If I don’t speak truth I can’t seek truth. — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Eye of Huron
So much about the world these days leaves me feeling impotent. It seems like terrible things happen in a fire and windstorm that no amount of compassion can put out. For me, it can feel like a physical ache. It hurts in my heart and I feel it in my shortened, rage-filled breath. And yet, I often feel like this anger mounts and mounts and would burst in any other vessel. A firework locked in a safe, no place to let the pressure out.
When all of the #WorldCon76 controversy started and then came to a head, I felt so low.
To WorldCon’s credit, they’ve brought on a fantastic programmer in Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix the programming issues. But, still. Things like this shouldn’t happen.
But the truth is, not doing something is going to do the same thing that safe might do to a firework–pull out all the oxygen so the fire dies. That’s unacceptable.
The only thing to do is fight. And I need your help.
I can’t actually slap people (something, something pacifism), and I don’t know how effective writing my congressperson will be at effecting broader social change.
If there’s one thing I can trust to get a change started, it’s the internet.
(after all, if the internet can make rickrolling someone and the tide pod challenge a thing, we can also use those powers for good.)
What I need from you.
I’m still planning some outings for WorldCon and for those of you who show up, please make the effort to find me so I can feature you and your favorite underrated author on Instagram, but …
I want everyone to be able to work together for positive, community-wide change.
So, email me.
I’ll be posting video clips and text snippets from you. Email me some text or a video clip of you (30 seconds-1 minute) about your favorite authors. Include the authors you love who are persons of color, neuro-atypical, queer or who have a disability.
I want you and I to shout their names to the internet. Together.
Feel free to do your own posts using #diversityis4me
Message me on twitter or reach out to me at Bree.LowTea@gmail.com.
Well, I know it makes me naive and ignores a lot of fandom’s history, but damn if I don’t want it to be a haven. Science fiction and fantasy espouses some of what is best in humanity, and so I always hope that the people who love it will continue to espouse acceptance, love, and hope as well.
And so I made the best of the puppies.
And I forgave people who were internet jerks.
And people just keep giving me more and more strife.
Probably you’ve heard by now that there’s another dumpster fire in science fiction fandom. I wish this were less surprising.
TL;DR – Nothing that has come to light is great. I’m going to work to make it better. Here’s a plan, albeit limited by time, space and assistance.
I turned off my phone to sleep, and I woke up to news that the WorldCon 76 team had:
- Changed a person’s gender neutral pronoun bio to using the wrong pronouns
- Not put new Hugo finalists, largely persons of color and younger authors onto panels
- Sent dress codes to some individuals but not others “asking” that they dress professionally
Because, hey, it’s 2018 and why not?
I get it.
Conference running is really tough. Like on a scale of 1-10, probably an 8 or 9. I know; I’ve helped host thousands of people for academic events. Even in a place where you’re not coordinating dozens of panels and participants on top of booths, celebrities, vendors, and guests, you’re doing a lot of work.
But that doesn’t excuse shitty behavior
So, let’s talk about this.
Shitty thing #1 – Screwing with bios and using personal pictures on programming
Well, this is easily one of the things that makes me the most mad. Program creators requested bios and photos from authors and other hugo-nominees and panel participants. +1 for having people explain themselves. Except they didn’t.
Bios were edited, including switching someone’s gender pronouns.
People’s professional pictures were skipped and personal facebook pictures (listed on private accounts) were used instead.
I cannot even fathom why this was considered ok.
Guess what, if you ask for a bio, as long as it isn’t wildly unprofessional or lewd, you should stick with that bio. In particular, you should NEVER change someone’s own pronouns. If someone tells you their pronouns, you accept those pronouns and move on. You aren’t the arbiter of pronouns and I promise you don’t know someone’s gender better than that person knows their own.
I would very much appreciate a public apology from @worldcon2018 for rewriting my bio to change my name and my gender.
I have never, ever used “he” pronouns.
After many similar exclusionary actions, this is the last straw, I am honestly not sure I can safely attend. pic.twitter.com/agazsY1rmV
— Bogi Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs (@bogiperson) July 23, 2018
Using someone’s personal photos rather than a supplied professional one is a weird and invasive combination of ignoring privacy and not presenting your organization professionally. Just…What?
