Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The 2015 Hugo Awards: One Month Out

I had originally planned to write this post some time last month, and make it an analogue to the one I made when the Hugo voting period open--more information than commentary.  But then the seemingly impossible happened, and this year's Hugo clusterfuck managed to throw up yet more sound and fury.  I was so angry about this latest iteration that I couldn't really bear to talk about it until I'd cooled down just a little, which brings us to today.  If all you'd like is the facts--including instructions on how to vote for site selection for the 2017 Worldcon--click here to skip my thoughts.  If you'd like nothing better than yet more Hugo bloviating, read on.

  • To put it briefly, what got me so angry last month was that one of the US's largest SF publishers decided to carry water for bigots.  In early May, Tor creative director Irene Gallo posted a comment on her Facebook page calling the Sad and Rabid Puppies "racists and neo-Nazis."  This is, of course, as plain and simple a truth as saying that the sky is blue or that the Earth revolves around the sun (in case that were not already clear, here is Michael Z. Williamson, whose Wisdom From My Internet was secured a Best Related Work nomination by the Puppies, expounding some of his "wisdom" about the massacre at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston; as I've said in the past, if you feel that a goal is so worthy that it justifies standing next to bigots and hate groups to achieve it, you do not get to complain when you get tarred with the same brush as your compatriots).  Nevertheless, bigot-in-chief and generally horrible human being Vox Day saved a screenshot of Gallo's comment and, nearly a month later, on the SFWA's Nebula Award weekend, sent it to Tor complaining of prejudice against their readers and authors.  Tor, being a business, decided that discretion was the better part of valor, but instead of posting a statement saying that the opinions of employees do not reflect the company's, or even a simple apology, Tor publisher Tom Doherty published an open letter in which he repeats, word for word, the Puppy talking points.  (For some more discussions of this mess, there is some good commentary from Kameron Hurley, Martin Wisse, and Harry Connolly.)

    To the surprise of absolutely no one, this statement did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do.  It enraged the portion of fandom who see the Puppies for the whiny, entitled brats that they are and their shitting over this year's Hugos for the terrorism that it is (a group that includes many Tor authors).  And it was, of course, insufficient for the Puppies, who immediately began calling for Gallo's dismissal and, later, for Tor to be boycotted.  It should be clear that I don't for a moment believe in the Puppies' indignation--this was clearly an attempt to hurt Tor, a company they identify with the left wing despite the fact that it publishes people like Orson Scott Card and John C. Wright (in the end, this will all turn out to be about Vox Day's hard-on for Scalzi, as so much of this clusterfuck probably is).  But this does not, in any way, excuse Tor's actions.  For Doherty to buy the Puppy party line--which has been thoroughly debunked so many times--indicates either that the publisher of a major genre imprint is unaware of the year's biggest news event within the genre, or that he's a political fellow traveler.  And the fact that Tor, which was so quick to respond to the outrage of a single bigot, has said nothing in response to the outrage of a huge swathe of fandom including many of their own authors (not even to the extent of closing the comments on Doherty's letter, which quickly became a toxic swamp of vileness and bigotry), speaks volumes about their priorities and how they see their audience.

    To be honest, this experience has left me more disgusted and enraged than even the original Puppy ballots.  I expect vile behavior from vile people.  I do not expect it from one of the genre's biggest publishers.  The fact that my opinion--and the opinion of so many other fans and readers--clearly does not matter as much to Tor as the opinion of Vox Day is not something that I feel inclined to forget or gloss over, and it has been dispiriting to see so many otherwise sensible people rally to Tor's defense, for example in response to Day's proposed boycott.  I'm not saying that I want to boycott Tor myself, but I don't feel that they should be rewarded either.  If Doherty's behavior teaches us anything, it's that Tor is, first and foremost, a business, and businesses only respond to one thing.  Treating them like family--as too much of fandom has been doing--is a mistake, because they will take advantage of your loyalty and then stab you in the back, as we've just seen.

  • Moving on to less infuriating topics, the other major Hugo-related development from the last month is the publication of the agenda for the Sasquan business meeting.  This is the occasion on which amendments to the Worldcon constitution are suggested and voted on.  Only people who actually attend the meeting are eligible to vote (it is, perhaps, worth talking about whether this should change), but several of the proposed amendments relating to the Hugos are worth considering.  The first is a proposal to add a new category, Best Saga (now amended to Best Series, but for the purposes of this discussion I find the old name more dramatic), for multi-volume works of over 300,000 words in total.  The original proposal suggested to "make room" for this new category by eliminating the Best Novelette category, but after some outraged reactions (including those pointing out that in making this swap, the Hugos would be introducing a category whose prospective nominees are more likely to be older white men in exchange for a category where younger, female, and non-white authors are more likely to be nominated) this segment of the suggestion was withdrawn.

