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Next Year's Hugos

The Hugo Awards for 2015 have been announced, the rockets handed out, the post-mortems written and published. You can read analyses all over the internet. My own thoughts on the results can be found below, so I won't recap them here. The Great Puppy War is over.

Or is it?

That's the question. Where do we go from here?

I know where I'd like to go: back to normalcy, as old Warren G. Harding once said.

No one who truly cares about science fiction, fantasy, or fandom could possibly want a Second Puppy War. The past half year has been deeply unpleasant for writers and readers on both sides. Next year's worldcon is in Kansas City, and it would be great if the Hugo ceremony next August could once again be a celebration of excellence, rewarding all the writers, editors, artists, and fans who had done outstanding work in 2015.

Can that possibly happen? Can we remember that "we are all science fiction," as some of the ribbons I saw at Sasquan proclaimed? Can we have a reconciliation?

I think there's a chance. But a chance is not a certainty. It depends. Mostly, I think, it depends on the Sad Puppies.

We already know that VD Beale and the Rabid Puppies are going to try to do it again. They want to destroy the award, and they will no doubt do their damndest, and there will be a rabid slate. Nothing can be done about that... except to ignore the troll. Fandom -- liberal and conservative, Sad Puppy and Truefan, have all been paying too much attention to Beale. Our links and denunciations have driven his page views higher and higher. And too many people empowered VD and his slate... either by voting for the work he slated (often unread) or by voting AGAINST the work he slated. We should not be giving these toxic clowns the power to sway our votes either way. Beale will do a slate, no doubt. Just ignore it. Nominate and vote as if the Rabid Puppies did not exist. That's certainly what I intend to do.

Which brings me to the Sad Puppies. Brad Torgersen has retired from the fray, he tells us. There will be a Sad Puppies 4 campaign, but it will be run by Kate Paulk. It is my understanding that she does not intend to generate a slate, but rather a recommended reading list, similar in scope and intent to the LOCUS Recommended Reading List, or that of NESFA, or LASFS. I think that's good. Unlike the Torgersen list, which was carefully "curated," Paulk has said that her list will focus on the works that receive the most suggestions from those participating, that it could include "even David Gerrold" if a lot of people suggest him. I think that's VERY good. Could it also include "even" N.K. Jemisin and Rachel Swirsky and Ken Liu and Mary Robinette Kowal? Even better. Not that I think it will... the Puppies may not be all conservative, but certainly more of them tend right than left, and their literary tastes undoubtedly run to more traditional forms and styles too. But if Paulk is honestly willing to consider all the suggestions she gets, without litmus tests, I applaud that. It should enable her to produce a recommended reading list that is far more varied, and far more interesting, than the SP3 slate.

Slating was one of this year's big problems. It was SLATING that produced the avalanche of "No Award" voting in this year's Hugo balloting, the widespread perception in fandom that the slated nominees were illegitimate. If there is no slating (save for the Rabid slate, which I fear is inescapable), I think fandom as a whole will be far more open to the suggestions of the Sad Puppies.

Let's make it about the work. Let's argue about the BOOKS. And yes, of course, it will be an argument. I may not like the stories you like. You may not like the stories I like. We can all live with that, I think. I survived the Old Wave/ New Wave debate. Hell, I enjoyed parts of it... because it was about literature, about prose style, characterization, storytelling. Some of the stuff that Jo Walton explores in her Alfie-winning Best Related Work, WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT? That's the sort of debate we should be having.

The elimination of slates will be a huge step toward the end of hostilities.

But there's a second step that's also necessary. One I have touched on many times before. We have to put an end to the name-calling. To the stupid epithets.

