The Unified Puppy Theory

Last Sad Puppy post for awhile. More when the Hugo votes come in or when some issue becomes a big deal over nothing.

On the final Puppy Round Up at File770 Snowcrash asked: http://file770.com/?p=23595&cpage=3#comment-303817

Here at the End of All Things, are some answers/ things we’re still missing:

– A honest explanation as to how the SP3 slate was created,

– How the tactics of slate-nominations furthers *any* of the constantly changing rationales provided by the Puppies

– Anyone taking on the Mamatas Challenge

– Evidence of a previous slate/ bloc-voting effort. The Puppies keep saying that’s the only way Stuff They Don’t Like Could have won, but are strangely reticent at providing any evidence or proof of their allegations.

– Why Wisdom of the Internet???? Seriously why? (And yelling about Scalzi is not a good answer)

I only had stupid answers at the time but I think I can give a better answer now.

Firstly, by way of background, The Mamatas Challenge was a comment by author Nick Mamatas on John Scalzi’s blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/04/20/keeping-up-with-the-hugos-42015/#comment-781272

If the Hugos have really been dominated by leftist material that prized message over story since the mid-1990s (Brad’s timeline), it should be very simple for members of the Puppy Party to name

a. one work of fiction

b. that won a Hugo Award

c. while foregrounding a left message to the extent that the story was ruined or misshaped

d. per set of winners since 1995.

That’s all. Just a list of twenty books or stories—a single winner per year. Even though a single winner per year wouldn’t prove domination, I’m happy to make it easy for the Puppies.

Naturally the Mamatas challenge has not been met by anybody – although the odd work of fiction has been suggested (e.g. John Chu’s The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere has been suggested as a single example)

As Snowcrash points out none of these have been truly answered and by that I don’t mean they have been answered and people don’t like the answer but rather even people who have been following the discussion closely can’t really say what the consensus Puppy position on each of these questions are.

Part of the answer to that is that the Puppy leaders and supporters increasingly disengaged from debate during the kerfuffle. Notably there is a long comment on Brad Torgersen’s blog (Torgersen being the curator of the Sad Puppy 3 slate) by puppy supporter ‘James May’ https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/musings-not-sorted/#comment-12392 In this comment May exhorts other supporters not to engage on a wide range of issues with critics of the Puppies. I don’t know how influential May was but from around that time Puppy activity on non-puppy sites does seem to have reduced.

The net effect is a general lack of specific answers. More general blog posts from Puppies have tended more to airings of grievances – particularly in terms of how they have been ill-treated by accusations of political extremism or about how liberals are out of touch with middle America.

Consequently to attempt to answer the questions Snowcrash raised is difficult and we can be sure that the Mamatas challenge will never be met but it will never be conceded either. No major Puppy is going to say “it isn’t actually possible to meet the Mamatas challenge because those works don’t exist in sufficient numbers as Hugo winners”. But what of the rest? More importantly what kind of model makes the Puppy campaign coherent? By ‘coherent’ I don’t mean morally or tactically wise but rather both understandable and have a degree of explanatory power and perhaps predictive power – i.e. if the Puppies were thinking like this then they might do that in the future.

I think lots of commentators have hit on the answer multiple times, so I don’t have anything new or startling to say but I do want to put it down in one place so I can point at this model in the future and say ‘this’ without having to repeat the whole thing.

The Rabid Puppy model

I am going to start with the Rabid Puppy model because that is simplest, most overt and obvious. Theodore Beale aka Vox Day is a former columnist at the right wing ‘news’ site World Net Daily. WND is one of many commercial enterprises aimed at pushing news and opinion pieces at a relatively narrow conservative audience. Vox Day has looked at that business model and is attempting to repeat it but with fiction. He explained his model back in 2012 in this article http://www.wnd.com/2012/12/a-throne-of-bones/ He has also established a publishing house. Rabid Puppies is simply a continuation of that strategy and aimed to do two things:

  1. Promote his publishing house and authors to a niche market
  2. Help establish that market by stirring up a public ideological battle within SF/F

The Rabid Puppy model is simple to understand and cynical in application. For the purposes of Rabid Puppies, Sad Puppies was a recruiting ground, a set of easily duped participants in Beale’s strategy and a handy front. It wasn’t particularly clever or even that evil in the grand scheme of things but it was cynical and exploitative. Beale has styled himself as a sociopath (see http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/a-descriptive-model.html ) – whether he is or isn’t is neither here nor there and long distance psychology is a fools game – and Rabid Puppies fits that model.

