Tired Puppies 2017

A couple of significant notes of ‘meh’ today from the watchtowers looking over Puppydom.

tiredpupsFirstly Vox Day has announced his Rabid Puppy slate and it is a testament to just how tired the whole Rabid Puppy thing has become. There were no obvious upsides to the previous Rabid Puppy campaigns but at least there was something to talk about it. This time the brilliant strategy is to just nominate one or two things per category to defeat EPH (i.e. EPH provoking the behavioural change it was intended to provoke). Aside from that, it is the obvious hostages (Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, File 770 ), Castalia House self-promotion, some pals/hanger-on, and some people you haven’t heard of. Doesn’t seem to have bothered trying to nominate video games this year.No Chuck Tingle this year after that backfired spectacularly but there is a dodgy Tingle imitator in the mix.

YES – some things/people there might be ineligible PLEASE DON’T POINT THEM OUT. Wait until nominations close.

Will this impact nominations? Assuming the core Rabid Puppy votes stays as it has been (60 to 180 votes ) then yes, some of these nominations might make the ballot.

Link for the purposes of me finding it later http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/rabid-puppies-2017.html

Meanwhile no overt signs on the Sad side but over at Mad Genius Club, Brad Torgersen is reprising his Nutty Nuggets argument here https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/03/05/sawdust-chocolate-cake-new-coke/

It is in response to a N.K.Jemisin interview here https://www.wbez.org/shows/nerdette/the-past-present-and-future-of-sci-fi-with-nk-jemisin/3aed7a8c-4de4-4f97-8bb9-8dcd5044c450

But, as usual, there is an odd coyness about not ever really mentioning who is being talked about. It then goes off on a tangent about New Coke and rather like the Nutty Nuggets argument is betrays both misconceptions and an aspiration:

  1. The misconception is that SF is sufficiently a single thing to be a marketable entity in its own right.
  2. That some small group actual does do that (and gets it wrong in Brad’s eyes)
  3. The aspiration that REALLY Brad wants somebody in charge, running science fiction in the way he thinks it should be run.

Point 3 being the now obvious truism that if you scratch the paintwork of libertarian-flavoured conservatism you find the colours of frustrated authoritarianism peeking out. The revealing ‘tell’ is that rather than the much trumped ‘diversity of ideas’, Brad sees other kinds of SF that he doesn’t like as a threat to SF overall.

Brad’s theory has two basic premises:

  1. People would love classic SF (although Brad remains vague as to what this is, other parts of Puppydom assert this would be the age of the pulps).
  2. People are turned off by all this ‘new SF’ (again vague as to what counts and where).

A conservative of say 10 years ago would have an easy answer to this problem: there is no problem! Anybody can publish anything (now even more so) and so the purveyors of the right kind of SF will make money hand-over-fist as people flock away from the ‘new SF’. Not only that, but the mega-corporations that run publishing will follow their bank balances and invest in the most nutty of nuggets.

Given that reality isn’t behaving that way then, Brad needs an extra theory. New SF somehow drives away fans. Ignore, for the moment, the huge volume of available SF of any stripe, from movie and game tie-ins to classic reprints to many big name SF authors pumping out space operas, no the decline somehow must be because the books Brad doesn’t like are doing bad things.

In the comments, Brad even manages to have his cake and eat it by complaining about more ‘literary’ SF *not* having traditional SF covers (his specific example is All the Birds in the Sky) because that is a bad thing too for some reason. Yes, yes, you’d think that he would WANT non-nuggety SF to have non-nuggety covers but that would be applying far too much logical consistency to what is a fundamental objection to wrongbooks having wrongfun in the bookshop.

I think the best, most recent example of this, is All The Birds In The Sky. It’s packaged deliberately as a lit book. It desperately wants to escape the SF/F shelves and go live on the mainstream shelves where the “important” books live. (chuckle) I blame Irene Gallo, who is very much responsible for this trend at TOR. She wants the field as a whole to stop looking like it did during the high period. Because making all that amazing money with space art that actually looks like space art, and swords’n’sorcery art that actually looks like swords’n’sorcery art, was just so gauche.

