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Sasquan and Beyond

A couple posts down, I posted about worldcon and what it means to me, and why I am going to be going to Sasquan and throwing a big party there (someone needs to make a big futile, stupid gesture, and it might as well be me).

From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will NOT be going to Spokane, mainly because the Hugo Wars have left a bad taste in their mouths. Others will attend, but not without trepidation. They wonder how much of the acrimony of Puppygate will spill over into the con itself... to the panels, the parties, the hallways. Will this worldcon be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud?

I wish I could answer that question, but no one really knows. I'm hoping for "celebration" and "family reunion," and I think that's the best bet... but we won't know till the fat lady sings and the dead dogs howl.

There are a couple of questions that are key here.

Number one, how many Puppies are actually going to be coming to Spokane? Hundreds of people have bought Sasquan memberships in the last couple of months, presumably to vote on the awards and site selection, but the majority of those have been supporting memberships. Are any of the Puppies buying attending memberships?

I have no idea. We do know that none of the Puppy leaders will be in Spokane. Brad Torgersen is in the military, and on deployment. Larry Correia attended the Reno worldcon (and blogged about what a great time he had, though he changed his mind a few months ago and revised his trip report retroactively), but he has clearly stated a number of times that he finds Dragoncon and Gencon more congenial and does not plan to return to worldcon. And VD, we are told, cannot attend any worldcon held on US soil. (I do not know the truth of that, though it does appear true that Beale lives somewhere abroad).

Torgersen, Correia, and Beale are by no means the only Puppies, of course. What about the others? Wright, Kratman, Hoyt, Williamson, May, Paulk, the Tor Boycott guys? Any of them? If any of the slate nominees should win a Hugo, will they be there to accept? Sure, many of those on the slates will be there, folks like Mike Resnick and Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, but just as we must distinguish between the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, we need to distinguish between the actual Puppies and those they chose to nominate.

Will the Sad Puppies be sitting on panels, signing autographs in the dealer's room, attending the parties? Hell, will they be throwing parties? (The Furries sometimes have room parties at worldcon, what about the Puppies?) Will any of the Rabids turn up, without their rabid leader?

The fannish fears about Sasquan becoming a battleground are going to prove baseless if no Puppies actually come to Spokane. Which is entirely possible. Way back in one of my first posts on Puppygate, I said that the Puppies want to decide who gets the Ditmars, but they don't want to be Australians. That analogy still holds true; the Puppies want to decide who gets worldcon's award, but they don't seem to want to come to worldcon.

But maybe I am wrong.

If so, the second question arises. Assuming some Puppies do indeed come to Spokane -- a lot, a few, just one -- what will that do to the atmosphere of the con?

This of course is a two-sided question. Will the Puppies behave? How will the trufans behave toward them? Will people get along, agree to disagree, maintain some semblence of courtesy? Or will we have blood in the halls and the party suites?

Tor always throws a huge party at worldcon. Will the boycotters try to make their presence known there, or at the Tor table in the dealer's room? Baen Books often has a party too. Is that going to be a Puppy stronghold, or will writers from across the spectrum be welcome? If there is a panel on Puppygate, will it turn into a bloodbath?

And then there the two biggest potential flashpoints. The Business Meeting, and the Hugo ceremony itself. The Business Meeting takes place AFTER the Hugos, and I suspect that much of what happens there will be determined by what happened the night before. But it could get very contentious. The Hugo Awards... David Gerrold has stated several times that he wants to make the ceremony fun and non-political. I commend him for that. But there is only so much that a presenter can do. There's only one of him, and hundreds in the audience. David can set a tone, but he cannot control what will happen.

What happens at Sasquan, I believe, is going to be very important... because it will go a long way toward determining what happens after worldcon, next year and the year after and the year after that. "The culture war has come to science fiction," some of the headlines about this kerfuffle have read. True enough, I fear. The question is, is the culture war here to stay, or can we make a peace? Will Puppygate fade and be forgotten after Sasquan, or will we need to fight the same battles next year?

The answer to that lies with the Sad Puppies. The Rabids? Forget it. Beale has vowed to destroy the Hugos, to burn them to the ground, and I have no doubt he will try... this year, next year, the year after. There's no reconciliation possible there.

