Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Biased Opinion - Sad Puppy Falsehoods, Tantrums, and Failures

Apparently Larry Correia's Sad Puppy campaign garnered him enough votes to get his book Monster Hunter: Nemesis onto the Hugo ballot1. And then he declined the nomination. Normally declining a Hugo nomination is done for magnanimous reasons: Authors such as Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have declined nominations because they wanted other, lesser known authors to benefit from the accolade. Correia, as usual, managed to turn his refusal into an obnoxious, classless, and in some ways cowardly move. He stated that his reason for withdrawing was to take the spotlight off of him and his work so as to make the issue the "movement" that he kicked off. But what this also does is place Correia in the position of having, in effect, a "shadow" nomination that can never be tested against the competition. I suspect that despite his braggadocio, Correia was stung by the reaction he got when a wider audience than his usual devoted fans encountered his work last year when Warbound was on the Hugo ballot. Once it got out into the wider world, the reaction to the novel was decidedly less than enthusiastic, and even though he talks about being a big tough guy, it seems relatively obvious that Correia is actually quite thin-skinned when it comes to his work. So backing out of a nomination means he can have his "fame" from being nominated, while also being reasonably sure that those who are not part of his adoring fanbase won't bother to read and comment on his work.

But as part of his exit speech, Correia decided to try to make a mission statement for the Sad Puppies that is simultaneously one of the most revelatory and dishonest pieces of writing that he has put forward.
This is just one little battle in an ongoing culture war between artistic free expression and puritanical bullies who think they represent *real* fandom. In the long term I want writers to be free to write whatever they want without fear of social justice witch hunts, I want creators to not have to worry about silencing themselves to appease the perpetually outraged, and I want fans to enjoy themselves without having some entitled snob lecture them about how they are having fun wrong. I want our shrinking genre to grow. I think if we can get back to where “award nominated” isn’t a synonym for “preachy crap” to the most fans, we’ll do it.
Let's unpack this screed for a bit. First, the Sad Puppies have loudly stated that their campaign is "not political". To defend their position, they trot out their support for works by authors such as Annie Bellet and their affinity for writers such as Eric Flint. "See, we have socialist friends! We can't be a political movement!" But this is such a weak argument as to be laughable. When one couches one's goals in terms such as "an ongoing culture war" against "social justice witch hunts", then your movement is political. Not just implicitly, as it would be if you nominated no one but conservative authors, but explicitly and overtly. If you define a group as your enemy, and then create a campaign aimed at attacking that enemy, you're engaged in a political campaign. Further, if you place works on your campaign slate with the purpose of "making your enemies heads explode" (as Correia stated concerning his placement of Theodore Beale's Opera Vita Aeterna on his suggested slate for 2014), then your movement is not only political, it is petty. These sorts of actions also make it very difficult to believe that the campaign is, as the Sad Puppy proponents are always quick to say "about getting good quality works on the ballot".

But one also has to take a look at what Correia is ranting about. He says he is in favor of "free expression" and his opposition are "puritanical bullies"2. He says he wants writers to be free to write whatever they want without fear from "social justice witch hunts" or the risk of "offending the perpetually outraged".3 And it is here that just how truly thin-skinned Correia is becomes painfully apparent. It also becomes apparent just how truly full of bullshit the Sad Puppy campaign is. Because the questions that come to mind to ask in response to Correia's rant are: Who is preventing writers from writing what they want to write, and how are they doing so? Correia has ten novels in print. Brad Torgersen, the Sad Puppy coordinator for 2015, has had seventeen works of short fiction and a novel published over the last five years. Sad Puppy darlings Michael Z. Williamson and John C. Wright have published at least a dozen novels each. These authors, and many of the others that Correia claims to be standing up for, have long track records of writing conservative, religiously oriented, and frequently "politically incorrect" works of fiction. Exactly who or what is preventing them from writing what they want?

