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Sad Puppies Summary and Wrapup

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As I mentioned a month or so ago, the whole Sad Puppies thing took me completely by surprise. I’ve been researching it pretty intensely for a couple of months now. I’m getting the impression that I’ve probably read everything useful about it, and what I’m seeing are mostly rehashes of things I’ve already read. So what I want to do today is summarize my research, then call it done and go back to my regularly scheduled life.

First, for those just tuning in, here in brief is what happened: Brad Torgersen, a writer of military SF, broadened Larry’s Correia’s notion of two years ago that more people should be brought into the Worldcon and to the Hugo Awards process. He explained how the Hugo Awards are decided, including the (suspiciously) obscure fact that $40 buys you a supporting membership in Worldcon that allows you to nominate and vote on the Hugos as well as vote on sites for upcoming Worldcons. Even I didn’t know that recent Worldcon members can download ebook versions (or at very least substantial excerpts) of most nominated works, which is a spectacular deal, and well worth the $40 whether or not you’re interested in the awards at all.

All of this was done out in the open. Nothing was sub rosa. Brad told people to go buy supporting memberships and nominate. He then presented a slate of works/artists that he and others in his orbit thought worthy of consideration, especially those who have been too obscure to be considered in the past. Brad’s slate leans heavily toward what Sarah Hoyt describes as “human wave” science fiction and fantasy; that is, fiction that embraces a wider range of techniques and themes than those popular with modern academic writing programs.

Some time in the past year, an author named Theodore Beale (AKA Vox Day) created his own similar slate of Hugo Awards recommendations and called it the Rabid Puppies. Vox Day is difficult to describe, much less explain. He’s a very bright guy with controversial opinions, and he suffers fools far more badly than I thought fools could be suffered. His opinions are off-topic here; don’t bring them up. He created his own slate similar to the Sad Puppies, and that’s pretty much all that matters for the current discussion.

There was some bitching about all this, just as there had been some bitching in the two previous years since Larry Correia had originally created the Sad Puppies concept. Nothing odd there; bitching about one damned thing or another has been the lifeblood of SFF fandom in all the 42 years I’ve been involved. The bitching and butthurt has gotten much worse in the last 20 years or so, which is one reason I’ve become steadily less interested in fandom, and have attended only a handful of cons since the 80s.

Then April 5 happened, and egad: The Sad Puppies recommendations swept the ballot. That’s when the hatefest began.

Some notes on terminology here: I use the abbreviation SP to stand for Sad Puppies, and to some extent the more general “puppies” notion of offering recommendation slates to the SFF-reading public. I use the term APs to indicate the Anti-Puppies, people who for whatever reason oppose the idea. I do not use the term “SJWs” for the APs because it’s inaccurate: I know people who oppose the SPs who are not themslves social justice warriors, and I suspect that the vast majority of SJWs have never even heard of the Hugo Awards, and would not care about the argument even if they had.

So that’s the short summary. Here are the points that I want to make:

  • First and foremost and above all else: The Sad Puppies organizers broke none of the rules established for the Hugo Awards process. None. All the Powers agree on this, including Patrick Neilsen-Hayden and George R. R. Martin.
  • There was no ballot-box stuffing. There are explicit rules against someone buying supporting Worldcon memberships in bulk and then voting them. This has been tried before, but the SPs were not doing it. Brad’s instructions to his readers were basically this: Go buy supporting memberships and vote them according to your judgment; here are some people who ought to be considered.
  • One of the APs came a lot closer to ballot-box stuffing by encouraging people to buy supporting memberships for people who can’t afford them. She emphasized that no effort would be made to influence how the recipients would vote, but c’mon: People know where the goodies are coming from, and the likelihood that the recipients of these gifts agree with their benefactors on the subject approaches unity.
  • The response of the APs to the SPs was venomous in the extreme. Brad Torgersen was called a racist mysogynist and much else. In truth, he’s happily married to an African-American woman whom he clearly loves and respects. The rotter haters among the APs who suggested that he was hiding his racism behind his wife and daughter did more damage to the APs’ arguments than anything the SPs said before or later. If I had to point to one single thing that turned me against the APs, it was this.
  • The media tried to slam the SPs, and mostly soiled itself in the process. Entertainment Weekly actually slid into libel and had to publish a retraction. Other outlets including Salon, The Guardian, Io9, HuffPo, Slashdot etc. published accusations that were all suspiciously alike, as though someone had offered a pre-written summary for them to follow. Most egregious of several lies was the claim that the slate was composed entirely of conservative white men. In fact, there were plenty of women and non-caucasians on the slate, as well as what might be a slight majority of liberals.
  • Several people hit me with the “You must condemn the Sad Puppies because GamerGate” gambit. I looked for a causal connection and didn’t find it. The SPs have been around two years longer than GG, and, yes, there is a certain amount of overlap between the two groups. There is also a lot of overlap between the gang attacking the SPs and the one attacking GG. I’m not a gamer and this entry is not about GG. I consider it off-topic; don’t bring it up.
  • As I said several weeks ago, the slobbering, high-volume, high-profile hate hurled by the APs probably took the SPs from a fluke to an ongoing institution. I call this “adverse attention,” and it cooks down to the Streisand Effect: Screaming about something attracts attention that makes that something a lot more visible. The sensible response to the SPs would have been silence.
  • Voting “No Award” against SP-recommended authors/artists is unfair in the extreme to those who were nominated. It’s an attempt to punish the SPs by hurting innocent bystanders, some or many of whom genuinely deserve the recognition. I predict that this strategy, if it succeeds, will destroy whatever credibility the Hugos have left.

And finally, the largest insight that I had, and the one that I think explains almost everything else:

  • The fight over the Hugo Awards is really about humiliation and loss of face. The Insider Alphas (i.e., the Right Men and Right Women) of the SFF community were humiliated on their home turf, and suffered a tremendous loss of face. High-status individuals can tolerate almost anything but humiliation. Their response to loss of face is generally one of igneous fury, and where violence is possible, physical violence. The fury was tactile, and Brad Torgersen received death threats. That pretty much nailed it for me.

Eveybody’s got a theory on how to fix the Hugo Awards process, but to me the process is fine; what’s missing is about 25,000 more involved nominators and voters. A large enough voter base is unlikely to be swept by something like a slate of recommendations. Whether so many new people can be brought into the Worldcon/Hugos community is unclear, but I doubt it.

That’s about all I’m going to have to say about the Sad Puppies topic for awhile. I’m turning my attention back to writing, to the concept of the Human Wave, and perhaps to a suspicion I have that fandom is in the process of splitting. The problems of fandom are caught up in the problems of publishing. Once Manhattan-style traditional publishing becomes more or less irrelevant, fandom may become an overlapping group of online communities centered on authors and genres. Each will probably have its own awards, and the Hugos will become only one among many. Is this a good thing?

You bet!


  1. TRX says:

    I’m still amused by the AP’s assumption that their readers are so gormless they’ll vote according to some list instead of forming their own ideas.

    Of course, this might be an insight as to how voting was done in earlier times…

    1. jic says:

      It’s because if they assume that we are all brainless drones voting in lockstep to vandalize the Hugos for narrow political reasons, it gives them permission to do that themselves while feeling self-righteous about it.

      1. “I’m still amused by the AP’s assumption that their readers are so gormless they’ll vote according to some list instead of forming their own ideas.”

        This “assumption” is a conclusion of the fact that the Rabid Puppies slate made the Hugo ballot verbatim, with not a single alteration or change.
        That’s what’s astounding about the slate. Not that some works from the slate made the ballot– that’s ordinary campaigning. What’s astonishing is that the entire slate made the ballot, unaltered in any detail.
        So, yes: the evidence seems to be that the Rabid Puppy nominators nominated in lockstep.
        (Not the Sad Puppies, however. This is something missing from far too many analyses: the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies are not the same group, and did not have the same stated goals.)

    2. It may be more an indicator of how little of the American SFF readership is aware of an organized fandom, cons, and awards. I’m still startled by how many people have admitted on various Web forums that they had never heard of supporting memberships. My guess is that fandom for them happens on Web forums, and Worldcon is somewhere “way out there” for people with more time and money than they can muster at the moment.

      Good pre-Puppies article here. Read the comments too:

      The core problem with the Hugos is that too few people care enough about them to nominate, and a dozen votes can get something on the final ballot. Winning is harder, and well-known writers have an enormous edge there. If ten thousand people nominated and voted, there would be no slates and this whole ugly business would not have happened.

