History Will Forget The Sad Puppies

Several of you have asked me what I thought about the Hugo awards mess this year. The best response I have is "Please go read what John Scalzi has to say because he's more deeply connected to this, knows more about it, and is a fantastic, thoughtful writer as well." Seriously, go check out all of his Hugo awards neepery for a much more knowledgable take on the subject.

If you haven't been following the subject and don't feel like reading Scalzi, here's my "as I understand it" summary: A small publishing house specializing in SF books with a conservative slant has gamed the nomination process for the Hugo awards. They managed to sweep the nominations in more than a few categories. I get the sense that this is primarily a commerical play by the publishing house, but it's been cast as a political move based on the (extremely dubious) claim that the Hugo awards have been co-opted by leftists. They've called their group the "sad puppies" because...I don't know, they thought it sounded better than "racist, homophobic jerks?" Anyway, the awards are almost guaranteed to be a mess this year. Some authors on the conservative slate have removed themselves from consideration. Many voters have decided to vote "no award" for some or all categories. It's ugly.

If you want my take on the Hugos, I'll give you this:

In ye olden dayes, the players selected for baseball's all-star game were elected by public ballots. In 1957, the ballots were being printed in newspapers instead of passed out to the fans at games (as I remember from the 1970's) or online (as it's done now). The Cincinnati Enquirer decided to help the fans out a little by printing pre-filled ballots with nothing be Cincinnati ballplayers selected. As a result, the starting lineup for the 1957 National League team consisted of Stan Musial, a St. Louis Cardinal, and 7 cincinnati Reds. 

People rightly saw this as a subversion of the process. Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball, immediately replaced two Reds outfielders, Wally Post and Gus Bell, with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays because, c'mon, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. The remaining Reds were allowed to start the game and then almost immediatley replaced once the game started, and the game looked like an All-Star game once more.

Frick took the vote away from the fans and let managers, coaches, and players select the All Stars, a system which survived until 1970. It wasn't really the fans' fault, though. The All-Star voting system was poorly designed and had always been open to this kind of abuse. It just took an incident like this to bring these issue to the forefront and get baseball to change the way the voting worked.

The lesson here, at least as it relates to the Hugo awards, is that almost sixty years later, the players elected by this broken system, Johnny Temple, Don Hoak, Roy McMillan, Gus Bell, and Wally Post, do not seem to have derived any particular benefit from their dubious election. Likewise, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and Eddie Matthews are not diminished by their failure to win the vote in this flawed ballot. In the long view, merit won out over attempts to leverage a poor system into a few vanity awards, just as I imagine will be the case for the Sad Puppies and their ilk.