Overemphasizing the taint

It seems my English blog is actually “talking about Hugos” blog. Whereas I have plenty of Finnish media material to annoy me, it seems the Hugos are one of the rare things that make me want to vent my frustration in English.

So, Hugo Award nominations were published a few days ago, and it looks like bloc voting ruled the day again, at least in some categories. Mike Glyer published a table of nominations along with Rabid Puppies slate and Sad Puppies recommendations in File 770.

I’ve also seen some more dire messages. For example, Steve Davidson listed nominations sans puppy taint. Matthew M. Foster had an even stricter stance and called the awards Vox Awards. And that’s what really hit my nerve.

Surrender is in the air. “Oh, but some of Vox’s choices are OK.” They weren’t the fans’ choices, but hey, “Vox chose OK for us so why should we be unhappy?”

[…]

So there it is. You, the regular fans, made nine choices. That’s it. The rest were hand picked by Vox or the Sads. Might you (the plural you) have chosen some of those same works/people? You might have. But you didn’t. Vox chose them. And the Pups chose the rest Y’all (going Southern for clarity) did not. Y’all chose nine and that is all. Sure you can go with the “Well, I would have…” Yes, but you didn’t. Vox did. So if you are happy with Vox handing your choices, then go ahead and just somehow say it’s all OK.

So who cares if one of the nominees is Ann Leckie‘s Ancillary Mercy, the final part of the trilogy that started with Hugo winner Ancillary Justice – a book that has been much reviled by the Puppies. Mercy was on Sad Puppies recommendation lists so it’s tainted. Same apparently goes for Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

And Vox Day, apparently all by himself, decided Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is worthy of a Hugo nomination. You know, the multiple award winner Neal Stephenson? And a book that was pre-emptively put into mind blowing science fiction list of io9 in January 2015? Expectations were high, and I’ve seen plenty of reviews saying those expectations were met, and then some.

Same goes for Alastair ReynoldsSlow Bullets and Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric’s Demon. McMaster Bujold has won or been nominated for Hugos more times than I have fingers. Is it really so hard to believe she would write yet another masterpiece?

On movie front, we have things such as The Martian, Mad Max: The Fury Road, a new episode of Star Wars… I would’ve been surprised if these movies were not nominated.

No. Saying Day made some OK choices is not surrender. That blog entry is surrender. It gives all the power to Vox Day, it ignores the quality of works, and it claims fans had no say in the nominations. That sounds awfully lot like the arguments we’ve heard from Puppies for several years.

What’s more, it also robs the fandom from Puppies. Claiming “fans” had only nine nominees also implies Puppies can’t be fans. This hits Sad Puppies particularly hard, since from what I can tell, they did it right this year, publishing long lists of recommendations instead of simple slates. This is no different from multiple recommendation lists published every year, and their effect seemed to be on the same level as other fans’.

This is exactly the kind of estrangement Puppies have accused the Hugos of. It adds fuel to the fire and drives another wedge into the SF reading population. This blog seems to be making rounds in Twitter, and I can’t blame Puppies pointing at it with I-told-you-sos.

What about the nominations

Of course, thing’s could be better. I don’t have high hopes for Related work category with its Castalia House nominees. I very much doubt There Will Be War, Volume X is so magical a collection of stories that it should have three nominees in Hugos, even if Jerry Pournelle is a mastermind editor.

At the same time, though, I see five novels that all promise to be excellent reads. I’ve read praising reviews from all of them and their Goodreads scores are high – I’ve already read Ancillary Mercy (4.23/5, my review), and I’m waiting to get my hands on Seveneves (3.97/5), Uprooted (4.17/5), The Fifth Season (4.32/5) and yes, even The Aeronaut’s Windlass (4.20/5). The novellas are equally exciting. All in all, seven out of the ten nominees in novel and novella categories were already in my to-read list because of recommendations, so it’s kind of hard to complain.

In shorter fiction the effect of Rabid Puppies can be seen much more clearly, and I can only hope the entries aren’t such a turgid mess they were last year. Even if they are, there’s still a silver lining: I won’t have to wade through any John C. Wright this year.

Regarding Foster’s complaints about Vox Day deciding what gets nominated: I’m not happy about that, but I’m not about to throw baby out with the bathwater. Last year, I suggested everyone should read a lot and then nominate according to their own tastes. I did just that, and out of maybe 60 novels, novellas and short stories I managed to find about three I thought worth nominating. Every year, most people have to vote on choices they didn’t nominate.

I’m not saying this is a good situation. I’m annoyed that writers such as Alastair Reynolds and Brandon Sanderson need to consider whether their works were good enough or if they got their nominations because of Puppies. I’m saddened by authors like Tom Mays declining the nomination because of the perceived taint. I think bloc voting erodes the credibility of Hugos, and I would much prefer reading nominees that got their place as a result of honest voting.

Still, as last year, I’m going to base my vote on the works, on my expectation on what a Hugo quality story should be like, as well as those 60 or so stories as a concrete measuring stick for what was the quality in 2015. And I’m looking forward to reading the candidates.

P.S. Camestros Felapton wrote how people shouldn’t use collective term Puppies. I agree. I use the collective term above sparingly in places where it seems to apply to both groups.

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