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On the Darkling Plain

The longer the Puppygate Wars drag on, the more pessimistic I grow about the future of the Hugo Awards. I started out by saying that the Sad Puppies (and their Rabid cousins) had broken them, and every day and every post and blog and story I read underlines the truth of that.

My friend Janice Gelb, long time worldcon volunteer and SMOF, has suggested that the only thing we can do at this point is abolish the Hugo Awards altogether. When I first heard that notion, I dismissed it out of hand. Some good will, some civility, a mutual exchange of ideas, and surely we could find a way to salvage the situation.

I am no longer convinced of that. The Sad Puppies are digging in and doubling down, and so is worldcon fandom. Meanwhile, off in the cesspools, the Rabid Puppies grow ever more rabid. Nuclear options are being seriously considered, and Vox Day has apparently threatened that if NO AWARD wins in any category, he will see to it that no award is ever given in that category again.

My first inclination was to dismiss that threat as so much toxic wind. But I am not so sure. According to FILE 770 http://file770.com/?p=21877 there have been 1352 new Supporting Memberships purchased this month, an unprecedented number. Very few of these purchases, I fear, were motivated by a sincere desire to support WorldCon. No, all these new supporting members are plonking down their money for a vote on the Hugos.

Ah, but which side do they represent? Are these members of traditional fandom, signing up to take back their awards? Are these Sad Puppy supporters, anxious to vote their slate to victory? Are these all NO AWARDers? Or maybe these are the Vox Day fans. Beale seems to have much more control over his followers than Correia and Torgensen do over theirs... the ballot actually has more Rabid Puppies than Sad ones. Could it be that Vox Day has successfully roused the GamerGate bogeyman that he was been threatening us with? No one knows. Unless...

I think it is All of the Above.

Meanwhile, two of this year's nominees have withdrawn their stories from contention: Marko Kloos in Best Novel, and Annie Bellett in Best Short Story. I understand their desire to be out of this mess. Both nominations were, pretty clearly, due to their inclusion on the Sad Puppy slate, but neither writer was actually an active participant in the slate-making. And both were first time nominees. I remember how much joy my first Hugo nomination brought me in 1974, and I regret that these two young writers (I do not know either one, I am not familiar with their work, and I have no idea of their political, religious, or literary convictions) will think back on their own nominations with regret and rancor, rather than fondly. One's first Hugo nomination, like one's first sexual experience, should be a memory to treasure, not a trauma.

The flood of supporting memberships will continue, I think. I believe one can still join (and vote) up to July 1. Those 1300 new supporting members will become 1500... maybe 2000... maybe 3000. Very few of whom will bother to turn up at the con. Great news for SasQuan's bottom line. Not so great for fandom. For worldcon. For SF. More Sad Puppies may withdraw, (I doubt very much that any of the Rabid Puppies will), like Kloos and Bellett. More presenters may withdraw, like Connie Willis. The business meeting will be loud and long and rancorous, as all these new rules proposals are debated and voted on. And the Hugo Awards themselves...

I do not see a happy outcome here.

Maybe all the new voters are Vox Day acolytes, and the Rabid Puppies will sweep the board.

Maybe the NO AWARDers will carry the day, and the night will end with no Hugos given out at all. And then Vox Day will double down next year and try to make good on his threat to make sure no more Hugos are ever given.

Maybe NO AWARD will win in the All-Puppy categories (Related Work and the three Short Fiction categories), while the other rockets go to the non-Puppy nominees in split categories. I actually thought this was the most likely outcome, until I read about the flood of new members.

Maybe some awards will go to Puppies, and some to non-Puppies. A split verdict. I don't see this as likely at all, actually... I think those new voters are going to trend one way or another, heavily... but I supposed it could happen. And afterward, wow, what fun getting all the winners together for the traditional "class photograph."

Any way the dice fall, I foresee lots of booing and hissing as the names are called out, lots of unhappy presenters, angry winners and angrier losers.

Only one thing for certain: no matter what happens, Vox Day will declare that he's won.

And as for me... I don't know right now. On odd numbered days, I lean toward opting out of SasQuan entirely. Stay home, work on the book, I don't need this grief. On even numbered days, I am determined to go... and to go BIG. Take the Hugo Losers Party back. I started it, after all. And this year, so far as the Hugos are concerned, we are all going to be losers.

It is all very depressing.

