Posted on April 6, 2015

Hugo Award Nominations Spark Row over Diversity in Sci-Fi

Telegraph, April 6, 2015

The Hugo Awards have been at the centre of a furore after two campaigns successfully prevented female authors and authors of colour from being proportionally nominated. Some people are comparing the controversy to GamerGate, which in 2014 saw coordinated misogynist attacks aimed at people who spoke out about sexism in the gaming industry.

In 2014 the Hugo Awards celebrated the increasing diversity of sci-fi and fantasy writers, with younger writers, women and people of colour all picking up awards. At the time, pop culture website io9 commented that the awards heralded “a sea change”.

The nominations for this year’s awards were announced on Saturday and showed that two campaign groups, the Gamergate-affiliated Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, have succeeded in getting a list of predominately male, white writers nominated.

The Hugo Awards are voted for by members of World Science Fiction Convention, who pay $40 (£26) for membership, which allows them to vote for nominations in 2016, too. For the third year running, Sad Puppies encouraged their followers to vote for their selection of nominees, making the greatest impact yet.

On February 1, Sad Puppies released their selection, urging readers: “If you agree with our slate below–and we suspect you might–this is YOUR chance to make sure YOUR voice is heard.”

Sad Puppies has been spearheaded by Brad R Torgersen and Larry Correia, two members of the sci-fi and fantasy community who have critised the “rarefied and insular” group of fans they believe were responsible for women and non-white authors winning Hugo Awards last year. Debut author Kameron Hurley was among the women picking up Hugos in the 2014 ceremony.

Torgersen accused the Hugos of being “an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.”

Theodore Beale, who goes under the pen-name of Vox Day and runs Rabid Puppies, has received Hugo Award nominations in two different Editing categories, following his own inclusion on the Rabid Puppies’ suggested slate. Beale is also lead editor of Castalia House, which has received nine Hugo Award nominations this year.

Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have called for Beale’s exclusion from the group after he has written against women’s suffrage and posted racist views towards black writer NK Jemisin.

Io9 has commented, “it’s a weird turn of events that, the year after Hurley’s double win, we see list of nominees that includes someone published by Patriarchy Press.” Patriarchy Press is a “joke” e-publisher created by Hugo-nominated author Michael Z Williamson.

However, voting members and authors have pointed out that there are some nominations on the list that were not championed by the Puppies, such as Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword and Listen, which was nominated in the Dramatic Presentation category despite an absence on either Puppies’ slate. Annie Bellet, whose short story Goodnight Stars has features a non-white female protagonist, has been nominated.

Authors nominated on the Puppies’ slates have been turning down the nominations. Dave Creek, author of novella The Jenregar and the Light,posted on Facebook: “being linked to Larry Correia makes me uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with Theodore Beale.”

David Sturridge, who turned down a nomination for Best Fan Writer’s Award, wrote a lengthy explanation as to why he disagreed with Torgersen’s views.

So many members have been saying they will select “No Vote” on all categories that awards organiser Kevin Standlee has written a blog post about the technicalities and impact of voting “No Vote”. A “No Vote” works similar to a boycott, in that if a successful “No Vote” is reached, no nominees will be awarded in that category that year.

Author and previous Hugo winner John Scalzi has also encouraged members to use the No Vote, saying that he will leave nominees off his final ballot or use No Award for nominees that don’t “merit being on the ballot”.

K Tempest Bradford, an African-American author and an activist for racial and gender equality within the science fiction community, commented that the Hugo nominations are :”a class issue, a race issue, a gender issue. In other words, it’s intersectional.”

As the nominations were announced, original Best Novel nominee Correia posted a statement explaining that he had declined the nomination to avoid being “a distraction from the overall mission.”

He added: “This is just one little battle in an ongoing culture war between artistic free expression and puritanical bullies who think they represent *real* fandom. In the long term I want writers to be free to write whatever they want without fear of social justice witch hunts, I want creators to not have to worry about silencing themselves to appease the perpetually outraged.”

Sci-fi author Philip Sandifer has also been championing the No Vote, saying that the awards have been “successfully hijacked by neofascists”.

The Hugo Awards winners will be announced on August 22 in a ceremony in Washington.