I’ve been watching the whole Sad/Rabid Puppy Hugos nonsense go on for a couple of months now. I could go on and on at length about the worst excesses of the movement, but I think that’s been covered pretty well. And it’s not what I want to talk about. If you DO want an overview of the dirty details, stop by file770.com and read the daily roundups. Mike does an outstanding job of finding and curating those links.
But what I want to talk about is the ostensible reason that the Puppies started. Not the leadership, but the rank-and-file (Sad) Puppies who felt that the stuff they liked wasn’t on the ballots, wasn’t getting awards, wasn’t getting attention. The decision to game the ballot came from people who felt (rightly or wrongly) disenfranchised and were led to game the Hugos in response.
Here’s the thing though: talking hatefully about how “Nutty Nuggets” have changed and “conservative/MilSF/pulp SF doesn’t get published,” and complaining about people self-promoting on blogs isn’t how you get people on board with your movement.
Talking lovingly about the work itself is. In the course of the file770 discussions, I’ve managed to get other people to buy books I loved, because I loved them and talked about them. When you say to someone who truly loves SFF that you loved a book, they want to know why. They want to love it too. If you say you thought the prose was tight and well-written or lyrical and beautiful, if you tell them that the characters moved you, if you shout about how much fun the book was to read… people will read it. People want to experience this, and that’s what books and stories really are. They’re experiences that we can have just by picking up some paper and reading some words.
Talk your works up, don’t talk other people’s works down. When you tell me that you think Jim Butcher’s Skin Game was the best-ever installment of the Dresden Files, I want to hear about it, I’m open to discussing that. I’m a Dresden fan! I would love to discuss the text with you, and the previous books, and be excited about the future books! I’m there with you!
But when you tell me that Ancillary Justice was only given so many awards because of “affirmative action” and “gender messages,” I no longer want to talk about books with you. If your first reaction, upon entering someone else’s home, is to tell them how ugly the wallpaper is and that their dog stinks… they’re probably not going to want to invite you to come in and have a nice cup of tea. That’s your loss, because sharing our joy can make both of us happy.