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Where's the Beef?

Now we get to the crux of the matter.

So... what is behind Puppygate? What is it the Sad Puppies want? They have been doing this for three years now, three separate campaigns, with a fourth threatened... and presumably a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh if this goes on. That's a lot of effort, a lot of hours, a lot of commitment. To what end? What's their grievance?

I've read Brad Torgensen's statements on this point, and I've read Correia's MONSTER HUNTER NATION, and I've read hundreds of comments from their supporters. As with any large group, there is a wide range of opinion. Some of the Puppies are relatively moderate and reasonable. Others, I fear, are beyond the pale, raging and ranting about SJWs and cliques and secret conspiracies.

Digesting all of this, and trying to filter out the rabid extremists who seem mostly just to want to hurt liberals and feminists and gays, the essence of the Puppy complaint seems to be that the Hugo Awards have been taken over by the left, by their "Social Justice Warriors," and these "CHORFs" (another offensive made-up term, like SJWs) have rigged the awards somehow so that only members of their own leftish "clique" or those writer who are willing to "kiss their ass" win, while other books and stories are ignored or excluded, and other writers are "blacklisted."

Breaking down the complaints further, this purported exclusion seems to take several different forms, which vary according to which Puppy is speaking:
(1) some say the exclusion is political in nature, that conservative and libertarian writers are being unfairly shut out,
(2) others charge religious discrimination, insisting the Christian writers and "writers of Faith" are the ones being excluded,
(3) there's a racial component in some comments (not from the Puppy leaders, but from their followers), wherein we are told that "straight white men" are the victims here,
(4) and finally, there's the literary argument, wherein we are told that the ballots are full of bad boring crappy stories that no one really likes, placed there in some nefarious manner by the secret SJW cliques, whereas good old-fashioned SF and fantasy, the stuff the readers really love, is shut out and ignored.

Do I have the essence of it, Puppies and Puppylovers? I am leaving out any of the charges? Is this the source of all the anger, of this "revolt," of this determination to "take back SF?"

Because if it is... well, someone has sold you a bill of goods.

Let's look at the facts, shall we? I accept and acknowledge that some of the Puppies may feel excluded, disrespected, shunned... but feelings and facts are two different things.

Number (3) is the easiest to disprove. Straight white men are being excluded. Really? Really? C'mon, guys. Go look at the last five, ten years of Hugo ballots. Count how many men were nominated. Count how many women. Now count the black writers and the Asian writers and the foreign-language writers. Yes, yes, things are changing. We have a lot more women and minorities being nominated than we did in 1957, say, or even 1987... but the ballots are still way more white and way more male than not. Look, I am hardly going to be in favor of excluding straight white men, being one myself (and no, I am not a fan of Tempest Bradford's challenge). I am in favor of diversity, of inclusion, of bringing writers from many different backgrounds and cultures into the field. I don't want straight white writers excluded from the ballot... I just don't think they need to have ALL of it. I mean, we're SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FANS, we love to read about aliens and vampires and elves, are we really going to freak out about Asians and Native Americans?

Let's put that one aside, and look at the other three allegations. Are the Hugos biased against conservative writers, religious writers, or writers of the "good old stuff," military SF, planetary adventures, space opera, sword & sorcery, hard science, and the like?

The Puppies say yes. I say no. The facts agree with me.

This chart is couple of years old, and therefore outdated a bit, but it still provides a very valuable overview of the history of the awards, who has won them, who has been nominated. So here are the records, albeit a few years out of date:


(Before we get into the listings, let me repeat once again my contention that IT IS AN HONOR TO BE NOMINATED. Sure, it's a bigger honor to win. But being on the shortlist is nothing to sneeze at, and I say that as the co-founder of the Hugo Losers Club).

What do we see on that list? Well, for a start, it is much easier to rack up lots and lots of nominations in the categories where one votes for a person rather than a work (Best Artist, Best Editor, Best Fan Writer). British humorist Dave Langford leads everyone with 55 nominations and 29 wins. Mike Glyer of FILE 770 is close behind with 52 nominations but only 9 wins. Then comes the late Charles N. Brown, editor and publisher of LOCUS, and Tor/ Signet/ Timescape/ Berkley editor David G. Hartwell, and Mike Resnick, and then Stan Schmidt, editor of ANALOG.

