On the Sad Puppies

I’ve kept my distance from the “Sad Puppies” controversy in the Hugo Awards. I’m not registered for the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention, and I don’t follow a lot of current science fiction, so I couldn’t cast an informed vote without a lot of extra work. I have noticed quite a bit of nastiness from the anti-Puppy faction, including sniping at the people nominated because of the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy slates. If you dislike the methods of promotion, that’s fine, but attacking people for being nominated and failing to decline the nomination isn’t. It exemplifies the growing illiberalism and intolerance that I’ve seen in fandom.

I’d like people to read Gray Rinehart's article on this year’s Hugo situation. Though we’re both filkers, I don’t really know him personally, and his Christian philosophy is quite different from mine, but his core point is important:

Suffice it to say that various people, in various places, have characterized the “Sad Puppies” ringleaders and their “Rabid Puppies” counterparts — as well as those of us whose works were nominated — in … uncharitable terms. Words like racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and even neo-Nazi have been bandied about. Likewise, strong and often unduly harsh language has been used against those on the “anti-puppy” side, i.e., toward those on the side of the Hugo Award traditions and WorldCon fandom. …

I will, however, say this: I find myself somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that people I do not know might characterize me in unfriendly terms, whether directly or through guilt-by-association. The fact is that most of the commentators do not know me, personally or even by reputation, and their reports can hardly be taken as reliable. I admit that I am somewhat concerned that other people, potential fans or potential friends who read such things, could come away with a false impression; however, I am confident that those who know me, who have interacted with me on a personal basis, will not be fooled into believing falsehoods about me.

I also recommend Jeff Duntemann’s series of posts on the controversy. He clarifies the distinction between the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, which some people, including me before I read his posts, have had trouble following.

There’s an outside chance that my Tomorrow’s Songs Today could be nominated next year in the category of “best related work,” and I’ve thought about whether I’d want that. Some people would very likely lump me, because of my views, with the Puppy faction, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few alleged friends turn on me. If it happens, I think I’d do more good by giving them reasoned responses than by running away from the situation.

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20 Responses to “On the Sad Puppies”

  1. Cat Faber Says:

    I’ve been over why slates break the nomination process. Here are some links:
    Part one is here
    Part two is here
    Part three is here.

    There isn’t really an “anti-Puppy side” in the way Gray is trying to put it. There are the Puppies, and there are the rest of us. Many of the rest of us are annoyed at the Puppies for breaking the Hugos. Each of us is annoyed in our own way and for our own reasons; we don’t get marching orders the way the Puppies do.

    Also Gray ignores that Puppy leaders–for the Puppies have leaders in a way the non-Puppies don’t–have been more than happy to characterize everyone who is annoyed at Puppies in unfriendly terms, though the Puppy leaders do not know most of us personally or even by reputation.

    If you are offered a chance to take part in breaking the Hugo nominations, it will, of course, be between you and your conscience how you answer. But in my opinion it’s not actually an honor if you are nominated by people using a slate of acceptable second-bests to express their political resentment and lock the rest of us out of the nominating process. It’s not about the quality of your work anymore when they do that. They would nominate a dead badger if it was on the slate.

    And you are right that taking part in such a thing would change my opinion of you.

    • Gary McGath Says:

      That last sentence makes me very sad, but only makes me more sure I will have to accept a nomination in the unlikely event I get it.

      • jeffro Says:

        That sentence… it comes off to me as being “how intimidating can I be while still retaining plausible deniability.” I do not like it. It’s creepy. To me it reads like signals to cult members regarding how much status you should have in their ranks and a warning that your “taint” levels are about to be reassessed. My attempts to actually listen to the two camps indicate that some of these statements are made and interpreted quite differently depending on the world view of the observer. So I can’t be sure how conscious this is on their part. Nevertheless, I find this behavior to be unsettling.

        • Gary McGath Says:

          I’ve lost track of which sentence you’re referring to. The same one I was replying to?

        • Cat Faber Says:

          (rolls eyes) Hi Jeffro.

