Starting February: Debarkle

I’ve been mulling over for some time (years tbh) writing a history of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards. A few things have put me off doing so. Two of the obstacles is any account needs at least some treatment of RaceFail and of the Requires Hate story and they are rabbit holes of controversy (but there are ways through that I think). However, one issue is an end point. In terms of Larry Correia’s frustration at not getting an award, the 2016 Dragon Award ceremony, which also saw Vox Day’s Castalia House getting its participation trophies, is an obvious place to stop. You can finish a story there and say “and the puppies went away and had their own awards”. It is unsatisfying and misleading though.

The appeal with finishing the story there is the main action of the Puppy Debarkle ends there with things petering out with the collapse of Sad Puppies 5 and the process reforms blunting the impact of Rabid Puppies 3 the following year. However, the point of writing about the Debarkle is the wider context. Fandom has had its fair share of squabbles, kerfuffles and scandals but what makes the Debarkle interesting in particular is the connection with wider events. The Sad Puppies presented their unexpected fannish-insurrection as primarily a question of aesthetics, as Larry Correia stated in his first attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards, this was an attempt to frustrate the “literati”. Contrariwise, the opposition to the Puppies contended that they were a politically reactionary movement.

It is this second issue that frames any discussion. It’s not a difficult proposition to demonstrate, that the Puppies were a politically reactionary movement motivated by a dislike of the left in general and the advocacy for women and people of colour and LGBQTI people more specifically. By late 2016 the Puppies of all stripes were barely pretending otherwise and, of course, Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies never pretended otherwise. But a more open question is whether the process of the Debarkle radicalised the Puppies or whether a growing social rift in America (and beyond) was radicalising them regardless?

I don’t know the answer to that question but it is the kind of question I could get a better answer to if I attempt this. Of course, placing the Puppies in the context of the politics also gives a point in time to look back from and say “how did we get here?” That point looks very much like January 6 2021.

Take, for example, this artefact of current right wing discourse in the wake of the attempted putsch in America’s capitol:

“Apparently Sarah Hoyt is the only non-cuck at Instapundit.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/01/give-girl-her-props.html

Or, looking in a different direction, imagine being a future historian and trying to explain all the context to this tweet:

Neither GamerGate nor the Debarkle by themselves explain events and both were shaped by social forces that were hard to see. Yet, rather like the tracks made by invisible particles in a bubble chamber, the revealed shifts in attitudes and changing political coalitions that were also leading up to changes on a bigger scale. Within a short time, political upsets in the US and UK (Trump becoming the Republican Party POTUS nominee and the Brexit referendum) saw right-wing, populist, anti-rational positions taking hold of national policy. Where they motivated by the same thing as the Puppy movements? We can debate that but the Puppies generally thought so (Brexit more than Trump oddly).

Five years after peak-Puppy, in the hell year that was 2020 notable figures in the Debarkle were pushing firstly covid-19 conspiracies, followed by attempts to mobilise anti-lockdown protests, followed by anti-mask wearing propaganda, followed by anti-vaccine propaganda. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election defeat, chief Sad Puppy Larry Correia was a notable booster of “steal” conspiracy theories and his posts on the topic were widely shared in conservative circles. Meanwhile, since late 2017, Vox Day was an early adopter and promoter of “QANON” the free-floating anti-rational meta-conspiracy theory and also an early advocate in 2020 of the need for Trump to seize power by force to ensure a second term.

The Debarkle (in particular peak Debarkle in 2015) presaged events in a microcosm but also later events clarify questions. At the time, it was an open question as to how politically extreme many of the Sad Puppy leaders where, there even people who attempted apparently good-faith arguments that Vox Day somehow wasn’t that extreme. Supporters of the Sad Puppies would often point to Sarah Hoyt (a woman and an immigrant to the US from a non-anglophone country) as clear evidence that the Sad Puppies were neither sexist or racist. I believe that even at the time the evidence demonstrated that their argument was flawed but with 2020 hindsight, the manner in which Hoyt refers to the VP-elect of the USA Kamala Harris is a much simpler refutation of the idea that she somehow is immune to sexism and racism.

Nor would it be sensible to write about the 2015 side-plot of the infamous Tor Boycott without pointing to Mad Genius blogger and one-time Castalia House author Peter Grant stating in the wake of yesterday’s attempt to overthrow the US constitution that: “If I were in D.C. today, I’d be in the Capitol along with the protesters.” If you’ve overtly placed yourself to the right of the leaders of the Republican Party (and for that matter the very right wing current Vice President of the US) and are contemplating civil war because you’ve fully bought into a stab-in-the-back mythology of stolen victory…well…”“extreme right wing to neo-nazi, respectively” was always a very apt description. How much time did we spend dissecting the various political positions that notable Puppies might have in an attempt to tease out the nuance of their politics? It’s a lot easier to sum up as “I’m not sure what they thought in 2015 but within five years they’ll be demanding the violent overthrow of the government in a far-right putsch.”

I’ll post more about the structure and the schedule of Debarkle as a blog series. Obviously, and as always, comments and corrections will be more than welcome, indeed expected — particularly as most of you were there at the time and many of you were actively involved in countering the Puppies for years before I stuck my oar in.

109 thoughts on “Starting February: Debarkle

  1. Depends on how far back you want to go? I mean when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked, it allowed media personalities to sprout all sorts of half-truths to downright lies to promote their ideologies? Or white privilege slowly becoming less so, and causing status anxiety: what do you mean I now have to compete on a more even playing field with non-white people? The internet allowing small groups with shared interests to connect much more easily? (It’s great for SFF fans to be able to talk to each other, but it also allows radical fringe people to talk to each other too…)

    The links go back a long way. I guess what we are seeing is a confluence of a number of different pieces that has taken decades to come together.

