2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Related Works

Detail from Colleen Coover's cover illustration for Queers Dig Time Lords, published by Mad Norwegian Press.

In my previous articles comparing the 2015 Sad Puppies slate with the Hugo nominees of the year before, I covered the short fiction categories of Best Short StoryBest Novelette, and Best Novella. We now come to Best Related Work, a section that is a bit of a mish-mash. Broadly speaking, it is the category for nonfiction—although it once included comics, before they got their own category—and includes works of various lengths and formats, as we shall see.

Best Related Work: 2014 Hugo Nominees

Illustration by Michael KomarckWe Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative by Kameron Hurley (Hugo winner)

Kameron Hurley starts her essay with an analogy. Imagine if all media portrayed llamas as scaly, cannibalistic beasts. If this were the case, the author argues, then audiences would come to assume that llamas really are scaly cannibals, and fiction that portrayed llamas as anything else would be dismissed as unrealistic.

Her point? Well, the media generally portrays women of pre-modern eras as wives or slaves, not as fighters or leaders. Occasional individuals such as Boudicca or Calamity Jane may make it into the popular consciousness, but the full history of women combatants remain obscured. Consequently, in Hurley’s argument, the female warriors of history—from tank drivers of World War II to the women who made up twenty percent of the ANC’s militant wing—are grossly underrepresented in fiction.

Women not only made bombs and guns in WWII – they picked up guns and drove tanks and flew airplanes. The civil war, the revolutionary war – point me to a war and I can point to an instance where a women [sic] picked up a hat and a gun and went off to join it. And yes, Shaka Zulu employed female fighters as well. But when we say “Shaka Zulu’s fighters” what image do we conjure in our minds? Do we think of these women? Or are they the ones we don’t see? The ones who, if we included them in our stories, people would say weren’t “realistic”?

Of course, we do talk about women who ran with Shaka Zulu. When I Google “women who fought for Shaka Zulu” I learn all about his “harem of 1200 women.” And his mother, of course. And this line was very popular: “Women, cattle and slaves.” One breath.

Hurley is writing primarily about her own experiences with the subject—her personal realisation that a rich part of history is frequently overlooked, and that she has been complicit in this state of affairs. Her piece is light on scholarly analysis and heavy on anecdote and analogy. As a discussion of women combatants throughout history, and of their portrayal in fiction, the essay is firmly at the introductory level; a reader who is already familiar with the subject will find little new here.

It would be easy to question the essay’s focus on women warriors, rather than women inventors, philosophers or political leaders. Presumably Hurley feels that these groups are more fairly represented in the media, but even so, the essay props up the somewhat limited cultural framework that primarily defines “strength” as the ability and willingness to kill people.

On a related note, while Hurley has half an eye on fantasy fiction—her essay is illustrated with pictures of women fighters, most of whom are clearly fantasy figures such as an elf and a cyborg—she never addresses the fact that “warrior woman” is a default character type in the genre. She does touch upon the limited roles given to such characters, such as the fact that they are often motivated by rape, but there is room for more analysis here. How do Xena and Red Sonja compare with their historical counterparts? Have they helped to draw attention to real-life women fighters, or simply reinforced the idea that such people are the stuff of fantasy? There is clearly room for a companion essay or two.

Did the essay deserve to win the Hugo? This question raises an obvious weakness with the Best Related Work category: it is hardly fair to treat essay-length and book-length works as equivalents. Hurley’s piece may have been a worthy contender in a hypothetical Best Essay category, but given that it is so ripe for expansion, it looks a little insubstantial when shelved alongside long-form works of nonfiction.

Cover of Queers Dig Time Lords, published by Mad Norwegian Press. Illustration by Colleen Coover.Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas

After meeting a few people, my non-fan friends took me aside and said, “I thought you said this was a science-fiction convention.”

“It is,” I replied.

“Then why is everyone gay?”

“Ah, that’s because it’s a Doctor Who convention.”

