Hugo Course Correction

“Why did that boy keep on hitting himself in the head with that hammer?”
“Because it felt so good when he stopped….”

(Believe it or not, that ‘joke’ was in a joke book written for elementary school kids.)

Since the Hugo Awards shortlist was announced, I’ve taken a lot of heat for “sticking to my guns” and moving forward with not placing any slated works on my final ballot (the “No Award” option).

I’ve taken additional heat for an intemperate remark I made on Facebook, suggesting that I’d like to see the Hugo Admins identify the puppy voters and disenfranchise them.

Let me address that first.

By way of explanation (not excuse), here is the sequence of events leading up to that remark:

1.  “Yes, your wife has breast cancer and it has metastasized and is now in her liver.  Things are pretty serious”
2. The Hugo Shortlist
3. Intemperate remark

Here’s the remark itself, so that there is no confusion:

solution for the Hugo Awards:

Find all of the ballots voted by puppies (screw privacy) and never let them buy a membership again.

Go back to only people in attendance getting to vote

…and other things probably too illegal to even post on facebook

Please see below where I offer to delete this post if others agree and where I explain that the original post was from anger and upset over things both Hugo and life-threatening and where I lay out a more rational description of what I am really after.

That last paragraph was added later after a call to delete the post;  but by then, others felt that there had been some good discussion, and so I decided to leave it up.

Later, I offered this statement in the same thread:

Steve Davidson everyone, please ignore my blatherngs and read Amazing Stories tomorrow

(the reference was to my post on Amazing where I explained what was going on with the cancer diagnosis) and then this:

Steve Davidson EVERYONE:

I was venting. I said a few extreme things due to the fact that my blood pressure was threatening to blow the top of my head off. You all try to stay cool when the puppy ballot immediately follows “Hey, your wife has cancer…and it’s spread to her liver!”

To set the record straight:

NO, to screw privacy. everyone deserves it, no matter how vile they may be

NO, to going back to attendees only voting

YES to the fantasy of sending Seal Team 6 to Italy

YES to adopting 3SV – immediately (if that can be done according to the by laws)

YES to a public statement by WSFS explaining that campaigning for awards is a No-No (my suggestion: this is not a fact. It would need to be proposed, voted on and, if accepted, ratified the following year)

YES to forming some legal, above-board and acceptable manner of discouraging bad actors from participating in the nominating and voting process for the Hugos

YES to “Big is Big” and if that’s how you measure things, I sure hope you have big fingers….

Ignore that last, it was a remark intended for another thread in the discussion.

(You can see the whole sorry thing here.)

As predicted by others in that FB thread, my statement would be used by the puppy-related to collectively bash those who have been against the slates, as well as myself.

I apologize for giving them additional ammunition.

I equally apologize for making remarks that do not reflect my true feelings and beliefs (Amazing’s privacy policy alone ought to be evidence of that) and for giving the impression that I’m willing to use means both fair and foul to deal with the puppies.  I try to scrupulously follow the rules – both written and implied – and have while dealing with the puppy kerfuffle.

My follow-on explanations (I don’t offer excuses:  explanation, and apology where needed, but not excuses) were labelled “walking back” my original statement by some.  No.  I owned up to the remark and I categorically rescinded it.  Further use of the original remark (usually absent links or any mention of the follow-on) is nothing but playing politics.

I would also like to note in closing that I believe my called for action (disenfranchising puppy voters) was pure fantasy as I believe, under the rules in operation, it would be impossible to accomplish for two reasons:  I don’t believe that the Hugo Admins can connect voter to ballot, and (this is key), I think it impossible to identify any ballot as a “puppy” ballot, or any individual as a “puppy”, absent public declarations.  Any puppy fears that such a thing could happen are, I believe, entirely baseless – as should be evident from the remarks on the subject by non-puppies

I don’t expect the preceding to put the issue to bed;  some people seem to really enjoy beating dead horses, but now you’ve got the whole story from my perspective.

My voting strategy for the final 2016 ballot has also been questioned by friend and foe alike.

The point of contention is related primarily to the Sad Puppies IV slate and those works on the Rabid Puppy slate that are referred to as shields – works that will most probably appeal to non-puppy voters, are unlikely to line up with RP beliefs and are most likely on the RP ballot for no other reason than to give voters heartburn.

I previously provided a “puppy free” list (representing works that are not on either puppy slate)  This has been referred to as a “counter-slate” by puppies – despite the fact that I clearly stated that this was how I personally intended to make my selections;  nor did I call for anyone to follow it, nor do I have the power to make anyone follow it.

I then followed that up with a partial ballot for the Retro Hugo Awards.  (Does the fact that I shared it publicly make that a ‘slate’ too?)