Some of these perennial nominees are liberal politically, I suspect, but none of those could be said to push a political agenda, or wear their politics on their sleeves. No SJWs here. On the other hand, Stan Schmidt edited ANALOG for longer than John W. Campbell did, and during all those decades it was the most conservative magazine in the field, the hard science mag, the choice of engineers everywhere, where the flag of Campbellian SF flew high. Now it is true, Stan never won, not until the year he retired. But he was nominated thirty-five times. Is that your definition of exclusion? Resnick... a very prolific writer, and by this list, the guy with the most nominations ever for fiction, rather than fanac or editing. Resnick, as I am sure the Puppies know, was at the center of the SFWA BULLETIN flap and lost the column that he and Barry Malzberg had written for decades... which hardly makes him a poster boy for the left. David Hartwell... well, Dave works for Tor, which some of the more extreme Puppies may count against him, but he's also worked for many other publishers, and he's edited many many writers from both right and left. I seem to recall it was Hartwell who first discovered John Wright, this year's six-time Puppy favorite nominee.

So far I see moderates, conservatives, Campbellians, and the apolitical. I see no SJWs.

How about total number of WINS? Well, once again you've got Langford, the fannish humorist and wit, publisher of ANSIBLE, at 29, tied with Charlie Brown of LOCUS. Charlie was champion of a more ambitious, literary style of SF, but he loved the classic old stuff too. A Vance fan, a Heinlein fan. Gardner Dozois and Michael Whelan each had 15 when this list came out. Gargy's an editor, a very important and influential editor, and yes, he's a liberal... but once again, he also loves a good story. He's edited space opera anthologies (THE GOOD OLD STUFF and THE GOOD NEW STUFF) and with me, OLD MARS and OLD VENUS, retro-SF that PLANET STORIES would have loved. Whelan's an artist. A brilliant one. And next down... CONNIE WILLIS. It says here she's won 11 times, but I think she's won a few more since. Connie's a woman, yes, and she's liberal politically (though far from radical). She's also religious. She has been singing in her Church choir for decades, she attends church regularly. Of course, she's Episcopalian, so I am not sure that "counts" for some of the Puppies, who only seem to grant that a writer is religious if he or she shares their own religion.

Going further down the all-time list... there's Richard E. Geis (politically hard right, sexually and socially left) with 34 nominations, Robert Silverberg (conservative) with 28. Further down, past some fans and artists, there's liberal old me with 19 nominations (15 losses and 4 wins when this list was drawn up), tied with conservative Larry Niven.

One huge name not on the list: Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein did not rack up a lot of noms, since most of his short work was done before the Hugos were created. But he won Best Novel (the Big One) FOUR TIMES, a record that stands to this day (Lois McMaster Bujold tied him, but no one has yet exceeded him). RAH is not easy to characterize politically... he started out as a New Deal Democrat, even ran for office on the EPIC ticket, later became Republican and conservative on many issues... but socially was extremely progressive in his youth, and retained many liberal and libertarian opinions on sexuality and religious matter right up to his death in 1988.

If you're looking for SJWs on this list, well... there's Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin. Harlan was certainly a firebrand, and Ursula was the field's most eloquent and respected feminist for decades. They are also two of the greatest talents that SF has ever produced. Both SFWA Grandmasters, both firmly ensconsced in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, beloved of generations of readers. It would be hard to argue that either was created by a "clique."

Oh, oh, okay, I can hear the Sad Puppies barking out their objections. "We never said the Hugo Awards were ALWAYS dominated by a leftist clique," they are barking. "We only said that the SJWs took them over recently, and ruined them. That's when all the good books and all the writers we like got excluded."

Okay, fine. Fair enough. Let's narrow our focus, then, and look only at the recent past, at the ballots that somehow triggered Puppygate. No rhetoric, just facts.

We know about this year's ballot, the Sasquan ballot. Puppies puppies everywhere, thanks to Sad Puppies 3 and the Rabid Puppies. Last year, the Loncon ballot... well, that was the year of Sad Puppies 2, and that campaign, if not quite the sweep, did put Vox Day and Larry Correia and several other Puppy faves on the shortlist, so we'll pass over that one too. To see how powerful the liberal SJW cliques truly were, we need to go back to a time before Correia and Day and their followers rose up to smite them.

Let's look at 2012. LoneStarCon 3, San Antonio, in that notoriously liberal state of Texas. 1343 nominating ballots were received. 1848 final ballots chose the winners.

The Big One, Best Novel, went to John Scalzi for REDSHIRTS. He won out over 2312 by Kim Stanly Robinson, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON by Saladin Ahmed, BLACKOUT by Mira Grant, and CAPTAIN'S VORPATIL'S ALLIANCE by Lois McMaster Bujold. Three men, three women. Two white men, one Arab-American. Do the Puppies object to these nominees? Is this the clique slate? Hard to see why. One Tor book, one from DAW, one from Baen, two from Orbit; no publisher had a stranglehold here, certainly. Scalzi -- look, I know Scalzi is liberal, and I know that the Puppies seem to hate him, though I can't for the life of me understand why -- but whatever you think of the writer's politics, REDSHIRTS is a light, fun, amusing SF adventure, an affectionate riff off of STAR TREK, Ghu help us. And the other nominees... only the Robinson could even remotely be considered "literary SF" of the sort the Puppies seems to hate. Saladin's book was sword & sorcery, a rollicking swashbuckler in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, Harold Lamb, and the Thousand and One Nights. Bujold, well, you could call her Miles Vorkosigan series space opera, or maybe military SF, but her novels are never less than entertaining, good reads all. The Mira Grant is a zombie novel. Zombies, guys.

