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Winter isn’t coming: Hugo Awards’ own GamerGate is delaying A Song of Ice and Fire

George RR Martin has taken to his blog to talk about a scandal at the Hugo Awards this year, and if he’s blogging, he’s not finishing Winds of Winter, the next installment in his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels that inspired HBO runaway hit Game of Thrones.

Martin is an avid blogger and a seemingly avid procrastinator that loves hanging out at comic book and sci-fi conventions. He was in the news this March when he announced he wasn’t going to San Diego Comic-Con this year so he could continue work on his next book. Sad news for fans attending the Con and devastating news for those waiting for the new book: this July marks four years since A Dance With Dragons, and he’s still going to be working?

The Hugo Awards are like the Academy Awards of science fiction and fantasy writing. They’ve been put on by the World Science Fiction Society (now Convention, so “WorldCon”) since 1953. They award excellence in science fiction novels, short stories, and other mediums. The final list of nominees is decided by ballot, and in recent years WorldCon attendees have gotten the right to vote for the Hugo Awards. This year anyone who bought the $40 entry into one of the WorldCon events from 2014 to 2016 was welcome to vote in the nominee ballot process.

The Hugo Awards: It’s a rocket, not a penis.

The controversy — one that has caused George RR Martin to devote several blog posts to the topic of “Puppygate” — is a movement of conservative-minded activists nicknamed Sad Puppy. Because you could purchase the right to vote, Sad Puppy mobilized a voting bloc that managed to push through a list of Hugo Award nominees that represented their views of what the sci-fi fiction market should be.

The Sad Puppy movement believes that the Hugo Awards have become too insular to a certain type of science fiction, namely the really liberal kind. The nickname Sad Puppy is actually shortened from “Sad Puppies Think of the Children,” a phrase used to mock those the community saw as bleeding-heart liberals. And, as sci-fi writer Brad R. Torgersen describes on his blog, the general quality of popular sci-fi stories weren’t to their liking: “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, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings? There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?”

Despite having a problem with subtext in fiction, the Sad Puppies also caught the attention of GamerGate agitator Vox Day (real name Theodore Beale), who rallied a more vocal group of online Hugo voters into the Rabid Puppies. Day published a list of his preferred Hugo nominees on his website and the Sad and Rabid Puppies alike ended up pushing a lot of the authors through.

Vox Day’s list shares three of five actual nominations for Best Novel. For Best Novella, the lists are identical, including three separate nominations for author John C. Wright, whose works are published by a company in Finland that was founded by Theodore Beale. Wright has also come under fire in the past for being a tad homophobic, like when he called the creators of Nickelodeon animated series The Legend of Korradisgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth” for confirming that their lead character was in a same-sex relationship.

Doesn’t like girls holding hands.

This is the first time the Hugo Awards are with a voting bloc that amounts to a political party, and the methods of the Puppies aren’t illegal as much as they’re unexpected in the realm of awarding science fiction writers. The Hugo Awards don’t promote themselves as activist awards, but the process has been politicized.

Some Puppy-backed authors will undoubtably win Hugos this year, though it remains to be seen if the movement does more for conservative sci-fi values or nerd statisticians forever tweaking the voting process to try and fix a system “broken” by bloc voting.

The important thing is George RR Martin wants you to know his opinions on the matter, and he’s willing to avoid writing Winds of Winter to do it.

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