NO, AWARDS AREN’T “FAIR.” NEVER HAVE BEEN, NEVER WILL BE. SO WHAT?

What I want to do in this essay is go back to where I started in my very first post on subject (“Some comments on the Hugos and other SF awards,” posted April 16), which is to discuss the problems the Hugo awards actually do have—which, as I’ve now spent a lot of time explaining, has nothing to do with the political issues that the Sad Puppies insist are central.

I singled out three key problems, two of them objective and one which is of a more subjective nature. The first of the two objective problems is the subject of this essay.

It’s not complicated. The genre of science fiction and fantasy with all its related sub-genres—some of which, like paranormal romance, are so popular they often get their own sections in bookstores—has become enormous. It is a far, far larger field than it was half a century ago. But even back then, there was always some disparity between the tastes and opinions of the people who voted for the Hugo awards and the F&SF readership as a whole.

To name what is probably the most outstanding example, Andre Norton never received a Hugo award. She was only nominated twice.

But she was hardly alone in being overlooked in the Hugo awards. Many other prominent and important authors of the time, whose stories filled the major magazines and the shelves in bookstores, also never received a Hugo award and in many cases were never even nominated.

Christopher Anvil was never nominated. Not once.

A Bertram Chandler was never nominated.

Hal Clement was only nominated once. He didn’t win.

  1. Sprague de Camp did win one Hugo, but it was for his autobiography and came almost at the very end of his long life. He never received the award for his fiction, despite that fiction being an enormous body of work spanning more than half a century.

David Eddings, one of the most popular fantasy authors of all time, never won a Hugo. He was never even nominated.

Randall Garrett was nominated three times but he never won.

Keith Laumer was nominated twice, but never won.

Murray Leinster was nominated twice and won the Hugo for Best Novelette with “Exploration Team.” But when you measure that against his incredible career—this was the man Time magazine once dubbed “the dean of science fiction”—that’s pretty slim pickings. (If you want to see just how incredible that career was, take a look: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?257)

Richard Matheson was never nominated.

Mack Reynolds was only nominated once. He didn’t win.

Eric Frank Russell was only nominated once. He did win, though. (For “Allamagoosa,” in the best Short Story category.)

Fred Saberhagen never won a Hugo and was only nominated once.

James H. Schmitz was nominated twice, never won.

A.E. Van Vogt was never nominated.

Robert Moore Williams was never nominated.

Jack Williamson was only nominated once for a fiction piece, for the novella “The Ultimate Earth” in 2001. He did win, but…

One nomination? For Jack Williamson? We’re talking about an author whose first story was published in 1928 and who kept writing until his death—at the age of 98, in the year 2006.

And I’m not even including popular authors of their time such as Leigh Brackett, E. E. “Doc” Smith, Fletcher Pratt and Edmond Hamilton because their careers mostly pre-dated the inception of the Hugo award. But all of them except Pratt lived and kept writing well into the 1960s—into the late 70s, in Leigh Brackett’s case—and the only one of them who was even nominated was “Doc” Smith. (Twice, both in 1966. He didn’t win.)

And yet… I’m willing to bet that almost everyone reading this essay has heard of every one of these authors except possibly one or two.

Think about that, for a moment—and then consider these facts. Of the sixteen authors I listed above who barely registered if they registered at all on the Hugo awards…

Five of them, almost one-third of the total, were eventually inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. (Williamson, Van Vogt, Norton, Clement, Russell.)

Five of them, almost one-third of the total, were eventually named Grand Masters by SFWA. (Williamson, de Camp, Norton, Van Vogt, Clement.)

Most importantly, the way an author like me looks on these things, all of them except Mack Reynolds and Robert Moore Williams are still in print—I’m talking about current, paper editions—and Reynolds and Williams are readily available in electronic and used paper editions.

I’m not going to do it, both because it would be very time-consuming and rather invidious, but I could dig through the records of writers who won more Hugos than any of the ones above and show that many of them are no longer in print and certainly not recognized in the SF Hall of Fame or by SFWA as Grand Masters. Some of them have been almost completely forgotten.

My point should be obvious. Even in the past, when our field was much, much smaller than it is today and Hugo Award voters had a much easier time assessing the entire field, there were always authors—plenty of them—who wound up getting barely noticed or entirely overlooked. Despite, in some cases, being authors who are today considered to be among the most important authors in our history.

Nowadays, the situation is far worse. The genre has become so huge that it is no longer possible for anyone to keep track of it in its entirety.

It. Can. Not. Be. Done.

Period. What that means, inevitably, is that there will be even more in the way of accidental and haphazard factors determining—or at least influencing—which authors get noticed by the fans who vote on the Hugos and which authors don’t.

There is no way around it. Anyone who tells you that it is possible to make the Hugo Awards “fair”—much less “fair and balanced”—is delusional.

Yes, they can be made somewhat fair-er. Mostly by adjusting the awards so that they fit modern publishing conditions instead of reflecting conditions that haven’t existed for decades. I’ll discuss that issue in my next essay. But even those adjustments are not magic wands. No matter what you do, no matter what measures are taken and adjustments are made, there will always remain an element of chance when it comes to which authors get nominated and win awards, and which don’t.

Thinking about this as an issue of “fairness” is a mistake in the first place. Making things “fair” is essential if you’re trying to design a contest. In a long foot race around a track, for instance, the starting position of each runner is staggered depending on which lane they occupy. That way each runner has the same chance of winning the race.

