There Is and Was No Conspiracy

I wasn’t going to go to Spokane for the World Science Fiction Convention.  I have a lot of work on my plate, a number of other trips so adding in Sasquan seemed like just too much.  Then Puppies happened and I knew I had to go.  My friend David Gerrold (the man responsible for Tribbles and defeating the Klingons with said aforementioned tribbles) was the guest of honor, and it seemed like there was a very good chance his moment in the sun was going to be spoiled by a food fight in fandom. 

For those of you not be seeped in the lore of fandom — it’s a great honor to be selected as a worldcon GoH.  And the modern practice is that you only get one.  In the old days Robert Heinlein was GoH four times, but that’s not how it’s done today.  You have one bite at this apple.  The unpleasantness that exploded when the slate of nominees was revealed meant that there was a good chance David’s moment was going to be scarred by “tension, apprehension and dissension” to quote Robert Silverberg quoting remarks from the 1968 Worldcon.  That meant I was going to go attend Worldcon come hell or high water and try to be there for my friend.

I also have a number of friends among the hard working fans who put on Worldcons (no easy task).  These are people who love our field and donate their time and energy to throw a party every year for all of us (normally) joyful nerds who love rocket ships and unicorns, fighting robots and spell flinging mages, dystopias and utopias.  They also didn’t deserve to cope with all this tribulation without folks showing up who wanted to celebrate the field.

I was also privy to George’s plan to present Alfie’s to those folks who had been pushed off the ballot by the slate.  You can find George’s remarks on how he did it and why he did it here — What’s It All About, Alfie?   I wanted to show support for his laudable effort to honor folks who had been damaged by the “tension, apprehension and dissension”  And it wasn’t all about the Hugos, it was also George reclaiming the Hugo Losers Party which has become a rather stuffy affair.  Years ago I got to be a co-conspirator with George at one Losers party where I let George in an adjoining door so he could cover Gardner Dozois with silly string as he reclined on the bed in a hotel room.  Gardner then rampaged through the party like the Creature of the Black Lagoon.  Ah memories.

Anyway, I went to the Worldcon, and I had a great time.  I got to meet Jim Wright who writes the amazing  Stonekettle Station Blog.  I got to interact with a lot of great people at my Kaffee Klatch and my reading.  I hung out with the amazing Willis clan — Connie, Courtney and Cordelia.  Michael Cassutt kept me laughing at his wit and cynicism.  I had breakfast with the elegant and brilliant Kate Elliot.  I was also there because my friends Emma and Peter Newman were up for a Hugo for best fancast with their charming, witty, interesting and all around delightful Tea & Jeopardy.  Since they sadly couldn’t attend worldcon I had been tasked to accept the Hugo should they win and read the moving speech they had prepared.

So now it was Saturday night.  Hundreds of thousands of words had been written and a thousand insults exchanged about the controversy of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the battle they imagined they were having with the SJW (Social Justice Warriors).  The moment of truth was at hand.  Thousands of supporting memberships that had been purchased.  By whom?  Puppies?  Gamergate fellows?  Old line fans?  New Fen?  None of us knew and some of us were pessimistic.  Me among them.  But not David.  He sensed that fandom would come galloping to the defense of the community and the award to say — “Look, we don’t object to you, your religious beliefs, your political philosophies, your love of military S.F. or Sword Swinging Barbarians, Mighty Thewed Heroes and Women in Chain Mail Bikinis Clinging to Said Heroes, in short Big Dumb Fun but we want you to not game the system.  Nominate what you love like we’ve all done for decades, but don’t create a slate.

I slipped into my slinky blue cocktail dress complete with a rhinestone shoulder strap and went off to sit in the very front row and watch the Hugos.  David Gerrold and his co-host Tananarive Due were brilliant.  Tananarive was dressed in a red Star Trek uniform and channeled the the spirit, beauty and courage of Uhura.  David was dressed as an homage to Dr. Who, but with the addition of a rainbow bow tie and rainbow suspenders to honor the historic extension of civil rights that had happened this summer.  There were Daleks and Grim Reapers, Jim Wright, Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis.  There were winners and there were No Awards.  There were cheers for No Award which I regretted though from my vantage point it seemed more like the cheer was for rejecting the tactics of the slate rather than the nominees.  It was probably not in the best of manners, but truthfully our tribe is a bit socially dyslexic.  The one time people started to boo David immediately went off script and said that kind of behavior was out of bounds.  It didn’t happen again.  I was sorry that No Award took both editor categories.  I had ranked the editors, and placed a certain Rabid Puppy below No Award, but that wasn’t how the majority voted.  Hopefully this slate nonsense will stop and these talented editors will once again be on the ballot.