This anecdote from Jason Tucker sums up the basic starting point of Queers Dig Time Lords: the longstanding overlap between Doctor Who fandom and LGBT culture. A bevy of contributors each add their 2p to the jar, with some recurring themes turning up along the way. Popular topics include the asexual nature of the old-school Doctor in contrast to more obviously hetero heroes of the era such as Captain Kirk, the open portrayal of homosexual and bisexual characters in the revived series, and the overall camp of the franchise.

As somebody who fits into two quarters of “LGBT” and is very much partial to Doctor Who, I enjoyed this book. However, I will have to admit to being frustrated by certain elements. The essays began to get rather repetitive after a while, with a lot of them sharing the exact same topic: “When I was a Doctor Who-obsessed adolescent, I realised that I was gay.” There are occasional diversions, as when Susan Jane Bigelow uses the Doctor’s regenerations to articulate her experience as a transgender woman, but few of the authors are able to put unique spins on the subject.

The writers often touch upon intriguing concepts, but neglect to discuss them in depth. For example, one of the longest chapters focuses on the omnisexual time traveller Captain Jack. According to this character, his sexual orientation is the norm in his home period of the fifty-second century; the authors of the article raise the interesting question of exactly how romantic and sexual relationships would function in such a society. Doctor Who never explored this—and, alas, neither do the authors of the essay. Instead, rather too much of the chapter is taken up by fannish squee-ing.

Despite being a fan of Doctor Who myself, I found the near-constant gushing to be a bit overwhelming; it came as a relief to find the occasional bout of negativity. Hal Duncan inverts the book’s formula by outlining how he fell out of love with the series as a teenager, the jump-the-shark moment for him being the introduction of a killer robot made of liquorice allsorts. His newfound disdain for the franchise led him to write an anti-fanfic in which our beloved Doctor is exposed as the true identity of Jack the Ripper (Duncan is now thoroughly ashamed of this incident, and has since burnt the manuscript).

Sad Puppies founder Larry Correia presumably had this book in mind when he quipped that “the usual [Related Work] nominees are things like Transsexual WereSeals Love Dr. Who.” This seems unfair, as Queers Dig Time Lords has entertainment value—and that, after all, is something that the Sad Puppies are supposed to be fighting for. That said, I will have to admit that the book is closer to a fan blog than to a Hugo-worthy piece of media criticism.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer

Cover of Wonderbook, published by Harry N. Abrams. Design and illustration by Jeremy Zerfoss.

If you want a rough idea of how Wonderbook works, start by picturing one of those For Dummies or Complete Idiot’s Guide books: a comprehensive but straightforward tome, presented with a clinical neatness for maximum accessibility. Then picture the book being filled with an infectious enthusiasm for the possibilities of fiction—so much so that it becomes a work of imaginative writing in itself.

Jeff VanderMeer takes a number of different approaches in getting his points across to the reader. He provides various writing exercises designed to help with the ins and outs of craft, structure and development. He ropes in several well-known authors—such as Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, and Kim Stanley Robinson—to share their experiences of working in the field. But most immediately obvious, upon flipping through the book, is how the ideas are presented visually.

Wonderbook is illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss, who comes up with a range of inventive diagrams: a character shooting an arrow is used to convey good and bad plot trajectories, while the development of a story is illustrated as a tadpole becoming a frog—although whether it becomes a frog prince or an amphibious corpse depends on execution. In addition, the book samples everything from the Voynich manuscript to a Lovecraft-inspired map by Jean Thompson in its efforts to get the reader’s creative juices flowing.

The effect is rather like Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and its sequels, which likewise combined words and pictures to discuss literary theory. So visual is Wonderbook that I honestly feel as though I am missing the point by writing a review: if anything, I should be illustrating my response to it.

Above all, Wonderbook avoids lecturing on the exact way of doing things, and is instead designed to help the reader find their own voice—in short, it is a “how to write fiction” book done properly. Other volumes may offer similar advice, but none do so in quite the same way as VanderMeer and Zerfoss.

