Master List of Unlikeable Things About Sad Puppies

The rumor has it that the infamous Sad Puppy slate by Brad Torgersen, Larry Correia and friends is going to take up a sizeable amount of the places on the Hugo shortlist. I’m neither surprised nor happy about it.

I’m not surprised, because it has been a well-coordinated campaign, and the Hugo nomination process is relatively easy to crack with tactical voting if you have a well-coordinated campaign.

I’m not happy, because–

Well, let me make a list.

1) Voting tactically for art awards is not a nice thing to do.

Voting tactically is a way to maximize your influence in tricky situations where you are in a minority. In political elections, which are about getting the right (or least-wrong) people and parties to power, every sensible person considers the tactical aspects of their voting decisions. In political elections, outcomes have real consquences, so it’s not practical to play nice (especially if that means you lose).

When it comes to art awards, I’m not so sure tactical voting is the right thing to do. Fan awards such as the Hugos are about celebrating the best (=most popular among the voters) genre works and having fun. Open calculation and tactical voting takes the good spirit out of it. I also fear that tactical Sad Puppy voting will result in a backlash of tactical anti-Sad Puppy voting in the future. If the Hugo nomination process becomes a death match between Sad Puppy and Happy Kitten slates, the whole point of the award is lost.

Some people have suggested that encouraging others to nominate a single slate is against the rules. I don’t think that’s the case, though. Bying multiple memberships, ballot-stuffing operations and the like aren’t allowed, but there’s really no way to stop WSFS members voting tactically if that’s what they want to do. It’s certainly unsportsmanlike and nothing good will come out of it, but no rule change I can think of will stop it.

2) Sad Puppies is about anti-liberal, anti-feminist identity politics.

Current Hugo-winning science fiction and fantasy literature, Torgersen thinks,

devotes time to pondering racism and ethnicity problems, gender and sexuality problems, and the doctrines of the academic complaint, as typified by gender studies, racial studies, and certain strains of socialist economic theory.

Puppies feel this is a serious problem: most contemporary SF/F is rotten and that’s the reason why it doesn’t sell anymore. Luckily, Torgersen knows who is to blame: feminists, postcolonial writers, suspicious academic types who think about complex issues too damn much. In another blog post, Torgersen gets poetic when he muses about the sorry state of current SF/F. He describes books which have science fictional covers but end up betraying readers who come look for laser blasters:

A planet, framed by galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.

A book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues. Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.

Sad Puppy campaigners complain endlessly about message fiction and how it takes all the fun out of SF/F. That’s an interesting diagnosis, because I have trouble seeing what Torgersen et al propose is going on in the contemporary SF/F landscape. If the stuff that beat Sad Puppies last year — Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Charless Stross’s Neptune’s Brood and Equiod, Mira Grant’s Parasite, Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White and others — really tries to force political messages down readers’ throats, I guess I missed that.

The novel category winner was a space opera about galactic empires and AIs with multiple bodies. Does the fact that the protagonist AI had trouble making the distinction between male and female people make the whole novel a piece of message fiction (and what’s the message exactly)? What was the message the Cthulhu-esque unicorn in the novella Hugo-winner was trying to deliver? Sadly, Sad Puppies won’t tell us.

What they do tell us is that feminists and liberals have hijacked the Hugos and us ordinary fans (who, of course, dislike feminism and liberal attitudes) have been marginalized. This is powerful identity politics.

identitypolitics

3) Sad Puppies are not telling the truth about what their campaign is about (that being anti-liberal, anti-feminist identity politics)

Here’s the Sad Puppy party line:

We try to get both people and works onto the ballot who are both a) wholly deserving and b) unlikely to ever be there, due to Worldcon’s ever-skewing and ever-more-politicized voting trends.

I’ll have to give them that it’s is an intelligent way of spinning this. Who wouldn’t want to support the underdog?

I have never read Charles E. Gannon or Jim Butcher, but I have no reason to believe that their novels wouldn’t be wholly deserving candidates, that being professional and entertaining novels. If they make it to the shortlist, I’ll read them and then we’ll see if I like them or not.