The answer is, of course, no one. What has happened is that Correia, Torgersen, Wright, and so on have had their work and politics criticized by reviewers and commentators. The worst thing that has happened to them is apparently that they haven't been given awards for their work. That's it. That's the "social justice witch hunt" that Correia is opposing: That people will read his work and find it unappealing because of the very politics that he and other authors inject into it. That people appearing on panels at conventions might say unkind things about the books of conservative authors. And when one breaks down Correia's statement, that is really the only thing that could even remotely be described as a "social justice witch hunt". That is not a defense of free expression. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Correia and the Sad Puppies, by his own admission in his Hugo exit speech, want to quell free expression. The campaign is, at its heart, the Sad Puppies saying "stop criticizing the books we like, and if you don't we'll scream some more about how you are censors and how much we love free expression". But this is a pernicious argument because science fiction fandom has always been a conversation that goes back and forth, with positions espoused, and criticisms - at some times quite impolite - launched back. When people criticized Heinlein's Starship Troopers for having fascist overtones, or Farnham's Freehold for conveying some fairly broad racist sterotypes, Heinlein didn't wail that he was being oppressed by the enemies of free expression. Further, no one called such criticisms a "social justice witch hunt" and then tried to organize a campaign with the implied aim of silencing his critics.

Correia's exit speech then turns to the faux populist argument advanced by the Sad Puppies, saying ,"I want fans to enjoy themselves without having some entitled snob lecture them about how they are having fun wrong." But the only people who have spent copious amounts of time telling fans they are having fun wrong are the Sad Puppies themselves. Brad Torgersen spent a copious number of words explaining to Worldcon voters that they were being fans wrong, and that people who like anything other than rocketships and rayguns in their science fiction are destroying the genre. The Sad Puppies seem to be almost continuously outraged that Rachel Swirsky's If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love was voted onto the ballot in 2014 by the Hugo nominators, and that John Scalzi's Redshirts won the award in 2013 with the sometimes implied and sometimes outright stated assertion that no one could have actually liked those stories enough to honestly vote in their favor. I have seen more than one Sad Puppy supporter state that those who favorably reviewed Saladin Ahmed's book Throne of the Crescent Moon could only have done so because they were trying to curry favor with the "social justice crowd", and not because those doing the reviewing thought it was actually a good book.4 If that is not telling fans that they are having fun wrong, I'm not sure what is. In point of fact, just mere moments after decrying people telling others they are being fans wrong, Correia says, "I think if we can get back to where “award nominated” isn’t a synonym for “preachy crap” to the most fans", effectively stating that people who like the things he regards as "preachy crap" are being fans wrong.

But the fact that the Sad Puppies are a hypocritical, anti-free expression, anti-"wrong fan" political campaign is not new information, it just hasn't been laid out quite this boldly before. For example, in another post explaining his motivations for creating the Sad Puppies, Correia states:
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.
And the blunt truth is, Correia is a wrong on every point in this diatribe. One might note that this was apparent even before Correia launched the original Sad Puppy campaign in 2013, as Brad Torgersen had been nominated for a Hugo Award in 2012. Even before he began tilting at imaginary windmills while imaging nonexistent conspiracies against writers with "wrong" politics, his alleged point had been disproved by recent nominations not only for Torgersen, but also for authors such as Mike Resnick, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and Eric James Stone, all of whom appeared on the Hugo ballot prior to the first iteration of the Sad Puppy campaign.

The Hugo awards are broadly about quality, and even though it doesn't always pick the "correct" winner, it almost always picks a good winner. This is a point that Correia simply does not understand, possibly because, as has been made apparent in the last couple of years, he doesn't seem to be able to distinguish good quality fiction from mediocre or even bad fiction. In 2014, Correia's proposed slate put five works on the Hugo ballot: Dan Wells' The Butcher of Khardov, Theodore Beale's Opera Vita Aeterna, Torgersen's The Exchange Officers and The Chaplain's War, and Correia's  own novel Warbound. They did very badly in the final voting, placing in last or next to last in every category, with one placing below "No Award". Correia claims this makes his point. He's wrong. What it proves is that the works were judged on quality and found wanting. Correia, Scalzi, and many others stated that people should read the nominated works and judge them on their quality. So I did. I read every single one of them. I even read the first two novels in that preceded Warbound in Correia's Grimnoir trilogy to make sure that I didn't miss any of the context in the nominated novel. And then, in recognition of the actual quality of the stories, I left all of them off the ballot in favor of "No Award". The nominees from the Sad Puppy slate were simply not nearly as good as the other nominated works. In a pure quality-based assessment, the Sad Puppies lost to "No Award" on my ballot. They earned those places.

