Being an author, understandably more than a few people have wanted my thoughts on the Hugo/Sad Puppies controversy. For those of you just joining us, this piece by fellow Nerd of Color Arthur Chu gives an excellent summary here.
Before I go any further, let me preface by saying this. As a writer, awards and accolades don’t even rank in terms of priorities. Don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome and I appreciate the honor as much as the next person but it goes back to a point my friend Pauline Trent and I discussed one day. There are generally two types of artists — and by artists I mean visual artists, writers, musicians, dancers, etc. The first type of artist is one who wants to be world renowned as a great artist. The second type of artist simply wants to produce as much work as they can possibly produce. More often than not, the latter leads to the former.
Whether it’s an essay, a social media update, or a novel, whenever I write, I have three objectives in mind: to enlighten, to entertain and to empower. So while awards may not be a priority for many writers, we still acknowledge the huge accomplishment in having one’s work recognized by industry peers and fans alike. Over the years, the Hugos have recognized some truly gifted authors. I’m honored to call a couple Hugo nominees good personal friends of mine. But as this fiasco just illustrated, the Hugos are yet another symptom of a corrupt system that is the publishing industry.
As Chu explained, the Hugos are both nominated on and voted on by supporters of the World Science Fiction Convention, or WorldCon. It only costs 40 bucks to get a membership, and anyone is eligible. Anyone can vote but very few people do.
“After all, if everyone in the world who read SF books bought a membership, WorldCon would be better funded than the Red Cross.”
While it’s very simple to focus on Torgersen and the Pound Puppies for “cheating the system,” the reality is that the system was a cheat to begin with. A few previous nominations aside, the Hugos aren’t exactly known for being diverse. It’s no coincidence that the nominating and voting procedures conveniently work against marginalized authors, fans and corresponding works.
The same can be said for the publishing industry in general. Case in point.
It also corresponds to the fact that Racefail happened over five years ago. For the most part, nothing has changed, at least not as far as the mainstream publishing industry goes. My fellow PoCs have stepped up and slowly but surely, they’ve been gaining ground with initiatives such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #BlackSpeculativeFictionMonth.
Many of us are taking our power back and sharing our truths and being successful producing our own works. But much of that progress has been working outside the system. For all the grandstanding that white fauxial justice warriors do, the reality is that they conveniently want you to forget is that they benefit from the same privilege as Torgersen and his crew. Diversity and equality works against their self interests. So sure many of them will pay lip service to the cause, and some will pull a Tim Wise and make a buck off the struggle, like Jim Hines did.
But better believe this is all a hustle. If it isn’t the Sad Puppy Brigade declaring the war on Hugos and the “liberal agenda,” you’ve got liberal fauxgressives like Jim Hines playing double agent. In one breath he justifies editors and publishers who “erase the gay” from anthologies and then in the next breath he’s condemning Torgersen for his homophobia. Hypocrisy much? With allies like that, who needs Westboro. When it’s all said and done, this Hugo scandal isn’t harming minorities or depriving us of anything which is why I can’t be bothered to muster any outrage. It’s not hindering my writing or my mission statement. And as we’ve seen with the Grammys and the Academy Awards, these award systems have never been in the best interest of minorities. The game is rigged to benefit whites. At the end of the day, the only people who came up short in the playing of the system are the privileged white folks the crooked system was intended for.
And this would be the chickens coming home to roost.