But the Hugo Award is not ultimately a contest, even though we tend (unfortunately) to use the terminology of contests. We speak of “winners” and “losers” even though neither term is really applicable to literary awards.

In what sense has a Hugo award “winner” won anything? Who did he or she defeat?

The other nominated authors? That’s ridiculous. They weren’t directly competing with each other in the first place. To do that, you’d have to set up the Hugos as a real contest, i.e., one in which everyone started on exactly the same footing. For instance, for the category of Best Novel, every contestant might be required to write an urban fantasy set in Duluth in the year 2015 featuring dwarves and dragons—no elves, not allowed!—which is between 110,000 and 112,000 words long, is written in the first person, and features at least one appearance of figures from Ojibwe mythology.

Now, that would be a real contest. That would be “fair.”

What you actually get are several stories which usually have nothing in common with each other except that they all fall within the (very, very broad) category known either as “fantasy and science fiction” or sometimes “speculative fiction.” None of them are really competing against each other. They’re simply the stories that the voters chose to honor by nominating them to be a possible recipient of the Hugo Award. They are not “contestants,” they are simply the agreed-upon pool from which one of them will receive the additional honor of being called “Best [Whatever]” and never mind that calling it “best” is damn silly. What it really should be called is “Most Favored by the Most People [Whatever].”

Okay, I know that’s awfully windy and we’re probably stuck with “best.” But don’t ever forget that what a Hugo Award really is, is an honor. It is not a “victory.” Nobody is “defeated.” All that happens is that one story gets an additional honor that the others didn’t get.

If people can think of it that way, then the issue of making the Hugo Awards “fair” loses its edge. It should still be made as reflective as possible of what authors are actually doing, rather than trying to cram stories into a pre-existing and ill-fitting framework. But people should stop thinking of being nominated for a Hugo (much less winning one) as a contest in which one person emerges as the “winner” and the rest are “losers”—and the ones who don’t get nominated at all are the “sorry-ass losers.”

An author—a very, very good author—might go through his or her entire career and never get nominated for a single award, or perhaps just one or two. Big deal. You are now in the company of Andre Norton, Fred Saberhagen, A. E. Van Vogt and Jack Williamson. How is that anything to feel badly about?

The best advice I ever got on this subject came very early in my career and it came from my mentor David Drake. What he said to me was the following:

“There are three things a writer can look for: readers, money, and awards. Decide which of those are most important to you, and in what order. Then guide your career accordingly. For me, my priorities are, first, to have readers; second, to make money; and third—a long way third—to garner awards.”

That struck me as good advice at the time. Today, almost two decades later, I know it to be excellent advice.

The only awards I’ve ever won as a writer were first place in the winter quarter of 1992 in the Writers of the Future contest, and the Darrell Award for Midsouth regional F&SF in 2008. That’s it.

Moving up my list of priorities—way up, in my case—I’ve been very successful as a writer in financial terms. The income from my last royalty period was a lot closer to six figures than four figures.

This is nice. This is very nice.

But the thing that pleased me the most about that royalty report was how long it was. It covered three pages and listed seventy-four separate titles that I’d earned royalties from in that period. Of that number, thirty-nine were novels; twelve were anthologies in which I had one or more stories, and the remaining twenty-three were from anthologies that I’d edited.

I have other volumes floating around out there that didn’t earn royalties this last period. But even leaving those aside, seventy-four volumes means that a lot of people somewhere in the world have recently or are right now or will be soon reading either a story of my own or I story I liked and brought into (or back into) the world.

There is no better feeling, for an author. An award sitting on a shelf would be very pleasant to have, no question about it. And money, of course, is always welcome. But I didn’t become a writer to make money or win awards. The truth is, when I started on this career I didn’t expect I’d ever make enough money to have a “career” at all. Then, when the money did start coming in—a lot more than I expected—I raised my sights to okay, I think I can scrape by on the money I make. I didn’t expect I’d earn nearly as much as I did as a machinist, but I didn’t need to. I just needed to make enough to keep myself and my wife afloat and help my daughter through college. If I could do that, I could devote the rest of my life to shaping the stories I wanted to tell the human race. Not because I thought they were the best stories anyone could possibly tell—I’m not that egotistical—but because they had one absolutely unique quality. They were my stories, born and bred and molded in the crucible of my life, and the one thing I could give the world that no one else could.

Any author who needs more than that to motivate his or her work is not really an author in the first place. They’re just trying to make a living by doing something that’s easier than working on an assembly line or waiting on tables, and less stressful than being a firefighter or a surgeon.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s an honest living. If you’re good at it, it’s even a useful living. But you’re not an author.

So, to those of you reading this who are writers yourselves and may have a story eligible to be considered for a Hugo award, have at it. But approach it like an author.

Don’t get worked up because a lot of what happens with awards isn’t “fair.” No, it’s not. It wasn’t “fair” a generation ago—consult the ghosts of Hal Clement, Andre Norton, Richard Matheson and James H. Schmitz—it’s not “fair” now and it’s not going to be “fair” after you’re dead and have joined those ghosts. Accept that now or you will just sink into stupid and pointless resentment.

Yes, there are some steps that could be taken that would improve the situation. I’ll get into those in my next essay. But there is no way to get around the objective reality that only a tiny percentage of eligible authors will ever or can ever receive a Hugo award—or even be nominated for one—and the odds that you will be in that select group are tiny. You will certainly improve your odds if you can write really well, but that’s all you can do—improve them.

