Sad Puppies, If I Must

Being at the intersection of several overlapping roles of interest on the Venn diagram (science fiction writer, once-upon-a-time Hugo nominee, Social Justice Warrior mob victim, and conservative blogger), I suppose I have a one-eyed-man-in-the-land-of-the-blind duty to talk about the Sad Puppies Hugo Campaign now that it’s a major story.

For those unfamiliar with them, the Hugo Awards are given out at the World Science Fiction Convention and voted on by the membership. Both Supporting and Attending members can vote for Hugos.

The Sad Puppies are a group of science fiction fans lead by Larry Correia, author of the popular Monster Hunter series of books, and writer Brad Torgersen, to promote a slate of writers for the Hugo Awards for two reasons: To counter the Social Justice Warrior influence that has increasingly roiled science fiction, and to break up perceived cabal of the Same Old People getting nominated for the same awards every year largely at the behest of a small crowd of science fiction elites. (This post will largely address only the first point.) This year the Sad Puppies were wildly successful at getting most of their slate nominated for Hugos.

For the last several years, a vocal minority of Social Justice Warriors has wreaked havoc on the fabric of the science fiction community. Taking their clues from the Alinskyite “direct action” tactics of far-left political activists, they’ve carried out a virulent campaign against anyone unwilling to toe the political correct line on victimhood identity politics. Their tactics have included doxxing, online mobbings, demands people be fired from their day jobs for non-PC transgressions, numerous calls for censorship, demands that only politically correct language be used when it comes to race, sex, ethnicity, or anything to do with Muslims, and follow-up demands for “official policies” and “committees” to enshrine their extremists demands as institutional law.

Let me provide a few examples. They went after:

  • Norman Spinrad, for pointing out that, strictly speaking, Octavia Butler was no more African than Mike Resnick was. (It’s a shame that Butler, a first-rate writer capable of considerable subtlety and nuance, has been posthumously adopted as the totem of Social Justice Warriors evidently incapable of either). Several other writers (including the now-late Jay Lake) were viciously attacked for coming to Spinrad’s defense and saying that white writers could, in fact, successfully write about other races and cultures.
  • They attacked Orson Scott Card for opposing gay marriage, and for answering (truthfully) that the Mormon Church considers homosexual acts sinful.
  • They forced WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention, to disinvite Elizabeth Moon as Guest of Honor (something that’s almost never done in the field) over the “crime” of penning an essay mildly critical of Islam and the planned Ground Zero Mosque.
  • They campaigned to get the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (an organization I formerly belonged to for many years) to institute a “sexual harassment policy“, even though SFWA (last I checked) only had one paid employee and no formal offices. Evidently they believe writers are such shirking violets they are unable to fend off unwanted advances with the time-honored tactics of saying “No” and the occasional slap.
  • Speaking of which, the mob got a Tor editor fired for “sexual harassment,” the nature of which has never (as far as I can tell) been elucidated, or elucidated as something so trivial that it would be laughed out of any court.
  • They got Locus Online, the electronic extension of the science fiction news magazine, to fire me from my part-time gig of reviewing movies on the site (frequently in collaboration with Howard Waldrop) because I made fun of WisCon over the Moon flap in an April Fools piece, which they convinced Locus‘s editor to take down. Because there’s nothing that refutes the image of Social justice Warriors as dour, humorless, thin-skinned avatars of political correctness with authoritarian tendencies like forcing a magazine to take down an April Fools piece.
  • They mobbed Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg for having the unmitigated gall to call 1950s SF editor Bea Mahaffrey “beautiful” (which she was) in the course of noting that was a big reason the wives of many SF writers started attending SF social functions. (Of course, what really riled up the SJW set was Resnick and Malzberg having the sheer gall to defend themselves rather than offering up the standard groveling apology.)
  • They got British comedian Jonathon Ross to resign from hosting the Hugo Award ceremony at the London Worldcon because some of his jokes might have been politically incorrect.
  • This is not an exhaustive list. Most of the people they have gone after (Spinrad, Malzberg, Moon) are political liberals. Science Fiction fandom has gone from a big, happy, occasionally fractious family where a far lefty like Harlan Ellison and a far righty like Jerry Pournelle could maintain friendships despite sharp political differences to one where Social Justice Warriors have injected constant discord into the community.

    To see an example of the havoc wrought by just one Social Justice Warrior, read this lengthy essay by writer Laura Mixon on Benjanun Sriduangkaew, AKA Requires Hate, AKA Winterfox. (When reading it, however, note that pretty much all the tactics described have been used by other Social Justice Warriors, and that many of the people chiming in to support Mixon only spoke up when Requires Hate went after people on the far left and/or those with victimhood identity politics credentials.)

    More recently Social Justice Warriors have succeeded in bloc voting to get very minor writers with SJW/victimhood credentials onto the Hugo ballot. It’s at this point that Larry Correia and others started the Sad Puppies campaign, so I’ll let him provide the background:

    For those of you just joining us, Sad Puppies 3 was a campaign to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards.

    I started this campaign a few years ago because I believed that the awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. When I said this in public, I was called a liar, and told that the Hugos represented all of fandom and that the awards were strictly about quality. I said that if authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person. Again, I was called a liar, so I set out to prove my point.

    Snip.

    Basically, I did what the other side had been doing for years, only in public and with the wrong kind of fans, and everything unfolded just like I predicted it would. Especially vehement was the contingent of fandom that I took to calling Social Justice Warriors. This may offend the No Labels crowd, but oh well, it is what it is. The name has stuck in our culture.

    Snip.

    [Sad Puppies 3] is actually extremely politically diverse. That’s because this time our slate of suggestions was put together by a bigger group of authors and fans, and since Brad was running the show and trying to be all about getting recognition for quality, deserving authors, their personal beliefs were of no concern. Don’t take my word for it. Go through our list of nominees for yourself. You’ll find that we have liberals, conservatives, moderates, and question marks who’ve kept their politics to themselves.

    Indeed, the people fighting the Social Justice Warriors in science fiction are far more politically diverse than their exclusively far-left enemies. Will Shetterly, author of the invaluable Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage blog, is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist.

    Here’s the thing. This massive upheaval wouldn’t have ever happened if the moderates had done something years ago, but they didn’t. I can’t really say I blame them though. If they took a stand against the perpetually outraged crowd, they risked their career and their reputation. We’re talking about the same angry, entitled twitter mobs that ran off a famous comedian because he might tell a fat joke in the future. Those mobs are quick to outrage, slow to reason, and will turn on their allies, because attacking is what they are programmed to do. And the moderates—those who will admit it—are terrified of ending up on the wrong end of a witch hunt.

    Now it is okay to rail against my people for doing what the other side has done in the past, because we’re not going to sabotage anyone’s career or slander you. We actually believe in the concept of free speech and free expression.

    We’re getting condemned for bringing politics into the awards, but we all know politics have been in the awards for a long time. We just did it openly.

    I never expected us to sweep the awards. Frankly, I was shocked by the results. I didn’t realize just how many regular fans had been turned off for so long.

    Now the moderates are telling us we did it wrong, or telling us what we should have done better, but the thing is at least we did something.

    Correia is right. If the “good liberals” in the science fiction community want to know who brought about the current situation, they should look in the mirror. They were the ones who stood on the sidelines and remained silent while the likes of Spinrad, Moon and Malzberg were being smeared as “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” etc. for not toeing the Social Justice Warrior line. As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

    The Social Justice Warrior reaction to the success of the Sad Puppies slate was swift, vicious, and unreasonable, with a number of MSM outlets (most of whom have probably never printed a single word about the Hugo Awards before) writing stories condemning Sad Puppies, all parroting the same SJW line. Perhaps the worst example came from Isabella Biedenharn in Entertainment Weekly, which started out “The Hugo Awards have fallen victim to a campaign in which misogynist groups lobbied to nominate only white males for the science fiction book awards.” Not only was demonstrably false (as proven by the very links Biedenharn included in her story), it was so potentially libelous that Entertainment Weekly issued a correction, and Biedenharn deleted her entire Twitter account.

    And as a bonus, she essentially accused Brad Torgersen, a man with a black wife and a mixed-race child, of being a white supremacist.

    Says Torgersen: “Political correctness has gone to a place of destructive take-no-prisoners soul tyranny that could very well and permanently wreck this field; unless good men and women of conscience decide to stand up.”

    And this is why the Sad Puppies campaign is important. The Social Justice Warriors have been rampaging through the genre for years now, wrecking civil discourse, marginalizing institutions and destroying the professional lives of those who disagreed with them. But no one stood up to them in an organized, coordinated way until the Sad Puppies.

    Says one long-time liberal science fiction professional who was not associated with Sad Puppies: “This whole toxic mess has sickened me immeasurably, almost making me feel as if I had wasted my life by ever loving science fiction…All I can say is that the SPs have conducted themselves with humor, dignity and style, while the SJWs have sunk to new lows of hatred and pettiness and blind ignorance. They truly are a despicable cult.” And a lot of science fiction professionals who aren’t part of the Sad Puppies (many of whom emailed me privately over WisCon) feel the same way, but were just too intimidated to fight back.

    Now people of good will in science fiction, from all across the political spectrum, are finally standing up and saying “Enough!”

