Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Biased Opinion - 2016 Hugo Awards Post Mortem

A finalist who appeared on the Sad Puppy recommended list won the Hugo award for Best Novella, Best Short Story, and Best Fan Writer.

A finalist who appeared on the Rabid Puppy slate won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.

A finalist who appeared on both the Rabid Puppy slate and the Sad Puppy recommended list won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation, Best Professional Artist, Best Fanzine, and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

In all, a finalist from the Sad Puppy list or the Rabid Puppy slate won in nine of the seventeen categories. With that level of success, one would think that the various Pups would be overjoyed by the Hugo results. One would be wrong. Almost as soon as the results were announced, the various Puppies began wailing and gnashing their teeth. The 2015 lead Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen had a meltdown in response to the 2016 results in which he repeated a collection of debunked Puppy talking points, whined about how "the media" has treated him and his fellow Pups unfairly, and generally saying the racist things he always says when he talks about the Pups, saying that the only reasons that Hugo voters vote for the things that win is "political correctness" and not the quality of the work. Rabid Puppy John C. Wright lamented that the Hugos didn't get awarded to things he personally likes, essentially claiming that there is no way that Jemisin's book could be better than those of Stephenson and Butcher, and that Jessica Jones was obviously not as good as Grimm, Supernatural, and Dr. Who. Of course, Wright has demonstrated in the past that he is willing to make pronouncements about the quality of a work despite not having read or watched it, and there is no indication that he has either read The Fifth Season or watched Jessica Jones, so I consider it highly likely that he is talking out of his ass on this. He also marveled at the fact that Sheila Gilbert beat Jerry Pournelle, declaring Pournelle to be a "legend in the field", apparently missing the fact that Pournelle wasn't nominated in the same category as Gilbert. Pournelle was nominated in the same category as Ellen Datlow and Sheila Williams, and when one compares their work to Pournelle's, it is rather obvious that they did much more short form editing and did it better in 2015, which would explain why he finished behind them. As usual, Wright didn't bother to do any fact-checking before he ran his mouth. Puppy author Brian Niemeier issued his own whine, while the 2016 lead Sad Puppy Kate Paulk indulged in some conspiracy theorizing about Worldcon.

Sad Puppy emeritus Larry Correia declared that "I figured it would shake out like this, the elitist cliques would circle the wagons, send a message that outsiders can fuck off, and declare whatever happened a victory for “diversity”." Apparently no one gave him the message that many of the winners this year were drawn from the Sad Puppy recommendation list, or the Rabid Puppy slate. Maybe he was too busy fulminating over the fact that Jerry Pournelle and Larry Elmore - neither of whom did any particularly notable work in 2015 - finished behind No Award while also finishing behind other worthy finalists (and in the case of Elmore, finishing behind a finalist who was on the Sad Puppy list and Rabid Puppy slate). The brutal truth about Correia's whining is that the whole narrative that he and the rest of the Puppies have pushed over the last couple of years - that the awards are merely about "politics", and people are refusing to vote for Puppy selections merely because the Puppies supported them - has been exposed as a lie. The actual evidence from the voting over the last couple of years shows that when the Puppies have nominated worthwhile finalists, the Hugo voters have responded by voting for them. When the Puppies have nominated weak finalists, they have done poorly. It really is that simple.

But why have the Pups erupted in paroxysms of rage when their candidates generally did so well in the final Hugo voting? The first reason is that, despite their claims that they were merely nominating and supporting what they felt were the "best" works, it seems that what they really wanted was for their political allies and personal cronies to win. The Puppy picks that won in 2016 were Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Neil Gaiman, Andy Weir, Abigail Larson, Mike Glyer, none of whom are beholden to the Pups in any way. In fact, one of the things that seems to have enraged the Pups is that Gaiman was insufficiently grateful to them for their support, calling them out on their bad behavior over the last couple of years with his acceptance speech. If supporting quality works was the primary goal of the Pups, then Gaiman's stance wouldn't matter to them one way or the other - they would be extolling the victory of The Sandman: Overture as a triumph of what they regard as good work.

The second reason that, for many of the Puppies, it seems rather obvious that the Sad Puppy campaigns were never about honoring good works. Instead, it seems readily apparent that for many of the the Pups, the campaigns were only ever about the culture war. There were always signs that this was true: One only has to go back to Correia's original Sad Puppy campaign in which the selling point of voting for him to win a Hugo would be to "make heads explode". In 2015, Torgersen spent much of his time complaining that all of the winners of the major genre awards in recent years had been "affirmative action wins" while coming up with insulting acronyms to hurl at his ideological enemies, a practice he has continued in his responses to the results of 2016 Hugo Awards. Paulk has put up her own posts lamenting "affirmative action" and decrying the "secret cabal" she claims is ruining the Hugo Awards by pushing some sort of evil political agenda. Last year, when people asked the Pups what they liked about the finalists they had pushed onto the ballot with their slate, they almost always fell silent, unable to come up with any kind of argument why their choices were good ones other than "they sold a lot of books" or "this author is very popular". What they were able to do was loudly shout their disdain for those who were not in their small circle of allies. The difference in the attention they paid to promoting the quality of the works they supported and their crusade against people they described as "Social Justice Warriors" (which pretty much means everyone outside their tiny, inward-facing circle) is instructive. Their almost constant attention to attacking their ideological enemies, coupled with their inability to actually recognize the success of the works they supposedly supported pulls away the last shreds of the curtain they had attempted to pull over the true nature of their actions.

