Regarding My 2016 Hugo Award Nomination

Today, MidAmeriCon II announced the nominees for the 2016 Hugo Awards, chosen by the attendees and supporters of the 74th WorldCon for the best works in science fiction, fantasy, and fandom produced in 2015.  My military fantasy adventure story, “The Commuter” was one of the five nominees in the short story category.

I must regretfully decline the nomination.

I’ve known for some time that “The Commuter” had made the short list, having been emailed about it by Professor Adams, “The Voice of the Hugos,” on April 10th.  I provided copies of my story for the Hugo Voter’s Packet and accepted the nomination in the forlorn hope I would find my story among a mixed and diverse selection of other stories, stories which came out of fandom as a whole (a whole which includes Puppies . . . ) rather than from any single group’s agenda or manipulation of process.  I knew that it was unlikely, given that my little-known story was only up for the award due to its inclusion on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate, but I had hope.

To be clear, Vox Day and I have worked together before, but I did not request or engineer my appearance on his slate.  I’m very proud of my story “Within This Horizon”, that I contributed to the first Riding the Red Horse anthology, which allowed me to be in the same volume as friends and acquaintances Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, Ken Burnside, and one of my literary heroes, Jerry Pournelle.  I have been interviewed for Castalia House.  However, Vox and I disagree on many political and social points and I am neither a Rabid Puppy nor a member of his Dread Ilk.  My stories have no real ideological bent right or left.  And while I cannot dispute the experiences of others which brought the Sad and Rabid Puppy movements into existence, I did not approve of the straight-slate bloc voting that so damaged fandom last year.  I was very encouraged when Sad Puppies 4 answered the criticisms that had been levied against SP3.

I tried to convince myself that perhaps the Rabids would also ameliorate the “burn it all” stance they ended with last year, after the strings of “No Awards” handed out at 2015’s ceremony.  I hoped they would treat this year’s 5-item-per-category slate as only a recommendation, and that perhaps my story might be the only slate pick among a strong selection of non-slate tales. I hoped it would compete on its own with honor, winning or losing without a nod to anyone’s particular political intent. However, as the list is straight slate in the short story category, I cannot take advantage of a flaw in the current nomination process.

This is not a repudiation of anyone’s politics, nor is it an endorsement of anyone else’s ideology. This is not a statement on the quality of the nominated works that either appear or don’t appear on anyone’s slate.  This is a rejection of a gamed system, as well as a stand for returning the Hugos to what they’re supposed to be rather than what some have tried to make them.  I’ve spent the last 21 years in a career dedicated to the support and defense of the US Constitution and the principles upon which it is founded. Every slate, every recommendation list, and every vote is the expression of another individual’s right to free speech.  I had no right to tell Vox to remove my story from the Rabid Puppies list, nor did I think asking him would do much good.  I had no right to tell any Rabid Puppy how to vote, nor, truthfully, was I much inclined. I did not ask to be part of any list, but I hoped at the very least that it might bring other eyes to “The Commuter”, readers that might appreciate it for what it was and perhaps honor me with an uncontroversial nomination (or at least a few Kindle purchases).  But, now that all hopes for a clean nomination are dashed, it is my turn to speak:

Rather than eat a shit sandwich, I choose to get up from the table.  

Thank you to all the people who actually read my story, enjoyed it, and nominated it for the Hugo.  I will forever be in your debt.  However, if you voted for my story and others only because someone told/recommended you should — for whatever reason — Why?  What windmill are you tilting against?  What do you hope to achieve other than the dissolution of something which may need to be saved from its failings, not destroyed outright.  If I have wasted your sincere vote, I am sorry, but I cannot participate when I know shenanigans may have occurred.  Winning a Hugo is less about the award itself than what the award means:  that you have created something appreciated, worthy of memory, and have garnered the respect of your peers — something last year’s string of “No Awards” indicated the bloc voting failed to achieve.

I would ask the voters who read this one thing:  please give the works a chance, slated or not.  Please don’t “No Award” entire categories out of spite against Vox Day.  Please give the slated short stories an equal chance with whatever story replaces mine.  The authors deserve your attention, free of any political bias.  Works should stand on their own.

If you would like to read “The Commuter”, I’d love to hear your thoughts on its nomination and would be happy to provide it gratis to any WorldCon voter.  Thank you for your attention and your understanding.

56 thoughts on “Regarding My 2016 Hugo Award Nomination

  1. Pingback: Thomas A. Mays Withdraws His Hugo-Nominated Story | File 770

  2. I respect your principled stand, and I appreciate how very hard it will have been to take. I hope we as a community won’t face these kinds of choices for much longer, but until we don’t, thank you.

  3. Pingback: Hugo Awards Short List 2016 – Dragons & Jetpacks

  4. We are not tilting against any imaginary windmills. This is so obviously a movement in defense of equal protection I fail to see how you can invoke the Constitution and not see that. Exactly how many times do you have to see “white cis dude” used as a slur before you understand that? Y’know… equal protection as in Brown vs Board of Education and Prop 14 in Calif in the ’60s? THAT’s taking a stand. You are not taking a stand, you are telling the Empire of Japan and the U.S. to knock it off.

