Wednesday, May 27, 2015

There can be only one SNARL

The short story nominations list provided me with my first Hugo voting dilemma of the year. I think that one of the nominees is a reasonably good short story. The dilemma arises from the fact that the same mechanism which presumably put this short story on the nominations list also filled the other four short story nominations slots, and all the novella nominations slots (and perhaps other categories I have not reviewed here yet), with sub-par entrants. I don’t feel like I could vote for the only short story without tainting that vote with the equivalent of an asterisk.

Were there worthy contenders that were shut out? The other awards that vie for prominence with the Hugos all were able to fill their slates with nominees this year, and none that I have yet seen include any of the Hugo nominated works for short fiction. Normally there is quite a bit of overlap between some of the nominee lists at least. Perhaps I should read some of the stories from the other awards’ lists and compare them with “Totaled” before accepting or rejecting this story based on the mechanism by which it was put on the ballot? Unfortunately I’ve still got a few categories to go, and may not have the time to create a speculative nomination list to vote on. The decision on how I vote –Whether for “Totaled” or “No Award”- may wait until just before I submit my Hugo ballot.

This conundrum motivates me to look at the politics of the 2015 Hugo nomination process a little deeper. Much hay has been made over the use of recommendations for putting items on the Hugo ballot. This was certainly a concern in 2014 and 2013 when Puppy works began showing up on the nominations lists. None of the Puppy contenders won, and some placed after “No Award”. This year the puppies have pushed all other works off of the ballot so it is either them or “No Award” in some categories. There is a very big difference between putting a crappy story or two onto the nominations list and forcing out most if not all worthy contenders.   

Ask why this group of fans, and I am not at all convinced it is a group of fans, did not want to have anyone voting on anything other than their approved list and you will circularly find out that they needed to do this because they were not being allowed to vote on anything other than approved choices. The pre-puppy approval process was some secret –largely invisible- conspiracy of CHORFs and SJWs and SMORFs and other mostly insulting acronym-based names.

Apparently all my motives are political. I recently allowed someone to paste a portion of one of my SNARL reviews on Amazon. They were struck with threats of being reported to Amazon, and told they were following “instructions to give drive-by one-star reviews to Wright because Wright has the wrong politics, wrong religion, and wrong temperament to be permitted to win a Hugo by the politically correct powers-that-be.”. Further, the portion of the review they used was also negative and supposedly proved that I was “ not intellectually equipped to shine Wright's shoes, much less read his work.”. This idea that anyone who does not share your taste for horrifically bad prose is an intellectually inferior pawn in the schemes of some secret cabal sounds familiar to me. It sounds like it would fit seamlessly in to a rant about how the POTUS is a communist dictator and the Sandy Hook massacre was a false-flag operation designed to take away everyone’s guns. If this is to become a standard marketing device for Hugo-nominated works of fiction I want no part in it. I worry that voting for the only good short story from amongst the Hugo nominations will validate the premise that many people I view as really quite a bit more intelligent than myself are not “Intellectually equipped” to read works nominated for a Hugo. Maybe Worldcon can provide a test to weed troglodytes like me out in the future.

This sort of reaction to a bad review is a well-worn bit of self-serving circular "logic". If you don’t like this work you are prejudiced against it and you were not able to judge it based on its quality. The proof that you were not able to judge its quality is that you gave it a bad review.

“I knew that when an admitted right winger got in they would be maligned and politicked against, not for the quality of their art but rather for their unacceptable beliefs.” -- Larry Corriea

“They opposed him, not because of the quality of his work, but because of who he was. In effect, the Left was enforcing a blacklist in which no right-leaning science fiction writer can be allowed to win awards.” -- Robert Tracinski from “The Federalist” 8 April 2015

The generally accepted blame for the poor state of the Hugo award nominations list this year is laid at the feet of a group calling themselves the “Sad Puppies”. “Sad Puppies” is generally blamed on two authors; Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia. The “Sad Puppies” campaign has been going on for a couple years, but did not gain traction before Vox Day swooped in and saved them from extinction by creating, and perhaps financing, the parallel “Rabbid Puppies” campaign. There are very few items on the “Sad Puppies” slate that are not on the “Rabbid Puppies” slate, and fewer still that were only on the “Sad Puppies” slate which made it onto the Hugo nominations list. Still, the “Sad Puppies” is where this idea started, so they are worth a little bit of a look.

