A Few Thoughts on the Sad Puppies

“Don’t say that he’s hypocritical. Rather, say that he’s apolitical.” -Tom Lehrer

Let me start by saying: I don’t have any role in the Hugo Awards, other than as one of thousands of other voters. But I do have friends who are far more involved, including folks on the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy awards slates that dominated this year. I’m not going to summarize the controversy here; it’s pretty easy to find the news if you Google a bit. Thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of words have been written on the topic since the awards slates were announced– many written by folks far more eloquent than me. I suggest George R. R. Martin’s blog as a possible starting point.

But I did want to chime in on a few things I haven’t heard anywhere else, and hopefully by writing them out, to at least satisfy myself, even if no one else reads or cares.

If I look at the recent Hugo Awards from my limited perspective, I do actually think some of the Sad Puppies might have a point, in terms of desiring a wider list of names on the Hugo ballot. Several names show up over and over again, year after year, and I can’t help but wonder– is it because they’re writing the best fiction, or just established and popular in the community? Probably some of both. The Hugo Awards, like every other award, is very much a popularity contest, and I can sympathize with some of the Sad Puppies who may feel like they’re never part of that “in crowd” that gets consistently nominated for awards. It’s easy to feel excluded, and I even felt it on behalf of some of my friends, of all political stripes, who lost nominations (or lost the awards) in favor of the same familiar faces.

Personally, I’d love to see more diversity on the Hugo ballot, but I’d probably disagree with them on what nature that diversity should take. The Sad Puppies want more works that are entertaining, rollicking adventures, regardless of who wrote them or what their politics are, and I’m actually inclined to believe them on that– or, at least, I believe that they believe it. But where they see a conspiracy of SJWs keeping people out, I simply… don’t. I just see the basic tendency of folks to nominate well-known, popular names who are (through their own efforts, by virtue of their audience, or their general involvement in the community) good at getting some buzz going around their stories. And I’m all for getting some lesser-known names recognized amidst the buzz.

But I heartily disagree with the SPs on how and why that should be done. I am, likely, one of those dirty SJWs that Torgersen and his compatriots consider to have contaminated the Hugos, and apparently, society in general. (I never got my membership invite to the secret cabal meetings– maybe I just wasn’t important enough.) You can review my recent blog posts to see that social justice is something I think about a lot, both because it’s an intellectually interesting subject and because it directly affects a lot of people I care about.

So needless to say, I can’t help but take some personal umbrage when the Sad Puppies rant against the evil SJWs destroying the world… and for all that Torgersen claims to be apolitical, he’s sure willing to accept the help of the far right Rabid Puppies in getting his way. He even nominated some of their works himself. But hey, it’s all about being apolitical, right?

Torgersen has certainly claimed so. In his various posts on the subject, he yearns for a time in which science fiction wasn’t so darn political and full of messaging. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out by many people, that time didn’t really exist– the best works in the science fiction & fantasy field have usually had something to say about the state of the real world. For all its adventure-y talk about “where no man has gone before,” Star Trek was also quite progressive for its time– it portrayed a futuristic utopia in which humanity had largely solved its social problems and had united to explore the stars. It portrayed a mixed-race crew who treated each other as equals, and even occasionally kissed on-screen.

Those of us who view such messages and commentary as an important part of the genre are likely to reward and vote for works that we see as doing it well– which may be where some of the Sad Puppies’ beef comes in. For them, they don’t want messaging, but a lack of it (or a conservative message), and are disappointed to be in the minority. But even a lack of message is still a message– as I will get to shortly.

For all the SPs claim that they merely want a world where works are judged on merit, not the views of the author or what they say on society, there are a few major problems with that:

-For all of SF&F history, the merit of a work has been inextricably linked to whether or not it has anything to say about the reality of the human condition– be it social, cultural, political, historical, or otherwise.

-Even if we get past that, the ability to focus purely on the work and ignore the motivations of the author is undeniably a factor of privilege. Is a queer or trans person really supposed to read John C. Wright’s work and ignore the fact that he has called for their extermination? Is a black person supposed to read Vox Day’s work and ignore the fact that he clearly thinks of black people as subhuman? On a slightly milder level, should a gay man in a happy marriage read Orson Scott Card and not worry about his politics?