      One sad thing I learned in my research is that winning a Hugo doesn’t translate to any significant money for writers, nor in truth to a great deal of lasting attention. You have to earn the attention first, by writing lots and tirelessly promoting what you write. Sheer popularity won’t do it; after all, Terry Pratchett never won a Hugo. Make sure you don’t get published in December, and make sure that the titans of the field don’t have a really productive year during the year that you publish.

      In other words, success is mysterious and subject to a lot of seemingly irrelevant or random roadblocks. I have a hunch that this has always been the case.

      As an aside, while daydreaming a few weeks back I got an idea for a different sort of awards system that might address some of the shortcomings of the Hugos. As time allows I’ll try and massage it into a coherent entry.

      1. Uncle Lar says:

        The problem as it stood was that until a couple of years ago a select few understood the nomination process very well and used it to their advantage to reward each other and those authors they deemed worthy. Trouble being that they at the same time claimed that the Hugos represented the best of all in SF&F. It had reached the point that the comment “I used to look to the Hugo nominees for good new authors to try, but any more not so much,” became something you heard over and over again. Popular best selling authors were simply not being nominated. Thus the Sad Puppy movement was born.

        1. … and the Tor Clique could have gotten away with it for a very long time if they hadn’t become so arrogant that they started voting in stories which weren’t even science fiction or fantasy just because they toed their lines, most egregiously the hilariously-bad “If I Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” which isn’t science fiction and manages to be inaccurately-insulting to every group portrayed in the tale, including blue-collar workers, paleontologists, fiancees and large carnivorous theropods.

      2. Mike Substelny says:

        I have never thought that a Hugo award might lead to financial success, glory, or anything else for the author.

        I have always believed that the Hugo Awards existed for me, the reader. Any time I pick up a story or novel that won a Hugo I know I was about to enjoy a work of great science fiction.

        And today I really don’t worry about what this scandal will do to the writers of science fiction. I worry about what it will do to the next generation of readers, who might not rely upon the Hugos to point them to quality science fiction.

        1. Hang in there. I have some ideas pertinent to rewarding quality in genre fiction that I’ll write up and post once things get a little less crazy here.

        2. BobtheRegisterredFool says:

          I can assure you that this is the case already. I have never cared about the Hugo’s or used them.

          Okay, I’m probably one of the ones Jeff speculates about, who mainly use forums. I have been to all of one con, when an author I liked was in the area, and I had a lot more money than I do now.

          1. BikerDad says:

            I used to use the awards as a guide, but I stopped doing so after a few less than satisfying incidents in a short period of time. One of the other problems with the awards is that, to me, there are simply too many of them. In fairness though, this is more a reflection of my somewhat idiosyncratic approach to science fiction.

            I am almost exclusively a novel reader. The number of non-pulp science fiction short story anthologies that I’ve purchased over the years (not counting SF Book Club) can probably be counted without taking my shoes off. Ditto for the number of magazines. So all the awards for best short story, novella, novellete, nova bova wom bom, fan fic, etc, etc, are noise. Not soothing white noise, simply noise.

        3. jic says:

          You mean they might find book recommendations from other sources? Oh, the horror!

      3. James May says:

        If you think of the old core of SF as operating something like a museum that passed on a literary evolution and tradition, I think that old core has been steadily losing readers for a long time for a variety of reasons. I think most of that is an expanding readership brought to SF by film and TV. They don’t really care if SF is evolving as a literature. It doesn’t matter if they’re reading something that’s been done to death; they don’t know about the earlier versions – they just want to be entertained. What’s old hat to more serious types of fans may be completely new to the new generation. It’s a reality of American pop culture that the larger the interest the less eccentric the art becomes.

        It was a reverse process with pop music back in the ’60s. Back when AM radio was only playing 3 min. songs underground FM radio came along and not many people listened. They could do whatever they wanted and play entire albums or bands the mainstream hated. Eventually the interest in quality stereo sound and the new bands being introduced made FM pay big bucks and they ceased to be the eccentric innovators. AM and FM merged musically and as time has gone by we’ve seen the return of mainstream sensibilities dominating music and no central core of connoisseurs.

        SF and pop music are in the same doldrums in terms of a truly eccentric art form, but most people don’t care. Mainstream pop film, TV and music are a weird thing. People like them in and of themselves and seem to lay down their bucks whether the industry is having a golden age or becoming static. Back in the day, those old pulps were like FM radio; they had nothing to lose and took chances on eccentric voices and equally eccentric Americans (always a minority) liked it. That culture is gone now. The venue via ebooks that produce little financial pressure to conform like the old pulps and FM are there now but the sensibilities still seem firmly in the mainstream. If people are having fun with what they’re reading, they don’t care about some imaginary curator saying you should be reading this.

        That curator culture is gone. The shreds that are left of it are producing faux-literati writer’s workshop junk interspersed with empty affirmative action race gender stories. Though it certainly sees itself as the eccentric old core, it’s also probably producing the least exciting stories in 100 years of SFF. A. Merritt or Burroughs from the ’20s seem like more lively writers. If someone wrote that stuff stylistically updated but with the innovation and pace intact, I think it’d be huge. That was wonder, and those guys were too goofy to be imitated. There were the real deal. Howard, Lovecraft, Heinlein, Bradbury, Bester, Vance… where are they now? Literary innovation is being replaced with the idea race and sex are in and of themselves innovative.

        1. You’ve nailed something here that a lot of people like us tend to forget: We’re in the minority of SFF readers in that we care about the product, take some identity in being readers and writers, and socialize among ourselves online and (to some degree) in person. 90%+ of SFF readers have not heard of the Sad Puppies rumble and probably never will. Furthermore, they wouldn’t care that much if they did. Writers, artists, and musicians have a longstanding rep for being eccentric. In the eyes of most readers this is just more eccentricity, and an internal issue. It doesn’t really affect them.

          Except that it will. It’s the indies who are making genre fiction cheap and lively again. The labels outside NYC (Baen especially) already understand this, and are trying to figure out what their place is in the industry going forward. The NYC imprints just don’t care, because to care would be to admit that their opposition was right all along. Man, we can’t have that.

          Popcorn. Cubic miles of popcorn!

  2. jic says:

    “Once Manhattan-style traditional publishing becomes more or less irrelevant, fandom may become an overlapping group of online communities centered on authors and genres.”

    That’s been happening for a long time. In fact, I would argue that that is really what fandom has *always* been, outside of ‘official fandom’. It’s simply becoming more pronounced, and harder to ignore.

    “Each will probably have its own awards, and the Hugos will become only one among many. Is this a good thing?”


    1. Another way to look at it is that “official” fandom is shrinking as older Boomers (the late 1940s cohort in particular) lose interest and/or die off, and other mechanisms are rising to take up the slack. For decades fandom has been organized around cons. I’m of two minds about that, as are a lot of people, I suspect, who aren’t especially cash-flush, have kids, or work demanding jobs.

      Other models for meatspace fandom are possible. I’m starting to see a new fandom organized around small local “meetups” coordinated online. The site is one way to do this (I’ve used it) but it’s expensive. Free alternatives exist:

      It’s not rocket science, in any event, and if Carol and I start spending significant time in Phoenix, I suspect I will either join or organize one.

      1. Erbo says:

        It’s also other types of conventions that are siphoning off attention. Loncon 3 had 10,833 members total, counting supporting memberships. Nearly ten times that number of people attended Denver Comic Con this past weekend (100,000+), and it’s only the third-largest Comic Con in the country. Similarly, DragonCon drew 57,000 in 2013. Now that’s the kind of voting base you want to have for awards…

        1. Tom Roderick says:

          That 57,000 for DragonCon is probably just the registered number. There are probably that many again that just go down to watch the show.

          1. Nohbody says:

            Not to mention, in DC’s case, it’s entirely possible the con staff is lowballing attendance estimates because they already catch enough heat over max capacity limitations with the Atlanta fire marshal.

            (Yes, “heat” in this context was intentional. 😛 )

          2. Cybrludite says:

            Nohbody, there was trouble with the Atlanta Fire Marshal at Final Fantasm. Dude even shut down the room parties. I wonder if their Fire Marshal hates fannish conventions?

  3. TRX says:

    Until Larry Correia started talking about it, I had no idea who was behind the Hugos. I’ve probably read all of Asimovs “The Hugo Winners” anthologies at one time or another, and I can’t remember him ever mentioning the award process. I had the vague idea it was something from within the publishing industry.

    1. Erbo says:

      Spider Robinson, to his credit, actually did point out the nature of the Hugo Awards process in one of his essays, probably “Rah Rah R.A.H.!” (about Heinlein). He mentioned something about the Hugo Awards being awarded by the World Science Fiction Society, and footnoted that saying something like “i.e. anyone who cares to bother nominating and voting. You, if you like.”