The Sad Puppy model

The Sad Puppy model is harder for several reasons. Firstly while Rabid Puppies is clearly the work of a single dictator, the Sad Puppies are a bit more amorphous. The nearest we have to a sense of a leadership is the ironically named Evil League of Evil i.e.

  • Larry Correia – the original Sad Puppy
  • Brad Torgersen – curator of the Sad Puppy 3 slate
  • Kate Paulk – nominated convener of the future Sad Puppy 4 slate (or whatever it may become)
  • Possibly Vox Day (although this is somewhat unclear whether he is just part of the ironic naming or an active participant in organising Sad Puppies)

As Day is accounted for above in Rabid Puppies, I think it is best to ignore him (which is probably wise advice all round). Paulk is also a blogger at the Mad Genius Club (http://madgeniusclub.com/ ) and it probably wise to consider some other regulars there as part of the general Puppy movement. Specifically:

  • Sarah A Hoyt
  • Cedar Sanderson
  • Dave Freer (a favorite of this blog)
  • Peter Grant

All four were key voices in the multiple discussions on the Sad Puppy nominations and related issues (such as the Tor boycott). Peter Grant notably has said that he is only a supporter of the Sad Puppies and not a leader.

Each one has offered many different comments on the Sad Puppy movement but none have really addressed the issues raised in Snowcrash’s questions. Of course two of those could only be answered by Brad Torgersen but the others could have been attempted. The nearest we have to an answer to the Mamatas challenge is Dave Freer’s Petunias Post which this blog covered in depth. We clearly are not going to get straight answers from the blogs of any of these people but perhaps we can look at the issues in another way. In short what were they thinking?

If we can describe the cognitive model that best explains the behavior we can make substantial steps into understanding the Sad Puppies. To do that we have to consider how the Puppies above think about writing and think about awards. In doing so I’ll start with the Mad Genius Club site – while this isn’t the place where any of the three Sad Puppy campaigns was announced it is a common point for all the players (perhaps best exemplified by this recent post on the Mad Genius Blog in which Brad Torgersen reviews Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series http://madgeniusclub.com/2015/07/05/monster-hunter-win/ )

The Mad Genius Club blog is a group of writers and a significant number of the posts (collected here http://madgeniusclub.com/navigating-from-writing-to-publication/ ) address the mechanics of writing and publishing. There is a lot that is very laudable about the Mad Genius Club – a set of writers helping each other out and offering practical advice from structuring your plot to getting reviews.

In terms of aesthetics Mad Genius also offers advice. I’ve discussed two major posts by Kate Paulk before here. It is the second one that is more overtly a Sad Puppy manifesto: http://madgeniusclub.com/2015/05/21/of-puppies-and-principles/

Anyway, this little piece of anecdata leads to some thoughts about what could be considered the Sad Puppy Manifesto (although it isn’t, since the Sad Puppy organizers were – and are – more interested in doing stuff and getting results from said doings than in writing manifestos. Besides, the usual purpose of a manifesto is so the factions can have wars to the death over the wording of Chapter 27, Paragraph 45, Clause 15… Oh wait. That’s political manifestos. Nevermind). Despite this and the individual color of the three campaigns to end Puppy-Related Sadness, there actually are some broad principles that underlie the Sad Puppies campaigns.

