Hugos, Sad Puppies, and the the Game of Thrones
Category: OtherVia: bob-nelson • 6 years ago • 4 comments
I don't remember the title of the first SF book I read -- it was of the genre I later came to recognize as "standard coming-of-age young-adult Space Cadet schlock"... but well-crafted schlock by an excellent wordsmith. I don't remember who the author was, other than it was one of the Big Names: Gordon Dickson, or someone like that. In any case, I was hooked!
I chewed through hundreds and hundreds of books from Asimov to Zelazny, and I have continued ever since, to today's Abercrombie and Willis. In the '60s, like all SF readers, I saw the rise of New Wave authors, but not being a literary kind of guy, I did not know the term. I did know that Harlan Ellison's stuff was not to my taste, so I voted with my wallet, sticking to Space Opera, from R Daneel Olivaw to Miles Vorkosigan.
The authors who got me started fifty years ago are all gone now, of course... so I have had to pick up new ones along the way. For most of those five decades, I bought paperbacks. Like most readers, I suppose, I was swayed by cover art and blurbs -- there was not much else to go by. I soon realized that "Hugo Award Winner" was a pretty good indication. The "Hugo Award Winner" blurb on Connie Willis's 1993 Doomsday Book is a good example -- I have since read every word she has written. Her 2011 Blackout/All Clear tandem is just about as good as it gets: nerve-tingling plot, great characters, brain-spraining metaphysics...
Over time, I saw that some Hugos went to authors I did not care for -- the descendents of Harlan Ellison, in my mind. But hey! I know that my taste is not the universe's guiding light! It did not bother me that works that did not meet my personal criteria might please others. I figure that if there a zillion different cars on the market, there's a reason!
Which brings us to Sad Puppies.
Well, no. Not yet. Let me go back to about 1991 or '92. Internet!! E-books! One day a search for "free ebooks" (which may have still been via Alta Vista at the time) brought me to the Baen Free Library. Baen Books was founded by Jim Baen in 1983 and dedicated to "real science fiction" like John W Campbell used to publish! The Baen Free Library was a digital stack of epubs available for free download. If you liked a book, you might buy some more! I ended up buying several hundred! Baen's specialty was a sub-genre called "military SF", with clashes of fleets and great daring-do. Great fun, unless it is taken seriously. One of the star authors, John Ringo (I HOPE it is a pseudo!) straight-facedly had a bunch of redneck yahoos saving the planet Earth from space invasion, firing a fifty-calibre machine-gun from the back of their pickup truck. Not kidding! Ringo is of course an Ayn Rand devotee, spilling her wisdom across his oeuvres.
The Baen Books website includes a forum called Baen's Bar. I was banned for not agreeing with Mr Ringo's vision of the universe. That really pissed me off, because I had in fact bought several of his early books, before he went completely wingnut... In fact, I bought books by just about every one of Baen's considerable stable. Eric Flint is still a favorite of mine.
Which brings us to Sad Puppies... this time for real.
A couple years ago, a Baen writer named Larry Correia, on the belief that the Hugo Awards had been kidnapped by radical left-wingers whom he calls "Social Justice Warriors", decided to recruit enough John Ringo True Believers to effectively take control of the Hugo Award ballot process. This year, his successor at the head of the Sad Puppies movement, Brad Torgerson, was brilliantly successful. The Ringo Faithful successfully packed the nominating process, ensuring their victory in the final voting. Baen authors won everything.
I am a Vietnam vet. That war was epitomized by a young lieutenant's phrase, "We had to destroy the village to save it." The Sad Puppies had to destroy the Hugo to save it. It is not clear whether the Hugo Awards will ever carry the kind of aura that they had before the Sad Puppy coup d'état. (I'll spare you the disgustingly racist Rabid Puppies offshoot, but if you insist, here's Torgerson's attempt to distance himself .)
George R R Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones series of books, and of course a multiple Hugo-winner himself, went through the the winners list , year by year, to demonstrate that the Sad Puppies complaint -- "the Social Justice Warriors control the voting and take all the awards" -- is not true. Demonstrably not true.
The whole Sad Puppy movement is a pitiful paranoid temper tantrum.
(Incidentally, Brad Torgerson's The Chaplain's War deserved to win a Hugo without any red-letter-of-shame asterisk, as all the current awards will forever carry. It is a thoughtful book about faith and trust, and a personal relation with... God... maybe. There are a few battle scenes, but they are incidental.)
The Sad Puppy movement is, to my mind, a perfect miniature of the Tea Party movement. Delusional paranoia leading to a blind militantism that destroys the very institutions supposedly being defended.
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