The reason the Pups are so invested in the culture war is not hard to figure out: Without it, they are mostly unimportant in the conversation surrounding genre fiction. Correia is the most prominent, and most successful of the Pups, but without the culture war, he's just a guy writing fairly forgettable pulp fiction. For the most part, no one would care about him, and his work would be just the forgettable beach read you picked up last summer. In baseball terms, he'd be a journeyman AAA player who fills his role on the team, but has no real hope of moving further up the ladder. The situation is even worse for the rest of the Pups without the culture war. If Correia is a lifelong AAA player, both Wright, Hoyt, and Torgersen would be in AA, with Torgersen possibly on his way up, but limited in his ability to advance,, Hoyt stagnated, and Wright on his way down. Paulk and the rest of the authors hanging on in the Puppy camp would be single-A players at best. Sure, they are all professionals, but none of them are Major Leaguers, and certainly none of them are deserving of an MVP award. Without the Puppy campaigns, none of the Pups are anything other than mostly forgettable second-, third-, and fourth-string talent. And without the culture war, there is no Puppy campaign. So when their efforts had some success, like this year, to acknowledge it would have been to consign themselves once more to the sidelines. Without the outrage to keep their campaign going, far fewer people would pay attention to them, and they would return to being the fringe figures that they are.

I have listed the finalists in the order in which they finished in the final voting. Finalists who were on the Sad Puppy recommendation list or the Rabid Puppy slate are indicated as such in a parenthetical immediately following the finalist's name. In categories in which No Award finished higher than sixth place, I have indicated the ranking of No Award, listing it in red text. In categories where No Award finished sixth, I have left it off of the results.

Best Novel

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
3. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
4. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher [sad and rabid puppy pick]

This category demonstrates the power of the voting system the Hugo Awards use for determining the winners. The Fifth Season was not my first choice in this category. I picked Ancillary Mercy as my top choice. The Fifth Season wasn't even my second choice, as I picked Uprooted for that spot. Despite this, I am generally satisfied with the outcome of the voting in this category. Even though my first choice didn't win, I would have been happy to see any of my top three choices win. This is probably the case for many voters in most years, and as a result, the system pretty much ensures a result in which most people are satisfied. I ranked Seveneves last, and would have been slightly unhappy had it won, but for it to win the majority of voters would have had to rank it highly, probably first, second, or third on their ballots. In that case, most of the Hugo voters would have been happy with the result notwithstanding my own disappointment. The voting system ensures that most of the people who vote in the award will be happy with the result, or at least find it acceptable.

Though I don't think The Aeronaut's Windlass is particularly good, I also didn't think it was as bad as Seveneves. One interesting (and telling) reaction from the lead Rabid Puppy to the fact that Skin Game, Butcher's book that was nominated by the Pups in 2015, finished behind No Award, while The Aeronaut's Windlass did not was to opine, "Apparently Mr. Butcher's writing has improved a lot since last year." This represents a misapprehension about the Hugos that seems to be common among the Pups. For some reason, many of the Pups seem to think of the Hugo Awards are a kind of career award - for example, whenever anyone asked the lead Pups last year what they liked about Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars, the answer was likely to be some variant of "he sold 25 million books in his career". The trouble with this response is that the Hugo Awards are not intended to award the author who has sold the most books in his career. They are intended to award a specific work, or, in some categories, award the work done by the finalist in a specific year.

The reason that Skin Game got a different result in 2015 than The Aeronaut's Windlass did in 2016 is that they are different books. Butcher was not nominated in 2015 for his career in writing, rather he was nominated on the strength of a single book, and to be blunt, that book was not particularly good. It was, in fact, a worse book than The Aeronaut's Windlass. One fact that seems to elude many of the Pups is that the quality of an author's books can vary wildly over the course of their career, and sometimes from book to book. Take Robert A. Heinlein for example. In 1963, he wrote Glory Road, a book that was named a Hugo finalist in 1964. Glory Road is a pretty good book, and although it did not win, I would have been perfectly happy to rank it above No Award had I been voting. In 1964, Heinlein wrote Farnham's Freehold, which is a terrible book, vying for the title of the worst of his career. It was not made a Hugo finalist in 1965, but if it had been, and I had been voting, I would have had no qualms about placing it behind No Award on my ballot. In 1967, Heinlein wrote The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which is a great book, and for which he deservedly won the Hugo Award in 1968. In the span of four years, Heinlein wrote a decent book, a putrid book, and a fantastic book. The fact that a single author can have such a pattern of production seems to be a mystery only to the Puppies.

Best Novella

1. Binti by Nedi Okorafor [sad puppy pick]
2. Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold [sad and rabid puppy pick]
3. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds [sad and rabid puppy pick]
4. Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. The Builders by Daniel Polansky [sad and rabid puppy pick]

Every finalist in this category was either on the Sad Puppy recommendation list, or on both the Sad Puppy recommendation list and the Rabid Puppy slate. Somehow, despite all of the Puppy wailing after the awards were presented about how the evil Hugo voters refused to vote for certain nominees just because of who supported them, every finalist in this category finished ahead of No Award. The results in this category simply destroy the Puppy claims that the voting is biased against nominees simply because they were promoted by the Puppy campaigns. This year in this category, the Puppies supported generally good stories, and the voters rated them accordingly.

This category does expose some hypocrisy on the part of the Puppies though. Or at least one Puppy: Kate Paulk. Apparently forgetting that Okorafor's Binti was on the recommended list that she was responsible for managing, she referred to it (not by name, but clearly enough that it and Jemisin's Fifth Season are obviously what she is referring to), and essentially claimed that their victories were undeserved and could only be the result of affirmative action. When the Pups wonder why people call them a racist movement, the answer is contained in posts like Paulk's. She phrased her criticism as a desire to help the poor benighted Okorafor and Jemisin achieve their true potential as writers that the evil "SJWs" are supposedly preventing them from reaching by enjoying and honoring their work. This was, of course, incredibly patronizing of her, and it gratuitously demeans the accomplishment of two writers of color, one of whom the Sad Puppies supposedly supported, both of whom can already write circles around every author who has self-identified as a Puppy. Paulk's commentary concerning Okorafor and Jemisin's wins is incredibly racist and offensive, and is yet more evidence that the Pups were never about actually recognizing good work, but were always about waging a political culture war.