Facing the reality that their books were given a fair chance by a wider audience and roundly rejected is simply not an outcome that Correia and his Sad Puppy buddies are prepared to accept. Instead, the Sad Puppies reacted by throwing a tantrum, stomping their whiny feet, and claiming that there was a secret cabal that unfairly worked against their books. The Sad Puppies wrap themselves in a fiction of their own making and in effect tell voters like me that we are bad fans because we didn't vote for them. They spin an invented tale of a conspiracy that shut them down, rather than the much more plausible possibility that the voters simply didn't like what they had to offer. But the "left wing conspiracy" to shut out their favored works is part and parcel of the Sad Puppy manifesto (and is yet another reason why the Sad Puppies are a political movement). When people point out that a slate of works to be effectively bloc voted upon runs counter to the accepted social customs of the Hugo awards, the Sad Puppies squeal in anger, "But those lefty social justice warriors do it too." Unfortunately for the Sad Puppies, there is precious little evidence that suggests that is the case, and a lot of evidence that it is not. When pressed, the Sad Puppies almost always seem to point at people like John Scalzi, saying that his posts on his blog Whatever in which he has, in the past, given notice of which of his works from that year are Hugo eligible, are evidence of voting slates. Or other posts in which Scalzi has created an open thread and invited either creators or fans to suggest works they think are worthy of a Hugo nomination. In public, the Sad Puppies have expressed befuddlement at the idea that people could find a difference between such actions and their decision to create and promote a curated slate. This, to me, indicates that the Sad Puppies are being disingenuous, because the difference is both stark and easy to find. On the one hand, telling people what you have done or what you love that is eligible is simply providing information. On the other, creating a slate and offering it as a means of voting to, as many Sad Puppy supporters have said, "stick it to the social justice warriors", is another thing entirely. Even the protestations by Correia and Torgersen that they told their followers to only vote for the slate if they agree with it ring hollow in the face of their numerous posts telling their fans that those evil lefties had been doing unethical things behind the scenes (with no evidence to back up these claim), all the while insulting them for liking the wrong thing (while providing no real evidence of such insults other than providing distortions and falsehoods). The Sad Puppy movement is, in effect, based upon distortions, falsehoods, and outright lies.

The Sad Puppies are fond of saying that this shadowy cabal of Hugo voters vote in "lockstep" in favor of people with the "correct" political persuasion, but this is belied by the vote tallies in the Hugo nominating round. For those who do not know how the nominating process works, the short version is this: Anyone who is an attending or supporting member of the Worldcon for the current, previous, or next year may submit a ballot nominating up to five works or people in each of the Hugo Award categories. The five works or people with the most votes in each category are placed on the final ballot so long as they also received more than five percent of the total votes cast in that category. Every year, after the Hugo Awards have been bestowed, the statistics concerning the voting are released, including the nominating tallies for the top fifteen entries in each category. For example, in 2014, the nominating vote tallies for the Best Novel category were:

368Ancillary JusticeAnn Leckie23.1%
218The Ocean at the End of the LaneNeil Gaiman13.7%*
184WarboundLarry Correia11.5%
160The Wheel of TimeRobert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson10.0%
120Neptune's BroodCharles Stross7.5%
98ParasiteMira Grant6.1%
96The Shining GirlsLauren Beukes6.0%
92A Stranger in OlondriaSofia Samatar5.8%
91A Few Good MenSarah A. Hoyt5.7%
84The Golem and the DjinniHelene Wecker5.3%
81The Republic of ThievesScott Lynch5.1%
74Under a Graveyard SkyJohn Ringo4.6%
70London FallingPaul Cornell4.4%
69Abaddon's GateJames S.A. Corey4.3%
67SteelheartBrandon Sanderson4.2%
66River of StarsGuy Gavriel Kay4.1%
* Neil Gaiman declined the nomination

Looking at this breakdown, one has to wonder where the "lockstep" voting that the Sad Puppies are wont to complain about is. Where is the vote-buying by Tor that they keep harping about? Where is the domination by "message fiction"? What these numbers show is an anarchic mixture fueled by love of the genre with a fractious electorate splitting their ballots across a number of titles. As with so many other Sad Puppy claims, when one looks at the issue, one finds that their baseless conspiracy theories simply don't hold up. One could go further back and look at 2013 to see a similar vote array:

