Cue plaintive sad background music:
“Hello. I’m Larry Correia, and I need your help. You too can tell stuffy literati types to go screw themselves.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2012/02/23/how-you-can-make-a-difference-getting-me-nominated-for-a-hugo/
After his successful bid to be a finalist for the Astounding (aka Campbell) Award in 2011, Larry Correia made a second bid to be nominated for a Hugo Award in 2012. The post listed his book Hard Magic as well as some works by other authors as well as the blog Elitist Book Reviews and the podcast Writing Excuses for Best Related Work. As with his 2011 post, the main criteria for inclusion was that they were people he knew.
The post had no obvious impact on the final nominations, possibly because Correia had not posted his request until after the deadline for memberships with nominating privileges had passed. Writing Excuses was a finalist but it would probably have been nominated regardless, similarly Schlock Mercenary‘s listing for Best Graphic Story. More significantly, Correia’s friend Brad Torgersen was a finalist for Best Novelette and for the Campbell/Astounding Award for Best new writer. However, Torgersen had been a winner in the 2011 Analog Reader’s Poll, so may well have been a finalist regardless.
On January 8 2013, with his blog receiving more attention than ever after his Opinion on Gun Control post, Larry Correia made a third attempt to persuade people to nominate him for a Hugo Award.
“The Hugo awards are the most prestigious thing you can get in sci-fi/fantasy (other than fat royalty checks, obviously). Getting nominated for a Hugo is a great resume builder. I was a finalist for the Campbell award for best new writer a couple of years back, and though the Campbell is a separate award from the Hugo, it works through the same system, same voters, and is even given away at the same ceremony. Going through that experience was very enlightening.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/01/08/how-to-get-correia-nominated-for-a-hugo/
Larry had learnt from the previous year and let his readers know that if they wanted to nominate then they would need to purchase a supporting membership before the end of the month. Larry also added an us-versus-them narrative to his nomination request:
‘The fact that I write unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy handed message fic annoys the literati to no end. When I got nominated for the Campbell, the literati message-fic crowd had a conniption fit. A European snob reviewer actually wrote “If Larry Correia wins the Campbell, it will END WRITING FOREVER.”’ibid
As discussed in earlier chapters there is little indication of any fits (conniption or otherwise) nor any reviewer claiming he would end writing forever but it was a clever line. Correia also added a more practical incentive.
“In previous years, in order to have informed voters, they’ve sent out the “Hugo Voter’s Packet” which includes eBooks of every nominees’ stuff. This isn’t just best novel, but all the Campbell nominees’ books, all the short stories, novellas, novelettes, all of the supporting works, comic books, graphic novels, supporting works, and pretty much all of that. Heck, I got Schlock Mercenary stuff last time! Basically, you get more money worth of reading material than the cost of your supporting membership, plus exploding literati heads!“ibid
The Hugo packet was material collated by each years Worldcon from finalists to help members vote on the Hugo Awards. The 2013 packet would indeed contain a lot of great material. The packet had become an established part of Hugo voting in 2009, having originally been organised by John Scalzi as a way of encouraging interest in the awards.
At this point, Larry Correia’s Hugo post was not very different from similar posts by other writers making their eligibility known. In particular, John Scalzi’s “award pimpage” posts. However, Correia was determined to make this a bit more of a campaign than he had in 2012. He followed up his first post with a second one:
“As promised, I will continue to bug you guys about this until the end of the month. If you are not aware of my life-quest to make literati critics spontaneously combust, please read this first:”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/01/16/how-to-get-correia-nominated-for-a-hugo-part-2-a-very-special-message/
The post went on to be framed as a kind of public service announcement with a link to a sad song by the performer Sarah MacLachlan who had also recorded a song for the SPCA about helping abandoned pets. After a genuinely amusing contrast between pulp novelists pitted against college English departments, Correa went on to say:
“For as little as $60 you can become a voting member of WorldCon and nominate something awesome and filled with dragons, explosions, guns, heroism, actual good and evil, and a plot where stuff actually happens. And unlike Sarah McLachlan’s sad puppy commercial, your donation also gets you a whole big ton of free eBooks and all of the nominated works, worth more than the cost of joining.”ibid
But as well as asking people to vote for him, Larry Correia promised that he would be listing in a future post other things “which normally don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning” on his site for his readers to consider.