Same is not true for everything on their slate, though. I have really hard time believing that something like Wisdom from my Internet by Michael Z. Williamson that is up for the Best Related Work Hugo is wholly deserving in anybody’s opinion. The book looks like a collection of jokes from a Tea party mailing list.

Here’s an example:

How did the UN come about? “I have a great idea! Let’s build a forum where tin pot dictators can hate us for being successful, and we pay for the privilege of letting them do it!”

I kid you not.

In the fanzine category, Sad Puppies are supporting Revenge of the Hump Day by Tim Bolgeo. Bolgeo is the guy who was going to be the Fan Guest of Honor in Archon last year. His invitation was cancelled after complaints about crude ethnic jokes in his Revenge of the Hump Day zine.

I’m sorry, but these don’t sound like deserving works to me. Rather, they sounds like works Sad Puppies are supporting, because getting them on the Hugo ballot will piss off people they want to annoy. Making literati heads explode has been their rallying cry in many instances, but lately they have been white-washing the rhetoric.

4) Sad Puppy logic is shaky.

The Sad Puppies campaign of last year was run by Larry Correia, and — according to him — it was a success. Nevermind that Sad Puppy candidates lost in all fiction categories. His logic was that this result proved the evident left-wing/liberal/progressive/Stalinist/anti-fun/whatever bias evident in the Hugos. Sort of shaky, isn’t it?

If you win, it’s because your stories were the best ones. If you lose, it’s because the voters are acting unfairly and your stories were the best ones, actually. This leaves little room for the possibility that perhaps a work by some other nominee might actually be better (=more popular) than a work by you.

I don’t think they should categorically rule out that possibility. We all have our own tastes, but I have to say that stories by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day were some of the most boring (in the case of Torgersen) and awful (in the case of Day) stuff I had read in a long time. As far as the other Puppies are concerned, Larry Correia’s and Dan Wells’s works weren’t that bad at all, in my opinion, but they were still far below the awesome novels and novellas by Ann Leckie, Charles Stross and Catherynne M. Valente.

5) Sad Puppies misrepresent what people say about them.

Nobody has said that fans of commercial science fiction or fans who don’t go to conventions are not real fans and shouldn’t have a say in Hugo vote. However, for some reason that is what Sad Puppies go on and on and on and on about.

It’s not true. You can relax now.

6) Sad Puppies empower misogynists and racists.

It’s no secret that Sad Puppies are playing together with Vox Day. He’s not on the ballot this year, but the Sad Puppies and Day’s Rabid Puppies are clearly a concerted effort with some candidate overlap, similar style astronaut dog badges et cetera. For me, that is good reason for not liking SP3. Keeping Vox Day at half arm’s length is not far enough.

They are also courting Gamergate supporters, and the fishy pro-Puppy Breitbart article was actually written by the Gamergate spokesperson/journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. Dear Sad Puppies, aligning with people whose purpose is to attack feminists and throw women out of the gaming industry is not a way to make me like you or listen to what you say.

Empowering misogynists and racists is not the same thing as being one, though. I don’t believe that it’s fair to call Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia some evil -ist or another. I have seen some of that too.

manatee

Addendum: Couple of wrong reasons to dislike Sad Puppies

As an afterthought, I’d like to mention few things to counter the master list above. There’s something likeable in everything, even in Sad Puppies.

a) They want some category reforms

Brad Torgersen has written about wanting to expand the Hugos to include gaming. I think that’s a very good idea. Furthermore, there are other category reforms I’d like to see, such as cutting the editor categories (how are the voters supposed to judge them, anyway), getting rid of the confusing boundary between prozines and semiprozines, doing away with the fancast category and creating one for all podcasts (pro and fan), and so forth. Maybe a Hugo for best anthology would be nice too. In short, I’m in favor of a complete category overhaul.

b) They have brought in some new people

The more Hugo voters, the better. There’s no other way to keep SF culture alive than to get more people committed to Hugos and Worldcons. The types they have brought in might not be people I’d necessarily want to spend time with myself, BUT the fandom should be open to everybody.

