There's been an avalanche of pixels spent on the Hugos and the Sad/Rabid Puppy turmoil. Some of the discussion is about how should we read authors whose personal views or actions seem repugnant? How do we separate the artist from the artist's work?
Also, and more specifically, how do I read works on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slates when I'm opposed to the tactics that created the slates in the first place?
I'd like to think that I just enjoy the art. Art exists on its own. But I know that's not true about myself. I have a tough time watching Mel Gibson, for example, knowing some of the stuff he's done off screen. I certainly can't listen to Bill Cosby the same way as I used to.
But I think the real proof that how I feel about the person affects how I feel about their art is how I read my friends. Brenda Cooper is a good example. I really enjoy Brenda's company as a smart, compassionate and funny human being. So, when I read her work, I hear her voice and I connect the work to the person I know. I'm predisposed to like it. Now, when I say that Brenda tells great stories and is a fine writer, I can say that I evaluate her work without considering the person--and, in my opinion, she is a wonderful author--but you know (and I know) that I'm prejudiced in her favor.
I probably have the same issue evaluating Carrie Vaughn, Daryl Gregory,Daniel Abraham, Kevin J. Anderson, L.E. Modesitt, Connie Willis, Robert J. Sawyer, Eric James Stone, Paolo Bacigalupi, Barb and J.C. Hendee, Patrick Swenson, and several other friends. When I read them, I also hear their voices. My feelings about them as people come into play.
So, it makes sense that people who I don't feel great about are harder for me to read. Sorry. That's just the way it is. I'm human, and my mushy, human sentiments color my judgments. I think that it makes sense, then, that I will read the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate with tilted sentiments.
So, here's the quandary that started this post for me: Kevin J. Anderson, and Kevin's novel, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS. I haven't read it yet, but I'm going to. I will read all the fiction nominees before I vote, but I know my initial impulse was to vote NO AWARD for all the Sad/Rabid slate-tainted works. I think there's an obvious difference between previous years where all kinds of people recommended works they liked, like John Scalzi or George R.R. Martin or HOSTS of other people have done. I recommended works I liked too. That's a part of the glorious, noisy democracy that was Hugo voting. What happened with bloc voting the Sad/Rabid puppy slate was clearly not that.
I don't get any of the defenses of the slate based on the overall quality of the work: five John C. Wright stories? Eight Castalia House nominations? The finalist list is warped.
So back to Kevin J. Anderson, a writer who numerous times has written work worthy of Hugo consideration, but like many authors (like most authors!), has never won one. But, and more critically for me, I know Kevin, and he has been one of my invisible mentors for my entire science fiction writing career. He and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, have been unfailingly kind, helpful and generous to me, starting when I first met them at MileHiCon in 1996 or 97, and ever since. Kevin edited one of the most enjoyable anthologies I own, GLOBAL DISPATCHES, and he's consistently produced fiction that I've enjoyed.
So, Kevin is my quandary, and he's why I will not reflexively vote NO AWARD for the Sad/Rabid Puppy nominees. As I said, I'm going to read them because although there's a philosophical statement to be made for voting NO AWARD, and I'm sorely tempted, the finalists are not abstractions. They're writers, some who had no clue of what the slates were going to mean. They're people, and it would be the worst sort of prejudice on my part to treat them as a uniform whole and vote against them because I'm mad at the slates.