I don’t know– sometimes it’s a tough call. I will say that I’ve read several of Larry Correia’s books, including the first Monster Hunter novel and Hard Times, and enjoyed them both. But I think there’s a difference between someone whose politics you disagree with and someone who attacks your very identity, calls for your extermination, says you shouldn’t be educated, or actively works to deny your legal rights. That crosses the line from the political to the personal. I don’t have a problem with reading books by people whose politics I disagree with. I do have a problem reading books by people who actively hate my good friends– and yes, I would lump Vox Day, John C. Wright, and possibly even OSC in that category.

Brad Torgersen will never have to read anyone’s work who has called for the extermination of straight white males. Even if someone who’s seriously said such a thing is out there, I suspect he wouldn’t touch their work with a ten foot pole. In fact, even among people who’ve said much milder things about straight white males (like John Scalzi, who suggests they have a bit of privilege in life, or K. Tempest Bradford, who suggested not reading their books for a while) the reaction from the right-wing has been a huge amount of vitriol and reactionary screaming about SJWs. And I’ve seen countless comments and posts promising never to buy Scalzi’s books– just for a few relatively mild progressive politics. And then many of those same folks turn around and expect LGBT folk and their allies to give John C. Wright’s work a fair and impartial reading? What a fucking joke.

My biggest issue with the Sad Puppies (the moderate ones, anyway) is they have no ability or desire to see or understand the privileged positions they’re operating from, a position in which their cultural identity, and world view, and nostalgia, is very much the mainstream default. Note, I’m not saying their politics– that’s clearly far more contentious– I’m saying cultural identity. Brad Torgersen yearns for those good ol’ apolitical thrillers in which dashing heroes rescued beautiful damsels in distress– which seemingly NO CLUE AT ALL how much those books really do say, culturally and politically, to anyone with even the slightest bit of awareness about the effect of gender stereotypes in the real world.

But this is symptomatic of something else I see a lot from the sad puppies and their like– a steadfast, almost pathological refusal to deal with (or even acknowledge the existence of) any of the larger forces that still affect minorities in our culture and society. Someone can put together a concrete list of 15 Reasons We Still Need Feminism in 2015, but any talk about sexism in society or SF&F will be met by the Sad Puppies with fingers in the ears and a cry of “Stop calling me sexist!” It’s as if they cannot differentiate between conscious sexism/racism/homophobia in individual interactions, and sexism/racism/homophobia as larger (and often unconscious) forces at play in society (for examples of this re: sexism, see the link in the previous sentence, particularly items #5, 6, 9, 11, and 16).

So a nice pulpy novel in which the strong masculine hero rescues the beautiful damsel in distress may be seen as apolitical, or message-less, by folks like Torgersen, who see it as fluffy entertainment (largely because it fits their cultural norm), but for those of us for whom it doesn’t fit our cultural norm, it’s not message-less at all. Torgersen doesn’t yearn for the days of apolitical sci-fi; he yearns for fiction that fits his cultural worldview, that doesn’t challenge him. And while there’s certainly room for escapist fun, what is escapist fun to Torgersen may be deeply sexist to someone who’s fought against those gender roles all their life.

But wait, a Sad Puppy might cry, there are women and socialists on the slate, too! Yes there are… and they’re all either Torgersen’s friends, or people who wrote & edited stories that don’t challenge his cultural default. In Torgersen’s world, and the Sad Puppies’ world, there is of course room for stories by minorities! As long as they conform to a particular worldview or are at least “apolitical” (i.e. subscribe to Torgersen’s cultural default)– anything else would likely be considered too preachy or literary for his and his followers’ tastes.

In this affair, I feel sorriest for the innocent people Torgersen dragged into this– folks like Annie Bellet, who agreed to be on Torgersen’s slate, after accepting his word that Vox Day was not involved. Only wait– it turns out that Vox Day is very heavily involved, and I suspect Torgersen is happy to have the man’s help. After all, the presence of VD in both editing categories– and three John C. Wright stories in the Best Novella category– suggest it wasn’t the Sad Puppies at all, but their uber-right wing compatriots the Rabid Puppies, who provided the bulk of the numbers to make Sad Puppies such a successful campaign. Torgersen and Correia’s handling of the reactionary right wing reminds me of politicians trying to harness the strength of the Tea Party without being contaminated by them in the general elections– it’s morally dubious, insulting to the intelligence of everyone involved, and usually a failure.