If you can’t accept that—accept it ungrudgingly; better yet, cheerfully—then you’re not thinking like an author. You’re thinking like a damn fool.

(for the other posts on the Hugo controversy, visit the Hugo Controversy category.)

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68 Responses to NO, AWARDS AREN’T “FAIR.” NEVER HAVE BEEN, NEVER WILL BE. SO WHAT?

  1. Mike says:

    So how would someone go about writing if they actually did prioritize awards over readers or money?

    I guess they could analyze what kinds of stories had previously won the awards and intentionally set out to clone them.

    • Johnny says:

      The easiest one I can think of (for Hugos anyway) is to pump out short stories, novellas, and novelettes, just about to the exclusion of novels. As Flint has mentioned, the market today is heavily skewed towards novels-often much longer than the cutoff. By writing shorter stories, you’ll have both far more eligible works per hundred thousand words written and you’ll have less competition.

      Look at A Memory of Light- it’s what, 400,000 words? Compare that to writing a novelette, a novella, and a short story with ~ 35,000 words between them. You could have 33+ eligible stories in 3 categories for the same wordcount.

    • They might write grossly exaggerrated where not outright ahistorical nonsense like “We Have Always Fought,” Mike.

      And, by the way, just where did Shaka stationed his dreaded female combat impis at the Battle of Gqokli Hill?

      • Johnny says:

        Wait. Of all the possible examples, he chose the IMPI? As in, the “run 100 miles to the enemy and then some more to encircle them” impi? The impi where Shaka ordered any man who refused to abandon his sandals killed on the spot to slightly increase speed?

      • Mike says:

        Never heard of that essay before (I’ve said before that I really didn’t pay any attention to the Hugos until I got sucked into this discussion here on Eric Flint’s website), but I just found it online.

        I see she said that women fought for Shaka, but I didn’t see anywhere that she said they were impi. Does impi mean anyone who fought for Shaka, or only soldiers trained in certain tactics, or only soldiers in certain units? (All I really know about Shaka and the impi is that they are characters in Civ 5 and that Rorke’s Drift was a famous battle.)

        • An impi was an age based regiment that stayed together pretty much for life. There was no set size. The notion of age-based regiments appears to have been pretty normal in Bantu society. Shaka’s contributions included the technical (shields, iklwas) training-wise, discipline-wise, and in changing the Zulu method of warfare from primitive and ineffectual skirmishing to bloody but decisive maneuver culminating in vicious close combat. There were also impis of females and impis of boys, but they were _not_ combatants. They tagged along at the speed they could carrying cookpots, sleeping mats, and rations.

          What is particularly amusing in Kameron Hurley’s execrably silly – and Hugo Award winning – essay was the mention of “cattle” in the subtitle. Why amusing? Because to Shaka everyone was “cattle,” whereby he married his male combat impis off to female non-combat impis just like one might mate cattle, with complete disregard for their feelings on the subject.

          But women, even fairly tough women, standing up to the style was warfare inaugerated by Shaka among the Zulu and other Bantus? Preposterous.

          By the way, for varying reasons, Shaka’s name deserves to be mentioned among the greatest military names in human history: Hannibal, Scipio, Alexander, Napoleon, Caesar, Genghis Khan, etc.

    • Erwin says:

      For best novel, cloning some portion of Charles Stross’s novels would be a good place to start. Quite a few give me an ‘Oscar-vehicle’ vibe.

  2. Dave, and you, are some wise, wise guys.

  3. stellabystarlight says:

    Mr Flint I fully understand the points you have made about awards and authors but I think you are making the same misapprehension that many anti puppies make. Everyone seems to address only a few people. I joined because I am a fan of some authors that I think are being overlooked. Also in the same way it is easier to get angry when a friend is slighted I am getting riled at the way my favorite authors are getting treated. So I paid my 40 dollars and I placed my votes. No I did not vote for a slate which is why I think RP took the field. I did take this as an opportunity to get jump started into reading a broader range of science fiction. Was expecting some pushback but I thought it would take the form of having to defend my authors writing. So I think what is out there is a seething mass of fans many more than the folks at file 770 realize who are getting punched in the personals. We may care a lot more about you getting a Hugo than you do. We want to give our authors something more than our money. Thank You for the time and insight you have brought to the controversy .

    • Bibliotheca Servare says:

      Nicely put, if you don’t mind me saying. Be well.
      ;-)

    • Stevie says:

      Stellabystarlight

      The problem is that they are not your authors. The authors belong to themselves, and when you say ‘we want to give our authors more than money’ you are not making any sense, unless, of course, you do believe that certain authors are the personal property of a subsection of the book buying public, in which case you are simply wrong.

      As Neil Gaiman pointed out to a group of people who seemed to believe this to be the case, ‘George RR Martin is not your bitch”. I’ll extend that to ‘No author is your bitch’; you may regard yourself as the greatest fan ever, but the author may disagree. After all, not everybody wants to be associated with Theodore Beale, and many writers would be absolutely horrified by the thought.

      You also suggested to Eric that he was anti-puppies, and that he was labouring under a misapprehension as to publishing. The obsessive desire to believe that the world is divided into two parts is not one he shares, not least because it doesn’t make any sense, and I’m pretty sure that he knows more about the publishing world than you do.

