominated for Best Editor, Short Form.
  3. IGMS: I relinquished my position as an assistant editor at Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show at the beginning of this year, in order to concentrate on my own work.  But I’m thrilled to see that Gray Rhinehart’s novelette “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” garnered the first Hugo nomination for an IGMS story. Nor was that the only IGMS-related nomination: Edmund Schubert got nominated in the Best Editor, Short Form category.  And artist Nick Greenwood, who beautifully illustrated my IGMS stories “The Robot Sorcerer”, “Accounting for Dragons”, and “Write What You Want”, and many stories by other authors, got nominated in the Best Professional Artist category.
  4. Huzzahs: I was very happy for all my other friends and acquaintances who got nominated.

With those out of the way, let me move on to the dragon in the room: Politics.

  1. Puppies: There were two mostly overlapping slates of nominees put out by people towards the right wing of the U.S. political spectrum: the Sad Puppies 3 Slate and the Rabid Puppies Slate. The former was organized by my friend Brad Torgersen (and heavily promoted by my friend Larry Correia, who originated the Sad Puppies concept a couple of years ago.) The latter was put together by Vox Day, whom I consider neither friend nor acquaintance.  I’m generally considered a conservative Republican, and when I say that Vox Day is on the right wing, what I mean is that from my perspective he’s so far out on the right wing I think he’s actually on a completely different plane, headed to Crazyland.  But he’s got a lot of fans for his particular brand of crazy, so I guess that works for him. The Rabid Puppies Slate mostly mirrored the Sad Puppies 3 Slate, but it notably added several works by John C. Wright and added Vox Day himself in the editor categories.
  2. Intentions: Basically, the intentions of Brad and Larry boil down to this: they saw nominees in the past few years that they didn’t particularly like, and so they wanted to promote works and people they did like. Larry and Brad have talked about conspiracies behind the scenes to get certain politically favored authors onto the ballot, etc., but it still boils down to the same thing: wanting more nominees they like, and fewer nominees they don’t. That sentiment is not unique to them. It’s certainly what EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO HAS COMPLAINED ABOUT THE NOMINEES THIS YEAR IS THINKING.
  3. Blocs: Personally, I think creating a (nearly) full Hugo slate for Sad Puppies was a mistake.  I’m sure there were many readers who did their best to read the works on the slate and pick the ones they liked to nominate, rather than just blindly vote for what was on the slate.  In fact, the variation in the number of nomination votes between the various Puppy nominees strongly supports that idea. For example, in the Best Related Work category, in which all the nominees were on both the Puppy slates, there was a variation of 67 (273-206) between the highest and lowest number of nominations. However, it’s fairly clear that there were a large group of voters, probably around 200, who mostly voted as two mostly overlapping voting blocs.  Where the blocs conflicted, the Rabid Puppies nominees won, so their bloc seems to have been larger.  Unfortunately, bloc voting in the Hugo nominations can be very powerful, because it concentrates votes on a few nominees, while normal nomination votes are spread out over a much larger set of eligible works or people. In this case, the combined Puppies blocs were strong enough to choose almost all the finalists in almost every category.  Brad and Larry were surprised by this level of success, because with the Sad Puppies 2 campaign last year (which only listed one or two nominees in a few categories),  in most categories there were other nominees that got more votes than the top Puppies nominee.  This year, with a larger voting bloc, that seems to have happened only in the Novel category.
  4. Rules: Bloc voting is not against the rules. It is, however, generally considered somewhat unseemly.  It has happened before, but it has never been on such a large scale, or so public, or so successful. This has sparked various proposals to change the rules to make bloc voting more difficult.  As a general principle, I oppose any such proposals that would make it more difficult for people to participate in the process, or that are aimed at penalizing public voting blocs but would leave secret blocs untouched. However, there are a number of different proposals that I could support (assuming that a change to the rules is deemed necessary — I tend to agree with George R.R. Martin that the system can probably self-correct without rule changes. More on that later.). The weighted-nominations scheme I’ve devised is probably far too complex, although it could easily be implemented via a computer program. (Basically, for each person’s nominations in a particular category, it would check how similar those selections were to other people’s selections, and the more similar ballots there were, the less weight it would give those nominations.)
  5. Backlash: Of course, there has been tremendous backlash within the science fiction and fantasy community since the Hugo ballot was announced. It’s understandable that there would be a backlash — the bloc voters may have complied with the written rules, but they violated the social norm within the community.  But while the backlash is understandable, many of the personal attacks on Brad and Larry have gone far beyond the bounds of decency. (Let me note that there have also been many people who, while disagreeing with what Brad and Larry have done, have made their criticism in a reasonable manner.)  Because Brad and Larry are my friends, and because I tend to agree with them politically, I wish I could go all-out in defending them, but because I think their strategy was a mistake to begin with, I can’t defend it.  However, I do feel that I can and should defend them against the most scurrilous attacks.
  6. Racism: In my opinion, accusing someone of racism is one of the severest charges one can make against someone’s moral character. That also means it is an accusation that should not be made lightly, on flimsy evidence.  Unfortunately, knowing the power of such an accusation, there are many people on the left who will hurl it at people on the right without much regard for whether the accused is actually guilty of racism.  However, Vox Day’s beliefs, as expressed in his own words and taken in context, clearly fit the dictionary definition of racism: “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.” Therefore, I do believe accusing Vox Day of racism is justified (e.g., for his belief that inherent differences between Africans and other races determine their cultural or individual achievements). But can anyone who has been flinging such accusations at Brad and Larry point to any clear evidence of such beliefs on their part? Or, to use another of the dictionary definitions of racism, is there any clear evidence of: “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races” from Brad or Larry? Yes, I believe both Brad and Larry have expressed opposition to “affirmative action”, which involves discriminating in favor of certain races because those races have been discriminated against. But opposition to affirmative action is not racist per se: it is not racist to believe that the best way to end discrimination based on race is to stop discriminating based on race. (Now, I know that some people on the left don’t like to use the dictionary definitions of racism, and prefer to redefine racism so that only white people can be guilty of it. I think that’s a very convenient definition for them. I also think it’s hogwash.)
