Unpicking a Pupspiracy: Part 2

In Unpicking a Pupspiracy: Part 1 I looked at this post at Mad Genius from April 2015.

Dave Freer moves on from claiming a British national newspaper was conspiring against the Puppies to a more familiar target.

A year later, TNH launched into a furious tirade on her blog, ‘Making Light’… attacking the Sad Puppies for sweeping the Hugo Noms. Threatening to bring down retribution for being nominated. Now coming from such a powerful person in Traditional Publishing, and one with… shall we say wide influence (the links are… telling) this is fairly serious bullying. Abuse of power.

But the important thing is WHEN IT HAPPENED.

It happened BEFORE the embargo was lifted.

These facts lead inexorably to a question so simple and so obvious I can’t see how anyone can miss it asking it:


Again Dave doesn’t link to the post in question but a reasonable guess is that it is this one: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html

Teresa Neilsen Hayden started a thread at Making Light entitled “Distant Thunder and the Smell of Ozone” on March 24 2015:

Distant thunder, and the smell of ozone
Posted by Teresa at 07:08 PM *

I’ve been keeping an ear on the SF community’s gossip, and I think the subject of this year’s Hugo nominations is about to explode.

Let me make this clear: my apprehensions are not based on insider information. I’m just correlating bits of gossip. It may help that I’ve been a member of the SF community for decades.

If the subject does blow up, I may write about it in this space. In any event, watch that space.

March 24 all that Teresa Neilsen Hayden knew (as far as we can tell from what she said) was that issues around the Hugo nominations might ‘explode’.  Perhaps she knew a lot more, perhaps she had personally inspected each & every Hugo ballot – but from the actual evidence we have, Teresa only thought that the 2015 Hugo nominations would be controversial. How could she have known? Well aside from the fact that there had been controversies the past two years at least, and not just one but two Puppy slates and a whole heap of controversy already – oh, and as author Charlie Stross suggested:

#13 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2015, 06:35 AM:

One clear possibility is for there to be an explosion over the nomination (or otherwise) of the individual behind Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

BS made it onto the Campbell shortlist last year, and emitted at least one work of short fiction in the time period eligible for the 2015 Hugos that is, in my opinion, potentially of Hugo grade.

(I suspect the individual behind the multiple pseudonyms/sock puppets now has cause to regret the effect of their earlier bullying on their subsequent writing career, but I think further commentary is inadvisable.)

Ironically Stross was 180 degrees out on that specific issue – instead Laura Mixon was nominated for best Fan Writer on the strength of her report on Requires Hate’s behaviour. In a normal year, that might have been controversy enough but 2015 really was about to explode. Regardless, this is a wholly unremarkable feat of prognostication equivalent to ‘there will be Hugo controversy’

It is worth noting here that TNH’s post does have a kind of Nostradamus effect (or Nostradumbass as Dave Freer puts it). Her statement was so vague that it could have meant anything…but Dave’s 20-20 hindsight takes a vague comment and magically transforms it into Teresa Nielsen Hayden knowing every detail of the Hugo nomination results.  Notably the commenters at Making Light at the time did not all leap to the conclusion that it was a clean sweep of puppy nominations – at least not right away. However, fate then took a little twist…

March 25 semiprozine The Book Smugglers noticed that Michael Z Williamson had announced that his book ‘Wisdom from My Internet’ had been nominated for a Hugo. Williamson’s announcement was premature and before the April 4 public announcement: https://twitter.com/booksmugglers/status/580720241837256704

Williamson (correctly & sensibly) then deleted what he had said, so I can’t link to it. My point isn’t to attack Williamson (I’ve been mean enough to his ‘book’ already, and it was pretty minor issue in the grand scheme of things) but simply to point out that people on the Puppy side were leaking like the proverbial sieve – and that NON-PUPPIES were noticing. Now consider how revealing Williamson’s revelation was – one of the weakest Puppy slated works had made it onto the finalist list. The possibility of a Puppy sweep was much more likely than it had been i.e. if Wisdom From My Internet had made the ballot there was a very good chance that better stuff had as well.