I have seen some hopeful signs on that front in some of the Hugo round-ups I've read. Puppies and Puppy sympathizers using terms like Fan (with a capital), or trufan, or anti-Puppy, all of which I am fine with. I am not fine with CHORF, ASP, Puppy-kicker, Morlock, SJW, Social Justice Bully, and some of the other stupid, offensive labels that some Pups (please note, I said SOME) have repeatedly used for describe their opponents since this whole thing began. I am REALLY not fine with the loonies on the Puppy side who find even those insults too mild, and prefer to call us Marxists, Maoists, feminazis, Nazis, Christ-hating Sodomites, and the like. There have been some truly insane analogies coming from the kennels too -- comparisons to World War II, to the Nazi death camps, to ethnic cleansing. Guy, come on, cool down. WE ARE ARGUING ABOUT A LITERARY AWARD THAT BEGAN AS AN OLDSMOBILE HOOD ORNAMENT. Even getting voted below No Award is NOT the same as being put on a train to Auschwitz, and when you type shit like that, well...

The Pups have often complained that they don't get no respect... which has never actually been true, as the pre-Puppy awards nominations of Correia and Torgersen have proved... but never mind, the point here is that to get respect, you need to give respect.

And before any of the Puppies jump on here to say, "you did or first," or "you did it worse," well... I think you're wrong, but we've argued it before, and there is no point in arguing it again. A lot of things were said during the past few months. Do we want to keep rehashing them endlessly, or do we want to move on?

I am very proud of what I did with the Alfies; the reactions of the winners, and the way the awards have been received by fandom, pleases me no end. Sometimes it is better to give than to receive, and I got as much joy from giving out the Alfies than I have from receiving any of my Hugo awards, Nebulas, or World Fantasy Awards.

But I don't want to have to give them again.

I voted No Award in several Hugo categories this year, because the finalists were unworthy of the rocket, but I was not pleased to do so.

I would rather not have to do that again either. Next year, I hope, the Hugo ballot will present me with so many excellent choices that No Award will be ranked last in every category.

If there are fans of good will on the other side who share these hopes, be they liberal or conservative, left wing or right wing, great... I am holding out my hand. Let's talk about books. We may disagree... probably WILL disagree... but that's not the end of the world, or even the Hugos. That's just fandom. If you have ever been to a con, you'll know that the best panels are the ones with a little lively disagreement.

((And for those of you who would prefer to continue to call names and throw stones and talk about cabals and conspiracies and death trains... sorry, not going to engage. Hatespeech is not lively disagreement. I am too old, too smart, and too rich to waste my time with assholes.))

Comments

bruceb
Sep. 1st, 2015 04:51 am (UTC)
What I most wish for this year is explanations from people whose priorities are very different from mine, over in (loosely speaking) the Puppysphere. I want to know why a work moves them, and how; I want to know what they see as weak spots in works they love, and the strong points of works that overall didn't impress them. I want, really, the kind of conversation that I've always taken as definitive of sf fandom - not formal polished criticism (though I like that too), but the exchange of thoughts and feelings about work we love, work we like, work we dislike, and work we don't understand. (Probably we don't really need a whole lot more exchanges about work we hate. Sometimes it's best to move on.)

The Puppies leaders refused pretty much every invitation and request to do that this year. A literal handful of Puppies followers made the attempt at File 770, but had very little to actually say. It was on the level of "I liked the plot twist" and "It made me feel sad in a good way." Those are as good starting points as any, but then they stopped there as if they'd said everything worth saying, leaving the rest of us hanging. Conversely, it was usually excrutiatingly clear in very short order that they hadn't read the overwhelming majority of works not on their slates, and assayed criticism based on incorrect information and selective quoting of Amazon reviews. The typical Puppy clearly knew much less about anything off their slates than a lot of us learned from our own reading about the works on their slates.

The conversation's all around us, fellow fans of sf and fantasy. Join in! When it works, we all come away having learned something about what others are thinking, and maybe even having discovered some unexpected pleasures. Good stuff.
lydy
Sep. 1st, 2015 05:59 am (UTC)
Once upon a time, in a office far far away, there was someone that always wanted to talk about this wonderful television show she had just seen. Usually, it was a made-for-tv movie. And I would ask her what she liked about it, and she would recite the plot. If there was a famous actor, she would mention how much she liked favorite actor. But for me, none of that was helpful or persuasive. The bare bones of a plot are not what I care about. For me, plot is largely the bones, the thing that holds the stuff I care about together, give it structure. And I care a great deal about character, but considerably less about the actor giving life to that character. And so, there was nothing, really, we could talk about. She loved these things but was utterly unable to articulate why in a way that made sense to me.

