The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle
Throughout the Hugo fracas something has stood out proud and loud as my son would say. There are a number of authors, and not just those who were supported by Sad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies but others as well, who are basically standing up and speaking out against the vitriol that is coming from some corners of traditional publishing. They have cast off the yolk of fear (all yellow and runny and who wants to have that all over you?) they had worn for so long and are supporting one simple belief: the Hugos should go to the best book (or novella or novelette or short story) and not just to the most politically or socially correct one. They remind us of the fact that the story has to be good before the reader will 1) buy the book and 2) actually read it. If we don’t pull the reader in with our plot and characters, it doesn’t matter how important the message is. It won’t be read because the book won’t be read.
They are standing up and speaking out against the calls for No Award to be voted ahead of anyone the self-appointed guardians of SF/F-dom view to be from the wrong side of the tracks. They are telling those who would listen to read the nominees first and then vote based on what is the best. If, and only if, after reading the nominees you don’t feel something is worthy of the Hugo, then vote No Award.
Bravo to those brave authors for recognizing one very real truth: if they vote No Award ahead of any nominee supported by SP3 or RP, they will be the ones to break the Hugo, possibly beyond all hope of repair.
But there is something else they need to understand. They have stirred a hornet’s nest the last few years between what has happened with SFWA and with the way they have responded to this year’s Hugo nominees. That nest consists of more than just authors who don’t belong with the “in-crowd:. It consists of fans, many of them lifelong fans of science fiction and fantasy in all its forms. Some are old but many more are young, something fandom desperately needs. How many years have we been lamenting the graying of fandom?
They look at things like how Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg were treated regarding the SFWA Bulletin. They wonder why, instead of trying to deal with the issue in-house, SFWA decided to take the nuclear approach of firing the editor, as well as canceling not only the column Resnick and Malzberg had written for year but ceasing publication of the Bulletin for months and months. It made SFWA look like that meek little milquetoast who is so afraid of conflict they bend to the will of the first person to raise her voice.
Then they started looking at other things about SFWA and wondered how an organization supposedly looking out for authors could continue to operate as it did. How can an author’s organization be open and even critical of the industry when needed if its members also included agents and editors and publishers? More importantly for so many of us, how come it had continued to side-step the issue of indie publishing? Finally, in 2015, five years (give or take a few months) after Amazon first opened its indie publishing platform and years after RWA made it possible for indies to join as “pros”, SFWA made it possible for indies to join.
Now, going hand-in-hand with the questions about SFWA and how it seems to have become nothing more than an echo chamber for certain authors who don’t want “old white guys” in the field any longer and who seem to think we need to have a tickler list of politically correct/socially correct characters and issues in all of our work, whether the plot requires it or not, we have the Hugo controversy.
Once more we are hearing the “old white guy” argument. But it has variables. There is the “straight, white Mormon guy” accusation, one that brings a smile to my lips because while I may be white (with a very healthy dose of Cherokee), Mormon and a guy I am not. And yes, there were those out there saying the entire SP3 recommended list of nominees was nothing but white males. There are others, you can follow the links in Dave’s wonderful piece yesterday to see just a few. If I do it, I will only get angry again and you really don’t want to make me angry.
So, now we have a bunch of anti-puppy folks running around doing their best to make sure they 1) get as many of the “wrong sort” of nominees kicked off the ballot and 2) find a way to prevent puppy lovers everywhere from ever encroaching on their award in the future.
Yes, their award. Funny how those who claim to be all in favor of inclusivity are the ones fighting to keep people not only off the ballot but from voting. We have been told we aren’t the right sort of fans to vote for the Hugos because we don’t go to WorldCon each and every year. We have been told that it isn’t our award because we aren’t real fans because we haven’t done all the “right” sort of activities. We’ve been told that we aren’t real fans just because we read and love science fiction and fantasy. So, to keep the riff-raff out, they have told us to go start our own award. They’ve talked about trying to amend the Hugo rules to limit voting for the Hugo to only those people who buy an attending membership (which is highly ironic after one of the most vocal critics of SP3 said that we were being mean and all when it was suggested that if they didn’t like what happened, they should buy a supporting membership and vote. We were treated to a lecture about how folks can’t afford the $40 – $50 for a supporting membership. Now this same side wants to make it even more difficult for folks to be able to afford to vote.)
Now word has come out that two nominees have been disqualified and removed from the ballot. One is John C. Wright’s novelette, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” Apparently, it was published in whole on Wright’s website in 2013. That appears to count as publication now — and I will admit that this doesn’t surprise me. It has been an issue writers have had to deal with since the start of the internet. Traditional publishers almost always want first publication rights. There have been times that posting even a snippet of a work has been deemed as “publication”. The fact that this particular story first appeared online in 2013, outside of the timeframe for this year’s Hugos, appears to be enough to knock it out. So, this is fair warning to all authors out there — if you want to go for the Hugo, make sure you don’t “publish” anything online.
What I don’t know is what is considered “publication”. A quick search of the Hugo site didn’t come up with an definitive definition. It might be there and I missed it. As I said, it was a very quick search.
The other DQ comes in the artist category. Jon Eno did not have anything eligible and has also been removed from the ballot.
So, here’s the bottom line. No matter what others say, those of us who have been associated with SP3 want something very simple where the Hugos are concerned: we want them to given to the best book. That means we want story to be as important, if not more so, than the message. We want them to go to books people want to read. We want to get away from this elitist attitude that only the right sort of people ought to be able to vote on them.
In other words, if you are truly in favor of inclusivity, why are you trying to keep out a large number of people who are loyal, true fans of the genre? Do you really think they will forget the slams you have aimed at them and authors they like? Believe me, they have long memories and the genie of knowing they can have a say in the Hugo is out of the bottle. You can try to put it back in but it will backfire on you.