Disagreeing with Brad

Because I so thoroughly disagree with Sad Puppy advocates, I’ve been thinking about doing a fisking of some essential Puppy advocate post. Fisking is a thing Larry Correia does sometimes in his blog, and as far as I’ve been able to decipher, what it means is a mean-spirited rebuttal of everything somebody else has written elseweb, line by line. Generally, it seems to involve a great deal of calling other people morons and idiots, but I’ll try to do it without the nasty parts, because I have no desire to be nasty.

An opportunity presented itself when Brad R. Torgersen published a blog post earlier today. In it, he says a lot of things that I don’t agree on. That let’s us, well, disagree.

Here goes:

I’ve noticed that some people (who were opposed to the Sad Puppies effort) are actually reading the contents of the Hugo final ballot, and are shocked to discover that a) some of the work really is Hugo-worthy, and b) none of it is the product of bigoted, evil, white, hateful male minds.

Maybe there are those people, too. After reading some of the stories, my experience is the exact opposite, and most of the people whose reviews I’ve read seem to feel the same way. Majority of the slate works I’ve read so far (and I’ve read more than I’ve had the time to blog about yet) hardly seems Hugo-worthy.

Are they products of bigoted, evil, white, hateful male minds? Probably not. Your argument feels a bit straw-manish, though, because I don’t know who would feel that way, really. I do think that, up to a point, it’s fair to say that Sad Puppies are empowering misogynists and racists by playing along with Vox Day and his rabid minions, and that the whole Puppy thing is an anti-feminist identity politics project of sorts. I don’t think you’re a racist or sexist person per se, though, and I’ve stated my opinion a couple of times. Not that many people would be interested in my opinion, of course.

Golly, I am pretty sure the point of Sad Puppies 3 was to make the final ballot more inclusive, not less. Didn’t we say that? I’m pretty sure we said that. More, not less. Big tent, not small tent. Nobody can tell anybody they don’t belong. Isn’t that what I personally have been banging my pot about for years now, even before Sad Puppies came along?

I’m wondering what is the inclusivity you speak about. Gender balance? No, that can’t be, because Jim C. Hines has done a diagram of it in fiction categories and it looks like this:

Hugo-Gender-Balance-Fiction

Pretty uninclusive, I think. Two of the three women (that’s the little red block on the right) got on the ballot despite Puppy interference and not because of it. If the Puppies had swept the novel category as well, Ann Leckie and Katherine Addison would have been left out too. SL Huang has analyzed the mathematical side of the 3/17 gender split here (bottom line: it’s probability is .109% — it’s pretty damn unprobable and seems to suggest that there’s some serious bias working against women this year).

Maybe you’re speaking about the variety of different styles of SFF on the ballot, then. On the other hand, when your slate is all just military SF, Analog stuff and John C. Wright, that’s probably not the card you want to play.

Oh, SP3 pointedly criticized affirmative action — which makes demographics paramount over content and quality — but then we’re allowed to criticize tendencies (and political policies) which make what a person looks like, or what a person has between his legs, or who that person likes to sleep with, more important than that person’s skill, talent, drive, integrity, and work ethic. I guess I am old fashioned in that I still take Dr. Martin Luther King’s words to heart, regarding content of character. They are timeless words. Because King clearly understood that for any group to rise above the obstacles placed before it, everything boils down to the unique dignity and quality of the individual.

Babling about affirmative action without giving any specific examples is an unpleasant way to cast doubt on all female and minority writers who have won or been nominated in the previous years. If you have somebody in mind, spit it out so that it’s possible to discuss it. I haven’t liked all women nominees myself, but I don’t believe in affirmative action conspiracies, because I don’t like all men nominees either.

And that’s what the Hugo award is supposed to be about, right? Isn’t that what the purists have been so concerned with, these past six weeks?

Now, nothing SP3 actually said or did stopped the clownish bum rush (at the beginning of April) to paint everyone and everything attached to Sad Puppies 3, like we were all KKK, Westboro Baptists, and Hitler, rolled into one demonic entity. But then, that specific angle of falsehood said far more about a particular crop of critics, than it did about SP3. Those people knew they were spreading a lie, and they did it deliberately, and they didn’t care. Even when the the lie was shown to be a lie, for all the world to see.