      The APs may try to drive up the price of supporting memberships to future Worldcons in an attempt to forestall another Puppylanche, but they’d be shooting future concoms in the foot by doing so. (Aside: How much of a windfall has Sasquan gotten out of all of this? You don’t think future concoms would like a piece of that gravy train?)

  4. […] “Sad Puppies Summary and Wrapup” – May 24 […]

  5. Tuomas Vainio says:

    I would just like to give you my thumb up. If this stays in moderation, no need to publish it necessarily. Just a thumb up.

    1. Things only stay in moderation (they get deleted, actually) when they’re full of hate or anger. This happens more often than I’d like, and I don’t give platforms to haters. I appreciate the vote of support and I’m glad you took the time to post it.

  6. I think this analysis demonstrating the relative impact of the two Puppy slates explains why
    the APs (like myself) continue to discuss the
    Rabid Puppies versus the Sad Puppies.

    That being said, I do thank the brouhaha over the Puppy campaign
    for alerting a large number of people (like myself)
    that for $40 one can participate in the Hugo
    nomination and voting process. And that’s a
    good thing.

    I would also say that this post
    describing the SP/RP/AP conflict
    is an
    alternate explanation beyond the one you give of “loss of face”
    for why some people (like myself) find themselves in the AP

    I also disagree with your characterization that voting NO AWARD in
    any Puppy-impacted category, or for whatever reason a voting member
    wants to is “unfair in the extreme.” People who buy voting memberships, they can and should be free to vote however they want.

    1. I think you missed my main point: That the No Award strategy punishes the people on the slate, not the people who put the slate together. What if they were on the slate because what they wrote was really, really, really good? You rob them of a chance for a Hugo because you dislike the concept of slates? That sounds kind of slimy to me.

      I doubt you’re on the AP side because you lost face. I suspect you didn’t. You’re a reasonable man and I don’t see any eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head anger coming out of you, nor the cold-blooded hatred I read in the comments sections of a number of prominent blogs. If more people had thought it through as you appear to be doing, I think the whole ruckus would have been small, and short. I commend you for that, and am glad you stopped by.

      I’m getting away from the topic for now; other things need doing, and writing. Some may involve the Hugos issue peripherally; for example, I’m going to describe a different way of recognizing quality in genre writing. But I think I’ve said all I need or want to on the Puppies dustup.

    2. TRX says:

      I can think of many better things to do with my money than to spend $40 to vote for an award. Particularly one that doesn’t seem to be financially rewarding for the winners.

      I can see where a con would charge *something* for voting; someone has to count them all up, after all. But frankly, if I had $40 worth of enthusiasm, I’d just send a check straight to the author(s) and let him blow it on beer and pizza instead of giving it to the people running a con. Interesting word, that…

    3. Jeff Weimer says:

      Your “alternate explanation” does exactly what it complains the SPs have done – “…deliberately misrepresenting the opposition on every level while simultaneously declaring a massive conspiracy to control the minds of others or to silence those who will not be controlled.”

  7. alauda says:

    The only way the Puppies can claim non-Caucasians is by pretending people from Portugal aren’t white and all the women were relegated to less prestigious awards like Fan Writer and Short Story.

    1. That puzzled me a little as well, but I don’t know how one calculates racial categories these days. We see and speak to Brazilian folk at dog shows (bichons are popular in Brazil) and they look European only with darker skin. Where do they fit? I know people with African facial features but skin as light as mine. Are they “people of color”? Are we doing ourselves any favors by fighting over distinctions like these? I know it’s wrongthink to even bring this up, but I think most people can be forgiven for suspecting that the whole business is cover for something worse.

      Nonetheless, your point about the Portuguese is worth noting.

      1. Erbo says:

        Oh, it can easily get more ridiculous than that. I know a former gunblogger who can rightfully claim to be “African-American” even though he’s as white as either of us; he was born in South Africa, and immigrated to the Dallas area.

        At a certain point, it’s all a load of horsecrap anyway. Rev. Martin Luther King looked to the day “when people will be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The SPs could easily, in turn, point to a day “when works of SF will be judged, not by the color of their author’s skin, but by the content of the works themselves.”

        1. jic says:

          “The SPs could easily, in turn, point to a day ‘when works of SF will be judged, not by the color of their author’s skin, but by the content of the works themselves.'”

          For most SF&F fans (including, to be fair, most on the left/liberal side of the spectrum) that time is now. The problem is that small, but overly influential, section of fans who put so much emphasis on that weird kind of literary ‘diversity’ where it’s vitally important that the authors should be from as many different races/genders/sexualities as possible, but it’s also equally important that they must all believe the exact same things.

        2. TRX says:

          I know a man with a similar story; his naturalization papers say he’s “African-American” (as we all are, if you go far enough back…), but his parents were from England. He was born in Africa; his Rhodesian passport said “Jew.”

          The US Department of State is where some of these definitions come from. They don’t seem to understand that there are Caucasians and Semites in Africa (and in East Africa, a lot of Chinese), and they confuse a racial groups with language groups. Last I heard Italians weren’t considered Latinos even though that’s where Latin came from.

          USSD nomenclature is why an Apache Indian living south of the Rio Grande is “Latino” or “Hispanic”, and his cousin living 20 miles north on the other side of the river is a “Native American”, and I’m not a “native American” even after five generations.

          Hey, it’s bureaucracy, not common sense…

      2. jic says:

        “That puzzled me a little as well, but I don’t know how one calculates racial categories these days.”

        It’s all down to whether people of Portuguese descent are Hispanic (which is debatable), and whether Hispanic is a race (which it isn’t, but most people believe it is for some reason), and whether race matters (it obviously does, but there’s no real reason that it should). Frankly, ever since it became unfashionable to have author photos on book jackets, I’ve had only the vaguest idea what racial group most of authors I read belong to, and I don’t really care anyway.

        1. TRX says:

          Seven or eight hundred years of Moorish occupation means there is a lot of North African and Middle Eastern genetic material in Spain and Portugal.

          While my schoolbooks said the American natives were impressed with the blond hair and blue eyes of the Conquistadors, there certainly would have been some of them way darker than any of the natives.

          “Hispanic”, as the USSD uses the term, isn’t about national origin or language group. And the way they shotgun it around, it’s not even about race, unless their aim is really bad.

          1. BikerDad says:

            Actually, “Hispanic” is explicitly about national origin AND language group.

            To be “Hispanic” as defined by the US Census Bureau, one must either be, or be descended from, a native of the Western Hemisphere who’s primary language is/was Spanish.

            The following are NOT Hispanic.

            Brazilians – They speak Portugese, not Spanish.
            Haitians – Speak French.
            Spaniards, i.e., natives of Spain – European, i.e. not of the Western Hemisphere. (Although if they emigrate to Latin America AND then come to the US, they may be considered Hispanic.)

            The following ARE Hispanic.

            10th generation New Mexicans with a surname of Martinez who don’t know any more Spanish than your average Canadian.

            As noted above, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and focusing on it is of questionable utility in building a vibrant, peaceful society.

      3. Tom Roderick says:

        After the Civil War a fairly large number of Confederates immigrated to Brazil with the encouragement of the Brazilian government at the time. As I understand it their descendants still celebrate many of the Confederate customs and traditions even display Confederate flags even though they are fully assimilated into the Brazilian culture and most, if not all, are the product of several generations of mixed marriages. I think the irony of it is beautiful. Oh, and they only speak Portuguese too.

        1. TRX says:

          The Wikipedia page on the Confederados is fairly good. Also look up “Fordlandia.” The Wikipedia entry on that isn’t worth much, but there are a couple of lengthy articles out on the web if you search for them.

        2. I confess I’ve never heard of that; I’ve been reading history in recent years, but the history of Central and South America is still a *huge* hole in my knowledge. I need to find a good popular history of Brazil. Delphi is (for some unknown reason) a big deal down there, and my Delphi books have done well in Portuguese translation. I’ve gotten a number of fan letters from Brazilian Delphi programmers. I should know more than I do about the nation and its people.

          1. Gary says:

            Delphi (aka Visual Pascal) was popular in the U.S., briefly, back when the “Visual” languages first started coming out. As a Clipper programmer (back then), I needed to chose a language for developing in Windows. I would have preferred Visual Objects (aka Visual Clipper), but that was a mess when it was released, so I ended up picking Delphi. For some reason, Visual Basic and the Visual C languages ended up being the preferred languages in the U.S. These days, I have no idea what’s popular.

