The Great Hugo Wars of 2015

Matthew David Surridge, who declined a Hugo nomination last year, explains his take on the situation in the customarily careful and detailed manner that led me to nominate him in the first place. There is also a discussion of it at Black Gate.

Having received no email, I figured I had nothing to worry about.

Then the next night I opened my email to find a message from the Worldcon administrators congratulating me for being nominated for a Hugo. If I wouldn’t be at Worldcon, could I please select someone who’d be able to pick up the award for me if I won?

I emailed Black Gate editor John O’Neill, and asked him if he’d be in Spokane. He said he wouldn’t, and also mentioned that Black Gate had been nominated for a Fanzine Hugo. That meant I’d now heard of three Puppy picks who’d gotten nominations. I poked around some message boards and found speculation from various people plugged into the field guessing that the Puppies would do spectacularly well when the full list of nominees was made public. One (non-Puppy) editor said that he’d heard that the Puppies had three of the nominations for Best Novel—the most prestigious category. I began to wonder if I wanted to be nominated for an award that was being shaped by the Puppy tactics. If nothing else, what kind of backlash would this create?

Over the next few days I did more research on the Puppy program. Beyond politics, it was clear I didn’t share the Sad Puppy sense of what was good and bad in fiction. Beale only spoke about “the science fiction right,” but Torgersen was putting forward an aesthetic argument about the value of adventure writing over “message fiction.” I like good pulp fiction, but prefer experimental writing. More: it became clear to me that Torgersen and Beale knew that what they were doing was a slap in the face of the SF community—the people who attended events like Worldcon and administered the Hugos. As far as they were concerned, many of the existing institutions of science fiction fandom were not only dominated by liberals, but corrupt, and therefore had to be either reformed or burned down. The Puppies were looking for a fight.

Emotions were already running high on both sides. A lot of fans were treating the Puppies as a threat to the Hugos. To the existing fandom, and apparently to the Sad Puppies, too, who wanted the Hugos to acknowledge their own vision of SF. But not to me. The Hugos didn’t generally go to SF novels that were important to me. But so what? I wasn’t the one giving out the awards. What right did someone else have to try to hijack the process?

Turning the nomination down meant picking a side, if only by implication. But accepting it was also taking a side. Of course, people could be Puppy voters and also genuinely believe I was a good candidate. Did I have the right to back out on them? From another angle, could I win? If the category was entirely flooded with Puppy picks, I thought I might do well. And, realistically, the No Award option existed—and people were already talking about using it.

The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. There was a lot at stake. But I didn’t really know how much; this was not, in the end, my world. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I did have a sense that a lot of people involved in the debate had a history with each other, and that a certain amount of subtext in the online discussion was based off of meatspace encounters. (Much later, it’d come out that Correia felt he’d been excluded and mocked at the convention where the 2011 Campbell Award was presented.)

I went back and forth for a couple of days trying to figure out the right thing to do—for me, for Black Gate, for the science fiction field in general. I talked with some people in SF, I read and read, and I still wasn’t sure. Finally I thought: What do I know, exactly? I’d been put forward for a prize—but as part of a program that I didn’t agree with. I didn’t like the tactics the Puppies had used, I didn’t like the fact that they’d pulled me into what they knew was going to be a fraught situation without asking, and I didn’t agree with much Torgersen had to say about SF. Put like that, it was simple enough.

First, I should point out the reason that I recommended both Black Gate and Matthew David Surridge for Hugo Awards is because a) they were worthy of winning the award, and b) they would never, ever have been nominated by the very small group of 40-50 Tor-affiliated SJWs who have dominated the nominations, and through them the awards, for the last 20 years.

Second, all Matthew’s actions accomplished was to ensure the award went to a vastly inferior “fan” writer, the professional writer and wife of the then-SFWA president, whose “fan writing” consisted of a single hit piece on one of the lunatics of the field. That, more than anything, is why his decision to renounce his nomination was a mistake. That one is on you, Matthew. If you think Laura Mixon is a better fan writer than you are, fine. But I don’t.

What Rabid Puppies did was to rescue the category from the pro writers in the Tor Books cabal who were intentionally using it as a springboard to win the Best Novel award. John Scalzi did this successfully, Jim Hines and Kameron Hurley did it unsuccessfully. Notice how they abruptly disappeared from the category once they win their “Fan Writer” awards. It is simply laughable to claim that any of the fan writers nominated before the Puppy campaigns can legitimately compare with the fan writers we have been recommending, both at Black Gate and Castalia House. The same is true of the Best Related Work category.

Third, the Hugo controversies are only going to become more intense going forward. Last year, we were quiet and allowed all of the various slanders that appeared in the media to go largely uncommented. Instead, we began doing our research, and while we are not neo-Nazis or any of the various things we are accused of being, we have learned that SF fandom is genuinely full of pedophiles, child abusers, child molesters, sexual deviants, and people who are more than willing to publicly defend and even celebrate child molesters… and it has been for fifty years.

This year it’s our turn to take our case to the media, and we’re going to hit back harder than any of you ever imagined. This isn’t over. It has barely even begun. And every time the SJWs in SF try to double-down, as they did with the media and with rules changes like EPH, we’re going to take advantage of those actions and make use of them.

So for those of you inclined to Puppy-kicking, I encourage you to think twice before you decide to take their side. Because you’re going to find yourself publicly associated with things far darker and more depraved than anything you ever accused the Puppies of being or doing. If you are determined to fight award recommendations in order to defend child molesters, then there is something seriously wrong with you.

And before you protest that we’re being unfair, well, you should probably keep in mind that I have written an entire book about the philosophical legitimacy of utilizing tactics that were introduced by the other side. Every sword cuts both ways.