Best Novelette

1. Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang [sad and rabid puppy pick]
2. And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander [sad puppy pick]
3. Obits by Stephen King [sad and rabid puppy pick]
4. No Award
5. What Price Humanity? by David VanDyke [rabid puppy pick]
6. Flashpoint: Titan by Cheah Kai Wai [rabid puppy pick]

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, the winner of the Best Novelette category, was on both the Sad Puppy recommendation list and the Rabid Puppy slate. This category is also the first where No Award appears above sixth place, pushing down both What Price Humanity? and Flashpoint: Titan. The results in this category serve once again to confirm that Hugo voters were primarily voting on quality: While the first three finishers in this category were all at least reasonably well done stories, the two that fell behind No Award were markedly worse in quality.

Best Short Story

1. Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer [sad puppy pick]
2. No Award
3. Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle [rabid puppy pick]
4. Asymmetrical Warfare by S.R. Algernon [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. Seven Kill Tiger by Charles Shao [rabid puppy pick]
6. If You Were an Award My Love by Juan Tabo and S. Harris [rabid puppy pick]

Cat Pictures Please seems to be the If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love or The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere of 2016 in the sense that the story seems to evoke unreasoning rage from the Puppies despite the fact that it was on their Sad Puppy recommended list. Several Pups have thunderously proclaimed the story to be terrible, and an example of everything that is wrong with modern science fiction, rhetorically asking if it can stand up next to stories like The Star, Or All the Seas With Oysters, or Flowers for Algernon, to which the answer I would give is an unequivocal yes, with the comment that it is a different kind of story than any of those. But that selection of stories doesn't cover the whole of Hugo history, because an even better question would be whether Cat Pictures Please can stand up next to Allamagoosa, Melancholy Elephants, or Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers. The answer to this second question is also a resounding yes, but it highlights a particular Puppy failing: They are often very selective with the history they quote, and frequently omit large swaths of works from their "canon" of great science fiction. This has led them to a warped view that considers excellent works such as Cat Pictures Please to be anomalous, when in fact, the history of the genre is replete with high-quality work that is thematically and tonally similar to the story.

The outrage that the Hugo win for Cat Pictures Please sparked among the various Puppies is somewhat ironic, given that they were in part the architects of the story's victory. It was through the efforts of the Pups that the extremely weak competition for the story made it to the finalist list, leaving Cat Pictures Please as by far the strongest entry in a field in which the other stories were variously mediocre, offensive, or simply downright awful. Two of the stories that the Rabid Puppies pushed onto the ballot were clearly nonserious entries - as much fun as seeing Chuck Tingle masterfully troll the Puppies for a couple of months was, Space Raptor Butt Invasion was pretty obviously pushed onto the ballot by the Rabid Pups in an effort to embarrass the population of Worldcon. This effort backfired spectacularly, as Worldcon took Chuck Tingle and his off-beat way of looking at the world to heart, but that doesn't make the story anything other than fairly forgettable porn with a mediocre space theme taped onto it. If You Were An Award, My Love was a pathetic attempt at parody, and mean-spirited and poorly written to boot. Asymmetrical Warfare was merely mediocre, while Seven Kill Tiger was poorly written and offensively racist. In a sense, the Puppies paved the way for Cat Pictures Please to win the Hugo Award by making sure there wasn't anything in the field that was any real competition for it.

This reality becomes even more apparent when one considers what the Best Short Story finalists could have looked like had the Puppies not waged their culture war and wedged an array of inferior work onto the Hugo ballot. Cat Pictures Please would have had Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong, Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon, Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker, and Tuesdays with Molokesh the Destroyer by Megan Gray as competition in the category. Even though I think Cat Pictures Please is a wonderful story, I consider it an open question whether it would have won against that field. As a case in point, both Cat Pictures Please and Today I Am Paul were nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award, and my first place vote went to Today I Am Paul while Cat Pictures Please landed in second. Kritzer's story so outclassed the competition provided by the Puppy picks that the outcome was an almost foregone conclusion, while against a real field of finalists, the decision could have turned out very differently. While the Pups fume about Cat Pictures Please winning a Hugo, the blunt truth is they had a very distinct hand in making that come to pass.

Best Related Work

1. No Award
2. Between Light and Shadow by Marc Aramini [rabid puppy pick]
3. The Story of Moira Greyland by Moira Greyland [rabid puppy pick]
4. First Draft of My Appendix N Book by Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
5. Safe Space as a Rape Room by Daniel Eness [sad and rabid puppy pick]
6. SJWs Always Lie by Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick]

Best Related Work is one of two categories that were won by No Award, and it was the one in which that result was most deserved. Every finalist in this category was on the Rebid Puppy slate, with one also appearing on the Sad Puppy recommendation list, and every finalist in this category was simply not good enough to win a Hugo Award. The best finalist in the bunch was Aramini's book on Gene Wolfe's fiction Between Light and Shadow, and that is shown in the voting, where it garnered by far the most votes in the first pass after No Award, and ultimately placed second. In fact, other than No Award, Between Light and Shadow had nearly twice as many first place votes as all of the other finalists combined, beating out the competition with 412 first place votes to their aggregate of 261. Literary analysis of science fiction works is not new: The publisher McFarland has made a business out of publishing books of that type for years, so there was nothing really wrong thematically with Aramini's work that caused it to drop below No Award. Unfortunately, Aramini's book wasn't published by McFarland, or Wesleyan University Press, or any other competent publisher. His book was published by Castalia House, and the borderline incompetent editorial standards of that publisher are in full evidence in its pages. Between Light and Shadow desperately needed serious editing, both to tighten up the wandering and long-winded prose, and to simply clean up the text. It didn't get it, and the resulting book seems like an amateurish and almost slapdash affair. The work probably deserved better than it got from Castalia, but that's where Aramini chose to publish it, and the final published product was low-quality as a result. And yet this was the best offering the Puppies had in this category.

