April 21, 2015
Hugo Awards nominees withdraw over political controversy
by Nick Davies
The prestigious Hugo Awards have a reputation for recognizing the very best in fantasy and science fiction; the Best Novel category has been won by the likes of Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, and J.K. Rowling. But this year, the awards have been plagued by a political back-and-forth that’s caused two authors to withdraw their works from consideration, Alison Flood reports for The Guardian.
In a scandal that sounds a lot cuter than it is (dubbed Puppygate) two right-wing groups—calling themselves the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies—have launched campaigns to circumvent what they describe as the Hugos’ tendency to reward left-leaning authors. Both groups have been encouraging fans to buy membership to Worldcon, the global science fiction convention which votes on the Hugo Awards, and getting them to cast their votes for specific titles.
Flood reports that the author behind Sad Puppies, Brad Torgersen, wants to “reverse what he called the Hugos’ favouring of works that were ‘niche, academic, overtly to the left in ideology and flavour, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun.'” The Rabid Puppies are led by Theodore Beale, a writer known online as the blogger Vox Day, who was expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America after a racist rant against award-winning author NK Jemisin.
Upon finding out that their works were included on a slate of titles supported by the Puppies, two authors have effectively said, “Get off my side” to the right-wing groups and taken themselves out of the running. Marko Kloos, whose novel Lines of Departure was nominated as best novel, wrote on his blog:
It has come to my attention that Lines of Departure was one of the nomination suggestions in Vox Day’s “Rabid Puppies” campaign. I cannot in good conscience accept an award nomination that I feel I may not have earned solely with the quality of the nominated work. I also wish to disassociate myself from the originator of the “Rabid Puppies” campaign. To put it bluntly: if this nomination gives even the appearance that Vox Day or anyone else had a hand in giving it to me because of my perceived political leanings, I don’t want it. I want to be nominated for awards because of the work, not because of the “right” or “wrong” politics.
Annie Bellet, nominated in the best short story category for her “Goodnight Stars,” had a similar response, stating, “I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodgeball, where I’m both a conscripted player and also a ball… My fiction is my message, not someone else’s, and I refuse to participate in a war I didn’t start.”
Even George R.R. Martin has weighed in on the controversy (potentially causing even more controversy among his fans by writing ANYTHING other than the next A Song of Ice and Fire book). Having previously lamented that the Sad Puppies “have broken the Hugo awards,” he takes to his LiveJournal blog to encourage sci-fi and fantasy fans to sign up for Worldcon to get the right to weigh in on the awards.
“Whether you vote for the Sad Puppies, or for the Rabid Puppies, or against the Puppies,” he writes, “or vote NO AWARD on everything, or read the work and vote on what you like, or abstain, or elect some combination of all of those…that’s up to you. The important thing is that you vote, however you think best.”
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.