Hugosauriad 4.5: Extinction event 1 – Queen of the Tyrant Lizard by John C Wright

[This episode starts with an attempt to summarise events leading up to 2014 & 2015 Sad Puppy campaigns. I’m not entirely happy with it and criticism and changes would be very welcome. It’s also long, so it starts after the fold. Also content warning for homophobic rhetoric. Links are currently live links rather than archive links and may take you to sites you’d rather not visit.]

Science fiction fandom is above all an activity of human interaction and where people gather (whether in person or around an idea) there will be factions and conflict. Fandom has never lacked a capacity for feuds, rivalries, scandals and verbal wars.The twenty-first century has been no different, even if the venues for such conflict have advanced technologically.

2000-2019 had multiple disputes among fans and writers. For example RaceFail ’09 was a sprawling argument about racism within writing and within fandom that took in issues around cultural appropriation, the power dynamic between fans, aspiring writers and established writers, as well the nature of how to conduct such discussions.

However, a varied set of conflicts that reflected some of the political division within the USA would eventually coalesce into a battle over the Hugo Awards itself. Collectively known as the Puppy Kerfuffle (sometimes Puppygate and my personal preference is the Puppy Debarkle), the more immediate causes of the conflict were numerous.

Precipitant events

One root was a dissatisfaction with the Hugo Award among authors associated with the publisher Baen. A 2006 campaign (for the 2007 Hugos) to organise a ‘Baen Sweep’ failed to get the influential editor Jim Baen a posthumous Hugo for Best Editor Long Form. Instead, Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor books won.

A different root to the conflict was a 2005 blog post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden criticising a member of the Nebula Awards jury. The member was an aspiring science-fiction author and far-right columnist known as Vox Day a nom-de-plume for Theodore Beale, the son of a wealthy US tax-protestor. The acrimonious discussion included John Scalzi, a journalist turned sci-fi writer and fan-writer with his own popular blog.

The conflict between Vox Day and John Scalzi continues into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SWFA), the professional body for science fiction writers. in 2010 John Scalzi was elected president of the SWFA. In 2011 Baen promoted a list of eligible works for the Hugo Awards, in the comments one of the their new writers, Larry Correia suggested himself for the Campbell Award — the award for new writers that while not technically a Hugo is awarded at the same time and follows the same process. Correia is successful in becoming a finalists, attends Worldcon and apparently has a happy experience but does not win.

The stage is set for 2013.

An apparently now embittered Larry Correia begins his own Hugo campaign that reflects the 2006 ‘Baen Sweep’. Entitled “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo” a later humours post about preventing puppies being sad, led to the campaign eventually being called “Sad Puppies”.

Meanwhile, in the SWFA, Vox Day runs for president to replace the out-going John Scalzi but loses substantially to Stephen Gould. In the same election Rachel Swirsky is elected vice-president. At the end of his term as SWFA president, John Scalzi announces an inquiry into sexism in the SWFA’s own bulletin. The inquiry leads to the resignation of the editor.

At the Australian Continuum Con in Melbourne, Guest of Honour N.K.Jemisin gives a speech sharply critical of Vox Day without naming him. Her speech draws the ire of Vox Day who uses not only his blog but an SWFA Twitter account to defame her. Vox Day’s vitriolic response leads to moves to have him expelled from the SWFA.

Correia’s Hugo campaign was not a great success in 2013 but demonstrates that he has enough votes to have some influence over what gets nominated.

By 2014 all of these issues are in full play. Larry Correia makes another bid for the Hugos for 2014 with a second Sad Puppies campaign. Meanwhile, the SWFA has two controversies in play: lingering ill-will over the bulletin and the attempt to expel Vox Day. Many right-leaning science fiction fans see all three of these things as a whole and regard Vox Day’s expulsion as political persecution.

The Hugo Awards have no formal connection to SFWA but inevitably conflict in SWFA had an impact on Worldcon’s membership also. Beyond the world of books, video-games were also having their own right-wing fuelled consumer controversy known as GamerGate — a movement that Larry Correia was a supporter of.

Into this volatile weather system stepped “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love”.

