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What Now?

For all of you who are sick of Puppygate... I am too, but there's still a few more things that I need to say. Another day, maybe, and I will move on to happier topics.

Yes, I know about Larry Correia's response to my earlier posts and I will reply to him here... but not just now. There's another topic I need to cover first, one that I have been leading up to all along -- what the hell do we do now?

Whether you think what the Sad Puppies did is right or wrong, it's done. The ballot is out. It is what it is. So the ball is in our court now. What to do?

(Here is where I will probably piss off everybody on the anti-slate of this mess. Sorry).

Over at Making Light, and on several other sites, various rules changes are being proposed to prevent this from happening ever again. There are so many different proposals they make my head spin. More nominating slots, less nominating slots, weighted voting, eliminating the supporting memberships, outlawing slates, limiting nominees to a single nomination, juried nominations... on and on and on. The worldcon business meeting is never exactly a funfest, but if the proponents of half these proposals show up at Sasquan, this year's will be a nightmare. And will probably still be going on when MidAmericon II convenes.

I am against all these proposals. If indeed I am at Spokane, and if I can get myself up in time for the business meeting, I will vote against every one of them.

Most of them, frankly, suck. And the mere fact that so many people are discussing them makes me think that the Puppies won. They started this whole thing by saying the Hugo Awards were rigged to exclude them. That is completely untrue, as I believe I demonstrated conclusively in my last post. So what is happening now? The people on MY SIDE, the trufans and SMOFs and good guys, are having an endless circle jerk trying to come up with a foolproof way to RIG THE HUGOS AND EXCLUDE THEM. God DAMN, people. You are proving them right.

I hate what the Puppies did. It was based on false premises, and though it was not illegal, it was mean-spirited and unsportsmanlike. So how about we do NOT prove them right by rigging the rules against Sad Puppies 4? How about we try to be better than that? There is nothing wrong with the Hugo rules. If we want to defeat the Puppies, all we need to do is outvote them. Get in our own nominations. This year, the Puppies emptied the kennels and got out their vote, and we didn't. Fandom danced the usual, "oh, too busy to nominate, I will just vote on the final ballot," and for that complacency, we got blindsided. We lost. They kicked our fannish asses, and now we have the ballot they gave us. If we don't want that to happen again, we need to get out our OWN vote.

But let's not give in to our worst impulses. I do not want to disenfranchise anyone. (Well, okay, maybe a few, rabies is dangerous). The fandom I joined in 1971, the fandom I love, is open and friendly and welcoming, and has room for every shade of political opinion and literary taste. Those are values worth defending, a culture worth fighting for.

Oh, and there's another (lesser, admittedly) reason not to change the Hugo rules. The Nebulas. I have been a SFWA member since 1972, and I swear, the organization spends half its time arguing about the Nebula rules, year after year, decade after decade. I have seen a dozen "reforms" in my tenure, all in the interests of making the voting "more fair," but no matter what rules we adopt, a couple years later the bitching starts and members start demanding we change them again. It's endless. We do NOT want to open that Pandora's Box at worldcon. Change the rules to deal with the Sad Puppies, and a year or two from now we'll be changing again. Aside from adding the occasional category, or splitting one, the Hugo Awards have operated more or less the same way for decades, and that stability is part of their prestige. Let's not mess with that.

Which brings me to another proposed countermeasure: the No Award strategy.

This comes in two flavors. The hardliners propose we vote NO AWARD for everything. Every category, even the ones where the Puppies have no nominees. No Hugo Awards at Sasquan, whatsoever. We'll show them. Rather than letting them move into our house, we will burn it to the ground. "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." It worked so well in Vietnam.
All I've got to say about this idea is, are you fucking crazy?

The other approach is less radical. Vote NO AWARD in all the categories that are All Puppy. In the others, chose between the nominees (there are a few) that did not appear on either the Sad Puppy or Rabid Puppy slate, and place all the rest, the SP/RP candidates, under No Award.

That's less insane than the "No Award For Everything" idea, but only a little bit. Sorry, I will not sign on for this one either. For a whole bunch of reasons. For starts, the Puppies are already proclaiming that "No Award" equals victory for them (though sometimes it seems as though they believe anything that happens constitutes victory for them). Also, near as I can tell from reading the blogs, it appears that some of the Sad Puppy candidates never consented to joining their slate, and that none of the Rabid Puppies were ever asked if they wanted to be included (I am ninety per cent certain that none of the films or TV shows in the two Dramatic Presentations category were ever contacted). There are also a whole bunch of people -- all the editors except Vox Day, for starts -- who may or may not have been contacted. No one has said, no one talking about it, we just don't know.

