The 2015 Hugo nominations caused widespread gloom and outrage. There'd been dark forebodings about a shortlist hijacked by politics – gloating hints on Facebook – and a news embargo broken by the unexpected tweet "Guess Who's A Hugo Nominee?"
Last year's Hugos suffered a bloc-vote campaign from conservative US authors claiming discrimination against their favourite military action-adventures. This made them sad; their "Sad Puppies" (SP) slate promoted their own and their buddies' work, boosting some titles onto the Hugo shortlist though not to final victory. Worldcon voters chose otherwise.
The next SP campaign realized the best strategy was to allow those pesky final-ballot voters no choice. There's a huge spread of nominations for each category, with thousands of Worldcon members' preferences scattered across hundreds of possibles competing for just five slots on the Hugo ballot. The SPs concocted a complete slate of five nominees for (almost) all Hugo categories, and instructed their supporters to vote the straight ticket chosen by the Central Council.
It worked. Using these morally dodgy but legally permissible tactics, a modest percentage of the electorate can indeed dominate the ballot. As first announced, slate choices completely filled both Editor categories, Related Work (nonfiction), Short Story, Novelette and Novella, with only two non-slate finalists for Best Novel. One novelette was later ruled ineligible.
More complications! SP associate Vox Day had created a variant "Rabid Puppies" slate which additionally, shamelessly, pushed himself and stories from his own small press Castalia House. Despite VD's publicly expressed racism, misogyny, neo-Nazi sympathies and general obnoxiousness, RP was even more successful than SP, with seven Castalia stories on the 2015 Hugo ballot. Not bad for a hitherto unknown publisher. Apparently VD has many supporters in games fandom who bought Worldcon memberships and nominated as instructed. Just why is a mystery.
Morally dubious, I wrote, but the SP/RPs say it has to be OK since "obviously" leftist "Social Justice Warriors" must have done this for years to deny past Hugos to Puppy-loved candidates. George R.R. Martin, who's watched the SF awards scene since the 1970s, paused work on his latest Game of Thrones novel for several long patient posts at grrm.livejournal.com, explaining that they'd got it wrong and there's no secret Hugo-controlling cabal (though the Scientologists tried once). Alas, he used logic. The Puppy response was that GRRM is sadly deluded.
Yes, the Hugo voters' vagaries have created past embarrassments, but it was painful to see so much lacklustre fiction – some very poor – railroaded onto the 2015 ballot by slate-voting tactics. Also depressing is having the Hugos dragged into US culture wars: Puppies claim in public that they're simply promoting exciting adventure fiction with no horrid political subtext, while gloating on blogs that this will make those pinko liberals' heads explode, har har. They love Robert Heinlein but forgot the recent major Heinlein biography in their nonfiction slate – so that was crowded out too. One Puppy nonfiction choice is all political message and no SF, but the right kind of politics.
Some people found themselves on the slate without their knowledge, or without realizing this wasn't a friendly recommendations list but an ideological battle plan. At least one refused nomination before the shortlist was announced, and (unprecedentedly) three more afterwards – one too late for the ballot to be changed. Meanwhile Vox Day, sounding increasingly like a B-movie villain with a volcano lair, warns that if he is thwarted he will destroy the Hugos forever.
What could thwart rabid puppydom? Every Hugo ballot category has one choice that no nomination slate can change. In the most rigged categories, many sad non-puppies plan to vote No Award.
David Langford is so glad not to be nominated. See many links at news.ansible.uk/misc/link15.html#hugonoms.