193Redshirts: A Novel with Three CodasJohn Scalzi17.34%
138BlackoutMira Grant12.40%
1352312Kim Stanley Robinson12.13%
133Captain Vorpatril's AllianceLois McMaster Bujold11.95%
118Throne of the Crescent MoonSaladin Ahmed10.60%
101Monster Hunter LegionLarry Correia9.07%
91The Killing MoonN.K. Jemisin8.18%
90Caliban's WarJames S.A. Corey8.09%
74ExistenceDavid Brin6.65%
69Glamour in GlassMary Robinette Kowal6.20%
68The Drowning GirlCaitlin R. Kiernan6.11%
62The Hydrogen SonataIain M. Banks5.57%
61RailseaChina Mieville5.48%
58Discount ArmageddonSeanan McGuire5.21%
56Range of GhostsElizabeth Bear5.03%
55LibriomancerJim C. Hines4.94%

As before, there is simply nothing here to support the notion that there is a secret cabal of voters that are rigging the nominations by voting in concert. I'm sure the Sad Puppies will express outrage over the presence of Redshirts atop the list of nominees, claiming that this is evidence that Tor and the shadowy cabal they imagine exists somehow rigged the results. On the other, and more sensible hand, one might note that Redshirts also won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2013, a poll with a fair number more voters than the Hugo Awards, demonstrating that the novel had broader appeal than the Sad Puppies assert. One who isn't inventing conspiracy theories to justify their position might also note that Redshirts is a best-selling humorous riff on a well-known and loved trope from one of the most popular science fiction franchises in history. To a certain extent it would have been surprising if it had not been nominated by a notable percentage of the voters. When one looks at the vote tallies for the Hugo nominations, there just isn't any real support for anything the Sad Puppies assert concerning lockstep voting, vote buying, or any of the other nefarious deeds they assert have been commonplace in an effort to justify their current campaign.5

Perhaps one of the strongest pieces of evidence against the idea that Hugo voters have worked in "lockstep" at the behest of band of shadowy masters is the success of the Sad Puppy campaign. The simple truth is that a campaign like the Sad Puppies only works if they vote as a bloc and everyone else is disorganized. The Sad Puppies, as strong as their voting bloc was in the 2015 nominating process, only represented about fifteen to twenty percent of the total number of people who cast nominations for the Hugo Awards (which, I would note, bodes ill for their chances of having much success in the general vote, which uses an instant runoff voting system that is very different from the nominating process that makes it much more difficult for a dedicated minority to dominate the voting). If there actually was an organized secret cabal aligned against them who was voting in "lockstep" as the Sad Puppies claim, then their campaign would have no chance of working. Their own success simply disproves everything the Sad Puppies claim about the Hugo voting process.

However, the Sad Puppies claim that all they really want to do is put good fiction on the Hugo ballot, so who could possibly oppose that. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that in 2014 they placed some very decidedly not good stories on the ballot and taking them at their word, the problem is that the Sad Puppies really don't seem to be able to differentiate good fiction from bad fiction. Take Correia's assertion concerning the "quality" of the nominees from the 2015 Sad Puppy slate who made it onto the Hugo ballot:
And seriously, you’re telling me Jim Butcher, the god father of an entire genre, isn’t worthy? Marko Kloos indy published sci-fi book has sold literally over ten times as many copies as last year’s winner Ancillary Justice, and people love it, but it isn’t worthy? You’re telling me that Kevin J. Anderson, industry pro, 23 million books in print, three decades of working in fandom and helping other authors, isn’t worthy?
Notice what Correia has not mentioned on this list? He doesn't say that the books that these authors were nominated for this year are any good. Instead he points to how many books Kloos and Anderson have sold, and in Anderson's case it isn't even how many of The Dark Beyond the Stars have been sold. Instead, we get Anderson's career sales highlighted, which would be relevant if the Hugo Award was for best career sales. But it isn't. Time and again, when called upon to explain what they mean by "quality works", the Sad Puppies fall back on total sales, apparently unable to understand any measure of value greater than how many dollars one has made by writing. Unfortunately for the Sad Puppies, the Hugo Award category that Anderson is nominated in is "Best Novel", and I have see even Anderson's own fans say that this is far from his best work. Correia points to Anderson's status as an "industry pro", which is an entirely irrelevant point, as everyone who has been nominated for Best Novel in the last several decades has been an industry pro. He also tout's Anderson's "three decades working in fandom and helping other authors", which makes Anderson seem like a nice guy, but is also entirely irrelevant with respect to whether his novel is worthy of a Hugo nomination. But this defense of Anderson's worthiness seems somewhat hypocritical for Corriea, as he has decried the fact that authors who go to conventions and interact with those he derides as being part of "fandom" are often more successful when it comes to awards. For Correia to now use this as a selling point to prop up a somewhat less than exciting nominated novel seems, well, pretty self-contradictory.

Correia's argument about Butcher is just as incoherent as the ones he made for Kloos and Anderson. Let's concede for the sake of argument that Butcher is the godfather of the urban fantasy genre (he's not, but we can leave that aside for now), what does that have to do with whether or not Skin Game is a worthwhile nominee? Just as Anderson's career sales numbers make no difference, whether Butcher is or is not a "godfather" of urban fantasy is also entirely irrelevant to whether he should win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. The question that must be answered is whether the specific book that has been nominated is a Hugo caliber book. I have not read all fifteen volumes of the Harry Dresden series, but the reaction that I have seen from every person that I know who is both a Jim Butcher fan and is aware of the Hugo Awards has been incredulity that Skin Game was nominated. Not because, as the Sad Puppies would have one believe, they thought he was being kept out by a politically correct bunch of gatekeepers, but rather because they didn't think it was anywhere near good enough to put on the ballot.

But even that tepid defense of the three Best Novel nominees from the Sad Puppy slate belies the low quality that pervades the slate. John C. Wright has two nominated works from the Sad Puppy slate (and four other works that were nominated from the Rabid Puppy6 slate). I've read some works by John C. Wright, and he's a terrible writer. I'll read his nominated works, as they are almost certainly going to be in the Hugo voter packet7, but unless he has dramatically improved as an author, any slate that includes his writing simply isn't serious about promoting quality works of fiction. Further evidence of the complete lack of care concerning quality fiction displayed by the Sad Puppies is the Best Related Work nominee from the slate titled Wisdom from My Internet, a rambling collection of one-line political jabs by staunchly conservative Michael Z. Williamson that reads like the author culled through a dozen conservative political chain letters and picked out the worst parts of each to string together into a "book". Needless to say, given these sorts of nominees, one probably shouldn't expect much quality from many of the nominees.8

One irony is that the Sad Puppy ballot failed to do anything regarding one of the points that Brad Torgersen argued vociferously when ranting about how terrible the current Hugo awards are. That point being that, in Torgersen's opinion, the Hugo voters are somehow ignoring comics. This claim was pretty hard to support under any circumstance, given that the Hugo awards have an entire category dedicated to honoring graphic stories, but it became completely untenable when the Sad Puppy slate was revealed and they were only able to offer up a single proposed nominee. One would think that if the Sad Puppy campaign really was about promoting quality fiction, then its supporters would have been able to come up with more than one nominee that was treated as little more than a joke by Comics Alliance. For all their talk about how the Hugo awards fail to properly recognize comics, when the time came to put their money where their mouth was, the Sad Puppies were unable to produce a worthwhile ante. Their unwillingness to do anything more than pay lip service concerning the issues they claim to be concerned about speaks volumes concerning the Sad Puppy campaign, revealing it to be little more than a political slate with no other purpose.

The fact that the Sad Puppy slate is an entirely political and entirely unsavory campaign is most apparent when one considers the reactions of those who were not told they were being placed on the slate. Despite Torgersen's protestations that he contacted and received an affirmative response from everyone that was placed on the Sad Puppy slate, this has been revealed to be a lie. When this information came out, I was unsurprised because, as I have noted before in this post, the Sad Puppies' entire campaign is backed by people who have at best a casual relationship with the truth. Matthew David Surridge, nominated by the slate for Best Fan Writer, has stated that he was never asked to participate on the slate, and declined the nomination when it was offered, providing a rather lengthy explanation in which he deconstructed most of the Sad Puppy talking points and showed them to be false. Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, nominated for Best Semiprozine, has repeatedly stated that they were never contacted before being placed on the Sad Puppy slate. Dave Creek, originally placed on the Sad Puppy slate, asked to be removed, and in a later explanation as to why stated:
Larry Correia, on his blog, talks about the list getting "SJWs" (Social Justice Warriors) to have a "giant, public freak out." He's referred to people he defines as SJWs as "control freaks" and "thought police." Their primary sin seems to be promoting diversity among writers, as well as among the characters created in SF stories.
Those who were coopted onto the slate or, as seems to be the case with nominees such as Annie Bellet, who consented to be added without really understanding what they were signing on to, seem to have been included as a smokescreen for the heavily conservative slate, so as to provide the Sad Puppies with the ability to protest that they are not a campaign dedicated to getting conservative authors onto the ballot. But when your suggested ballot is dominated by authors like Tom Kratman, John C. Wright, Michael Z. Williamson, Ken Burnside and Tedd Roberts, and yes, Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen, then it is pretty obvious what the real point of your campaign is, and it isn't to promote good works of writing no matter the political ideologies of their creators. The purpose of the slate was, as Creek points out using Correia's own words, to make his political enemies have a giant freak out.

