The Nebula Award winners were announced last week. The Nebulas are the other major annual SF/F Literary award, and the Hugos and Nebulas are held in similar esteem.
For those unfamiliar, the Nebula Awards are given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America organization. They are the professional group for SF/F writers in the US. One can join the organization if one is a professional, published SF/F author. Only members can nominate and vote for these awards. They are the more professional and exclusive of the two major awards. Sometimes they are considered “too detached” from the average reader for this reason – a niche that was filled by the popular-voted Hugo Awards instead.
I bring this up because Brad Torgerson (head of last year’s Sad Puppies 3 campaign) is dismayed that Max Max:Fury Road received a Nebula award over The Martian. Says Brad:
Of course, The Martian was every inch a Campbellian movie, while Fury Road was almost entirely New Wave.
Guess which aesthetic dominates and excites the imaginations of SF/F’s cognoscenti?
My personal stance has always been, “To hell with the hoity-toities! Give me my space cruisers and galactic adventure, like that which fired my imagination in the beginning!” But this is a very passé attitude. Nobody wants nuts-and-bolts SF/F anymore, do they?
I recall a time when there used to be an award that was considered more for the common man. An award that kept the genre grounded, rather than spinning off into Ivory Tower ponderings and abstractions. An award that nominated blue-collar writers like Brad Torgerson. An award known as The Hugo.
But Brad was key in turning that award into a Culture War battleground. Until that is resolved, there is no Hugo Award. (Well ok, the novels are almost untouched. But the other categories are suspended.)
Now Brad is complaining that the only awards that are left are those of the fancy-pants literati, when he was party to vandalizing the alternatives. Yes – it WAS nice to have a place where many different types of people could come together in appreciation of the genre, and could talk with each other like civilized humans despite our differences. It IS unfortunate that those commons are vulnerable to razing by the spite-fueled barbarians, so that now the only places of discourse left are the Walled Gardens and Ivory Towers that are able to defend themselves by excluding the hoi polloi.
But the balls it takes to complain about it, when you were the one to lead the charge! The chutzpah! The willful blindness and lack of self-awareness! It’s breathtaking.
Brad – go fuck yourself. You live in the world you helped create.
That’s a bit unfair. It’s perfectly consistent to hold that the Nebulas were always elitist, and that the Hugos were a lost cause, as a Common Man’s award, once they became similarly elitist. And really, “party to vandalising the alternatives”? Did he personally support the rabids’ crusade, or did he just not condemn them sufficiently?
OK, obviously we think that the sads’ are also burning the commons, but we can’t accuse them of chutzpah for just complaining about the lack of awards for popular works, and then complaining again about the lack of awards for popular works. They’re consistently wrong, that’s all.
It’s difficult to talk about the Sads, because I like most of them. I want more diversity in the Hugos! But they are marred by Brad’s leadership last year. So let me preface this by saying that none of what I’m about to say should be taken as indictment of readers who identify as Sad Puppies. It is all entirely about Brad Torgerson.
No – it’s not that he ‘didn’t condemn them sufficiently.’ It’s that he and Larry invited Vox Day into their movement. Much later, after tons of blowback, and realizing that Vox really did want to destroy everything, they tried to walk that back. It was far too little, too late. This is why you don’t make alliances with the devilman.
Brad had a persecution complex from the very beginning, based on his Mormonism. He needed to fire up his base. On an emotional level, he needed to convince people that they were persecuted, just as he was persecuted. He had no problem spinning his paranoid fantasies as facts, and demonizing what he considered “the other side” as a shadowy cabal of left-wing fascists/SJW, regardless of the truth of the situation. And Vox Day was a perfect ideological ally for him, because this is EXACTLY the narrative Vox Day is in the business of spinning.
From Larry’s accounts, it sounds very much like Vox Day was part of the slating process from near the beginning (as one of the foundational members of the “Evil League of Evil”).
But importantly, as Eric Flint points out: “In order to get the sort of political opposition they wanted to “prove” their contention that the awards are politically biased, they had to go out of their way to nominate two authors whose political views are so toxic they were bound to trigger off a furious reaction.” They brought on Vox Day because the NEEDED him for their agenda. So no, it’s not that he didn’t condemn them sufficiently. It’s that he and Larry literally created them/welcomed them, and then only afterwards tried to back-peddle. Those of us who were there don’t forget so quickly.
Thank-you for the thoughtful and helpful reply, and my apologies for taking so long to respond. I think I see better where you’re coming from now, and there’s a definite sense of, if not making his own bed, at least picking an obviously sketchy motel and then being surprised that it’s hard to sleep in. And I can’t seem to find anything suggesting Brad saying “oops, that was dumb, lesson learned.” So yeah, my mistake, seems like this is well past the point where you’re justified in being salty.