  7. Misogyny: Again, let’s go to the dictionary: “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.” Vox Day’s beliefs also clearly fall under this definition (e.g., he doesn’t trust women to vote in a representative democracy).  Therefore, I believe accusing Vox Day of misogyny is also justified. But again, can anyone who has been flinging such an accusation at Brad and Larry point to any clear evidence of such beliefs on their part? I have not seen any.
  8. Condemnation: If you’re going to condemn Brad and Larry, it should be for promoting a slate for the Hugo ballot, which I think was a bad idea even though it’s not technically against the rules. But accusing them of racism and misogyny without clear evidence is, frankly, despicable. Anyone who has done so should be ashamed of themselves.
  9. Resonance: I think a big part of the problem that led to the situation we find ourselves in today is that many people on both left and right seem to think that if they don’t like a particular work of fiction, it is objectively a bad work of fiction (or, at least, objectively not worthy of any awards), and that therefore if such a work ends up on an awards ballot, there must be some nefarious scheme to promote the work or its author despite the work’s objective lack of merit. Recently, Rachel Swirsky’s Nebula-winning and Hugo-nominated short story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” and Ann Leckie’s multi-award-winning novel Ancillary Justice have been the poster children for this for people on the right. Meanwhile, Larry Correia’s Hugo-nominated novel Warbound and Vox Day’s novelette “Opera Vita Aeterna” have been the recent poster children for this for people on the left. I’ve had reason to ponder about this subject for a few years now, because of the reaction of some people to my novelette “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” winning the Nebula and getting nominated for the Hugo back in 2011. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that for some readers, a story can produce a very strong emotional resonance, thus giving the story a lot more impact for those readers. Readers who do not resonate emotionally to a story can have trouble understanding why other people like it so much.  And it’s natural that some stories will tend to resonate more strongly with certain political factions and less strongly with others — although the emotional resonance does not have to be political; it could be based on any number of different factors.  For example, I’m mostly a political opposite to Rachel Swirsky. But at the time I read “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, I had been spent several months thinking through my religious beliefs about how we should treat people with respect and kindness, and so her story about bullying resonated with me at that time in a way it might not have a year earlier. I thought Ancillary Justice was a good space opera, but not so extraordinary that I, personally, would give it all the awards. However, I can also see how the story’s perspective on gender, which I found a little gimmicky, could strongly resonate with people for whom sexism and gender identity are issues of primary importance, and so I don’t begrudge the novel its awards.  The characters, plot, and themes of Warbound resonated strongly with me, and so I thought it was one of the best novels of that year, but I can understand why it didn’t resonate for some people.  I actually liked “Opera Vita Aeterna”, which dealt with similar themes to my story “The Ashes of His Fathers” (although I hope you’ll forgive me for thinking my story was better), but I didn’t think it was particularly outstanding. However, I could see why it might resonate more with some people, and also why it might resonate less with others. So I hope that more people in SF fandom, wherever they may be on the political spectrum, will start describing their negative reactions to stories more in terms of taste (I didn’t like Story X) and less in terms of objective quality (Story X is a bad story). You could do that with positive reactions as well, but I don’t think positive reactions in terms of objective quality (Story X is awesome!) are nearly as damaging to a sense of community as negative ones.
  10. Voting: Various people have suggested voting “No Award” above any of the Puppy nominees regardless of the merits of any particular nominee, as a way of protesting the use of bloc voting for nominations. I think that’s an understandable reaction, and it’s not against the rules, so I do think that’s a valid strategy. But I think it’s unseemly; not as unseemly as bloc voting, but still unseemly.  I don’t think it’s right to punish all the nominees on the Sad Puppies slate because they swept most of the available spot on the ballot, because I doubt any of them had any idea that was going to happen.  This whole Sad Puppies seems to have grown out of what happened a few years ago when some people in the WorldCon community deliberately snubbed Larry Correia because of his politics and religion. Larry decided to push back, and received pushback on his pushback, and things escalated from there. It’s time to stop the escalation. I think George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, and many others have the right idea: check out the individual nominees, and vote based on whether you consider them worthy or not. If that means “No Award” in some categories, so be it, but I think you should at least give the nominees a fair look.
  11. Self-Correction: Given the reaction this year, I think it’s fair to say people should be on notice about what it means to be on a slate, and a blanket No Award strategy for any nominees who are willing participants in a slate next year would be appropriate. Also, people will be alert to warn others who might have missed this year’s controversy as to what being on a slate means. With regard to the Sad Puppies campaign, I hope that if they do decide to continue with Sad Puppies 4, it is with a recommendation list far broader than a slate of nominees. Hopefully, next year slates will not be a problem, and so amending the rules (which takes two years) will turn out to be unnecessary.


