[content warning: discussion of terror attacks, Islamophobic slurs, transphobia and racism]
January 2015 started as a normal year: fireworks over Sydney Harbour, global warming inching further to disaster and America embroiled in seemingly endless wars. On January 7, Europe and America were shocked by the mass shooting at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris. The attack was an Al-Qaeda connected terror operation in retaliation to the magazine’s satirical cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed. Although condemned by many Muslim groups, the attack would be exploited by far-right groups to promote Islamophobia and attacks on immigrants. Naturally, Vox Day blamed the attacks on “diversity” and renewed his support for overt anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-left violence by appealing to the example set by a far-right mass child-murderer:
“But the first shots in Reconquista 2.0 have already been fired; they were fired in Norway by Anders Breivik. And that is the terrible point to which multiculturalism and diversity and tolerance has brought the West: the choice between Breivik and Hebdo. Many have embraced the hashtag #JeSuiCharlie, but as Iowahawk wisely noted, never bring a candlelight vigil to a gunfight.”https://web.archive.org/web/20150111022547/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/01/this-is-what-diversity-looks-like.html
Day would also use the attack as a pretext to attack fantasy author Saladin Ahmed, calling him a “token Mahometan” and “an affirmative action nominee for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, and British Fantasy awards” as well as suggesting he was homophobic.
While the horrific attack in Paris was the major news story of January 7, 2015, it was a lesser event in the history of the Debarkle. Overshadowing world events was an essay by Brad Torgersen. In big bold letters, his blog announced:
“Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!”
Torgersen went on to explain:
“The Hugo awards window (for 2015’s nominations) will be open soon. As one of Baen’s newest authors, I wanted to be be the first guy out of the gate with SAD PUPPIES 3. For those of you who don’t know what SAD PUPPIES is, it’s a (somewhat tongue in cheek) running effort to get stories, books, and people onto the Hugo ballot, who are entirely deserving, but who don’t usually get on the ballot. Largely because of the nomination and voting tendencies of World Science Fiction Convention, with its “fandom” community. In the last decade we’ve seen Hugo voting skew more and more toward literary (as opposed to entertainment) works. Some of these literary pieces barely have any science fictional or fantastic content in them. Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.”https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/
Like Larry Correia’s earlier campaigns, Torgersen complained that the Hugo Awards had become too literary rather than entertaining. However, Torgersen was more upfront about the political aspect. While he didn’t cite examples, just like Vox Day he regarded many Hugo finalists as there due to “affirmative action” because of either who wrote it or because of aspects of the characters.
Torgersen would go on to explain the purpose of the earlier Sad Puppy campaigns:
“Likewise, the Hugos tend to be a raw popularity contest, for all definitions of “popular” that include “Trending with Worldcon.” Which may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with actual sales success on the open market. And that was Correia’s original point: if the Hugos really are the preeminent award in SF/F how come the Hugos so often ignore works and people who are, in fact, successful ambassadors of the genre to the consumer world at large? What the heck is going on here?”ibid
Torgersen’s solution would be to compile a slate (the term he used) for a variety of Hugo categories and to encourage a “few dozen” people to vote for it. The Hugo Awards may not have been “affirmative action” but Torgersen was going to affirmatively take action to boost some authors he felt had been systemically discriminated against.
In the comments, people began suggesting works for Torgersen to include. Torgersen confirmed that his own novel Chaplain’s War (an extension of an earlier short story) was eligible for the Hugo Awards. A few days later, he had second thoughts and explained: “I am probably going to recuse myself from SAD PUPPIES 3”. He also had another stab at explaining the approach of the campaign:
“SAD PUPPIES isn’t about nepotism. It’s about trying to put people (and works) on the list that would not ordinarily wind up on the list. No offense to Leckie, but she was the beneficiary of a lot of affirmative action voting. I’d like to see some people (who would never show up on the affirmative action radar) get at least a Hugo nomination, for being better-than-good writers who have gifted the genre with some tremendous work. Right now, too many nominations are made purely because the author is (gay/transexual/female/non-white) or the main characters are (gay/transexual/female/non-white) and this allows the voting body to give itself warm fuzzies for being progressive/inclusive.”https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6584
The logic was clear even if the supporting evidence was thin. From his perspective too many Hugo finalists were being chosen by voters because either the author or majors characters were one or all of:
- people of colour
Instead, Sad Puppies 3 would aim to get people and works nominated that would not otherwise get nominated. It is a small leap of logic to assume that meant people who were not gay, transgender, women or people of colour (i.e. cis-straight white men, who had dominated Hugo Award nominations for decades) but it was still a leap — that wasn’t quite what his words implied and also none of the Puppy campaigns previously nor Torgersen himself was known for logical consistency. Nevertheless, there was a reasonable inference that Torgersen was expecting a whiter, straighter and more male result from the campaign.