        3. Gary says:

          Good thing they didn’t go to South Africa, because… Draka!

      4. Robin Munn says:

        Just so you’re aware, alauda is one of the pseudonyms used by a well-known troll, who has also gone by Yamamanama, Clamps, and several other nicknames. He has now been permanently banned from the blogs of several of the Sad Puppies authors, including Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt. (I’m sure others have banned him too, but Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt are the ones I follow and know about personally).

        You shouldn’t just take my word for it, of course: for all you know at the moment, he might be perfectly innocent and I might be someone with an irrational hatred for him. But if you Google his nicknames (particularly Yamamanama and Clamps), you’ll find lots of documentation of his bad behavior, and you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions.

        1. You and several others have put me on to this, and I’m currently researching it. Thanks!

    2. Oh look, it’s Andrew Marston of Marshfield MA. People from Portugal are “Hispanic” by definition, and as for women being “relegated,” can you imagine “relegating” Sarah Hoyt or Rory Modena to anything without their permission? You’d be lucky if you got your hands back in one piece if you tried that.

      1. BikerDad says:

        By definition, of the US Census Bureau, people from Portugal are NOT Hispanic.

        They are not in fact or descended from Spanish speaking individuals born in the Western Hemisphere.

        Spanish speaking. It is a matter of language and hemisphere, not linguistic roots and penninsular co-location.

        Spaniards are not “Hispanic”. They are Europeans.

    3. …Since when was short story a “less prestigious” award?

      What, we’re obligated to vote for women novelists now? This is what it’s come to?

      Also, Vox Day is mixed race.

  8. rmg says:

    The first point of your summary leans rather heavily on the idea that conduct within the rules must be viewed as unobjectionable.

    However, in the final point of your summary, you take the view that voting “No Award” is unacceptable.

    How do you reconcile these views? On the face of it, a within-the-rules action like using a slate to present your enemies with no options but your own favorites would seem to be appropriately answered by a within-the-rules response like voting “no award” ahead of all slate nominees.

    1. jic says:

      Thank you for illustrating my first comment in this thread.

    2. “… a within-the-rules action like using a slate to present your enemies with no options but your own favorites…”

      Geez. This again. Look, to be charitable, this is nonsense. A slate is not a magic wand nor a legal injunction. A slate is a list of recommendations. Brad Torgersen told people to go buy memberships and nominate as they saw fit. He also recommended a bunch of works & artists whom he felt deserved recognition. That’s it. That’s it. THAT’S IT.

      He deprived no one of anything. He stole nothing. He stuffed nothing. He shamed nobody. In fact, the whole SP3 effort was a couple of blog posts plus word-of-mouth.

      Blindly no-awarding Puppy-recommended people out of awards is legal, but slimy, for this reason: It punishes authors / artists who had nothing to do with the Puppy slate itself. I humbly request that if you reply, you address that issue first-up. If all you do is get angry, I’ll delete your comment the second I see it.

      Now I’ll start being blunt: The Puppies got out the vote. Your people stayed in bed and didn’t nominate. You know how many votes the Puppies got out?

      360. Three-hundred sixty. This number comes from here:

      OMG! It’s Sauron’s army! There are millions and millions of orcs at the gate! We don’t have a chance!

      No, sorry. It wasn’t millions of orcs. It was 360 ordinary people who paid their $40 (or their full membership) and nominated. Where were your guys? Why do so few people nominate vs vote? If only a few hundred people nominate, any one-legged frog with an Internet connection could sweep the ballot.

      And if only a few hundred people nominate, I start to have my doubts that the Hugo Awards represent anything significant at all. The big media cons regularly turn away more people than attend a typical US Worldcon. Just this past weekend, 101,500 people attended the Denver Comicon. Denver, the nation’s 21st largest city. That beats LonCon, supposedly representing the entire world, by an order of magnitude.

      I get the impression frequently that traditional SF fandom is rapidly becoming a rounding error.

      So. The problem is numbers, but also apathy. If ten thousand people can attend Worldcon, fifteen thousand people can nominate. If 750 people nominate, that means 9,000-odd people just don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hugos. That’s your core problem right there.

      There was an election. The Puppies got the vote out. Your side stayed in bed. Your side lost.

      Get over it.

      1. Uncle Lar says:

        And the radical fringe on the AP side, not content with casting invective and racial slurs against the SP folks, or promoting the no award tactic, have taken things a step even further. Some are suggesting that AP supporters go on Amazon and post bad reviews for any authors associated with SP. We did see a sudden spate of #1 (lowest possible score) for a number of authors’ latest releases, mostly without a confirmed purchaser flag, so easy to discount. Of late there are a number of #3 rankings, but with very negative reviews. These mostly against older works that authors have offered either free or at very reduced rates.
        So it would appear that the dedicated AP, having been heartily offended, are more than willing to cause others as much harm as they possibly can anonymously or behind aliases.

        1. I do worry about that a little. I’m in the process of ramping down my technical writing (which is where I made my reputation and most of my money) and returning to SF as my major writing mission. I’m preparing a number of works of mine (some new, some going back 35 years) for Kindle publication. I’m wondering if coordinated attacks on authors via Amazon’s review mechanism will be the next front in this war.

          1. Uncle Lar says:

            It is a valid concern which is why I mentioned it. Right now it is at most sporadic and fairly uncoordinated. Should it evolve into something more systemic, I have every confidence that Amazon will come down on the practice with the wrath of Thor as bogus reviews impact their system and ultimately their bottom line.
            Keep in mind that Amazon is not a publisher. They are a distributor engaged in the sale of products of all sorts, books being a small but active segment of their market. When you negotiate a deal for them to sell your work directly you are in fact your own publisher, and are on an equal footing with the largest publishing houses in business. A fact that apparently gnaws at the very vitals of some folks associated with those houses.

  9. rmg says:

    It punishes authors / artists who had nothing to do with the Puppy slate itself.

    It does. And that’s a shame. There are no good options here for people not on the puppy side. All available options are bad, and some are worse than others.

    I’ll be voting such that if I get my way, some perfectly nice people who do fine work will finish below No Award. That sucks. Someone’s sitting there at the award ceremony, having been honored for their work, and then right in front of their peers and some loved ones they’re told, to their face, that a majority of the voters preferred that the award be given to nobody at all rather than to them.

    You’d have to have a heart of stone to cheer a result like that. It’s awful.

    But, and I totally get that we disagree on this, I think slates are bad form.

    A little organization and discipline allows a tiny minority of voters to completely dominate the ballot. As you point out, there were not many Puppy nominators this year. They represented something like a fifth of the nominators. And yet that fifth of the nominators, through superior organization and discipline, were able to exploit a flaw in the rules to capture something like four fifths of the ballot, including 100% of several categories.

    That’s poor form, and in my view it mustn’t be permitted to work. If it does, we’ll be stuck with dueling slates forever. And as bad as the no-award scenario is (and it is awful), this result is worse.

    I could offer a defense like your defense of slates: Hey, I’m breaking no rules!

    That’s true as far as it goes, but it’s not sufficient. Which brings us back to my original point: The “first and foremost” point of your summary was that the puppy slaters broke no rules. I think that’s very nearly irrelevant–if they’d broken some rules, the awards committee would have handled it, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Breaking the rules invites an official response from those charged with enforcing the rules.

    They didn’t break the rules–they violated a community norm. And the proper response is for that community to react within the rules. If your side prevails, and puppies get Hugos, then…you win, and your guys get Hugos. May they bring you much satisfaction.

    But if your side doesn’t win, and Noah Ward has a big night, you’re going to have to accept that you lost fair & square. If that happens, then “Your side lost. Get over it.”

    1. So let me put it out in the open for everybody here: You believe that, while regrettable, interfering with the ability of writers to build a reputation and make a living from their work is acceptable, even when the writers themselves had no part in slatemaking.

      I’m thinking it’s easy to feel that way when it’s not your living in jeopardy.

      You understand this, and you’re going to do it anyway. That’s how I read you. Alas, you’re not unusual, though I respect your honesty and willingness to come here and lay it out in a civilized way. (Civility matters, and you get big points from me for that.) Many others on the AP side seem to think that interfering with an author’s living over something they didn’t do is just fine, because it’s all for a higher cause.

      Again, it’s easy when you get to decide what a “higher cause” is.

      I’ve never seen a community norm against slatemaking, and I’ve been in this business as a published, professional writer since 1974. I’ve seen a great deal of logrolling, mutual backscratching, and self-promotion, and in the APA era we all used to publish lists of works we recommended for awards. If you can find some sort of list of community norms that predates the Puppies era, please link it here. Otherwise you’re making up rules ex post facto, and I don’t accept that.

