Lying Down with Dogs

Apr 16, 2015 | The Publishing Industry


It is now 8am in Vancouver, and I think I’ve rewritten chunks of this post at least three times. Who’s been keeping up with the shenanigans going on in the Hugos? The five second summary is as follows: a couple of straight white dudes took umbrage at the fact that, recently, Hugo awards were being won by stories/books/etc that were not all about straight white dudes, and they took this to mean that Hugos were being handed out based on ideology and diversity rather than merit. So, these white dudes pushed a new slate of stories to be nominated that they felt were more worthy.

These white dudes included a guy who called a respected author a ‘half-savage’, because this author is a woman of color.

Long story short, most of the Hugo nominations this year in various categories are from these slates, either the Sad Puppies list or the Rabid Puppies list. Understandably, everyone else who’s interested in the Hugos is rather upset about the fact that the awards are being gamed by people with an agenda. (The irony inherent in the whole situation is so thick you could cut it with a broadsword.)

As far as I’m concerned, the Puppy factions are entirely wrong, as proven by George R. R. Martin who was helpful enough to run the actual numbers. But I think the other side is wrong as well.

I think the Hugos are broken.

Look, there isn’t any way around this. If the Hugos can be gamed so easily, then they’re broken. It throws every nomination into doubt, for me, now and in the future. I always thought that most writing awards were, well, a popularity contest, to be honest. The Hugos and Nebulas are popularity contests for authors who had chosen the mainstream path and signed up with a publisher in New York. Now I know that the Hugos are a popularity contest that can be bought and sold. They’re not fixable, as far as I’m concerned, and anyone who thinks a few rules tweaks are going to make a difference is only kidding themselves.

I accepted that I’d never be competing in those contests if I chose to self-publish. That’s sort of how it is, if you look at the nominations and winners list for Best Novel, for example. I’ve never heard of any self-published novel ever getting a shot at a Hugo award. After hearing about this complete fiasco with the Puppy campaigns, I’m not sure any author should want one.

You’d never know if you were nominated because someone wanted to tick a box, not because people truly believed you earned it. But more than that, the Puppies campaigns have made me realize that, ultimately, it’s the approval of the old guard of science-fiction and fantasy. It’s the approval of a very small number of people who care about bestowing a Hugo on who they feel is deserving. That’s all well and good, of course, but authors have to decide whether that approval is really important to them, and for me… it’s not. I’m not indifferent, more or less. I don’t think I’d want that approval even if it were offered. I’d choose to get a few more readers instead.

It’s part of the old system of publishing and fandom. It’s maybe a little of the old way of doing things. It definitely echoes the recent shenanigans with the SFWA, an organization for which I’ve developed a healthy level of suspicion. Racism and sexism run deep in the pathways of sci-fi and fantasy cons, even though things have been getting better recently. There are hidden stories of harassment and marginalization and insults and politics everywhere. Right now, I’m still an outsider looking in, and what I see isn’t really encouraging.

There’s good things too. But I’ve been wondering if the good things are really worth it, to swim in circles that are alien to me. I identify far more strongly with the giant contingent of romance writers who live and breathe online, and whose life-blood are ebooks.

I guess we all need to choose who we’re going to associate with, which groups we want to be a part of. I don’t want any part of the ugliness that’s been brought to light by the Puppies fiasco. I don’t want any part of the Puppies factions themselves; especially the Rabid Puppies, seeing as the contempt I feel for its leader, Theodore Beale a.k.a. Vox Day, is as deep and unfathomable as the Marianas Trench. (I have absolutely no time for anyone who thinks that straight white guys are the persecuted minority whose work is being ignored.) But I also don’t want to be a part of the old guard. I don’t want to be part of the chorus asking for changes to the Hugo voting rules. I don’t want to have to choose a side in a dispute I never asked for.

This is a fight within the old way of doing things, and I feel like it’s distant from me and any other indie author. I’d really rather it stay that way. It’s politics, and tribalism, and if you lie down with dogs, sooner or later you’ll get up with fleas. The only way out is to keep it all at arm’s length.

So that’s where I stand, over here with the other authors who really just want to answer to their readers, and no one else. That’s all that really ever matters. Everything else is just window dressing.