Science Fiction Belongs to Everyone
Disclosure: This is an opinion piece.
Yesterday many eyes were on the Hugo’s watching and waiting for the inevitable march of “no awards” to happen. So short-sighted were the purveyors of puppy hatred that they didn’t even realize they fell into the trap set for them. A trap that was openly advertised and publicly planned for all to see. A trap to show that the Hugo’s were in fact controlled by an insular clique who would vote solely on political views rather than give unapproved nominees the time of day. The Hugo has now become a meaningless trophy given to those who practice ideological and political conformity. Those who refuse to do so have zero chance of winning an award even if nominated. Their work will simply be discarded as garbage not worth reading, especially if the wrong people nominate it.
Speaking of, one doesn’t have to search far to find voters openly bragging on blogs, tumblr and social media about how they wouldn’t read puppy nominations under any circumstance. After all they wouldn’t want to take the risk of actually developing a conscience and feeling guilty about “no awarding” something they saw some merit in. It’s unprecedented to see so many people publicly admit they have no intention to respect and honor the award process. George R.R. Martin cautioned against using the “no award” as a bludgeoning tool but it appears most didn’t listen. The short and long form editor categories were ones he pointed out shouldn’t be no awarded but they unfortunately were.
The people against Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies could have won simply by letting those editors win. It would have been an exclamation point shouting “we really do care about merit!” but they chose the path of spite. Instead of giving these nomination worthy individuals any consideration they told them “your work isn’t good enough” and “you associated with the wrong group so fuck you”. Never mind the fact many of those nominated weren’t even informed of any of this, they were innocent. Will this animosity toward their names continue in future Hugo’s even if the puppies aren’t involved? One hopes not but the spite and irrational hatred at play make it very likely.
Another event I found quite amusing is how Cixin Liu’s “The Three-Body Problem” stole the win from “The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison. TTBP managed to eke out a win with the help of puppies who helped to push it over the edge. This shows that even if they don’t currently have the numbers to force a “no award” sweep they can still push a book more to their taste into the winner circle. A book that frankly probably had no chance of winning under different circumstances. Now it stands as both the first win from a Chinese author and a history making first ever win for a translated title. How’s that for diversity?
I don’t really want to talk about the Hugo’s anymore though, they’re dead to me. They’ve been dead to me since I wasted money buying award winning books expecting excellence but instead found disappointment due to mediocre writing. Writing that pushed politics I often actually agreed with on a personal level but did nothing to evoke emotion or imagination. Upon finishing these works only one thing haunted my thoughts…these books must have won because of message or status.
These works were the epitome of using interesting high concept ideas as mere window dressing to push sociopolitical commentary. Work that the fans and the author themselves probably felt was important to bring about real world change. It’s unfortunate then that they utterly failed to deliver a compelling story or even explore the sci-fi concepts introduced. Frankly speaking, I don’t read to be preached at about things I may already agree with. I read to explore the imaginations of others and become inspired. No imagination? No interest.
This gets to what’s really bothering me though. There is this assertion going around that science-fiction has always exclusively been about social justice. This is being used as a justification to engage in gate-keeping and no platform policies within the community. Not just on a personal level but a professional one as well. The NPR top 100 list for science-fiction and fantasy books were recently trashed for being sexist/racist garbage. This was a list with considerably more voters than the Hugo awards got.
Some even went so far as to say these books on the list should no longer be read, celebrated or even remembered because they promote injustice. I don’t know about you but I don’t believe in nazi book burning. People from all backgrounds should be free to read and write what they want without facing vicious baseless accusations. I get very worried when people say they don’t want to ban something then follow it up with a “but” that proceeds to promote exactly that.
Finally, there are some extremely absurd claims that certain themes within the genre itself prove science-fiction is about social justice. I recently saw someone argue that aliens exist to push the idea of fighting racism and achieving equality. The only problem with that is it requires writers stick within very narrow confines of what’s deemed acceptable. Such a story could easily become a pro-racist or pro-superiority message, thus ceasing to be about social justice.
Of course it’s also worth noting that aliens can be used to explore themes such as man vs nature, man vs machine, man vs god (or higher beings), alternate dimensions, biological weapons and evolution to name a few. None of these are exclusive to nor require social justice. The claim that science-fiction is social justice is patently false, it’s an option, one of many. In that same respect transference of consciousness doesn’t just represent gender identity politics. Another flawed argument I saw recently.
I’ve actually noticed a pattern in people who make such claims. The response seems to change based on the argument they’re presented with. Claim that science-fiction have always had problematic themes they want to get rid of? They’ll triumphantly proclaim how science-fiction has always been about social justice. Claim there is too much emphasis on social justice themes in recent books and awards? They’ll claim science-fiction has NEVER been about social justice but this new revolution needs to be embraced. This kind of situational flip flopping has a name and it’s called intellectual dishonesty.
In conclusion I believe writers should be free to write what they want. Readers should be free to read what they want. There should be no walls preventing that freedom, top to bottom or bottom to top. We should be celebrating books with diverse themes happily co-existing alongside each other. How is that not a win-win for everyone? How is the existence of something you personally dislike or disagree with considered a loss? Maybe i’m just an old fashioned anti-authoritarian dinosaur. I’m out of style and gate-keeping is the new hot trend. If only I weren’t a dinosaur, my love.