Hugo Controversy Quiz Questions

I received a letter from a stranger who said he was a preparing a scholarly paper on the Sad Puppies phenomenon. I agreed to answer a few basic questions, whose answers I give below, for the edification and entertainment of my readers.  

1. Any general thoughts on the Hugo controversy this year?

At one time, the Hugo Awards reflected the honest opinion of the consensus as to what was the most popular science fiction of that year. It was an award given to science fiction works based on their science fiction appeal.

The process was corrupted over the last fifteen to twenty years by a small but vocal group whose first love was political correctness, not science fiction.

By their own admission, they sought successfully to deliver the award, particularly in the short form categories, to authors based on victim-group status, to works based on politically correct themes, rather than on merit, on the theory that science fiction serves a social role whose primary duty is to propagandize the reader, and condition the reader to accept the political and social maxims currently fashionable among advocates of Orwellian politically correctness.

Seeing the award given to stories which had little merit as stories and no elements even arguably related to science fiction or fantasy, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, and yours truly formed a literary movement dedicated to opposing this degeneration and degradation.

In jest, we called our movement the Sad Puppies (the term was coined by Larry Correia) on the tongue in cheek theory that science fiction awards going to poorly-written works based on political correctness was the leading cause of sadness in puppies, and asking readers to vote for meritorious science fiction works out of compassion for the tiny canines, and restore the dignity and meaning to the award.

Theodore Beale, who writes under the pen name Vox Day, joined us as an ally, but disagreed with the goals. He thought the award could not be salvaged and restored to its former glory; indeed, the only thing that could be done would be to force the politically-correctness faction (which he calls by the mocking title Social Justice Warriors, at one time their own name for themselves) to reveal their true purposes. His plan was to make it clear to any honest onlooker that the awards were being given out not based on merit, but due to politics. For this reason, he promoted his own slate of suggested works for his fans to read and vote upon, called the Rabid Puppies.

The Social Justice Warriors did in fact react precisely as Mr Beale predicted, and after the Sad Puppies unexpectedly swept several categories in the nominations, the SJWs used their superior numbers to vote NO AWARD into that category rather than give the award to whichever work was most worthy among the candidates.

This was done purely and openly for political reasons. The mask is torn. No honest onlooker can doubt the motive of the Social Justice Warriors at this point, or ponder whether the claims made by the Sad Puppies were true or false.

2. What significance do the Hugo Awards hold for the speculative fiction community? For society as a whole?

Had you asked me decades ago, I would have said the Hugo Awards represented the consensus opinion of science fiction readers as to the most worthy work of the genre.

Now, the opposite is the case. The Hugos have been unambiguously shown to be an Award given by partisans of a political correctness cult that invaded science fiction to other partisans of the cult.

The Hugo Awards hold no significance for society as a whole. Even among science fiction fans, it is a tiny award, mostly unknown, and voted on by less than three thousand readers. Considering the size of the science fiction field, that is nothing.

3. What positives [sic] do you see coming from this controversy?

The positive outcome is clear and profound: for once, in this one very small corner of the Culture Wars, for the first time, the political correctness cultists were challenged, and stopped, and in retaliation they in effect burned down the award rather than admit defeat. This implies that they can be challenged and stopped in other areas.

4. Does science fiction/fantasy (SFF) have a social role? A social responsibility? If so, what is it?

The purpose of story telling is to tell a story. Those who would seek to instruct the young or promote a political philosophy by means of story telling are prostituting its original purpose.

Science fiction has no social role. The social responsibility involved is the same as that every man in every walk of life has: not to use his talents to erode the social fabric, nor to encourage the further coarsening of taste which characterizes the modern age. This duty is not particular to the science fiction genre, nor particular to the profession of story tellers.

5. Has the role been strengthened? Weakened? By the Hugo Controversy?

There is no such role.

6. (If not already addressed) What about the notion that SFF plays a social role in helping to illuminate possible futures so that society can steer away (or toward) these possibilities? Do you see this as a continuing responsibility of the field? If so, can the Hugos play a role in advancing this responsibility?

The question is based on the rather crass and cynical premise that story telling serves some purpose to indoctrinate the readers into a particular worldview. I reject that premise with scorn and umbrage. I take it you do not read fiction or enjoy it.

I suppose, for the sake of argument, one could claim that all work from all walks of life can be used to serve and glorify God, and that therefore storytellers, by cobbling together an honest tale well-told and bringing joy to the readers, indirectly serves heaven’s purposes in so doing. I suppose one could, by stretching the definition of the words, call this serving a social role.

