The Hit Piece That Released the Kraken

You know, I thought I’d done a pretty good job at keeping my mouth shut the past few days since the Hugo Awards kerfuffle began. Not because I’m worried about the vote or future book deals or anything, but because I was basking in the sheer AWESOMENESS of being a finalist. For me, I’d been pretty quiet on everything thus far.

Until today, when I read the most libelous piece of inappropriate journalism I’d seen since Stephen Glass.

This… article (for lack of an appropriate word) was written by Isabella Biedenharn (@Isabella324), and is a complete and utter fabrication filled with libelous material and slanderous accusations. What used to pass for rah-rah speeches to encourage and cheer on a political base is now called journalism.

Holy… ooooh, this is so hard to keep PG-13. How many times can I say fuck before it cracks the R rating?

(Note: EW has kinda/sorta backstepped from the claims of the author since I wrote this (9:28 PM EST) and mentioned Brad’s slate for the first time. The meat of the article has remained unchanged, from what I can see)

I will begin this… dissemination of collected falsehoods. The article will be in italics, my responses will be in bold.

  • The Hugo Awards have fallen victim to a campaign in which misogynist groups lobbied to nominate only white males for the science fiction book awards.

Santo vaca. You couldn’t even make it past the first sentence without being wrong. So very, very wrong. Which is funny, because most hit pieces I’ve read usually have a grain of truth to them. But if you look at the Sad Puppies slate, you will see men and women from all over the melanin range. They feature an African immigrant to Australia (Hi Dave!), women, a Native American, Hispanics… in fact, I think that SP3 is more diverse than 2013’s Hugo finalists. Let me drag up a picture…



Yep. I don’t need to say more.

  • These groups, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies (both of which are affiliated with last year’s GamerGate scandal), urged sci-fi fans to become members of the Hugo Awards’ voting body, World Science Fiction Convention, in order to cast votes against female writers and writers of color.

That scent you are smelling is bovine excrement, if you were wondering. There are so many facts wrong in this line that it’s affecting your sense of smell. “Affiliated” means that a #GamerGate supporter talked to a SP supporter and this is horrible! Let the gnashing of the teeth and the wailing and the pulling of hair commence!

….okay, done? Good. Because the clever turn of phrase here and how she points fingers without being explicit goes against journalism ethics 101 (which she should have learned during Journalism 101 – Intro to Journalism, because that’s where I learned how not to do this and why). She drags up the dreaded #GamerGate name and then accuses Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies (Vox Day’s Hugo nominating slate) of being racist. She did this because an uninformed individual will piece all three together in their head, which strengthens her (incorrect) accusations of racism subliminally in the reader. This is called “leading”. It works for some editorials, but most readers who are not emotionally invested see right through the schtick. It’s why lots of “journalists” are now bloggers and not active reporters on the AP line: they lacked the ability to not sensationalize and lead the reader.

Her first factual statement. Congratulations, I hope your lawyers use this for your defense in civil court.

  • Sad Puppies broadcast their selection on Feb. 1, writing: “If you agree with our slate below—and we suspect you might—this is YOUR chance to make sure YOUR voice is heard.” Brad Torgerson, who runs Sad Puppies along with Larry Correia, complains that the Hugo Awards have lately skewed toward “literary” works, as opposed to “entertainment.” 

Oh wow, did you screw up here. But it’s getting late, so I won’t go into detail about how to properly lead with quotes and then backing them up with correct links, but quite frankly the claim that neither Larry nor Brad want to see literary works win is false. They want to see story first, politics second. I agree with this. A story makes for a good read, a political narrative is just dull and uninspiring.

  • Torgerson also writes that he disagrees with Hugos being awarded for affirmative action-like purposes, as many women and writers of color went home with awards in 2014: ”Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.”

I agree here. Handing out an award like the Hugo based on skin color, political beliefs and/or sex is wrong. But when this is linked with the preceding paragraph and the following one, the narrative changes and the “reporter” is the one carefully making Brad look like a huge bigot and racist, which he is neither.

  • The other lobbying group, Rabid Puppies, is run by Theodore Beale (who goes by the name Vox Day). As The Telegraph reports, “Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have called for Beale’s exclusion from the group after he has written against women’s suffrage and posted racist views towards black writer NK Jemisin.”

