My four cents on the Hugo thing

Here we go. I don’t like arguing, especially not on the Internet, so I don’t intend to say much about this topic. The short version is that I am somewhere in the middle, seeing merit and fault on both sides. The longer version can be condensed to four main points:

1) Larry Correia is my friend. I’ve known him for years, and he is a good guy, a good husband, and a good father. I don’t agree with his politics in almost any category, and I don’t like the way he’s handled the Sad Puppies thing (which is why I asked to be removed from it after he nominated me last year), but I am adult enough to see two sides of a person at once. It makes me sad to see people calling him a racist, misogynist, homophobe, when in reality I know that he’s none of those things–he’s an a-hole online, I’ll totally grant you, but let’s cool it with the character assassination. I realize that a lot of people won’t bother reading past this paragraph, or will just straight up hate me regardless of what the rest of this post says, but there you go. If it comes down to disavowing a friend in order to impress my readership, I won’t do it.

2) The other side of the fight has plenty of its own a-holes. One of Larry’s first and biggest complaints about the Hugo crowd was the way they ostracized him right from the get-go: he was nominated for a Campbell, came to WorldCon in Reno, and was treated like a pariah because he’s very, very conservative. It’s only gotten worse since then, and a lot of that is his fault for hitting back so viciously, but a lot of it is just straight-up unwarranted, and I didn’t really understand how much until my own Sad Puppies nomination last year. I was on the slate, didn’t take it seriously, and then when I actually ended up on the finals list for novella I was attacked almost instantly. Bloggers who’d never met me or read my work were calling me out as a racist based solely on the fact that Larry like my story. I’ve been going to WorldCons for years, been nominated for multiple Hugos, and even won one the previous year, but all of a sudden I was an outsider, intruding onto sacred space, based not on who I was or what I did but simply on my association with an undesirable element. To be fair, a majority of people reacted more evenly, and I was delighted by how many reviewers described my novella as “much better than expected,” but the attacks were real and they were prevalent. I’m a big boy, so I can handle them, I’m just saying that we can’t assume either side in this is perfectly good and right.

3) I do not like what the slate-voting model has done to the Hugos–I think it has removed any legitimacy the award once had, and reduced it to a two-party system that will, in the future, only nominate a narrow subset of the field. You’ll have Sad Puppies and Anti-Sad Puppies, and we’ll pick our ticket and campaign for it for months, and anyone not on the ticket will be out in the cold. I honestly don’t see how that CAN’T happen next year, unless we change the voting rules. And no, that’s not what it was before: what it was before was a group of like-minded people who tended to vote for the same authors and themes every time, which is pretty standard for any voting award anyway, and a far cry from a curated ticket of “this is the slate we should all vote for.” I am sad that this has happened, but I hope we can find a way to fix it.

4) No matter how much I hate the slate, and how sad I am for the people and stories the slate bumped off, I think that voting against everyone on the slate regardless of merit seems like a terrible idea. Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, was a favorite for the category going in, and probably got just as many normal nominations as Puppy nominations, but now we’re all going to vote against it as some kind of protest? Kevin Anderson and Jim Butcher are excellent authors–giants in the field, and mentors to half the authors working today–but now we’re supposed to shut them out completely just because the wrong people nominated them? Toni Weiiskopf and Anne Sowards are exactly the kind of brilliant, talented editors the “recognize more women” crowd (in which company I include myself) has been trying to recognize for years, but now we’re supposed to ignore them just because some conservative white guys got them on the ballot? THIS IS INSANE. Some of the people on the ballot are terrible people, and some of their work is terrible fiction, and I’ll be voting accordingly, but punishing Anne Sowards because I want to punish the people who put her on the slate is misguided and cruel. These people did good work, worthy of reward, and I’m going to reward them. Let’s fix this problem in a way that doesn’t trample innocents.

As a final word: I will be at WorldCon this year, not wallowing in controversy but celebrating science fiction and fantasy. I love the genre, I love the stories we tell, and I love the spirit of hope that those stories express about the future. Let’s try to be as good as the heroes we write about.