      There was no “superior organization and discipline.” There were a couple of blog posts that went viral. You can’t plan for something to go viral; in most cases it happens unexpectedly. Things go viral because they touch a nerve. Wise people go looking for that nerve to see what they can learn from it.

      Anyway. I’ve laid out my explanation pretty clearly: It’s an apathy thing. Your side would have won if it had cared enough about the awards to nominate.

      I don’t expect the Puppies to win many if any actual awards. If they don’t, they won’t have lost. They made a point, and with any luck at all, the discussions going down right now (like this one) will encourage people to get more involved with Worldcon and the Hugos to grow the community and keep them alive. I’m not kidding about this: Fandom and conventions (along with the Hugos) are in danger of not only becoming irrelevant but in time financially insolvent and then, well, dead.

      When the 21st largest city in America fields a local con that draws ten times the attendance of the largest Worldcon in history, there is definitely trouble in River City. My hunchmaker says that that trouble won’t be resolved the way most of us would like.

    2. Ian says:

      It rather irritates me that people talk about this and only pay lip service to the fact that there were in fact two slates. I have read numerous complaints in the comments on blogs like Making Light and File 770 stating something to the effect that if only they hadn’t filled their nominations… Except for the fact that SP never filled all the slots for their suggestions. In fact to breakdown on Chaos Horizon clearly showed that RP was in fact the more effective get out the vote campaign. But all I see is everyone piling on Brad and Larry and the SP noms, I wonder why no one seems to have gone after Vox like that? Are they afraid of him? Or is it that they know that he laugh at them and continue to go on and do his own thing just like he did when he was kicked out of the SFWA?

      1. No, they go after Vox pretty aggressively, from what I’ve seen. But you’re right in that he doesn’t care; in fact, the unofficial motto of the Rabid Puppies is “We Don’t Care.” What’s different is that fewer people defend him than defend Larry and Brad, so attacks on them generate more attention than attacks on Vox.

        I find it interesting that I have been attacked personally for not condemning Vox. That strikes me as displacement activity: If you can’t hurt Vox, try to hurt people who refuse to go after him. That’s crazy, but it’s all crazy now.

        1. Wes S. says:

          I’m not sure Vox *needs* anybody to defend him. He’s clearly capable of amassing overwhelming firepower in his own defense, considering how he seems to be living rent-free in the heads of most of his detractors.

          Just sayin’. 😉

          And as obnoxious as Vox frequently is, you’ll never see him pulling the sort of underhanded, backstabbing Mean Girlish stunts John Scalzi so frequently engages in. But somehow Scalzi’s jerkitude is celebrated, while Vox’s is deemed beyond the pale by our lords and betters.

          1. Erbo says:

            Nope, Vox doesn’t need anyone to defend him. He seems quite capable of holding his own without anyone’s help.

            I think Vox may very well be the Howard Stern of the science-fiction world. It’s a known fact (as mentioned in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts) that a larger percentage of Stern’s detractors tuned into his show on a daily basis than of his ostensible fans…and the most-cited reason for doing so was the same for both groups: “to hear what he’ll say next.” Certainly, Vox’s measured traffic numbers might bear a similar scenario out.

    3. Alpheus says:

      I’d like to point out that, if you are going to vote “No Award” to try to stop “Slate Voting”, then you had better be darn sure that slate voting is what actually occurred. Otherwise, you’ll not only hurt the authors who didn’t actually benefit from slate voting, but your actions are going to be ineffective as well.

      Keep in mind that the organizers of Sad Puppies (I don’t know what’s going on with Rabid Puppies) have repeatedly emphasized that you should only nominate and vote for works you have actually read. It is also my understanding that statistical analysis indicates that slate voting hasn’t occurred (you’ll have to confirm that, though, and I apologize for not remembering where I saw the analysis). And keep in mind that Sad Puppies has largely been successful because they’ve been making it known that anyone can vote for Hugos.

      If this is really a “get out the vote” campaign, and not a “vote for this slate” campaign, then voting “No Award” is doomed to failure, because in the long run, it will be the “get out the vote” people who will win.

      Incidentally, as a Sad Puppy supporter, I am abstaining from voting this year, and perhaps next year as well, on account of not having enough time to read a lot of fiction at the moment. I *will*, however, want to vote at some point…and if there are more Sad Puppy types like me, I don’t see how there’s any stopping us…

  10. jic says:

    “But if your side doesn’t win, and Noah Ward has a big night, you’re going to have to accept that you lost fair & square.”

    Only if taking your ball and going home is your definition of winning…

  11. rmg says:

    “Only if taking your ball and going home is your definition of winning…”

    Puppies losing does not necessarily imply anyone else wins. At the risk of belaboring an obvious point, when “no award” carries a category, it should be plain that nobody has won.

    If you’re imagining that anyone’s going to be celebrating a bleak evening of No Award in several categories, I expect you’re mistaken. I’m voting for that outcome, and if I should get my way I’ll take no joy in it at all. The people you hate so very, very much won’t be doing some joyful victory dance if the puppy nominees get voted down. At best, I’ll be mourning a lost year of Hugos, taking grim consolation in the fact that as bad as that outcome is, it could have been worse.

    1. Synova says:


      You do realize that if you “win” you will prove that the Puppies were right in all particulars. Every complaint we had. Every testimony that there was an inner circle interested in excluding the unwashed masses. All of it was true. Larry was right. Brad was wrong. Because Brad thought that it was possible to be a part of something and Larry was prepared to ignore you forever.

    2. Jeff Weimer says:

      Worse? How?

      1. Synova says:

        I donno… Jim Butcher could win a HUGO. That would be terrible. The genre would never recover.

        1. I haven’t read his fiction. (I hadn’t heard of him until fairly recently, and I’ll definitely give him a shot.) I do like his dog and his trick eyebrow.

          1. Synova says:

            I haven’t read his fantasy series, though I’ve heard it’s even better than the Dresden Files.

            I tend to explain Dresden Files as what happens when an author answers every question with… “All of them.”

            Which mythologies are going to be in your Urban Fantasy? All of them. Which vampires? All of them. Witches? All of them. Gods? All of them. Fairies? All of them. Etc.

            Amazingly he pulls it off and it is AWESOME.

          2. Shadowdancer says:

            @Synova – The premise behind Codex Alera is “What happens if one of your fans dares you to write a story with an insane premise, and the author says ‘I’ll do you one better; give me TWO.’ and said fan responds with ‘Pokémon and the Lost Roman Legion.'”

            The result was not a single story, but a five book fantasy series in one of the most original settings I have ever seen, as well as being incredibly entertaining.

          3. Robin Munn says:

            This comment is intended as a response to Synova’s comment of June 11 at 9:19 PM, which I can’t respond to directly because the nesting limit has been hit.

            Butcher’s fantasy series had a very different tone from the Dresden Files. It’s quite a bit more serious. The Dresden Files have plenty of serious moments, too, but they’re interspersed with laugh-out-loud moments. (“Wishest thou sprinkles on thy doughnut?”) His Codex Alera series has a defend-the-world plot (there’s an evil force that threatens to take everything over if it isn’t stopped), but without the laugh-out-loud moments found throughout the Dresden Files. (Not that there isn’t humor, it’s just that the Dresden Files’s humor nails it much better.) For myself, I enjoyed the Codex Alera series, but I found it a read-once series, whereas the Dresden Files is a repeatedly-reread series for me.

    3. The Phantom says:

      RMG, the Puppies already won. Larry won the first two years, and Brad won this year. All they said was “Lets get something, anything nominated, and watch the APs go mental.”

      And y’all have gone mental every single time. THIS time you’re getting ready to burn your own house down, which is the Biggest Sad Puppy Win EVER.

      Actually I think Brad believed he could get some -good- work nominated for a change, and he certainly has done so. If No Award sweeps the night, Brad already won and now he has the cherry on top.

      I’m just happy I got good stories in my voter packet to read. Not like previous years, eh?

  12. TRX says:

    A list of the previous Hugo winners and nominees here, 1953-2014:

  13. zeph says:

    Not clear on why this whole tiny can of worms has blown up like this. Jeff, I usually expect to be level-headed and interesting along tech lines, not foaming at the mouth and possibly on the wrong end of it. I’d rather hear about slightly dubious nutritional notions, those might wind up somewhere interesting.