Now, do I think these were the best five novels of 2012? Actually, no. As best I recall, I only nominated one of them... along with a couple of books that did not make the ballot. (You can find out which ones if you look back on my Not A Blog for that year's recs). But it's a pretty typical ballot, worse than some, better than others, with ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE of any kind of "social justice" agenda or conspiracy.

Let's look further down the LoneStarCon ballot. Novella: won by "The Emperor's Soul," by Brandon Sanderson, a pretty traditional story by an epic fantasist who also happens to be Mormon. (Where is that religious bigotry? Did the SJWs miss him?) One of the other nominees was by Aliette de Bodard, who many Puppies seem to count as one of the despised SJWs, but if the secret cabal was working for her, they fucked it up, because she lost. The other nominees were Nancy Kress, Jay Lake, and (again) Mira Grant. So far maybe we have some evidence of a Mira Grant clique, but none of a Social Justice clique.

Go to Novelette. Won by "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi," by Pat Cadigan. A brilliant story from a long time fan who had never won a Hugo before, and hadn't even been nominated for decades. The most popular win of the evening; the crowd in the hall went wild cheering. Pat won over two stories by Seanan McGuire (also known as Mira Grant), one by Catherynne Valente, and one by Thomsas Olde Heuvelt. Was it this shortlist that provoked the Puppies? Four women and only one man there, is that the issue? A surfeit of McGuire/ Grant, maybe? Or were there some brilliant conservative novelettes that year that were overlooked? I honestly do not know.

Short Story only had three nominees. Ken Liu won over Aliette de Bodard and Kij Johnson. The SJWs are really letting down the side, that's twice they left de Bodard lose. (I hope I remembered to give her a Hugo Loser ribbon, she certainly earned it). No other short story had 5% of the nominating ballots, which is why the list was too small. When there are no slates, that happens: everyone has their own favorites, votes scatter.

Further down the ballot, Brandon Sanderson won again for Best Related Work, together with a bunch of friends. SAGA won Graphic Story, damn good comic, damn good choice. That radical leftist film THE AVENGERS won Long Form Drama, and something called GAME OF THRONES won Short Form. And for editor -- hey, Stanley Schmidt finally won for ANALOG... but oh, dear, Patrick Nielsen Hayden won for Long Form Editor. Now we see the power of the SJWs: they won, oh, wow, ONE whole Hugo at LoneStarCon.

That's just one year, though. Let's turn the clock back further, to Chicon 7 in Chicago, and the nominees for the best work of 2011.

The Big One went to Jo Walton and AMONG OTHERS. My own nominee, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, finished last. In between you had EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville (who is a vocal and passionate leftist, yes, but also a helluva powerful writer), LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey (a rousing space opera that any fan of the Good Old Stuff should love, soon to be a major TV series from the SyFy Channel), and DEADLINE by Mira Grant. Another zombie story, I seem to recall, same world as her other Best Novel nominees. Kij Johnson, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ken Liu won the Short Fiction Awards. Is there something about them or their stories that the Puppies object to? What could it be? Their literary style? Or...

Actually, looking at the other nominees, maybe THIS is the ballot that provoked the Proto-Puppies to sadness. Mira Grant has another nominee in novella. Mary Robinette Kowal was also up there, and MRK seems widely hated by the right for her work as SFWA Vice President ( a thankless job that I did onece). Ken Liu won for Short Story but lost for novella. Catherynne Valente had a losing novella. And Short Story, seven hells, look at that ballot: beside Liu there is E. Lily Yu, the despised John Scalzi, Nancy Fulda , and... oh, look, Mike Resnick, however did the liberal cabal ever let HIM sneak in?

Novelette is pretty interesting too. Charlie Jane Anders won out over Paul Cornell, the affable Brit, Geoff Ryman, the affable Canadian, Rachel Swirsky (author, a few years later, of that dinosaur story that has all the Puppy Panties in a twist), and... "Ray of Light," by Brad R. Torgersen, from ANALOG.

Condolences, Brad. You are a Hugo Loser. But hey, congratulations. You are a Hugo Loser. It's an exclusive club. We get together annually, clank our beers together, and chant, "It's an honor just to be nominated" in unison. Were you at the con? Did I give you a ribbon? If not, I'll be sure you get one, should we ever met. Wear it proudly. The rest of us do. If that list I linked to is right, I've lost fifteen. When you lose, the fannish tradition is to congratulate the winner and shake their hand, then go to our Hugo Loser Party to get drunk and bitter. When I lose, my friends all tell me I've been robbed. Makes me feel better. Even when I know it isn't true.

