H.G. Wells on…Puppies?

“Very much of the Fiction of the Future pretty frankly abandons the prophetic altogether, and becomes polemical, cautionary, or idealistic, and a mere footnote and commentary to our present discontents.”

-H.G. Wells, Anticipations

This is a prophetic observation indeed, having been written over a century before the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies foofaraw, whose core complaint was that mainstream science fiction as a genre had been co-opted by the totalizing left as just another conduit for its political propaganda and grievance-mongery and wasn’t fun, exciting, thought-provoking, or inspiring any more.

And yes, it’s ironic to have Wells complaining about that when he later in the same book advocates subverting all human activity and institutions to indoctrinate the public with his “global commonweal” idea. I guess when its his own “future technocratic utopia” instead of the mere “present discontents” of others, using absolutely every literary product for propaganda is peachy.

Humanitarians with Guillotines

An interesting overview of the growing threats to free speech from SJWs.

I, too, am convinced that these activists, with their MO of hysterical crusades, are one of today’s biggest threats to free speech, open inquiry, and genuine tolerance, at least on college campuses. The illiberal climate fostered by these ideologues seems to be spreading throughout academia and is continuing to dominate the headlines…

These groups and their tactics represent what Jonathan Rauch would describe as the “humanitarian” challenge to free speech. In his must-read book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Rauch identified how these “humanitarians” sought to prevent “offense” to “oppressed and historically marginalized” peoples. In the name of “compassion,” words became conflated with physical action.

As speech codes spread and the definition of “harassment” (reading a book in public, for instance) became broader within the bureaucracy of academia, an “offendedness sweepstakes” was cultivated and turned into the norm.

Sound familiar?

An Alternative Strategy to No-Awarding the Hugos

Connie Willis has announced she has turned down an offer to be a Hugo presenter at this year’s Worldcon.

Annie Bellet has withdrawn her nominated short-story from consideration.

Marko Kloos has withdrawn his nominated novel from consideration.

All in the past roughly 24 hours.

(Larry Correia comments here. Vox Day comments here.)

Anyone care to bet that the new strategy on the part of those offended by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies campaigns is to persuade anyone they can influence to simply refuse to participate?

It’s not a bad strategy. If those offended choose to “No Award” and (ironically) organize a sufficiently large campaign to push the SP/RP nominees off the slate, they have already been warned that they risk the same treatment next year (or worse: the entire Hugos list being no-awarded). But if they can convince a sizeable portion of the nominees to withdraw their work from consideration – especially those not on the SP/RP slates – it creates the appearance that those who do win will have received their awards by forfeit rather than merit. This is the natural conclusion to be drawn from the assertion that the nominees were nominated in the first place for reasons other than merit. It makes bitter ashes of the award.

If others are persuaded to decline offers from Sasquan to present the awards or appear in connection with the Hugo Awards – or to participate in the con itself as a panelist or speaker – it further emphasizes the “corrupted” nature of this year’s awards. This works as well with the rank-and-file fans: if enough fans can be persuaded to boycott Sasquan in protest over the SP/RP campaigns (perhaps including interested parties arranging for any already-purchased tickets to be credited towards tickets for a different SF/F con), it further emphasizes the message that the awards are corrupt and deserve to be shunned.

And why not go all the way and encourage people to simply not to vote at all? It may not be as vindictively satisfying as directly shutting out SP/RP nominees through organized “No Award” voting, but if one regards the awards this year as corrupted already, why not let the offending nominees have them as punishment? Note that this can be done quietly and without the same risk of retaliation on next year’s awards.

Might I suggest a bumper-sticker slogan for those considering such a strategy? How about “Participation is Sanction”? It’s efficient, it’s euphonic, it’s evocative. You’re welcome.

On the other hand, it’s not exactly a good strategy, either.

For one, it’s poor sportsmanship, a form of taking your marbles and going home when you don’t get your way. One of the Puppies’ main points is that the Hugos (as a microcosm of SF/F culture) have become dominated by an intolerant and entitled clique of like-minded, closed-minded, hive-minded people, people who shut out outsiders on political or cultural grounds rather than the merit of their work. Whether it’s a vocal “No Award” campaign or a quieter shunning effort, it still amounts to the same thing: sabotaging the awards because – for the first time in a long time – a substantial number of unpersons received nominations, specifically to devalue any awards given to those outsiders. Such sabotage would not come across less like a noble gesture aimed at preserving the honor and dignity of the Hugos, and more like a clique of high-school girls – piqued that a group of students managed to get a couple of chess-club girls on the homecoming queen ballot at the expense of a couple of their own – withdrawing their own nominations, getting the band to bail out, and persuading a bunch of their classmates not to go to the dance.

