Here’s the thing that’s bugging me about the current kerfuffle around the Hugo awards and the Sad Puppy slate:

Maia Drazhar.

That requires some explanation. You know how a lot of science fiction and fantasy fen go to cons, find their people and live geekily ever after? For one reason or another that never worked out for me. Thus, while SFF is very important to me, my interest in that world is all about the books, not the community (and it is mostly the books, much more than the novellas, novellettes, short stories or movies, though there has been stuff I care about in all of those categories). My interest in the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards is about what won, not who won. I like to see good books get the attention they deserve.

For that reason, of course I’m not happy about people who right-out-loud are admitting to creating an award slate based on who wrote what rather than what got written. I know the creators of that slate claim that they’re only reacting in kind to what others have been doing for years, but 1) the moral failures of your enemies are no guide for how a civilized person ought to behave (I’m pretty sure Maia himself would second me on that) and 2) bullshit. I see people fighting all the time for more inclusivity and fairer treatment within SF; some of those people are friends of mine. I see the same people talking about their craft and honing it; I’m sure there are exceptions because there always are, but the people I know and respect don’t want social justice to serve as an excuse for bad writing because that would completely miss the point. Nobody is going to get into the head of a character unlike him- or herself and be enriched thereby unless that character is as well-developed and as human as the author can possibly make it.

On the other hand I’ve seen a lot of posts about how the Hugos are completely devalued this year, with stress on the No Award option. I understand that people are hurt and want to hit back, but I’m hoping that no one goes around voting No Awards on a wholesale basis – and that’s where Maia Drazhar comes in. He’s the eponymous hero of Katherine Addison’s book The Goblin Emperor (Amazon | Powells), and he spends a whole long book trying to do what’s right in difficult and confusing circumstances. It’s a fantastic book; I think it deserves to win the Hugo and Nebula this year, and would be a winner or at least a strong contender in any year. It’s that good. I’d like to see it win an award and I’d like that award not to be tainted.

I’m sure it’s not the only deserving thing there; I haven’t read anything in the other written genres but it ought to be interesting to see how the Lego Movie, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy match up.

I’m not saying that no one should vote No Award at all – I understand that it can be used surgically, that you can say “this story should win so I’m listing it first, that one was decent so it’s second, this other story doesn’t really succeed but it attempts some very interesting stuff so I’m putting it third, and the rest of these are crap so No Award No Award No Award”. That makes sense to me.

I’d been sort of thinking about attending WorldCon this year – Spokane isn’t so far from here. But I was of divided mind and none of this is making it more appealing. I’ll probably just stick with reading books, talking about ones I like and cheering from the sidelines. And with luck maybe Goblin Emperor will win a Nebula.