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    1. I’ve been saying for a few years now, “The Internet is great at community-building. It just doesn’t care what types of communities get built, or how toxic they are.”

      (I think I originally said that over at We Hunted the Mammoth, which is a place that actively tracks some of the more toxic communities out there.)

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      1. Because the Hugo Admins had cheated John Ringo out of one [they hadn’t of course, but that was the story] and PNH had cheated PNH had cheated Jim Baen out of a posthumous one [again not true but at least based on real events]. The liberal elites had been rigging the election for years [likewise, a lie]. It is the same pattern

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    2. “…I mean when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked, it allowed media personalities to sprout all sorts of half-truths to downright lies to promote their ideologies?…”

      Ah, yes, the halcyon days of the Fairness Doctrine which saw such bastions of honesty as McCarthy, Nixon, Wallace, and Buckley dominating our political discourse. My apologies, but I see paeans to the damn thing all the time, and I feel it needs to be made clear–it barely worked when it was in effect, and is completely nonviable in a world with the internet and the majority of television being non-broadcast, instead of a world with three or four networks.

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  2. I’ve been having similar thoughts about my book on the Puppies. My plan was that the main body would focus on the years of the campaigns (2013-6: coincidentally, the second Obama term) and the final chapter would be a quick survey of events from 2017 onwards. Trouble was, the amount of material I had to cover in that survey kept getting longer: the superversive and pulp revolution movements, the Dragon Awards, the cosying up with Comicsgate, the efforts to weaponuse Mariin Zimmer Bradley and other paedophilia scandals, the legal antics of JDA, all with no end in sight. But 2020 gave me a clear end-point. My current plan is that, instead of a single chapter, the book will end with a whole section on 2017-2020: the Trump years.

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    1. Yes, the tight focus misses so much that it becomes misleading but the wider context spirals so much that it is too big.

      I probably won’t get into Comicsgate or even JDA & the Scrappy Doos but treat post-2016 as how things played out in wider politics.

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        1. Declan should definitely be part of this epic. As Camestros alluded to earlier, one of the best bits of the long story is that when Declan gets impatient and tries to jumpstart the last Sad Puppies slate himself, Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk hand him his balls.

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      1. It would probably be easier to write with a tight focus if the stuff that provides context was better known – it’s a problem that many of the associated events are also somewhat poorly documented.

        If for example someone had already written a definitive history of Gamergate, you could reference that whenever your puppy history touches on Gamergate. Not having that type of accepted reference makes it harder to point at “common knowledge”, and increases the need to write relatively detailed accounts of things that are only vaguely connected to the puppies themselves.

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        1. Yes, that’s one reason I started the timeline in 2015 because it was hard to track events in GamerGate already. Luckily, the Debarkle has clearer lines and events than other things. RaceFail is notoriously hard to follow because the event is the discussion of the event and the events around RequiresHate have lost many primary sources.

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    2. Okay no idea, if that fits better to Dorispost or Cams reply:
      Mostly I see the whole puppymess as a shade of thinks to come from the US, during the Trumpyears.
      Comicsgate (which didn’t even bother to try to make anyone believe, they weren’t a hatecampaign) is interesting for me, because 1. comics and 2. they made the sad puppies look competent in realation. (That one is a total mess).
      The Paedophiliascandal: Don’t forget to mention that while doing so they nominated Kukuruyo, who had some drawings of very young characters on his resume.

      For me we shouldn’t forget positive examples: Those who declined nominations and Chuck Tingle.

      Actually the question, if one of the puppynominees didn’t follow into the rappidhole would be interesting.

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  3. Me, I think it’s easy. For me, it properly starts when Rupert Murdoch took over the Sun newspaper in the UK in 1969 because he had figured out that “fear” sells. He dragged the other UK tabloids with him (and I include the Mail and the Express here; they were pretty bad already but Murdoch gave them the opening to become worse.)
    He wasn’t able to move into tv (or radio) in the UK because we had very strict rules on ‘opinion’ broadcasting, but he saw the opening in the US where talk radio was becoming weaponised in the same way that he understood.
    Once 24-hr news took off during the first Gulf War in 1990 (CNN had been around for a decade, but it never had an ‘event’ that captured the public in the same way), there was the opportunity.

    And that leads inexorably to Fox News, a station that gestures towards being a news channel, but is mainly an opinion channel – and all the opinions are the same sort of “fear” that sells so well. [Indeed, I’m not even convinced that “populism” is necessarily a real thing – because when you look at it, all the populist leaders are doing is the same selling of fear, whichever political ideology they profess to hold.]

    I will continue to contend that, in the end, Rupert Murdoch is the root cause of all this. Sure, we can play “what if” and guess that others would likely have done similar things; I guess that Roger Ailes would likely have come up with something like Fox News without Murdoch’s help. But Murdoch is so much a part of this.

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    1. Though Rupert Murdoch wasn’t the only one who used tabloids to spread fear and hatred of “the other” and “the Left”.

      Axel Springer and his tabloid Bild were doing much the same in West Germany at least since the 1960s. Inflammatory articles in Bild definitely inspired the assasination attempt on student activist Rudi Dutschke in 1968 (Dutschke initially survived, but eventually died as a consequence of the injuries he suffered in 1979) and likely also the murder of student protester Benno Ohnesorg by police brutality in 1967. The editor-in-chief of Bild never apologised BTW. Furthermore, the inflammatory rhetoric in Bild and other Springer papers contributed to initially peaceful student protests escalating to the leftwing terrorist violence of the Red Army Fraction.

      We’re only lucky that Axel Springer never managed to get his hands on a TV channel.

