There are plenty of familiar names on the list of this year’s Hugo nominees—George R.R. Martin, Neal Stephenson, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman—but for the second year in a row, the prestigious science fiction awards will be controversial.
The Hugo Awards are nominated and awarded by members of the World Science Fiction Convention, which anyone can join, so long as they purchase a supporting membership. For the last four years, a group called the “Sad Puppies” has been encouraging people to join and vote against the books that usually win Hugo Awards, which they believe are “niche, academic, overtly to the left in ideology and flavor, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun.”
In 2015, a breakaway group called the “Rabid Puppies” emerged, placing a heavy emphasis on combating the Hugos’ “overtly to the left” position—think of the group as something like science fiction’s GamerGate. Both groups campaigned stridently against what they believed was an SJW agenda, but could more accurately be described as a diverse slate of nominees. In 2015, the groups had a major impact on the awards, nominating a host of right-wing books and prompting a crisis in the community. (The New Republic’s Jeet Heer has a very insightful essay about the controversy.)
This year, both groups got more or less what they wanted. Nominees include “SJWs Always Lie” by Rabid Puppies leader Vox Day, who says things that would make Donald Trump blush, and a short story called “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by a presumably pseudonymous writer named Chuck Tingle. Nominations like these caused a backlash to the awards last year, though so far it seems that the science fiction community is gritting its teeth. Last year, however, Martin said the Puppies had “broken the Hugo Awards, and I am not sure they can ever be repaired,” and it looks like he was right.