Before I start part 1 and delve into the early history of things, there are several notes, caveats, warnings and excuses I need to make.
Firstly names. As far as is sensible, I will call people by their current, public, fandom name that they use. I will avoid dead-naming transgender people (obviously) but also just in general, it is simplest to refer to people by the name they are currently using. This makes sense for noms-de-plume, internet handles or changes in proper names. However, this project includes historical references and at times quotes may use older names, in those cases, I may add a footnote clarification. In other cases, we have people with multiple online personas and the connection between those personas was itself a significant topic within fandom. Where dual names are common knowledge and undisputed, I may make some reference to them if relevant (e.g. Vox Day will normally be called “Vox Day” in these essays but with reference to his father Robert Beale, I may use “Theodore Beale”).
‘Sad Puppies’, ‘Rabid Puppies’ and similar terms. Sad Puppies is not a well-defined group. I will try and stick to the following convention:
- Sad Puppies/Sad Puppy leaders: I will be referring to people who took active organising or quasi-official roles in at least one of the campaigns: Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, Amanda Green and, to a lesser extent, Dave Freer.
- Sad Puppy supporters: anybody more generally advocating for or stating support for a Sad Puppy campaign. This is a much more vague group. Any claims about this group are generalisations that will not consistently apply to everybody who might fit that label. Some use of weasel words and hedged claims is necessary.
- People/authors nominated by the Sad Puppies: this is the term I prefer to use for those people, in general, nominated by one of the Sad Puppy campaigns. In some cases (and to varying degrees) the individuals may also have been a Sad Puppy supporter but not in all cases. I want to avoid “Sad Puppy nominees” because it implies an allegiance that may not have existed.
- People/authors nominated by the Rabid Puppies: Likewise with the people nominated by the Rabid Puppies. Indeed, it is especially the case with Rabid Puppy nominees many of whom were unwillingly included in slates.
- Evil League of Evil: This ironic name was coined by John C Wright to mean himself, Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia and Vox Day. Later, Larry Correia used to mean a broader group that formulated Sad Puppies 3 that may or may not have included Vox Day. I’m adding Brad Torgersen to the list as he definitely was part of the Sad Puppy 3 discussion.
- Mad Genius/Mad Geniuses: Any one of the bloggers at Mad Genius Club at the relevant time.
- Rabid Puppy/Rabid Puppies: Generally these aren’t named people and in this context, I mean people following Vox Day’s direction. Day’s various sub-groups of supporters (Vile Faceless Minions, Evil Legion of Evil, Dread Ilk etc), I’m not going to bother keeping track of. Given that they boast about almost slavish obedience to their “dark lord”, I feel that I’m not infringing too much on their sense of individuality.
I’ll try and avoid the use of other groupings except to clarify quotes e.g. ‘Barflies’ for regulars at the Baen’s Bar forums or terms like ‘Puppy Kickers’ which are poorly demarcated. However, while these are the conventions I will be using, the people I quote from the height of the kerfuffle will have been less specific in their usage.
Derogatory nicknames of individuals I will not use and in I will attempt to change these even in quotes. So “Cameltoe is a stupid head” would be written as “[Camestros] is a stupid head”. However, I may miss some or there may be times where the reference is unclear or times where the nickname is particularly pertinent requiring explanation (e.g. if I was trying to explain that some Puppy supporters used sexualised nicknames then I would quote “Cameltoe is a stupid head” as an example).
Some caveats. This is the first draft and, if you are new here, note that I frequently misspell words and make grammatical and punctuation errors. Many of these errors are not typos, I really do spell that badly. I also have a bad habit of long, run-on sentences with multiple clauses (and occasional asides) that, with the addition of inconsistent punctuation, I may lose track of even as I write them resulting in an unintelligible mess and grammatical disagreement. I do not consider it rude for people to point out errors or ask for clarification. It’s fine. My life is a world of being copy-edited. I’m used to it and it is helpful for this project.
Likewise, these essays are first drafts. I am writing them directly in WordPress. I have over five years of blog research behind them but you are getting this stuff unfiltered. Corrections and observations and your own memories are welcome in the comments — indeed they are important as many people participated. I’m fine with people telling me I got a fact wrong or events in the wrong order or offering a different interpretation of the facts. I will correct things! I’m unlikely to take the whole project in a new direction on your say-so though! Push back and quibbles are fine. I’d also ask people in the comments to be somewhat tolerant of puppy-apologetics that may arise — I’d rather things I say get stress-tested, as it will make the finished product tighter.
This project will touch on many fan controversies. I’m not trying to restart old conflicts but I will inevitably touch on some sore spots and not just ones involving the Puppies. I’ll try to be diplomatic but be aware. Also, if it looks like the comments are getting too heated I may step in. Again, push back, corrections, quibbles are welcome but also I may need to draw a line under some arguments so we can move on.
There is also a big and fundamental flaw to the approach I’m taking here. Debarkle uses the Puppy Kerffule of 2015 as a lens to look at extreme right-wing politics and fandom. The flaw in this approach is that it centres on some terrible people with some appalling and disturbing views. That also means that fans and fannish voices of all kinds get less centred in the narrative than they deserve to be. When I announced this project people did strongly suggest that I ensure that the voices of fans are enabled. I don’t know how well I can achieve that and maybe to do that right requires a completely different approach. I will try though.
Another issue with this approach is that I will be quoting and discussing some extreme views including racism, misogyny and transphobia, as well as people advocating violence against people with left-wing views. Some quoted material will be distressing.
I’m being up-front in calling this a narrative rather than a history. I’m picking and choosing what to include. However, I aim to avoid factual claims that cannot be substantiated without quotes and links. In many cases this will mean linking to some websites (or archives of those websites) that promote conspiracy theories, anti-democratic propaganda and target hate based on race, gender and sexuality. As a general rule, I do not encourage people to follow those links but they are provided so that people can see the full context.
Next Time: Introduction to Part 1 as I lay out a whistle-stop tour of science fiction fandom from 1880 to 2010.
-  If you are not new here then you know this already and also know that I like footnotes.
-  Once I was well underway with planning this, I thought of a completely different way of doing it. Instead of my approach of quotes and links and observations, you could do this history as a series of interviews of fans of all kinds asking them what they thought and how they remembered things. I’d love to read that as a series or as an approach to fan events or distributed controversies like GamerGate or RaceFail where the “aboutness” of the thing was also in dispute. It’s also a project that I know I would be singularly useless at doing.