In the publishing and literary world, there always seems to be some sort of scandal and today is no different. Right now, the biggest talk around town has to do with what some call Puppygate or the Puppy Wars. Whatever you call it, it is a fascinating war of words.
This post will try to do something that others have not, try not to take a side but mainly catch people up as to what the heck is going on.
First, some background.
All this talk of puppies and infighting has to do with the Hugo Awards. The Hugo is an award for Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF&F) given to the previous year’s work. There are various versions of this award ranging from novels to short stories to art. It is one of the most prestigious awards in literature and the fight as to what is and isn’t SF&F is at the core of this very hostile debate.
Voting for the Hugo is a somewhat public affair as all that is needed is a forty dollar membership to World Science Fiction Society. Once you have that, you have a vote.
Okay, so you get that there’s this award for writing and that there’s voting involved with the public. What the heck does this have to do with cute little puppies and the guy who wrote Game of Thrones?
You see, for the last several years, the Hugo has been going to, what the Sad Puppies feel are, left leaning writers and writings.
I know, I need to stop again. What is a Sad Puppy? Well, that’s the self given name of the grass roots group who is trying to shakeup the current system and succeeding. Sad Puppies is a slight towards liberals and their fondness for animals. The original name was Sad Puppies Think of the Children and there’s even another group called Rabid Puppies. For the sake of clarity and brevity we’ll just call the two main factions the Sad Puppies versus the Blue Team.
(By the way, coming up for a name for those on the other side of the Sad Puppies debate was a task unto itself because, as you’ll see, one of the biggest problems with this debate is the name calling. I’ll go for Blue Team since in fake battle simulations there is usually a Blue Team and a Red Team, and since both sides don’t argue that the non-Sad Puppies are more liberal in their views, I’m going with the Americancentric color of blue for them.)
Okay, so where were we? Ah, yes, puppies, and more acurately, sad ones.
So the Sad Puppies feel that the Hugo Award has been given to, not the best writng in SF&F, but to those that are pushing a social agenda. On the other side, the Blue Team, they claim that they are just moving the genre forward and giving it to the best writing as well.
So who’s in the right? Depends on who you ask and what side you’re on. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each side, first starting with, what I call, Blue Team.
Blue Team is the current clique of writers, editors and publishers that have had significant say into who wins and doesn’t win the Hugo. Blue Team’s cause is just, they believe, because before they took over the mantle, SF&F was awarded to low-brow writing and writers. The SF&F landscape was awash with straight white men and their views of what SF&F is.
Since the Hugo has now been in their care, they have given it to a more diverse crowd who is pushing, changing, and challenging what is commonly believed to be the norms of SF&F.
On the other side we have the Sad Puppies. They feel that the world of SF&F has become too academic and trying to push across social agendas instead of doing what the Hugo was meant for; to award the best writing. They feel that they are the Rebellion trying to take on the mighty Empire and bring justice back to the galaxy and the Force.
But even that isn’t a good analogy since Blue Team feels they’re the Rebels who knocked down the Dark Side and are only trying to stop it from coming back. With me so far?
So that’s how both sides see themselves. They both think that their cause is good. But before we get into the cons of each group, let’s go back again to the culture and world that made this infighting possible.
No one on either side will deny that there hasn’t always been some sort of politicking and cliques that have pushed their agendas and writings for the Hugo. It has been going on for a long time and, as we can see with the Puppy Wars, is still continuing. The only difference from days past to now is the Internet. What was once whisper campaigns has now bled out into the public forum that is the World Wide Web.
One of the larger problems I see here is, the name calling and both sides are guilty of it.
If you’re a supporter of the Sad Puppies, there are tons of examples of acronym name calling that I won’t even get into. But even their stance is insulting to the Blue Team. The Sad Puppies paint themselves as rebels fighting for a just cause. That in itself is implying that Blue Team is just a bunch of status quo pushers.
If you’re a supporter of the Blue Team, the name calling has been fierce there too. Everything from homophobic to racist has been thrown at those who are trying to disrupt the system.
So what does this have to do with Game of Thrones guy? A lot since he has publicly come out, time and again, in support of Blue Team.
So that’s Puppy Wars in a nutshell.
What do I think about it? Well, I think that this has been going on for years, with control going from the Sad Puppies (historically) to now Blue Team who are afraid of losing what they thought was theirs.
I understand both side’s arguments and see validity in both their cases. At the end, however, this is about narrative control and more importantly, what is art.
And that’s what’s so strange to me. You can’t define art. Maybe that’s the only real definition of art, it’s undefinable.
The main problem with the Hugo Awards is the way it’s designed. It is done in a well meaning spirit, open to fans of the genre and gives them the right to vote. The problem is, it has become too political. There are now cliques and parties that smear and slander just so they could win.
What needs to be done? I’m not sure but all this infighting needs to stop. So far the only thing that has been resolved by the two sides is that the Hugo’s importance and validity has come into question. And that is something neither side wants.