Many of the Puppies erupted in outrage over the fact that Moira Greyland's blog post The Story of Moira Greyland fell behind No Award, with a handful expressing similar sentiments about the final placement of Safe Space as a Rape Room. Larry Correia, for example, said:
Moira Greyland exposed to the culture of rape and pedophilia in old fandom, and not the made up “rape culture” the modern feminists accuse anybody who disagrees with them of. It was a gut wrenching expose in a category normally won by fluff. But they wanted that swept under the rug.
Both Brad Torgersen and John C. Wright expressed similar sentiments. This stance by the Pups is hypocritical in the extreme, and is likely to be remembered as the very lowest point they sank to in their bile-spewing culture war. First, one might note that none of the Pups took Greyland's supposedly very important piece seriously prior to the announcement of the Hugo results. The Sad Puppies didn't put it on their recommendation list, which means that not a single solitary Puppy saw fit to suggest it. I suppose that means, according to Correia, that the Pups "wanted that swept under the rug". Second, in the actual voting, the Pups didn't seem to regard Greyland's piece as particularly important. Between Light and Shadow received 412 votes for first place, while The Story of Moira Greyland received 86, and Safe Space as a Rape Room got 30. One might also note that Correia himself thought the issue was so unimportant that he didn't bother to mention The Story of Moira Greyland until after the Hugo results were announced. Neither did Torgersen. Wright did, once. The story, it seems was not really that important to them until it became a club they could use to try to beat Hugo voters with.

The other problem with the fulminations of Correia and others on this issue is that his claim is simply wrong on the facts, which is easy to learn simply by reading Greyland's actual work, something that they seem not to have bothered to do. The post didn't "exposed to the culture of rape and pedophilia in old fandom", because it only barely touched upon fandom at all. The post is focused almost entirely on Breen and Bradley, and what they did. The only reference to "old fandom" are to people connected to Greyland via a Renaissance Faire who allowed her to move in with them for a time. The only reference to modern fandom is Greyland's discussion of the response to her story getting out via Deidre Saoise Moen's reporting, a response that Greyland says was overwhelmingly supportive of her. To quote Greyland from the piece itself:
Naturally, there was a lot of debate about her and my father. Every time someone tried to doubt my story, a hundred people would shout them down. The age-of-consent creeps came out and were also shouted down. I was, to my shock, believed.
Apparently, Correia missed that part. Of course, acknowledging that would require acknowledging that Greyland's piece wasn't an "expose" as Correia and several other Pups have claimed, because Moen was already reporting on it in 2014, and, of course, Breen's issues had been widely known in fandom since he was convicted in the early 1990s and died in prison in 1993. Far from "sweeping it under the rug", fandom has been dealing with the issue head-on for far longer than the Pups have. The Pups didn't deem the issue to be particularly important when Moen brought it to light, or when fandom was discussing the issue in a serious manner. It only became important to the Pups when it became a tactic they could use in what seems to be the only thing that they actually deem important: Their culture war over the Hugos.

Despite the fact that the evidence shows that the Pups didn't really care about the issues discussed in Greyland's piece, the question that has to be asked is whether it was a worthy nominee that should have been given more consideration. The answer is, in a word, no. The blog post doesn't reveal anything that wasn't already widely known, although the personal nature of the account does count in its favor. On the other hand, Breen died in 1993 while serving a sentence for pedophilia and had not been part of fandom for some time before that. Most people in fandom have been aware of his issues for almost two decades. Bradley died in 1999, and the child abuse revelations about her came to light in 2014, and many of the authors the Pups dislike, such as John Scalzi, Jim Hines, and G. Willow Wilson spoke up immediately, while the Pups stayed silent, preoccupied with their personal crusade against the Hugo Awards. In addition, Greyland's piece doesn't really touch on fandom as a whole, being focused almost entirely upon the actions of her mother and father. In fact, the real problem with the piece occurs when Greyland tries to expand her view beyond her father and mother, at which point it changes from a compelling personal account into a homophobic screed. Greyland effectively blames the existence of homosexuality for her abuse, citing nothing in support of her position except phony statistics from the fraudulent Family Research Council. While the personal story portion of The Story of Moira Greyland is a strong piece of work, it is packaged with a heaping helping of hateful bigotry, and one cannot evaluate the work without the hatefully bigoted portion. When viewed as a whole, Greyland's personal story is dragged down by her current bigotry, and while one can feel sympathetic about the fact that the abuse she suffered probably contributed to her vile views in the present, there is no good reason to reward her homophobia with a Hugo Award.

In a larger sense, it is relatively obvious that the nomination of The Story of Moira Greyland and Safe Space as a Rape Room was a cynical ploy by Theodore Beale to try to smear Worldcon as pedophilia apologists. A common tactic among the "Alt-Right" is to accuse one's ideological enemies of being pedophiles, and Beale using the Rabid Puppy slate to push this line of attack was a transparent attempt to do exactly that. Oddly, the Sad Puppies picked up on this and ran with Safe Space as a Rape Room, despite the fact that it is obvious to anyone who actually reads it that it is nothing but a collection of conspiracy theories and baseless smears that sometimes even go so far as to mistake what is explicitly fiction for fact. The real crime of The Story of Moira Greyland's nomination is not that her work finished behind No Award, but that it was used as a cynical attempt to smear people over a genre award. I expected nothing better from Beale, as he has proven time and again that he is a vile person for whom there is no low he will not stoop to, but prior to their climbing onto the bandwagon with him on this ploy, many of the Sad Puppies at least had pretensions of being decent people to some extent. Those pretensions are now gone: Correia, Torgersen, Paulk, and the rest who joined in with Beale to exploit an abused woman for their fight over the Hugo Awards have exposed themselves as being entirely without conscience or honor. When fans in future years look back on the organizers and promoters of the Sad Puppy campaigns, their willingness to go along with accusing fandom as a whole of condoning pedophilia as a political tactic will be one of the things that people will condemn them for the most. The Puppies should be hanging their heads in shame right now for going along with Beale on this.

Best Graphic Story

1. The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams, III [rabid puppy pick]
2. No Award
3. Invisible Republic, Volume 01 by Corina Bechko and Gabirel Hardman [sad and rabid puppy pick]
4. The Divine by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka, and Tomer Hanuka [rabid puppy pick]
5. Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams [rabid puppy pick]
6. Erin Dies Alone by Grey Carter and Corey Rydell [rabid puppy pick]

The Sandman: Overture was on the Rabid Puppy slate. Despite this, the Hugo voters had no trouble handing it an overwhelming victory, once again exploding the Puppy myth that Hugo voters would refuse to vote for a finalist just because of who supported them. Unfortunately for the Puppies, Gaiman made his opinions concerning their antics over the last couple of years quite clear in his acceptance speech, which predictably outraged some of them. Their response to Gaiman's acceptance speech once again proves that the Puppy campaigns are nothing but a political exercise for which the quality of the works they support is at best a secondary concern, because if the goal was recognizing worthy works, then the Pups would not care what Gaiman thought of them. If awarding the work was the primary goal, then the opinions of the author would be of no consequence.

As far as the rest of the field is concerned, while it wasn't terrible, it featured a generally weak lineup. In an interesting bit of coincidence, for the second year in a row, the Sad Puppies only supported a single finalist in this category, which kind of makes Torgersen's claim that they are carrying the banner for comic book fans ring a bit hollow. Their chosen graphic story was Invisible Republic, Volume 01, which wasn't bad, but one only has to read my review of the book to see that I wasn't overly impressed by it. The other nominees are more or less of the same quality - not terrible, but still not Hugo Award winning caliber. Full Frontal Nerdity is a decent web comic, although I generally prefer Williams' other comic Nodwick, but it isn't particularly notable. Erin Dies Alone has the distinction of having been selected without regard to its actual quality or content, but rather as a somewhat obvious attack upon fan writer Alexandra Erin, whose parodies over the last year have skewered the pomposity of the Puppies in general, and exposed Beale as the intellectual lightweight that he is. This quality of the finalists in this category, like the quality of the finalists in the Short Story and Related Work categories, suffered quite a bit due to the actions of the Puppies, but that is the topic of a post for another day.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

1. The Martian [sad and rabid puppy pick]
2. Mad Max: Fury Road [sad puppy pick]
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens [sad puppy pick]
4. Ex Machina [sad puppy pick]
5. The Avengers: Age of Ultron [sad and rabid puppy pick]

This category also saw a finalist who had been on the Sad Puppy recommendation list and the Rabid Puppy slate win. The Martian was a book Brad Torgersen pointed to as evidence for Worldcon voters "getting the Hugos wrong" when he launched the Sad Puppy 3 slate, although if one goes back and looks, when the book was released and would have been eligible for a Hugo Award, he didn't even mention it once. This isn't particularly surprising, as the book was originally self-published in 2011 and had only moderate success at first before being picked up by Crown Publishing and rereleased in 2014. In 2016, even though the movie made from the same novel was both a Sad and Rabid Puppy pick, the post-Hugo statistics revealed that it didn't need their help to get on the final ballot, which shows Torgersen's claim that Worldcon voters don't appreciate good old fashioned nuts and bolts style science fiction to be yet one more baseless argument issued by a Puppy.

I didn't vote for The Martian as my first choice, it was, instead, my second. My first choice was Mad Max: Fury Road, which I thought was a better and more interesting movie. Other than that, I think the placement of the various finalists in the voting was just about right in terms of their quality. One might note that, once again, the fact that these finalists were supported by either the Sad Puppies or both the Sad and Rabid Puppies didn't cause any Hugo voters to refuse to vote for them out of some sort of sense of revulsion.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

1. Jessica Jones: AKA Smile
2. Doctor Who: Heaven Sent [sad puppy pick]
3. Grimm: Headache [rabid puppy pick]
4. No Award
5. Supernatural: Just My Imagination [rabid puppy pick]
6. My Little Pony, Friendship Is Magic: The Cutie Map, Parts 1 and 2 [sad and rabid puppy pick]

Jessica Jones, taken as a whole, was one of the best televised works of 2015. The entire season received enough nominations to place ninth in the Long Form Dramatic presentation category. Although the structure of the series makes it difficult to single out an individual episode as the best, but AKA Smile is probably the best choice. One might note that this episode made it to the list of finalists despite not being on either the Sad Puppy recommendation list, or the Rabid Puppy slate. As I noted before, one of the accusations leveled at Worldcon fans by Torgerson as part of his ignorant ranting about the Hugo Awards in 2015 was that traditional Hugo voters were ignoring comic book fans and snubbing works like The Avengers (apparently not noticing that The Avengers had won a Hugo Award). The Jessica Jones series was drawn almost directly from the pages of the comics, serving in many ways as a comic book come to life, and yet the Sad Puppies saw fit to almost completely ignore it. Given the evidence of the actual voting record of traditional Worldcon fans as contrasted with the actual voting record of the Sad Puppies, it seems fairly apparent that the group ignoring the world of comic book fiction isn't the traditional Worldcon fans.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

1. Ellen Datlow
2. Sheila Williams
3. Neil Clarke
4. John Joseph Adams [sad puppy pick]
5. No Award
6. Jerry Pournelle [sad and rabid puppy pick]

One of the results that caused the various Puppy-aligned spokespeople to explode with rage is the placement of Jerry Pournelle in this category. For example, Correia's response was:
And Jerry Pournelle . . . Living legend. You pieces of shit are honestly going to tell us that Jerry Pournelle is not award worthy?
When explaining why he totally doesn't want a Hugo Award, Brad Torgersen said:
Especially not after giants like Larry Elmore and Jerry Pournelle were ranked below NO AWARD for the 2016 season.
For his part, John C. Wright said:
In this case, Sheila Gilbert was up against Jerry Pournelle, a legend in the field and the editor of one of the most successful and longest running anthologies in SF
Of course, Pournelle wasn't actually up against Gilbert in this category, as Gilbert was nominated in the Long Form Editor category, but then again, accuracy about the history of the genre and its awards has never been Wright's strong suit. Wright also leaves out that only a single volume of the "most successful and longest running anthologies in SF" was published in 2015, with all of the others having been put out before 1991. What all of these reactions have in common is that they misapprehend the Hugo Award as some sort of career award, to be given out for lifetime achievement. But the Hugo Award manifestly is not, but is rather an award for a specific work, or a body of work undertaken in a particular year. Whether Pournelle is a living legend or a giant in the field is of no consequence in the voting for this award, which was for short form editing done in 2015. Despite the outpourings of outrage on his behalf, Pournelle, for his part, appears not to have been outraged at all by the Hugo results.

The simple truth is that when lined up against the editing work of the other finalists in this category, Pournelle's editing work in 2015 is simply not up to par. Ellen Datlow, who won the category, served as the editor for Tor.com for 2015, and also managed to edit four anthologies in that time span. Sheila Williams and Neil Clarke edited the magazines Asimov's Science Fiction and Clarkesworld, respectively. Clarke also edited an anthology in 2015. John Joseph Adams edited Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine as well as seven anthologies. In contrast, Pournelle edited a single anthology, There Will Be War, Volume X, and to be blunt, it wasn't particularly good. The indifferent quality of the anthology didn't really come as a surprise to anyone who had seen Pournelle's comments regarding submissions as related to Mike Glyer of File 770 back in September 2015, in which he essentially attributed the previous editing of the anthology series to John F. Carr, and seemed less than interested in putting too much work into the volume. This indifference shone through in the final product. I agree that someone should be embarrassed by Pournelle's finish in this category, but it isn't the Hugo voters.

A further point is that Pournelle didn't really lose to No Award. He lost to Ellen Datlow. Once the winner has been decided, the remaining results are more or less just an exercise in bookkeeping. There is no Silver Medal at the Hugos. There is a winner, and then there are the finalists who didn't win. If one wants to be really pedantic about it, Pournelle also lost to Sheila Williams, Neil Clarke, and John Joseph Adams, all of whom did substantially more editing work and did it better than Pournelle did in 2015. There was no way that Pournelle was going to win against this array of competition, so whining about how he also placed behind No Award is just silly. Then again, the various Puppy aligned authors are often very silly people for whom reality is a foreign country, so maybe one shouldn't be surprised when they erupt in outrage for silly reasons.

Best Editor, Long Form

1. Sheila Gilbert
2. Liz Gorinsky
3. No Award
4. Toni Wiesskopf [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. Jim Minz [sad and rabid puppy pick]
6. Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick]

Many of the Puppies were also outraged that Weisskopf finished behind No Award. Much of what I said in the commentary on the Short Form Editor category applies here as well: There is no Silver Medal at the Hugos, once it was determined that Sheila Gilbert was the winner, the rest of the rankings are just bookkeeping with no real significance. In addition, Weisskopf lost to someone who was an eminently deserving winner, and who did what Weisskopf has refused to do for the last couple of years - Gilbert told Hugo voters what she had edited, and provided examples of her work. As long as Weisskopf continues to refuse to actually let anyone know what she had edited, and as long as Baen Books continue to be produced in as poorly an edited state as they currently are, she will fare poorly in the Hugo Awards.

Best Professional Artist

1. Abigail Larson [sad and rabid puppy pick]
2. No Award
3. Michal Karcz [rabid puppy pick]
4. Larry Elmore [sad an rabid puppy pick]
5. Larry Rostant [rabid puppy pick]
6. Lars Braad Andersen [rabid puppy pick]

The paroxysms of outrage from the Puppies that greeted Pournelle's finish in the Best Short Form Editor category were mostly replicated in this category regarding Elmore's final placement in the standings. Correia, for example, ranted:
Just ask yourself this, what kind of scumbags would give No Award to Larry Elmore? This is a man who is one of the most prolific and popular fantasy artists of all time. His covers dominated the better part of a decade, a whole generation of writers grew up with his posters on their wall, yet, he never got nominated for a Hugo that entire time.
The answer to Larry's question is, of course "voters who were voting on Elmore's art production in 2015." Just as with Pournelle, Elmore's history in the genre is supposed to be of no consequence when evaluating how to vote in the Hugo Awards, as the category he was nominated in recognizes an artists work from a specific year, in this case 2015. In the year in question, Elmore did almost no professional artwork, while his competition turned in a considerable amount.

Correia's claim about Elmore "dominating the better part of a decade" exposes something else about many of the Puppies that explains much about their world view: They are extremely provincial in their background and taste. Elmore "dominated" the 1980s if you were a gamer or if you liked a particular kind of fantasy. In that decade, he produced just under sixty book covers, of which about half were for gaming related fiction. In that same time period, Michael Whelan produced a couple hundred book covers. So did Vincent Di Fate, Tom Kidd, and several other artists. One can only say that Elmore "dominated" the better part of a decade if one has a very strange definition of what "dominated" actually means, or if one is ignorant of the actual history of that era. The again, being ignorant of the history that they are opining upon is a common trait among Puppies. Elmore was a good artist in the time period, and as someone who was heavily involved in role-playing games in that era, I certainly knew who he was and liked his art - I have the collected edition of Snarfquest, and more modules and gaming books that feature his artwork than I can count. But any reasonable assessment of his place in the world of fantasy art has to recognize that his reach beyond the subgenre of gaming and gaming-related fantasy was fairly modest. He was very popular within his niche, but he was working in a niche market.

Of course, none of this actually matters. Elmore wasn't nominated in the 1980s, mostly because there were numerous other artists who were more prolific who were turning out excellent artwork that reached a much broader cross-section of science fiction and fantasy fans. He was nominated in 2016. None of the work Elmore did in the 1980s, however good one thinks it was, matters when evaluating how to vote for Best Professional Artist in 2016. Were there an award for Best Career as a Fantasy Artist, then his work in the 1980s would count, but he would be facing some really tough competition.

Best Semiprozine

1. Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Erika Ensign, and Steven Schapansky
2. Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A.J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff [rabid puppy pick]
3. Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews, Nicole Lavigne, and Kate Marshall [rabid puppy pick]
4. No Award
5. Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden [rabid puppy pick]
6. Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie [sad and rabid puppy pick]

The results in the Best Semiprozine category seem to have worked out just about right. Uncanny Magazine is an excellent and deserving winner, and yielded the first Hugo win for a Filipina in the form of editor Michi Trota. Other than that the results support what I have repeatedly said; Where the Puppies have supported worthwhile nominees, Hugo voters have generally responded favorably with their votes and those nominees have done well, and where the Puppies have supported unworthy nominees, those nominees have fared poorly in the voting. In my estimation Strange Horizons and Beneath Ceaseless Skies were worthy nominees, Daily Science Fiction and Sci Phi Journal were not. The results of the voting are in line with this assessment.

Best Fanzine

1. File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [sad and rabid puppy pick]
2. Lady Business edited by Clare Mcbride, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
3. No Award
4. Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie [sad and rabid puppy pick]
6. Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]

File 770 was on both the Sad Puppy recommended list and the Rabid Puppy slate and enjoyed widespread support outside of those groups due to Glyer's outstanding coverage of the ongoing Puppy-related fracas as well as a number of other issues within fandom, which resulted in a landslide victory for the fanzine. Lady Business came in a well-deserved second for their entertaining and often snarky content. And then Tangent Online, Superversive SF, and Castalia House Blog fell behind No Award and took slots four, five, and six. This didn't surprise me, as all three were incredibly weak nominees, with the Castalia House Blog being little more than trash cluttering up the internet.

The one disappointing fanzine in the bunch is Tangent Online, which was founded on what seems like a good idea - to provide a site that would highlight and review short fiction. The original idea was a good one, but under Dave Truesdale's management it has turned into something of a joke, as Truesdale's histrionics over the last several years have overshadowed anything relating to short fiction, and have also shredded the fanzine's credibility on those increasingly rare occasions when it does focus on its purported mission of reviewing short fiction.

Best Fan Writer

1. Mike Glyer [sad puppy pick]
2. No Award
3. Jeffro Johnson [sad and rabid puppy pick]
4. Morgan Holmes [rabid puppy pick]
5. Shamus Young [rabid puppy pick]
6. Douglas Ernst [rabid puppy pick]

Just as File 770 crushed the opposition in the Fanzine category, Mike Glyer handily won the Fan Writer category, making this another category that was won by a finalist from the Sad Puppy recommendation list. To be perfectly honest, Glyer didn't have much competition. Both Holmes and Johnson write primarily for Castalia House, and their work contributes to the the ongoing garbage fire nature of that site's blog. Douglas Ernst's fan writing is superficial at best, which isn't all that surprising since he spends most of his time writing Alt-Right hack pieces about politics. The one nominee who I liked the most other than Glyer was actually Shamus Young, because his website TwentySided has some pretty interesting and often intelligent commentary on video games and touches on science fiction and fantasy related matters often enough to make him a credible nominee. Unfortunately, a lot of the writing on Young's site isn't by him, and his best work is done in video and podcast format on his shows Spoiler Warning and The Diecast, either of which would have made a fine selection in the Fancast category. Young was further hampered by the fact that his best writing - an extensive and detailed evaluation of the story of the Mass Effect video game series - was mostly completed after 2015, which meant it didn't count for evaluation purposing for this year's Hugo Award.

Best Fan Artist

1. Steve Stiles
2. No Award
3. Christian Quinot [rabid puppy pick]
4. Matthew Callahan [sad and rabid puppy pick]
5. Kukuruyo [rabid puppy pick]
6. disse86 [rabid puppy pick]

Stiles had been nominated for Best Fan Artist fourteen times before 2016, the first time in 1967. His win in this category in 2016 was a long time coming, and well-deserved. Stiles' work is visually interesting and has a whimsy and flair that sets him apart from many other artists. I think a couple of the other artists in this category could have placed above No Award, most notably Quinot and disse86 (although in disse86's case the use of an internet handle in place of a name does make him a less credible finalist), but there is nothing in any of the bottom four finalists' art that really jumps out and demands attention. Callahan seems competent at what he does, but I don't particularly like the final product he turns out, so I don't have a problem with his ranking in the voting. Kukuruyo is the exception, and completely deserved to finish behind No Award as his nomination came primarily on the basis of his incredibly unfunny and poorly-drawn GamerGate related comic strip.

Best Fancast

1. No Award
2. Tales to Terrify by Stephen Kilpatrick [rabid puppy pick]
3. Rageaholic by RazörFist [rabid puppy pick]
4. 8-4 Play by Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson [rabid puppy pick]
5. Cane and Rinse by Cane and Rinse [rabid puppy pick]
6. HelloGreedo by HelloGreedo [sad and rabid puppy pick]

This is the second category that was won by No Award, and although I think this result was completely justified, I think it was less obviously so than the same result in the Best Related Work category. Most of the finalists in this category are almost instantly forgettable - in previous years, listening to a sampling of the finalists in this category made me want to start listening to all of the nominated podcast's episodes. This year, listening to a sampling of the finalists mostly bored me. Even Rageaholic, hosted by the aggressively obnoxious RazörFist was an exercise in tedium. The best finalists in this category were Tales to Terrify, which is a podcast featuring readings of short horror fiction, and HelloGreedo, which is a nice little YouTube channel in which a guy wears a storm trooper helmet and talks about Star Wars. Tales to Terrify would have been okay, but the readers were so stiff and dull that I could barely make it through the episodes I listened to. HelloGreedo was kind of fun, but there really isn't much substance to the show, and as a result it compared quite unfavorably to the collection of genre fiction podcasts that make up my normal listening fare. In the Best Related Work category, the finalists were mediocre to terrible and often offensive to boot. In this category, the finalists were mostly just mediocre, and mediocre isn't good enough to win a Hugo Award.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

1. Andy Weir [sad and rabid puppy pick]
2. Alyssa Wong [sad puppy pick]
3. No Award
4. Pierce Brown [rabid puppy pick]
5. Sebastien de Castell [sad and rabid puppy pick]
6. Brian Niemeier [sad and rabid puppy pick]

No cause has been more dear to Puppy hearts than championing Andy Weir. Or more specifically Andy Weir's book The Martian. Despite the fact that none of the prominent Puppy leaders (of either stripe) talked about, or even noticed the book when Weir self-published it in 2011, the fact that the book was not nominated for a Hugo was treated as a searing indictment of the Worldcon community. Apparently unbothered by the hypocrisy of criticizing the Hugo voters about a book they had not themselves noticed, Puppies such as Brad Torgersen took the lack of a nomination for The Martian as an indication that Hugo voters were biased against good old fashioned nuts and bolts science fiction.

