Science fiction has changed a lot since 1960s sci-fi authors like Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were perfecting the craft and winning Hugo Awards — the highest honor for a sci-fi or fantasy writer.
How much sci-fi should change was the crux of a bitter battle at this year's Hugos fought between a conservative clatch of authors and fans of sci-fi's new direction that includes black authors and themes like gender and race issues.
Some author activists, nicknamed "Sad Puppies" in the media, objected to what they call a creeping liberal agenda that they say taints the genre with certain political ideologies that they argue have no place in sci-fi.
"A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover ... you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds," "Puppy" author Brad Torgersen wrote on his blog. "The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation?"
Torgersen's rallying cry was heard and many of his recommendations made up the Hugo ballot. In response, past high-profile Hugo winners like George RR Martin said the conservative, puritanical campaign against sci-fi and black fantasy authors or expanded themes threatened to leave the Hugos "broken."
Sci-fi fans listened, as Wired reported this week — voting in droves for Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin to win best novel and opting for "no award" choices in categories like best novella and best short story that boasted Torgersen's recommendations.
"With so much at stake, more people than ever forked over membership dues in time to be allowed to vote for the 2015 Hugos," Wired reported. "Before voting closed on June 31, 5,950 people cast ballots (a whopping 65 percent more than had ever voted before)."
This year's Hugos, for winning writers like Laura J. Mixon, put the awards and the future of science fiction back squarely where it belongs: in the hands of the fans who read it.
"There’s room for all of us here," Mixon said in her acceptance speech for best fan writer. "But there’s no middle ground between ‘We belong here’ and ‘No you don’t.’"
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