Back to dinosaur weddings

When first published the story had many positive reviews. Of course with many short stories there can be a positive review bias as stories reader’s enjoy are more likely to gain attention and be reviewed. The review site/zine Tangent that reviews whole editions of SF magazines gave the story a very positive review:

More negative reviews of the story began appearing once it was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2014. Even so, primary criticism the story attracted was that it was not sufficient science-fictional. Diving deeper into more extreme criticism, an early comment at the blog of author John C Wright illustrates how the Puppy-faction would come to see the story.

The comment in question was from somebody going by the name “Fail Burton” who would under that name and “James May” would become notorious during the Puppy Kerfuffle for leaving long, often abstruse comments about lesbian feminist conspiracies.

“Best Short Story is gay dinosaur porn by an author endemically hostile towards straight white men.”

Fail Burton at JCW:

Why am I even bothering with a comment that is so woefully inaccurate from a pseudonymous troll? It is fascinating for exactly those reasons. This absurd comment would help frame a collective perception about that story that existed independently of any facts about the story itself and which would eventually float free, living an independent existence as a truism about the Hugo Awards. The Hugos had become a place were stories about gay sex with dinosaurs were rewarded to the detriment of ‘proper’ science fiction. This factoid would shape later events in even stranger ways much to the wonderment of buckaroos…

The further to the right the commentator, the stronger the dislike of the story was. An embittered Vox Day, expelled from the SFWA in 2013, when looking at the 2014 short story finalists asserted that the story was:

“Not just bad, but laughably, risibly, embarrassingly terrible. When the history of Pink SF/F is written, this Nebula Award winner should stand as Exhibit A. The fact that it was written and published is indicative of a problem in science fiction and fantasy. The fact that it won an award, any award, is a veritable indictment.”

“Pink SF” being Vox Day’s term for overly feminine science-fiction. Vox Day had by now established his own publishing house “Castalia House” and on it’s blog one of his supporters used “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” to exemplify Vox’s distinction between “pink” and “blue” science fiction and enumerate the flaws in the story.

Late in 2015, one of the prominent spokespeople for the Sad Puppy campaign and leader of the ill-fated Sad Puppy 4 campaign, Kate Paulk, identified “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” as ‘turgid message fiction’ and the primary example of what was wrong with science-fiction & fantasy from the Puppy campaign’s perspective. Earlier in 2015 when promoting the aesthetics of the Sad Puppies for Sad Puppies 4 her views on the story where more complex but still critical:

“Puppy supporters are more interested in plot and character than in style and prose. We’re more concerned that a story be satisfying in some way than that it meet our ideological biases (everyone has those – it’s one of those things that goes with being human). And so it goes.
To take an example, If You Were a Dinosaur is – to most Puppy supporters – not genre fiction. It’s a badly disguised revenge fantasy with a kludgy framing device that doesn’t pull off the “story within a story” thing (mostly because there’s no plot of any sort on either side of the frame). Now sure, in piece that short you can make something that’s totally idea work, but there’s no idea behind this either. You could substitute anything including a kickass warrior-type human into the “dinosaur” slot, and have essentially the same piece.
Most of those who’ve praised it have praised the prose and the style – and since the piece is deliberately written in a prose-poem style, that’s valid praise. It doesn’t make the piece SF or fantasy though. Nor does it mean there’s any kind of “there” underneath the quasi-poetic style (there isn’t, unless you count a kind of ersatz “rough drunks are evil and will spew out any kind of insult even ones that make no sense”).”

Kate Paulk

It is odd that at this point she could see the merit in the prose style while disliking the piece and just over a month later see the story as ‘turgid’. Back in 2014 when looking over the Nebula winners Paulk summarise the story as:

“And the shortest one was more like the output from someone on serious mind altering pharmaceuticals. I swear the only reason that one counted was instead of fantasizing the injured loved one had been a kick-ass warrior or something the dopey narrator fantasized him as a micro-T-rex. “

Kate Paulk

What becomes apparent reading criticism of the story from the Sad Puppies was that the story’s capacity to get under a person’s skin and unsettle was manifest even among people attempting to trash it. There were attempts to simply dismiss it out of hand, attempts to misrepresent it based mainly on the title as dinosaur-porn, attempts to declare it message fiction and attempts to engage and acknowledge that it had some strong qualities in the writing but that it was not appropriately science-fiction. This last point was where the Sad Puppies came closer to less partisan criticism of the story.

