Good friends of mine are distraught about the Hugos, about the impending Tor boycott, about the whole philosophical bru-ha-ha in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. If you don’t know about what bru-ha-ha, just google “Sad Puppies” and lose a day in the internet getting caught up.
I have friends who have published or are about to publish with Tor. I hope they are not taking the boycott seriously. The boycott will come, it will go, and the loss will be notable but not lethal. The only threat to Tor’s bottom-line is the publisher having to recoup the multi-million dollar bet they placed on John Scalzi instead of bringing in new writers with new followings.
One side is organized around progressive politics, the other traditional politics. Fans and writers of the first side have received prejudice and abuse for their beliefs at conventions, in forums, and in life in general. The other has too. Generally speaking, each side believes their injuries are the worse of the two and the other side is trying to destroy civilization. Each side believes the other is restricting access to publishers and awards.
Both sides have notable authors and media people in support. Both sides have people who tell of their own experiences with prejudice, even death threats, from believers of the other sides values.
Awards and organizations are cliquish. Here is something I devoutly believe:
In any organization, the boldest and rudest will rule. Periodic elections are supposed to insure responsiveness to need. Until the political organizations become meritocracies, which can be gamed until they stagnate.
I can name a few stories that won Hugos and Nebulas purely because of the writer’s name and reputation; they must have because IMO those stories were pure crap. Ask me and I’ll tell you which ones. Everyone can do that with some story or another that has won a prize. There’re folks who must think something I’ve written is crap. That’s how it is when someone has a mind.
Why not Horror? Does the Horror Writers of America have this problem of politics? I have not noticed. What I have noted is that horror writers tend to avoid discussing politics and keep to making that dollar. Horror writers tend to be cut-throat only in promoting their work. They don’t even tear each other down.
Two reasons for this: 1) insularity: today’s annoying hack is tomorrow’s editor of that anthology you really want to get in. That and there’s lots of fan overlap. Readers of Edward Lee will also read Catherine Valente if the story’s good.
2) WE HAVE VERY FEW MFA DEGREES. Despite Ellen Datlow bringing major mainstream writers like Joyce Carol Oates into the fold, there are very few purveyors of fringe experimental prose and thought in Horror. Yes, there’s Kelly Link and Llyvia Llewellyn, but for every one of the more abstract writer, there are two writers like the Lansdales or F. Paul Wilson. Academics bring academia and deconstruction and the yearning for theory-of-a-better-world-made-flesh.
There are more experimental venues I have a slim-to-none chance of getting into (Nightmare Magazine, for example). But I’ve also read stories I’ve considered truly satisfying in those venues, so I do not feel excluded from them.
Science Fiction bills itself as the literature of the future. Fantasy bears the weight of civilizations past and the magic we yearn to be. Horror wants to scare you and make a dollar.
(The Lovecraft Statue, Tim! They want to change the World Fantasy Award Lovecraft Statue! That statue is the ugliest damn thing I’ve ever wanted to win. Compare that controversy to the Hugos. Big whoop.)
As for HWA, I recognize the officers but have little idea of the organizational workings. Readers vote on the Stokers. Whoever brings more to the balloting wins. The Jacksons have a panel that decides upon a voting jury. I could see problems there, but the Jackson Trust runs it, so it’s theirs to do what they will.
Have gay people felt oppressed at horror conventions? Have ardent Evangelists felt dissuaded from expressing their faith? I’m sure they have. That’s people, folks. Generally, people suck.
There has been some good in all of this. As a writer of Horror, some truly terrible things have come out of various closets that are both appalling and good fodder.
I’ve been following the major players in all of this for years. Items expressed on the sites seem to be core issues referred to over and over that supporrated (sp?) into the rot now erupting this week. These are the questions that the Hugos, the Puppies, the SFWA, and all SF&F fans need to ask and resolve to have peace and quiet:
Why are Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband known for being child-molesters (look it up) and still permitted to keep their awards? WTF SFWA? Every inconsistency interferes with an institution’s credibility and growth.
How can an industry get more people to use its products without changing the existing environment? More buyers are good, so attitudes must be more open to that change, right Hugos?
How can SF&F experience the growth seen in Romance writing?
How can existing organizations of experienced writers maintain quality while encouraging expression in that growing market?
Because Horror doesn’t seem to have these problems. The growth is there, but it seems to be manageable. The support is there without having the death threats from opposing philosophies.
I’m glad I write horror.