I haven’t seen such a bum rush, so I can’t comment. I don’t think that really represents the discussion there has been in the fandom about this Puppy mess at all. Are you sure you don’t just love playing the part of the victim?

I am glad there are readers who are willing to let the works on the ballot do the talking, as opposed to a stupid narrative.

Many fans have been reading the works, and I guess opinions differ. I haven’t been positively surprised so far, but I agree that reading the actual works is more interesting than the ideological narratives — and that includes the intentionally fabricated Puppy narrative about culture wars and affirmative action cabals, too.

And let’s be clear: the narrative is stupid. That Sad Puppies 3 is sexist, racist, etc. It was stupid when it was concocted. It remains stupid. It was stupid the second Entertainment Weekly stepped on its own tongue, after being spoon-fed an uproariously amateurish and error-festooned hit piece, by parties who have no regard for facts, and who were eager to smear Sad Puppies 3 and everyone associated with it. Those individuals involved in the concoction and dissemination of the narrative are utterly without scruples, and also without spine, in my opinion. But then, cowardice is something I’ve noticed is in no short supply in the field of literary SF/F these days. Just look at how we (in the field) run around in a tizzy trying to be “safe” from ourselves.

So, there’s some lousy journalism online. Big news. I’ve never called Sad Puppies racist or sexist myself, and I know many other fans of “literary SF” who haven’t done that either, even if they dislike Puppies considerably.

Speaking of people demanding “safety,” it’s occurred to me many times lately that the so-called Greatest Generation — born in the Depression, coming of age by defeating Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, standing off with the Stalinist Soviet Union, and putting men on the Moon — wasn’t fantastically concerned with being “safe” in the way the word is used today. In fact, no great and memorable thing was ever accomplished by any civilization that put “safe” at the top of its priority list. Slavery was not ended by men who wanted to be “safe” and neither was Jim Crow. Boat people fleeing communist Vietnam or Cuba did not put “safe” ahead of their desire to be free. It seems to me that the more we think we can trade off liberty, for security, the more Ben Franklin will be proven right: we’ll get neither. So, be “safe” if you feel like it. Just don’t try to be taken seriously; as a grownup. Being a grownup is about principles. And risk. And the weighing of the two. Err too far on the side of avoiding risk, and you will discover that the principle has been forfeited.

So what you’re basically saying is that there shouldn’t be disrimination-free conditions for marginalized groups, because people fighting the Nazis didn’t whine. I don’t think your argument is very good, honestly.

On that note, Larry Correia and I both recently sent some signed contracts back to Baen; for our next books. A few of our critics (of SP3) made a lot of dire noise to the effect of, “You’ll never work in this town again!” I think it’s safe to say that Larry and I are thankful to be working with a publisher who correctly understands the balance — principle, vs. risk. As always, it’s a pleasure to be publishing with a company that truly does (in the words of bestseller John Ringo) understand how to find and print a rip-roaring good story. Because that’s what this whole thing is about in the first place. That’s what Science Fiction & Fantasy was always about: the rip-roaring good story. For all definitions of “good” that include, “Keep the audience coming back for more.” Notice I did not say, “Keep the criticshappy,” nor did I say, “Please the aesthetes who sit on their thrones of taste-making.”

Good for you. I’m sure that this whole mess has helped you two sell more books and made you more popular among your core audiences. That’s nice, but was messing up the Hugos in the process absolutely necessary?

To repeat myself: bold tales, told boldly. That’s the mission.

Not that I expect this sentiment to be shared by individuals who’ve made it their job to kick out the “wrong” fans for having the “wrong” kind of fun while enjoying the “wrong” sorts of SF/F.

This is a nice straw man, too. Sadly, nobody is kicking “wrongfans” out for having “wrongfun”, so it remains a straw man. I applaud you for coming up with such exquisite propaganda terms, though. They are state of the art.

