Other than journalists, nobody likes what’s been going on with the Hugo Awards. Even though my fiction lies mostly within the realm of horror, I’m a fan of science fiction, and like many of you, I just want to read good genre books and not deal with the political angst behind them. It’s extremely likely that what’s happened to science fiction is going to start happening to horror (if it hasn’t already), and I don’t want to end up as the last line in a Niemöller quote. So I will address this.
This is going to get political. If it offends you, ask yourself why, and then feel free to discuss it with me.
Let’s Set the Table
There is not one element of modern life that has not been politicized in some way or other. Politics have infected everything from education to science to the environment to professional sports to individual entertainment choices. That’s inarguable. Who’s responsible for it can be debated elsewhere, but I defy you to find me one human endeavor that hasn’t been touched by politics.
What the American Left has done is deny that their politics are politics at all; that is, they’ve attempted to normalize their point of view as a non-political viewpoint. Leftism is, therefore, the natural state of things. This explains why so many Leftists self-identify as independents, moderates or even apolitical despite espousing left-wing ideas, supporting left-wing causes, and voting for left-wing political candidates. They’re not being political, they’re just doing the right thing. Leftists have redefined politics as what otherpeople do, not them.
This, of course, excludes those individuals and organizations that specifically identify as progressive, liberal, or left-wing.
The American Right, vastly outnumbered in the entertainment, education, and journalistic industries, tends to conceal itself among the general public a little more than Leftists. Outside of political environments, conservatives aren’t as explicit about their beliefs, in part because the right-wing point of view hasn’t been as successfully normalized in popular culture. Right-wingers aren’t cool. They’re sticks-in-the-mud who resist change, especially social change. Who wants to be known as a fuddy-duddy? A conservative might identify himself as an independent, but he’ll rarely call himself a moderate. He is sensitive to the politicization of modern culture becausehe resists social change. He has his political viewpoints and feels about them as strongly as the Leftist, but outside of places where conservatives gather, he tends to keep his cards closer to the vest.
Politics in the Hugos
Even the most casual observer will see that, over the last decade or so, the selection process of the Hugo Awards has fallen victim to the same politicization that so much else in our culture is subject to. Hugo award nominees have been selected, in large part, on the basis of diversity of author, not the quality of the stories, or even if those stories meet the genre classification of science fiction (see: If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love).
When discussing diversity, almost nobody means diversity of opinion, outlook, or imagination. They mean diversity of race, skin color, gender, social status, or sexual orientation, all of which are surface qualities that inform the intellect, but don’t defineit. They’re categories useful to those who try to appeal to specific identity groups on the basis of their external differences. If the Hugo Awards are supposed to celebrate the best stories, then the author’s melanin content, plumbing, and what he/she does with his/her plumbing don’t matter. What matters is quality. What matters is diversity of story, not race.
By elevating these surface aspects of diversity, the Hugos have been politicized to deliberately excludeauthors based on their skin color, gender, and political viewpoint. White men need not apply, especially conservative white men. Or conservatives of any color and gender. Scalzi and his allies have altered the Hugo Awards to focus on message fiction written by people who fit their definition of diversity, not quality science fiction. As Leftists, they don’t (or can’t) acknowledge that they’re politicizing the Hugos; to them, they’re simply doing what’s right and good and proper (and keeping the riff-raff out).
What’s amazing is that merely pointing out that the Hugos have been politicized leaves one open to attacks of politicization, as though the accusation is enough to condemn the accuser rather than the accused. So if I point out that Book A was nominated for a Hugo because it espouses a particular viewpoint, not because it’s a good story, I’m the one politicizing the process. Combine this with how progressives cannot or will not acknowledge that their point of view is political, and you have a very comprehensive, if utterly transparent defense: it’s the Puppies’ fault that the Hugos are a political football because they accused the Leftists of politicizing the Hugos, which is impossible because Leftists don’t practice politics. Also known as, “I know you are, but what am I?” Hence, the Puppies’ efforts to nominate stories based on their criteria are, de facto, illegitimate. It’s perfectly fine to nominate only Leftist message fiction written by Leftists, but it’s gaming the system to nominate science fiction stories written by conservatives.
It may be that you like message fiction and think that science fiction needs a broader diversity of authors to maintain the genre’s relevance in the 21st century. In which case it’s only natural that you would decry the Puppies’ efforts. Just know that you’re also engaging in politics. You’ve decided to redefine the Hugo Awards to celebrate a political viewpoint rather than promote quality fiction.
The system’s already been corrupted, already been gamed, already been politicized. It’s just that now, the other side has decided to fight back. If this is a problem for you, be honest with yourself about why: it may be because your politics are being challenged, not that the process has become politicized.