Shitty Thing #2 – Dress Codes
Rather than going on and on about this. I’ll just say, sending dress codes to some but not others isn’t ok. Hugo award nominees have enough on their plates, if a sparkly unicorn dress is their preference, it’s their damn night. Do what you will. I don’t care if someone is a man in a kilt, a woman in a miniskirt, or someone in a gender non-conforming outfit you don’t think is “pulling it off.” The nature of dress codes, in particular those espousing professionalism are both sexist and classist. I’m not here for that and I’m not here for it not being universally applied.
For a much more intricate look at the relationship between sexism and dress codes, here’s a fantastic piece by Everyday Feminism.
And this series of tweets shows a lot more at stake than who wears what type of heels.
Hi. My name is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. I’m the managing editor of the Hugo Finalist magazine, @FiresideFiction, and last week when we all got angry about dress codes, I also got worried.
Because the email about dress codes ALSO talked about access needs at the ceremony.
— Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Fancy Cyclops (@snarkbat) July 23, 2018
Shitty Thing #3 – Not Including Members On Panels Because They Aren’t “Popular” or “Well-Known” Enough
Hugo nominees, in particular many of the younger nominees and those who have diverse backgrounds weren’t put on panels. Some of them have been receiving emails saying that they aren’t well-known enough to be placed on them.
This is ridiculous on two fronts:
1- Hugo nominees are definitionally well-known. To be nominated, you MUST have a not inconsequential presence and respect within science fiction and fantasy. PLUS, in theory at least, over the last five or so months, people have been reading those works and watching those movies and looking at that fan art. They have been a highlight in the community.
2- There is no way to make our fandom last without incorporating new voices. New voices are important to science fiction and fantasy. Without them, there will be no growth, and, frankly, growth is exactly what SFF needs.
At the very least, I’m glad I’m not living in a world limited to Heinlein and LeGuin. I want innovation and new perspectives, because this genre set needs that to maintain its lifeblood. And I want SFF to be around for a long, long time.
Fine, Bree, But What Are You Doing About It?
Right now, I’m talking to folks about setting up some outtings in San Jose. I understand this isn’t the same as at-con participation, but at the very least we can be a community that accepts one another. I’ll be working to get us accessible transit and will announce any outing plans soon, both here and on YouTube.
I’m bringing a fuck ton of pronoun stickers. I want to normalize inclusivity. The only way to do that is to make people realize that their world doesn’t have the rigid limits they think ought to be there and to call folks out on their incivility. If you show up at WorldCon, hunt me down. You can have a pronoun sticker for your badge.
I’ll be wandering with my Instagram stories going on throughout WorldCon. I want to talk to people about their favorite works, especially those that are debuts, new to you authors, #ownvoices, and that feature intersectionality. I’ll be posting frequently throughout the week.
Other things. Right now I’m open to suggestions. I want to help build community in places where community should be. Let me know your thoughts about what events or other activities you think should take place. Tweet me, comment, plaster my insta and YouTube with suggestions. Let’s make it happen.
Featured image photo credit: Facepalm Glax by Mattia Basaglia © 2017-2018 CC BY-SA
I haven’t been overly concerned with the Sad Puppies this year. I’ve talked about this before, but the general level of vehemence and craze among the more moderate puppy group had seemed to die down a lot with the turn of a new Hugos cycle.
A few tweets went up regarding the Puppies list. I more or less ignored it. Lists happen, particularly with awards. It was a few days later that I noticed what was actually happening.
Twitter basically exploded, albeit quietly compared to last time.
The Sad Puppies list this year is considerably different from their past years’ lists, including in some cases more recommendations that nominating slots on a ballot. Note that though the original intent claim was to post ten works per category this didn’t happen, with more or less believability depending on category. It includes the usual suspects (Jeffro Johnson, the expected over-representation of Baen and Castillia House), but also includes Okorafor, Leckie, and Scalzi. If the Scalzi thing doesn’t raise your eyebrows, you haven’t been paying attention.
In truth, the Sad Puppies list includes some authors really worthy of awards and beloved genre-wide.
Unsurprisingly, authors have been requesting removal and posting objections to association with the Puppy Slate, including Alastair Reynolds, Cat Valente, and Peter Newman.
Should the authors have been asked if they would like to be included?
This is an interesting question. Normally, I would say no.
But, the Sad Puppies aren’t just any old blog. Affiliated with the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day, and GamerGate, and the epicenter of last year’s fiasco, I think they should have.