The ringleaders are happy to drag in women and other minorities into their little Sad Puppies campaign, using them as human shields to insulate themselves from charges of bigotry while tapping the strength of the rabid reactionaries who are openly bigoted and proud of it– that, possibly more than anything else, is my biggest complaint about the Sad Puppies. It’s not just hypocritical, it insults our intelligence, and is deeply unfair to the people you claim to be supporting and certainly never asked to be human shields. You can’t just sweep politics under the rug by claiming that it doesn’t matter to your effort– clearly it matters to a major portion of your base.

The mere fact that Torgersen and Correia can even pretend to ignore the politics of people like Vox Day, John C. Wright, and their ilk is a factor of their own privilege– namely, that they’re not the target of those racist and homophobic rants. For those of us who are, or care deeply about those of our friends who are, it’s not just about their politics, it’s about their hatred of the people we love.

Maybe the Sad Puppies should have a new slogan, in the vein of Fox News on the Simpsons: “Not bigoted, but #1 with bigots.”

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6 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on the Sad Puppies

  1. Andrew, I read your posts on Brad Torgersen’s blog.

    I’m not familiar with VD’s or Wright’s work, but I think a gay man who could not enjoy OSC’s stories (the classic ones, the recent stuff is mediocre) would be missing some truly excellent stories. We are human, and I understand if he can’t separate author and work, but it would be a pity. Yes, OSC is a bigot when it comes to gays, but Ender Wiggin or Ansset aren’t (I liked Songmaster even better than Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Death). I was surprised when I heard about OSC’s views, because those works show such compassion and empathy that it’s not easy to reconcile. It’s incongruous, like learning that the author of delicate poetry is a heavyweight boxer. I wonder whether OSC had those same views when he wrote these books. His current work has deteriorated a lot and I have to wonder if that decadence has affected his ideas. People often become more set in their preconceptions in their old age.

    Regarding Scalzi, it may seem from reading his blog that he is reasonable and a moderate, but he has two very different faces. GRRM is reasonable, even if he is blind to certain things, but Scalzi is not. He is just very good at presenting a nice face. For example, this is him mocking Correia after the results of the 2014 Hugos were announced:

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    I’m not going to lie. I’m going to be THRILLED to snarkread the whiny “I didn’t want it anyway” nonsense that will squirt forth tomorrow.

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THE HUGO SLATE A REFERENDUM ON THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE FICTION (loses) THE HUGOS DON’T MATTER ANYWAY

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    SHUT UP I AM NOT CRYING IT’S THAT LITTLE FLECKS OF GUNPOWDER FELL INTO MY EYEBALLS SOMEONE GET ME A FLAMING SWORD SO I CAN FLICK THEM OUT

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    WHO IS CALLING ME PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE I AM ALL AGGRESSIVE DON’T YOU SEE THIS HUGE GUN I HAVE WITH ME AT ALL TIMES (breaks down, sobbing)

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    AND NOW I WILL IGNORE THE HUGOS AGAIN UNTIL NEXT YEAR WHEN MY FEELINGS OF PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE INADEQUACY ANGRILY WELL UP ONCE MORE

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    I’VE LEARNED MY LESSON AND MY LESSON IS THAT WE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH PATENT RACIST SHITBAGGERY ON OUR SLATE WHAT THAT WAS GOOD WRITING MAN

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    ITS PROOF THAT ALL THE FEMINISTS NEED TO DO TO WIN AWARDS IS WRITE BETTER STORIES ACCORDING TO THE JUDGEMENT OF THE FANS SHEEESH

    John Scalzi @scalzi
    I NEVER WANTED THE AWARD THAT’S WHY I’VE WHINED LIKE A KICKED DOG ABOUT IT FOR A COUPLE YEARS RUNNING

    The specks of gunpowder and flaming sword are references to the stories supposedly written by Baen writers, whom Scalzi frequently mocks in Twitter. I don’t even read much from Baen, but his behavior is pathetic, particularly from someone who is an ex-president of the SFWA.

    He is also famous for being quite active at deleting comments from his blog for these two reasons, and for using reason 1 to make it appear that reason 2 does not exist:
    1) Spam, offensive language, etc
    2) Perfectly respecful and reasoned posts that make him or his arguments look bad.
    After noticing that I lost respect for him and stopped visiting his blog.

    I have only recently being attracted to the SPs after they made all this noise. When I saw the list of nominations I was initially angry, as in what the hell is going on, why are these people messing like this with the Hugos? But the more I read the more it resonated with me and my recent experiences in fandom.

