Puppygate – Winners and Losers

What a big HugoThat image is from issue #70 of Doom Patrol, published by Vertigo in 1993 and written by Rachel Pollack. The woman in the frog mask is Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula, a trans woman superhero. The words are, of course, mine. If you’d like to know more about the villain, Codpiece, or indeed Coagula, that issue is available on Comixology.

I’m using that as an illustration to remind people that angry, entitled white men are by no means new. Indeed, if you want an even better illustration of the type, go and read Chip Delany’s Triton. Bron is possibly the ur-MRA character, though he does come up with a far more inventive solution to his inability to get laid.

As to this Puppygate thing, let’s see if I have understood it properly.

Postulate: for the past two decades the Hugo Awards have been controlled by an evil cabal of commie, pinko, faggot feminists led by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. They use their power over the SF&F industry to ensure that the commie, pinko, faggot feminist writers they publish via Tor Books dominate the Hugos.

Fact: John C. Wright is published by Tor Books.

Fact: This year John C. Wright has five works as Hugo finalists.

Q.E.D..

Or maybe not. I don’t want to go through the whole Puppy 101 here. If you want details, Mike Glyer has them (and he deserves to be a finalist for the Fan Writer Hugo again next year for the sterling work he is doing keeping up with the torrent of comment).

Actually the whole thing is a bit of a mystery to me, because for the past five years or so I’ve heard little save how the Hugos are a conspiracy run by an evil right wing cabal headed by Old White Men such as Kevin and myself. It is actually a bit of a relief to be told that we are commie, pinko, faggot feminists after all.

By the way, please do remember those accusations. Lots of people are weighing in on the Puppygate issue. They all seem to have advice as to what you, the voters, should do about it. Before taking their advice, do bear in mind what they have said about the Hugos in the past. If they are the sort of person who has dissed the Hugos at every possible opportunity, and they are now telling you that the only thing to do is adopt a scorched earth policy and kill off the awards completely, you might want to be a bit suspicious about their advice.

For most of us, however, the Hugos are a thing that we have some affection for, and Puppygate has clearly got people riled up. I must admit that from my point of view the constant carping, not to mention outright greed, of some people claiming to push a diversity agenda had totally put me off. I simply couldn’t be bothered with all of that nonsense anymore. Puppygate, however, has awoken something interesting in fandom. Right now I am more optimistic about the Hugos than I have been for a long time. Let me explain.

The title of this post was inspired by a podcast that Kevin guested on. One of the hosts of the show was complaining that, no matter what fandom did in response to Puppygate, VD was bound to win. I thought that was wrong, so I started thinking about who the winners and losers were in all of this.

The most obvious losers are, of course, Correia and Torgersen. Firstly they have been portrayed in large numbers of articles all over the mainstream media as a couple of bad losers who, when they didn’t get the share of the Hugo cake they felt they were entitled to, invited a bunch of thugs (VD and GamerGate) to come and piss all over the cake so that no one could have it. Secondly, as has been pointed out by many people, they have been totally pwned by VD. And they daren’t try to dissociate themselves from him too strongly because if they do he’ll come after them next.

Some other authors are losers, of course. There are some fine works that could have been finalists for this year’s Hugos had not the Puppies intervened. But then again every year there are far more fine works that are not finalists than fine works that are. The Hugos are a very tough contest, especially in the fiction categories. Doing good work is not a guarantee of a rocket. That, of course, is a point that appears to have escaped the Puppies. It must be so sad when someone takes the silver spoon of patriarchy out of your mouth and forces you to compete with everyone else, no matter how brown, female or queer they might be.

Has fandom lost? Well obviously if VD and his pals win a bunch of Hugos then we will have done this year. But the final ballot hasn’t happened yet. I understand that Sasquan took an additional 1350 supporting memberships in the two days after the Hugo finalists were announced. I suspect that more memberships are still being bought. Sasquan is on course to be the first Worldcon ever to have more supporting memberships than attending, and probably the third largest Worldcon ever. Some people, I know, are convinced that all of those new members are VD loyalists who will vote as he directs. Personally I’m not so sure.

It’s not just those 1350 or so new members (presumably all voters) that we need to think about either. Given the way that nominating eligibility works (members of last year, this year and next year’s Worldcon), there must have been at least 12,000 people eligible to nominate. Only 2,122 people actually did so. And in the Puppy-dominated short fiction categories the largest number of nominating ballots was 1,174.

What would have happened if all 12,000 eligible WSFS members had cast nominating ballots? Well in Novel, where there were 1,827 ballots cast, three non-Puppy works became finalists.

It is certainly true that a small number of people voting for a slate has far more influence on the nominating ballot than a larger number of people voting independently. But there is a limit. With enough people voting, even a slate becomes less effective.

So my first point is this: VD didn’t win the Hugos, we (collectively) gave them to him by failing to use our votes. Obviously there are good reasons why people don’t participate even though they have the right to do so, but if we want to fix the Puppy problem one of our main priorities ought to be to increase the level of participation in Hugo voting. I do, as you might expect, have ideas about how to do that, which I’ll address in a later post. For now, however, fannish outrage at Puppygate is doing a fine job of encouraging people to vote.

