Picture of Hugo Award

Whenever there is significant social progress, there is a backlash, and recent movements like Gamergate (covered by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an actual hate group) have proven that geek culture is by no means immune. Indeed, while women, PoCs and LGBT+ people have always been part of geek communities, there’s been a myopic tendency for the straight white male members to see these communities as somehow inherently theirs.
  I wrote before about one of these movements, which calls itself Sad Puppies, with a more virulent, openly racist/sexist/queerphobic offshoot called Rabid Puppies. What are these puppies so sad about? They’re sad about losing the Hugo Awards — the sci-fi/fantasy literature equivalent of the Oscars — to people who, instead of using speculative fiction to write about Generic White Male Action Heroes doing action things, used it to explore social issues. They claimed to be opposed to the awards being given to “unreadable” cerebral books rather than “fun” ones, but by their actions they showed themselves to be simply another group of reactionary, entitled conservatives.

  Choosing to believe themselves the victims of a secret liberal cabal rather than accepting that maybe many people enjoy the metaphorical aspects of spec-fic, they ran an open ballot-stuffing drive earlier this year that successfully got many of their choices nominated for awards.

  The winners were chosen by votes from registrants (attending or otherwise) of Loncon 3, Sasquan, and MidAmeriCon II, the Worldcon conventions for 2014, 2015 and 2016. On August 22nd, at Sasquan in Spokane, WA, the Hugos were awarded. Despite all their efforts, the Sad Puppies lost.

  And for the most part, they really, really lost. In categories where the nominations consisted entirely of Puppy darlings, the winner was No Award. In five categories, including Best Novella and Best Short Story, voters actively chose No Award over a solid slate of Puppy-supported fiction.

  To add insult to injury, the Best Novel winner was The Three-Body Problem, a cerebral sci-fi novel by Chinese writer Liu Cixin. For a conservative group like the Puppies, seeing a non-white, non-American author writing for a non-American audience win despite their attempts to disrupt the vote must’ve really hurt.

  After the ceremony, George R.R. Martin held a ceremony of his own for the Alphie Awards, named after author Alfred Bester, to recognize those who were kicked off the ballot by Puppy nominees. He also gave them to two writers, Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, who declined their Hugo nominations after learning they were due to Puppy support.

  The downfall of the Puppies was ultimately due to two things. One was simply that, rather than being the “silent majority” they claimed, they truly were just a loud minority. The other was that their goal was foolish from the start. Getting angry that bog-standard White Male Adventurer spec-fic isn’t winning Hugo Awards is like getting angry that Marvel movies aren’t winning Best Picture at the Oscars. Awards are for rewarding innovation and vision, not mass appeal and popularity. Rewarding the latter is what money is for.

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