    There are things about them I’m ambivalent about. This business with using a the slate, the actual contents of the slate, which seemed hastily put together and not very impressive for a group wanting only quality and great entertaining stories, the fact that VD was flying around. And to tell you the truth I don’t even care that much about the Hugos. I used to as a kid, but not so much now. I don’t think it is even possible for an award to capture the diversity and quality of the genre nowadays.

    However, for the last few years I have had an increasing sensation that a clique of bullies were intimidating people and could not be stopped because they were the self appointed defenders of justice, and anyone criticizing them was immediately labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, the whole works. I don’t know if you remember things like what happened to Mike Resnick at the SFWA Bulletin or with Jonathan Ross at the 2014 Hugos, but for no good reason this group can viciously attack someone, and no one will dare stand up to them. Those are actually good examples because although moderates all looked the other way they were so public and blatant that no one can deny they happened. They got media coverage too (including a lot of the usual slanderous spin).

    But the atmosphere is becoming toxic. It gets to the point when people with conservative ideas feel they have to lie down and avoid speaking about anything controversial for fear that they will be ostracized. Read for example (not necessarily the beginning, which is talking about some reactions to the puppies, but the rest of the article):
    http://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/03/31/the-scarlet-letters/
    Unfortunately people who are not the natural targets of this kind of abuse tend not to see these things, even when it happens right in front of them, and it is more difficult than the Resnick or Ross things to prove, but it does happen.

    Anyway, this is already way too long. Vote as your conscience dictates, and if you consider yourself a SJW, please, do not attack people that do not deserve it in the name of your ideology.

    In Brad’s blog, I answered your post with this, if you haven’t seen it:

    As do I. I want a community where everyone is safe and everyone is welcomed and treated with respect and dignity, without being judged for their skin color, gender or sexual orientation. The more we are the merrier, and diversity and more ways of seeing things makes us richer in a very real way: Although I am not a feminist, I enjoy some very feminist books like Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue, which is a powerful story and could not have been written by someone without that perspective, different from mine.

    I do not want the Hugos to be given on the basis of the color of writers’ skin, or their sexual orientation, or whether their politics are the right ones. And above all, I do not want fandom to be prey to a totalitarian movement, that intimidates people into compliance with their ideology. The SJWs claim to be in favor of diversity, but the only diversity they want is the one that suits them, certainly not ideological diversity. People who do not conform or shut up are ostracized or attacked by a mob on internet, shouting charged words at them. That’s not what a healthy community looks like.

    • AG, thanks for your reply. I’ll say briefly that I agree with you 100% on OSC; his early stuff was good, but his later stuff dropped off. “Empire” was the book that made me stop reading his stuff– terrible writing, and laughably infused with politics. Even my conservative friends didn’t like it.

      As for Scalzi, I’m not going to defend everything he says. I will say that he likes to snark and jab at people he perceives as being unreasonable– he and Larry Correia have that in common, at least. I do frequently read Scalzi’s blog and have found him intelligent and insightful, over and over again. He’s snarky and happy to throw punches, which makes him fun to read if you agree with him– but if you perceive him as unreasonable, I’m not going to defend him to you. Scalzi’s an adult, he can defend himself if he wants.

      As for the Resnick/Malzberg affair, I’m very familiar with it. This blog post of mine was largely a response: http://offthewrittenpath.com/2013/07/03/free-speech-in-the-era-of-political-correctness-a-helpful-guide/

      It’s very snarky, I admit. If you’re the same AG who posted about Resnick/Malzberg on GRRM’s blog, then I believe I actually replied to you over there: http://grrm.livejournal.com/420090.html I’m not going to copy/paste, but do a CTRL-F for “Resnick” and you’ll find my reply. As for Jonathan Ross, I actually agree with you– that was a shitty situation, and a case where Internet mob hate flooded any reasonable discussion (arguably on both sides). I think Ross would have been a good host for the Hugos, personally.

      As for the climate of fear that conservatives claim they live in, I think GRRM did a pretty good job of discussing that in his posts, particularly the one I linked, and suffice it to say I agree with him. I see a lot of successful conservative authors in SF&F, including Correia, and in my blog post here, I kind of went into why I’d like to see more folks of all stripes win awards. But again, where you and the Sad Puppies see conspiracy, I just… don’t. Sorry. Also, a tendency to exaggerate perceived insults (as GRRM talks about) and talk in generalities makes it harder to believe y’all when you talk about blacklists and shadowy conspiracies. I also feel like he did a pretty good job of dismantling the argument that only people of a certain political stripe win awards.

