Imagine working your tail off to become a writer, to hone your craft, to connect with audiences who clamor for your work, then let your mind be transported to the bliss of being nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in your genre. Then imagine finding out you were only nominated because a handful of people with a hate-filled agenda rallied behind your work in order to edge out other titles whose compassionate worldview they despise.
It’s like being voted as the Homecoming Queen, only to find out later you’re the butt of a school-wide joke. Except in the case of this year’s Hugo Awards, it’s much, much worse.
In order to be nominated for this award–whose previous winners have included Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, and George R.R. Martin–titles are suggested by Worldcon members, then tabulated. The highest numbers of suggestions results in the nominees’ lists for each category. The ballots then go on to be voted on, again by Worldcon members, literally anyone who’d signed up to attend any of the conferences in 2014, 2015, or 2016.
Unfortunately, this year’s nominations have allegedly been shanghaied by a small collective of people under the name “Sad Puppies” and a rival group “Rabid Puppies” who are disheartened with the “touchy feely” decline of science fiction into a genre that allows gay couples and women who don’t have giant breasts to exist. The groups have garnered enough voting support to send their favorites to the top of the lists, then have seemingly been quite open about achieving their goals.
Sadly, one of the key members of Rabid Puppies is believed to be the owner and editor of a publishing house that now has several titles on the shortlist. The editor himself, Vox Day, is also shortlisted for two top editor awards. Basically, the groups managed to shift the lists not only towards their own agenda, but towards the financial gain of one of the groups leaders. Day is also one of the names associated with the now infamous Gamergate saga that pitted the video game world against three female game developers and resulted in threats of rape and murder of these women.
The groups’ fight against recognizing diversity in both science fiction titles and science fiction authors has led to a serious backlash against this year’s Hugo Awards, with two authors withdrawing their works from nomination (refusing the honor, essentially), one fan writer nominee withdrawing from the awards, and one presenter stepping down from the awards event itself. The authors took this stance after learning that their works were in the slate of titles pushed by the groups, and have decided that no recognition is better than being used in this way.