Note how there is no ground for compromise here. If publisher markets SF to a less-SFie audience then for Brad this is bad, if they market the same SF to an SF audience then to Brad this is also bad. Would Brad *seriously* be happy if All the Birds in the Sky had a cover featuring space rockets (in the book), people descending from ropes from helicopters (in the book) and magical people casting spells (in the book)? Goodness no! That would be the other evil of somehow tricking the honest-SF-reader into reading a book with cooties.

We are back to the unspoken logic of much of what has consumed the right for decades. It is unspoken and avoided, an incomplete argument that would lead people to a conclusion that they would reject if spoken out loud. By not following the logic they can retain a belief that they are moderate and reasonable. However, their argument always leads to the same spot. Brad would just rather these wrong books DID NOT EXIST. He doesn’t want to ban them or burn them or imprison their authors (although how else can his wish come true?) he just wants them to magically not be there.


36 responses to “Tired Puppies 2017”

  1. I am fully in agreement with Not Pointing Things Out yet.

    A slightly random thing I just spotted: their BESF nominee turns out to be “malcolmthecynic” from MGC. It’s amazing how many MGC people end up working with VD in the end.

    When Brad says “You can’t keep altering the contents, while leaving the packaging more or less unchanged” I actually think he’s accidentally agreeing with Jemisin, who seems to want what Brad is calling new SF to be marketed to the mainstream without the old SF packaging so that they’ll try it again.
    (And that point has me thinking about the comments coming from Shadow Clarke jurors about mainstream v genre SF, but I’m not quite putting it together coherently right now)


  2. I see that Brad repeats the argument that SFF is declining/dying, but I don’t see anything to support that claim. I see the huge decline in sales of the print SF magazines, of course, but that’s consistent with the decline in sales of ALL US magazines–it has nothing to do with SFF that I can tell.

    On the other hand, I didn’t find a graph anywhere of SFF sales over time. One that included eBooks and independently published books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the solid stats have to be paid for – trade data is worth something after all – so you’ll probably not find good stats very easily. Publisher’s Weekly often mention figures that are based on summaries of paid-for reports, but they don’t always fit together year-to-year. I’ve noticed that MGC writers tend to seize on these reports when they support their thesis, but never mention the ones going the other way.
      One problem is that the top slice of sales tends to be dominated by that year’s bestseller – Harry Potter, Twilight, etc etc – and the exact timing of those releases can have a big effect on whether the categories sales go up or down that year.


    • The common narrative is that trade published SFF is dying, because it’s too mliterary artsy-fartsy or whatever, while small press, indie and self-published SFF is thriving, because it’s giving the “real fans” what they want, i.e. manly men, evil aliens, explosions in space and none of that distracting race and gender stuff. And indeed, some SFF subcategories in Amazon’s Kindle store look like Baen’s slushpile.

      However, Amazon is not the whole market. And while some self-published SFF writers are making good money by writing military space adventures a la Baen (they certainly sell a lot better than me), that doesn’t mean that somewhat more sophisticated types of SFF aren’t selling. And since none of us have access to Bookscan data, all we get are the vague annual reports of “sales of genre X were up/down by Y percent”. The MGC people usually jump on those reports, because they seem to confirm their point that trade published SFF is dying. But except for vague percentages for entire genres, we have very little evidence. And besides, publishing (including indie authors) and the entertainment industry in general reported losses for the 4th quarter of 2016 due to the bloody US election.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I guess we should be grateful that Brad sounds just like he did two years ago and isn’t accusing people practicing witchcraft and/or wanting to send him to the nearest gulag.

    On the other hand, his point is still as wrong as it was two years ago, since Brad still doesn’t seem to have grasped that tastes differ and that many people actually enjoy the sort of SFF he vehemently dislikes. Besides, it’s not as if space opera, military SF, big fat quest fantasy, etc… aren’t being published anymore. And no one, not even N.K. Jemisin, ever said that Star Trek was passé. What Jemisin actually says is that Star Trek isn’t all there is. Never mind that we have only anecdotal evidence that some SFF fans are not happy with the direction the genre and its awards have taken and have therefore walked away from the genre.

