A Suggestion for the Resolving the Hugo Controversy

Guest Post by Paarfi of Roundwood

While I myself am not excessively familiar with the many nuances and details of the “Hugo Award Controversy,”  I am reliably informed that it has caused no small degree of acrimony within the community of those who concern themselves with letters—I say those, but it is only fair to observe that I, myself, am part of this community in my role of historian, while continuing to be, for obvious reasons, one whose experience is external to the community and, therefore, to the acrimony.  Indeed, it is exactly this—my simultaneous involvement, and, if the reader will forgive my use of the word, externality–that could, and perhaps does, provide me with a unique and potentially valuable perspective.

I would like, with this in mind, to make certain observations. To begin, I believe—indeed, if I may be permitted to say so without giving undue offense (a circumstance which the present situation renders extremely undesirable, however tempting it may be to do so deliberately, or how simple it may prove to be to do so accidentally), it is so obvious as to require no evidence beyond what has been frequently placed before the public eye—that some of the suggestions for resolving the matter go, in severity, far beyond what is called for by the crimes committed. In particular, I speak of those who wish their opponents summarily brought to the Executioner’s Star, in some cases advocating this without even the formality of a trial. Must I remind my reader that we are literary individuals, concerned with culture, education, and, in general, the higher, even spiritual, concerns of humanity? To so much as suggest one’s opponent in this matter be deprived of life goes well beyond what ought to be reasoned, scholarly debate—a debate we ought to encourage, but which excessive punishment will only stifle. Hence, I believe we ought to drop even the discussion of repercussions to our enemies that go beyond a severe flogging, or perhaps minor mutilation for the most extreme cases. If I may be permitted to share the lessons of my own land, when scholarly debates threaten to break out into hostility, it is nearly always sufficient to “round up”, as the saying goes, the most egregious of our enemies and forcibly enlist them in the army, and send them to the White Rocks region near the borders of Suntra, where their aggression can be put to good use, and where their fate will serve as a most stern reminder to others of the importance of civility in all disagreements concerning the Arts.

And yet, there is one other matter which, were I to fail to discuss it, would leave me culpable in the same way Biernet is culpable in the well-known children’s tale of that name for not mentioning the frayed rope holding the bucket of chalk:  It would seem that Lord Hugo has acquired a great deal of influence within the community—influence that, no doubt, is merited. And yet, with all that has happened of late, I cannot help but wonder why Lord Hugo has failed to make his own wishes, feelings, and desires known. Speaking for myself, should I ever acquire similar influence, and should this produce such hostility and acrimony among various partisans, I would, without question, see it as nothing less than my duty to make my position on the matter clear, even if doing so would to a certain degree compromise the dignity that those who remain apart from these conflicts naturally assume.

Therefore, to resolve the matter, I beg to submit that all discussion of such issues as voting, granting of honors, and giving of such artifacts as may honor one or more persons or institutions be temporarily suspended until Lord Hugo himself should deign to make his position on this matter clear.

I hope this humble suggestion makes a small contribution to restoring peace and harmony within the community of letters.

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21 thoughts on “A Suggestion for the Resolving the Hugo Controversy”

  1. Sadly, Lord Hugo of Gernsback has passed over Deathsgate Falls but has yet to emerge from the Paths of the Dead. Should he pass out of the Paths of the Dead and deign to communicate with humans or Easterners, I expect that he would compare the current unpleasantness to a disagreement between Teckla and Jhereg, where the only impact upon the rest of the houses would be relief that those uncouth houses were occupied with each other and not cluttering Valabars with their squabbling.

  2. Being a bear of, perhaps, defective learning, I can only applaud your high standard of personal behaviour, and its application to the realms of gramerye. My attainment of the rank of Sergeant in the Army Union of the land of Rain Island does not give me the right to opinions based on ignorance. But I would venture, on my own knowledge of such matters, that it would be a waste of good soldiers to have them take charge of men such as these. I know the sort of man who I would wish to be in battle alongside, and these are not such men.

    There are amongst them some who claim honourable military careers, and I do not wish to dispute their claims. Soldierly bearing and competence may be found the the service of the most loathsome of politics. You will appreciate that sometimes there is a devotion to a legend, and there are legends a-plenty in the world of the soldier, whose experience might otherwise push them into lunacy. We tell ourselves stories as a protection.