      And finally, if people are getting punched in the personals then you call the police, who are much better equipped to deal with it than an author, however eminent he may be.

      • Bibliotheca Servare says:

        Way to miss the forest for the trees, mate. She wasn’t claiming ownership of authors, any more than a person from a small town who calls their local high school’s sports team “our” team is claiming to own the team or its players. It’s a quirk of English as a language. Words can have multiple meanings, depending on comtext and intent. Mindblowing, I know. Unless Stella forgot that slavery is illegal, I think it’s a safe bet to assume she was using “our” as an alternative to “the authors we love” or a similar sentiment. And the context supports that interpretation. Don’t you think?

        PS: punched in the personals. It’s called a metaphor. Google is your friend. Also, there is such a thing as insults and enraged online screeds “getting personal” you know. Hence the metaphor.

        Be well.
        :-)

        • Stevie says:

          Hi bibliotheca

          I’m not your mate, just as Eric Flint is not your bitch. I think it helps if you grapple with the fact that you are not the person with sole rights to everything in this conversation.

          And no, I think there are a lot of assumptions in your claims: not least that you are unhappy with the way Eric is calling it. Attempting to correct writers with very healthy sales figures, and extraordinary analytical skills is always going to end up with people laughing at you.

          As for the punched in the personals; it would be a lot funnier if you managed to use a phrase which people actually understand. I appreciate that a surgically excised sense of humour may well be useful in life’s viccisitudes, and I’m sorry you’re suffering the unwanted effects, but it doesn’t help you to socialise.

          Incidentally, my father was a slave on the Death Railway; I suspect that I know a great deal more about slavery than you do. Particularly the sort of slavery where starved, beaten men are put through hell. Though of course it will be hand waved away in the rewriting of history, it’s inconvenient to expect anyone to simply do their duty…

          • Bibliotheca Servare says:

            Let me know when you decide to behave, and speak, like a civilized, decent human being. Until then, I will assume it was your desire to exit the conversation. Further interaction with an individual as toxic as you have demonstrated, in both this comment, and your reply to Stella, that you are, can in no way be productive or conducive to the maintenance of a pleasant mood. I am aware you are not my “mate.” It is a friendly conversational gambit. However, I will note your lack of desire to be friendly with those you make wide, sweeping assumptions about on the internet. Incidentally? I have family members who have been enslaved, and whom I care for deeply, just as you evidently do. I simply did not see the need to speak about their experiences and the atrocities committed against them, when I was making a totally unrelated effort to point out your hyperbolic silliness in suggesting that the term “our,” as used by Stella, was in any way suggestive of the belief that the authors Stella was speaking of were her (quoting you) “slaves”. But if you want to have an “atrocity and horror-off” (a competition. “Whose horror was worse, folks? Send in yer votes now!”) well…I’d say I was game, but no, I am not. I refuse to disrespect my loved-ones’ experience by using said experience in an internet “dick measuring contest.” I’ll leave that sort of childish vulgarity to you, Mr. “Not Your Mate.” As an aside: I never suggested, nor stated, that I believed Mr. Flint was “[my] bitch.” I will thank you to not correct me on things I never said, thereby putting words -that I never said- into my mouth. Though I already said this, in the reply to you that you apparently declined to read thoroughly, Stella also never suggested that Mr. Flint was her “bitch.” You, incorrectly, inferred that that was her meaning, and then proceeded to repeat that false narrative as if it were the truth. Now then, I’ve already wasted far more time responding to your odious, distasteful reply to me than I had ever intended. Indeed I hadn’t intended to wrote a word when I visited here. But you succeeded in pissing me off to an altogether astonishing degree. Before writing any reply, reread the opening to this response. Then…unless your first words are a variant of “I apologize for my rude, uncivil, ill-thought-out response…” feel free to write nothing at all. Good day, and God bless you, sir.

          • Bibliotheca Servare says:

            Oh, and one more thing: I have never been so arrogant as to assume that my loved ones’ experiences gave me any more right than any other person to speak with authority on the subject of slavery. It gives, and gave, *them* such authority. Not me. It is interesting rto see what a person who believes the opposite is like. Not a pleasant image, as I suspected. Best of luck with that. (Believing that someone else’s experience, if they are close to you, makes you an authority on that experience) really, best of luck. Adieu!

  4. Calbeck says:

    So far, I have exactly one work out of the Hugo packet which I would consider voting “No Award” over. On File 770, I was advised that this is actually a Sad Puppy nominee: “Hill 142” by Jason Cordova.

    Which changes exactly nothing. I paid no attention to the nominations, and since becoming a WorldCon voting member I have only heard what is supposed to be this or that from people engaged in this controversy. I did not become involved because I wanted to blindly push through someone’s work to make some stupid ideological statement no one should care about in that context anyways.

    Distilling it down, that is the problem with the whole thing, though: it is, for both sides, a morality war.

    No one is arguing that rules or laws were broken in the nomination process. They argue that a moral Rubicon was crossed. Their opposition justifies doing so on their own set of arguments about how morally the Hugos have or haven’t been run in the past.

    No matter what fandom I’ve ever been mainly involved in at any given time (my FenVenn Diagram would have about a dozen overlapping circles), I have avoided such morality plays and grudge matches because, in all honesty, it is next to impossible to REALLY fisk the truth out of them. Too much happens behind closed doors or in someone’s mind to filter what the reality is out of it. Those few times I have gotten into a grudge match, it’s usually been to play peacemaker… yes, I’m sure some of those reading this, if not most, will enjoy a good scoff or two at that.