In the novel Starship Troopers, retired Lieutenant Colonel DuBois offers then high school student Johnny Rico a first place ribbon in a recent race, while knowing that Rico in fact placed fourth. Rico, as DuBois intended him to, finds this act meaningless, as it recognizes him for an honor not earned, while actually feeling some pride in his actual accomplishment, although it is not nearly as illustrious as finishing first would be. This is why people like Surridge and the creators of Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine are so ambivalent about finding out that their nominations were the result of being chosen for a slate that is all about politics rather than quality work. It is apparent that the nominees who were not consulted in advance can see that the sense of accomplishment that comes from being nominated for a Hugo Award has been tainted by slate voting, and their nomination probably feels as meaningful as if they were handed a first place ribbon for a sixth place finish. One might think the other Sad Puppies would notice this, and feel some shame regarding their own ribbons, but they are too caught up in their vendetta against an imaginary enemy that they don't realize that their "accomplishment" is as meaningful, and will be regarded as being as valid, as that of Rosie Ruiz.

1 I say "apparently", because we won't know for certain that he was nominated until the full statistics are released following the Worldcon in Spokane this year. The Sad Puppies have been caught in at least one transparent lie already regarding whether or not the people who appeared on their slate agreed to be on it or not, so we really can't be sure of anything they claim at this point.

2 This is a bit rich coming from someone who backed a slate that included John C. Wright's works. Wright, for those who do not know, exploded in a fit of rage that would be humorous if it weren't intended so spitefully when the animated series The Legend of Korra included two women holding hands as a sign of their romantic relationship, attacking the creators of the show with, among other invective, the following: "Mr DiMartino and Mr Konietzko: You are disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth. You have earned the contempt and hatred of all decent human beings forever, and we will do all we can to smash the filthy phallic idol of sodomy you bow and serve and worship." It seems pretty clear that if there are puritans present, they are part of the Sad Puppies. Lest anyone think that is Wright's only kind of venom, he has stated that having the Muslim Ms. Marvel Khamala Khan on the Avengers is "the same as if, during World War Two, a comic book made one of their heroines a member of the Nazi party". Homophobia and anti-Islamic bigotry in one package. Would it surprise anyone to find out he's a raging misogynist as well?

3 At this point, I will state that anyone who uses the term "social justice warrior" or any variant of it in an unironic manner as an attempted insult has pretty much demonstrated that they have very little to say that anyone with any sense should bother to listen to. Correia's oft-expressed hatred for "SJWs" is yet another indicator that he really isn't a particularly deep thinker.

4 I'm not going to delve into the racist implications of such statements other than to say that while the Sad Puppies always get very offended when anyone points out the fairly non-representative make up of their promoted slates, these kinds of racist and sexist attitudes expressed by them and their fans seem to show through quite often.

5 I have seen Theodore Beale make the claim in various place that he has secret evidence that "SJW" collusion has taken place. On the other hand, Beale is an anti-vaxxer, creationist, and a conspiracy theorist who believes that the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado was a plot by the U.S. government to seize everyone's guns, so there's really no reason to believe anything he says.

6 Not content with the reactionary nature of the Sad Puppy ballot, which contained exclusive male nominees in the Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best related Work categories, and a couple of token women and minorities here and there, Theodore Beale put together a mostly complimentary, but even more ideological "Rabid Puppy" slate that seems to have been mostly aimed at adding himself and a number of works by John C. Wright put out by Beale's small press Castalia House to the ballot.