    Nevertheless, the stories a man chooses to tell are a window on his soul. I am not sure that the process of the Hugo Awards is quite as you suppose, but they give us the chance to peer through such windows. The lands they show us are barren waste-worlds, a blasted heath that can only be left to the devoted paws of generations of farmers. Those such as myself can only stand guard.

    And what of the stories I choose to tell?

    “This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the tailor-bird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice; but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.”

  3. I’m sorry, but I just can’t excuse your use of the word externality.

    This undoubtedly concerns you very much, and might lead to disappointment, or even consternation, but I could not but say it or not be true to myself.

    Or something.

  4. Well, I guess forcibly enlisting all of the worst offenders in the army and sending them overseas is one way of dealing with the problem…

  5. Might I venture to say, most esteemed sage of Roundwood, not that you, by your very externality (which is indeed a most virtuous indication of what might with a certain accuracy be called impartiality) have not, by any measure have become liable to what some hasty and inelegant ruffians might (for lack of sophistication and wit) with lack of accurate language, call “missing the point.”

    Verily, if one could parse thy knowledgable commentary–reserving, of course, any certain knowledge of the true wishes of that reclusive and yet formidably influential peer of the realm, that aforementioned Lord Hugo (undoubtedly a Tiassa, though uncharacteristically reclusive for a member of that noble and much misunderstood house), whose views, as willing as one such as you, or for that matter myself, loath as I am to interject my own opinions into an intellectual discussion, for fear of what the common might term “coming a cropper,” I cannot in all honesty and intellectual integrity speculate upon, this writer, your servant in all things, might almost, though modesty and respect for such historians such as yourself, might forbid (and quite properly) my intruding my inferior thoughts, say that in truth that you have, as befits such an esteemed thinker and historian, may have struck, in the popular parlance, the spike upon it’s widest part.

  6. Hmm. Do I sense Paarfi 124C 41+ in the works? Or perhaps “10,000 Years After”???

    [I just saw James Blish’s words on Gernsback’s second novel, btw: “incompetent, pedantic, graceless, incredible, unpopulated and boring” — lay it on, James!]

  7. What clarity of insight! I shall immediately dispense with my previously-held opinions and adopt this position as my own — not omitting, of course, to give proper credit to its creator.

  8. I’d love to see the Hugo and Campbell awards go to the best writers in the tradition established by the best writers in the circles of those published by Hugo Gernsback and John Campbell- the tradition of Poul Anderson, Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle, Zelazny. VD’s collection, Riding the Red Horse, is the best mil-SF collection since Pournelle wound down There Will Be War in the 90’s, and I’m deeply gratified to see it on the ballot. In my joy I pray VD wins Best Editor.

    And yet, my joy is not universally shared. Many fans consider VD a dick. The Horse! As if he’s equipped with anything on that line compared to a horse. And with Larry Niven’s The Goliath Stone and the Niven/Benford Shipstar not even on the ballot, there can be no doubt that this year’s Hugo Awards are not what they should, in some best of all possible worlds, be.

    A response to Riding the Red Horse, from those who do not entirely share VD’s political views, is the only truly literary response. Riding the Rainbow Unicorn, say. Ask smart left mundanes at least equal to Martin van Crevald and William Lind, say Al Sharpton, Fidel Castro, David North, Paul Krugman- to name a few with with lots of columns out. Then follow their efforts with SF based on their nonfiction. Get Al Sharpton to reflect on the change in American race riot protection rackets from 19th century Irish to 20th century black, -and to speculate future changes. Ask NK Jemison to do SF based on his speculations. The Castro brothers have run an effective national socialism, a secret police that’s got a country, for half a century- their reflections on the US Bureau of Homeland Security spending a decade -so far- strip-searching respectable bourgeois and their more attractive children. Surely the destruction of middle-class myths of individual dignity and self-worth can appeal to all progressive thinkers- in a fictional balance K Tempest Bradford and the hour will meet. David North might have something to say on the subject as well, and as I believe our host has the honor of his acquaintance, I hope he might honor us with a story based on their speculations. Paul Krugman columns comprise many charming fantasies based in some alternate world where US economists know what they are doing; here, as we leave the ‘hard SF line’ of the anthology so far behind it becomes a point, we recollect there are many fine female fantasy writers writing under the name ‘Cat’, and we may hope for some fine feline tales.

