[content warning for language and prejudice on race, gender and sexuality]
2014 had been a tumultuous year for science fiction: ructions at the SFWA had carried over from 2013, while in the adjacent world of video games Gamergate was in full swing, and meanwhile, Larry Correia’s Sad Puppies 2 campaigns had caused controversy at the Hugo Awards.
In his regular pop-culture column at the Guardian newspaper, critic Damien Walter summed up the growing culture war in science fiction:
“In recent months the community of science fiction readers and writers has been embroiled in an escalating war of words over the genre’s political soul, catalysed by the nominations for this year’s Hugo awards. Allegations of bloc-voting arose as a slate of little-known writers appeared among the nominees, after a concerted campaign by a small group of writers to get the books on the ballot.”https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/may/30/science-fiction-real-life-war-worlds
“A startling conspiracy theory was at the heart of the campaign. It alleged that a powerful clique of liberal writers and editors had taken control of science fiction, and worse, were politicising a genre that should exist purely for entertainment. They were filling the genre with heavy-handed “message fiction” and excluding conservatively minded writers. So conservatively-minded fans should vote for those writers to redress the imbalance.”ibid
In response, author John C Wright (who had recently signed up with Vox Day’s new publishing venture, Castalia House) responded with one of his signature long posts, mocking Walter’s claims:
“But that is not enough! I also hereby decree, declare, announce and enact the creation of the Evil League of Evil! A subdivision of the Technocracy! Also, I am creating a Vast Rightwing Conspiracy, and joining Opus Dei, an order of Anti-science Albino Assassins, who takes orders directly from the cyberpope in the Vatican! I hereby will vote Vox Day our Supreme Dark Lord, declare Larry Correia to be our International Lord of Hate, decree Sarah Hoyt to be our Beautiful but Evil Space Princess whom we all love and obey, and — let me see, all the good positions are taken — perhaps I can be the Evil Brain in a Jar just like my ancestor, Simon Wright. Perhaps Sarah Hoyt will carry me around in a handbag, as she walks the grounds of her secret base hidden in a cold volcano cone, commanding innocent and cringing minions to be flogged with electric whips, or sent screaming to the Agony Vat.”http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/06/the-evil-league-of-evil-is-given-pious-advice/
The term “Evil League of Evil” was borrowed from the 2008 Joss Whedon produced web series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and clearly meant to be humorous. Nevertheless, the phrase was picked up by others. Vox Day shifted “league” to “legion” and identified other members and even had a cartoon of the six key members he identified. The humourous nicknames varied but the list was approximately these names:
- Vox Day aka The Supreme Dark Lord
- Larry Correia aka The International Lord of Hate or The Mountain that Writes
- John C Wright aka The Evil Brain in a Jar, Living Brain, the King in Yellow, Speaker to Morlocks
- Sarah A Hoyt aka the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess
- Brad Torgersen aka The Token Liberal or The Cuddly Care Bear with a Flamethrower
- Tom Kratman aka The Grand Strategikon
Of the six, Baen and Castalia House author Tom Kratman would have the least influence on later events, although he was often vocal in support of the campaigns that followed. In addition to these six, Mad Genius Club blogger Kate Paulk (aka Kate the Impaler) was sometimes included.
Each of these names has appeared in earlier chapters but Vox Day, Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt have had specific chapters about each of them. Two key figures who have not had their own chapters are Brad Torgersen and John C Wright.
John C Wright the Living Brain
According to his own ‘About’ page, John C Wright studied the ‘Great Books’ program at St. John’s College in Annapolis. From there he studied law but was unsuccessful and became bankrupt. After that, he worked as a journalist and later as a technical writer. He is married to fellow author L. Jagi Lamplighter (or as he prefers to say ‘authoress’).
Wright was regarded as hot property in the early 2000s, with a degree of critical acclaim for his debut novel The Golden Age in 2002. His 2005 novel Orphans of Chaos published by Tor books was a Nebula Award finalist in 2006.
He had always been politically conservative, leaning towards libertarian but for much of his life, he was an atheist. However, fatherhood and the political turmoil around 9-11 caused Wright to increasingly question whether he had judged Christianity too harshly. Midway through this first decade of a new century, Wright decided to put his doubts to the test through prayer:
“But it was impossible, logically impossible, that I should ever believe in such nonsense as to believe in the supernatural. It would be a miracle to get me to believe in miracles. So I prayed. “Dear God, I know (because I can prove it with the certainty that a geometer can prove opposite angles are equal) that you do not exist. Nonetheless, as a scholar, I am forced to entertain the hypothetical possibility that I am mistaken. So just in case I am mistaken, please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case. If you do not answer, I can safely assume that either you do not care whether I believe in you, or that you have no power to produce evidence to persuade me. The former argues you not beneficent, the latter not omnipotent: in either case unworthy of worship. If you do not exist, this prayer is merely words in the air, and I lose nothing but a bit of my dignity. Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation in this matter, John Wright.”http://www.scifiwright.com/2007/09/total-conversion-2/ 
I had a heart attack two days later. God obviously has a sense of humor as well as a sense of timing.”
