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message 1: by R.F.G. (new)

R.F.G. Cameron | 296 comments I was catching up on news during a lull in packing up the house while keeping a wary eye on the tiny demon princess. The article that caught my eye related to this year's Hugo Awards.
http://www.wired.com/2015/08/won-scie...

A similar article was in the WSJ, but I'll refrain from supplying a plethora of links. What I found interesting was what happened from fixing nominees to the backlash at the ballots.

Personally, I think what happened is a natural consequence to changes in both markets and society, yet it appears a few of the Rabid set would disagree.

In your opinion, has Sci-Fi and Fantasy been taken over and degraded by a pseudo-intellectual politically-correct left-wing, or has the genre shifted to take into account the reality that the world is populated by more than upper middle-class white guys?

**Disclaimer: I'm about as upper middle-class white guy as a bowl of spicy raccoon stew with a side of rattlesnake fritters. I also have no connection to any group attending World Con and likely will never be nominated for anything at any future World Con.**


message 2: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments I like the saying that Nobody's right if everybody's wrong. It explains a lot of the friction you hear about.

The real question is, is it getting easier for everyone to speak their mind. And the answer is yes. So for awhile we are definitely going to be hearing more points of view than we have in the past.


message 3: by R.F.G. (new)

R.F.G. Cameron | 296 comments There will always be people who will angrily resist any and all change unless it directly benefits them. Some people just can't seem to stand hearing others with a differing POV.


message 4: by Wesley (new)

Wesley Fox I read quite a bit of SF, not much fantasy, and from what I can tell the genre is not being hijacked by one ideology or the other. As far as the Hugo Award nominations, I also don't see a distinctive ideological pattern in the novels.

The authors that win the awards or get nominated might all be liberals but their works don't betray any kind of agenda.

My problem with the Hugos is that it works like a clique, with a small group of authors getting a ton of nominations and awards. I wrote about it on my blog and also podcast:

http://www.prescientscifi.com/sad-pup...

http://www.prescientscifi.com/tc-005-...

To me, this whole thing has a lot to do with personal animosities not ideology. The Sad Puppies essentially blew up the Hugos to prove a point, which is like a child breaking their toy rather than sharing it. The Rabid Puppies group, meanwhile, is completely insane. I won't waste any more words on them.

Sucks to see this, prestigious awards are beneficial in many ways even if the process is a little unbalanced.


message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Speaking as a white cis het english-speaking guy from a rich country... I've not really got an opinion on this. I'm never going to get an award, I'm sure. And while I write hard sci-fi, I don't feel threatened by any other flavours of the genre.


message 6: by Anfenwick (new)

Anfenwick (anne-fenwick) | 36 comments R.F.G. wrote: "I was catching up on news during a lull in packing up the house while keeping a wary eye on the tiny demon princess. The article that caught my eye related to this year's Hugo Awards.
http://www.wi..."


As regards 'pseudo-intellectual', I think the general standard of intellect in SF is 'reasonably to very intelligent people in fun mode'. But I think that might be the general standard for avid pop culture consumers in general? As regards 'politically correct' the implication of the phrase is that it's a somewhat artificial behavior involving self-policing and self-censorship. I think fandom probably does trend towards the liberal, especially by American standards, and those behaviors and attitudes come a lot more naturally than many of their opponents suspect.

Maybe something has happened with increasing diversity: fandom used to feel welcoming to people who were straight white men and also socially awkward. But navigating diverse environments - maybe even reading about them - requires social skills. 'Political correctness' might be a real thing to some people in that the only way they could cope (assuming they wanted to) is to learn an incredibly complex set of rules which sort of come naturally to a different group of people. So yeah, it probably really is harder and less appealing for them. But it's only just starting to feel more open to some other people.


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments The early movies created rocket science dreams in people who went out and created something that was real. The mark of a successful book might be if it succeeds in getting people off their butts and moving around instead of sitting down. The discussion of what is science fiction will probably never be answered, I guess it is a multi dimensional overlap of subjects that resists being nailed to a two dimensional plane for easy reading.


message 8: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Anfenwick wrote: "As regards 'pseudo-intellectual', I think the general standard of intellect in SF is 'reasonably to very intelligent people in fun mode'..."