What was clear to the multifold Puppies who referenced the story was that there was something very wrong with it but they were (at least initially) unclear what it was. Stuck for ideas and apparently lacking the ability to critique their own feelings about the story, the Puppies eventually began to simply invent what the problem was. The issue, which seemed to bubble out of nowhere, was the story was bigoted and specifically bigoted to white working class men and, taking the extrapolation further, bigoted to white working class men from the Southern United States. This framing of the story as anti-men goes back to the “Fail Burton” comment I cited at the start but where and when it jumped from a drive-by comment-section view to received wisdom is unclear.

For example, Sad Puppy supporter Dave Freer referred more than once to the story being anti-working class:

“Hmm. You know, in certain cases maybe there is something in all this. Do you think ‘If you were a dinosaur, my love’ might actually have had that… je ne sais quoi, if the author actually had found a large flesh-eating reptile – a crocodile, seeing as other dinosaurs are so stony hearted – to have a physical relationship with? And it’d make a nice handbag after those nasty, low, working-class men shot it.”

Dave Freer

“Mark may well have resonated perfectly to ‘If you were a dinosaur my love’ despite the fact that it’s a rabid attack on working-class men. That’s his subjective choice.”

Dave Freer

Sarah Hoyt, who regarded herself as a key figure in the Sad Puppy movement was also deeply discombobulated by the story. She had the presence of mind to realise that something in the story was impacting her emotionally but struggled to say what:

“If You Were A Dinosaur my Love’s win bothered me at a level I can’t begin to explain, and it still bothers me, like an aching tooth to which the tongue keeps returning. It’s not just that could have been written by me at 12 and would have got, from my middle school teacher, exactly the sort of praise it got from science fiction professionals.”
It’s the ideas packed into the story that are truly disturbing.
A story that reveals a total lack of knowledge of an entire class of people (manual laborers) and instead others them as sort of scary all purpose evil that will beat to death anyone who doesn’t look/act like them won an award voted on by – supposedly – adult professionals. Not only that, but adult professionals who keep claiming their tolerance and love of the “other.” What’s more, adult professionals who would almost certainly embrace “Marxism” as a good or at least correct idea. When did Marxists start loathing and fearing the working class? And admitting it?””

Sarah Hoyt Hoyt

“I was talking to my friend Bill Reader about “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” and I told him my moral certainty that the story started as a gay short story (I have a vague idea that I might have published with Abyss and Apex [I’m reliably informed that I maligned Abyss and Apex, and the silly dino story came out in Apex. OTOH I still don’t remember if I was published in Abyss and Apex], maybe, unless they were the ones who sent me a rejection saying I clearly had never been in another country and was “a narrow minded pain” — I can’t remember. After 120 short story publications, they all run together. However I do know that my stories with gay protagonists, like Songs or Never Look Back got a lot of pushback and editors saying “if you just change it to” before someone published them as is. No, I don’t know why. There’s nothing shocking in these stories. But progressives imagine the rest of the country are homophobic troglodytes. It’s important for their self image. Which is part of the point I’m trying to make.) “Not because it makes more sense that way,” I told him. “But because liberals are convinced any gay man entering a rural bar will get beaten to death, even though the instances of exactly this occurrence are… let me see… I’m thinking… exactly zero percent a year.” And he said “No, I know what you mean. It makes liberal-sense. I’ve started calling this “para-logic.” I.e. the sense that they live in a parallel world, and if you buy the premises of that world, instead of your lying eyes, and believe that the rest of the country are frozen somewhere between the middle ages and the imaginary 1950s filled with Stepford Wives, then their stories and actions make perfect sense.”

