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Following up on the Puppies’ aims, I’ve been reading Sarah Hoyt’s blog. Writing for the Puppies, she basically identifies the issue as between literary awards vs. sales. According to Hoyt, a Hugo Award increases sales, a Nebula is inert and a World Fantasy Award reduces sales. This suggests the attack on the Hugo Awards is about a) increasing sales or b) damaging the ability of the Hugos to increase sales for the winners. According to Hoyt, it’s just about getting some “fun” stuff on the ballot.

It makes sense that the Hugo would increase sales. It is supposedly a popularity award voted on by a group of people nerdy enough to attend WorldCon. This means people would assume nominees and winners would represent the popular taste. According to Hoyt, the Hugo has turned into a literary award instead. Literary awards select for ideas and writing technique over popular taste, and generally increase prestige for the writer, the publisher, and according to Hoyt, the writer’s agent. So, this means agents, magazine editors and book publishers are screening their slush piles for possible literary award-winning stories to increase their own prestige instead of looking for quality pieces that would be good sellers and make money for the writers. It also suggests the voters at WorldCon are increasingly these same people.

Looking at it this way, an associated group of writers has made an effort to get their stuff on the ballot in order to increase both their prestige and their sales. This may be correct, but if so, the main effect has been to expose the writing and the writers to criticism, some of it literary and some of it otherwise, leading to episodes of trolling and generally bad behavior that reduces their standing in the community. Likely some of the Puppies entered into the deal with this idea.

On the other hand, there have been a number of complaints about how this battle has “broken” the Hugo Award system. We can figure this is from people who have a lot invested in the awards, for example, past and aspiring winners, their editors, publishers, agents, etc. This suggests that some of the Puppies actually have the aim of destroying the Hugo Award system in order to break the hold of the group maintaining it as a literary award. This would reduce its prestige value and level the playing field a bit. Nominating lower quality and offensive works would be a part of this strategy. As I understand it, this is the split between the Sad and the Rabid Puppies led by Vox Day.

Looking at Hoyt’s statement that this is about getting some “fun” stuff on the ballot, I didn’t see anything especially fun. Leckie, Heuvelt and Monette came closest, but that’s the literary stuff. Looking around, I can’t find any reviews that say of how fun these nominees are. Reviews for a couple of the pieces actually say “avoid.” Applying the scientific method, this means I have to reject this claim. So, I conclude there may be an actual attack on the Hugo Awards.

A resort to strategies like this means there’s a disconnect in the SF&F community that we need to look at.

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