Puppies Explain It All To You 4/17

Today a psychologist shut the doors of her virtual office after being deluged with requests for consultations by puppies.

Mainstream punditry is catching up with the story. Yet there was an unusual number of conciliatory posts, too.

A very large number of very short tweets greeted yesterday’s addition of The Three-Body Problem to the Hugo ballot. John Scalzi’s was most often retweeted. And a Chinese source announced that a movie will be made from the book.

Maureen O’Danu, whose “The Psychology of Hugo: Sad Puppies and Rabin Puppies”  was part of yesterday’s roundup, has taken all the comments and put them back in moderation.

John C. Wright posted a copy of his now-vanished comment on Vox Popoli:

Ma’am, I read your indepth psychological analysis of Brad Togersen and Larry Correia with avid interest. I am one of the promoters and founders of the Sad Puppies 3 effort, and also a writers whose work has been published both by Tor Books, and by Castalia House, which is Theodore Beale’s imprint. I have been nominated for a record-breaking six nominations thanks to the efforts of these men and my readers, one of which was later disqualified.

Hence I find myself wondering as to my psychology. Please explain my own mind to me. Am I afraid of Theodore Beale’s destructive and venomous powers, and afraid publicly to admit the same? Am I gloating over having deceived Mr Torgersen and Mr Correia into promoting my works? Do I feel the impulse to apologize to whomever it was — I was not clear on the details — that is rightfully offended that these gentlemen asked their audience to read and nominate my works? Please tell me more clearly what I am thinking, and do not leave me suspended in uncertainty. Am I a puppy greedy for what I have not earned, as Mr Correia is, or a destroyer lusting merely to inflict harm on the innocent, as Mr Beale is?

Since you know me as well, if not better, than you know Mr Beale, Mr Correia, and Mr Torgersen, all of whom are complete strangers to you, I look forward with great eagerness for you insightful and trenchant observations of my case, and your caring yet loving prescription for how the healing might begin with me.

Her no longer accessible reply was –

Maureen O’Danu: John, I deliberately didn’t mention you. I feel sorry the fact that you will have to face, for the rest of your life, that you are the face of the year the Hugos went very, very bad.



Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“The Refutation of Freud” – April 17

Yeah, somehow I doubt Larry and Brad are shaking in their boots that I am going to attack them. I know the SJWs would love it if I would do so. But that’s not going to happen. I didn’t fall for the divide-and-conquer tactics when they tried to get me to disavow Roosh and Roissy, and I’m not about to fall for it now. You don’t need to be best friends to be allies. You only need to be shooting in the same direction. The weakness of the moderates, and the reason they are so reliably ineffective, is that they would much rather shoot at their allies than at their enemies.


Lou Antonelli on This Way to Texas

“An orphan of the storm” – April 16

For example, the range of nominations as released yesterday for the short story finalists was 132-226, which means whatever story got the most nominations had 226 and whoever finished fifth had 132. As a result of the update, you would expect the lower range to drop because whatever story originally finished sixth was moved up. However in the case of the short story category, the higher number also dropped, from 230.

I’m not a statistician, but I’m also not the only person who saw that and realizes it may mean that “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet, which she withdrew, may have had the most nominations overall.

Having the most nominations is not a guarantee of finally winning the award, but honestly I thought I did well to make the ballot in light of competition and her story had a very good shot if not the best shot at actually winning the award. The fact that she may have lost this opportunity to win a Hugo because the smear campaign conducted by the SF establishment is reprehensible.

I’ve had more than one person urged me not to withdraw from the ballot. I’m a stubborn old cuss and I never seriously considered it. But I feel very sorry that Annie felt so buffeted by the storm. I did not know who she was or about her story before the nomination, so the nomination had some benefit for me. I hope she heals from this experience.


Joe Follansbee

“Here’s How to Beat the Sad Puppies: Let Them Win” – April 17

What should science fiction fans who love the Hugos do now? Assuming the Puppies nominees take home one or more awards, let them have their day in the limelight. The most likely long-term outcome will be… nothing. It will have no impact. Their gamesmanship will become no more than a footnote. It’s a one-shot deal; no one will take them seriously in the future. That’s how they will lose; their awards will be forever tagged with an asterisk: “Oh, you’re the guy who won because of those Sad Puppies freepers.” It may feel good now, boys, but in a few years, you’ll put your award in a closet because you’ll be ashamed to display it.


