hugo nominations from 1990

Unintended Consequences – A Post About The Hugos

There’s a fun irony in the fallout from the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies Hugo thing.

There are now over 8,000 members of Sasquan (WorldCon). The con gained over 2,600 supporting memberships since March 31st of this year and about 350 attending memberships. I think it can be safely assumed that several of the 1,948 people who bought supporting memberships before March 31st were slate voters and GamerGators. Not a majority, perhaps, but a sizable chunk. And some of the post-March 31st folks might be puppy supporters. However, I’m fairly sure that an overwhelming majority of these new members are anti-slate or anti-puppy.

That’s thousands of people who don’t think that diversity is a dirty word, who don’t consider the larger number of women and authors of color on previous year’s ballots to be affirmative action or diversity for the sake of diversity or political correctness gone wrong.

That’s thousands of people eligible to nominate for next year’s Hugos, and with a big incentive to do so.

Uh oh. *giggle*

Let’s back this up. Back in 2007 when the list of Hugo nominees came out, folks quickly noticed a problem with them: almost every single nom in the literature categories went to white men. The only woman to be nominated for a work of fiction was Naomi Novik. The other woman nominated in a non-media/fan category was Julie Phillips for her Tiptree biography in Related Works. The only person on the list who identifies as POC1 is Samuel R Delany, nominated in Related Works for his book About Writing.

This was cause for much discussion. Not only about the Hugos, also about the deeper issues is SF/F publishing that led to a nearly all white male Hugo ballot that year. There was a wide-ranging discussion of gender bias in publishing as well as conversations about the lack of racial diversity that simmered for a couple of years before becoming RaceFail09.

I participated in a lot of the conversations, and one of the things I remember very clearly was that many people felt the solution was to get more lovers of SF/F actively involved in Hugo voting. Those who couldn’t go to WorldCon were encouraged to buy supporting memberships. There was even talk of attempting to establish a fund for people who couldn’t afford the $40 or $50 for supporting memberships, though I think it was scrapped because certain people said it would be buying votes and soooo wrong2. Still, the solution was always presented as: there are amazing works of fiction by women and authors of color out there that deserve recognition from this award, so let’s get more people voting, more people discussing and recommending fiction, and let’s get magazine editors thinking about diversity in new ways.

Don’t take my word for it. Read posts from the time and see for yourself3.

And then a funny thing happened. Things changed.

Not right away, but over time4. The next year there were four women nominated in the fiction categories. Two years later nine women ended up on the ballot. The number kept going up. 2014 was a weird blip, but there were 7 or 8 women and that’s not horrendous. I don’t have the numbers for authors of color or other minority groups, but I would guess that those numbers have been rising as well.

hugo nominations from 1990
click to embiggen5

This happened for a lot of reasons. Many of those seeds were planted in 2007 in online conversations about gender bias and racism. It took a while for some of them to take root and grow strong. Because even with all the shouting and discussion, the larger world of fandom didn’t participate or even know about it. Did some WorldCons gain more supporting memberships after 2007 due to these issues? Maybe dozens, maybe hundreds–thousands? I doubt it.

No, that took puppy power6.

A much wider group of people are paying attention now. What’s going to grow from these seeds, I wonder?


  1. as far as I know. corrections welcome. []
  2. And yet this year some people did this exact thing. Yes, some people cried out VOTE BUYING but those people were quickly drowned out by all the clapping from enthusiastic supporters. []
  3. I could only find a few representative links because my Google-fu is not that strong. Plus, it looks like several blogs and forums where much of the conversation happened don’t exist, anymore. Where are the archivists when you need them!! If you wrote or remember a post about this stuff from the time, please post links in the comments. []
  4. Numbers from this paragraph come from Jed Hartman’s analysis []
  5. Something to notice about this chart: in the 90s there was a pretty decent showing for women nominees, then we get to 98 when there’s only 1 and throughout the 2000s there’s a huge imbalance. Why we lost the gains of the early 90s I’m not sure. Clearly gender imbalance was a problem for several years before 2007. []
  6. This is further proof that the way to enact change is to forcefully get people’s attention and knock their heads together a bit. Unfortunately for the puppies, the attention they brought to themselves dissolved more than it reinforced their position. Ah well, can’t have everything, I guess? []

Jonathan Strahan Apologizes

I’ll crosspost this on FSF blog when I get a chance unless someone else beats me to it.  I feel that this deserves just as much attention as the issue that caused it:

The truth is that under the pressure of needing to deliver and of my other work, I overlooked gender balance as an issue in the closing couple months of preparing Eclipse Two for publication. There is no doubt in my mind that I should have paid more attention to this, and it is something I sincerely regret.


