An inquiry

I had an email the other day asking if I could summarise the role of Vox Day in the SFWA and the Hugo Awards for somebody not familiar with the background. So here is what I wrote. Corrections and adjustments welcome, of course.

Vox wants to be a writer and wants legitimate respect as a writer. In the 2000s he’d published enough to qualify to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America aka SFWA. This wasn’t a stunt or an alt-right entryism tactic, I think he genuinely wants to be seen as a legit SF-writer. He even ends up on Nebula Awards jury. The Nebula Awards are the SFWA’s major writing awards – not as notable as the Hugo Awards but still big. At the time I think Vox is still writing his column for World Net Daily, the paleo-conservative ‘news’ site that I think his dad invested in. Of course, people notice that the Nebula jury has this guy on it who has pretty extreme views – particularly about women and Jewish people.

[2005] This all ends up as a big argument on the blog of Patrick Nielsen Hayden Among the many people who wade into the discussion is John Scalzi – who at the time was making a name for themselves as a sci-fi author and as a blogger. Scalzi is actually sort of defending Vox’s role on the jury. Other notable writers such as Charlie Stross join and eventually Vox Day joins in as well and things get worse from there. Yes, it’s just a big forum argument but from that point on Vox Day deeply hates Patrick Nielsen Hayden and the sci-fi publisher he works for Tor Books. It also starts the deep enmity Vox has for John Scalzi.

By 2010 John Scalzi is President of the SFWA and it’s also a time of social change. Lots of new guard versus old guard sort of fights as well as conflicts about diversity and inclusion. Vox is in the midst of all this and he is friends with conservative old-guard writers such as Jerry Pournelle. 2013, Vox runs for President of the SFWA (again, as a serious campaign i.e. not just trolling) and loses badly. It’s a peak time for internal controversies in the SFWA [can’t summarise all of it but see ] Author NK Jemisin in a speech at a sci-fi con refers to Vox as ‘a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavours of asshole’ which kicks off attacks on Jemisin by Vox. Vox uses an official SFWA twitter account to attack Jemisin, which becomes grounds by the SFWA to expel Vox from the organisation. Vox claims the expulsion is illegitimate and that the rules weren’t followed properly and that therefore he wasn’t actually expelled and that anyway he will sue the SFWA etc. He never does actually sue the SFWA and yes, he was very much expelled.

Many conservative and libertarian people in sci-fi are dismayed by this. They know Vox has more extreme views (but they downplay how extreme) but regard Vox’s expulsion as left-wing persecution of conservatives. That’s 2013 and at that point we need to put the SFWA aside and got to a totally different organisation.

The SFWA is a *writers* organisation. The World Science Fiction Society is a *fan* organisation. It is most famous for its annual Worldcon, a relatively small but very influential science fiction convention, and for the Hugo Awards which are the biggest science fiction awards. Anybody can join the WSFS (because its for fans) but there is an overlap with the SFWA because writers are fans too. The biggest name connected with the WSFS is George RR Martin, who has been active in Worldcons for decades, long before he was famous for Game of Thrones.

Moderately conservative-leaning publisher Baen has several writers who were unhappy at the time that Baen was getting no love at the Hugo Awards and that rival publisher Tor was getting lots of awards – in particular for Best Editor. New guy Larry Correia (a libertarian-lite, Mormon 2nd amendment advocate) does manage to get nominated for a best newcomer award but dislikes the experience. He’s published by Baen and decides to help boost the votes of his own books and the books he likes by trying to mobilise a voting campaign. This ends up being called “Sad Puppies” and initially its sort of a joke. It’s not political per-se but sort of anti-PC. Anyway, this is also in 2013 and many of the same people pissed off at the SFWA stuff are also supporting Larry Correia. Naturally, many of the same people pissed off at Vox Day aren’t very happy with the Sad Puppies idea.

2014 Larry decides to cross the streams. Sad Puppies 2 nominates Vox Day for a Hugo Award in a short fiction category. The arguments about the SFWA are spilling over into Worldcon and the Hugo Awards even though the two organisations are separate. The level of bad feeling just gets higher. Vox is feeding all this with his usual stuff about SJWs supposedly infiltrating stuff and shadowy conspiracies etc. He’s just rehashing his usual antisemitism but swapping out terms but he’s playing the more moderate conservatives like a fiddle. Because people like John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (see above) and NK Jemisin are also part of the Worldcon scene, he can get at them by attacking the Hugo Awards. Sadly for Vox, he gets utterly humiliated in the final voting for the 2014 Hugo Awards.

