The 2014 Hugo Awards, just concluded at Loncon 3 in … ahem … London have already set a new standard – in controversy, vitriol, and, shame for science fiction’s supposedly highest and most-touted award. The so-called “sad puppies” campaign by writer Larry Correia to advance his own work and that of protege Vox Day against supposed political bias backfired deafeningly, with his efforts rebuked not just by other writers and online critics, but the Awards voters themselves.
John Scalzi was previously pilloried by many for arguing for the Hugo Awards 2014 vote to go ahead like in any other year. As it turns out, his critics needn’t have worried. The voters delivered the most damning verdict imaginable on Vox Day’s nominated novella “Opera Vita Aeterna” either left off the ballots entirely or relegated it to even below the No Award category. Larry Correia’s own nominated work also did poorly.
As if to compensate, Scalzi posted up considerable critical comment on the whole debacle, stating:
What did I really think of the “sad puppy” slate of nominees championed by Larry Correia and others? What I thought at the beginning, which was: The folks pushing the slate played within the rules, so game on, and the game is to convince people that the work deserves the Hugo. It does not appear the voters were convinced. As a multiple Hugo loser myself, I can say: That’s the breaks, and better luck another year. With that said, Correia was foolish to put his own personal capital as a successful and best selling novelist into championing Vox Day and his novelette, because Vox Day is a real bigoted shithole of a human being, and his novelette was, to put it charitably, not good.
And more to that effect.
Vox Day’s politics might find more defenders, or at least apologists, if his writing was any better. However, Scalzi described his work, pretty aptly, as “like Gene Wolfe strained through a thick and rancid cheesecloth of stupid.” Other commentators have speculated that Correia pulled off the whole stunt as a way to discredit the Hugos in the eyes of his own audience and cover for his failure to win one.
It’s hard to know which came worse out of this: the writers’ literary merit, or their politics. Did their bad politics tarnish their literary merit, or their poor literary merit undermine their politics? Either way, Correia now comes across as a loudmouth trying to foist bad work on the readership in the name of politics – no kind of reputation to have in a genre community. Unfortunately, the collateral damage included the reputation of the Hugos themselves, and the credibility of the nomination process.
Still, any time now I expect to read sub-Rush Limbaugh complaints that concepts of literary merit, reader engagement, imagination, talent, etc. are all part of a liberal conspiracy…