Smugglers Stash

Smugglers’ Stash & News (The Post-Hugo Nomination Debacle Edition)

In which we have many words about the 2015 Hugo Nominations.

Hello everyone and Happy Sunday – for those who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! For those who observe Passover, Happy Passover! And for those of us who are speculative fiction fans, well… we have no words.

Wait. That’s not true. We have many words.

What We Talk About When We Talk About the Hugo Awards

Hugo Award

Yesterday, the nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced. Nominees are selected by popular vote from members of Worldcon (Lonecon 3, Sasquan, and MidAmeriCon II), and 2122 nominating ballots were received for 2015.

If you were online yesterday, you probably observed the many stages of disbelief, horror, disappointment, and anger that ignited twitter during the uStream event.

And it’s for good reason. The 2015 slate of nominees this year, and what the sum total of the ballot represents for fandom and SFF overall, are unbelievable, horrific, disappointing, and rage-inducing.

Suffice it to say, the Sad Puppies slate (led by Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia) and the more extreme Rabid Puppies slate (organized by the vitriolic Vox Day), paid off in 2015. These movements were professionally organized and completely within the scope (if not exactly the spirit) of the rules of the Hugo Awards; moreover, they are unquestionably, undeniably effective. Of the total nominees, SAD PUPPIES 3: the 2015 Hugo slate had 51 pf their 60 recommended picks appear on the final ballot. RABID PUPPIES 2015 had 58 picks of their 67 recommended nominees make the final ballot. See a full comparative breakdown here.

So what’s the big deal?, one might ask. No rules were broken, a successful voting campaign was organized and executed, and that’s how popular votes work. Is this just sour grapes from folks who didn’t make the list this year?

In a word: NO.

It’s not sour grapes. The 2015 Hugos are a big fucking problem.

They are a problem because the Sad and Rabid Puppies slate voting movements represent an organized backlash against the progression of speculative fiction and SFF fandom at large.

They are a problem because slate voting, while well-within the scope of the Hugo nominating and voting system as it stands, makes the award all about politics. Wait, let me finish. The slate voting system de-emphasizes the merit of a work itself by over-emphasizing other political or external factors. As Django Wexler stated yesterday, slate voting is a dominant strategy. The Sad Puppies didn’t put up a list of suggested nominees from which their supporters should choose to nominate; they put up a slate of nominees that all their supporters would follow in full, in order to win. This emerges as the dominant strategy, as there is no opposing slate – the organized slate votes will outnumber the other non-organized split voters.

This is a problem because it throttles the chances of new surprising voices from emerging from the Hugo Awards. It means that a counter-slate could and very likely will be organized in response to Sad Puppies. That is, a different slate run by some other party, in which members organize uniform nominations and voting to oppose and overtake the Sad Puppies slate. This means that instead of individuals composing their own ballots based on their own reading or the merits of works and creators in each category, they will largely follow one slate or the other because only nominees on slates have a chance to win. Effectively, we’ve created a new, flawed, two-party system (not too dissimilar from the American Republican/Democrat voting system).

Strategy, game theory, and other factors aside, let’s talk about why the 2015 Hugo Ballot is a really big fucking problem: because it means that speculative fiction’s most prestigious award is stacked towards an agenda against diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance. It’s a nominating ballot that is full of straight, white dudes, writing the same stunted, dismissive narratives that have dominated speculative fiction since the inception of the genre.

Keep in mind that this follows 2014: a year in which Kameron Hurley took home two awards for her essay challenging the common and historical narrative on the role of women in SFF; in which the Best Fanwriter category was represented by four female nominees; in which a literary specfic tale about a gay bi-racial couple won Best Short Story; in which an epic science fiction novel that challenges every established notion of gender and classification took home Best Novel.

We repeat: the 2015 Hugo Awards are a real fucking problem.

We’ll be posting other thoughts soon, but right now we are planning on voting thusly: we’ll vote for every nominee we believe deserves a vote, and expect strong use of the “NO AWARD” option on our ballots this year. (On a related note, this is especially sucky for nominees who are deserving and we hope win this year – the controversy and reaction around the 2015 nominees are stealing their thunder, and that’s not fair. We’ll expand more on this in a future post.)

A list of the top 15 nominees in each category, along with the number of nominations received by each, will be released after the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 22 August, 2015 at Sasquan in Spokane, Washington.

More Hugo Nominations Coverage: Fangirl Happy Hour


OK, one last thought on the Hugos. Ana and Renay watched the uStream event and recorded a live podcast that is now up for your listening pleasure. Get the podcast here.

The Tiptree Award

In brighter news, the James Tiptree, Jr. award winners, honors and long list were announced this weekend. The Tiptree is an annual award for speculative fiction that “expands or explores our understanding of gender…intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.”

Girl in the Road My Real Children

Congratulations to 2014’s winners: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne and My Real Children by Jo Walton.

Get the full rundown of truly awesome honorees and the long list here.

The BSFA Awards

The Mussel Eater

Today also is the date that the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards are announced at Dysprosium – Eastercon 2015. Our very own Octavia Cade is on the ballot for her subversive fairy tale retelling, The Mussel Eater. Good luck, Octavia!

This Week on The Book Smugglers

We kick off the week with a reveal: we reveal the editors for Speculative Fiction 2015!

Book Smugglers Publishing (BSP jpg)

On Tuesday, Ana takes over with a graphic novel review of Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More.


Wednesday, we announce the winner of the April Old School Wednesdays readalong AND Thea continues her trek to Stephen King’s Dark Tower with her reread of book 2: The Drawing of the Three.