2015. Round three for the Sad Puppies, this time run by Larry Correia’s friend and fellow Mormon Brad Torgersen (also published by Baen). Brad’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but he also hate John Scalzi because Brad used to comment at Scalzi’s blog but kept making a fool of himself. Brad puts together a slate of nominees. Vox decides to run his own campaign for the Hugo’s called “Rabid Puppies”. He takes Brad’s slates, adds a few extra works from his own Castalia House and tell’s his followers to buy memberships for Worldcon so they can nominate for the Hugo Awards.
April comes along and the Sad/Rabid Puppies have swept the board i.e. there are whole categories were the only nominees are works from the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates. What that means is that no matter how people vote, the only choices in some categories have been picked by Vox. Checkmate, says Vox.


People can vote for ‘No Award’ if they don’t like any of the nominees. Huge numbers of people join up for Worldcon 2015 to vote in the final stage of voting. Nobody knows who has the most new votes. Final votes come in and the Rabid Puppies get smashed. Vox still declares victory, saying that was his plan all along.

2016 Vox tries again. Doesn’t do as well in the nominations and gets smashed in the final votes. To add salt into his wounds Best Novel (the big premiere award) goes to N.K. Jemisin (see above).

2017 Vox tries again. Does very badly in the nominations and gets very smashed in the final votes. N.K. Jemisin wins her SECOND Hugo Award for best novel.

By 2018 he’s given up but declares victory claiming it was his plan anyway to destroy the Hugo Awards by making people vote for left wing works.

[ETA It is always worth noting for people who haven’t read it, N.K.Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season is absolutely genuinely brilliant and IMHO one of the best novels to win a Hugo Award ever. That it winning would also have pissed off Vox is secondary to the actual nature of the win.]

62 thoughts on “An inquiry

  1. I think that’s a fair summary – for the amount of time and/or space available to explain it.
    To steal a phrase from (iirc) Neal Stephenson, anything to do with VD and the puppies is fractally weird – each and every weird detail is itself composed of even weirder details.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m tempted to suggest a line or two about his father (beyoand mentioning his Ted Beale identity. At the same time, though, isn’t this enough?

    Also, Nora Jemisin’s *first* novel was better than anything Vox Day has ever written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if it’s worth noting, but in 2016 he actually had stronger support and really could have burned the awards down if he’d played his cards right. But his foolish “hostage” strategy backfired, and by allowing worthy works into the lists of nominees, he make it possible for the Hugos to avoid a whole lot of no-awards. Also, one should mention the “heroes” on Vox’s list who declined the nomination, opening spaces for worthy works. (I did a detailed analysis of slate voting from 2014-2016 at one point.) Among other things, this shows just how much the Rabid Puppies dominated the Sad Puppies.

    Then, in 2017, he grossly misunderstood how EPH works, and as a result he gave foolish instructions to his minions, with the result that his impact on the Hugos was negligible that year.

    So I guess the biggest thing I think you’re missing is some mention of just how badly Vox Day played his cards. He could have had a lot more influence than he actually did.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Greg Hullender: in 2016 he actually had stronger support and really could have burned the awards down if he’d played his cards right

      I always roll my eyes whenever someone makes claims about the Puppies “burning the Hugo Awards down”. He didn’t have the power to do that. He could have gotten some more categories No-Awarded, but he didn’t have the ability to “burn the Hugo Awards down”, because Worldcon members were fixing the rules, and one or two years of crap does not destroy a 65-year-old awards program.

      Greg Hullender: in 2017, he grossly misunderstood how EPH works, and as a result he gave foolish instructions to his minions, with the result that his impact on the Hugos was negligible that year.

      He understood perfectly well how EPH worked, and he gave his minions the right instructions. The problem was that he let them put ineligible people on his slate, which cost him 4 slots, and GRRM deprived him of a 5th; the RP ended up with 9 slots instead of 14. Their effect wasn’t negligible — they still got some crap on the ballot — but it was a token effort on VD’s part anyway; he was well aware that his minions weren’t going to be willing to spend any more money on Supporting Memberships after EPH was passed, and the 2017 slate was just a Hail Mary pass on his part. He was already busy setting his sights on another grift campaign elsewhere.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. There are some problems here. Between the Nielsen Hayden kerfluffle and Voxman’s invocation of McRapey (you totally left that one out, Beale has dozens of posts with that tag on his blog) there was a detente between the two because Scalzi went out of his way to be nice to him and other far righters like Torgerson, Wright and various pseudonymous commenters. Beale even had a “The Big Idea” post on Whatever.

    The flashpoint of the whole thing is this post.

    Vox went apeshit and accused Scalzi of being a rapist. The attack on Jemisin happened later.

    At this point you have to invest considerable time not only for normal research but do forensic trawling of the net to produce a booklet in the low 10000 word range to get the barebones details right.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmmmm, I’d say the McR thing was just one of several cudgels VD tried to wield at various people. You could write an entire essay on his many and varied lines of attack (gammas, cuckservatives, savages, whatever sigma IQ thing it was that he rabbited on about, his various white supremacy dogwhistles, etc etc) but I personally think it’s more interesting to see what motivated these things.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Chris M: Voxman’s invocation of McRapey… Vox went apeshit and accused Scalzi of being a rapist… the whole McRapey story is very relevant to the whole fracas.