Also... really, when you come down to it, this whole "were they contacted?" thing is a false issue. Torgensen says he contacted almost everyone, but missed a few. Some of his slate say no, they never heard from him... but does it really matter? I have been trying my damndest to get Alan Lee and John Howe nominated for Best Artist for years, and I never asked if I could. This year I wrote a long post about the brilliance of STATION ELEVEN and why it should be nominated in Best Novel, and I never contacted Emily St. John Mandel to ask if I could. I will not condemn Brad Torgensen for failing to do what I never do myself.

I do not believe in Guilt by Association, and that's what we'd be doing if we vote against every name on the Puppy slates simply because they are on the slate. That was a classic weapon of the McCarthy Era: first you blacklist the communists, then you blacklist the people who defend the communists and the companies that hire them, then you blacklist the people who defend the people on the blacklist, and on and on, in ever widening circles. No. I won't be part of that.

I have looked over the ballot, but I have not read all of it. Will I read all of it? Well, not every word.... but I will at least glance at every nomination. I know, from past experience, that there are some very talented writers on the list. There are also some very bad writers, and at least one whose picture probably appears next to MEDIOCRE in Websters. There are a lot of writers I have never read before, whose work I need to sample. Torgensen has claimed that the Sad Puppies slate is diverse, and a cursory glance at the names suggests he is not wrong.

I intend to consider every story and every finalist in every category, and vote for those that I think worthy of Hugos. I will vote NO AWARD, I promise you, but only where No Award is warranted. (Truth be told, I vote No Award every year in almost every category. Usually not in first, admittedly... but I don't just look at a category and rank them one to five in order of preference, I rank the ones I think rocket-worthy above No Award, and the ones I don't below).

This ballot is the worst I have ever seen, admittedly, and there are stories and writers on it who are not fit to polish a Hugo, much less win one. But there's good stuff as well, and talented writers whose work I have enjoyed, and I am not going to vote against them just because the Sad Puppies like them too.

As I get further into my reading, I will let you know my thoughts on what I've read. But that may be a long process, so be patient.

Honestly, I don't think any of the choices we have now are good ones. All roads seem to lead to perdition, but each of us will need to walk the one we think best. Meanwhile, I urge everyone who is reading this to go to the Sasquan website and join the convention. Attend if you can; if not, join as a Supporting member, just as the Puppies did. It is too late to nominate, but not too late to vote. The Puppies will be getting out their vote, you can be sure. We need to do the same, unless we care to see some poor guy hand Vox Day a rocket.

I wish I was more optimistic about how all this is going to turn out.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

(That's Yeats, not me. Just to be clear).


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Apr. 11th, 2015 12:22 pm (UTC)
Well said, it's good to hear an adult speaking on this subject for a change.
Apr. 11th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC)
Perhaps we should tackle this problem first by taking away the argument that slate voting is within the rules.

For instance: "3.7.4: Members should not vote for nominations by copying any slate of nominees suggested by others, but instead should make their own individual choices for what they believe are the best works."

This would make it official that the membership opposes bloc voting. Anyone acting in good faith would honor this rule, and if a slate was proposed people could point to the WSFS Constitution to show that it is not allowed. There would be some social pressure on anyone who tried to encourage people to break this rule by promoting a slate.

