That’s my takeaway from the Hugo mess of the past six months.
The best summaries of the fracas—my new favorite word—are at The New York Times and Wired. Of course, the two biggest guns fired off their shots in the aftermath. On one side, John Scalzi summarized his thoughts as eloquently as usual on Monday, after the awards and “No Awards” were announced. On the other, Vox Day reiterated his position with similar subtlety.
Basically, you had two different conservative or libertarian or “right wing” groups advocating several slates of works for the Hugo Awards. As I understand it, this is not a violation of the Hugo rules in the slightest, but—according to many—tramples on the spirit. The other side disagrees.
My short story Turncoat, set in the Quantum Mortis sci-fi universe and written with a very specific aim, was nominated this way: Last spring, Vox Day approached me about writing a short story for the Riding the Red Horse anthology. He saw it as a successor to Jerry Pournelle’s There Will be War. Since I had a genuinely good time writing the Quantum Mortis books, I agreed. Over the next few months, I brainstormed concepts, and wrote Turncoat in July.
Fast forward to December 2014 and Turncoat was released as part of Riding the Red Horse. The first I learned of the Rabid Puppies thing was when I saw Turncoat on Vox’s slate or list or helpful suggestions round-up — whatever you want to call it — in February. I thought that was nice to be considered for such an award, and vaguely read over what Rabid Puppies’ aim was. Frankly, I didn’t think they had a snowball’s chance. But then again, I knew next to nothing about the Hugos and absolutely zero about the previous Sad Puppies efforts.
Whatever the goals of both Puppy groups are/were, they were not, from my perspective, pursued with Christian views in mind. The campaigning on both sides was, in one word, brutal. Even supposing the Puppy groups were correct that they were persecuted and disregarded when it came to science fiction awards, the whole fracas is in direct violation of Paul’s admonitions in Romans 12: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
The Puppy vs. Trufan war was not conducted in this fashion. There were some on both sides who conducted themselves well, but name-calling and threats dominated. I’m sure a lot of people outside the debate now think there’s a ton of crazy people reading sci-fi and fantasy.
But don’t kid yourself: this showdown was not about faith. It was about message.
In Christian fiction circles, “preachy” means you talk too much about Christianity in your writing and your characters are too blunt about their faith. It’s considered literary Bible-thumping, if you will.
Preachy writing is not limited to those of evangelical persuasion. In secular walks, there’s a conservative faction concerned that modern sci-fi and fantasy has become too preachy in terms of social issues such as homosexuality, feminism, race, and immigration. They feel the genres should move back toward the classic themes of heroism, adventure, and good triumphing over evil.
Are they correct? My tastes in science fiction tend toward adventure rather than drama, so I’ve missed a lot of this preaching in the new works. Consider this: one of the most popular sci-fi books in recent years, The Martian, is going to be turned into a major movie. It is free of most preaching, except for one thing: the lone survivor triumphing over a hostile environment. It’s also not up for any major awards.
There are some who irately point out that the Puppy slates included works that are message fiction, broadcasting a social or religious point of view, and slammed the Puppies for being hypocritical. What they failed to understand is that the Puppies never said they were against message fiction in general, but rather against a certain message, one that promotes a more liberal viewpoint at the expense of story. I won’t pinpoint any examples, but there was grumbling against stories that were romance with a thin veneer of science fiction.
Of course, this may all be tilting at windmills. Why? Consider science fiction’s share of the sales market these days. According the annual analysis of genres by Publishers Weekly, science-fiction’s sales in 2014 for the adult market (and I’ll ignore young adult because the Hugos tend toward more literary grown-up types) was 4.1 million. That’s out of the total adult fiction market of 138.7 million.
So science-fiction sales were 2.98 percent of the year’s total. This of course only deals with print, not e-books, so the percentage could be greater, but even if sci-fi e-books at double or triple that percentage, that’s still less than 10 percent. I found it all exhausting and at times ludicrous.
My point? This is a very small corner of our lives. Our faith should be the focus, with we should enjoy stories and write stories to honor God. Whether you choose to honor God by reaching to those who are lost with inspiring stories, or by delivering the reassurance of the Gospel to those who are found, is up to you.