Luckily for him, Wright’s wife belongs to a Christian denomination that practices faith-healing:
“Well, God answers prayers, even blasphemous ones, sometimes with a dreadful sense of humor. Three days later, I was stricken out of the clear blue with a heart attack. As I lay on the floor writhing and dying, my wife, a good Christian woman, called her Church, and a man who makes his living praying for the sick and healing them offered to heal me , which he did on the spot and in that same moment. The pain went from being all-consuming to nothing in the time it would take you to snap your fingers. Astonished and clutching my chest at the sudden and complete surcease of pain, and curious as to what had afflicted me, I went to the hospital emergency room. I was not worried, but I wanted an examination to tell me what had happened. The doctors ordered major heart surgery, for it seemed that I had five blocked arteries in my heart. So I was in one hospital and then another for several days.”http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/interview-with-infocatolica/ 
While Wright prepared for and then recovered from surgery for blocked heart valves, he had other spiritual experiences in the hospital. By 2007 Wright had converted to Catholicism and combined his previous conservatism with Catholic theology, embracing a kind of traditional Catholicism.
Wright would adopt intentionally archaic language as a reaction against what he perceived as encroaching political correctness. This was particularly true for language around race, gender and sexuality, with Wright employing terms such as ‘octoroon’, ‘authoress’, ‘negro’ as well as commonly referring to Muslims as ‘Mohammedans’.
Wright’s political arguments would often revolve around his belief that gay people engaged in ‘perverse and unnatural’ behaviour when he wasn’t demonising Muslims and Islam or complaining about the decline of Western civilisation. Extending his ideas to fiction, Wright argued for men to show traditional male virtues and women to exemplify femininity in a broad sense:
“Feminine in general means being more delicate in speech, either when delivering a coy insult or when buoying up drooping spirits. Femininity requires not the sudden and angry bravery of war and combat, but the slow and loving and patient bravery of rearing children and dealing with childish menfolk: female fortitude is a tenacity that does not yield even after repeated disappointments and defeats. And, believe you me, dear reader, a woman in love has a very clear-eyed view of the faults and flaws of her man, and if her love is true, she does not yield to despair or give up on him. The female spirit is wise rather than cunning, deep in understanding rather than adroit in deductive logic, gentle and supportive rather than boastful and self-aggrandizing. The strong feminine character is solid in faith in all things.”https://www.scifiwright.com/2013/11/saving-science-fiction-from-strong-female-characters-part-1/
Which for Wright did not exclude women characters from action roles in books or films but that they should be suitably feminine in such roles.
In late 2014, Wright’s retrogressive views on femininity, sexuality and popular culture would collide when the animated series The Legend of Korra ended with the main character holding hands with another woman character. Wright was very angry as a consequence, addressing the producers of the show in a letter on his blog.
“Mr DiMartino and Mr Konietzko: You are disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth. You have earned the contempt and hatred of all decent human beings forever, and we will do all we can to smash the filthy phallic idol of sodomy you bow and serve and worship. Contempt, because you struck from behind, cravenly; and hatred, because you serve a cloud of morally-retarded mental smog called Political Correctness, which is another word for hating everything good and bright and decent and sane in life.https://web.archive.org/web/20141229160245/http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/the-perversion-of-a-legend/
I have no hatred in my heart for any man’s politics, policies, or faith, any more than I have hatred for termites; but once they start undermining my house where I live, it is time to exterminate them.”
Unsurprisingly, the backlash among the wider science fiction community was significant, to the extent that Wright deleted the content of that post. Later, sometime in 2015, the content of the post was replaced with a defence of his beliefs and work in connection with the events around the 2015 Hugo Awards. That included this clarification of his ‘tolerance’ for homosexuality:
“I also believe homosexuals who get baptized and live their lives in imitation of Christ receive His abundant grace and dwell after this life with Him in paradise, there to be arrayed in more splendor than any crowned king, transfigured in shining glory unimaginable to human eyes, and made beautiful and fair with the radiance of divine love, exalting in infinite joy forever.http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/12/the-perversion-of-a-legend/ revised version
I think lust is a sin and that pride is a worse sin. Any man who demeans a homosexual for being afflicted with same-sex sexual attraction is guilty of pride. Look to your own sins, Pharisee. It is akin to mocking a drunk afflicted with alcoholism.”