Fandom is supposed to be fun.


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Apr. 15th, 2015 11:44 pm (UTC)
The price for non-attending membership has to go up. If the pooches want to trash the Hugos, let them do so at $180 a pop. A half million dollar cash transfer from them to the party will not completely make up for the destroyed tradition, but it will soften the blow.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:50 am (UTC)
But it'd also cut a lot of people who just want to be part of a process they love out completely. Why penalize people for something that's not at all their fault?
(no subject) - biggay_steve - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gamingdinosaur - Apr. 16th, 2015 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2015 11:47 pm (UTC)
Maybe better to put award on a hiatus?
If they have the power to do so I might suggest the board simply cancelling this years Hugo and putting it on hold while Worldcon debates and figures out the rules for the Hugos going forward, even if that in practice means 2-3 years without Hugos. Vox will probably feel he won regardless, but I think if the award got cancelled with a message saying that the whole award process is going to be revised to avoid being a tool for those who want to turn the award into the latest culture war battlefield; that is probably the best statement that can be made at this point.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:19 am (UTC)
Re: Maybe better to put award on a hiatus?
How can you do that without paying back all those who sent in their money for supporting memberships in the good faith that they'd be able to nominate and vote in The Hugo Awards?

I've heard that if anyone managed to organize the gamers, the number of supporting memberships would be up well over ten thousand. I'm sure that many gamers read and enjoy SFF, but if they are in this on someone's behest, not good. I'm sad if this is the case.

Edited at 2015-04-16 12:20 am (UTC)
Re: Maybe better to put award on a hiatus? - alexvdl - Apr. 16th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 16th, 2015 04:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - uraeus2 - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sasquan Business Meetings - puck108 - Apr. 16th, 2015 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sasquan Business Meetings - kevin_standlee - Apr. 17th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sasquan Business Meetings - puck108 - Apr. 17th, 2015 02:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Noah B
Apr. 15th, 2015 11:48 pm (UTC)
We are not the fans you want, but we are fans nonetheless. And we want to see works that we think are actually deserving winning awards.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:21 am (UTC)
But sadly the puppy position is that if they don't get their way, they'll destroy the awards for everybody.

And, you know, it's very hard to respect such a position?

Why would fans want to willfully destroy the hugos just because a few hundred of a small clique thought the Wrong People were winning?

The books I've thought most worthy of winning very rarely do, it's never made me want to cheat the system to rig it so they win.
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 17th, 2015 02:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 17th, 2015 03:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Apr. 17th, 2015 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 17th, 2015 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Apr. 17th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 18th, 2015 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Slight Error - Chad Wood - Apr. 17th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - lornkanaga - Apr. 16th, 2015 12:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
There's never been a Worldcon near me - t_roy6 - Apr. 16th, 2015 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lornkanaga - Apr. 16th, 2015 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - desert_dragon42 - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Fans - sphericaltime - Apr. 16th, 2015 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Fans - Noah B - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Fans - grrm - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Michael Pullmann - Apr. 16th, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - robdye1900 - Apr. 17th, 2015 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2015 11:52 pm (UTC)
I can't perceive the Hugos as broken. They're bruised perhaps, a little worse for wear this year maybe, but not broken.

The fresh, large influx of voters can very well be a good thing. Only time will tell.

If nothing else, this has been an example that voting is always important.
Apr. 15th, 2015 11:52 pm (UTC)
That really, really sucks. It seems like civilized discourse on the net is getting to be as rare as it is in Westeros. :(
Apr. 15th, 2015 11:57 pm (UTC)
This thing with the Supporting Memberships makes me very sad, as my husband and I have been getting Supporting Memberships for the past few years. It's a way we can be part of Worldcon even if we can't afford to travel to the actual convention. (MidAmericaCon II next year will be the first one we can attend, since it is close by.)

The slate-making is also problematic in that it is all about winning the prize rather than enjoying the process. Even if a story/novel/anthology/etc doesn't win, the fact that it was nominated is usually a sign of quality. Slate-making takes that away.

I refuse to become pessimistic about the Hugos, however. Obviously, some changes to the nominating process need to be made. These conversations need to be done in person, at Worldcon. People are more likely to be civil face-to-face. I don't know what that will mean for those of us Supporting Members, but I think some discussions need to be had at SasQuan by the membership present.