The Puppies’ lists and base are rooted in controversy. They know that. Last year’s slate led to withdrawal of nominees from the Hugo Awards ballot for the first time in decades. The desire to avoid affiliation with the Puppies runs strong and not without reason. While the Sad Puppies calmed their rhetoric a bit, it’s clear that the self-positioning as interlopers to SFF being kept out by “SJW” cliques is being maintained.
Frankly, a good faith effort should have been made to contact every author listed on the SP recommendation list, regardless of past affiliation, leanings, or talk. There’s too much controversy for that not to be a minimum consideration.
What was the response to those who asked to be removed?
Generally sarcasm and overreaction.
I understand that the admins are frustrated. I understand that there was some genuine effort to back off the rhetoric and open up the Puppies to more varied selection. And, some of the anti-Puppy folks can compete with Vox Day for vitriolic anger. But, you don’t become the Puppy ringleader without knowing that people don’t like what you’re doing or who you’re affiliated with.
So, let’s not pretend that people requesting to be removed from the list are the “special snowflakes” and “delusional” types that Sarah Hoyt has called them on her blog. Hoyt is one of the Sad Puppy 4 coordinators\admins. She’s compared anti-Puppy folks to the Third Reich.
The objectors have been noted with asterisk (leading to some laughter about revenge for the asterisk awards at the previous ceremony)
Frankly, she would have been MUCH better served by putting an editors note that there’s a list of people who have been removed, posting the raw data from the forums, and then highlighting those who have been removed on the raw data file.
Let’s have a quick caveat
I do think she has made a good, significantly more insightful point that people are giving her credit for. It’s hard to get past the anger and resentment in her post-reaction blog to see it, but she makes it clear: who’s really keeping women and minorities out of SFF? Publishers.
It’s true. If everyone who spent the energy to tweet Sarah, Vox, or the other vehement sector of the Puppies on Twitter had spent the time to tweet Harper Collins, St. Martin’s Press, or Simon and Schuster about the lack of diversity in SFF, we may eventually see a more substantive change in the genre.
By and large, the puppy ship is sinking. Maybe it’s time to focus on the people who control the genre more directly.
Post-Script Note: I’m not discussing the Rabid Puppy slate today. Mostly because it lacks a sense of taste and appropriateness.
Additional Note: The original post pointed to Nnedi Okorafor for having tweeted about the list. I was in error. My sincerest apologies.
Some days it seems that this mess isn’t going to end. For those of you who were tuned in to the Hugo Awards for the last few years, you probably know all about, or at least have heard about the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups. I know. It’s that time again.
A bit of background: the Sad and Rabid Puppies are two groups of SFF readers with a similar proclaimed agenda: to get rid of “Leftist message fiction” and lessen its prominence in the SFF awards system. To do so, last year they encouraged their followers to vote for slates of works put together by their leadership.
This in and of itself isn’t too new or surprising, though it flies in the face of the Hugos intention and the spirit of the award.. The problem comes in with some of the supplementary behavior that have happened: doxxing, harassment, review bombing, and general displays of homophobia and misogyny.
The Sad and Rabid Puppy slates were successful in placing a large number of their slate picks on the Hugos ballot, resulting in a big uproar among Hugo voters who aren’t part of the groups and a large smattering of “No Awards” being selected.
So, here’s what’s going on.
After the Sad and Rabid Puppy events of last year and the subsequent plethora of No Awards in the Hugos, I think everyone was kind of hoping that the problems had died down. It seemed like the entirety of SFF fandom was exhausted, and who could blame any of us?
But, of course, life isn’t too easy and there’s always a round 2.
With the Hugo nominations about to be opened up, the movements are back. It should be noted that the Sad Puppies, the more moderate of the two groups, seems to have backed off of some of the rhetoric and are leaving behind some of the more manipulative tactics of the past year. They have no official slate and their website for the year’s campaign is a list of threads for readers to list suggestions. The suggestions themselves seem to actually take up the majority of the space and are varied (and include Ann Leckie’s works?).
It is the Rabid Puppy group that seems to be the point of contention. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Rabid Puppy group is closely tied to GamerGate and has been known for adoption of some GamerGate tactics.
So, since the 2015 Hugos, two “big” things have happened. First, Vox Day was banned from Goodreads, and, second, some independent bookstores have removed Pupppy-affiliated works from their shelves.
So, what exactly happened?