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      1. And interesting enough we have at last from what I see from Bildblog (a watchblog against Bild) in the same time (round about starting with a lot of refuges ariving in Germany in 2015) a new radicalisation of the Blöd äh Bild, going often enough pro-AFD, where the AFD is getting more votes with zero competenz in everythink execpt hate.

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      2. Yes, in the early 2010s Bild had a female editor-in-cief and was almost respectable and published very little hatemongering. Then circulation dropped, they changed editors-in-chief and became full-on hatemongering against refugees, so-called “clan crime” and promptly the AfD starts to grow.

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  4. It seems that some of the “protestors” at the Capitol were *actual* Nazis. Which only reinforces the “extreme right wing to neo-Nazi” labelling.

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    1. There was some discusion if that statament was too harsh at the time, but the puppyleaders at last proved that nope it wasn’t.
      We have seen a group of people who have no problems with standing site by side with Neo-Nazis, looking also in the demos against Coranamessures here in Germany.
      That is also one of that, that began with the pupps (for me), the strict divide between the democratic (I use conservative for them, in Germany thats a selfgiven name) right and the far-right was somethink I believed was normal (I live in Bavaria, which is more conservative than were Cora lives but Germany). It doesn’t seem to be that way anymore at last in some countrys.

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      1. Yes, the fact that regular conservatives and even leftwingers are willing to protest alongside neonazis and conspiracy theory nutcases against the anti-covid measures is troubling. Not just because you don’t protest with Nazis or nutcases, even if you happen to agree on this one point, but also because it delegitimises anybody who’s against the anti-covid measures (and I’m against several of the more extreme or nonsensical measures myself) as rightwing, crazies or Nazis.

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  5. I thought about writing a book as well, and I’ll tell you the two things that stopped me.

    First, someone already wrote a book about it. I downloaded it. I looked at about 5% of it and quit. I may be equalled but I am unsurpassed in my interest about the topic, and if I wouldn’t read someone’s book about it, I could rest assured no one would read mine.

    Second, and more important to me, I am convinced Larry Correia started this as a way to hijack himself a Hugo Award because he wanted one. However, that can only be inferred from the totality of the information available based on his behavior. His public reasons — the Hugo fails to recognize bestsellers (i.e., him), the Hugo must be pried loose from the SJWs, the Hugo is rigged and his auditing tools could test that if a bunch of fans said they had voted for him, etc. — tend to be given undue weight because they can be documented. As a trained historian (my BA was in history) I would have to state what can be proved, which would undercut the interpretation I find most convincing. If this was a court case I think a jury could be convinced as well, but that’s not the venue we’re working in.

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    1. You could argue the real question is why did Larry think he *deserved* a Hugo?

      The other way to look at it is, once he decided he deserved a Hugo, what excuses did he glom onto in order to justify his Hugo? I mean, somebody not so right-wing would have found different arguments as justification.

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      1. A lot of people think they deserve Hugos, that’s a fairly common attitude in the field. And it’s not as if he hasn’t written some very good books, so even if I don’t want to vote any of them number one I figure his pride isn’t misplaced and is a sufficient answer.

        You’re right about the “once he decided….what excuses did he glom onto” approach, at least in my opinion, but the impediment is a bunch of people give those public claims credibility. And in the public arena both his tribe, and people who don’t have much experience with him (through his blog or FB), will refuse or at least be reluctant to look behind them.

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      2. I think it’s pretty obvious that Correia decided he wanted a Hugo and that he would do whatever it took to make that happen.

        I have to admit that I’d never heard of him before he was nominated for the then-Campbell, so i don’t know if he actively campaigned for the nomination or if it was an effect of Worldcon being in Reno and Correia (and fellow Campbell nominee Dan Wells) living in Utah, i.e. they were well known in the region. Because neither Correia nor Wells write the sort of thing that normally gets Hugo/Campbell nominations.

        However, Correia’s blogpost after he lost to Lev Grossman was already ungracious and that was before he edited his post, which suggests that he really expected he’d win and that “It’s an honour to be nominated” is not a concept he’s familiar with. And when he didn’t, he decided to do something about it.

        And yes, there are many folks other than Correia who think they deserve a Hugo, but none of them actually went as far as he did.

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        1. Cora Buhlert: I have to admit that I’d never heard of him before he was nominated for the then-Campbell, so i don’t know if he actively campaigned for the nomination or if it was an effect of Worldcon being in Reno and Correia (and fellow Campbell nominee Dan Wells) living in Utah, i.e. they were well known in the region. Because neither Correia nor Wells write the sort of thing that normally gets Hugo/Campbell nominations.

          The Mormon authors have a culture of supporting each other — and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but there was some covert LDS campaigning going on for Hugo Awards for awhile, especially in 2011 and 2012, which is how we got a bunch of LDS finalists, including that horrific Mormon Space Whale Rape Story, on the ballot in those years. (I remember thinking huh, what? at some of the finalists those years and then later, when I went back and Googled finalist names with “mormon” OR “lds”, the light bulb came on.) And of course the Sad Puppies slated finalists, with Correia, Wells, Michael Flynn, KJA, Steven Diamond, Carter Reid, Kirk DouPonce, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Torgersen, etc. was just a much-less-covert continuation of that in-group campaigning.

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      3. Yes, come to think of it, there were a lot of Mormon finalists in the early 2010s, including some where it was difficult to see just why their work was nominated such as that space whale story (which was a Nebula finalist, too). And both Larry Correia and Dan Wells (who’s not a jerk at all) were not exactly logical finalists either, though I really did like Nancy Fulda’s story and even Brad Torgersen’s first nominated story wasn’t all that bad, though it was part of a mini-trend towards depressing stories about parents and dead kids in extreme environments.