Tim Hall on Where Worlds Collide

“The Hugo Fight Gets Ugly” – April 17

Slate voting has demonstrated how a tiny minority voting the same way can sweep entire categories. But it didn’t start with the Sad and Rabid Puppies. It was broken before, and it didn’t need an organised conspiracy to do it. With a small voting pool all it took was a critical mass of people with heavily-overlapping tastes to crowd everything else off the ballot. That fuelled the perceptions, true or not, that second-rate work was ending up on the ballot simply because the author was friends with the right people, and even that the whole thing was being fixed behind the scenes by an imaginary cabal.

The organisers of the Hugos need to do two things. First, they need to massively expand the pool of voters in the nomination round, and there are signs of this already happening. Second, they need to overhaul the voting system so that voting blocs, whether formal, informal or accidental, cannot dominate the nominations in the way they have been doing. If The Hugos are genuinely meant to represent the best of the year in SF&F, the finalists do need to be the choices of a representative cross section across all of fandom. At the moment, there is little evidence that they are.


Floris Kleijne on Barno’s Stables

“Back To The Future – of the Hugos” – April 16

(3) Taking it down a notch and reaching across the divide

Floris: To get to that point, I think it’s essential that all Tribes acknowledge their own responsibility for the whole fracas, tone down their rhetoric, and enter a dialogue about the things that they do see as positive in the other. Find common ground, explore the similarities in their opinions and objectives, and work from there. A bit like you and I are doing, assuming for the sake of argument that you’re more of a Puppies fan, and simplifying matters by sticking myself in the WorldCon tribe (both of which are probably major simplifications, if not errors). There are clearly Tribes in specfic fandom that reflect the socio-political Tribes in the world at large, but I expect that bottom-line, fans have more in common than these bickering sub-Tribes think, and that the tribe of specfic fans has more to unite than to divide them.


Deirdre Saorise Moen on Sounds Like Weird

“Eric Flint Speaks, and Final Nomination Changes” – April 17

The quality shift was a concerted effort on behalf of people like Robin Scott Wilson, who created the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s to help improve the quality of writing in the field….

Over time, Clarion has produced (let’s say 15 people average per year x 40+ years) over 600 graduates, and many of those vote or nominate. Or hold (or have held) editorial positions at some point. When you add in the members of the other groups, too, this represents a significant influence on science fiction and fantasy books and short stories.

A Modest Proposal

Here’s my proposal: someone (not me) should start a workshop designed for people who want to write the popular end of science fiction and fantasy, and possibly aimed at people who wish to write sf/f books (the existing workshops are mostly about short-story writing). Yes, I know that Viable Paradise is about that, but the field is certainly big enough for two such workshops.

Not only that, it could be one that valued humor more than Clarion et al tend to. (You know what’s harder than writing humorous work? Critiquing it. Harder yet is understanding how to use the critiques.)

Make it six weeks long, have authors bring complete novel drafts, and workshop the whole draft in six chunks.

Don’t make it depend on ideology, make it depend on wanting to write stronger works of popular fiction.

This would be a great place to form relationships with other, similar writers, to build interrelationships within the field (as happens with Clarion et al), and doesn’t have the problematic relationship with the Church of Scientology that Writers of the Future does.


Mike Van Helder on Popular Science

“Culture Wars Rage Within Science Fiction Fandom” – April 17

Some of the authors on the Puppy slates claim to have been entirely unaware of the political aims and positions of the movement, and were thus taken unaware by the ensuing furor. On Wednesday, first-time nominees Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos both withdrew their works from Hugo consideration. Both cited their unwillingness to be nominated for what they perceive to be political reasons instead of the merits of their work, and Kloos made a further point of specifically repudiating Vox Day’s influence. This action is entirely unprecedented – no nominated author has ever withdrawn their work after making it onto the Hugo ballot. Further, the rules have no provision for what to do in that circumstance. As of Thursday night, Worldcon administrators had replaced Kloos’ and Bellet’s works with entries that did not make the initial ballot cutoff, an action which is sure to spawn even more controversy.


Tade Thompson

“I Own SFF Fandom” – April 14

Generally speaking, I can stand my own ground. I can tolerate people not agreeing with me and, as long as no harm is done, I think the world is big enough for seven billion opinions. I reserve the right to be loud or angry if I feel like it. I reserve the right to be wrong. I reserve the right to cry like a baby. I reserve the right to change my mind, either in light of new evidence, phases of the moon, or Yoruba ancestral geomancy. I can do that. Free speech works that way. I can talk. You don’t have to listen.

I do realise, however, that my ability to speak out, to be articulate, to fight if need be, to refuse to suffer fools, all these are determined by my experiences, my socialisation, my genetic make up, my epigenetic environment, luck, and possibly other unknown factors.

I realise there are those who are less capable of withstanding psychic insult. When I can, I like to support such people. This is how humanity works (or should work). I would love it if those who are better endowed than I in other areas would help me. Pay it Forward sounds sappy and self-serving, but it’s not too far off the mark. That’s what SAFE is about.