    Again, doesn’t change reality. I’m not going to try and morally censor someone for their personal political views, though I dislike extremism in general. And I’m not putting that “peacemaker” notation up there in hopes of actually being one here; that’s a lost cause. See: Morality War.

    So if I have to judge on basis of who has the moral high ground, it is not with people who enlist the press to lie about their opposition on their behalf. When a news outlet used to rumormongering as part of its business model has to stop and rewrite a story when advised they just committed libel, then yeah. That’s immoral, and given how many other news sites were repeating the story with the same talking-points — well, libel is after all, not something they could “find” for themselves except from libelous persons.

    This alone would have mobilized me for the Puppies (and I’ve talked already plenty about the other reason it got my attention in the first place).

    But then you have Ms. Gallo’s use of defamatory stereotypes specifically for the purpose of lying to a neutral party about her opposition. Where are the denunciations? Have I not seen it repeated so very often that if Vox Day said something in 2006, Puppies must denounce it now or be considered wholly in support of such things?

    Why do I see people popping up to justify spreading the term “neo-Nazi” around, not to mention insisting repeatedly that “racist, sexist homophobes” is an accurate description of all Puppies as a whole? Not even James May appears to go so far in terms of labeling ALL anti-Puppies as radical feminists or “SJWs”.

    If this is indeed nothing more than a morality war, it’s not the Puppies’ opponents who hold the high ground, and that is one reason I am so loathe, when they yell ” ‘No Award’ Will Save the Hugos!”, to consider their advice as anything more than the same sort of raving madness that has led to this field of pitchforks and torches I see arrayed before me.

    • Mary Frances says:

      Calbeck, Cordova hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo–he’s up for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is administered by WSFS but is a different award; any individual works in the Hugo packet are (I think) selected for inclusion by either the publishers or the authors, in order to demonstrate the writer’s eligibility for the award. Voters are really supposed to try to review the writer’s body of work for the given year (though that is often admittedly difficult and most voters tend to rely on their memory of specific works, I suspect). In other words, it’s a slightly different process–closer in some ways to voting for either of the “Best Editor” categories, maybe. (Not saying you should do any particular thing in voting for the Campbell or any particular Hugo category–just FYI about one of the awards you’ll be voting on.)

      • Calbeck says:

        Mary: that nonetheless was the reaction from the anti-Puppy gent. He claimed in fact that I was going to “No Award” two Sad Puppy nominees, despite my specific citation of Cordova’s “Hill 142”.

        The other “No Award” he cobbled from thin air — “Zombie Nation”, which had not arrived in my packet and I had no idea where to find (until a helpful person told me just today). I gave the choice I had made (“Sex Criminals”), and this was immediately cited as proof positive I would slap a “No Award” on “Zombie Nation”.

        Out of perhaps a dozen people who responded to my debut there, half treated it like an attack, some openly skewed what I had to say in the fashion above, and a couple actually were polite and had important questions to ask — which were largely buried in the linear landslide.

        I tried to keep up, but started missing things, and then started getting accused of “ignoring” and “dodging” things.

        Honestly, I’ve watched openly-dedicated trolls attacking Brad’s page get better treatment, because folks over there LIKE being able to fisk ridiculous claims to pieces. Maybe it’s something like shooting clay pigeons, I don’t know. Clamps shows up routinely, violating Brad’s IP bans to do so, and he’s always a source of merriment when he’s posting snips of someone’s old fanfics and telling them how they should just give up and stop writing.

        But enough about the Standard Operating Procedures of the Internet. I appreciate your courtesy and time in helping a relative nebbish to the Hugos find his way around. -:)

        • Mary Frances says:

          Well, fwiw, any reaction to your comment about Zombie Nation not being included in the Hugo packet has some context, too. Evidently several Puppies had previously commented about how annoyed they were that it wasn’t included in the packet–despite the fact that it on the Sad Puppy slate, and so presumably they should have been familiar with it (and the fact that it was a free web comic). That was . . . ironic, at least, and probably colored the response to anything you had to say about the Graphic Story category.

          • Reality Observer says:

            Perhaps Sad Puppies don’t assume that everyone is a Sad Puppy?

            That non-Sad Puppies should perhaps see everything that has been nominated and make up their own minds?

            • Bibliotheca Servare says:

              Indeed. That’s why I was irritated, at least, even if I didn’t voice my irritation in the comments at “circlejerk770.” Assuming that the only reason someone might be upset -about a nominated work not being included in the packet- is because they haven’t read the work yet…is a little silly, in my opinion. Understandable, maybe, but silly.
              ;-)

    • merkur says:

      “Why do I see people popping up to justify spreading the term “neo-Nazi” around…”

      FYI the only person spreading the term is Theodore Beale, the person who screencapped it, stored it and then spread it around in order to support his own strategy.

      • Reality Observer says:

        That comment only works if you don’t EVER visit tor.com.

        Pardon my unwillingness to suspend my disbelief…

        • Calbeck says:

          Or, for that matter, various other people posting in related threads on this very blog. I know it is a LOT to sift through and it’s not like they’re more than a single-digit percentage of posts, but there they are.

    • merkur says:

      “Have I not seen it repeated so very often that if Vox Day said something in 2006, Puppies must denounce it now or be considered wholly in support of such things?”