Looking further down the Chicon ballot, we come to the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Not a Hugo. E. Lily Yu was the winner. She finished ahead of Karen Lord, Stina Leicht, Mur Lafferty, and... ah... Brad R. Torgersen again. Sorry, Brad. Two losses in one night, that's hard to take. But it's an honor too. Very few writers have ever been nominated for a Campbell and a Hugo in the same year. Actually, you may be the first. Being a Campbell Award loser does not officially qualify one for the Hugo Losers Club, but we usually let them in anyway. FWIW, I lost the very first Campbell Award, in 1973 at Torcon II. I was a nominee, but never really a contender, to tell the truth. Jerry Pournelle won that first Campbell, defeating George Alec Effinger so narrowly that the con gave him a special runner-up plaque, the first and last time that was ever done. I was way back behind both, so no plaques for me. But I did lose two Hugos in a single night once, in 1976 in Kansas City, Big Mac. Lost one to Larry Niven, and one to Roger Zelazny. The next night, Gardner Dozois and I founded the Hugo Losers Club, and held the first Hugo Losers Party in my room.

Onward and backward, though. Let's go back to Renovation. Reno, Nevada, 2011. Best work of 2010. Connie Willis wins the Big One for BLACKOUT/ ALL CLEAR. The other nominees were Mira Grant (for FEED, the first of her zombie cycle, I believe), Lois McMaster Bujold, N.K. Jemison with THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, and THE DERVISH HOUSE by the amazing Ian McDonald.

I know what Vox Day thinks of Jemison, since I read his poisonous screed. (He is a Rabid Puppy, I know, not a Sad one, and I would hope most SPs would disavow his bile, regardless of their literary preferences or political affiliations). Vox attacked the GOH speech she gave at an Australian convention... but since the Sad Puppies here have stated often that they only care about the work, not the race or the views of the writer, surely there could not have been any objections to THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS... or the Bujold, or the McDonald.

The novella award went to Ted Chiang... a writer of literary SF, we may agree, but one of the most powerful to enter our field in many years. There's a reason Chiang wins every time he is nominated for a award. He's bloody good. Novelette, though... that went to Alan Steele for "The Emperor of Mars," a classic retro-SF story that he actually wrote for OLD MARS, the anthology Gardner and I were putting together. When we were unable to place the project, however, Alan sold the story to ASIMOV'S, and it brought him home a rocket. Classic old style SF in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I will skip over the rest of Reno... except for the John W. Campbell Award. The fans chose Lev Grossman as the Best New Writer, over Lauren Beukes, Saladin Ahmed, Dan Wells... and Larry Correia. This, it seems to me, was BEFORE he started his first Puppies campaign. Dan Wells was also a Sad Puppy at one time... though this year he asked not to be part of the slate.

I have read Correia's blog, and I know he says that he was treated very badly at the Reno worldcon, attacked for his views, denounced as a racist and homophobe. I was at Reno myself, but I don't recall meeting him, so I don't know the details of any of that. It shocks me to hear it, because the fandom I know has always been warm and welcoming to people of all political views. We are there to party and flirt and celebrate SF, after all. I regret any personal attacks or abuse that Correia may have suffered.

I will say, though, that there is no dishonor in losing to a writer as gifted as Lev Grossman, and many many terrific writers have lost the Campbell Award over the decades, starting with me. And it is an INCREDIBLE honor just to be nominated. Think about it. We have hundreds of new writers entering our field every year, all of them dreaming of careers, all of them fighting for recognition, trying to build their brand... and a few, maybe, lusting for rockets. Out of all those people, the fans nominated FIVE (sometimes six) for the Campbell.

There were no Sad Puppies when Larry Correia was nominated for the Campbell, when Brad Torgersen was nominated for the Campbell, when Torgersen was nominated for his first Hugo. (Subsequent noms, yes, may have resulted from Puppy campaigns). That was the traditional Hugo electorate putting you on the ballot... you, and a lot of other conservative writers, religious writers, white male writers, and purveyors of space opera, military SF, and Good Old Stuff.

There was never any need for Sad Puppies to "take back" the Hugos. The feminists, minorities, literary cliques, and Social Justice Warriors never took them in the first place. That's a myth, as the actual facts I have cited here prove conclusively.


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Apr. 10th, 2015 03:07 am (UTC)
respectfully disagree
Hi George,

I love your works, and I want you to know that I really appreciate all that you've done for sci-fi/fantasy. I think you're just brilliant.