    1. Hold onto your hat. I actually agree with you: It’s a little out-of-character for me. However, I’ve been a published SF writer now for 41 years, and the field matters to me. I’m also interested in psychology, and it’s been a classic case of tribal rage caused by loss of face. I’ve seen writers and SMOFs I’ve known since the 1970s act like seventh graders, eyes rolled back in their virtual heads and spraying lies and hate in every direction. Some of these people are (were) my friends.

      I like to say I’m not interested in politics, but in this case politics took an interest in me.

      I’ve decided to publish as an indie, and I’m preparing a number of items for sale on Kindle. And then this blows up. Some good came of it; I discovered Larry Correia & John C. Wright. (I also gained new respect for Sarah A. Hoyt.) But mostly it’s been an unholy pain in the ass. Everybody in my inner, middle, and outer circles was asking me what I thought of it, so I wrote down what I thought of it. That’s pretty much the why.

      Now I have to keep formatting Ten Gentle Opportunities and get it all out on schedule. So I’m unlikely to spend much time on this again.

  14. Erbo says:

    You know, I think people are really viewing this the wrong way. They’re calling the Puppy lists “slates,” when what they really should be referred to as is recommendation lists.

    How the hell does anyone find out about works that are good enough to be nominated for Hugos? Even for an obvious category like Best Novel, let alone all the short-fiction categories? In the past, you’d practically have to be obsessed with the subject, subscribing to all the major magazines, haunting your local bookstore to get wind of the latest releases, and so forth. With the advent of indie and Internet publishing, the problem isn’t merely doubled, it’s squared. Let’s not even speak of “inside baseball” categories like Fan Writer/Fan Artist…

    (Hell, I just recently found out, when I decided to order a new copy of Gordon Williams’ The Micronauts after my original one was pretty much shredded, that the man wrote two sequels to that book, and they’ve been out for over thirty years. What chance would I have of keeping up with the field as it exists today?)

    In this Brave New World we find ourselves in, “SF work discovery” is going to be a thing, much as “app discovery” is in the world of mobile apps. And a big part of it is going to be recommendation lists, from various sources that people can choose to trust or not trust.

    That’s why there should be more “slates,” not fewer. With more recommendations to choose from, many people will be exposed to more than one list, and are more likely to pick and choose from multiple recommendation lists in submitting a nomination list. In this case, Torgersen was the only one that spoke up with a list. (And Herr Day, of course, but there was substantial overlap between the two lists.)

    You can talk about “community norms” all you like, but the landscape of SF publishing has changed; in the words of Steely Dan, “Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.” Recommendation lists are increasingly going to be relevant, not just for guidance in award nomination, but just for authors to get some friggin’ attention.

    1. There needs to be an awards mechanism that takes into account the fact that people may discover a writer late in their career, or even long after their death. I didn’t discover Charles Williams until fifty years after he died, yet the books were no less brilliant for being that old. I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem, and will put up an idea piece on it when time allows.

      1. Alpheus says:

        I completely agree with this! The Oscars have a similar problem: one year you can have half a dozen brilliant movies nominated, and another another year the winner is merely the least worst of a half-dozen mediocre movies. In those years, I wish they could reach back and snag an older movie, more deserving of the award…

  15. TRX says:

    > the Micronauts

    Good grief! I actually read that one, not long after it came out.

    Are you familiar with James Blish’s “Surface Tension”?

    > Steely Dan

    Perhaps appropriate to the cultural shift in fandom:

    “…she don’t remember / the Queen of Soul
    hard times befallen / the soul survivors
    she thinks I’m crazy / but I’m just growin’ old…”

    > more slates

    I’ll start one myself if I have to. And there are other genres watching how things shake out. Apocalyptic Armadillos, anyone?

    1. I saw someone say in a comments section somewhere that she had created a “Manic Puppies” slate, but I didn’t see it on Google. Maybe she was razzing the APs.

      I remember “Surface Tension” vividly. Not so much The Micronauts, though it sounds familiar.

      Steely Dan. Geez. We’re dating ourselves.

      1. Cybrludite says:

        Sort of like the narrator in the song ends up doing, as he tries to date the young co-ed.

  16. jic says:

    “You know, I think people are really viewing this the wrong way. They’re calling the Puppy lists “slates,” when what they really should be referred to as is recommendation lists.”

    That’s really all they ever were. But if the APs acknowledged that, they couldn’t pretend that the SPs were doing anything unusual (let alone sinister).

    “In this Brave New World we find ourselves in, “SF work discovery” is going to be a thing, much as “app discovery” is in the world of mobile apps. And a big part of it is going to be recommendation lists, from various sources that people can choose to trust or not trust.”

    There’s a pattern here where somebody says ‘something will happen’, and I reply ‘it’s already happening’, sometimes adding ‘actually, it’s been happening for a long time, it’s just became more visible lately’. Well, that.

  17. TRX says:

    Dating ourselves?

    This is the Century of the Fruit Bat. A few clicks, and all of the digital world is a flat tree open to my gaze.

    Look! It is 1889, and here is Thomas Edison’s first motion picture:

    Look! It is 1964, and the Beatles are appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show:

    Look! It is 1862, and we’re looking at the Battle of Antietam:

    Look! It is 1826, and this is the earliest known surviving photograph:

    Look! It is 1969, and two guys are wandering around on the surface of the Moon:

    Look! It’s 1976, and KISS is playing on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special:

    Look! It is 1945, and the light of ten thousand suns flashes across New Mexico:

    Look! It is 1903, and Wilbur and Orville make their first successful flight:

    Look! It is 2001, and we see the wreck of the HMS Titanic sitting two miles under the sea:

    Look! It is 1975, and Venera-9 sends the first images from the surface of Venus:

    Look! It is 1962, and Telstar is the first satellite to relay a television signal:

    Look! It is 1976, and Viking 1 sends its first photo from the surface of Mars:

    Look! It is 2100 BC, and the Epic of Gilgamesh tops the Babylonian best seller list. Have the voices of the djinni reach back 4100 years and read it to you from the networked aether:

  18. pf says:

    I notice you’ve made several mentions of “apathy” as an explanation for the anemic ballot counts that Hugo voting normally yields. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m rarely able to fill out a nomination ballot with more than a couple suggestions in total, and that’s because nearly everything I read is too old to qualify for Hugo nomination.

    The problem is that, while I’m motivated to find good new SF&F, I’m not at all excited about wading through stuff I find tedious or off-putting in order to find it. Recommendations consistent with my tastes are hard to find, but a combination of multiple sources of suggestions, plus the test of time, is usually adequate. Unfortunately, “the test of time” means I typically end up reading things years after they were published.

    Hugo nomination lists are mostly not to my liking, so I’m certainly motivated to nominate. Over the last 20 years or so I’ve voted for Hugos roughly every other year (as a supporting member for about 2/3 of those votes, attending member 1/3), but my nomination ballot is always nearly empty.

    As a contrast, this year I’ve enjoyed nearly all of the nominations so far (I started with short fiction and I’m progressing to the longer works). I haven’t checked anything against the Puppy lists (to avoid unconsciously coloring my vote), but people keep talking about how they “swept categories”, so my tastes must match that of the lists’ editors to some extent.

    When I eventually compare my choices to the Puppy lists, if it turns out these lists were a good source of recommendations for me, I’ll investigate what was on previous lists, look for further works from the authors I hadn’t known about before, and check out whatever next year’s Puppy lists turn out to be. If this works out, I’ll have read a lot of new-to-me SF&F, but virtually all of the work I’ll have read that’s recent enough for Hugo nomination will have come from the next Puppy lists. And, as usual, I’ll nominate anything I think is good enough that’s also qualified for nomination.

    Statistically, the Puppies vote-block will appear to grow by one (me). Any ideological analysis will fail to correctly account for that uptick: it would actually be an emergent property stemming from a combination of the hard problem of reliable recommendations, Hugo nomination time constraints, the creation a good list for people with otherwise unserved preferences, and a growing flame war that publicized the lists and perhaps turned them into something like a game theory “focal point”.

    I gather we’re on the third iteration of this process. I notice from the quantitative analysis you linked to in a comment above that the Puppy influence may have doubled from 2014 to 2015. I wonder how many people like me were involved in that?

    1. Answer to your final question: a lot. There is massive discontent in the field, which may have a number of causes. What those causes are matters less than the degree of discontent, which would have eventually taken some other form if it hadn’t taken the form of the Sad Puppies. An unknown but large number of people just don’t like what the traditional publishers are offering. Some of those tapped into the SP phenom. I suspect a great many more of them just walked away, which is tragic.

