Genesis of the Puppies

Just when I think I’ve definitely not got any more links to add to the Puppy Kefuffle Timeline, I find a blog post I had never read before that falls right at the start of the first Sad Puppy campaign. I was looking because of a comment elsewhere made me want to see what Puppy-aligned people had been saying about the Hugo Awards *prior* to Sad Puppies 3. People who have followed the kerfuffle are nodoubt familiar with the position Puppies hold now but what were they saying prior, before all the shouting started?

The answer, on the whole, is not a lot or at least not where it is visible.

However, this post by Sarah Hoyt at her blog stands out:

Before people think Human Wave is cool and try to imitate it, we must make them know it exists. Besides, a lot of them walked away from the fifth “and then everyone died” supposed space-opera and aren’t reading anymore. We need to let them know we’re here.

Only right now, no one does. We’re out in the hall and making bad jokes, but they can just ignore us. We must get in, so we can throw rubbery rolls at the self-adoring speakers.

Yesterday I had a brain storm and I thought: Awards. (I also made a typo, the rest of you — infants — have been having WAY too much fun with.)

Before you pelt me with rubber rolls – even two years ago, I’d have been the first to say “oh, not awards, they’re SOOOOOOO stuffy.”

But the thing is in indie publishing, and in all publishing as it moves to Amazon and other electronic venues, being able to put on the cover a little seal that says “winner of the blah blah award” (we’re not calling it a blah blah award. No, you can’t talk me into it.) does give you a huge leg up. Most of the readers who are rediscovering SF (or anything else) because they can finally find stuff they want to read, see the Hugo and it doesn’t say to them “Award given by small group of people who attend Worldcon.” They see “Award” which means someone other than the author’s cat read this masterpiece and approved of – or at least finished—it. That means they’re twice as likely to buy it.

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/02/23/awards-rubber-rolls-and-humans-waving/

!

It is like looking at the branching point of an alternate timeline – a nicer one really. I don’t want people to see this as me mocking Hoyt for not getting her award started – it isn’t a trivial task and Hoyt herself pointed out the complexities. What is relevant here is that ‘movements’ of people often require something that helps coordinate them motivationally and not just organisationally i.e. a reason to make an effort to do something. In this case Hoyt’s ‘Human Wave’ movements was in a chicken-egg/catch-22: an award was an idea to get that kind of motivational coordination BUT to get an award off the ground you already need that kind of motivational coordination.

What is noticeable is that the difference between current Puppy rhetoric about awards (that they don’t matter and everybody ignores them and please vote in the Dragon Awards) and Sarah Hoyt’s viewpoint at the time.

In our timeline, Larry Correia had already begun his attempt to get himself nominated for a Hugo (in what would become retrospectively called Sad Puppies 1). Larry offered a simpler task (freep an existing award) to his larger fanbase.

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30 comments

  1. Greg Hullender

    Just speaking about short fiction, I really think the puppies just aren’t reading very broadly. I think they see posts ranting about one or two admittedly questionable stories and then they extrapolate from that. But in most published stories out of the ~900 I read last year, the good guy does win. The humans are the good guys. The puppies have worked themselves up into a froth over something that isn’t even true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cora

      When I read some of Sarah Hoyt’s Human Wave posts back in the day, I had the same reaction: Where exactly are all those depressing “humans are the bad guys” stories where everybody dies in the end, since that’s sure as hell not what I’m seeing in the genre. Sure, there are some downbeat stories, there are stories where humans are the bad guys, there are stories where either nobody or the bad guys win. But those stories are exceptions, since in the vast majority of stories, at least humans are the good guys and the good guys win.

      Sometime ago, I noticed that the puppies seem to like speculative fiction that is about shooting the Other in the face (or alternatively sermonising the Other to death). And when I look at the space opera and military SF categories in Amazon’s Kindle store, I see book upon book where the humans are fighting for survival against the evil insectoid aliens (of if you want to be shockingly different, the evil reptilian aliens) and the only one who can save humanity is the disgraced and grizzled space captain Manly McMann (or alternatively, the young plucky recruit Manly McMannister). It’s all very samey and kind of dull, but their audience eats these books up, which suggests that there is a contingent of SF fans out there who regard anything other than humanity is at war with cliched evil aliens as politically correct grey goo.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. JJ

    So Hoyt herself admitted, back at the very beginning, that the attack on the Hugos was about Puppies getting awards for themselves — and not about getting more people involved in reading speculative fiction, or saving SFF from being destroyed by the pinkos. According To Hoyt, It was all just a mercenary attempt to make their own books more noticeable and gain sales for themselves.