Sarah Hoyt:

It is odd to be thinking of 2015 as a long-ago more naive time but I think that paragraph from Hoyt, rambling though it is, touches on how very broken thinking was on the right and presages wider events in US (and world) politics. Hoyt is a long way from the stereotype of the narrow-minded conservative. An immigrant from southern-Europe with ostensibly libertarian rather than nationalist politics, she quite rightly points to the examples of her using gay characters as central protagonists in her writing. And yet. For her, a writer of speculative fiction, that thing that breaks her suspension of disbelief in a story with a singing T-Rex, a dino-wedding and a woman bursting into flowers, is the idea that gay people genuinely do face extreme violence even though this is an easily corroborated fact. The ‘message’ that makes “If You Were a Dinosaur…” supposedly ‘message fiction is this terrible fact about our world: some people are at greater risk of severe violence than others. The denial of this tragic reality is sublimated into counter-factual claims about the story (‘working-class’, ‘southern’).

That the story says nothing about the social class of the men who attack the palaeontologist, nor gives any hints at all as to the location was initially ignored by Sad Puppy supporters. Later, those inconsistencies between the claim that the assailants were working class southerners and the actual text became the basis of a claim that these were examples of poor research on Swirsky’s part. The term ‘gin soaked’ used in the story was cited as showing that Swirsky didn’t realise that Southern working class men didn’t drink much gin in a bizarre application of logic where the unsubstantiated conclusion is used to refute the actual evidence of the text.

John Charles Justin Wright Esq.

During 2015 and beyond, the division between what became known as the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies became clearer with various figures aligning themselves with the differing ideologies and agendas of the two allied camps. Ploughing his own furrow was John C Wright. Of all the authors prominent among the Puppies, Wright was the one who had some serious claim to have once been on the track to potential Hugo Award fame. Early in his career his novels had been received with some critical acclaim and he is a writer with distinct literary aspirations. However, by 2014 his career was in the doldrums and he was hoping that Vox Day’s new publishing company might revive his fortunes (spoiler: it didn’t).

Wright had converted from atheism to a species of trad-catholicism and had highly outspoken views against homosexuality and the left. Unlike Hoyt, Wright is unabashed in his rhetoric against homosexuality, infamous railing against two female characters holding hands in the last frame of a cartoon series. While his politics and bank account placed Wright closer to Vox Day, his interest in fandom, Worldcon and publishing were closer to those of the Sad Puppies. In other ways he was positioned mainly as his own idiosyncratic voice and self-appointed arbiter of literary standards.

His criticism of “If You Were A Dinosaur My Love” varies wildly. In some cases he has chastised people for being too negative about it (but note his rejoinder about ‘gin soaked’)

“The author with admirable brevity of space establishes a gay and playful mood, using a stream of consciousness technique and adhere to a strict textual scheme (lifted from IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE) and then fishtailing into a surprise ending that is poignant and moving, all within less than 1000 words.More to the point, she did what she set out to do, and created the emotional effect she meant to create if a fashion I and other readers found memorable and moving. She hit the mark at which she aimed. Not every writer can say that.It is not a great story, not the best of the year. I do not like it because it places technique above story telling — indeed there is no story at all, no characterization, nothing outside the vignette. But that, again, is a matter of taste. Some people do not like Shakespeare sonnets.And her editor should have polished on or two roughs spots, which in a story so short are more obvious, have more ability to jar the reader out of suspension of disbelief. One rough spot was the one-line depiction of the bigoted Southern bigots as ‘gin-soaked’ — this was lazy writing, laughably inept. Gin in not what we drink in roughneck bars in the rural South”

John C Wright

Earlier he had been far more dismissive:

“I direct your attention to the stylistic (ahem) accomplishment of copying IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE, the deliberately childish tone, the blurred lack of detailed description for anything in the mention of the bar fight. The lack of style shows in the utterly generic insults used by the assailants: fag, towelhead, shemale, sissy, spic. If the nameless narrator’s bridegroom is an effete homosexual Arab transsexual from Spain or Mexico, the word choice here makes sense. Otherwise, they are selected without any ear for rhythm or assonance. They are, in fact, merely a grab-bag of the epithets which Leftists want to put into the mouths of civilized men, so that the Leftists can falsely accuse us of homophobia, Islamophobia, heteronormative sexism and racism.”

