Keymasters and Gatekeepers?

Puppies in tin foil hats
Puppies in tin foil hats (Click to embiggen)
So the Sad Puppies have officially released their recommendation list. Yes, I said list, not slate. Last year’s Sad/Rabid slates were coordinated and encouraged bloc-voting. This year different people are in charge of the Sad Puppy campaign, and they gathered a big list after taking recommendations for months. In all of the fiction categories, at least, there are more than five recommendations, so you can’t slate vote it.

A few other people have written about this year’s list. In sad puppies 4: the… better behaving?, Dara Korra’ti says a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the list. I’m glad that the Sad Puppies have taken a more transparent approach. I’m glad that the list isn’t dominated by stories published in only one very small publication house owned by one of the organizers. I’m really glad that three of the recommendations in a single category are not by the same author. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that the people running it this year are sincerely trying to do no more than get more of the works they like on the ballot, rather than push a political agenda. I’ve never objected to recommendation lists no matter who makes those recommendations. As Dara explains:

What I object to is their conspiracy-theory paranoia, their Not Real Fan bullshittery, their political propaganda, their insistence that people voting for things other than their list has nothing to do with actual enjoyment or quality but a cartoonish parody of a political standard they made up, and – most of all – their ballot-stuffing last year. But I do not object to them making recommendations lists.

I am also still a firm believer that at this year’s World Science Fiction Society business meeting we must ratify E Pluribus Hugo so that the particular hack that the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies exploited last year won’t easily happen again. And I remain slightly worried that the only reason the current leaders are being reasonable this time (and the more noxious folks are being quieter) is because they hope the rules change won’t be adopted, so they can do what they did last year again, since any rules change has to be approved in two consecutive annual meetings to take effect. I really hope that isn’t what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, since last year they were crowing that there was no way they could lose because they had taken over a couple of whole categories, then threw a hissy fit when it was pointed out that Hugo voters could No Award those categories, and then they tried to claim that’s what they wanted all along, et cetera, I have no confidence that this isn’t just a tactic to lull some voters into a sense of false security.

Alexandra Erin also shared some thoughts on the topic I found myself nodding in agreement to in Hugo Stuff: Just taking a moment to acknowledge…. The most important bit, I think is:

The fact that a small, self-entitled clique that sought to wrestle control of the award away from fandom at large was able to game the ballot formation so effectively last year came down to how low participation in the nominations historically has been. The fact that this same clique was given a thorough drubbing by fandom at large in the actual awards came down to how high participation was.

Meanwhile, in Sad Puppies Are Up + My Hugo Recs Cisrova wonders:

It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close. Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha! Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played. That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.

And Cora Buhlert rounds up a few more comments and facts at Hugo Season 2016: The Return of the Puppies, and asks:

…if your followers heap abuse on everybody who dares to disagree with you, is it any surprise that a lot of people want nothing to do with you?

All that said, I am still happy about a few of the silver linings of last year’s Affair of the Melancholy Canines: lots of fans and small press writers who never participated in the Hugo voting before have joined; I met several cool people (particularly several very interesting queer and feminist writers) because of the discussions surrounding the affair; and the nominees for Dramatic Presentation, Short Form finally had some diversity.

I don’t think enough people give the Puppies credit for that last bit. In the previous nine years, at least two of the options in this category each time were episodes of Doctor Who (or a related show). The last few years the category has been three or four Doctor Who eps and a Game of Thrones episode, and maybe one other show. But last year, five different television series were represented. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest Doctor Who fans out there, but there are and have been other shows that deserved a nod. Last year the ballot consisted of five different shows, one episode each. Which I think was great.

I have been reluctant to post my list of Hugo recommendations because, as Cisrova observes, with only a few weeks left until the deadline, there isn’t much time for people to actually read all the things I might recommend, and I think you ought only to recommend things you’ve actually read/watched/listened to et cetera. I’ve spent most of my spare time the last two months reading books I bought that were published last year, and reading short stories in on-line zines in order to have more things to nominate. But I figure there is nothing wrong with sharing recommendations, as long as one is clear that it is just a recommendation for things I think you ought to read or check out:

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
(I decided in the spirit of choices, to limit myself to one episode for each series I nominated)

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: El Jefe
  • Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
  • Orphan Black: Certain Agony of the Battlefield
  • The Expanse: The Big Empty
  • Person of Interest: If. Then. Else.


  • The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Shepherd’s Crown, by Terry Pratchett (in case the series as a whole doesn’t make it)
  • The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
  • Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear

(I’m still working on this… lots of stories I’ve read and liked are shorter than novella length)

  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
  • Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor


  • “The New Mother,” by Eugene Fischer

Short Story

  • “How My Father Became a God” by Dilman Dila
  • “Ashfall,” by Edd Vick and Manny Frisberg
  • “In Libris,” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “The Ways of Walls and Words,” by Sabrina Vourvoulias


  • Cabbages & Kings
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
  • The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Flame On!

Fan Writer

  • Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Leslie Light
  • Mark Oshiro
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Alexandra Erin

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Ant-Man
  • The Rocky Horror Show Live

Related Work

  • Geek Knits, by Toni Carr
  • Bone Walker, by Crime and the Forces of Evil

Next, I need to go through all the online zines I read and figure out which editors to nominate in short form, and figure out what fan sites (in addition to File 770) that I read regularly count as fanzines.

I’m nominating only things I’ve read/watched/listened to myself. And I plan, just as I did last year, to read everything that makes it to the ballot, no matter who wrote it or who included it on a slate or list. If I don’t like the piece, it goes below No Award; if I like it, it’ll rank above No Award—again regardless of who wrote it or recommended it.

6 thoughts on “Keymasters and Gatekeepers?

  1. Hi. Thanks for reading “The New Mother?” For the record, it’s a novella, not a short story.

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