He finally concluded:
“So please tell your friends. I will continue to bug you about this for the rest of the month. Do not make me play the sad puppy song again…”ibid
At the end of February he added a third post:
“Okay, for the many of you who I talked into registering to nominate/vote for the Hugos with my relentless onslaught of sad puppies, by now you should have received an email with your PINs for voting. (I just got mine last night). Now, obviously I want everybody to vote for what they think is the best in each category. I’m not going to tell anybody what to do. If you think some particular book/story is absolutely amazing, then put it up.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/02/28/hugo-nominating-there-is-only-ten-days-left/
In that post, he listed some suggestions for other categories and solicited a few more from readers in the comments. That post was followed up another on March 2, suggesting Hank Reinhardt’s posthumous book on knives for Best Related Work. This was followed on March 6 with a single sentence reminder to vote. Although the term “sad puppies” in reference to the SPCA advert theme had cropped up in earlier posts, this short post is the first time it is capitalised, with Correia referring to the campaign as ‘my Sad Puppies posts’.
The final ‘Sad Puppies post’ of the campaign was on March 9 the day before nominations closed with just a short reminder in a longer update post on other topics.
Although the first two posts had an emphasis on confounding literary snobs, the main emphasis had been firstly on voting for Correia’s Monster Hunter Legion but also on signing up as supporting members. Correia had suggested other works and had encouraged other suggestions but there was no formal slate or any serious attempt to coordinate votes. Nor was there much in the way of politics aside from a dig at works with “heavy-handed message fic about the dangers of fracking and global warming and dying polar bears and robot rape as a bad feminist analogy with a villain who is a thinly veiled Dick Cheney”.
It wasn’t that Larry Correia did not feel politically frustrated with the culture of SF&F fandom. On March 13, not long after nominations closed, Correia posted on his blog a long, rambling thread of comments from Facebook in which he, Brad Torgersen and Baen authors Tom Kratman and Michael Z Williamson argued with some internet “liberals”. It was not a high-quality argument and hard to summarise. Any single quote is very much out of context and much of it is about who said what first. For the full context, you would need to read the whole thread, however, I want to quote some parts of it to highlight not the back-and-forth of the discussion but to pick out some themes from Larry Correia that would arise in later versions of the Sad Puppy campaigns. For example:
“When I got nominated for the Campbell award the literati had a complete come apart, up to and including “if Larry Correia wins the Campbell it will ruin writing forever” and then, interestingly enough, I started getting smeared everywhere. About what? Not my writing, but rather, my politics. (see, I owned a machinegun store before I ever became a writer so I’ve always been out of the closet). Then I had people voting against me who’d never even read a single one of my eligable works, simply because I was a right winger.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/03/13/political-fun-with-facebook/
As previous chapters of Debarkle have discussed, there’s little evidence of this and Correia changes the unsubstantiated quote from “end writing forever” to “ruin writing forever”. Correia’s surprise at the political pushback on social media (such as it was) to his own political views on social media will be a recurring theme. For a long period of time (literally from 1998) much of his pronouncements about guns and politics had been within RKBA-themed online forums. Those forums were not politically homogeneous but as general environments, they were sympathetic to his positions and style of argument. On Facebook and within spaces orientated around books and fandom, Correia was encountering a much broader range of political viewpoints and modes of argument.