John C Wright:

And yet at other times he managed to be both:

“Rachel Swirksy’s “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” not a bad vignette, but it was not a story, and certainly not a science fiction story, and most certainly not the best of the year. It used the story telling technique of IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE, and for its six hundred words or so of disconnected sentences without a single striking image or memorable turn of phrase — except those that stick in memory for their sheer badness and tone deafness, which makes me, as a writer, laugh, laugh, laugh — it maintains a half-playful half-grim tone that grinds to a surprise twist ending of empty despair. Judged as science fiction, it was crap.
That said, it was not poorly written. It would have been good appearing in some lady’s literary magazine or a school newspaper. It clearly did not deserve publication in a science fiction periodical, must less a nomination for best of the year. And we southern workingmen do not drink gin in bars. I used to tend bar in Maryland. I solemnly assure you, most solemnly, that none of the Good Ol’ Boys of my bar even knew what a ‘shemale’ is, much less use that as an epithet before beating a paleontologist into a coma with their pool cues. None would use the word ‘sissy.’”

John C Wright:

Tyrant Lizards of the Purple Prose

In November of 2014 John C Wright decided that his best response to Swirsky’s story was to demonstrate how it should be done. That is, he would write a story with many of the same elements (a fiancée turned into a dinosaur by his bride to enact revenge against [southern] men who had attacked him because of his race). He published the story on his own blog ( ) and the story was included in an anthology of his stories published by Vox Day’s Castalia House.

“Imagine a frozen moment. The glass of the chapel doors is breaking. Men in tall white hoods carrying shotguns, pistols, hunting rifles are firing. The guests are screaming, falling to the floor. And you, my love, have thrown your tall, strong body over mine, selflessly, lovingly, without a moment to think, without a moment to decide. I am feeling your body shuddering, not with passion as you embrace me, as I yield to your embrace, as we are falling; you shudder with the impact of bullets and buckshot throwing your blood, your living blood, your warmth, in sprays like Rorschach blots across the dark expanse of the expensive tuxedo I picked out, the dark expanse of your warm skin, and across the white satin of my wedding dress, the dress my many mothers sewed.”

John C Wright

The story is set in Alabama sometime during the multi-decade period when Bull Connor was the Commissioner for Public Safety. Wright underlines that the racist men who burst into the wedding shooting are Democrats. The story isn’t terrible but the contrast with Swirsky’s only highlights Wright’s lack of skill. Consider specifically Wright’s emphasis on the party-political allegiance. It is a common point used by many Republicans to attack modern Democrats with the fact that the pre-Civil Rights south was dominated politically by Democrats. Wright is keen to underline this as a riposte — the intent is to provide validation for readers of one political stripe while upsetting those of another. That it is unlikely to upset people of the actual left (aside from its rhetorical clumsiness) is one thing but more revealing is Wright’s attempt to reverse the emotional pain from Swirsky’s story. Yet, Swirsky’s story achieves much greater discombobulation with almost nothing. Wright can’t manage the same economy and even his more leaden attempt misses its target. I suspect Wright realises this and attempts to pile into the story all his other political fears and concerns from Islam to atheism and even: “ No one tips his hat to a lady. No one holds the door for me.”

The multiple correspondence between the narrators concerns and her tendency towards purple prose makes her indistinguishable from Wright himself. Perhaps the story might work better for somebody who has never read anything else he has written but for me there is no gap between the narrator as her own character and Wright himself. The effect is vertiginous, conjuring up an image of Wright as the bride in this mid-twentieth century Birmingham chapel.

Eventually, after much faffing about the nature of time, the time traveller bride/Wright turns her husband to be into a T-Rex using her powers:

“By magic I reach back through time. No, I cannot bring you back to life, not here, not now. I cannot step backward five minutes and rush you out the back door, because my own body, the chains of cause and effect I have already established, are in the way. If I had more time to prepare, perhaps I could have done something — but there is no time. That is the first thing to remember. At the zero point, there is no time. So all points in time are equidistant to me, the same way all the parts of my gold ring touch my finger equally. The life in your cells has already ebbed too far. Besides, if I were to reach back and force your cells to remember their old shape of some apeman who was your ancestor, the Klansmen in their hoods would just shoot you. But you have older and older ancestors, cousins from parallel branches. Some have more life in them then others, and they are easier to reach. There is a chain of ever small ratlike beings, none of which will do. Then, I see your ancestor from late Cretaceous. His skull is five feet long, and his bite is the most powerful of any creature that ever lived.”

