I’m really supposed to be finishing up a book, but I’ve been putting off doing a post about this whole Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards deal for a while now, and if I don’t do it now, I probably never will. I doubt there are many people waiting for yet another blog post on this issue, but I occasionally get questions from people wondering what this whole kerfuffle is about, so here’s my take.
First, a bit of background: The Hugo Awards are the most prestigious awards in science fiction. The Hugos are fan-based awards: anyone with a membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) can nominate a work, and after the nominees are announced, this same membership votes for winners in a variety of categories. The awards are given out at an event called Worldcon, which was in Spokane, Washington this year.
For many years the Hugos were the gold standard of quality in science fiction writing. A few years ago, however, some science fiction writers began to complain that the awards had become dominated by political concerns: rather than going to the best stories, these writers believed, the awards were being given to writers for superficial reasons: either because the work adhered to a certain political ideology at the expense of quality writing (pejoratively called “message fiction”) or because the author herself was a member of a cliquish in-group that is open only to persons of that ideological persuasion.
The concerns of these mostly conservative and libertarian-leaning writers were dismissed (and laughed at) by the WSFS, so the writers took it upon themselves to solve the problem, as they saw it. This group jokingly referred to itself as Sad Puppies, because “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy-Related Sadness.” The Sad Puppies, spearheaded by authors Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia, came up with their own slate of science fiction works, which they believed were worthy of recognition based purely on the quality of the work. The Sad Puppies slate included several female and non-white authors, and authors of a wide range of political persuasions. The Sad Puppies encouraged their readers to read the works on the list and vote for them if they thought they were worthy of a Hugo Award. Nothing the Sad Puppies technically broke any rules, although many people accused them of cheating or gaming the system.
Complicating matters is a separate, unaffiliated group called Rabid Puppies, led by author Theodore Beale, who sometimes goes by the pseudonym Vox Day. I honestly don’t know that much about Vox Day, but as I gather that he’s unabashedly sexist, racist, and opposed to homosexuality [EDIT: I’ve been informed that this characterization is false. As I say, I know very little about Vox. Feel free to investigate him yourself]. Vox put together his own slate of works, which overlapped with the Sad Puppies slate. As far as I can tell, there has been no coordination between Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and Correia has repeatedly stated that he disagrees with Vox Day on many things, doesn’t particularly want Vox’s “help,” but ultimately can’t do anything about Vox putting together his own Hugo slate. In Correia’s words: “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.”
The Sad Puppies campaign went viral, apparently tapping into a vein of anti-political correctness fervor among science fiction fans. Opposed to their campaign was a group of Internet activists commonly referred to as “Social Justice Warriors” or SJWs. I avoided the term SJWs for a while because I thought it was needlessly pejorative, but then I found out that many of the SJWs, like authors John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig, use this term unironically for themselves, so that’s what I call them now. Despite (or because of) this resistance, the Sad Puppies’ slate swept the nominations. This drove the SJWs into apoplexy.
In an attempt to fight back against this “hijacking” of the Hugos, the SJWs spewed all manner of lies and hatred, often deliberately conflating Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. It isn’t difficult to find samplings of this bile; just Google “Sad Puppies racist” and you’ll find plenty of it. As one small example, here’s a quote from a Facebook post by Irene Gallo, the creative director of TOR.
There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.
Sounds terrible, right? Of course, every statement in this excerpt is a lie. Specifically:
- The Sad Puppies are not an “extreme right-wing group” (and they certainly aren’t neo-Nazis), and I challenge anyone reading this to fit a shred of evidence indicating they are.
- The Sad Puppies have never called for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy.
- The Sad Puppies are not racist, sexist or homophobic (as mentioned, their slate includes several women and people of color; Brad Torgersen himself is married to a woman of color and has a mixed-race child; Larry Correia is Hispanic). Of course, particularly classy SJWs dismiss even this indisputable evidence, witness the supreme douchebaggery of SJW extraordinaire Arthur Chu (who was selected to be on a “diversity” panel at this year’s Worldcon!):
(A “shield” is SJW-speak meaning “a person you can point to in order to excuse your own racism.” In other words, Brad Torgersen married a black woman and had a child with her so that he could go execute his racist plans with impunity. Clever Arthur Chu has seen through the facade.)
- There was never any concerted effort to “gather Gamergate folks”, although there is certainly some overlap in the groups, as both were started in resistance to what was seen as social justice activism run amok. (For those who don’t know, GamerGate was a movement ostensibly aimed at exposing corruption in video game journalism. The movement is widely disparaged by SJWs.)