Keep your chin up, George! We the Fans can turn this around.
Noah B
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:42 am (UTC)
Au contraire, we are enjoying the process immensely. I'm still in if the prices goes up to $180. Are you?
thanks for being an example - solarbird - Apr. 16th, 2015 06:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Who are "we"... - imnotandrei - Apr. 17th, 2015 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:06 am (UTC)
I withdrew because I was sad over how things have become about fighting and not great fiction.

I missed saying hello to you at Norwescon, as we were both busy, but I hope that you do come to Sasquan. I know since I turned down my nom instead of losing a Hugo, I don't get the ribbon, but I would like to shake your hand. You have been a voice of clarity and reason all through this and I really appreciate that.

Apr. 16th, 2015 02:20 am (UTC)
Re: Hey
You are welcome, Annie. And yes, you get a ribbon. There are all sorts of ways to be a loser. :)

Norwescon was huge fun. I am sorry we did not meet there. I spent most of my evenings in the bar, drinking and laughing and flirting and talking about books.

Which is what cons are FOR, imnsho.

Re: Hey - Noah B - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hey - anniembellet - Apr. 16th, 2015 05:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hey - aelfgyfu - Apr. 17th, 2015 06:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hey - dragonborngurl - Apr. 17th, 2015 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hey - TheRedViper - Apr. 16th, 2015 04:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:07 am (UTC)

All I can say is--I hope to see you there. On an even-numbered day.

I'm mostly in the filk area. If you stop by, I can either sing one of my Westeros parody songs, or promise not to do so, depending on your preference.

OK-that's not all I can say. It's occurred to me--and my outlook has brightened on the whole mess since it did--that Worldcon isn't just about Hugos. It's also a big fat geek party with a whole lot of chances for fun, jovial friends, song, art, panels, booksignings, cosplay, games, room parties, getting to meet people one has admired from afar for years, meeting people one has never heard of who turn out to be superstars (has happened to me often; that's why I'm polite to strangers), chances to get drunk and silly, or stay sober and silly....and all these people buying SUPPORTING memberships, who might be poisoning the well--they aren't gonna be there. They're just providing the funds to make the party that much better for the people they hate.

Might even be worth the Hugos becoming a joke, to have that. Or to lower the membership price and make it affordable for more members. Call it "sweet grapes" if you will, but it ain't gonna be all bad.

Finally--I've heard of times when 4chan has tried to rig contests for a prank, like the time a radio station had a "meet Taylor swift" promo and they tried to arrange for some creepy old guy to win the contest and be a boor while preventing any real fan who actually wanted the prize from winning. The station reserved the right to discard ballots from suspicious sources that appeared to be for the purpose of playing a spoiler role, and that "prank" failed.

I'm trying to decide if there's a way the Hugo committee could similarly have a way to winnow out spoiler votes. Plenty of potential negatives, sure:

1. There would be accusations that doing so was rigging the vote in favor of "Happy Kittens" or SJWs or whatever they're calling it. Considering that the people most likely to say so are ALREADY claiming that, it doesn't seem like much of a risk.

2. It's possible that such a policy could open the door to REALLY rigging things, if the committee was unscrupulous. I kinda have faith and trust, but YMMV.

3. Some good faith ballots could be tossed by mistake.

Still, seems better than no Hugo at all, and better than a system where hordes of Gamergate people are enabled to give us slates full of space rape porn or whatever.

A lot of good ideas begin with brainstorming, and a lot of bad ideas can get nipped in the bud by identifying the insurmountable flaws early.

What do YOU think?

Noah B
Apr. 16th, 2015 04:17 am (UTC)
Can you cite an example of SP or RP nominated works that you believe constitutes "space rape porn?"

If so, please cite relevant passages.
(no subject) - jmatonak - Apr. 16th, 2015 10:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laurablues - Apr. 16th, 2015 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alexvdl - Apr. 16th, 2015 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 17th, 2015 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alexvdl - Apr. 17th, 2015 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Noah B - Apr. 17th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alexvdl - Apr. 18th, 2015 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lornkanaga - Apr. 16th, 2015 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 16th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC)
I live in Montana. I'm perfectly happy with our little local con, MisCon. I had heard about WorldCon in Spokane and opted out. This weekend, however, I purchased a membership. I did it because I read what you had to say. I am reading the through the list of finalists to vote for the ones I feel are deserving. I hope that the huge bump in memberships is people like me who are seeing this debacle and just wanting a long and storied award to be voted on with fairness, if that can happen at this point.