There are other places to argue the merits and demerits of whatever. There are loads of places to grandstand and show off intelligence and erudition, to compare metaphorical gonads. That being as it may, some victims need a place to heal. There need to be spaces where there are few demands other than sharing and healing. I feel gratified that people have come forward in namespace and behind the scenes. I hope that will continue to happen and I feel honoured to have been part of that.

But then, Hugo nominations.


Laura J. Mixon

“It’s Tonka Toys! All the Way Down!” – April 17

The Sad/Rabid Puppies claim a moral basis for their attack on the Hugos. They say that identity-based politics have polluted our storytelling traditions. They long for a return of the good old days when SFF stories were not about race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or cultural appropriation, or all those other pesky social-justice matters, but instead favored just-great-romps, without all the politics injected into them. And at this point my Spock ears appear and my right eyebrow floats up. I think, Fascinating.

You know what? When I read a story about a woman, especially an older woman, kicking ass and taking names in an exciting space opera or fantasy setting, I certainly don’t see politics. I see an exciting space opera or fantasy with characters I can really relate to. And I’m willing to bet my friends in the LGBTQI, dis/ability, and POC communities don’t see politics, either, when they read a story that has someone whose demographics match their own. They see that person who, like them, is fighting to find their way in the world, despite all the obstacles they face. (Obstacles that can differ, based on who we are and what we’ve encountered in our lives.) Who struggles to hold onto their humanity in the face of implacable hostility. Of denial of who they are.

The Sad/ Rabid Puppies seem to think of themselves as the true descendants of the grand masters of our modern pulp SFF tradition. I find this…interesting. The idea that stories about white guys overcoming obstacles—struggling to hold onto their humanity in the face of implacable hostility and denial who they are—is somehow less political than anyone else undergoing all those struggles—is simply so illogical to me that I can help but shrug and go, whaaaa? Because you know, the Grand Masters of SFF are my forebears, too.


Jeet Heer on New Republic

“Science Fiction’s White Boys’ Club Strikes Back” – April 17

Torgersen makes an error which is endemic to the Sad Puppies, conflating literary ambition with leftism and demographic diversity. It is simply untrue that ideology and entertainment are at odds in science fiction. Most major science fiction writers—including the ones who have won Hugo awards from the start—have had strong political convictions which have been reflected in their word. A genre that includes the socialist H.G. Wells, the libertarian Robert Heinlein, the Catholic conservative Gene Wolfe, the anarchist Ursula K. Le Guin, the feminist Margaret Atwood, and the Marxist China Miéville can hardly be thought of as essentially non-political entertainment.

Nor is it the case, despite what the Puppies imagine, that literary ambition is the province only of the left. Much of the best literary science fiction has been written by writers whose politics are right-wing: aside from Gene Wolfe, this includes Jack Vance, R.A. Lafferty, Robert Silverberg, and Dan Simmons. To take one example: Robert Silverberg is a conservative but his best novel, Dying Inside, is a story of a telepath, rich with allusions to Kafka and Saul Bellow—writers Silverberg was emulating. The faux-populism of the Puppy brigade is actually insulting to the right, since it assumes that conservatives can’t be interested in high culture.


Mark Hemingway on Weekly Standard

“Revenge of the Nerds”  – April 17

However, among certain elements of the science fiction community, there had long been a suspicion that campaigns to gather Hugo votes were more coordinated and less reflective of the fan base than they might appear.

The schism over the Hugo Awards is aesthetic as well as political. For some time now, a handful of stars in the science fiction firmament—notably popular author John Scalzi and some polarizing editors associated with Tor, arguably the most influential publisher—have been pushing to elevate the genre by embracing certain literary and political themes. Critics contend that in practice this means an overabundance of “message fiction” where, say, encounters with an alien civilization become leaden metaphors for gay rights and other politically correct themes. The fans opposed to this want science fiction to stay focused on story-telling and adventure—and they are annoyed by the attempt to banish cherished genre conventions, such as book covers with buxom babes and musclebound heroes.

The literary crowd counters that the science fiction traditionalists are a bunch of white male retrogrades. There’s some truth to at least part of that characterization—a 2011 reader poll by the Guardian produced a list of the 500 most beloved works of science fiction. Just 18 were written by women.


Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Margin of Victory: Breaking Down the Hugo Math” – April 17

So we know Kirk DouPonce received 118 votes. You might want to begin thinking about that number (118) as the low end of the Rabid Puppy effective block vote. That would be consistent with the Short Story category results: 118 wouldn’t quite have been enough to push the Rzasa story onto the ballot. Still, 118 votes is a huge number, and would have been enough to sweep most Hugo categories without any support from the Sad Puppies. There were two slates, both of which were large enough to effectively dominate most Hugo categories.