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        1. Honestly, I do give Wells high marks for giving some pushback to the Puppy campaign, but that Warhammer ripoff garbage novella of his which got slated onto the Hugo ballot was so seriously WTF, I can’t believe he didn’t have the integrity to withdraw it. 😐

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      4. Yes, the Dan Wells novella that was slated onto the Hugo ballot in 2014 was dreadful. Ditto for Torgersen’s two slate finalists.

        But unlike most of the puppy slate finalists, Dan Wells is not an arsehole and kept his distance from them. Ditto for Marko Kloos, Annie Bellet and Howard Taylor.

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    2. My training in history is far more rudimentary but I have to disagree. A historian does not and should not take such statements at face value – unless there is such a dearth of information that he has no choice. Far more investigation and analysis is needed.

      I think it is demonstrable that many of the claimed motivations are rationalisations. Best-seller status is important when it is convenient, irrelevant when it is not. How do John Scalzi’s sales compare with Correia’s – let alone the other Puppies?

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      1. There’s a great difference between having to discuss his statements and taking them at face value (although his followers claim to). But a historian can’t ignore his statements, they have to be discussed as part of the story. And historians don’t get to write that somebody’s pants are on fire, they have to be professional in their expression.

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    3. Of course, you have allready written so much about the afair that it could be enough of it.

      I can understand wanting a Hugo. I think, if you are nominated for an award wanting to win is not unatural.
      Having a perhaps higher opinion on his own work than other people also normal.
      What I think is a bit more unusual, is the low regard of the other finalists. There is not beeing humble and there is Larry (or Donald). I can see a writer thinking that the voters made a mistake and didn’t approve his/her genius enough, but to need a consperacytheory to make a winning of someone else posible, is somethink else. (Okay, I fairly admite that there is one winner last year that I don’t understand one bit)

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      1. I certainly would have been thrilled to win the best fan writer Hhugo last year, but I’m also happy for Bogi and would have been just as happy if Paul, James, Alasdair or Adam had won. And while I don’t nominate myself, I did vote for myself once nominated.

        But even if I privately thought that one or more of my co-nominees were not quite worthy (which wasn’t the case at all, because the 2020 Best Fan Writer ballot was excellent), I sure as hell wouldn’t have aired my feelings publicly, let alone tried to destroy the Hugos, because people didn’t vote for me in sufficient numbers.

        And that’s the thing I don’t get about Larry Correia. He took something that was a huge honour and somehow decided that it was a slight that deserved revenge.

        But then, Correia seems to be extremely thin-skinned and probably also insecure. Also see his overreaction to some people not liking his work, when he was up for the Campbell. If you’re up for a Hugo, Campbell/Astounding or any other award, a lot more people will see your work than usual and some of those people won’t like what they see. That’s normal and it’s not a reason for lifelong enmity.

        That said, I was happy that even though Best Fan Writer had a fairly high number of people who voted “No Award” in first place, i.e. people who didn’t like any of us, I only had two No Awards more than Bogi, i.e. there were only two people who disliked my work in particular so much that they no awarded me.

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      2. @Cora: for people like Correia everything is a zero-sum game: if someone else wins an award he wants, it’s a deliberate slight against him. It’s impossible for him to be happy for someone else.

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    1. And also the opportunity to be even snarkier, since at least half the audience doesn’t want to go down to the bottom of the page. Someone can really load up the snark in that setting.

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  6. I’d read the book. Be sure you capture the change in Larry’s story from “Had a great time at Worldcon, just a bit disappointed I didn’t win the Campbell” to “I was pretending to enjoy Worldcon because I was afraid of TNH and her mighty powers. Help me Obi Widdles, you are my only hope”

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    1. Though he was more than “a bit disappointed” and had some not so nice things to say about the winner Lev Grossman and The Magicians.

      I’m also still stunned that Correia honestly expected to win against Lev Grossman, who was then the SFF critic at the Time magazine and whose novel The Magicians had made a huge splash. Okay, so Grossman wasn’t my favourite either that year, that would have been Lauren Beukes, but his win was utterly unsurprising.

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      1. I didn’t personally care for “The Magicians”, but I recognized that it’s a well-written work of SFF. So I wasn’t surprised when he won, nor when it became a long-running TV show.

        I think I voted for Saladin, because I really enjoyed his book.

        And I’d never heard of Larry before then either. So apparently he has a loyal following, but not a wide enough one. His books are certainly popular, but the Hugos do take literary quality into account a bit too — and I’m sure Larry would be the first to tell you he isn’t literary. He’s Marmite, you either love or hate his work.

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      2. Yes, I’m not a huge fan of The Magicians either and not read beyond the first one. I wasn’t voting then, but if I had, I would have placed Lauren Beukes and Saladin Ahmed both above Lev Grossman and Larry and Dan Wells below.

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  7. It seems relevant that John C. Wright was in attendance at yesterday’s events (although as far as I can tell, not actually in the Capitol), as were quite a few of his commenters. He associated himself with Rep. Gaetz’s bizarre remarks in the House last night, which is not surprising but is somehow still eyebrow-raising.

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      1. Only a rabid right-winger would travel to another city in the midst of a pandemic when they’re medically vulnerable (nearly 60, already had a massive heart attack, etc.).

        And where’d he get the money? He seems to be crying poverty regularly — did another of the Rabids front him the dough?

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    1. Furthermore, the protest took place on January 6, which is Epiphany Day, i.e. a Catholic holiday. What will JCW’s regular correspondents Jesus and the Virgin Mary think if JCW missed mass to attend a protest which escalated into violence?

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      1. He probably went to an early Mass somewhere in DC so as to have time later for the armed insurrection.

        Still, doing that on a really big holy day is, dare I say, not very Christian?

