I have written previously about the melt-down of the last Hugo Awards (here and here) so I don’t think I need recapitulate the whole multi-year saga. If you are seriously into science fiction, you already know, if you aren’t, it’ll merely be of minor academic interest. I keep coming back to as a writer with a mild interest in science fiction generally, and a slightly more intense one in how a particular progressive and insular mind-set manages to warp the heck out of book publishing and marketing the same to the masses, and because I have on-line acquaintances who are passionately interested in the matter. These interests tend to be infectious, I’ll have you know.
It had begun to seem in the last few years – especially to science fiction fans – that what was being published, marketed, and lauded by the critical luminaries in science fiction circles was actually not terribly readable. It was increasing precious, depressing, literary in the worst interpretation of the word (pretentious, pointless and prizing showy effects in the use of language over plot, characterization and possibility) and that the gender, skin color and sexual/political orientation of the author mattered more than being able to write a cracking good yarn. Too many books were, in Sarah Hoyt’s phrase, grey goo – the written-word equivalent of Filboid Studge.
And the powers that be in publishing and fandom seemed more and more inclined to push it, like crack dealers hanging around an urban high school, on the grounds of it being inclusive, and ground-breaking, and daring, and creative – while being at the same time, totally in ignorance of how groundbreaking, creative and inclusive that classic science fiction material actually had been in earlier decades, in cheerfully telling good stories – popular stories, chilling, daring, thought-provoking, world- and alternative society stories – well and interestingly wrought. It definitely seemed like a fix was in; judging from the fury among them aroused by the first three Sad Puppies efforts. The reception of Puppies 1-3 among the Worldcon fan cognoscenti, the traditional publishing world and the privileged among them ranged from the nastily dismissive to the epic temper tantrum. A cynic might conclude that the fix had long been in, and now the beneficiaries of the System were indignant at being called to account for it; I am a cynic myself, and therefore pretty certain of this being the case.
As it happens, the writers, bloggers and readers who got involved with the last three Sad Puppies episodes were infuriated by the 2015 awards, which featured a large block voting for ‘no award’ in those categories dominated by pro-Puppy nominations, regardless of their merit. There are people whom one should not work overtime to insult and alienate, for they do not give up readily, especially on having been maliciously, unjustly, and inaccurately maligned. And so, a Sad Puppies Four campaign was launched almost as soon as the dust had settled. This time it has been put together by Kate Paulk, and Sarah Hoyt, with the intent of transparently collecting up suggestions put forth by a broad range of aficionados of science fiction, for works to be nominated for the next Hugo Awards in various categories. Ripping good stories, well wrought, entertaining stories engagingly told, suggested on a Sad Puppies website specifically set up to that end by anyone wanting to put in a suggestion. Kate also put in some serious wordsmithing in explaining the categories. Those suggestions were assembled into lists of nominations for the various categories which were posted some weeks ago … to a moderate amount of caterwauling, mainly from those parties who moaned about Sad Puppies previous iterations. A handful of authors so nominated appear to have been so horrified by being associated in any way with Sad Puppies and a wider potential audience that they have demanded to be removed from the lists… which Kate has not done. She has just promised to helpfully annotate the lists with an asterisk next to the names of those authors who prefer, apparently, that their appeal be limited.
To some followers of the Sad Puppy Saga situation, the whole matter of a prestigious award in science fiction being bestowed by a diminishing number of Worldcon members seemed quite pointless. They pointed out in comments and blog-posts, that Worldcon is becoming a smaller and more inward-turning science fiction gathering. Why shouldn’t a larger fan-convention gathering work up their own awards, and let the Hugos no-award themselves out of existence. Behold, in this last week, a massive, popular and long-established convention of science fiction and gaming enthusiasts – Dragon-con – has come up with their own proposals, to recognize and award not just a wide range of books and authors, but movies, and games as well. That should prove … interesting to say the least.