April 15th, 2015

SSuiseiseki

Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, and taking fandom back

"Fandom requires you to associate with the kind of people you'd normally cross the street to avoid" - yours truly, after Garrison Keillor

This is particularly true of science fiction fandom, which is the oldest of the subcultures that make up geek culture; as I have grown older, I've become less willing to spend time around people who profess tolerance for other cultures and races but in practice are as tyrannical and intolerant as any Nazi party gauleiter or Soviet commissar. Unfortunately, these people (who Brad Torgerson has helpfully termed CHORFs) have largely come to dominate the Hugo nominations and voting, much as they have come to dominate most of the traditional SF conventions. It's no coincidence that just as these conventions -I'll pick Minicon and Capclave* as representative examples- are static, greying, and slowly dying off, the Worldcon has come to imitate them. And as a result, the Hugo Awards, once arguably a sign of what was best in SF and fantasy, became little better than the Nebulas, a meaningless award handed out by CHORFs to CHORFs and doing pretty much nothing to spur sales.

In contrast, geek culture conventions have enormous memberships. The San Diego Comic Convention, which stopped being about just comics years ago, routinely draws 100k; Otakon in Baltimore is good for 50k, and DragonCon in Atlanta is somewhere between the two. Even my little wooden anime convention, Anime Detour, draws more people than Worldcon. So how is it that Worldcon clings to the belief that the Hugos are still what is best in SF, when only a tiny fraction of geek culture ponies up the $40 to buy a vote? Inertia, and the lack of desire by any other organization to set up a competing award. I digress, though.

Larry Correia originally started Sad Puppies as a test of fandom: was it true that SF fandom, as represented by the Hugo voters at Worldcon, had become insular, alienated from fandom, and dominated by cliques? Over a period of years, he proved to my satisfaction that this was indeed true - the CHORFs were running the show, and anyone who didn't hew to the Social Justice Warrior line wasn't going to get nominated for a Hugo, much less win one. And so it was that Brad Torgerson took over the Sad Puppies effort for Sad Puppies 3, encouraged the purchase of memberships, and inspired all manner of frothing rage amongst the CHORFs. Adding to the fun/excitement/rage, noted outlaw blogger and former SFWA member** Theodore Beale took a page from Sad Puppies and posted a slate of nominees under the Rabid Puppies banner. The influx of new voters enabled both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates to sweep damn near all the Hugo nominations this year, at whicih point the Flaming Rage Nozzles Of Tolerance completely lost their shit. One of the consequences was a coordinated hit job in the mainstream media, which backfired badly; the other was an ongoing and more or less civil exchange between grrm and Larry Correia.

So what does this have to do with me? I am somewhat of a traditionalist, and would like to see the Hugos returned to their former glory. It's never going to happen as long as the CHORFs run the show, and so the fresh blood that Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, and similar efforts by Mary Robinette Kowal is important, as is the return of older, bitter fans like me who for a long time haven't felt too welcome at SF conventions. Maybe we can open up Worldcon to the wider world of geek culture and leave the CHORFs muttering angrily into their bottles of Ensure on the sidelines. Maybe we'll fail and things will continue as they have been in the last few years. But damn it, we have to at least TRY.


*The literary SF convention that replaced Disclave after the latter's unfortunate demise.
**He was expelled by SFWA, apparently in violation of their own bylaws, for quoting N.K. Jemisin to expose her as the racist asshole she is.
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