Few in the speculative fiction community were surprised that the 2016 Hugo Award for Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy ballot was beleaguered for the second year in a row by a slate of trolls calling themselves the Sad Puppies, with their right-wing pals the Rabid Puppies in tow (seriously, these names). But unlike last year, actual confrontations took place during the World Science Fiction Convention that leads up to the awards, held in Kansas City, MO this past week.
At a panel on the State of Short Fiction on Friday, the moderator, a small, unhappy-looking man whose name I kept forgetting (it’s David Truesdale but I have already forgotten again) delivered a 10-minute prepared speech on how “special snowflakes” were ruining science fiction. He pulled out a strand of fake pearls, draped them around his neck, and declared that people should wear these so they might clutch them whenever offended.
He then spent the rest of the panel literally clutching his pearls while co-panelist Sheila Williams, long-time editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction, gently but firmly put him and his ideology in its place. The rest of the panel was male, extremely experienced and well-respected; they had little to add, either too furious or too annoyed to participate.
It was a fair illustration of the whole debacle. A few (mostly) white (mostly) men accuse others of playing the victim while shouting about how the “political correctness police” victimizes them. Of course, they miss this irony. Bigots aren’t big on self-examination.
It’s also patently false, by the way, that strong women are new to speculative fiction. We’ve been ruining science fiction from the very beginning, with folks like Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin and Kate Wilhelm having huge early influence in the genre. Sheila Williams has been in the business for three decades. Vonda McIntyre gave Mr. Sulu his first name. That’s serious shit.
The Hugo Award ceremony itself was less dramatic than last year’s. Only two categories consisting entirely of Puppy slate nominees were voted No Award. Every one of the main fiction awards was given to women. Best Novel: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. Best Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Best Novelette: "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu). Best Short Story: "Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer.
The stage was full of women. Women of color, queer women, astronaut women, women of different sizes. They were there because science fiction fans voted to put them there. Because they write fantastic stories.
It takes two years for amendments to the Hugo voting rules to go into effect. Changes were made last year after the first slate ballot debacle, but nothing much could be done to prevent it from happening again in 2016.
Next year’s ballot may be different, or it could be plagued by entirely different problems. Whatever happens, badass ladies will still be writing good fiction, and nerds will continue reading it.
Tegan Moore is a speculative fiction writer who has ruined magazines like Asimov's and Strange Horizons. You can find her at www.alarmhat.com.