I've been pondering whether I should write about the Hugos and the surrounding issues or not. I'm not a World Convention attendee (damn budget and travel), and only an aspiring author, so my stakes in the issue aren't immediate. However, what I am is a long time SFF fan and reader and the fans and readers have just as much stake as anyone in what's happening. So here goes nothing.
For those who haven't heard about the dissonance surrounding the 2015 Hugos it's not hard to find a lot of information out there which will give you a blow by blow and cover the gritty details of both positions. But, the meat of the thing is that starting a few years ago there were some folks (calling themselves Sad Puppies) who grew disillusioned with the Hugo awards, the process for getting awards and the people who were getting and awarding them. They felt like the system was being gamed to award the politics of particular people (whom are often referred to as Social Justice Warriors), regardless of whether the books they wrote were any good. So in response over the last few years, last year rather passively and this year very actively and publicly, the Puppies took advantage of the voting system to put their own nominees on the Hugo voting ballot and prove how very broken the system is. By and large they've proven that the system is, indeed, broken.
The result of all of this is an internet flame war of vasty magnitudes. There is name calling, calls to arms, threats, possible law suits and blog comments filled with vitriol and spite on both sides of the issues. There are sides being taken and a general feeling of demand that all authors/readers and other folks need to decide which "people" you are. (And good luck if you have a household with a Puppy and an SJW...someone is sleeping on the couch.) Again, very little of this has to do with books, content thereof and whether they're any good, but lots to do with particular author/editor/organizational beliefs, politics, practices and egos.
Personally I've boiled it down to five groups. It's not hard to find examples in each, and you can judge for yourself where you fall.
Group one: Far rabid right. These folks are the most inflammatory on the Puppies side of the issue. They aren't holding back any punches and take a lot of joy in just watching the whole thing burn. For them the nuclear options seem to be the only options and they're willing to go to the mat, no matter what, for as long as it takes to make their point.
Group two: Far rabid left. These folks are the most inflammatory on the Social Warrior side of the issue.
They aren't holding back any punches and take a lot of joy in just
watching the whole thing burn. For them the nuclear options seem to be
the only options and they're willing to go to the mat, no matter what,
for as long as it takes to make their point.
Group three: Moderate right. These folks come from the Puppies side of the issue, but they are much more moderate. They see a broken system and truly wish to be part of the solution. They want to see fantastic stories of all stripes rewarded without thought to the author's personal leanings or belief. Given the option they could likely sit down with the "other side" and work a lot of this out through spirited debate and eventual compromise.
Group four: Moderate left. These folks come from the "Social Warrior" side of the issue, but they are much more moderate. They see a broken system and truly wish to be part of the solution. They
want to see fantastic stories of all stripes rewarded without thought to the author's
personal leanings or belief. Given the option they could likely sit down
with the "other side" and work a lot of this out through spirited
debate and eventual compromise.
Group five: The middle. These folks encompass a vast number of fans and authors who don't want to take sides with anyone. These are people who read authors/editors/publishing houses on both sides of the divide with reckless abandon and simply love SFF. They can see places where both positions are right and places where both positions are ego driven wrong, and really they just want to get back to creating wonderful new stories and consuming them. They want SFF fandom to be that place where everyone belongs and all those who consider themselves outcasts (as so many of us have at one time or another) can find community.
So what's the point in any of this?
A call for civility.
It's very hard to convince people that you're a nice person offline when you're a jerk online. And it's hard to come to understanding when everyone is so busy striking and defending that the underlying issue is getting lost in the shitstorm.
I'm pretty certain that those in the middle and moderate camps out number those at the fringes, even if the fringes are very loud, and if everyone would put down the mud and baseball bats there is understanding to be reached. Most fans, including authors, because you are fans too, want a fandom that is open to all, that focuses on not kicking sand in people's faces at any level and a place where great stories are created and can be enjoyed whether they are cheesy space opera romps or thoughtful views on colonization and exploration. Our genres are fully capable of encapsulating many viewpoints.
When it comes specifically to the Hugos this year, those who can vote should, and maybe one of the biggest positives is getting more people involved in the process. But please be fair to the people on the ballot and to the process as it stands. Maybe it will change in the future, maybe not, but this is what it is this year. If you choose to vote No Award do so because you really feel like there isn't a piece that merits award, not simply because the process is being challenged.
For the future there are going to have to be a lot of discussions and they need to be ones open to a lot of voices. Obviously you can't make 5 million people happy, but what the Hugos represent and who they are for needs to be considered in light of their vast history so that going forward everyone is starting from the same understanding and grounds.
Like many other fans I'm not the one who will ultimately be making these decisions, but how they come about and who is the first to sit down at the table is important. If both sides truly want what is best for the genre, best for the awards and best for the readers, the hostilities have got to cease and someone has to start the process.
You can bet that we're all watching.