Puppy Post-Mortem

So the Hugo Awards have been handed out, and the result is: fandom as a whole said in almost every instance that it would rather see No Award than a Puppy candidate win. I’ve heard the factoid bandied about that No Award has been given five times in the previous history of the Hugos; this Worldcon added five more to that total, in Novella, Short Story, Related Work, and both Editor categories, all of which contained no candidates not from one or both slates.

I’m okay with this, and in fact I’m one of the people who voted No Award with a liberal hand. I did this primarily as a way of registering my opposition to slate tactics (regardless of who uses them); in most cases, though, it was also an accurate reflection of my feelings on the nominees. In the work categories (as opposed to the personal categories) in particular, the items on offer were just . . . not that good. The best of them was moderately entertaining, but not, in my opinion, Hugo-worthy. Did the fact that they came from slates incline me to look more critically than I might have otherwise? Perhaps. But I’ll note that I also voted No Award in a category that wasn’t all Puppies, because I honestly didn’t think there was anything on the ballot, Puppy or otherwise, that really deserved the rocket.

Of course some of the Puppies are declaring victory, because they set this up as a situation where any outcome could be spun as a win. Their candidates win? Victory! Proof that there’s a cabal that has been unfairly locking Their People out, and the voters really just want good old fashioned fun! Their candidates don’t win? Victory! Proof that there’s a cabal which is unfairly locking Their People out, just like the Puppies have claimed!

Quite apart from the risibility of the entire “cabal” notion in the first place, I think there are two key items which undercut that narrative. The first is the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, which (if you look at the raw numbers) almost certainly would have gotten on the ballot anyway without Puppy support, and which held a commanding lead over all of its competitors through all passes of voting. In other words: people are happy to vote for good old fashioned fun, when they think it’s good. The second is the success of The Three-Body Problem, which several Puppy standard-bearers said they would totally have put on the slate if they’d thought of it in time. Again: evidence that people are not a priori conspiring against the kind of books Puppies like, just because of politics. Good books will win out, where “good” is defined as “sufficiently pleasing to a sufficiently large percentage of Hugo voters, according to whatever complicated set of criteria each voter uses to judge whether they are pleased.”

I want to make special note of three people: Larry Correia, Marko Kloos, and Matthew David Surridge. All of them were on the slates; all of them withdrew from the ballot early enough that the next item up could be added in their place. Correia’s withdrawal added The Goblin Emperor, which ran a close second to The Three-Body Problem in the voting stages. Kloos’ withdrawal added The Three-Body Problem itself — the book that ultimately won. The same goes for Matthew David Surridge and Best Fan Writer, putting Mixon (the eventual victor) on the ballot. I think it says quite a bit about the effect of the slates on nominations that the works they initially crowded out did so well when it came time to actually vote, and I want to thank all three of those men for withdrawing.

Going forward? Well, I haven’t heard yet whether the “E Pluribus Hugo” proposal fared well during the business meeting; I hope it did. I have heard rumors that next year’s Official Puppy Organizer intends to approach it more as a recommended reading list than a slate; I hope that pans out as described. In the meanwhile, I’m trying to keep track of things (and read more widely) for nominations next time around. I will be paying particular attention to those individuals from the slates whose work struck me as worthy in its own right, and nominating them for 2016 if they keep it up. It’s my way of compensating for all my No Award rankings this year: a small thing, maybe, but better than nothing.

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