After the ceremony I stopped briefly by the Hugo Nominee Post Reception and then it was off to the Fun Party.  George’s Hugo Losers Party at the Glover Mansion.  There was a terrific band playing great music, and I danced until my legs were shaking.  (David Hartwell can really cut a rug).  There were delicious hors d’oeuvres, champagne and an amazing cake.  The highlight of the evening was George and others presenting the Alfie’s named in honor of Alfred Bester winner of the first Hugo for novel.  Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos were given Alfies for making the very hard choice to take themselves off the Hugo ballot because they had been placed there by the slate.  When Kloos withdrew it allowed the Three Body Problem to be placed on the ballot and it eventually win “The Big One” as George would say.  George also gave awards to Eric Flint who’s calm and rational writings on the controversy had been an oasis of civility in a sea of vitriol.  The entire event was  very moving, but I share George’s hope that he never has to do it again.

So now I have to address the boatload of idiotic conspiracy theories that have sprung up from the fervid brains of the Puppies both Sad and Rabid.

No, George did not know in advance who had won and who had lost.  He had to wait for the pink sheet that detailed the Hugo nominations before he could figure out who was going to receive an Alfie.  I know because I had to check in with him when thing were running late for presenting the awards, and he told me in harried tones that he had had to wait for the breakdown to come out and everything was running late.

No, George did not buy 3000 memberships and tell them how to vote.  Has anyone looked at fandom?  Herding cats wold be easier.  And seriously — George is the guy who loves this award.  He would never, ever game his beloved Hugos.

No, the Puppy votes were not “discounted”.  It’s the Australian ballot.  It’s confusing.  Here’s a link where Ranked Voting is explained.  Try to understand.  So you don’t get your money back.

No, you can’t sue.  You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain.   You voted/you lost.  If your argument had merit I’d be suing over the 2000 election.  Let it be noted that I didn’t.

Here is my final plea to the readers who might stop by.  Please read and enjoy our genre.  Buy a supporting membership to MidAmericon2 2016, nominate the books and stories and movies you love.  Or buy an attending membership and I’ll see you all in Kansas City next August.

20 Responses to There Is and Was No Conspiracy

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    It’s long. I apologize, but I had a lot I wanted to say.

  • Michael Siemon says:

    Note that “Tension, apprehension and dissension have begun” is a mantra used by the protagonist of Alfred Bester’s 1953 _The Demolished Man_ as a screen from having his motives read by telepathic police…

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I had completely forgotten that. Thanks for pointing that out. I think Silverbob said it was F.M. Busby who quoted it at the ’68 Worldcon.

  • I loved Reasonable Doubt. I was a fan of Profiler, Sliders, SeaQuest, LA Law, and I would have watched more Odyssey 5 and Strange Luck if they had lasted. I only had time to see you on one panel at Sasquan; too busy working on the con. Glad you had a good time. Hope you are able to attend Worldcons in the future.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I will be there, and thanks to all of you who work so hard to make these celebrations come off. I really appreciate it.

  • opiejeanne says:

    Thanks for writing this; it was great, and no, it was not too long.

  • Cameron says:

    Put simply, thank you. It’s been lunatic watching from the sidelines.
    I appreciate such a warm and rational post.

  • Ward says:

    doesn’t feel long at all considering how much more I WANT to see said by rational beings…the disconnect among the puppies is really scary…. (and thanks, Michael- I had forgotten that that came from The Demolished Man!)

  • Thank you. Even from the sidelines this has been stressful for any lover of the SF community, and healing words are very welcome.