      Nah, that was just a minor sidetrip into stupidity which VD no doubt hoped would be a lot more major than it turned out to be. It was never going to get any traction. Scalzi and anyone who mattered all just rolled their eyes and moved on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I should have written ‘one’ instead of ‘you’ here. You’re right Camestros has done more research on this than most of us and certainly me. So apologies to you, Camestros, and thank you JJ for pointing this out

        And this post does a good job of paring things down to 1200 words and even if one does something which would satisfy my criteria for a barebones summary of Vox role in the whole affair a lot of stuff would fall by the wayside so I’m only quibbling.

        Lastly on the whole “McRapey” thing we just have to agree to disagree about the relevancy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well the McRapey thing was relevant in that it was one of the major things that upset people about Beale, and thus one of the reasons that Correia decided to put Beale’s fiction on the Sad Puppies voting slate to piss everyone off and show that he was in charge. It’s also directly relevant to why the Sad Puppies went after Red Shirts’ Hugo win so hard. Beale had gotten a lot of mileage over sliming Scalzi with the McRapey thing with right wingers, even though the attempt to paint a satiric column as real backfired and the back-peddle claim that the attempt was just a joke just made Beale look foolish to most. The McRapey gamma male stuff appealed to the GamerGaters they needed to come vote.

        It was also safe cover to pretend they weren’t directly going after Jemisin (for Beale’s revenge,) and other women, since Scalzi was a straight white guy who Beale had already safely attacked repeatedly without Scalzi coming after him. They had to tie themselves up in knots to do it, since Scalzi not only was a straight white man moderate, but wrote best-selling commercial fiction of a vintage they said was the best SF. But because Beale had no problem doing that with the McRapey stunt, he had no problem making the claim and it made the Sad Puppies look inconsistent, costing them, along with the inclusion of Beale on the slate and as a major spokesperson for their “movement,” a lot of support from moderate and conservative white authors and key figures in SFF.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. @Kat Godwin

        Imho Beale’s strong reaction might also have had the reason that he had no good answer to Scalzi’s larger point. He was simply stumped because he couldn’t come up with an answer which didn’t make him look an immoral asshole. And to go full freudian in my speculations for this reason it didn’t even compute for him.

        BTW Sorry for for calling you “Kat Howard” last year. I do know that you’re separate people.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A relatively minor point, but Beale also didn’t anticipate that the author of “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” would notice what was going on and throw his surreal support behind love rather than hate.Announcing publicly that Zoe Quinn had agreed to represent him at the Hugo ceremony was a nice touch. (I don’t think Beale expected Tingle to be pro-rabid puppies, so much as didn’t consider that he was an actual person and might have a reaction other than wanting the award.)

    Liked by 9 people

    1. +1, the Chuck Tingle fiasco was one of his bigger tactical mistakes, and so deliciously obvious in hindsight – was a writer of gay erotica going to stand for a unpleasant homophobe trying to weaponise their work?

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Chuck Tingle is my favorite part of the SP/RP debacle, and not just because it backfired so spectacularly on the homophobic idiots who thought they’d figured out a 12-dimensional chess move that would offend the sensibilities of the WSFS membership. Three positive effects (for me, personally) arose from all that nonsense:
      1) I read a whole lot of SFF I wouldn’t have, otherwise (including N.K. Jemisin who was always just a couple books own on my TBR mountain before that), including a lot of short fiction, something I hadn’t read much in years.
      2) I learned quite a bit about fandom and virtually met a bunch of cool people.
      3) Chuck Tingle.

      Liked by 5 people

  6. Fairly good. A few points:

    1. Beale used the SFWA official Twitter account to make a RACIST attack on Jemisin because she had been critical of his racism and misogyny in her speech in the context of showing how marginalized authors had to deal with hostile environments in places like the SFWA. This is an important point because not only was it an abuse of the SFWA’s Twitter account, but it was a bigoted attack on another member as an official post of the SFWA, which laid SFWA open to legal action from Jemisin. If Beale had used the SFWA Twitter account to just say he didn’t like Jemisin or that she was a hack, he might not have been expelled from the organization, but the racist attack damaged the organization’s reputation and opened them up to legal liability, breaking numerous rules of the organization, so they had more than sufficient grounds to expel him.

