Get a Different Table

The winners of the 2014 Hugo Awards were announced yesterday. I heartily congratulate the authors of the winning works. As for the other nominees, take heart. Being nominated actually is an honor--especially considering how the whole process is structured.

Much is being made of the losses suffered by Opera Vita Aeterna and Warbound. Partisans on both sides seem to have forgotten the purpose of Larry Correia's Sad Puppies campaign. The point was to prove that the Hugos aren't an objective standard of literary quality, but a reflection of Worldcon attendees' tastes (since the winners are decided by the membership's popular vote, this conclusion should spark no controversy).

The record clearly shows that Larry never expected to win. His strategy hinged on provoking his detractors so the public could see their vitriolic response. Said reaction was duly provided when he and Day were nominated, and their defeats occasioned a second, definitive round of bad sportsmanship from their critics.

Some fans disappointed by Sunday's results are lobbying for an even bigger Sad Puppies effort next year in an attempt to outnumber the traditional Worldcon membership. As someone who rooted for Wheel of Time (and a fan of Larry), my take is, if you're not welcome at the table; don't call more football team members over to crowd out the drama club kids who were there first. Get a different table.

I'm aware of arguments that favor invading Worldcon to "save SFF". Though saving science fiction and fantasy is a worthy goal, the Hugos are the wrong battlefield. We need only look to Jordan and Sanderson's loss for proof that the set of "Worldcon voters" is not identical to the set of "people who read SFF". If The Wheel of Time's sales are any indication, the former group is a tiny subset of the latter.

Worldcon is a free association of likeminded SFF fans who give awards to works that satisfy their collective tastes. Let them enjoy the right to continue their tradition. Some see the phenomenon of "message fiction" beating more popular fare in awards contests as an ill omen for the genre. Fear not. The paroxysms shaking legacy publishing in the course of the digital revolution make it unlikely that debut and midlist works--which usually seem to sweep the Hugo Awards--will appear in print for much longer.

Authors who primarily wish to preach a message will always have a digital platform. But SFF is part of the entertainment industry, where the real crown goes to the best entertainers. Activism isn't needed. Market forces have already determined that the future belongs to the Jordans, Sandersons, and Correias of genre publishing.

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