    That’s what the Sad Puppies Hugo campaign is about.

    Additional thoughts from:

  • Will Shetterly
  • Sarah Hoyt
  • Robert Tracinski
  • David French in National Review
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    12 Responses to “Sad Puppies, If I Must”

    1. idpolitics says:

      Interesting to see the back history collated, and of course I’m familiar with shenanigans in the science fiction community from Will Shetterlys writings.

    2. Cedar Sanderson says:

      Very well said and sourced. Thank you.

    3. William Lehman says:

      Nicely done sir! BZ

    4. Greg says:

      Hi, Lawrence. Followed you here from twitter. First of all, that’s rotten about being fired from Locus. Not a decision I support or would have made. And I give you credit for posting more specifics than I’ve heard from others on the Sad Puppy (and Rabid Puppy?) side.

      That being said, this entry leaves some questions. (I’ve never voted/nominated in the Hugos; I do find much of what people on the other side have said top be persuasive.)

      My big one is–what specific books/stories/novellas over the past 10 years have been denied Hugo nominations because of politics? Because that’s the big claim, that there’s some sort of conspiracy to deny Hugos from deserving works based on politics… which is odd, because the Hugos have always been a popular award, accessible to anyone with $40. As I read Correia and Torgensen, Sad Puppies’ specific motivation for doing this was “Hugos are being wrongfully denied,” not that there are some internet flareups and controversies that people overreacted to.

      If the only complaint boils down to last year’s slate not winning, from what I’ve read of the works on SP2 (not all of them, granted)… none of them qualified as BEST of the year. Some were decently-written (as were a lot of the non-puppy nominees) and some were barely competent. There’s a world of difference between ‘decently written’ and ‘absolute best work of the year’–or even ‘best of the five nominees.’

      And some items on your list of grievances leaves something to be desired:
      * Orson Scott Card vehemently criticized gays and gay marriage (including that he would “act to destroy a government [that supported gay marriage] and bring it down.” People criticized him back. He’s still published at Tor, and has suffered no harm, financial or otherwise. If you say controversial things in public–from any end of the political spectrum–people will criticize you back.

      * I’m not sure why SFWA having a sexual harassment policy is a bad thing; most businesses and organizations have them. It’s partially a legal thing, so that if there are unwanted advances, there’s an official procedure in place to follow.

      * Tor made a business decision to no longer employ an editor who had multiple complaints made against him. That’s their right as a private business. It’s the editor’s right to take action against Tor if he believes he was wrongfully terminated, but that hasn’t happened. I get that YOU don’t think it was harassment. But that in no way, shape or form = ‘wrongful firing.’ It’s between Tor, the complaintaints, and the editor, and no one’s offered me any reason to disagree with a private business decision.

      There’s no question that people on the internet go ballistic sometimes, but that doesn’t support the assertion that a popular voting award was ‘gamed,’ somehow, or explain why it’s more important to piss off people one disagrees with than to reward the best sci-fi of the year. Reading the comments on Correia’s or Vox Day’s blogs, or twitter, the vast majority talk about how much this’ll make ‘SJWs’ mad, and almost no one’s talking about the nominated sci-fi work in question and why it’s awesome. I have no standing in the SF world professionally (some of my plays are sci-fi/fantasy). You’ve got no obligation to persuade me. But I’m not seeing any specifics of wrongfully excluded work, which leaves me with the sense that the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies are angry that other people have different taste or that they personally (Vox Day, Correia *last year*) haven’t won Hugos.

    5. Good summary of the history. Self righteousness seems a drug to some.

    6. James O'Meara says:

      Mr. Person,

      You might find some interest in my take on the similar [?] fracas over the Lovecraft Award:
      http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/09/reflections-on-the-h-p-lovecraft-award/

    7. TC mccarthy says:

      Lawrence: great post. You’re better off without Locus, and they lost a talent. I’ve been watching the fence sitters on #sadpuppies over the last day and am just now seeing a shift: they get it. They see the death threats coming from the left – not the #sadpuppies. They see the hypocrisy when someone like Scalzi tells the Slate that what the #sadpuppies have done is reprobate. They see other authors like me stand up and show evidence how their work was maligned by prominent leftists who hadn’t even read it! Keep the pressure on.

      TC

    8. Mr. Person,

      Thanks for the coherent and complete update.

      What the SJW type seldom realizes is that they will never be pure enough. One day the tumbrel will come for them. They’re just lucky that it will probably be only their job, career, and reputation.

    9. […] This is a quote from a column by Lawrence Person from April of last year (2015). It is the most accurate and correct summary of the Morlock invasion of science fiction as I have seen. […]

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