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23 comments on “Ruminations on Nominations”

  1. Jo Rhett says:

    Eric, I’ve enjoyed your fiction, and this post is generally reasonable. However I find it sad that you would post something outright lying about Larry and Brad’s supposed lack of racist statements. Likewise with an attempt to distance these individuals from Vox Day.

    While I find Brad’s statements very odd given his biracial marriage, both Brad and Larry have repeatedly stood up for, argued in support of, and professed their personal support for Vox Day’s racist rants. We also have their own racist statements for their own on beliefs on numerous topics. We have these statements written down on their web posts, and recorded in audio, and some few in video too.

    I find it very sad that you would attempt to create this distance in a reader’s eye. You are lying to your readers, who might believe you and fail to do their own research.

    Further, you discredit yourself even further supporting these ridiculous claims that a “secret slate” exists. How well could a secret slate possibly work? If there ever was a secret slate, it was remarkably ineffective given the widespread pattern of votes over the years –which you and everyone else have the numbers to validate for yourself.

    No such “secret slate” has ever existed, as the proof in the numbers shows. And a secret slate could never be effective, for who could possibly vote on a slate they cannot see?

    You have reduced yourself to discarding integrity in order to repeat easily disproven nonsense in support of your friends. Shame on you.

    • Jo,

      You have accused me of “outright lying.” The word “lying” implies that I know what I’m saying is not true. I have not read or seen Larry or Brad make racist statements, while I have read statements by Vox Day that I believe to be racist. Of course, I have not read everything Larry and Brad have ever posted, so maybe I missed where they “…repeatedly stood up for, argued in support of, and professed their personal support for Vox Day’s racist rants”. When I made my claim about Vox Day making racist statements, I backed it up with proof by linking to the statements. You have failed to do that, so as far as I can tell, you have engaged in the same sort of attacks on Brad and Larry as many others. Either back up your claim with proof, or withdraw it.