24 Responses to “My four cents on the Hugo thing”

  1. Paul Genesse says:

    Hi Dan, Well said.

  2. Paul Genesse says:

    Hi Dan, Well said. I agree.

  3. Sara says:

    Obviously, I’m not thrilled about what happened with the nominations this year. I’m sad that only three works/people I nominated this year made it onto the ballot. But, I’m going to do my due diligence reading and vote accordingly, and we’ll see what happens from there.
    One thing I find so interesting about Hugo nominations are how few votes there actually are. That’s not really a statement on anything, it’s just weird to look at the number of ballots turned in and compare that to the kind of attendance I see at the cons I go to. It’s such a tiny slice of the community as a whole, and yet it has the power to overwhelm us and capture our attention.

  4. What?!!??!! You don’t agree with Larry? I might have to reevaluate all the glowing reviews I’ve given your books!! Thank goodness Amazon has an edit button!

    I’m kidding, of course, and you are 100% correct. Larry Correia *IS* one of the nicest people I know. He’s always been kind to me, he’s always been helpful when I’ve asked for his input, my son practically hero-worships him, and best of all… he loves writing. He gets excited about it, like a kid in a candy store–only this is one big kid and all the candy is well-written books. I’d even use the word giddy to describe his reaction to it, though most people who only know his online persona might not believe me. Bottom line is that Larry is a good person and a good friend. And not just me, I’ve seen him sacrifice his time at writing conventions to help anybody who approaches him and asks for advise. Anybody. And he doesn’t ask for anything in return; he just wants to help other writers become better writers. No–it’s more than that. He just wants to be helpful.

    To sum up the other three points, a glance at the Hugo Rewards show that the vote is for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novellette, Best Short Story, etc. etc. I don’t see any category for Best Novelist, Best Storyteller, etc. If voters can’t see past the author’s name on the cover then their vote speaks more about themselves than who they are voting for. It’s sad that voters have decided to make this an opportunity to push a political agenda instead of celebrating good writing.

  5. Joe Zieja says:

    Dan this is wonderful. Thanks. It’s rare to see level headed responses to this, so this is refreshing.

  6. Alan Ziebarth says:

    Excellent. Thank you.

  7. paulb says:

    I loved Jack London’s books. He was a drunk and a loser.

    Hemingway is hands down my favorite writer of all. He was also a drunk and overall just an absolutely foul human being, and absolutely mind-effed his own kids.

    Mozart? A-hole. Beethoven too, but moreso.

    John Lennon? He spent more time beating his wives than he did with his son, who he abandoned. Oh, and he beat a man half to death for questioning his sexuality. Permanent. Physical. Damage. For jokingly asking him if he was fond of the lads. Where is the movement to delist the Beatles from Itunes?

    Lot of folks need to grow the hell up. We’re all flawed, and where we’re not, we’re vastly different, and little respect for that fact is percolating up from either camp. And yet, with all the hyperbolic name calling, we’re being separated into camps over politics. NONE of the SP slate are beating his/her Yoko like a pinata, so maybe people need to go outside a few minutes and remember what real adversity looks like.

    I don’t agree fully with where Dan chose to hang his hat, but I respect the absolute hell out of how he did it, and am more inclined to listen and consider his views.

  8. Justin E. says:

    Dan, that is the most reasonable discussion I have read about this whole sorry mess. I really dislike how aggressively writers seem to attack each other because of their political views.

  9. Rich Hailey says:

    Dan, I couldn’t agree more. Yes, SP1,2,and to a lesser extent 3 have been confrontational in nature. An argument could be made that confrontation was the only way to proceed, and you and I would probably disagree on the validity of that argument, which is fine.

    There are two remedies I would like to see, one a rules change and one an attitude change.

    I’d like to see nominations thrown open to anybody anywhere, but limited to a smaller number of nominations than the award slots available. For example, the award has five slots, and anybody can nominate up to three separate works. That’s the rule change and it makes slate voting very difficult to pull off.

