So Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Those bastards. I NEVER win.
I’m joking, of course. I have as much chance of winning a Pulitzer for either my fiction or my newspaper columns as I have of being tapped to command the International Space Station, and you know what? I’m cool with that.
But it does seem an opportune time to talk about awards.
Recently, the Science Fiction writing and fan communities have been roiled by a kerfuffle over the genre’s prestigious Hugo Award. If you’re not familiar with either the award or the kerfuffle, allow me, a once and future SF junkie, to give you a quick synopsis.
The Hugos are a fan-based award, voted on by the attendees and “supporting members” (paid but not attending) of the World Science Fiction convention, or Worldcon. Worldcon is to the SF community what Bouchercon is to the mystery/thriller community, and thus, the Hugo is a Very Big Deal.
There’ve been a number of writers honored who were not male Caucasians. To a group of white, male, politically conservative writers who have dubbed themselves the “Sad Puppies,” that means they could not have possibly won on the merits but must be the result of “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW’s for short) “gaming” the voting. Never mind that there’s no real evidence of this. Rule One of Conspiracies is that lack of evidence merely proves the cover-up.
So SF writer Larry Correia decided that the reason he’d never won a Hugo was that he was a victim of the aforementioned “SJW” conspiracy. He and similarly disgruntled writers John C. Wright and Brad R. Torgerson decided they were going to rally conservatives to vote for “their” kind of Science Fiction, concocting a “Sad Puppies” slate of writers whose work and politics they approved of. Writer/editor/publisher Theodore Beale, for his part, went further and backed his own slate of “Rabid Puppies” which included–surprise!–himself.
It bears mentioning that Beale (who also calls himself “Vox Day”) is a particularly vile little man who claims to be a defender of “Christian values” but who was kicked out of the Science Fiction Writers of America for calling a female African American writer an “educated but ignorant half savage.” Most recently, he suggested online that the reason Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed an airliner into the French Alps with 150 people on board was that he was a sexually frustrated “Omega male” with low “socio-sexual status” and opined that, and I quote, “it is somewhat haunting to think about how many lives might be saved each year if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of blowjobs.” He’s a real charmer, ain’t he?
Anyway, by stirring up their blog readers and others into thinking that voting for the SP slates would be “sticking a finger in the eye” of liberals and what they call “Social Justice warriors” or “SJWs,” the Puppies, both Sad and Rabid, managed to get their nominees on the Worldcon ballot.
Consternation ensued. There’s been much hand-wringing across the Internet about whether the Hugos are irreparably tarnished. Many vowed to write in NO AWARD in every category. Some nominees, such as military SF author Marko Kloos, short story author Annie Bellet, and the online fantasy website Black Gate, withdrew their names from nomination rather than be associated with such blatant manipulation.
So much has been written about the whole mess that anything I’d says specifically would be redundant. But it does point out just how seriously people take awards.
You know, I somehow managed to not go on a freakin’ crusade against mystery fandom when I didn’t win the Shamus I was nominated for. And I didn’t blame some “vast right wing/left wing/Scientology conspiracy” when the blog I used to write for got passed over for the Anthony in Baltimore. But I do know that for years, within hours of the announcement of an Edgar, an Anthony, a Macavity, or a Thriller getting handed out, people take to the Internet to voice their displeasure.
“Where’s [insert name of favored book here]!?”
“Why doesn’t [insert name of favored author here] ever get nominated!?”
“Why does [insert name of disfavored author here] always get nominated!?”
“Why aren’t there more women writers on the list!?”
“The fix is in! The fix is in!”
Look, I can only answer as to the Edgars, and then only for the two years I was a judge (one year for the YA category and one for Best Novel). I can attest to the fact that the people
who let themselves get suckered into who graciously volunteer when asked try very hard to do a good job and to be fair to everyone. I haven’t detected any political agendas, and since several of the judges I’ve worked with have been women, no gender bias. They do tend to make the decision by consensus and committee, with the inherent weaknesses of that way of doing things. But I can’t think of a better way to handle it, especially at the end of an exhausting year of reading book after book that you really didn’t intend to read, but you had to catch up on the endless tide of incoming novels.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not griping. I had a blast, read some good books and a few great ones, and I’m happy with the choices we made.
As for awards awarded by popular vote, I can’t really speak to those. Perhaps the readership can weigh in as to whether anyone’s “gaming” those and if so, how.
I do promise you one thing, though: if my book DEVILS AND DUST is not nominated for an Anthony for 2015, I will not pitch a self-pitying hissy fit like those mooks trying to game the Hugo awards.
I will not stamp my little feet and claim that I am the victim of discrimination and PC oppression because I am a straight white cisgendered male.
I will not put together a slate of similarly disappointed writers and call it “Mournful Mongrels” or “Despondent Doggies” or any such silliness as that.
‘Cause Dusty don’t roll like that.
But, you know, a nomination would be pretty cool.
Just think it over. No pressure.