Vox Day and the Puppies claim that they had set up a Goodreads group with the intention of talking about Hugo-eligible works, which was taken down 36 hours later because of the nature of the ideology in their movement (more or less. A link to Vox’s post about it here.).
Other accounts claim that Vox Day and the Puppies were advocating for review bombing. Review bombing is the practice of giving false or spurious negative reviews to a work with the intention of displacing its placement in suggestion algorithms and of discouraging people to purchase or use the work. This would be explicitly against Goodreads’ terms of service.
Additionally, there are claims that the group had been organizing a way to get its members “librarian” status on the site to take down works they disliked. There are also claims that the group had been harassing persons with this status.
Any of these claims would be reason for Goodreads to take down the group, and depending on the validity of the claims, may be cause to get rid of Vox’s Goodreads account. Both were taken down shortly after the group’s creation.
Vox Day has posted this link with a name of who he thinks is the moderator who got him banned from the site.
The actions have been used as fuel to the fire of “SJWs are against us” claims the group profligates. Puppies have been saying that the policy is inequitably applied and that persons with more left agenda are left alone when behaving the same way.
Let’s be clear: Goodreads was within its rights to take down the group and ban Vox Day. As a privately held company, the behavior was a violation of the terms of service and Goodreads’ enforcement of its TOS is fine. Frankly, I think companies should stick to their TOS.
If there is similar behavior that also violates the TOS on the anti-Puppy side, they should also have their groups taken down.
Is this a vast conspiracy? I doubt it.
The second matter is the issue of bookstores removing Puppy-affiliated works from their stock.
The story popping up has been extremely hard to verify. The rundown looks like this: someone claims that a Jim Hines summary of the Puppies was sent around to Toronto bookstores. The bookstores then took affiliated books of their ordering lists.
It has not been proven.
But, let’s assume it’s true for a minute, which accounts of bookstore stock from people seem to indicate it isn’t.
What constitutes censorship? Should we be concerned?
Censorship is always a complicated topic. We get touchy about the issue and conflate a lot of different things with censorship.
Censorship is when a book or books is systematically made unavailable to the general public, usually with the consent of the government.
A few bookstores refusing to stock a book shouldn’t worry us, especially if those bookstores are independent, which would be the suspected case. Accounts still have Correia and others on the shelf in Indigo stores (the Barnes and Noble equivalent in Toronto), there have been no accounts of libraries removing the books (this is generally against library policies everywhere), and the internet has not ceased to make the books widely available in print and electronic form. So, censorship seems like a particularly unlikely thing to be happening.
No need to fear, Puppy-beloved books are still obtainable.
So, what should we expect over the next Hugos season?
My suggestion would be that, provided we as a community engage with moderates who disagree with us, remain civil, and try hard to rebond with people on the opposite side of the “schism” that is the Puppies, then nothing. We should have a fairly peaceable and engaging Hugos, hopefully with a continued increase in the amount of people voting and becoming active in the community. At least, that’s my best-case scenario. We can make it happen.
I’ve been increasingly frustrated by the state of the SFF world. It seems like it’s been one thing after another for so long. Constant low-level hostility and tension has been at best worrisome and at worse disturbing. I’ve mostly tried ignoring the chaos, especially considering that much of the disruptions have come from a very small number of people.
I still hold by much of what was said in my earlier post.
Unfortunately, the chaos has continued. Most recently, a false police report was filed by a Hugo nominee against another, leading to a full WorldCon investigation and the nominee’s work being rejected from a magazine. In the fall out, death threats and harassment ensued. We’ll be talking a little bit about this. For the full background on the story, you can see some of the posts I’ll link below.
While the “victim” of the false police report has accepted Lou Antonelli’s apologies, the actions of Antonelli haven’t ceased to have consequences. Antonelli’s actions in particular aren’t really what I want to talk about. I’m going to be addressing the actions we have seen in our community more broadly. It feels a bit ridiculous that I should even have to do this; these behaviors are far from common. Unfortunately, they’ve insinuated themselves into our world.
I’m approaching much of this from a more libertarian perspective. This is for a few reasons (1) I think that a libertarian discourse about rights and the role of the state is fitting for the behaviors we have seen in this community; and (2) I think that a discourse about positive and negative rights is a broadly applicable approach for the rhetoric that accompanies the behaviors we have seen recently.