      I do completely agree with your reply from Brad’s blog, except the last few sentences, which is why I let it stand without further comment. The rest… well, we’ve kind of covered that.

      I’ll end on this note. You say, “Unfortunately people who are not the natural targets of this kind of abuse tend not to see these things, even when it happens right in front of them, and it is more difficult than the Resnick or Ross things to prove, but it does happen.”

      I feel exactly that way about the way even moderate conservatives like Torgersen react to the discrimination that LGBT folks and other minorities still experience both in the genre and the real world. That it doesn’t happen to them, so they don’t see it, and when people like me try to point it out we get called SJWs, fascists, and a whole lot worse. Maybe both sides could do with a little more empathy.

      That said, I still do believe and stand by everything I’ve written in this particular blog post. Empathy and agreement aren’t the same thing. 😉 But if you ever find yourself at the same con as me, I’ll be happy to talk with you about it more over a beer or three.

  2. I don’t speak for Torgersen, but I believe that LGBT people still encounter discrimination. It’s true that those who are not the target of discrimination often find it harder to see it. It’s a matter of sensitization. Like when you watch an old TV show that you watched decades ago, and you notice sexism that you did not notice the first time you watched. Perhaps, as GRRM suggested to Correia, when you are highly sensitized you may see more than there is. But it does exist.

    I’m afraid I don’t attend cons, since I’m not in America 😦 But if I did I’d be happy to invite you to a beer.

    By the way, on the question of whether the Hugo awards were being gamed for political reasons before SP:
    nkjemisin(dot)com/2015/04/not-the-affirmative-action-you-meant-not-the-history-youre-making/
    Not in the post itself, but in the comments. One of the site visitors says that people are openly talking about Affirmative Action and deliberately nominating books by POC, with the ‘by POC’ coming first before anything else, and N K Jemisin agrees that it’s true.

    This is not what really bothers me, though. Positive discrimination, is not something really awful like normal discrimination, although I still don’t think it should take place in a literary award. But what bothers me is the exclusion, the violent rhetoric and the cultural war against a certain part of the population. Look, I don’t care if you get together with your online friends to vote only for writers with a certain skin color. Whatever floats your boat. I just want to be treated decently, and not like a rabid dog.

    • I think we both agree that violent rhetoric is bad. As far as NK Jemisin’s comment, she admits that it’s true, but she also goes on to say something I mostly agree with, namely, that many Best of SFF Lists out there are still dominated by white guys, and there is a subtle unconscious bias that still works in favor of white guys. For example, I happened to notice that GRRM, in listing the authors pushed off the Hugo ballot in his latest post, listed 90% white guys as examples of damn good authors pushed off the ballot by the Puppies. Quoting GRRM,

      “So Wright is in, and who is out? James S.A. Corey. Emily St. John Mandel. John Scalzi (of course). THREE BODY PROBLEM. Joe Abercrombie. Larry Niven. Greg Bear. Daniel Abraham. John Varley. William Gibson. Joe Haldeman. Greg Benford. Lev Grossman. Stephen King. No damned good stories there. I guess.”

      My point is that even a liberal like GRRM lists mostly (not all, but mostly) white dudes in his list of good SFF excluded by the Puppies. And it’s not the result of any sort of intentional bias on GRRM’s part, it’s just the current state of the genre. Most of the big popular names are white guys, and stuff by women or PoC is still often (definitely not always) seen as catering to a niche market.

      So as a result, Jemisin and folks like her intentionally push to get more recognition for people of color, which results in lots of cries of “reverse racism! Just read stories without thinking about the race of the author, etc.!” But we have been doing that, and it’s led to the imbalanced situation we have right now.

      Jemisin sees a dearth of stories by PoC; Torgersen sees a dearth of stories by conservatives. Torgersen decries the rise of “politically correct” message fiction, but I submit that what he’s actually noticing is a small correction in the imbalance of white guys, and as a result, a rise in stories that don’t necessarily subscribe to his cultural default. That in turn feels like messaging to him, because he’s seeing more perspectives, characters, and settings that may be less familiar. (I’m repeating myself from the original blog post, so I’ll stop there.)

