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The Hugo Awards: The Sheep Go Baa

I have been reading science fiction for over three decades. I will read just about anything inside the genre if it comes with a recommendation from someone and sounds like I might enjoy the book. As a child science fiction was one of my main paths of escape. In a lot of ways who I turned out to be as a man was directly influenced by the writings of Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert, Bradbury, (and for the twisted part of me) Ellison. I absorbed stories. I mulled them over. I smiled. I laughed. I cried. “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison is burned into the very fiber of my being. One of many stories I read that changed my thinking about the world around me.

I am a fan. Science Fiction is extremely important to me. It is why I am saddened by the huge blow-up over this year’s Hugo nominations. If you don’t know what I am talking about just do a Google search. It’s all there. The issue is that a group of people put together a slate and asked their readers and fans to vote for that slate to get them a Hugo nomination. It worked.

I want to be clear right off the bat that many of the writers that were put forward are fine writers. Writers I have actively read for years. I am not knocking them or even saying that they don’t deserve the nomination. What I am knocking is the gaming of the system. I don’t believe that slate voting is in anyway the right thing to do. I have no problem with people putting out recommended reading lists. Hell, I do it all the time. I have no problems with fans passionate about an author going out and registering to vote for that author because their new book was incredible.

The problem I have is the active encouragement to not participate in the process of being a fan. Of being a reader. If you haven’t read the stories you voted for you are not a participant. You are a sheep blindly going wherever the shepherd pointed you. It’s a book. A piece of art. Letters jumbled into thoughts. It is meant to be read. The Hugo’s are a popularity contest. I am okay with that but this wasn’t about popularity. This was about putting names on a ballot without concern for what you, the voter, truly thought about the story. It’s wrong and I believe it is unethical. Science Fiction will survive this. Great books will continue to come out. Many of them will be by the authors on this year’s Sad Puppy slate. I will read them. I might even vote for a few of them for a Hugo. It will be because I think they are awesome. For the record, I think Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey was the best book I read last year.

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6 Responses to “The Hugo Awards: The Sheep Go Baa”

  1. peavybob says:

    Just a small correction. The SP3 campaign actively encouraged their followers to read each of the nominations, even going so far as to book bomb each of the works. They told people to vote for what they liked and put forth their own recommendations. Not once did they ask for blind acceptance of the slate.

    • csdaley says:

      And yet somehow somehow, almost as if by magic, the categories were swept by their slate and a slate I refuse to even talk about. People did just vote with blind acceptance and most probably my did not read the works. It is how the system can be gamed.

      Many people who don’t read the works won’t vote for the category. Also, most categories have a wide variety of stories voted for by voters. Making it hard to gain a huge amount of traction. Slate voting crushes this. It creates a system where only slates can ever win.

  2. Murgy says:

    You said, “People did just vote with blind acceptance and most probably my did not read the works.”

    How do you know this? Are you privy to the actual ballots? Or is this your interpretation based on the results?

    Tell me, do the words ‘confirmation bias’ ring any bells?

    • csdaley says:

      Your right. I should not assume that most did not read the work. That is my bad. It is a miracle that the Sad Puppy slate got picked and all those fans who voted loved exactly the same stories.

  3. David Lang says:

    it isn’t a matter of “they didn’t bother to read” vs “it’s a miracle”

    All of the authors on the SP slate sell a lot of copies, the book bombs themselves sold a lot more, so there are a lot of people reading these to start with (unless you assume that people are paying money to buy them and then not reading them for some odd reason)

    finding out what works are eligible for nomination takes digging, this is why (as GRRM shows) people have been putting forth lists of who is eligible or what works they liked and are eligible for decades.

    in this case, you have authors who sell a lot making the suggestions to their fans as to works they like. Note that it’s not every item published by them, it’s books they think are good.

    then the nominations happen and because they get a lot of voters out, they have an impact.

    remember that when some of these same people have muttered about not liking what was on the ballot in past years, they were told “too bad, it’s what the voters want, if you don’t like it vote”. so they are doing exactly that, getting people to pay and vote

    • csdaley says:

      It really isn’t the list of books nominated I have a problem with. I may not like them or read them but it is what it is. I also don’t have a problem with recommended reading lists. My problem was the lock step voting in an attempt to keep everything else off the ballot. My problem is that I am being told repeatedly that this is being done because my taste in science fiction is boring. I may not like all science fiction but I try not to go out of my way to make people feel bad about what they like.

      It also doesn’t help that rabid puppies is complicating this whole damn thing by choosing many of the same stories on their slate. I will keep an open mind about the choices but I am done with Vox Day.

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