Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Tell Me More About This Cost to Peoples’ Careers

At this point with the Hugo thing, I’m more concerned with just how far various media outlets will go to push a narrative that is obviously untrue. I have plenty of friends that are more cynical than me that are like, “dude… it’s always been like this; you didn’t know?!” Well no. I had no idea that it could be this shameless, this coordinated, and this relentless over something so petty. I don’t understand how people can observe this first hand and then walk away. But there it is. And you know… I tend to think people are generally honest and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But seeing person after person swallow obvious lies and then puff themselves up because of how easy it is to counter the straw man arguments that supposedly motivate their opposition… it really does surprise me.

Now that the facts are all in, there’s no shortage of gloating from various players . The bulk of it, I can pretty well pass over. Oh, there are some zingers here and there among the spin and the sour grapes that are particularly entertaining. But this bit from John O’Neill over at Black Gate I think deserves more attention:

I don’t mean to be unkind but, come on. This is idiotic. Every nominee made their choice back in April — to accept the glory of a Hugo nomination, walk arm-in-arm with the Puppies, and risk the wrath of the Hugo electorate coming down squarely on their shoulders, or to forgo the glory of a Hugo nomination because the price was too high.

Black Gate made its choice, and we paid a price for it. So did every other nominee. Anyone who pretends they couldn’t see that cost — to their career and to their reputation — is either a liar, an idiot, or so blinded by pride that they willfully ignored what was obvious to everyone else.

I think I’ve read every single article on this kerfuffle, but I haven’t seen anything that breaks down this aspect of the affair. If it’s as blindingly obvious as John makes it out to be, it ought to be really easy to explain, even to people that aren’t following this closely. So, John… what exactly are the professional costs to the puppy nominees that got “No Awarded” this year?

Update: John has answered here.

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18 responses to “Tell Me More About This Cost to Peoples’ Careers

  1. Cirsova August 26, 2015 at 8:42 am

    ONeill’s last piece was about the most egregious thing I’ve seen on this in the last few days. Basically a big F-you to all of the BlackGate fans who came out and supported him. ‘Yeah, you nominated me, but you guys are shit and I wasn’t going to be tainted by your shit smell by accepting your nomination.’

  2. MishaBurnett August 26, 2015 at 8:56 am

    People have been slandered in the national media for being nominated by the wrong people and failing to refuse the nomination. I think that’s the cost he’s talking about.

  3. Rick Stump August 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Jeffro, perhaps I was a bit unclear in my other post, largely because I separate my ‘day jobs’ from gaming.
    Journalism has ALWAYS been a cesspit. No matter how much they attempted to paint themselves as heroes yellow journalism, The Front Page, and such have always been the rule, not the exception. Like has been pointed out, if you ever thought journalism was NOT a racket, you haven’t been paying attention.
    As for the Hugos?
    Science Fiction is just 5% of the non-fiction market. That is 1/8th the size of the Romance market. Heck, a friend of mine in publishing thinks the ‘Historical romance novels set in Scotland around Culloden’ is as big as the SF market. The Religious Fiction market is larger than the total SF market.
    Inside that market is, among MANY OTHER awards, the Hugos.
    Up until very recently the average number of Hugo voters was about 700 people. The Hugos have not affected anyone’s sales figures in a long, long time. Fans and writers have been cracking jokes about how often the Hugo is given to a terrible writer for a terrible work for about 60 years.

    Jeffro, one of my jobs, away from leisure time, is helping stateless people. These are people who for various reasons, usually war but sometimes genocide, have no recognized citizenship. They are in refugee camps. Some of them face the prospect of their children never leaving those camps. Some are thrd generation members of these camps. It is typically illegal for them to travel anywhere, to get a formal education, to have a bank account, and to *hold a job*.
    The men and young boys are often exploited as essentially slave labor that has no access to law enforcement or legal systems. The women and girls are incredibly likely to face sexual slavery because no nation anywhere knows they exist. 90% of the time they can’t even apply for citizenship or asylum anywhere in the world. In some cases it is illegal for them to *marry* unless it is with another stateless person, and then that marriage has no legal force or benefit.
    In addition to being in the grips of a poverty they are not allowed to escape and being penned in like animals and not allowed to leave, they face high levels of internal violence, alcoholism, and suicide. Of the millions of stateless people in the world my group works with a few tens of thousands. About once a year we help a person or a small family escape that meat grinder.
    And that, my good friend, is the nice, uplifting stuff I do where I can make a difference.
    The other work I do in ethics is bleak and dispiriting.