7 The Hugo voter packet is a recent addition to the Hugo award process. Publishers and creators who control the rights to nominated works are asked to place those works or excerpts from those works into a packet to be distributed to the eligible Hugo voters so as to allow them to be better informed when they cast their votes. The Hugo voter packet was probably partly responsible for the lousy performance of the Sad Puppy nominees in 2014, as the voters were able to read for themselves just how weak they were when compared to their competition. The Hugo voter packet was originally the creation of Sad Puppy bete noir John Scalzi, who originally created and distributed it independently of the the official Hugo Awards process. I doubt any of the sad Puppies have done anything nearly as notable or fan-friendly as this single act on Scalzi's part.

8 In an instance that might be called poetic justice, the Sad Puppy slate may not even reflect the preferences of its creators. Observers have noted the absence of Cixin Liu's novel The Three Body Problem, and William Patterson's biography Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2- The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988 from the Sad Puppy slate. Both of these works would seem to be the kind of works that the Sad Puppies would enjoy quite a bit, and in the case of the Patterson book, would have been a heavy favorite to win Best Related Work given the competition provided by the mostly miserable slate-driven nominees. When asked, Correia stated that the Patterson work would have been on the Sad Puppy slate had he known about it in time, while Beale has said he would have put Liu's book on as well but he did not have time to read it before crafting his slate. One danger of a slate, regardless of its motivations, is that it will crowd out works that should be promoted, potentially foiling even the preferences of the curators of the slate.

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  1. One danger of a slate, regardless of its motivations, is that it will crowd out works that should be promoted, potential foiling even the preferences of the curators of the slate.

    Yup yup.

    1. @Paul Weimer: And the only thing worse than one slate would be multiple competing slates, because then the anarchic love that the Hugos represent would be gone forever.

  2. Andromeda Spaceways was nominated for Semiprozine, not Fanzine. We've been going for over twelve years and have published a lot of people who have gone on to Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award shortlists, including Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky. There are more, you'll find them on our web site in a statement. We weren't actually eligible before this year, because we publish under 1000 copies. We might have got in on our own merit, but we'll never know now, will we? And neither will you. and neither will some folk who go home with the Hugo wondering if it's only because they *aren't* on the slate.

    1. @Sue Bursztynski: First, you are correct, ASIFM was nominated for Best Semiprozine and not Best Fanzine. I have corrected the post on that score.

      Second, no. While we can't know to an absolute certainty that AISFM wouldn't haven't gotten on the ballot on its own merit, we can regard it as highly probable. Without the support of the slate, I regard the likelihood of AISFM appearing on the Hugo ballot as similar to the likelihood that unicorns are real or that lizard people live among us disguised as humans. We will have much firmer support for this once the Hugo award statistics are released following this year's WorldCon and can look at the support AISFM had and correlate it to the support given to other Puppy slate nominees.

      You bring up a point that I considered making in the body of the post, but left out because the post was extremely long already: The existence of the Puppy slate nominees not only diminishes the credibility of those who appeared on the slate, but of everyone else as well. If, as seems probable, Ann Leckie or Katherine Addison wins the Best Novel award, there will always be the pallor cast over their victory by the fact that many will believe that they did not win it against a worthy field of competitors.

      One should not take this to mean that I don't think ASIFM is a good publication. But there are numerous other Semiprozines that are at least as good, and several that are probably better. There is a long distance between "Hugo worthy" and "lousy", in which many well-made works and publications sit.

      But let's assume you are right and ASIFM might have made it onto the ballot on its own merit. Prove it. Withdraw the nomination from the current ballot, stay off next year's already announced Puppy slate and see if ASIFM makes it onto the ballot again. I doubt you will withdraw the nomination, which is essentially a concession that you know I am correct and ASIFM's presence on the Puppy slate is what resulted in its presence on the ballot.

    2. We are discussing this on list. There will be a vote on it. We're a co-op and make decisions as a group. If we do drop off, it won't be because people demand we do so. You may be right that it's unlikely we would have been on, but you can't know. We've had abuse from both sides. And you're right to say that anyone who wins this year will never know - there will be done one horse races and some who might go home with their awards and wonder if they got it because they *weren't* on the slate.
      Frankly, I'd be glad to be off. This is not the Hugo award I grew up admiring. It is American fan politics.

    3. @Sue Bursztnski: I'm not demanding you withdraw your nomination. I'm saying that if you don't want to be seen as endorsing the slate, and everything that goes with it, this is really your only option at this point. If you want to be associated with slate-voting and the people who created it, then by all means stay on the ballot.

      But if you want clean hands, you really only have one option: Withdraw.