1) I respectfully disagree with you about this whole sadpuppies thing, and here's why: I think that it's human nature to be groupish, to form cliques, to support ideas and people who support you, the people you think deserve it, and the ideas you respect. That's certainly not always a "bad" thing -- our ability to form such intricate cooperative alliances with total strangers is a unique human feature that's allowed us to generate the prosperous societies we now inhabit. On the other hand, rival cooperative alliances may form with competing interests; these are the necessary ingredients for war, as you well know.

2) People tend to be biased in favor of those in their in-group. Psychological study after psychological study has shown this. This bias isn't necessarily conscious, but it can have real effects. This is what I see happening from liberals towards conservatives, and it's not just in sci-fi/fantasy.

3) Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who studies the moral foundations of political personalities, has shown that bias and discrimination against conservatives in certain fields of academia are highly prevalent and out in the open. Studies of the media as well have shown a fairly strong and consistent "liberal" bias (is that so hard to believe, given that roughly 80+% of journalists are liberal?). Just look at the articles that have covered this whole sadpuppy debacle: the gaurdian, Io9, the Telegraph, the atlantic, slash dot, the huffingtonpost, Salon, entertainment weekly, slate, daily dot, rawstory, etc, all of them calling the sadpuppies a "takeover" or "hijacking," an attempt to stifle “diversity” (as though political diversity doesn’t exist, or apparently isn’t the kind of “diversity" anyone in sci-fi or the media ought to be interested in promoting) and "change." The only publications to take the side (or even attempt to understand the perspective) of the sadpuppies were breitbart and nationalreview, both -- you guessed it -- conservative publications. Even the sites you posted in support of the sadpuppies' position were from the author's own blogs, not any journalism site. This has had the effect of further legitimizing the need for their movement by making the lack of political balance all the more clear and probably incentivized them to close ranks and bunker down, as people usually do when they feel outnumbered and surrounded.

4) When you say that before the sadpuppies, there had been balance in the hugos between competing interests, that nothing had ever "controlled" the awards before, I have to disagree. That control may not have been apparent to you, but from the perspective of the sadpuppies, the hugos were already controlled by mostly liberal people making (usually) unconsciously biased decisions against conservative writers, and whatever balance of competing interests existed didn’t sufficiently include them.

5) As for your evidence, I don’t think what you’ve posted here is anything close to sufficient to make your case. In addition to the political views of each writer, you’d need to examine the political messages and themes of each work of every individual who’s won or been nominated in the last few years, the political beliefs of every person who's written a work that was eligible for nomination, as well as how apparent each writer's political beliefs are to the audience. The argument isn’t that conservatives never are nominated or win; it’s that works with conservative messages (and that are produced by people who are "openly" conservative) are punished, whether consciously or not, by a liberal majority. You'd also need to develop some system for measuring pushback against certain political beliefs by calculating votes for and against authors with openly held political beliefs -- just looking at who has won or how many votes each received isn't statistically informative for our purposes.
Apr. 10th, 2015 03:18 am (UTC)
Re: respectfully disagree (cont'd)
6) In my experience, it’s not that conservative writers never receive votes or that only liberal writers do; the issue is that writers who take conservative stances or who've said or done "conservative" things receive an inordinate amount of backlash, even if they ultimately end up winning. When they don’t win, one reason is the large collection of liberals on twitter who vote against them. Take Correia’s experience after being nominated last year: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/04/24/an-explanation-about-the-hugo-awards-controversy/

How come I didn’t hear anything about this in the media, George, the same way I hear about threats to women like Brianna Wu or the harassment of feminists like Anita Sarkeesian? Where is the balance that you mentioned? Where were you when Jonathan Ross canceled his appearance at the Hugos because of the outrage of online twitter mobs? And as far as I know, he’s not even a conservative! He’s just a person who, in the minds of online outrage generators, shares something in common with conservatives: saying or doing or believing “offensive” things. What about when Orson Scott Card was boycotted for his views on gay marriage? What liberal authors face anything like this due to their political beliefs, George?

7) Well, now a large swath of sci-fi and fantasy fans who simply don’t agree with the perpetually offended and have been attacked online and in the news because of their political dispositions have allied together, and you don’t like the result. For that, you should probably be blaming the people that made them feel it was necessary (that, or human nature), not the people who have been and continue to be relentlessly dog-piled online and in the media.

Just my 2 (er, 7) cents.
Re: respectfully disagree - reziac - Apr. 10th, 2015 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: respectfully disagree - John Brown - Apr. 10th, 2015 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: respectfully disagree - awesomekermit - Apr. 11th, 2015 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: respectfully disagree - foryoublue2 - Apr. 10th, 2015 04:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: respectfully disagree - awesomekermit - Apr. 11th, 2015 03:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 10th, 2015 03:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for this, George.


