Hugo Awards Controversy prompts nominees to withdraw

27th Apr 2015

Hugo Awards Controversy prompts nominees to withdraw
'Puppygate' campaign to stack awards in favour of conservative authors leads to Annie Bellett and Marko Kloos pulling their nominations

In the wake of what many are referring to as the ‘Gamergate of science fiction’, two authors have withdrawn their work from the prestigious Hugo Awards, citing the feeling of being a “political dodgeball” as the reason.

Annie Bellet, nominated in the Best Short Story category for Goodnight Stars, has pulled her work from the competition because as she says: “this has become about something very different than great science fiction. I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodgeball […] My fiction is my message, not someone else’s, and I refuse to participate in a war I didn’t start.” Marko Kloos has also withdrawn his novel Lines of Departure from the Best Novel category, as he “want[s] to be nominated for awards because of the work, not because of the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ politics.”

This comes following the news that both writers were included on a slate of titles collated by a group calling themselves the ‘Sad Puppies’, a team of right-leaning science fiction writers aiming to load nominations in favour of more conservative writing. Led by author Brad Torgersen, the Sad Puppies have galvanised fans into buying membership of Worldcon, thus enabling them to vote and flood the awards with their choice of nominees. A little childish perhaps, especially when one hears Torgersen’s assertion he wants to stem the flow of the Hugos’ perceived preference for “niche, academic, overtly to the left in ideology and flavour, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun”, but benign compared to the so-called ‘Rabid Puppies’ campaign. This group, led by far-right blogger Theodore Beale a.k.a Vox Day who was expelled from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for making racist comments about the author JK Jemisin, also included Bellet and Kloos on its slate, pushing both authors to distance themselves from the awards entirely.

Will future winners actually be the best books or stories? Or only the books and stories that ran the best campaigns? Debate over the validity of the Hugos now rages, as authors and bloggers try to make sense of what this means for the future. George R R Martin has said in a blog post that the whole affair “cheapens the Hugos. Will future winners actually be the best books or stories? Or only the books and stories that ran the best campaigns?”, while British science fiction writer Adam Roberts thinks “the Hugos have been irreparably damaged”.

Cheryl Morgan, herself a four-time Hugo Award-winner, has some more optimistic thoughts on her blog. First and foremost, she argues that due to the amount of coverage the Puppygate phenomenon has sparked, there are hundreds if not thousands of fans signing up to vote, and “with enough people voting, even a slate becomes less effective”. She points out that the tone of coverage has been sympathetic to a well-loved sets of awards being hijacked by right-wing bigots, and that a Puppy nomination doesn’t necessarily devalue the work itself. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy is a title on the Puppy slate, presumably because the irony of endorsing a movie whose villain (and certified douchebag) is a right-wing fanatic hell-bent on destroying the prosperity of those he believes socially inferior to him appears to be lost on them.

However you choose to vote, turn out and vote is the message from these high-profile authors. George R R Martin is using his blog to encourage fans to buy membership to Worldcon and “vote, however you think best […] Even better, you can buy an ATTENDING membership, and actually come to the convention.”

“Come to the party. Everyone is welcome. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.”

Are you listening, Puppies?