Gene Wolfe for N00bs – An Interview with Marc Aramini

I haven’t read much of Gene Wolfe’s work, even though everybody tells me it’s fantastic. There are 25 novels and almost 10 short story collections, so deciding where one should start feels like a chore in itself (maybe we can christen it as the Moorcock Dilemma).

That’s a problem for this year’s Hugo reading, obviously, because one of the candidates in the category of Best Related Work is a book called Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini. It’s a tome that goes through Wolfe’s works one by one, providing analysis, discussion and interpretations — and it’s quite useless for anybody who hasn’t read the original works first.

I run into the author Marc Aramini online and he suggested I read a couple of short stories before checking his analyses: Suzanne Delage (1980) (available online), The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories (1970) (available online in audio form, but I happened to have it around in translation) and The Changeling (1968) (not available online, but the short story collection Gene Wolfe’s Book of Days which includes it is, in turn, included in the collection Castle of Days, available for Kindle at Amazon). (Here’s a handy list of other online Wolfe shorts, by the way.)

I read these stories and enjoyed The Island and The Changeling enormously (Suzanne Delage not that much). Then I read Aramini’s analyses which were interesting, even though he reads them in a slightly different way than I and focuses much more on deciphering the “real” answers. Being something of a Wolfe n00b, writing a book review about all the questions that I found myself wondering didn’t seem like the best option.

Instead, I interviewed Aramini who was kind enough to anwer all my questions in depth via email. Hopefully this exchange will be interesting to other people as well and provide some context for the book. As far as I know, it will be included in the Hugo voter packet that is going to be sent out soon.

Between Light and Shadow was published by Vox Day’s / Theodore Beale’s Castalia House, includes a preface by John C. Wright and was gamed on the Hugo ballot by the Rabid Puppies slate. I’m sure that’s quite a severe triple handicap for a lot of Hugo voters, and I don’t know yet how I’ll be voting on this category myself.

However, discussing the works of great writers is always fun and enlightening.

So, here it is:

First, tell a little about yourself. What made you a Wolfe fan?

I have held a lot of jobs: a high school and community college teacher of both Biology and English, performing a handstand act in a circus (amidst other responsibilities), working in banking and in gyms, but I think much of my interest in books and in SF/fantasy in particular comes from a childhood that felt ever so slightly lonely. My parents were both in the military, though throughout my life it was my mother and her duty stations that determined where we lived and moved to. I was raised as an only child, and my earliest memories are of living in Europe and having only the most rudimentary grasp of the language spoken around me. Many of my happiest (and most empathetic) moments came from exploring the SF that spoke to me so strongly when I began to read seriously.

Island of Dr Death etcI first encountered Gene Wolfe in about the fourth grade, and almost immediately I felt as if, even though I might not fully understand him, he would understand me completely. His first truly successful story, “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” is the perfect exploration of a lonely childhood populated with friends, heroes, and not-so-evil villains from books – all figures which help us mature and understand the complex world around us.

In graduate school about more than a decade and a half ago, I came across Wolfe’s mailing address, and to my surprise, he answered my letter. Our correspondence over the years solidified my impression that this wonderful writer was also a generous and kind man, worthy of the respect I had for him in every way. I guess all of this is saying that I am merely a fan who loves Gene Wolfe. Somehow, that feeling of love, respect, and awe grew into this monster of a project, which attempts to analyze everything he has ever published.

What’s the story behind your Hugo-nominated book Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986?

The internet age connected readers in a way I could never have imagined as a child, and part of that wonder involved exploring what other people thought about Wolfe and his complex work. In 2012 he was honored with the Fuller Award in a beautiful, unforgettable ceremony in Chicago. I had been posting my ideas about Wolfe’s work probably since about the year 1999 or so online, and it shocked me when I introduced myself to someone at that event – a nearby person, overhearing it, recognized my name, so very far away from home. It was a community the like of which I had never encountered in person before.

As I spoke with some of the other prominent fans there, we came to the conclusion that his early work and many of his brilliant short stories had been completely neglected. My overarching character flaw is pride, so in my hubris I told them when I got home I would start analyzing his early stories in painstaking detail and hopefully engender discussion on the Urth Mailing List, probably the most consistently interesting center for discussion of Gene Wolfe online. I had no idea until I was about forty write-ups in that this would be publishable, and its chaotic beginning necessitated ridiculous amounts of editing.

The total project will contain 246 essays, and I have 12 left to finish. Without a doubt this was the most difficult thing I have ever undertaken in my life, because Wolfe is quite frankly not only brilliant and ridiculously allusive, but also extremely subtle. I wrote this for Wolfe fans knowing it would never be a commercially viable project, and I am happy that someday soon they will have a hardback version — if it fails to answer some of the questions they have, I feel it is successful in giving them a starting point, because each and every story involved more leg work than a casual fan might believe. I can only imagine how much research and thought went into the construction of most of these stories in the pre-internet age — staggering. And even after four years of serious writing and research, I still get the feeling that Wolfe is often a few steps ahead of me.

So, there’s going to be a second volume?

The second volume, Beyond Time and Memory, is “almost” done, but it is trending a bit long at this point. Hopefully I can get it in one volume, as I intended, and completed in the next few months.

What are your own favorites in Wolfe’s oeuvre and what makes them your favorites?

The magical experience of coming upon The Book of the New Sun as a child and experiencing a unique mix of religious sentiment, SF elements, philosophy (both pragmatic and abstract), and interesting characters partaking in mysterious events will forever set it as one of my favorites. As an adult, I appreciate The Book of the Short Sun, the Latro books, and so many of his novellas: “Seven American Nights,” “Forlesen,” “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” and the stories that play with that title.

The sense of depth, wonder, and intelligence behind his construction always seemed to me on the level of the greatest Modernist writers respected in mainstream fiction, but with the bizarre themes that I find innately interesting. Identity, memory, perception, loneliness, apotheosis, mortality, morality, and the clash between ancient but perhaps instinctive belief systems and the ever changing modern world are all explored in his fiction in a way that is paradoxically both dream-like and cogent.

As a dedicated Wolfe fan, are there any works by Wolfe that you don’t particularly like?

I tend to appreciate them all on re-reading. Some are more confounding than others. Once I figured out There Are Doors I loved it, and the same may be said of “The Adopted Father” — once I understood it as a metaphor for the writing of science fiction and fantasy tales and how he views his readers, the affection in my breast for Wolfe as a creator grew. Neither of those stories impressed me the first time through.

I acknowledge that some of his stories are not as fun to read before the sub-text is understood. (The short story “Bloodsport” comes to mind – for a bit I doubted that I could make much of the story, but eventually my research paid off.) Wolfe also has a habit of changing his style to suit each project, so readers looking for a Book of the New Sun every time will definitely be disappointed initially.

Do you have some other favorite authors besides Wolfe?

Yes! Laurence Sterne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Yukio Mishima, Proust (though largely because of Wolfe), Vladimir Nabokov, Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon, R.A. Lafferty, William Faulkner, Jack Vance, and Jorge Luis Borges are a pretty good start there. One of my favorite books to actually read through, however, was The Norton Anthology of English Literature — especially the poetry and drama before the realistic and naturalistic novel came to dominate the literary scene.