Correia also repeatedly uses the term “SMOF”. The acronym (for “Secret Masters of Fandom”) is used within fandom both as joking conspiracy theory and as a term-of-art for people who do the leg work in organising conventions. For example, an aside in the post (indicated in bold to show it wasn’t part of the original thread), Correia combines multiple issues that had been bothering him:
“No. Seriously. Bacigalupi is a communist who thinks mankind is a scourge on mother earth. So it is sadly ironic that his politics are far less controversial than mine in SMOFdom. Man, I wish that this thread had happened before my Sad Puppies campaign. “ibid 
April rolled around and with it disappointment for Larry Correia:
“So the Sad Puppies Hugo stacking campaing was a success for almost everybody else I pushed, but me, as we didn’t get enough to break MHL into best novel. It will be interesting to see how close we got when the numbers come out after the awards.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/04/01/the-sad-puppies-hugo-campaign-sorta-successful-for-everybody-but-me/
More popular picks from the suggestions listed had made it to the ballot. Once again the podcast Writing Excuses was a finalist, as was the graphic novel Schlock Mercenary. Brandon Sanderson was not only a finalist but would end up winning Best Novella for The Emperor’s Soul as well as Writing Excuses actually winning Best Related Work. This win for Sanderson/Wells/Taylor/Kowal podcast was also a sort of tangential win for Larry Correia who had been a guest at a live broadcast at the Life, The Universe and Everything writer’s convention in Utah in 2012. Another positive in the set of finalists for Correia, was Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf in the Best Editor Long Form category. She would not win in the final vote but did come second in the run-offs with the Hugo going to Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor. However, Correia’s own novel fell just short — getting sufficient votes to be listed at the top of the long list of nominated works that didn’t make the finals.
The “SMOF” theme from his Facebook thread (see above) was continued in his post on the nominations:
“My friends at Elitist Book Reviews are nominated, and deserve a win for having the best review place on the internet. If they lose, it will be because somebody in SMOFdom discovered I like them.”ibid
In fact, Elitist Book Reviews would come last out of the five finalists (but above No Award in the run-off).
Correia would go on:
“And for those of you that follow this stuff, it is pretty much what you expect, as in a big SMOF popularity contest where various people with lots of WorldCon factions politicking for them are insta-noms, and everybody else is shut out. Luckily, only one of the nominees for best novel is a dying polar bear story of global warming sadness and evil capitalism, which would normally win, but it will surely lose to Scalzi, who is liberal blogger who happens to write books too, and God help us if they ever start doing Doctor Who novelizations because that will be your five nominees a year.”ibid
Doctor Who novelisations by this point were older as a publishing phenomenon than Larry Correia. The antipathy towards Doctor Who was due to the popularity of the revived series among Hugo voters, leading to multiple nominations in the Best Dramatic Short Form category as well as a related work nomination for a book about the series.
Correia would go on to use an apparently bitter tone about the other Best Novel finalists:
“For the other Best Novel noms, Lois Bujold is awesome, but she’s won like 8 Hugos. Mira Grant is cool as heck. In person, she’s really great, and I like her, but notice that since she is beloved by SMOF, she is nominated in every Hugo category except Car of the Year. Saladin’s a nice guy, and beloved by SMOF (we were up for the Campbell at the same time), but I’m predicting he’ll come in last, becasue this is his only book and he’s not built up a huge SMOF backer faction yet, but just having nominated a guy with an ethnic name will make the SMOFers feel all warm and tingly inside and good about themselves, so that’ll be enough for them. (Note, I’m not actually placing any bets that the voters actually read all the works).”ibid
It is interesting that there is no indication that Larry Correia himself had read any of these works. For example, he is quick to dismiss Saladin Ahmed’s nomination as being due to his ethnic name but had not engaged with his book to see if, perhaps, it was really good. In fact, Mira Grant’s Blackout came last after Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon in the run-offs. Grant aka Seanan McGuire had indeed secured a record-breaking five nominations in four categories under her two writing names.
In the comments, Kevin Standlee (a long term Worldcon volunteer and at the time Chair of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee, pushed back on some of Correia’s SMOF-conspiracy theories.
“I think you significantly overstate the significance of the SMOFS (“Secret Masters of Fandom”), which represent the perhaps 500 (at most) people who actively are involved in the organization and operation of Worldcon and who take an active interest in the rules of the World Science Fiction Society.https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/04/01/the-sad-puppies-hugo-campaign-sorta-successful-for-everybody-but-me/#comment-28694
1. They don’t form a monolithic bloc, no matter what you seem to think. We (and I’d count myself among them) argue incessantly. Go look at the video of the past couple of WSFS Business Meetings (links to which are on the wsfs.org website) and you’ll see just the tip of the iceberg of the debates.