When we talk about rights we do so in two terms: positive and negative. In short, positive rights are rights that obligate action and negative rights are rights that impede action. For example, the right to a public education obligates the State to provide schooling, thus it is a positive right. The right to free speech prohibits censorship, and thus is a negative right.
Below, I am going to use this framework to talk about specific action we’ve seen in SFF fandom lately and why it is unacceptable.
I’ll also be talking about the difference between “public” and “private.” One of the trickier aspects of this conversation is that I am going to be using two sets of public and private. In normal discussions, we talk about public and private in terms of who views an action and who is effected by it. If I am walking in the mall, I am in public. If I am in my home, I am in private. This is complicated by the role of the State (by which I mean your governing body). For the State, there is the private individual and the public one. For instance, you are still a public individual when you make a phone call to the police. You are a private individual when you are in the store, purchasing an item. I’ll try to be as clear as possible when using these different approaches to public and private.
Before we start
I want to make sure that we’re on the same page, here. If you are an adult, you have the right to make your own decisions. That includes decisions you make for your self, your dependents, and your property. I’m pretty generous about the application of this. Where your decision-making ends, by necessity, is where that decision impacts another person (person’s property or dependents included) about whom you do not get to make decisions.
This may be more recognizable as “You can swing a cat until it hits someone.” Your cat, your space, fine. If your cat hits someone in the face, not fine. Obviously, in a modern society, this isn’t something we can roll with carte blanche, but you get the point.
Why you don’t get to make threats on the internet
I’m a big believer in the right to free speech. Want to say something ridiculous? dumb? mean? racist? Go for it. You have the right to say just about whatever you want in public.
Remember that you get to do whatever you want until it affects someone else. Threats to another inherently change the state of another person. The threat of bodily harm (or emotional, personal, or other) changes the ability of another person to make decisions. If you mean it or not, if you can carry it out or not, they must account for your reaction. Therefore, a threat is an impediment to them.
In this case, you have a negative right to censorship, but the other person’s negative right to bodily and personal safety takes priority. This isn’t because your right to say what you want isn’t important. It’s because the violation of theirs is (1) more serious, and (2) has a wider implication for their rights overall. The violation of the right to bodily and personal safety is the cornerstone upon which all our other rights are founded. You cannot speak freely if you aren’t physically safe. You cannot practice religion if you are not physically safe. See where I’m going with this?
Hence, that person would justifiably call the police.
When we talk about the role of the State, there are very few commonly agreed upon duties that we assign it. Government is tricky and should be limited. One of the almost universally agreed upon roles we attribute to the government is the protection of property against legitimate threats to its injury. This includes one’s person. You own your body.
The internet can be tricky. It sure feels like a private interaction when you send a comment or a message to someone over the computer. After all, you may only intend for them to read it. Here’s the kicker: the internet isn’t actually private and it wouldn’t matter if it were.
The internet is actually a public forum. Legally, we treat comment and message boards as though you were shouting in the park. This makes sense because by and large our internet usage is widely visible. When it isn’t, your data and message is constantly accessible by a large group of people and companies: your internet provider, the website you use, the website’s hosts, your recipients’ internet provider, the website they’re using, the website’s host, etc. Luckily, the same rules apply to the internet as if you were in a park. You can basically say whatever you want, with the understanding that, like in a park, you may be overheard even when it seems private.
Regardless, it wouldn’t matter even if a threat via the internet were privately sent. A threat to one’s person is still a threat. Even if you say you didn’t mean it. Even if it was just to scare them. Even if it was just out of rage. Any threat to one’s body, property, or dependents can legitimately be brought to the police. No matter who makes it or where it was said. The State’s involvement here is 100% legitimate.
Why you don’t get to call the police and make a false report
The police force is, at least in theory, a public good (note: I use public good here to mean public resource). Often, we think of the police as a way to keep people from breaking the law. Their role, however, is more fundamental.
The police force is a problematic presence at best. They must balance between protecting our fundamental rights (most notably property right) and enforcing the will of the State. If you’re suspicious of the police, you have good reason to be. The expansion of police duties necessarily comes at the expense of liberty.
So, how do you, oh suspicious one, keep the police force limited? You don’t invite them where they aren’t needed.
We tell our three-year-olds only to call 9-1-1 when there is an emergency. This is vital when we consider the police as a public good. The police has limited personnel. They cannot be everywhere at once and by calling them when you don’t need them, you limit the ability of the police to deal with real threats.