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  8. I think that the Sad Puppies campaign was less wired into GamerGate and right wing political and media issues than it was generated from the civil rights issues that came up in the SFF field itself — RaceFail as sort of a prequel of those issues boiling over, Larry deciding that his 2011 Campbell loss to Grossman could be blamed on a left wing conspiracy a couple years later because right wingers in the field did not like discrimination issues in the field being raised, and in particular the SFWA Bulletin incidents in 2013, when Larry was initially launching his Sad Puppy campaign mainly for himself but could see the potential in the discussions and arguments going on in the industry around then. (And certainly those issues were part of a larger sociopolitical spectrum going on throughout the arts and society, but these incidents were more specific to the SFF field itself.) Silverberg’s petition/conspiracy stunt, various convention incidents where people were trying to end harassment and establish codes of conduct, Neil Gaiman with tone deafness trying to bring in a sexist “lad” t.v. host to host the Hugo ceremonies, etc. There was a sea change going on in which old and discriminatory practices in the field and the industry were being dissected, criticized and demanded changed for more professional and equal treatment. And that felt threatening to many who politically and/or generationally thought of those practices as normal and no big deal or even desirable and powerful to keep going.

    When Larry brought in Beale and Beale brought in GamerGate voters, then the Sad Puppies were thrown out into the wider societal issues, mainly because the general media wanted to treat it as simply a minor arm of GamerGate/Breibart alt right. But the GamerGaters simply weren’t very invested in the Sad Puppies — nobody really prominent made a cause of it and the GamerGater voters drifted off, leaving a split between more cautious Sad Puppies and folks like Beale and Brad who were trying to get somewhere in the right wing media sphere. Larry retreated partly, having got his nomination, and the Hugos did not, despite the predictions, collapse and disappear and also could no longer be gamed. N.K. Jemisin won three of them in a row for a trilogy many found amazing. There was nothing in particular for the Sad Puppies and various offshoots to marshal around except general whining about how anti-discrimination efforts and discussion were “tyranny.” Occasionally they seem to try to get with the right wing media sphere but that sphere never has much interest in written fiction for long.

    There never really was a cohesive Sad Puppies movement. It was instead a harassing temper tantrum by a handful of people who wanted to feel more important. And it was no less damaging in the field for that, especially for their victims who suddenly had to deal with GamerGaters going after them. But it was a blip in the larger systemic issue that 80-90 percent of fiction fields are still by white authors put out by an English-language industry that is 90% white people, that women authors continue to face all kinds of industry discrimination and sexual harassment and that queer fiction continues to be treated as a niche and its authors screamed at as pedophiles whenever any of them connect with an audience, especially in YA. The Sad Puppies were a sad and often incoherent reflection of all that bigger stuff.

    But it is still important to preserve the history accurately. So if you do a book on it, I think you definitely could just start with Larry’s initial 2013 campaign to get himself a Hugo, but also the other major controversies in 2013 with the SFWA/Bulletin and convention issues at the time because those things were really what set up the pressure bubble. As for an ending point, I don’t think the Dragons are really about it. The Puppies weren’t able to keep ahold of the Dragons, even when the rules said that they could. The collapse of Sad Puppies 5 was really the end of it. There were only drifting fragments after that.

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    1. Kat Goodwin: eil Gaiman with tone deafness trying to bring in a sexist “lad” t.v. host to host the Hugo ceremonies

      While I agree with most of what you say, in the interests of preserving the history accurately, this wasn’t Gaiman’s idea. The responsibility for that lies squarely on the co-chairs of Loncon 3, who were enamored of and wedded to the idea of getting Ross for their Hugo presenter, and deliberately — despite warnings of what was going to happen — bypassed their concom to ask Gaiman to prevail upon Ross on their behalf (and of course the warned-of inevitable result inevitably resulted).

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      1. Correction accepted, but… They went to Gaiman because his wife at the time worked with Ross and they were friends. And when authors and others — mainly women — objected to Ross being the host (especially because of the SFWA Bulletin and related incidents where many of those women authors had then been relentlessly harassed, gaslit and dismissed for their raising discrimination concerns about the industry,) Gaiman defended Ross, discounted their concerns and reasons and led a chorus that claimed that Ross would know how to behave and tailor his material and so objectors should shut up and be nice to Ross who was kindly doing the gig for free. Which was not the point of the objections of Ross being the host. No one expected Ross to start spraying sexist jokes at the Hugo banquet. The objection was that Ross had made his career by being a deliberately sexist comedy talk host and was expected to be honored as the host of an awards ceremony where women had been told that they were winning too many of the awards now and were too uppity and hysterical about their sexism concerns in the field.

        They did not want Ross to be there because it represented the same treatment that they kept having to struggle against in the field and this was seen as an unreasonable challenge to not only Ross’ reputation but to the reputation and authority of the conrunners and Gaiman who had issued the invite. Gaiman was a sexist prat about it, though I’m sure he felt hard done by. But that’s the point — men frequently feel hard done by when women point out that their supposedly nice gesture just reinforces women’s inferior place in the industry and society and they lecture the women about keeping their mouths shut and being nice to appease men. They feel hard done by when someone they consider okay or not that big a deal in abusive behavior is seen as a big deal by others who they aren’t used to have challenging their viewpoint. I wish he hadn’t done that, but he did do it and online. I think later he sort of realized that he’d been missing the main point and expressed that, but I don’t remember definitively. And even in that case, Gaiman and others’ initial reactions to the objections of Ross can’t just be glossed over because they were part of a large bubble of incidents where these issues came up again and again. Which played into the Sad Puppies’ narrative of aggrievement.

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    2. “Silverberg’s petition/conspiracy stunt”

      Do you mean Dave Truesdale or was there a controversy I missed or have forgotten?

