I’d always (always being since the late 70’s) been a reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.
I’d also always considered myself a fan of the genre and enjoyed reading as much as watching movies steeped in the nostrum of SF/Fantasy.
I’d never considered the word “Fan” that much of a controversial thing, but evidently it is.
If I consult the dictionary, it says the following:
Definition of FAN
Let me set that definition aside for a moment and talk about WorldCon (borrowed from their web site below, emphasis is mine.)
The World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) is an international gathering of the science fiction and fantasy communities. The Worldcon attracts members each year from North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia. In the last decade, the convention has been held on four different continents.
Worldcons are organized and run by fans, volunteers all.
Members/Attendees of the Worldcon are all eligible to vote for something called the Hugo awards.
The Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy.
So by definition, the fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy are the ones who are eligible to vote, the only requirement is that you become a member ($40 fee) of the Worldcon.
This all seems harmless and simple, right?
What if people who had been longtime readers of genre material and even casually knew of the Hugo awards had noticed that the awards weren’t necessarily being given to the books that they enjoyed the most. Or weren’t the most popular. By all rights, you’d think that Harry Potter would have swept the awards or you’d see Terry Brooks’ Shannara in the list of winners. Maybe Dave Farland’s Runelords? No?
Oh well, that’s not that big of a deal. Sometimes popular things don’t always win and these things are highly subjective.
However, some folks had noticed a trend that books were being chosen as candidates weren’t even good stories. I won’t cause a ruckus and name names, because what’s the point – the issue was mostly that people had noticed a trend for nominating works that had certain political (some termed them progressive) themes over telling a good story.
These same people assert that as the preeminent award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Hugos should belong to what the fans believed are the best stories.
It was also further asserted that people who were painfully deserving of awards (again, remaining nameless), were being overlooked because of their associations with certain publishers or because they held certain political beliefs that weren’t congruent with the voters.
This is when the Sad Puppies was formed (initially by Larry Correia, but the current banner is held by Brad Torgersen.)
These “Sad Puppies” were sad, because they felt that not enough emphasis was being given to works because they were just “damn fine stories” and the Hugos had lost their way. After all, you too would be sad if you were lost and didn’t have a good story to read. 😉
Let’s go back to the voters and that definition of what a fan is.
The dictionary says that a fan is an enthusiastic devotee of something (e.g. SF/Fantasy). I tend to agree.
However, the people who have long been the organizers and members of the Worldcon (and thus voting for the Hugos) do not see it that way. Many of their most vocal members say that a fan is not simply a reader. You must have been a participant or actively contributing in some manner to fandom overall by some measure of Fanac (Fan activity).
When I learned that, I wondered, “Am I not a fan?” I always thought I was. I began feeling a little sad, kind of like those puppies.
Let’s just say that I wholeheartedly disagree with this unofficial definition of what a fan is. And in fact, the Worldcon rules state very simply that if you pay for membership, you are entitled to vote. You are entitled as much as any of the “old guard” fandom that seems to have influenced the votes in the Hugos in recent years/decades.
The Sad Puppies campaign has been going on for a while and in its third iteration, the Sad Puppies campaign resulted in a rather fantastic influence on getting more quality work on the ballot.
This has resulted in a lot of very immature reactions by the “establishment” and more to the point, the vitriol spewed by the old guard is sufficient to have people who’ve known each other for decades at each other’s throats.
Who’d have thought that the idea of reclaiming the Hugos to be an award for GOOD STORIES was such a controversial thing?
I can say one thing in parting: if you’re a reader of SF/Fantasy and have an opinion on to whom and which works the preeminent award is bestowed, you could check www.sasquan.org to sign up for a membership. Otherwise, if you want to scan facebook or the internet for the maelstrom that is ensuing – now you know that “Sad Puppies” and “Hugo” are good search patterns.