    2. Brad did not initially make a fool of himself on Scalzi’s blog, certainly no more than most people who regularly talked there. But he seems to have set himself a course to make himself a name in the conservative mediasphere as a right-wing SF author. One of his former friends, (he burned a number of bridges during the Puppies,) said that Brad had even expressed this as a plan. So he got a lot more toxic and particularly misogynistic and homophobic, resulting in the memorable attempt to declare Scalzi gay as an insult during the height of the Puppy attacks. He tried to hook his wagon to Beale and then tried to back-peddle mightily when that produced unhappy media coverage for the Puppies.

    3. Beale didn’t copy the Sad Puppy slate for Rabid Puppies — he more or less dictated the Sad Puppy slate as a coordinated effort. They had their Evil League of Evil or whatever they called it, which was basically led by Beale and they worked out what the slate would be, with the Sad Puppies adding a few they wanted to theirs and Beale adding his publishing house’s offerings to the Rabid slate. The Sad Puppies were completely dependent on Beale to get the votes for nominations, not simply because he had some followers, but because he went and recruited Gamergaters who voted only the Rabid Puppy slate. If the Sad Puppies had not copied a good chunk of the Rabid Puppy slate, they would not have gotten any slots. None of their titles that were not also on the Rabid Puppy slate got nominations.

    4. Re the comments, Beale had launched prolonged attacks on Scalzi well before the McRapey campaign. Beale just thought the McRapey attack was going to be the really successful one. Although Scalzi defended Beale’s inclusion as a Nebula judge (Scalzi himself is actually a centrist,) and let Beale do a Big Idea post, Beale kept holding a grudge against Scalzi for various things Scalzi had said (the pinata candy comment particularly,) and that Scalzi was doing so well on the publishing front. So he kept stalking him and talking crap about him, which irritated Scalzi and earned him the Author Who is Obsessed with Me nickname. In particular, Beale kept claiming that Scalzi’s books didn’t really sell, that Tor was artificially propping Scalzi up, etc. This attack looked really ridiculous when Scalzi signed a multi-million dollar, multi-book long time contract with Tor in a record setting deal in 2015, but that didn’t stop Beale from trying to claim that Scalzi was an unpopular author who didn’t really make sales and that Red Shirts, which had been on best-seller lists, had sold poorly and didn’t deserve a Hugo Award during the Puppy campaigns when they were trying to go for the populist argument for the Puppies.

    I’m also not sure I’d say that Beale was a “friend” of Pournelle’s exactly, though Beale published some of his stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. @Kat Goodwin

      3. Beale didn’t copy the Sad Puppy slate for Rabid Puppies — he more or less dictated the Sad Puppy slate as a coordinated effort.

      That might be true, but what I suspect happened was that, first, Brad said he wanted the general public to nominate stories. That didn’t produce a useful list, so, at the last minute, Brad, Larry, and Vox got together and generated lists based on authors they liked. (One author told me Brad contacted him/her and said “suggest a story of yours we could include.”) Vox wanted to do too much self-promotion for Brad’s taste, so they parted ways, with the result that the lists heavily overlapped, and the differences (in printed works) were all Castalia House products.

      If the Sad Puppies had not copied a good chunk of the Rabid Puppy slate, they would not have gotten any slots.

      Agree 100%, and my mathematical analysis corroborated that conclusion. I think Brad and Larry knew they really needed Vox’s minions to pull this off, which is why they were willing to include so many works from Castalia House. They just weren’t willing to go as far as Vox wanted them to go.

      I also think they were all taken by surprise when they did as well as they did. I doubt any of them–Vox included–truly believed they’d sweep so many (or any) categories.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Regarding Brad Torgersen, I remember that he was a frequent commenter at many SFF related blogs before Sad Puppies 3. He did broadcast conservative views, but he wasn’t yet as far right or as obnoxious as he eventually became. He was also sort of accepted as a member of the SFF community and his first Hugo nomination and his Campbell nomination were genuine, as was Larry Correia’s Campbell nomination.

      Which makes his later, “Wahh, I’m being oppressed” whining even more ridiculous, because Torgersen thanked people who had welcomed him by peeing in the pool. The same applies to various other puppies of various stripes, for that matter.

      As for Larry Correia’s first WorldCon experience, what I suspect happened is that Correia assumed he’d be feted as a big, important author and that WorldCon members instead reacted with, “You’re a Campbell nominee, that’s nice. Who are you again?”

      Because unlike Torgersen, who was something of a known quantity, because he’s been commenting at SFF related blogs for years, Correia was pretty much unknown in the wider SFF community. At any rate, I recall that when the Hugo and Campbell nominations were announced in 2012, I looked at the list and thought, “Who on Earth is Larry Correia and who on Earth is Dan Wells?” Quick Google. “Huh, an authoir of macho urban fantasy and a guy who writes tie-ins and has a horror novel. That’s so not what Hugo voters normally go for.” I then assumed that since WorldCon was in Reno that year and both Correia and Wells were from Utah, that they were simply popular local authors.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. “New guy Larry Correia (a libertarian-lite, Mormon 2nd amendment advocate) does manage to get nominated for a best newcomer award but dislikes the experience.”

