The 2016 Hugo Awards: Two Weeks Out
In two weeks, voting for the 2016 Hugo Awards will close. You could be forgiven for being taken aback by just how quickly that deadline has rolled up on us, seeing as, especially compared to last year's all-Hugos-all-the-time news extravaganza, the conversation surrounding this year's awards has been so muted that at points it's seemed that the only person even participating in it was Chuck Tingle. And even he seems to have found other interests recently. And on one level, it's easy to see why the Hugos have fallen by the wayside this year, given that we're in the middle of a news cycle that has included, in the last month alone, terror attacks in Orlando, Baghdad, and Nice; two black men shot by American police officers while committing no crime and a sniper attack on a peaceful protest that left five police officers dead (edit: in the six hours since I wrote the first draft of this post, another such shooting seems to have occurred in Baton Rouge; WTF, America); an attempted coup in Turkey and vicious reprisals for it; the UK nuking its entire political system from orbit; and, of course, the ongoing carnival act that is the US presidential race. But at the same time, genre fandom has been able, in the midst of all this political upheaval, to pay attention to Game of Thrones, Hydra!Cap, and the new Ghostbusters, so why so little conversation about the Hugos?
There are, I suspect, several factors involved. The first is that everyone is a little tired. We went through this rigmarole last year, and there's quite honestly a limit to how much time and effort we can be expected to spend on a group of people whose pet project to destroy something that other people enjoy is, let's be honest here, really boring. It's a lot more fun to talk about new things, even if they don't get you write-ups in the Guardian and Slate. Second, and not unrelated, is the fact that there isn't really anyone to talk to anymore. Last year, there were a lot of people willing to carry water for Vox Day and his ilk, and to pretend that Puppygate was something other than what it clearly was, a destructive act by someone whose hatred of the Hugos fell only slightly short of his bizarre hard-on for one particular science fiction writer. Those people kept trying to start a conversation about the Hugos' politics, their supposed exclusion of particular kinds of SF or particular kinds of SF fans, and, at one point, whether of not books had spaceships on the cover, which was inevitably hampered by the fact that none of these supposed arguments could hold water. This year, and to their credit, most of the people on the Sad Puppy side opted to participate in the Hugos instead of trying to tear them down. Instead of a slate, they did what the rest of us do, and came up with a scattered, broad recommendation list. And, just as we discover every year, that turned out to have very little effect on the resulting nominations (though it might have had a little more effect if the Rabid Puppies weren't still trying to ruin everyone else's fun). But as a result, it's now become very clear that this is only nominally about politics. That what this issue is about is a dispute between the people who care about this award, and the ones who want to destroy it. And there's not really much to talk about there.
And then of course there is the matter of the nominees themselves. There was a lot of talk, when the nominations were announced, of how and whether to approach the puppies' decision to slate works that were not only deserving, but very likely to have appeared on the ballot regardless of their influence. That talk, too, has died down, for the simple reason that, despite what the puppies seem to think, none of us are susceptible to this kind of middle-school gotcha! maneuvering. I'm not telling anyone how to vote, and I recognize that different people can have different views on this issue. But literally the only people who think that awarding a Hugo to, say, Nnedi Okorafor's novella about a Namibian tribeswoman who is a mathematical genius and travels to space university, with multiple observations about the evils of racism and colonialism, would be a victory for white supremacy are the ones who have realized that they have no chance of claiming a win any other way. If you think that it's more important to slap down the puppies than give an award to Okorafor or other nominees like her, that's your call, but I don't think there's anyone who, if she does end up taking home a Hugo in August, will lament that the puppies have won. Once again, what this means is that there's not much to talk about.
Which is great on one level, and on another is worrying. Because another thing that hasn't been happening this year is the huge influx of Worldcon members buying supporting memberships for the sole purpose of protesting against the puppies' attempts to dominate the Hugos. At the moment, MidAmericon II has 5,600 members, and is on track to be a mid-sized North American convention, which probably means fairly normal Hugo voting numbers, not the outsized protest vote we saw last year. Now, as I've said many times in the past, I have a great deal of faith in Hugo voters' ability to tell astroturf nominees from the real deal, and to smack down nominees that have no business being on the ballot. But the numbers still need to be on our side. Chaos Horizon estimated that there were between 250 and 500 Rabid Puppy nominators this year. I'd like to believe that the real number is closer to the lower boundary than the higher--there can't, surely, be 500 people with so little going on in their lives that they'd be willing to spend good money just to make Vox Day happy (or whatever approximation of the human emotion known as happiness can be felt by someone so occupationally miserable). But if I'm wrong, and those people show up in the same numbers this year, then they have a solid chance of overwhelming the good sense and decency of the people who want the Hugos to be what they were meant to be, an award recognizing the excellence and diversity of what science fiction and fantasy achieved in the last year.
So, if you are a member of MidAmericon II, please remember to vote. If you're not yet a member, and you're able to become one, please consider doing so--even at this date, you can join, get your PIN immediately, and vote for the Hugos. And if you're a member and a voter, please remind others who might not be that they can still do both, and how important it is, for the future of this award and this convention, that we do so.