For another, it would do the same long-term damage to the reputation of the Hugos that opponents claim the SP/RP campaigns are doing. One might use this strategy to create the impression that the Hugos this year are corrupt and the winners undeserving due to the withdrawal of competition. But once the brand is tarnished, how does the tarnish not carry over to subsequent years – especially since the same perception that the Hugos are awarded by forfeit can be turned against the other side next year if the SP/RP side simply does not participate. Indeed, it’s perfectly predictable that in the case of Puppy strategic non-participation the SJWs would overreach in their efforts to “restore” the award’s reputation, crowing even louder than in past years that the awards will go to those who truly deserve them…by which is meant those with the accepted thinking and those whose product and lives tick the right boxes on the SJW checklist, regardless of the merit or even science fiction/fantasy content of their work. This year a Hugo will mean something again, they will claim, because none of those icky sexist homophobic racist white men are on the ballot! But the victory would in fact be no less a forfeit than when the strategy was used by their own side, and for as long as this status quo ante is pushed as the way things are supposed to be, such claims would ring hollow for their now-exposed hypocrisy and would merely demonstrate that the Puppies were right all along in their contention that the Hugos are simply and SJW popularity contest.

Try polishing that off your Hugo.

ETA: I meant to work in that the ideal “final blow” of this strategy would be to create so much trouble for Worldcon — no presenters, reduced attendance, etc. – that they have grounds for canceling the awards presentation. I don’t know if that is possible under Worldcon rules, but it’s an interesting possibility those gnashing/rending over the nominations might want to consider. Why settle for half-measures when you can indulge your petty vindictiveness all the way?

Through the Looking Glass

The comments here (and on the preceding two threads on the subject) make for some interesting reading: Making Light: The 2015 Hugo finalists. It’s like peering into a madhouse where self-reflection and self-awareness don’t exist. I wonder if these folks recognize that they are using the same arguments to defend their own positions that their ideological opposites use to explain and defend theirs (look for the comment recycling the conservative/libertarian critique of affirmative action, for one obvious example). It could be parody. I don’t think it is.

My take on the matter is increasingly that the Sad Puppies campaign is the wrong approach to the perceived problem – having made a point with the first Sad Puppies effort, the right approach would have been (and still is, now) to establish a new award and let the market sort out over time which one better reflects quality. If leftists have indeed corrupted the Hugos to the point that an award or a nomination informs potential readers that the work is preachy crap selected for political conformity rather than its value as SF/F, better to start fresh and build up a new alternative with no such baggage than to battle said leftists to salvage it.

You can’t un-rot a spoiled apple. Sometimes things that once had value no longer do, however much we sentimentally wish otherwise.

ETA: Larry Correia, alleged to have launched the whole thing in order to win a Hugo for himself…um…declined his nomination.

Breitbart London has a backgrounder on the Hugo Awards foofooraw.

ETA2: I should have included a listing of the awards at the beginning: 2014 Hugo Nominations. Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees. I look forward to reading what I’ve missed this past year in the review packets.

ETA3: Sarah Hoyt discusses the Hugos and touches on the brouhaha: An Update

Commenter Francis W. Porretto makes a similar point to what I wrote above (more succinctly than I did):

This is the most important line in the piece. No award can have stature in and of itself. It borrows stature from those to whom it’s awarded — and if their merit is little, so will be that of the award. All else is self-deception.

I read “those to whom it’s awarded” as the works rather than the authors in the case of Hugo Awards. It can apply to both, but I don’t see the stature of the authors themselves as being a specific issue in the Sad Puppies campaign – it’s that award-winning material has been of declining quality for two decades or longer, the prestige of the award declining along with the merit of that to which it has been given.

I say two decades, but I suspect in my case it’s been longer than that. I don’t even remember when I started regarding any award mentions on book covers as warning signs rather than badges of quality, but I’d guess as early as the late 1980s. If a book has received one or more big-name awards or nominations for same, I regard it with the same suspicion with which I learned (the hard way) to regard books recommended by Oprah, and for much the same reasons.

Contrast this with the Prometheus Awards, which are up-front about their philosophical bent and so offer a more reliable, honest indicator of the content’s quality with regard to that bent.

Larry Correia and the Hugo Nominations

This is interesting:  An Explanation About the Hugo Awards Controversy

Larry is an awesome writer. No question. But damn – he writes more in a single blog post than I manage to write in a whole day of dedicated writing. Makes me jealous.

The shorter short version of the linked article is that he’s exposed the hypocrisy of the left-leaning SF/F crowd regarding its bias against and exclusionary habits towards those with whom it disagrees. It’s delicious.