John C Wright

Of course, unless Wright was marrying a chicken, the dying husband was unlikely to have an ancestor who was a dinosaur, let alone a T-Rex. Yes, a petty point but recall Wright himself had chastised Swirsky for not doing basic research and realising that the non-existent Southern gentlemen that don’t appear in her story don’t drink gin in bars.

Of course the bride dies and Wright ensures his story doesn’t end with the interracial marriage actually happening. With her death none of the preceding events happen as the bride’s timeline gets erased so the couple never meet, they never attempt to get married and she never turns him into a dinosaur and he never eats those racist Democrats. The story collapses into its own pointlessness.

Although multiple stories from Wright were nominated for the 2015 Hugo Awards by the Sad and Rabid Puppies, “Queen of the Tyrant Lizards” was not one of them, although two people had suggested it publicly to Brad Torgersen who compiled the 2015 slate ( )

More tellingly, as a story it simply failed to generate interest or debate. Paradoxically the Sad Puppies would repeatedly confirm the power of Swirsky’s strange and unsettling story as they elevated its status to an emblem of what they saw wrong with science fiction in general. Wright’s own attempt to grapple with his feelings towards the story demonstrated the same incapacity for intra-personal reflection and criticism in writing and was left drifting into irrelevance.

Next time: After a brief stop in 2015 we zip ahead to 2016 and watch an attempt to embarrass the Hugo Award go magically and horribly wrong when Vox Day meets his match in the form of Chuck Tingle


41 responses to “Hugosauriad 4.5: Extinction event 1 – Queen of the Tyrant Lizard by John C Wright”

  1. “Paradoxically the Sad Puppies would repeatedly confirm the power of Swirsky’s strange and unsettling story as they elevated its status to an emblem of what they saw wrong with science fiction in general.”

    That seems to be the major (if unintended) theme of these culture wars — to magnify the importance of whatever symbols the opposition focuses upon.

    Nor is the lesson lost on some of the writers who do everything in their power to make it look like they are under attack — therefore somehow important.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ironic that Wright chose to write poorly-crafted right-wing message fiction as a response to what he chose to believe was left-wing message fiction without any evidence.

    Like all the rest, he seems to lack self-awareness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Puppies were never against message fiction. They just said that they were, because it’s obvious to anyone that “Down with message fiction” plays better in public as a talking point than “Down with fiction whose messages we don’t approve of”…but that second one was their real platform. Steve Rzasa, one of the Puppy authors, has a blog post somewhere in which he does put it the second way. I found that refreshingly honest of him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And they never stopped to think that looking like hypocrites didn’t do their ’cause’ any good at all.


  3. “While his politics and bank account placed Wright closer to Vox Day”

    I was always under the impression he was broke? I recall his wife (never him, of course) begging for money on Patreon a few times.

    “The story collapses into its own pointlessness”.

    Reminds me of the final story in his otherwise excellent Night Land stories.


  4. I will preface this by saying I have never read “If you were a dinosaur my love”, so obviously am quite ignorant about what is in the story. My guess, about why people would think some characters were “Southern” and working class would have to be the dialogue? As someone who has visited Texas and Georgia, I did find the vocabulary/idioms chosen etc. quite distinct and can image even on a page they would signal that someone is from the South. I particularly remember being in Georgia and noting the difference in the expression of gratitude. Being a product of my own culture when some did something nice for me, I’d say “Thanks” – but this was not the norm. Everyone else would say, “I appreciate it”. I’m guessing little dialogue signals might be why the villains of the story were considered to be Southern?

    At risk of a might big tangent, I note two things:

    1) Its odd to me, and has been from the beginning, how US-centric the left vs right debates in Sci-Fi are. Among the more sad things that happened around this is what happened to Amelie When Zhao. Possibly the saddest aspect of that was people attacking Amelie When Zhao because they couldn’t understand that she was drawing from historical Asian slavery (which many of her critics were entirely ignorant of) and simply assumed she was talking about historical US slavery. There is something tragic about people believing someone is being racist, because of their own ethnocentrism.