      Regarding Jonathan Ross, JJ is right that the Loncon con com was responsible, even though they were warned by some of their members that the reaction would not be good. As for Neil Gaiman, he’s friends with Ross and his family and saw him mainly as “my good pal Jonathan” and failed to see the impression that those who don’t know Ross personally, but who only know him his media appearances and the controversies he caused would get. Not to mention that even though Jonathan Ross is a fan, most people didn’t know this. I certainly didn’t – I only knew him as “That guy who always says awful things on British TV”.

      The Loncon con com also failed Ross and the con by throwing out the announcement near noon on a weekend and then basically vanishing, while completely failing to anticipate the public outcry. If they’d addressed potential issues in their initial statement – “Yes, we know that Jonathan Ross has been embroiled in controversies, but he’s a fan and has promised to behave himself” – things might have played out differently.

      I’m also not convinced that Ross would have been that awful a host. Apparently, he hosted the Eisner Awards several times without incident.

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      1. Yes Truesdale’s screed and then Silverberg lying to many of his pals to get them to sign the petition about an imaginary conspiracy he made up about the Bulletin, said petition including Truesdale’s assertion that it was a mistake that women had been given the vote in some countries. Silverberg did it because he was pissed that the whippersnapper women dared criticized Resnick, etc., and was sure they would be censoring feminazis in the SFWA consequently.

        As for Ross, see above my response to JJ. The issue was not how good a host Ross would be or whether he would behave nicely at the Hugo ceremonies — it was that he’d been chosen to be the host at all. It was a thoughtless, hostile act towards women authors who were supposed to be honored at the ceremony and who had already had to deal with a ton of hostility and sexist harassment for bringing up sexism issues at SFWA and in the field in general in the past time period. They were lambasted as being mean to Ross for objecting that an abusive sexist be the host on their big night, that his feelings were important and theirs, the feelings of the nominees and presenters, were not important and they should shut up. Seanan McGuire did a very moving essay about why she was upset at the time. And they backed down and Ross pulled out. But this was then used for years as further evidence of SJW women taking over the field and fandom with false complaints of sexism issues. It was used by the Sad Puppies, etc.

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  9. It’s the story of how the reality-denying fascist revolution came to SF two or three years before it hit the rest of the country. Long before Trump hit the scene, SF fans got a taste of the alternate reality that would spawn America’s first traitor president.

    But did it offer any lessons on how to get out of this mess? If yes, I think you’ll get readers. If no, probably not.

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    1. Henry Jenkins argued, convincingly I think, that sf fans were early adopters of the internet (even before it became known as the internet). There’s also the history of political conflicts between conservative/libertarian/liberal sf fans going back decades to keep in mind. Racefail ’09 was very much a precursor of the later eruptions of “reality-denying fascist revolutions” (love that phrase), but there is a fairly strong consensus among those of us who participated in it and also have been trying to write about it in the aftermath, that nothing was learned by the fandom (in this case, online/media/transformative works/mostly women) fandom.

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    2. I think it has some. I think the SFWA expulsion of Vox Day worked and saved the SFWA for example and that’s a guide for other communities. There are some people who wrap social-harm in politics and whose politics boils down not to an ideological stance but a simple rule ‘I am a bully and you will let me bully you’. Those people have always existed and you’ll find them in many political movements but they have gravitated to the right for reasons and worse, the more conventional right valourise them and protect them and are vulnerable to them. Let them stay within an organisation then you are their hostages because they will demand power and wield the threat of destroying your organisation if you don’t give it to them. Sooner or later the GOP was going to have to confront Trump – they left it way to late and only really began to start to demand boundaries this week having already let the guy take the highest office and have access to nuclear weapons.

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      1. I’d have to refresh my memory, but didn’t SFWA expel VD for misuse of an official twitter account (against their written policy), as opposed to misuse for hate speech specifically? And on another level, yeah, expelling the overt white supremacist is good, it’s a pretty low bar.

        I’m sorry I wasn’t clear: when I was talking about change in the group, I wasn’t talking about the entire huge SF community (of which SFWA is just one small part) but the transformative works fandom around Ao3 and now on Tumblr and to some extent Dreamwidth/LiveJournal. AO3 has had its own racefail recently. Fans of color in this part of fandom are still blogging about the racism in the fandom and how they are treated. For one thing, they are being accused of being “antis” and “bullies” by the white fans, as were some of the fans of color during Racefail ’09.

        In terms of Trump–my sense is that the GOP started setting the stage for him, or somebody like him, as early as the 1980s with Reagan, the Moral Majority, and the manipulation of the evangelical conservatives by the economic conservatives.

        A good book about recent events is Alexandra Minna Stern’s Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: HOw the Alt-Right is Qarping the American Imagination.

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      2. SFWA kicked VD out, even if it was on the basis of a policy violation rather than “He is a racist hatemonger”. But kicking racist hatemongers out of your organisation isn’t always easy, if you can’t prove that they violated a specific policy. The nominally left Socialdemocratic Party of Germany has been trying to get rid of a racist hatemonger in its ranks for years.

        As for Worldcon, the fans got together, no awarded the puppies and plugged the loophole they had exploited, which eventually made them go away. And while some puppies still had contracts with large genre publishers and their fiction was still published in genre magazines, most of them have retreated to their own little universe now. JCW and J. Jagi Lamplighter no longer have Tor contracts (and VD lost his contract with whoever published his bad Christian fantasy years before). Except for Correia (who sells well) most of the puppies seem to be gone from Baen. I don’t follow Analog regularly, so I don’t know if they still publish Torgersen and puppy slate finalists like Arlen Andrews and Michael Flynn (who actually won a Hugo nomination under his own steam a few years before the puppy debarkle). I also remember that well into the early 2010s, Torgersen still regularly commented at Whatever and other genre blogs. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen his name outside a puppy blog in years.

