I’m not sure how relevant the Hugos are anymore, but I’m pretty sure Jim Butcher shouldn’t get one.
Since this is (among other things) a book blog, I thought I’d weigh in on the recent Hugo nomination clusterfuck. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to offer anything NEW to the discussion, but I figured I’d share a few thoughts on it anyway, maybe even fill in some of you who were lucky enough to be unaware at this point.
For those of you who aren’t sci-fi nerds, here’s a brief primer:
Some years ago, a writer by the name of Larry Correia got butthurt that he and his buddies never got nominated for any Hugo awards. It’s worth noting that Correia & Co. are predominantly writers of right-leaning military sci-fi. So, y’know. Republicans. Libertarians, to be more precise, though I’m sure Correia would be quick to correct me for getting whatever political label he identifies with wrong. Whatevs.
In any case, because of said butthurt, Correia started crying elitism, and decided he was going to start a campaign called “Sad Puppies,” snarkily named for the idea that Hugos only went to “dramatic” and/or “elitist” stories about depressed canines, and not about Hard Men Making Hard Decisions (in space). Their goal was to stuff the Hugo ballots with “their” nominations. There’s also a splinter group called “Rabid Puppies” which decided Correia’s suggestions weren’t manly enough, or something. I frankly don’t care enough to research the differences between the two groups of assholes.
For the first two years, the “Sad Puppies” campaign remained unknown to all but Correia’s die-hard fans. But, at some point in the last couple of months, they decided to reach out to another internet demographic.
Again, this is just me being a rational person, but whenever I have a point to make, reaching out to a group best known for rape threats and RL trolling doesn’t strike me as the best way to do so. It’d be like a politician trying very hard to get the KKK vote (so, y’know, Republicans). There’s a lot of similarities between the two groups, especially since both like to call themselves wizards and shit.
But, as a result, the Adjectived Puppies have been able to hijack the Hugo nominations. Among the nominees are:
A dude who calls himself Vox Day, who is the only person in fifty years who got himself kicked out of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This is because he’s a fucking racist. Also, despite his pretentious self-chosen name and his frothing hatred for most everything, Vox Day is not a supervillain. I imagine this is because Magneto and Dr. Doom wouldn’t put up with his shit.
John C. Wright, who wracked up five Puppy-influenced nominations in various short-story forms. Wright is also the kind of cranky old reactionary who starts frothing at the mouth whenever he hears about something new and popular, like the Legend of Korra finale, or the fact that the new Miss Marvel is Muslim, or Terry Pratchett. Seriously, dude wrote a blog post about how he wanted to punch Terry Pratchett in the face. Fuck that guy. It’s like he’s running down a list of popular things to get irrationally angry about. He hasn’t gotten to Steven Universe or Gundam Build Fighters yet, but hey, give him time.
…and Jim Butcher.
Incidentally, Butcher’s Skin Game is the only novel on the Hugo ballot this year that I’ve actually read (thus far). The adjective dogs added him to their slate as a nod towards populism, because they keep crying “bestsellers are a better sign of popularity and quality and herpaderp!”
Does this make Butcher ‘guilty by association?’ Well…no. I wouldn’t label him a racist by any means…but at the same time, I dare say Butcher suffers from a severe case of “nerdy white guy obliviousness.” He’s staked out his own comfort zone, where he writes what he knows about. Hell, I suffered from nerdy white guy obliviousness many years ago, back when I was a young and stupid college student. Thankfully, I’ve grown wiser since then, having learned to examine my own privilege and biases.
In turn, when you look at the Dresden Files through a progressive lens, you can see certain problematic aspects. For example, the Dresden Files are set in Chicago, one of the country’s largest, most diverse cities…and yet, off the top of my head, I can count the minority characters off on one hand. (And heck, a lot of those characters aren’t even from Chicago to begin with). And that’s before you get into the whole debacle of what happened to the most kick-ass female character in the series in Skin Game.
I’m not going to pillory Jim Butcher. His books are engrossing and entertaining, and I never get the sense that the problematic issues I mentioned before are a matter of active malice on his part. This said, while Skin Game was an entertaining read…I’d hardly call it Hugo material.
I haven’t read any of the other books nominated for the 2014 Hugos- but I might see about remedying that in the near future- I’ve heard good things about The Goblin Emperor and Ancillary Sword. Even still, I’ve read enough Science Fiction (and previous Hugo winners) to have a good eye for what makes for good SF/F and what doesn’t.
The thing is, Butcher doesn’t bring anything new to the SF/F genre in Skin Game. It’s not the best book I read in 2014- heck, it’s not even the best book in the Dresden Files series (I’d say Dead Beat is probably the best one, because it has a zombie tyrannosaurus). Skin Game is a straightforward heist story- and heck, at the end, it becomes more of a dungeon crawl. The book was fun, but it didn’t make me think. Or, at least it didn’t make me think beyond “this rules lawyering on Murphy is bullshit and Butters is terrible now.”
Of course, I’m not inclined to drop the 40 bucks to register to vote for the Hugos, either, so all I can really do at this point and sit back and watch the ensuing trainwreck. Does this mean the Hugos have become meaningless as an award? I dunno. Still, it’s a pain to see such fuckwittery stick its obnoxious nose into my corner of fandom. Silver lining is, at least I’ve now got some material to get snarky and indignant about. I imagine that the various dog-labeled idiots will get shouted down by the greater number of rational SF/F fans before long.
Then again, I’m an optimist.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m gonna play some Saint’s Row 4 to cleanse my brain-palate. For a ridiculously violent game about stealing cars and killing aliens, it’s surprisingly progressive on race and gender. Everybody is a hilarious sociopath in those games!