Right now there are two hazy movements working hard to change the Hugo award. They overlap to a certain extent, but their net effect might be the same. The first wants to vote “NO AWARD” on everything that made the 2015 Hugo final ballot the “wrong” way, and the second wants to change the voting rules (for the future) so that the “wrong” people aren’t allowed to participate in the creation of the final ballot, much less vote on the award proper. For these two groups, their final destination may be the submerging of the Hugo and Worldcon altogether — because you can’t run a big tent while actively erecting barriers to entry and participation. People will go elsewhere. Devote time and money to other things. That’s already been true for decades. If the reaction (of Worldcon, to having the actual world come into the tent) is to pitch a fit and kick people to the curb, then I think it’s a prime example of the old adage: be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

I’m no-awarding only the works I don’t think are Hugo-worthy after reading them, so I don’t belong to this No Award movement you write about. On the other hand, I’m somewhat sympathetic to their reasoning — that is, why on Earth should bullies who hijacked this year’s Hugos by voting tactically be rewarded? That is a good question, and I don’t think that you really have the moral high ground to judge their decisions. Both the Puppies and the No Award crowd are playing by the letter of the rules, if not the spirit.

Your assessment of the suggested rule changes is completely wrong, actually. The suggestions that are most likely to make it will be limiting the nominations one voter can make per category and putting in place a voting system that plays down the effect of block voting in the nomination phase. Neither would prevent “wrong” people from participating, which is nice because there are no “wrong” people.

Worldcon’s relevance — indeed, the relevance of the Hugos — was already tenuous. Sad Puppies has been an attempt to change that. Not everybody thinks it’s been a change in the “right” way. A lot of people are clearly wrapped up in Worldcon being a specific kind of place for a specific sort of person who likes a specific range of things produced by a specific group of individuals. Small tent is, as small tent does.

It’s an art argument. It’s a taste argument. It’s a political argument. And it’s a culture argument.

Sad Puppies 3 looked at the argument and said, “Goose, it’s time to buzz the tower.”

More people voting is fine by me, and different sorts of people voting is fine too. Haven’t heard anybody complaining.

And again, for a field that endlessly writes stories about mavericks who cut against the grain, break the rules, go against tradition, defy authority, push against the status quo, etc., it’s kind of amusing to see so much hand-wringing and apoplexy when someoneactually comes along and shakes things up. Especially when the shake-up was conducted 100% in the open, democratically, using a democratic process. There was nothing secret being done. Nothing underhanded. No hoodwinking was engaged in. All of it was above-board. So that the chief source of outrage — when you cut down through all the miles of rhetorical bullshit — seems to be, Sad Puppies 3 is terrible because Sad Puppies 3 was effective.

Organizing like a political party in order to capture the whole Hugo ballot in some categories is less fine, though. I also very much dislike all the rhetorical bullshit about SMOFs, CHORFs, SJWs and the horrible oppression that fans of simple adventure SFF have to live under. There is more stuff to dislike on the Master List of Unlikeable Things About Sad Puppies in case anybody is interested.

Anyway, your last sentence is untrue. Sad Puppies were actually pretty insignificant when we think of the outcome. It was the Rabid Puppy slate that swept the ballot.

I think George R. R. Martin is right: if you want to change things in a democracy, you get out the vote. Sad Puppies 3 got out the vote. So much so, we’ve got complainers crying about how it was the “wrong” voters with the “wrong” intentions, etc. Okay, whatever. In a field that produces thousands of books every year, and tens of thousands of stories, how the heck does an author or an artist get any traction with an award? Simple: put the word out, or have buddies and fans who put the word out for you. Up until now, the “right” people were putting the word out, and then Sad Puppies comes, and we’re accused of being the “wrong” people who are putting the word out? Who gets to decide when “putting the word out” is right, or wrong?

Organizing as a party to block vote everything else off the ballot is not my idea of “putting the word out there”, really, but whatever. The good thing about fandom democracy is that by getting out the vote, you can fix a broken system. In 2017, there will hopefully be a more resistant voting system in place. Until then, we just have to make do.

Better yet, who gets to decide who the “wrong” and “right” voters are?