2. There were over 1300 people nominating this year, which is a lot more than the total number of people who could be considered “insiders.”
3. All it takes to be a SMOF is to work hard and get involved. Remember that 90% of success consists of showing up.”
The idea that things were happening because of just organic actions by Hugo voters rather than because of behind-the-scenes shenanigans was not something Larry Correia could wholly accept. Discussing the issue of Doctor Who again, Correia predicted that Writing Excuses was bound to lose despite being “insanely popular” and “very helpful” because it was up against “Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who” in Best Related Work. To support this claim Correia pointed out:
“The one time there was a threat of a big upset was when Game of Thrones (Martin is another favorite with his own big fan faction) was going up against Doctor Who (not only that, but another fan favorite-Neil Gaiman directed episode!) So all of a sudden Game of Thrones wound up in a different category that year, and all the TV episodes together became long form, that way they could both win their respective Hugos and everybody was happy. Except for every other TV production team in the world that doesn’t have a Hugo Faction in place.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2013/04/01/the-sad-puppies-hugo-campaign-sorta-successful-for-everybody-but-me/#comment-28708
This was a sort of funhouse mirror version of events. The first season of the HBO adaptation of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones had in 2012 received more nominations as a whole series for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form than any single episode had for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form that year. Correia’s version of events was even more absurd because in 2013 (the year now in question) the opposite had happened and a Game of Thrones episode was up against Doctor Who episodes.
Both Game of Thrones and Writing Excuses would beat their various Doctor Who challengers that year, defying Correia’s expectations.
Larry Correia’s specifics about the Hugo Award were often shaky and his claims poorly thought out. However, the general concern about the Hugo Awards was not confined to Correia. Author Harry Connolly expressed some mild disenchantment with the awards. However, he was sharply critical of what Correia had said about Saladin Ahmed:
“That’s grade-A horseshit right there. However small the nominating pool was, whatever value should be placed on the Hugo itself, they nominated the man’s book because they liked the man’s book. Attributing it to “an ethnic name” is racist bullshit.”http://harryjconnolly.com/how-i-feel-about-the-hugo-awards-spoiler-meh/
Justin Landon at Staffers Book Reviews had stronger complaints than Connolly and more coherent ones than Correia.
“Looking at Correia and McGuire and the obvious (to me) impact they’ve had on the ballot leads me to believe that the Hugo Award, which has always been an insular convention award at its best moments, has become an easily manipulated (not maliciously mind you) process that provides undue efficacy to small and dedicated fan bases. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly bear any ill will toward these fan bases, or the authors who engender them, but under this fundamentally flawed regime I ask myself. . . why does anyone care about the Hugos? Whys are often elusive, but the answer is they shouldn’t.”https://web.archive.org/web/20130404093342/http://www.staffersbookreview.com/2013/04/can-we-stop-talking-about-the-hugos-now.html
Landon was describing better the issue that Correia was clouding with diversions about SMOFs. Fandom is made up of fans and fans tended to be fans of particular things. This is true almost by definition of what a fan is. The nomination system of the Hugo Awards asked members to list five things per category. A consequence of that was if there was a large majority of fans who liked, for example, Doctor Who then individual several individual Doctor Who episodes would gain more votes than other TV shows, even if the majority of voters didn’t nominate Doctor Who. This structural flaw in the process didn’t always produce a limited range of finalists but in some circumstances, it could.
Landon made clear that he did not believe anybody was acting maliciously but there was a problem and unspoken was the point that the problem was vulnerable to a group who were acting maliciously. What to do? Landon had a suggestion:
“The only solution is a complete excoriation of the existing Hugo bylaws, a reordering on par with the British Fantasy Award that collapsed under its own skein of controversy a year ago. Or. . . the formation of a new award at WorldCon, one that truly represents not the whims of voting blocs, but the genuine interests of forwarding the genre. This award should recognize all the various forms of contributions in all the ways the tired mechanisms of the Hugo fail to. To put it even more bluntly, it’s time for the most significant award in science fiction and fantasy be awarded not to the most convincing cult leaders in fandom, but to the individuals doing the best work. If we give a shit enough to try. Until then, I’m done talking about the Hugos”https://web.archive.org/web/20130404093342/http://www.staffersbookreview.com/2013/04/can-we-stop-talking-about-the-hugos-now.html
Did science fiction need a very different kind of award than the Hugo Awards? Landon wasn’t the only person who thought so.