      I have not supported their claims about a secret slate. Where did I say I supported such claims? I think you must have misinterpreted what I said. To be clear: I do not believe there is a secret slate or big conspiracy to keep conservatives off the ballot. However, I think that if we do make changes to the Hugo rules in order to prevent slate voting, such rule changes should work against both public and secret slates. If the rules only ban public slates, it will be too easy for some people to continue believing that secret slates exist, and therefore it is in the best interests of the Hugo Awards to ban both types.

      I am sorry you think I have discarded my integrity, but I do not believe I have done so.

      • Ivan Wolfe says:

        I would hardly call these posts “repeatedly st[anding] up for, argu[ing]in support of, and profess[ing] their personal support for Vox Day’s racist rants”:

        Larry Correia:
        “I personally do not agree with Vox on a wide variety of topics.

        I do not speak for him.

        I do not control him.

        He does what he wants.

        We have argued about this topic. You know the situation has gotten weird when I’m the voice of moderation.

        I cannot disown what I do not own.”

        Brad Torgerson:
        “Larry and I are not Vox Day. As Larry said, that’s like saying Roosevelt and Churchill are Stalin.

        We’re driving on the same freeway, but our destinations appear to be drastically different. Different cars. Different driving styles. We don’t want to be pulled over because the guy in the other car is doing 110 MPH. We can’t control the other driver(s) on the freeway.”

        Seems pretty clear to me that Jo Rhett is in the wrong here.

    • John Brown says:

      I’m with Eric. Please produce the evidence of your claims.

    • PavePusher says:

      Citations needed, please.


  2. Andrew Barton says:

    (Apologies if this is double posted: your captcha software annoyingly deletes all text if you fail the captcha)

    Here’s a page quoting Larry Correia defending Vox Day against charges of racism:

    I recall reading this passage on Correia’s blog at the time, but can’t at the moment lay my hands on the reference there.

    • Andrew,

      Thank you for your comment. The passage quoted in the site you linked to is from this blog post by Larry Correia:

      There is only one specific comment by Vox Day that Larry addresses:

      Basically, he called Nora Jesmin an “ignorant half-savage” and that pissed everybody off. See, Nora, is a beloved libprog activist and Social Justice Warrior, and all the reports of her victimization at the hands of the villainous Vox usually leave out the parts where she’d been hurling personal insults at him for years. Myself? I thought that comment might be a bit over the line, but then again, Google search my name and see what the SJW’s have been calling me for the last few days. It is way worse that ignorant or savage, and I think I’m darker skinned than K. Tempest Bradford. I’ve yet to see any SJWs condemning those comments about me. Tolerance is a one way street with them.

      So Larry thought the “ignorant half-savage” comment “might be a bit over the line.” In other words, he was not agreeing with the comment.

      Larry does also say:

      Having actually talked with, and then gotten into long arguments and debates with Vox, he is a contrarian, can be a jerk is extremely opinionated, but I honestly don’t think he’s a racist (He’s also not a white guy, but most of the people attacking him don’t know that). We’ve had some long, heated debates on different subjects now, but since I’m not a panty twisted liberal, I can handle differing beliefs.

      We disagree about a lot. I disagree with him on some fundamental philosophy. …

      Now, remember, this was posted almost a year ago, before some of the more recent stuff Vox Day has said. So, all this shows is that Larry’s personal judgement of Vox Day at the time, based on their private conversations, was that he didn’t think Vox Day was a racist. I think Larry was wrong about Vox Day, but the evidence at that time was rather thin. When Vox Day was expelled from SFWA (a move I reluctantly agree with — I don’t like the idea of expelling someone over their beliefs, because eventually my beliefs may become anathema to SFWA, but I think Vox Day’s beliefs and personality together made him toxic to the health of the organization at that time), I read the report they used to justify his expulsion, and as I recall it was very thin stuff. Basically, it was only by establishing a pattern of borderline statements that they could make the case for his expulsion.

      The quote above also shows that Larry disagreed with Vox Day about a lot. That is hardly a blanket endorsement for every racist thing Vox Day has ever said.

      Jo Rhett’s comment said, “Both Brad and Larry have repeatedly stood up for, argued in support of, and professed their personal support for Vox Day’s racist rants. We also have their own racist statements for their own on beliefs on numerous topics.” I don’t think this blog post of Larry’s qualifies for any of that.