My second point, of course, is that if enough of us vote in the final ballot then he won’t win that either.

I understand that VD has threatened that if he doesn’t win the Hugos this year he’ll come back harder next year. Well, let him try. How many loyal followers does he have? A few hundred, at most, I suspect. There are lots more people who enjoy conservative-themed fiction, but I’m pretty sure that most of them have discerning taste.

There is, I understand, a great deal of debate about how to vote in the final ballot. Do we vote as normal? Do we put known Puppies below No Award? Do we put everyone on the Puppy slates below No Award? Or do we vote No Award for everything?

Well, your vote belongs to you. How you use it is up to you, not to anyone claiming to be an arbiter of fannish morality. All I can say is what I’m intending to do.

I’ll start by noting that there is one category (Fan Artist) for which the puppies didn’t put up a single candidate. There is the possibility of the first ever Finnish winner of a Hugo Award. There are other deserving candidates too (hi Spring!). I’m certainly voting in this one.

There are some really good works in Novel and Graphic Novel too, and anyone who thinks I am forgoing the opportunity to vote for Groot and Rocket has got another think coming (though actually I’ll probably put Winter Soldier first because it is a seriously good film). In Fancast I’m torn between my Aussie pals, Alex, Alisa & Tansy, and Bristol’s local heroes, Emma & Pete.

I’m not going to go through all of the categories in detail, but I do want to note that just because something was on a Puppy slate it doesn’t mean that it didn’t deserve a nomination in its own right. Guardians of the Galaxy was a Puppy nominee, despite the fact that the principal villain, Ronan the Accuser, is a right-wing religious fanatic who wants to kill off everyone he deems morally inferior. I have been constantly surprised that Jim Butcher hasn’t appeared on Hugo ballots, given how many books he sells, and he was a Guest of Honour at this year’s Eastercon.

Ronan judges the Hugos

Then again, No Award is available as an option if you think that a work is genuinely not Hugo material, or doesn’t deserve to be on the Hugo ballot for some other reason. I may well be using it. John C. Wright, sadly, has not got better through his career. Some of you might remember what I thought of him in the days when he was the Great White Hope of Libertarian SF.

I understand that VD claims he will have won if he is beaten by No Award because that will “prove” that the results are fixed. The believability of such a claim will depend a lot on how many people vote.

By the way, Puppies, when I first started getting nominated for Hugos, a whole bunch of angry people from Fanzine Fandom started going on about how I had cheated by using immoral campaigning tactics, how I should have been ruled ineligible anyway, and that there should be a campaign to place me below No Award. I was even officially blacklisted from programming at the 2004 Worldcon. I won Fanzine that year, and a rant denouncing my win was put on the Worldcon’s official website1. Some of them, I think, are still demanding that the “Hugo Committee” correct the results and remove my wins from the record. Frankly, you Puppies are amateurs when it comes to being hated by people who think they own fandom.

I like to think that I won because the voters liked what I was doing. However, I have learned from the latest Galactic Suburbia that, according to Puppy supporters, an Evil Feminist can only win a Hugo if she has a “glittery hoo ha”. A little Googling revealed this means that the poor male members of Worldcon were so desperate to have sex with me that they voted me four Hugos even though I didn’t deserve them. I must admit that I hadn’t noticed this level of general lust, but my ego has benefitted significantly from the discovery.

Given the number of people voting, I am fairly confident that there will be some very fine winners of Hugo Awards this year. There will also be some results I disagree with, but then again the works I nominate rarely become finalists so I am used to that. People need to remember that if some Hugos are won by very popular works that they don’t particularly like, that does not mean that the awards are “broken”.

The real winners of Puppygate, however, are science fiction, and the Hugo Awards themselves.

Why? Well to start with look at all of the press coverage we have got. It is still going on now, more than two weeks after the finalists were announced. No amount of money could have bought that level of attention.

What’s more, most of the coverage is broadly sympathetic. The message has been that there are awards for science fiction that are deeply loved by fans and authors alike, and that those awards have been hijacked by a group of right wing fanatics. A lot of the coverage has explained that diversity has been increasing in the SF&F community, and that this is why a bunch of bigots are so angry.

If that wasn’t enough, we have a whole bunch of top authors writing about their support for the Hugos, and we have hundreds, possibly thousands, of fans signing up to vote.

Thanks Puppies, there’s no way we could have managed all of this without you.

Finally, lots of people have been talking about the need for major change in how the Hugos are run. Normally the WSFS Business Meeting is viewed as a massive snore-fest. This year the eyes of the world will be upon it. Obviously Kevin has a huge responsibility as Chair of the meeting, but I have every confidence in his ability to do a brilliant job. The end result could be a number of really valuable changes that will make the awards much more relevant.

What those changes should be will be the subject of a later post.

I’m closing comments on this, mainly because I don’t have the time to deal with the war that is likely to erupt in the comments if I don’t. There are plenty of other places where partisans can throw insults at each other. If you have genuine questions for me, I’m not that hard to find.

(1) Thanks again to con chair, Deb Geisler, for ordering the web team to take it down, though the matter should never have got that far up the chain of command.

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