    Second, and with the right PR, it might be a natural consequence of the rule change, increase voter engagement. The only way slate voting works is if there are a low number of nominating voters. So get out the vote. Find out why such a small percentage of fans vote and fix it.

    I can’t get to Sasquan but I am thinking strongly about going to MidAmericaCon and attending the business meetings.

  10. TJR says:

    Hey Dan, I honestly respect your position on this. I found your books through him, and have enjoyed the ones I have read. Thanks for being a class act.

  11. Jonathon Side says:

    Thank you for this, Dan. It’s good to get a sensible and balanced perspective in all this. And while I don’t particularly like Correia from what I know of him and of the whole SP thing… I’ll try not to badmouth him.

    Not that I went after him directly as it is, but I won’t.

  12. The Ubiquitous says:

    From what I hear, John C. Wright is also a phenomenally nice guy, too, to meet in person. I follow his blog and every so often he’ll post an interview, and the man definitely has a kind voice.

    I’m also a great fan of his writing and I can’t believe he doesn’t have more recognition. That is, except that I realize that he shoots himself in the foot with his histrionics on his blog, but because he is a well-rounded person I suppose he doesn’t care.

    I can trust a guy who gets into histrionics. It’s the calm ones you have to watch out for hiding something.

  13. Peggy :) says:

    Well said, sir! And an extra gold star for sticking up for your friends, even if you don’t agree on everything. :)

    P.S. Reading Hollow City again – and looking at how you put the story together (planting expectations, making promises, setting things up). Very cool!

  14. Jess Mahler says:

    Well said. I don’t know Correia outside of his books, but IMO if he was a racist, mysoginist, and other things people call him, he woudn’t write the characters he does. Awesome author with some powerful characters.

  15. Squid says:

    For what it’s worth, I doubt that the Hugo voting will be screwed up for all time. The Puppies are currently enjoying a great sense of solidarity, because they’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder against what they perceive (fairly or not) as a cadre of like-minded insiders voting in lock step to support boring stories by politically correct authors.

    Within a very short time, the group will start to splinter, because it won’t have a unifying “enemy” to hold it together. I mean, Larry’s the perfect guy to charge headlong into the old guard and redecorate “their” clubhouse, but he’s hardly the type of person who can lead a movement for very long. He’s just not built for diplomacy and compromise.

    Once this happens, we’ll see the various flavors of Puppies supporting their own favorite stories, and once they splinter, they’ll likely be on equal footing with every other sort of fan. I honestly believe this will bring us the best outcome we could hope for: myriad competing slates supported by myriad competing sub-groups of fans.

    I don’t think that lock-step voting, whether from the Puppies or the old guard, is going to dominate for very long. The community is just too fractious.

  16. There are so many reasons I admire you, and this post is one of them.

  17. Dan Raffensperger says:

    Dan; followed a link here because the name seemed familiar. Aha ! I really enjoyed Partials ! So, first, thank you ! And then, I really enjoyed this. SO, again, thank you. I only know Larry from what I’ve seen online. I only know Brad slightly better, but consider him a more evenly balanced fellow. But I am one of those folks who agree with the gist of their observations. ‘Planned’ or not, the choices seemed to mostly be limited. But I thought the small blowup I observed over Mira/Seanan was uncalled for. I DO know her, and as you mentioned of Larry, am quite content to agree to disagree. I admire her writing and dedication to the accurate portrayal of the story immenseley. So I felt she deserved what she got. Likewise, I will be checking out the recommended works of the ‘Sad Puppies’. Because the stories should never be about the politics of the author, even if there will always be a trace of that in there. And I also don’t see the fuss over the ‘slate’ that was offered in public, vs. the ‘suggestions’ of other groups that were somewhat less public. No one’s arms were twisted, and if some yahoos voted blindly, well, that has gone on before. I have been more a slacker, since I often had NOT yet read the nominations, and would NOT vote blindly. It’s a bit easier these days; works get into the library faster, so I don’t feel I have to wait until I’m sure I ‘really’ want the book. Perhaps the fuss will encourage my getting more involved once more.