Moreover, when you call the police when they are not needed, you invite the expansion of the police force, further legislation, more government. If you are interested in limiting the size and scope of government — the amount of interference that the government can run in the individual’s life– you should not call in false threats. It’s the surest way to expand that which you want less of.
Why you don’t get to give out someone’s personal information to people
Private information. Private information. Private information.
We talked earlier about the difference between private and public. Remember?
There is a right to privacy. It protects your ability to make your own choices. You cannot be autonomous if you don’t have the right to keep other people from sticking their noses in your business.
So, when you go dig through the deep dark depths of the world to get someone’s personal information, like their real name, where they live, their cell phone number, you are violating their right to privacy (again a negative right).
When you do this, knowing that people are asking for that information, knowing that people will be using it for harmful and malicious purposes, you are culpable for the harm that results. You have violated a right, thus enabling harm. Don’t do it.
This is far from an exhaustive list of things that are happening. Regardless, I think if we respect one another’s rights, we cut a lot of the bad off at the head. Basically, just think WWHD? What would Heinlein do?
WorldCon Statement on Lou Antonelli and David Gerrold: https://www.facebook.com/sasquan/posts/880154438687988
Pattern Matching: Lou Antonelli and the Sad Puppy Slate: http://www.pretty-terrible.com/2015/08/10/pattern-matching-lou-antonelli-and-the-sad-puppies/
File 770 on Antonelli’s apology: http://file770.com/?p=24262
Another File 770: http://file770.com/?p=24256
Editor Carrie Cuinn on the reaction to her pulling Antonelli’s work: http://carriecuinn.com/2015/08/10/a-statement-about-lou-antonelli-lakeside-circus-harassment-and-safety/
It’s hard to explain how I’m feeling about the Hugos this year. The Sad Puppies slate (read more here) has undercut a lot of the discussion about the nominees in favor of talking about the nomination process itself. I do think a lot of that discussion is productive, but it’s disheartening that we can’t really talk about the works.
For those of you who are not familiar, the Hugo award nominees are chosen by fans (who have paid membership fees) is a large balloting process. Fans can nominate the works they think best exemplify SFF and the total nominations are tallied up, with the top six or so works being put on the ballot again, this time for the title of “Best [insert category here].”
The Sad Puppy slate has been present in the last three Hugo cycles. In an ideal world, the candidates in each category are chosen by each fan based on who they think did the best job. The Sad Puppy slate is a more politicized version of the process whereby a small group of people (largely associated with MRA groups and gamergate) advocated a pre-chosen list of works based, in part, on what they believe is most politically friendly to their viewpoints. The Sad Puppy Slate’s preferred works received a large portion of the nominations in this year’s Hugo cycle.
I’m going to talk about this in two portions because I think there are two different issues at hand: (1) the use of slates in the Hugo awards process, and (2) the actions and beliefs of the Sad Puppy group towards other fans and creators.
The use of slates in the Hugo Awards
It’s not against the Hugo voting rules to use slates.
It would be nearly impossible for the institution to identify slates, and the penalties for their use, considering that authors may or may not know they’ve been placed on a slate, would be hard to determine. Instead, the failsafe that the Hugos has in place for a large fan upset is a “No Award” option on every ballot.
What the problem with slates is, is the way that their use undercuts the ideals of the award.
The Hugos aim at a deliberative selection process, whereby voting acts as a simulated discussion (Granted real discussion happens, too). Each person tosses the best they can think of into the ring and voters then decide from among those which truly is the most deserving of an award intended to designate the work most meritorious and exemplary of the genre. The nearly four months between voting rounds allows the fans the opportunity to read the nominees they are unfamiliar with so that the truly best work can win.
Politicking has always gone on at the awards, to some degree or another. We’re not so naïve as to be unaware of that. Authors and publishing houses have always campaigned for works to be chosen. After all, the Hugos does provide a sales boost.
However, the dominance of a slate that advocates the blind nomination of works based on political ideology is fairly unprecedented.
Because the voting population for the Hugos is fairly small, approximately 2,000 voters for the most popular category and much fewer in less popular categories, it’s easy to skew the results of the nomination process. And, of course, when it’s derailed and by a large, but distinct minority of voters, the rest of the community is going to be upset.
