Ain’t nobody’s business if you don’t

I know, I know, you’re probably getting bored with Hugo-related content by now. There has indeed been a lot of it, with blog posts back and forth, epic comment threads, and the occasional Sad mastermind or defender popping in to explain himself.

But there are a couple of sentiments that have been cropping up, which I wanted to address, because I think they are a sneaky way of attempting to tell people how to vote this year. And that pertains to Happy Kittens.

The first notion goes something like this: “no matter what, it’s YOUR JOB to read everything on the ballot and seriously consider giving it a Hugo.” Often this assertion has a follow-up similar to: “otherwise you’re doing an injury to the spirit of the award MUCH WORSE than slate voting!”

This might be driven by a sincere evangelical impulse, an earnest conviction that if everyone would only read the work in question, they would be taken with its brilliance and completely see what the Sad Puppies are all about. If so, that’s almost cute. Still wrong, though. But I suspect there is another motivation at work — an attempt to shame non-Sads out of ranking their final ballot against slate works they don’t want to read.

But you are under no more obligation to read a work before voting than they were before nominating. Yes, I’m sure there are Sad apologists who will leap in to claim that of course every single one of them read absolutely everything on the slate before nominating the slate. To which I can only say — HAHAHAHAHAHA. No, really, pull the other one. It’s got catnip bells on it.

But even so, that doesn’t constitute an actual obligation to read before voting. Your own sense of honor or fairness or respect for the award might demand it, of course. But that’s your call. Sads can’t reasonably insist that knee-jerk slate voting is okay but knee-jerk anti-slate voting isn’t. Live by the slate, die by the slate.

Nobody reads literally every SF&F work published in a given year and then makes their Hugo selection from that. We read what we’re inclined to read, and go on from there. The same principle applies to the nominees. I have no reason to read something I don’t want to read just because it was nominated for a Hugo.

In a normal year, being on the ballot at all would constitute a recommendation of quality — something to provide that extra little nudge to get me to actually give it a whirl. This year, meh. I’ve already seen what the Sads consider worth nominating, on last year’s ballot. I was not impressed with their choices.

(On a bit of a tangent, but, I wanted to address one comment left by Brad Torgersen: “Mr. Sandifer, if you truly believe that a book like ANCILLARY JUSTICE or a story like ‘The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere’ did not benefit from a tremendous groundswell of affirmative-action-mindedness, you’re not paying attention.” Well, right back atcha, bub. Do you seriously expect me to believe that last year’s Sad voters nominated a story like “Opera Vita Aeterna” for its merits and not because they were cackling with malicious glee at the thought of irritating a bunch of Social Justice Warriors by honoring the racist, misogynist, and all-around terrible excuse for a human being who wrote it?)

So, this year, I can already tell you that I intend to merrily skip past anything I’m not otherwise inclined to read. And there are a lot of reasons I might not want to read a work. Because it doesn’t seem interesting. Because the first paragraph or so doesn’t grab me. Because I have already tried that writer before and didn’t think they were worth my time. Because the writer is a notorious bigot. Because I’ve seen that name posting in Sad-related comment threads and was not impressed with their logic, writing skill, or personal qualities.

I feel perfectly justified in skipping whole categories, if nothing in that category looks worth reading, and voting for “No Award,” because seriously, if nothing in the whole category even looks worth reading, “No Award” is what ought to win. I also feel perfectly justified in considering Sad nominees that look interesting, and voting “No Award” if I still don’t think the work deserves a Hugo.

In fact, I feel perfectly justified voting in favor of non-Sad work that I wouldn’t otherwise have voted for. (For example: usually I don’t even bother to consider the fan artist category.)

We are all free to read what we want and vote how we want.

Don’t let any Sad Thing tell you any differently.

I don’t know if that’s actually salmon the little cat is eating. I like to imagine it’s salmon. It turned out to be ridiculously hard to find a good image of a kitten eating salmon where both the kitten and the salmon looked appealing, so eventually I settled on a cute kitten rather than appetizing salmon. 

