The Seven Cardinal Sins – a puppy summary

I haven’t reviewed everything that was nominated but I have read everything and read multiple reviews. I thought this was a good time to look retrospectively of what was wrong with the nominated works (not including best dramatic categories, editorial categories, fan categories or artists).

The Catholic catechism traditionally identifies seven capital sins: pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (or acedia i.e. neglect).

In terms of the Puppy campaigns these traditional sins aren’t a great match in their entirety. Lust in particular doesn’t make much of an appearance – if anything the overall attitude to sex has been almost puritanical. The one I would pick out is sloth. I think there is some obvious evidence of laziness in the compilation of the slates. They appear rushed and contain obvious omissions – Soft Causality by Michael Z Williamson, Heinlein’s biography, The Three Body Problem (which became a top pick of Vox Day leader of the Rabid Puppies). Traditionally this sin also includes acedia a sin that covers many modern issues including things we would not regard as a vice (such as depression) but also things we still do such a neglect or mindless compliance.

Lazy curating of the slate, mindless compliance with lock step voting and email campaigns, neglectful edits, and a general unwillingness to explain, review or persuade. Sloth and avarice seems to be the cardinal sin of the Puppy campaigns (no, that doesn’t mean I’m saying everybody who has ever read a Puppy nominated author is greedy and lazy).

With that in mind what are the major ‘sins’ of the nominated works?

  • Poor editing
  • Lack of cohesion
  • …parts of incomplete works…
  • Appearance by virtue of knowing Brad Torgersen
  • Shown up by substantially superior works in the same category
  • Stories of over-blown self importance
  • Irrelevance

Poor editing: all of the John C Wright nominations but in particular One Bright Star. The Science is Never Settled needed substantial re-working for it to be a decent (i.e. 18 year old at school) essay.

Lack of cohesion: Again John C Wright’s Transhuman and Subhuman, Roberts’s The Science is Never Settled, Championship B’Tok and Big Boys Don’t Cry all tended to wander off topic and lacked clarity.

…parts of incomplete works…: With a current lack of a ‘saga’ category perhaps Skin Game can be forgiven but Flow and Journey Man in the Stone House and Championship B’Tok all had a fragmentary feel of a an extracted chapter from a novel. None stood alone well.

Appearance by virtue of knowing Brad Torgersen: Numerous works but most obviously Wisdom from My Internet. I don’t know if Brad T is friends with the person who makes Zombie Nation but there is no obvious reason why it was nominated.

Shown up by substantially superior works in the same category: Zombie Nation was the only puppy nominee for Best Graphic Story among a set of commercial and critically successful other nominees that showed depth and talent.

Stories of over-blown self importance: Turncoat, Parliament of Beast and Birds, One Bright Star. Pompous pomposity.

Irrelevance: Best related work included a collection of unfunny Facebook offensiveness and a half baked essay on the nature of science – neither had any more than a tenuous relation to SF/F. Parliament of Beast and Birds was a religious fable – but that arguably scrapes into fantasy

27 thoughts on “The Seven Cardinal Sins – a puppy summary

  1. Torgersen and the Zombie Nation cartoonist met several years ago (per Torgersen’s blog) and have co-written a short story together, per Torgersen’s bibliography.


    1. Yes, yes it is. Wisdom from My Internet is simply bad. Here are the number of redeeming qualities that is has: zero.
      Chicks Dig Time Lords is a great compendium of essays about Doctor Who and Doctor Who fandom. It is smart and (largely) well written and an obvious candidate for SF/F fan award for best related work.
      Wisdom from My Internet is a bunch of unfunny facebook jokes. Heck, even Vox Day ranked it last in his vote in that category and even Williamson himself thought the other nominees were good in comparison AND also thought that his story Soft Casualty would have been a better think for Brad T to have nominated (and he is right ‘Soft Casualty’ was better than many of the 2015 nominated stories)


      1. Believe it or not, I liked all of the nominated stories and will be voting for “Totaled”.

        People keep saying the short story award is weak this year. I don’t see it. Novelette, I see. Short story, not really.