The full list can be read at the link. Most of it is vague and some of it touches on issues from other posts but I’d like to point out her fourth clause:

4. The award that matters most is people buying the work. That doesn’t mean other awards aren’t nice: we all like a bit of recognition now and then. But if with all the millions upon millions of people out there who could be reading we can’t build an audience over time, then something isn’t working right. It could be sucky distribution. It could be that presentation or some of those other intangibles need a bit of a boost. It could also be that you’re writing for an audience of half-a-dozen and you’re already selling to them. (If so, do consider broadening your horizons a little bit).

The award that matters most is people buying the work. Note this is on a website that aims to help aspiring writers and to promote the works of the writers who blog there – both of which are quite reasonable aims. Now over on Brad Torgersen’s own blog he has a separate page entitled BRT Success – A Definition. https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/brt-success-a-definition/ It introduces itself as:

Kris Rusch has been doing a series of wonderful blog posts, specifically focusing on success: how we as writers define it, what it means to us, how everyone sees it differently, and so forth. As a result, I thought I’d take a moment to actually write out my definition for myself. Because it’s changed as I’ve gotten older. Become more clear. Dare I say, healthier? More in tune with who I am as a person? Less affected by a lust for fame — which I think all of us experience when we’re brand new — than a desire to be personally comfortable with my life and able to provide for my family without subjecting myself, or them, to undue hardship.

Reading further down Brad gives a set of milestones in terms of publishing and monetary success that I don’t have any quibbles with. Brad is defining success in terms of tangible outcomes and that is very sensible – particular if your aim is to be a professional author (artistic outcomes being all very nice but they don’t pay your mortgage). There is a later paragraph that I think is more relevant to the Sad Puppy Model:

Notice also that there are no awards anywhere on that list. Not that I wouldn’t appreciate an award, if given. I am in fact due an award as of the last updating of this page, albeit a modest award in the grand scheme of writing. I’m just not going to bank on them, nor am I going to integrate them into my definition of success. Because all writing awards that I know of are given subjectively, based on the opinions of other people, and I don’t like having my personal definition of success riding on the opinions of other people. Celebrities do this all the time, and look how wrecked they always are? I say, the further you can get from depending on someone else’s opinion being your key to happiness, the better! So I’m not factoring awards into my goal list at all. If they come, great, I won’t bitch. If they never come, also great, because I don’t need them to tell me I am succeeding.

It might be easy to dismiss this as sour-grapes (i.e. not wanting awards now that he has burnt the bridges to getting awards) but given this is beginning to look like a common theme, I’d like to assume that this is a sincere statement of Brad’s opinion. Specifically that 1. awards are just subjective and that 2. they are secondary to real success which is financial.

Moving on to Larry Correia. At his blog he recently posted this interesting essay on How Authors Get Paid (part 2) http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/06/25/how-authors-get-paid-part-2/ .  Here is a quote that I believe fits a pattern:

The mass market doesn’t give a crap about literary prizes. The chunk of that multi-billion dollar entertainment market that pays attention to literary prizes is tiny. Award winning doesn’t translate into much, if any, extra sales. To many of the people who just want to be entertained, award winning doesn’t mean good. It means boring and preachy. That’s a whole different fight that I’ve been having for the last three years and don’t feel like having again right now, but basically, winning awards doesn’t translate into getting paid more. If you look at the list of authors who have won prestigious awards and you compare it to the list of authors making lots of money, there is a little bit of overlap, but most of the authors getting paid aren’t on that award winning list.

To summarize from the conveners of Sad Puppy 1, 2, 3 and probably 4 we have statements on a similar theme: awards are at best secondary, sales and making money are what count. Now on first sight that makes all of the Sad Puppy campaigns even more mysterious – why go through all of this angst and this conflict and even just the effort of gathering slates and mobilizing nominations if awards really don’t matter that much?

A simple answer would be that the Sad Puppy model is just the Rabid Puppy model – i.e. a publicity stunt. However if that was the case it is odd that the Puppies have got so upset in terms of the reaction – and unlike Vox Day the upsetness seems genuine. Brad Torgersen has appeared on many blogs critical of Sad Puppy 3 trying to explain himself – and often digging himself into a deeper hole.