The Sads, though... as much as I have disagreed, and continue to disagree, with Correia and Torgersen, I have managed to have relatively civilized and courteous exchanges with them both, and I don't think either intended what has happened. Beale wants to wreck the Hugos; Correia and Torgersen just seem to have wanted to get themselves and their friends nominated. I don't like the way they went about it, but they are not the first to have that impulse. Neither one will be involved with Sad Puppies 4, we are told... and that's good. I can only hope that their chosen successor will go about things differently... recommendations rather than a slate, discussions of the virtues of the writers they like rather than attacks on the writers they don't like, an end to all the crap about SWJs and CHORFs, the endless name-calling.

I am old enough to remember 1974, when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle published THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and Samuel R. Delany published DHALGREN. Both major works by major writers, both bestsellers, both instantly recognized as classics... but in what may have been the last great battle of the Old Wave and New Wave, the fans who loved MOTE hated DHALGREN, and vice versa. (I loved them both myself, but I think I was almost alone in that). At every con I went to that year, fans and writers alike debated the virtues of those two important novels. The arguments were impassionated, endless, often heated, sometimes derisive... but underneath it all was always the sense that we are all still fans together, united by a common love for our genre.

It was not a culture war. It was a literary debate.

That's what we need to return to, if we are ever to get beyond Puppygate.

Can we? I hope so. One of the things that gives me hope is -- surprise -- one of the Puppies, a writer named Kary English. She will be up for two awards on Hugo night. Both the Sad Puppies and the Rabids had her on their slate for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and she's on the ballot there. And both slates also pushed her story "Totaled," which is on the ballot for Best Short Story. English did not refuse the nominations or ask to be removed from the ballot, like Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and (later) Edmund Schubert, for which sin some of those on "my side" of this fight will not forgive her. But she did later make two blog posts about Puppygate -- you can read them here http://karyenglish.com/2015/06/dear-puppies-please-talk-about-what-you-love/ and here http://karyenglish.com/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-puppies-and-everyone/-- calling for the Puppies to talk about the work and why they liked it (which none of them were doing, all the actual literary debate and reviews were coming from the other side) and then asking me to left out of any future Puppy slates. For that sin, she got on the Rabid shitlist too, and Beale dropped her from his slate.

I don't know Kary English. (It is possible I have met her or been in the same room with her at some previous con, but if so I don't remember. I meet a lot of people). Until Puppygate and her double nomination, I had never read any of her work. But I agree with much of what she had to say in those posts, and I applaud her for saying it, knowing (as surely she must have) that by breaking ranks with "her side," aka the Puppies, she would face the wroth of some of those who had previously championed her. I know that there are some on "my side" who have slammed English despite these posts, insisting that she spoke up too late in the game, that she was trying "to have it both ways." No, sorry, that's idiocy. Like Kloos and Bellet and Schubert before her, she's opting out of the kennel and the slates. I will not fault her for not doing so sooner. This thing has been hard for all concerned, and these choices are painful... especially for a young writer who has just received his or her first Hugo nomination.

If there is any hope for reconciliation post-Puppygate, it lies with voices of moderation and forgiveness on both sides, not with the extremists and the haters. It lies with Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert. I hope they are all at worldcon. I would like to meet them, buy them a drink, shake their hands, and argue about books with them.

And Kary English too. The chances are good that, come Hugo night, she will be losing a Hugo Award and a Campbell Award both (maybe not, upsets happen, no one knows, I get surprised every year, but that's my best guess). If so, I'll have a Hugo Loser ribbon for her badge, and she'll be welcome at my Hugo Loser Party.


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Jul. 26th, 2015 07:06 am (UTC)
I want to become a Hugo Loser
Winning is a great honor but losing puts you in a bigger club. The parties seem more fun.
Jul. 29th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: I want to become a Hugo Loser
I want to be nominated for a Hugo so I can lose and go party!
John Nelson
Jul. 26th, 2015 07:34 am (UTC)
I hope it just's all ends up in being "fun"
This whole PuppyGate thing makes me sad. Having been part of many counter-cultures focused on specific genres of music, art or creating thinking in general, I've seen too much in-fighting ruin them all. That's why I've disassociated from any *scene* for many years. I owe it your books (and this little TV show based on your books) for helping me crawl out of a big, dark pit that I've been in for many years. Your fine writing and creative imagination has rekindled my love and interest in these things, and have been slowly popping my head back into the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Ok, mostly by reading your blog. However, the puppy gate thing is just a reminder of the arrogance and negligence that people end up ruining these other wise sacred and beautiful counter cultural movements with.

