Thursday, September 10, 2015

Obvious Solution...Is Obvious

I have been a science fiction fan since my mother gave me her copy of Dune when I was eight years old.  And I am ashamed of what happened at the Wordcon.

The Hugo awards are very simple.  “The BEST science fiction of the year.”  Not “the best message science fiction.”  Not “the best fiction written by a pre-approved clique of writers.”  And most definitely not “the best fiction but only if it’s nominated by the right people.”

There are two evils of Hugo voting.  The greater evil is “voting without reading,” and the lesser evil is “voting based on stuff besides the merits of the story.”

700 people thought Toni Weisskopf deserved a Hugo nomination.  1200 people thought she deserved the award itself, and well over 2000 people voted for one of three woman to win that particular award.

And then, 2500 zombie voters declared that all of those thousands of votes were null and void.  (Yes, I call them zombies because their tactics remind me of crooked Chicago politics; if the election isn’t going your way, dig up some denizens of the local graveyard to help swing the numbers back the way you want them.)  The same 2500 people locked out five categories in total.

Those 2500 zombies perpetrated both evils in one swoop.  They didn’t bother to read the stories, and then voted--not based on the merits of the work, or even the author of the stories themselves, but on the names of the people who nominated them.

And then they celebrated this fiasco.  They actually cheered for No Award.

Those 2000 people, who voted in good faith, what must they be thinking?  The neutrals are probably leaning Sad Puppy at this point, considering how they were treated.  The Sad Puppies are very likely to morph into Rabid Puppies.

And the Rabids themselves?  They are probably trying to decide what to nominate next year.  Top of their lists so far are J. Jonah Jameson for Best Editor, Baby’s First Star Wars Picture Book for Best Novel, and SJWs Always Lie for Best Related Work.

I am a voracious reader, as is all of my family.  And from here on out, when I go to buy a book, I will be checking the author.  If they celebrated this irrational victory of politics over principle, then my money will go to other writers.

The punchline to this is Three Body Problem, the book that won Best Novel.  Vox Day didn’t get a chance to read it before the deadline, so he didn’t nominate it.  He did rank it at the top of his final ballot, however, and declared that he would have nominated it, had he read it.  It won, solely because Vox did not nominate it.  And like Larry Correia points out, that’s the problem with the Hugos right there.  Three Body Problem didn’t win because the community thought it was the best--it won to supposedly spite the people who would have nominated it but for timing.

Science fiction is a community, and the Hugo voters are drawn from that community.  Pay your $40 and you’re in; no entrance exam, no psych eval, no blood test, just forty bucks and a love of the genre.  You can’t “police” that community, because there’s no wall around it; you can’t police a self-selecting group.

So, from that regard, the furor over this year’s Hugo nominations is horrendously overblown.  Science fiction fans paid their fees and voted.  

“Maybe if the Puppies had only gotten one or two of their works nominated instead of sweeping the ballots, things would have been different!”  Eh, maybe...except, that’s what happened in Sad Puppies 2, so I doubt it.

“Slate voting is EVIL!”  Voting without reading is evil.  Voting based on the name of the nominator is evil.  You can’t stop someone from saying “I like this book, you might like to read it too.”  You can’t stop someone from saying “I like these books, and I will be voting for them come Hugo time.”  Or do you want to install some kind of Hugo campaign law that says “you can only suggest THREE books for Hugo slate, not five or ten or fifteen…?”  So then what’s the difference between suggesting a book or two to read, and suggesting an EVIL SLATE to vote on…?

“But but but...VOX DAY!”  You know, Vox was insulted by “he tried to game the Hugos, and ended up placing sixth.”  That’s what led to Rabid Puppies.  Vox Day makes for an easy and obvious target because...he’s Vox.  If he hadn’t been offended and set up Rabid Puppies--if, say, Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen had run with Sad Puppies 3--the response would have been identical, just aimed at them instead of at Vox.

It’s been said before, but I’ll point it out, yet again.  The “racist” Puppies weren’t racist at all.  Even Vox picked Three Body Problem for Best Novel, which had to be translated from Chinese to become eligible.  The “sexist” Puppies weren’t sexist at all, with multiple women on their ballots.  And “Vox just wanted a Hugo” doesn’t even hold water.  Look at Vox’s final ballot.  In Long Form Editor, with Vox nominated, he’s placed himself fourth, with not one but two women ranked above him.

Like Larry Correia said, it’s about turf.  The furor over the Hugos isn’t about who’s doing the nominating, it’s about who controls the process.

By all accounts, the Nomination Domination Puppy Brigade numbered perhaps 350 voters.  However, over 700 people voted to nominate Toni Weisskopf for Best Long Form Editor.  This is a category that, in years past, has seen people nominated on as few as forty votes.  This year, for some mysterious and unknowable reason, Vox Day’s “slated” 166 votes were just barely enough to sneak him in to the number 5 slot.  When it only takes forty votes to get a nomination, the person who can slate 166 wields an enormous amount of power.  

But, stated another way:  In a world where it takes 166 votes to get a nomination, the guy who can slate 40 is simply powerless.

Do the extrapolation.  The “answer” to the “problem” of the Hugos is right there in that sentence.

In a world where it takes 1000 votes to get a nomination, the guy who can slate 166 is powerless.

There’s your answer.  Not more totalitarian control over the process, not more convoluted and draconian restrictions over who can vote and how much power those voters can wield, and definitely no bloc slate zombie voting tactics.  

No, the real answer is MORE...more slates, more Puppies, more voters.  The only way to take away the massive power of slate voters is to expand the voting pool to all of science fiction fandom.  Bring in more voters, by the hundreds, by the thousands, if at all possible.  “Sad Puppies 4:  The Embiggening” is an excellent start.

Of course, doing that would put the power to award Hugos into the hands of fandom as a whole, rather than The High Church of Science Fiction which has controlled it for the last several years.