It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier.

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.

33 thoughts on “It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

  1. Stephen Jay Gould wrote several articles about how totally even distribution is not what you usually get from pure randomness, and that people just can’t grasp that. Though I doubt this dude is seriously concerned with the statistics.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s why the distribution of stars on the sky looks so wrong in old TV shows and movies (they do a much better job now): the spacing is much too uniform, which is highly non-random, but most people simply don’t understand that, or why it’s incorrect.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Also, is there any reason to believe these publishers publish an equal number of books that would be eligible for the awards? Or that the work the publisher does (from editing to marketing) is irrelevant to the awards? Seems unlikely to me, although my seat’s pretty far back in the bleachers…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The idea that award worthy books would be evenly distributed between publishers appears implausible on the face of it. In a given window of time even less so – the publishers with Hugo winning books changes over time as publishers shift, merge, go out of business etc (editors move on, authors shift publisher…). So the publishers Tor was competing with late 80s aren’t the ones they are competing with now. Macmillan might fold Tor tomorrow for unfathomable reasons. Who knows?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, this.

        If you only look at the 2011 – 2019 time span (and of course, they omit the 2010 Best Novel Hugos, because two white men, one American and one British won), Tor and Orbit won four Best Novel Hugos each, while Bantam Spectra won one. If you include 2010 for the full decade, you can add one win for Nightshade Books and one win for Macmillan, i.e. Tor’s sort of parent company (the actual parent company is Verlagsgruppe Holtzbrinck).

        In fact, the majority of Tor’s Hugo wins in recent years come from their novella line and’s short fiction contributed several nominations and wins as well. No other big SFF book publisher has a comparable novella line (and self-publishers and small pressses don’t have Tor’s marketing dollars, though Subterranean nabbed a novella nomination this year and Uncanny last year), so Tor has almost no competition in the novella category. Lois McMaster Bujold can get her self-published Penric novellas on the ballot, but she is a legend, SFWA grandmaster and ranks fairly high on the list of writers with the most wins and nominations in the fiction categories. Which makes it odd that the puppies are so focussed on the Best Novel category, because in Best Novella they would have a point regarding the domination of Tor.

        His Oscar analogy doesn’t hold true either, because a remarkably high number of Oscar-winning movies were produced by Harvey Weinstein’s company before his spectacular fall from grace. In fact, Harvey Weinstein was the most thanked person in Oscar acceptance speeches for years, ranking before “Mom and Dad” (everybody’s Mom and Dad) and God.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Orbit has existed since the 1970’s as a SFF imprint, just in different forms and owners. Little Brown bought its parent company in the 1990’s and Little, Brown was then part of Time Warner (Warner Book Group). Warner eventually took their SFF imprint Warner Aspect and merged/replaced it with Orbit to form Warner Orbit around 2002, which is when Orbit had their first official nomination for Best Novel. Then in 2006, Time Warner sold the book publisher side of the business, the Warner Book Group, to Hachette and that deal included Orbit. Hatchette renamed and moved around various imprints and deleted remaining Warner Aspect titles and the Questar Science Fiction line. They put Orbit as a separate imprint/division and that has been their main category SFF imprint, but they publish various SFF titles in other imprints as well.

        And that’s where the Puppies ignore a basic issue of large corporate publishers with international lines and lots of cross-marketing between different markets, category and general fiction — sometimes the listed publisher for a title isn’t the actual publisher for the title — it’s just the imprint name sometimes borrowed as an umbrella for the book and it can change when there are acquisitions, mergers or policy changes in marketing. Tor Books started as an independent publisher that had a distribution and marketing deal with St. Martin’s Press, which was owned by British publisher Macmillan. A few years down the road and Doherty sold Tor to St. Martin’s. The various parts of parent Macmillan UK and US were passed around in different corporate entities but have basically now all been housed under Holtzbrinck. So a SFF title might be published under the general Macmillan U.S. imprints but the imprint listed for it might be Tor Books, which cross-markets the title. Same with Orbit, Spectra, etc. Del Rey has complained about its big selling titles being raided by parent Penguin Random to be published in its general fiction lines but Del Rey is then often still marketing those titles as if they are still directly published under the Del Rey line.