Because I can tell you — based on mail — that every time a snob or a purist or an ideological opponent of Sad Puppies 3 has put his or her foot down, about the “wrong” people coming to the table, it’s merely increased interest and activity on the Sad Puppies side. There is a finite number of individuals who want to keep Worldcon and the Hugo “unsullied” by the proles. The number of proles is endless, and the proles have money, and time, and the willingness to put their hand in. Now, perhaps, more than ever before in Worldcon history.

Well, maybe, maybe not. It will be interesting to see who gets the trophies this year!

(I skip the rest. Brad’s only repeating his earlier points, plus there’s a lenghty quotation about the origins of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies badges.)

Edit 14/5: Added the probability calculation and a link to SL Huang’s blog to go with Jim C. Hines’s diagram.

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9 thoughts on “Disagreeing with Brad

  1. Mr_Wednesday

    “bold tales, told boldly. ”

    But they need to be just like the tales we’ve been telling since the 1930s. You need to be able to tell the whole plot by the cover. It has to be the same Nutty Nuggets we’ve been serving for 80 years. Don’t try doing anything risky, like subverting your tropes, or using allegory to criticize the dominant social institution, or highlight the lives of people who aren’t straight white men.

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  2. Pingback: Will the Last Puppy to Leave the Planet Please Shut Off the Sun? 5/14 | File 770

    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      What can I say, I’m an optimist.

      Lately, the Puppy crowd has been losing the debate all over, just like the GamerGaters, and I imagine sooner or later there will only be a small fringe group of diehard believers left.

      It’s possible that they manage to take a Hugo or two, but that’s not the end of the world — bad work has won in the past and will win in the future, as well, so I don’t intend to get too upset about that. If the rules are changed, the slate-voters’ influence will be reduced significantly from 2017 onwards, and even if the change doesn’t pass this year, I believe Puppies will have a hard time recruiting people on their slate next year. If I’m wrong and there’ll be another year of garbage block-voted on the ballot, the rule change is sure to pass then.

      In the meantime, there are other awards to be enthusiastic about.

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  3. Happy Turtle

    The Puppy slate is diverse and inclusive. So apparently we are to judge the nominees by the contents of Wright’s character, I guess.

    (As an aside, I’m old enough to remember when the blogosphere was young and primarily political, and ‘Fisking’ was invented, named after journalist Robert Fisk, who was one of the frequent targets of the practice.)

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      Oh, thanks for the info. Fisk’s brilliant, so I don’t know what it is that people want to disagree with him about, but great that he has got the honor of having a nerdspeak term coined after him.

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      1. eleming

        Similar groups before gamergate and puppies hated the brilliant Fisk.
        Seems like these same angry people just gradually change what they are upset and resentful about.

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  4. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    The thing I don’t get is, why would anyone want a nomination or an award that they got this way?

    The combined Puppy slates dominated the ballots purely by virtue of mathematics. If you can convince 200 people to vote more or less in lockstep — that is, to simply turn their own votes into copies of those of LC and VD — then of course that coordinated effort will beat out a very high number of non-coordinated voters who are individually voting their sense of squee.

    This doesn’t somehow prove that “The Parliament of Birds and Beasts” is Hugo-worthy. It proves that Vox Day and Larry Correia have a number of fans and hangers-on who will do what they are told at the ballot box. If you get “Hugo Nominated” by virtue of someone else’s cult of personality, why is it valuable to you?

    It’s like someone expecting to be congratulated for putting three quarters into a vending machine and acquiring a can of Coke. Should I congratulate you on your possession of seventy-five cents and your proximity to a soda machine?

    I think this is why the Puppies are now trying to downplay the actual method by which they dominated the ballot. It’s not just that they know they’re being villified and ridiculed far acting so contrary to the spirit of the award. It’s that they know the nomination doesn’t have its accustomed value when it is acquired this way.

    They want to promote public knowledge of their bloc-voting tactings just enough to say, “These works would never have gotten a nomination in the usual way, because SJWs are colluding meanie-pants.” And yet at the same time they want everyone to forget about the bloc-voting tactics just enough to be persuaded that these nominations say precisely the same thing as do nominations which result from bunches of individual SFF readers individually nominating the things that genuinely wowed them in 2014.

    Cognitive dissonance is a wonderful thing.

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