A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the Hugo administrators to let me know that my novella "Slow Bullets" would be one of the finalists in that category. I was pleased, but not without some obvious misgivings. I'd been unhappy about the inclusion of my story on the recommendation lists of the Sad and Rabid Puppies, especially given that the latter was to all intents just another slate, designed to encourage block voting. At the time no one really had a clear idea about how dominant the Puppy factor was going to be in this year's shortlists.
Trying to have my cake and eat it, I suggested to the administrators that I'd gladly accept the inclusion now, but that I might change my mind when I saw the extent to which Puppy choices had (or not) dominated the ballot. The best case I was realistically hoping for would be one or two obvious Puppy candidates showing up, but an otherwise fair selection which didn't show blatant signs of block voting. I'd had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn't seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That's not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.
The adminstrators, quite reasonably, wanted a clearer, less ambiguous commitment from me. After a friendly and productive transatlantic phone call, I came around to the view that I'd not only accept the nomination, but take whatever came after it.
As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn't have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn't ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.
Since the announcement of the ballots, there's been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I'm very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I'd probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn't, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I'm keeping "Slow Bullets" on the ballot. I can't say I'm exactly over-joyed about this decision, though - from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for "Troika", and my mood couldn't be more different.
Let's hope things are better next year.
Slow Bullets was a great story, man. Don't let the bastards get ya down. I've been reading your writing for a long time and you deserve this; I think there was plenty of reason for Slow Bullets to win on its own merits and the various puppies of the world would be "winning" if you let them think that they gained some victory by you winning this award. You wrote an awesome story and it will stand the test of time.ReplyDelete
If Slow Bullets wins, it deserves to. It's a good story (like all the rest of your output, IMO), irrespective of who nominated it.ReplyDelete
Sounds like an ugly situation to be in. I haven't read it yet (give me time! I'll read ALL of your stories eventually! :) but in my eyes you distinctly have respect for honoring your commitment to the admins. Unlike the slate jerks, who clearly have no honor themselves.ReplyDelete
Sigh, I don't think I signed the comment above. (The comment with "I'll read all of your stories eventually! :)")ReplyDelete
As I've said before in this space, Slow Bullets is a superb story that is easily capable of winning a Hugo on merit alone. The Sads/Rabs slates deliberately included such works so they could claim victory when they won awards.ReplyDelete
But really, does it matter all that much? I see nothing wrong with being proud that lots of people nominated your work, even if some of those people are living in the 1950s. It's not like you write for a particular audience, is it? I'm sure you write because you love to write, you're gratified when people enjoy your work, and you like to get paid for doing it.
As far as this avid reader of your work is concerned, it was enough that you requested that your story not be slated by the Pups. It's not your fault what happened after that.
Sounds like you were in a difficult position. I haven't read Slow Bullets cos I'm reading your books in order and I'm slow but the quality of the books I have read leaves me in no doubt as to your writing prowess. I don't think your conduct in this can be faulted really so don't worry.ReplyDelete
I loved your short story "A Murmuration " and nominated it myself, but in all honesty, I don't think "Slow Bullets" is Hugo caliber. I wouldn't say anything if you hadn't said that you thought you should have declined the nomination in the first place, but if you yourself believe it's not on the list owing to its merits, then I think you should withdraw it. I'm sure the administrators will forgive you.ReplyDelete
And I'm told GRRM will be giving Alfies again this year, so at least there's a consolation prize. :-)
I don't know, is the short answer. But since I'd seen speculation along the lines of would he or wouldn't he withdraw (I'd even seen one commentator posting that I had asked to be withdrawn from the ballot, which is totally false), I felt I had to remove any ambiguity.Delete
Alastair - I completely disagree with Greg. Slow Bullets was one of the two best novella-length works I read last year (the other being Liz Hand's Wylding Hall, which I was very disappointed did not get a nomination), and there's no reason why you should feel compelled to withdraw. (In point of fact, Slow Bullets was the only one of my nominees that made it onto the final ballot. I am massively irritated that A Murmuration didn't get a nomination; I thought that was the best SF short story of last year.)Delete
It was always obvious that Beale's strategy for this year was going to involve including works that were likely to be nominees without the RP slate, so that he could (a) get them withdrawn, (b) get them No Awarded, or (c) claim them as victories for the RPs. But who cares what he wants? For reasons that I cannot begin to fathom Greg is determined to give Beale veto power over the Hugo shortlist; that doesn't mean you have to go along with it.