    Didn’t Larry post about how he enjoyed the experience before it became politically expedient for him to declare that he had always been at war with Eastasia?

    Liked by 10 people

  8. Sounds like an adequate summary to me, but are you sure you’re being fair to the multi-faceted talents of VD? – Not just a writer, but also an editor, social commentator, game designer, musician, graphic novelist, wargamer and all-around polymath. Active in so many different fields, and (ahem) equally good in all of them….

    Liked by 8 people

  9. For the Puppies, the awards weren’t a marker of success or merit; they were a marketing tool that scheming liberal authors were depriving them of getting while looking down on them. The Puppies saw the Hugo purely in terms of monetary value for their rep and they didn’t think any diverse, “literary” fiction, that must therefore be boring and unpopular to most fans, should be getting that push of putting Hugo Award Winner/nominee on their books. That such authors were getting Hugo Award nominations and wins (as well as the then Campbell Awards), they argued, was destroying the Hugo’s reputation as a valuable (publicity) award and causing declining attendance at WorldCon (even though WorldCon’s average attendance wasn’t declining and a lot of attendees don’t involve themselves in the Hugo Awards.)

    From there they moved on to various, often conflicting arguments for why non-conservative and especially non-white men authors getting Hugo attention was bad and had created a crisis, but it was always in terms of how much the Hugo Awards were worth as a marketing device for commercial sales, and therefore who should get to use them, regardless of what WorldCon attendees thought about it or wanted in their convention. The argument was always that the Puppies were being deprived of what they thought they should be able to control, of all the “goodies” in the field.

    That’s why it didn’t matter who they nominated on their voting slate, as long as it would be seen as a show of control against the supposed scheming liberals, etc. That’s why Correia threw in Beale and then let him take over — because it was a show of him having control and the ones keeping him from his marketing device not being able to stop it. That’s why they picked Tingle — because his inclusion was supposed to make a mockery of the supposed power of the supposed liberal (diverse) authors who supposedly wanted to hog the marketing device.

    They made false accusations and swatted and threw bigoted insults and sicked Gamergaters on authors they didn’t know, all to show they were powerful. And when they took everyone by surprise in the nominations by block voting by mainly non-fans, they found themselves tolerated at the awards ceremony but not treated as people who were powerful, who would be talked about by fans as Hugo nominees. They were treated as what they were — people who had gone after other authors for their own gain. They are welcome to milk whatever marketing value of their Hugo noms they can get, but they missed the main point of the Hugos and WorldCon by a country mile.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Is a Hugo award a particularly strong marketing device? I don’t doubt it boosts sales somewhat but I’d be surprised if its a big boost because by the time awards happen the novel has already had a lot of sales and buzz so its a “known quantity” to readers in the fan scene, and readers of fantasy who don’t really get into the fandom scene probably don’t understand and/or care which awards have prestige or not when making a purchasing decision.

      It seems plausible to me that some authors would be overly eager to use the Hugo win as a marketing award but I’d again suspect just like they may over value the award, they may over value its utility as a marketing device.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I vaguely remember a Hugo winner writing about the effect the nomination and then the win had on their Amazon sales and yes, there was a significant effect.

        Doesn’t surprise me. When I wasn’t part or fandom, I still used to check out the list of Hugo winners and they were often placed on display at the local bookstore or only brought in after their win. And my father, never a part of Fandom, bought Hugo winners before that. And winning a Hugo often had an impact on if a book would be translated, always showing the win on the cover.

        Hugo’s have a reputation far out of the Fandom scene.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. It is and it isn’t valuable market-wise, somewhat dependent on which award it is. The awards get media coverage, which then can help get name awareness out there. The dramatic awards don’t really matter for film/tv. Artists who win the art awards, both pro and fan, can get commissions from becoming better known from the awards, magazines and anthologies that get the awards can attract some new readers, for book editors it doesn’t have much effect, short fiction winners and nominees can get more attention by book publishers if they are marketing a novel or sometimes marketing benefits for novels they already have out. The non-fiction ones get a bit of a boost and may get a boost for fiction if they also write that.

        The big award that gets the most attention is Best Novel and a nomination or win can help authors and is used by publishers in marketing paperback editions of the work or subsequent works by the author and will get displays in bookstores, which is in store marketing that does have an effect. And that’s the one that the Puppies were really focused on, dismissing the short fiction awards as some game liberal authors were manipulating that WorldCon shouldn’t even bother with. The Campbell also helped newer authors get attention from some fans who could then spread word of mouth and from media, though less than the Hugo itself.

