Sci-Fi Hugo Awards Controversy Is a Cultural Proxy War

An ideological battle over diversity, inclusion, and ownership is being fought over sci-fi's most prestigious awards.

If you're not familiar with the Hugo Awards, it's basically the Oscars of science-fiction and fantasy writing. The Hugos are given out each year at the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society — Worldcon for short. This year, the 73rd Worldcon will be held in Spokane, Washington, on August 22, 2015, though it's likely the topic of conversation in Spokane will extend much farther than sci-fi for its own merits. The Hugos are currently embroiled in an ideological battle over diversity, inclusion, and ownership not too dissimilar to last year's Gamergate uproar. The belligerents include a slate of left-leaning authors who champion progressive values in their work and a collective of right-wing authors led by a group called the Sad Puppies. Only sci-fi and fantasy, right?


Here are the basics. The Hugo Award nominations are voted upon by paying attendees at Worldcom. Last year's awards were swept by purportedly leftist works. Thanks to an orchestrated voting campaign, this year's nominations are dominated by right-wing works. The expected mudslinging commenced earlier this week.

Doesn't this all sound familiar? It should. We've seen this with Gamergate. We've seen this with Black Lives Matter. We've seen this in almost every segment of American pop-culture and society. One group argues for inclusion/equality/favor in subsystems that traditionally favor an entrenched power. The entrenched power and those who support the status quo mount a counterattack against "leftist assaults." One argues in favor of cultural harmony through diversity. The other believes forced diversity to be an affront to sacred meritocracy.

Step back from the fray and the conflict appears to be nothing more than nerds fighting over whose toys are better. Step further away and the context of the battle begins to fit snugly within a larger culture war between competing ideologies. It's politics, pure and simple. It's progressivism vs. traditionalism and left vs. right. It's not a debate over whose sci-fi is best. It's a debate over what makes works great in the first place. It's a battle over values, pure and simple.

Perhaps the real interesting question here is out of which realm of society will the next great theatre of the culture war emerge? Video games? Been there. Comic books? Done that. Maybe it'll be sports or graffiti art or some other McGuffin we perceive to be male-dominated. Who knows?

As for the above, I'm not willing to take sides for myriad reasons, most of which don't take into account whatever topic people are arguing over today. What can be said is that the progressives appear to be winning... for now.

Read more at The Atlantic.

In the Big Think interview below, author Kabir Sehgal explains that science fiction offers the best clues for what the future of economics will look like: 

Photo credit: Ase / Shutterstock

Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less

Denmark has the flattest work hierarchy in the world

"It's about having employees that are empowered."

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
popular

Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.

Keep reading Show less

The surprising psychology of sex with your ex

We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?

Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
  • Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
  • The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Yes, Mega Millions just passed $1 billion. What does that look like?

It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megamillions_tickets.jpg
News/Social

The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.

What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?

It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.

Keep reading Show less

Single algae cells can help deliver targeted medicine

Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.

Credit: O. Yasa et al./Adv. Mater.
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
  • This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
  • The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.

The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.

A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —

More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.

After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.

The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Technology & Innovation
  • riding the Greyhounds of hell, from New York to El Paso
  • the alternate reality of hedge fund traders
Keep reading Show less

How lifelong learning makes you shine in the job market

Here's why the school you went to is less relevant than ever.

Videos
  • Learning agility is the ability to learn new things quickly and be aware of the trends that are emerging in your industry. It's the most important job skill hiring managers should be looking for and job seekers should be putting forward, says Kelly Palmer.
  • Want to test your learning agility? Answer this practice interview question: "What did you learn last week?"
  • Hiring people based on the school they went to is less relevant than ever. Why? Palmer explains: "If I asked you, "Tell me about your health," and you told me you ran a marathon 10 years ago, does that really tell me what your health is like? Not really." It's what you can offer now and how agile you are that matters.
  • Kelly Palmer is the author of The Expertise Economy.