      Can you provide some links so that we can see how very often it has been repeated? That sort of evidence could definitely persuade neutral outsiders which side is in the right here.

      • Calbeck says:

        That was, in fact, the first link I was provided by an anti-Puppy when arguing how terrible Vox Day was. He was quoted, and a link provided for the quote.

        The link went to commentary a website he contributed to, and the date on the article was from 2006.

        “How very often”? How often does it have to happen, that someone’s fresh and recent horrible remark gets written off as “just an offhand comment” while someone else gets dredged up from nearly a decade ago to prove how horrible THEY are?

        This “minimize me, maximize you” nonsense is what I have seen in every damn Internet “debate” since the ’80s. That’s what turned me into a “brass tacks” person: I cut to the center of the matter.

        Here, the center is not how someone justifies calling all Rabid Puppies neo-Nazis and all Puppies as a whole racist, sexist and homophobic.

        The center is what Flint said: that these charges are bupkis, with the SOLE possible exception of Day, who not even Flint thinks is really a neo-Nazi.

        My annoyance relative to that are the people DEFENDING Gallo’s remarks… and in their virtual entirety, they do so by relying on guilt-by-association fallacies centered almost wholly on Day.

  5. David Lang says:

    Everything you say is correct. As Toni W says, the best award is the Benjamin award (as in folding money)

    But for those of us who aren’t authors, and who I believe make up the vast majority of the puppies groups, is there anything wrong with us saying that we think our favorite authors should win the trophy type awards as well? Is there anything “unfair” about fans of popular authors purchasing memberships in Worldcon and voting for our favorites?

    Or should we leave the awards to those who prioritize awards of money or readers and not be unfair by taking the awards away from them as well?

    It’s one thing to talk about how writers should prioritize things, but readers don’t have the ability to set the priorities the way that writers do, so our options are much more limited.

    It is possible that the vast majority of voters for the Hugo are writers (either published or only hopeful), and that in practice the award is from writers to other writers, but that’s not what they claim.

    • Hampus Eckerman says:

      Absolutely no one has spoken against anyone, puppies or not, becoming member of Worldcon and voting for their favorites. That is what everyone is doing.

      • ahd says:

        Absolutely no-one?

        • John Cowan says:

          Of course not. You can’t even say that absolutely no one believes the earth is flat.

          • Scott says:

            The Flat Earth Society is alive and well, but it’s the hollow-earthers that really creep me out….

            • Bruce says:

              I’d love to see a hard-sf version of Edgar Rice Burroughs The Moon Maid. A robot lands on a small solid moon, spends a thousand years mining ALL the valuable metals, heaps the slag in a sphere to reduce outgassing losses, uses bacteria to get every last valuable molecule, breeds humanoids to harvest the internal biosphere. Leaves? Maybe. A stranger comes to town.

          • ahd says:

            Thought so. (:

            If I were cruel, I would ask how even the split is between “these strange new supporting members are barbarians at the gate and might even be Puppies, see them off” and “potential voters are all welcome, even if we haven’t seen many of them before now. I wonder what they read?”

            Because you seem to be trying very hard to imply that it’s 99.9999999% b) and the remainder a) over in the land of the Puppy-kickers.

            …without having to say that out loud where you’d have to defend it as plausible in so many words.

            But yes, seems legit. (:

        • David Weingart says:

          Every person involved with running Worldcon has said repeatedly that everyone is welcome to become a member of Sasquan. That implies that they can vote the way they want. (Note that I am one of those people)

          • Reality Observer says:

            The people running Worldcon, IMHO, are the only ones who have absolutely held to their duty of COMPLETE non-involvement in the controversy.

            Good job, people.

            That does not mean that everyone else is “bad” somehow – nobody else has a “duty” to stay out of the fray. (Some, though, do have a responsibility to keep their employers out of it – and fail miserably.)

            • Bibliotheca Servare says:

              Except for Kevin Standlee comparing the “puppy” voters to people who come to a potluck, dislike the dishes on offer, and proceed to overturn the tables like a bunch of maniacs. (his livejournal. [“fandom is my way of life”] Just google his name, go to the livejournal, and look for “fandom is a potluck dinner”) His opinion and loathing of non “trufans” (his, and their, term) who “misbehave” and whose voting preference he disagrees with are quite clear, even if he does a decent job of holding himself back, for the most part. How heartening that he’s the chair of this years business meeting, and he’s going to have access to the recordings.

              • snowcrash says:

                “Trufan” is a term with a great deal of history behind it within the SF fandom community. Similar to SMOF/ fen / slan/ etc.

                Regarding your snide allegations against the character and conduct of Kevin Standlee – he is more than capable of shooting down your obvious mis-characterization of his words, and all it needs is the original post which you don’t provide a link to:

                http://kevin-standlee.livejournal.com/1452959.html

              • Bibliotheca Servare says:

                “..Well, now we’ve got people who started coming to the pot-luck, paying the share of the hall rental, and are angry that we’ve been choosing things they personally hate to eat, and have decided that they want to knock over all of the tables with food they dislike and insist that the rest of us eat that stuff that they personally like, because they say so. …”

