On Facebook, David Gerrold nails the problem with the slate nominations in the Hugo awards. Namely, the people who participated have developed a narrative of "evil liberals" rather than "good works worthy of nomination for the Hugo Award." Part of the post was also quoted at File770. Of note is the fact that Gerrold has asked these questions repeatedly, and he describes the "answers" he gets from slate-voting puppy-supporters.
Okay, so now that I've laid some groundwork -- see my two previous essays about communication forensics and compelling questions -- I'm going to ask some compelling questions.I am not a slate nominator or voter, thus I wouldn't be able to answer these questions if I wanted to, but I can make some educated guesses about what's really driving the agenda here.
In the past, I've asked these questions about the sad-puppy slate and the rabid-puppy slate:
1) Who are the horrible, no-good, terrible people who have conspired against the science fiction that has been "overlooked?" How have they conspired?
2) What are the qualities of storytelling that define excellence? How are these qualities recognized by the reader?
3) The stories on the sad-puppy slate and the stories on the rabid-puppy slate? How do they demonstrate the qualities of excellence that would make a reader consider them award-worthy?
Let me add a few more questions here:
4) If you are a supporter of either or both slates, then did you read the stories on the slate you support before the ballot was announced? Did you nominate any or all of the stories on either slate? Did you nominate any story you had not read? Why?
5) Have you now read any or all of the stories on the final Hugo ballot? If so, can you please tell us which stories you feel are award-worthy? Why? (Let me rephrase that.) Without considering the author or the politics of the author, can you explain why any of the stories from either slate are award-worthy?
6) Which do you feel is more important in the award process -- the excellence of the story or the political views of the author?
I'm not the only one posing these questions.
So far, in most of the discussions I've seen where these questions have been asked of the defenders of the slates, the response has been insufficient and disappointing.
Sometimes the subject is changed. Sometimes the questions are simply ignored. Sometimes the response is hostility -- or whining about how awful some people are. Sometimes there is even a pretense of manners, a call for polite rational discussion -- and then the questions are ignored again.
Whenever and wherever these questions are asked, the failure to answer by those defending the slates can illuminate the real issue -- but those are the questions and anyone who wants to step up to the plate and answer them is welcome to do so.
See what I mean about compelling questions illuminating a narrative?
The answer to #1 is simply "people who attend Worldcon regularly" and did most of the nominating and voting for the awards. The fact that the group of people is most likely fairly like-minded and most likely know one another is ascertainable from the fact that they are more likely to be the folks who usually attend conventions. There are a lot of fans that I have only met at conventions and don't "hang out" with online or in real life. Are they a cabal? I doubt it. But people who are jealous of folks who have the time and money to regularly attend conventions no doubt see them that way.
For me, #2 is complicated and beautiful. A good story is readable and keeps my attention for the length of the tale. An excellent story keeps my mind on it long after I've read it. There are books by Lois McMaster Bujold that I find myself thinking of in idle moments and remembering a scene vividly enough to laugh aloud. There are angles to her books that I see differently every time I reread one. For me, that is excellence. If the experience of reading/seeing/listening sticks with me long after the initial time.
Questions #3 and #4 are the ones I really want to see answered. I've yet to see anyone from the self-proclaimed puppies side of the argument actually give anything resembling an answer to these. And I've said before, if anyone nominated a work without reading it, they basically lied on their nomination form. You cannot know if a work is deserving of a Hugo Award if you haven't even read it.
I haven't read any of the stories on the ballot, though I've been reading a lot of reviews and am considering seeking a couple of the works out. I've seen some of the works in some categories, but the reading categories I'm mostly ignorant of. So question #5 is another I'm interested in seeing anyone answer. I've been seeing a lot of non-puppy explanations of why people are voting a certain way, but I don't know that I've seen the same effort from the puppies.
The last question, #6, is a no-brainer. The excellence of the story is the only thing that truly matters. There have been some fantastic works by authors that I wouldn't want to sit at the same dinner table with. And I'm sure there are awful works by people who completely agree with me on every major political point. Politics are utterly irrelevant to the conversation. Or, at least, they should be.
Whew. I'm not really adding much to the conversation. I've got a tiny blog that usually gets about 30 hits a day on new posts. I don't expect traffic, nor do I particularly want a lot of attention. I have always considered my writing on this blog to be for my own edification, and it has helped me immensely over the last decade plus in that capacity.
That said, I was shocked to discover that my previous post about the Hugos this week had more than 1,500 hits... up from my average of 30... Turns out I was linked to from File 770 during a Hugo round-up post. I honestly think it was a little honor I didn't much deserve, but thank you, Mike, for the signal boost.
The photo on the post, by the way, was Torvald the Troll with the Foglio's Hugo for Girl Genius, taken at Emerald City Comicon in 2010. Torvald really gets around.