Monday, April 13, 2015

not so many women here today

Back in February, I wrote a post calculating the history of the percentage of stories by women that made the Hugo finalist ballot in the fiction categories. The takeaway point was that, after a decade of usually 15-25%, and sometimes down to 5%, a great revival began in 2010. Each of the succeeding five years had 39% or higher, and three of the five years exceeded half.

In response to a comment about the Sad Puppies' effect on last year's nominations, I wrote, "Let's see what happens this year!" So far as I've seen, nobody else has calculated this. If you don't know what the Sad Puppies are, you live a charmed, or at least non-sfnal, life.

Here's the official nomination list. There are two Novel nominees and two Short Story nominees by women. 4 out of 20 = 20%. That's down to the median of the usual pre-2010 range.

Now let's compare it to the Puppies, for the information on which we have Mike Glyer to thank. The two Short Story nominees by women were on both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates; the two Novel nominees were on neither slate, the only nominees in the fiction categories on neither slate. (At least one of those two slots was open because the Puppy nominee received enough votes but declined nomination; the other possibly because the Sads and Rabids, otherwise identical in this category, chose different fifth nominees.)

The Sad Puppies only slated 17 works in the fiction categories, of which 3 were by women; that's 18%. The Rabid Puppies made a full slate of 20, of which 2 were by women; that's 10%.

Now, the Puppy manifesto is based on the thesis that past Hugo winners have been unworthy of the award. Theodore "Vox Day" Beale, Rabid proprietor, on his slate: "I think it is abundantly evident that these various and meritorious works put not only last year's nominations, but last year's winners, to shame."

Now, what the Puppies have against last year's winners is not clear to me. They claim to want good old-fashioned SF, but last year's Best Novel, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, is as pure a space opera as you'll find.

Nor is it clear to me when they think the rot set in. I'm sure I can trump them in that chronology. I gave up any illusions that the Hugos were a pure expression of the best in SF back in 1980, when Best Novel went to The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, a negligible coda to a great career. But the Puppies apparently still live under that illusion. Larry Correia, Sad founder, says that Brad Torgersen, its current proprietor, "is an idealist ... He looks at the Hugo with adoration like it is some sort of religious icon with a halo around it."

So they're upset at recent Hugo winners. I get that. They think the Social Justice Warriors [a term they borrowed from GamerGate, and how clueless do you have to be to touch that toxic well?] have taken over. Exactly when, again, I'm not sure. But I wonder if it coincides with the rise of women nominees since 2010.

I'm not foolish enough to claim that the Puppies are terribly upset that the Gurlz are coming in and spoiling their testosterone-filled club. They have women on their slate (and at least one minority man), and they're just as upset at some straight white men like John Scalzi and George R.R. Martin. But there is a tendency for women in SF to skew that way, and it may be a marker. It was, after all, purely as a marker that I counted up the percentage of women receiving Hugo nominations at all: the women as markers for the acceptance of diversity, and the Hugos themselves as a marker for the fannish community's accolades.

One of the women on both Puppy slates, Kary English, writes that "Sad Puppies includes greater political variety, more women, more people of color and more non-het writers than it ever has before," but considering that it has only a three-year history and that the first two years hardly constituted a slate, that's not saying very much. And it's considerably less diverse, at least along the gender axis (I haven't checked any others), than the Hugo ballots have been for the last six years. That applies both to the slates themselves and the impact they've had on the Hugos this year. Color me unimpressed. If diversity is Ms. English's goal, as she states, this is a step backwards.

When the nomination statistics come out after the awards in August, I'll revisit this calculation on what the Hugo ballot would have been without the canine doo-doo all over the newspaper.

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