Anyway.  The questions asked of me can be summed up as follows:

How can you continue to implement the No Award strategy, despite knowing that some items on SPIV were nominated by non-puppies (to test the openness of the list); or are only on either list to get you to vote against them, essentially supporting the RP “Xanatos Gambit” (heads I win, tails you lose”)?

These questions are usually accompanied by suggestions that the SPIV slate has become a Recommended Reading list. I’ve previously stated I have no issue with RRLs and have provided working definitions elsewhere.

1.  I don’t know who or how or why people nominated items for SPIV*.  But I’ll take the word of people I trust and accept that at least one item on SPIV is there, not to cause heartburn, but because non-puppies nominated it (in what I consider to have been an ill-conceived ‘test’).

2. I tried to get folks to adopt a strategy that would have mooted most, if not all of the “shield” nominations, by repudiating slates categorically.  I don’t know why such an obvious (and relatively easy) solution was not widely adopted as it would have robbed the RP slate of most of its impact and would have given voters clearance to ignore the RP slate.  (I will continue to suggest it as I do not think we’re done with this yet and I still believe that it will help:  several items on my puppy-free ballot were placed there despite the fact that they appear on a slate, because their creators have stated they do not want to be slated.)

3.  My fight has not been against puppies; has not been against individuals, has not been against the political views of various parties.  My fight has been against campaigning for nominations, period.  There is only one place to clearly and cleanly delineate a line; only one way to place a vote that is absent personal attacks, political attacks and all the rest, and that line is:  is the work on a slate?  BECAUSE that line is a clear one, not a subjective one based on guessing the motivations of nominators, one that is backed up by evidence, it is the line I chose to use.

4.  I would like to think that I have some integrity.  That when I take a meaningful position on an issue, I’m willing to stand behind it and face the consequences of taking that position.  The No Award strategy was designed to prevent puppies from being able to declare victory, because victory adds fuel to their fire and encourages them to believe that continued action on their part will eventually lead to  either domination of the Hugo Awards or destruction of the Hugo Awards.  Last year, only one puppy nominated work (Guardians of the Galaxy) won for Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form.  Had it not been on a slate, I would have voted it #1 on my ballot.  But I left it off.  Puppies consider that a victory and, tellingly, every single mainstream news outlet that covered the awards last year made it a central point of their articles to mention this outlier.

The message that I believe it sent to puppies was “Next year, we’ll win even more categories!”. To quote David Bowie “putting out the fire with gasoline”.

Most fans know that puppy claims of victory are entirely hollow.  It was the general membership of WSFS that “won” last year.  Puppies attempted an assault on the award and their methodology was roundly turned away.  The results made me proud to be a Fan and proud to be a member of a community that individually and collectively recognized what needed to be done.

My commitment to the No Award strategy this year was taken in the hope that the same thing would take place this year.  Making exceptions because “item X would have been nominated anyway” is mere guesswork (probably good guesswork, but a guess nonetheless).

The problem now are those works that “would have been nominated anyway”.

5. Should I change my position, it will no doubt be used by some as leverage, and used by some to question my integrity.

On the one hand, there are unquestionably works on slates that in any other year would probably be worthy of nomination and finalist consideration.  On the other hand, any slated work winning the award will be used by puppies to encourage their base and continue their efforts.  (EPH will not stop this.)

And on the third tentacle, there are the many assurances I’ve received from individuals and the quasi “don’t slate me” statements by various and sundry.


I’ll take the hit and modify my position, as I believe that integrity is really based on trying to do the right thing.

I’ll be sticking to the No Awarding of slated items – except where I have received information and/or evidence that the creator of the work was not complicit in being on the slate, has previously made statements that they do not want to be involved in the politics and/or is clearly not aligned with puppy politics. And then I’ll vote on the merit of the work itself.

I’ll be adding some items to the “puppy free” ballot listing later on today (File 770 and Andrew Weir among them).

Whatever heat I’ll take for this change, so be it.

*I still consider SPIV to be a slate, not a recommended reading list.  Others are objecting to the same things I have – the politics behind it and the curation of a “finalists” list.  Neither of these has changed from SPIII.  Were they to change, I would be happy to change my opinion.

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  1. You need a chiropractor with all the contortions you’re doing by claiming a “no award” strategy, yet cherry picking ones you find are an exception despite them being on “slates” and still patting yourself on the back for maintaining some level of integrity.

    Not that you give a whit about other people’s opinions (especially mine), but I’d have had more respect for you if you stuck to your guns and chose consistency over bizarre contortions of your own strategy.

  2. Steve, I don’t care one way or the other about your feelings about the Hugos. I just wanted to let you know that your wife and you are in my thoughts. *hugs*

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