Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Vox Day Hugo Drama

Science fiction nerd that I am, I am never one to pay attention to book awards, past or current. There's such a backlog of great works I have yet to finish and new ones coming out that I can't find the time in my life to to get caught up in awards ceremonies—not just of books, but of anything.

Yet it seems I can't escape the drama over this year's Hugo nominees (or rather, one Hugo nominee in particular). Vox Day's Opera Vitae Aeternita in the novelette category has outraged many in the SF community because it seems Day, née Theodore Beale, has some unpopular views. Like that homosexuality is a birth defect, or that it's ~scientific~ to oppress women.

Oh, did I say "unpopular"? I meant "bigoted."

The aforementioned John Scalzi has weighed in on it, and so has PZ Myers, to different ends. Should awards like the Hugo or the Nebula be "apolitical" and be awarded to works by authors who are, well, less than exemplary? After all, odious figures like Orson Scott Card and L Ron Hubbard have won past Hugos. There is some speculation that a voting bloc wanting to protest the supposed Leftist regime of the SFWA (or the WSFS? can't keep all those alphabet soup groups straight) by rallying around one of Day's works and stuffing the ballot box. Which isn't against the rules, but it does taint (hah, "taint") Day's nomination with the speculation that he was nominated not on the merit of his story, but just for his politics to ~make a statement~ or prove a point or whatever.

Scalzi's point is that the book was fairly nominated by the rules of the award, and that there's no rule that an asshole can't be nominated, so there's no point making a fuss. Moreover, there is (for those who vote in these things) a "No Award" option if you really feel a work's presence was unwarranted, for whatever personal reasons the voter may choose. Myers' point is that remaining apolitical is a political statement and by doing nothing, the Hugos and the SFWA/SFWS are condoning Day's absolutely bugfuck assertions, like that it's okay if some girls get acid thrown in their faces, the rest of the child brides in Pakistan have such happy marriages! Or that being gay is totally like being born without legs and thus should be cured!

Because I'm not entirely familiar with the nomination or voting process of the Hugos, or the history of the award, I'll refrain from commenting too much. I only want to observe that a liberal determination to be tolerant and hear everyone out no matter what seems to be borne out of a fear of a slippery slope; namely, that one day, the person being silenced by the powers-that-be may be on the right side of history and that absolutely no precedent must ever be set that would allow their voices to be successfully muted.

The question then is, which should you value more in a situation like this: hypothetical people in the future, or the people in the here and now having to deal with this odious bullshit? I don't know. It's hard to know. But I do know this: as life goes on, society inevitably (and to the despair of turds like Vox Day) moves towards equality, tolerance, and freedom. I think the slippery slope fears are unfounded for that very reason; I think that if organizations like SFWA and the SFWS are committed to being a progressive, welcoming atmosphere for EVERYONE (not just straight white males), they have an obligation to their members to revisit the rules for their awards to allow something like organizational veto power, or injunctions against being a public bigot, or something similar, to keep hateful turds off their radar. If this is a Leftist campaign to thought-police writers, then people who disagree can always leave the groups and form their own association with its own awards.

"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

However, because of that moral arc of the universe, I don't think the brain droppings of assholes like Vox Day or Orson Scott Card really matter—history is not on their side. Justice is not on their side. Not that this means we should be complacent and sit on our laurels; rather, my point is that there are bigger fish to fry. The universe only bends towards justice because we temper it to do so.

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