Cover of Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Reviews, Essays and Commentary; design by Sarah Anne Langton.Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Reviews, Essays and Commentary edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin

Here we have the 2013 instalment of a long-running series of anthologies, each of which gathers together noteworthy commentary of SF and fantasy that was published online in the previous year. The first half of the book consists of reviews; speaking as somebody who has not read any of the works discussed, I found all of these to be thought-provoking or at least entertaining, and three in particular to be standouts.

Martin McGrath, a writer from Northern Island, reviews The Fey and the Fallen, a novel by American author Stina Leicht and set during the Irish troubles. McGrath is unimpressed by Leicht’s inaccurate portrayal of Northern Ireland’s culture and politics, but his review is more than an exercise in hole-picking: he provides an informative overview of the novel’s errors, and raises some good points about the pitfalls of writing cross-culture.

Maureen Kincaid Speller contributes a review of the New Yorker’s science fiction special issue, and is not afraid to home in on specific details: roughly half of the review is an analysis of the cover illustration. Speller takes the opportunity to see how contemporary science fiction represents itself to a wider audience, and goes away with a number of concerns.

A similar tone is adopted by Paul Kincaid, who simultaneously reviews the 2012 editions of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and Nebula Awards Showcase. Kincaid’s general conclusion is that, if these anthologies truly represent the best science fiction stories of the year, then science fiction is not in very good shape. I was amused to find that a lot of his concerns about the state of the genre, particularly his comments regarding the Nebula picks, mirror the Sad Puppies’ objections to the Hugo nominees—and yet Kincaid’s thoughts were themselves Hugo-nominated! Once again, I suspect that there is common ground between Worldcon and the Puppies that warrants exploration…

The book’s second section consists of essays. These are similarly brief, but touch on some interesting subjects. Amongst other topics, Ro Smith makes a case for seventeenth-century writer Margaret Cavendish as the originator of science fiction; Matthew Surridge discusses medieval legends relating to Attila the Hun, theorising that they influenced Tolkien’s orcs; N. K. Jemisin disparages the influence of Dungeons & Dragons on fictional magic; and Chris Gerwel provides an astute analysis of the overlap between fantasy and circus iconography.

One of the longer essays is “Cowardice, Laziness and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future,” by Jonathan McCalmont, who follows up on Paul Kincaid’s aforementioned review and offers his own, similarly scathing overview of contemporary SF. In McCalmont’s opinion, science fiction is in danger of losing all relevance to the turbulent times of today: this is due to genre boundaries blurring into meaninglessness, the usage of whitewashed alternate histories for mindless escapism, and witless irony that ensures nothing deserves to be taken seriously. Dispiriting stuff, but most definitely worth a look.

The final section is headed “SFLife,” and consists of even shorter essays written from a ground-level, first-person point of view. Most poignant of these is Matt Hilliard’s piece on the 2012 Worldcon, where he discusses an ongoing fragmentation of fandom…the year before Sad Puppies started.

I found a few of the entries to be a little fluffy, but the book on a whole is definitely solid. I have only one real quibble: is gathering together a set of blog posts by other people really an award-worthy endeavour, no matter how good the blog posts may be…?

Writing Excuses logo.Writing Excuses season 8

Back when I started this series, I said that I would be leaving out categories such as Best Fancast and Best Semiprozine that covered year-long serialised works, due to the difficulty in writing a fair overview of these. For the same reason, I fear that I will have to skim over Writing Excuses season 8, a podcast that comprises 52 episodes with a collective running time of about 16 hours.

I listened to a few episodes, and was impressed by what I heard. The podcast follows the general format of deconstructing the narratives of recent films, finding out what works and what fails, while also devising creative exercises for the listeners.

