Trad Publishing Has Forever Beclowned the Hugos

Hugo Award Clown

This past Saturday in Spokane, the 2015 Hugo Awards were presented to the authors of the finest sci-fi and fantasy tales of the year, based solely on the merits of their work.

OK. Sorry. Keyboard-shaking spasms of laughter are making it impossible to keep up the pretense. I'll start again.

This past Saturday in Spokane, a ceremony was staged--with surprisingly low production values considering last year's massive jump in registration--wherein Hugos were not awarded in nearly half of the eligible categories, due to a clique of trad publishing apparatchiks deciding to burn down the house rather than coexist with smaller and indie publishers.

Some folks would have you believe that No Award owes its historic victory (it won as many times on Saturday as it previously had over the Hugos' entire 60 year history) was a reaction against politically motivated slate voting.


First, the much-maligned "Puppies" votes were widely distributed--not much of a slate. Whereas the same 3000 or so people turned up to vote "No Award" in lock step.

More importantly, the comedic spectacle of jealous literati fouling their own banquet like deranged harpies was only tangentially related to politics. Their real reason is far less noble than some kind of misdirected political principle.

About fifteen years ago, a coalition of publishing industry big shots led by senior Tor Books editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden hijacked the process that used to recognize luminaries like Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and Harlan Ellison. Since then, they've mostly handed out awards to themselves. They even lobbied to create a whole new category and took turns giving it to each other.

They might have gotten away with it too, if they hadn't treated Larry Correia like an unkempt mendicant back when he was first nominated. But no, he published with Baen Books, and before that he was *shudder* self-published. So in the eyes of the New York publishing clique, he had to be made an example of.

What they didn't expect was Larry publicizing their incestuous logrolling for all and sundry to behold. Then, when they doubled down and claimed that his protests were just sour grapes because the awards were merit-based and he couldn't hack it, he called their bluff, got other out-group writers nominated, and watched as the clique freaked out just as he'd predicted.

The Hugo insiders followed up their virtuoso tantrum by descending into the realm of Streisand Effect overkill. Being in traditional publishing, they used their mainstream media contacts to run a slew of bizarre hit pieces. An abundance of contradictory fabrications made these hatchet jobs tragically hilarious, sort of like a clown funeral.

For example, Entertainment Weekly hurled accusations of white supremacy and misogyny at Larry, who besides being Latino has notably gone to great lengths helping women start writing careers, and Brad Torgersen, the Sad Puppies 3 leader who has been in a happy interracial marriage for over two decades.

The charges of racism look even more ridiculous when you consider that Sad Puppies fielded an even more diverse group of nominees than last year's winners.

Surely, the clique learned to exercise a little enlightened self-interest, let Sad Puppies have its fifteen minutes, let the matter die down, and quietly get back to business as usual?

Not remotely! They embarked upon a quixotic campaign of self-parody by directing voters to rank "No Award" first in any category with Puppy nominees. Even though their opponents predicted--and in some cases, wanted "No Award" to win.

The end result: a bunch of elitists who sought to justify snubbing their small press and self-published opposition with accusations of sexism ended up robbing at least two supremely accomplished female editors of their richly deserved awards.

As an encore, the gatekeepers cemented their growing irrelevance by no-awarding Jim F***ing Butcher.

Hugo Dilemma

The following conclusions can be drawn from this literary Dresden bombing.
  • The Hugos are not awarded based on merit.
  • The Hugos are awarded based on authors' popularity with a clique of trad publishing bigwigs.
  • A bias exists against nominees not affiliated with the Big 5, Tor in particular.
  • A bias exists against nominees involved with popular, commercially successful books.
  • In 15 years, the Hugos have degenerated from SFF's most prestigious award to a tragicomic pageant of self-immolation.
  • The root of this problem isn't a matter of left vs. right, but of legacy publishing vs. new school publishing.

Luckily, this problem is largely self-correcting. The way the Big 5 are hemorrhaging sales, their editors and pet authors won't be in a position to rig awards for much longer.

Besides, knowing for a moral certainty that the awards are meaningless gives writers one less thing to worry about--especially when the ones who never win, and don't care about, the Hugo Awards are cleaning up in the George Washington Awards.

Time to get some work done.

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