By this point in his career, it had been a long time since any new work by Wright had received much critical acclaim. He was still being published by Tor Books but he was now focussing his efforts on new fiction & non-fiction for Vox Day’s Castalia House.
Brad Torgersen the Cuddly Care Bear
Brad R Torgersen was born in the mid-1970s and his first foray into science fiction writing was as an unpaid scriptwriter for a community radio drama. The events of 9-11 persuaded Torgersen to join the US Army Reserves, eventually reaching the rank of Chief Warrant Officer in an HR role.
His first and longest presence in online fandom was through a 1980s tabletop Star Trek themed combat game Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator. As a fan of the game, Torgersen set up a website as a resource after the game went out of print. His STSTCS website was a labour of love in which he set out to preserve and continue a particular vision of Star Trek.
“By the time the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted—riding on the success of the most popular Star Trek feature film to date, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home—communication had faltered between the game creators at FASA and the powers-that-be of Star Trek. Following a policy that angers me to this day, the television and film producers of the Star Trek franchise pretty much ignored or overlooked the STSTCS, just as they have ignored or overlooked most of the hundreds of Star Trek novels that have been written over the last fifty years.”http://www.ststcsolda.space/
Torgersen also felt that this distancing between a major media franchise and a role-playing game was for a specific reason:
“Moreover, there is evidence to support the claim that Gene Roddenberry himself was behind the death of FASA’s Star Trek license. Always the proclaimed pacifist, and never comfortable with the military aspect that his self-created “star fleet” implies, Gene apparently became unhappy with the “militarized” nature of the FASA role playing universe. (Side note: how Gene expected to film a whole SF television series set on an armed star vessel—populated by folks with titles like “Captain” and “Lieutenant”, doing galactic battle in the name of the Federation—and not have it seem “militaristic”, is truly beyond me.)”ibid
Torgersen’s shift from dedicated fan to up-and-coming author came via The Writers of the Future contest — the competition to celebrate new writers established by L. Ron Hubbard (see chapter 4) and loosely (or not) connected to the Church of Scientology. Torgersen’s short story was published in the annual L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future (in Volume 26) which helped him sell a story to Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. His career was helped by being mentored by veteran author and editor Mike Resnick who he had first met at the Writers of the Future award ceremony.
From there, Torgersen earned a finalist spot in the Astounding/Campbell Award for Best New Writer, a Nebula finalist spot for Best Novelette (2012) and a 2014 Association for Mormon Letters for Best Short Fiction. Torgersen had made significant steps onto a very mainstream establishment path into science fiction, describing it as:
“I’ve walked across the “name bridge” that’s formed when I mention to other professionals—in passing—that Mike knows and has worked with me.”https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/writer-dad-mike-resnick/
Torgersen had also been an active presence in the comment section at John Scalzi’s Whatever blog at this time (initially under a pseudonym and then under his own name) commenting on many of the issues of the day (see earlier chapters). He also befriended fellow Utah-based author Larry Correia.
However, events within the SFWA would prove troublesome for Brad Torgersen (see chapters 22-25). Having invested social capital with older, more established science fiction writers connected with the SFWA, the internal conflicts that dogged the organisation particularly from 2013 to 2014 left Torgersen associated with a subset of SFWA members with rapidly dwindling influence.
At the blog of Baen author Michael Z Williamson, Torgersen described his frustration with the SFWA in 2013:
“Well, truth is, I joined in 2011. But after three years, I am going to quietly let my SFWA membership lapse. If I had to hang quotes around a reason why, my quotes would hang around this:https://web.archive.org/web/20130818164023/http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/sfwa–boldly-snatching-obscurity-from-the-jaws-of-relevance
During the three years I’ve been a member of SFWA, I’ve seen the organization erupt in several significant ‘turf war’ conflicts that have each seemed (to my sensibilities) to have everything to do with ideology, and almost nothing to do with helping me as a novelist and a short fiction writer protect or advance my career. I thought SFWA would be my ‘union’ capable of enhancing or protecting my interests. It’s not really been so. At least in my very limited experience. Especially not when I stumbled across an e-mail exchange between several SFWA members who were essentially discussing ways to turf my chances on the Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell ballots in 2012.
Why should I pay money to remain a member of an organization that seems (too often?) to be infested with personalities who explicitly want to hurt my career? Or at least want to blunt my opportunities?”
