Last week I attended the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where I was on a few panels, signed books, met and talked with fans, editors, and other authors, and attended the Hugo ceremony, where awards in various categories were presented – or not. Over the course of the past year, there has been a great controversy over who was nominated for these awards and by whom. The “puppy” crew claimed that the voters in recent years had become more and more fixated on race, diversity, and social justice and nominated only works with those underlying settings and themes while ignoring basic story-telling. The “new traditionalists” claimed that the puppies only wanted works by white male authors, or the equivalent, and urged that all those who cared about science fiction and fantasy vote “no award” in any category dominated by “puppy” nominees.
The resulting kerfuffle ended up creating the most votes in Hugo history, and ostensibly the “new traditionalists” won. When the vote totals were finally released, essentially all of the areas where the “puppy” nominees dominated ended up with the winner being “no award,” even in the case for best editor, where the top nominee – Toni Weisskopf – received a record number of votes for an editor. In addition, last year, she placed second, but because she was considered as “puppy nominee” this year, she was denied that honor by 2496 votes for no award – more than three times the number of votes for any winning nominee ever.
I’m not so sure that everyone didn’t lose, because the real winner was the “NO” vote. It became a question not of what was the best work or writer/artist of those nominated, but of what works or people were acceptable or “not acceptable” because of the reputed philosophical/gender stance of those who nominated them.
As a side note, though, I’d have to ask all those male authors who were “no awarded” because of gender perceptions, many of them inaccurate, how it feels to be marginalized the way women and minorities have been for years. I’d also like to ask all the “new traditionalists” who drummed up the overwhelming “no award” votes how it feels to be just like the old-style chauvinists who marginalize on the basis of color and gender, because they just marginalized a number of good writers and editors on the basis of who nominated them, rather than on the basis of how good they were, although I have to admit that a number of the “puppy” nominees weren’t close to the best.
In any case, as I’ve noted earlier, this same current of negativity underlies the current contest for presidential party nominees, with candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders effectively representing a vote against the current political structure.
In both F&SF and national politics, ideas and concepts are not being evaluated on their individual merits, but upon who happens to be proposing what, rather than on what is good and workable. The cults of blind belief and personality are becoming ever more dominant, and that’s anything but a good sign for either politics or literature… or for society as a whole.