This year has been extraordinarily bad in terms of fiction nominees for the Hugos, which I blame primarily on the Puppies campaign. However it’s not a total loss, there is at least one work in each category that I genuinely liked, and would vote for. Which puts me in a bit of bind, because now I have to decide if I should No Award or not.
There are two major objections to the Puppies’ campaign (aside from plain old bad taste, which is a venial sin at worst).
- Block Voting. Three men chose a slate of works (based on inscrutable criteria) and encouraged adherents to vote a straight ticket without considering other works. It seems highly likely that most people didn’t even bother to read the works they voted to nominate. This overwhelms the normal scattered popular vote, and reduces the Hugos to a party-system. Right now there’s only one party (the Puppies) but even if there were multiple parties I would still be unhappy with this result. Having winners chosen by the leaders of whichever party can attract the most loyalists is distasteful. It’s the same political machine that runs US politics, and everyone hates it. Why would we want to adopt that system for anything?
- Dark Arts. The Puppies gathered members and fired up their base by using the tried-and-true method of tribal hatred. It’s simple red-vs-blue antagonism. The Puppies’ message is that an evil leftist cabal of “Them” have been oppressing “Us.” Every single thing that really pisses off the right about the left was painted onto the image of “Them.” And we can defeat “Them” and really rub their noses in shit simply by paying $40 and exploiting the very system they have so much faith in! The Puppy Triumvirate found a pressurized reservoir of discontent and resentment that was straining to explode, stoked it further, and tapped some of that energy for their own purposes. All this does is turn the Hugos into another contest of who can hate who harder. All other considerations (such as artistic quality, or personal integrity) get thrown aside when we’re engaged in an existential struggle against the Other Tribe. That is not what I want the Hugos to be about.
So this use of Dark Arts must be discouraged. I cannot ignore the consequences of what would happen if the Puppies’ tactics were to propagate. And they will propagate if they’re seen to be successful. Regardless of how much I personally enjoyed a couple of these nominees, I cannot rate any work that was on a Puppy Slate above No Award.
If you have a Hugo vote this year, I urge you to consider the ramifications of the Puppies’ tactics, and vote No Award as well.