Hugo Awards need to embrace diversity

Last summer, gamers banded together in an attempt to push independent game developer Zoë Quinn out of the industry. Quinn was targeted by hate mail, online harassment, and a tell-all blog post written by a former boyfriend. This deplorable example of misogyny in the gaming industry came to be known as “gamergate,” an example of rampant sexism in the video game industry.

Now, science fiction writers are facing their own version of gamergate. In April, the finalists for the prestigious Hugo Awards were announced.

The Hugo Awards are one of science fiction’s highest prizes for novelists, and the finalists are determined by ballot. Any member of the 2014, 2015, or 2016 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) can cast their vote, meaning that anyone who paid the $40 membership fee has a say.

This year, a fringe movement of right-wing voters — the self-named “Sad Puppies,” a play on so-called Liberal “bleeding hearts” — influenced the contest to bring their picks to the top. The group, headed by conservative authors Brad R. Torgersen, Larry Correia, and Vox Day, pushed Worldcon members to vote for a specific shortlist of authors.

Although this is the third year that the Sad Puppies have tried to influence the Hugo Awards, this is the first year that their efforts have had a noticeable impact. Three of the five best novelist nominations are on the Sad Puppies shortlist, and the Best Novella nominations match the Sad Puppies’ picks exactly.

The authors chosen, many say, are not representative of science fiction as a whole and crowd out progressive and minority authors. John C. Wright, for example, one of the authors nominated for his novellas, is known for his outspoken homophobic viewpoints.

The Sad Puppies’ undue influence on the Hugo Awards is a step backwards for a society gradually moving in the general direction of equality. The Sad Puppies represent a fringe group that is fighting against a science fiction scene that is more diverse than it has ever been.

Worldcon must rework its voting system, making it harder for one group to sway the nominations. Beyond this, however, science fiction and fantasy fans and authors should fight against such conservative jury rigging, continuing to make Worldcon and the Hugo Awards more inclusive of diverse, progressive authors.

Fans should embrace the more nuanced science fiction and fantasy created by the younger, more diverse crowd of authors that would not have gained the same kind of recognition in the seventies or eighties, rather than trying to strike it down.