Friday, April 17, 2015

The Hugo Awards and Various Repellent Puppies

By now I think everyone’s heard of the Hugos Drama and the issue with the various puppies. In truth there’s not much for us to add - especially since we’ve already spoken about the Hugos last year and the problems insecure, over-privileged cis, straight, white able-bodied men having a hissy fit causes to the genre and marginalised people trying to find some kind of home in speculative fiction. We’ve also talked about how hostile this makes the genre and fandom and how, ultimately, this is why the genre isn’t more inclusive

Thankfully, many many people have spoken up (George R R Martin has almost written a book on the subject) about how utterly wrong the Puppies’ orchestrated campaign to ensure that only cis, straight white men are deemed acceptable awards winners.

There’s something else that struck me - something beyond even the inclusion, bigotry and exclusion that they champion. After all, if you’re reading this and have read this blog we have already written reams on the damage of erasure, tokenism et al; it hardly needs me to rehash for the Hugos (again).

But it’s also such a terrible way to treat this amazing genre.The agenda of The Puppies - both Sad and Rabid - is so depressingly awful quite aside from inherent bigotry and unexamined privilege that so saturates them - but for their determination to make this genre, this genre which should be so utterly vast, so narrow.

Speculative fiction has, as we’ve said before, the potential to be the most imaginative, unlimited genre out there. Speculative fiction, genre fiction, can reach the furthest extent of our imagination in a way that no other genre can touch. The stories within this genre are gloriously, perfectly limitless in a way no other media can be.

Which is what we’re struggling for. We’re pushing for justice, inclusion for an end to damaging tropes and so much else - and in the process of doing so we’re also pushing for this genre to realise its potential. We are calling - yelling, begging, demanding - for more stories! Stories about different people in different situations, stories with different angles and nuance, stories with different contexts and different possibilities. Stories about all the people doing all the things in all the places!

If you love speculative fiction why would you try so very hard to prune it back to something so narrow and small? This is epitomised by this quote from one of the Puppies:

The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation…A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.

I want to pick up that book with a spaceship in the cover and know it could be about space exploration and pioneering derring do, or racial prejudice and exploitation or gay dragons from another planet or sexism and the oppression of women - or ALL OF THE ABOVE AT THE SAME TIME. I want to pick up that book and know it could be about anything - about everything - and explore the blurb and what others have said about it and read a few chapters to see if I like it. I want to pick up that book and know that, because it’s speculative fiction, it could be ANYTHING. It could be EVERYTHING and it could reach the very edges of human imagination. I want to pick up a book and be AWED by the sheer, joyful, limitless potential of human creativity.

I cannot even begin to grasp the mind set that looks at this potential and says “no, only tell these stories” or “no, I want my books to be predictable based on something as simple as the cover art.” I can’t begin to grasp that attitude in anyone - but from people who are supposed to actually value this genre, this attitude is horrifying.