                A direct quote. Read your own link. Also, read the comments. At the very bottom, he says that, if the “sad puppies” are “really” just fans excited to participate in the Hugo process, who happen to not know all the ‘protocol’ but do know the rules (paraphrasing the (anon) person he’s replying to, so read that person’s comments as well , or you’ll probably be tempted to claim, again, that im a lying sack of crap…and that’s not nice) then they’ll “never” (a quote…it makes sense in context) do something like this again. (He says something like “form a slate” or “corrupt the nominating process”) Yeah. He’s completely neutral. Doesn’t make his dislike of the ‘puppies’ clear, at allll. Yes, I know I said loathing. That’s the sense I got. Either way, he shares the sentiments of the folks saying that the “puppies” ‘gamed the system’ even if they/we didn’t break any rules. No, we just voted. We happened to agree with the tastes of several of our favorite authors. (Shocker) And as a result, Mr. Standlee’s “tables” got “knocked over” by a bunch of a**holes. Or, the food that he was *hoping* would be at the potluck *wasn’t* at the potluck because a whole bunch of weirdos with weird accents and funny clothes invaded his, and his ‘trufan’ friends’ (I don’t care that it’s and old “title”. It pisess me off. If that makes me an ignorant barbarian in your eyes…well, I’ll live) nice, quiet, peaceful little gathering, and they (the invading foreigners…
                the “puppies “) brought their own, weird-smelling, funny-tasting, food, and they loaded up the tables with it before Kevin and his buds even got to the potluck. And now Kevin, you, and all the “regulars” at the “potluck” that Kevin calls fandom, are pissed off that these “furriners” (foreigners) are stinking up, and generally ruining, your, and his, party. And you’ve decided that, even though they/we haven’t broken a single rule, because we “arrived too early” (voted too similarly) all our dishes are worthless and we are awful, terrinle, “unethical” people. Put a different spin on it, and it really makes you guys look like jerks, huh? But spin, is just that, spin. It’s a fricking rocket statue. More fans than ever in recent history are participating. What’s there to be pissed about? Seriously, what?
                Be well. Pardon if I’ve been to acerbic or rude, I’m falling asleep as I…type? Is it still typing on a touchscreen? Or is it tapping? I-*thud* *snoring sound* ;-)

      • David Lang says:

        so I’ve just been imagining all the hatred pointed in the direction of the puppy voters? nobody anywhere has spoken against them?

        I will agree that there has been nobody on the woldcon staff who has done so. They have been utterly professional about things all along.

        but my post was in response to Eric’s suggestion that authors should decide what they want, money, readers, or awards, and go after their priority (leaving the others for those who have them as their priority is the implied subtext), and Authors should get back to writing.

        I’m posting from the point of view of a non-author. Why is it wrong for me to plunk my money down and use my time to advocate in favor of an author I like?

        • gaffi8ed says:

          David, the fiction Hugos are intended to be awarded for specific works, on merit. Works are nominated, not authors. So the idea of advocating for an author you like, rather than for a work you praise, is not quite in focus.

          There are a few categories where persons rather than works are nominated, and those -do- tend to end up as a sort of lifetime achievement award.

  6. Talvin Muircastle says:

    “For instance, for the category of Best Novel, every contestant might be required to write an urban fantasy set in Duluth in the year 2015 featuring dwarves and dragons—no elves, not allowed!—which is between 110,000 and 112,000 words long, is written in the first person, and features at least one appearance of figures from Ojibwe mythology.”

    I’d buy it.

    I even know which (currently Hugo-nominated) Author/Editor I’d pick to write it. :P

  7. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    A couple of times I got misty eyed reading this. “..because they had one absolutely unique quality. They were my stories, born and bred and molded in the crucible of my life, and the one thing I could give the world that no one else could. …” made me get a lump in my throat. Excellent post, Mr. Flint. I don’t even disagree with any of it. I would however point you to a couple commenters, one of a whom I responded to by saying that their comment was “well put” because it was well put, whose perspectives as fans participating in the Hugo process simply because they thought the authors they loved deserved a chance at an award, even if those authors really didn’t care about awards. Their perspective was *my* perspective, when I decided to participate in this whole thing. God bless, sir.
    ;-)

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  9. Stewart says:

    Eric —
    You didn’t mention three of the Masters of SF — Asimov, Heinlen and Bradbury. I don’t remember seeing Hugo or Nebula stickers on their books — they may have pre-dated them, but I don’t think any one of those three would have cared the south-end of a north-bound rat about them, and, like de Camp and Norton, they’re STILL in print 20+ years after their passing (and their estates enjoy the revenue, thank you very much).
    On the Fantasy side, two who pre-date these awards are still in Hardback print. I speak, of course of J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend C.S.Lewis (40+ after death for Tolkien and 50+ for Lewis).
    I think you and Drake have it right. A good story, well crafted and well told will last MUCH longer than a fad here today and next year in the garage sale stack.
    Carry On, Sir (sorry, I know you work for a living).
    Don’t let the &$$holes get you down.

    — Stewart

    • Scott Lynch says:

      Heinlein won at least four Hugos and Asimov at least five, not even counting special awards.

      Cheers– SL

    • Pete M says:

      Heinlein won four best novel Hugos, more than any other author until Lois Bujold tied his record. And he was nominated several other times but lost. He also won a posthumous retro-Hugo. He probably would have won a dozen or so, but his short fiction career mostly predated the Hugos.

      Asimov won several Hugo Awards, including some special awards like “Best All Time Series” for The Foundation Trilogy. He also won for his autobiography, but he won Best Novel Twice, for Foundation’s Edge and The Gods Themselves.

      • Tibicina says:

        Heinlein also won several Hugos in various short fiction categories.