Are you connected to academia or are you strictly a non-academic scholar?

I have taught college English before, but currently this is only my hobby. That doesn’t preclude the possibility of getting my doctorate someday — I think in a perfect world I would have been a college teacher for most of my adult life… where else could I listen to myself talk for hours at a time in front of a captive audience? On a more serious note, sharing my passion and appreciation for intricate and beautiful art has always been one of the motivating features of my character. In my arrogance I assume that I can share some of that love with others.

What Wolfe’s works would you suggest for somebody like me who has read very little by Wolfe and wants to give him a try?

The Book of the New Sun, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace for mainstream readers, or The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories and The Best of Gene Wolfe for his most enduring short stories. (And if they feel lost, hopefully my commentaries can help a little bit!)

[Note: The Wolfe Wiki gives a similar and a bit more elaborate answer in its A Novice’s Guide that may be of help for other people in my situation.]


I just read an article on Wolfe and his work by Hannu Blommila. He said, among other things, that “Wolfe seems to have a steady, almost childlike trust on the reader’s intelligence and persistence.”

Do you think that’s a fair assessment? Is the confidence Wolfe’s texts have on the readers’ abilities to make sense of them part of the charm?

Definitely. I am never bored reading a Wolfe story because it relies on that active participation. In his best work, the story is satisfying even when you haven’t quite grasped the significance of his sub-text. Whether that faith is well-placed or not is still up for debate. It could very well be that he has far too much faith in us. There are only a few authors that require that kind of active participation, and most of those are well known for their challenging aspects (like the later work of James Joyce, as an obvious example — but Wolfe’s fiction is at its best fun to read even without that deep investment).

The couple of your commentaries that I read from Between Light and Shadow put very much emphasis on finding out what is it that really happens in the story. On “The Changeling”, you wrote: “…it might be the first analysis where multiple solutions for the simple question ‘what happened here?’ can be entertained”.

Do you think of Wolfe’s stories as puzzles to be solved?

Yes, because I buy into the validity of intent.

Two people who work in plumbing, construction, electronics, or automobiles can communicate with each other even if they don’t speak the same language because they share objective knowledge in their specialty. The engineering, scientific mind of Wolfe creates patterns of meaning that reflect back on the plot. I think much of his writing involves writing around a very clear outline without revealing the entirety of his plan, only hinting at it. Thus, in a novel about religious syncretism in the ancient world, a bull being killed gains a symbolic resonance (Mithras, Sol, sacrifice) that is present in the text regardless of whether the reader picks up on the allusion – because the author was aware of it when he wrote the story (especially if the author was Wolfe).

Thus, I feel I could have failed badly in my task (and that others have forced solutions on Wolfe which do not actually explain the small details in the text). In that way I see much of his fiction as elaborate, deep, and maddeningly sophisticated word problems. Perhaps there are at times multiple solutions that seem to fit the details that we have, but I honestly believe that the author had a particular solution in mind when drafting the novel, and his cryptic tendencies are shared by a few self-conscious creators. Wolfe is good at creating extremely elaborate and entertaining puzzles.

Is there a “right” answer to questions like “what has really happened between the protagonist and Suzanne Delage in ‘Suzanne Delage'” or “which one is the changeling in ‘The Changeling'”?

I’m asking this because I kind of enjoyed the ambiguous atmosphere and the weight of the unexplained in those stories, and while I was reading them I didn’t necessarily feel that there should be one comprehensive solution to be unearthed.

Yes, but you don’t have to get there to enjoy the story. I honestly believe there is a “right” answer from the author’s point of view, but that there are other authors who do not have this kind of rigid, disciplined mindset and write from a place of the subconscious or unconscious. I really do not feel that this is the case with Wolfe, and I have written about 700,000 words so far between the two volumes which argue that his mysteries have universal solutions. I think one of his tasks is using the tool-box of post-modern subjectivity and uncertainty to imply that there is still a universal structure behind the act of creation.

However, any reader’s response about their own reaction to the text or how it engages with reality is of course valid. Much like a math word problem, I think readers can get the author’s intended solution “wrong” — thus I separate reading into objective interpretation and subjective response — in Wolfe, I insist that the sub-text is often a part of objective interpretation. (This is not a popular mindset in late 20th century thought — but it is also the reason for all of the effort I put into each and every write-up: I could completely and utterly get it wrong and fail in the task I have set for myself.)

For more on this idea, see Wolfe’s story “Trip-Trap” and my commentary on it — in that story, the spiritual world is more objectively real than the subjective narratives each of the participants construct about themselves.

You said you have corresponded with Wolfe. Has he read your analyses or commented on them?

Wolfe is notoriously silent and cagey about his work. Once upon a time he answered some minor questions. Let me only say that one of my most controversial conclusions actually originated with Wolfe, and that his affirmations are equally oblique: on my reading of “The Changeling,” he merely said, “I always loved ‘Lil Abner’.”

He is very good at dodging direct questions, and I try never to press that issue in our correspondence. I think he feels that giving readers a definitive solution is “cheating.”

I’m not very well-read on Wolfeology. Are there differing schools of thought among the more hardcore Wolfe aficionados on how his works should be interpreted? How do you position yourself in that scene?

Oh yes. There are many who are much more open to less authoritative readings and emphasize that the reader creates meaning, advocating that there isn’t really a solution. I think that there is a type of writer who subverts universal meaning (say, William Burroughs, for example) but that Wolfe writes with quite deliberate patterns in mind. Some critics don’t stick closely enough to the text in their theories for my taste (here I will name Borski, since he is a published Wolfe scholar) and others force a preconceived and overwhelming naturalistic agenda on a fairly religious writer (and here I am referring to Peter Wright).

You can find in the Urth Mailing List thousands of pages of discourse on Wolfe’s use of myth, biblical themes, or obscure ur-texts as interpretational keys. I think the text should always come first, with the symbolism of Catholic ritual and tradition to supplement that interpretation coming next, followed by classical and mythical allusions. Hopefully good readings are possible without having to scour ancient Greek manuscripts, simply by reading the novels and stories Wolfe actually wrote.

A quote from Nick Gevers: “As a very subtle but also very emphatic Roman Catholic propagandist, Wolfe is commanding us to perceive our bodies and our physical surroundings for the pale mortal envelopes that they are, and rise into the divine light. Any godless secular world, he declares, is Hell, a place where any solutions are temporary, partial, empty.”

Do you think that’s a good characterization of Wolfe? Is Wolfe’s faith central to his art? Is the cross on your book’s cover art a hint to that direction?

betweenlightandshadowYes, the cross and the emphasis on symbols on the cover definitely plays with this idea, but the difference between your typically sincere Catholic or Christian writer is the almost obsessive over-thinking that Wolfe brings to every task.

In the first volume of The Book of the New Sun, Wolfe has the Chatelaine Thecla say, “One can’t found a novel theology on Nothing, and nothing is so secure a foundation as a contradiction. Look at the great successes of the past — they say their deities are the masters of all the universes, and yet that they require grandmothers to defend them, as if they were children frightened by poultry. Or that the authority that punishes no one while there exists a chance for reformation will punish everyone when there is no possibility anyone will become the better for it.”