I'd second that view about A Murmuration - thought it was fantastic and haunting. Stayed with me for a long time.Delete
Loved Slow Bullets! Very happy it's up for a Hugo. I wouldn't be concerned about the details. Just stay away from the drama and focus on the Rama.ReplyDelete
I had you on my shortlist for this year. I struggled when the RP slate came out, because there were a few works (including yours) that overlapped with my ballot, and there's not enough bleach to feel clean after that.ReplyDelete
But I decided to stick with my original list and not let him ruin my ballot.
I think it's possible you would have made the ballot without the slate, as I think it's possible Folding Beijing had a fair chance, and Sevenes was definitely in the top 10. There's a world of difference between Slow Bullets and *shudder* Safe Space as Rape Room. There are items that *clearly* would not have made the ballot without a slate. Those are the ones I wish would drop out. Enjoyable works of merit that likely had some or a lot of support without the slate? Should not be the ones dropping out.
"Slow Bullets" got a lot of well-deserved buzz beforehand; I thoroughly believe that it, along with Andy Weir, "The Sandman: Overture," "Folding Beijing," "Penric's Demon" and a host of other things would've made the ballot anyway, and look forward to reading it! There's an emerging consensus that unwilling slatees of deserving works--which yours certainly is--should face no penalty, one I strongly agree with. I'm sympathetic for your mixed feelings, but I'd bet money the final count will show you would've made it anyway.ReplyDelete
As a long time reader, I'm very happy to see you get a nomination. I think you made the right decision. Don't give the Puppies the power to ruin this for you. Slow Bullets was already an anticipated finalist, and I think it's widely understood that you weren't a willing participant in the slates.ReplyDelete
Al, the fact you have been public about your feelings and put the cards on the table like this help help people make all the right decisions when the voting day comes. I applaud all authors who tell it like it is when others try to use their work for their own end.ReplyDelete
The attempt to "win" points by include things on the slate "out of spite" wont succeed, as we know quality when we see it.
Like others have said, I'm sympathetic for your mixed feelings, though.
I really enjoyed "Slow Bullets" and think it deserves to be on the ballot. I also think "A Murmuration" deserved to be shortlisted, as it was even better, and was one of my favourite short stories of last year.ReplyDelete
My thoughts: The Puppies cherry-picked their slate based on writings that were likely to win, especially after last year's ballot box stuffing which resulted in "No Winner." This way, they can say, "See... we won!" even though I definitely remember one of the Alpha Puppies referring to you as a more "liberal" (in the four-letter word sense of the term) writer at some point.ReplyDelete
As another longtime reader, I'm glad you're not dropping out. "Slow Bullets" has had a lot of positive attention, and I think it would have made the ballot regardless of the jerks. Based on buzz alone, I would have guessed "Slow Bullets", "Binti" and "Penric's Demon" to be on the ballot.ReplyDelete
Some thoughts Al: 1. Even Vox Day’s nemesis, John Scalzi, says it would be a mistake for good authors who were slated and then found themselves on the nomination list to jump off, he believes this is just playing into Vox’s hands (and he should know…) 2. As has been said (‘cos I ain’t got round to reading it yet) the vibes around Slow Bullets has been that it was Hugo worthy long before the slates. 3. You did your best to remove it from the Puppies’ grasp. 4. It would be great to have something good to read when I get my Hugo voting packet (only half-joking).ReplyDelete
(Incidently, I think we are only dealing with Rabid Puppies this year as the Sads (as I understand) had a recommended reading list (like Locus, for example), which people say is not strongly represented on the stories/items getting a final nomination, except where they overlap with the Rabid’s slate).
I leave with a quote from Scalzi “Personally, I’m going to ask what I always ask: Is this work worth giving a Hugo to? That’s a question that has an answer irrespective of any Puppy “strategy.”
