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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hugo Awards - 2015 - summation

We've about reached the end of the window for Hugo Award voting. As events turned out, I read nowhere near as much of the nominated material as I'd hoped. As a result, I can honestly vote in only a small number of categories. I.e., there are just a few categories where I've read or seen all the material.

In the case of the art categories, I simply don't have strong enough views to make a choice. Much of the art looks of high quality.

I've seen many of the movies, etc., in the "best dramatic presentation" categories, but not all of it in either category. If something had struck me as a work of truly extraordinary merit, I might have voted - perhaps trying to track down and watch the items I'm missing for the sake of fairness. But in the end, I won't be voting in those categories. I would be very happy to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Interstellar win in the "long" category. I would be happy to see "The Mountain and the Viper" win in the "short" category.

I only ever managed to read two of the nominated novels - Skin Game (which I discussed briefly in a recent post) and The Goblin Emperor. Both are well-crafted novels in quite different ways, but I haven't read enough (i.e. any!) of their opposition to vote for them with confidence. Neither is so good as to be an obvious winner (indeed, both have weaknesses... although I must say that I found The Goblin Emperor very entertaining).

In the end, I am going to vote in only the following categories: "Best Novelette", "Best Short Story", "Best Related Work", and "Best Graphic Story". I will vote for No Award in only one case - for me, voting in that way is a fairly extreme step - but I won't allocate votes to anything that I have serious doubts about as being worthy for a Hugo Award. I'll base my votes in the relevant categories entirely on what I see as the merits.

For "Best Novelette" I will vote for "The Day the World Turned Upside Down", by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

For "Best Short Story" I will vote for "Totaled", by Kary English.

For "Best Related Work" I will, indeed, vote first for No Award. I will vote second for Ken Burnside, "The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF": it does not seem to me sufficiently meritorious to win, but if there is going to be a winner then this is the most deserving.

For "Best Graphic Story" I will vote first for Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 and second for Saga Volume Three.

As I have said before, I will not be trying to punish works or authors merely for being on the Sad Puppies slate (or even the Rabid Puppies slate).

As an understatement, I do not have a good opinion of the people involved with promoting Rabid Puppies. That's all I'll say about that.

I'm prepared to acknowledge that there are well-meaning and decent people involved with Sad Puppies, and I'll add (again) that some of the flak they have received has been unfair, hurtful, and excessive. That makes me disinclined to add to all the nasty imputations about their characters and their motives.

Nonetheless, even the more moderate Sad Puppies campaign has been dreadfully misguided and poorly thought out. I must also say that I've seen people involved in that campaign, people from whom I'd hope for better, engage online in indefensible vitriol. I'll leave it there, except to add that if, reasonably enough, they want to be treated with charity and civility, they might also take care to extend it to others.

Even if there is a legitimate grain of truth somewhere amongst the complaints of the Sad Puppies group, their actions have led to an exceptionally weak Hugo field this year and to some specific perverse outcomes. If the Sad Puppies campaigners merely thought that there is a "usual suspects" tendency in recent Hugo nomination lists, and that politically conservative authors are often overlooked in recent times, they could have simply argued their case based on evidence. Likewise, they could have taken far wiser, far more moderate - far less destructive - actions to identify some genuinely outstanding works that might otherwise have been missed. What we saw this year, with politicised voting on an unprecedented scale, approached the level of sabotaging the awards.

I repeat my hope that the Sad Puppies campaign will not take place next year, at least in anything like the same form. If it does, my attitude will definitely harden. I've been rather mild about the Sad Puppies affair compared to many others in SF fandom, and I think I can justify that, but enough is enough.

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