I don’t know the details of what, how or why Vox Day and NK Jemisin blew up at one another, and I don’t feel any need to defend Vox’s comments on his own site. He is more than capable of defending himself. But as I said before, because of the preceding paragraph’s placement, the idea is now solidly in the reader’s head that Brad is a BAD PERSON.

  • Fortunately, some sane voters allowed well-deserving writers to pull through. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword and Listen was nominated for Dramatic Presentation, and Annie Bellet’s Goodnight Stars was nominated, despite having a non-white, female protagonist.

The belief that “sane voters allowed” anything is quite stupid and demeaning to Ann Leckie and Annie Bellet. They both wrote good stories that their fans decided to put on the ballot. I was put on the ballot for writing a book that starred a Latino, a short story which starred a Middle Eastern, a short about a man who loved his cat (one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, actually), and a dragon (from its point of view). I just… this is bad journalism right here, plain and simple. Hell, it’s not even journalism. This is libel, plain and simple.

  • Plenty of members of the science fiction community have voiced their disgust with both sects of “Puppies.” Writer Philip Sandifer wrote on his blog Sunday, “The Hugo Awards have just been successfully hijacked by neofascists.” Sandifer’s post, which is worth reading in full, addresses what this disaster means for the sci-fi world:

    To be frank, it means that traditional sci-fi/fantasy fandom does not have any legitimacy right now. Period. A community that can be this effectively controlled by someone who thinks black people are subhuman and who has called for acid attacks on feminists is not one whose awards have any sort of cultural validity. That sort of thing doesn’t happen to functional communities. And the fact that it has just happened to the oldest and most venerable award in the sci-fi/fantasy community makes it unambiguously clear that traditional sci-fi/fantasy fandom is not fit for purpose.

Well, the Prix-Jules Verne is actually older than the Hugo by 30 years or so, but it’s a French SF award, so nobody cares about that, right? 

But anyways, reading what Mr. Sandifer wrote, my blood boils. Nobody in the Sad Puppies has ever called upon the masses to throw acid at feminists. Nobody in Sad Puppies has ever considered African-Americans subhuman (Brad’s wife would murder him, slowly and painfully, if Brad thought that way). But again, the comments by Mr. Sandifer are more directed at Vox Day. But because of how the article is written, once more is it implied that Brad is behind all this and the comments were his and other Sad Puppies supporters.

Look, this is just bad journalism through and through. Taking sides in a journalistic endeavor leaves oneself open to counters and, eventually, lawsuits. Especially when one side is spouting nothing but lies and the reporter willfully repeats them.

I’m angry. I almost never get angry. I’ll get peeved, annoyed, irked, but angry? That’s difficult for me to achieve, because the group homes always punished those who had the biggest anger issues (and I had some major anger issues when I was young). I’m also hurt because people I respect are being attacked viciously and cruelly, but most angry. I’m also embarrassed by my field because we authors should always try to support one another (even when we may write a bad review about a book).

There are calls now to exclude people in the future from voting. Yeah, because that almost never backfires. I’ve seen everything from the lamentations of the death of the Hugos (not going to happen unless they make voting far more restrictive) to blatant accusations of racism (been called that already, which would normally make me laugh if not for the fact that I am pissed right now) and homophobia (my sister and her wife would argue with you there, despite our political differences).

Look, I’ll repeat what I’ve seen elsewhere: the Hugos are for the fans of SF and the supporters of Worldcon. If Worldcon allows people to plunk down $40 to vote for an award without actually attending, then by all means let it roll. That’s practically free money for the convention. The only people who would be hurt by this would be… uh… hmm… nobody. Nobody is hurt by this, and it allows for the Worldcon to use the money for things like keeping ConSuite stocked, giving Hugo winners trophies, and helps keep costs out-of-pocket down.

As for Entertainment Weekly? Well, I have a feeling Ms. Biedenhan will be talking to her editorial supervisors very shortly. 

One thought on “The Hit Piece That Released the Kraken

  1. Pingback: The Storm In Science Fiction | The Arts Mechanical

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