Get John C. Wright’s Hugo Nominees Free

All of the four of Wright’s Hugo-nominated short fiction works, as well as an essay from Transhuman, are included in this special release, which is available for free from Castalia House in both Epub and Mobi (Kindle) formats and will also be available in the Hugo packet.

55 thoughts on “Puppies Explain It All To You 4/17

  1. @Tintinaus
    “You are really going to have to explain to me what is at all disagreeable about the sentence Second, the author is writing or dictating the story. Admittedly I should have said narrator not author, but considering we are talking about a first person POV perhaps thst slip is understandable?”

    I understood you meant narrator and not author, and that is how I read it.

    As I had said, this would make sense if there was a frame story that implied that the narrator was being edited or had dictated the story to someone else. There isn’t such a frame in this case. I don’t buy the argument that a narrator should have sentence structures that are at different skill levels depending on whether they are speaking or narrating. Would it make sense to have a story where the character talks like G.W. Bush but narrates like William F. Buckley, Jr? I would find that very jarring unless it was part of the concept, say like Flowers for Algernon or the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime (both of which I have not read, so I do not know how they are written).

    Do you know of any writing like that, where the narrator is much more erudite when they narrate the story as opposed to when they speak in the story?

    (Other than in my own head, of course, where my inner narrator is William Gibson, but what comes out of my mouth is more Peter Parker.)

    “Look I get you like Brad’s work and you may even really like the book the extracts mentioned by Dr Science comes from. You know who one of my favourite authors is? David Brin. According to Brad, David has said some really nice things about his work. You know what I didn’t like? Brin’s last book Existence. It was a real shocker. Being a fan of an author doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of their writing.”

    Actually, I don’t have strong feelings about Torgersen either way. Both in 2012 and 2014, I am pretty sure I voted for someone else higher than Brad. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed Brin’s work more, especially the Uplift series and Kiln People (though thanks for warning about Existence). To be fair, Brad is still a new writer. And I am not saying that someone can’t be critical about an author’s writing.

    What I take issue with is an attack on an author’s writing with a headline that starts with the word “Objective” and then is anything but. The entire purpose of the article is to provide support for the notion of dismissing the SP slate on the basis of Torgersen’s literary chops, while conveniently ignoring, or being ignorant of, his nominations for a Hugo and Nebula well before sad puppies even existed. And let us not forget that when Brad talks about judging works on their merits, the word “literary” is silent, hidden, and tied up in the outhouse. So a stronger argument would be to deconstruct the story on the basis of plot, or science, or action, or other non-literary characteristics.

    “Now Dr Science may be wrong and the whole book isn’t the clunky mess that the extracts he gave us make it seem to be. If so, good. But if not, then your enjoyment aside, I couldn’t judge the book to be well written.”

    I don’t intend to claim that the novella (or whatever it is) is well written. Nor do I care, because I don’t remember the writing style taking me out of the story. I would, however, much rather read someone deconstructing the work while not wearing such obvious biases on their sleeve.

  2. Rek,

    You say, “I don’t intend to claim that the novella (or whatever it is) is well written. Nor do I care”.

    Yet we have been talking about this aspect of it the whole time. Thanks for wasting my time!

  3. Lothlorien (your great point about slate voting): I know that I was waiting for more specifics that we’d get after the awards are announced, but thank you for that one-person example in the meantime. Were I not so jetlagged (been traveling or jetlagged since the announcement), I might have tackled it once the withdrawals happened.

  4. @Tintinaus
    ‘Yet we have been talking about this aspect of it the whole time. Thanks for wasting my time!’

    If you have so little will-power that some random person on the Internet ten thousand miles away can control how you spend your time, I hereby immediately command you {waves hands mysteriously} to spend more time with your loved ones and stay away from any mention of politics online.

    If you are still here reading this, then you must be in control of how you spend your time. You may have been talking about how the novella (or whatever) was written. I was talking about how the attack on the writing of the novella (or whatever) was ill-executed and ill-conceived. Obviously we have been talking past each other.

    On any given day, I read textbooks, technical papers, academic papers, accreditation reports, student papers, and various strategic planning/vision sundry. When I read fiction, I read for entertainment.

    While I do not care if that novella (or whatever) was well-written, I do not believe it was poorly-written. I have yet, after asking three times, to get a relevant answer or example on whether it makes sense for a narrator to have more knowledge about grammar when narrating than when writing. Your suggestion of a editing “framer” isn’t a bad idea, and I appreciate it, but a frame was not part of this story so it lacks relevance to this specific case.

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