          In point of fact Gary and I know each other personally and Gary is well aware I have no “secret cabal powers.” Seeing Gary set aside his integrity to accept a nomination for something other than the quality of his work would indeed change my opinion of him. That has no power to hurt him beyond whatever weight he might give my opinion.

      • Lenora Rose Says:

        You will only be lumped in with the Puppies ***if your nomination comes from their slates***. Your politics don’t come int it. You can be a conservative, a liberal, a monarchist, an anarchist, a whatever — and if your story is nominated by the legit ordinary means of fans thinking you wrote a genuinely awesome story – and even if you do some modest self-promotion, you’ll be welcomed, and the story would get a fair reading.

  2. Karl-Johan Says:

    I fully intend to nominate TST for a Hugo next year. I have two reasons, for that, one of them fan-political.

    The first is that it’s a very good piece of fan-historical research and writing, and that’s exactly the type of work that can and should be honoured with a Hugo or a Hugo nomination.

    The second is fan-political, or rather about the relation between filking and sf fandom. Filking is in many ways still a fringe interest within sf fandom, and as filking has evolved it has also started to separate from the rest of sf fandom. I believe a nomination of TST will help to show and strengthen the links between filking and the rest of sf fandom.

    None of that has anything to do with your own personal political views, or my differences with them.

    My advice to you about being included in a slate is to trust in the value and integrity of your work, and in the filkers. You can refuse to be a ball for someone else.

  3. Yolande Groenhout Says:

    I think cat Faber was very polite in how she/he expressed what is a very reasonable understanding of the strife to date. It is not a matter of a nebulous version of guilt by association, to join with Beale (Rabid) is to be an active participant in a campaign to provide gravitas to a man and philosophy most thinking people abjure.
    P’s if vox/Beale had his way women wouldn’t even get a vote in the Hugo’s, it may lead to them wanting to vote on other issues.

    • Gary McGath Says:

      And in Cat’s eyes and yours, I’m already guilty. To be nominated if you have non-“progressive” views is to “join with Beale.” It’s just as unlikely that I’d meet with Vox Dei’s approval as it is that I’d meet with, say, John Scalzi’s, so I’d very likely have both sides taking pot-shots at me. That I can deal with; it’s the potential rift within filk that’s implied by the pot shots which bothers me.

      I think most people in filk still favor tolerance over denunciation, though. They just want to avoid being drawn into ugly arguments to no good purpose. This lets the ones who take the pot-shots seem more influential than they are.

      • Pluviann Says:

        I think for many people it’s more about how bloc-voting ruins it for everyone else. It’s not the case that having ‘non-“progressive” views is to “join with Beale.’ It’s more that the Rabid Puppies bloc-voted for works they hadn’t even read, just to spite the Hugo fans. So if you accept a place on a puppy slate, then it’s like you’re saying that winning an award by any measure is more important than winning fairly, or respecting the worldcon traditions.

        • Gary McGath Says:

          I agree about your concerns, but I wouldn’t draw any sweeping conclusions about nominees who didn’t repudiate a Rabid Puppy endorsement, much less a Sad Puppy endorsement.

      • Cat Faber Says:

        You are mistaken. I don’t consider you a slater because you have non-progressive views, since, as far as I know, you haven’t encouraged the use of slates.
        If you got a real Hugo nomination, from people independently reading your work and independently nominating what they felt was worthy, I would be deeply pleased about that. I did, as I recall, contribute to the Kickstarter for your book, after all.
        I would consider you a slater if you accepted a *slate* nomination.
        I am saddened that you think my position is due to some kind of prejudice.

        • Gary McGath Says:

          Thanks for the clarification. Sorry if I misunderstood.

        • Eyal Mozes Says:

          I don’t see how you’d make the distinction between a real Hugo nomination and a slate nomination.

          I haven’t spent much time following these issues. But if I understand correctly what’s happening, the people who wrote the SP and RP lists haven’t consulted with the authors whose works they listed. So whatever your opinion of these lists, you can’t blame authors for having their work listed; that’s outside their control.

