How This Year’s Hugo Awards Got Hijacked


Founded in 1953, the Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious, and important, awards for the science-fiction community. Named after Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories, the Hugos have been handed out annually since 1955. But this year, the Hugos represented something more, and worse, than the year’s best science fiction. As Wired’s Amy Wallace writes, this year’s Hugos were hijacked by a coterie of mostly white, mostly male writers, calling themselves the Sad Puppies (which sounds more like an emo parody band). The Puppies are, in essence, a group of writers who dislike the diversification of the Hugo Awards’ recipients in recent years. Akin to Gamergate, the Puppies refute the notion that their anti-diversification stance is rooted in bigotry: They just care about storytelling. (There’s also a second, more fanatical faction, called the Rabid Puppies, which might sound too trite and juvenile to be true, but it absolutely is true.)

In short, the Puppies suggested nominations in 15 of the 16 categories, telling their followers to cast ballots exactly as instructed. (Despite the Puppies' assertions to the contrary, telling someone to follow instructions exactly isn't a "suggestion." It's a decree.) While this isn’t against the rules, Wallace notes that most rational people deemed this to be “dirty, taking advantage of a loophole in an arcane voting process that enables a relatively few number of voters to dominate.” 

The Puppies’ progenitor, Larry Correia, a 38-year-old Utah accountant, former gun-store owner, and NRA lobbyist turned novelist, decries the “social justice warriors” who have taken over the Hugos. As examples, he specifically cited John Chu’s short story “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere,” which depicts a world in which a gay man comes out to his traditional Chinese family, as well as Ann Leckie’s debut novel, Ancillary Justice, whose protagonists do not see gender and exclusively use female pronouns. Leckie’s novel trumped Correia’s Warbound at the 2014 Hugos, and Correia is still bitter.

Wallace also spoke with Theodore Beale, deemed “the most despised man in science fiction” by The Wall Street Journal. Beale writes as a hobby and runs his own small publishing company, Castalia House, which got five of its writers and editors (including Beale) on this year’s Hugo ballot. Wallace wryly notes, “A conversation with Beale feels sort of like walking around a room designed by MC Escher.” Beale opined:

“I don’t consider all black people to be half-savages. I mean, some people are. Here in Europe, for example, we have actual proper Africans, not African-Americans. This leads to problems, like people shitting on top of the closed toilets. They don’t know how to use indoor plumbing, okay? This is not civilized behavior.”

Beale maintains that he isn't racist.

In the end, none of the Puppy-backed writers won, so there's hope in humanity still. You can, and should, read all of Wallace’s article at Wired.