In March of 2012, Baen author and Heinlein devotee, Sarah Hoyt had proposed a new more positive style of science fiction that she called “Human Wave” as a kind of antidote to the New Wave of science fiction that had begun in the 1960s as a challenge to the style promoted by John W Campbell. In February of 2013 she was thinking about how this approach to writing could be better promoted:
Her essay firstly recapped what she meant by “Human Wave”:
“So, we’ve named the type of fiction we like – stories in which the human wins, or at least goes on fighting, and in which humans in general and often (gasp) Western Culture Subgroup humans are the good guys. Because we’re brats and pests, we named it Human WAVE to tweak the New Wave people as they drown in a morass of grey goo.”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/02/23/awards-rubber-rolls-and-humans-waving/
After outlining some of the general issues with promoting a new literary movement, she advanced her core thesis:
“But the thing is in indie publishing, and in all publishing as it moves to Amazon and other electronic venues, being able to put on the cover a little seal that says “winner of the blah blah award” (we’re not calling it a blah blah award. No, you can’t talk me into it.) does give you a huge leg up. Most of the readers who are rediscovering SF (or anything else) because they can finally find stuff they want to read, see the Hugo and it doesn’t say to them “Award given by small group of people who attend Worldcon.” They see “Award” which means someone other than the author’s cat read this masterpiece and approved of – or at least finished—it. That means they’re twice as likely to buy it.”ibid
Awards added kudos to a book and in a world where self-publishing ebooks had become viable, an award could help promote a book.
But were the Hugo Awards actually broken? After all, many of Larry Correia’s key predictions proved to be false in 2013. Was this just people observing the same generational transition from old to new that the Hugos had been experiencing since the 1960s? More relevantly, were the Hugo winners actually good?
To answer that question we have to read some books and what better book to read than the Hugo winning novel of the SFWA President?
Next Time: Redshirts by John Scalzi
-  http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/2012-hugo-awards/
-  http://www.sfadb.com/Analog_Readers_Poll_2011
-  see previous chapter
-  http://file770.com/2013-hugo-voter-packet-released/
-  http://file770.com/hugo-voter-packet/
-  eg https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/01/03/the-2012-award-pimpage-post/
-  I assume this is the advert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO9d2PpP7tQ but it is a different song than the one Larry Correia listed.
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Reinhardt
-  again, see earlier chapters
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMOF and https://fanlore.org/wiki/Secret_Masters_of_Fandom
-  I don’t believe Paolo Bacigalupi is a communist (although I could be mistaken). His books do contain political and environmental themes but his blog at the time didn’t have many political posts (an exception here https://web.archive.org/web/20081002053241/https://windupstories.com/2008/09/29/mccain-plus-palin-equals/ ). A more likely explanation is that Correia was getting Bacigalupi mixed up with China Miéville (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Mi%C3%A9ville) who is a Trotskyist. Miéville and Bacigalupi were joint winners of the 2010 Hugo Award, which is around the time that Correia began paying attention to it.
-  http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/2013-hugo-awards/
-  https://writingexcuses.com/2012/04/22/writing-excuses-7-17-guns-and-fiction/
-  http://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2013HugoStatistics.pdf
-  1964 was the first but the influential Target series of novelizations started in 1973 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Doctor_Who_novelisations
-  Worldcon is technically organised by the World Science Fiction Society http://www.wsfs.org/ but the WSFS has no permanent central organisation and is organised as a kind of relay race by each year’s convention. The Mark Protection committee keeps an eye on trademarks and is effectively the only ongoing continuity part of the WSFS
-  I believe this was originally on his LiveJournal but is now available here http://harryjconnolly.com/how-i-feel-about-the-hugo-awards-spoiler-meh/
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/03/21/what-is-human-wave-science-fiction-3/