Torgersen had perceived himself as a liberal, although his ‘liberal’ views were more those of somebody who might have been deemed ‘liberal’ in the decade before he was born. The politics of the 2010s were not running in accord with his perspective and the career path he had worked so hard to establish no longer looked so rosy.
The ELoE and their Publishers
Each of the six authors normally included as the “Evil League of Evil” had been published by more than one publisher, although the bulk of Larry Correia’s work was with Baen Books. However, by the end of 2014, the six were associated with two key publishers in terms of an aesthetic and direction for the genre. Correia, Hoyt, Torgersen were being published by Baen, of which Torgersen was the newest addition to the Baen stable. Vox Day and Wright were now being published by Castalia House. Tom Kratman was a long-standing Baen author but was now also writing for Castalia House.
Of the two publishers, Castalia was open in its role as part of a culture war. In October 2014, the Castalia House blog posted an article under the tag of ‘policy’, stating:
“As a publishing house founded to counteract the baleful influence of the cultural Marxists who successfully invaded and took over the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Castalia House has followed the developments of #GamerGate with more than a little interest. It is clear to us, as it may not be clear to many of the participants on either side, that the intrepid gamers of #GamerGate are now engaged in the same struggle that the science fiction writers of America lost before they’d even realized it was upon them.”http://www.castaliahouse.com/on-gamergate/
As well as publishing science fiction, Castalia House was also heavily promoting the works of American paleo-conservative theorist William S Lind. Lind was a major propagator of the quasi-anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the threat of ‘cultural marxism’. Lind’s perspective was a clear antecedent to Vox Day’s claims about science fiction’s institutions and the so-called ‘social justice warriors’, as shown in this 2003 piece by the Southern Poverty Law Centre:
“”Political correctness looms over American society like a colossus,” William Lind, a principal of far-right political strategist Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation and a key popularizer of the idea of cultural Marxism, warned in a 1998 speech. “It has taken over both political parties and is enforced by many laws and government regulations. It almost totally controls the most powerful element in our culture, the entertainment industry. It dominates both public and higher education. … It has even captured the clergy in many Christian churches.”https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2003/cultural-marxism-catching
Castalia House was also publishing Lind’s speculative fiction novel Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation War a kind of watered-down Turner Diaries about a coming civil war in the USA where veterans fight off the forces of political correctness. Both Castalia and Vox Day were also enamoured with Lind’s conception of “fourth-generation warfare” or 4GW. Lind had described 4GW in terms of three components:
- A non-national or transnational base, such as an ideology or religion.
- A direct attack on the enemy’s culture.
- Highly sophisticated psychological warfare, especially through manipulation of the media, particularly television news.
Vox Day regarded culture phenomenon such as Gamergate, cultural Marxism and 4GW as all interconnected.
“In other words, it is not a tool used to establish Marxism, but rather a perversion of Marxism aimed at the culture rather than the political economy. Anyone attempting to understand the pinkshirts of #GamerHate must first understand that cultural Marxism is real and that it is the underlying basis for the SJWs’ current attack on the game industry. And it is worth pointing out that any #GamerGaters attempting to defeat them would do very well to understand that they are presently engaging in a 4GW struggle, and that in that struggle, they are the insurgents.”https://web.archive.org/web/20141029175455/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/10/what-cultural-marxism-is-and-isnt.html
To that end Castalia House could act as a proxy for what Day overtly regarded as a species of warfare.
Baen, on the other hand, was not at war nor expressly committed to an ideological framework. It is true that Baen had dabbled with publishing political non-fiction and that those works had been right-wing but as Baen apologist would frequently point out, their stable of authors were politically diverse and one of their most prolific authors, Eric Flint, was an avowed socialist.
Baen though had issues with the Hugo Awards, as discussed in chapters 9 and 10. Baen’s chief publisher, Toni Weisskopf, also had concerns about the ideological conflicts within fandom and publishing. Sarah Hoyt republished a speech by Weisskopf where she outlined her concerns:
“So the core of science fiction, its method, is still a valid way of creating the cultural artifacts we want. But is it necessary to engage those of differing political persuasions to get this method? I feel the answer is probably yes. You don’t get a conversation with only one opinion, you get a speech, lecture or soliloquy. All of which can be interesting, but not useful in the context of creating science fiction. But a conversation requires two way communication. If the person on the other side is not willing to a) listen and b) contribute to the greater whole, there is no point to the exercise.”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/10/the-problem-of-engagement-a-guest-post-by-toni-weisskopf/
Weisskopf tied this engagement directly to awards:
“But are the popular awards worth fighting for? I’m not sure our side has ever really tried, though there are indications that previous attempts to rally readers of non-in-group books were thwarted in ways that were against the rules of the game. And yet, to quote Heinlein, “Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you. If you don’t bet, you can’t win.”ibid
I think the problem is that folks just really feel they have no possible conversation with the other side any more, that the battle for this part of the culture isn’t worth fighting. And I think again SF is mirroring the greater American culture. Our country is different because it, like science fiction fandom, was built around an idea—not geographic or linguistic accident, but an idea—we hold these truths to be self evident. And it is becoming more and more obvious that the two sides of American culture no longer share a frame of reference, no points of contact, no agreement on the meaning of the core ideas.”