How would this be accomplished?
“I think it’s fair for somebody to push back and say, “Okay, you go ahead and nominate for whatever reasons you like, it’s time for a different bunch of us to do the same; and do it in a coordinated fashion that somewhat offsets the predictable biases and tendencies of the usual Hugo voting body.””
I believe it is fair to assume that Torgersen was not aiming to sweep the Hugo Awards but rather create a balancing force against what he perceived as a bias. Intent and actions are different things though.
Fellow Evil League of Evil member, John C Wright alerted his blog followers to Torgersen taking up the mantle of Sad Puppy leader and that they should leave suggestions of works to nominate at Torgersen’s blog. Inevitably, many people suggested various works by John C Wright, including Wright’s wife L. Jagi Lamplighter.
Vox Day (as “VD”) also turned up in the comments a few days later, not to make any specific suggestions but he did assert that “At least one of my short stories published in 2014 is qualitatively better than any of the short stories that were nominated last year.”
Prior to Torgersen’s announcement of Sad Puppies 3, Day had produced a less ambitious eligibility post of the kind that many award contenders release at that time of year. His list included one novel he wrote (Quantum Mortis: A Mind Programmed), three short stories and an essay from his blog (for Best Related Work). However, he didn’t at this point note his eligibility in other categories such as the editor categories. The wider purpose of both Day’s posts and Torgersen’s later post was to encourage people to sign up for 2015 Worldcon (known as “Sasquan”) membership so that they would be eligible to nominate works. Day made this effort more explicit:
“If you want to get in on the action, you can join Sasquan 2015 here. I tend to suspect $40 for two years of voting rights will provide even more entertainment bang for your buck than it did last year. Also, note that you can buy two memberships, so long as the second one is marked “Guest of X”.”https://web.archive.org/web/20150107183420/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/01/for-consideration-2014.html
Naturally, Day did not overtly order people to buy two memberships so as to gain two votes.
Torgersen’s announcement caught the eye of not just the Evil League of Evil. Mike Glyer at File 770 noticed the arrival of Sad Puppies 3 the same day saying “if you felt something pushing against your “Worldcon fandom zeitgeist” today — that’s because the dogs are off the leash!”.
The next day editor and proprietor of the venerable Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson was also expressing his concern about yet another Hugo campaign.
“In putting forth a Hugo Awards Voting slate specifically to support a political agenda (as opposed to the marginally acceptable custom of touting works that are eligible through qualification), the argument is advanced that there are authors, editors and artists who are deserving of nomination yet never make it to the ballot. Rather than blaming this on the staggering volume of works eligible each year, or a lack of proper and effective promotion and advertising on the part of publishers, blame is placed on the politics of fandom: “Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award…”“https://amazingstories.com/2015/01/oh-fandom-youre-just-not-voting-right/
Davidson overtly avoided naming Torgersen and the Sad Puppy campaign in the hope of preventing the argument over the slate becoming personalised. German indie-SF author and fan writer Cora Buhlert had broader questions about Hugo self-promotion in general noting the trend about Hugo discussions getting earlier each year. The first eleven paragraphs of her post were not related to the Sad Puppy campaign specifically but the wider discussion on self-promotion but then moved on to Torgersen’s complaints:
“What always strikes me about those arguments – apart from the fact that the best antidote to nominating authors because of their demographics and political views rather than the merit of their work is apparently nominating authors because of their political views rather than the merit of their work – is that the Sad Puppies genuinely seem to believe that their ideas of what makes a work good or entertaining are universal and that everybody else nominates works they don’t actually like, just because the author has the right credentials or the work ticks the right boxes. After all, it can’t possibly be that people nominate works the Sad Puppies find boring, because – gasp – they actually enjoy them.”http://corabuhlert.com/2015/01/13/hugo-awards-debate-2015-earlier-every-year/
Brad Torgersen responded to the multiple posts announcing a third set of unhappy hounds with a new post by paraphrasing conservative thinker William F. Buckley Jr’s famous maxim about conservatism.