That is a sharp and biting indictment of religious thought, and it is not directly overturned. (The answer to the second part is ensconced in theodicy, the explanation of evil in a world created by an all-benevolent power — that the world must be free so that our choices for good mean something, and that in a free world, terrible things will happen and go unpunished — if virtue was always rewarded instantly, where then is the power of the moral choice? Instead of meaningful actions, we become trapped in a system without free will to avoid immediate punishment.)

Wolfe’s fiction grapples with these very challenging ideas, and we often see characters abandon their faith and descend into despair. The rational, observant, and human figure of Wolfe makes faith as complex as it can be, not simple propaganda. For all the Christ imagery associated with Severian, one is still left questioning at the end of everything if any good at all came of it, or simply more death and pain. However, I do not think that Wolfe quite takes the almost Gnostic point of view which Gevers does — the secular world, too, is part and parcel of creation, and not innately bad or good. If it becomes Hell, it is often through human agency.

Wolfe seems to be something of a writers’ writer in the sense that many successful authors (Swanwick, Gaiman, Le Guin) are his fans. Why do you think that is? Do you think that Wolfe has influenced the way other authors write in some way?

Part of it, especially in his work in the 1970s and 1980s, stems from the fact that he integrates so many writing tricks while still producing a satisfying surface narrative with so many complexities underneath, something writers tend to notice. The thematic structure, implied detail, mix of subtle and heavy-handed symbolism, and characterization all blend together quite well in his best work.

Unfortunately, while the themes and stories may have influenced some authors, the worldview that Wolfe often espouses does not seem to be as pervasive in younger writers. So much of the power of his fiction comes from the sincere look at the numinous and mysterious while never abandoning rational thought. It seems that now instead of unifying the mind of the engineer and the spiritualist, most writers tend to be far less streamlined, espousing positivism or a chaotic and raw spirituality or religion devoid of rational consideration.

Wolfe’s exploration of the inner spiritual world is never useless or completely abstract because he is able to meaningfully tie those themes into his plot and characters, showing them struggle with doubt and meaning in ways that, at least in my opinion, are not off-putting to even the least spiritually inclined individual. Some readers might even take The Book of the Long Sun as a criticism of the Catholic Church and its rituals.

Do you share the opinion that contemporary SFF is in general not as good or interesting as it used to be? If so, do you think it has to do with the poetics of the field or rather with larger-scale aesthetic/ideological/etc. shifts in society?

I actually enjoy the grittier turn in recent fantasy literature, and appreciate more surrealistic techniques in fiction. At the risk of sounding older than I am, I do think that turning away from a classical education born of tradition may have hampered the depth and richness of much serious writing, because I ascribe to the now almost controversial belief that good fiction says something universal about the human condition, regardless of who and where we are, and that it is worthwhile to engage with that tradition or we risk forgetting something important about humanity as a whole, where we have been and why we made the choices that we did.

Thus, I applaud the turn to literary, symbolic, and complex themes in SF, but am a bit saddened by the loss of our ability to appreciate narratives that seem out of date or don’t jive with our current agendas. The American and English SF and Fantasy of the 1970s almost seems as if it came from a completely different culture in hindsight. For example, the criticism of Wolfe that I most frequently see involves his treatment of women and their hyper-sexualization, but I have also read that writers like Henry Miller were considered “feminists.” Miller’s tone towards women is extremely object oriented and vulgar, and almost entirely sexualized. I can’t imagine a woman like Maytera Mint from Book of the Long Sun in his work.

I haven’t found the unique eccentric voices in modern SF that writers like Lafferty, Cabell, E.R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, and Dunsany naturally had, but I think the New Wave was a definite step in the right direction. I don’t necessarily think that that movement’s bold experimental emphasis on style and form has been continued in the field today, but I don’t read as widely as I should in it.

Are you connected to the organized SFF fandom? Do you go to conventions, vote for the Hugos or something?

Even though I have read widely in the field in the past, as an adult I tend to gravitate towards more traditional (though still often “experimental” fiction) and I consider myself first and foremost a Gene Wolfe fan. Thus, I attended the Fuller Award Ceremony in 2012 and the Nebula Awards in 2013 because of Wolfe.

Between Light and Shadow was published by Vox Day’s small press Castalia House and ended up on the Hugo ballot due to his Rabid Puppies nominating campaign. You have repeatedly said that you don’t wish to take part in political debates surrounding the Hugo awards and that your own book is as non-political as possible.

Have you been surprised by the SFF fans’ reactions to you and the book (that most of them haven’t seen yet)?

Honestly, I was a bit surprised at the vehemence of their reaction. My primary motivation was in getting a readily available hardback reference book for Wolfe’s fans, knowing that it would take immense effort and would never be commercially lucrative. I was hoping that many of the reviewers and writers I sent it to would read it and possibly mention it. Almost none did so. There was only silence.

The lack of acknowledgement was hard to reconcile with the years of obsessive effort I had put into the project. One scholar had a podcast in which he talked for about twenty minutes about what a monograph on Gene Wolfe covering his works would have to entail, and then didn’t even answer after I sent him a copy of what I had done with it. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has not been updated to include my work, though it lists even minor pamphlets on Wolfe and every other book length publication in that section, and has been updated several times since I sent one of its editors a copy.

I will not speculate as to the reasons for that deafening silence, because I do believe in the quality of my work regardless of the response it receives (at the very least, I know the years of labor that have gone into what will ultimately be two volumes). There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, Fist of Legend, in which the main bad guy berates his underling, who believes he has beaten a prominent Chinese martial artist fair and square, according to the principles of Bushido. The leader stands, beats his chest, and asks (paraphrasing), “What do you know about the way of the samurai? It is to do what must be done, regardless of the costs. For your name to be disgraced and to be cursed as a villain throughout all eternity if necessary.”

While that is way too melodramatic for the choices I made in getting my book published, I feel that I had a definite goal, which I achieved: a quality edition of holistic Wolfe scholarship, with the help of a dedicated editor, Matthew King, to make the volume as good as it could possibly be. I still feel that my work deserved better than to be ignored by the many venues I attempted to send it to and I hope that it will be considered on its own worth some day, but I know the love and effort that went into it, and I know Gene Wolfe knows that too, so I have resolved to be content with that even if few actually consider my work worthy of their time and attention.

Thanks, Marc!

Thank you!

Admirable Bravery, Bogus Science — Moira Greyland’s Story

It’s reprehensible. Moira Greyland, the daughter of fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley and science fiction fandom figure Walter Breen, was abused by her parents. Now, she is abused by Theodore “Vox Day” Beale who exploits her tragic story in his effort “destroy the Hugo awards”.

Beale’s Rabid Puppy slate campaign gamed Greyland’s essay “Moira Greyland’s Story” on the Hugo ballot. It was published in an anti-gay rights blog called Ask the Bigot which probably tells everything you need to know about the context.

Category: Related Work
Slates: Rabid Puppies
Published in: Ask the Bigot blog

First, Greyland goes through her childhood experiences and her attempts to get her father convicted for his crimes. The subject matter is dreadful, but Greyland writes well and her story is powerful.

I admire her for her bravery. That admiration is hard to reconcile with the way I feel about the ending of her essay, however.

