So, Sad Puppies. Sad Puppies makes me angry.
And just to be clear, what I take to be objectionable about the whole thing—what pisses me off almost to the point of incoherence—is not (for the most part) the authors who are on the list. And I frankly could not care less about whether Sad Puppies “gamed” the Hugos (because that is basically how the Hugos work).
What makes me so angry about all this is the argument that people interested in social justice—and who put it in their fiction either explicitly or just by dealing with topics that are other-than-male, other-than-white, other-than-straight—are “ruining” the genre, and that if you speak up on behalf of actual social justice and equality, you are essentially shouted down and called a Nazi (the perpetual comparison of Feminisms and other social justice movements to murdering millions of people always baffles and angers me. In fact, it is not a matter of ‘cultural Leninism’ to strive for equality. It is not ‘authoritarian’ or ‘fascist’ to suggest that, hey, maybe we should give traditionally underprivileged groups some kind of fair treatment. There is, in fact, a difference between actual discrimination and the mere loss of privilege.).
What makes me angry is the co-opting of social justice language (“We’re being shut out by the political/cultural elite!”) to make what is basically an argument that marginalizes anything other than the “default,” and which paints the “old way of doing things” or whatever as a magical place full of butterflies, rainbows, and happiness for everybody everywhere forever, which is now ruined because minorities are whiny. (Another news flash: that’s only true if you happened to be a straight white man.)
What makes me angry, in short, is the rhetoric of inclusion being used to say “All those people of colour and other minorities who got on the Hugo slate? They’re only there because of left-wing politics, and not because they earned it.”
Because, make no mistake, that IS the Sad Puppies platform:
Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as 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.
This argument is—among other things—incredibly disrespectful to anyone who happens to be other than straight, white, and male and who has also placed on the Hugo ballot in previous years. Ann Leckie? Totally just there because politics. N.K. Jemisin? Politics rears its ugly head again—she clearly couldn’t have been on there otherwise. I mean, gosh, nobody even reads the things those people write, so how else could they be there?!
It’s a toxic, noxious, disrespectful argument. And I’m not going to pretend I don’t have an issue with that being the basis on which a platform is built, because I do—even though I have a few friends on the slate who I think genuinely do deserve more recognition for their work.
Anyway, for the majority of the people who are on the current Hugo ballot, my message is: Congratulations. I’m happy for you—honestly, I am. If you’re there because you’re an awesome writer, that’s a fantastic achievement, and you shouldn’t let the political bullshit pushed by the Sad Puppies crowd get you down.
For the few who are there purely because those with like-minded politics voted you in, well … I think it’s going to be pretty obvious whenever a voter opens up your work.
And Sad Puppies’ central argument that politics is ruining science fiction? Fuck that bullshit.
If you want a link that talks about this in a more calm and reasoned manner (of which I am totally incapable), here:
- A Detailed Explanation – A very long post, which breaks down the Sad Puppies platform and rhetoric piece by piece and makes (in my view) very compelling arguments against it. Summary excerpt: “I think SF has always had ideology behind it; and that there’s no appreciable increase in ideology in recent Hugo novels; and that it’s better to read a text ideologically than not, because ideology is always there; and that, in the end, the current ideology Torgersen finds in SF is more important to me personally and to the culture at large than past ideology.”
And other good reads on it all: