Black Gate Withdraws From Hugo Consideration

Black Gate Withdraws From Hugo Consideration

2011 Hugo Award-smallOn April 4th, Black Gate was nominated for a 2015 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. One of our bloggers, Matthew David Surridge, was also nominated as Best Fan Writer but, as he explained, he declined the nomination before the ballot was announced.

Since the nomination for Black Gate was for the entire site, which produces over 120 articles per month by a team of over 40 volunteers, I did not decline the nomination, although personally I shared many of the Matthew’s concerns. However, over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to hear from many of our bloggers, and by and large they share many of those concerns as well.

Accordingly, on Saturday, April 18th, I informed the administrators at Sasquan that we have withdrawn Black Gate from consideration for the 2015 Hugo Award.

As I explained in my previous  post, Sad Puppies and Super Puppies: The 2015 Hugo Train Wreck, (and in our original announcement), I have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the 2015 Hugo ballot, as it was largely dictated by a single individual, Vox Day, who campaigned for a slate of nominees on his website (the Rabid Puppies slate). To a lesser extent, it was also influenced by Brad Togersen’s Sad Puppies slate. Together, the two slates successfully placed 61 nominees on the ballot. Black Gate was part of the Rabid Puppies ballot, although we were unaware of our inclusion until we were informed of our nomination.

In short, over the last two weeks I have come to agree with those arguing that the use of a slate — and particularly a slate that has 11 nominees from Vox Day’s Castalia House, and nominates him personally for two awards — is a serious threat to the perceived integrity of the Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Award is the most broadly recognized and respected award in science fiction, despite occasional fannish complaints about bias one way or another and other politics over the years, and in the last two weeks it’s become apparent that this is a full blown scandal that could permanently tarnish the reputation of the award.

The growing sentiment among many Hugo voters is to respond to this perceived threat by placing “No Award” ahead of every one of the Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies on the ballot, which would deny the members of those slates a Hugo Award. A number of sites offer guidance on exactly how to do this, including Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s “The Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide.”

The vast majority of fans I’ve spoken with have no particular animosity towards the Puppies’ stated objectives, or their right-wing leanings. The “No Award” movement is broad-based response motivated by a sincere desire to protect the integrity of the Hugo Awards, and is not politically-motivated.

I happen to agree with this approach. I also believe that it will be successful. Despite a lot of confusion surrounding “No Award,” it is not particularly difficult for “No Award” to win, and in fact it has done so a number of times in the past. “No Award” is just like any other nominee, and can win just as easily.

In fact, if I’d heard half as much buzz about any other candidate in prior years as I’ve heard about “No Award” this year, I’d be convinced that it would sweep the awards. Based on the countless endorsements for “No Award” I’ve heard this year, I believe that it will have a strong showing at the awards.

Connie Willis with HugoProponents of the Rabid Puppies have argued, on the surface quite rationally, that the ballot is now the ballot, and since they’ve had to put up with bad ballots in the past, the rest of us should be able to endure one we don’t like this year. Why not just read all the candidates and vote based on the merits?

This sounds like a compelling argument. Except that it’s based on the premise that this is a legitimate Hugo ballot.

I don’t believe that it is. I believe it is tainted, clearly the product of well-promoted ballot-stuffing, and to endorse such a ballot would permanently damage the reputation of the Hugos. Eleven-time Hugo Award winner and frequent award presenter Connie Willis put it well, I think, when she refused to take part in presenting the Hugos this year, saying,

In my own particular case, I feel I’ve also been ordered to go along with them and act as if this were an ordinary Hugo Awards ceremony. I’ve essentially been told to engage in some light-hearted banter with the nominees, give one of them the award, and by my presence – and my silence – lend cover and credibility to winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.

Well, I won’t do it. I can’t do it. If I did, I’d be collaborating with them in their scheme.

The “threats and extortion” Ms. Willis refers to are comments by Vox Day that “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again,” which many interpret as a threat to use a similar process to wreck the Hugos in future years.

I’ve talked with many Puppies over the past few weeks, and they seem genuinely bewildered at the “No Award” strategy. They don’t understand how so many voters can be willing to reject the ballot without even reading it. Many of their critics have tarred the Rabid Puppies endeavor as a largely cynical effort to destroy the Hugos but, I don’t believe that. To their credit, the Puppies do seem to believe that their ballot has real merit.

I get that. And I respect it. The Puppies have convinced a great many voters — including, apparently, George R.R. Martin — to accept their ballot, and to read it and judge it fairly. That’s certainly a valid position, and I don’t argue with it.

But it’s not my position. Like Ms. Willis and many others, my larger concern is with the integrity of the Hugos. Giving Hugos to members of the Rabid Puppies slate would be a tacit acceptance of slate voting as a legitimate way to award Hugos, and I feel this would permanently tarnish an award that has done an enormous amount to promote and celebrate some of the finest SF and fantasy this field has ever seen.

The strongest argument the Puppies can muster is that this shouldn’t matter, because there are very deserving candidates on the award ballot this year, and denying them a Hugo award without the regard they deserve is wrong.

The strongest argument I can muster is that I believe that Black Gate is a superb website, the product of thousands of hours of dedicated effort from dozens of the top writers in the field every single month, and if there’s even the slightest chance that giving it a Hugo would in any way diminish the reputation of the Awards, we, as an organization and as a team, categorically reject any involvement in that effort.

I don’t expect the Puppies to agree with or perhaps even understand our reasoning. But I hope that they respect it, the same way we respect their arguments.

Black Gate has, for the past two weeks, been debating the very legitimacy of the current Hugo ballot, and I have been publicly and privately advocating a “No Award” approach. I have also come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that this goes against the spirit of the awards. We can’t both be a part of the ballot, and actively working against it. So we have formally withdrawn Black Gate from consideration for the 2015 awards.

It’s our hope that the Sasquan committee will be able to replace our name on the ballot with another deserving candidate. If that’s not possible, nonetheless I feel removing our name will focus attention on those candidates for whom the award may not be so problematic.

Hugos 2016 Puppies-smallVox Day and others have said that a “No Award” sweep at the Hugos this year would be a victory for the Rabid Puppies. (And Vox has rather gleefully posted the graphic at left on his website, as he gears up to wreak havoc on future awards if the Rabid Puppies slate loses.)

I’m not particularly concerned with who “wins” or “loses” this debate. As I’ve said, my chief concern is with the integrity of the Awards. I would love to see Black Gate win a Hugo, but not at the cost of the hard-won reputation of the award. If the Rabid Puppies feel a sense of accomplishment in a slate of “No Awards” at this (and future) Hugo ceremonies, they are certainly entitled to do so.

I would like to address three other issues as well. First, many folks have criticized the Rabid Puppies for including candidates — such as Black Gate, and Matthew David Surridge — on their slate without asking our permission. I can’t speak for Matthew, but personally I don’t feel this criticism is justified. Vox and his team had the perfect right to promote whatever works they felt were worthy. We promote, criticize, and advocate works for awards every day right here at Black Gate. Certainly what the Rabid Puppies did was different in degree, but not in principle.

Second, Black Gate is hardly the first to withdraw from Hugo consideration. Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet both withdrew from the ballot last week. I think that doing so first took considerable courage, and it certainly made our decision easier. I salute both of them for making the tough choice to do what they felt was right.

Finally, in her public comments, Annie mentioned standing “in a battlefield,” and having to “cringe when I open my email.” Some folks have reported a high volume of negative commentary aimed their way as a result of being included in the Rabid Puppies ballot.

I want to make it very clear that, although Black Gate has received a very high volume of e-mail over the last fifteen days– and our various posts on the controversy have been visited over 60,000 times — to my knowledge we have not received a single negative e-mail, from either side. I have received nothing but congratulations (and the occasional condolence).

A great deal has been said about the intensely negative tone of this debate, but I am delighted to report that, without exception, Black Gate readers have continued to show a great deal of class. Thank you, one and all.

Comments and debate are, as always, most welcome.

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“is a serious threat to the perceived integrity of the Hugo Awards.”

Bah, the behavior of the folks running around whining is a bigger threat to the “integrity” of the Hugos than Theo Beale.

If the Hugos/worldcon arent a place where different opinions cant exist, then that is the problem, theo is just the symptom.

If so, then maybe he is right…it does need to be burned down.


Need an edit button so I can fix my double negative…


If No Award in the future is an unacceptable threat, so is No Award now.

Jackson Kuhl

Goddammit John, I was counting on the prize money to update BG’s WordPress to 4.1.

Jeff Stehman

John, an understandable decision.

Jackson, if you can stomach searching the couch cushions in the BG lounge (not for the faint of heart), you’d probably find enough loose change for the update.

With luck, you’ll also find the last person who tried to search those cushions.

[…] a 2015 Hugo finalist in the fanzine category, has withdrawn from the ballot. John O’Neill announced the decision […]

The Deuce

You should be less worried about the “perceived” integrity of the Hugo awards (to the smallish clique that’s dominated it), and more about the *actual* integrity of them, which Vox and Brad have given you an opportunity to restore. Right now the biggest threats to the awards’ integrity are all the people have reacted like tantruming toddlers to the “wrong” people getting a shot, those who have outright lied and slandered all over the media at the loss of the control they claimed they didn’t have, and the people who have given in under pressure and buckled like yourselves.

Or rather, such individuals are demonstrating by their decisions that the Hugos had no integrity to save. I, for one, will have no problem burning them down each year until they are over. The Puppies at least guarantee that the literature packets I will get for my $40 will be worth it in the meantime.

[…] Now, Black Static, which was nominated in the Best Fanzine category, has announced that it is withdrawing. […]

[…] UPDATE: you know who does get it right? Black Gate. […]


I’m very new to your blog, John, but I’ve responded quite a bit in the short time I’ve visited here, and I have been THRILLED with all I’ve seen and read. I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy for well over 50 years, and I’m heartbroken over the foolishness and wrong thinking that have helped bring about this controversy. Even more than that, I’m extremely disappointed by you decision to remove Black Gate from Hugo consideration, because you are quite easily one of the best things to have happened to the field EVER. You’d have had my vote. I don’t know if you’re familiar with any of the old fanzines that were circulating through the field back in the 1970s, but Dick Geis’s “Alien Critic” and Andrew Porter’s “Algol” were top-notch publications. You’ve got ’em both beat by light years. I hope this endeavor continues on; I’ll be accessing this site as often as I can, and I hope that’s for many, many more years. Please keep up the astounding and amazing work you do. I think Black Gate is fantastic.

Thomas Parker

Maintaining your own honesty and integrity, and that of your work, is far more important than any external recognition or accolade. Being willing to take the necessary steps to do so is itself deserving of recognition. So – congratulations, John!

James Enge

I hate like the devil that you guys were put in this situation, and I lack words to express my admiration for the integrity you’re showing here.

This remains, though: Black Gate is brilliant. Awards wouldn’t really add to its luster, particularly in this horrible year. But maybe, in another year, Black Gate can add its luster to a legitimate honor-roll of nominees.


Mind boggling on a cyberspatial scale…

I took a quick tour of “Vox Day’s” blog site…it reads like Ayn Randian word salad with a side of AI routines written by Elbonians.

If these twits could derail the Hugos, maybe the process was in need of a redesign anyways

[…] While the final ballot appeared settled last week, another Puppy nominee has withdrawn from the Hugo Awards. […]


Man, I am sure that this was a really difficult decision, and I admire your resolve.

In the long run, I am not sure that there’s a way to create any kind of hard limit that will prevent slate voting; all of the “fixes” I’ve seen to this scenario look like they either won’t work, or they’ll just create a bunch of new problems.

It seems like the only thing to do is for people to just agree that we won’t participate if it happens, so. Good luck; I am sure Black Gate will get a legitimate nomination in the future!


Hi guys. I’ve ready a number of articles on this site over the years, and very highly enjoyed the content here on different subjects (including chainmail bikinis) . I’ve finally been moved to register though.

Insofar as the withdrawal – I get it – it’s your call. If you don’t feel comfortable with being nominated, for whatever reason, that’s your business. I respect that.

That said, ballot-stuffing has a definition, and means something. If a bunch of fake memberships were purchased to “stuff the ballot” for which real, individual, unique flesh and blood people weren’t associated in to any statistically significant degree – please point me to the evidence.

The closest that seems to apply is “block voting” – though given the statistical variance we’re not talking machine-politics 75%+ compliance block voting, but “a block of people with different tastes joined up this year, most of them really liked a couple things that were suggested as good reads, the rest not so much… but so many showed up it skewed the results from past history”

To my minds eye, that’s democracy in action.

So while I do respect your decision, I also submit that the grounds you give are not quite in accordance with the facts.

And however you feel about it, I know I come out of this feeling like my support for you, and that of my friends which (not all of whom) voted for you, is worth less to you than that of other people. That you’d rather we didn’t, didn’t say hi, didn’t show your site to other friends, and really just quietly read, and if we have an opinion, just go off elsewhere. We’re not welcome if you actually have to acknowledge us.

So I’ll side with the people who haven’t spun lie after lie in the last couple weeks, and haven’t deployed kafkatraps on assumed malice, where there is no right answer other than I’m guilty. I’ll side with the side that actually tolerates opposing views, and doesn’t speak in language that, if “man” were replaced with woman, or “white” with black, would not come across as horribly sexist.

I’ll side with the authors that aren’t telling me to sit down, shut up, and be abolished already.


P.S. – no, you guys are not who I mean by “spun lie after lie after lie” / etc.

[…] Sunday, April 19, Best Fanzine finalist Black Gate announced that they were withdrawing from consideration in the 2015 Hugo Awards. This announcement came after the deadline for withdrawing from the 2015 Hugo Award shortlist as […]

Wild Ape

@smitty59–I concur with your assessment of Black Gate. All other candidates were distant seconds in my view. I truly appreciate your wit and you have demonstrated to be a gentleman. I respect you sir.

@TW–I agree. For now I view the Hugo as a club award where identity politics and the SJW narrative is more important than the SF/F genres.

@braak–slate voting will be the future. On a side note–I really liked your tribute to Dr.Sally Ride. I remember talking to my daughter about her and telling her that it proves that the sky is the limit.

John, as a fan of Black Gate I thank you and your staff who have worked here–for FREE–and have given me a lot to look at and ponder here. I feel horrible. I feel that my association with the Sad Puppies let y’all down. I realize that editors have to walk tightropes sometimes and I might embarrass a lot of people by my enthusiasm, sophomoric humor, and conservative views. I have been treated very well here. I’m sorry that y’all got mixed up in this. I wish every one of you fair winds and following seas.


Hi John,

I lament the chain of events that has led to this–being nominated by the RP slate, and then your withdrawal.

I understand that the ballot is frozen, now, however, and Black Gate remains a candidate nevertheless.


” Let me know how you want the comment to read, and I’ll fix it.”

Thanks Mr ONeill, but you dont have to go through the trouble. I can live with my fumble brain throwing in small mistakes, If I couldnt Id be in REAL trouble…

“I am sure Black Gate will get a legitimate nomination in the future!”

Just what is not “legitimate” about about the nom this time around?

The Deuce

If a “legitimate” nomination means being nominated the way things were, that was never, ever going to happen because of cliques, and I think everyone who is honest with themselves knows that.

If a nomination brought about because SP & RP have permanently shaken things up is “tainted” and therefore “illegitimate,” I expect that Black Gate has plenty of “illegitimate” nominations to come. I expect that open block voting is the wave of the future, but that RP & SP will still dominate, because SJWs don’t have the numbers they like to pretend they do.

To me, this whole thing sounds a lot like a sort of Stockholm Syndrome or internalized dhimmitude, where despite not being an SJW extremist personally, a person comes to accept their own 2nd class status and to see the SJWs as having the the natural right to define “legitimacy,” and successful plays by others with competing (and frankly less extreme, even in the case of Vox) worldviews as automatically “illegitimate,” even when they’re every bit as by the rules.


I’ll note my earlier post doesn’t seem to have escaped moderation yet.

In retrospect, even with the PS, it may come across too much like I’m blaming you guys for lying/etc. instead of saying that I’m siding with the side that, no matter how cruddy some people on it MAY be, has at least been honest, and doesn’t pull totalitarian crap like guilt-by-association, requiring approval of approval, etc.

And either way, thank you guys for all the good articles.


Good for you. Can I say it again? Good for you. In an act of betrayal to my love of fantasy, I’ve been reading a lot of Trollope recently, and acts of self-denial undertaken for reasons of integrity are at the core of what he’s writing about — the morality of the gentleman. You would have won; you should have won. This refusal will live.

Good for you.

Adrian Simmons

“Truthfully, it got easier as every day went by”.

True, that. Still, I wanted to see you choke someone out!


@The Deuce and Wild Ape:

Oh, well. I guess we’ll see, soon enough.

Rachel Book Harlot

My heart goes out to all of you guys at Black Gate. I’m sorry that what should have been a joyous time was marred in such a way.

I’m a newcomer to the site. I believe it was a link to Matthew’s excellent post about his own withdrawal from the Hugos which brought me here (and yes, Matthew, I read the post in its entirety 🙂 ), but it was the quality of the site, the great articles posted, that kept me here. I think you guys are amazing.


Black Gate was great without a Hugo Nomination.

Black Gate is great with a Hugo Nomination.

Black Gate will still be great no matter how this tempest in a teapot shakes out.

Scott Taylor

As I stated in my Sad Puppies article, I really don’t care about any of it, but I do care about Black Gate and all my wonderful blogger compatriots. We are a damn fine bunch of writers and I’m glad those who Really matter, our readers, understand that fact. I salute all who come here to read, write, and enjoy the incredible things our genre of choice has to offer. Hell, as well versed as our blogger team is, we should really be the ones giving out industry awards. What say you John, should be start the Morannon Awards? [see what I did there? 🙂 ]

[…] on: Black Gate has withdrawn from consideration […]


I’m sorry I won’t have the chance to vote for you. I disagree with the people who nominated you, but I think you deserve the award.

I respect and admire your decision, and hope you find a nomination in a less turbulent time.

Bob Byrne

Aren’t there two solutions to this?

1 – Eliminate the existing award and come up with something else with tighter voting standards;

2 – Continue the award and revise said standards for next year to avoid this type of thing.

I realize that doesn’t address this year’s problem. But since it seems Vox’ group is already threatening next year’s awards, based on what happens this year, looking forward seems relevant.

And I realize “Just eliminate the Hugos” is quite a statement, but I’m not keen on awards in general, myself.

Sue Granquist

Pay no attention to the boss. This whole Hugo brouhaha has made him cranky. Well that, and the you-know-what I found in the cushions of the couch in his office.

And for the record, I wouldn’t let this year’s lot of scruffy, bunny-hugging interns anywhere near my content.


Joe H.

I also respect your decision, John, and am sad that you (and many others) were put into such an untenable position.

And I’ll be very happy to vote for Black Gate in the future, should the opportunity present itself.

[…] I don’t want to post without noting that we’re down another nominee – Black Gate has declined their Best Fanzine nomination, as had staff member Matthew David Surridge declined his before the original shortlist was even […]

Matthew Wuertz

I feel bad for all nominees who were put in this position. I’m not sure how I would have responded, and I hope I’m never in such a position myself.

I respect your decision, John. And I look forward to future awards that this site is so deserving of.


Your withdrawing from the process, regardless of how spurious the motivations of the nominator, makes the ballot and the process less valid.

You have taken away a chance for me to vote for you and your crew. I agree entirely with your analysis that there are too many Castalia House nominees, but you make the ballot less legitimate and not more when you remove a non-Castalia nominee from the ballot.

Obviously, my support for you will continue and I will register early to nominate this site next year. That is, if the committee doesn’t try to change the rules to prevent supporting members like me from participating. This is my first year as a supporting member, and I did so in part to vote for sites like yours.

My sadness likes in the fact that people like you are actually making the process worse, and not better, by allowing others even more control of this ballot.

You, and others who drop, are making me wonder if I just wasted $40 to support a ballot that might increasingly become less and less valid.

I think you made the wrong choice, for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t change my love of the site.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x