Greyland says that she thinks gays are more likely to molest their children than straight people. She backs the claim up with a link to a research by the ultra conservative fringe lobby group Family Research Council. What Greyland doesn’t tell (in case she is aware of it at all, of course) is that mainstream researchers have repeatedly discredited FRC’s “findings”. In addition to publishing bogus science, Family Research Council has been advocating the opinion that homosexuality is “unnatural” and “harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large”. Southern Poverty Law Center has designated them as a hate group.

I don’t think the essay should win a Hugo award, even though I sympathize with Greyland for all the pain she has gone through.

I won’t link to toxic stuff like this, but anybody who is that interested can easily google the article and see for themselves if I gave a true description of it.

Score: 0.5/10

All Foam No Bite

I started Hugo finalist blogging the day before yesterday, and on Twitter, some Rabid Puppy dudes offered their though-out perspectives. As always, their rhetoric was entertaining.

Discussing my take on Daniel Eness’s factually challenged article would have been at least interesting, if nothing else, but the Beale Bros weren’t up to it. Daniel Eness (aka XDPaul) himself also chimed in with the customary insults.

I did feel a bit bad for the Campbell-nominated fantasy author Sebastien de Castell who had thrown a couple of nice and neutral comments in earlier. He got tagged in a load of uncoherent pedophile tweets in the process.

Eness kept on doubling down on his silly accusations (which is odd because I thought that according to Beale’s rules that was what SJWs are supposed to be doing but what the hell):

Facts are nice, but you can’t invent your own.

Here’s the thing: if there is a single Rabid Puppy supporter out there who seriously thinks that Eness’s essay has any merit, I’ll happily discuss it with them. It will take some convincing to make me believe that the smear piece wasn’t written out of sheer spite, but I promise to listen to anybody who can articulate their opinions a bit better than the two social injustice warriors above.

So: please comment.

In Beale’s blog, it was suggested that people should read Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens through Wayback Machine so that I won’t profit from my lies:


I can assure you that even though profits would be nice, I’m most certainly not seeing any, so you can safely read this page.

Update 10/5/2016:

I came across some more meta discussion about me on Beale’s blog. Even though a spectator voices some doubts, Daniel Eness is quite adamant that he managed to slaughter me on Twitter.

Pity poor me. This is hilarious.



Update 11/5/2016:

More discussion has taken place in Vox Popoli. I’ll screencap it below, because — at last — Daniel Eness and Lett Guo are even trying to offer something to back up their horror story.

I do have to give it to them: I honestly thought they were trolling on purpose, but after reading their back-and-forth with other popolists and author Sebastien de Castell, I’m beginning to realize that they actually believe what they are saying, at least some of it.

And that is baffling. I have no words, really.

But here’s the exchange:


After some commenters suggested that de Castell wasn’t taking the Rabid Puppies’ side but was actually making fun of them, the author showed up to clarify that he didn’t wish to do either:


The most interesting part begins here.

In their replies to de Castell, Lett Gou (whose name in Twitter is Lett Guo) and Eness try to describe what Rabid Puppies are up to:


That’s quite a story:

Science fiction community has been secretly covering up a mass-scale pedophilia problem for decades. If that was true, I guess even Larry Correia (who kicked off his first Sad Puppies campaign actually in 2013) and Brad R. Torgersen are complicit, because they didn’t call their opponents out on it.

Fortunately, the facts don’t add up. Walter Breen was banned from conventions already in the 60s, when molesting children wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today. Of course, it horrible that, with the help of Marion Zimmer Bradley, he could go on abusing his own children as long as he did.

The question I have asked Lett Gou/Guo and Eness on Twitter (which they keep dodging) is this: Is there a single individual in the science fiction fandom who, in 2016, thinks Breen shouldn’t have been locked away decades ago? I’m still waiting for an answer.

Yes, the crimes these people have committed are hideous. Exploiting them in order to smear your fan-political opponents is just as hideous.

Now, let’s give the author of “Space Space as Rape Room” the final word:


Here, Eness rehashes the talking points of his article, most of which don’t hold water.

Samuel R. Delany has never said that abuse is acceptable, and neither have Ellison, McCaffrey or others who defended Ed Kramer (or considered his treatment before the trial unacceptable).

Looking back, we of course now know that Nancy Collins was right about Kramer all along. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure Collins is — according to Beale’s terminology — “an SJW”. And who remembers what — according to Beale — SJWs always do?

Yeah, and this:

I am serious in that I suspect Spacefaring Kitten is a possible past victim of child molestation or a current abuser or possibly both.



Year’s First Review of Vile Nonsense — “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness

New year, old tricks. I plan to read and review all Hugo finalists, but we’ll see if that is doable. The Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Cat Family is going to grow this summer by one more spacefaring kitten, so my paws might be full of associated dirty work. At least few reviews will be incoming, though, and here’s the first one.

I’m going to start with the nastiest ones so that I can get them out of my system and have a better time later on in the Hugo season. First, I’ll delve into “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness.

Category: Related work
Slate: Rabid Puppies
Published in: Castalia House Blog


Eness’s five-part essay was published in the blog of Castalia House, the small press publishing company owned by the career troll Theodore “Vox Day” Beale who managed to bomb this year’s Hugo ballot. Beale’s cunning plan for this year: accusing the organized SFF fandom of SJWism and liberal leftism is not enough, so let’s mix together half-truths and obvious lies to prove that they are also pedophiles.

That’s the brief that he gave to Daniel Eness — if, in fact, there is a Daniel Eness. The guy doesn’t seem to have much of a web presence. Some person with the same name has published a few short stories, but I don’t know if it’s the same dude. (Yes, it is.) Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the essay was ghost-written by Beale himself. We can read it and see if it’s worth something or not. By now, I’m pretty sure everybody can see that my opinion is the latter one.

The essay summarizes in a couple of paragraphs the well-known criminal cases of science fiction fan Walter Breen, Dragon*Con founder and editor Ed Kramer and horror movie director Victor Salva who have been in prison (or, in Kramer’s case, house arrest) for molesting children. Breen’s wife, the fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley, died before her victims could get her convicted. In addition, Isaac Asimov’s son David Asimov was sentenced to home detention for possessing child pornography.

These are the facts. Based on them, Eness draws the conclusion that science fiction community is full of child molesting monsters.

The half-truths start with the discussion of writer Arthur C. Clarke who was accused of pedophilia in a newspaper article once. As far as I know, he was cleared in a police investigation.

Eness goes on to present list of “enablers” who are on record for saying that they believe Ed Kramer was not treated right in jail during the years that he had to wait for the trial. Defending a suspected predator does sound bad, because molesting children is one of the most horrible crimes one can think of, but none of these people say anything that would make them “pedophilia-apologists”, as Eness calls them.

Eness’s next target is John Scalzi whose crime was to not expel Kramer while he was the president of Science Fiction Writers of America. In the grand tradition of Beale’s anti-Scalzi troll attacks, Eness claims that Scalzi has admitted he is a rapist (which is a lie). He also suggests that because Scalzi didn’t mention children when he vocally demanded that conventions have policies against harassment of women, LGBTIQ people or people of color, his safe space policies “endorse and enable adult-child relationships” (which is, well, ridiculous).

