Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Great Hugo Kerfuffle of 2015

All you ever do is blabber ‘n smoke / There’s ah big pain in your window / ‘N all your waters turn t’ rope / It gonna hang you all / Dangle you all / Dang you allIf you don’t hurry there will be no hope / Why don’t you quit actin’ like ah dopeAll you ever do is blabber ‘n smoke- Blabber N Smoke, Jan Van Vliet (AKA Mrs. Captain Beefheart)
“I think the Sad Puppies have broken the Hugo Awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired.”  - George R.R. Martin, noted science fiction and fantasy author (see Game of Thrones),

So, recently William “Arcturus Mindgrip” Fuller, Spencer “The Spaceman” Kimball and myself were taking a steam at a bathhouse down the road from Rio Beach. The conversation meandered along a variety of topics and eventually came to a discussion of  the Hugo Award and Westercon coverage that appeared in this blog back in 2013. I had recently become aware of what was becoming a major shitstorm between some disgruntled conservative members of the SF community and just about everybody else. We thought it a perfect time to revisit this contentious and peculiar subculture.


Let it be said at the outset that I am an armchair socialist who very much dislikes Tea Party apparatchiks, Fox News demagogues, religious zealots, Rush Limberger and the Sad and Rabid Puppies who have mounted a campaign to hijack Science Fiction Fandom’s Hugo Awards. Furthermore, I am not going to provide links to any of Correia’s, Torgersen’s or Beale’s (the Sad and Rabid Puppies, see below) web posts because I don’t have to and that’s what Google is for anyway. You’ll just have to trust me that the quotes provided are accurate and not taken too far out of context. You can do that, can’t ya?

I am a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy (although not a Science Fiction Fan - believe me there is a difference (1)) and have been since childhood. I missed out on Algebra in Junior High School because of various Ace editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline and Robert E. Howard hidden behind my textbook. I care about speculative fiction and its potential to illuminate, educate, stimulate and entertain. I care about the Hugo Awards, if for no other reason than it serves as a guide to the better (though not always the best) the field has to offer. So at the outset I have a large middle finger held squarely in the direction of said Sad and Rabid Puppies.

What are the Hugo Awards?

“If every man, woman, boy and girl, could be induced to read science fiction right along, there would certainly be a great resulting benefit to the community, in that the educational standards of its people would be raised tremendously. Science fiction would make people happier, give them a broader understanding of the world, make them more tolerant.”- Hugo Gernsback, 1930

The annual Hugo Awards, initiated in 1953, are meant to honor outstanding work in science fiction and fantasy. The award is named after science fiction pioneer inventor, author and publisher, Hugo Gernsback, and is shaped like a classic, finned rocket ship, based - as legend would have it - on the chrome hood ornaments of the 1950’s. 

There are some sixteen award categories, primarily for literary work, but also including film, television and various fan activities and publications. Anyone who purchases a supporting or attending membership to the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon, in the previous year, the current year or the subsequent year can nominate. Final votes for the shortlisted nominees are limited to supporting or attending Worldcon members of the current year. This year’s Worldcon, “Sasquan” (, will be held in Spokane, Washington (of all places) over the Labor Day weekend. Remind me to tell you sometime about a marathon drug-addled roadtrip to the Spokane World’s Fair in 1974. William knows what I’m talking about.

What are the “Sad and/or Rabid Puppies”?

“If one of us outspoken types got nominated, the inevitable backlash, outrage, and plans for their sabotage would be very visible. So I decided to prove this bias and launched a campaign I called Sad Puppies (because boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness).”- Larry Correia (Sad Puppy)
“We value excellence in actual science fiction and fantasy, rather than excellence in intersectional equalitarianism, racial and gender inclusion, literary pyrotechnics, or professional rabbitology.”- Theodore Beale (Vox Day, Rabid Puppy)

Basically, a couple of hack sci fi writers with a conservative bent, Larry Correia and Brad R. Torgersen,

decided that the reason they weren’t getting the Hugo nominations and awards they justly deserved was because of a cabal of Hugo-controlling “Social Justice Warriors” (their terminology). These “SJWs” were obviously more interested in championing diversity, gender equality, literary merit and internationalism over the obvious quality [sarcasm] of Correia and Torgersen’s writings. In typical tiresome tea party fashion they characterized themselves and others of their ilk as champions of “restoring balance” and went on to promote a slate of writers and individuals more representative of their kind of “true” science fiction and political, social and religious views. I have mixed feelings about pointing out the fact that both Correia and Torgersen are Mormon but considering that Torgersen cites his faith as an essential part of his writing philosophy, and Correia self-identifies as a Mormon writer, I believe it is a relevant consideration (3).

Not to be outdone in this campaign of self-aggrandizement and white boy brotherhood, the Sad Puppies were soon joined by the so-called “Rabid Puppies” under the aegis of ultra-reactionary Theodore Beale, AKA Vox Day (4),
one of the few, if not the only, members of the Science Fiction Writers of America to be expelled. In his case, he used the SFWA Twitter feed to link to his vile racist, misogynist and anti-gay views. He has mounted a Hugo campaign with a slate similar to but not quite the same as the Sad Puppies. While the Sad Puppies have attempted to distance themselves from this supreme hater and champion of the American Christian version of ISIS, they have not outright condemned him (at least to my knowledge).

The Hugos have been gamed before; for example the Scientologists tried unsuccessfully to place L. Ron Hubbard on the ballot in the late 1980’s, and a certain amount of politicking is to be expected. However, no effort has been as sweeping and determined as that of these Puke Puppies.

To the great misfortune of the Hugo Awards in particular and science fiction fandom in general, the Sad and Rabid Puppies were successful in capturing several of the award categories and placing many of their nominations in others.

Once word got out, “Puppygate” was born and the blogosphere blew up by about a billion words in the space of a few days. The “Culture Wars” had come to Science Fiction with a vengeance. When George R.R. Martin 

weighed in against the infamy of the Puppies, the mainstream media perked its ears (another sign of how science fiction and fantasy has evolved into an essential part of mainstream popular culture). Articles about the flap appeared in publications and websites from Entertainment Weekly to The Boston Globe to the Associated Press and, across the pond in the U.K., to The Guardian and The Telegraph.
Thus began the Great Hugo Kerfuffle of 2015...

- Jack Hastings



(1) “I found that my work met with particularly knowledgeable appreciation and criticism among science-fiction readers (not the same thing as sci-fi fans, some of who read nothing but sci-fi and some of whom read nothing.”
- Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Golden Age”, The New Yorker, June 4 and 11, 2012, (The Science Fiction Issue)
(2) “If you’re looking for a group of authors adept at subtly constructing worlds wherein sexual and ethical depravity are not only common, but laudable, you’re definitely looking in the wrong place. Go watch Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. The LDS writing community’s aggregate product is probably not for you.”
- Brad R. Torgersen

(3) “We are not given a spirit of fear. We are the sons and daughters of the Crusades and of the Inquisitions, institutions so terrible that they strike terror in human hearts nearly one thousand years later. ... Religious liberty in America is dead. Well and good. That was a fatal mistake by the other side, because now that they don’t respect our religious liberty, we have no reason or responsibility to respect theirs. Now it’s just a raw power struggle and we have the numbers, we have the indomitable will of the martyrs, and we have the certain knowledge of God on our side.”
- Theodore Beale (Vox Day)


  1. Just a correction: Hubbard was successfully placed on the ballot in 1987, for Black Genesis. The book was placed below No Award in the final vote.

  2. We must be about the same age. "I missed out on Algebra in Junior High School because of various Ace editions..."; I seem to resemble this remark. I'm enjoying your comments on the flap.