  5. I regret you feel you had to take that decision. As I was glancing down the list of what this years antics had produced for nominees, I was pleasantly surprised to see your work upon the list. When I first read it a few months ago I enjoyed the “The Commuter”. It was a interesting and creative read. I respect your decision, but will regret not having the opportunity to vote for your work.

  6. Thank you for your principled response. It must have been difficult and I hope I’d do the same under the same circumstances. I’m exercising my powers as a capitalist and am voting with my dollars (have already purchased). May your future works also be honored!

  7. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives » And so it continues — Hugo Awards Part Whatever

  8. I’m sad and happy for you, both. You’ve earned my respect for a super-tough decision that must hurt; my hat’s off to you, sir.

  9. Mr Mays. I did vote for nominations this year. I did not vote for your story because I had not read it I voted for many stories on both SP list and RP list and others that were not on the lists. I am disturbed that you think that VD was burning the awards that was DONE BY THE MEMBERS WHO VOTED NO AWARD. Why should your political opinions manner to whether you or anyone gets voted for?. WE care about good stories. I must admit that many awards in the last 10 years were for stories that I was not interested in. I was so happy that Ms Bujold had a new story and want her to win that category.

    However since your story was on sale for 99 cents I decided to buy it and check it out. I think it is foolhardy for any author to remove themselves from a nomination because they were supported by voters that may have sympathetic feelings for the goals of SP and RP. I notice that may other authors that are promoted by LGBT or gay rights and gender confused activists don’t withdraw when their stories are nominated.

    I get tired of the bully tactics of the SJW on college campuses and their efforts to shut people up and force people to accept their viewpoints so I decided I would start putting i my 2 cents to vote for stories I like .

    I usually read everything that is nominated to make my choices so I could have voted for your story if you had not withdrawn it That is very shortsighted of you. DO not be afraid of being on a list by readers After all we are the people that read the stories Who cares if the readers agree with VD or not ? I do not. He is interesting to read every once in a while

    • Thank you, Lynn. I hope you enjoy it and I may be doing myself a disservice, but I had to decline. And it is not about anyone’s politics or to say any Pup is wrong about perceived biases or prior years’ gaming of the system. This is not a statement even about Vox. It is solely a position based on straight-slate bloc voting which over represents the opinions of a relatively smaller group of the like-minded, pitting their unified vote for five works against a scattered vote on hundreds of works. And it’s not as if the strategy worked last year, unless the goal is No Award. And I couldn’t participate in that.

      • “relatively smaller group”

        I respectfully disagree that the puppies, Sad or Rabid, are a “small group”. For two years in a row WC has seen record setting nominations. I know that SP is bringing in people like me, who were not familiar with the system. We are turning around and telling our friends, who are joining. Maybe there really are that many people who are interested in a good story, regardless of the race, religion, or gender of the characters – let alone the writer.

        I am sorry that you have pulled out. I did not get a chance to see your story previously. Maybe I’ll run across it down the road.

      • For one, I never conflate the Sad and Rapid Puppies. Second, I agree, they are not small in number, but they are relatively smaller in terms of fannish activity, and I applaud the shift. There seems to be this impression that I’m with those who don’t consider the Puppies worthy fans. On the contrary, I identify with them. Their fictions and frustrations are my own. My declination is solely over the issue of bloc voting, which is not in the spirit of fair competition.

      • Thank you for clarifying. Compared to the SF/F fandom as a whole, the puppies are “smallish”.

        I do understand your rational. It is a shame that RP seems bent on destroying the tree, rather reshaping it. I for one would rather see more and more people becoming involved in the Hugo Awards. A wider sampling should give a more accurate representation, I would think. And there really is room for all of us – even those of us who still prefer rocketships and laser guns. 😉

    • Why don’t you take Vox at his word when he SAID he wanted to burn the whole thing down, repeatedly, before the awards were even voted for?

  10. Just picked up a copy. Thank you for doing the right thing, as painful and difficult as it must have been. I’m sorry they ruined a good thing for you.

  11. Pingback: The Hugo Dispute: Round II | Sharrukin's Palace

  12. As a Hugo voter for around 10 years, I appreciate the sacrifice you’ve made by taking yourself off the ballot. It’s wrong for a minority of people to choose the entire ballot by voting an entire slate as a bloc, particularly when they are choosing some nominations in an obvious act of bad faith such as Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

    If it’s any consolation, you can now party at Worldcon with George R. R. Martin.

    I look forward to reading your story.

  13. Atta boy. You got guts to fight the trend…and standing up for yourtake on the honor system. I just downloaded the story. It’s sometimes too damn east to go along with the crowd. I don’t believe in voting for blocks of anything.best wishesGordon Levine

  14. I appreciate your principled stand against slate voting; even though your work may qualify on its own merits (I haven’t read it, sorry, that’s why I said may).