  • Steve Halter says:

    Good post. I wasn’t able to go to Sasquan for various reasons, but will be at MidAmericaCon. I had a few breath-catching moments from afar but everything turned out pretty well.
    Yes, read and nominate what you like that you read. Tell other people about books that you liked and encourage them to read them. Encourage people to nominate books that they read and liked.
    It’s a pretty simple process and hopefully the record number of voters will continue through nomination and follow that very simple process. We’ll have to see how 2015 works out next spring, but at this point I am hopeful that things will work out well. If not, then EPH and 4/6 should pull the teeth out of slates (any slates).

  • Andrew Trembley says:

    I was less than thrilled with the cheers at “no award”

    But someone called me on my memory of how things went, that there was a short and quiet response to the first no award, and the cheers built to Novella, so I went back and reviewed the video.

    Context matters.

    There were more cheers for Best Related Work’s “No Award” than I remembered. But people clapped for the nominees before that happened. As was the case for every following “No Award.”

    In every case, the audience clapped for the announced nominees.

    Now what do you think that means?

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I’m not sure. I think people wanted to be polite, but were torn because there was this feeling that somehow it had been a cheat. I think Connie Willis summed it up pretty well in her letter when she said she wouldn’t give out awards. Yes, it was within the rules to play the slate game, but there was this very strong feeling that it hadn’t been fair.

  • airboy says:

    Thanks for your post. As a first time Hugo voter (mostly allied with the Sads & I did not nominate anyone) I appreciate your sentiment.

    Hope you will read Eric Flint’s recent post on how the Hugos have become a literary award almost totally divorced from what is purchased by general SF readers. I think that most of the Sad’s belief that the Hugos are nominated by a tiny number of insiders and voted on by a tiny sliver of Fandom has largely been proven accurate.

    I wish that people had not applauded the No Awards – as you and Mr. Martin expressed.

    You said: “No, you can’t sue. You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain. You voted/you lost.”

    Very true. Since the Hugos seem to have little to no impact on sales – how could one show economic harm? But likewise, some trufen authors are threatening to sue if they “get nominated without their permission.” Same thing holds. Where is the harm in getting nominated for an award?

    There is a lot of idiocy on both sides and neither seems to listen to the other.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I have obsessively read Eric Flint’s blog. He has done a wonderful job discussing the issues. It’s why George gave him an Alfie. However, I would direct you to George’s blog where he discusses that the Hugos were never meant to be The People’s Choice Awards. Mere popularity should not be the sole standard by which a book is judged. The Transformer movies are very popular and make a lot of money, but they shouldn’t win and Academy Award. Now are mistakes occasionally made and books slip through that aren’t particularly ambitious? Of course, but if you go back and Google the titles of the books which have won the fans have gotten it right more often then they’ve gotten it wrong.

      I think what the authors are saying is they do not want to be placed on a slate. In a sense we’re all nominated without our permission because fans read books and nominate the books and stories they liked — or that’s how it used to work. It is nonsense to talk about suing. If you find yourself on a slate just withdraw the way Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet did — it earned them both an Alfie from George because that was a very difficult thing to do, but they didn’t want to be associated with the slates or with Teddy Beale.

      I think over the years a lot of fans became complacent. They saw the long list of recommended works put out by Locus or other websites and figured “Oh, someone else will read a lot of these and nominate and I know the final ballot will have good works on it so I won’t bother.” There was never any plot by so-called social Justice warriors to secretly nominate. It was passionate readers who were nominating and it was unfortunately a small group. I don’t think that’s going to happen again. I think a lot of fans are going to read and nominate going forward. And if some of the writers who identify as Sads make it on the ballot in the normal way I hope they will be given a fair reading though they have managed to upset a lot of people. I hope that won’t be held against them, but I can’t predict what other people might do.

      And I’ll end with the question I put to any member of the Sads in an earlier post about this controversy — do you honestly think that your book is worthy to stand in the company of Alfred Bester, Roger Zelzny, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Connie Willis, and so and so on. I don’t think I am. And if the fans ever gave me a nomination I would be deeply honored whether I won or not.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      You should also take a look at the novels that were nominated and didn’t win. Amazing books. The ballots contained treasures. A lot of people read every nominated work this year and they were found to be lacking.

  • airboy says:

    I found the first 5 Harry Dresden books to be amazing. Butcher not obtaining even a nomination for any of these works says to me that the Hugos are for literary work and action-oriented books need not apply. I’m sure you don’t agree – but I’ve been taking a Hugo Novel winner in the last 15 years or so as a “do not read – you will be bored” sign. Before that – a Hugo novel almost always meant – “good book you will appreciate.”

