I’m currently near to finishing an update to the Puppy Kerfuffle timeline. The update includes Sp4 stuff as well as some extra bits around the 2013 SFWA controversies.
One issue I thought I hadn’t looked at what was a key piece of Puppy mythology: basically that their enemies are being tipped off by Hugo administrators to enable shenanigans of a vague and never entirely explained nature. A key proponent of this Pupspiracy theory is Mad Genius Dave Freer. In particular this piece from mid April 2015 http://madgeniusclub.com/2015/04/13/nostradumbass-and-madame-bugblatterfatski/
Freer’s piece has two pupspiracies in it; one from Sad Puppies 2 and one from Sad Puppies 3. I’m going to look at the first here and the second in Part 2. However, both use a particular odd kind of fallacious reasoning that we’ve seen Dave use before. It is a sort of a fallacy of significance testing mixed with a false dichotomy and not understanding how probability works. If it has a Latin name then I don’t know it but it goes like this.
- Event X happened completely by chance or…
- Event X happened by [INSERT HYPOTHESIS].
- Event X happening by chance is really, really unlikely – just imagine all the coincidences!
- Event X happened by [INSERT HYPOTHESIS]
Of course Event X being really unlikely does point to it not happening purely by chance but the fallacy above forgets that there are LOTS of ways things can happen by something other than chance.
Let’s look at the first pupspiracy. Quoting Dave Freer:
Here is the first fact, easily verified. On the 11th of April 2014 Larry Correia got his notification of being shortlisted from the Hugo Administrators (very honest people, see quote 2) for LonCon 2014, a WorldCon held in the UK. On the same day the UK left-wing newspaper “The Guardian” – more famous for its typos than the quality of its journalism, but still a large newspaper, a reporter called Damien Walters launched a furious tirade at an American author he had never mentioned before (Damian is frequent in his praise singing for Charlie Stross, and more recently Alex Dally McFarlane who writes sometimes for Tor.com to name two people associated with him (Alex one of the few people named as a co-conspirator to the internet troll and bully ‘Requires Hate’ aka Benjanun Sriduankaew some of whose work appeared in a collection edited by Ann Leckie, and also seems a favorite on Tor.com – all these people seem to know or have worked with each other). He accused the author (Larry Correia) of racism, misogyny and all round being a rubbish writer, and evil to boot.
The chances of a ‘hit’ piece, intended to denigrate, on an American populist author with little impact on his British scene, in a publication that tends to Ahrt, are slim. The chance of it happening the very day that the Hugo Nomination shortlist is released, targeting an audience who might possibly go to LonCon, but probably would not have heard of Larry Correia? In other words, to poison minds well before they saw their voter packets…
The chance that this happened purely by accident – about the same as a fully armed nuclear missile turning into a Sperm whale a few seconds before impact.
Hmm. You’ll note the clause “The chance that this happened purely by accident…”.
Re-reading this many months later, I realized that I had a glaring omission in my timeline: the ‘hit piece’ by Damien Walters! Obviously a key part of the Sad Puppy story – a major newspaper attacking a Hugo nominee AND getting a scoop on who had been nominated prior to that being publicly released! So, Damien Walters, April 11 and…wait…hold on…I already DO have an April 11 Guardian piece by Damien Walters in the timeline.
The entry says:
|The Guardian publishes an article called ‘Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer ‘ by Damien Walter. The article criticises Larry Correia’s position.|
And here is the link: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/11/science-fiction-needs-to-reflect-queer-fluid-gender-identity Notably Dave Freer did NOT include a link to the article. Why not? Well, I suggest you read Walter’s article first.
While Dave misrepresents the article and doesn’t include the link, he does actually provide the relevant detail to the supposed mystery: “Damian is frequent in his praise singing for Charlie Stross, and more recently Alex Dally McFarlane”
Alex Dally McFarlane is also in the timeline because of this article at Tor.com late January: http://www.tor.com/2014/01/21/post-binary-gender-in-sf-introduction/ An article that Larry Correia had then fisked here: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/01/28/ending-binary-gender-in-fiction-or-how-to-murder-your-writing-career/ and to which Jim C Hines had counter fisked: http://www.jimchines.com/2014/01/fiskception/
So Damian Walters who does write about Alex Dally McFarlane, writes a piece on gender/sexuality in SF in the newspaper that he regularly writes about SF in and mentions Larry Correia. Indeed the article overtly mentions McFarlane’s piece and Jim Hines reply to Correia. Indeed Correia is only mentioned in defense of McFarlane’s piece.
How unlikely is it that a Guardian writer who writes about SF issues and is a fan of McFarlane’s piece should mention Larry Correia? Quite high, I’d think, at least not so exceptionally improbable that it requires some special motivation. But…who knows…maybe I got the wrong April 11 Guardian piece by Damien Walters with Larry Correia in it. I guess I must have because it doesn’t match Dave Freer’s description very well: “He accused the author (Larry Correia) of racism, misogyny and all round being a rubbish writer, and evil to boot.” Nope – that is the right article and here is Larry Correia’s more contemporary reaction to it: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/04/15/larry-f-correia-international-lord-of-hate/ (Larry also suggests that it is an evil plot to make him look bad because Hugos)
Even so, why Walters would mention Correia in any piece is no mystery (even if we ignore Larry’s two-year public campaign for a Hugo award).
But, but, what about the coincidence of the article being on the VERY day Larry received his notification that he’d been nominated for a Hugo! Well, there is a reason we have the word ‘coincidence’ in English. Dave would have us believe that Walter’s was tipped off in advance (indeed for it to be published in the Guardian on April 11 it would have needed to be before Larry knew) and get his editor to agree to an article etc etc. Or, on the other hand, we can think ‘what is the chance that an article that could have been relevant over a few months might have been published on one specific day in those few months’ and come up with a figure that is low but not so freakishly low that a conspiracy is required to explain it.
In addition, to what purpose? Dave Freer, of course, characterizes it as more exhaustive ‘hit’ on Larry’s character. Presumably to dissuade all the Guardian readers not to vote for Larry Correia. A simpler way of doing this would have been to wait till Larry’s nomination had been announced and simply link to Larry’s blog. [Note: 2014 was LonCon ie. Worldcon was in London so the proportion of active Guardian readers voting would have been higher – so that aspect isn’t quite as bonkers]
What is more interesting than Walters motives is what were Dave Freer’s motives? Apart from the general ‘us poor pups are persecuted’, it appears to be part of a general and repeated attack on the integrity of the Hugo administrators. I find that both sad and disappointing from Dave.
More in part 2 when we leap forward to 2015.
[Update] Nicholas Whyte has pointed me to a piece he wrote in his LiveJournal on April 15 2015 entitled “On how and when the Guardian was informed about the 2014 Hugo shortlist” http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2453218.html
Nicholas writes: “I know for sure that the timing of Damien Walter’s piece was definitely not because the Guardian knew the details of the Hugo ballot before 11 April. I know this because, in my capacity as Loncon 3’s Director of Promotions, it was I who sent that information to the Guardian on 17 April, six days after Damien Walters’ article was published, and two days before the ballot was announced on 19 April. I myself saw the shortlist for the first time only on 14 April, three days after the publication of Damien Walters’ article (which I don’t think I had read until just now).”
He also has a moon landing picture 🙂
[ETA: “awarded” changed to “nominated”]
[ETA2: It has been pointed out that Damien Walter’s column in the Guardian appears fortnightly on a Friday – and yes April 11 2014 was a Friday]