    I do have a small quibble with the statement that you “can’t tell” Vox Day to remove you from the list. Implied was that it is unfair to ask considering the principles of the constitution (principles since the constitution only applies to government actions). I believe another perspective is that that constitution expressly GIVES you the right to say what you want about being on Vox Day’s list. You can’t REQUIRE that he remove you but according to the principles set out in the constitution you can, loudly even!, voice your opinion about it. (Again, I don’t know what action you did take once you knew you were on his list – I apologise if it`s easily found elsewhere).

    Someone else exercising their free speech does not negate your freedom to say something as well. You can agree or disagree as loudly, strenuously as you like. BOTH parties have that right, not just one. You’re not required to be silent because someone else spoke.

    • Agreed. That was what I meant when I said that asking him would do little good (he’s somewhat stubborn) and it is not my place to demand anyone conform their recommendations to my desire. I have no authority to make him change it. It is his statement. And as stated, I hoped the list might bring eyes on that would vote in good faith. The main crux of my objection to demanding someone get my permission before listing me is the issue that came out a few weeks ago where p r pole were offended that RP and SP4 did not remove them when asked.

  15. I’ve tried to avoid the Hugo problems in the past, partially because I use SFF to escape politics and other worldly concerns, and partially because it hurts to see people treat each other like this. However, I’ve been dipping a toe in this year, since I starting writing speculative fiction in earnest, and it didn’t seem right to avoid the painful parts of a community to which I’m trying to contribute. I’m very sorry you had to give up your nomination, but I understand it, because amongst my first thoughts on this, yesterday, was the knowledge that I’d have to do as you’ve done.

    So, I want you to know that. And I want you to know that as soon as I’ve posted this, I’m going to go buy your story and read it. And then I’ll make up my own mind about it.

  16. Are you going to decline the sales of people at 770 purchasing your fiction solely for wearing the right ideological pants? That’s what we’re against in the first place and a satirical pushback prank isn’t the same as ideological collusion, racial incitement and incitement to hate men at an institutional level. What kind of cult mentions artistic nobodies like Amal El-Mohtar and Rose Lemberg for being committed gay feminists a hundred times for every time they might mention Jack McDevitt or Alistair Reynolds? That’s a Third Wave politburo, not an artistic movement. So someone put some bananas up the exhaust pipe of the white privilege-mobile. Where’s the downside of that? Sounds like a rescue mission to me.

    • “Are you going to decline the sales of people at 770 purchasing your fiction solely for wearing the right ideological pants? ”

      As people are putting together slates because they believe that the authors are wearing the right ideological pants, where is the difference? As it is his story, he can decide to decline or accept a nomination as he sees fit. If he feels that he’s being endorsed by a bigot, he doesn’t like bigots and believes that his nomination was in part or in whole due to said bigots, then he can decline.

      You want people to stop declining nominations? It’s kinda simple. Remove the slates. If the Rabid Puppies and Vox Day stop putting out their lists, people won’t have a political reason to decline the nomination.

      • “A satirical pushback prank” isn’t a real nomination.

        Tons of respect to Mays for choosing to lose money rather than participate in your prank.

  17. Pingback: The Hugo Awards: A Mixed Bag (Part 2) – Conceptual Neighborhood

  18. Totally understand. I have not read the story yet, but I will most certainly be buying and reading it, and judging from how much I enjoyed A Sword Into Darkness (which was on my nominating ballot for last year!), I’m guessing I will like it too. Keep your chin up…

  19. Mr. May –

    This is all well and good, however; you really need to focus on that sequel to ASID! 🙂 Forego niceties such as sunlight, dinner, and hot showers if need be. …my e-copy and hardcopy both are going wear out in the meantime!

    Keep up the good fight.

  20. Pingback: Glenn Hauman: Neil Gaiman Does Not Need A Pity Hugo | ComicMix

  21. I appreciate deeply your principled stance on this issue and your taking the time to explain it to us – especially in view of the fact that you will probably get grief about it as a result. It is wonderful to see posts about this issue with more light than heat. Thank you. I hope you enjoy GRRM’s “losers party” – you definitely earned your ticket!

  22. Pingback: Puppy-Free Hugo-Voting Guide – And the Problem with It | Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

  23. In support of your decision, I’ve just bought a copy of “The Commuter”. You may not get increased sales from a Hugo win, but perhaps you’ll get it from making a stand.

  24. Pingback: Rabid Puppy Finalists’ Reactions, Compiled | Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

  25. I figured I’d buy your story since you seem like an interesting guy, and it was a lot of fun! Is there more in this world for me to purchase? I loved the humor and the interesting juxtaposition between magic and modern.

  26. Pingback: Hugo Reactions Roundup and Thoughts | SF Bluestocking

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