Worldcon events have brought out the former Sad Puppies to claim that things once again (via means never explained) prove them right (about what is always unclear). I’ve personally not had a lot to say on the Worldcon programming issue as I can’t attend due to a whole pile of things and life and the circumference of the Earth. However, I think the people who spoke up did the right thing in the best way they could.
Ah but the Sad Puppies? Well, I know my beat is varied but they are clearly within my mandate of stuff to blog about – and will be until I get completely bored of them, which doesn’t look like anytime soon.
I won’t bother linking to the various takes I’ve seen from the right. They are largely misinformed & confused at best and a nest of slurs & prejudices at worst. Calling fans ‘freaks’ and mocking their gender is inherently anti-fan and anti-fandom. The other element to these takes is various reprises of the history of the Sad Puppies and these are the usual revisionist nonsense*.
But one theme keeps coming up that I don’t think I’ve addressed before. This is not a direct quote of anyone individual pup but a composite:
“They even changed the rules to exclude us!”
The “they” being the well-known grammatical element known as the ‘conspiracy they’ to indicate the nebulous people conspiring against you. Now the rule changes aren’t specified but based on other reactions in the past, the main reference here is the nomination system known as EPH.
I’ve talked about EPH ad-nauseum and I think I may even be the first person (in 2017) to not be a finalist because of EPH when I would have been a finalist under the old rules. Which is really neat, if true. What I want to focus on though, is EPH and the Sad Puppies specifically. The Rabid Puppies is a different story because Vox Day engaged with it in a different way and clearly attempted to size up its effect in 2017.
The Sad Puppies though never engaged with EPH. By the time it was implemented Sad Puppies had withered into nothing. The causes of the Sad Puppy collapse are manifold:
Functionally I think the No Award votes were the main thing that killed the Sad Puppy campaign rather than EPH. That’s not to say EPH didn’t have an impact, just that it was a lesser factor. It’s main impact was three-fold:
- Larry Correia was already disenchanted with repeatedly losing by the end of Sad Puppies 2 (hence passing it on to Brad Torgersen & withdrawing as a finalist in 2015).
- High numbers of votes for No Award demonstrated that Sad Puppies would never have the votes to get close to winning an award and their reach was purely confined to impacting on finalists IF they were sufficiently coordinated.
- Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies kept hijacking all the attention while leaving all the attempts at positive PR to the Sads.
- There was never actually a huge reservoir of right-leaning quality fiction to nominate (put another way, any bias in results that might have been there was a supply issue before it was a voter issue).
- Organising a slate that was open and as fan based as the Puppies claimed it should be was a much harder and complex task than they imagined, resulting in low participation in the more open Sad Puppies 4.
- Post-SP3 campaigns got little support from notable male Sad Puppies. Whether that was sexism or burnout or both is an open question.
It demonstrated that Worldcon could adapt its rule via member participation. That made the Hugos a moving target.
The Sad Puppies had nobody within their leadership who could understand how it worked. The reaction to it was almost at a superstitious level, as if it contained some kind of Sad Puppy detection algorithm. Vox Day’s approach was more analytical and showed more understanding that it was a fairly basic number crunching algorithm that in theory could be gamed.
It stopped the tactic of trying to sweep the nominations.
That last point was limited, EPH isn’t that great at stopping as SP3 style sweep but it is definitely an improvement.
But here is an interesting flaw/feature in EPH. There was not only nothing in it that would prevent Sad Puppy participation but in fact it had the capacity to ensure that a stable and consistent Sad Puppy faction would have been more-or-less ensured nominees. The actual change in the nomination process undermined sweeps but did so by roughly guaranteed finalist slots to large but minority voting blocks.
That isn’t a secret, it was a criticism made of EPH at the time that it could be seen as essentially conceding ground to the Sad Puppies and giving them a proportion of finalists each year…if they participated. While EPH isn’t quite that crude, there truth there. A consistent grouping of right leaning members (with the added advantage of drawing from a small pool of works) would get a ‘seat at the table’ under the EPH. I don’t want to portray algorithms as necessarily unbiased but of all the many opinions surrounding the Sad Puppies and the Hugos, the one closest to an objective fact is that EPH actually addressed a claimed core concern of the Sad Puppies.
As I said above, Sad Puppies fizzled out for multiple reasons. However, EPH was only a minor factor** in that it helped prevent Sad Puppy *sweeps* but sweeping the nominees was something that Sad Puppy leaders said they didn’t particularly want. Put another way the concessions to the Sad Puppies contained within how EPH would operate called ‘bluff’ on the Sad Puppies. Given an opportunity to claim a fraction of the pie, the Sad Puppies cried loudly (and still do) that rules that stopped them taking the whole pie with a minority of the votes were rules that excluded them. And I’m going full circle here – they are right that EPH excludes them *IF AND ONLY IF* the Sad Puppies were always about trying to push everybody else out. “They change the rules to exclude us!” Is only true if “us” means “the people who wanted to push everybody else out.”
[There was a comment about me from a regular Puppy support who asked rhetorically why, if something was nonsense, was I so interested in it. I’d have thought even a passing familiarity with what I say, do and write is that NONSENSE is something I’m very interested in. It’s repetitive nonsense that bores me.]
[Apologies to the German language for ‘Schadnepuppies’ – I know it makes no sense.]
**[Minor factor in the Sad Puppy demise, a bigger factor in keeping the Rabids at bay and a bigger factor in an overall improvement in nomination process.]