One author –Larry Corriea- started the Sad Puppies to get himself nominated for a Hugo. He explains how it is important to “Stick it to the literati” in a series of blog posts titled “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo” on his blog. Interestingly Larry says he declined a nomination this year because of the level of controversy, and this is one of the reasons why the novel category might have worthy contenders. Another novelist also removed his novel from the list of nominees as he was put on the rabid puppy slate without his knowledge; thus further reducing the number of puppies in the novel category.

Perhaps a little peek under the “Sad Puppies” hood, at Larry Correia, might illuminate where they are coming from?

On an LDS literature site Larry describes himself as: “Writer. Merchant of Death (retired). Firearms Instructor. Accountant.

On a much longer-winded bio from his own blog Larry goes into much more detail. Shortly after Larry converted from Catholicism to Mormonism he headed out on a Mormon mission in Alabama, after which he graduated from Utah State University, and then started his career as an accountant; writing gun-porn fiction for internet gun forums on the side. He eventually put together an entire novel called “Monster Hunter International” which he self published and marketed on the same internet forum till he was able to break out into the real world. The “Real World” began in the ironically named Uncle Hugo’s bookstore until he was picked up by BAEN Books. He then sold a bunch of books, and believed that qualified him for a Hugo award.

Gun forums, like gun shows, are a place where enthusiasts and fanatics find the pace of conflicting viewpoints slowed to the point where their own voices can float to the top in a marshland of decaying violence.  Men -overwhelmingly men- argue incessantly over the relative merits of the 9mm vs 45ACP, and talk about fast draw concealed carry holsters when many of them might be in more physical danger after running a mile than spending a decade unarmed in public.  Some of my hobbies take me to gun shows on occasion, and when I have gone there are tables of books.  At one show -around 2007- I asked a vendor why he was selling so many Y2K books, and he informed me that "you never know when it will come back".  Lots of creative paranoia in the "gun community". 

"Only you can stop literary snobs and their abuse of pulp novelists”—Larry Corriea

Where did such a foolish name as “Sad Puppies” come from? Larry apparently likes cutesy names; he was co-founder of a gunshop he named “Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns”. The gunshop went under, but the enduring flikr record of it shows racks of plastic-furnitured AK-47s, and glass cases with handguns lovingly laid out for display. “Sad Puppies” is a name derived from the kind of immature humor that wants to be irony when it grows up.

The idea for “Sad Puppies” pre-dates the Hugo kerfluffle. On Larry’s blog one of the first posts he tagged with “Sad Puppies” is a reactionary commentary-style rebuttal to a September 2009 POTUS speech to a joint session of congress, and the next is a similar reactionary commentary to the 2010 SOTU. So “Sad Puppies” in Larry’s mind is political in the strictest sense of the word. Yet somehow everyone else is really political people –whether they say so or not- and poor Larry is just trying to give his embattled writers the only chances available because he perceives them as having been shut out.  And the only way to get "his" writers a fair shake is to shut out any competing works that might try to leverage some unfair literati elitist advantage by not being crappy. 

The reason the Sad puppies can pee all over the Hugo process is because of complacency in fandom. When I talk about complacency I am mostly talking about myself. I ask myself “How can you make good nominations when you haven’t read more than a dozen SF novellas this year?” The nice voters packet provides a guided reading list; the trufans have done the heavy lifting. So far this year there are over 9,000 voting members of worldcon, and membership is open for a few more days. For $40 you can get a vote and a nice electronic voting packet; unfortunately many of the stories in it are crap. Some of the Hugo nominations this year received less than 30 votes. There needs to be some way of bridging the complacency gap so the large numbers of fans who care enough to vote for a Hugo are presented with a couple choices worth voting for.  Perhaps that means I need to get off my rear and wade through the vast number of published SF/F stories to make recommendations and vote during the nomination process instead of waiting until after the nominations list is published.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If anyone doubts that this whole Hugo mess is birthed from the marketing strategies of Correia and friends you only have to read his words on the subject of marketing his books:
"If you are just joining us, a Book Bomb is where we get as many people as possible to get a book on Amazon on the same day, in order to spike the sales rating as high as possible, so that it will end up on some bestseller lists and show up in front of all new readers who wouldn’t normally see it. Success breeds success, and the author gets new fans.

The Sad Puppies bombs are special because these are the works in the different categories that the Evil Legion of Evil has put forth as suggestions for our Hugo nomination slate. The last two we did went amazing.

Note, not all of these are available on Amazon. If that is the case then we put a link to where you can get it, or something else, so that the author can GET PAID."