The Improbable Author

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.