      • Hampus Eckerman says:

        Hello Eric,

        First, let me say that your post i propably one of the best posts I have read yet on the debacle. So far, only you and Martin have written posts that I can agree with 100%.

        Regarding the ““might be a bit over the line”, I’m not terribly impressed. And I feel it really strange that Correia can still say that he doesn’t think Beale is a racist after that comment. Because the quote of Beale is missing a lot of the worst he said at the same time. Let me quote for full context:

        “Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.

        She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites ” just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.

        Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the traditional Western code of civilized conduct. She could, if she wished, claim that privileged white males are responsible for the decline of Detroit, for the declining sales of science fiction, even for the economic and cultural decline of the United States, but that would not make it true. It would not even make it credible. Anyone who is paying sufficient attention will understand who is genuinely responsible for these problems.

        Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males. If one considers that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilized after their first contact with advanced Greco-Roman civilization, it should be patently obvious that it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do the same in less than half the time at a greater geographic distance. These things take time.

        Being an educated, but ignorant half-savage, with little more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity within SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance.”

        This is talking about white supremacy. It can’t really be seen as something else. So while I think that Torgersen and Correia might not be racists, it seems to me that they have higher acceptance of other peoples racism than I feel comfortable with.

        • Hampus,

          Thanks for your comment. Basically, I agree with you about Beale’s comments that you quoted being racist, but he’s a very clever racist, and so he puts in things that allow him to make a plausible argument that he’s not being racist. (For the benefit of those who are mostly unfamiliar with this controversy, I should explain that Vox Day is a pseudonym for Theodore Beale.) For example, he says, “If one considers that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilized after their first contact with advanced Greco-Roman civilization, it should be patently obvious that it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do the same in less than half the time at a greater geographic distance.” That allows him to seem racially even-handed because he’s equating Africans with the English and German tribes, and saying they should take similar amounts of time to become civilized. However, it ignores the tremendous changes in education, technology, and standard of living that have occurred over the past two thousand years — and the fact that such changes have occurred at a greatly accelerated rate during the past few hundred years. Why shouldn’t people with cell phones, computers, the internet, and all the other technological marvels of our age be able to “become civilized” far faster than English and German tribes who only had access to Roman Empire technology?

          My point is that by using rhetorical tricks like this when he says stuff, Vox Day can make a superficially plausible case that the accusations of racism against him are merely the overused leftist tactic of calling anyone who disagrees with them a racist. And since people on the right are familiar with that tactic, they are disposed to believe that’s what’s going on. I think that’s probably what happened with Brad and Larry. But, as in the story of the boy who cried “Wolf!”, leftists who cry “Racist!” are sometimes right, and I think they are right about Vox Day, but wrong about Brad and Larry.

  3. Stewart says:

    Hi Eric,

    A lot of what you have to say here makes sense.

    If it clarifies your questions about sexism and racism, in my opinion the clearest place where the Sad Puppies argument is tied into something approximating both is this:

    “Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.”

    That, to me, is an argument which is troubling in its proximity to racist and sexist views–it essentially says “the only reason (insert non-majority-culture/demographic writer here) won a Hugo is because of politics, not because of that person’s ability as a writer.”

    This language is pulled directly from Brad’s post introducing SP3.

    I don’t think Brad is sexist or racist as such, and I don’t really know enough about Larry Correia to judge his personal opinions on either, but the language above is very similar to the arguments commonly trotted out by opponents to racial diversity and diversity of other sorts (e.g. university admissions). And this argument, **to me personally** seems essentially a discriminatory one, in that it seems to posit that fiction can only be judged “on its merits” if it’s written by someone who has traditionally been in the cultural or demographic majority–or if it’s selected by someone in that position.

    (I am very much aware that others see this argument in a very different light, but I am unlikely to be swayed in my view of it as problematic for a whole raft of reasons. It ties into social dynamics, politics, and intersectionality–at which anyone not into abstract theories of social justice and difference is likely and welcome to tune out completely.)

    Point 9 in your post here, to me, is one of the clearest ways forward.

    SFF fans and writers as a community (on both, all, and neither side) need to move past this perception of “I like/dislike this work” as “This work is objectively good/bad.”

    Although I do, additionally, think it’s harmful to the discussion to frame it (as Brad does in SP3) as a discussion based on “affirmative action.” Especially if you’re also and at the same time going to claim that you are not politically motivated but only care about high quality fiction.

