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It all could have been more difficult. The campaign to No Award the Puppy slates this year was made much easier by two factors, both of which were eerily predicted by Cat (I think catsittingstill) in a comment on Brad Torgersen's blog after last year:

Next time, bring your best game. Read a lot, talk among each other, pick your *best* stories. No bland reguritated elf seeks god never finds him though but boy won’t it upset the Hugo voters stories. Encourage your readers to nominate for quality, and *only* to nominate things they have actually read and liked. If you get stuff among the finalists, encourage your readers to read *everything* before voting. Even if there are people on the other side that aren’t taking the high road, after this year’s performance, you can’t afford to play tit-for-tat.

Remember that it’s partly a popularity contest. Choose for your spokesman someone who can avoid being a weapons-grade jerk in public... You desperately need a spokesperson who can respond to an essay about moving beyond binary gender–if they respond at all–with a “I’m sure you thought it went without saying, but just in case, don’t forget to write a good story also” instead of a 4,000 word rant attacking a position–“don’t bother writing good stories”–that the essay writer never took. You need someone who doesn’t accuse the average WorldCon voter of lying about what we like–voting for stuff we hate because of the author’s race or sexual preference.

If you want the Hugos to be about the best pulp, fine; people can like pulp and that’s okay–you’ll need about 3K more voters who prefer pulp to literary, but that could be possible. But you really need a leader for your campaign who can avoid antagonizing the neutrals.

It's reasonable to say that this advice was completely ignored. Brad Torgersen bragged of the "open" "transparent" process by which his slate was selected, but in fact it was just him and his mates deciding which of their mates should be on the list, without any actual judgement about quality. For all the Puppy complaints about cliques, political messages and works getting nominated which are of poor quality and are't sfnal enough, in too many cases they did exactly what they accused the imaginary cabal of doing. And people notice.

Cat's second point is even more important. Correia, as Puppy spokesman, was petulant but at least persistent. Torgersen was far worse: he is good at stringing words together to make an emotional point, not always that good at choosing the right word to make an intellectual point, and lousy at engaging with other people's arguments. Journalists who knew little of the situation and suddenly needed to write about it took one look at his blog, with made-up acronyms and made-up enemies, and decided who was right and who was wrong pretty quickly. That impression would have been confirmed by looking at other Puppy blogs, or indeed reading the comments to Torgersen's, in which one Puppy author threatened to turn up at an opponent's house - which he had located - with a gun.

It would have been tougher to argue for No Award this year if the Puppies had chosen better material and had had a spokesperson who cultivated the neutrals rather than annoying them. Will they learn for next year? I doubt it.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
nancylebov
Aug. 23rd, 2015 07:52 am (UTC)
I think the puppies are going to have to do some writing as well as looking for good fiction. As far as I can tell, there's very little being written now which shares the specific good features of classic sf.
peadarog
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:46 am (UTC)
This is pretty much my position too. I have some sympathy for what they claim to be saying -- i.e. there's a lot of shite on the list the last few years that seems to get there because of popularity or political box-ticking. Fair enough. But then, they come along with material that is utterly unreadable.

The end result of their efforts is that brilliant books like City of Stairs -- with great pulpy elements -- don't even make it onto the ballot. It's sickening.

Yes, they should bring their A-game or sod off entirely.
nwhyte
Aug. 23rd, 2015 10:15 am (UTC)
Peadar,

I'm afraid it is total nonsense to say that "theres a lot of shite on the list the last few years that seems to get there because of popularity or political box-ticking". First off, there's always been a certain amount of shite on the Hugo lists. I don't think there is any change in that over the last few years.Second, if anything gets on the list because of popularity, that actually is the point of an award made by popular vote! Third, I completely reject the notion that "political box-ticking" has much more to do with the process now than it did forty years ago, and I'd be interested to hear which stories you have in mind. The fact is that fans in general have put the stories they like on the lists; and when the puppies decided that they knew better, fondom in general replied that no, they did not.
peadarog
Aug. 23rd, 2015 10:53 am (UTC)
What you have written above makes it look like you think I support the puppies or their aims. Let me be very clear: I despise their politics. I despise their ballot stuffing.