March 26 – The first revelation of any significant details came from Patrick Nielsen Hayden rather than Teresa: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html#4047197

Regarding Best Novel: I’ve heard that three of the five finalists are SP-endorsed. (Which, see above, doesn’t in itself guarantee that any of them are unworthy of a Hugo.) I don’t know what any of those three books are. I do know the identity of the other two, and I don’t think anyone in this conversation will regard them as unworthy candidates. (Disclaimer: Neither of them are books Teresa or I worked on in any way.)

Dave Freer sees this as something of a smoking gun and said about it (once it had been pointed out to him) “There is no way PNH is entitled to know of either, and the Orbit (a rival publisher) one suggests to me that DoJ prosecution for publisher/Apple collusion to fix e-book prices (which the parties besides Apple settled) was more than justified.”

It certainly suggests that either two authors or two editors blabbed a little but it doesn’t suggest some systematic collusion on the scale of price fixing – particularly as nobody (including PNH) had done what the nominees had been asked not to do i.e. PUBLICIZE that they had been nominated until April 4.

Meanwhile, from the Puppy side there are no further leaks per-se but fairly clear indications that things were heading their way.

[ETA] March 27 Brad Torgersen comments on the Making Light thread: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html#4050645 saying (among other things) “Third gentle suggestion: instead of instantly decrying and turfing the categories (when the results are released next week) perhaps some of you can read the works, and make a decision based on your enjoyment of the works. That’s really all Sad Puppies 3 is about. We identified authors, artists, and works which we knew would struggle to find recognition without some active effort on our part.” Brad’s comment does not overtly confirm a Puppy sweep but is expressed in a way that suggests that is what people will say when the results are released.

March 29 Brad Torgersen publishes this somewhat triumphalist message: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/nail-house/

[ETA] March 30 TNH speculates that comments from puppy supporters indicate a sweep of nominations and cites Brad Torgersen’s earlier comment as evidence: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html#4059860 “I think they’ve succeeded in f*cking up the ballot beyond all expectation, and they know the SF community is going to explode when we see it.”

March 30 Larry Correia joins in: http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/03/30/sad-puppies-update-honesty-from-the-other-side/

So what do we have? Another unremarkable collection of events. The only straight leak being from Michael Z Williamson and the rest being speculation or professional gossip.

Dave Freer asks rhetorically:

Larry Correia got a libelous fact-free attack in 2014 by the Guardian accusing him of racism and sexism and everything short of eating small children for breakfast – a major UK paper. In 2015 Brad Torgersen and Larry and the Sad Puppies got the same ‘racist sexist homophobe’ libelous drivel screeched by Entertainment Weekly (EW) A major US Media outlet, including the gem that the Sad Puppies had had an all male, all white slate – which is of course provably a lie. For no reason at all suddenly newspapers across the world picked up on the drivel… and spread it around. It’s ridiculous to assume this would ‘just happen’. WorldCon SOUNDS a big deal. ‘World’ – but it really is a midget compared DragonCon or ComicCon – in News terms, a few thousand people attend and Hugo noms are a few HUNDRED votes. It’s suburban news. Village news. You know, stuff that can’t make it into the local paper, let alone anything bigger. You, or I could never ever get that report into a local paper never mind major media.

Yet, The Guardian has covered the Hugo Awards long before Sad Puppies existed. Here, for example, from 2009 http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/jul/29/hugo-sf-awards-democracy or this article from 2011 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/apr/26/women-hugo-awards-shortlist and (as Dave had actually already pointed out) The Guardian has a writer who was interested in what Larry Correia was up to.

As for later coverage, by April 6 George R.R. Martin (a figure of sufficient newsworthiness to attract the attention of more than your local newspaper) had indicated that he was going to address the topic at length and by April 8 had started making long posts on the topic.

Despite uncovering no unremarkable fact beyond Teresa Neilsen Hayden thinking that the Hugos would be controversial the day before Michael Z Williamson spilled the beans, it was necessary for Dave to build a web of conspiracy around fairly unremarkable facts. Why?