I seem to recall that Nancy Kress went 17 years between Hugos. She racked up a bunch of Nebulas in there, so was probably doing some good work, but not all the good work gets a nod every year.

And me, I've never had a Nebula nomination. OBVIOUSLY IT'S CONSPIRACY.
Apr. 10th, 2015 03:30 am (UTC)
Why bother?
I'm huge fan of your work and I'm sorry to distract you from it, but I'm a little curious:

If you wrote a puppygate/gamergate/MRA person as a character, a true fanatic that viewed white men as victims and believed in a vast "sjw" conspiracy, would they be swayed by a blog post full of facts and evidence?

Edited at 2015-04-10 03:32 am (UTC)
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:55 am (UTC)
Re: Why bother?
Is anyone swayed by facts any more?

Sometimes I wonder.

People see what they want to see.
Re: Why bother? - K26dp - Apr. 10th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why bother? - ian_cd - Apr. 10th, 2015 05:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 10th, 2015 03:49 am (UTC)
The view from outside
I have been reading all I can find about the Sad Puppies campaign as well as the detractors.

From what I can tell the main point of contention is the Sad Puppies camp's disdain for "message fiction" and the rebuttal that "all fiction is message fiction, only some of it you don't like."

I would like to point out that the argument that all fiction is message fiction is not an appropriate counter argument since it misses the main point of the prior statement.

When a person complains about message fiction they are simply using shorthand for "The author was more concerned with making a socio-political point than with the story the book was trying to tell and therefore the quality of the work was diminished."

This has been my understanding all along of the Sad Puppies campaign, and this is a stance I agree with.

I am able to form my own opinions and I do not need another person's attempt (however graceful or clumsy) to form my opinions into something other than what my own experience and knowledge deem they should be.

I find that I agree with J. R. R. Tolkien when he described allegory filled literature (which we would today call message fiction) as the purposed dominion over the reader by the author.

Make your stories enjoyable to read. If your character is gay, fine. But their sexuality should be in some way important to the story (I'm looking at you Ms. Rowling).

By all means, shoot me with Chekhov's gun; I love it. But don't preach to me, you don't have the standing to do so.
Apr. 10th, 2015 08:09 am (UTC)
Re: The view from outside
"If your character is gay, fine. But their sexuality should be in some way important to the story (I'm looking at you Ms. Rowling)."

Why? Do you also insist that straight characters' sexuality be justified as important to the story? How about race - does THAT have to be relevant to the story?

The world IS diverse. People exist that fit any combination of gender, race, sexual orientation, and whatever other divisions you want to include in the mix. They don't have to justify those aspects of themselves, to you or anybody else. They are who they are, and if any author wishes to model a character on any such combination of those traits, you have no right to demand that the traits you consider "different" be relevant to the plot.

True story: I'm editing a novel that describes a couple in passing. They're background detail in a conversation, there and gone in a paragraph. Their names are Ben and Ronnie. Now, you tell me: Is "Ronnie" short for "Ronald" or "Veronica," and what difference does it make either way? Is Ben black, white, or something else? Do they attend a church, a synogogue, a mosque, or might they even be atheists? Which choices have to be justified, and which do not - and if some do not, why not? Why are THOSE settings okay as "just because" of the others aren't? If the author never answers those questions, what "message" is being sent?

To swipe a lovely quote from Mary Robinette Kowal, "It's not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity, it's about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism."

That's the only "message" I want to leave you with: people don't have to justify their existence to you. Not even imaginary ones who only live in the pages of a book. If you can't grok that, I would suggest that the problem - to the extent that you perceive one - isn't with the author, the book, or the characters.
Re: The view from outside - monkofmimmir - Apr. 10th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The view from outside - K26dp - Apr. 10th, 2015 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The view from outside - renepavan - Apr. 10th, 2015 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The view from outside - thetruebard - Apr. 10th, 2015 07:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The view from outside - rockstarwookie - Apr. 10th, 2015 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Will Gardner
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:12 am (UTC)
Thank you
A serious education on the history of the awards, and a factual argument to an emotional fit.

Apr. 10th, 2015 04:17 am (UTC)
Thank you
You post and Matthew Surridge have summarized a great deal of history and facts about the Hugo awards that were being ignored for ego-driven divisive rhetoric. Sadly I think too many people online choose to only use the net to bolster their own opinions rather than challenge them, but the ridiculous claims against the Hugo Awards compared to the reality of the situation.

I hope if anything that even those who knee jerk disagree with you might take the time to look further into the history of the award and come to their own conclusions rather than parrot something they heard.

Personally I find it depressing to see this oddly spiteful cutting off the nose to spite the face mentality over the awards when we should be celebrating how the voices within it have grown and how there are so many amazing authors out there now contributing and expanding the field.