    2. Your peevishness is amusing. Your resort to tu qoque rather than making any positive case for MZW’s booklike product is typical. The likelihood that you’ve ever seen the inside of Chicks Dig Timelords approaches zero.


      1. My peevishness amuses you.

        Translation: You’re clearly unhappy, I don’t like you, so I’m going to act like a smug dick about it.

        I’ve never seen EITHER book, though I have looked up what both books are about. That the book got nominated for any awards is flatly ridiculous.

        Going by a rudimentary review score metric this is the best slate in years.


        1. Of course I don’t like you. That doesn’t mean you don’t amuse me. Like, your defense of your assertion by way of having “looked up what both books are about” is hilarious. Believe me when I say the amusement you give me is genuine. And be proud!


          1. I don’t believe you, but whatever.

            Let’s look at the issue – the general issue – differently.

            In what way would you describe the Hugos of, say, the last five years to be in any way superior to the Hugo list this year?

            Number of voters? Reader ratings? Actual technical quality?

            What would it be?


            1. You don’t believe you amuse me? But if you didn’t amuse me, I’d have no reason to keep responding to you. You are fun to play with.


            2. You don’t believe you amuse me?

              No. Perhaps you’d be interested into getting into an actual discussion on the topic, but I do doubt it.

              But if you didn’t amuse me, I’d have no reason to keep responding to you.

              Sure you would. It’s all about keeping up appearances. You’ve created the persona of the eminently logical anti-puppy looking down at the silly little pro-puppy jester who makes banal arguments. To just stop responding to me, at least without a short condescending remark first, might imply that you lied and just wanted to make yourself look smart against a potentially easy mark.

              Even worse for your position is if you started taking me seriously. Then you’d need to admit you were wrong entirely.

              Let’s play, if you’d like.

              Over the past five years, what metric would you use to say that this year’s crop of Hugo nominees was undeserving in comparison to the previous four years of Hugo nominees?

              Is there one?


            1. Fair enough! Here’s a quick metric. I enjoyed reading Ancillary Justice enormously, from its noirish opening to the big reveal about the Empress. The worldbuilding and character-creation were first-rate. It excited me about interstellar adventure fiction in a way nothing had for years. I was also blown away by “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere,” both in terms of plotting – it’s beautifully plotted – and emotional changes: Chu would make my improv teacher, who always stresses the importance of emotional dynamism, very very happy. The way the fantastical conceit, the water, is used to punctuate the action and accentuate the theme is bracing. And both of these stories won Hugos.

              Meantime, there are the two most impressive works from last year that I read: Ursula Vernon’s gorgeous short story “Jackalope Wives” and Ruthana Emrys’s amazing twist on Lovecraft, her novelette “The Litany of Earth.” You will not find these fantastic stories on the Hugo ballot. Instead, the space is taken up by the likes of “Turncoat”, a story whose first paragraph requires the portmanteau terribad. (“My suit of armor is…armor.”)

              Your Amazon “metric” is flawed, meanwhile, in several ways. It only really works for novels; it is not retrospective (there was no Amazon ranking in 1988 to look at; there’s no particular reason to consider it a mark of quality as opposed to enthusiasm.


            2. “Turncoat” doesn’t have great prose, but it’s a very well constructed story with an intelligent plot. It wasn’t my favorite by any means but I certainly enjoyed.

              My suspicion is that a lot of people’s lack of enjoyment of Wright is that he’s so unabashedly Catholic. This gets somewhat obnoxious in “Somewhither” but in “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” I’d say that Christianity is just a general background assumption, and it’s beautifully written.

              “Totaled” I just liked more. Very, very creepy.