I think the best of the puppies are probably similar. When I ask about characterization, prose style, structure, pacing, and so on, what they've got is a plot synopsis. And they think that I'm being rude and snobby by not caring about the plot synopsis. They react a lot like I'm asking them to do homework. When I love something, I tend to analyze it, try to see the mechanics of how it connected for me. For many people, thinking about those things actually destroys their enjoyment. It's like analyzing a joke.

So, I think that for some significant number of people who identify with the puppy slate, this conversation is both impossible and unpleasant.
bruceb
Sep. 1st, 2015 02:26 pm (UTC)
That's really well put (Lydy putting things well? What a surprise! :) ), and wish I didn't agree so much, because I'm always on the lookout for more perspectives to bring to bear in that kind of conversation.
joshmst
Sep. 1st, 2015 09:58 pm (UTC)
Oh for the love of...
Gosh, sorta sounds like pro-SP folks are mere knuckledraggers with the imagination of a flea. Set them in front of a TV where they are not an active participant, and that is how the treat books.

If you were looking to elicit a response like this one, you have succeeded. So shall we go into why I enjoyed the short story "Totaled"?

I really enjoyed the balance that the author provided between hard science (in this case neurology) and the emotional response to her situation. The author really conveyed the separation of that poor soul to the reader in a very visceral way. I was empathetic to her very real separation from humanity through the descriptions of life without taste, touch, sound... even the movement of air in and out of lungs.

I found the focus on trying to finish one last "quest" to be satisfying, as well as the humanity portrayed through the protagonist and her assistant by going to school programs where she could see her children in the months after the accident. The author was again able to convey the pride/sadness/loss of those scenes in a way that actually did elicit an emotional response. We again were able to feel empathy for this woman's plight in very trying (and honestly unique) circumstances.

I could go on, but you know how we like homework...
grrm
Sep. 1st, 2015 10:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh for the love of...
Thanks.

"Totaled" was the strongest of the nominees that remained on the slate.

In a normal Hugo year, I think the Hugo in that category would have gone to the winner of a three-way race between Kary English, Annie Bellet, and Ursula Vernon.
lydy
Sep. 1st, 2015 11:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh for the love of...
I am very sorry to have given the impression that the sad puppies were knuckle draggers. I certainly didn't mean anything of the like. The fact of the matter is that there are many different ways to enjoy reading. There are some types of analyses that drive me spare, and others that greatly enhance my enjoyment. The fact that there are people for whom any analysis is a kill-joy seems like an important factor to understanding the conversation. There's been a tendency to assume that if they can't or won't discuss why they loved something, they didn't love it. What I intended to do was point out that this is not correct, that they do, indeed, love the things they love. Their unwillingness/inability to describe why should not be equated with a lack of passion for same.

I liked "Totaled." I liked it for several of the things that you point out. I thought that it wasn't hugely original. It was a very competent "brain in a jar" and it elicited emotional reactions from me. I think that she was a bit sentimental in the use of the children to evoke emotion. And I think that mostly the story was a well put together set of tropes, not something that explored something new. But in the end, it had a sufficiently authentic ring to me that I appreciated it. Possibly I liked it in part because it was nice to see a woman scientist, and a woman scientist with a family, so in I guess I forgive her the sentimentality.
joshmst
Sep. 2nd, 2015 06:42 am (UTC)
Re: Oh for the love of...
Thank you for the clarification. It can be a joy to write and discuss things we like. It is quite refreshing to me to discuss something other than the technical work I do in my day job, so this is nice.
bruceb
Sep. 2nd, 2015 05:32 am (UTC)
Re: Oh for the love of...
Thank you! I liked "Totaled" for the same reasons. As George says, it was clearly the strongest of the nominees, and might well have made my nomination list if I'd registered in time to nominate as well as vote on the final ballot. It's certainly brought out the most interesting, useful commentary.