    So, yes – I am aware that there are bad things afoot in the world.

    As a matter of fact, let me be really, really blunt. The various groups trying to jump into the Hugos to “save” them are missing a great opportunity.
    Ever hear of the Prometheus Award? Yeah, it was invented by people who liked a certain sorta’ fiction. Hell, that is where the Hugo, Nebula, etc. all came from, too, originally.
    If the amount of energy various people have spent trying to point out the obvious
    [a small group has a lot of influence on the Hugos; the Hugos sometimes go to junk works because people suck; etc.]
    and instead made their own award with cash prizes and set the standard that it was for popular, entertaining works of high quality without consideration for political messages *THEY WOULD HAVE DONE A LOT MORE GOOD*.
    Let me show you

    1) The line to the press could easily have been “Well, we were concerned that certain other awards had stopped focusing on good writing. We want to emphasize the SF is about good writing first and foremost”
    Who is feeding viewpoint to the press now?
    2) The line to writers could easily have been “Listen – even certain ‘major awards’ don’t boost your sales. Yes, awards feel good, but this one also has cash!”
    Who looks prestigious now?
    3) The line to fandom could easily have been, ‘We love and honor the traditions and history of SF. We created this award to recognize the best writers out there and prove that ‘genre fiction’ can have top-notch writing’
    Who would fandom have loved then?
    4) If people had attacked the reply could easily have been, ‘Whoa! What do you have against good writing?! We aren’t “excluding” anyone, we are praising the very best writers, regardless of color or creed!”
    Who controls the narrative now?

    At that point the various people involved in the Hugos could keep their little patch of diminishing impact and prestige while patting themselves on the back, the various actors who claim they are about ‘good writing’ could encourage that DIRECTLY *while building up a base behind that*, and kept control of the narrative, the press, and the fans.

    Simple, direct, easy. No confrontation. No animosity. People who attacked such a simple, direct idea would be ‘defending’ nothing, etc.

    In my eyes the kerfuffle over the Hugos isn’t just a tempest in a teacup over virtually nothing it is also a wasted opportunity.

    • jeffro August 26, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Rick, you know how much I appreciate your game design work, but I really don’t understand how your comments pertain to the points I’m making here or the questions I’m raising.

    • BobtheCertifiedIdiot August 26, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      The Hugo thing was more or less simple escalation of ongoing internet feuds. A lot of these would have happened anyway. Remember the ‘tired of binary gender’ thing?

      The other major possibility for opportunity cost would seem to be resources spent. I’m pretty sure uncorking the genie didn’t take much at all.

  4. Rick Stump August 26, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I was responding to this;
    “I don’t understand how people can observe this first hand and then walk away.”

    As for ‘cost to peoples’ career’? Little, if any impact, especially long term. You? Your writing and reviews are good, they were mentioned positively often during the Hugo buildup, This will almost certainly be a great long-term boost to your writing career. I suspect the same will be generally true across the board.
    Bluntly, a lot of people who read SF and SF reviews didn’t know or care about the Hugos this year, like all other years. And I suspect that a lot of people who in general support the ‘puppies’ never voted, but still see the people nominated in a positive light. Heck, O’Neill may very well have damaged he own reputation far worse by telling a fair number of people that go to Black Gate that they are dim than a ‘no award’ vote will to, say, Ed Lerner or Arlan Andrews. Do you really think Lou Antonelli’s career is going to be impacted by a vote in Spokane that most people, even SF readers, don’t know anything about?

    • jeffro August 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Yeah, “career damage” for me is pretty much a step up. Career damage for Jim Butcher…? Yeah, keep me posted on that one. (Though admittedly, some puppies got their noses bloodied in this.)

  5. Rick Stump August 26, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Maybe.
    Maybe.
    A lot of writers are in the zone of ‘there is no ‘bad’ publicity’ and some puppies might get a boost from it – for all of the press and the voting there was a surprising amount of social media support. Still is.

  6. Brad R. Torgersen August 26, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    In the era of indie publishing, the “cost” is exagerated. Oh, most certainly, the denizens of TOR will be looking over the tops of their spectacles if they spy any manuscripts proferred by any individuals whose names look even a little bit like somebody who was on the Infamous Ballot Of Total White Man Evil. But then, TOR is only held together by money. The entropy of that place is straining to rip it apart. Many speculate entropy will win in time; as it usually does.