        So Macmillan’s one win mentioned may have actually been a Tor book, edited by Tor editors, and some of the Tor winners may have actually been done by Macmillan imprints and cross marketed under Tor. Orbit was doing cross-marketing with Warner Aspect and Warner Questar, imprints which got Hugo nominations, in the 1990’s and early oughts before those were merged with Orbit/discarded. And all of these books are published by multiple publishing arms of the big houses together in different countries, so who initially does what is not necessarily clear cut. Trying to say that it’s a small clubhouse of elites rigging one roving convention’s election every time, (an election in which voting data is provided to the public,) doesn’t fit the real nature of sprawling corporate giants who trade imprint divisions like baseball cards.

        The Puppies try to float the myth that if an author publishes with one big house, that author is owned by that house and the house tries to get as many of its authors the awards as possible to boost its sales. But many authors, mid-list and best-seller, may work with more than one big house, so if Tor was conspiring to rig the Best Novel Hugo for its authors, they would inevitably be boosting the careers of authors whose next series was with say Orbit and Orbit would be the ones getting the boost. I mean, it’s not a sports team situation. Wright was published by Tor but also Baen and other houses so they know it isn’t sports teams, but that doesn’t make a good fairy tale.

        And when LC started his Puppy dream, it was in 2013, so who was winning 2011-2019 doesn’t even really enter into it. The claim was that from 2002-2012 was the problem with the Hugos, then they tried to move the time period around when people pointed out that what they were claiming about a time period wasn’t actually true. The line-up of winners for Best Novel starting at 2002 was William Morrow, Analog, Harper Eos (part of HarperCollins), Bloomsbury Publishing, Tor, Tor, HarperCollins, HarperCollins, Night Shade/Del Rey (tie,) Spectra and then Tor. So Tor had three wins during that ten year period, but HarperCollins had four wins, since William Morrow is part of HarperCollins. So did Harper Collins rig the awards and then stopped doing it?

        As noted, Tor, started in 1980, got its first nomination and big win with Card, and then a second with him and some more nominations from him. They also got nominations for other authors but only occasionally won. So how did they then magically rig things but didn’t earlier? Tor was helped out by the consolidation and sales of SFF imprints and their giant publisher owners in more recent years because they’ve never stopped putting out lots of titles. But once Orbit was fully established as their main SFF imprint by Hachette, Orbit started getting more nominations because their titles were getting attention and read by voters. Saga Press was an imprint of S&S started in 2013 that was part of their children’s publishing group, but it was also doing adult SFF, so they did more concentrated marketing to the category market and moved it to a different division. That meant more readers encountered Saga titles and they got two nominations this year. Doesn’t mean they rigged the vote. And Solaris, an independent house owned by a gaming publisher, has managed three noms in a row for Yoon Ha Lee’s series, which WorldCon voters really like.

        And then there’s the simple fact that the biggest publisher in the U.S. is Penguin Random House, which has multiple SFF imprints — Del Rey, Bantam Spectra, distribution for DAW Books, plus lots of best-selling non-imprint SFF that is also widely known and marketed. Penguin Random House is an international behemoth, etc. So by the logic that “oldpub” big houses bribe, publicize, rig and bend Hugo voters to their will, what we should be seeing is lots of Penguin Random House titles nominating and winning since they have way more money, muscle in the U.S. and titles to do it. And yet, while they have some success, we do not see this. But of course the claim is that it’s Tor authors, as if Tor owned them, who are, what, conspiring with Tor to somehow rig the vote. Apparently, if you publish a series with Tor, even if you also publish with other houses, you are granted tremendous power in the world of SFF conventions and award elections, even if you go off and work with Orbit or Saga for your next series. But if that was the case, then Wright should have been golden.

