The Sad Puppies are what the gomers who undermined the Hugo nominations are calling themselves. I’m interested in seeing how they defend themselves…or was, until I read their arguments. And all I can conclude is that these are really pathetic, brainless people.
For example, this guy Brad R. Torgersen. He tries to explain their cause by first setting up an analogy.
Imagine for a moment that you go to the local grocery to buy a box of cereal. You are an avid enthusiast for Nutty Nuggets. You will happily eat Nutty Nuggets until you die. Nutty Nuggets have always come in the same kind of box with the same logo and the same lettering. You could find the Nutty Nuggets even in the dark, with a blindfold over your eyes. That’s how much you love them.
Then, one day, you get home from the store, pour a big bowl of Nutty Nuggets . . . and discover that these aren’t really Nutty Nuggets. They came in the same box with the same lettering and the same logo, but they are something else. Still cereal, sure. But not Nutty Nuggets. Not wanting to waste money, you eat the different cereal anyway. You find the experience is not what you remembered it should be, when you ate actual Nutty Nuggets. You walk away from the experience somewhat disappointed. What the hell happened to Nutty Nuggets? Did the factory change the formula or the manufacturing process? Maybe you just got a bad box.
OK…I can understand that. Sometimes you just want your comfort food, and you want it to be prepared the same way, every time. This is the force that drove McDonald’s to world domination — the same food available everywhere, all the time, nice and greasy. I understand, but I don’t think that way; I want something different, I like exploring new flavors. I go to our local Mexican restaurant and pick a completely different meal each time. But wanting the same thing? Fine. My wife discovered her favorite thing on the menu early on, and she gets it always. No problem!
Except the analogy he’s setting up is to justify books. He wants them predictable. He wants to look at the cover and know exactly what he’s going to get when he reads it.
And he’s an author.
Well, at least I know I’d only have to read one of his books, if I felt like it (I do not), and then I could skip the rest.
But you’re reading this and saying, no, that can’t be. Books are supposed to be different from each other. Just imagine if every time you picked one up it would just be a retelling of Harry Potter, over and over again. No author could seriously propose such a justification.
Really, he did.
That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
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, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?
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.
Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.
AN AUTHOR WROTE THAT. Unbelievable. He wants purity of the genre: books with rockets on the cover must be entirely about machines and traveling. Books with a guy and an axe on the cover must be about barbarians killing monsters. Don’t you dare change the formula. These books are not allowed to be about race, or colonialism, or sexism, or oppressive social structures. He thinks those are bad things to bring up in a science fiction book.
Our once reliable packaging has too often defrauded our readership. It’s as true with the Hugos as it is with the larger genre as a whole. Our readers wanted Nutty Nuggets because (for decades) Nutty Nuggets is what we gave them. Maybe some differences here and there, but nothing so outrageously different as to make our readers look at the cover and say, “What the hell is this crap??”
Apparently, he stopped reading the genre with Hugo Gernsback.
Maybe he opened The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, expecting a shoot-em-up with aliens, and got a story about culture and gender.
The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950…surely, that one is about brave Americans conquering a planet? There’s a story or two in there that turns that trope on its ear. Brad Torgerson’s response was probably “What the hell is this crap??”
Let’s try Dhalgren, from 1975 — nope, that sends poor Brad screaming off to find some fantasy. Swords, half-naked slave girls, bloody battles.
Hey, The Book of the New Sun has a guy with a big sword on the cover, and it’s new — it came out 35 years ago. But then it’s a massive allegorical series of books on this far future world, using words from a language Wolfe invented.
Lord of Light? An amazing melding of Hindu gods and high technology. Stanislaw Lem? He’s old school, certainly his books must be straightforward space opera. I know, Phillip K. Dick! Nothing twisty and weird there, no sir!
I guess his only recourse is Robert Heinlein. Conservative politics, a bit of militarism, hyper-competent engineers solving mechanical problems all over the place. Like in Stranger in a Strange Land. There wouldn’t be any of that freaky social consciousness crapola in a book from 1961, would there?
I first started reading fantasy when I was six or seven years old, and my father gave me a copy of Tarzan of the Apes. I was eight or nine years old when my father again infected me: I was sick and stuck in bed for a few days, and he brought me a copy of Childhood’s End from the library and totally blew my mind. I didn’t want Nutty Nuggets again and again…I wanted that experience of surprise and insight and strangeness again. That’s why I read science fiction ferociously for years afterward.
And science fiction has always been this way. It’s always been a genre of new ideas and experimentation. It’s not like all of a sudden in the 2000s a few social radicals have hijacked the field and sent it off into wild new directions, discombobulating all of their readers. They’ve always done that. It’s got a readership that loves being discombobulated and twisting their brains around strangeness.
I see someone accusing authors of “defrauding” their readership because they are creative and explore novel ideas and think about more than just the gobbledygook pseudomechanics they’ll use to make their spaceships fly, and I see the real fraud: that is a person who does not understand science fiction and fantasy in the slightest.
Maybe the sad puppies should just pick up a copy of one of their own books and read it over and over again everyday. No surprises. They’d get exactly what they expect every time. And they’ve probably already got a rocket on the cover.
George RR Martin has spoken, at length and in great detail (Hey! Like his books!). He goes through the history of the Hugos and shows, with the evidence, that there is no pattern of discrimination against Conservative White Dudes.