      You can disagree on whether affirmative action-type initiatives like Jemisin’s are valid, but I’m glad you can civilly discuss it with people (like me) who think there may be a place for such efforts. I wish everybody could be as thoughtful as folks like us are. (I’m starting to sound self-aggrandizing… sorry.)

      On an unrelated note, sorry to hear you’re out of reach of the con scene in America– it’s a great place, and one reason I value the community for more than just the fiction in produces. Do you mind if I ask what country you’re based in?

  3. Re: voting only for books by POC in the Hugos… well, as I said I don’t think positive discrimination is something horrible. There are legitimate reasons to support it and legitimate reasons to oppose it and finding the right point is not easy. As far as these things go, a group of people organizing themselves to vote only for books by POC do not seem to me a big deal. Far worse things go on in fandom. However, when this and other things like this are going on, it is perhaps a bit hypocritical to get so worked up about politicization of the awards. They were already quite politicized, and one thing brings the other.

    You say there’s an unconscious bias against POC because best of the year lists are dominated by white people. They are dominated by white people, that much is indisputable. I don’t think that there’s any conscious bias there and it seems you agree… Unconscious bias? There might be, but I have my doubts. We would have writers not appearing in public and hiding that they are POC to get more sales. It’s just very difficult to get noticed, white or not. Women were a very small minority in the genre in the past, but now they have entered in large numbers, and many are successful and get recognition. There are more of them in some subgenres, like urban fantasy, but I think that’s because of their own preferences. On the other hand, there are still few POC writing SFF. I think that the lists being dominated by white people is a consequence of the fact that most SFF writers are white. The thing is that there seems to be few readers of SFF among POC, and as long as there are few readers there will be few writers. Most of the time, writers grow from the readers. So why does not SFF speak to POC? I have no idea, but that’s what one should work on. I guess you would say that they don’t get interested in SFF because they do not feel represented in the stories available, and that if we particularly support non-white SFF writers we can make the genre attractive to other writers who are not doing SFF right now, and that then the readers will follow, and that’s why positive discrimination is necessary. It’s a way of looking at it. I also think there may be other cultural reasons that make realist fiction more attractive. However, if one wants to change the situation I think it would be better if more effort were spent on figuring out how to foster interest between young POC. Positive discrimination can only go so far before people notice the bias and then awards lose credibility. There are some POC writing good SFF, but it’s a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a giant like Octavia Butler nowadays. That might help.

    Another thing, that reviewer that is going to read only books by POC for a year and is issuing a challenge for others to do the same… Some people are saying racism and everything, but I find it completely harmless. Let people read whatever they want. I would not personally select books based on that, but each person is different and different things are important for them. More power to them, I say. The only thing is that sometimes the interest in those issues seem to become obsessions and people get deranged, like (in my opinion) N. K. Jemisin is. And when a white person is deranged it is much easier to tell them that they are deranged.

    There are many new blogs and sites focused on reviews of female SFF writers, and many of them are really enthusiastic about the things they like and I think it’s great when people celebrate the books they like. Just, it’s creepy when it becomes an obsession and stops being positive. Some people are looking for the enemy, and see many more enemies than there are really.

    >My point is that even a liberal like GRRM lists mostly (not all, but mostly) white dudes in his list of good SFF excluded by the Puppies.

    But one can be a liberal and not apply positive discrimination. It’s not a requirement. When one gets so worked up about that we end up having to establish quotas in every list and then people notice and the list loses credibility, because it’s not about the best stories. People do not like being preached to. I think we all tend to look for shortcuts to get what we want and get it now, but if someone wants to be great in the genre they need to write extraordinary books first. It’s like the coach of Real Madrid said years ago when he was asked why did young players coming from the team’s youth clubs get so few opportunities with the first team (Real Madrid is a huge soccer team that signs many of the best players all over the world). The coach said that when players coming from the youth team wanted to have opportunities in a team like Real Madrid they did not need to knock on the door. They needed to knock it down by playing so well that there was no option for him but letting them play. One can do things to promote minority writers, but such efforts only go so far. Write something a wide variety of people love reading and success will come. It’s very difficult for everyone.

