by Doctor Science
The 2014 Hugo Awards were announced August 17, and the results weren't terribly surprising. The "Sad Puppies Slate", put together by Larry Correia and other self-described conservatives, lost by a landslide.
Now Correia says both that he isn't surprised by the results, but also that they prove he was right:
My stated goals this entire time was to get some political untouchables onto their sainted slate, so that they would demonstrate that there was serious political bias in the awards. ... I predicted that the SJWs would mobilize to stop the untouchable barbarians, so I got some barbarians through the gates, and the SJWs mobilized like I said they would… And I'm supposed to be sad about that for some reason, why?In other words, he put together a slate to "make the liberals mad", liberals got mad, the slate lost, this proves that the awards have a liberal bias.
What kind of weird is that John Scalzi, one of the Sad Puppies' leading opponents, thought something else was going on:
Correia was foolish to put his own personal capital as a successful and best selling novelist into championing Vox Day and his novelette, because Vox Day is a real bigoted shithole of a human being, and his novelette was, to put it charitably, not good (less charitably: It was like Gene Wolfe strained through a thick and rancid cheesecloth of stupid). Doing that changed the argument from something perfectly legitimate, if debatable — that conservative writers are often ignored for or discounted on award ballots because their personal politics generally conflict with those of the award voters — into a different argument entirely, i.e., fuck you, we got an undeserving bigoted shithole on the Hugo ballot, how you like them apples.As for me, I see something else that neither Correia nor even Scalzi seems to have noticed:
None of the Sad Puppies' horses is fit to race. The only ones I can call reasonably competent works of fiction are Correia's novel and Dan Wells' "The Butcher of Khardov". They also read way too much like re-tellings of unfamiliar video games, and lack the most important quality Hugo voters are looking for, world-building. They are, at best, B level works, not the kind of thing I think *anyone* would want associated with "Hugo Award Winning".
Both of Brad Torgerson's stories are shockingly badly-edited with regard to basic grammar, punctuation, and sentence-structure. "The Chaplain's Legacy" might have become a decent story in another couple of drafts, under the whip of a stern yet understanding editor. Vox Day's story is also technically very poor, and then there's the fact that a lot of Hugo voters really, honestly dislike him.
Correia (et al.) don't seem to have much sense for what the actual politics of Hugo voters might be, but they also don't seem to have basic literary discernment. As I said in my review of the novelettes it's "as though they can't tell the difference between a good sentence and a bad one, or even good grammar and bad."
For fanfic, it's not uncommon for the most popular or admired stories in a fandom to be technically poor, especially if the readers and writers are young (= median age below 18). When it happens in an adult fandom (median age 25 or older), it goes along with an ingrown fan culture, one where people are reading and admiring each other's stories, but not reading much fan- or pro-fic outside their circle.
I wonder if something like that has developed in Correia and his friends, that they write and read each other but not enough beyond their circle. Or maybe they do read beyond, but there's no-one influential who is very good at *reading*, at the basic stuff like noticing grammar or POV shifts or info-dumping.
I make the connection to some kinds of fanfic circles, to emphasize that this kind of ingrowing doesn't need to have any political element, it's just the sort of thing humans beings *do*, under certain circumstances. Epistemic closure can happen to anyone.
But the aggrieved peevishness of the Sad Puppies definitely has a quality I've associated with conservatives since the days of the Moral Majority.
For instance, Dave Freer, in a post endorsed by Correia, says:
Look, the point being made by Larry Correia about the Hugos was the award was not for the best SF/Fantasy of the year, but for the most popular among a small left to far-left bunch of the WorldCon attendees. What he did was to make make this proposition (now established as fact) known very widely and publicly. As the reading population, logic states, is a reflection of the demographics of the total population, and maybe 10-15% of that group could count as left wing. Stretch to 25% who will put up with it… still leaves 75% who are unrepresented, for whom the Hugo Award was at best meaningless or actively signaled a book they would not want to read.It should be obvious how ill-considered this is. In the first place, the reading population is widely-known to be different from the total population. And of course the sf/f reading population is more different still.
Then, on top of that we get the assertion that only 10-15% of "the population" (whichever population he's talking about) could count as left wing, and only 25% "will put up with it" -- facts that he must have pulled out of his butt, because they're both undefined and unsupported. No, that's unfair, Freer didn't pull those facts out of his butt, Correia wouldn't have agreed with him so strongly if they weren't part of the general understanding of their circle, stuff that everyone "just knows".
It's always bizarre to see this kind of collective delusion from the outside, but especially so when the delusion is about their jobs and the market they're working in. By which I mean that these writers don't seem capable of recognizing literary competence, nor do they seem to understand who their potential audience is and what they want to read.
But I may be underestimating Larry Correia. Freer thinks the left wing of sf/fantasy destroyed their credibility by voting down the Sad Puppies, says that "the best option would have been to divide and rule and get behind say Toni Weisskopf and Brad Torgersen." What Correia et al. don't seem to have considered is putting their nomination campaign behind writers who already had a 20-40% chance of getting on the ballot, and then putting them over the top.
If they had actually want to see someone they voted for win a Hugo, I would suggest that they look at Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading List, which comes out well before the Hugo nominations. When I cross-reference the Locus list against the best-of-the-year list from Correia's friends at Elitist Book Reviews, there are a number of overlaps:
But I can also see why they didn't chose to do that. The main effect of the Sad Puppies campaign was to keep both Abaddon's Gate and The Ocean At the End Of the Lane off the Hugo ballot -- but now Larry Correia can put "Hugo-Nominated Author" on his book covers, so the campaign really worked for him.
It'll be interesting to see next year, if other writers recognize how effective a Hugo nomination campaign can be for general marketing. I think that more probable than that the Sad Puppies will learn to recognize good writing.
. The final list, in order. The underlined works were on the "Sad Puppies" ballot.
Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)
- Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
- Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
- Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
- The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK)
- Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)
- "Equoid", Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
- Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
- "Wakulla Springs", Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
- "The Chaplain's Legacy", Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
- The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)
- "The Lady Astronaut of Mars", Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
- "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling", Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
- "The Waiting Stars", Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
- "The Exchange Officers", Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
- "Opera Vita Aeterna", Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
Note: "Opera Vita Aeterna" placed sixth, behind No Award
Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)
- "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere", John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
- "Selkie Stories Are for Losers", Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
- "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love", Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
- "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket", Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
 SJW = Social Justice Warrior, which is supposed to be an ... insult?