        Most of the time, most of the attention is limited to the category market and most of the media coverage is by category SFF media, but that’s of some usefulness as core fan readers are good at spreading word of mouth. N.K. Jemisin pulling off the hat trick of three wins for a trilogy got a lot of wide press attention for the Hugos themselves and probably did get her an increase in media coverage although she already got a lot of media coverage and for awhile did the SFF review column for the NYTimes.

        So yes, it is prestigious and it has a marketing value of varying effect. But the purpose of the Hugos is for the members of WorldCon — the convention attendees — and the supporters of WorldCon — the associate memberships you can buy to vote — to celebrate what they like in SFF. And because the convention moves from location to location, that can produce different voting patterns. The majority of authors don’t get Hugo nominations though; there tends to be a cluster of popular authors who get nominated and may win repeatedly for several years, then to be supplanted by another group of popular authors who get nominated and win for the next few years, etc., in the history of the award. They tend to be the people most talked about in books and in the more narrow market of those who read magazines and a lot of short fiction.

        The Puppies have routinely asserted that the Hugos are only worth something if they are used as a marketing tool that goes to the most popular authors, who they asserted were only really conservative authors supposedly without civil rights politics in their stories. If that wasn’t happening, then the Hugos were supposedly dying off. They kept talking about how the WorldCon members were doing it wrong, and then about how it was probably rigged as a marketing tool. And according to Camestros’ reporting, they’re still making those claims.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. “Is a Hugo award a particularly strong marketing device? I don’t doubt it boosts sales somewhat but I’d be surprised if its a big boost because by the time awards happen the novel has already had a lot of sales”

        My impression is that the primary effect isn’t on the book that wins, but on industry interest in future works. I.e. winning a Hugo made it easier for authors to sell their next novel, they got a bigger advance, the publisher committed more to marketing, etc. The one I remember saying this most vocally is Kameron Hurley, who credits her contract for “The Stars Are Legion” on being a Hugo winner, but I think I’ve seen others suggest the same thing. (Note that Hurley didn’t even win Best Novel, but Best Related Work and Best Fan Writer.) This is obviously difficult to measure, though – it’s possible the quality of the book that won would have given them the same boost, even if the Hugo voting had gone differently.


      4. Way way back in the early eighties when I first started paying attention, I saw a lot of books with the words “award winning” prominently featured on the cover in such a way as to be ambiguous as to whether they referred to the book itself or the author. This tells me that at one time, it was widely believed that the major awards were widely believed to have enough influence to justify deceptive marketing practices in their name.

        Needless to say, that was a very long time ago, and the world has changed enormously since then.


      5. Thanks for the replies to my queires peeps, very illuminating. Money in the game can make things a bit more bloodthristy, I figured ego was the main factor but maybe there is more to it.


      6. There are a few book awards that tend to boost library sales significantly for a title, and also to put the author on librarians’ radar for future purchases. The Newbery Medal is probably the best-known example. If I recall correctly, the Hugo Best Novel award is another.

        Larger libraries, or ones with librarians that follow science fiction closely, will often have Hugo-awarded titles before they win. But many smaller libraries might not have someone particularly invested in SF (you can usually tell by the small and dated collections they’ll tend to have). Those will often pick up award winners once they’re announced, to try to freshen their collections. And there are a lot of libraries out there.

        Liked by 3 people

      7. I can only speak for the sales in one bookstore in an out of the way corner of the world, but where I work winning a Hugo causes a boost in sales second only to having Netflix do a decent adaptation. In the month or so immediately following the win there’s a major spike in sales for the winner followed by years of ongoing sales at a higher rate than prior to the award. Usually all the author’s other works also see a boost. It’s most noticeable when it’s an author who doesn’t already have a huge following. All Systems Red really didn’t move well in my store when it first came out. It’s a slim novella priced like a novel by an author whose prior works were not easily available here. It is still selling more copies most months than its pre-award total sales.

        Authors with a decent following before their win are harder to measure but, picking a random example, Connie Willis’s Hugo winners have each sold between 5 and 10 times as many copies as any of her non-winners. Ancient historical winners are affected too. Heinlein’s Hugo winners just keep turning over while his other titles just sit gathering dust.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. Regardless of how good the adaptation is there will always be some increase in sales. Even the pre-release trailer for a lousy adaptation will sell a couple of books to the curious. The biggest sales spikes I have seen in the last few years were Good Omens (which was already our number-one selling novel) when the Amazon adaptation dropped and the first Witcher book over the last month and a bit. Both good adaptations and entertaining shows and more sales in the month of release than the entire preceding year. Compare that with The Rook which was an un-fun and crap adaptation of a really fun novel that had a spike of a whole five copies.

        Winning a Hugo is somewhere in between those two extremes but after the first-month spike the sales remain higher than the pre-Hugo level for years.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I have certainly bought at least a few print paperbacks based on “Hugo Award Winner” or “by Hugo Award-winning author”, from shelf-browsing in book stores.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Re: Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy: I tried it several times, and there is something in the prose that keeps me bouncing off.