I used to be part of WorldCon/DragonCon and the likes, but had lost touch with it because...life just did that to me, and I allowed it to drag me down for a short bit. However, having the time to reflect as to what initialized me to be catapulted from great things...it was the disbanding of the tribes from the in-fights. Things became soiled with nasty politics and petty dramas. I've been part of some severe, intense subcultures too. Not just sci-fi/fantasy, but musical scenes like underground metal. Those folks sure to get a little hostile once there's some...erm...*debate* as to what is true or not true in that scene. (Man Alive, do they ever. Reminds me of a couple of lines of prose you've once written). It just got so chaotic, ugly and fierce that I couldn't associate my self with it any longer. After a while it was so fragmented, there wasn't much to associate with other than the album titles. It was like we all went in hiding (having babies or going to jail or what have you. I had the babies and stayed clear of the jails) All the while the internet got more and more mainstream, allowing the "me-first" ideology to take over, allowing this type of arrogance and in-fighting to just take over more. In everything. In fact, it's just expected that people are to be disagreeable with one another now. It sucks. i hole this all just goes away in one big "haha, you're so stupid you Sad Puppy people...not let's go find some old schoo' Jolt Cola and watch Akira"
Jul. 27th, 2015 11:53 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope it just's all ends up in being "fun"
I've always said the fate of every fandom is to eventually turn against itself. Making it the only way to like something at a certain point is to hate it.
Re: I hope it just's all ends up in being "fun" - grrm - Jul. 28th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2015 07:39 am (UTC)
What I don't get the most.
Has anyone in the past ever actually been prevented from obtaining Worldcon membership?

If not, then I really struggle to understand the "Puppy" cause. Because the Hugos have been around for decades and literally anyone could walk up and obtain a membership for a minimal fee, so what the hell are they complaining about?

If anything, the events of this year have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there isn't some sort of super-secret cabal, because if there were then they would have been able to preclude the ballots from being screwed with in the first place. So either there isn't a powerful conspiracy dedicated to ensuring that "conservative" writers don't get Hugos, or if there was one then it was so powerless that the shift of a few votes has managed to overwhelm their not-so-considerable backroom powers.

Also, I find it incredibly distasteful that someone who has won a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2011 would turn around and complain that the system is rigged against him, or writers like him. Especially given he was nominated for two Hugos a few short years later in 2014. It is a huge slap in the face to all of the other writers, nominated or not, to turn around and attempt to make the case that you are somehow not being properly represented when you have won one of the most prestigious awards and been nominated for two more in the span of less than 4 years.

This is Kanye West "Imma Let You Finish" levels of rude, asinine behavior.
Jul. 28th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC)
Re: What I don't get the most.
Quick correction: Brad Torgersen (who I assume you mean) did not win the Campbell when he was nominated in 2012 for 2011. E Lily Yu did. Brad was nominated for the Campbell, a Hugo, and a Nebula in 2012 (for his 2011 works), so he had an excellent year. Brad was indeed nominated for two Hugos in 2014.

- yeff
Re: What I don't get the most. - grrm - Jul. 28th, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - jeffsoesbe - Jul. 28th, 2015 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - kurtdbusiek - Jul. 29th, 2015 01:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - grrm - Jul. 29th, 2015 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - kurtdbusiek - Jul. 29th, 2015 05:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - grrm - Jul. 29th, 2015 07:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What I don't get the most. - kurtdbusiek - Jul. 30th, 2015 06:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2015 08:47 am (UTC)
Looking Forward To It
I look forward to being there, not to get into debates, but to experience my first WorldCon. It's within driving distance - hooray! I hope the atmosphere is rigorous but congenial. I hope there are very good panels. I hope to come away with new insights into writing so I can return home and write better. Those are my expectations. I hadn't even thought about parties!
Jul. 26th, 2015 09:29 am (UTC)
If you know if your going by Aug 1 can you announce it? I'm not a puppy of any kind and will be up on the Hugo nominees. It will be my first ever but I've been into SF for 50 years - & it's about time, eh? Spokane is in my area. If you just want to meet real people I bet there'll be enough.
Jul. 26th, 2015 09:30 am (UTC)
Yes that's a puppy in my avi. Coincidence!
Jul. 26th, 2015 11:03 am (UTC)
From Wikipedia, perhaps this is why Vox Day cannot attend any Worldcon on US soil?
"In 2013 Day ran unsuccessfully to succeed John Scalzi as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Later in 2013, he was investigated by the Board, who subsequently voted to expel him from the organization.[19] Day maintains that the vote does not signify his expulsion from the organization."
Jul. 27th, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
VD's expulsion from SFWA has nothing to do with the question of whether he could attend worldcon. Worldcon is run by fans; SFWA is a professional organization, entirely separate/
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - grrm - Jul. 29th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2015 11:13 am (UTC)
In a truly free Republic, divergent opinions should be applauded and embraced, not feared. The true terror manifests when one side overpowers another. Then there is tyranny.