    >Jemisin sees a dearth of stories by PoC; Torgersen sees a dearth of stories by conservatives. Torgersen decries the rise of “politically correct” message fiction,

    I’m not sure that’s a completely fair assessment (he does not mind the existence of any kind of fiction, he just thinks that there’s an elite separate from popular taste that controls the awards, for their own sometimes political objectives) but I admit that I’m not as worried as him about the kind of fiction that wins awards. I can enjoy both Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and a Honor Harrington novel (well, only about the first five in the series, then it gets bad). I think it makes sense for a literary award to go to literary novels, but since the Hugos are supposed to be fandom’s award it might make sense for them to be more democratic. Anyway, who cares. What I’m really worried about is a fandom so polarized that we are having fights all the times instead of talking about the stories we like, and that we are waiting like vultures to jump on anyone who says the wrong thing. You can’t have fun in such an atmosphere. It’s toxic. There’s nothing accomplished by that. In the end we’ll have to split, and what good will come out of that? What draws me to the SP is their “stop the abuse by SJWs” message.

    >You can disagree on whether affirmative action-type initiatives like Jemisin’s are valid, but I’m glad you can civilly discuss it

    Yes, I think that people normally can understand each other when they talk calmly, even those with different political ideas. But polarization brings only more polarization, and one side seems to reinforce the other. There’s no guarantee that people can truly understand each other about some things, though. I would like to share a metaphor Brad Torgersen used about the conversation with GRRM and how even reasonable people talking calmly still can not understand each other, because I found it funny::
    It’s like trying to explain to a fish that the water is wet. The fish just stares at you goggle-eyed and exclaims, “But sir, that is the nature of the universe!”

    😀 It’s too true, but people who think differently do not necessarily have to agree. They just have to be able to respect each other and coexist. People can also be friends with someone with different ideas, as long as ideologies do not become obsessions, the one and only priority.

    I’m Spanish, as you may have guessed by the Real Madrid example. There is an SFF fandom here, and Hispacons, but it is of course quite small compared to English-speaking fandom. We have some good novels and writers, but the problem is that the SFF market here is too small (for cultural reasons we seem to prefer realism), and you can only write as a hobby, so that does not help good writers have long careers in the genre. Some of the best stop writing or migrate to other genres to earn a living.

  4. >>But one can be a liberal and not apply positive discrimination. It’s not a requirement. When one gets so worked up about that we end up having to establish quotas in every list and then people notice and the list loses credibility, because it’s not about the best stories.

    My point wasn’t to illustrate some need for quotas, just to show that the biggest names in the genre are currently white men. So their stories will be more widely read, they’ll be more often up for awards, get more book contracts, etc., even if there are lesser-known POCs or LGBT folk currently writing whose work is just as good. I do think that POCs, women, or LGBT writers will often have their work classified as “niche” by marketers (i.e. this is “women’s fiction,” or “African-American literature”), which reduces their overall audience, and so a lot of people won’t know about it. This isn’t a problem that white men have to deal with, at least not in America– their work is almost always seen as being for everybody.

    As a result, people who nominate for awards and compile best-of lists, have a responsibility (in my opinion) to seek out lesser-known authors of all stripes, and make sure they’re considered– not given any special sort of consideration to fill a quota, but to make sure they’re at least considered for such things, and not lost amidst marketing labels or lost in the noise of hype from much better known authors. And sometimes these efforts focus specifically on minorities, which some people decry as reverse racism or politically correct propaganda– but I see it as neither, just combating the “marketing niche” problem described in the above paragraph.

    >>I think it makes sense for a literary award to go to literary novels, but since the Hugos are supposed to be fandom’s award it might make sense for them to be more democratic.

    But what if the many of the fans who vote for the Hugos (the democracy) decide they want to see more literary SF recognized, or stories by lesser-known authors? In that case, Torgersen’s complaint seems to come down to the fact that he lost an election, and isn’t happy with what the fans chose. (Writers, editors, publishers, etc. involved in this genre are fans too, remember.) So where Torgersen sees an evil conspiracy at work, I just see the taste of the voters changing, and in turn that gets reflected in what wins Hugo Awards.

    >>I’m Spanish, as you may have guessed by the Real Madrid example. There is an SFF fandom here, and Hispacons, but it is of course quite small compared to English-speaking fandom. We have some good novels and writers, but the problem is that the SFF market here is too small (for cultural reasons we seem to prefer realism), and you can only write as a hobby, so that does not help good writers have long careers in the genre. Some of the best stop writing or migrate to other genres to earn a living.

    Gracias! Quiero visitar tu país en el futuro. =) No hablo español muy bien, pero estoy estudiando.

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