Hey everyone! I had in mind something completely different to blog about today, but I stumbled across … a lot of Puppies.
To be honest until stumbling upon them completely by chance and through the magic of twitter, I was not very much aware of even the Hugo Awards themselves.
The general hullaballoo on the matter is that two different factions, the Rabid Puppies and the Sad Puppies (why puppies, people? they’re hardly a symbol of strife…) have created a pre-prepared slate of authors and their stories/novels to nominate for the Hugo Awards and subsequently make it so their selections are voted up to receive the Hugo. So basically, we’re saying that two groups of people, who unsurprisingly claim to have political reasons/affiliations behind their actions, are openly trying to rig the awards to serve their own agenda.
As an author myself, I totally sympathise with the authors that have been nominated and will either need to withdraw to save their dignity, or stick it out with a potentially ugly win when it should have been a dream come true for them.
Personally, I have never received or been nominated for a Hugo, or any award for that matter, mainly because either I’m completely unaware of the competition’s existence or (as of late, and after the rollercoaster I’ve been experiencing since 2007 in terms of political unrest and struggle) I opt not to submit my work in this kind of melee.
The main reason is that any kind of competition regarding the arts and even the sciences is unfair from the get go, in my opinion.
In a painting contest, how do you decide who gets the number 1 position when Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Donatello are all running? How can you say that one is inferior to the other? How can you say that one should be more rewarded than the other? In the end, especially assuming you are “the most prestigious award” in painting, how do you discourage any of these three in favour of the one?
The point I am trying to make is that, especially from a cut off point of excellence and up, trying to award works of art on an ordinal scale only creates problems in the creative process and self-esteem of the participants and even those simply watching. For one thing, we run the risk of having people curb and prune their art to be as similar to winners of the awards as possible, not because they like elements and assimilate them into their own personal imprint on their art of choice, but because it’s what wins awards, or what is trending.
Another is that audiences are taught what to like (or say they like), in the sense that often what makes a good work of art is dictated not by personal taste, but by pop culture or, even worse, how much that particular piece of art is used as a status symbol: abstract (meaningless) art for the nouveau riches, Jean Paul Sartre for uppity existential horny college majors, Simone de Beauvoir for the cultured suffragette, Dostoevsky for the revolutionaries, Tolkien (once upon a time) for the fantasy connoisseurs (but only if you know The Silmarillion by heart) and so on and so forth.
All of the works of art I’ve mentioned are absolute masterpieces in their own right, created by the greats (illustrated example not included, obviously). Everyone should read them just to hear the internal voice of these astoundingly remarkable people in your head, talking to you from across the ages, delivering their message.
But this is not all there is. There’s so much more that shouldn’t be overshadowed, so that it may grow and develop in a new masterpiece to add to humanity’s enrichment.
A contest often stunts this growth, either by too much encouragement, or way too little.
And then of course, there’s the rigging.
Contests can be not only rigged but controlled, manipulated, biased, unfair, and any other such characteristic you might want to add to them. Looking at Hugo’s winner lists, there’s certainly a lot of big names there- so either the Hugos seem to have some reliability to their choices… OR they create enough hype around a (decidedly decent, good or excellent, of course) piece of work to propel it to the right circles to make it big.
I take that it is the first option and not the second so much, although that someone felt the need to rig the Awards implies that the resulting fame/exposure is significant enough to create success, rather than simply be its result.
So why does it need to be a contest? Why, among so many super-talented, worthwhile people that bring the cream of the crop for American Fantasy and Science Fiction, there is need to have them be put in an ordinal scale of ‘least to most talented’? How is it different from beauty pageants, where everyone is ridiculously beautiful and we nitpick about who is the fairest, as if it isn’t subjective by this point?
The sheer issue that has risen is from the fact that there’s an award given via contest, which they want to swing one way or the other. And any way you look at it, the sheer context of contesting has spurred this need for corruption, so much so that it is open and shockingly aggressive. In my opinion, since it has openly become not about talent and enjoyment of art but about political agendas, this year the Hugo Awards shouldn’t run at all, at least not as a contest.
If the Hugos weren’t a contest but, say, a showcase where the award would be to simply MAKE it there, no matter how many and how diverse each year, be it one or one hundred, then we wouldn’t be recruiting puppies to fight our wars.