      You’ve put your finger on something else I haven’t seen many people mention: The one-year window for granting Hugo awards is too narrow. I finally got around to reading Red Lightning and Red Thunder a couple of years after they appeared, so I could not nominate them. So much material is published each year that for a work to be discovered and appreciated as its quality warrants soon enough to get on a ballot is a matter of luck more than anything else. Luck–and self-promotion, which everybody seems to sneer at. Since nobody else (including publishers) will promote you, well, what’s an author to do?

      The problem remains, though: We need a different awards mechanism that doesn’t focus on date of publication. Suppose an author needs twenty years to be discovered and appreciated? Why shouldn’t that author be recognized? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and may post some ideas here as time allows.

      1. Synova says:

        Jeff, I think there is a category for awarding older stuff, though I’m not sure if specific books are awarded or authors are awarded or if I’m thinking of some other awards all together.

        I’d like to see the nomination eligibility window extended to two years or possibly three years… but not more. The reason why not more is that part of the fun of awards is looking at what was popular within a relatively narrow window of time. What did people think was great the year I was born? What was being written at that time? What ideas and issues were inside author’s heads then vs. now?

        But it seems to be a real problem that “buzz” doesn’t have time to build and excellent books don’t have time to be discovered. And if you’re like me, sometimes it takes awhile for the impact of a book to sink in.

        I’ve argued that motivated people in different fandoms in science fiction (not fans of individual authors but the sorts of factions we’re seeing now) putting some effort into putting forward “slates” that are actually short enough for other people to read, amounts to crowd-sourcing the search process and increases the chance that an obscure gem might be found before it’s too late.

        Like most Puppies, I’m not at all interested in domination and limitation. I’m interested in expanded participation from ALL quarters. Lots of people don’t believe that, but it’s because they don’t WANT to believe that.

        1. jic says:

          “I think there is a category for awarding older stuff, though I’m not sure if specific books are awarded or authors are awarded or if I’m thinking of some other awards all together.”

          There’s the Retro Hugos, but that’s only awarded on the 50th, 75th, or 100th anniversary of a year when no Hugos werre awarded, and they’ve not been awarded at several eligible Worldcons.

      2. BikerDad says:

        There’s one other consideration on the one year window. That’s “one year from original publication.” Maybe 1 in 20 books that I buy (not counting remainders) is a hardback. Which means that if the book is published first as a hardcover, the odds of me reading it within the year are mighty slim. Add that slim chance to the chance that I’ll even pick up the book, regardless of format, and yup, the window AND coverage is mighty slim.

        I’m not a fan of ebooks, especially given the absurd pricing of many of them, so an ebook publication is essentially a non-factor for me currently.

  19. Geoff Whisler says:

    First, way back when, I missed my chance to write a thank you letter to some authors I loved, first amongst them would be Heinlein and JD MacDonald.

    So, in that vein, somewhere downstairs, I still have a copy of “Delphi for Dummies” and “Complete Turbo Pascal”. Good books. Thank you sir.

    Next, I totally consider myself simpatico with the Sad Puppies. I paid my 40 bux Murkan and I nominated and I will vote. I DID NOT blindly vote a “slate”. (Slate is the newest badthink word….) I did look at the recommendations, but I nominated books I liked. I mostly left the short story, novella things blank since I knew nothing.

    Here’s the real issue. I got in this because I didn’t like the novels that had gotten the Hugo the last many years. I’m not gonna say something dumb like I gouged my eyes out, but for instance, I don’t think Red Shirts belongs on the same Wikipedia list with Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or The Left Hand of Darkness. Not that I didn’t read it or enjoy it, but I just ain’t a Hugo Winner.

    So, I’m paying my money to have a say.

    Thanks for a well written, fair discussion of the Puppy Saga.

    Geoff Whisler

    1. Many thanks for stopping by. One point I need to make right away: I did not write Delphi for Dummies, That was Neil Rubenking. I wrote The Delphi Programming Explorer with two other authors, plus several editions of Complete Turbo Pascal and Turbo Pascal Solutions.

      I read Redshirts and was hugely disappointed. I didn’t throw it at the wall, but I didn’t find it especially funny, and certainly didn’t consider it awards material.

      I originally thought that the Puppies Affair would be a short-lived thing, but clearly I was wrong. It’s not a stratovolcano but a shield volcano, and the issue will continue leaking red-hat lava for years to come. In the process it may build a whole new island on which a related but separate fandom will reside. I’m not by nature a hater, so if there’s a way to simply divorce the haters in fandom, I’m in, and this new fandom I’m sensing can’t happen soon enough.

      1. Geoff Whisler says:

        Oh. I’m sorry on the Delphi, thing. I should have checked better. In any case, thank you for the good book.

      2. Bruce says:

        Complete Turbo Pascal? I knew your name was familiar! I still have that on my shelf at home! Bought it when I was in high school and a buddy told me that he’d used it to teach himself how to program. This is the same buddy that was developing software used by several local companies to run their businesses – while he was still in high school, and a year younger than I. I count writing his user manuals as my first IT job.

        Complete Turbo Pascal was one of the few books that we found useful to have with us when he & I were in the ACM programming competitions a few years later in college. We never won anything big, but using TP, we always stomped all of the other teams at the site!

        I’m in IT today because that’s where I wanted to be (and probably belong…), but you had an impact on my education and my career. A positive one. Thank you, and thank you for this article on SP & the Hugos.

        1. You’re very welcome, and I’m glad you took the time to post. I hope you won’t take it ill that I’m turning aside from tech writing at this point in my life (I’m about to turn 63) to try and re-ignite my SF career. I have a huge tech book project in limbo right now that went sour through no fault of my own, and until that’s resolved, I’m disinclined to attempt another.

          If you like programming, I suspect you’ll like my SF. Check back now and then, as I’ll be posting updates here regularly.

  20. […] On a related note, this one was sent to me yesterday. It is a pretty good summary from somebody who wasn’t involved. […]

  21. […] Sad Puppies Summary and Wrapup by Jeff Duntemann […]

  22. Mark says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I came over from Larry’s post, and I find your view on this to be very informative and a little amusing.

    Thank you again.


  23. Dave says:

    Your write up isn’t bad but as another semi-neutral observer of this mess I think there are two places you went wrong.

    1) Your whitewash of VD (hereinafter, the troll) and attempting to put his opinions out of scope. His opinions are central this whole fiasco.

    2) You’re wrong that the Sad Puppies swept the nominations. It was the Rapid Puppies who swept the nominations and I believe that the the troll did in fact tell his followers to vote the slate.

    This was only my second year involved in the Hugo and I got involved when I learned that $40 got me a great sampler of the “best” SF/F of the year. I’m annoyed with the SPs because they put a bunch of crap in my Hugo Packet. “Crap” in this case is defined as fiction that I didn’t enjoy reading. I liked a lot of the stuff last year including works by Correia and Torgerson, this year my packet was chock full of stuff I DID NOT ENJOY. If this is the best the Puppies can come up with they need to stop whining and just go back to their club house. I don’t force my favorite books on them, why do they feel the need to force theirs on me?

    But as mentioned, the Sad Puppies are really a side show. They’re getting a lot of hate because they’re associated, and I think rightfully, with the troll. The troll is either a really vile person OR he’s an ass who enjoys pissing people off on the internet.

    Regarding death threats, being called nazis and other hate: A) that shit is wrong and the haters need to grow up; B) this is the internet and it’s full of trolls, one of whom used the SPs for his own benefit. That they seem to freely associate with that troll just makes it harder for them to say his vile spewings are not theirs.

    I’m sort of sympathetic to the SP complaint that they don’t enjoy what’s been nominated recently. I liked last years Packet but this years may not have been worth the $40. I think a better solution would be for them to read more (including outside their little clique) and nominate more or, maybe they should just start their own damned award. I get their frustration but maybe the times are just changing and they’re not mainstream any more. Shit happens.

    The RPs are just trolls trying piss everyone off and their slate included a lot of personal benefit for the head troll. The SPs are getting tarred with that brush because they were dumb enough to associate with him in the first place and then to not recognize that they’d been used.

    1. Whitewash? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

      I don’t agree with Vox, and I certainly don’t endorse him, but more to the point, I do not condemn people on demand. You get points for being courteous instead of furious here, which I greatly appreciate. However, there’s this trend out there in the blathersphere to use Vox as the ultimate universal thread derailer. I honestly don’t see how Vox’s opinions are pertinent to the current discussion, and I will not allow this thread to be derailed.

      What often happens is that discussion descends to a will-you-condemn-a-thon, in which the moral failings of various people on all sides of the issue replace whatever was previously under discussion, and without a heavier hand than I’d prefer to have, it all descends into vituperative madness.

