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"Let me take you back...back into time.
When the only people that existed were cave men...cave women...
-Jimmy Castor Bunch, "Troglodyte"

In the long-distant past when I was young, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (or were they Cadillac Coupe DeVilles?) and times were so different we referred to them by different numbers -MCMLXIV, I believe it was- it was a proud and lonely thing to be a science fiction fan. Reading that "trashy Buck Rogers stuff" was definitely frowned upon by most right-thinking Americans, middlebrow and high-class alike, and the same was true of comic books, which were regarded as fodder for children and the immature. TV shows and movies with science-fiction plots and themes were few and far between, and SF fans, many of whom were, to be completely honest, more than a little socially retarded, tended to get together at small "conventions" where they could talk with other people who also read Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, and this disturbing young fellow Ellison. It was regarded as quite remarkable when the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention held in Washington topped four thousand people in its membership.

Yet even then, the changes in fandom were underway. A short-lived show on NBC, Star Trek, generated massive fan interest in people who had never heard of science fiction fandom. The Trek fans flooded into fandom, and in the first of a sadly repetitive series of dumb mistakes, fandom turned on these newcomers and made them aware that they were most certainly Not Welcome. Fandom's open and non-judgmental culture suddenly became harshly critical of "drobes" who ran around in Starfleet and Klingon uniforms they hadn't even made themselves, and Trekkies who seemingly had no other interest in SF outside the series. This was horseshit, of course; perhaps predictable horseshit, given that so many SF fans (as I mentioned previously) were more than a little lacking in social skills, but horseshit all the same. Trekkies were in many cases SF fans fired up by the campaigns to bring the show back, fans writing fanfic, fans writing fanzines to publish fanfic and fanart in, fans starting conventions to which bemused actors were invited and besieged by legions of fans seeking autographs. In short, fans doing fanac, but not in the Approved Manner or on the Approved Topics. And so Trek fandom and its conventions, for the most part, went its separate way from traditional literary SF fandom.

Not too long after the hordes of unwashed Trekkies had been successfully repelled from the ghetto, a fellow named George Lucas showed up at the Kansas City Worldcon in 1976, promoting a remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress featuring starships, a courageous young farmboy with hidden psychic powers, a couple of amusing robots, two ancient masters of martial arts, and a brutal Galactic Empire. He got a warm reception, and a few years later millions of people around the world were flocking to see the movie we all know now as Star Wars. They, too, started showing up at science fiction conventions, and got the same warm reception shown to their older brothers and sisters the Trekkies, and they in turn started going to what were increasingly called media conventions. The media conventions, like the Trek conventions before them, were very different from the fan-run SF conventions that preceded them. More (if not most) of them were unabashedly for-profit, charged different membership rates with different levels of access to the guests, and sometimes seemed more like combination flea markets/autograph sessions, with some panels where the guests talked about the shows. And they drew tens of thousands of people, because after Hollywood saw the huge piles of money Lucas was making, they couldn't wait to launch a new Star Trek movie, a new Star Trek TV series, and all manner of TV shows and movies with science fiction themes. And lo, the fans of these shows and movies were likewise greeted with a cold shoulder by the Big Name Fans, Filthy Pros, and Secret Masters of Fandom.

At about the same time, role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller) exploded in popularity, followed not much later by collectible card games like Magic. For some reason, gamers had always fit better with traditional fandom, perhaps because so many of them were SF and fantasy fans to begin with, but after a while (perhaps around the time video games started becoming affordable and popular) they, too, started feeling less than welcome at regular SF conventions, and began going off to swell the crowds at GenCon and other conventions that were mostly about games and gaming.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Is a trend becoming apparent to you? Here, let's add another ingredient to this mulligan stew. In 1997, while I and my wife at the time were mostly busy trying to raise our kids, the regional SF convention in Minneapolis, Minicon, was in crisis. Attendance had ballooned to over three thousand people, staff turnover and burnout were epidemic, and the fan club nominally responsible for running Minicon, MNSTF, had no real idea whether the con was making money, losing money, or investing it in beaver hat futures on the Medicine Hat Commodities Exchange. The MNSTF Board of Directors, wakened from their dogmatic slumber by all the hooting, hollering, carrying-on, shrieks of horror, and assorted gibbering, actually paid serious attention to various proposals regarding the upcoming Minicon. One proposal, advanced by Minicon veteran Victor Raymond, was to split the baby: have one Minicon dedicated to traditional SF fandom, and another at a different time which would be more of a Gathering of the Clans, a three-ring circus and big ol' party for media fans, anime fans, BDSM folk, and the other subcultures drawn to SF fandom, where being different wasn't automatically considered bad. Another proposal, which was the one MNSTF wound up going with, was called the High Resolution Minicon Proposal, and whatever its authors' original intentions, it was seen by most of Upper Midwest fandom as "Thanks for all the time and money you've sunk into Minicon over the years, you fringefans, but we're tired of you now, and you need to fuck right off." What became immediately apparent was that the vast majority of Minicon's attendance and staff had in fact been made up of those "fringefans" for quite some time, and in the years following the implementation of the HRMP, Minicon's attendance imploded to a low of about 400 people. Meanwhile, those fans who felt snubbed by the HRMP organized two other conventions: Marscon, more focused on media and gaming but still mainly an SF convention, and Convergence, essentially Minicon 2.0. So in the end, what Victor had campaigned for happened anyway, but instead of successfully managing the change and remaining the preeminent SF club in the upper Midwest, MNSTF dropped the ball and dwindled into obscurity, which their graying membership seems quite happy with. The same thing, with minor variations, also happened at Boskone and Disclave and other regional conventions, so I think it's reasonable to draw a few conclusions about SF Fandom in general from these examples.