If we go back to Monster Hunter Nation (Correia’s blog) it is worth pointing out a different thing he does: an Amazon ‘Book Bomb’ (http://monsterhunternation.com/?s=book+Bomb ). A book bomb is when people coordinate to buy a particular book from Amazon on a particular day – by the potential readers all buying on the same day rather than spread over several days, the book will rise much higher in Amazon sales ranking for that period. Away from puppydom, this was done most notably by the short story collection “Machine of Death” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_of_Death as a kind of prank/publicity stunt that had the amusing side effect of annoying Glenn Beck.

Correia regularly organizes book bombs for books from authors he likes and personally I can’t see anything wrong with it. the Amazon rankings are a bit silly and I don’t see that anybody gets harmed by it and overall it encourages people to both write and to read. Rather like Mad Genius in general or Torgersen’s regular reviews of upcoming authors, it is all an example of a kind of mutual aid among a group of aspiring authors. It is like a kind of benevolent fraternity/sorority or  a friendly Masonic group or a local chamber of commerce. Despite the image of business being a cut throat competitive world, anybody who has run a small business knows that cooperation makes sense. Business networks are particularly important for small businesses as they are more vulnerable to tough economic times, competition from big business and also each business by itself operates with a smaller and less diverse skill set. Sharing knowledge and experience makes sense.

Local chamber’s of commerce also can run awards and there are even more general systems of local awards such as these in Australia https://thebusinessawards.com.au/about .

The Local Business Awards aim to pay tribute to and reward the local community’s best businesses. It also aims to develop and strengthen the bonds between businesses and the community thereby improving the standards of local businesses.

The benefits to your business by participating

The Local Business Awards are based within the local community. The awards give local businesses the opportunity to:

Promote their business and its strengths.
Display their range of products and services.
Provide in-store displays of their Local Business Awards success.

While quality etc. are part of such an award scheme the key issue is promotion. Again it isn’t likely that an award will make such a big difference but rather like the Amazon book bomb it is all part of a way of promoting and doing your fellow businesses a favor. It is also a way of demonstrating to an individual business (or author) that they are part of a group of mutually supporting people – a mark of acceptance.

Having said all that about mutual aid, the perceived subjective nature of awards and their use in marking acceptance, it is really hard to ignore the political aspect of the Sad Puppy campaign. In response to controversy around the Sad Puppy 2 slate in 2014 Larry Correia wrote a lengthy post on his blog outlining his thoughts: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/04/24/an-explanation-about-the-hugo-awards-controversy/

Allow me to explain why the presence of my slate on the Hugo nominations is so controversial. This is complicated and your time is valuable, so short explanation first, longer explanation if you care after.

Short Version:

  1. I said a chunk of the Hugo voters are biased toward the left, and put the author’s politics far ahead of the quality of the work. Those openly on the right are sabotaged. This was denied.
  2. So I got some right wingers on the ballot.
  3. The biased voters immediately got all outraged and mobilized to do exactly what I said they’d do.
  4. Point made.

I’ve said for a long time that the awards are biased against authors because of their personal beliefs. Authors can either cheer lead for left wing causes, or they can keep their mouth shut. Open disagreement is not tolerated and will result in being sabotaged and slandered. Message or identity politics has become far more important than entertainment or quality. I was attacked for saying this. I knew that when an admitted right winger got in they would be maligned and politicked against, not for the quality of their art but rather for their unacceptable beliefs.

Larry Correia’s post continues and much of it is focused on the political aspects. In a similar vain political aspects are raised on the Mad Genius club site and at Brad Torgersen’s blog as well. It is really difficult to see this as anything other than a straight left v right conflict when looking at the content of many Sad Puppy posts.

In addition looking at the Puppy complaint through a predominately political lens just highlights the absurdity of some of the claims and takes us straight back to Snowcrash’s questions. Correia’s account simply doesn’t add up and it avoids completely that people were upset about the slate rather than people on the right getting nominated – except perhaps Vox day’s nomination. Yet even Vox Day is an obvious counter-example, a man well known for his extreme and outspoken views, who nevertheless once served on a Nebula Award jury in 2004 and 2007. In terms of a grand conspiracy by the elites of SF to keep conservatives out, having Vox Day as juror for a major award seems to be a very odd move.