The issues within the writers' world surrounding the Hugos didn't spawn in a vacuum. The whole world is on the brink of war.

Jul. 26th, 2015 12:07 pm (UTC)
As Linus once said, "There are three things that I've learned never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."
Jul. 26th, 2015 01:01 pm (UTC)
Just a heads up, the Business Meeting is running in the mornings Thurs-Sat, and as long as needed on Sunday (I'm the Sergeant-at-Arms...so it's on my schedule).

Frankly, I'm planning to go to Worldcon and have fun. I believe there's plenty of room for a difference of opinion but I think that most of the moderates have more in common about what they like in SF than they differ.
Jul. 26th, 2015 02:31 pm (UTC)
I won't be able to go--Worldcons are too expensive for me, generally--but I am hoping for family reunion. My guess is that Puppies who aren't part of the fan community won't go, and Puppies who are will be more interested in having fun and talking about books than it starting fights, and even if they wanted to start fights they aren't the type to do it in a venue where they are likely to be badly outnumbered.
Bob Jenson
Jul. 26th, 2015 03:15 pm (UTC)
I *think* things will be fine. Maybe...
My gut reaction is a lot of the acrimony and nastiness that has been thrown around is indicative of being tough on the web - which is like acting tough with toy foam Hulk-hands (kudos to the comic fan who came up with that one - wish I could remember where I stole that from). In short, I feel a lot of the Puppies - particularly the rabid variety - are mostly bark. It's easy to fight when you're not face-to-face with someone, and I've said that since the first time I fired up my blindingly-fast 1200 baud modem many, many moons ago. So I expect to not see confrontations, really.
Then again, I could be massively Pollyannaish here. I've always been a little shy and stand-offish and not one to join in fandom groups and the last "major" con I've been to was San Diego in '96. So my ignorance here is probably at best cute. You, George, and most of the others that post here will be better informed as to the conduct of fans.
Still, my main worry is that fans will walk away from Sasquan thinking that it sucked, and not because of the Puppy drama. No one wants his or her hometown to be known as the place of that dreadfully boring Worldcon. But I'm looking forward to it, and would welcome any polite and civil conversation about slates and Hugos and puppies. But mainly I just wanna get my geek on, ya know?
Jul. 26th, 2015 03:26 pm (UTC)
Diebirchen, not anonymous!
I'm currently in Spokane, but only for a 53rd mini high school reunion. As to awards, Hugo or otherwise, the decisions of groups are all too often not to be trusted, be they what they may. I don't even know what "Puppygate" is, thank heaven. I suggest that rather than puerile arguing, those folks get themselves up to Manito Park to Rose Hill, the "Alice in Wonderland"-like Dunkin Garden, and the Japanese Garden. The park is very lovely. Then too, there is the Shriner's Hospital for children, should anyone need a lesson in perspective.
Craig McDonough
Jul. 29th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Diebirchen, not anonymous!
I can happily second the recommendations to view those lovely venues. I especially adore the Japanese Garden.

Back when my MIL was still in WA we would visit each year, and we usually had time to toddle 'round Spokane before we drove to her place several hours away (Spokane was the closest airport).

I really got miffed when she moved to MN last year - I had thoughts of being able to make a (relatively) inexpensive side trip.
Jul. 26th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
What is even going on?
Am I the only one who has no idea wtf any of this means? Is there a synopsis of this puppy war somewhere?
Jul. 28th, 2015 12:40 pm (UTC)
Re: What is even going on?
You could try this one: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Puppygate

Though you probably should go read some sci-fi instead. You're happier not touching it. The whole thing is just depressing.
Re: What is even going on? - Scott Schaffer - Jul. 28th, 2015 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2015 04:33 pm (UTC)
This or that?
What is more stressful to you, Puppygate or Son of Kong?
Jul. 27th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
Re: This or that?
Oh, Son of Kong, by orders of magnitude.
Re: This or that? - caravaggio2012 - Jul. 27th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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