Some further commentary:

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15 thoughts on “Master List of Unlikeable Things About Sad Puppies

  1. Patrick Richardson

    If the stuff that beat Sad Puppies last year — Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Charless Stross’s Neptune’s Brood and Equiod, Mira Grant’s Parasite, Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White and others — really tries to force political messages down readers’ throats, I guess I missed that.

    You missed it because you agree with them. I have been subject to multiple attacks on twitter by Chuckie Stross and Teresa Nielsen Hayden for the crime of *gasp* quoting Teresa and asking her to explain herself. The puppies really are about getting a wider group of works into the Hugos and getting a wider group of fans voting. Neither Gannon, nor Butcher are what you could call conservative, and there are others on the slate who are out and out liberals. That you cannot see the liberal bias in the Hugos, while noting Stross and Leckie’s wins makes it rather clear you have blinders on. (Name one, just ONE staunchly and openly conservative author who has won a Hugo in one of the major categories in the last five years.)

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      I have come across blog posts where Stross discusses politics, so I have an idea where he stands. I know nothing about Leckie’s (or Gannon’s or Butcher’s) political beliefs and I’m not terribly interested in finding out about them.

      My point is that Brad Torgersen and others have complained and complained and complained about ‘message fiction’ getting all the awards. Yet neither he nor anybody else has been able to explain what makes any of the works mentioned above ‘message fiction’. I don’t think the fact that Stross has described himself as a social democrat in his blog is enough to ruin anybody’s reading experience.

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      1. Dr. Mauser

        If you were reading before the ballot last year, you would have found plenty of blogs where people were praising Ancillary Justice NOT for the Story about the AI or galactic adventure or anything, but specifically because of the pronoun gimmick, as if THAT were what made it not only revolutionary fiction, but somehow a driving force in their Gender Equality Agenda. Good novel or not, some folks were clearly backing it for the wrong reasons. Well, Wrong in terms of the intent of the Hugos anyway.

        I’ve seen a numerical analysis of Hugo votes in the past that seemed to indicate there was tactical block voting going on (typically benefiting TOR authors and editors). The number of votes in each category having very little statistical spread, while last year’s SP slate was much more varied in the number of votes, which I guess indicates a much less disciplined block.

        I think far more disturbing were all the folks who declared that they were going to vote things below No Award SIGHT UNSEEN. That certainly gives validity to Correia’s point in your Item 4. He wanted to prove that people were putting politics ahead of quality, and they just as much said “We’ll show you! We’ll vote our politics and not even consider the quality!” But it was an interesting position to be in, If he had won, he would have been proved wrong, and his opponents fell all over themselves to prove him right out of knee-jerk reaction, without even thinking of the long game. It was like they were in competition to see who could oppose him harder than the others, all the while playing into his hands.

        And then there’s this year’s implied threat that if authors didn’t disassociate themselves from the ballot, there Would Be Consequences.

        One of the reasons the torch was passed from Correia to Torgerson was because Brad had a different intent that was less political. The choices on the ballot should validate that. (Okay, Related work is kind of a hard category anyway, when you’ve got book cataloging gay fans of Dr. Who, a companion to a previous volume about female fans of Dr. Who, you know the ground is rather barren.)

        Your point 5 is not correct. If you’d traced back far enough you would have found Glyer’s original post that basically boiled down to you’re not a real fan if you don’t engage in enough fandom FanAc. Or the other recent post that says the Hugos basically “Belong” to long-term Worldcon Attendees, not these new voters with $40 in their hands.

        One other point that needs to be clarified is that the SP crowd isn’t against messages in fiction. After all, almost every story has some idea behind it as its reason for existing. But where this becomes problematic is when the message drives the story to the extent it no longer holds together as a story, and characters are forced to act in ways that are against their established personalities, or even against all logic in order to suit the message.