The second issue that has come up — and this seems tied more closely to this year’s exciting new Sad splinter group, the “Rabid Puppies” — is vague threats of some dire retaliation. That if “No Award” wins in any Sad-dominated category, they will ensure that there is NEVER AGAIN a Hugo given in that category. I have even seen the suggestion that we should give them what they want — which appears to be a couple of token Hugo awards, I guess? — and maybe they’ll go away.

Basically, they’re making an attempt to swagger into the joint with a bunch of fedora-wearing toughs who smack their billy clubs in a suggestive manner while saying, “Nice fandom you got here. Be a shame if anything should happen to it.”

This is quite possibly the most toothless excuse for a threat I have ever seen. What exactly would the Rabids do in order to ensure that no Hugo award is ever given again in that category? It’s not like they have magical powers or anything. So I’m pretty sure that the only way they could even attempt to make good on that threat is to do exactly what they’re doing this year — flood the nominees and then the votes. Which I’m pretty sure they’re planning to try again anyway. So where’s the threat?
We don’t even know how successful the second part of that — the voting part — is going to be for them. Worldcon has gotten a torrent of new supporting votes since the announcement of the nominees, and some of the bwuh-huh-huh-ers in comment threads have suggested that this is mostly Rabid sympathizers, but until the votes are counted, we won’t know. And if they do manage to flood the voting, they probably will get a couple of token Hugo awards, so why try to threaten me into doing it?

Plus, making good on that threat requires them to keep it up year after year after year after year after year. Do they really have the patience and dedication for that? I mean, if they do, I guess I would be impressed, sort of, in a way — one rarely sees that level of truly pointless obsession outside of an episode of Hoarders. It has the same jaw-dropping qualities. “Dude, you realize, you’re sleeping on a a PILE OF TRASH?”

Not only that, but keeping it up year after year after year is going to require money. Actual real money. Which makes it a bit different from your usual gamergate-style trolling and harassment campaign — those require only obsessive dedication to a poorly articulated cause, not having much of a life outside of that cause, and a complete lack of empathy or sense of proportion. But gamergating the Hugos requires shelling out money for supporting memberships.

I saw one would-be supervillain claim, in a comment thread, that no amount of money was too great, that he would pay hundreds just for the privilege of pissing off a bunch of nerds.

Seriously? As if pissing off nerds is hard to do? And you’re willing to pay actual money for the privilege? Real honest-to-God money just to revel in the sense that you’re irritating people? That’s… that’s weird, dude. How can you not see that’s weird? And also pathetic. Most people have better things to spend their money on. Also, I’m guessing that you have no trouble at all going about your daily life and irritating people in person for free.

So what was your point, again?

Further, if they really do have the stamina to keep this up year after year, the Worldcon committee probably will tweak the rules in order to ameliorate the power of slate voting. Oh, sure, their threat might be meant to imply that they intend to insert themselves into that process. But doing that would require not only paying a token amount and casting an online ballot, it would require actually showing up at Worldcon business meeting.

Think about it. Paying for an attending membership, traveling to wherever Worldcon is held, and sitting through an actual, real-life, talking-to-people meeting — not anonymous blustering behind an Internet pseudonym. And they would have to do this more than once, as it takes more than one year to push through a rules change. And they would not only have to attend, they would also have to either persuade people to their side, or attend in the same kind of proportionately overwhelming numbers they used to push through the original slate of nominations. And they would have to act like adults the whole time — behave themselves well enough not to get kicked out of the convention for things like harassment, or vandalism, or generally disruptive behavior.

It just doesn’t sound very likely, does it?

Even assuming all that — assuming they have the long-term commitment it would take to actually wreck the Hugos forever — still I would rather never award another Hugo in any category, than vote to award one to something that just plain doesn’t deserve it.

In my opinion, of course. Your opinion too. As always. Happy Kitten happiness is achieved by everyone making up their own minds, and voting accordingly.

Also, by giving them salmon.