    Which is a weird feeling, because I’ve liked everything from her until now. She’s just the kind of writer I like: pointed, an effective prose-crafter, good world-building, provocative in fiction and non-fiction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Mart

      I know many people are thrown off by the use of second person narrative for Essun. If that’s it, it might make you feel better to know there’s a definite plot-related reason behind it; although that won’t be clear until the final book.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Heh. It’s not the second person that threw me off. I quite enjoy that, enjoyed it Charles Stross’ Edinburgh near future novels too.

        I don’t know, I recognise the prose as quite excellent, I enjoy it on a rational level, but it just does not have that “Got to read on” emotional connection.


  11. Some additional points worth mention:

    * Larry and Brad’s Sad Puppies list where never very influential. It was only when VD got involved that the attacks gained enough followers to have a significant influence.

    * There’s evidence VD was involved when Larry drafted up the 2015 Sad Puppies list, before he published his own slightly revised list as the Rabid Puppies.

    * The scale of the controversy increased massively in 2015. Until then I think a lot of people not deeply into fandom either hadn’t heard about the puppies at all, or they’d heard but didn’t really care. The way the puppies dominated the nomination in 2015 brought a lot of attention to the controversy, including some coverage in mainstream news outlets. One reason for this increase was simply that the sweep made it harder to just ignore the puppies. Another reason was that George RR Martin criticized the slates in several blog posts, and the success of “Game Of Thrones” meant his blog had many readers outside narrow fandom. And so there where a massive amount of blog posts and other online discussion about the issue between the announcement of the nominees in April and the awards ceremony in August.

    * There have been lots and lots of small skirmishes and flare-ups over the years. A puppy would say something non-puppies thought was silly, so everyone would talk about that for a week or two. A non-puppy would say something the puppies objected to, so everyone would talk about that for a while.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was involved enough in Making Light at the time that we noticed the Sad Puppies’ first graffiti on the Hugo list, but there were enough legit nominees it wasn’t so much a concern as an “Those A**holes defaced a thing that mattered.” And several people genuinely hoped we were hearing more about the Sad Puppies 3 because we were paying attention, but that they wouldn’t get any traction, and were genuinely dismayed that it not only had more impact, it completely trashed the short list. I mean, No Award did its job… but there was a definite feeling of dashed hopes right after the finalists were announced, and it was not entirely unlike the feeling in November 2016.

      That we were more successful getting rid of Puppy influence once it had that success is one of the reasons I keep being hopeful about the US politics.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Maybe this could use a little on why slating had so much power to set the shortlist? Without mentioning the power of lockstep voting there, it isn’t so clear how managing that wasn’t an indicator of widespread popularity.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Old John Scalzi was hoppin’ around
    Worldcon city like a big playground
    When suddenly Voxman burst in the room
    And started to cause a convnetion-wide boom

    John Scalzi was planning something very adroit
    But he didn’t expect to meet Sarah J. Hoyt
    Who was tailed by the whole Mad Genius Club
    When Damien Walter came to join the hubbub

    And he started talking trash about Sarah’s books
    When they both got hit by Vox’s mooks
    But before Vox could make it back to his own blog
    Camestros Felapton turned up with a talking mog

    And he covered the kerfuffle with a digital map
    That he typed on his keyboard with a tap-a-tap-tap
    But he ran out of bandwidth and he ran away
    ‘Cause John C. Wright came to save Vox Day

    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny
    Based guys, woke guys and conventions, as far as the eye can see
    And only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny

    John Scalzi said some snark to John C. Wright
    Who went back home to read some T. H. White
    And James May was in no way feeling okay
    When George R R came and chased him away

    And Voxman was distracted by his brand new wiki
    While Camestros quaffed beer from a cat-shaped tiki
    But he spat out the beer in a surprised fountain
    When Larry Correia went and bought his own mountain

    Then he saw John Scalzi sneaking up from behind
    And Larry called for his pups which he just couldn’t find
    ‘Cause Voxman stole them and he’d gotten them pissed
    And James May stood there shaking his fist

    Then he sat at his PC and prepared a blog post
    While old John Scalzi tried to give a Hugo toast
    To another award, but he couldn’t get through
    And he slipped on a puddle of TheQuQu’s spew

    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny
    Lefties, righties and implosions, as far as the eye can see
    And only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny

    Angels sang out,
    Their voices did mingle.
    Down from the heavens
    Descended Chuck Tingle.