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      2. spacefaringkitten

        Thanks for the comment.

        Some points I disagree with:

        …people were praising Ancillary Justice NOT for the Story about the AI or galactic adventure or anything, but specifically because of the pronoun gimmick…

        The pronoun gimmick is part of the protagonist being unable to decipher humans’ gender. That was an interesting plot point, but not necessarily the main reason I liked the book. Maybe some readers enjoyed that aspect especially, I don’t know. On the other hand, I don’t think enjoying that is suspect in any way.

        I’ve seen a numerical analysis of Hugo votes in the past that seemed to indicate there was tactical block voting going on (typically benefiting TOR authors and editors).

        This is something I have no knowledge of. Is there a link?

        I think far more disturbing were all the folks who declared that they were going to vote things below No Award SIGHT UNSEEN. That certainly gives validity to Correia’s point in your Item 4. He wanted to prove that people were putting politics ahead of quality…

        There were 3,500 Hugo voters last year, and I think I came across less than ten such announcements. Even among people I came across who were critical of the Sad Puppy campaign, I think the more common opinion was that it’s best to give every work a try (possibly with the healthy extra condition that Vox Day won’t be getting their vote no matter what).

        That said, we’ll see what the voters’ thoughts will be this time now that Sad and Rabid Puppies concerted effort filled the shortlist with Vox Day’s favorites. I plan to read them all, however, and blog about the experience here.

        Larry Correia’s point would be valid if it was a given that WSFS members like the works nominated by the Sad Puppies campaign, were the politics taken out of the picture. But that is not a given. People can dislike his favorites for un-political reasons as well, and we have no way of knowing which reasons were more important.

        Your point 5 is not correct. If you’d traced back far enough you would have found Glyer’s original post that basically boiled down to you’re not a real fan if you don’t engage in enough fandom FanAc.

        If we are speaking about the same post, you are completely mistaken. It does say something along those lines in the satirical beginning of the post, but you really should read further before jumping to conclusions. What he is actually saying is the exact opposite: http://file770.com/?p=20905

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      3. Dr. Mauser

        Oof, that was the like button not a reply. Anyway…

        I had considered posting the link, but considering it was Vox Day, I though you wouldn’t care to see it. Let me copy the relevant numbers.

        2008 Hugos:

        43 Best Fan Writer John Scalzi
        41 Best Novel The Last Colony John Scalzi
        40 Best Novel Halting State Charles Stross

        (Actually what stuck me, aside from the block like numbers, was how SMALL they were)

        Compared to the SP “Block” in 2014:

        184 Best Novel Warbound Larry Correia
        111 Best Novella The Chaplain’s Legacy Brad Torgersen
        092 Best Novelette The Exchange Officers Brad Torgersen
        069 Best Novelette Opera Vita Aeterna Vox Day

        Very spread out. But he points out also in 2014:

        120 Best Novel Neptune’s Brood Charles Stross
        127 Best Novella Equoid Charles Stross
        118 Best Novelette Lady Astronaut of Mars Mary Kowal

        More very close numbers for the TOR slate.

        Back to Ancillary Justice: I swear to you that I did read blog posts that really did concentrate ALL of their praise on the Pronoun thing specifically for Gender Politics. They’re generally the same people who decide to read a book or not based on the apparent race, gender and politics of the author, rather than, say, reading the blurb on the back.

        Re: No Award: I have not seen a numerical analysis of No Award voting, but I get the impression that it was significantly higher in 2014 than past years. Yes, a lot of bloggers made declarations, and clearly a number of their followers did so as well. It would be interesting to look into it.

        “concerted effort filled the shortlist with Vox Day’s favorites.” I think is an unfortunate way to phrase it, since the SP slate was purely Brad’s effort.

