The 2015 Hugo award nominations have been announced, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is shortlisted among those in the ‘Best Semiprozine’ category. A Hugo nomination is, of course, marvellous recognition for the achievements of a little Australian-based magazine, which has played its part in starting the careers of a great many local and overseas specfic authors, and which has given many members of the Andromeda Spaceways team, myself included, a great deal of useful experience in the tasks associated with publishing. As a member of the ASIM team, I ought to feel considerable pride in the nomination; and yet I cannot, not as I should. For it appears we did not get there under our own steam, but as one of the recommendations listed on the ‘Sad Puppies 3’ slate.
Lest this be seen as mere coincidence, I don’t see how it can be. ASIM‘s never been Hugo-shortlisted before, not even in the wake of the 2010 Worldcon in Melbourne. And 51 of the 60 ‘serving suggestions’ on the Sad Puppies 3 slate have found their way onto the Hugo ballot. All of Sad Puppies’ recommendations for Novella, Novelette, Related Work, Graphic Story, Long Form Editor, Short Form Editor, Professional Artist, Fanzine, Fancast, and John W Campbell Award got through to the ballot; there was no category in which some Sad Puppies rec did not get through. There is, of course, other stuff on the ballot as well; but it’s damned hard to see this as anything other than a disappointing exercise in tribalism, and as something, therefore, which immeasurably cheapens the ballot for anyone who finds themselves on it through such means.
There were three ‘slate’ recommendations for the semiprozine category: ASIM, Abyss & Apex, and Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. I cannot help but feel that OSC’s IGMS was probably, for reasons of hierarchy and politics, the first preference of the slate organisers, and that ASIM and Abyss & Apex were there perhaps merely to lend some semblance of impartiality to the Sad Puppies’ list of recommendations, and may have owed as much to their position in the alphabet — you don’t have to trawl far through Ralan’s to find us — as to their merits as purveyors of fine speculative fiction. (I mean no disrespect at all to Abyss & Apex through this conjecture, by the way, and would point you towards that magazine’s own gracious and measured response to the current imbroglio, which is well worth reading. As, indeed, is the magazine.) Like ASIM, Abyss & Apex made it through to the ballot; IGMS missed out.
There’s always this problem with fan-based awards: each friend a potential vote; the drive to the formation of alliances, cliques, blocs. And it’s not so difficult to cross that line from recommendation to apparent organisation; but it’s disastrous for fandom when it happens. Because how do you fight a bloc, except with another bloc?
Of course, on one level, all that Sad Puppies 3 have done is to put up a ‘list of recommendations’, which is not so far from what I (and a million-and-one other fans) have done in advance of various upcoming award seasons. But I always take care (I hope) to point out that interested parties should only vote in accordance with their own wishes, and for things that they themselves have read, or viewed, and personally enjoyed. Because that’s what the vote is supposed to be. Anything else is drifting into a mockery. I’ve been fortunate to have been the recipient of two fan-based awards to date (the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, for 2009 and 2013): I didn’t court them; I cherish them; and I would feel as cheated as, I’m sure, would my competitors, if I discovered that my success in either of those categories had arisen through bloc voting. And the SJVs are, let’s face it, small beer up against the Hugos. (Delicious beer nonetheless. Kiwis are excellent brewmasters.)
So ASIM is on the Hugo ballot. We at the magazine have known about this for about ten days’ time, and have long since sent through the acceptance. But because none of us are exactly active in US fandom, we only became aware of the Sad Puppies connection very late in the piece — in fact, a scant three days before the nominations were made public, and well after all the dust had settled on the nomination process itself. ASIM was never informed about our inclusion on the Sad Puppies 3 slate — if we had been, I very strongly suspect our response would have been a resounding ‘Hell, No’ — and there was no time, nor any point, in looking to remove ourselves once we did get there.
My own take on this is that a Sad Puppies vote for ASIM is a ‘pity-sex’ vote. This doesn’t benefit the magazine, doesn’t benefit fandom, not one bit. Fans who are eligible to vote should only endorse ASIM (which, btw, will be included in some form in the Hugo voters’ packet) if they’ve read and enjoyed the magazine, and judged it worthy of the award against the current competition. That’s what voting is supposed to be about. Sometimes we forget that.