90 Miles From Tyranny : The Men Who Started the Hugo Awards Controversy

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Men Who Started the Hugo Awards Controversy

A prominent editor of speculative fiction (a term that encompasses both science fiction and fantasy) declared in 2013 that the genre had “moved away from the white male Anglo Saxon Mayberry of its youth and towards a more mature, diverse, and inclusive future.” His words were an encapsulation of trendy opinion among certain sorts of spec-fic fans. They were also flat-out wrong. If early science fiction and fantasy had an ideology (a doubtful proposition at best) it was techno-cultural utopianism—the opposite of the conservatism of The Andy Griffith Show. The giants of the field wrote in explicit support of civil rights, sexual liberation, and women’s equality. But ideologues must exaggerate past evils to justify their present excesses, and so down the memory hole go Heinlein’s 1961 A Stranger in Strange Land and LeGuin’s 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness.

2013 was also the year a conservative-leaning author, Larry Correia, (later joined by Brad Torgersen) decided to take a stand against this kind of demographic obsessiveness. Beginning that year, they began to promote a slate of candidates each year for speculative fiction’s most prestigious awards—the Hugos—and urged readers on their personal blogs to nominate the candidates en masse. This year it worked. Their slate dominates this year’s nominations. A predictable wave of outrage followed, culminating in an over-the-top hit piece in Entertainment Weekly. Correia and Torgersen have become boogiemen to liberals and folk heroes to conservatives.

In all this fuss, the quality of their work has been largely overlooked. Both writers recall an earlier time in speculative fiction’s development, before the New Wave of the sixties and seventies brought in experimental literary techniques. Correia is the better-known of the two. His hugely popular...
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