Let's fast forward a few years. By now, everyone is familiar with the Sad Puppies story: Larry Correia noticed a drop in Worldcon attendance correlating with an increase in Hugo Awards to works of SF that weren't terribly successful in the marketplace, but were written by the Right People and tended to have the Right Characters expressing the Right Views. Over the next two years, he tested the hypothesis, encouraging his readers and friends to join Worldcon and vote. Membership numbers at Worldcon increased, votes for the Hugo increased, and in the third year of Sad Puppies, when massive numbers of people bought supporting memberships and nominated works by John Wright, Tom Kratman, Michael Williamson, and other authors considered "badthinkers" by defenders of the existing order - the same people, mind you, who had encouraged Larry to go out and get more people to join Worldcon if he felt it wasn't sufficiently reflective of the SF market- the backlash from people such as Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, John Scalzi, David Gerrold, and various unhousebroken employees of Tor Books was vitriolic. The Sad Puppies (and their co-belligerents, the Rabid Puppies led by Vox Day) were libeled as racists, homophobes, neo-Nazis, misogynists and pretty much every politically correct insult in the book. In the end, despite the Puppy Kickers' hypocritical preaching against the evils of "slate voting", a bloc of 2500 voters chose "No Award" over any work nominated from the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies list - a list, mind you, that SP3 leader Brad Torgersen had not delivered from on high, but instead crowdsourced from anyone who wanted to suggest works worth nominating. Vox Day's Rabid Puppies list was almost identical to the SP list, but as far as anyone knows, it was a list he chose and distributed to the Dread Ilk. This massive "No Award" result, which doubled the number of such from the entire history of the Hugo Awards, was loudly cheered and celebrated by those in attendance at the Hugo Award banquet; this cheering was encouraged by MC David Gerrold, while thousands of fans around the world were subjected to this display of vile behavior thanks to the Internet.

Having read the preceding, should the results of SP3 have been a surprise to anyone? The people running WSFS and the people running local SF conventions are the same people who for the last fifty years have been mouthing off about "openness" and "tolerance" and "not being judgmental" while doing their best to run off "fringefans" at every opportunity instead of welcoming new chums and introducing them to the wider world of science fiction and fantasy. In order to join traditional fandom, you are only allowed to come in through one door, only allowed to read certain books, only allowed to express certain opinions. Then you can be accepted as a "true fan". Why would anyone in their right mind want to put themselves through that? It's a good question, and one which a lot of fans have answered by ignoring traditional fandom in favor of geek culture events such as the San Diego Comic Convention, Otakon, GenCon, and Dragon*Con. Some fans have signed up for Sad Puppies 4, hoping to recruit enough friends and allies to retake the Hugo Awards from the Sadducees and Pharisees who have controlled it (and increasingly, handed it out to those favored by Tor) for going on ten years.

In the long term, though, perhaps what fandom (as opposed to Fandom) needs to do is build up a fan organization that welcomes all fans of science fiction and fantasy, no matter what door they enter by. Fortunately, one already exists, and has existed since 1941: the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). The dues are lower, there's more to do between conventions, and eventually, given enough time and members, what the membership of the N3F thinks about anime, books, comics, games, and movies may prove to be more important than what an insular group of graying old WSFS members think.

UPDATE: Okay, closing the comments now for two reasons. One, the vast majority of you seem intent on beating the dead Sasquan/Hugos horse, which was merely an example of the larger issue. Two, I'm not particularly interested in hosting that beating.

That having been said, thanks to lydy and dd_b for politely correcting me on stuff I got wrong about Diversicon and providing another POV on the whole HRMP kerfluffle, respectively. No thanks to nwhyte for accusing Brad Torgersen of shenanigans regarding the SP3 pre-nomination crowd-sourcing and insisting Brad prove his innocence after being called out. That's not how it works, Nick, and you should be adult enough to know better.


Oct. 19th, 2015 11:16 am (UTC)
If you mean, has this exploit always been available, then yes, it has. And it's been known, but there never seemed to be a reason to fix it. And there has been a very small amount of bloc voting in the past. However, said blocs were typically one item in one category. There has never been, in the history of the Hugos, a bloc vote for a majority of the slots in almost all the categories. This is definitely a first.

I have seen various analyses of voting past and present, and none of those support the theory of secret slates. And I have seen analyses of Goodreads that show exactly the opposite of what you claim. If you have links to the analyses, I'd be interested.