That said, the inclusion of Writing Excuses in Best Related Work raises more questions about the Hugos’ categorisation process. The awards have a dedicated category for podcasts, but it is restricted specifically to fan-made podcasts. Writing Excuses is presumably deemed too professional to qualify for this section, hence its inclusion in the miscellaneous category. This seems an unnecessary distinction to me; would the Hugos really be worse off if they kept the podcasts together?

Best Related Work: 2015 Sad Puppies

Note: unlike the other categories that I have covered in this series, the Rabid Puppies did not offer a different slate to the Sad Puppies for Best Related Work. All five Sad Puppy choices were nominated for the Hugo.

Baen Books logo“Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts

This is a two-part essay that pushes the concept of the scientific method as an ongoing process of retrieving data, as opposed to a sure-fire way of finding irrefutable facts. The first part introduces the topic and lists well-known instances of entirely reasonable scientific thought leading to mistaken conclusions; the second half gives a more detailed account of how scientific research operates, outlining the ways in which accidents can happen. The essay concludes with constructive criticism of the peer-review process.

Tedd Roberts adopts a conversational and engaging tone for this essay, which is clearly aimed at a popular audience. There is little point in me providing further analysis: science writing is not something that I keep up with, and so I simply do not know if this essay is a particularly distinguished example of its kind.

The essay has no direct connection to science fiction or fantasy other than being written by an SF author and published on the website of SF/F publisher Baen. Science writing is a rarity in the Best Related Work category, but not unheard of: in its second year, the award went to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The inclusion of Roberts’ essay on the Sad Puppies slate was presumably intended to help open the category up to a wider range of work—but once again, is it fair to nominate essays alongside books?

Despite its brevity, Roberts’ essay was the highest-voted nomination in the category, winning second to “no award.”

Cover of Letters from Gardner, by Lou Antonelli. Published by Merry Blacksmiths Press.Letters from Gardner: A Writer’s Odyssey by Lou Antonelli

This is an autobiographical work by Lou Antonelli, charting his career as a writer since its beginning in 2002. Each chapter contains a short story from the relevant period in Antonelli’s life; the fiction takes up more than half the entire book, so the overall effect is something like watching a DVD with the director’s commentary playing. As the back cover notes, Letters from Gardner is a tricky book to classify; I would say that it is best labelled as an anthology of heavily-annotated short stories.

Given the book’s jack-of-all-trades approach, it is hardly surprising that Letters from Gardner is something of a mixed bag. To be honest, the fourteen-year career outlined here is simply too uneventful to make a particularly gripping biography. It is somewhat novel to see such an in-depth look at the beginning of a writer’s creative period—I can imagine Letters from Gardner inspiring many of its readers to try their hands at fiction themselves, with Antonelli making the process look easy—but too often the book gets bogged down in irrelevant details. The low point is when Antonelli spends multiple paragraphs waxing nostalgic about those Bic ballpoint pens with orange shafts, which are apparently hard to find in America these days.

The book’s title refers to Gardner Dozois, who edited Asimov’s Science Fiction during the period covered by Antonelli. Anyone hoping to see a strong presence from Dozois will be disappointed, however, as his main role in the book is to pop up at the end of each chapter as Antonelli quotes the brief advice given in the latest rejection slip.

The stories themselves are hit or miss—Antonelli cheerfully admits that a few of them were rejected for good reason—but there are some strong works on offer. For my money, the best part of the book is a chapter entitled “In the Wake of the Columbia Tragedy.” Here, Antonelli describes his reaction to the shuttle disaster of 2003, which occurred over his home state of Texas. To exorcise his psychological demons following the terrible incident, he wrote a story called “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” in which a man finds a strange crab-like being amongst debris from the crash. The protagonist realises that it is a parasite that evolved to live off spacecraft, and was responsible for destroying Columbia; he then kills it in disgust.

Gardner Dozois rejected the story on the reasonable grounds that, while Antonelli’s motives were heartfelt, a reader could easily misinterpret the story as crass exploitation. The chapter gives insight into the creative processes of both Antonelli and Dozois, which it places into historical context; in short, it works as a worthwhile piece of biography where most of the book fails.

