Puppy Kicking

This year's Hugo Awards at Sasquan, the World SF Convention in Spokane, were unusual. Never before had Dramatic Presentation been handed out, or suckered out, by a Dalek. Never before had Best Novel been presented (via pre-recorded video, but never mind) by an astronaut on the International Space Station. And never before ... but first, some background.

After a troubled summer in SF circles, Sasquan's permanent reek of smoke from raging US wildfires seemed appropriate. In SFX 262 I told how "Sad Puppies" and "Rabid Puppies" factions gamed the Hugo nominations to swamp the final ballot with their choices, and guessed there'd be widespread voting for No Award. Since then, record numbers had paid $40 for Hugo voting rights. No one knew whether the surge was pro- or anti-Puppy.

Anti, as it turned out. "No Award", which had taken Hugos only five times since 1953, was announced five more times in one evening – for Novella, Short Story, Related Work (nonfiction) and both Professional Editor categories. These were the Hugo slots entirely filled by Puppy nominees.

Elsewhere, from the fan awards to Best Novel (Cixin Lui's The Three-Body Problem, the first ever Chinese winner), Puppies were generally smacked with the rolled-up newspaper of placing below No Award. The only winner from the slates, for Best Dramatic Presentation, was Guardians of the Galaxy – which voters clearly reckoned was worthy on its own merits.

Was this cruel? It was hard for Pup nominees to sit through cheers of relief at each "No Award" (though they could have refused the tainted nomination, as some principled folk did). Very few Puppy works had award-winning quality, and many were downright awful. The Sad slate was mostly cronyism, with Sad leader Brad Torgersen listing his buddies without worrying about old-fashioned criteria like actual quality. The Rabid slate added naked self-promotion: Theodore "Vox Day" Beale, the Arch-Rabid, unashamedly stuffed the ballot with work from his own small press Castalia House.

That apart, what are the Puppies' aims? The official ideology varies for day to day, with goalposts not so much motorized as fitted with faster-than-light drive. Essentially, Puppies Want Hugos and have been unfairly deprived of them by a tiny, evil cabal of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) who for many years have controlled the award – no actual evidence here, but THEY KNOW IT – and prevented nomination of Puppy-favoured SF.

What Puppies say they like includes media tie-in SF, which was nevertheless mysteriously omitted from their slates, and military SF ... unless it's by the very successful military-SF author John Scalzi, who understatedly refers to Beale as RSHD (Racist Sexist Homophobic Dipshit) and is Puppy Public Enemy #1.

What Puppies hate also seems to include girlies who write acclaimed military SF. Especially Ann Leckie, whose Ancillary Justice won the 2014 Hugo but is BAD because told from the viewpoint of an embodied AI who doesn't understand gender and calls everyone "she". This is just too yucky (the technical US critical term is "girl cooties"), and proves that Leckie's Hugo victory resulted from the SJW conspiracy. Likewise, presumably, her wins of the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, Locus and Nebula awards – pretty much a clean sweep of the top SF honours.

Weirdly, the Rabids hailed Cixin Liu's Hugo win as their triumph because (after pushing him off the ballot with slate tactics; he got in because someone withdrew) Beale decided he liked the novel. Meanwhile some Sads sneered at voters as Commie fellow-travellers with sinister reasons for supporting a "Chicom" author.

The 2015 Worldcon business meeting passed some measures against ballot-stuffing, but these need ratification in 2016 to take effect in 2017. Expect another year of shenanigans, with those who dislike slate voting again being abused as SJWs and Puppy-Kickers. What jolly fun!

David Langford is so glad to be out of the Hugo running.