I hope your wisdom will fall on ears willing to listen and believe there are far more people who are excited and want to build upon the foundations of the genre than there are those who would try and selfishly diminish the accomplishments of others for imagined slights.

Sadly those who are the most negative and reductive are often the loudest voices. Thank you for continuing to be a positive force in the industry, and never doubt the impact of how that positivity is an inspiration to others.
Matthew Leo
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:27 am (UTC)
"You are not special"
A few years ago a local English teacher (David McCullough Jr. -- son of the famous historian) made national news when he told the graduating class of Wellesley High School "You are not special (http://theswellesleyreport.com/2012/06/wellesley-high-grads-told-youre-not-special/)." Here is the relevant section of his speech:

... [We Americans] have of late, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.

The Sad Puppies have missed this point in a spectacularly obtuse way. It is true that the Hugo process is not a fair one; in fact it's mathematically impossible (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theorem) for a 3+ way election ranking to be entirely fair. But even though the process is inherently somewhat arbitrary, being nominated is an honor, because it signifies hard won respect that cuts across divisions in fandom. Being engineered onto an exclusive slate by a small subgroup of fans defeats that purpose. Even if the intent is to correct past injustices the one thing that it will not represent is that kind of widely-held respect.

In a way those who win are the most shabbily served by this. It's normal for some fans to feel that awards may not have been the best possible choice, but the 2015 winners will have to endure the indignity of fans adding a mental asterisk whenever the 2015 winners come up.
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:31 am (UTC)
On the Term "SJW"
Howdy! I really admired your response to this whole debacle. I don't typically respond to blog posts, but I feel I have a salient point.

On the term SJW: it is a very interesting thing, in that it is used by both camps. I have been called it as an insult. I also identify with it, and I have numerous friends who identify with it as well. I can see why you haven't heard much about those who consider themselves SJWs; we are mostly on places like tumblr and twitter, and for the most part pretty young (I am sixteen, which isn't an unusually young age for self-identified SJWs, though there are many I know in their twenties).

Edited at 2015-04-10 04:40 am (UTC)
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC)
Very nice post!

If you want to see if there is systematic bias against a group you first:
-Identify the group
-See what percentage of the population that group represents
-See how that population is represented

Which is of course what you are doing here. I really applaud you taking the time to do this. But not surprised since I know Worldcon/the Hugos are important to you.

It's interesting to me that there is a group claiming there is systematic bias against their group, but they refuse to follow step 1 - identify who the group is.
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:35 pm (UTC)
That measures equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:46 am (UTC)
Isn't there a chance this is just a money grab by the Puppies?
George, I loved your analysis of the Hugo voting patterns, but like others here I wonder if your effort actually has any chance to reach the Puppies. When I heard about the expansion of the Sad Puppies slate from the last two years, my immediate reaction was "Oh, it's a money grab by Correia/Torgerson/Day/et alii." The panic-stricken American far right wing (the ones I think of as the rabid right, which connects nicely with the Rabid Puppies) is very prone to tossing large sums of cash at whoever appears to be fighting for "their team", no matter how thin the pretext.

Look at the nearly a million dollars that was thrown at that Indianapolis pizzeria just because they said they wouldn't cater their pizzas at a gay wedding. Isn't the promotion of Puppygate, at its heart, about Larry Correia's grudge because no one agreed with his conservative BS at WorldCon, and the wish of the Puppies to sell large numbers of books to American conservatives, the vast majority of which will never read said books but who will shell out for them to support "their team" against "the other guys"? If the Puppies manage to take out the Hugos for a few years for kicks and giggles along the way, so much the better for them (to Hell with those Hugo voters for not recognizing their brilliance!) but to me it looks like the main point is just to sell some workmanlike but unexceptional SF&F to people who wouldn't normally buy it.

I mean, Correia's the guy who claims he's more deserving of a Hugo than Ann Leckie because he sells more books. Doesn't it seem clear that selling books is what's at the root of all this, not any genuine belief in "SJW cabals" controlling the Awards? The "SJW cabal" stuff seems to be to be just a smokescreen, a tissue-paper thin cover story to hide the real motivations here, a dog-whistle to prove that the Puppies are on the The "Right" Side so that they will be embraced and supported by conservatives who otherwise wouldn't look twice at their work product.

Is it just me who thinks this?
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:36 am (UTC)
Re: Isn't there a chance this is just a money grab by the Puppies?
I think it might be important to separate the two groups when it comes to things like this. I see a very real difference between an otherwise honest misconception on the part of the Sad Puppy leaders as to whether or not a secret clique is steering the nominations and the much more serious and disturbing aims of the Rabid Puppies.

Since GRRM has not yet posted his thoughts on the RP people, including Vox Day/Ted Beale and the Gamersgate connection, we should probably keep the discussion to Sad Puppies and their goals.

