This was an old post of mine from years ago but it’s as relevant as ever. I had make some edits and updates, I hardly believe that I wrote such an incoherent mess back then.
When I first discovered Gamergate a few years ago, I stood as a neutral in the controversy and it wasn’t until later that I discovered the events occurring within the science fiction fandom as well as some responses to the group calling itself the Sad Puppies. The Puppies and Gamergate shared a lot in common, they both stand for freedom of speech, expression, and alternative perspectives but there were also subtle differences between the two. The picture you see painted by the mainstream media is hardly true of either of them. After all one was a hash tag aimed at wanting better ethics in journalism. While, the Sad Puppies on the other hand, saw itself as challenging the increasingly politicised nature of science fiction. It did this by tackling current biases that may exclude a writer based purely on their politics or views.
However, the slander, and libel aimed at these individuals and the repetitive uses of derogatory terms like misogynist, seem to indicate that some on the other side of the coin do the exact opposite of advocating for equality. How they act is very much exclusive, and more than willing to drag names through the political dirt in the name of agenda pushing. Those that shout loudest are always heard. And the must always signal their virtues on Twitter. Social media has shown me how effective a hashtag can be, both in promotion and destruction. In the aftermath of Gamergate and the Puppies we live in a world of increasingly delicate egg shells.
The issue of gender remains at the centre of everything, whether it’s Captain Marvel or the recently revealed Batwoman that somehow manages to excuse stealing the legacy of the Batman. I thought equality stood for, if anything the treatment of all groups respectfully. True equality would be difficult to achieve in regards to the world that we live in today, hence the fact that how well you do in life, is purely based on your merits and your determination to succeed. There are plenty of stories where people at the bottom of the barrel have risen to the top. Both in fiction and real life. It’s a matter of thinking outside the box and sometimes taking risks. But the Sad Puppies campaign was evidence that free expression, and the position of writer is now under intense scrutiny. If you don’t fit the narrative of the other side, your work is not even worth their time. As more recently more authors find themselves subjected to sensitivity readers or review bombing simply because they dared to have an imagination. The YA community has been notorious for this lately and I imagine it will only get worse as this vile attitude of policing fiction spreads to other genres.
Over the years, I’ve read plenty of articles that deliberately aim at excluding authors based on gender and ethnicity. Seriously it’s like you’re trying to be the monster you so desperately want to oppose. When we read books it should be for the story, the author is the vessel for the idea. They aren’t the main character, they provide you with a source of entertainment no matter how good, bad or cringe-worthy it may be. I would never think to exclude an author based on politics, gender or skin colour. I will respect, and criticise their work, and I expect the same to happen to me as my writing spreads across this wonderful internet.
My view is simple, look past the author when it comes to awards like the Hugo’s. Treat it as you would any story, judge it by merit, by character and by how well the world is weaved and revealed. Remember fiction is not reality. It is a ride, a fun experience. A chance to embrace a world, that is alien or even a reflection of our own. There will always be features in writing that stand out, such as the differing totalitarian visions of 1984 (Orwell) , Man In High Castle (Dick), and Metamorphosis (Kafka). The stories of science fiction dare to show us the reality of which we live in, and it’s not all sunshine and roses. The Void Trilogy (Hamilton), and Twisted Metal (Tony Ballantyne) deal with very interesting themes – alternate universe, the ability to shape one’s future, robots as a living organism and more. It’s what makes them exciting to read. Science Fiction is the realm of infinite possibility, and it should remain as such for future generations. I can’t understand why so many would rather brand an author with a stupid label, instead of giving them a chance. After all, Science Fiction in the end is for everyone, regardless of gender, politics, or ethnicity.