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      3. Come to think of it, I remember Sarah Hoyt guestposting at Tor.com around 2010, where she did not react well to being criticised. I think that was the first time she appeared on my radar.

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          1. I’m really kind of shocked that Tor.com actually posted that piece by Hoyt. It’s a complete load of codswallop. Was it more of an amateur blogsite back then, with no editorial standards?

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      4. Yes, her style was already muddled ten years ago. Though it’s notable that ten years ago, she didn’t seem to expect to be taken away by Communists, while the rest of the world starves, deprived of pesticide and hormone laden and genetically modified US agricultural produce.

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      5. I belatedly award Nick Mamatas an internet for that comment.

        Someone who’s writing changes not at all and refuses to learn in 10 years is a terrible writer. Heinlein was fond of the plot “the man who learned better” but maybe Hoyt thought it didn’t apply to women?

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    3. Greg Hullender: It’s the story of how the reality-denying fascist revolution came to SF two or three years before it hit the rest of the country. Long before Trump hit the scene, SF fans got a taste of the alternate reality that would spawn America’s first traitor president. But did it offer any lessons on how to get out of this mess?

      I think it did: In order to put a stop to this sort of fascism, you have to have two things:
      1) The legal ability to make changes which will strengthen your institution against attempts at fascism;
      2) People who have the power to make those changes and are committed to doing so in order to stop the fascists.

      The problem that the U.S. has is that there are too many GOP Senators and Representatives who are not interested in putting a stop to fascism — who would rather feather their own nests than do what is best for Democracy, or who are themselves supporters of fascism.

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      1. It’s like the Code of Conduct at conventions — you have to have one that keeps the space non-hostile, equal and safe for all, it has to be clearly written for both staff and attendees to follow, it has to be shoved in all their faces so they can’t claim they don’t know what it is and it has to be consistently and effectively enforced by those running the convention and their staff rather than just words on paper, with actual consequences for harmful, violating behavior.

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  10. There may be lessons about how voting systems can help (ranked voting prevented the Puppy sweep, and EPH reduced the risk of further slating).

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  11. I’ve been reading for a while (not only this post but your blog posts in general) but mostly lurking until now!

    I’ve been trying to write a book about Racefail ’09 for, well, a number of years now and have run into the same sort of problems (plus others, like how many of the primary sources have been deleted or locked down). And not only are there so many historical contexts for what happened in sf fandom, the discussions were so decentralized (LiveJournal, blogs, forums) that it’s very hard to track, even trying to use digital humanities methods.

    One of my frustrations (since I was working more in academic modes) is that the majority of academics who work in sf studies have conceptualized their sub-discipline as textual, part of literary studies (or in a few cases, history), with the establishing figures in the field trying to distance themselves from *horror* those fans (I’m talking about the 1970s). So they were shocked as heck when some of us started trying to talk about Racefail at academic conferences (there was break-through was when Nalo gave her GOH speech at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in 2010–I’m not sure there’s an online version still available or not, but I can link to it later if there is). And while there’s a newer discipline of Fan Studies, they have been having their own racefails in recent years–as have various parts of academia (Classics, Medieval Studies especially).

    I’m hoping now that I’m retired I’ll be able to develop some of the earlier projects.

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    1. I only read about RaceFail post-hoc and as you say, key posts no longer exist and in some cases I think we only have the gist of what was said.

      From the Debarkle perspective, RaceFail looked quite different to conservative writers — like they were English nobility reading about the French Revolution. They had an even poorer understanding of it (partly because they lacked some key concepts but also because they were incurious about details). So they fit it into a narrative of ‘leftist mob are coming for us with fake claims of racism.’

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      1. The Fanlore entries on Racefail have links–some are dead, but a number of posts were archived so even if the journals were shut down or deleted, they still exist. But there are huge gaps, it’s true.

        Scroll down in the Racefail post on Fanlore and you’ll see links to other Fanlore Racefail posts (alphabetically by author, and chronologically). I’ve found posts on Racefail by following links in the ones listed that aren’t listed in FL–but nobody ever pretended they had a complete listing of all the posts.

        In the current iteration of the project (I’m doing a descriptive summary of the main posts, but will be contacting people for permission to reprint their posts — I have $ to pay for the permissions), I’ve become very fond of people who quote a big chunk of whatever post they’re responding to in their posts because at least that gives a sense of the original posts.

        What you describe as the Debarkle Perspective was expressed by white writers at the time in the same terms — it became, completely, “leftist [LJ] mob are coming for us with fake claims of racism,” including claiming that rich/privileged women were either pretending to be Black to attack all the poor white writers, or were rich and Black and thus could not have been the target of racism.

        One of the key early moments was a white fan noting that Barack Obama was inaugurated which was complete proof that no racism in the US existed any more.

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      2. I wasn’t actively blogging or participating in the online SFF community during Racefail – in fact, it happened just around the time I wanted to come back after a hiatus of a few years and saw that basically the entire field was on fire, so I thought, “Nope, I don’t want to have anything to do with this mess”. So I only saw a small part of what was going on at the time.

        However, I don’t recall any future puppies being actively involved at the time. Brad Torgersen, maybe, since he was commenting on a lot of SFF related blogs and sites at the time. And while VD was around and occasionally blogging at Black Gate under his birthname (in fact, I used to refer to him as “Theo from Black Gate”), I don’t recall him being involved in Racefail. Hoyt and JCW were around, too, but I don’t recall them being involved either.

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        1. As far as I know they were very distant from it but aware of it – certainly not participants (zoiks! I can’t imagine how that would have been)

          I think though it fed into their territorial thinking as well. The idea of people like Scalzi ‘conceding ground’ so to speak what they saw as the barbarians at the gate.