I am no puppy, and I nominated you. You have my full support in staying on the ballot. 42 years a Hugo voter. Good luck!ReplyDelete
It's amazing how people can suddenly see open collusion to ideologically control an award and even entire culture. Why wasn't this nipped in the bud when rhetoric about white privilege, white saviors and mansplaining started? Why did no one tell WisCon a racially segregated room was wrong? Why keep quiet when a series of segregated anthologies where PoC, women and queers destroy this and that came out based on bald-faced lies about the history of SFF publishing as sexist, racist and homophobic? Why not tell the same person with a long history of anti-white comments to take a hike when they happily announce no white men won a Nebula award as when they announce they don't review white men? Why is a segregationist rag like Lightspeed associated with the Hugos? Great apolitical SFF? Right.ReplyDelete
While all that's happening, apolitical SFF is marginalized into the gutter as being of no interest and self-declared marginalized nobodies get Nebula Award noms with "rape culture" stories written in a Clarion workshop because they are the right racial-sexual identity talking smack about the wrong racial-sexual identity and complete with a "white tears" coffee mug on their Twitter feed. On those Twitter feeds, for every time I read the names of Jack McDevitt or Peter Hamilton I read about luminaries like Amal El-Mohtar, Sunil Patel and Rose Lemberg, all barely published short writers, but the right sort of writers by virtue of race and sexual expression, and with the usual history of anti-white, anti-male comments. Where was everyone then? What? No dictionaries? No public collusion every single damn day and going on for years recommending work by race and sex without an author name in sight?
Lo and behold the Puppies come along and suddenly everyone dusts off their dictionaries with words like "bigot," "supremacist" and "group defamation" and all is clear. The problem is - unlike this racist supremacist feminist movement which takes down millions at a go - the Puppies aren't against LGBT, PoC and women. They are against individual racists and supremacists who have actual and real names. Outlets like The Guardian, Slate, Salon, Entertainment Weekly and The Atlantic lying about that doesn't change a thing. Multiplying Vox Day and John Wright like a Hall of Mirrors doesn't change the Twitter feeds of the 50 most activist members of the SFWA into not being hate speech. The horse was out of the barn. Go back and read about the Pacific War. It started at Pearl Harbor, not Okinawa.
As they say, welcome to the party, pal.
I don't agree with James May (Fail Burton)'s characterisation of the situation.ReplyDelete
I don't think anyone with even the most cursory grasp of what's going on would agree with him. You only have to spend a few minutes reading at Vox Day's blog to realise the fear and hatred that is the core motivation behind the most vociferous of these "puppies" (although I would advise some sort of NBC suit for anyone who wants to confirm this).Delete
Ageing impotent reactionaries see their social position reduced to mere equality with everyone else and throw their rattles from the pram. My heart bleeds.
Sounds like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Quite an unfair position to find oneself in. I wish you all the best with it!ReplyDelete
I guess Puppies and other right wing folk (myself included thought I am not a puppy) love your work?ReplyDelete
You just have to get used to people of all walks of life and political persuasions loving your novels.
I finished Absolution Gap and I am going on to Redemption Ark (reading them in reverse order just to be cool). Thought I am pausing to jump into House of Suns. I always start one of your novels stop...pick up two more finish them and finish the first third. It is my process.
I have no problem with the moderate right - why would I? As I said over and over again last year, I read and enjoy many writers generally regarded as right-leaning. I have never at any point said that I only wanted readers of a particular political persuasion, although Kate Paulk certainly tried to pin that one on me when I requested that my story be removed from the SP list.ReplyDelete
No, setting aside the toxic politics of the Rabids - and there I will draw a line - this is about tactics and entitlement. If a left-leaning cohort used slate tactics to game the Hugos, I would want nothing to do with them either. And despite what the Puppies say, and their idiotic obsession with a story that didn't even win a Hugo, that has never happened prior to SP/RP3.
>If a left-leaning cohort used slate tactics to game the Hugos, I would want nothing to do with them either.ReplyDelete
And despite what the Puppies say, and their idiotic obsession with a story that didn't even win a Hugo, that has never happened prior to SP/RP3.
So how do I know which of you is right? I mean for purposes of tribal ideology I might kneejerk go with the Puppies. OTOH as a matter of pride I would rather examine what empirical facts there are that would move me one way or another.
You don't have to answer the question or get involved if it bores you but I am curious.
Cheers boss. Have a good one.
A word of encouragement Al: The Locus Awards short list is up and Slow Bullets is there under Novella. A more objective reason for believing that the Hugo nomination counts. :-)ReplyDelete
I read Slow Bullets before the SP/RP nominations came out and immediately put it on my 'nomination' list. I'd be incredibly disappointed if you pulled out. At risk of offending you, withdrawing is a snub to your fans whose preferences are discounted because of the political controversy swirling around the awards.ReplyDelete
What are all the Puppies and Hugo and whatnot, and why should I care? I've bought, read and enjoyed your books, and will continue to do so. Nevermind all that nonsense.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on Locus win for Slow Bullets!ReplyDelete