I do not want to come down too hard on Letters from Gardner, which I did enjoy on the whole. But I have to say, it seems an odd choice for a Hugo.

Cover of Transhuman and Subhuman by John C. Wright, published by Castalia House. Cover design by JartStar; illustration by Jeremiah Humphries.Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright

Behind the intriguing title lies a frustratingly unfocused book. John C. Wright offers us a grab-bag of essays that include musings about the cultural value of science fiction, an Aristotelian analysis of Disney’s Snow White, a scathing takedown of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and quite a bit more besides.

Wright is not afraid to express his contentious opinions on various matters, particularly his hostility towards feminism and the LGBT movement. He condemns these ideologies as “misleading, deceptive, even poisonous,” but admits to a fondness for certain writers who hold them; at one point he compares himself to a parent “whose child grows up to be a drug addict, or a sexual pervert, or demon-possessed,” profoundly concerned but still fundamentally loving.

I had already come across Wright via his personal blog, so this viewpoints did not come as a surprise to me. Instead, reading Transhuman and Subhuman left me taken aback by the remarkably poor structure of the book.

Like a half-sloshed barroom boor, Wright staggers from topic to topic and frequently repeats himself. In one essay he argues that the “big three” of golden age SF are not Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, as is often stated, but Asimov, Heinlein, and A. E. van Vogt. This is fair enough, although he has trouble deciding whether the point of the article is to restore van Vogt’s reputation or to summarise the attitudes of all four writers. The next essay begins by rehashing the same argument about van Vogt’s place in the canon—not simply as a quick summary, but over multiple paragraphs—before going on to discuss Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End. This is followed by an essay devoted to…Childhood’s End. Surely the three essays could have been reduced to two, the first on van Vogt and the second on Clarke?

For an even more striking example of the redundancy that plagues the book, consider these passages from three different essays:

Essay 1: To craft an SF/F book, we use all the same tools and tricks as a mainstream writer, with one difference. The one thing we do that writers of Westerns, Romances, Detective novels or Pirate Stories do not do is world-building.

Essay 2: In addition to the elements common to all genres, such as plot, theme, characters, and setting, science fiction and fantasy have one element no other genre (except possibly horror) has or can have: world-building.

Essay 3: Science Fiction differs from all other genres […] All stories (except modern mainstream ones), have plot, character, setting, theme, mood. But Science Fiction has one thing more. It has world building.

The repetition is reminiscent of Queers Dig Time Lords, but at least that book has an excuse in that it was written by multiple authors who did not know that they were treading the same ground.

If one aspect of Transhuman and Subhuman sums up its essential sloppiness, it is Wright’s obsessive but inconsistent usage of categories. In the essay that gives the collection its name, he divides science fiction and fantasy authors into four schools of thought: Worldly, Cultist, Occultist, and Anarchist, with the implication that writers of his religious stripe constitute a fifth category. Later on, citing the work of Seraphim Rose as his inspiration, he categorises authors as being either Worldly, Ideologues, Spiritualists, or Nihilists. In Wright’s usage these four groups correspond with the four identified earlier on—so why the change in terminology?

Elsewhere he looks at the ways in which different SF authors have viewed war, and divides them into four more categories: Hopeful, Noble, Ruthless, and Despairing. But Wright does not explore how these groups overlap or contrast with the philosophical groups that he discusses in other parts of the book. To top it all off, the final essay sees Wright return to the Worldly/Ideologue/Spiritualist/Nihilist framework, which he restates at length—seemingly oblivious to the fact that he has already outlined it in the book twice.

To be fair, Wright originally penned these essays as blog posts, which explains their scattershot nature. But if a blogger is to compile his posts into a commercially-published book, then it is only reasonable to expect him to smooth over the cracks; doing otherwise is a disservice to the readership. Incredibly, Wright actually assembled this incoherent volume with the aid of an editor: Vox Day, who managed to bag himself clearly undeserved nominations in both Best Professional Editor categories.