    2) That said the timeline of all this very much reflects the wider trend of the working class getting angrier about neglect, which seems to have resulted in Brexit (arguably a once in every few hundred years level of bad-decision making) and the election of Trump.

    The causes of this are complex, far too much so to go into in a comments section here. However, one point (touched on by the Sarah Hoyt quotes above) seems to be the increasing division in the left between traditional left wing values (trade union rights for the working class) and modern values (human rights/identity politics). This can make the left strange bedfellows when you have Social conservative Irish Catholic Left Wing MP with a trade union background sharing their party meeting room with an anti-religious, pro-gay rights MP with a background in protest movements. There was a great example of this her in Oz recently when Bill Shorten (for those of you who aren’t Aussie political aficionados Shorten was the Leader of the Labour party – which is the Australian centre left/trade union party) was asked about the Israel Folau controversy ahead of our recent election. He was torn between the need to point out employers have no right to tell their employees what to believe (trade union values) and not wanting to offend the gay rights supporters (identity politics values). This ended with him not picking a side and therefore not satisfying anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The US centric nature of the Puppie side is even more weird when you consider that Sarah Hoyt & Kate Paulk are both immigrants, Dave Freer isn’t American & lives in Australia, Larry Correia is the son of an immigrant, and while Vox Day is American he lives in Italy. The insularity displayed took active willpower – it didn’t come from just a general lack of experience beyond rural US, it just tried to simulate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • US Centrism from migrants makes sense, as immigrants often love theit new nation more than those born there (familiarity breeds contempt?) So I can see why a migrant may strongly adopt the values of their new culture, both as an act of the heart and because of the pressure put on migrants to do so. Correia being second generation was likely influenced by his parents and also strongly identifies with the social scene around gun culture, which brings its own values and cultural influences. Beale I suspect is conciously political so likely wants to promote nationalism wherever – I suspect he would cheer a far right wing government winning an election in Holland, South Africa or the US. I don’t know enough about Freer to have any guess why he might be interested interested in US matters (to be honest I’ve not read any of his fiction and little of his opinion other than what’s reported here) .

        I don’t think its just a Puppy thing – I think its a most of Sci-Fi thing. So many of the publishers and big name authors are US based, and in any novel it alwasy gets colder when you move North (Northern Hemisphere Centrism?). I hope some of this changes overtime because the Sci-Fi divisons as proxy for US divisions is tedious when there is a huge audience that lives in “not America”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Your guess is wrong. There’s no dialogue at all in the story (which is quite short and Cam linked to it in the earlier post, so why not read it before guessing?). There is a list of slurs that the narrator says the attackers used, but they’re in no way regionally specific. And this is the entirety of how the men are described: “five blustering men soaked in gin and malice”. The Puppies’ strange imaginations did all the rest.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Another point I forgot to make was that the Pups claimed the list of insults was absurd, that the thugs would have picked one thing or that the victim had to be all the things implied (or why else would the thugs says such thing?)

        And yet…the comment sections & hangers on of the pups wouldn’t hesitate to threaten violence and throw out a grab bag of misogynist, homophobic and transphobic insults!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Not having seen any of Swirsky’s own comments about this, when I read that passage I actually felt it was meant to be more archetypal than specific – like, it doesn’t matter if they drank gin or something else, and it doesn’t matter which slur they used so why not just list all of them. The narrator even says that the insults didn’t necessarily have any basis in reality – and the event is recalled through a traumatic haze. How anyone can read the rest of the story up to that point, with the dinosaur and all, and then conclude that this one paragraph was definitely supposed to be literal and naturalistic, is beyond me. I realize we’re talking about people who don’t *like* fancy lit’ry devices and ambiguity and such, but still.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure I remember a comment from Swirsky to the effect that if she was thinking of a particular bar, it was one she knew of frequented by college students, not some Southern bar – but mainly it was meant to be a generic bar.
        (Also, I always thought Hoyt was the originator of the She’s Insulting Southern Working Class Men theory, but clearly it predated her rants.)

        Liked by 2 people

      • it doesn’t matter which slur they used so why not just list all of them. The narrator even says that the insults didn’t necessarily have any basis in reality – and the event is recalled through a traumatic haze.

