The controversy surrounding the Hugos and Alastair Reynolds’ SLOW BULLETS

Photo: Barbera Bella

PAVONIS MONS BY BALLOON, Reynolds discusses the Hugo Awards controversy and the nomination of SLOW BULLETS.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the Hugo administrators to let me know that my novella “Slow Bullets” would be one of the finalists in that category. I was pleased, but not without some obvious misgivings. I’d been unhappy about the inclusion of my story on the recommendation lists of the Sad and Rabid Puppies, especially given that the latter was to all intents just another slate, designed to encourage block voting. At the time no one really had a clear idea about how dominant the Puppy factor was going to be in this year’s shortlists.

Trying to have my cake and eat it, I suggested to the administrators that I’d gladly accept the inclusion now, but that I might change my mind when I saw the extent to which Puppy choices had (or not) dominated the ballot. The best case I was realistically hoping for would be one or two obvious Puppy candidates showing up, but an otherwise fair selection which didn’t show blatant signs of block voting. I’d had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That’s not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.

Since the announcement of the ballots, there’s been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I’m very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn’t, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I’m keeping “Slow Bullets” on the ballot. I can’t say I’m exactly over-joyed about this decision, though – from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for “Troika”, and my mood couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope things are better next year.

THE GUARDIAN delivers a lengthy article about the controversy, complete with comments from Reynolds.

Alastair Reynolds: “I do not want their endorsement; I do not want even the suggestion of their endorsement”

Not all the authors on the Puppies’ lists want to be there. This year, British author Alastair Reynolds found his novella Slow Bullets on both the Sad Puppies’ and the Rabid Puppies’ slates. This did not make him happy; after the 2015 vote, Reynolds says, he made his feelings on their campaigns “very plain”.

“This is an attempt by various elements of the American right to regain the centre ground of SF from some perceived shift to the liberal left,” he says. “It’s predicated on a falsehood … as any analysis of recent Hugo nominations and winners will show: there is no demonstrable bias from within the field against writers of faith, or those who have right-leaning politics. And yet, the Puppies keep recounting the same doctrinal narrative, with a seemingly endless appetite for name-calling.”

Reynolds asked for Slow Bullets to be removed from both the Puppies’ lists, to no avail. “I do not want their endorsement; I do not want even the suggestion of their endorsement, and for that reason I requested that my story be removed from both lists,” he says.

For more info about SLOW BULLETS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover art by Thomas Canty

Design by Elizabeth Story