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      3. Some of the Racefail issues that directly influenced PuppyGate may have started here https://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/03/11/walking-myself-back/, when Scalzi apologized for his part in the fail. In the following weeks, he had guest posts from women authors of color as well. This Usenet thread https://groups.google.com/g/rec.arts.sf.written/c/nJskTZTiPK4/m/7Pw_eDEtHmUJ has responses to Scalzi’s actions – which were interpreted as Scalzi being bullied into submission.

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        1. Yes, exactly. Part of what makes Scalzi pivotal events was that he was within the orbit of what would become Puppydom. It’s part of why they hate him so much – because they see him as betraying them (nonsense obviously but it’s part of it)

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        2. Interesting to see James A Donald – later a commenter on Slate Star Codex, and later still the runner of blog.jim.com – back then.

          He wasn’t really part of the debarkle because he was already a freakish outcast for the fact that he stated his racism and sexism really honestly, and regularly and proudly describes himself beating up the women he is in relationships with .

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      4. Yes, that might have been the point where the future puppies turned against Scalzi. Though I think it was already clear by that point that Scalzi, even though he wrote military science fiction, was not a rightwinger.

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    2. Have you had a root around the archives at Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog? There was some essays there and links to major parts of it at the time.

      Right now we have a lot of white fiction authors absolutely convinced, because in the wake of the BLM protests this year some publishers are asking for BIPOC submissions and there are a few BIPOC specialized anthologies around, that only BIPOC authors will be able to sell projects, particularly in the SFF category field. And this is bullocks because BIPOC authors have been regularly discriminated against and limited in the field and fiction is still over 80% white authors. But because there is more awareness of BIPOC authors, some more promotion, some prominent authors, etc. — and that raised profile I think does have a bit to do with RaceFail, the recent battle at RWA and such — from their viewpoint they must be no longer wanted and everybody hates them. This aggrievement over the slight erosion of a bigoted hierarchy and its advantages — that other BIPOC authors’ perspectives and other (BIPOC) fans’ perspectives would also have to be considered and included, including their criticism of how they’ve been shut out — is the big wall that still deeply limits the growth and opportunity of the whole field. And it hurts white authors too, though that’s not the main point. But it is so self-destructively toxic, as so many of these things are. They want to hold on to an illusionary status that hurts them and others instead of work on a more equal status that also helps them. We all do it and it seems like we’ll never root it all out of our collective psyche.

      Anyway, good luck on the book. That is a very big tangled topic.

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      1. Thank you! Yes, I have the links to his posts, especially the guest posts by Mary Anne Mohanraj, which are fascinating to read in so many ways.

        They want to hold on to an illusionary status that hurts them and others instead of work on a more equal status that also helps them. We all do it and it seems like we’ll never root it all out of our collective psyche.

        Yes, it’s such a sense of entitlement and viewing the world as a zero sum game.

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      2. Sorry for blowing the block quote html in my comment above which should have noted that this paragraph is a quote from your post: “They want to hold on to an illusionary status that hurts them and others instead of work on a more equal status that also helps them. We all do it and it seems like we’ll never root it all out of our collective psyche.”

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    3. robinareid: there was break-through when Nalo gave her GOH speech at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in 2010 – I’m not sure there’s an online version still available or not

      There’s a copy of Hopkinson’s speech to ICFA here. It also appears in the PM Press chapbook Report From Planet Midnight.

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      1. Thank you–I knew there had been an online version (and the speech was also printed in the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts as all GOH speeches are! I’m glad it’s still up.

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  12. Smol point of fact: Brad was still super-excited to be nominated for a Campbell and was having a good time at Worldcon in 2012 when I talked to him. He was very nice and everything. (You may quote me)

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    1. I have no doubt that it happened that way. Unlike Larry Correia, Brad was an active member of the SFF community who commented on many blogs. I’ve had a few exchanges with him myself.

      Nor did he have a reason to complain, since he finished second in novelette and what was then the Campbell, losing out to Charlie Jane Anders and E. Lily Yu respectively. On the other hand, he lost to a transwoman and a woman of colour, so maybe that’s what set him off.

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      1. Brad commented pretty regularly at Whatever until right after Romney lost to Obama, whereupon he threw a tantrum, got his ass handed to him by the regulars, and vanished in an epic flounce.

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      2. While we’re talking about 2009 (or at least PhilRM is…)

        In 2009 here in Washington State the legislature tried to extend to Civil Unions for same-sex couples all the state level rights associated with Marriage, and there ended up being a Referendum to try to stop it. Brad Torgersen was not only a monetary contributor to the referendum effort, but he wrote a lot of vehemently anti-gay op-ed pieces mostly published on what were back then fringe rightwing “news” blogs. Though at least one got published in one of the major newspapers.

        It wasn’t until after the 2012 Hugos were announced that it was pointed out to me that science fiction author Brad R. Torgersen was the same vicious homophobe we’d been dealing with three years earlier. This is why, during the 2015 Melancholy Canine events that I would get more than a little miffed at people who were decidedly not Puppy sympathizers who kept saying, “Well, maybe some of the Puppies are homophobic, but you certainly can’t say that about Brad Torgersen.”

        Um, yes, yes I could.

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    2. @PhilRM: I remember that, too. He didn’t take too well to people pointing out things like facts and logic. He was and probably still is terrible at basic debate. Logical fallacies galore.

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      1. Although IIRC, he tantrumed, got ass-handed, and epically flounced several times before it stuck. Was a running joke among the regulars.

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      2. Yeah, he kept coming in and out. And he got a lot more sarcastic and bombastic. By the end of Sad Puppies 3, he seemed rather radicalized.

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