    Or you can leave VD the only editor who measures up to Hugo Gernsback and John Campbell.

  9. Thank you for this cogent contribution to the present problems; you’re the first person to make me laugh out loud in this sorry debacle…

  10. “engleberg: I could make no sense of that comment–whatever point you’re making is lost on me.”

    I will try to translate, though I’m not sure it’s worth it.

    He is a Rabid Puppy. He says:

    1. He likes traditional SF like Heinlein, Niven, Zelazny etc. He wants that sort of thing to win awards. (You are the closest I’ve seen to inherit Zelazny’s mantle, though you also have your own special style. Presumably he likes your writing which is what brought him here. But then he also likes Pournelle. Go figure.) He likes VD as an editor and hopes he wins an award.

    2. He notes that some people do not like VD, and that some good books didn’t get on the ballot.

    3. He regards ideology as central to SF. VD edited a collection of stories that together express a coherent ideology. Some people don’t like that. He says that the only proper way to “respond” to this anthology is to write another with the alternate ideology. It should present a coherent picture approving of security states ala Homeland Security, approving of mainstream US economists, approving of reverse racism, approving of catlike women’s liberation, etc. Since everything that isn’t VD’s own ideology mashes together in his mind as the only alternative ideology, and SF must express one or the other….

    Oh, well. He kind of has a point if you look at it sideways and squint. Like, consider Larry Niven. I used to like his stories a lot. He thought about evolution and came up with some fun ideas. His earlier stories were some ways incredibly naive, and yet charming.

    He wrote a collection of books that all fit into the same universe. In that universe the USSR and China fought a nuclear war and both lost, and from then on every human world was based firmly on mostly-unregulated capitalism. Every now and then something would go wrong with some world’s economy, and there would be a depression. People would lose their homes, lose almost everything, suffer terribly, and everybody just figured that was the natural way it had to go and try to live through it.

    Depressions could be caused by new technology introduced from offworld. Or by space aliens manipulating stock markets and economies. Nobody thought about it or considered doing anything about it. It’s a free market, there’s nothing anybody can do, it must be God’s will or something….

    It didn’t make sense. People go for hundreds of years on a dozen or so planets, and nobody ever thinks of a new economic idea? All forms of socialism are discredited because the USSR and China have a war? I had to just ignore that background and read the stories.

    But later it turned out that space aliens were manipulating all human economic systems as part of their selective breeding program for humans. They were rich, and they used blackmail and economic threats and whatever else it took. It was not a dozen free-enterprise world economies. The entire human economy was controlled by space aliens, and the humans were brainwashed into thinking it was free enterprise and nobody was in control.

    I kind of liked that.

    And I kind of liked that he had a german football player a few hundred years in the future, “Wall” Cameron of the Berlin Nazis. I wanted to think he called it football instead of soccer because that’s what europeans do and will call it, if they keep playing it. But he might have been thinking of American football.

  11. It makes me sick to think that rabid puppies might like Zelazny. I bet the man himself would excoriate the group if he was still alive. I also think (hope) that mid-20th century conservative authors like Anderson, Dickson, and friends wouldn’t touch VD with a ten foot pole. So far as I know Niven and Pournelle keep their distance too.

  12. Paarfi: I nearly think you’re right.

    Actually, I haven’t paid attention to the Hugo for years. And who the hell is VD?

    Let me propose a new award: the Terry, for the mix of SF and humor. Only who would I nominate with Zelazny gone? Kentucky Fried Lizard Partes indeed. Irony: the first person I ever mention of Pratchett from was Pournelle in one of his Byte columns.

  13. Big Mike – you should really do yourself a favor and avoid learning who VD is, and why he’s being mentioned here.

  14. Paarfi, I humbly invite you to be my guest at the next installment of this literary battle.

    I will bring the traditional repast: grain, heated to explosion, coated with dehydrated sea essence and coagulated cow’s fat.

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