Hugo Blogging “Best” Fan Writer

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…

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14 Responses to Hugo Blogging “Best” Fan Writer

  1. Iain Coleman says:

    In my view, Mixon should be above No Award. I appreciate that it’s essentially best in a field of one, but her writing is substantial and significant enough to be Hugo-worthy. More than that, though, her victory would send a clear signal about this community setting some boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Lest we forget, Winterfox / Requires Hate has, in her extensive career of hate and bullying, done far more actual harm to far more people than all the Puppies combined, and then some. It matters that we take this symbolic opportunity to declare that her behaviour is beyond the pale. To do so in the very year that the right-wing of SF is eagerly lining up behind its own vile trolls is all the more appropriate.

    (And yes, I have read Nussbaum’s piece, and it rather inclined me to the opinion that Abigail Nussbaum can fuck off. But then I may be more invested in the WF/RH situation than you, having followed her awful career and its effects for many years, including a friend who was quite badly hurt by Winterfox’s lackeys.)

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Good point about the message that would be sent about the harm Requires Hate has done and boundary-setting.
      You’re right that you’re more invested in the situation than I am — I somehow managed to avoid ever hearing of Winterfox or Requires Hate until Mixon’s post, despite spending most of the 2000s hanging round geek-oriented LiveJournal communities — but that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong about that. I may well change my mind between now and actual voting about where Mixon should place — that’s one reason I do these, to think out my reasoning. She’s certainly the only one where any kind of case can be made that she’s award-worthy.

  2. James Brough says:

    Out of curiosity, I googled “GHHers” and discovered that the only references I could find were to articles either by or about Amanda Green. None of them explained the term. We could conclude that the repeated use of the term is actually a mildly entertaining joke on Amanda’s part, highlighting the meaninglessness of words and the fact that they are actually a random selection of symbols given meaning only because we collectively agree that they have meaning. Or we could conclude that it’s a thoughtless use of jargon, succeeding only in alienating even those people who might agree with her otherwise, while showing her unconscious assumption that the rest of the world thinks as she does really. Your call.

    • Shem says:

      “GHH” stands for “glittery hoo-hoo.” I believe the phrase originated in soap opera / romance fandom to describe the sort of heroine who is presented as so saintly and wonderful that the hero will do anything to be with her — even if her actual behavior in the story comes across as stupid, cruel, or capricious. I suspect Green has put her own idiosyncratic spin on the term, however.

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  4. Connie C says:

    I like the idea of an acronym that stands for absolutely nothing, but Glittery HooHaa, which is used as “well, of course women control men by gatekeeping sex,” if your in a men going their own way blog, but seems to be used by the pups as unrealistically strong/any lead female character at all. Yeah, really.

  5. Meredith says:

    GHH means Glittery HooHa, which was originally a term in (I think) the romance reviewing community used to refer to women who heal damaged men through sex. Green, someone who has signed up with gusto to the Puppy doctrine of words meaning what they want them to mean and damn the dictionary, seems to use it to refer to women she doesn’t like.

  6. saaremartha says:

    I will be voting for Laura Mixon above No Award. As someone whose friends were damaged by that egregious troll, I think Laura has done a brave and outstanding analysis of the behaviours and effects of Requires Hate on women and WOC in our community

    I really did try to read the others, but for all the reasons Andrews lists, and then some, I couldn’t stomach them. They are just bad, puerile writing.

    On a slightly different topic. I wish someone would make an ‘I’m an SJW and Proud!’. I’d wear one.

  7. mwisse says:

    GHH = Glittery Hoo Ha, a romance fandom term for a female character who is sooo awesome despite being dumb, ditsy and not having any discernable characteristics other than being nice, that having been snared by her GHH once, the male love interest has no choice but to follow her glitter trail forever.

    In other words, it’s mocking of a certain type of badly written romance stereotype, transplanted by culture warriors like Green to be used against actual women, buying into that whole rightwing trope of feminism being a snare set by evil women to ensnare weak men and all that.

  8. Andrew Hickey says:

    Just so people know, the various explanatory comments aren’t from people who don’t read what other people have said, but were trapped in moderation while I was asleep. Thanks all.

  9. A brief note on Derai (1968) which is the 2nd volume in E. C. Tubb’s long Dumerest sequence – it is as you rightly say pulp (1967 onwards), but the series has a number of good points, and several well realised alien worlds (most notably, perhaps, the one in “Jester at Scar”. Earl Dumerest’s kryptonite isn’t ‘girls’ per se, it’s anything that might deflect him from his long term goal of finding the lost planet Earth, and freeing the people he knows are enslaved there – but on the BOND-CONAN-DUMEREST-No 6 scale of unfairly treating women and forgetting about them, he’s much nearer the ‘moral No 6, but will treat them as enemies if they are’ end than the ‘nigh rape, shrug when they’re shot end’. Jeffro’s review’s make even brilliant books seem a bit dull, and Derai is only a mid-range sf novel of its time, but – if you’re in a pulp mood, its a ‘light attractive read’ as Jeeves says of the novels of Rosey M. Banks. (It’s only just struck that maybe that names why Iain M. Banks chose the M. ???)

    (Puppies may like the sequence for the sympathetic Universal Brotherhood Church in the background – failing to note that the UBC is as much or more humanist as Christian, and is never failingly open, humble, and genuinely good. Ironically Vox day and his ilk are more like the Cyclan villains – supposedly logical plotters who are actually trapped in a hedonistic ‘cyber-experience’ (really, it’s pretty close). )

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks for that. I’d literally never heard of the book, and Johnson’s review really, really, didn’t sell me on it. But he didn’t sell me on the other three books either, and they’re generally rather better regarded…

  10. Nice reviews.

    Your opinion on Jeffro was similar to mine, which was “enthusiastic enough but limited”. Incidentally, in the second quote I suspect he is alluding to Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor ( which is a bit of a trope in RPG discussions about artistic treatment of women, which traditionally had them wearing armour which was little more than metallic lingerie that would get them killed in a fight.

  11. There’s a very good Oglaf cartoon, about Orcs concluding that since (very lucky Hobbits) can stab them through full-plate armour and human sword’s mistresses are invulnerable in chain maile bikinis, their new armour should be basically a thong and a tube-top (all the protection and none of the weight). [Oglaf is of course NSFW but it is also – in my view – tolerant and good hearted and out to equal opportunity oggle].

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