        Anybody who’s had to explain that no, the Nazis hated the Commies, and it’s not possible to actually be both, knows that to a lot of these people, the slurs really don’t have any inherent meanings: they’re just bad words, and their enemies are bad people, so the enemies must be all of these things even when those things are wildly inconsistent.

        Liked by 2 people

        • And as I’v said, it is is literally how many puppy supporters use slurs. I’ve personally had a whole weird mixed bag of misogynistic, homophobic & transphobic & just weirdly sexual slurs thrown at me from pups and I’m a cis heterosexual man, yet apparently they also think nobody would ever do that!

          Liked by 1 person

    • My recollection is that the Puppies were convinced of this because of the gin, even though gin joints haven’t been a thing since around the time Rick sold the Cafe Americain. These days I suspect that most people who drink gin are hipsters; it is very much an acquired taste.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I recalled that and Rachel Swirsky did write a piece explaining that she did not intend gin to be class marker but…I only found examples of Puppies saying the opposite i.e. Swirsky was wrong to say the people were gin-soaked because working class people don’t drink gin.

        I suspect there’s an ur-comment somewhere tying it all to gin a bit like Fail Burton’s gay dino porn comment but I can’t find it. As far as I can see the working class thing just popped out of nowhere and was taken as an already known fact by the pups.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. i don’t find Swirsky’s story particularly powerful, moving or skillful but in contrast with JCW’s it looks like a masterpiece. Even just those short extracts are the literary equivalent of Sideshow Bob walking through a field of rakes.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The other notable thing is how many Puppies cited Swirsky’s story as an example of how debased and PC Hugo Award winners have become, when it did not in fact win a Hugo.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. The Pup’s insistence that the story contains things it doesn’t reminds me of a favorite post that used to go around tumblr regularly. The original post was something along the lines of “We blindfolded 5 homophobes and asked them to hit piñatas with a stick. The piñatas were actually deadly hornet nests. What happens next will warm your heart.” Then someone angrily replied, “Once again this sight proves that liberals hate Christians.” and another person replied “The original post doesn’t mention Christians at all, but y’all read yourself in any. Says more about you…”

    They assume that if a hate crime happens in a bar, it must be in America and in the South and so on. They are really good at projecting, and really bad at self awareness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The same point has been made about outraged reactions to Obama saying we should reject leaders who spread hate: even though Republicans insist Trump isn’t doing that, they automatically assume he’s the topic.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love“ is a very short story, and it can be read online, free. Just saying.

    I suspect that the story acted like Galadriel’s mirror to the proto-puppies: They looked into it, and didn’t like what they saw, and then ran away crying that the mirror was cruel and wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. And still, they continue to ignore the story that was both more obviously not-SF, and more blatantly messagey…

    (I remain puzzled that both admirers and critics of the story see it as a gay narrative, It seems clear to me that the man is not gay. The attackers use homophobic language, but they also use racist and religiously-bigoted language., and the speaker says explicitly that they are picking words at random.)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “regard Vox Day’s explosion as political persecution.” Is exploding VD wishful thinking or a Freudian slip?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The structure of “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” doesn’t necessarily come from “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” It’s a figure of speech called gradatio, where the last word or phrase is repeated in the first word or phrase in the next sentence. I don’t expect the Puppies to know this — I just learned it myself, from a book called, surprise, “Figures of Speech” — but it’s always amazing to see how they’re absolutely sure they know everything, and that there aren’t any additional facts they need to know about anything.


    • Confession time: I only know of ‘If you give a mouse a cookie’ from reviews of ‘If you were a dinosaur…’ I guess it was more famous in the US. The structure though is, as you point out, a common one and also one associated with lullabies – which adds to the setting of a bed side


      • As someone who grew up in and has mostly lived in the US, I’d never heard of ‘If you give a mouse a cookie’ until this post. I think Nick Mamatas (in a post on the Puppy tantrums) described the structure of Swirsky’s story as an example of anadiplosis, but gradatio seems more appropriate: anadiplosis is the repetition of a word or phrase, but gradatio is the use of anadiplosis to build to a rhetorical or emotional climax. (According to


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