At that point the problem becomes how to stop people acting in bad faith, but maybe that's not as big a problem as it appears. The Hugos operated for decades without attempts to game the entire ballot, even though the strategic value of doing so was obvious.
Apr. 11th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC)
Exactly; as often, the key is impartial standards, rules, and æsthetic judgement. Voting for a nominee (especially No Award) for non-æsthetic political reasons you agree with is no more justified than when done for politics you disagree with.
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:06 pm (UTC)
The business meeting at Sasquan may not be the nightmare you think it will be. If I'm not mistaken, I think kevin_standlee is chairing the Business Meeting this year. He treats all new business as if an Objection To Consideration has been lodged, so an overrule vote will be the first thing any of those proposals will face. My guess is that the PBM will clear out the agenda rather quickly.
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
I do not buy the "no change"
Any system has flaws, yes. But the current rules from what I can tell come from many decades ago. We have internet now, and lots of digital options. If the nominating and voting system would be set up now, no doubt a different system would come out. Never mind rabid, sad, cute, cheering or whatever the hell else they might be doing puppies. I have no doubt new systems can be thought of with less flaws, without changing the heart of the system: members getting a chance to nominate and to vote with the aim of the best books of the year coming out on top. The nominating can be made easier and more accessible. You might argue it worked in the past. Well the world has changed. People expect ease of use nowadays. They also have access to slates/factions etc. It was not possible to organize yourself through internet in the past. . more complex algorithms to vote can make sure the voting is less controlled by factions and more representative of the worldcon community.All in the interest of getting the books most worthy according to the world con community out.
Change is part of life continuously nowadays. Let's embrace it. It will secure the future of the awards so dear to 5'the world con community
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC)
I'm on the fringe edges of this world looking into the weaved web of complex minds and fascinating imaginations and since I got into Scifi at 15 years old back in the 1970's I would never have imagined something like this could happen among scifi writers and devotees, BUT, it's a new world and no corner goes untouched (apparently) and just like everything else, those "mean spirited" haters who find themselves wanting to hijack anything and everything "liberal" have found a niche here too. *sigh*, The Hugo's will never be the same because the whole world is being hijacked by people who think they know how to do just that, hijack institutions run by "liberals", because "liberals" are generally by nature, easy going accepting, SJW's, while "haters" (aka political and/or religious extreme conservatives), only know how to bully their way around everything and they found an easy target with the Hugo's, people like "sad puppies" see "nerds" not artists colleagues....they're acting like big football players who knock around the wimpy science class guy. it's repulsive by their part and for what it's worth, I do believe The Hugo's needs to adapt to this invasion without "fighting back".

Edited at 2015-04-11 04:37 pm (UTC)
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:41 pm (UTC)
To the Author, thanks for providing the platform. As for my views, though I'm compelled to respond, for the live of me I still can't sort them out. I'm a fantasy lover first, but gaming is my hobby. Admittedly, gamergate and the rift it has caused in the gaming community has biased me against the puppies and everything they stand for. Games are just entertainment though, my books are a necessity. But, I agree with your solution. Fool us twice, shame on us.

The puppies is a socio-political movement attempting to influence literature to further their cause and dampen the voices and opinions of others. It's not the first such movement nor will it be the last. They need to be marginalized.

Now, back GoT-5 premier preparations!
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
Hi, George. Many thanks for all your posts, and for all the thought you've obviously put into this. I've also been considering the question of "What to do?", but from a somewhat different angle. Here's my suggestion. I hope you and others find it worthwhile.
Apr. 11th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC)
Some interesting ideas there.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 11th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
The Center Cannot Hold, But Where Is The Center?
Dear George,

Longtime reader, first time poster. As a young writer desperate for that first sale, the most frustrating thing about this entire episode is how little room there seems to be for middle ground, how little appetite there is for people to say, hey, you know maybe both sides have some points and there are more productive and helpful ways to engage each other. No, everybody pick a side and pile on!

You're right of course that the Sad Puppies' charge of conspiracy and blacklists are lacking, and comparing the current state of the genre to the McCarthy era is absurd. That being said, there have been a few isolated cases in which some liberal editors/writers in the field have called for excluding people. Sunil Patel has said he won't consider straight white men for his book reviews in Lightspeed, K Tempest Bradford writes a weekly short fiction roundup called "Best Stories of the Week", but has said she won't include straight white men. And of course there's her infamous challenge to stop reading straight white men. There are a number of magazines that will not accept submissions from straight white men, full stop. Many of the most famous editors and media writers in the field are very outspoken about social justice politics, CC Finlay, Charlie Jane Anders, Scalzi et al. Some writers like this, again Bradford comes to mind, will not hesitate to brand someone a racist or misogynist if they say anything even mildly problematic. A blacklist? No, of course not, but I think I know how the Puppies feel.

Imagine, like me, that you are 25 again and still trying to get that first sale. Half the magazines you read will not accept submissions from straight white men, and the magazines that will are run by editors who talk daily about their liberal politics and the importance of signal boosting minority authors. If the rejection slips are piling up, it is tempting to say, oh, they're obviously only buying stories from women, or gay authors, that's why I keep getting rejected! Those damn liberals! It's a conspiracy!

You've conclusively proved that the data is not on the Sad Puppies side. But they do make some points worth talking about. I wanted to apply for a reporting job, but I couldn't, because the site requires you to have a Twitter profile and a certain number of followers. And I am honestly afraid to be on Twitter. The first accidental step on a landline, even a single honest mistake or out of context Tweet can get you immediately branded a racist, misogynist, and a traitor to the cause. Toxic accusations that you can't disprove and that will follow you forever. An errant comment can become a national scandal. People don't say, oh I think this is a problematic race issue, or I find that comment sexist, they say "You are a hater of women." SOME writers act like they are the keepers of the sacred flame of justice because they have the "right" opinions, and as a young, unknown author I am genuinely scared that I will say the wrong thing and be subject to a good ol' fashioned public shaming and pile on. Easier not to disagree, at least until I sell that novel.

