Terry Pratchett and the Sadness of Puppies
The rumblings and attempts to delegitimize Sad Puppies are gearing up over a medium more suited to cute photos. People who haven’t followed the campaigns and who have been told by those they trust that the Sad Puppies supporters are evil jealous old white men who can’t get an award on merit and have to pack the ballot and so on and so forth etcetera ad nauseam are screeching at least as loud as the ones who actually believe that tripe (one has to wonder what the ones who’ve read the Sad Puppy posts and still scream it were thinking. Or, more to the point, if they were thinking).
Leaving out the little issue of how hilariously wrong this is – something I could spend multiple posts on, without repeating myself or even descending into vulgarity (that would be even more posts), I offer six words in refutation.
Terry Pratchett never won a Hugo.
The man was only the greatest writer in the last thirty years or so. He was only consistently head and shoulders above every other author in the field – and I include out of genre authors in that assessment – for almost his entire writing career. Only capable of stopping traffic when he held a signing because so many people showed up. Not Hugo-worthy at all.
But then, he didn’t fit the criteria endorsed by the self-appointed luminaries of the field. Instead of beating his readers over the head with “sexism bad!” he wrote about the legendary dwarf lovers (they were both dwarfs), the dwarfish sexual revolution in Ankh-Morpork with its specialized chain-mail lines and beard styling products and high heels, and he wrote about the tension it caused and is still causing with the deep dwarfs – and every damn character, even the “bad” ones, was someone you could sympathize with.
Instead of a sermon on race and culture, he gave us Carrot, the dwarf-by-adoption who is six foot plus and when he flexes his muscles other muscles have to get out of the way but who is in all ways that matter a dwarf. And the rest of the Ankh-Morpork Watch, as diverse a collection as the city itself.
More sinful yet, Terry Pratchett taught history warts and all through his asides, his running gags, and his footnotes. Koom Valley could have been any of dozens of European wars. The Quisition of Om (and the mugs in the break room that have logos like “World’s Best Dad”) is a lesson that decent people can and will do horrible things if they believe they’re doing it for the right reasons. There are eerie echoes of the last fifteen years or so in the later books, masked by the humor and the way the characters are always people first, people who have good reasons for the things they’re doing, reasons that make sense to them and sometimes even to readers.
But he was not part of “worldcon, and the people who attend/support it”, so he wasn’t worthy of an award for “the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements”.
And this is why Sad Puppies exists.
Not to give egoboo to the people who run it. Not to “break” or “ruin” the Hugo Awards. Not to give the finger to the SF & F establishment. None of that.
Sad Puppies exists because brilliant authors have been consistently ignored by an award that claims to celebrate the “best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements”, and it’s time – past time – that the Hugo stopped belonging to “worldcon, and the people who attend/support it” and went back to belonging to “everyone who reads SF”.