In that regard, I really think that the Sad Puppies genuinely feel put upon. After reading Larry Corriea's response to GRRM's first post on this subject, it seems clear that past events, real or not, made an indelible impression upon Mr. Corriea and then others simply jumped on the bandwagon and the whole thing became an insular exercise in mutually reinforcing beliefs. I do not believe that greed is at issue, at least not with the Sad Puppies. The RP leader on the other hand is a different subject entirely.

Edited at 2015-04-10 05:44 am (UTC)
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:47 am (UTC)
I think this is problematic ; Leckie article from june 2014.
I was talking with one of the other commentators here I recognized from twitter, we disagreed on GamerGate and we disagree again on SPs - but he's cool. He said that Leckie was one of his favorite authors, so I googled her to figure out what she wrote. (probably should have known that)

I still don't know anything about her book or anything, I'm sure it was great. But I don't know how you can see an article like this being published 2 months before the voting for the Hugos happen and still claim that the Sad Puppies have no valid cause to be upset. 5 pages of straight campaigning for her, no wonder she won. Bonus that scalzi's name and face is plastered all over it too. C'mahn brah, that can't be normal - and certainly not every nominee has backing that wields that type of influence.


Maybe it's legal, but that doesn't make it good or right.

Apr. 10th, 2015 05:23 am (UTC)
GRRM can post fact after fact and it simply will not matter
A large part of the problem is that the Puppy groups really feel that they are targeted because of their beliefs. It doesn't matter whether or not that feeling is accurate. Those on the Right have been telling themselves for several decades now that a Leftist conspiracy is ruining their beloved (and non-existent) old-fashioned apple pie and fireworks paradise. They have told each other that they are victims so often that reality is no longer a factor. Once it becomes a meme on the Right and is kicked around the political internet echo chamber, the supposed victims become convinced of the truth of their victim-hood. At that point, no amount of argument, fact or reasoning is going to change their minds. The "facts" as those on the Puppy side see things have been established to their satisfaction. Pointing out anything contrary to their views will simply result in the tired old tradition of finger-in-ear-insertion while loudly reciting from Fountainhead.
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:29 am (UTC)
Re: GRRM can post fact after fact and it simply will not matter
An interesting theory, but until the Koch Brothers give Vox Day a million dollars, I am inclined to be skeptical.
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:44 am (UTC)
You know, I was at Reno Worldcon and I attended Larry's kaffeeklatsch and a couple of his panels. Of course I can't say what he's talking about didn't happen, but what I can say is that what I saw was a whole of fans really super into listening to Larry speak, and a whole lot of abject hero worship. His fans are serious about being fans, boy howdy.

Did some people disagree with him at a panel? Absolutely. Did he seem especially thin-skinned when they did so? Well, that could just be my memory playing tricks on me, and I hate to be uncharitable. But any kind of disagreement with his (extremely) outspoken political and personal views paled in comparison to the numerous fanboys lavishing fulsome praise with puckered lips. Which is not to imply that he did or didn't deserve it -- either way, it happened.

That's just my memory, and of course I wasn't following him around 24/7. For all I know a group of really mean girls cornered him in the elevator every time I wasn't around and said hateful things about his face, his writing and his dog.

But I didn't see it.

Edited at 2015-04-10 06:02 am (UTC)
Apr. 10th, 2015 01:49 pm (UTC)

His original con report from 2011. I guess he is just now remembering all those meanies he encountered there.
(no subject) - yagathai - Apr. 10th, 2015 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yagathai - Apr. 10th, 2015 07:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nelc - Apr. 10th, 2015 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 10th, 2015 06:45 am (UTC)
What is the beef, indeed!
I've been reading sf and fantasy since I was a kid. Am now 74 years old and still can't get enough of it. Mr Martin, I read a lot of your books and The Song For Lya about a year and a half ago. It keeps popping into my mind, the story as well as the concept. The point I am trying to make is that a good story does that to you, makes you think, and as such grow a little. I fail to uderstand what all this bitching is about. Besides being a fan of your books, as well as of almost all of the writers you mentioned who have won Hugos or Nebulas, or whatever, it has never been a reason for me to buy their books. They were and are just darn good writers, and their stories and concepts appealed to me. Their race, color, sexuality, or political leanings makes no difference to me or I bet, to the majority of fans. I've been reading sf and fantasy for 60 plus years, and I know what I like to read, and no amount of bitching between two camps will change my mind. To be quite honest to a real bookworm (as my father use to call me), it's a bit offensive. Most of these things come to pass, when someone with a low self-esteem starts a pity party. For heavens sake, why don't they grow up. Not everything is about them!


Edited at 2015-04-10 08:02 am (UTC)
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