On Slates

There’s a sort-of conversation happening on Twitter this morning, sparked I think by Elizabeth Bear’s post at Charlie Stross’s blog.

First off, I deplore slates. In the context of the Hugos, they are an asshole move. Just don’t slate.

Second off, I am saying unequivocally that I do not agree to be on anyone’s slate, do not approve of my inclusion in any slate, and anyone who slates a work of mine is thereby demonstrating their extra-strong motivation to be seen as an asshole.

Now, there’s some concern that assholes making up a slate for next year would deliberately include the work of people they hate, in order to force those people to withdraw any nominations they might get. This might be a genuine concern for some writers. It is not one of mine.

Look, let’s be real. I was largely an unknown writer when Ancillary Justice swept the awards last year. It made the Hugo ballot because quite a lot of voters thought it was worthy of the award, and for no other reason. This year, well, look at the nominations stats. At first there was a single, non-slated work in the novel category, before withdrawals started. It was Ancillary Sword. So even with a second book in a trilogy being less thrillingly new, I had enough readers want to nominate my book that the slate could not stop it.

If (this is a huge “if” and not something I am depending on in any way) IF I were so fortunate as to find that Mercy was nominated for the Hugo, I’m pretty damn sure it wouldn’t be because of any slate. I know for certain that I have a lot of readers who not only enjoy my work but think it’s award-worthy. I have no need to decline a nomination that I know pretty well came from my fans. Or, you know, what Bear said:

First of all, I’m going to state up front that I will never willingly participate in a slate. If I learn that I have been included on a slate, I will ask to be removed, and I will bring as much force to bear on that issue as I legally can.
Additionally, I’m going to rely on the discretion of readers and fans of goodwill, who I think are pretty smart people. If you see my name on a slate, please assume that it’s being done by ruiners to punish me, and that whoever put it there has ignored my requests to remove it. I have nothing but contempt for that kind of behavior, and I’m frankly not going to do anything to please them at all.
My colleagues, of course, are free to deal with the situation as they see fit, up to and including refusing nominations. As for me, well—while I reserve the right to turn down an award nomination at my discretion, I’m not about to be forced into it by the action of trolls and reavers. I expect my readers to be able to make up their own minds about my work, and decide for themselves if it’s worthy of an award or not, and vote accordingly in a fair and sportsfanlike fashion.

I’ll add that I, personally, would find it hilarious to see certain parties suddenly declare they love my books. I would laugh and laugh and laugh. After all the noise made about how the Ancillary books are nothing but message fic and somehow lacking in spaceships and adventure (seriously?) and my readers only pretend to like them because social justice points or whatever, blah blah the writing is crap, blah blah Affirmative Action blah pronouns blah messagefic blah blah–after all that, now they’re going to turn around and with a straight face declare that Mercy is actually deserving of the field’s highest honor and everybody nom it?

Hilarious. And I already get a good laugh out of the no adventure or spaceships thing, and the affirmative action thing–really, you’re just making yourself look ridiculous when you say stuff like that, you might as well put on a clown nose–so it would just be whipped cream on top of that comedy sundae.

Other folks will make other decisions, and that’s as it should be. But I strongly suspect any attempt at “punitive slating” will backfire spectacularly. I mean, it’s not like it wouldn’t be absolutely transparent what they’re doing.

And I think the conversation about “but it would be hypocritical not to withdraw because you’ve said you hate slates!” betrays a somewhat un-nuanced approach to such things. I find it a bit concern-trolly, in fact, though I don’t doubt some of the people saying it are entirely sincere, I’m just talking about my impression of it. But honestly, if you’re not a concern-troll, maybe spend some more time thinking about how things actually stand before you keep going on about how disastrous it would be if assholes slated my work next year.

20 thoughts on “On Slates

  1. J
    JK says:

    I had a dream last night. Breq was on Athoek Station and there was some commotion out in the corridor. It turns out the corridor was filled with litters upon litters of tiny puppies. But no worries, she and Kalr Five packed them all up in boxes before they could make any mess.

    I think that fans will deal just as easily with any potential messes by the other kind of puppies.

    (And really, I did have that actual dream. I blame it on the cliffhanger from yesterday 🙂 )

    1. Ann says:

      That is an awesome dream! “What’s this commotion in the Undergarden? It’s…puppies!”

  2. Jim Henley says:

    Wow. This post leaves more devastation in its wake than Breq clearing out an ice-planet tavern.

    1. Ann says:

      I am so pleased you approve, citizen.

  3. Kathodus says:

    I for one was very disappointed in Ancillary Justice. I read it for the message, hoping it would make a nice companion to my much-dog-eared Alinsky collection (I have the die-hard box set, with patches and 15 different revised manuscripts), but it was just an adventurous space opera revenge story with some pretty unique political intrigue. I had hopes for Ancillary Sword, but nope, more of the same (kinda – but less space opera, IMO). Hopefully Ancillary Mercy will be the political guidebook I seek. I know I’ll buy it the day it comes out.

    1. Ann says:

      Yeah, in retrospect I realize I made a pretty bad job of my message-fic. Probably writing with a message in mind instead of thinking I was going to write a fun story that I would have loved to find at the bookstore would have served me better, huh?

      Well, live and learn.

      1. Jim Henley says:

        The social-justice message I took from Ancillary Justice was:

        “My name is Breq of the Gerentate (to a first approximation). You killed my spaceship (to a first approximation). Prepare to die (to a first approximation)!”

        1. Ann says:


          I also liked, “Do not fuck with an AI’s precious cinnamon roll, because when it turns out said roll is indeed too good and too pure for this world, the AI is not, and will still be there to mess you up.”

          1. Jim Henley says:

            That’s a good life lesson.