- “Bad-to-reprehensible”? Seriously? Taste is subjective, of course, but I’m wondering where Jim Butcher’s Skin Game or Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars fit on Gallo’s “bad-to-reprehensible” continuum. Anderson’s book is published by TOR, for fuck’s sake. Why didn’t Gallo, as TOR’s creative director, prevent this dreck from being published in the first place?
After a public outcry, Gallo was forced to issue a half-assed non-apology to the public, but tellingly her peers in the SF community stood by her, completely ignoring her lies and gratuitous insults. Some, like the now-thoroughly discredited Gawker, hilariously denounced TOR for “giving in” to the Sad Puppies. Did these people not know what she had said? Did they not know she was lying out of her ass and tossing out baseless, blanket insults? Or did they just not care?
It is important to note that while the hubbub over Gallo’s post was one of the more visible examples, it is by no means unique. This scenario has played out hundreds of times over the past year:
- Someone on the Social Justice side making absurd, inflammatory comments about the Sad Puppies.
- Puppy defenders point out the lies and ad hominems.
- Other SJWs come to the defense of the person making the attack, shouting down dissenters, calling them “sea lions” (a pejorative term for commenters who share a common criticism) and, of course, racist, misogynist, and homophobic. These slurs are so common among SJWs that they are yawn-inducing.Those familiar with the GamerGate phenomenon will recognize the pattern.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Okay, but that’s just the Internet, right? Somebody says something crazy, and everybody loses their shit for three days arguing about it. Eventually things settle down and the truth comes out. Right?
Well, no. Not if you’re fighting against the SJWs, because the SJWs and their allies control nearly every major media channel. I know, this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s true. If you Googled “sad puppies hugo awards” before this past weekend, you would see:
- This DailyDot article, which contains the line “This year’s nominees were announced on Saturday, and most of them came directly from a Gamergate-affiliated campaign known as Sad Puppies. By bloc-voting for a specific slate of anti-progressive authors, editors, and fans, the Sad Puppies managed to game the selection process in every major category,” along with quotes from such objective observers as professional victim Brianna Wu and the aforementioned King of the Douchebags Arthur Chu.
- This essay in The New Republic, which claims “[N]ominations for women and non-whites have risen in recent years. That trend has upset right-wing fans who say they’ve been marginalized by affirmative action gone mad—and who organized a successful nomination campaign to undo these gains in diversity, creating an unprecedented party-line slate which has led to the stacking of this year’s Hugo ballot largely with white men once again.”
- This article from The Atlantic, which states “The prizes have been targeted by voting blocks opposed to progressive efforts to recognize more women and writers of color. But trying to undo change in an increasingly diverse world is futile.”
And on and on. Articles in Slate, io9, The Guardian, Salon, and dozens more publications all decried the Sad Puppies’ efforts to stifle diversity, when even a very cursory investigation of this topic would tell you that “stifling diversity” has never been the Sad Puppies’ goal. You could argue that a slight decline in diversity is nevertheless the consequence of the Sad Puppies’ actions (and this is true only if you use a very superficial definition of diversity), but to state flatly that this is what Sad Puppies was all about from the beginning is sheer dishonest hackery. And despite the fact that all these news outlets seem to be have no trouble procuring quotes from SJWs, very few of them ever bother to even contact Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia for comments. Correia recently stated that The Guardian, which has written several anti-Puppies hit pieces, has never contacted him.
But this sort of “journalism” provides cover for the SJWs; they can support their positions with quotes from respected publications like The Atlantic and The Guardian. And God help you if you’re a Sad Puppy supporter engaged in a debate with an SJW and you toss out a link to a Breitbart article, even if it is a more objective account than anything published in The Guardian. You’ll be laughed at for relying on an unabashedly conservative source; it doesn’t seem to occur to these people that liberal sources are also sometimes unreliable.
Sadly, those who aren’t familiar with the SJWs’ tactics and their close ties to the media understandably take this coverage at face value. Everybody knows that the Sad Puppies are racist, homophobic misogynists, and who wants to be on the same side as that? Anyway, “social justice” sounds like a pretty good thing, right? Who could be opposed to “social justice”? Of course, “social justice” has nothing to do with actual justice; it’s just a euphemism for cultural Marxism. But Leftists (sorry, progressives) have never been above abusing language to manipulate the masses.
The end result of this battle between the SJWs and the Sad Puppies was something of a draw: although the Sad Puppies swept the nominations, the SJWs struck back by voting “No Award” in all the categories where there was no non-Puppy contender. Both sides are claiming victory. The Sad Puppies argue that they have proved their point, which is that the Hugo Awards are dominated by politics. After all, it was a reaction to the Puppies’ supposed right-wing politics that prompted the “No Award” votes. SJWs, who don’t understand that the Puppies’ intention was never to promote a particular ideology, are patting themselves on the back for stopping the barbarians at the gate. George R. R. Martin, no fan of the Puppies, makes the case for a Puppies win:
Most of [the rules], frankly, suck. And the mere fact that so many people are discussing them makes me think that the Puppies won. They started this whole thing by saying the Hugo Awards were rigged to exclude them. That is completely untrue, as I believe I demonstrated conclusively in my last post. So what is happening now? The people on MY SIDE, the trufans and SMOFs and good guys, are having an endless circle jerk trying to come up with a foolproof way to RIG THE HUGOS AND EXCLUDE THEM. God DAMN, people. You are proving them right.