The six ELoE shared a common goal of fighting back against the perceived advance of the left within science fiction and also a shared understanding that the ‘left’ in this case was not so much a movement about public healthcare or higher taxes but one engaged in social issues particularly around gender, sexuality and ethnicity. They were not though ideologically or strategically following a single set of beliefs or necessarily operating in close coordination.
The name was a joke but also was offered with a serious challenge to fandom in general: pick a side.
The Debarkle at the end of 2014
2014 had seen culture wars on multiple fronts. Within science fiction, loosely related events had played out over the past two years including two Sad Puppy campaigns in the Hugo Awards and a series of conflicts within the SFWA. The details of those conflicts had varied but many figures crossed between them: such as John Scalzi, N.K. Jemisin, the Nielsen Haydens on one hand or Vox Day, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt on the other (as well as many others of course).
In broader national politics, the Democratic Party suffered in the 2014 mid-term elections. Republicans regained the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. Among the many issues at play (the economy, public healthcare) an unusual one was the Obama administrations response to an outbreak of Ebola in several West African countries. Later research found that fears of the virus helped boost Republican votes. The outbreak resulted in over 11 thousand deaths including two Americans.
However, the biggest marker of the election was apathy. Less than 37% of eligible voters took part, fuelled in part by disappointment and in part by new voting restrictions.
There were multiple storms on the horizon…
Coming Soon: Volume 2 – Debarkle Part 3
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Horrible%27s_Sing-Along_Blog
-  in numerous posts https://web.archive.org/web/20150120000023/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/01/burning-down-house.html
-  a link to the image http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4ysz-WcysQc/VdtXD6bneVI/AAAAAAAABbg/JatB_fjIh1g/s640/ch05_960.jpg
-  Kratman’s combative reactions to critical comments led to people using the nickname “Tank Marmot” so as to avoid him name-searching.
-  eg https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/04/30/a-mad-genius-goes-to-ravencon/ and also this list at the pro-Sad Puppy subreddit TorInAction https://www.reddit.com/r/TorInAction/comments/3in33v/the_evil_legion_of_evil_membership_list/
-  For reference
- Second Chapter 5: Dramatis Personae – Vox Day https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/02/18/debarkle-second-chapter-5-dramatis-personae-vox-day/
- Dramatis Personae – Larry Correia https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/03/06/debarkle-chapter-11-dramatis-personae-larry-correia/
- Dramatis Personae — Sarah Hoyt & The Mad Genius Club https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/debarkle-chapter-24-dramatis-personae-sarah-hoyt-the-mad-genius-club/
-  https://www.scifiwright.com/about/ a longer bio is here https://www.scifiwright.com/2006/05/my-nebula-biography/ and for more on the course of study see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St.John%27s_College(Annapolis/Santa_Fe)#Great_Books_program
-  http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/wright_john_c
-  Wright’s account is slightly different in this interview http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/interview-with-infocatolica/ but in ways that give credence to the story rather than throw doubt on it (i.e. the exact wording of the prayer is different but the meaning is the same)
-  again details differ between accounts, I’ve picked the other version
-  https://www.scifiwright.com/2010/01/jim-crow-and-cover-art/ he’s actually trying to be supportive in that one
-  https://www.scifiwright.com/2010/01/the-crazy-years-and-their-empty-moral-vocabulary/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_R._Torgersen
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Brad_R._Torgersen&oldid=1015850694#Military_service
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_Starship_Tactical_Combat_Simulator
-  it is a matter of discussion how loose the connection is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writers_of_the_Future#Connections_to_Scientology
-  https://www.writersofthefuture.com/the-anthology/anthology-volume-26-2010-content/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award_for_Best_Novelette
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astounding_Award_for_Best_New_Writer and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award_for_Best_Novelette
-  http://associationmormonletters.org/blog/2015/03/aml-awards-for-2014/
-  unfortunately, the only reasonable summary is TV Tropes https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Victoria
-  https://psmag.com/news/ebola-fears-helped-gop-in-2014-election
-  https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-voting-2014