I agree with all of Anfenwick's points. I also do not believe anyone can make a solid case that SF has "been taken over and degraded by a pseudo-intellectual politically-correct left-wing." Go to Amazon and look a the top 10 in SF and F. Go to your local bookstore (if you still have one) and look at the shelves. There's SO MUCH variety out there. The Hugos are not an indication of what exists or even what sells in these genres. No award has ever done that.

And, as George R.R. Martin said (paraphrasing), if your books sell like crazy, you're already getting the money. Do you really need the award too?

Also, any discussion of the Hugos is errant or incomplete if it fails to take into account how these awards are given and by whom.

Hugos are not awarded by a chosen elite panel of judges. Everyone who is a member of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) can both nominate and vote for the Hugos. This year that was over 11,000 people. Membership starts at $40/year.

The convention and the awards are 100% volunteer. Even the guest speakers must pay full membership.

So what we're talking about is a specific segment of SFF fandom. And from what I've seen and heard, having just attended the convention (I'm in the airport still in Spokane waiting for ANOTHER delayed flight), the WSFS is a fairly liberal, and a surprisingly old (as in the age of its members) segment of SFF fandom.

I think the only clear lessons learned in this years Hugos are these:

1) A relatively small, highly organized group can easily stuff the ballot with their chosen nominees.
2) If you stuff the ballot with your chosen nominees, you are no more likely to get your nominees to actually win.

Current rules of the Hugo do not disallow organized campaigns to promote a slate of candidates. However, the rules also allow members to vote No Award if they do not feel any of the candidates deserve a win.

I read all the nominees sent out in the Hugo media package and, from my perspective, the nominees put forward by the two Puppies slates were largely banal, mainstream, uninteresting product. Entertaining, perhaps, to a lowest common denominator audience, but really nothing outstanding in any way. They simply did not deserve a win.

Some of the Puppies clearly intended to blow up the Hugos totally, and I do no think they succeeded in that. They did manage to shortchange authors who produced better quality work by squeezing them out of the nominee, but the Hugos survive.


message 9: by R.F.G. (new)

R.F.G. Cameron | 296 comments Micah,

One of the reasons I quit going to book stores (other than the second-hand kind) was due to the "largely banal, mainstream, uninteresting product" that had become the norm, even twenty years ago.

In a sense, the Puppies of whatever form tend to be what amounts to the SFF version of The Donald, privilege outraged that it isn't quite as privileged as it once was.

Anfenwick,

I can appreciate the diversity for a variety of reasons.

And I do hope the discussion continues...


message 10: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments R.F.G. wrote: "One of the reasons I quit going to book stores (other than the second-hand kind) was due to the "largely banal, mainstream, uninteresting product" that had become the norm, even twenty year..."

Exactly. And it's probably one reason why we see books like The Three Body Problem win awards, because it is a return to an ideas based SF that does not rely on whiz-bang action packed shoot 'em outs to carry the plot. Not that I have a problem with the latter (books like Philip K. Dick Award winner The Petrovitch Trilogy rely heavily on fast pace action and are quite entertaining), but I feel that the thrills oriented stories pushed by TV and movies have overly influenced SF publishing. It's safer and sells better. The Hugos are largely dominated by fans who are interested in other kinds of stories.


message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter Kazmaier (peterkazmaier) | 29 comments R.F.G. wrote: "I was catching up on news during a lull in packing up the house while keeping a wary eye on the tiny demon princess. The article that caught my eye related to this year's Hugo Awards.
http://www.wi..."


R.F.G. thank you for pointing out this wired article to me. I had not been aware of the Hugo Award controversy. It seems to me that in one sense the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies have changed the Hugo scene going forward. Members are now voting for political reasons (including this past year). Particularly telling for me was the NO AWARD result when someone on the Puppies list was a shoe-in. I wonder how many voters are bothering to read the books they vote for or against any more. It's certainly a lesson for me to focus on book quality when evaluating a work and not the political headwinds or tailwinds that might sway my judgment.


message 12: by Micah (last edited Aug 25, 2015 01:09PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Peter wrote: "Members are now voting for political reasons (including this past year). Particularly telling for me was the NO AWARD result when someone on the Puppies list was a shoe-in. I wonder how many voters are bothering to read the books they vote for or against any more..."

I'm not sure who on the Puppies list you think was a shoe-in (or for what category), but the NO AWARD vote proves nothing beyond that the vast majority of people did not agree that the Puppy nominees were worthy of a Hugo. You cannot ascribe any particular reason as to why they voted as they did--whether it was political, or distaste at the Puppies' tactics, or even that the works they put forth just weren't very good. All the data shows is that those NO AWARD votes were a landslide. That's it.