    I find myself surprisingly conflicted about this suggestion.  I don't actually see any value in a Best Saga category--there surely aren't enough prospective nominees to justify handing it out every year, and if the Hugos can't make up their mind to add the long-mooted Best YA category, whose scope is much wider, then adding the Saga category feels almost like an insult to one of the genre's fastest-growing fields.  (I should say, I'm fairly lukewarm about the idea of a Best YA Hugo category in itself, but of the two proposals it seems clear to me which has more justification.)  On the other hand, if adding a Best Saga category keeps multi-volume works from being nominated as a single novel, I'm all for it.  Either way, I don't expect the Best Saga proposal to pass--the problems with how it defines a saga, and with the narrowness of its scope, are too obvious--but perhaps this would be a good opportunity to consider closing the loophole that allows fourteen novels by two authors published over thirty years to be nominated as a single work?

  • The second noteworthy and Hugo-related proposal on the business meeting agenda is "E Pluribus Hugo," a new system of vote-weighting painstakingly developed by the commenters at Making Light, and designed, they claim, to eliminate or at least minimize the effects of slate voting.  The whole thing is extremely technical, in the very best tradition of this fandom, and I don't really feel qualified to analyze the new system's faults and strengths.  The one advantage it has that seems obvious to me is that it does not require any change of behavior from voters, as other proposed anti-slate changes to the voting systems have done.  Despite the Puppies' claims, most Hugo nominators do not vote tactically, and E Pluribus Hugo still allows you to simply list your favorite works in every category.  For a more rigorous examination of the system, see Nicholas Whyte, who applies it to several of the previous years' ballots to see what, if any, effect it had.

  • It should be noted that E Pluribus Hugo is not the only anti-slate proposal on the business meeting agenda, and that no one, as far as I know, has discussed the potential effects if more than one of these proposals is adopted.  One thing that the last few months' furious discussion about how to fix the Hugos has clarified to me is that I do not like this piecemeal way of amending and updating them--especially given that only a small number of Worldcon members are able and willing to attend the business meeting and thus to vote on these proposals.  It would seem to make more sense for the WSFS to appoint a committee to redesign the Hugos, taking suggestions and proposing a revised slate of categories and voting system, which will be commented on and finally voted on by the membership.  There does not, however, appear to be much willingness to take this approach.

  • One last comment before we get to the dry stuff: an interesting Facebook comment that floated around last month, discussing Brad Torgersen's motives for taking on the Sad Puppy ballot this year.  If, like me, you've been wondering how Torgersen could spew such ridiculous inanities--about how SF never used to be political, and these days you can't trust the cover of a book to tell you what it's about--this comment implies that he never actually believed in any of them, and that the entire Puppy campaign was little more than a cynical publicity stunt.  I hope he's happy with the results.

  • And now, to the technicalities.  The deadline for voting for the winners of the 2015 Hugo awards is July 31st 2015, 11:59 PM PDT.  You are eligible to vote if you are an attending or supporting member of Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon.  If you are a member, you should have been sent an email with your membership number and PIN, which are necessary to fill out your electronic ballot.  If you haven't received this information, you can request it here.  If you are not a member of Sasquan, you can become one here.  Members of the Worldcon are able to download the Hugo Voter Packet, which includes many of the nominated works, and samples of work by many of the nominated individuals.

  • Supporting and attending members of Sasquan are also eligible to vote in the site selection ballot, which determines where the 2017 Worldcon will be held.  One of the competing bids this year is for Helsinki, and I personally will be very happy to see the Worldcon come to Finland.  I have supported Helsinki in my ballot, but you should also take a look at the competing bids from DC, Montreal, and Japan.

    Voting for site selection is a bit technical, so I've included a step by step guide.  If there are any more necessary clarifications (or if I've gotten something wrong) please let me know in the comments.

    • What you'll need: an attending or supporting membership in Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon; an email account; a credit card; a printer; a scanner; a pen.

    1. Locate your membership number.  It should appear in the Sasquan email in which you received your PIN.  If not, this page has a handy lookup tool.

    2. On the same page, use your credit card to pay the site selection fee of $40.  This fee will be converted into a supporting membership of the 2017 Worldcon, no matter which bid ends up winning.

    3. Upon completing your payment, you should receive a confirmation email containing a voting token, a string of numbers unique to your payment.  You'll need this token to vote.

    4. Print out the voting ballot and fill it in by hand.  In the segment regarding payment, check the line "I have paid my Worldcon 2017 voting fee on the Sasquan website" and write in your voting token number.  You will also need to write in your membership number.  Rank the competing bids in order of preference, as you would do on the Hugo ballot.  You do not have to rank all bids.

    5. Scan the filled-in voting ballot and save it as a PDF file.  Email this file to ballot2017siteselection@sasquan.org.  So far it does not seem that the site selection email sends confirmations, which is a shame.  Your ballot will be printed out and added to physical ballots received at Sasquan.  If you prefer and are able to, you can send your ballot to someone who will be attending Sasquan to print out and hand-deliver.  I believe that Helsinki 2017 was planning to offer this service (there will be a bid table at Sasquan so the people manning it could deliver ballots) but I haven't seen any information about this.  Ballots must be received by August 10th 2015, or delivered by hand at the convention.

9 comments:

Standback said...

In early May, Tor creative director Irene Gallo posted a comment on her Facebook page calling the Sad and Rabid Puppies "racists and neo-Nazis." This is, of course, as plain and simple a truth as saying that the sky is blue or that the Earth revolves around the sun.

I am uncomfortable with this statement.

Calling a group "racist" is a loaded term and a broad generalization, but in this case it's entirely accurate and very easy to justify and back up.
But calling a group "neo-Nazi" is much, much more loaded, and in this case I think it isn't accurate at all (certainly as a broad generalization), and justifications and citations are harder and much wigglier.
It should not be necessary to compare the Puppy movements to Hitler in order to denounce them. I don't think the comparison is correct, insightful, or constructive, while it's clearly highly insulting. And I certainly don't think it's a comparison "as plain and simple a truth as saying that the sky is blue or that the Earth revolves around the sun".

None of which is to argue with how disgusting Tor's behavior is, or anything else about the entire debacle, except the single point of: yeah, maybe that one particular comment was going a little too far, and maybe let's not rally around the specific validity of comparing Puppies to Nazis because that reaaaaally isn't the main issue here.

steve davidson said...

Sorry that you felt that the anti-boycott posts were "rallying to TOR's defense". I saw it as support for Irene and others - "...if you would like to express support for Irene Gallo, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Moshe Feder and TOR books". The post specifically took issue with Doherty's statement.
Strategically, I felt it more important to let TOR know that there were far more fans out there who supported Irene and the narrative that supports her statement than it was to let the boycott gain any traction.
I believe that it IS possible to support the people working at TOR and those individuals who have been specifically targeted while at the same time taking issue with Doherty's statement.

Adam Roberts said...

Standback: 'let's not rally around the specific validity of comparing Puppies to Nazis because that reaaaaally isn't the main issue here'

And yet that's just what your comment is doing.

Gallo's original comment was in reply to a request for a definition of the Puppies. She said they were on a spectrum from far right to neo-Nazi. Since Vox Day is, straightforwardly, a clerical fascist, I don't see this as the least bit distorting. My sense is that the haste with which Tor rushed to throw Gallo under the bus (as the phrase goes) was not only disgraceful, it was counter-productive.

But the larger point with respect to this post is to do with awards. I admire the effort, and respect the ingenuity, that has gone into the E Pluribus Hugo thing, but my own view leans towards a different Latin tag: delenda est Hugo. And the longer this whole sorry business has gone on the more I find myself thinking, like John Lennon on countries & religions, 'what if there were no more SF Awards?' How might that go?

Awards are not ends in themselves. They are, or are supposed to be, indices of community esteem. How might fan esteem be registered if it weren't all channelled into an annual award system that is distorting, easily-gameable and often produces results that very much don't reflect the actual esteem with which particular awards and authors are held by SF fandom? It's a genuine question. Given the hugely interconnected virtual network that Fandom now is, there are surely other ways.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Standback:

As Adam says, describing Vox Day as a Neo-Nazi is perfectly accurate. He has, for example, expressed admiration for the actions and political beliefs of Anders Breivik, as blatant a Neo-Nazi as has ever lived (and let's be clear on the differences between Nazis, the historical political party, and Neo-Nazis, which are a wide range of modern-day hate groups; many present-day fascists who advocate violent racism are aware that Hitler is toxic and seek to distance themselves from him, but that doesn't mean the term Neo-Nazi doesn't suit them).

More importantly, I really don't feel any need to be scrupulously fair to Vox Day and his ilk. I don't need to be holier than thou in this situation - in fact I dare say that I'm holier than Vox Day simply by existing. And especially not if being fair to him means obsessively parsing an off the cuff remark made on a personal Facebook page. That feels decidedly unfair to Gallo, who is surely the person more deserving of concern and consideration.