After Scalzi, Eness bashes the writer Samuel R. Delany who has occasionally said some positive things about NAMBLA, The North American Man/Boy Love Association. Everyone who is interested in the details, should probably go on and read Delany’s correspondence with Will Shetterly in which the SFWA Grand Master discusses his own sexual encounters as a child. It is incredibly hard to agree with Delany on a number of things, but the exchange is interesting.

When it comes to Delany, Eness’s chosen tactic for exposing the pro-pedophilic attitudes in SFF community is cutting and pasting quotes by known SFF figures (Cat Rambo, Jo Walton, Gardner Dozois…) about Delany’s work. The quotes that praise Babel-17, Nova, Dhalgren and his other seminal works are then juxtaposed with violently pornographic excerpts from the novel Hogg. The logic of the piece is, again, fairly ridiculous.

To sum it up, Eness’s essay offers the same basic information about Breen, Zimmer Bradley et al that has been covered much better elsewhere. On top of that, he fabricates a shitload of funny evidence against Scalzi and Delany (and others Beale has a hate-boner for) who have nothing to do with the actual crimes that have taken place. Even though the topic is important and all sorts of harassment in SFF community should be discussed and brought to light, the essay is extremely worthless. Considering the way it suggests that fighting the harassment of women and minorities would enable pedophilia, it is not only worthless but also evil.

As I’ve suggested before, this piece shouldn’t be on the voter packet and Midamericon II should publicly address the fact that most of its accusations are lies. “Safe Space as Rape Room” doesn’t deserve anybody’s attention (and much less anybody’s Hugo votes), but I decided to discuss it here because everybody who wants to take a look can easily find it online and it’s probably good to have other viewpoints available.

I won’t link to it, but in case you doubt something I’ve written here, you don’t have to take my word for it. Google it and see for yourself if it’s a worthy Hugo finalist.

Extradimensional, Happy Score: 0/10

On Fighting Trolls and Going to Have to Ask Kevin Standlee

I exchanged a couple of tweets this morning with Damien Walter who has been suggesting that Midamericon II throws the ballots with the complete Rabid Puppies slate out of the window. Then, he thinks, Midamericon could reinstate the works that were pushed off the list by Theodore Beale’s slate-voting effort.

I’m not expert on WSFS constitution or legal matters, but my guess is that a particular Worldcon cannot just simply do what Walter proposes. Or can they? It stands to reason that the Hugo administrators can only do the things that the WSFS constitution says they can.

Am I right? Is Damien right? Who knows? Gonna have to ask Kevin Standlee? The rules that you can ignore when you feel you have to are not very good rules (or rules at all), are they?

However, that got me thinking: Is there anything else that could be done in this situation?

Rules could be changed, even though it will take a while. Another problem with this approach is that persistent trolls have a tendency to dig up the loopholes, wherever they are. E Pluribus Hugo that I hope will pass this year is going to take some wind off the slate-nominators’ sails, especially if the campaign is built around a small number of people sending in identical ballots (which probably describes this year better than last year).

The rules guru Kevin Standlee and others have talked about intituting a third voting round in order to stop undesirable candidates before they get onto the final ballot. That would probably stop all puppy takeovers (and there may be other good technical solutions floating around), but I’m not certain that it would feel worthwhile during normal Hugo years.

In my opinion, nominating, voting and caring about the Hugos should be as easy and simple as possible, and it’s already too complicated as is (because of the arcane categories). In the very least, extra voting rounds and such should not be the standard procedure but rather something that a significant number of Worldcon members could initiate as a safety measure in case of exceptional circumstances (like a hostile takeover by trolls who have stated explicitly that their intention is to destroy the award).

On the other hand: Would an easier solution be just to grant the administering Worldcon a right to disqualify a candidate that is put on the ballot through means that are clearly in conflict with the spirit of the awards? I don’t know.

Rule changes are slow, however, so they don’t help in the current situation — where we indeed have a hostile takeover by trolls who have stated explicitly that their intention is to destroy the award. Among the Hugo finalists, there are works that include blatant hate-speech, fat-shaming, misogyny et cetera. Overall, it’s more horrible than last year, when the voters had to mostly just stomach bad writing (this year, the level of writing is probably much higher).

The works I’m referring to here are of course the short story “If You Were an Award, My Love” and the related works SJWs Always Lie, “The Story of Moira Greyland” and “Safe Space as Rape Room” (and maybe the work of the fan artist “Kukuruyo”). These are ugly works manufactured to harass individual members of the SFF community or groups of people that the Rabid Puppies contingency happens to love harassing (women, LGBTI community and so on).

So, what could be done about them? Unfortunately, not much.

After reading the WSFS constitution, I came up with only two things. If I was running the Worldcon (which I’m not, of course), I would:

  1. Not include them in the Hugo voter packet. (There are zero rules about the voter packet, so it would be completely possible for the Worldcon to exclude the works mentioned above.)
  2. Insert onto the online voting form a statement that says “Midamericon II condemns the hate-speech/whatever featured in Finalist X”.

That’s my 5 cents for the Midamericon II. Cheers!

kitten rulebook

Kitten reading WSFS constitution

Rabid Puppy Finalists’ Reactions, Compiled

Some Hugo finalists who were on Theodore “Vox Day” Beale’s block-voting slate have had things to say about it. Some have not. Below, I’ve compiled the comments I’ve come across in the hope that it’s helpful for people who are interested in the finalists’ reactions.

I’m not saying that all the finalists are obligated to say something about this, or that the Hugo voters who are not so inclined should really care. Some finalists don’t want to share their opinions (in case they have any) and some voters couldn’t care less what an author says, and that’s completely fine.

However, this is another special Hugo year. The vast majority of finalists were gamed on the ballot by a slate-voting campaign and practically a single person has decided what the ballot will look like. He put his troll army of about 200 or 300 people to work, and that was enough to render most of the other 3700 voters’ opinions meaningless. That’s how Hugo math works — even a small number of slate-voters have a huge advantage because the pool of potential nominees is so vast and honest voters’ votes are dispersed so thin. A rule change will probably take care of this next year, but we are stuck with it for now.

All in all, it’s an awkward situation for a writer to be in — being on a shortlist for a major award after someone hacked the nominations. Worse, it was hacked by a bigoted asshole.

At this point, we don’t know for sure which of the Rabid Puppy nominees would have made it without Beale’s help, but there’s no doubt that some would have. Neil Gaiman and Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, already have their closets full of Hugos, so it’s quite likely that they were going to be there, slate or not. With others, it’s difficult to say.

The thing I’m interested in here is what do the nominees make of the situation: What do they think about the Rabid Puppies campaign, Beale’s Hugo vandalism and the fact that they are (partly, possibly) on the ballot as a result of those?

I’ll be updating this. Please comment if there’s something that should be added.

  • 30/4: Updated Marc Aramini’s and Grey Carter’s views. (Thanks to Snowcrash and Mark for pointing these out!)
  • 1/5: Updated S.R. Algernon’s and Andy Weir’s views. (Thanks to katster and S.R. himself for pointing these out!)
  • 2/5: Black Gate has declined nomination.
  • 5/5: Updated Daniel Polansky’s statement.
  • 29/5: Added Jason Rennie (thanks JJ!) & Strange Horizons (thanks, Mark!). Updated Superversive SF (thanks, Kieran!) & Chuck Tingle.


