Being a Jerk About the Hugos: Not as Effective a Strategy as You Might Think

(Warning: Hugo neepery. Avoid if you don’t care.)

As most of you know, at last Saturday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, the voters, of which there were a record number, chose not to offer awards in five categories rather than to give the award to nominees who got on the ballot because of the Sad/Rabid Puppy slating campaign. In the categories in which awards were given, in nearly all cases the Puppy nominees in the category finished below “No Award.” The only category where a Puppy nominee prevailed was in Best Dramatic Presentation, in which one of their choices was Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s not a lot of credit they can take for that one.

Why did the Puppies fare so poorly? There has already been much speculation and analysis on the matter, and there will continue to be for some time. But in my estimation (and leaving out issues of literary quality of the nominations, which is super-subjective), the reason for their massive and historic failure is simple:

They acted like jerks, and performed a series of jerk maneuvers.


  1. They created slates for awards that are meant to be about an individual’s personal tastes and choices. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They gloated about the slates getting on the ballot, and the upset that this caused other people. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They created an imaginary cabal of people and asserted without evidence that this cabal indulged in slate-making, and used this assertion to justify their own bad action. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months insulting the people they associated with their imaginary cabal. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months crapping on the writers they dragooned into their imaginary cabal, and crapping on the work those writers created. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months denigrating the award they went out of their way to build slates for. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months pissing on the people who love and care about the awards, and the convention that hosts both. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They expected the people who they’d been treating with contempt to give them the respect they would not afford them. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They pretended they didn’t actually care about the awards for which they put in months and sometimes years of effort to get work on the ballot. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They had the poor grace to whine about people potentially voting “no award,” which is fully allowed by the rules, after gleefully pointing out that slating was not disallowed. That’s a jerk maneuver.

The first of these points in itself would almost certainly have been enough to motivate people to vote against the slates, and the nominees who willingly (or, sadly in a number of cases, unwittingly) found themselves on them. But the other nine points didn’t help, and a lot of the people who declared themselves Puppies or allied themselves with them went out of their way to do some or all of those points. Repeatedly, and with increasing foaminess as things went along.

Here’s the thing: If you perform a bunch of jerk maneuvers, people are likely to treat you like you’re a jerk.

Consonantly: If you perform a bunch of jerk maneuvers, you might, in fact, actually be a jerk. Not always. But the correlation is there, and that correlation gets increasingly significant the more jerk maneuvers you perform.

There is (usually) no crime in performing a jerk maneuver, or acting like a jerk. Everyone can, and has, acted like a jerk from time to time. It’s a regrettable but natural part of the human experience. But most people have the good sense to understand that acting like a jerk should not be a lifestyle choice, and that if you make it one, people will respond to you based on your choices.

As they did, in this case, with the Hugos. The Hugo vote against the Puppy slates was not about politics, or cabals, or one species of science fiction and fantasy over another, no matter what anyone would like you to believe — or at the very least, it wasn’t mostly about those things. It was about small group of people acting like jerks, and another, rather larger group, expressing their displeasure at them acting so.

Mind you, I don’t expect the core Puppies to recognize this; indeed I expect them to say they haven’t done a single thing that has been other than forthright and noble and correct. Well, and here’s the thing about that: acting like an jerk and then asserting that no, it’s everyone else that’s been acting like a jerk, is the biggest jerk maneuver of all.

(Comments on this piece off for now, because I’m about to start an event and have a super-busy day today. I might turn them on later.)