      I do agree that the RPs were peculiarly effective this year. I’ve pointed out elsewhere that the Hugos were an easy target, if only 360 recs can sweep the ballot. What Brad and Larry have been trying to do is expand awareness of the awards and of Worldcon, and the APs seem suspiciously reluctant to admit that a few thousand more additional participants would make the Hugos much harder to influence by Vox or anybody else. My intuition is that they understand that a larger voting base would make it impossible for them to influence the awards as well. Those in power don’t like to give up power.

      Others here have pointed out a thread that bears on this particular issue, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should:

      1. Farley says:

        My intuition is that they understand that a larger voting base would make it impossible for them to influence the awards as well.

        On target.

    2. Danby says:

      They’re getting a lot of hate because they’re associated, and I think rightfully, with the troll.

      No, that’s not true. Granted the APs hate Vox with the white-hot burning hatred of a thousand suns. but they would have reacted in exactly the same way. In fact they did last year, when Vox was not more than peripherally involved (as a nominee only) and had literally said nothing about it. Vox hate is a sideshow, and not in any way the cause of anyone’s outrage. He’s more of a convenient target.

    3. Your whitewash of VD (hereinafter, the troll) and attempting to put his opinions out of scope. His opinions are central this whole fiasco.

      Once again, everybody is missing the point.

      That Vox’s opinions on sex, race, and politics are central to the fiasco is itself the problem.

      What an author thinks about non-sci-fi subjects should be irrelevant. It is the story itself we should be criticizing, and not the badthink of the author.

      That the opinions of Vox Day have become central to the fiasco is an indictment of the AP’s, not the RP’s (Vox is not an SP, of course).

      This was all well summed up in a comment I saw on Brad Torgerson’s blog. Paraphrased, it went “I don’t think it’s right that you Puppies go nuts over some dinosaur story that you don’t think was very good* but when Vox Day says horrible, horrible things you don’t care.”

      And that’s precisely it! One side cares that a bad story won; the other side cares that a bad person got nominated. And that’s the difference in a nutshell.

      *The story was “If you were a Dinosaur, my Love”, and it won the Nebula for best short story and got nominated for the Hugo.

  24. Fruitbat44 says:

    Err . . . “Vox Day is difficult to describe, much less explain. He’s a very bright guy with controversial opinions, and he suffers fools far more badly than I thought fools could be suffered. His opinions are off-topic here; don’t bring them up.”

    Fair enough. Your blog, your rules. 🙂

    Larry Correiga (Btw, I have found his books to be very readable) posted on his blog in April 2015 about two slated authors who had withdrawn their nominations, one explicitly because he did not wish to be associated with Vox Day.

    1. BobtheRegisterredFool says:

      Kloos is a loyal student of several folks on the antipuppy side. This is apparently is mentioned in one of his books. At least one of these has pre existing issues with Sad Puppies, not just Rabid Puppies.

      Kloos might well have felt obligated to withdraw if he had been nominated by only Sad Puppies.

      Certainly, an Indy like him doing well might have been an embarrassment to his friends in Big Publishing.

  25. Curtis says:

    Watching a schism can be enlightening. We are getting to watch it happen within Games, Science Fiction and even the two major political parties in real time. It’s like being a fly on the wall when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg.

    Of course, as fans of SF, we are all quite used to watching space being rent and torn so it’s really nothing new for us, eh?

    1. I personally think we’d all be better off with two fandoms and less shitflinging, but I don’t think anybody really knows how to get there. I enjoy face-to-face socializing. I don’t enjoy being called names and certainly don’t enjoy seeing what might otherwise be insightful discussions get derailed into verbal fistfights.

      I don’t think that the APs will easily accede to such a schism, BTW.

      1. jic says:

        The more fandoms, the better. A diverse collection of overlapping fan bases is the best possible way to ensure a vigorous future for SF&F.

  26. Joe Wooten says:

    I don’t think that the APs will easily accede to such a schism, BTW.

    No, they will not. The leftists have been engaged on a long march through ALL cultural, political, educational, and non-profit organizations since the 1920’s. They have almost gotten total control of all the aforementioned groups and like totalitarians everywhere, they will not give up ANYTHING they get their grasp on. I saw this when I was a student at the University of Texas back from 1976-1979 when they were in control of everything there except the engineering, math and hard sciences departments. There used to be almost weekly protests about the research reactor in the Taylor Hall (Mechanical Eng) basement, or the lack of Hispanics, blacks and women as either students or professors in those departments.

    Engineers especially were considered barbaric, culturally ignorant neo-Nazis, mostly because we’d ask for proof, cite proofs showing their ideas were wrong, or just ignore them.

  27. Jason says:

    At least be consistent: the SPs broke no rules during the nominating stage AND voting no award breaks no rules during the voting stage. You can pee in the punch bowl but I don’t have to drink it

  28. […] number more who’ve left tracks in my webstats. I’ve had a number of links posted to my Sad Puppy Summary and Wrapup from some sites a great deal bigger than mine, including John C. Wright’s and Monster Hunter […]

  29. Nobody Atall says:

    Coming late, via Mad Genius/MHN …

    I am a reader, not an author. An avid reader of SF since junior high school (The White Mountains took my SF virginity).

    re “… the likelihood that the recipients of these gifts agree with their benefactors on the subject approaches unity.”

    Maybe I am the only one, but I wonder … I received one of those 140 or so donated memberships and I am doing exactly what SP advocates … reading the entries and voting according to my judgment. I find myself continually tempted to do likewise unto them and let politics have its poke, but I will continue to resist that temptation. Could I be the only one trying to do right?

    And regarding No Award, I will be voting at least one of those. For an entry that has no ideas and no redeeming value. It appears the author wondered how to torture people in a certain way and ran with that. But is it about politics? No. That’s my judgment full stop.

    I agree with the big men that you have put together a masterful and succinct summary of the kerfuffle. Thank you for the hours of research you put into it.

    1. You’re the first one of the scholarship recipients that I’ve heard from, and I appreciate your stopping by. Maybe I spoke too soon or worried too much. (I’m well-known for doing both.) What you’re displaying is what I call integrity, and I sure wish there were more out there like you. There probably are. It’s impossible to know.

      Giving away memberships after falsely accusing the SPs of ballot box stuffing still reminds me of something my mother used to say: “It looks bad.” Even if it’s within the rules and no attempt was made to suggest a voting slate, it wasn’t the best response to the SPs in the context of the (rather heated) argument. That said, I would support a sort of lottery in which a certain number of supporting memberships are given away, emphatically provided no benefactor or benefactor group is named. How this might be done is another discussion entirely. I may take it up at some point, once I catch up a little.

      But again, thanks for your insights.

  30. Susan says:

    Thank you for your succinct summary. I read a lot of science fiction, but I had no idea about this whole Sad Puppies thing. I guess that’s because I read what I like and I don’t care if it gets awards or not. I’m sure there are those who believe that the awards for any kind of literature are meaningful, but I have found popular books with many awards among the books I wouldn’t use to line my bird cage. There was a point to Sad Puppies, and it has been made. Now I’ll go back to reading books. =)

  31. […] confused about Sad Puppies? I direct you to the neutral and excellent summary by Jeff […]

  32. The Mechanic says:

    I don’t know about you, but I started reading SFF because it was fun and entertaining, a great deal of the current crop being published by the big companies is neither. I, and probably a majority of readers, don’t want “Literature” we want entertainment and escape. When did the publishers lose site of that fact?

    1. I can answer that: 1965-1970. There was a convulsion away from SF’s roots toward a “new wave” of postmodern literary techniques and forms, the bulk of which were poorly done and (to put it bluntly) twaddle. I was there and I saw it happen.

      We’ve been fighting that battle ever since, and the Sad Puppies dustup was certainly part of it. The traditional print publishers bought in almost completely, so until ebooks and sales tools like Kindle and KU appeared, there was little we could do but complain.

      I recommend reading Sarah Hoyt’s Human Wave Manifesto:

      That’s how I write, basically. I hope to popularize that concept over the next few years in various ways. Stay tuned.

  33. […] happened? Sad Puppies. In researching the phenomenon I found people who were facing the same problems I was. They were […]

  34. […] if you missed my summary of the Sad Puppies phenomenon last year, take a look. It’s part of an ongoing series that began […]

  35. Jaycephus says:

    Been reading “sci-fi” since reading Jules Verne and Tom Swift in the early to mid 70’s. Star Wars happened after that interest. I knew of the Hugo awards due to marketing on book covers, but I never knew of the rules for voting until the Sad Puppies was pretty much a done deal with the AP counter-attacks.

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