The political lens simply takes us in circles. Correia and other Puppies seem to believe what they are saying despite lacking any evidence that adds up. It makes no sense to assume they are lying because then we are left with no motive at all.

However, politics is just a small part of this or rather politics and ideology are not that relevant in terms of actual ideological content. Rather the issue that Larry Correia (and others) keep returning to is ideology as a marker of a group. Brad Torgersen refers to some of the modern debate around racism and sexism as culturalist tribalism in this post: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/tribalism-is-as-tribalism-does/

Here is a different model:

  1. They see writing primarily as a business. e.g. Brad Torgersen: “And since I am an entrepreneur — all commercial writers are, when you get right down to it” https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/why-do-it/
  2. They see mutual aid between fellow authors as an important service
  3. They regard awards in themselves as subjective and of no intrinsic value but…
  4. Also see them as mean of promotion of businesses and…
  5. As a mark of inclusion

Now I’d add to this that they see this not as a ‘should’ but as an ‘is’. The view isn’t that the Hugo (or other awards) should become these things but that they already are these things – just a dysfunctional example. As a consequence the question is why the Hugos are not operating in that way (i.e. celebrating the best businesses, giving a boost to new ones, basically being the Chamber of Commerce for the business of SF). Without any other obvious answer to that issue (because it is actually based on a faulty model) the answer they fell upon was that the Hugos were behaving dysfunctionally because of the left.

Correia’s journey

The most direct example of this idea of the Hugo awards being a mark of inclusion into a mutually supporting group is Larry Correia’s own accounts of engaging with WorldCon. In 2011 he was nominated for a Campbell Award. While not actually a Hugo Award (it says so in its full name) it is awarded at WorldCon and the nomination and voting process is the same.

Correia’s contemporaneous account of his visit to the Nevada WorldCon is given here http://monsterhunternation.com/2011/08/23/worldcon-report/ and it is an up beat and positive account of what sounds like a nice experience for everybody concerned. He didn’t win but he seems to have taken that in his stride and enjoyed the company of his fellow nominees.

But anyway, Lev Grossman won the Campbell. Looking at the results afterward, I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t really a surprise, since I knew going in that my odds of winning were really low. (I’m not exactly the sort of writer most of the WorldCon voters root for, but more on that in the next blog post). Just getting nominated to begin with was a huge surprise. But anyways, congrats to Lev.

The contrasts with his account then and his later accounts in which he characterizes it as a more alienating experience is so notiecable that Correia more recently added an addendum to the post.

EDIT-4/10/2015: It seems weird to have to go back and make a note on a post from years ago, but some clever types brought this up to show that I had a wonderful experience at WorldCon, and anything I said later about bias in the system, or negative experiences isn’t true, and thus all the fans on my side are wrong and bad.

Note a couple of things, above I said I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t really a surprise, since I knew going in that my odds of winning were really low. (I’m not exactly the sort of writer most of the WorldCon voters root for, but more on that in the next blog post). … And then I didn’t? Yeah, I didn’t write that post then because I chickened out.

In 2011 I was still under the impression that I could be nice and keep my head down and play along and maybe eventually they would accept me. I was a new guy. All of my peers and friends in the industry told me to only talk about the positives, smile, and not say anything. I was afraid that if I talked about the negatives, it would be bad for my career.

So in this post I left out the negatives and only talked about the positives. It was at that birthday party that I was pissed off and ranting, but Toni Weisskopf talked me down from saying anything.

Brad was my roommate, and I vented to him about assholes trying to pick fights, and he warned me off of being anything but nice, and gracious too. Wow, have times changed.

But I’ve got a hard time biting my tongue, and being nice turned out to be useless because they kept attacking me anyway. By the time San Antonio rolled around, it was all in the open.

So for the TNH crowd vectoring in on this one post to try and discredit me, yep, you got me. Back then I was still afraid of you.