I just want to write science fiction and fantasy. I want to get my first sale, sell my book. But it's starting to feel like there's no way to win. Even calling for civility is controversial. You're the only one saying, hey, no one is infallible, maybe both sides are right about a few things, let's all calm down. I love political sci fi, but politicizing the genre of sci fi itself is deeply troubling.

Science fiction and fantasy is for everyone.
Apr. 11th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
Re: The Center Cannot Hold, But Where Is The Center?
I agree with a whole lot of what you say here.

Though some is news to me. Are there really magazines that will not accept submissions from straight white men? (How do they know? Are you required to attach a picture with your story?)

Yeats was right. The worst are full of passion and intensity.

AVoiding Twitter is probably a good idea. Pretty hard to make a nuanced, thoughtful argument in... how many characters do they limit you to?
Apr. 11th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
All right, nobody move...
Well said, George—voice of sanity and reason standing against the rabid horde.

-gregory frost
Charlie Martin
Apr. 11th, 2015 07:11 pm (UTC)
Proving them right
Uh, George -- if, through these proposals, these folks are proving the Sad Puppies right -- maybe they were right to start with?

You should consider that.

After all, we know that a lot of the other things that were said about the sad puppies -- that they were all racist white men, aqnd only nominated people that met their ideological requirements -- have turned out to be lies.

(Und warum hat ich Deutch ausgewählt?)
Apr. 11th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC)
Can't we all just get along?
Well said sir. The drama has gone on beyond long enough. I wish both sides would wash the foam from their mouths and find away to get along. I know that will not happen but one can dream. For the record, I read all kinds of things and have favorite authors on both sides of this playground dispute. I just want to read good books.
Colum Paget
Apr. 11th, 2015 11:33 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure "No Award" is the way to go. Why do we have to approach this thing in terms of 'defeat' and other such warlike concepts? Here's my reasons why:


Right, I don't think Mr Day is Satan incarnate, but I don't think we can have him winning awards, what would people think of the genre? (Although there was a time when we wouldn't care about the opinions of an author/editor, but that was before the internet allowed us to all shout our opinions out where everyone could see them and think "oh... my... god..."). The thing is though, we do not know how much support Mr Day might get. Rather than split the vote, why not pick the best of the SP editors (definition of 'best' is left as an exercise for the reader, because I don't know any of the candidates so I couldn't judge, but it would be intresting to have the discussion).

2) These people feel they've been excluded from the process/community. Voting "No Award" will confirm that feeling. Why not vote for them this year, but say in future anyone doing the slate thing will get 'no awarded'. 'Cos, unless we say that, then next year we're going to see sad kittens, sad lambs, sad spiders, sad sacks, sad gits... everyone's going to be doing it. However, as an olive branch this year, why don't people at least start the discussion about which of the SP candidates they actually think is best?
Apr. 12th, 2015 04:26 am (UTC)
Maybe I'm just confused & naive - please correct me if I'm wrong
So, a very small minority (~10%) has decided to band together to nominate and, presumably, vote for an agreed upon slate of people, publications, etc.
That leaves 90% of the voters free to vote their conscious; if the SP/RP nominees are not worthy of a Hugo then they should lose by an overwhelming number of votes (saying No Award is like saying that you're taking your ball and going home because your team is losing).

Is the state of SF in such disarray that having 200 people agree on a group of books or authors unheard of and is agreeing to vote for a slate of candidates any different than someone sending out emails to 200 members asking them to vote for his/her favorites?

So they got their slate of candidates, big deal; next year be pre-emptive and rally your side before nominations are made.
Apr. 12th, 2015 04:30 am (UTC)
Mr. Martin, I believe there is a simple bit of wisdom we often lose sight of in the immediate heat of a conflict:

Give Them The Rope They So Desperately Want To Hang Themselves With.

Let them win, sir. And let them parade about and over the years create an ever increasingly bizarre spectacle as their logic and ideology dictates, until the whole thing is so farcical as to defeat itself and disappear.

Yes, I suppose there is some measure of risk that such a tactic would result in a thousand year dark age and the literary genre would be plunged into a darkness none have seen since the advent of Justin Bieber. But I suppose that is a risk I am willing to take. Now sure, I guess this would also damage the Hugos... but sometimes sacrifices are necessary.
Jason Kenney
Apr. 12th, 2015 04:53 am (UTC)
Why not just create a "Sad Puppy" award... and host it at world con.
To be fair; based on what information I've seen (I've never been to world con); I can't see how one can repair the damage. Hugo is a democratic award; you can't change it without making it not a Hugo and removing its legitimacy.