        Glyer’s post. You are correct. In fact, I now recall that I made the same point as you in one of those threads. But on the other hand, Theresa Nielsen Hayden HAS made posts saying that the Hugos “Belong to the Worldcon Fans” which she appears to define as the people who have been going and voting for an extended period, and excluding the new blood showing up with $40 in their hands to take part in the process. Given her association with TOR and their voting block, One can imagine why this elitist opinion exists. I’d have to check if she was the source of the oblique threat as to what might happen to authors who refused to disassociate from the slate.

        In any case, Kudos to you for planing to read everything on the ballot. This is how it should be. Those who announced that they would not eat Green Eggs and Ham are themselves going against the spirit of the award they claim to be defending by not awarding it….

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      4. spacefaringkitten Post author

        I had considered posting the link, but considering it was Vox Day, I though you wouldn’t care to see it.

        Well, I’ll take everything coming from that direction with a grain (or more) of salt, especially if it has something to do with John Scalzi. I’ll take a look at the complete stats of 2008 and 2014 when I have the time. I’m not sure if anything final can be deduced on that basis, though. It stands to reason that fans of Scalzi or Stross would nominate the guys in several categories (or both of the guys — I think their work has some similar sensibilities). But I’ll look at the stats.

        Re: No Award: I have not seen a numerical analysis of No Award voting, but I get the impression that it was significantly higher in 2014 than past years.

        You may be right, but the number of votes for No award doesn’t prove anything one way or the other about did voters actually read the works first.

        Glyer’s post. You are correct. In fact, I now recall that I made the same point as you in one of those threads. But on the other hand, Theresa Nielsen Hayden HAS made posts saying that the Hugos “Belong to the Worldcon Fans” which she appears to define as the people who have been going and voting for an extended period, and excluding the new blood…

        I’m sure that Torgersen, Correia and Day have recycled all badly-phrased posts with a huge grin. She has clarified it here: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html#4059860

        I still feel that the culture war rhetoric and constant talk about somebody wanting to ignore or shut out wrong kind of fans is nonsense. Successful nonsense but nonsense nonetheless.

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      5. Dr. Mauser

        I often find that when people are forced to clarify their remarks into the opposite meaning publicly, their original statement is actually closer to their true feelings. (Consider all of the various public apologies made by various public officials after they were caught saying something racist. And how often they are non-apology-apologies – “I’m sorry if you took offense” kinds of things.).

        Reading her linked comment only makes it worse. Dividing the voting members into “Us” who are “Real” fans who love SF and love fandom, and “Them” who by implication don’t, because they vote for things TNH doesn’t like, really doesn’t improve her case.

        Unless that wasn’t the comment you intended to link to.

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      6. spacefaringkitten Post author

        Well, we better just agree to disagree on whether running a politically-motivated tactical voting campaign to undiversify SF is an act of love or not. 😀

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  2. yamamanama

    The most offensive thing about Torgersen is that he’ll turn a blind eye and stick his fingers in his ears whenever Vox does something exceptionally shitty.

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    1. Angus Trim

      Curious. Please explain the difference between Vox being Vox, and Theresa disemvoweling people because she disagrees with them, or Davidson vowing to No Award books based on the books not agreeing with his political agenda?

      My point being, who cares? Torgersen is not responsible for Beale. Nor is the author of this blog responsible for TNH or Davidson.

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      1. spacefaringkitten Post author

        Ahem. I just deleted a couple of comments that accused other people of doing unlawful stuff. Let’s have that conversation somewhere else.

        (Thanks for warnings about this for all concerned.)

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    2. spacefaringkitten Post author

      I almost left Vox Day out of the list but now that I see what the shortlist looks like, giving Vox Day clout and credibility is likely the #1 dislikeable thing about Sad Puppies. Sad and Rabid Puppies were a concerted effort, even though Torgersen isn’t responsible for Beale and likely doesn’t agree with him on many things.

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      1. Dr. Mauser

        They really were separate slates. Beale merely copied Torgerson and then made a few substitutions of his own. He’s really not connected to it.

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  3. Pingback: Tactical Voting Stats | Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

  4. Pingback: Disagreeing with Brad | Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

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