I don’t care.
I thought about making that my entire post, but it’s not quite true so I will say a few things. I also considered writing a very long post touching on any number of facets of the controversy. But I didn’t want to write anything before I read the nominees, or most of the nominees, or the nominees I was going to read before voting. Because what kind of jackleg spouts off on a topic before doing his research? (Ok, I probably shouldn’t insult half the internet.) So I read most of the nominees (you can find my thoughts under the 2015 Hugos tag; I didn’t get to the Best Related Work nominees, and at the very least won’t write on the remaining categories). And the more I read, the less interested I remained in wading into the mud and wrestling with pigs. I even made a point to skip the Hugos panel at ArmadilloCon (judging by the surly crowd still inside when we busted in for the next panel, it was a lively one). Maybe I will post an ArmadilloCon report tomorrow? Maybe I will post an ArmadilloCon report tomorrow.
I’m tempted to repeat the aphorism that the fights in academia are so vicious because so little is at stake applies here, and to a great extent it does, but I don’t want to be dishonest. There is a lot going on here, and most of it I would like to talk about. Just not now. Because most of it has duck all to do with books. I want to talk about books. In my day, TV was called books, and, as I am still alive, it is still my day.
I won’t go into the sordid details of the controversy here. If you haven’t heard, you aren’t missing anything. If you have, I probably don’t have anything new worthwhile to say. I am not an expert on the Hugos. I attended my first WorldCon two years ago in San Antonio (my first con period). I nominated and voted on the Hugos for the first time last year and had only the vaguest awareness of Sad Puppies, although I was delighted to discover the Grimnoir Chronicles. I didn’t even nominate this year. I am in no way affiliated with any Sad Puppies.
I will limit myself to saying this, because I think it is about all that need be said. This is a fan award. Nominated and voting is open to anyone. All literary desires are valid to the man with $40. Everyone is free to nominate, vote for, and advocate for whoever they so please.
So I did read. A lot. I read the Best Novel nominees (and Ancillary Justice), the Best Novella nominees, the Best Novelette nominees, the Best Short Story nominees, the Best Graphic Story nominees (and Saga vols. 1 and 2), and every story by a Campbell nominee I could get a hold of (the only works I had read before the nominations were announced were Ancillary Justice, The Lives of Tao, and Rat Queens vol. 1). The oft-maligned Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies nominees held up well against the non-Puppy nominees, with the large caveat that four of the six categories were dominated by Puppy nominees and one was dominated by non-Puppy nominees.
After reading all that, what do I think? First, I was somewhat surprised to learn that, for those six categories, the average rankings I gave the books were almost identical. My average ranking for the works not on a Puppy slate was 2.8, my average ranking for the Sad Puppy works was 3.0, and my average ranking for the Rabid Puppy works was 3.2. I wasn’t blown away by the Puppy nominees, but I wasn’t blown away by the non-Puppy nominees either. I would have more sympathy for anti-puppies if better works were being nominated.
So I didn’t see much difference in quality; were there other important differences? Yes. There are certainly readily discernible distinctions between Puppy and non-Puppy nominees (I would have liked to draw distinctions between Sad and Rabid Puppies, but there is too much overlap between the slates, I think). For all the talk about message fiction, the Puppy nominees aren’t any less likely to feature it. But then I never thought message fiction was a bad thing so long as well done. Nor are the non-Puppy nominees exclusively message fiction. Rather, they all exhibit a certain sensibility. There was a lot of talk about action, and (some of) the Puppy nominees certainly had it in spades, but there is a big difference between Skin Game and Murder World: Kaiju Dawn. And while I’m all for a little pulpy action, it’s always going to be at a disadvantage, even in a perfect world, when it comes to awards because that sort of thing doesn’t stick with you, even when done exceptionally well (would I have ranked Skin Game so highly had I read it 7 months prior?).
The big difference comes down to matters of style and subject preference. The Puppy nominees show a pretty heavy thumbprint of Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, and Vox Day’s tastes. They run heavy to kaiju, superficial noir elements, and religious themes. They don’t align well with my own tastes, but then neither do the tastes of the recent Hugo electorate. If the Hugos are to be the sort of elite fan award that they purport to be, and once were, then they shouldn’t display such narrow tastes, whether of Puppies or anyone else. To that end, my hope is that all of this will draw more people into the process and lead to a more diverse electorate; my fear is of that electorate being dominated by factions. We will see (always end with a super strong closing line).