Self-described “Social Justice Paladin” Mary Kowal has purchased one hundred sets of voting rights for the 2015 Hugo Awards and distributed them to the pro-SJW audience of her blog. The Hugo Awards, the pre-eminent literary awards in science fiction and fantasy, have become a battleground between the existing power structure and a group that’s come to be known as the “Puppies,” who support a more diverse slate of nominees.
We’ve covered the story before here, and Reaxxion readers will be interested in the parallels between the Sad Puppies’ struggle and that of GamerGate. After the Puppies scored a decisive victory by winning a huge portion of the nominations, rhetoric between the two groups has been fierce, with even well-known authors like George R.R. Martin speaking out on it. Kowal’s move, however, may threaten to destroy the award itself.
How SJWs Are Rigging The Hugo Awards
To vote in the Hugo Awards, a person must either attend the WorldCon Science Fiction convention—being held this year in Spokane, Washington—or purchase a $40 supporting membership. This $40 charge acts as a barrier to voting, preventing anyone but dedicated fans from voting in these important awards.
While there have been allegations of authors buying voting rights for their friends and family in the past, Kowal appears to be the first person to do so openly. While not strictly forbidden by the WorldCon rules, as Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden (probably the foremost opponent of the Puppies) has said, “As anyone over the age of ten knows, it’s generally possible to do things that are dubious, or scummy, or even downright evil, without violating any laws or rules.” While he was speaking against the Puppies at the time, his comment certainly seems applicable here.
As I write this, Kowal has raised enough money via anonymous donations, many of which she says come from authors who are running against the Puppies’ slate themselves (and thus stand to gain if the Puppies are defeated), to purchase one hundred votes. While this may seem a small amount, last year’s Hugos only saw around 3000 votes cast total. If the race is close this year, these one hundred (3.3% of the total) could easily sway the voting.
While Kowal has avoided making recommendations, and is giving voting rights to readers of her blog without making them promise to vote a certain way, it seems clear where the vast majority of these votes are going to end up. Readers of her blog have a very specific slant, and it’s not in favor of the Sad Puppies. One commenter described themselves as a “socialist transsexual atheist boogeywoman Social Justice Wizard,” and this seems to go for many of the other posters there.
Kowal has said that she considers herself a social justice warrior (though she prefers the term “Social Justice Paladin”), and its clear from a quick perusal of her blog that the majority of her readers are, at a minimum, sympathetic to this view. In fact, Kowal herself has called at least one person behind the puppies slate a “rabid weasel,” who is “racist/sexist/elitist” and needs to “shut the f*ck up.”
May The Man With The Deepest Pockets Win
There’s also a more direct motive at work here: money. Kowal herself has no Hugo nominations this year, but much of the money for the hundred votes she’s buying is coming from authors who do. Why would they be doing this?
The Hugo Award is to sci-fi what the Oscars are to movies: it helps move product. Kowal, a former Hugo winner herself, understands this, and her own biography prominently lists both her nominations and award. She tells me, though I have no way of verifying this myself, that at least one of the people providing the funds is on the Sad Puppies side, but even if so, a lot of this money (and it is a lot of money: at $40 per vote, these one hundred votes come out to $4,000) is coming from people who very likely see it as an investment and are hoping to reap a return.
The double standard here is obvious. I asked Kowal if she felt it would be right for authors on the Puppies slate to purchase voting rights for their friends and readers. She told me it would be a conflict of interest. However, she is more than willing to take money from her side.
What happens if Kowal’s plan works? The Hugo Awards immediately become open to the person with the deepest pockets. Instead of determining the best work, it becomes about who can purchase the largest amount of voting rights for their fans. And if that happens, in a few years the Hugos will be even more irrelevant than they are now.