Every year, science fiction fans look forward to the lauded Hugo Awards. This year a slate or two of mischievous canines tried to overtake the system with disastrous results.
This year’s Hugo Awards ceremony at Worldcon in Seattle involved quite a bit of controversy. NPR reports that out of 85 works, 12 walked away with prizes. Why is that strange? Well, there’s a few categories without a single winner.
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Okay, that’s odd. Especially for book lovers. So why would categories be without a winner?
How much for the Puppy
Turns out there’s a movement on the rise called Puppies. Well, more of an upgrade from a previous incarnation. Several years ago, the Sad Puppies banded together after feeling the oh-so-misaligned pull of women and people of color’s inclusion.
The group consists of mostly white male writers and fans. Check social media and you’ll find a lot of lap over. Now the Sad Puppies have created the Rabid Puppies. Because every litter needs playmates, right?
Conservative writers Brad R. Torgersen, Larry Correia, and Vox Day run the show for the most part. Day’s amped up the pressure on the bloc system, helping to game in order to take over categories.
Because why not rig a system made to honor a spectrum of writers?
The Daily Dot describes the two groups as a collection of “anti-progressive authors, editors, and fans” who joined Worldcon to vote out those not fitting their vision. Torgersen describes the need for intervention against “niche, academic, overtly to the Left in ideology and flavor, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun.”
Other words: make Jack Sparrow, grimdark edition. Now, there’s a terrifying horror. And it seems like the voters weren’t impressed with the rigging.
According to Wired, none of the Puppy block took home a single rocket statue. That means Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editor for Short and for Long Form nominees all left with empty hands and bitter hearts. Just like every time they lose—after all, quite a few were nominees at some point.
Annie Bellet was nominated through Puppy tactics. She wasn’t too happy with the reason for her nomination, so she declined.
“I love the Hugo Awards. To be nominated was awesome. But I’m a writer. That’s what I want my public face to be. I don’t want people to think of me as some political figure, or some ball in the political game.”
And that includes ending a friendship with Correia. It’s never easy to lose friends in a war one never asked to be involved in.
“I’m adopted, and I have a sister who is black, a sister who’s Vietnamese. My mom is a lesbian. I grew up in a liberal, inclusive environment. Still, I broke a lot of noses [after hearing] the N-word growing up, trying to defend my little sister. So I do not understand this white persecution narrative.”
Amid the scuffle for white male dominance, a few surprises cropped up. Comic book series Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson, definitely earned a nod and win, according to industry comic blogs. BBC America’s hit series Orphan Black also scored an award, along with James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
"Comics and sci-fi are taking over the mainstream and that’s definitely a good thing. Along with the diversity, rankling the fur of many Puppies. Cixin Liu and translator Ken Liu won best novel for The Three-Body Problem. Liu’s the first Chinese author to win a Hugo.
Another huge deal since a Hugo is a pretty powerful trophy in the world of authors. Tobias Buckell posted an alternate ballot where the Puppies didn’t try and win through bloc voting. Turns out there’s a lot more women for one thing. The industry seems to be into the idea of diversity, too. Looks like those $40 a pop prices to rig didn’t pay off at all.
"Definitely helps when those categories found a lot of authors refusing to be in the same category and dropping. Never try and best a writer’s determination.
Science fiction for the win.
No fire, but lots of bubbly
So what about the people who were left without a statue through manipulation? Well, George R. R. Martin provided a brilliant solution. Instead of giving out what Torgenson referred to as “a silver rocket ship that looks like a marital aid,” the Games of Thrones author handed out Alfies.
Martin told Wired that the Hugos are more than just a popularity contest. Compare it to Teen Choice Awards and the Oscars. “Can’t the trophy go to the guy who sells 5,000 copies but is doing something innovative?”
And he backs up the claims, too. Since 1976, he hosts an annual Hugo Losers Party. Given his losses outnumber his wins, it seems appropriate and a good way to join everyone together for a fun time. This year the gussied up guests in the high-falutin mansion wore coneheads.
Losers got to play scribble on the winner cones. Fun, relaxed. Very inviting, really.
Creating the Alfie, named after The Demolition Man author Alfred Bester, was a moment of camaraderie for all those in attendance. Last week, Worldcon dumped out the data on who would have been nominated. So Martin decided to honor those caught in a power game. Including beloved author Ursula Vernon, who may have had a hangover to contend with.
Bellet and Marko Kloos earned the final two for night. By stepping aside and dropping their nominations as first-time recipients, the two earned a lot of respect from the crowd. It’s not easy to say “no thanks” to an award you dream about.
And German-born Kloos withdrawing helped in propelling Liu’s victory. Science fiction authors for the win.
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Succinctly summing up the overall atmosphere of the Alfies and Puppy debacle on a night of fun and enjoyment: “But knowing why I got this and who gave it to me—tonight, this beats the shit out of that rocket.”