As for "first time no-awarder," yep, that makes sense. This was a very, very unusual year, and many people who have been voting for many years had never had any reason, before, to choose No Award as their first choice. Although, also on File 770, you'll find a number of people, including Mike Glyer and Nick Mamatas, talking about how they have frequently chosen No Award. Nick votes for it every year in the fancast category, since he feels that it is a category that should not exist, for instance.

You also completely fail to engage with the fact that, this last year, 80% of the ballot were Puppy nominees, even though the Puppy voters were approximately 20% of the total. This looks patently unfair from every angle I can think of to look at it from. I suspect that the architects of the slate were a bit taken aback at their huge success, suggesting that they didn't actually understand how the numbers worked. Do you, personally, think that this was a fair and equitable outcome? While it is true that the Sad Puppies did not vote entirely in lock-step, they voted close enough to lock-step that, in conjunction with the Rabids (who probably did vote in lock-step), they were able to completely dominate the ballot. Which, by the way, disproves the secret cabal with secret slates, since if there had been a secret slate, the results would not have been nearly so lop-sided.

Edited at 2015-10-19 11:17 am (UTC)
Oct. 19th, 2015 11:59 am (UTC)
"Completely dominate" is a pretty strong term when they took 5 positions in only 4 out of 16 categories, mostly minors.

Brad was rather surprised with his success. But here's the thing, every single voter was an individual acting on his own. Without people deciding to vote for things they agreed with from Brad's list (And there was plenty of disagreement) then Brad's list would have merely been a list, just like Locus' list, or TOR's "Helpful" listing of what's eligible that year, or Scalzi's endorsements, etcetera. People made their choices, and trying to divide them into good voters and bad voters simply because you didn't like their individual choices is a failure to respect the voting process.

By the way, you're not gong to gain any traction at all with me by citing that piece of shit Mamatas. As for categories that shouldn't exist, perhaps the one that Glyer has been up for virtually every year should be eliminated for lack of viable alternatives. Between File 770 and Making Light, you've got a clear conspiracy to manipulate the Hugo results.
Oct. 19th, 2015 12:19 pm (UTC)
Still ignoring my point. Ok, then, not an argument you think you can win. Seriously, though, do you think that 5 positions in 4 categories is somehow an argument in favor? That this is proof of something other than slate voting? How does that even work?

The difference between the Locus list and Brad's list is that the Locus list is always many times more than the number of slots on the ballot. This, in itself, creates some diffusion. The lack of a political agenda (however theoretically historical) also exists.

I'm not trying to get you to like Mamatas, I have problems with him myself. But he is, in fact, a long time voting member of Worldcon, who deploys No Award on a regular basis, something you claimed doesn't exist.

As for your clear conspiracy...what is the difference, in your mind, between popular and a conspiracy? I mean, Mike has been doing seriously good work in the fanzine world for a really, really long time, and lots of people like his work. So, yep, it gets nominated a lot, and often wins. This does not require any sort of conspiracy. And I'm baffled as to why you bring up Making Light, which has never won a Hugo, nor ever been nominated for same. And if you think that Tor has been dominating the Hugos, you really can't do statistics.
Oct. 20th, 2015 07:25 am (UTC)
It's an argument against the claim they "Dominated", shut out, or whatever other term you want to use about the result. They took over a whole quarter of the categories, and only one of the Big Four.

As for the number of slots. A lot of people accuse Brad of suggesting five candidates per category. This was not true. Then they say it would have been better if he had chosen fewer, (Except that was what happened in SP2, and you already know how well that was received).

SP4 will try the More than 5 alternative. We shall see if people were being honest with their criticism.

(I'm not sure where I claimed that someone who deploys No Award on a regular basis didn't exist. I'm sure there are people who do it out of spite too, when their nominees don't make it, which happens to roughly 90% of the electorate, and is probably part of why participation is so low.)

I bring up Making Light because that is ground zero for anti-puppy organization, and the focal point for trying to change the rules to suit themselves.

As for statistics, others have done a far more in-depth analysis. Dominating by majority, maybe not, but by disproportionality, sure. After all, you've used that term for shutting out a quarter of the categories.
Oct. 20th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'd be happier with SP4 if they weren't sorting their nominations by popularity. I think it's a step in the right direction. But I'll be relieved if E Pluribus Hugo is ratified, as that will make this particular form of slate-making and campaigning much less effective.

I am continually bemused by the idea that there is an "anti-puppy organization." Fans have many virtues, gods know, but organization isn't one of them. As for the idea that EPH is an attempt to "change the rules to suit themselves" this is a terrible misrepresentation of the situation. The entire discussion is there, in the open, if anyone cares to read it. It is, I confess, rather long. But it's an attempt to fix a particular, known problem with the nomination phase, and not an attempt to prevent any particular group from participating. The focus is to make sure that the nominations are representative.

"Dominating by majority, maybe not, but by disproportionality, sure. After all, you've used that term for shutting out a quarter of the categories." I'm sorry, I actually don't understand your point, here. Can you expand?