Of course, all of the claims made by various Puppies in this vein were, and continue to be bullshit. The reason The Martian didn't get a Hugo nomination in 2012 was its relative obscurity as a self-published book with relatively limited distribution. Once the book received wider distribution, the Worldcon community responded favorably to it. The first indicator of this is the win for the movie adaptation of The Martian in this year's Hugo Awards. The second is Weir's nomination for and win in the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

To be perfectly honest, I have mixed feelings about Weir's win in this category - the award is based at least in part on what a writer has already done, and writing The Martian is definitely a substantial achievement. But the award is for the best new writer, and the award is, at least in part, intended to be prospective. On that front, Weir seems somewhat less impressive, as he hasn't really followed up his one big success with anything particularly notable. My first place vote went to Alyssa Wong in this category, because her track record thus far with stories such as Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers and The Fisher Queen is quite good and they indicate that she has great promise as an author of creepy, off-kilter fiction. Weir was, however, second on my ballot, so I came away satisfied with the result.

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  1. Two quick corrections -- I'm pretty sure Brooke Bolander was on the SP recommended list but not the RP slate.

    And, "Cat Pictures Please" was in fact on the SP recommended list. So John C. Wright mentioned it favorably on his blog with the rest of the list -- I'm going to hazard a guess that he had NOT read it, at that point! But that makes his later pearl-clutching over the story that much funnier.

    1. @Naomi: You are correct. I will make modifications accordingly.

  2. But any reasonable assessment of [Elmore's] place in the world of fantasy art has to recognize that his reach beyond the subgenre of gaming and gaming-related fantasy was fairly modest. He was very popular within his niche, but he was working in a niche market.

    Modest, but not nonexistent. There's one other category of fans who would recognize Elmore, and it's the one into which I fall -- con-going fans who pay attention to the Art Show. Elmore was a consistent exhibitor at convention art shows for a very long time, and I was familiar with him in that context. In fact, I have two art books of his work. But the Hugo is for work produced during the year of eligibility, and on that criterion Elmore fell short.

    1. @Lee Billings: Sure, which is why I said modest. I would also think that the circle of con-going fans who pay attention to the Art Show is a fairly small group as well. Correia's claim was that Elmore "dominated" a decade, and even if one is fairly generous about Elmore's reach in the 1980s (or even the 1980s and into the 1990s), that's just not supported by the record.

  3. Nice and thorough analysis, but I disagree with some of your assumptions and assessment on the Sad Puppies this year.

    While I had the impression that the rhetoric of the Sad Puppy leaders (both past and present) became more radical and strident during the year, this only went as far as their rhetoric.

    As for their actual actions, in how they solicited suggestions for their recommendations lists and then publicised it, I have no objections at all. There were several examples of counter-trolling or testing (take your pick) of their convictions, and I believe that is how works like "Binti", "Cat Pictures, Please", or "Mad Max: Fury Road" ended up on their recommendation list.

    Also, last year the Sad Puppies ended up with far less influence on the final ballot than the Rabid Puppies, and from all that I can tell the "foot soldiers" of the Sad Puppy movement are fewer, less disciplined, and probably more knowledgable on literary sf than those of the Rabid Puppy movement. This can also be seen in that "Cat Pictures, Please" ended up in sixth place, and only made the final ballot after one of the Rabid picks had declined nomination. The pure Sad Puppy picks (ie those not on the Rabid list) also vary wildly in their nomination totals.

    Those points taken together makes me believe that any analysis of this year's Hugos can pretty much disregard the Sad Puppies.

    1. @Karl-Johan Norén: While I had the impression that the rhetoric of the Sad Puppy leaders (both past and present) became more radical and strident during the year, this only went as far as their rhetoric.

      To a certain extent, that is true, which is why I mostly focused on the Sad Puppy rhetoric when talking about them in this post, and for the most part, their rhetoric after the Hugo results were announced.

      As for their actual actions, in how they solicited suggestions for their recommendations lists and then publicized it, I have no objections at all. There were several examples of counter-trolling or testing (take your pick) of their convictions, and I believe that is how works like "Binti", "Cat Pictures, Please", or "Mad Max: Fury Road" ended up on their recommendation list.

      Yes, this is why I called the Sad Puppy list a "recommendation list" and not a slate. Given that the Sad Puppies trumpeted the "open and democratic" nature of the list this year, and before the Hugo results came out extolled the virtues of this approach, their rhetoric following the announcements of the results is even more interesting. They are, it seems, happy to claim the moral virtue of being "democratic", but far less than happy living with the outcome.

      As far as works appearing on the Sad Puppy list, I don't think you can really call it trolling when someone shows up to an "open and democratic" process and participates. If the Pups were actually committed to their rhetoric of backing "popular" works, then the source of the popularity wouldn't matter, and the works that got votes in their process would be the ones they were pushing to win. The divergence between their rhetoric about democracy and their reactions after the fact shows that their high-minded claims about loving democracy to have been rather hollow.

      Also, last year the Sad Puppies ended up with far less influence on the final ballot than the Rabid Puppies, and from all that I can tell the "foot soldiers" of the Sad Puppy movement are fewer, less disciplined, and probably more knowledgeable on literary sf than those of the Rabid Puppy movement.

      I agree on this point. The real driving force of the "Puppy" movement in 2016 was the Rabid Puppies. I said as much in my post about the Award that discussed the finalists when they were initially announced. Of course, this makes the willingness of guys like Correia and Torgersen to throw themselves into denouncing those who didn't vote for Rabid Puppy candidates all the more interesting. Their willingness to jump on a grenade for Beale is kind of hard to reconcile with the notion that are actually two distinct sets of Puppies.

      I have a post that is probably going to be posted tonight where I talk about (among other things) the relative weakness of the Sad Puppies as a group when compared to the Rabid Puppies.