“SAD PUPPIES simply holds its collective hand out — standing athwart “fandom” history — and yells, “Stop!””https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/why-sad-puppies-3-is-going-to-destroy-science-fiction/
Torgersen also made another attempt to outline the objectives of the Sad Puppy campaign. This time he listed three.
- “Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion. “
- “Encourage people who are SF/F consumers (but not “fandom” according to Worldcon) to participate in the nomination and selection of works.”
- Get “Hugo categories re-structured so that consumer sectors like gaming are not ignored.”
There was no indication that Torgersen had any idea how to achieve point-3 and it seems to be an evolving idea. He finished with this paragraph:
“If SAD PUPPIES happens to make a few people cry a Grinchy boo-hoo-hoo along the way, and if we give the Hyper-Progressive Pissypants Club (HPPC) heartburn because we’re ruining things by trying to get the larger SF/F consumer world involved . . . well, that’s just a cross we’re prepared to bear — with a large cup of soda in one hand, and a big bucket of theater popcorn in the other.”ibid
The campaign was going to be fun (according to Torgersen) and if some people got upset well…that was their problem.
Torgersen followed that post up with a third on January 21. This was following a similar strategy that Larry Correia had adopted for Sad Puppies 2: have a series of posts in January to encourage people to sign up for Worldcon memberships in advance of nominations opening. This third post also unveiled a logo for the Sad Puppy campaign. Created by an online artist Artraccoon, the logo featured three puppies in space suits and sad expressions, with a limp rocket flying/descending in an arc behind them. Torgersen introduced the characters by name:
“And when the three puppy astronauts — Ray, Isaac, and Frank — observed the lay of the alien land on Hugo World, they let out a forlorn howl. For they saw nothing but tedious ‘message’ fiction, depressing talk-talk stories about amoral people with severe ennui, and literary MFA novels. Not a rocketship nor a ray gun in sight. ‘Can someone please give us some explosions?’ the puppies cried in unison. ‘I mean, we were promised explosions! And kick-ass laser battles! And all we got were some lousy t-shirts that said, This is what a feminist looks like! We don’t want that stupid crap! We came to have fun! At least give us loud bowling shirts with babes on them; like the one that comet guy wore!’”https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/how-you-can-aid-the-valiant-sad-puppies-3-campaign/ 
In the comments, notable GamerGate figure Daddy Warpig announced:
Some people in #GamerGate got the word today:https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/how-you-can-aid-the-valiant-sad-puppies-3-campaign/#comment-6904
SJW invaded sci-fi / fantasy publishing long ago. They rule with an IRON FIST.This makes puppies sad. : (
— Daddy Warpig (@Daddy_Warpig) January 21, 2015
And yes, I am registered as a Supporting member. Awaiting nomination suggestions with bated breath. (MH: Nemesis for best novel. Because obvious reasons.)
Although Larry Correia had officially retired from leading the Sad Puppies, he also put out a call to action with the Sad Puppy 3 logo front and centre.
“Last year I did a big push with several blog posts and cartoons (featuring Wendell as our spokesmanatee) to try to get people who aren’t typical WorldCon attendees to participate. We managed to get people and things despised by SJWs nominated to almost every category. The ensuing public freak out was hilarious and proved my point.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/01/21/sad-puppies-3-only-a-few-days-to-register-to-vote/
Correia went on to explain that he was swamped with a big writing project and hence had handed over the campaign to his friend Brad Torgersen. In the comments, Torgersen explained again what he was fighting against:
“As Nathan notes, the real scrimmage is in the nominations. The SJWs have very specific criteria for theirs: they want gay authors, female authors, transexual authors, non-Caucasian authors. AND THIS IS A HARD RULE which they will seldom break.https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/01/21/sad-puppies-3-only-a-few-days-to-register-to-vote/
You can be none of the above, but your book or story must focus on:
Gay characters, female characters, transexual characters, and non-Caucasian characters.”
