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As More Women, Minorities Win Hugos, 'Sad Puppies' Blast Sci-Fi Awards


If you're looking for a good science-fiction or fantasy book, you might look for the distinctive rocket ship logo of the Hugo Award. It's one of the most prestigious prizes in the genre. More women, writers of color have been winning Hugos lately, and that's caused a backlash from a group of mostly white male writers and fans. They call themselves the Sad Puppies. NPR's Petra Mayer reports on how this year's rocket ship is getting dented.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: The issue, according to the Puppies, this system is biased. The nominations are controlled by cliques who are more interested in social justice checklists than good, old-fashioned space ships and Martian princesses. Here's author and Sad Puppy, Brad Torgersen, speaking to the podcast Adventures in SciFi Publishing back in March.


BRAD TORGERSEN: It became plainly obvious, especially after 2010, that a lot of the classic works of the old days - there's no way they could possibly make it in the current climate because the current climate was all about affirmative action.

MAYER: So they decided to do something about it. The Hugo nomination process is both complex and flawed. There are huge numbers of eligible works, and it only takes a few determined voters to get something on the ballot. The Puppies created a slate of candidates and dominated this year's nominations, which is a first.

KAMERON HURLEY: What ended up happening was, people were, well, me and my friends aren't winning awards. Why is that?

MAYER: That's Kameron Hurley. She won two Hugos last year.

HURLEY: And they didn't go, well, maybe we should write better stories. They said, maybe we should just vote for ourselves because there's a secret cabal out there and they're out to get us.

MAYER: But there really aren't any secret cabals, Hurley says. In the end, it's just that times and tastes are changing.

HURLEY: The readership is changing, the stories are changing. And it's uncomfortable.

MAYER: The Hugos will be given out this Saturday at the World Science Fiction Convention, where organizers will also meet to discuss changing the nomination process. Petra Mayer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Petra Mayer (she/her) is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on fiction, and particularly genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.