    I disagree that the Hugo voting was largely “against low quality” this year. ChaosHorizon’s analysis is conclusive that the behavior was a hard core 2,500 “nuke everything nominated by a certain group.” Math is math. The 2 editor nominees were used as one of the benchmarks of hard core slate voting to “protest the slate or who nominated the individuals.”

    I’m sure you can point out individual low quality work this year. I’m sure I can do so for both this year and previous years. A pretty common opinion is “Wisdom From My Internet” was not a strong nominee. Although the author (Williamson) seems like a good guy. I “no awarded” that one.

    I hope that you are correct that there will be more widespread nominations next year.

    FYI: I voted the Butcher book first. I voted Goblin Emperor 2nd in the Novel category.

    I think we agree about 85%. I’m just glad that some are trying to pour oil on the water and address the basic issues the Sads are raising.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I enjoy Dresden too. I have read all of Butchers Dresden novels, but they are popcorn. Very well done popcorn, but popcorn. My first choice was Goblin Emperor foloowed by 3 Body Problem, Ancillary Sword and then the Dresden book. I’m surprised you find the recent winners boring. Ancillary Justice was straight up space opera and damn good space opera too but it was very well written with an interesting premise as regards the emperor. Not everything that won has been to my taste, but Redshirts is a romp — anything but boring, Bujold is always a fun ride. We had Spin and a Deepness in the Sky, City and the City and Windup Girl were amazing. There’s a reason there was a tie that year.

      And I’m afraid we will have to disagree. I felt much of the slated work beyond Butcher and one short story was sub-standard. If as ChaosHorizon claims it was just angry hardcore fans then nothing would have won and it would have been No Awards across the board. I think most voters tried to be fair. I still think what happened in the editor category was the present of Teddy Beale. Because of the vagaries of the Australian ballot people were afraid of splitting the vote and his cadre of slate voters might give him a rocket. That would have been a travesty. Just as he had no right to use the accredited SFWA forum to spew his racism it would have been bad if Worldcon and the Hugos had seen seem as honoring him in any way.

      • Bryan says:

        I have to disagree with your opinion on both Ancillary Justice and Redshirts. I found Ancillary Justice to be barely readable and extremely boring. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Ancillary Sword was nominated this year, and I needed to finish Justice before reading Sword I would have stopped reading Justice way before I got halfway through it. Finishing that book seemed like a chore. I will admit that I like Ancillary Sword better than Justice, but not by be enough to get it ranked any higher than 5 place on my ballot. Had I voted the previous year, I would have put Justice below no award.

        As for Redshirts, I really enjoyed reading Scalzi’s Old Man War series, but have come to feel that he’s just been phoning it in on his more recent books. My disillusionment with his writing began with Fuzzy Nation. The only really positive thing that I can say about it was that it introduced me to H Beam Piper. The book seemed inferior to Piper’s book in just about every way. Redshirts seemed to continue his trend of phoning it in. It is basically one big rehash of the inside joke that’s been around since the first season of Star Trek. There wasn’t anything particularly new or innovative about the story. I haven’t even bothered with his last 2 or 3 books (even though one of them is back in the Old Man’s War Universe) because his writing (not his politics) has lost me as a fan. He’ll still post an amusing blog post occasionally, but that seems to have diminished as well.

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter says:

    First, it was an honor to meet you, however briefly, at the Pre-Hugo Reception.

    Second, thank you for this post. I have been a huge fan of Mr. Martin’s for a long time, and I am very relieved to read what you say here.

    It was Wired magazine that gave me the impression that Mr. Martin had matters planned out with the Worldcon staff ahead of time. I knew they did not tell the truth about the people they had interviewed that I had spoken to. It had not occurred to me that they might not be telling the truth about Mr. Martin either.

    Thank you again.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      At no time did George discuss the Alfie’s with the con committee. I had seen the hood ornaments as George bought them, I knew he planned to give a party and award the rockets, but it was entirely George’s plan. There was no collusion. George felt terrible for the writers who had been shoved off the ballot by the slate and he wanted to address that. The other awards were his prerogative, and I think he made excellent choices.

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