    (As a TOTALLY irrelevant aside, I find it hilarious that I almost failed the CAPTCHA on your website multiple times because I kept trying to drag things into the square with the instructions instead of into the circle. Look at me! I am smart and can read!)

    • Stewart,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t interpret Brad’s words the same way you do. I don’t think he’s saying every nominated work by an author from an underrepresented group is not worthy; just that some are.

      One of the problems with “affirmative action” is that it tends to lead people to devalue the accomplishments of people in the groups it was meant to help. If there’s no affirmative action program, then when someone from (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) succeeds, the assumption is that they did it on merit. If there is an affirmative action program, then some people will attribute the person’s success to affirmative action rather than merit — even if the person would have succeeded without affirmative action. (It’s actually a pretty interesting parallel to the Sad Puppies Slate: If there hadn’t been a slate, then the assumption would be that the nominees were chosen based on merit. But with the slate, some people attribute the nominees’ success to the slate — even if the nominee would have succeeded without the slate. By creating the slate, Brad has basically engaged in “affirmative action” of his own. He may feel that turnaround is fair play, but it still has the effect of devaluing the nominations.)

      Unfortunately, because people on the left tend to make such a big deal about how we need to nominate more (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) for the Hugo and other awards, when one does get nominated, people on the right will tend to assume the nomination is based more on politics than merit. I think Saladin Ahmed’s nomination for Throne of the Crescent Moon has been the victim of this to some extent. Personally, I thought it was a wonderful novel, and I not only nominated it for the Hugo, I ranked it #1 on the final ballot. But I have heard people make the assumption that it only got nominated because Saladin is from a minority group (plus, his politics are far left). I think that’s wrong, and I think there are many on the right who would actually love the novel if they gave it a fair chance. (Not that this is all one-sided: there seem to be plenty of liberals who are ready to dismiss the work of people with the wrong politics or religion without giving it a fair chance.)

      • PavePusher says:

        “Brad has basically engaged in “affirmative action” of his own.” You can only flip that point back and forth a few times before it looses any value as an arguing point.

        At what point does ‘people voting for what they like’ become ‘affirmative action’?

    • PavePusher says:

      If a winning story was chosen BECAUSE it hit certain political check boxes, and not because it met a sufficient level of story-telling, that would ACTUALLY be racist, sexist, etc, yes?

  4. David says:


    I completely agree with you about Eugie Foster’s When It Stops, He Catches Her. That is one of the best stories I have read in a really long time and I read almost nothing but short fiction. In fact, if people want to see the kind of stories knocked off the ballot by Vox Day’s blatant attempt to shill for his own vanity press, they should take a look at the Nebula Awards ballot, which has a pretty strong slate this year. It is unfortunate that works like these got knocked off the Hugo ballot. Eugie Foster, for one, deserved better.

  5. Shane says:

    Excellent points well made. I’m really glad I found your blog.

    I want to respond to your point on racism. If you haven’t before, I encourage you to a look at Jay Smooth’s video about it:

    Racism is serious, but it’s not an indelible stain on one’s character, it’s something you can clean up, and work on, and improve on. I think the difference in these two interpretations leads to a lot of rancour where one groups says “You did something bad. You should clean that up” and the other hears “You’re a bad person. You should be cast out”.

    Now – lefties like myself have certainly contributed to this interpretation in the course of fighting against entrenched, permanent, resistant racist people and organisations, but we also think that everybody’s kinda racist, so we don’t see it as so terrible — *if* you’re trying to work on it.

  6. Jonathan Langford says:

    Hi Eric,

    I haven’t been terribly active in sf&f fandom for a while, and can honestly say that while I’m disturbed by a lot of the rhetoric that’s going around on this issue, I don’t consider myself informed enough to express an opinion about the controversy itself.

    However, I wholeheartedly agree with your point #9. In the 40-plus years I’ve been reading sf&f, I’ve seen lots of wonderful stuff–and lots of stuff that was praised by people I respect, but that seemed so bad to me that I couldn’t even understand why it had been published, let alone praised. I can only conclude that tastes differ to a remarkable degree, even among knowledgeable and intelligent readers.