    And yes, Brad definitely wants the books he dislikes to vanish from the genre and preferably from the shelves altogether.

    Coincidentally, I always find it amusing that people are still going on about the New Coke thing more than thirty years later. Okay, so I’m not American and I’ve never been a drinker of sugary softdrinks, so any kind of Cola tastes equally bad to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Brad still doesn’t seem to have grasped that tastes differ and that many people actually enjoy the sort of SFF he vehemently dislikes.”

      I think that’s on the mark. HE can’t conceive tthat there are many people who actually are very interested in the next Broken Earth novel from Jemisin, or what Ann Leckie is ready to write next, or any of their sort.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, Brad & co. still haven’t grasped that times and tastes change, I see.

    Using the Pups’ favourite metrics (the ever-changing and unreliable amazon rankings): NK Jemisin currently outranks “Sad” Larry in Amazon.com’s author rankings for Fantasy.

    Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent Ninefox Gambit is ranked higher than Brad’s Chaplain’s War.

    So I suppose really Baen should just drop Larry and Brad because they’re not even as popular as this silly SJW stuff that doesn’t sell at all to anyone, according to Puppies.

    Or, you know, maybe there’s space enough for Brad & Larry to co-exist happily with people who write *gasp* different things for a different audience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoops, should also have checked on All the Birds in the Sky, which also outranks Brad’s Chaplain’s War and has more reviews in total than his novel which has been out for several more years. Yay arbitrary data!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wasnt it Torgensen that complained last year, that the cover of ancillary justice made it look it was a heroic SF book and so he was mislead in buying it?


  6. Wow, Jemisin attacked no one in that interview, and it still triggered Torgersen’s rage. If she wants to convert Torgersen to an atheist SJW, she has the means at her disposal – all she’d need to do is say that she has found God and realized she hates SJWs and he’d be out there procuring a cat and Alinsky’s complete works within the hour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great minds think alike. From the J McC piece above: “At this point, I give it about a year before we are introduced to a ‘woke’ Brad Torgersen who dusts off his military uniform to condemn Trump’s foreign wars and blogs about how his day job in the healthcare industry has helped him to understand the suffering caused by the decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”


      • Oh man, not sure I like the idea of thinking like him. Also… isn’t reporting what Puppies say exactly why he claims File770 promotes fascistgs?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m very much not enjoying the way people who are supposedly the Good Guys are willing to completely demonize their opponents for being associated with their opponents. J McC’s treatment of the Cirsova editor was completely out of line. He almost reads like a parody of what Pups think an SJW is like.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kathodus: I’m very much not enjoying the way people who are supposedly the Good Guys are willing to completely demonize their opponents for being associated with their opponents. J McC’s treatment of the Cirsova editor was completely out of line.

          I agree that his reaction was over-the-top, but… Cirsova (I’m going to refer to him as that because that’s the nym he always posts under, even though his name is P. Alexander) has made a crusade out of showing up on peoples’ blogs on the slightest pretext (usually, as in this case, because of a reference to short fiction), at which point he engages in double-barrelled promotion of his magazine.

          He walked into McCalmont’s living room trying to shill his product and instead of leaving again when McC made it clear that he was not interested in engaging, Cirsova continued to repeatedly push his agenda until McC basically shoved him out the front door and slammed it behind him; and Cirsova (reading his post linked in Camestros’ comment) is now all offended that McC was not interested in the huge “favor” Cirsova was doing for him by showing up uninvited at his blog with a heavy-handed sales pitch.


      • @JJ – Ah, I hadn’t seen Cirsova in action before, or don’t recall it, anyway. McCalmont does seem to specialize in strangely passive aggressive vitriol, but yeah, I guess if you enter someone else’s space and don’t leave when asked politely, you may end up with a sore behind. I’ve definitely felt the wrath of the MCG crowd when trying to engage in the past.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can’t decide whether it’s more amusing, or just really sad, that Cirsova is so clueless that he doesn’t understand that McC being offered help with his career by Cirsova is the equivalent of the captain of a small spaceship being offered a ride by a kid on his bike.