We are back to the same idea – a notion that hidden forces conspire against the Puppies and hence retaliation in some form or another is justified. The main target is probably not intended to be Hugo administrators but in both cases Dave Freer hints at leaks or shady dealings on the basis of little or no evidence.
[ETA: “2014” NOW 2015]



  1. Mark

    Here’s an interesting thing from that Making Light thread: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016177.html#4059860
    In it TNH develops her theory (pre-announcement) that SP may be on to a big sweep based on the known MZW nomination, and the tone of their recent comments (inc the Brad and Larry pieces you note). That’s pretty much in line with the post-announcement comment of hers that Dave quotes in his article.
    So Dave’s rhetorical “how did she know” had an Occams razor answer available – she was making an educated guess based on publicly known facts.
    Really, once you boil his Guardian claim down to “Damian Walter wrote an article mentioning Larry in the fortnight leading to the announcement” and his TNH claim down to “she was making a good educated guess, and labeled it as such” then there’s not much left in his article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. snowcrash

    Oh dear. I like to call this When Occam’s Razor Took a Vacation., and this is among my favourite of The Freer Theorems. The idea that the only way (P&T)NH heard rumblings about the possible Puppy sweep was through $CABAL_INSIDER_POWERS was a breathtaking leap by itself, but putting it together as part of some Worldcon Anti-Pup feels was amazing.

    Because, of course, this is far simpler than that, say Tor authors KJA and John Wright may have told their agents/ editors/ colleagues privately. That it is far simpler than that the NHs, beyond being deeply embedded in the industry and possibly hearing this, would have made the, slightly less breathtaking leap that if the above, and MZW et al made the Hugo nomination, that there would have a significant impact from the slates.

    Nope. Cabal, Conspiracy, and Canine Abuse is far simpler.


    • camestrosfelapton

      I added Brad T’s comment from the Making Light thread – it is hard not to get the impression that he was expecting many puppy finalists – which isn’t a big deal by itself but means the cat/puppy was out of the bag.


  3. Archbishop Laudanum

    So I had this million dollar idea — the Conspiracy Channel. There’s a vast target demographic out there and the genre itself is self-perpetuating. Too bad cable is (mostly) dead now. Too bad. I’d make a good millionaire, I think.


    • camestrosfelapton

      It’s almost a winner but needs more ‘reality’ – suggest “Americas Top Consipracy Theorist’ in which people have to compete to convince more people that their wacky theory is right…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark

        And for a presenter, I think a certain well-known reality TV star and Birther will be looking for employment soon enough…


  4. Archbishop Laudanum

    Hey man, you tryinta muscle in, lookin’ for a cut ? It’s gonna be yooge I tell ya. Yooge. D-list celebrities and cranks abound. Easy money.

    I actually have another million-dollar idea related the Rio Olympics, but no manufacturing game. I still want my millions though.


  5. hypnotosov

    “There is no way PNH is entitled to know of either, and the Orbit (a rival publisher) one suggests to me that DoJ prosecution for publisher/Apple collusion to fix e-book prices (which the parties besides Apple settled) was more than justified.”

    This to me is the most telling remark. There is literally no connection other than the fact that PNH works at a publisher, but the link is too juicy for a conspiracy theorist to leave out. (the suggestion of collusion between publishers also contradicts the claim that the Nielsen Hayden’s have special access to the Hugo results).
    This is all part of a slightly unhinged version of the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, where the sharpshooters claim that all the holes within his bullseye are actually gunshots.


  6. Archbishop Laudanum

    I really do think I’ve hit on a limitless market here. These conspiracy people and their ideas seem to divide like Mickey’s brooms in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice /Fantasia.

    “On Super Tuesday, Dale Clark voted for a local Republican who claimed on social media that President Obama had worked as a gay prostitute in his youth, that the United States should ban Islam, that the Democratic Party had John F. Kennedy killed and that the United Nations had hatched a plot to depopulate the world.”


    • camestrosfelapton

      It is a growing field indeed. US Conservatism has effectively run a program of destroying critical thinking within itself as a movement over the last 40-50 years. It took time and effort but now it has no immune system when it comes to wacky ideas.


  7. Archbishop Laudanum

    It’s interesting that you mention immunity. I’ve often wished I had more interdisciplinary chops to some up with some sort of poli sci/ immunology hybrid to explain mutations and predict/create immune responses.


  8. Tasha Turner

    One of the things I heard being talked about around that time is a number of “expected” nominees mentioned (privately not publicly) they had heard from Hugo admins.


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