    It’s so refreshing to see a Puppy being honest for a change. It’s too bad such occurrences ceased 4 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        No, she’s saying that awards are how they can get into the same room with the Big Authors, and make readers aware of their work. Also that indie Puppy writers are the only ones who are writing “Human Wave” stories, and that they have to use awards to get the word out to readers about that before the Big Authors decide “Human Wave” stories are cool and start copying the Puppies. 🙄

        Liked by 2 people

    • greghullender

      From the article, she said, “I propose we present the Human Wave Award at Liberty con, because if all else fails, I’ll be there to present it, or we can get my publisher to stand in, or all else failing one of the con organizers. So, I propose to present the award at Liberty con, in July, in Chattanooga TN and for the first one to be presented in 14 (which will give us time to get our act as together as it will ever be.)”

      I guess it’s okay to “speak for other people” when it’s you doing the speaking.

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      • JJ

        I’m not sure what you’re on about Greg, I’m pointing out what she’s said in the quoted words:

        Before people think Human Wave is cool and try to imitate it, we must make them know it exists. Besides, a lot of them walked away from the fifth “and then everyone died” supposed space-opera and aren’t reading anymore. We need to let them know we’re here.

        Only right now, no one does. We’re out in the hall and making bad jokes, but they can just ignore us. We must get in, so we can throw rubbery rolls at the self-adoring speakers.

        Yesterday I had a brain storm and I thought: Awards. (I also made a typo, the rest of you — infants — have been having WAY too much fun with.)

        Before you pelt me with rubber rolls – even two years ago, I’d have been the first to say “oh, not awards, they’re SOOOOOOO stuffy.”

        But the thing is in indie publishing, and in all publishing as it moves to Amazon and other electronic venues, being able to put on the cover a little seal that says “winner of the blah blah award” (we’re not calling it a blah blah award. No, you can’t talk me into it.) does give you a huge leg up. Most of the readers who are rediscovering SF (or anything else) because they can finally find stuff they want to read, see the Hugo and it doesn’t say to them “Award given by small group of people who attend Worldcon.” They see “Award” which means someone other than the author’s cat read this masterpiece and approved of – or at least finished—it. That means they’re twice as likely to buy it.

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      • JJ

        greghullender: I guess you’re just not capable of admitting a mistake. The text is plain as day.

        Indeed it is.

        Hoyt: Before people think Human Wave is cool and try to imitate it, we must make them know it exists. Besides, a lot of them walked away from the fifth “and then everyone died” supposed space-opera and aren’t reading anymore. We need to let them know we’re here.

        Only right now, no one does. We’re out in the hall and making bad jokes, but they can just ignore us. We must get in, so we can throw rubbery rolls at the self-adoring speakers.

        Yesterday I had a brain storm and I thought: Awards. (I also made a typo, the rest of you — infants — have been having WAY too much fun with.)

        What I said: indie Puppy writers are the only ones who are writing “Human Wave” stories, and that they have to use awards to get the word out to readers about that before the Big Authors decide “Human Wave” stories are cool and start copying the Puppies.

        Please point out the mistake.

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    • Cora

      I don’t like Hoyt anymore than you, but in this case I read it like Camestros and Greg, that they wanted to set up their own Human Wave awards to gain recognition and sales for their own brand of SFF, since traditional publishing was keeping those poor plucky indie authors who write what real fans (TM) want to read down and force-feeding us all politically correct grey goo.

      She does say that she’d like to have her Human Wave award awarded at WorldCon for reasons of visibility, but later suggests doing it at LibertyCon, should WorldCon not want them. So at least at this point, Hoyt didn’t want to take over the Hugos (except for piggybacking on the WorldCon and Hugo brand), but set up her own award. Sometimes later, she joined Larry Correia’s crusade to manipulate the Hugos to win himself a shiny rocket, cause by early 2014 she was fully on board with that.

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      • JJ

        Right, but she’s saying back at the very beginning that she’s decided that Awards are the way for herself and the other indie authors who became the Puppies to get recognition and sales for themselves. So later, when they hitched their ambitions to the Hugo Awards, it wasn’t (as they tried to claim) because they wanted to get more participation in the Hugos, it was because they had decided this was a good way to get recognition for themselves.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Cora

        I agree. But then I never bought this whole “we want to increase participation in the Hugos/save the hugos from those nasty wrongfan SJWs” schtick in the first place. The ulterior motif was always pretty obvious, since for the various puppies, it’s always about sales.