I think GRRM is being a bit disingenuous when he implies that suddenly the SJWs started acting politically only as a reaction to the Puppies (SJWs are people for whom picking a restaurant for lunch is an excruciating political decision, for fuck’s sake), but I give him credit for seeing the reaction for what it is: an overtly political maneuver to prevent the wrong people from taking over the awards. You can argue that it was a justified maneuver, but to argue that it was apolitical is pure sophistry.
The SJWs, not ones to leave their echo chamber if they can avoid it, are gleefully congratulating themselves on their victory, and their lapdogs in the media are playing along. This Wired article, after bizarrely implying that there were no women, gays or minority in science fiction until sometime in the past few years (presumably as a result of the tireless efforts of the SJWs, without whom no social progress has ever occurred), goes on to congratulate the progressives for beating the Puppies. Somehow the author also manages to make room for the batshit crazy assertion that “GamerGate makes a political movement out of threatening with rape any woman who has the temerity to offer an opinion about a videogame.” The Guardian, meanwhile, crows that “diversity has won” (because when nobody wins, everybody wins, I guess?) and repeats the same old lie that “The Puppies have riven the SF community this year by organising a reactionary vote in protest against the increasing number of women and writers and colour who have been winning the awards.”
Those opposed to the politicization of the Hugo Awards, to say nothing of the larger SJW assault on culture, might very well despair at this point. The SJWs take over an institution, silence their opponents, and then get their “journalist” friends to paint them as heroes. But I don’t despair. I smile, and this tweet (Joe Hill’s, not my response) is why:
In Joe Hill’s (and John Scalzi’s) magical Social Justice Land, the Sad Puppies are the Grinch, out to ruin his fun sci-fi celebration with his cool SJW pals. And as a Puppy supporter, I’m supposed to be sitting here dejected that the Puppies’ dastardly plan failed. But see, I’m not. I’m glad they had fun at their little party. Who doesn’t like to have fun? A bunch of like-minded people getting together over drinks and congratulation themselves on how great they are sounds like a lot of fun to me. Next year I might even go to the party myself, although I will likely be the guy standing in the corner by himself, because my political and religious leanings make me something of an outsider at these events, but that’s my cross to bear. I certainly won’t begrudge others having fun.
Here’s the thing, though: the social aspect of the Hugo Awards is all they have left. The “social” in “social justice” turns out to refer to just hanging out with people. The SJWs are claiming victory, but if they “win” again like this next year and the year after that, the Hugos will have become an awards ceremony that doesn’t give out any awards. It will literally be just a party that authors attend to drink and congratulate each other, with no bearing on anything that happens outside that room. So am I upset they are having their little Social Justice Who Party? Absolutely not. If anything, I want them to do more of it. I want Arthur Chu, Brianna Wu, John Scalzi, Joe Hill, Chuck Wendig, David Gerrolds, Irene Gallo and all the rest to sit in a big room together, wearing fancy clothes, sipping champagne and telling each other how smart and brave and progressive they are.
Meanwhile, outside that room, science fiction will move on without them. Maybe the WSFS can fix the process to prevent the awards from being dominated by politics, but I doubt it. Any “reforms” will likely end up just pushing the corruption underground, which will have the effect of rewarding the sort of cliquish, secretive whispering campaigns that the Sad Puppies were fighting against while eliminating overt campaigns like the Sad Puppies slate. The Hugos will become, more than ever, the Social Justice Awards. And that will just erode more of what little relevance the Hugos had left. Eventually even the excuse for the party will start to seem pretty flimsy, and all the Whos in Whoville will look around in dismay, wondering what happened.
That’s too bad, because the Hugos really did mean something at one point. Maybe they can still be saved; thanks to the Sad Puppies campaign, the Hugos received a record-breaking 5,950 ballots, indicative of an unprecedented level of interest. But to leverage that interest would require a caliber of leadership that I don’t think exists in the WSFS. These are people who see a massive increase in interest as a problem to be solved. For now, they’ve solved the problem by burning down their own house. It’s a dubious strategy, unless your goal isn’t to save the house, but rather to keep the wrong people out at all costs.
So drink up, SJWs. Enjoy the party while it lasts.