Correia was invited in to join a club and the members of that club turned on him and rejected him and Correia was rightfully angry – but, it wasn’t actually a club and people were just a bunch of people and that isn’t how WorldCon or the Hugo’s (or the Campbell’s) work. Correia’s blog was assertively conservative prior to his nomination and it was assertively conservative afterwards – there was no great mystery about his politics when he was nominated and none afterwards. It is noticeable that it only took from August 2011 to January 2013 for the Sad Puppy campaign to start taking shape: http://monsterhunternation.com/2013/01/08/how-to-get-correia-nominated-for-a-hugo/

he Hugo awards are the most prestigious thing you can get in sci-fi/fantasy (other than fat royalty checks, obviously). Getting nominated for a Hugo is a great resume builder. I was a finalist for the Campbell award for best new writer a couple of years back, and though the Campbell is a separate award from the Hugo, it works through the same system, same voters, and is even given away at the same ceremony. Going through that experience was very enlightening.

The Hugo is pretty fancy, but basically, like most awards, it is a popularity contest.

Yet by the end of 2012 he clearly already did genuinely feel shut out. That is, if we see the start of the campaign as primarily an aggressive move, and that is the perception of the Sad Puppy campaigns but it is a mistake to assume Correia saw it that way. Certainly his rhetoric and tone look aggressive but that is his normal blog style. It makes more sense to see this as Correia just engaging in self-promotion and doing so because he assumes (despite evidence to the contrary) that is the what people do and they just sort of pretend that they don’t. Of course there is all sorts of self promotion going on all the time by all authors but such overt campaigning for the Hugos (particularly with this politically partisan tinge to it) was unusual. Given some of the later rhetoric it is easy to confuse the objection to John Scalzi’s style of self promotion as a kind of protest (i.e. as if the Puppies were saying Scalzi was wrong to self promote and therefore are using a slate because the system has become corrupt). Instead it is better to see the objection to Scalzi (at least initially and putting aside more free-form Scalzi-hate) as more that his self-promotion was fine but that non-Puppies in general objecting to Correia’s more assertive self-promotion was hypocritical

Top-down reasoning and confirmation bias

So I have a sort of model but it needs some more fuel to the cognitive fire. Part of the issue is confirmation bias. Now that is also an issue with everything I’ve just written because I have clearly gone looking for things to help develop my model and ignored stuff that doesn’t fit. I’ll give myself a pass though because at this point I’m just trying to develop a hypothesis rather than committing myself to a set of beliefs.

In terms of the Puppy arguments and justifications we do see a degree of confirmation bias. Any instance of a person in some way promoting themselves or encouraging Hugo nominations or votes is seen as establishing that this was normal behavior but people not doing so or, more importantly, that such behavior was limited in extent and scale, is ignored. Every case of some left-wing person or feminist or advocate of LGBTI rights asserting their views within fandom is taken as evidence of many people in SF publishing or writing holding the same views. Now it could be argued that people on the left do exactly the same kind of thing – generalizing from a few extreme examples to a much wider group of people on the right- which may be true but isn’t relevant. The issue here isn’t to establish that the Puppy campaign was bad as this is more easily established by the disruption it caused and the poor quality of the works nominated. The issue is to establish what the thinking was behind the campaign and this kind of over generalization does seem to be important.

Another aspect is what I would call ‘top-down reasoning’. What I mean by that is partly covered here -a kind of informal style of reasoning that mimics the axiomatic style of geometry. Start with generalities and reason your way to particulars. How it differs from more empirical or reality-based reasoning is that the particulars are not then judged against the available evidence. So if a Puppy takes it as truth widely acknowledged that WorldCon is dominated by left-wingers and that left-wingers promote message fiction then they can conclude that left-wingers use the Hugo Awards to promote message fiction. Of course they would because that is what they do! The conclusion, in top-down reasoning, does not need to be then tested against actual examples.

