Sad Puppies and the Hugo Awards – A Summary
Okay, so if you listen to Starburst’s BookWorm Podcast, or if you follow genre-related book news in general, you may have heard that 2015’s list of Hugo Nominations were a bit unusual. You may have even heard some wailing and gnashing of teeth, or some crowing and bragging, depending on what parts of the web you spend time on.
You may also have no idea what this is all about. I’ll try and break it down into steps, to give you an idea of what’s going on.
The Hugo Awards are an international award, presented at an event called Worldcon, an fan-run Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. They’re grand affairs, but are more about fans talking to fans than anything else, and revolve around the literary side of things mostly. Worldcon’s have been happening for over 70 years, and the Hugo Ceremony is the cool thing that happens at the end of convention. The Hugo Awards are voted for by their members.
Worldcon Membership is split (broadly) into two types: Attending and supporting. Attending membership lets you attend the event. It also lets you nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards. Supporting membership does all that, except you can’t attend the event. Because Worldcon changes venue every year, supporting memberships allow fans to remain part of the event without spending huge sums of money to go to around the world.
The 2014 Hugo Awards were notable for their progressive and interesting content. Prizes went to a wide spread of creators from diverse backgrounds. It’s also worth noting that the bulk of the winners were already quite successful and quite popular, both in critical and commercial terms.
John Scalzi is an outspoken science fiction author who is also very well regarded and very successful. He (and I quote here) believes that “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty.” He is also credited by some for helping raise awareness about less known but interesting authors, and some say the 2014 awards list is his doing. Many disagree.
Vox Day aka Theodore Beale is an outspoken science fiction author, who describes himself as a “Christian libertarian opinion columnist” and creationist. He was expelled from the organisation the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). If you want to go down that rabbit hole, the reasons why can be found here.
GamerGate is the name of a campaign about sexism in video games. It’s more complex than that, but for our purposes; they are a large number of sexist, misogynistic, anti-liberal, right-wing types in the GamerGate movement. It’s a loose organisation, so for every GamerGater who knows and is acting on the Hugos, they are many who have never heard of it and aren’t acting on it. (I have little idea as to how you’d get exact figures.)
The Sad Puppies is the name of a Hugo Awards campaign organised by Brad R. Torgersen, Larry Correia. They felt that they weren’t being represented by the Hugo Awards. They arranged a Hugo Slate (which can be found here). It was mostly composed of stuff they or their friends produced. It is a very narrow slice of the broader world of Science Fiction lit. The Sad Puppies recruited friends and members of GamerGate to vote in the Hugos. The name, by the way, comes from a rant that can be found here.
The Rabid Puppies is the Vox Day’s version of the Sad Puppies slate. They’re very, very similar. Gamer Gaters were also involved in the Rabid Puppies slate.
The 2015 Hugo Shortlist (a version of which can be found here) is very similar to the Sad Puppies Slate. The Sad Puppies and their right wings allies are currently declaring victory.
No Award is an option on the Hugo Ballot. It’s a run-off voting system. A running gag is to refer to the hot tipped 2015 Hugo Winner as Noah Ward.
Sir Terry Pratchett was a well loved science fiction and fantasy author who passed away recently. Upon the announcement of the 2015 Hugo Nominees, Sad Puppy supporters claimed that Pratchett never got nominated for a Hugo. This isn’t true; he was nominated for Going Postal in 2005. (If you want to read more on that, you can read it here.) It’s worth noting that Sir Terry was a regular at Worldcon events, and well loved by that niche.
George RR Martin is also a well known and well loved science fiction and fantasy author. He’s been to many, many Worldcons, and is well known figure in that community, and is also a regular at the Hugo Awards ceremony. He has blogged extensively about the whole affair, and you can read more here.
Trufan is the unofficial term for a fan of Worldcon and similar conventions. A JOF is a trufan who organises Worldcon and similar events, a SMOF is a trufan who organises the JOF’s and the events themselves. (Don’t assume there’s a hierarchy here, there really isn’t.) All these terms come from the in-jokey humour common in the community.
I’ve probably missed a tonne of nuance here, but those are the footnotes.