        The Puppy whining about the SFWA supposedly controlling the Hugos (when they can’t even control the SFWA members,) is what regularly makes them look confused. The Puppies mostly ignore the Nebulas, the awards of the SFWA which they do control, except for the one kerfluffle of the self-pub authors not realizing the rules. The Nebulas are way easier to rig than the Hugos if you wanted to do it. Instead, they keep trying to insist that the SFWA runs WorldCon and the Hugo. The Society runs the Hugos, but only by using volunteer committees whose membership does change and the convention itself is run by a different con each year. Which makes it very hard to have a consistent shadowy cabal. So the Puppies seized on to the SFWA as a more distinct, fixed organization (again at Beale’s instruction,) and they keep trying to do the red thread network of Tor Books, SFWA and the Hugos like they are some sort of powerful, secret government organization. But I guess it’s necessary for the fairy tales.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. It’s simple. If overwhelming numbers of white men win awards, that has to be the result of merit and not any sort of bias. if overwhelming numbers of non-white or non-male people win awards, that’s prima facie proof the awards are run by SJW. So if there’s an imbalance AND people like Jemisin and Leckie win awards, there you are, QED.

        Liked by 4 people

      5. And both Leckie and Jemisin have published their novels with Hachette Orbit, not Tor. Which doesn’t fit BN’s fairy tale very well unless he’s proposing that Hachette Orbit and Holtzbrinck Tor conspired to work together in 2012 to telepathically thwart LC in 2013/2014. Which if he believes in Bigfoot growing weed in national parks, I suppose it is possible that he does.

        Maybe that’s the only theory that can explain how Orbit rigged the election to get Leckie her Hugo win but then did not rig it again the next year to get Leckie her second win for Ancillary Sword. If they caballed with Tor, then they traded off with Tor to let Tor have it for last minute entry The Three Body Problem (instead of Tor’s Goblin Emperor, which had made a big splash.) But then why did Tor let Orbit win three in a row for Jemisin? And why Jemisin and not Leckie, if they’re rigging things, why not both and screw Tor out of the deal. So as a fairy tale, it has the remarkably illogical Puppy stamp.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. I had to follow that link. I saw this statement: “Public lands play host to extensive and well-organized criminal enterprises. It’s been an open secret among law enforcement for years that the cartels keep large marijuana farms in national parks.” I was immediately suspicious. It’s an “open secret” among everyone at least on the West Coast that illicit marijuana farmers operate extensively in national forests, but it’s hard to imagine the much more patrolled, managed, and frequented National Park system being infested with pot farmers. You can’t even get into the parks easily without paying. I followed the link and, yeah, it specifies national forests, not national parks.

      I’m not sure Niemeier is ever correct about anything.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. It never even occurs to Niemeier and the Sasquatch video guy that the reason that people go missing in national parks may be because they’re large, have plenty of rough terrain and hostile wildlife.They are also not easy to search. Hikers fall into ditches and are never found, get mauled by bears, fall into lake and rivers, just get lost and freeze or starve to death, etc… A lot of people have zero experience with nature. And young kids quite easily get lost – just today a family forgot their three-year-old kid at Hamburg central station and only noticed he was missing while the train was already moving (don’t worry, the kid and his family were reunited after an hour).

      When I visited Acadia National Park in Maine, there were signs reminding hikers to wear firm shoes, have sufficient water, etc… for a hike of less then one kilometre to see a special rock. We rolled our eyes at those signs, but if enough people do manage to get lost, I understand why they had them.

      But no, logical explanations aren’t good enough for Brian Niemeier and the Sasquatch guy. It must either be Sasquatch or CIA sponsored hippie paedophile drug cartels. Cause that makes sense.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I truly have to wonder whether the pups are quite aware that the entire history of their movement(s) is and always has been completely available?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s like each of them are trying to write their own set of fairy tales with themselves as rebels and rulers both. They keep trying to do an orphaned farmboy is discovered a prince who takes back the kingdom thing but don’t seem to know how to construct it logically because they keep changing their mind about who is doing the villain conspiracy part.

