And so once again I dip into the sewer. The “Best” Fan Writer category in the Hugos is apparently meant to encourage SF fans to write about SF. This year, it seems to be largely made up of people who claim to be professional writers, but who can’t string a sentence together.
This is understandable, as four of the five nominations were put on the ballot by… well by
two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.
(I too stand by Irene Gallo, for what tiny bit of good that does).
For this reason, I shall be ranking No Award at the top — once again it’s nice that my aesthetic, moral, and political judgments align, so I don’t have any qualms about doing so.
Below No Award I’ll be ranking Laura Mixon. The two pieces here — her devastating expose of Benjanun Sriduangkaew and a slighter, though moving, piece on the #notallwomen hashtag and rape culture in SF — are both very good. In a normal year I would rank her above No Award, but this is not a normal year, and I’m fairly convinced by the argument that an award with only one non-Puppy nomination is too tainted to function. I was in two minds about this, but Abigail Nussbaum’s post pointing out some problems with Mixon’s major piece convinced me. There are, of course, also problems with *Abigail’s* piece, and it wouldn’t sway me were the year a normal one, but the combination made me think it best that this year we get no award. But I won’t be upset if Mixon wins.
Jeffro Johnson, the least-worst of the Puppy nominees by some way, is merely a bad writer with very limited critical thinking skills and a bit of casual sexism. These four pieces are supposed reviews of four old SF/F novels. Three of these novels (The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, and Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny) are dealt with in terms of what influence they had on Dungeons & Dragons, and what kinds of magic systems one could develop by following up on some of their other ideas. Someone could potentially write an interesting essay on that subject, but that someone won’t be Mr Johnson, whose level of insight doesn’t rise much above “neat! This could make a great game!”
The fourth review is of a pulp novel called Derai, and this is what I suspect made the Puppies nominate him. In between quoting about half the book and summarising the plot, Mr Johnson says things like
No, it’s not some alien menace, some freakish and debilitating disease, or some insidious cult. It’s not even stuff like more varieties of double dealing or even more pedestrian ways to die, although that is here in spades. No, the traveler’s kryptonite turns out to be something more inscrutable than anything we’ve seen in this series so far: girls
any science fiction novel with a sword wielding [sic] woman in unreasonable armor on the cover is worth a shot.
On the evidence of these pieces, Mr Johnson is an affable, hugely enthusiastic, but rather stupid man with (to put it politely) outdated notions about gender relations. But he does seem to be genuinely trying to share his enthusiasms, and I rather think that he’s been done no favours by having his work, such as it is, exposed to a wider audience who won’t share his prejudices.
Cedar Sanderson wants to make it clear that she’s a womanly woman, but she’s not like those other women, who men don’t like because they just insist on being feminist and writing message fiction, and why won’t they just be less MESSAGEY and FEMINIST?!
Women who seek notoriety based only on their femaleness betray those of us who only want to work hard, earn our money with words, and not grind men under our pointy heels.
We’ve seen this a million times before, the special-pleading anti-feminist woman who wants us to think *she’s* not like *those* other women.
Based on my observations at school, most women don’t go into science because it would mess up their hair and chip their nails, and they went to school where they passed because they were girls, and
science is HARD, so they switch to journalism.
Three of the four essays in her submission just repeat variations on this theme.
At least Sanderson can turn a sentence, however. “Amanda Green” keeps “using” scare “quotes” and stupid acronyms in her blog posts, which are mostly complaints about “SJWs” and something called “GHHers” (the former stands for “social justice warrior”, which is Puppy/Gater speak for anyone to the left of Hitler; the latter she doesn’t explain and I can’t be bothered finding out. In the most laughable piece, she complains about “SJWs” breaking Star Trek canon because, in a book she doesn’t name (because she’s not very good at actually explaining things) a Klingon and a Vulcan have a same-sex affair.
Now, regular readers will know what I think of the concept of “canon”, but the author of the book in question has absolutely torn apart her piece, showing that even taking it on its own merits and ignoring the homophobia it’s just wrongheaded about Star Trek.
And finally David Freer submits a gigantic badly-formatted PDF with as few as four words (in about forty-point font) per line, starting with a rant about the Hugo voters not appreciating the Puppies’ genius:
I also found out that some over-indulged and self-important
‘leading figures’ were having hissy fits about the scruffy, unsuitable,
unimportant, irrelevant and just wrong people on the short list, and demanding we should abase ourselves and get our ugly little selves out of the front of the bus, before they wrecked our careers and destroyed us. They’ve indulged in relentless bullying, media attacks, pushing people not to review or publish us, and to disinvite or restrict participation in conferences and readings…”
(Which is in fact a very good description of the Puppies’ own tactics).
His first actual piece is a rant about how “SJWs” should grow up and stop whining, because the people who should *really* be whining are right-wingers, who get much worse abuse. He actually compares the supposed abuse right-wingers get online with the sexual abuse Moira Greyland suffered from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, her parents. I gave up reading at that point.
This is what the people who want to “take politics out of SF” and “stop pushing messages” think is the best writing about science fiction today…