Wright does find time to discuss an appealing idea, albeit one that is almost lost amidst the book’s ramshackle structure. One early chapter outlines an interpretation of twentieth-century history in which World War I crippled the spirituality of the West, leaving a godless and malnourished world of Picasso and James Joyce. In Wright’s conception, society’s spiritual development was then handed to the likes of Asimov and Tolkien; finally, the success of Star Wars allowed fantasy fiction to become the dominant mythology of the era.

Wright is touchingly sincere in this notion that science fiction and fantasy authors are the prophets of today, and their fictional heroes successors to the saints. There are the beginnings of an interesting book here, a book that I would be tempted to read despite my grave disagreements with Wright’s social views. Transhuman and Subhuman, however, is not that book.

“Turncoat,” by Steve Rzasa, Riding the Red Horse Anthology, Castalia House, 2014 “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside

With this essay, Ken Burnside takes aim at scientific inaccuracies in SF—specifically, how many military SF stories routinely violate the laws of thermodynamics:

In Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo, the namesake rocket uses zinc as its reaction mass, filtered through a hot nuclear reactor. Zinc has an atomic mass of 65 or so, while real world rockets have exhaust by-products with a mass of about 10. If the zinc were leaving the back of the rocket at the same temperature and as the tail end of a LOX/H2 rocket, you’d need 6.5x as much mass of zinc as you’d need rocket fuel. Heinlein casually side-steps this issue by using a nuclear heater, presumably to get the zinc to vaporize at about 1400 K. Even if you accept the incredibly high temperature nuclear reactor, the zinc-propellant NERVA engine is problematic thermodynamically and radiologically. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere near where the Galileo took off without a HASMAT suit.

The essay is aimed squarely at military SF authors who want their stories to be as theoretically rigorous as possible, and so I cannot say that I am in the target audience. Speaking personally, I would have found the piece more interesting had it spent more time examining examples of SF that Burnside feels are particularly deserving of praise or condemnation; as it is, the above discussion of Rocket Ship Galileo is the only point in which the essay analyses a specific story in depth. “Hot Equations” instead offers a broad overview of ways in which fictionalised portrayals of interplanetary travel are often inaccurate, and I find it hard to believe that no previous authors have tackled this subject in more detail.

As with Tedd Roberts’ essay, “Hot Equations” appears to have been included on the Sad Puppies slate for the symbolic significance of getting scientifically-oriented writing on the Hugo ballot, rather than for its own merit.

Cover of Wisdom From My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson. Published by Patriarchy Press.Wisdom From My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson

Moving from hard science to complete tripe, we come to a book that is simply a collection of short gags divided by subject. Williamson sees himself as an equal-opportunity offender, although it is hard to miss a few recurring targets—including marines, vegans, and whales. Some excerpts:

Necrophilia adds a whole new meaning to “Cracking open a cold one.”

If you held a “Hateful & Ignorant” contest between a #Birther and a #Truther, who would win?

Apparently, Lincoln was shot on location before a live audience.

Putin doesn’t have to read: Unlike Chuck Norris having to stare at the book, he’s so terrifying, the books just tell him the information he wants to know when he walks into the room.

So, as near as I can tell, Creationists are afraid that if people are animals, they might not have a soul, and vegans are convinced that people don’t have souls but chickens do.

Ben Franklin was not the Father of France…

Belgium doesn’t have Trapeze Monks who run a circus…

Sitting on the john, munching a doughnut and shooting my TV doesn’t count as an Elvis impersonation…

Wisdom From My Internet’s tenuous claim to the status of “related work” in the context of the Hugos appears to be based on a smattering of jokes that riff on popular fantasy fiction. These are clustered for the most part around two chapters, “Vikings, Gaming and Geekiness” and “Pop Culture,” which collectively take up 16% of the book. Here are a few examples:

I’m afraid to ask, but…is there Aliens hentai? It seems tailor made for it.