Elsewhere, other blogs were rallying in support of Sad Puppies 3. The Mad Genius Club had multiple posts discussing the campaign to some degree. On January 17, Cedar Sanderson dedicated half her weekly Mad Genius Club post to explaining the Sad Puppies 3 campaign:
“Keep in mind something, because no matter how much you hear it, this isn’t about politics. This is about making the Hugo more relevant to the greater fandom, as Brad discusses below, and it’s about keeping the Hugo great. It would be truly sad to lose the award of once-greatness into the morass of thinly-disguised revenge porn and poorly written (but socially relevant! To… someone, I’m assuming at least the author, although then again, marketing being what it is…) books that have turned the Hugo award on the cover from must-buy to ew, putting this down now. So let’s work on finding some really great books to nominate, and gathering interested voters who care. I’m an example of someone who didn’t vote for years, and last year, I finally did it. I’ll do it again this year.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/01/17/walking-the-plank/
The claim that “this isn’t about politics” does not make a lot of sense given Torgersen’s stated aims and objections. Sad Puppies 3 had been expressly opposed to what Torgersen regarded as an ideological bias in the Hugo Awards. Looking at Sanderson’s statement as generously as possible, her focus was on the supposed “literary” bent in the Hugo Awards (hence what is probably a swipe at the 2014 Hugo short story finalist If You Were A Dinosaur My Love) but also that the campaign would not only promote conservative or right-leaning authors.
There really isn’t a way of reading many of these early claims by Sad Puppy supporters without understanding that they were holding ideas that were mutually incompatible. Sarah Hoyt on January 22 was already complaining that Brad Torgersen and Sad Puppy supporters were being unfairly maligned:
“You see, the SJW who was sensitivity-bombing Brad Torgersen’s thread the other day was saying that we don’t have LGBT, Women, People of Interesting Nationalities,https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/01/22/a-stranger-reflection/
Little Brownz Peoples People of tanPeople who are not extremely pale in science fiction and fantasy because we don’t write for them. It’s sort of a faith in “if we write it, they will come.” It’s a little dopey faith, but very, very sincere.” People who are barely darker than I
And yet, the campaign was overtly (according to Torgersen) there as a counterbalance to people who had been voting for books by authors (or featuring characters) who were women, gay, transgender or people of colour.
A few days after Cedar Sanderson’s Mad Genius post, fellow blogger Dave Freer added to the roster of Sad Puppy posts at the site. Freer regarded the socio-political pendulum as having swung too far left after 2007 and that somebody needed to correct this:
“I don’t really care where you sit on the political spectrum, what is happening in sf/fantasy needs the brakes put on that pendulum. Over the years there have been some great writers from across the spectrum, and we’re all poorer for losing that. Yet that’s exactly what has happened. I’d hard put to put an exact date on it, but when the Hugo and Nebula awards slipped over into being entirely left wing, and gradually further and further left-wing.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/01/19/the-winter-of-our-discontent/ 
Freer was convinced that this correction had already begun, that a cultural shift was occurring that would push back at the new left-wing orthodoxy:
“It all shapes up for pretty mess. I reckon in the next ten years the pendulum will swing very hard and far. I hope those on the winning side of that bit of future history will have the sense to not push the pendulum higher when sense says to damp it. It’s probably 30 years off, at least, so I’ll be dead. Not my problem any more.”ibid
Freer’s advice to the leftist he imagined were controlling science fiction?
“If you are one of the other side, try panic. It looks good on you. Seriously, if you don’t want far left wing intersectionality crushed… and books and authors who write what you want to see, driven out, and get what you’ve handed out, you better start damping that pendulum down. I think last year’s Hugo Awards was about your last real chance, but you could all get together in your little cabals and nominate something other than the totally improbable usual suspects.”ibid
Freer believed that the left were coordinating in “cabals” to nominate the kinds of works the Sad Puppy campaign was opposing. This more conspiratorial set of beliefs was a quieter (and deniable) subtext in Torgersen’s posts but was an inevitable next step in trying to rationalise the incompatible beliefs behind Sad Puppies 3.