  4. C
    Cat says:

    If slaters slate authors/works I know perfectly well they hate, I’ll adapt to their new tactics by treating those as if the slates didn’t exist. And laughing while I do it.

  5. D
    Deb G. says:

    Hadn’t considered that folks like you might be included in a slate as an offensive move. This will also require a nuanced approach to voting, and I’ll confess my ballot was anything but nuanced this year.

    Off to order _Justice_…

  6. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey says:

    I still think somebody ought to do a dramatic reading of Sarah Hoyt’s legendary “I am Benghazi Spartacus” blog post, put it out on teh Interwebz, then give it a Best Dramatic Work: Short Form nomination. It’s the only way that puppy’s ever going to get a nomination, because it really is hilarious if you read it properly: as a tongue-in-cheek rendition of somebody (possibly not entirely sober) having a breakdown over the horrid thought that other people don’t take the same nonsense as seriously as she does.

  7. B
    Bob says:

    I’ve just never bought into the puppies being able to keep their momentum going. Their form of spitefulness costs money, from people who will ultimately lose interest in their campaign. I could be wrong (and since I have the attention span of a fruit fly for things like this I tend not to grab the popcorn and read everything about puppygate), but didn’t they recruit gamergate trolls for the slate nominating? Can they really expect people like that to keep it going? Money spent on WorldCon memberships is money not spent on games and I just don’t see Ahab-like “from hell’s heart I stab at thee” fervor in anyone other than the core instigators. Not that I’m advocating relaxing our fan base – I plan on nominating and voting for the Hugos until I spit out my last breath.
    Also, I am damn tired of puppies being associated with these trolls. Puppies are the cutest damn things on the planet (sorry, kittens). Man, it irks me…

  8. Ken Marable says:

    I’m still getting things worked out and set up, but with so many eyes on the nominating process this time, I’m trying to organize a “Hugo Recommendation Season.” Personally, I think the best outcome from of all of this would be more fans spending more time talking about what they love.

    Starting sometime most likely in October, I’m thinking we should have a focus week for each category and encourage blogs and posts to recommend what works they feel are award worthy and, most importantly, why. So not just lists, but discussions and fans geeking out.

    Right now I’m just beginning to spread the word, but more details to come in the next week or two. https://hugorecommend.wordpress.com

    1. Ann says:

      I think this is a good idea. Lately I’ve been wishing for, like, some kind of app people could use to tag short fiction and then be able to go back during nomination season and say “Oh, yeah, I really liked “Five True Things About Pillbugs (Plus Aliens)” in Clarkesworld this year, that def goes on my ballot!” or whatever. So much fiction is online, there must be some way to click a button, like a pinterest button, and “pin” it and tag it, right? Someone will write that for me?

      1. D
        Danny Sichel says:

        … you have no idea how disappointed I am that “Five True Things About Pillbugs (Plus Aliens)” isn’t actually the name of a story.

  9. Robert Jenner says:

    I was a little confused, after reading some posts on background, as to what the supposedly conservatively-inclined slate voters didn’t appreciate about the Ancillary books. You have a bloated, absolutist surveillance state that absorbs others by force in order to pay for social welfare. You have a ruling caste that thinks precisely in lockstep, with no possibility for dissent or deviation because it is a single individual (at first). In fact it seemed to me that a genderless society might have arisen simply because it was more convenient for a ruler composed of constituent parts of either sex, so that anyone who might be inclined to treat someone differently based on their gender would have no cultural context for doing so. Much like members of Congress passing laws to benefit their own daily lives.

    Also, Radchaai society embodies, in many ways, many of the changes that certain, I guess, ‘moral crusaders’* advocate for our own, or at least as they’re stereotypically perceived to. The aforementioned social-welfare system, religious inclusion, the also-aforementioned gender neutrality, etc. Yet the Radchaai are no better, but in some cases no worse, than any society that exists today, because all these changes are fundamentally cosmetic. They fail to address the real problem, which is ultimately man’s inhumanity to man. The Radchaai are the “bad guys”, yet in all these comments, the slatists are taking it as read that the books are somehow advocating Anaander Miaanaai’s position. Like reading ‘Superman’ and condemning it for being pro-Luthor.

    It did eventually dawn on me that they had not actually READ THE BOOK. They read what others had posted about it and reposted it themselves. That hadn’t occurred to me. Sorry, that was a total newbie move.

    *I’m not using the slate voters’ stupid three-letter initialism – the academic term is radical post-modernist, and of all those I’ve met, not one of them reads science fiction. It’s apparently too ‘reactionary’ or ‘scientifically materialist’, among other vices.

    1. Ann says:

      I agree with you about their probably not having read the book. They saw the enthusiasm about the pronouns and have apparently assumed that’s actually all there is to the book. Their loss, right? And like I said, their consistently bizarre descriptions of the book itself are just the equivalent of clown noses. I appreciate the laughs!

      (I’m also with you about that acronym. And it’s clear the way some people are throwing terms around that they have never met an actual radical feminist or radical leftist. They would expire of shock if they ever did.)

  10. J
    JT says:

    First, thanks for two great books (I haven’t read any of your other work, sorry!)!

    Second, great post. I totally agree on slates but also like reading lists (i used the Locus one to find Ancillary Justice!). It’s when the number of works listed is exactly the same as the number of spots open that I find it skeevy, especially if there’s a concerted effort behind it. I’m a pie-eyed optimist and hope that all this will lead to a larger group of people actively voting on the Hugos in the future, though.

    Third, I found a list on Goodreads that I’ve found useful. Whether it stays that way or becomes too long, who knows? https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/88604.Hugo_2016_Eligible_Works

    Thanks again!

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