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      • JJ

        Cora: I never bought this whole “we want to increase participation in the Hugos/save the hugos from those nasty wrongfan SJWs” schtick in the first place. The ulterior motif was always pretty obvious, since for the various puppies, it’s always about sales.

        I agree — but I have to admit that it’s quite amusing that Cam has now unearthed the “smoking gun” for that. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lurkertype

    If they had set up their own award, it might have been possible to give it out at Worldcon. Could have built it up.

    But they decided that was too much work, so they’d try to take over something that already had worth.

    Notice they’re still riding on someone else’s (not much) work — they’re leaving all the (feeble) administration and cost of the award of the Dragons to DragonCon.

    Besides craving awards for themselves (we wanna play with the big kids!) and as an aid to pep up their sales, wasn’t “making liberals’ heads explode” one of Larry’s stated aims with SP 1?

    So there was an element of culture war baked in right with the greed right off.

    Getting more participation in the Hugos was a specious claim that they took up after their shellacking by Noah. “Look, we got participation up! That’s what we wanted all along! Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

    ———————————————————————-

    But there’s no denying the Pups aren’t widely read. Basically, they only read their in-group.

    “We wanna go back to the old days, like the great writers!” No idea of what year SF was supposedly ruined, hadn’t read any of the foundational writers like Heinlein, Asimov, Campbell, etc.

    “We’re the only ones writing SF where humans win!” No idea of the thousands of stories being written where exactly that happens. Some of ’em even won awards.

    “We’re tired of all this social justice stuff! Let’s get back to original Star Trek!” What, the show that Roddenberry created specifically to deal with social issues? With the half-black/half-white guys fighting, and the thinly-veiled commentaries on sexism, Vietnam, etc.? With a black woman on the bridge as civil rights were being fought for, and a Russian at the helm during the Cold War? Where Manly White Man Captain Kirk didn’t shag as many women as reputed, cried when he lost at least one, and compared himself to Satan for providing weapons to a planet? The one where Uhura and Kirk kissed only about a year after Loving v. Virginia was settled?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cora

      Didn’t someone – Stephen Brust I think – say that he heard Torgersen say he was using culture war rhetoric as a means to sell books? I also recall Sarah Hoyt lamenting that Hugo winning novels inevitably get translated, even though they’re Wrongbooks promoting wrongthink, whereas rightbooks promoting rightthink don’t necessarily get a translation. So sales have been linked to the whole culture war issue from the beginning for the pups.

      As for what year SF was supposedly ruined, at first the year most frequently given was 1980 or 1985, then it seemed to move further back. Nowadays, at least for the pulp revolution folks, it’s all downhill after 1937. At this rate, they’ll eventually declare that it all went downhill after Mary Shelley.

      Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        Cora, that was Steven Silver. He said in a post that at one time back in the day when BT was just starting out (I believe it was during a Writers of the Future retreat), he took BT aside and suggested to him that his future writing career might benefit from him behaving less confrontationally online (as I recall, BT started out as an obnoxious troll who inhabited the comment section at Scalzi’s Whatever blog). BT told Silver that on the contrary, (totally paraphrasing here; the post was removed later on and I did not retain a copy of it) his obnoxiousness was all part of a calculated marketing strategy to position himself as the anti-Scalzi for the customers who bought books with that alignment — in other words, as the Rush Limbaugh of the SFF fiction scene, pandering to the angry alt-right crowd.

        Liked by 1 person

      • camestrosfelapton

        I’ve not read all of Brad T’s old Whatever comments but they didn’t seem particularly trollish prior to Sad Puppies. e.g. this one from 2011 seems supportive of Scalzi’s approach to trolls. I may be missing things though.

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      • Cora

        Oops, wrong Steven. Brust must have been on my mind because of the recent 4th Street Fantasy kerfuffle.

        I do recall Brad T commenting at various SFF sites and blogs prior to Sad Puppies 3. I remember tangling with him in the comments at Jay Lake’s blog at one point. BT was obviously rightwing conservative, but did not strike me as overly obnoxious. I was even willing to give him the benefit of doubt when two of his stories reached the Hugo ballot in 2015 via Sad Puppies 2, though in the end, the stories were not awardworthy.