It’s a good thing conservative Larry Correia is a White Hispanic. Otherwise someone might call him a brown bagger.

Clint Eastwood simply walks into Mordor.

One cannot properly appreciate Fox in Socks unless one has read it in the original Klingon.

If I were Sith, I’d use a UV lightsaber–invisible to the naked eye.

Is it just me, or does Jar-Jar sound like a Vietnamese prostitute from Full Metal Jacket? Meesa love you long time!

“Panspermia” is not a J. M. Barrie porno…

A Pokemon is not a gay Jamaican…

Star Wars does not have a character called Han Jabba…

The Headless Horseman did not eventually find relief from Linda Lovelace…

I will admit to cracking a smirk once or twice as I read the book, but the good jokes are overwhelmed by duds. Some are contrived, some are flat, some are repetitive (the above-quoted gag about “trapeze monks” occurs twice in the same chapter) and some are simply as old as the hills. Is there any fantasy fan out there who has never heard the ones about Elvish Presley or Conan the Librarian before? And does Williamson honestly believe that he is the first person to snigger at the term Homo Erectus, or to point out that “Santa” is an anagram of “Satan?”

To be fair, the Hugos do have a history of the occasional frivolous nomination. In 2004, for example, the award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) was won by a two-minute spoof MTV acceptance speech, which beat out episodes of Buffy, Firefly and Smallville. If the Sad Puppies wish to reform the awards, however, then it would make sense to move away from that kind of thing. I honestly do not see how someone who helped to get Wisdom From My Internet on the ballot is in a position to sneer at the likes of If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.

My thoughts

Out of all the categories I have looked at for this serious, Best Related Work strikes me as the only one that begins to fit the “SJW” accusation, with a solid but not outstanding feminist essay winning ahead of arguably more sophisticated work. (Some commentators would also point to the presence of Queers Dig Time Lords as evidence of “SJW” influence, but then, it could just as easily be chalked up to Worldcon’s oft-demonstrated love of Doctor Who).

So, the Sad Puppies had the opportunity to offer genuinely superior analysis of science fiction and fantasy. But instead…

While I would have readily voted for Wonderbook or perhaps Writing Excuses had I taken part in the 2014 awards, none of the Sad Puppy choices in this category strike me as award-worthy. One, Wisdom From My Internet, may well go down as the single most embarrassing nominee in Hugo history. As multiple opponents of the campaigns have pointed out, neither the Sad nor Rabid Puppies included the second volume of William Patterson’s highly-regarded Robert A. Heinlein biography on their slates, even though it was eligible for nomination in 2015. The Puppy slate for Best Related Work is, all in all, evidence that the campaign was not entirely sure what it was doing.

Next up, I shall come to the last of the five categories that I have chosen to cover: Best Novel. Nominations are now open for the 2016 Hugos, but I hope that I have a few readers still interested in looking back at the previous two years…

Series Navigation<< 2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novellas2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novels >>
Doris V. Sutherland

Doris V. Sutherland

Horror historian, animation addict and tubular transdudette. Catch me on Twitter @dorvsutherland, or view my site at dorisvsutherland.com. If you like my writing enough to fling money my way, then please visit patreon.com/dorvsutherland or ko-fi.com/dorvsutherland.

2 thoughts on “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Related Works

  1. This series is really outstanding: thoughtful, sensible, and serious in addressing a very strange moment in science fiction (or at least the Hugos). I hope the entry on the Novel is coming soon — and I would read the hell out of any reviews you undertook of the Hugo categories this year, once they’re announced. Thanks so much for your work!

    1. Thanks James, I’m flattered!

      The Best Novel article will be up soon, hopefully next week. I’m planning to follow it with a look at the non-puppy nominees for 2015, along with the works that might have been nominated in lieu of the puppies.

      But after that, I expect I’ll be too burnt out to look at the 2016 nominees in any depth…

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