Jim Butcher (The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass)

I think Butcher, who was one of the few big name Puppy candidates last year, has said absolutely nothing on the subject. In 2015, he ended up below No Award in the novel category despite his huge following.

Neal Stephenson (Seveneves: A Novel)

Stephenson is another writer who seems to never comment on fan politics and maybe that’s wise of him. Beale seems to be entertainingly uncertain about the guy. He has attacked Seveneves for its “gamma male” mentality (whatever MRA crap that is) on the other hand, but also celebrated Stephenson as one of the great “blue SF authors”. I sense some wishful thinking in this quote from Vox Popoli blog: “I cannot tell if Stephenson is writing with a straight face, or, as I strongly suspect, taking the piss out of Pink SF.”


Daniel Polansky (The Builders)

Polansky’s novella was published through which was the target of a Puppy boycott last year, and the writer himself has little sympathy for the Rabid Puppies.

It’s been, frankly, a frustrating week. An essentially private person, I resent intensely having been dragged into a controversy which I had no role in creating and little interest in generally. My initial reaction was to withdraw from the contest immediately [–] but upon consideration, and in consultation with some of my fellow nominees, I’ve decided to stay in, which seems to be the least-worst option. I’m reasonably convinced it minimizes the harm which the organizers of the slate intended to do to the award itself. If you read the Builders, and you thought it was deserving of a Hugo, by all means, vote for it. If you preferred the work of one of the other fine nominees, vote for that. If you want to no-decision the lot of us, that’s entirely understandable as well. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of a matter which has already cost me more in terms of time and energy than I would have preferred to offer to anything that isn’t my work, family, or friends.

But before I sign off, a quick word to those who are upset about the whole thing; don’t let it get to you too much. Every moment you spend being angry, every furious blog post, every back and forth with a moron over twitter, is a small victory you have offered to your opponents. It is to you to decide if you are offended, angered, insulted. A righteous soul needs not concern themselves with the doings of fools. Link

Lois McMaster Bujold (Penric’s Demon)

Bujold was nominated in novella category, but I’m pretty sure that Edward James’s nonfiction book about her would have made a great Best Related Work finalist. Sadly, Rabid Puppies made sure its not there. Bujold dropped a short note on Rabid Puppies in Goodreads.

As a point of information, “Penric’s Demon” was conscripted onto the “Rabid Puppies” slate without my notification or permission, and my request that it be removed was refused. Link

Brandon Sanderson (Perfect State)

After discussing how he disagreed with last year’s Sad Puppy campaign participants but feels that they were also not treated right, Sanderson goes on to describe his antipathy towards Rabid Puppies:

As most probably agree, the Sad Puppies are not the big problem here. There is another group who are simply determined to burn the house down, with everyone inside. Though there might be people in this group who are sincere, I believe that their leader (and much of the movement) is instead just trying to stir up controversy. They paint targets on people expressly to subject them to hateful ridicule. They have targeted friends of mine this way, and have said terrible, terrible things. They worked to nominate things simply out of spite and amusement. I want nothing to do with them at all. Link

Alastair Reynolds (Slow Bullets)

The Welsh space opera writer has been very critical of Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy campaigns, and has taken the time to confront his fans who didn’t like that.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests. Link


Cheah Kai Wai (Flashpoint: Titan)

The writer from Singapore, whose real name is Benjamin Cheah (according to his website), seems to be one of the few Rabid Puppy authors who share Beale/Day’s ideology. In his blog, he enthusiastically supports the misogynist evangelist Roosh V and bashes “social justice warriors”.

I happen to agree with many of Vox Day’s choices, including the ones that made it to the finalists. And Vox Day struck back at the people who have slimed, defamed and insulted him for decades by exposing their hyprocrisy. He did so simply by posting a list of recommendations for the Hugo Awards, which people are free to follow, critique or ignore. As far as I’m concerned, what he did is good in my book. Link

Hao Jingfang (Folding Beijing)

The Chinese writer hasn’t commented on this, and whether she is even aware of the whole mess is uncertain.

Stephen King (Obits)

No comment. The Google search for Stephen King puppies gives us this adorable corgi picture:

stephen king

David VanDyke (What Price Humanity?)

David VanDyke has spelled out in various places (before and after the final ballot was released) that he doesn’t want to take any part in culture wars and that he only sent out his work for the Pournelle anthology — it’s the same Castalia House book that Cheah Kai Wai’s novelette was published in.

I’d like to say that I’m not a puppy, kitten or animal analogue of any sort. Writing a story for Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War anthology was an opportunity to contribute to that excellent body of work, not some kind of socio-political statement. Link


S.R. Algernon (Asymmetrical Warfare)

S.R. Algernon’s short story was published in the prestigious Nature magazineI’m not aware of the writer saying anything about the Hugo mess. On a comment to this post, S.R. Algernon notified me that he has discussed nomination in Goodreads.

Second, I recognize that, with the politics of the situation being what it is, many worthy contenders did not make it on the Short Story ballot. After some consideration, I have chosen to defer to the position of the Hugo Administration and allow “Asymmetrical Warfare” to contend for the Hugo in good faith, irrespective of its presence on any slates.

“Asymmetrical Warfare” has received some positive reviews (for example, see Lela Buis’s review). I believe that the aim of the Hugo Awards should be to give the science fiction and fantasy community writ large a voice in recognizing work that has merit. I do not want to deprive them of their chance to vote next month, whether they are voting tactically or based on their opinion of the story itself. Link

Thomas Mays (The Commuter)

Thomas Mays (whose self-published short story was originally written for the Baen Fantasy Award but didn’t place) has already declined the nomination, saying:

To be clear, Vox Day and I have worked together before, but I did not request or engineer my appearance on his slate. I’m very proud of my story “Within This Horizon”, that I contributed to the first Riding the Red Horse anthology, which allowed me to be in the same volume as friends and acquaintances Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, Ken Burnside, and one of my literary heroes, Jerry Pournelle. I have been interviewed for Castalia House. However, Vox and I disagree on many political and social points and I am neither a Rabid Puppy nor a member of his Dread Ilk. My stories have no real ideological bent right or left. And while I cannot dispute the experiences of others which brought the Sad and Rabid Puppy movements into existence, I did not approve of the straight-slate bloc voting that so damaged fandom last year. [–] Rather than eat a shit sandwich, I choose to get up from the table. Link

Juan Tabo and S. Harris (If You Were an Award, My Love)

I have no clue where to look for the thoughts of the co-authors of this “humorous” Rachel Swirsky pastiche published in Vox Popoli — or if “Juan Tabo” and “S. Harris” even exist, for that matter.

Charles Shao (Seven Kill Tiger)

This is another story from Pournelle’s Castalia House anthology There Will Be War X. No comment on Hugos as far as I know.

Chuck Tingle (Space Raptor Butt Invasion)

Chuck Tingle of the Pounded on the Butt by my own Butt fame has already published a new book titled Slammed In The Butt By My Hugo Award Nomination and offered statements such as these. Deciphering them is an art in itself, I guess.


Do you know about the Sad Puppies, a group of people who try to disrupt voting for the Hugo Awards every year?