A notable example is this comment from Brad Torgersen: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/musings-not-sorted/

Golly, I am pretty sure the point of Sad Puppies 3 was to make the final ballot more inclusive, not less. Didn’t we say that? I’m pretty sure we said that. More, not less. Big tent, not small tent. Nobody can tell anybody they don’t belong. Isn’t that what I personally have been banging my pot about for years now, even before Sad Puppies came along?

Brad was citing this as an argument against claims that Sad Puppies was anti-diversity. However rather than point to the increased diversity due to the Sad Puppy campaign (which would be factually tricky) he points to what the Sad Puppies had said about themselves. Ironically Torgersen has elsewhere noted the need to check the ‘narrative’ against the facts https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/narratives-vs-facts/ but as with many of his posts he seems to have avoided applying the lesson to his own Sad Puppy campaign.

Answering Snowcrash’s questions

With no Puppies being available or willing to answer Snowcrash’s questions I can now use my model to make a virtual Puppy who I can interrogate at will. OK this is something of a Straw Puppy but it is all I have.

The questions are:

  1. A honest explanation as to how the SP3 slate was created,
  2. How the tactics of slate-nominations furthers *any* of the constantly changing rationales provided by the Puppies
  3. Anyone taking on the Mamatas Challenge
  4. Evidence of a previous slate/ bloc-voting effort. The Puppies keep saying that’s the only way Stuff They Don’t Like Could have won, but are strangely reticent at providing any evidence or proof of their allegations.
  5. Why Wisdom of the Internet???? Seriously why? (And yelling about Scalzi is not a good answer)
  • A honest explanation as to how the SP3 slate was created? Well we know it was filled with people Brad Torgersen knew or worked with in writing. So the explanation that best fits is that they were all business-owners (in a sense) that Brad felt deserved credit either because they had been good at promoting the business of SF writing (Butcher, Anderson) or were businesses that needed a pat on the back. Torgersen probably honestly felt he was doing each of them a favor – hence is confused reaction when some nominees did not react well when they understood what had occurred. His choices were only political in so far as he thought the reason why past Hugo Awards hadn’t been functioning properly was because of the nefarious actions of the left. The politics, as he saw it, was one sided.
  • How the tactics of slate-nominations furthers *any* of the constantly changing rationales provided by the Puppies? The slate tactic makes no sense and makes no sense in terms of the post-hoc rationalizations that have been given by the Puppies. However, it is important to understand that the rationalization given have been post-hoc rationalizations. The slate tactic rather was a natural outcome of the Puppy perception of awards. The mechanism of the award is meaningless and the award itself symbolic of no intrinsic value. What mattered was people getting the nomination and hence getting the mark of endorsement. Given that, what mattered was getting people he was rewarding nominating and maximizing that number. The point was to nominate people rather than works and so he filled up as many slots as possible.
  • Anyone taking on the Mamatas Challenge? The answer is all works winners (except with exceptions available when people bring them up). The axioms are that: Left-wingers promote message fiction & Left-wingers controlled the Hugos. Therefore: The Hugos were dominated by message fiction. Top-down pseudo-syllogistic reasoning trumps any actual examples.
  • Evidence of a previous slate/ bloc-voting effort? See previous answer. It is taken as axiomatic that such awards must be the result of deals and agreements because there isn’t any other way they could work because awards are purely arbitrary. Throw in general leftist themed conspiracy theories and it becomes an established truth. Evidence isn’t needed.
  • Why Wisdom of the Internet? People, not works. Williamson had to be nominated for something because he works hard at promoting himself to his audience. Torgersen had already filled the other slots so best related work was what was open. Additionally it demonstrates how Williamson promotes himself – social media ‘humor’

So there you have it. Our virtual puppy answers.


15 thoughts on “The Unified Puppy Theory

  1. Hmm. But if the point was getting people (businesses) the mark of recognition that goes with being nominated, why nominate the same person (business) three times as they did with John C Wright? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hand two of those nominations to other equally deserving entities? Surely there were a couple of other “small businesses” who had been left out of the dysfunctional chamber-of-commerce backpatting circle that he thought the Hugos had been till then?

