Because What We Really Need Is More Hugo Awards Drama

The Sad Puppies are going to make another go of it next year. My understanding is that they are not planning on slate voting this time around, and if that's the case, I wish them well. A group working to bring more awareness to science fiction and to highlight works that might not otherwise get much attention strikes me as admirable.

I feel for the Sad Puppies, because they're in difficult-bordering-on-hopeless situation. Let's say that you're taking a poll of the "six best songs of the summer!" If fifty one percent of your voting population like opera and forty nine percent prefer rap*, then there is a very good chance that every song on your list is going to be an opera song. This is a feature of how some voting systems are set up. Please don't make me link the "Spider Jerusalem on voting" rant.

Another thing which may be working against them is the inertia of familiarity. If a reader likes a particular author's voice, they will probably prefer that author's work and cast their vote for that author even if the objective "quality" of that work, however you can objectively definite it, is not equal to that of other works. I am reasonably sure that, if a Terry Pratchett novel were nominated for literally anything, it would take a massive gulf in quality to get me to vote for other works. That's my own subjective bias. I won't argue that it's a good or a bad thing, but it is a real thing and I am certain I'm not alone in this.

To me, these two factors are a reasonable explanation of why certain authors and types of books continue to be nominated and win Hugo awards. It strikes me as far more plausible than a cabal of liberal insiders gaming the system. I'm not saying it can't exist, but rather that I haven't seen any evidence to that effect.

Those were the two problems the puppies faced at the outset. There are now two more, and they're going to turn an uphill struggle into one that I can't see them winning.

Sorry. It's impossible for me to think of "rabid puppies" and not think of Old Yeller.

Sorry. It's impossible for me to think of "rabid puppies" and not think of Old Yeller.

The first problem, obviously, is that their name has been soiled. The puppies brand is associated with slate voting, an association that will not serve them well (see below). Even worse, they're associated with the rabid puppies, and that's poison. The leader of the rabid puppies has an enormous amount of personal baggage and he has a history of taking groups with a legitimate beef and turning them into frothing partisans. Even if sad puppies 4 try to distance themselves from their earlier tactics and allies, I don't think people will swift to forget.

The bigger problem, and the one which I believe probably dooms the puppies, is that the massive uptick in voter participation at Sasquan was ruinous for their slate. While many of those voters certainly had reasons other than "not liking the books" for voting against the puppies (see above), this suggests very strongly that the puppies do not represent a silent majority. Based on the numbers I've seen, I'd expect the puppies percentage of support to scale inversely with the number of voters.

Some people have suggested that the puppy slates losing to "No Award" is incontrovertible proof that the puppies claims are objectively correct and the Hugo awards are run by a clique hell-bent on ensuring the political correctness of award winners.  That's not merely hyperbolic; it's simply not true that the voting results prove anything of the sort. It's not helpful to anyone to distort the truth in that fashion, and if this kind of rhetoric is indicative of what we have to look forward to for the next twelve months, it's possible that "No Award" will be the big winner again next year, and no one who cares even a little bit about science fiction wants to see that.

Please do not interpret this as an anti-puppy statement. I just happen to be a cat person.

Please do not interpret this as an anti-puppy statement. I just happen to be a cat person.