Sad Puppies Redux (Or Why That Tor Boycott Won’t Work)

There’s enough news on the Sad Puppies front that a lengthy follow-up post is called for.

First, on May 11, Tor Books art director Irene Gallo stepped in it:

There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, 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.

This post was so false, ill-tempered and venomous that Tor head Tom Doherty had to issue an apology.

Eric Flint, a respectable far-lefty (and a guy who bought a story from me for Jim Baen’s Universe), had this to say:

And applying the term [neo-nazi] to the Sad Puppies is simply slander, pure and simple. I have no objection to calling either Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia “right wing,” because they are—and say as much themselves. If you want to add the term “extreme” because it makes you feel better, so be it. For whatever it’s worth, coming from someone who has seen extreme right-wingers a lot more up-close and personally than I suspect Irene Gallo ever has, I think applying the adjective to either Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia is not accurate. If we can descend into the real world, for a moment, what both men are is political conservatives with a libertarian slant who are also devout Mormons. (I mention their religion simply because, as with most religious people, it does influence their political views at least to some degree.)

But leaving aside the issue of “extreme,” suggesting that either of them is a “neo-nazi” or anything remotely close is just disgusting. And don’t anyone bother protesting that Gallo didn’t actually make that charge directly since she did, after all, distinguish between “extreme right wing” and “neo-nazi.”

Yes, I know she did—with the clear intent of smearing the two together. This is the sort of rhetorical device that Theodore Beale loves to use also, when he insists he doesn’t “advocate” shooting girls in the head for wanting to get an education, he just points out that, empirically and scientifically speaking, it’s “rational” for the Taliban to do so.

I’m not guessing at Gallo’s intent, either, as will become blindingly obvious when we move on to her second sentence. But before I do so it’s necessary to address the last part of her first sentence, which is either as dishonest as the first part or is just silly, I’m not sure which:

“…that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy.”

Huh? The last time I looked, nobody except possibly Theodore Beale (and even with him you’d really have to squint) is calling for the end of social justice in F&SF. In one way or another, at least half of the stories written in our field—including ones by Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia—are stories in which the fight for social justice figures prominently. To be sure, people can disagree over what social justice really is and isn’t and the best way to achieve it. But who in hell is actually calling for social justice to end?

Once again, Gallo is employing sleazy rhetoric. The charge which can accurately be laid at the feet of the Sad Puppies is that they are calling for an end (or at least amelioration) of what they believe to be the dominating influence of what they call “social justice warriors” over who gets nominated for and wins the Hugo Award. But translating that into the statement that they are “calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy” is ridiculous. You could just as easily charge me with “calling for the end of straight white males” because I do in fact believe that straight white males have an undue amount of power and influence in our society.


In what sense can Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia or any person identified with the Sad Puppies be called racist, sexist and homophobic, much less “unrepentantly” so?

Words matter, damn it. If Irene Gallo has any citations that would substantiate her charges, let her make them public. And if she can’t—and I’ll make a prediction here: she can’t—then she needs to publicly retract the accusation and apologize to the people against whom she made it.

Period. There is nothing to discuss here. Put up or shut up.

Gallo did indeed eventually offer an apology on her Facebook page, but it seems to me that saying you “painted with too broad a brush” when calling a wide range of writers and science fiction fans “neo-Nazis” is far too weak contrition indeed.

On the other hand, Sad Puppy and Tor author John C. Wright has accepted her apology, stating “The insult was pro forma, ergo a pro forma apology is sufficient.”

Since then, a few people on Twitter have been calling for a boycott of Tor Books over the incident. About this I would just like to make a few points:

  • Though the editorial stuff does lean toward the SJW side, plenty of conservative authors are published by Tor.
  • An ad hoc, Twitter-organized boycott is deeply unlikely to work. Given the way book sales are tracked, it’s unlikely the financial effects of any boycott would stand out from sales figures more than background noise. Most SF readers probably aren’t even active on Twitter, and even fewer have been following every twist and turn of the Sad Puppy Saga.
  • Given that Tor is a very small part of the Bertelsmann Holtzbrinck [see below — LP] international conglomerate, chances are even less likely that that any boycott would be effective or even noticed.
  • Larry Correia has categorically stated that the Sad Puppies are not calling for any boycotts. He also notes, as he invariably does, “All I’m asking is that whatever you do, try to be as civil as possible in your disagreements.”
  • So put me down in the category of thinking a boycott is foolish, pointless and counterproductive.

    One big point on the Sad Puppies campaign: Most recent domestic Worldcons have topped out in the 4,000-6,000 members range. I recently bought a Supporting Membership in Sasquan, and my membership number was in the 9,000s. This tends to indicate that the Hugos have indeed become a test of strength in the culture wars. Science fiction fans who want to make a point would probably find it far more productive to pony up their $40 for a Supporting Membership and vote for the works they like than threatening boycotts.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    3 Responses to “Sad Puppies Redux (Or Why That Tor Boycott Won’t Work)”

    1. […] As a result, various “Happy Kittens” have declared today to be Buy a Tor Book day, and are tweeting title suggestions under the #BuyATorTitle hashtag. Even without it, it is doubtful that a Tor boycott will have much effect on Tor’s bottom line. […]

    2. […] “Sad Puppies Redux (Or Why That Tor Boycott Won’t Work)” – June 19 […]

    3. Kevin Callum says:

      Tor belongs to Macmillan, a subsidiary of Holtzbrinck ( — not Bertelsmann. (Still a large conglomerate nevertheless.)

    Leave a Reply