Don’t know about any puppies but it’s BAD NEWS BEARS if you want to disrupt awards. That is a scoundrel tactic and probably part of Ted Cobbler’s devilman plan. Ted Cobbler is notorious devil and has been seen using dark magic to control puppies around the neighborhood. I do not support the devilman agenda but i think that Space Raptor Butt Invasion proves that LOVE IS REAL and no scoundrels can stop that. Especially not some dumb dogs. Link

Update: On May 5th Tingle announced that the Gamergate hate victim #1, Zoë Quinn, has agreed to accept the Hugo for him. Later on, Tingle has moved to full-scale reverse-trolling the Rabid Puppies, registering domain and using it to promote Quinn’s online abuse victim support organization, N.K. Jemisin and Rachel Swirsky.


Marc Aramini (Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe)

Wolfe-scholar Marc Aramini is published by Castalia House — and judging by this comment left on File770, he is quite happy with his publisher. Aramini acknowledges that without Beale he wouldn’t be on the ballot but doesn’t draw the same conclusion as some filers: that perhaps he therefore shouldn’t be on the ballot in the first place.

From an author’s perspective Vox is the only publisher who treated me with any respect, and certainly given the obscurity of my work it would never have appeared on a ballot without him. His contract included a hardback and a second volume to finish the job regardless of sales,which he expected to be negligible, and that was well before any Hugo issues of 2015. I expect that there is a better than 70% chance that No Award will take related work, but I know that I wrote my book with all of my heart, soul, and out of love and respect for Gene Wolfe, who should have won a Hugo years ago, regardless of the things which surround it. Link

Jeffro Johnson (The First Draft of My Appendix N Book)

Scroll to the Best Fan Writer section for the comments.

Daniel Eness (Safe Space as Rape Room)

No comment that I know of. His multi-part essay contains so many of Beale’s talking/trolling points (such as John Scalzi being a rapist) that it’s not hard to guess what is Eness’s take on the situation.

Vox Day (SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police)

Well, the man himself!

Well done, all of you Rabids. Very well done. According to Mike Glyer, the Rabid Puppies placed 64 of its 81 recommendations on the final ballot. I understand we actually would have done a little better than that were it not for the odd withdrawal or disqualification. [–] You understand, as the other side does not, that there is no end to cultural war.

Moira Greyland (The Story of Moira Greyland)

I haven’t seen any comments by Greyland, and I’m not very keen to look for them. After reading her nonsensical gay-hate manifesto and learning that she is a victim of horrible crimes herself, I think that she really should be left alone. The fact that Beale included this in the Rabid Puppies slate tells us what kind of a person he is (not that we didn’t know it already).


Boaz Lavie / Asaf Hanuka / Tomer Hanuka (The Divine)

No comment.

Grey Carter / Cory Rydell (Erin Dies Alone)

My guess is that Beale nominated the webcomic Erin Dies Alone because of its name and the fact that one of the people who was making the funniest fun of him last year was Alexandra Erin. Her book John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels is highly recommended, as is John Scalzi’s audio version of it that raised over 10,000 dollars for charity.

The Erin Dies Alone writer Grey Carter has a specific idea about what sort of cunt that makes Beale.

Aaron Williams (Full Frontal Nerdity)

No comment.

Corinna Bechko / Gabriel Hardman (Invisible Republic)

No comment.

Neil Gaiman / J.H. Williams III (The Sandman: Overture)

Neil Gaiman doesn’t hide his opinions on Beale.


Jerry Pournelle

The editor of the Castalia House anthology There Will Be War isn’t optimistic about the whole thing but hasn’t spoken about slates specifically.

I’m unlikely to get this one – I’m a good editor but that’s hardly my primary occupation – but I admit I’d like to. I was already going to Kansas City this August, so I’ll be there, but I doubt there’s much need to write a thank you speech. Link


Vox Day

Scroll to Best Related Work for comments.

Jim Minz

No comment from the Baen editor.

Toni Weisskopf

No comment from the other Baen editor. According to many Puppy apologists, Weisskopf’s loss to No Award last year was a travesty of some sort and she has been their hero for years. However, she has been very careful not to say anything.


Lars Braad Andersen

No comment.

Larry Elmore

No comment.

Abigail Larson

No comment.

Michal Karcz

No comment.

Larry Rostant

No comment.


Beneath Ceaseless Skies

No comment.

Daily Science Fiction

No comment.

Sci Phi Journal

No comment. Sci Phi Journal editor Jason Rennie commented on Brad R. Torgersen’s blog that he (like Vox Day) doesn’t care about winning a Hugo one bit. In his opinion, everybody who voted No Award last year are “brain damaged morons” and “head injury patients”.

Do you know how much Vox cares about actually winning one of those cheap plastic rockets? Not at all would probably be overstating the case AFAICS. Heck, i’m on the ballot twice and I don’t really care about winning one either. Makes no difference to me. I don’t expect it to translate into subs for Sci Phi Journal and that is the only validation I care about. It might boost the profile of SuperversiveSF some and that is welcome but that will happen whether we win or not.

But Vox finds the idea of them burning the awards down and doing exactly as he predicts absolutely hilarious. Want to stop him, want him to get bored, take the gasoline and matches away from the no award voting morons. Link

On Camestros Felapton’s blog he elaborated:

Please allow me to clarify as we had the discussion about withdrawing over at SuperversiveSF behind the scenes. I wont withdraw either nomination and it has absolutely nothing to do with Vox. We have fans who voted for both in good faith, I don’t know how many but quite a few people contacted both to say they voted for us long before anything was announced. Link

Strange Horizons

No comment. In the Strange Horizons ebook sampler that was included in the Hugo Voter Packet, their editor-in-chief Niall Harrison addresses the puppy in the room:

I should address the puppy in the room, briefly. This year, we are one of
the hostages on this year’s Rabid Puppy slate.

We discovered this during the nominations period, and discussed
whether or how to respond. It should, but perhaps does not, go without
saying that we do not support the aims or philosophy of the Rabid Puppies,
and do not want them to support us. Strange Horizons has for sixteen years
been working to help open up the SF field to the widest possible range of
voices. The Rabid Puppies are trying to close it down, and, if they can’t do
that, to burn it down instead.

There are a variety of valid opinions on how to respond to the actions of
the Rabid Puppies; indeed, different strategies will work best for different
creators, groups, or voters. Our considered response is straightforward: to
not allow ourselves to be forced from the road, and to keep doing our work.


Black Gate

No comment. Black Gate has declined nomination. They did the same last year, as did the Black Gate writer Matthew David Surridge whose monumental Sad Puppies takedown is still worth reading.

Several folks I admire, including George R.R. Martin and John Scalzi, are urging nominees not to withdraw, and for excellent reasons. However, the reason that’s paramount to me, my desire to step aside in favor of a worthy publication not on the slate, outweighs those considerations. Link

Castalia House Blog

I’m pretty sure they’re delighted.

File 770

There are so many comments that I don’t know which should be included.

Superversive SF

The Sad Puppy mouthpiece from last year announced it has gone full Rabid.

