What a long, strange trip it’s been.
I don’t remember Sad Puppies 1. I’m not saying I wasn’t aware of it, or didn’t follow it. I’m saying that I was then so ill that I could barely remember my name from week to week.
Sad Puppies 2 I somehow — and d*mned if I remember how — got pulled into discussions about. But again note the “I was very, very ill.” I was so unaware for instance of Larry’s attempts to get one of my stories on the ballot, that I didn’t even tell my readers about it.
Because one of the problems with the hypothyroidism is that I wasn’t aware of being sick, it was just a never-end of colds and illnesses, so I would briefly focus, then go under. My recollections might not match anyone else’s because of that.
However, from my recollection, Larry Correia was the miracle kid. For years in the field we’d known awards were biased and how to write/act to get one. Yes, there were ways to game them, including kissing all the right *sses. But even while in the political closet there were lines I could not cross without disintegrating or being unable to look at myself on the mirror.
Also, frankly, I’m not a joiner, much less a brown-noser. In fact in any circumstances that required brown-nosing, I tended to go the other way. I find that, in general, people who require brown-nosing are despicable and I don’t want to associate with them. I’d rather say with Richard III “I am myself alone.”
Also, the Hugo was not an object, or I could have captured one of the “least voted” categories by enjoining my fans to buy supporting memberships and get me a Hugo.
The problem is that my days of buying anything that said “Hugo” on the cover had ended before I entered college, and my last attempt at reading Hugo collections (I bought three… early nineties?) ended walled, because it felt like reading the assignments for my degree again: pointless, boring and definitely not SF/F unless you stretched the definition to the point of meaning nothing. They read in fact like a lot of George Luis Borges impersonators without the deep thought or the genius.
But other people took the Hugo deadly seriously. People who’d never seen the sausage made, including many people on the right, referred to the Hugos as “the awards for excellence in science fiction.”
Oh, the real fans didn’t give it much attention or credit (and by real fans I mean people who REALLY read SF/F preferentially, not people who are using SF/F for social signaling, much less those who came to SF/F in the spirit of missionaries bringing their gospel to our field and trying to make us wear pants, or be literary, or whatever the tight-lipped scolds are obsessing on right now. I have some vague idea the new hotness, beyond “literary” is “Must write while having a vagina” or various other marks of victimhood. I find this no more offensive, but funnier than their past obsessions.)
I was used to living with this: with the idea that what people outside something considered as being a mark of quality was in fact something people inside rolled their eyes at. You get the same thing starting in elementary school (not in my day, no, but in my kids’) where the “gifted classes” are not for gifted children, but for those in the “high normal” whom the teachers’ like. (Not sour grapes. We had to have both children tested early on, for different reasons, and they were both put in gifted classes, which really didn’t do any good, since they’re more “classes for teachers’ pets.” Which is why we ended up with an individual learning plan and giving the school a lot of headaches in an effort to keep the boys from being bored.) It goes on like that, through most professional organizations, and that’s before you bring in politics, either national or office. And frankly, human is social so there’s a lot of politics of all kinds.
The problem with what happened to the Hugos is that it was objectively bad for the field. Because having a Hugo allowed books entry to places that rarely carry SF, like supermarkets. And then people who aren’t into the field will pick one up, casually, and decide it’s atrocious and run screaming. Which means they’re not going to pick up a science fiction again. And thus, our readership/printruns/and more importantly the field we love, shrinks.
To make things worse, because our field is small and not in itself overly lucrative, publishing houses were attuning what they bought and what they pushed to what won the Hugos. (Yes, all except Baen, of course.)
Well, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Thank Heavens for Larry Correia!
He wasn’t one of the traditional track into sf/f people, and he’s also a good ten years younger than most people are when they break in. And he hadn’t spent his time beating his head on the door and learning the rules before breaking in. Instead he self-published, then published with Baen, then went massive. (Yes, I know, he was always massive, but I mean metaphorically.)
So he wasn’t going to put up with the situation, and he set out to prove the Hugos were rigged by a small cabal and totally irrelevant to the taste of most fans (if not actually antithetical.)
I don’t remember the first at all, but I know for the second he tried to nominate things of at least as good a quality as what had won, but from people the cabal in power hated. (Which is why I should have known he was trying to push me into nomination, but again, I was very ill.)
I volunteered to take the third one, because I like stirring hornets nests.
And just as I volunteered, I was diagnosed with (thank heavens, still completely encapsulated) uterine cancer. This was quite literally a bombshell from nowhere. I’d gone in and had a biopsy and my doctor (heaven knows why) told me there was nothing to worry about, apparently because they wanted me not to be scared during the holidays. So we went ahead and rented a house to move into, so we could have work done on our house, so we could sell it (something we’d been planning for three years, that is after younger son was out of high school) In the middle of the move, I got a phone call telling me they were booking surgery asap. At which point I called Brad and dropped the whole mess in his lap. The alternative was Kate, who had just started a new job, and would probably not be able to do much.
Brad is younger than us. Brad is also a pure halo knight, who thought that maybe he could save science fiction. To that end, he got nominations from readers of his blog, culled the top ones, and we ended up with an awesome field, and also one that no one should be able to object to, considering it included all sexes and colors, and also two of the most popular writers in the field today, and an editor who has worked with some of the most enduring bestsellers.
I knew it had gone South fast when people were being hounded till they dropped out. I was sure of it when we were being called racist/sexist/homophobic. I crawled out of bed the week after surgery to point out that Brad was doing this for me, that the idea was to have a Latin woman lead it, until disease intervened.
Brad, in my opinion, made two mistakes — but hindsight is 20/20 — both of which came from being way too nice. One of them was to ask people’s permission to nominate them. The second was to not record every interview (and tell people he was doing so) and put them up on his blog as soon as he was done. These allowed for the three hour interview, in which Brad talked about how much he loved the field and how it was unfair to have the award belong to a narrow clique, and then the gotcha question in which the interviewer asked something like “So, you think it would be difficult for a white man who is to the right of center to win the award” and he would say “Well, given the current obsession with victimhood, it wouldn’t be easy” and he’d be quoted as saying that white right wing writers were not allowed to win, or something like. I had to yell at mutual friends to point out “that was a quote out of context from a three hour interview” because reputable publications were playing these games. With science fiction. With Brad.
It all ended not just in the wooden assholes at the ceremony, but in supposedly impartial publications all bringing out the same story, at the same time, about how a movement started by a Latin male, and involving at least three females, one of them Latina, was about “keeping women and minorities out of science fiction and fantasy.” They had zero evidence for this, but they needed none. As I’ve been observing recently, the left’s default position for “opposes us” is to scream that whoever opposes them is discomfited by the “progress” of women and people of color. Even if the people they’re screaming at are women and people of color. (And let’s talk progress sometime, shall we? Convincing people they’re victims, making them scared, and vote-farming them is only progress if you’re a stone cold racist.)
And then I was going to take leadership. I was. Only the move had turned into move from hell, which included a landlord wanting us out two months before we intended to leave (though we were on a month by month lease) and us having to find a place that would take four cats and four bedrooms with a month’s notice. Thank heavens one of you stepped forward, or we’d have been warehousing everything and living in a hotel. (We were waiting for a short sale to complete.)
So Kate stepped up.
Look, we are individualists, so each person gets to decide how to do this. Which is why saying “if Sad Puppies had been run like–” is nonsense. Each leader of the sad puppies leads this in the direction of what they’re trying to do or prove.
Larry tried to prove the game was rigged, Brad tried to rehabilitate the awards to, again, mean the best in SF, and Kate tried to give the puppy kickers no excuses. This included having an OPEN SOURCE recommend list. Having more than the number of slots in the nomination. AND reading the nominees herself, and saying how SHE would vote, making sure everyone knew it wasn’t a “Slate.” (BTW “slate” just means recommended for a vote. It doesn’t mean a list for rigid vote. How the heck the left thought we’d enforce that is beyond me. It makes me wonder too if they enforce it on that side, and how. Is it a matter of one people voting several registrations, to make sure? And if you don’t hand over your ballot, you’re out of the club? I’m not saying that’s what they do, but if they don’t, how do they think we COULD enforce voting? Inquiring minds want to know.)
And this brings us to Sad Puppies Five and me. This year, the creek not rising, I shall be leading the Sad Puppies effort.
The problem is, I think Larry had the best point: he wanted to prove it was rigged. This, even with Kate and Brad’s much more appeasing and definitely more hopeful approaches, has been proven abundantly.
Also, there is a new player in town, the Dragon Awards (which might or might not have come to exist without the Kabuki of the Wooden Assholes, and how mad it made people) which promises to be more prestigious and give the field a new face.
I assumed John Carlton was talking about me when he said one of the organizers said she wouldn’t nominate or something of the kind. I did intend to nominate (no. Really, but this was right in the middle of forced-move-two and I was still suffering from “at nine pm, I find myself in bed without even putting the computer to sleep” surgery recovery, so as it turns out, I didn’t nominate.) What I didn’t DO was buy another supporting membership to vote again. I saw what they did with the money we gave them in 2015 and, honestly, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It wasn’t the Noah Award of books they PUBLICLY refused to read, no. It was the kabuki skits before and the self congratulatory smirks, and their assumption they’d saved the awards from racistsexisthomophobe, which meant they never bothered to read any of the works, or any of the blog posts on our side, either. I was not going to give them any more money.
I am still not going to give them any money.
But Sarah, you’ll say, how can you lead Sad Puppies 5, when you’re not going to nominate and vote on the Hugos.
Well, as much as I hate to say this, the Hugos as the award Heinlein won, are dead. There is nothing that can be done. I’m not a necromancer. In that sense the Sad Puppies won. We proved the game is rigged, and we can walk away.
We’re still in the middle of a culture war. And one of the things the — for lack of a better term — other side has is bully pulpits. Now most of them are in the old paper media, and they’re not really read by fans of the field. BUT still, they have magazines that publish recommended lists, and interviews with authors, and turn the spotlight on work they think should be read.
We have nothing like that. Yeah, yeah, Otherwhere Gazette, which might or might not be revived some day (depending on health and a million other things) but even if it is, will have to climb up into …. people’s awareness.
And if we’re going to do that, we might as well tie it to the Sad Puppies effort, because hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
This year the Sad Puppies (5) will host a page, on which you can make recommendations, and which will, every month, give you a collated list of the 5 works with the most votes, in each subcategory (if we have that many, of course) and if/what awards they’re eligible for. The list will also include mystery, where a lot of the indie are quite good and by and large unnoticed.
Before the nominating dates for major awards, I’ll put a notice on the page, and a list of the however many (5 or 10) most recommended books for your consideration.
However, the awards are NOT the point anymore. Frankly in the hyper-distributed world of indie publishing, they might never be the point again.
The point is to give science fiction and fantasy that escapes the bounds of what traditional publishers encourage — which is often not what the public at large will even read — and to promote the health and popularity of our genre.
Watch this space for the URL of the page (it needs some programming done.) More coming by early next year.