So... the only other solution I can think of (And maybe this already exists... what do I know), is creating less democratic awards; like one given out by a panel of editors and respected critics.

(Of course... anthologies sort of do that already).

And since you posted my favorite poem, I'll return with my second favorite poem:

Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you’re straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -
(Emily Dickinson)
Apr. 13th, 2015 03:51 am (UTC)
I'm a reader and accumulator of SFF. I'm not very social. I made it to one Worldcon, but didn't nominate or vote because I didn't think I'd read widely enough of that year's crop to point to anything as "best".

Nonetheless I'm a stakeholder because I read The Hugo Winners early on, and then subsequent volumes as they came out, and the award helps me and others like me to discover works and authors well worth reading. I'm disturbed that a number of highly qualified works didn't make it onto the ballot because they were pushed off by manipulated voting. Anyone using a list of Hugo winners for this year as a guide will be misdirected.

I'm not going to buy a supporting membership because I can buy a decent bookcase for the same money, and too many of my books are in UHaul boxes where I can't read them. Nonetheless, I'd urge the paid-in voters to do as I'd like to do: only vote a work above No Award if you truly think it is the best of the year, not just the best of works that made it onto a manipulated ballot.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 15th, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC)
Your points on the issue are very valid.
Katryna Wade
Apr. 17th, 2015 12:37 am (UTC)
Thank you for helping break this down
I think your solution to this year's conundrum is the best. As you have said, why punish authors who may or may not have wanted to be slated and who may or may not fit what I think should get a Hugo? That being said, I think that the slate voting solution where subsequent nominations are weighted at lower tiers, mentioned below (which I can't find right now, since I didn't take the time to bookmark it before commenting the first time), is the best one at present. It does give slate voters a voice but not a disproportionate one, while still maintaining the ability for quirky and one-off nominations.
Apr. 28th, 2015 02:23 pm (UTC)
"The fandom I joined in 1971, the fandom I love, is open and friendly and welcoming, and has room for every shade of political opinion and literary taste. Those are values worth defending, a culture worth fighting for."

^ This one statement right here is worth etching in titanium for all eternity.
Apr. 30th, 2015 07:39 am (UTC)
Alternate view - this is good for the Hugos long term
I think something has been lost in all the vitriol everywhere... that in the end this is actually a GREAT THING for the Hugos.

This year the results may have been skewed by a new group coming in and voting in larger than proportionate numbers.

But here's the thing - the word is out now to a wider world that ANY fan, of any ideological persuasion can nominate and vote for the Hugos!

So next year, we'll see a much broader spectrum of voters coming and and really invigorating the award. The reason I feel so hopeful about this being a positive force is because unlike so much of the internet, you can't easily create a million sock puppets and overwhelm the system with force - there's a reasonable financial hit per voting member, that limits the field to people who are truly serious about Science Fiction and Fantasy works. How many people realistically are going to sign up every year if they are not also readers and fans?

I've been reading SF and Fantasy since the 70s. I had no idea myself it was possible to vote for the Hugo, and I thank the Sad Puppies campaign for that - because it shed light on the Hugo as an award of the people, even myself...

I signed up. I didn't nominate anyone because I didn't feel really prepared for that, but was generally happy as some things I had read and enjoyed were nominated (one of them, Goodnight Stars, sadly has been withdrawn for voting even though it was nominated).

For voting, I intend to read every thing I can that I've not read already (and will re-read some things I've already read) when the voter packets go out, and I will vote not according to anyones slate but how the stories speak to me. I've not even looked at the "slates" because I have no interest in sides, only stories.

I can't see any gain in grinchily withholding a vote from any good story because of external factors. I would hope Sad Puppies voters would vote that way. I would hope the people that hate the SP group would vote that way. Treat the award as it is intended, and over time it will represent the true makeup of the readership at large.

There is one small suggestion that might help - make the fee to join next year as a non-attending member somewhat higher, while also still giving away some memberships by random selection from a lottery so that some people who don't have the means to pay can still vote. Don't set it too high though, or it no longer becomes a fan award but instead an award of the elites...
Apr. 30th, 2015 07:46 am (UTC)
Re: Alternate view - this is good for the Hugos long term
I wish I could share your optimism.

Maybe you're right.

I hope you're right.

Time will tell.
May. 15th, 2015 04:22 pm (UTC)
I think everyone is missing the real issue

Which I've covered here:


I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but both sides in this debate are flogging the wrong horse.

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George R.R. Martin
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