          I think it’s a function of how insular the Puppies’ knowledge and experience of the SFF genre are. They don’t understand just how broad it is, or know who all the players are and what their credentials are. So the Puppies have this mistaken impression of themselves being big dogs in the field, when in fact they’re just little arriviste mosquitos buzzing around the big dogs, hoping to grab a bite of the action.

          Liked by 1 person

      • @Kathodus I had that thought to start with, largely because Cirsova comes across as reasonable and rational in his posts on JMcC’s site, whereas JMcC himself comes across as–lets say “a really angry guy.”

        I didn’t notice the image on the Cirsova site of Vivian James (Gamergate icon) posed against a rebel flag until some folks on File770 pointed it out. At that point, at least I understood why JMcC was calling him a fascist. More important (to me, anyway), I felt the Cirsova guy had misrepresented himself.

        A second factor is that he’s trying really, really hard to promote his site, and his site is designed to make money. Even when your site is 100% non-monetized, like Rocket Stack Rank, it still causes hard feelings if you promote it too hard without at least asking permission first. I saw where he wondered why someone had blocked him on Twitter–someone from his side of the political argument. Over-promotion would be my guess.

        So the combination of pretending to be a moderate while displaying what can only be called fascist symbols, and engaging in fairly crass promotion of your site is enough that I can at least understand why JMcC blew up.

        That said, I agree that JMcC’s response was unhelpful.


  7. Holy crap, and they’re mocking Jemisin for using the term “interstitial.” This on a site supposedly by and for writers.


  8. As BT should know, having been in the business long enough, If Tor wanted to publish Anders’ novel as a literary star without a whiff of category “ghetto” taint — of which they are currently the biggest SFF category publisher in the U.S. pond — they have a perfectly simple way to do it: they have a hardcover general fiction arm of Macmillan publish it instead of it being directly under the Tor label. They can even have an imprint with a “literary” fiction reputation of Macmillan’s do it. The publishers do it all the time in both hc and paperback, trade and mass market, and the general media and reviewers just accept it as general fiction SFF, sometimes also cross-marketed to the category market and media, sometimes they don’t bother. They did it with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. back in the day, Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude (Knopf,) Susannah Clarke, Neal Stephenson, David Anthony Durham’s Acacia, etc.

    And most small presses make their niche market by deliberately publishing more “literary” and experimental works in hc and trade paperback to gain a rep in the field, rather than try to compete with the flood of commercial mass market paperbacks coming from the big publishers like Tor. Small presses, except for a few houses, aren’t the champions of pulp unless you think you’re back in the 1950’s.

    As for decline, the decline of per title bulk sales comes from the collapse and shrinking of the wholesale print market back in the 1990’s, which meant no more automatic 25,000 copy distributions of mass market paperbacks to grocery stores, changes in production and shipping costs, and now e-book sales leveling off, as had always been expected once they picked up the mass market slack. But SFF is one of the areas of publishing that has done well, especially still the YA division. Science fiction has been claimed to be terminal since the 1930’s, but never dies, and in the last ten years, it’s been in a period of expansion. With things like The Expanse adaptation, the YA book post-apocalypse films, the Edge of Tomorrow and Arrival adaptations, The Martian adaptation, the Ready Player One adaptation coming out next year, plus media originals, comic book movies and Star Wars, and a healthy SFF media convention system, there are going to be a lot more readers lured in to check out SF — adventure SF — for the conceivable future. And the idea that fantasy is in decline makes no sense at all. You can’t keep calling wolf all the time that SFF is in distress when it’s the hottest field going. Anders is not going to make a dent in space opera or barbarian warrior novels, any more than Ursula LeGuin or New Wave SF did fifty years ago. Instead, Anders is going to draw in more readers to the category market. Bestsellers always do, no matter what kind they are.

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