          Authors whose works are listed by SP or RP are going to get three types of Hugo votes (at the nomination stage; and, if they get a nomination, again at the award stage):

          First, there will be votes from those who have paid no attention to SP or RP, have read the work with no connection to these lists, and liked it enough to nominate.

          Second, there will be votes from those who approach SP and/or RP as suggested reading lists, sources for learning about works that may be worth reading and that they might otherwise miss; and who read some or all of the works on these lists, and vote for those of them that they like, as well as for works that are not on the lists that they have also read and liked.

          Third, there will be votes from those who approach SP or RP as a slate, and vote for any work appearing on the list, including works that they haven’t read.

          A reasonable author would welcome votes of the first two types, and not want votes of the third type. But I see no way to tell how many of the votes that an author gets are of each type. If an author appears on the SP or RP list and then gets a Hugo nomination, it’s unreasonable to assume that votes of the third type must have been the main factor in getting the nomination; and it’s even more unreasonable to expect the author to decline the nomination on that assumption.

          I think the main concern Gary expressed in his post is that many people in fandom make this blanket assumption, and are ready to viciously attack any author who gets listed by SP or RP and then gets and accepts a Hugo nomination. I completely agree.

          • Gary McGath Says:

            John C. Wright got three of the five nominations for Best Novella, one for Best Short Story, and one for Best Related Work, the Puppies (both groups?) supported him, and he’s not otherwise all that well known. That makes it likely that either the campaign pulled in a lot of fans of his or that people were voting for the slate. This doesn’t tell me whether he personally encouraged slate voting.

          • Lenora Rose Says:

            Other people have done and demonstrated the math that proves a slate will do more than tip the scale.

            Wright had one story on the Sad Puppies slate, which it’s agreed was set up a *bit* more as a suggestion, in that several sad puppies have officially said they voted partly for Torgersen’s picks and partly for their own (It also included fewer than 5 picks in most categories, leaving fans more room to add in their own nominees even if they followed Torgersen’s lead to the letter). Wright’s other 4 final selections were only on the Rabid Puppies slate, which was used much more as a “Vote for these and only for these” list – and which both demonstrates that voting a perfect slate beats even voting for a partial slate, and that it didn’t take that many votes to get on.

            Also, Wright is a bad example in that he was pretty much a part of the Rabid Puppies from inception and he’s clung to it quite obviously. And has also been one of the ones making it pretty clear this is about sticking it to those damn liberals, not about his stories or their quality.

            Better examples would be Juliette Wade, who withdrew before the votes went in, Marko Kloos, who withdrew afterwards (and left a quite clear explanation of his thinking that you might find worth reading, even if you ultimately disagree), and Kary English, who did not withdraw, but has been courteous and attempted to build bridges, and remembered that fans, even ones angry about a slate, are fans, and that political leanings shouldn’t come into it.

            That covers the range of options one can choose to do with a clear conscience. Those who not only stayed on the slate but have sneered and insulted the fans who vote get no sympathy from me. The ones who’ve said nothing either way I make no judgement against; though their presence on a slate is to their detriment, I’ll most likely forget them right after voting unless the story itself is REALLY good (And this year, with few exceptions, let’s just say quality of story doesn’t seem to have been on the Puppies’ minds nearly enough.)

            The ones who are polite will stick more in my mind. Even if I feel I can’t vote for them this year, I may remember them when I find their stories in a magazine, and if they’re good, will remember to give them an honest nomination – because, as I have said elsewhere, a person who writes one story good enough to nominate will almost certainly write more. And a person who writes stories that are decent but not up to snuff may improve to that level if given a bit more time.

  4. Jeff Duntemann Says:

    Just keep writing what you want to write. Don’t worry about what other people think. If you win a Hugo award (or any other award) for it, I will stand up and cheer.

    I don’t think I will be alone.

  5. Cirsova Says:

    As an aspiring SF/F writer, I now hope I never get nominated for anything ever.


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