On Thursday, we are delighted to host Catherine F. King’s first official post in her Decoding the Newbery series: she tackles Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

The Crossover

Finally, we close the week on Friday with Thea’s review of Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan. Plus, she finishes her read of Sweet Tooth with a review of the final graphic novel in the series, Wild Game (Vol. 6). For reals this time.

Voyage of the Basilisk Wild Game

Until tomorrow, we remain…


Sean Loose – Lucas Theatre Event Posters

~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers


  • spacefaringkitten
    April 5, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    It’s a discouraging shortlist! The best thing fandom could do right now, I think, is to get as many sff-loving people as possible get off their asses, get a supporting membership and vote. Puppies managed to pull this off thanks to the fact that so few are really nominating.

  • Catherine King
    April 5, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    The Hugo ballot is truly disheartening. The more I learn the more shocked I am. Urrrrhrghgh.

    But on the bright side, that is a beautiful illustration for the Princess Bride!

  • Jim Moskowitz
    April 5, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I’m not sure why you’re so certain the apparent success of slate voting will lead to a *two*-party system. Why wouldn’t it lead to a ten, thirty, ninety party system, where various groups with their own angles on which works (or attitudes) to support each propose their own slate? You see the American two-party system as the outcome, where I’d put my money on something like the Israeli double-digits-of-parties parliamentary system.

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  • Joe McDermott
    April 5, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    “They are a problem because the Sad and Rabid Puppies slate voting movements represent an organized backlash against the progression of speculative fiction and SFF fandom at large.”

    “It’s a nominating ballot that is full of straight, white dudes, writing the same stunted, dismissive narratives that have dominated speculative fiction since the inception of the genre.”

    Your notion of progression is, frankly, repugnant. Best thing that could ever happen to SF would be for it to be taken over by a bunch of successful Heinlein imitators.

  • Nick
    April 5, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I appreciate you saying all this so clearly — it’s really depressing, that an award that represents a love of fiction has been taken over by a group of people who are driven by aggression, resentment, and hate. I don’t know what to do about it; people like that understand that simply by showing up they ruin things, and they see that as a victory.

  • Paul Weimer
    April 6, 2015 at 6:11 am

    The Hugos are an ambassador for the genre, and this year’s nomination slate, in the main, has exchanged a flawed but trying diplomat for a bellicose, reactionary thug.

  • Duke
    April 6, 2015 at 11:46 am

    The 2015 slate isn’t the problem. It is just illustrating the problem that has always been there. As an average scifi/fantasy reader and fan I ignore most awards because I know they are based more on whether the author ticked off the currently popular politically correct causes rather than being based on telling an interesting or entertaining story.

  • Cat
    April 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    When the Sad Puppies were collecting suggestions, 41 people suggested, among other things, 35 books. 4 books got 3 “nominations” each. 4 books got 2 nominations each. The remaining 27 books were suggested once each.

    So even in a group whose tastes could be expected to align fairly well, the most popular books were getting less than 10% of the vote. On the one hand, this is a small sampling, taken early in the process before people had finished looking for things to nominate. On the other hand, this is what the Hugo nominations normally look like—Ancillary Justice was a runaway favorite in the nominations last year and I think it got 15%.

    And that is why, when Torgersen curated those 35 books down to a slate of five, a minority like the Sad Puppies could lock up the Hugo Ballot as well as they did.

    Furthermore, by locking up the nominations with a slate, the Sad Puppies / Rabid puppies locked the Heinlein bio out of Best Related Work and also probably are the reason why _The Three Body Problem_, an excellent hard SF novel of the type the Puppies love, didn’t get a Hugo Nomination this year.

    I saw Correia (founder of the Sad Puppies) admit that he would have included the Heinlein bio if he had known about it in time. I saw Vox Day (leader of the Rabid Puppies) admit that he would have included _Three Body Problem_ if he had known about it in time.

    Slates don’t just hurt works and authors on “the other side.” They hurt every non-slate work, including works that the slate makers would love if they would just leave the nominations open so other people could put them on the ballot.

    I will vote No Award this year over every item from a slate, no matter how good it is. I think slates are just too destructive to the nomination process for me to tolerate.

  • Max
    April 7, 2015 at 3:46 am

    Duke’s statement that he is an average SFF reader and fan is disproven by his assertion that most awards are chosen on the basis of the work ticking the right PC boxes. That is not something an average fan thinks, it is something a specific variety of right-wing fan who is plugged into specific right-wing authors’ blogs thinks.

    It’s also absurd. Looking at 20 years of novel Hugos: Vinge, Rowling, Gaiman, Sawyer, Bujold , Robinson, Willis, Haldeman, Mieville, Bacigalupi, Stephenson: they won because of political correctness? Really? An indefensible position.

    (I leave off Leckie as I’m quite sure Herr Duke does in fact believe she won because of political correctness. He’s wrong, of course)

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  • looloolooweez
    April 8, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    This whole Hugo Awards thing is so confusing to an ‘outsider’ (someone who has always relied on the Hugo for great recs but is otherwise uninvolved in the process). I mean, it’s been an enlightening couple days reading all about how this works… but dang, what a mess. 🙁

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  • Duke
    April 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I do consider myself an average fan Max, and I’m not “plugged into” conservative blogs. I figured this out long before I read any blogs. I first noticed this in movies. If a movie has won an award, it usually means it addressed the cause of the day and neither tells an interesting story or entertains. I usually avoid award winning movies and book awards are headed down the same road.

  • joe mcdermott
    April 28, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I only wish to point out that my name is quite common and the Joe McDermott who commented above is not the J.M. McDermott who writes also as Joe M. McDermott.

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