If there’s any one thing that is likely to rivet even more eyeballs on the Hugo Awards/Sad Puppies saga, it’s the intervention of probably the single most famous and most highly esteemed living SF/fantasy author worldwide, George R.R. Martin. And now, writing not from Westeros, nor even Westercon, he has given his own personal history of his involvement with the Hugos and Worldcon, and his take on the Sad Puppies campaign.

Going by his own Wikipedia article, Martin is a six-times Hugo Award recipient, most recently for Best Dramatic Presentation for Game of Thrones. And as he says, “I attended my first worldcon in 1971 … Never believe anyone who states loudly and repeatedly that they don’t care about awards, especially if they don’t care about one award in particular.” And his view on winning a Hugo? “I will always treasure those memories. One of the greatest nights of my life.” So he is as well qualified as anyone to speak on the subject.

Martin, as it happens, has a very clear and specific historical view of the development of Worldcon and the Hugos. “The Hugos belong to worldcon. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, worldcon was the center of fandom. It was the oldest convention, the largest convention, the annual ‘gathering of the tribes’ where fans of all sorts got together,” he states. “You can still make a case for worldcon being the center of fandom as recently as 1984… but after that, well, ‘fandom’ began to assume new meanings. There was no longer just one fandom, there were several. ” However, “Worldcon fandom owns the Hugos. Worldcon fans invented them, tended them, wrote the rules, designed the rockets.”

As I implied earlier, this could be part of the problem with the Hugos right now. To some extent, Martin concedes this point. “For years now I have been urging people to nominate for the Hugo Awards,” he says. “I felt, and still feel, that wider participation would be a good thing. Thousands of fans vote for the Hugos most years, but until recently only hundreds ever bothered to nominate.”

However, he makes a very clear distinction between these problems and the Sad Puppies offensive (savor the double meaning there). “They seem to want to take the Hugos and turn them into their own awards… judging by the comments on the Torgesen and Correia sites, a lot of the Puppies seem to actively hate worldcon and the people who attend it, and want nothing to do with us.” That seems all too accurate.

And as to what’s at stake: “The prestige of the Hugo derives from its history. The worth of any award is determined in large part by the people who have won it. Would I love to win the Hugo for Best Novel some day? You’re damned right I would. But not because I need another rocket to gather dust on my mantle, as handsome as the Hugo trophies are. I want one because Robert A. Heinlein won four, because Roger Zelazny and Alfred Bester and Ursula K. Le Guin and Fritz Leiber and Walter M. Miller Jr and Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl and so many other giants have won the same award. That’s a club that any science fiction and fantasy writer should be thrilled to join.”

Obviously that’s a prestige and a value that the Sad Puppies are devaluing right now, not necessarily by supporting dud writers, but by undermining the entire credibility of the Hugos. And given what Martin says, maybe they’d be perfectly happy with that kind of sabotage.

Martin’s statement might at least help Salon readers and other outsiders who have next to zero knowledge of science fiction in general and SF fandom in particular understand what’s at stake in the whole Sad Puppies debacle. I won’t bet on the Sad Puppies themselves taking heed, though – even though Martin arguably embodies much of the “Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be” approach that they claim to be fighting for.


  1. Larry Correia responds directly to GRRM here. He relates a story of being snubbed for his (assumed) politics at his first Worldcon, and generally not allowed to play in any reindeer games.

    In a way, it kind of reminds me of Buddy/”Incrediboy”/Syndrome from the movie The Incredibles (which is finally getting a sequel, by the way. Yay!). After Mr. Incredible snubbed him early in the movie when all he wanted to do was help, Buddy did have a pretty legitimate beef with Mr. Incredible. But he took it way too far, into growing up to become a supervillain.

    That kind of seems to be what’s happening here.

  2. I kind of like the Buddy/Syndrome analogy, but honestly it seems like the (over)reaction to the Sad Puppies slate has done more to devalue the prestige of the Hugos than a small group of people of recommending the nomination of certain works. In fact the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the villainous Sad Puppies sponsors has completely overshadowed what should be the first and foremost question. Were the works that were nominated worthy? That seems to have been completely lost in the junior high popularity contest.

  3. Preston, even if the SP/RP slates were completely nomination worthy, it still changes the dynamic of the nomination process, and not in a good way. Do you really think John C Wright wrote 3 of the best 5 novellas of the year, and Vox Day published 4 of the best 5 novellas? If Larry Correia was shut out of the Campbell because of his background, that’s a shame. But if Larry, or Vox Day are shutting out everyone else, just because they can by recruiting a bunch of people who don’t really care about the Hugos, but want to stick it to the SJWs, that’s an even bigger shame. I don’t know for sure if that’s Larry and Brad’s intentions, but my impression of Vox Day’s nomination last year, and the results of this year’s bad puppy slates, that’s what’s happening.

    I have no idea whether it’s true about Larry getting blackballed for the Campbell. When I voted for the Hugos, I never saw any discussions on why people should or should not win any awards (not that I looked very hard, I always decided by reading what was in the packet) until I saw discussions of last year’s Sad Puppy slate.

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