            3. I didn’t mind the Catholicism of Beasts & Birds it was the overblown writing and the poorly thought through visual imagery (the black wolf talking to a black bird on a dark mountain in the dark 🙂 ). As with One Bright Star he also struggles with how to include god-driven supernatural events – I think he wants to find a way to distinguish something he regards as reality (God and divine miracles) from normal fantasy elements but it all sorts of goes wonky.


      2. I don’t think supplanter seems particularly unhappy – but who knows what sadness lies in the heart of internet commentary.

        Malcolm, as you haven’t seen either book, I’m not sure what to make of your comment about their relative merits. I’ve read both and written a longish review of Wisdom… (available on this very blog!).

        As for a rudimentary review score metric, this blog is a big fan of rudimentary metrics. However, if your metric is suggesting that this is the ‘best slate in years’ (as in set of nominees?) then my subjective assessment having read all the works is that, no it isn’t and your metric may need some further works and validation. 🙂


      3. Camestros: Okay, you admittedly made me laugh. There you go.

        Apologies for the initial cowboying. I’m in a fairly foul mood for a number of reasons (“foul” as in “normal” foul, not depressed or ill or the like). I’m getting irked at small things more than I normally do, and I’m a curmudgeon already. It wasn’t a fair or intelligent comment.

        But how should we look at quality, then?

        Number of votes is not a good metric to use; apparently. We’ve had more votes this year than we’ve had in a very long time.

        It’s hard to find ways to measure quality, or even perceived quality. How about Amazon reviews?

        Of course, this can really only apply to novels, but it’s a start, right?

        I’ll summarize:

        – First year since 1988 every best novel has had at least a four star rating

        – Highest average star nominee for novels since at LEAST 1988.

        – The average star ratings of novel nominees has continually climbed since the Puppies campaigns began.

        It’s a start.

        As for the other categories, all I can do is repeat that I quite liked all of the short stories, and as a huge John C. Wright fan I have no issue with the novella category. I do think “One Bright Star” is overrated and has a sloppily executed ending. “Pale Realms of Shade” is far superior. “Flow” just never gelled for me, nor did “Big Boys Don’t Cry”.

        Novelettes, well, the Journeyman story kind of bored me (which is a shame, as I really liked “Eifelheim”), “Championship B’Tok I lost interest in, and “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was just awful. Sorry. It was. “Triple Sun” was decent, though I had some issues with it: The arrogant kid never got a proper comeuppance and the “twist” with the aliens was a little too obvious to me. Also, the cut away from the action to an epilogue section was not very well done. That said, I liked it.


        1. There are two ways to get a high Amazon ranking – be a book that is widely read, well established and very good or be a book with a very narrow fanbase that loves it uncritically. For example Aldous Huxley’s seminal book Brave New World gets 4.2 stars on Amazon. Vox Day’s Throne of Bones get 4.2 stars on Amazon. John Scalzi’s Lock In also gets 4.2. I think it is implausible that the two modern books are of equivalent stature to Brave New World.


      1. When did the Puppies ever say or imply that? It’s manifestly obvious “Dr. Who” has a huge fandom. I’d imagine that the majority of Puppies are probably a part of it.

        As for myself, I have been recommended the show by several people. I just did NOT think it was that good. Very b-movie-ish, which is admittedly a style some people like but is not to my taste.


        1. Well your comments about Chicks Dig Timelords suggested a somewhat dismissive attitude but aside from that there is the whole Puppy slate strategy. If slates became the new normal for the Hugo Awards, the Whovians are a large fandom with some WorldCon active members and an interest in the Hugo Awards.


          1. How on earth does that support your point and not mine? He’s literally saying that there are so many Dr. Who fans they would get every best novel nominee. How does this support the idea that Dr. Who is a “tiny fandom”?

            So some of the Puppies aren’t Dr. Who fans. So what? I haven’t seen any particularly bad vitriol directed toward the show except a few comments to the effect of “Recently it’s gotten too liberal”. But I bet you more Puppy supporters are fans then not.


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