    Certainly politics–or worldview, which I take to be a little more all-embracing than politics–can be a factor in this, though more often for me it’s something else. Thus, for example, back in 2006 (the last year I had a Worldcon membership early enough to vote on the Hugo nominees), I could not for the life of me understand the appeal of “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link. On the other hand, the same year I was deeply gratified that “Two Hearts” by Peter S. Beagle won best novelette–the only story in that category that struck me as more than mildly engaging. And while I was gratified that my personal favorite novel won (Spin by Robert Charles Wilson), other family members voted for other novels–and I thought that every novel on the list was award-worthy that year.

    Even in the short list I’ve just given, I’m sure many people would find something to disagree with–either a “how could you like that story?” or a “how could you NOT like that story?” Personally, I’d rather believe that people on the left and the right and from whatever other persuasion generally don’t vote for stories (either nominees or award winners) that they don’t think are worthy stories–inexplicable to me though their taste may be.

    Certainly there are few enough voters for the Hugo nominees that it’s easy to sway that process, either by a slate or by friends or fans of a particular author or work. I think it’s also true that well-known authors and stories that are published in widely read venues have a natural advantage in this process. Ironically, wider participation in the nomination process (a likely outcome of indignation over this whole controversy) could make that problem worse by raising the bar for lesser-known works to get on the nominating ballot. But that will be as it will be. The ideal, of course, would be for more people to read more stories (I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy of me saying this).

    Regardless, I think it would be a major step forward if we could all simply accept the idea that when someone else’s tastes differ from ours, it’s not a sign that the other person is either unintelligent or motivated by nefarious purposes.

  7. Ken Burnside says:

    I have sinned.

    I have sinned by selling words to Vox Day, who is outside the bounds of reasonable human discourse.

    I have sinned by not distancing myself from someone whom I have a contractual obligation to. I have not repented with enough publicity and remorse. By not putting sufficient distance between myself and Vox Day in public, I am assumed to secretly, or not so secretly, agree with him.

    If you can find racism, misogyny or religious dialecticism in “The Hot Equations,” I’d be fascinated to hear your interpretation of the piece.

    Sorry, not buying the narrative there.

    “Read the works. Vote your conscience. In that order.”

    You may not feel that any of the Related Works are worthy of a Hugo, and if you vote No Award after reading them, you are voting your conscience.

    My victory condition is different:

    I’m looking for readers. People who don’t know my name in a field related to one where I’m narrowly famous.

    I consider advocacy for “No Award” without reading the works to be dishonest. I consider distributing paid memberships by people who are opposed to the slates to be dishonest.

    I’ll end this with a paraphrase of Sarkeesian:

    “In the game of niche literary awards, the writers on the slate aren’t the other side. They’re the ball.”

    • Ken,

      I’m not sure whether you’re addressing me with your comment, but if you read my full post you’ll see I’m not the type to smear someone on the basis of who they sell their words to. (I used to work for Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, so I’ve seen that in action, and it’s not pretty.)

      I plan to read your work and judge it on how I perceive its merits. I’ve already read two Puppy nominees that I think are worthy of being voted above No Award, and I hope to find more.

  8. James says:

    I don’t agree with everything here, but at least you presented a reasonable approach.

    But, who cares, really? When is Unforgettable coming out? That is what I want to know.


  9. Walter Daniels says:

    I have to take issue with _two_ statements that you made. 1) I’ve been “handicapped” since August 1977, when I destroyed my right knee. Until I became (legally) disabled in April 1994 (left knee damaged in a car-pedestrian accident), I *never* got or kept a job, because I was “handicapped.” I worked for _years_ at low paying jobs, and studied a mountain of professional material every month, to *qualify* for a job as a Network Operations manager. Yet, some people I worked form “decided” that was how I got the job. That is the price *every* person “eligible” for preferential treatment, gets viewed. The attitude is, “they got it as a result of ‘special” treatment.”
    2) Sad Puppies was _never_ presented as more than, “Consider these authors/artists.” The same as all the AP’s claim to do, with their “recommendations.” (I can’t speak for Vox Day. Nor, would I wish to.) If there was “no secret cabal,” how did Theresa Nielsen Hayden *know and complain about* the “wrong names being nominated?” She did this, *in public, on her blog,” several days _before_ the “secret” nominations, were publicly announced. So, either TNH is a great psychic, or there was a “secret cabal of voters.”