Writers dropped out as always happens (and this is no reflection on them), and I wasn’t paying attention to gender balance. More women happened to drop out than men, and when I went to solicit stories close to the deadline I went to writers I felt I could impose on, that I had a relationship with, and they were all male. I should have been more aware, and made sure I maintained the kind of balance I’d started out with. I didn’t, and I regret that.


Know also that I genuinely understand why there has been anger and frustration about the TOC for E2. I wish had done a better job of maintaining gender neutrality in E2, and I will continue to try and do so, in this series, and in my other work going forward.

Read the full post here (it’s worth it).

Now, there are probably many discussions we could have about whether Strahan is sincere or not and other related subjects, but I am going to choose, for now, to accept what he says at face value.  I reserve the right to change my mind should the future belie his stated commitment, but I will hope for the best.

A scenario for you

A scenario for you

If a white person calls me a nigger, that’s pretty racist, right?  I mean, if someone is willing to use that particular word against me, that’s not a mistake, that’s not an oops, that’s not a slip of the tongue.  That’s a pretty clear cut situation.

Okay.  Now let’s say that “Bob” calls me a nigger and I go: “You racist! OMG.”  Would you expect rational people to then say, “But Tempest, Bob is really nice.  In the past, I’ve never heard him call anyone a nigger before.  He didn’t call Jamal a nigger last week.  And he marched on Washington with Martin Luther King!”

No, you wouldn’t expect that, would you?  And even if that did happen, wouldn’t your reaction be, “The dude called her a nigger you idiot.  It doesn’t matter what he did or didn’t do before this moment, that is some fucked up racist shit.”

Maybe Bob doesn’t always have racist tendencies.  Maybe Bob has an unconscious bias.  Maybe Bob was having a bad day, was drunk, just had a fight with his wife, whatever.  That still does not negate the fact that, in that moment, Bob pulled out some racism and hurled it at me.  And we don’t need to see Bob do it 10 more times over the course of several days, weeks, years, etc. to be able to peg that instance as A Bad Thing.

Right?  Right.

So, why is it then that whenever the gender bias thing comes up, people say “Well, you can’t judge on just this one instance” or “Statistically you need more data”?  No.  No, you really don’t.  Because it doesn’t matter what happened before.  If someone does something that smacks of sexism in one point in time, that is a problem at that point in time.  We don’t need statistics to tell us that the one instance was wrong.  More data can show a pattern, sure, and that makes things worse.  But the absence of a pattern does not make things better.  Because the wrong thing was still done.  Plain and simple.

We seem to have gotten to a point in this community where sexism and gender bias is a nebulous, hard to pin down thing that people don’t want to admit exists or require extraordinary evidence before they’ll admit it exists in one place.  Even when it’s as blatant as Bob calling me a nigger.  (As proof, I cite the Harlan Ellison boob grab incident.)  It’s not really a problem, some say.  It’s not a problem until you can prove it over the course of five volumes, others say.  It’s just you people looking to fight about something and then you’ll forget about it later, still others say.

No, people.  You need to stop.  Because, as with many prejudices, it is not okay to ignore the individual instances of wrongness until you can prove some sort of pattern.  Because each time it comes up, some yahoo will always claim it as an individual instance.  Take it from a person who has had to deal with both large scale and individual level prejudices all of her life: You do not win by ignoring the small stuff just as you do not win by only worrying about the small stuff and ignoring the bigger problem.  You win by pointing out and eliminating both.

So the next time you feel the need to say something about how it’s “just one anthology” or “just one year’s worth of a magazine” or “Just” anything, stop and eat a cookie.  Better yet, knit.  It’ll keep your fingers busy.