I confess: I was thinking of the vast majority of the rest of the slates, not "Totaled", when I wrote my original comment, and should have specified. Still, thanks!
madhaus
Sep. 1st, 2015 10:05 pm (UTC)
Well said, Lydy!
This is a terrific encapsulation of one of the communication problems. I've seen that reaction from Puppies (and others) as well, the annoyance at being asked about anything beyond a plot summary or how much "fun" the work was. In fact, this is the exact same argument going on in videogames, one group getting offended because critics are discussing them as art, with themes and character development and subtext and political assumptions; the offended just want to know the mechanics and whether the game is "fun." Analysis absolutely destroys their joy, and anything opposed to their assumed politics does as well (but that's a different topic).

To me, this is a debate between SF fans and SciFi fans. SciFi was the trappings without the thinking or the what-if or if-this-goes-on or original worldbuilding. SF fans love to talk about books they just read, books that the same author wrote, books that influenced this book because reasons, books in the same subgenre. Why they were good, what kind of characters, development, theme, arc, social and political analysis, all that yummy stuff. SciFi fans don't care about those things, they want their fun rockets and square jawed heros and busty maidens to rescue from aliens. Yes, this is a caricature, but there's a lot to that caricature. WHY don't the Puppies explain why they like the books they do? Are Puppies merely those who HATE analyzing why something is awesome (and a huge chip on their collective shoulder)?
lydy
Sep. 1st, 2015 11:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Well said, Lydy!
I suspect that the division isn't quite as clean as that. I suspect that there are people for whom the what-if factor is very important, but who still find attempting to articulate what it is that they loved about a specific work is work rather than play.
joshmst
Sep. 2nd, 2015 01:35 am (UTC)
Re: Well said, Lydy!
I think one of the communication problems conservatives have is that when we get into discussions we are often labeled (as above) as non-thinking creatures who can't even explain our own base desires (rockets, square jaws, and busty maidens). It is kinda funny, when people expect the worst out of someone else, very rarely do they dig in to see if their generalization or caricature of that person/ethnicity/creed is in fact true. Instead it becomes a topic of polite conversation between the enlightened, well away from the unwashed and uneducated. Which also explains that "huge chip on their collective shoulder".

Guess what? People on this side of the political spectrum are individuals as well. We all have differing levels of education, different tastes, and different motivations that direct our paths through life. Sure, there are those who do not pursue intellectual interests, but the same can be said for all of humanity. Generalizing people who you tend to disagree with leads to a breakdown in communication, because then you have applied a grossly simplistic label onto a whole variety of individuals.

Just for an intellectual exercise, replace your "SciFi" label with an ethnic group. Re-read what you wrote, and then compare what you said to early 1900s psychology texts or screeds which describe different ethnicities and how "they haven't evolved from their baser instincts" and "we observe that they prefer simple tastes in art and music that do not compare well with our more mature, refined, and elegant compositions".

Do you honestly wonder where SP's started? Hang out in forums discussing SFF and see how many people post things that are critical of conservatives, or how many times you see "well, they get all their news from Faux News!" Ah yes, very clever, very cutting. Dialogue begins with an open mind and a willingness to give respect to an individual who may not share your views. You would be correct in thinking that not everyone will be open to dialogue or mutual respect, but it is a disservice to automatically assume your political opposite will not reply in kind.

Edited at 2015-09-02 02:27 am (UTC)
elialshadowpine
Sep. 1st, 2015 10:19 am (UTC)
I have to echo the above. I don't write reviews of books I loved on Goodreads nearly as much as I do for books I hate. That's because it's ridiculously hard for me to put into words why I loved the book. Sometimes it's a thing you can't quite grasp, that English just can't convey. It can be the writer's voice, the spark of the story, and how do you describe that? For books I hate, though, I can point to exactly why I hate them. I can't do the same for books I love. I've talked about this particular phenomenon with a number of people, and I am not the only one who has this difficulty.
lydy
Sep. 1st, 2015 11:55 pm (UTC)
Me, too. And I do like to pick apart the stuff I love. But at the center of the really important works is a numinous core, something beautiful for which I have no names. Often, I can describe some of the wonderful bits that get me there. But that central gosh-wow feeling? Often I can't describe that.

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