    My favorite bit is the Dragons section of the saga. As we know, in the second year, the Dragons admins tried to get more respectable and threw nominations to some prominent authors who had gotten voting attention, one of them being Jemisin, the author most abused, harassed, threatened and smeared by the Puppies — and not even a Tor author. She, Scalzi and Alison Littlewood said they wanted to withdraw their nominations. The Dragon admins threw a fit because it was a clear rejection of the awards as legitimate and insisted they were holding those nominations hostage. This would have backfired on them spectacularly as media would have made it a big story that Jemisin was being abused by conservative SFF folk again and shown the Dragons as the weird, right-wing trash fire they keep trying to be. But Scalzi made a bargain that if they let the two other authors and any others subsequently who wanted to withdraw actually withdraw, he’d stop trying to withdraw his nomination. They took it to save face.

    So not only were the withdrawals not a SJW takeover and instead an exodus that lucky for the Dragons did not grow worse, but the only reason it wasn’t a complete disaster for the Dragons was Scalzi generously playing peacemaker after they bungled it. He saved their bacon (taped to a cat,) and the Puppies have added the resentment to the pile of resentment towards Scalzi that they took on merely because Beale ordered them to do it.

    And now, what, “traditional” publisher is oldpub? Baen isn’t exactly newpub and they always say they like old stuff better. (Not Ursula LeGuin’s work of course, but manly old stuff.) Why do they always talk like characters from Alice in Wonderland?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I suspect the SJW takeover Niemeier is talking about might be this year, where there were a lot of respectable mainstream finalists including Ian McEwan, but the winners were all Baen works and other puppy-adjacent and puppy-favoured works, even if the winner was the most obscure book on the ballot in that category.

      I guess the puppies are interpreting that as “We drove the SJW away, ne-na-na-na.”

      I’m sure Ian McEwan is crying himself to sleep that he has not won a Dragon Award after not even getting nominated for the Booker.


  4. Niemeier is in that Finn/Freer-category where the their posts are a weird mix of faith, beliefs or conspiracies strung together in a thoroughly unhinged manner. I can’t say I have read anything by them that makes sense.

    Most of the others are a mix. Some politics based on a focused ignorance of the world and history, some interesting thoughts on writing, some sharing of life, struggles and joy. Some of them I think I could have a great time with over a beer, discussing books, as long as we ignore politics. Some others most likely not, but we could at least, I don’t know, be civil to each other on a charity event.

    But Niemeier/Finn/Freer. I just don’t even know where to start to make sense of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as online conspiracy theorists or outsider religio-politico commentators go, I don’t think Niemeier is that unusual. He’s assembled a set of fringe cultural commentators and stapled their claims together into a belief system that suits him (his stuff about demonic possession is heavily influenced by Father Chad Ripperger, for example, and now we’ve got Sasquatch Video Guy). I’m not sure there’s much that separates him from your typical David Icke devotee; he’s perhaps better at toning down the real green-ink craziness and adopting a degree of cool-dude confidence, but I think that’s a generational thing.

      The main factor is that, as a result of the Puppy campaigns, he’s able to try and position himself as some sort of beloved fan-favourite pop culture figure, like the offspring of Stan Lee and Torquemada.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Dominicans in giant mecha

        Ahh, so there was a misprint. He’s not after Tor, he’s after the Torg!

        (For the vast majority that probably didn’t get the reference, in the old tabletop RPG ‘Torg’ one of the invading realms is called ‘the Cyberpapacy’. It’s basically a transhumanist Gallic Catholicism that uses cybertech to induce fervor. Most of the invading realms were pretty disturbing.)

        Liked by 4 people

  5. “As noted, Tor, started in 1980, got its first nomination and big win with Card, and then a second with him and some more nominations from him. ”

    I thought Card was one of the authors that the fandom/Tor nexus was suppressing (Tor by publishing him and fandom by giving him back-to-back Hugo wins).

    Liked by 5 people

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