Steve:

I understand that that was your intention, but it's hard for me to see how buying Tor products supports specific individiuals within the company (or, to be more precise, I don't see how buying a Tor book supports Irene Gallo, but does not support Tom Doherty).

As for sending a message to Tor, I'm afraid that to me the message is quite the opposite. From Tor's perspective, I think it looks like there are two groups of fans: the ones who will bang on tables and threaten boycotts if they don't get exactly what they want, and the ones who will keep buying Tor books no matter how much they're insulted and ignored. Under those circumstances, what is Tor's motivation to do anything for the second group?

Adam:

I think we've probably had this exchange already under another one of these posts. I certainly see where you're coming from - though I think I may see it more clearly in years where there's been no gaming of the Hugos and they still throw up utterly boring nominees and winners guaranteed to disappear from memory as soon as the trophies are handed out. I don't, however, think that fan esteem actually is all channeled into the Hugos - the entire edifice of online fandom speaks to that. It's certainly true that the Hugos suck up a lot of oxygen (though surely this year has been disproportionate) and that the fun of engaging in them can eclipse their actual purpose. I don't know if I have a solution. I wouldn't actually like to see the Hugos abollished, and in the near future I don't see any way of bringing their importance back to more manageable levels, not now that they've become a front in the US culture wars.

Standback said...

Adam, I've seen such excellent essays on the brokenness of the Hugos right here on Abigail's esteemed blog, that I can certainly understand the impulse to chuck it all.

But the Hugo awards generate such interest and discussion - some of the best, again, on this esteemed blog - that I just don't think would be possible without a major, respected award voted on by the public. It's a focusing mechanism, for areas I care about and don't usually get enough attention - like, well, all the short fiction ever. :) And I value that focusing power more than I do the individual nominations and wins. It's something that keeps a healthy, active community and fandom up and running.

steve davidson said...

Abigail, understood and we'll have to agree to disagree; I personally think that the intent was pretty clear, as was my editorial position in regards to the Doherty letter. I think where we disagree "tactically" is that I viewed the "Boycott TOR" message as an attempt by pups to divide and conquer, and I believed (still do) that it was temporarily more important to answer that with clear unity, as the Doherty letter can, could and will (witness your post) survive as a separate issue.
This "fight" is very much the puppies picking and nibbling at whatever looks like it will come loose and I believe its everyone else's job not to let something come loose. Maybe Mr. Doherty was counting on that when he wrote his letter (I tend to doubt it). In a nutshell, I believe that good fans everywhere ARE tolerant and understanding and that whatever fallout comes from the puppy kerfuffle will get straightened out by well-meaning, understanding fans afterwards.

Liz B said...

Can't remember where I saw the comment about this (possibly in a mammoth SMOFS thread I have not the time to fish out), but if both 4 nominations for 6 places and E Pluribus Hugo pass, it works fine - you just nominate up to 4, they run the complicated ballot-counting system, and take the top 6 instead of top 5. Removal of the 5% rule seems a bit more complicated - if 4 in 6 passes and removal of 5% doesn't, then I would expect the 5% threshold to kick in more often. For E Pluribus Hugo, if the 5% rule still stands I guess you then have to run an additional check and make sure that each nominee was on at least 5% of ballots regardless of how many points it got during the nomination process, I don't know if it is more or less likely to kick in under this nomination system than under the current one.

Foxessa said...

I am more outraged by Dougherty than anything else. That he threw a woman under the bus to placate these a-hats while saying not a work to his principal acquiring editor whose own website bloviates constantly about this matter is unforgiveable. It's not even business! It sexism pure and simple, for his own aggrandizement and I shall never purchase another Tor book ever. And I am speaking as someone who goes to brick and motar bookstores because where I live has some. I don't buy from amazon. In June by my count I bought 9 hcs and 14 trade softcovers, From bookstores. Five of those titles were sf/f. None of them were Tors and never again will be.

Foxessa said...

I am more outraged by Dougherty than anything else. That he threw a woman under the bus to placate these a-hats while saying not a work to his principal acquiring editor whose own website bloviates constantly about this matter is unforgiveable. It's not even business! It sexism pure and simple, for his own aggrandizement and I shall never purchase another Tor book ever. And I am speaking as someone who goes to brick and motar bookstores because where I live has some. I don't buy from amazon. In June by my count I bought 9 hcs and 14 trade softcovers, From bookstores. Five of those titles were sf/f. None of them were Tors and never again will be.

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