ON TUESDAY, NOMINEES for speculative fiction’s highest honor, the Hugo Awards, were announced—and while the shortlist has stoked some controversy recently, this year passed almost entirely without incident. The Best Novel category featured widely praised works by Ada Palmer, Cixin Lu, even WIRED contributors N. K. Jemisin and Charlie Jane Anders. But lower down, nearly escaping notice in Best Novelette, was a name few people had ever seen before: Stix Hiscock.
Three things immediately stuck out about this. One is the obvious nom de schwing, which reads like a rejected prank-call name for Moe to call out on The Simpsons. Another is that Best Novelette has lately emerged as a microcosm of the Hugos’ move toward gender and racial inclusion. Women have won the category four of the last five years, and all of this year’s nominees are women—except for Hiscock. And perhaps most interestingly, five of these current novelettes appeared in genre publications like Clarkesworld or on Tor.com. The sixth was self-published: Hiscock’s Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex. If that title sounds a little strange, it should—there’s some history to it. Someone has tried this move before.
Well, not someone—many someones. Hiscock’s nomination is the work of the Rabid Puppies, a community of reactionary sci-fi/fantasy writers and fans who in 2015 sought to derail the Hugos’ big-tent evolution by stuffing the notoriously gameable ballot box with what they saw as criminally overlooked white male nominees. After the Rabid Puppies found huge success—they placed more than 50 recommendations—predecessors the Sad Puppies smuggled in a 2016 Best Short Story nominee they hoped would really tank the proceedings: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, an erotic gay sci-fi tale self-published by an unknown named Chuck Tingle.
Incredibly, though, the plan backfired. Tingle turned out to be a ridiculously lovable, possibly insane ally—or at least a very shrewd performance artist—who used his new platform to speak out against exclusion and bigotry in all their forms. In the intervening year-plus, he’s emerged as something of a cult icon, pumping out ebook after skewering ebook of wildly NSFW prose. His latest, Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, refers to the recognition he got this year, on his own, in the Best Fan Writer category.
And that, basically, is how we end up with Stix Hiscock. In March, Vox Day, a sci-fi writer and the pack leader of the Rabid Puppies, called on his minions to vote Hiscock in. The reasoning couldn’t be more obvious: If at first you don’t succeed, find a new Tingle; a Tingle 2.0; an evil hetero twin. A Twingle, if you will. When reached for comment, Day replied: “No thanks. You’ll have to sustain your Narrative [capitalization his] without my help.”