    Who put his thumb to his nose
    Without a shred of fear
    Towards the author
    They call Larry Correia

    Who was not at all sure
    Quite how to feel
    While Voxman changed back
    Into Ted Beale

    But Chuck saw through
    His clever disguise
    And he rubbed Voxman’s books
    In between his thighs

    Then Katie Paulk and Amanda S. Green
    And the Horror Show podcast starring Brian Keene
    And Nnedi Okorafor and Elizabeth Sandifer
    And David Freer and the editor of Cirsova
    Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn
    Niemeier and Declan Finn
    Warpig, Wendig, triple-winner Jemisin
    Requires You Hate and Laura J. Mixon
    Frank Wu, John Chu, Ken Liu and Chuck Dixon

    They rained out of nowhere lightning fast
    And joined Chuck Tingle to have a blast
    It was the sexiest battle that the world ever saw
    With civilians looking on in total awe

    The fight raged on for a century
    A lot of cred was lost, but eventually
    The champion stood
    The rest saw their better
    S. T. Joshi in a Lovecraft sweater.

    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny
    Based guys, woke guys and conventions, as far as the eye can see
    And only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
    This is the culture war showdown… (This is the culture war showdown)
    This is the culture war showdown… (This is the culture war showdown)
    This is the culture war showdown of cultural destiny

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Here’s a digression, but since this is a post on the Kerpupple, I figure it’s somewhat germane…

    I just started watching Babylon 5, from the beginning. I’d seen a few episodes back in the day, but have been having fun lately watching entire runs of SF shows. Anywho, I’m wondering if anyone recalls any S/RP types bemoaning the rise of politics in SFF while also hailing Babylon 5 for being good crunchy nugget fun? I’m betting no, since the show is entirely about politics, but I have to wonder…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Babylon 5 was too far back for the Puppies’ cause. JMS wrote the whole show as a complete time travel novel, which at the time was an unusual structure, one used by other shows later on.

      A lot of Puppies and those in their ideological venn circle like Babylon 5 for the same reason they like Star Trek — they pretended it supported their ideas and ignored the pro-civil rights, liberal politics of the shows as not there or unimportant, no matter what the creators and writers of the shows said. (Remember them arguing with David Gerrold?) The civil rights politics were not flat out overt and done using symbolism, but more importantly happened during a past time that Pups see as less threatening to their high spots as reasonable, righteous and justified in systemic hierarchies.

      As people who have been marginalized and blocked in the system push for more equality and less discrimination, vocally and without backing down, the hierarchies are seen as wobbly and so any current liberal, civil rights position, especially if it is overt and celebrated, is cast as a dire and expanded threat. Because if the hierarchies go — if they are even acknowledged as punishing hierarchies — they lose their cultural identities and the status of them. They fear they will lose all the resources and leadership to those they see as making them look bad and wanting what is supposed to be theirs. So they push a lot of myths to get others worried about “threats” of those they declare Other, outside the norm, the good, the righteous and the just.

      That requires a lot of tangled myth building. So the Puppies declared first that the Hugo collapse threat started five years ago from their campaign — an immediate and dire threat in a changing world. When it was pointed out that wasn’t factual or logical, they changed it to ten years ago. When that was pointed out as not factual and logical, they went to 15, 20, all the way back to pulps, etc., to try to justify that there had developed an immediate, expanded and dire threat.

      And if they like Babylon 5, they will declare that there is no way that show contains liberal, civil rights politics or is about politics at all. That Babylon is not the Other, the tainted, the threatening, and belongs only to them. Because it’s not about political content, not directly. It’s about maintaining the identity and social narratives they know and feel benefit them. There are no nuggety nuggets.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, at least Brian Niemeier seems to have set 1997 as the year SFF went downhill, so Babylon 5 fits right into the timeframe.

        Though I suspect that the puppies simply believe that Babylon 5 is an inspirational show about sliding doors in space just like Star Trek, hence no complaints.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Cora – As far as I can tell, the puppies use “too political” as a synonym for “I don’t like it”, which explains why they claim that there are no politics in e.g. Heinlein or Star Trek. I haven’t ever seen a pup talking about Babylon 5 that I recall, but if any of them do like it, the same logic will apply…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Surely the decline began with that dreadful socialist H G Wells. The Marxist influence on The Time Machine (1895) is undeniable – and nobody wants negative depictions of imperialism, as in The War of the Worlds (1897).

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Considering the episode Deathwalker in the first season involved what was pretty much an alien version of Dr. Mengele, and the whole ‘Dilgar War’ backstory pretty clearly maps to WWII, with the relatively new Earth Alliance as the Americans coming into an already-existing war to prove themselves a major power and stop the genocidal Dilgar from defeating the various Non-Aligned Worlds…

      … and the whole plot of that episode is pretty much ‘Operation Paperclip’, trying to smuggle a horrible person out of the horrible regime so they can do their horrible things for you instead…

      … if the puppies don’t see politics in there, they’re being even more wilfully ignorant than usual.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.