Slates themselves are problematic. They reduce the number of potentially nominated works, undercut the deliberations that go into the nomination process, and potentially flood the awards with non-vetted works (read: works that have not actually been read). This means that the stories we are awarding may be extremely obscure, non-representative of the genre and its advances, or non-representative of the stories readers want to consume.
It should also be noted that slates are distinct from suggested nomination lists. Plenty of people put up lists of works they think work well in categories and suggest their readers, friends, fellow SFF lovers read the list when considering who to nominate. To me, this is a distinctly deliberative act. It allows for people to read and decide on their own without suggesting or advocating blind voting (to me the biggest problem with slates). They are often include far more lists of works than the voter can nominate and act as a substitute longlist for readers. This is especially important for readers who want to sample and become more involved in categories like short fiction which have a much smaller readership.
The creation of a slate for political reasons is objectionable. What I will say here, is that the use of politics in this case is a limiting factor and detracts from the inclusive and representative goals we have for the Hugo. Again, they are within their rights to limit based on this factor, but I think that it suffers from a lack of consideration for new types of stories, and increasingly popular stories in the genre.
We all have limitations in our reading. Time, length, interest are all factors we have to balance. I think it is inkeeping with the spirit of the award, however, to push ourselves to read what we may otherwise ignore or not prioritize. As readers, we should always be pushing ourselves to empathize and expose ourselves to stories that are not familiar to us or that show a part of humanity we may not often see.
Sad Puppies as a group
There’s a lot to be said about the Sad Puppy group’s attitudes towards women, people of color, and the LGBT community. The Sad Puppy leaders have been willingly, and proud to be, associated with gamergate, a fiasco hallmarked by the sending of threats of rape, murder, and physical harm to those who disagree with them.
I’m really dismayed and saddened to see that type of hostility being introduced to our community.
So what do we do now?
I’m going to be reading all of the novel and short fiction nominees. I don’t want to penalize authors who may not have chosen the Sad Puppy slate as their champion. And, for all I know, some of the work they nominated may be genuinely good.
For those who are turned off by the Sad Puppy slate, particularly those who have the option to vote, I’d suggest using the “No Award” option.
On a more positive note, I think we can use this as an opportunity to re-evaluate what we look for in the Hugos, how we want to interact as a community, and where we’re going in the future (other than the stars).
It’s been a week or two since I read this one, but the more I think about Among Others, the more I like it. I’ll be the first to admit it, this story is total sucker-bait for a scifi nerdlette who loves character building and magic that just may be someone’s hallucinations. It follow Mor, a young girl from Wales who has escaped from her mother’s home after an accident killed her twin sister. Mor has bunkered down with her father’s family and is attending boarding school far from home, hoping against hope that her mother who may or may not have magical powers won’t find her.
The best part of this story is Mor. She’s the kind of 16 year old girl that feels so familiar to me. She loves books. She’s smart but spends a lot of time in fantasy land. Mor is funny and clever in a way that’s very accurate to her age. Yes, she’s a bit angst-y (what teenager isn’t) but she makes sense.
Walton spends a lot of time with the idea of grief and family illness. She looks at the way they create complex relationships between family units as a whole. Mor has just lost her sister, which she attributes to her mother’s mental instability combined with volatile magic. But Walton doesn’t just leave the blame solely in that relationship. Mor’s grief affects the way she perceives her largely absent father, her aunt and grandfather who lived with the twins, and herself. In this way, Walton’s portrayal of grief and family mental illness is very accurate. Mor doesn’t just mourn her sister, she blames her mother for the part she played; she holds her father accountable for leaving the girls in a vulnerable position; and she strongly believes that her aunt, who knows about both her mother’s instability and magic, should have done more to protect the twins.
The magic system Walton uses is complicated, largely because the reader is never quite sure if it’s actually magic or the fantasies of a young girl who reads more than may be healthy. Mor’s magic is conducted through faries who look like trees or rocks and who only speak Welsh. If something goes wrong, she’s pretty convinced it’s because of the magic, but Mor is clear, magic doesn’t work in obvious ways; magic almost always looks like something that could have just happened on it’s own. The reader is often left guessing. I really liked that aspect of the story.
The book has a lot going for it, and it’s the kind of book that sticks with you after you’ve read it. No, it’s not your typical fantasy, but it’s enjoyable in a slower-paced, more literary way. If nothing else, I immediately went out and got another Walton book, just to see what her other stories have to offer.
Overall, a 4/5.