At Mad Genius Club the posts by Sanderson and Freer were followed by pro-Sad Puppy posts by Kate Paulk and Amanda Green, as well another one from Freer:
“You see I think the Hugo organizers and regular Worldcon fans have the whole damn thing all wrong. It’s a book which is great and popular with a wider audience that lends cachet, legitimacy to the award, and recognition to Worldcon, not the other way around. Redshirts and Ancillary Justice wins did little for their authors, and damage to the Hugos. Being seen to be fair and reasonable OUTSIDE their circle counts. Inside is irrelevant -they believe it anyway. It’s up to the very small minority of sf readers who go and support the WorldCon and Hugo status quo to play nice if they want credibility, and, um, support for what is a shrinking Con, and one heading for being as marginalized and irrelevant as some the literary left-wing Cons.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/01/26/perspectives-what-if-youve-got-the-whole-damn-thing-all-wrong/
Meanwhile, Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia were still drumming up support. Part of that led Correia onto the Google+ Hangouts/YouTube show “Geek Gab” hosted by Correia fans and Gamergate supporters Brian Niemeier and Daddy Warpig.
Warpig invited his audience to take part:
“If you want to be involved in either embarrassing or infuriating social justice warriors who have had an iron grip on science fiction and fantasy publishing for a good decade and a half or two decades now, get involved in nominating for the Hugos, get involved in voting for the Hugos.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1CP9IbbYUg 
Correia’s writing advice on the show was simple: “story first, message fiction second”. This was a return to Correia’s theme from earlier Sad Puppy campaigns, that the winning Hugo stories were not good stories. Combining Correia’s thesis with Dave Freer’s point that it is the quality of the works that lend cachet to award, not vice-versa, a clear challenge was emerging for Sad Puppies 3. While the various members of the so-called Evil League of Evil had their own personal criteria for success, Freer had unwittingly hit the nail on the head for the Sad Puppies 3 campaign. To succeed it would need to not just get different works on the ballot than usual or finalists that would discombobulate “SJWs” but to actually get demonstrably BETTER works on the Hugo ballot than would otherwise have been picked.
To do that, Sad Puppies 3 would need not just a slate of works but a carefully curated set of works that somehow was not the works by gay people, transgender people, women and people of colour that would otherwise have been nominated, while not actually objecting to works by gay people, transgender people, women and people of colour, and also getting all those supposed great works by conservative authors who were unfairly discriminated against onto the ballot while still being politically diverse AND getting BETTER works onto the ballot. It was a tall order!
Work had started in Torgersen’s first Sad Puppy post, with readers making many suggestions but what process would be used to winnow those suggestions down to a viable slate was unclear. The task of picking the Sad Puppy slate would not be complete until February arrived…
Next Time: Sad Puppies 3 — The Slate!
-  obviously, Saladin Ahmed isn’t homophobic. Day’s claims can be read here https://web.archive.org/web/20150122044343/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-pink-sf-pet-on-oscars.html He also manages to work in a dig at Benjanun Sriduangkaew as well (see chapter 30)
-  https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6531
-  https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6585
-  http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/01/only-you-can-make-literati-heads-explode-torgersen-sad-puppies-3/
-  https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6551
-  https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/announcing-sad-puppies-3/#comment-6613
-  Quantum Mortis: A Mind Programmed is actually a rewrite of the 1968 novel The Programmed Man by Jean & Jeff Sutton. Day does credit the original writers and I don’t know how different the two books are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Sutton#The_Programmed_Man_(1968). In the comments, there is a side discussion about whether the book is suitable to be nominated. Notably, commenter Markku argues against it saying that “But still, I wouldn’t get behind that plan. I mean, Opera was the genuine item. This is purely trolling. If the organization being trolled was SFWA, then fine – they deserve it. But WorldCon doesn’t, at least judging by their behaviour so far.” This is notable as Markku Koponen is the Finnish man behind AlpenWolf, the video game company that owns Castalia house. He confirms this aspect in a later comment: “Also, being the one who is ultimately financially responsible for the company, I would be remiss not to mention my fear that this will bring the war to the Sutton estate, who most assuredly didn’t sign up for THIS. They gave us the go-ahead with the story, no strings attached. No royalties demanded.” Vox Day assures him that the book won’t actually be nominated.
-  http://file770.com/torgersen-volunteers-to-be-leader-of-the-pack/
-  https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/William_F._Buckley,_Jr.
-  “comet guy” covered in Chapter 30
-  Freer’s essay is difficult to follow with leaps of rhetoric and off sideswipes at Cora Buhlert and later at Benjanun Sriduangkaew where he mocks her surname
-  https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/01/22/give-the-puppies-a-happy/ and https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/01/27/oh-noes-the-sky-is-falling/
-  my transcription – edited for clarity
-  it is notable that disability wasn’t one of the categories the Sad Puppies objected to but I think this was them not remembering to add it to their list