Amid a data stream glowing with words like “Hugos” and “Sad Puppies”, enter Shaftoe, a humble purveyor of reviews and essays, with his two cents.

If I weren’t already in the thick of it as a peddler of fiction and non-fiction, I don’t know that I would want to get involved in this world. To the outsider, our genre must seem a weird and angry place. Something of a snake that eats its own tail over what should be no-brainer issues of  inclusion and basic human decency. Which is why I find it perplexing to see some people talking about the triumph of “no award” at this year’s Hugo Awards as a victory. Certainly it was a rebuke to a group of people intent on promoting their own agenda; an agenda I find at odds with my worldview. However, this “victory” doesn’t mean the end for the sad puppies. They still feel their hegemony over science fiction is threatened by progress. The Hugo nomination system isn’t being changed to prevent slates of nominations. What we have here is an impasse.

From the point of view of my low and humble station, I don’t think an impasse is a good status quo. Yet both sides seem to be forming ranks for another year of “us versus them” pissing contests. I worry this meta-narrative will grow until it overshadows the works people are supposedly arguing about. I worry these sideshows to our craft will prevent new and diverse voices from wanting to join the fray. Perhaps these are unfounded worries. I wait in anticipation of an indication that things are broadly changing for the better.

Another part of this problem, again looking up at things from the bottom of the heap, is that it is too easy for both sides to dismiss anyone who dissents from their world view as an asshole worthy of scorn and contempt. I know this because I have done this. In retrospect, I wonder if my smug self-confidence at being on the right side of history might be contributing to the perception of “our side” as a seemingly insufferable and arrogant gestalt.

Likewise, no intelligent person could look at the entirety of this fiasco and accuse either side of a lack of conviction. Perhaps then it is time to cultivate something else as a virtue. Kelly Robson suggested discourse and mediation, and I’ve yet to see a better idea – even if there are some logistic challenges in bringing together the spokespeople of leaderless movements. In truth, I’m not sure that the other side has a middle ground willing to accept such an olive branch. Then again, presuming the other side is made up entirely of thoughtless radicals is a sure-fire way of precluding any sort of dialogue.

All this to say many of these problems will fade if we take a page from Bill and Ted and learn to be a little more excellent to each other. There is grace in compromise, and divinity in forgiveness. To those who feel excellence to the other side somehow weakens their position, I offer a plea for decency and discussion at the very least.

Now, notwithstanding my own nomination for a Hugo, my reviewing a Hugo nominated/winning book, or having a conversation with someone who has won/been nominated for a Hugo, this is the last you’ll hear from me on the subject.