Check out this blog as well, which addresses the "did they actually read the work" issue, as well as a bunch of other issues around this subject (for example the fact that NO AWARD has existed for a long time and has been invoked "on at least some ballots in every category every year."):

http://www.alexandraerin.com/2015/08/...

And as for "how many voters are bothering to read the books they vote for..." Well, I can guarantee you that a lot of the Puppy nominators fall into that category. Rabid Puppies actively recruited voting members on conservative anti-"Social Justice Warrior" web sites, Vox Day going so far as to claim he had an army of minions who would vote as he instructed them to.

But as the blog I linked to says, there's no requirement for people to read the works in order to vote for them, just as there is no rule forbidding promoting a slate of nominees. It's seeming more and more clear that the aims of the Puppy camp is to just muck up the works (and promote their own work to a certain segment of the world) than it is to promote any kind of positive change.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Kazmaier (peterkazmaier) | 29 comments Micah wrote: "Peter wrote: "Members are now voting for political reasons (including this past year). Particularly telling for me was the NO AWARD result when someone on the Puppies list was a shoe-in. I wonder h..."

Thanks for sharing Alexandra Erin's blog. You make a lot of good points Micah. I agree that:

(1) I can't really tell why members voted the way they did (either puppies or those opposing the puppies). I can only make a best guess based on voting trends and comments members make.
(2) The "No Award" category has been around for a long time and has been invoked several times.
(3) It's likely the Puppies did not read all of the books they voted for either.
(4) There is no requirement to read the books one votes for or against.

Having said that, from where I sit, given the surprising number of "No Award" tallies that beat everyone on the puppy nomination's list that was a "shoe-in," it's hard for me to believe that ideological voting (perhaps a better word than political voting) wasn't going on on both sides.

I know this is a topic that provokes strong feelings. As I said before, my takeaway for my personal conduct is to vote or support SF books that I think are good.

Thank you for responding, Micah.


message 14: by Jim (new)

Jim | 110 comments I confess that the Hugo awards had passed me by totally. Mainly because frankly I don't care.
Occasionally I notice 'award winner' written on the front of a book, normally as I carry it out of the shop having bought it anyway :-)

There's so much good SF out there you don't have to waste your precious time reading politically correct stuff if you don't want to. Currently reading The Rediscovery of Man which isn't modern, politically correct or even award winning, but is a work of timeless genius :-)


message 15: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Willis | 258 comments Jim wrote: "There's so much good SF out there you don't have to waste your precious time reading politically correct stuff if you don't want to."

I think it's the fallacy that works some people deem 'politically correct' cannot be 'good SF' that led to this whole debacle. I recently wasted my time reading some self-professed 'non-PC' SF. It was not only offensive, it was offensively bad.

People undoubtedly voted for a range of reasons. I can't help feeling that voting to reject a shortlist that has been forced on all voters by a small but vocal organised campaign is legitimate. The Puppies crossed a line when they created a slate. Campaigning for more "guns 'n' adventure" SF to be represented at the Hugos is one thing (which is basically what Torgerson claims to be doing). Selecting a list of books to improve the chances of that happening is not OK. And frankly a lot of the sexist, homophobic and racist stuff that has gone along with the Puppies' campaign is very, very far from OK.


message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim | 110 comments It's only an award, it's not as if it matters in real life ;-)
I gave up half way through the article, names I didn't know and books I'd never read. With the sheer amount of indie SF that's out there now, what the publishers want or don't want is getting irrelevant and what award committees want even more so


message 17: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Willis | 258 comments Not sure I agree. As George RR Martin pointed out, popularity is its own reward. It comes with sales, money and the warm fuzzies of knowing people like your writing. The place for awards is in recognising achievements that don't necessarily draw such big audiences but have particular value. And the Hugos recognise self-published work too. It's not as though it's a publishers' backslapping enterprise. As far as 'names I didn't know and books I'd never read' goes, I like awards for bringing to my attention a range of works that I might not otherwise have been aware of. Some will not appeal, but some will.


message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments the fallacy that works some people deem 'politically correct' cannot be 'good SF'

Is that suppose to mean good sf vs bad sf, or not sf at all?

