Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Bullshit Awards

Right now, there's some unfortunate bullshit involving The Hugo Awards. Every time I start reading about this particular story, my eyes come unfocused and I realize it's yet another insignificant controversy nobody will give a shit about in a few months' time. There really isn't a lot of unbiased information on this topic out there, just a lot of name-calling bullshit. They'll tell me how I should feel about the issue, but not why. Look, I don't like what the Sad/Rabid Puppies did either, but hold the fucking phone here. The correct response is not the equal and opposite reaction.

Politics aside, it looks like the real problem has always existed: The Hugos are designed to be gamed—or, more accurately, they were designed in such a way they could be gamed provided your co-conspirators have the forty bucks to do it—and it sounds like neither side of the debate is completely innocent of taking advantage of that. Maybe it's not right, but it's just the fact of the matter. Another fact is people have a right to say, write, and publish whatever the hell they want. It really doesn't matter how hateful, stupid, or offensive other people think it is. And if an awards ceremony can be so easily (and legally) gamed by these participants, then they have a right to do that, too. It's almost like this ceremony is put on in a country that protects free speech.

While I'm far from agreeing with everything this guy says, I think in this paragraph he hits the nail on the head:

In the postwar period, conservatives like Robert Heinlein and liberals like Isaac Asimov were both among the leading figures of science fiction. Political tolerance, an idea loathed by radical activists, has ever been the norm in the community, and it has thrived because of it. 
Philip K. Dick said the reason he enjoyed writing SF is because readers of the genre are more willing to accept unorthodox ideas than any other kind of reader. We're the weirdos who lug around yellowing paperbacks with goofy looking tentacle monsters and funny looking spaceships on the covers—we're inherently tolerant of the kinds of ideas that "normal" people with their black & white politics would never even pause to consider. So it's a real shame that these black & white social groups had to come fucking about in a genre that works best when it's dealing in several shades of gray.

Can we just go back to judging authors' works on the quality of the story told and look past all this other noise? I want left- and right-wing science fiction writers and everyone in between. I crave the kind of stuff that makes me uncomfortable and challenges my beliefs. And right now I believe if anyone can game the system, then everyone should be able to game the system. Bigots like OSC, who I'm sure isn't innocent of any kind of campaigning, have written works that were deserving of the award as well. Speaker for the Dead is one of the most beautiful arguments for acceptance the genre has ever turned out, even if the author himself doesn't believe it on a conscious level. (I keep that book on the same shelf as the books by Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Ursula K. Le Guin, all of whom I'm more likely to agree with politically.)

Science fiction always worked best when it wasn't lazy propaganda, when it was written by individuals rather than mob mentalities with simplistic agendas, when watchdogs weren't actively trying to suppress the stuff they don't like. Goddamn it, I want more works I disagree with. I want more books that offend me. If any of the fad groups involved in this situation get their way, science fiction will be just a little bit poorer because of it.

Actually, that's giving these people far too much credit.

I haven't voted for The Hugos before and if I had the time to read all of the nominees I probably would. I know a lot of people are planning to ignore the stuff the Puppies are responsible for putting on the ballot (none of which are novel nominations, by the way), but a commentator on io9 suggested that at least some of the nominated parties were not notified they were going to get an endorsement from the Sad/Rabid Puppies.

I'm just wondering: if you're planning on voting and haven't yet learned which nominations resulted from the Puppies, would it really matter if you didn't find out before you did vote?

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