Those who take politics as their God perhaps also see all works from all walks of life as being used to serve and glorify whatever their pet political causes might be. For them, stories are tools to be used for social engineering just like everything else in their sad and narrow lives is a tool. But I would find such an argument unconvincing.

Do you remember how science fiction began? We write stories about space princesses being rescued by space heroes from space monsters, pirates, and evil robots. Those who attempt to find a deeper meaning or a social crusade in that are ill informed illwishers whose ulterior motives are unfriendly to our genre.

7. Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

My comments would not be complete if I did not state, clearly and for the record, what the Sad Puppies camp says, and has always said, holds, and has always held, its purposes to be.

So many lies so profoundly false have been spread so rapidly about us, that the gesture, if futile, is necessary.

This has been characterized as a conservative revolt against liberals. It is not. I am the only conservative among the four founding members of the Sad Puppies movement. (The rest are libertarian or mildly liberal).

This has been characterized as the intrusion of outsiders into a warm circle of science fiction fans. It is not. That is the exact opposite of the truth. All of us have been science fiction readers our whole lives, writers for years, and involved in fandom at every level.

Indeed, it is this notion that science fiction must serve political correctness as a tool for social reform that is the intrusion. No trace of such a notion is seen among the award winning stories of our field before twenty years ago.

This has been characterized as an attempt by readers of lowbrow but fun adventure fiction to shoulder aside the deeper and more literate works that address profound social messages. Absurd. What I write is literate in the highest degree, whereas Larry Correia writes pulp fiction, and so we cover the whole spectrum from highbrow to lowbrow and back again. The idea that poorly executed hackwork that serves the dull politically correct lecture of the day is somehow loftier in literary value than my work is risible. These costermongers would not recognize a literary allusion if it bit them on the cullion.

This has been characterized as an intrusion of politics into science fiction. The opposite is true. We Sad Puppies are attempting to remove the political litmus test of ideological purity from the Hugo Awards: remove, not impose.

This has been characterized as ballot-box stuffing, logrolling, and a violation of the gentleman’s agreement not to solicit votes. This again is the opposite of the truth: the previous twenty years are rife with such corrupt practices. We were and are scrupulously honest, obeyed both the letter and the spirit of the law.

This has been characterized as an attempt by White Males to exclude minorities from science fiction. By no possible Orwellian contortion of language can this possibly be true. I am the only White Male among the four founding members of the Sad Puppies movement. (The rest are Hispanic, Hispanic Female, Red Indian, for those of you who are keeping track).

The Sad Puppies slate indeed contained a broader diversity of minority authors than their opposition. Not only is this not our purpose, it runs directly counter to our mission statement and our observed behavior. And it is impossible on its face: how are four writers going to set about excluding anyone who wants to read or write science fiction?

To set the record straight, here is my announcement of the formation of a particular literary movement with a particular purpose, initially called the United Underworld, later called the Sad Puppies.

At the risk of quoting myself, allow me to point out that I have been libeled by many persons for having untoward or vile motives, when my motives were announced at the outset, and repeatedly and clearly, and by no action and no word showed any insincerity to the statement:

“This new movement shall be one where the writer is allowed to put a message in his story, provided it entertains the reader, and provided he does not sabotage or ignore the story trying to shoehorn a message into it. Story telling comes first in stories.

“All stories will be judged on their merit, rather than on the skin color of the author or authoress.

“The writers are the servants of the readers, who are their patrons and patronesses. We are not the teachers, not the preachers, and not the parents and certainly not the masters of the readers. We are not social engineers with permission to manipulate the readers, nor subject them to indoctrination nor propaganda disguised as entertainment.

“In sum, the three ideas of the so-called reactionary Evil Legion of Evil are that that Science Fiction stories should be workmanlike, honest, and fun. Stories should serve the reader rather than lecture, sucker-punch, subvert, or hector him. Stories should give the reader what he paid for.

“Dear reader, do you understand that these three principles, these three points of simple common sense and common decency, these three principles are what the Leftist ideologues, who untruthfully claim to be fighting for the underdog, untruthfully call evil?

“These are the principles our foes reject, and why we (including you, our readers) are subject to shrill yet tedious tongue-lashings by the scolds and shrews of these craven and no-talent know-nothings.

“Does that sound like a new literary movement? It is older than Homer.”