        Bradbury, as near as I can tell, only got a retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451 (though I believe he was nominated several other times.)

  10. Mr. Flint makes much sense in these essays he’s writing. Moreover, he writes very well. I know this because I’ve read some of his essays, and I’ve downloaded a book he wrote . I don’t think his stories are exactly my cup of tea, but I appreciate the craft in them. I agree with those who say that they spent their $40 to be able to vote for their favorite authors because that is what the fan should do in this award. What has made me mad about this whole thing is the shrill tone from the anti-puppy side, and the use of scurrilous calumnies against the puppies.

    If fans and authors all vote, and vote based on the nominees, then this may be a blip in the history of the Hugo. But the idea of asking people to vote “No award” and to call the stories of the nominees bad-to-reprehensible is more underhanded than anything the puppies have done.

    There was a time when the Hugo meant something, that one could pick up the book with the gaudy gold stamp on its front and find an interesting read. This has not been necessarily so recently. I admit that even when the Hugo meant something, several great authors were ignored. I teethed on “Doc” Smith and Andre Norton. I read most of the authors listed above, who never got an award. The books were still great, and I loved them. Even if the Hugo meant something, it did not lessen my enjoyment of the non-winners.

    Just my two cents. Thanks, Eric.

    • Hampus Eckerman says:

      Well, there are just a few of the puppy nominations that I find good. Of the stories as yet A Single Samurai and Totaled (haven’t read Butcher yet). Those I will vote above no award. The rest of those I have read didn’t even reach above the middle of the field and some were very clearly bottom of the field. I mean, some stories weren’t even finished!

      Those I will vote below No Award. A gold stamp on them would be a disaster for the Hugos.

    • Mary Frances says:

      . . . one could pick up the book with the gaudy gold stamp on its front and find an interesting read.

      Um, I think you are thinking of the Newbery Medal winners? Maybe? Some publishers do put “Hugo Award Winner” on the cover of books, in follow-up editions or on other books by Hugo Award winning authors, but I don’t believe there is an official “stamp”–didn’t used to be, anyway. That probably has something to do with the fact that the Hugo started out as much as an award for short fiction published in magazines as for anything else . . .

      Not that it matters. Just an a fyi.

  11. Reziac says:

    Given that so many deserving works will never attract a Hugo, isn’t it actually contingent upon fans (and authors) to promote their favored works? The SP complain boils down to “only a few get noticed” (regardless of which few one believes that is). I’d never even heard of half the current Hugo candidate authors before the kerfluffle; shouldn’t I be glad they were brought to my attention? And if a Hugo-worthy work has slipped my mind, shouldn’t I be glad to be reminded? (Remembering that many fans don’t read trade pubs or review sites, nor participate in organised fandom.)

    BTW of the list of the historically-neglected, the only one I’m unfamiliar with is Robert Moore Williams. Conversely, on today’s shelves more of the names are unfamiliar than not. I need an upgrade, tho I’m not sure if to my time machine or my cave…

    • Mary Frances says:

      Well, yes, agreed, but if you go to the Hugo Awards website-FAQ, you’ll find this:

      “What if I still want to promote my book/film/self for a Hugo?

      Our advice: Be careful. Excessively campaigning for a Hugo Award can be frowned upon by regular Hugo voters and has been known to backfire.”

      That’s been up for quite a while, by the way–in other words, it’s a difficult balance. Some authors/creators/publishers have managed to negotiate it successfully; others–not so much. And even the successful ones have been criticized over the years.

  12. John Cowan says:

    Leigh Brackett didn’t win a personal Hugo (she wrote very little sf/f after 1953), but she wrote the screenplay of a film that did win one.

  13. TK Davis says:

    The Hugos are most helpful for authors who are trying to find a wider audience. Kameron Hurley has written posts about the “Hugo bump” and what that does not just for the current book/story/article but how it can increase sales of older works. So I can see how winning a major award like the Hugos impacts the more universally-held goal of “getting readers” and “making money.”

    But yeah, this doesn’t mean that the Hugos or any other award will ever be “fair.” How could it? There’s no way everyone is ever going to agree on things like this.

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  15. Christopher Weuve says:

    Hmmm, I think I want to win a Hugo. My story will be titled “No Award.”

    (Thanks to Eric for another thoughtful and articulate post. I meant to thank you for this series of posts at Manticon at closing ceremonies, and only discovered then that I should not have waited.)

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  18. Another excellent post. The Hugos or any kind of literary award is not a egalitarian event and can’t be an egalitarian process. It isn’t fair because it elevates 5 nominees in a given category above everyone in that field and then elevates one of those above the rest.
    Any critique of Hugos based on fairness is inherently flawed.

    that doesn’t mean there can’t be criticisms of the Hugos in terms of due process, purpose or value.

    I’ll be voting this way: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/hugo-voting-strategy-high-bar-no-award/

  19. When I won Writers of the Future in late 2009 (attended and published in 2010) I sat down with my wife and we evaluated our priorities. A new “career” seemed to have been birthed, with money on the hoof. Accordingly, making money and having fun telling stories, have remained the #1 and (very close second) #2 objectives. I’ve gotten some awards (beyond Writers of the Future) of which I am very proud — especially the Analog AnLabs — but I like David Drake’s prioritization matrix very much. In fact, almost every mentor I’ve got, uses a similar or identical matrix. Either explicitly, or implicitly.

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