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      • Lurkertype

        Nah, Mary Shelley was a girl who lived with a man who was already married, and she wrote a story about science gone wrong, even when done by a white European man. And her mom was super-feminist. ERB or nothing!!! for them.

        Brad always was terrible at supporting his arguments at Whatever. He always started with the assumption that Of Course his view of politics was absolutely correct, spew some things he’d heard from Rush or at church or misremembered from somewhere else, then got all huffy when people either said “Citation needed” or corrected his “facts”, he’d get more and more pissy till finally the Banhammer would be forced to swing because a) he wouldn’t let it go after everyone on all sides of the topic had been told to drop it or b) he’d start insulting other posters or c) both of the above.

        He’s never learned to do a cogent discussion or debate, and he seemed to think that anyone who wasn’t nodding along and agreeing with his little bubble view was doing it to specifically only be mean to him. Not that they actually had different life experiences and were trying to help him up his game. He literally acted childish, or at best adolescent.

        Eventually he moved on to just starting with the insults and he had to go away for good. Scalzi gave him a lot more slack than he deserved, frankly; the field as a whole would probably have been better off if John shut him up sooner.

        My hand to God, the man signs his autographs this way: “Brad T. ☺ ” In big loopy letters like someone who’s just learned cursive. Not even his whole name. Brad T. 🙂 Grade 4.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Anonymous

      I wonder if the folks who want SF about humans being triumphant have heard of a writer from a few years back – he wrote stories about humans being inconsequential inhabitants of a planet with far more intelligent creatures who considered humans pets (“Goldfish Bowl”) or humans being so inferior that even seeing or meeting aliens drove humans insane (“By His Bootstraps,” “Methuselah’s Children”), or humans needing to be very careful not to offend aliens lest the aliens destroy humans at their leisure (“Star Beast,” “Stranger in a Strange Land”), or humans discovering that apparently primitive aliens have abilities far beyond human tech (“Space Cadet”).

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  4. Kat Goodwin

    He could be sharp sometimes, could Brad, on Whatever. But he tended to box himself into corners. I didn’t have that much trouble with him, but I gather he got pretty messy with some other people. I was pretty astonished when he turned up in the Puppies spouting a lot of really, really right wing conspiracy theories. My big thing with the Puppies was always that they didn’t tell a bunch of the authors that they were involving them in their culture war and give them the option of not participating, and when those authors had to deal with the storm, they were nasty to them and refused to leave them alone. That was unethical and very dangerous, as things developed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JJ

      Kat Goodwin: My big thing with the Puppies was always that they didn’t tell a bunch of the authors that they were involving them in their culture war and give them the option of not participating, and when those authors had to deal with the storm, they were nasty to them and refused to leave them alone.

      One of BT’s bigger sins (of many) was misrepresenting the Puppy slate to the authors he did ask — and then when they found out they’d been deceived and used, and asked to be removed, he insisted that all of the people wanting to be taken off the slate were doing so because they were afraid of being abused by “SJW”s, rather than because they were disgusted with his appalling agenda.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Kat Goodwin

    Yes, he pretended where the danger was actually coming from while behaving reprehensibly. The blitheful glee of the Sad Puppies when LC brought in Beale and the Gamergate hordes looking for a diversion, their refusal or lack of concern that they’d just threatened a bunch of authors’ lives and families with their game, and not just for a Hugo yearly campaign but for long term, that was the worst bit. Well, until Lou Arronica tried to swat Gerrold and World Con and bragged about trying to get another human being killed on the Internet. If they are all snarling at each other now, I can’t say I’ve got much sympathy. But I’m perfectly happy to see them bow out of attacking the Hugos and WorldCon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JJ

      Just a correction: it was Lou Antonelli, not Lou Aronica, who put David Gerrold and all the Sasquan members at risk for heightened police response by his pseudo-SWATing attempt on Gerrold.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kat Goodwin

        Oh my goodness, did I write Lou Aronica! I am so sorry. What a horrible thing to do to the man. I meant Lou Antonelli, of course. A guy I’d never heard of before he decided to try to get people killed. That for me was the worst of the Puppies. It was bad enough they deliberately waved a flag over the heads of numerous authors, including ones they were advocating, for online harassment and death threats, but having one of them actually directly make an attempt, no matter how lame, and bragging about it — that was just awful.

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