    But beyond some dick moves — and really, the actual dick moves are going to be directed at myself and Larry Correia in the long term — few people will find themselves hurt in a professional sense. It’s not like Analog will suddenly stop publishing Mike Flynn. Or me for that matter. Likewise I expect house other than TOR won’t be kicking Kary English to the curb.

    This is all part of the dirty secret of the business: you can be wildly successful and never even notice that Worldcon or the Hugos exist! It happens all the time. And indie publishing has made it easier than ever to evade or ignore the gatekeepers who did control things 25 years ago. Back then you kind of had to kiss the rings — no matter what. Now? No.

    Because the truth is, the business doesn’t run according to what happens inside the WSFS (Worldcon) community. It’s chaos, and it’s unregulated, and while WSFS as a culture is clearly obsessed with sniffing out and being churlish to the Puppies — especially the Dark Sith Lord of Badness, Vox Day — 99.99999% of the marketplace is unaware of the Hugos and WSFS and if you can write often, write well, tell entertaining stories, and market yourself, you will be fine. Not guaranteed to be a hit. But you wil be fine.

  7. John O'Neill August 26, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Brad, you’re absolutely right that the vast majority of buyers aren’t really plugged into what’s going on with the Hugo awards, Also, no publisher in their right mind would turn down a good book, no matter where they stand in this debate. So you’re right… if buyers and publishers don’t care, where’s all this negative impact? It’s negligible, right?

    No. You know as well as I do that it’s very, very hard to be really successful in this industry without fans. I don’t mean casual buyers. I mean fans. The people who blog about your books, review your books, get the word out any way they can. It’s those people doing the magical word-of-mouth promotion where it really matters — at conventions, on social media, on podcasts, on Goodreads, on blogs. In places where other fans pay attention, and real buzz can start to build.

    Those people do pay attention to the Hugos. That’s why we call them “fans.”

    Now, will every fan who saw what happened on Saturday look on the Puppies as a damaged brand? Of course not. But a lot of them will. For the next few years, when fans make that hard choice about what to talk about this week, I think many will take the Puppy brand into account. There are a hell of a lot of writers out there clamoring for attention… all it takes is the smallest blemish to get overlooked in this industry.

    It’s brutally hard for a good writer to get attention and build great buzz as it is. What happens when you willfully reduce the pool of fans willing to do some of the work for you by 20% By 40%? By 60%?

    Is that fair? Of course not. But you know I’m right.

    • Nathan August 26, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      At the same time, the brand damage can also rebound against the Anti-Puppies. I’ve decided to pass on the new Star Wars movie tie-ins because of the vitriol of one of their writers towards me and mine, for instance. Maybe Sanderson*, Scalzi, or Star Wars can survive the loss of a couple thousand readers, but the struggling writers on the other side of the divide have to deal with the reduced pool of fans as well. Lost in the baying of Puppies and crowing of their victorious foes are those who have posted comments that they will seek their entertainment in other genres now. Those people won’t be buying from either side, and the SFF market shrinks even faster.

      *I know he wasn’t prominent on either side, but he is collateral damage of the backlash against Tor.

      • John O'Neill August 27, 2015 at 2:18 am

        Nathan — oh, absolutely. There’s damage on both sides.

        Although, since the Puppies seem to be considerably smaller in number, the impact of their boycotts likely won’t be as noticeable for many authors.

      • Nathan August 27, 2015 at 2:43 am

        We’ll see. Even with a banner year for WorldCon, I still remain unimpressed by the Hugo electorate and the relatively narrow range of media and fan activities the Awards cover. If published science fiction and fantasy depends on 6000 aging fans world-wide, bury it now. It’ll be a mercy killing.

  8. BobtheCertifiedIdiot August 27, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Damage compared to what?

    Big publishing seems to think it is screwed if it doesn’t screw over Amazon. If they screw over Amazon, Amazon’s lucrative indy market may go away. The current state of the English language fiction market isn’t inevitable or ordained.

    I think the forecasting uncertainty covers some very different possibilities. These have different implications for the most effective means of sales and marketing. Which means different assumptions behind expectations of careers with various circumstances.

    How long are we talking for careers? Five? Ten? Twenty?

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