I'm afraid it is total nonsense to say that "theres a lot of shite on the list the last few years that seems to get there because of popularity or political box-ticking".

As you say yourself "if anything gets on the list because of popularity, that actually is the point of an award made by popular vote!" So, it's hardly "nonsense" to say so. It's only nonsense to react as if it's some kind of outrage.

I agree that it's a popularity contest. You agree that it's a popularity contest. When the puppies notice it's a popularity contest, they are correct. That's all I was saying above.

Third, I completely reject the notion that "political box-ticking" has much more to do with the process now than it did forty years ago, and I'd be interested to hear which stories you have in mind. The fact is that fans in general have put the stories they like on the lists; and when the puppies decided that they knew better, fondom in general replied that no, they did not.

I don't disagree with any of this. The boxes being ticked now are obviously different from those being ticked in the past. Again, the puppies notice this and they are right to notice, but wrong to complain. A vote is a vote is a vote.

To summarise:
1) When they say it is a popularity contest, they are correct. They are entitled to complain, but it is not a valid complaint.
2) When they say there is political box-ticking, they are correct. They are entitled to complain, but it is not a valid complaint. As you say, it has always been thus, but the boxes now are not their boxes.
3) I despise their politics. I despise what they have done with their ballot stuffing. What I do have in common with them, is a major dislike for the majority of short fiction that has made the ballot the last few years. I am one of those who tends to value plot over prose. But I am well aware that my opinions are my opinions and not a guarantee of objective quality. Every year the short list emerges and every year I snarl and snap that many of my personal favourites didn't make it. I don't expect to change this behaviour and consider it part of the fun of awards season.
nwhyte
Aug. 23rd, 2015 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying your position. To clarify my position, I'm describing as "nonsense" any claim that the Hugos (up to this year) were tending more towards a popularity contest, or featured any more box-ticking, than they had in the past, which is what I took from your "the last few years".
peadarog
Aug. 23rd, 2015 02:12 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK. "The last few years" was very sloppy of me there. It does represent the window in which my own interest in the short categories has taken a dive, but nothing else.
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Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:35 am (UTC)
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catsittingstill
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:34 pm (UTC)
Um. Yes, that comment was me (wish I'd realized what havoc slates would wreak and also cautioned specifically against those--but hindsight is perfect as they say.) I'd rather not attach a last name beyond Sittingstill to it if you don't mind. Given the Pups tendency to (hopefully empty) threats.
nwhyte
Aug. 23rd, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, noted.
raycun
Aug. 24th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC)
I don't want them to be smart.

if they were smart, they'd run a primary campaign for the Sad Puppy nominations. Get 100/200 people to send in their recommendations, count up the votes, and make that the list. Odds are you'd get some things on that list that were actually good. And they could say, "you complained last year it wasn't democratic - but now it is so you can't complain!"

It would still have the problem that by agreeing that list and voting as a block to get it nominated, they'd be gaming the system. But this year's campaign was wrong on many levels, and that would be wrong on only one, so harder to argue against.

But I don't expect them to be smart. I expect them to continue the cronyism, to continue picking things calculated to annoy, to continue the paranoia, to continue having a bunch of leaders at the top running the show...
scottakennedy
Aug. 24th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
One element that particularly killed any sympathy I could have had with the pups was the way they hemmed and hawed around the VoxDay/Gamergate connection. That connection was more than clear to me on hugo night when (due to low bandwidth) I tried to follow the awards on twitter #HugoAward and had to keep blocking gamergaters who were posting explicit anime porn to the hashtag.

I had voted a for few items on the Puppy slates (editors) but after that experience trying to follow the ceremony felt no sadness at the Puppy drubbing.

And the quality argument is key. I mean, really, Wisdom of my Internet rather than Volume 2 of the Heinlein bio? HUH???
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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