It’s no secret that the Rabid Puppies dominated in a way that is unprecedented in the history of the Hugos. It was an SJW massacre of epic proportions. But what does this mean? We got nominated because of a slate. This is slate voting. It’s time we all admit it – Sad Puppies is not that, and wasn’t at the very least since Brad Torgerson started taking reader input into account, but the Rabid Puppies absolutely are. It is the slate of Vox Day. And honestly, I think everybody here knows that. We know “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, a parody story by a guy who calls himself “Chuck Tingle”, was not going to be nominated unless people voted based entirely on Vox Day’s orders, and in impressively consistent concert. This is pretty much undeniable.

[–] Does this bother anybody? It shouldn’t. It doesn’t bother me. We’ve been growing a fanbase since we started, and the fact that the Sads AND the Rabids both had us on their lists does mean we’re leaving a mark. Link

Update: In the comments, Kieran Sterling Holmes set me straight — the above announcement is written by one of the people behind Superversive SF, and all others don’t agree with him. On the site, there has been another post in which Kieran (who decided to leave the whole semiprozine for good because they didn’t turn down the nomination) explains why he disagrees with some of the opinions put forth in the discussions in Superversive SF headquarters.

Since diversity is one of SSF’s goals, I encourage the group to rethink their position on things like the RP slate. [–] Outside of dire circumstances, life to me has always been about how you play the game. And with luck it always will be.

In this case, I feel certain that playing the game justly demands stepping away. If not from the nomination, which is not my call, then from SFF. And so I go. Link

(See also the comments by Sci Phi Journal editor Jason Rennie in Best Semiprozine section — I guess he is one of the people running Superversive SF as well.)

Tangent Online

No comment from the fanzine that has been siding with the Sad Puppy campaign.


8‐4 Play

No comment.

Cane and Rinse


No comment on the Hugo mess but I do love the enthusiasm of this video.

The Rageaholic

No comment.

Tales to Terrify

Being associated with the Rabid Puppies slate is terrifying for the Tales to Terrify.

We just wanted to let our listeners and the science fiction community know that we did not know we were on the Rabid Puppies slate. We would never agree to be on their slate. We have never agreed with either the Sad or Rabid Puppies, or their ideas about what science fiction should be and who should write it, or their bullying tactics. We do not support the Puppies’ attempts to ruin the Hugo Awards. We are disgusted that we were drawn into their ugliness without our knowledge. In the words of someone close to Tales to Terrify, “this has been like being presented a polished turd.”

We’re all sickened by it. Tales to Terrify and the entire District of Wonders has always (and will always) celebrate a diverse range of voices, be they authors, narrators, or editors. We do not agree on shutting anyone out or any form of discrimination. Link


Douglas Ernst

The former soldier, Milton Friedman enthusiast and conservative pop culture blogger hasn’t commented on the Hugos.

Morgan Holmes

The Castalia House blogger hasn’t commented on the Hugos.

Jeffro Johnson

The Castalia House blog editor has stated many times that SFF readers would be better off writing about books rather than stirring up controversy. That would be sort of a nice thing to say in case it was coming from someone other than the dude working for the principal controversy stirrer, wouldn’t it?

As to the controversy surrounding the Hugos, I get that a lot of people want to talk about that but really, I just don’t have too much to say that hasn’t already been said on the topic. Several people have suggested that we would better off writing about the books we love rather than fussing and fighting so much. And while I have a small stockpile of popcorn laid back for the coming months, I will say that I’m fairly well in agreement with that sentiment. Link

Shamus Young

The game blogger has been careful to stay neutral.


Matthew Callahan

No comment.


No comment.


Pro-GamerGate comic artist seems to be a proud Rabid Puppy.

Christian Quinot

No comment.


Pierce Brown

No comment.

Sebastien de Castell

No comment.

Brian Niemeier

Superversive SF activist Brian Niemeier considers himself a friend of Puppies of every description.

To all of the science fiction fans who selected the finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards, especially my readers and Puppies of every description, I’m honored to make the following statement: I accept the nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Link

Andy Weir

Andy Weir, the author of The Martian, has been a weird political football in the Hugo culture wars. Last year, various Sad/Rabid Puppy activists, such as this one, considered the fact that Weir hasn’t won a Hugo as proof of the literary left-wing social justice bias among the Worldcon fans. However, when the final numbers were released, it became clear that without the Puppy campaigns, Andy Weir would have been a Campbell Award finalist, and The Martian would have almost made it into the ballot as well.

I haven’t been able to find a quote by Weir himself, but Steve Davidson mentioned in File770 that he had contacted Weir about this:

I asked Weir to publicly repudiate the slate inclusion. He has responded that he does not get involved with politics.” Link

Puppy-Free Hugo-Voting Guide – And the Problem with It

So, here are the Hugo finalists:


  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik


  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Builders by Daniel Polansky
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds


  • “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed)
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Flashpoint: Titan” by Cheah Kai Wai
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang (Uncanny Magazine)
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Obits” by Stephen King
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. Algernon
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “The Commuter” by Thomas Mays (declined nomination)
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Divine by Boaz Lavie / Asaf Hanuka / Tomer Hanuka
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Erin Dies Alone by Grey Carter / Cory Rydell
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Invisible Republic Vol 1 by Corinna Bechko / Gabriel Hardman
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman / J.H. Williams III


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Martian
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens


  • Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent”
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Grimm: “Headache”
  • Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile”
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map”
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Supernatural: “Just My Imagination”


  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Jerry Pournelle
  • Sheila Williams


  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Toni Weisskopf


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Lars Braad Andersen
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Larry Elmore
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Abigail Larson
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Michal Karcz
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Larry Rostant


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Daily Science Fiction
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Sci Phi Journal
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Strange Horizons
  • Uncanny Magazine


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: 8‐4 Play
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Cane and Rinse
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: HelloGreedo
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: The Rageaholic
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Tales to Terrify


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Douglas Ernst
  • Mike Glyer
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Morgan Holmes
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Jeffro Johnson
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Shamus Young


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Matthew Callahan
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: disse86
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Kukuruyo
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Christian Quinot
  • Steve Stiles


  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Pierce Brown
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Sebastien de Castell
  • RABID PUPPY PICK: Brian Niemeier
  • Alyssa Wong

As we see, the shortlist got taken over pretty badly by the Rabid Puppy campaign put together by the Hugo-nominated short story writer and editor Thedore Beala aka Vox Day — who also just became a Hugo-nominated Related Work author (I can sense him updating his CV right now).

In case you don’t want to support any finalists suggested by this sexist and white supremacist dick (and who would), you should fill your voting ballot so that you put those finalists in your preferred order below the No Award option. No Awarding all the puppy finalists was what everyone (not me, though) did last year, and all sorts of mean dudes were upset afterwards, so maybe it worked that time.

But — and here’s the problem — many things on the Rabid Puppies slate this year are quite good and have nothing whatsoever to do with Theodore Beale. There’s silly crap up there as well, but some are worthy finalists which might well have gotten on the shortlist also without Beale’s help.

Off the top of my head, I would say that this includes at least the new writer Andy Weir, the fan artist Matthew Callahan, the fanzine File 770, the semiprozines Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction and Strange Horizons, the graphic novel Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, the novelettes “Obits” by Steven King and “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, the novellas Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds and Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold, and the novel Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.

I nominated a couple of these myself, so I won’t be happy if everything goes below no award this time. So, how about just no awarding the shit and ignoring the troll’s trolling?


And, lastly: