The saga of GamerGate is almost too long to break down in a single article. The Cliff Notes rundown: A dedicated group of Internet users over Twitter, 4chan, and Reddit became convinced that video game journalism was dominated by anti-male sentiments, and responded to this by issuing rape and death threats to women in the industry, revealing personal information of female gaming journalists, and harassing these same women as well as their supporters over all channels of social media. So what does this have to do with the Hugo Award, one of the most prestigious honors bestowed every year to the best sci-fi and fantasy literature?
What’s slowly been forming these last couple years is a movement within the voting for the Hugo Awards, making a radical claim that their favorite stories are being unfairly co-opted to promote social issues concerning women and minorities. The movement calls themselves the “Sad Puppies,” and their mission statement is…well. Something.
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.
They soon developed their own spin-off sect loosely affiliated with the GamerGaters led by Vox Day, called the “Rabid Puppies,” arguing that they’re “striking back against the left-wing control freaks who have subjected science fiction to ideological control for two decade.” It’s unsettling at best, and what’s more upsetting is that the Puppies have managed to completely game the Hugo Awards to fit their twisted, backward agenda.
Becoming a voter for the Hugos is surprisingly easy: All you need is to spend $40 on a membership and suddenly you have the power to cast a vote for any and everything you please. As part of a coordinated movement to stack the voting with their own picks, the Puppies got the necessary votes to push their own nominees onto the Hugo ballot this year. Sci-fi is a literary genre that has made great leaps and bounds in recognizing the work of female and minority authors in recent years, pushing forward with greater themes that promote real, social change set in rich, expanded universes. That being so, it’s more than unfortunate to see anyone attempt to reverse this progress for the sake of promoting a narrow-minded set of values like that of the Sad Puppies.
It’s an odd controversy that’s arisen very quietly, as an extension of a GamerGate movement that’s flown directly in the face of the progressive, accepting society we should be looking to promote. Whatever your feelings on gender or orientation, no one deserves to be subjected to the level of harassment the victims of this movement have experienced. Now it’s bleeding out into literature and out of the gaming community, thanks to a coordinated strategy built on the back of GamerGate’s mission to silence those who support gender and racial equality. In the end one could argue that it’s only one set of awards in the face of a whole world of sci-fi and fantasy literature, but the mere existence of the Sad Puppies speaks volumes to an overtly sexist mindset that should have been vanquished decades ago.
This isn’t the first time the Hugo Awards voting has had their system gamed, but it’s more a representation of a shameful arm of fandom that’s been gaining far too much steam in recent months. Keeping in mind that Rabid Puppies and GamerGate leader Vox Day is of the mind that women shouldn’t vote, it’s clear we have ourselves a full-blown agenda that would welcome a return to caveman-levels of women’s rights. What we can hope for now is that regardless of the outcome of the Sad Puppies’ co-opting of the Hugo Awards, those who look to pen literature promoting social change will still have their work find a way out into the world.
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