    I lean toward the “get my friends and mentors nominated part of this” but see a strain of vengefulness here. They nominated John C. Wright three times for the same reason they nominated Vox Day in the previous year; in addition to wanting to boost their careers and those of their friends and business acquaintances (with a certain amount of you-scratch-my-back; I’ll-scratch-yours collusion going on within and between years) they *also* very much wanted to upset people.

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    1. Good point and even Correia’s earliest Sad Puppy posts have lines about sticking it to the man and/or it was sucking up to Vox Day in both cases. Torgersen has been a bit cagey about the relationship between SP3 and Vox Day – VD may have asked for multiple Castalia house noms as a quid-pro-quo for delivering votes.

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    2. Ah, correction! Sad Puppy 3 nominated John C Wright only twice. https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/sad-puppies-3-the-2015-hugo-slate/ once for Novella and once for Best Related Work. Also I’d forgotten they had nominated Charles Gannon in best Novel (a SP that didn’t make it to the final ballot) – so I can strike that off my list of people-it-was-odd-they-didnt-nominate and move it to the list of sad-puppy-noms-bumped-by-rabid-puppies.

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  2. I genuinely like your simple explanation: that the Puppies wish the Hugos were solely a commercially led operation (I love the phrase “being the Chamber of Commerce for the business of SF”), with none of that awkward artistic merit being allowed to impede the promotion of success.

    The other key problem with tribalism is that you mustn’t extend any consideration to anyone outside the tribe, even if they are making good suggestions and if they do make good suggestions, they must be swallowed up and rebranded (we’ve just had a classic example of that in the UK where the new Government has stolen a bunch of the opposition’s policies and they are being praised for their innovative radicalism, and we are told about how if the opposition had been in power, they’d never have implemented them and anyway that version was a lot less beneficial etc. etc. OK, not the place to get into that argument. :-))

    The notion that people might not like the works because of their quality rather than because they belong to another tribe seems not to have entered their heads, which is unsurprising for those caught in that vicious circle. (Mind you, as you note, it’s very unclear whether Vox Day was actually exhibiting tribalism or merely exploiting it in others. There is a lot of evidence for the latter.)

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    1. I think with Vox Day you can look at the World Net Daily model and see that it is genuine in its political intent AND seeks to exploit its readers cynically at the sane time. Which is remarkable.

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  3. I missed this out when it came up I think, but thanks Camestros! It states fairly clearly (and in better terms than I would’ve managed!) the conclusions that I’ve arrived at as well – that for SP3, even the culture war aspects were secondary to the cronyism.

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  4. Really nice unpacking of a complicated and messy event.

    I would add after listening to the 8/1 podcast for a bit, the puppies do stick to the point they brought more diversity to the ballot — to my view painfully missing the point that they *shoved* everything else off the ballot and the items they point to as diversity were only allowed as a result of works being withdrawn / invalidated.

    My unsubstantiated view is many sad voters did not vote a strict slate but they hewed fairly close to it. However they did not expect to win complete short lists of nominations. It’s truly the rabids that upset the apple cart.

    I think the dialog has really been with the faction that is ‘least’ responsible but closest in appreciation of SF; which means it goes nowhere but circles as the sads deny slates, but also deny the rabid’s agency — all the while taking to heart any criticism directed their way. It really reminds me of discussions of white privilege, where individual actions are deemed as a valid excuse for not rectifying structural inequalities.

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    1. I think you are correct about the Rabids being the ones who actually flooded the nominations. The non-Rabid Sad Puppy nominees did not fare well overall.
      I still can’t explain the extent to which somebody like Brad Torgersen is willing to take all the flak for a mess that was largely Vox Day’s making.

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      1. Part of why Torgersen continues to take the flak, I think, is that neither Sads nor Rabids believe in apologizing, or in owning up to mistakes. An apology is seen as weakness, as backing down. No one will ever say, “Hey, maybe it was a bad idea to bring in Vox Day,” or “Hey, if we thought we’d sweep the ballot like this we’d have put more work into our nominations.” They might think it, late at night when they can’t sleep, but anyone who actually said it would be shouted down.

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