  18. Andrew Trembley says:

    Harassments and death threats are inappropriate. Full stop.

    Harassers don’t belong in our community. Full stop.

    That said, the rest of us don’t know Larry the good husband and father. We only know his public persona, and that’s marmite. People who agree with him think he’s a prophet. Everyone else just sees a grandstanding jerk lobbing insults.

    (I couldn’t stand The Butcher of Kharadov, but I loved I am not a Serial Killer, and thought it was both technically superb and a ripping yarn.)

  19. Tom Galloway says:

    I’m putting No Award definitely ahead of all Puppy related nominees, and quite possibly (with regret) on all Puppy tainted categories (i.e. all but Fan Artist (untainted) and Graphic Story (1 Puppy).

    I’m doing this because the bloc vote wrecked the process and the ballot. I don’t care who made it because of that, whether they’re a good writer/artist/editor, or their politics.

    As I’ve written elsewhere, if the group that had bloc voted had done so in order to make the ballot consist of exactly what I wanted on the ballot (and somehow knew what that was), I’d be doing the same thing.

    Yes, there are some folk out there who are playing politics from both sides. There’s also a fair number of people, including myself, whose reaction is “I don’t give a damn about your politics or whether a few of the folk you got on the ballot actually do deserve to be there, and its a shame you had to do this to get them on. You wrecked any chance of all but two categories being valid this year, and there’s a fair chance you’ve destroyed the Hugos. I’m reacting to what and how you did things, not who you are”.

  20. AmyCat - Book Universe says:

    Agree with a lot of your post.

    I don’t think Mr. Correia (who I met at last WesterCon, and who was very nice there) is a racist, or a bigot, or a misogynist. Unfortunately, his “Sad Puppies” have brought some thoroughly racist, sexist, and homophobic elements into the Hugos. His group invited the GamerGaters to help hack the nominations, and opened the way for VD’s “Rabid Puppies” to get traction. The phrase “lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas” seems unfortunately apt here… :-(

  21. Chris Gerrib says:

    Dan – if we don’t meet at Worldcon we will on the Writing Excuses cruise. I appreciate and am sorry about the bind that you are in.

    The Romans said “in vino veritas” and I frequently think we should say “in Internet truth.” The same dis-inhibitors seem to apply to both situations. Perhaps that’s just me – all I know of Larry is that I saw him at one panel in Reno and he was rude to me on his blog.

    In any event, nice people can do bad things. Criticizing Larry’s family, etc. is wrong, but criticizing Larry for his actions is par for the course. It’s also a case of reaping what you sow – if you’re an a-hole on the Internet, the Internet might be an a-hole back.

    I didn’t see enough of Larry at Reno to know if he was ostracized or not. But I look at it like this – if you get bad service at a restaurant do you just say “I’m not going back” or do you organize a picketing campaign to shut the place down?

    Finally – Worldcon CAN’T change the rules for next year’s vote. It takes two years to make any change to the WSFS constitution.

  22. I liked you right away when I first met you at World Fantasy San Diego, Dan and that like just gets deeper the more I encounter you. Hear, here, Dan. Hear, hear. I continue to teach your Story Structure to my students and benefit from it in my own writing.

    When I’m stuck, I say WHAT WOULD DAN WELLS DO?

    Thank you for being you,


  23. Brad Horner says:

    Thank you! We have to keep the spirit of the Hugos alive! It’s everyone’s responsibility.

  24. Angela Sebastian says:

    You’re first class, Dan. Keep talking, keep writing. Your brand will outshine the mob, that’s how life keeps living. And, I finally started the John Cleaver series and I was thrilled to see that you’re a gifted writer in addition to being an engaging writing-advocate (ala Writing Excuses). Cheers, keep it up.

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