I am saddened to hear the Mark Kloos withdrew his book. I finished it last night. I wouldn't have voted it for the award, but it was well written, if not my cup of tea.
Apr. 16th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
Miscon is a wonderful con. It reminded me of cons in the 1970s.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:32 am (UTC)
Dover Beach
Excellent choice of title, Mr. Martin.

For those who don't recognize the reference, it's from the 1867 poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold. The poem talks about how the "Sea of Faith" was once at the full, but now is retreating toward its low tide:
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Thank you very much, Mr. Martin, for generously hosting this discussion.
Apr. 16th, 2015 02:46 am (UTC)
Re: Dover Beach
just a little side note on Dover Beach, I first was exposed to that poem in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which inspired me to read Mathew Arnold's other poems which inspired me to read other poetry which has enriched my life immeasurably.

Reading science fiction and fantasy is the gift that keeps on giving.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC)
The Hugo awards should surely be a celebration of SFF with awards presented to those deemed to have excelled.

However it looks like far too many eyes are on the prize.

The community is clearly splintered and examples of this can be found in articles where the Sad Puppies or those opposed to them are smeared, where falsehoods are printed and not challenged.

Generally you will find with communities that even though those within the community may disagree, when someone outside paints that community in a negative light, those within the community rally around, put aside their differences and stand up for their community.

That this hasn't happened here is one of those disappointing aspects in all of this because that community bonding is the nucleus of building bridges.

As for whether the Hugos should be abandoned or not, I think they just need to take a deep breath, a beer or two and share a joke to bring back some sunshine instead of rain.
Apr. 17th, 2015 04:18 am (UTC)
I wish the Puppies would go start their own convention and give out their own awards to/for like-minded works by like-minded individuals. Lots of other groups have done exactly that when not satisfied with what an existing group had been doing.
(no subject) - ciaran_laval - Apr. 17th, 2015 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:41 am (UTC)
I think many of us are going to get memberships to support worldcon and vote for the Hugo's. I can't imagine the worldcon without them. I may be naive but I agree with David Gerald's post about supporting the nominees.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:42 am (UTC)
It sucks that Marko Kloos pulled his book out - whatever politics were behind it getting nominated, I really liked Lines of Departure. Definitely understand his decision though.
Apr. 16th, 2015 04:24 am (UTC)
I don't know him at all, or his work. But I feel really sorry for him right now.

I can't imagine what it must be like--to get recognized on the big ballot and then feel obligated to turn it down rather than be associated with the method that got you there.

That took a lot of courage, and a lot of despair.
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:43 am (UTC)
The reason I bought a membership today is because all I read about this scandal online brought awareness of a convention and award that I knew basically nothing about before. It sounded to me like participating in voting and reading the nominations (even though they've been compromised) would help me learn more about the SciFi and Fantasy genres and community.

I don't plan on voting on any party lines. I'm going to follow your advice and vote for what I think is the best regardless of whether it was Puppy-sponsored or not.

While I don't have any evidence that proves that the situation isn't as bad as you think it is, I hope the Hugos survive anyway. I've only just now realized what's at stake and I'd be disheartened to lose it just as I started to learn about it.

Thank you for writing on the subject and convincing me to learn more.
Apr. 16th, 2015 05:52 am (UTC)
Same plan, same reason for registering. Hoping to go to the conference if I can afford it.

I have been reading SciFi for about 25 years without knowing anything about Worldcon and only vaguely knowing what the Hugos were. For me the discussion has brought to light that there is alot of great SciFi that I am missing out on and a chance to meet new people.
(no subject) - stephiny - Apr. 16th, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rev_bob - Apr. 17th, 2015 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 16th, 2015 12:46 am (UTC)
the All-Puppy categories (Related Work and the three Short Fiction categories)

That's no longer quite the case; one of John C Wright's works was ruled ineligible, and Thomas Olde Heuvelt now has an entry in the Novelette category. Entirely on his own merits, nothing to do with any slate. Something to vote for, yay...
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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    Still working on that. When we have a final, I will share it.
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    Whatever anyone can get their hands on is, I suspect, the right answer.

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    Any chance you could tell us who’s doing the cover art for Fire and Blood? And maybe when we can expect a glimpse of it. Thank you!
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