If you change cannot be 'good SF' to cannot be classified as SF you have just wandered into the twilight zone of what's the difference between science fiction and fantasy, a question that can never be answered to everyone's satisfaction.


message 19: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Willis | 258 comments I was definitely sticking to issues of quality rather than definition. Bad thing happen when I start doing that ;-)


message 20: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Matthew wrote: "I like awards for bringing to my attention a range of works that I might not otherwise have been aware."

Which is why I keep an eye on the Philip K. Dick Awards. There are usually nominees in it that are well worth reading but that don't ever gain a huge audience.


message 21: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Robert wrote: "Is that suppose to mean good sf vs bad sf, or not sf at all?"

Nothing here is about definition. And anyway, the Hugos are for both SF and Fantasy. They aren't even treated differently. All the award categories include both without distinction.


message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments I guess I will have to read some, thought it was about story content.


message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments It seems like at least one aspect for some stories is that politics is said to be overtaking plot development.

Is this related at all to character development overtaking plot development?


message 24: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Robert wrote: "It seems like at least one aspect for some stories is that politics is said to be overtaking plot development.

Is this related at all to character development overtaking plot development?"


No.

One of the claim is that awards have been nominated and given based not on the story but on the demographic of the author (minority race, gender or gender association). "So-and-so only got nominated because they were black/female/LBGT/liberal not because their book is so great."

However, there's no evidence that this has ever actually happened.

If you read the blog I linked to above you'll see that the nomination statistics shows no evidence of a far left liberal cabal of any sort. These claims are all based on the perceptions, paranoia, and speculations of a small number of people (the Puppies crowd).

Basically they didn't like the kinds of books being nominated, so they constructed a reverse discrimination meme to get their own works (and the works of those they publish) on the ballot.

Now, one of their other claims has been that the pseudo-intellectuals of the liberal elite have pushed "literary" SF rather than "popular" SF. Again, the claim is spurious. Their biggest single target is John Scalzi. Vox Day has even published an anti-SJW tract that focuses mainly on the evil Scalzi. However...have you ever read Scalzi? His works are extremely popular and almost always humorous rather than literary. Redshirts won the Hugo in 2013...not exactly the most literary work in the world, and hugely popular.

I find no merit in any of the Puppies' claims. And after reading what they successfully got nominated, I can only assume they're taking a piss with claims of putting forward entertaining work.


message 25: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Maybe the Hugo folks should create a new category specially for right-wing politics. They could call it 'hate fiction.'


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim | 110 comments Richard wrote: "Maybe the Hugo folks should create a new category specially for right-wing politics. They could call it 'hate fiction.'"

Having seen the stuff that my facebook page is deluged in from Americans who are supposedly 'liberal' I don't think the right wing has a monopoly on it


message 27: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments This is why I'm against any awards for fiction. The moment they become "could for something" they become debased. Speaking for myself, I've sampled 100's of traditionally published sci-fi (and fantasy) novels in the last since 1994, and have yet ti find one I've been able to read more that a page. The only place (and this very recent) I'm finding sci-fi I can stomach is among indie authors.

As near as I can tell, a group of authors who found themselves the target of another group of authors based on their political leanings, so they went out, marshaled their forces and launched a counterattack. The first group, utterly blindsided, reacted in a panic with all the usual attacks. Point made: this is has nothing to do with "quality" -- it was payback.

This is all taking place in the tiny fishbowl of sci-fi types to whom politics are the greater part of their life blood. Since none of them (Scalzi included, and Vox Day seems to be nothing more than a rabble rouser whose primary goal in life it to offend as many people as possible, not excepting the bulk of the "sad puppies") can write anything in which I can find the least merit, I can't this seriously. This is playground writ small.

It can be kind of fun to read about, though. I prefer to reflect that some time soon we will sell our 10,000th book. Maybe we're doing something a little bit right? I see that many indie sci-fi authors are doing much better than we are -- all without the benefit of awards or any formal recognition. They must be making readers happy. Nothing else matters.


message 28: by Anfenwick (new)

Anfenwick (anne-fenwick) | 36 comments Owen wrote: "They must be making readers happy. Nothing else counts..."

If only Larry Correia had agreed with you : )


message 29: by R.F.G. (new)

R.F.G. Cameron | 296 comments Ah, the scourge of politics and its associated politicals -- the world's second oldest profession and based on the first oldest.


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