Debarkle Chapter 43: June Part 1 — the Tor Boycott

The discussion on the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns had not burned out by the start of June 2015 but it had plateaued. The back-and-forth of the argument had reached a point of circularity where people argued about events that had occurred in the course of the discussion. Earlier in the conflict, people had been giving one-star reviews at online book stores of works by notable Puppy-associated authors and counter campaigns had also occurred[1]. Sad Puppy-nominated finalist Lou Antonelli had found a Tweet critical of the Sad Puppies so objectionable that he contacted the Tweet’s author (reviewer Aaron Pound) at his place of work[2]. These kinds of bad-faith interactions further fuelled hostility but at this stage, the surrounding discussion remained one mainly about books and awards. It wasn’t a polite discussion about books and awards but it had not reached the kind maelstrom of toxicity that GamerGate had.

In early June, Jim C Hines wrote a lengthy post summing up the various positions and claims the Puppy leaders had made.

“I wanted to try to sort through the noise and hone in on what Correia and Torgersen themselves have been saying. As the founder and current leader, respectively, of the Sad Puppies, it seems fair to look to them for what the puppy campaign is truly about.”

Around the same time, John Scalzi felt that he had said all he had to say about the Sad Puppies:

“It’s not escaped notice that I’ve been slacking on my Hugo/Puppies commentary recently, but honestly at this point there’s not anything new for me to say. It’s a low-information movement begun in craven entitlement, with a political element tacked on as a cudgel, taken over by an ambitious bigot, and I’m sorry for the several excellent people I know who have gotten wrapped up in this nonsense one way or another. That’s pretty much where I’ve been on it for a while now. When I have anything new and useful to add, I’ll make note of it.”

In the world of video games, Gamergate was still going strong, in part because its mixture of harassment and consumer activism means that participants always had something to do. The Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns had vague and mutable objectives but their focus, one way or another, was on the 2015 Hugo Awards. Reading and reviewing books was not the kind of activity that could easily maintain a GamerGate-style culture war.

Despite reasonable fears, the Puppy Kerfuffle (a name which was beating “Puppygate” as the collective title) had not become overwhelmed by or folded into GamerGate, either in terms of numbers or in terms of tactics.

On Saturday, June 6/Sunday, June 7[4], a self-styled “leader of GamerGate”, Vox Day, decided to reinvigorate his Rabid Puppy campaign with a more GamerGate-style move. On Twitter, Day posted a message saying:

“The Creative Director at Tor Books libels #SadPuppies, Rabid Puppies, and #Gamergate on Facebook.”

Embedded in the Tweet was a screenshot of Irene Gallo’s Facebook comment from May 11. The time stamp on the comment in the image showed that the picture had been taken only a few hours after the comment had been made. At this point, it was unclear whether Day only just become aware of Gallo’s comment or had waited until an opportune moment. In fact, it was the second option but we will look at that in the next chapter. Either way, the ensuing fuss had broken at a weekend, when supporters of the Puppy campaign had time to devote to social media but also a time when it would be difficult for corporate public relations to respond.

Gallo’s comment had been in a reply explaining who and what the Sad and Rabid Puppies were:

“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

Irene Gallo, comment Facebook – since deleted

It was an offhand comment and not a carefully crafted piece of PR and there were certainly flaws in it. The two campaigns had enjoyed a degree of ambiguity as to what constituted “the Sad Puppies”. Was it just Torgersen & Correia, the Evil League of Evil, or did it extend to the people on the slate or was it supporters of the campaign in general? From a perspective of precise political taxonomy “neo-Nazi” was poor terminology as there were no avowedly neo-Nazi groups involved[5] but multiple people had made cogent arguments that both campaigns (Vox Day, in particular) were rooted in fascism/neo-fascism/ur-fascism. Racism, misogyny and homophobia were all arguable and Torgersen’s “affirmative action” claim about Hugo winners based on their gender, sexuality and ethnicity had been a core principle of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign (see earlier chapters).

Arguably, the biggest issue with Gallo’s comment was calling the slate “bad-to-reprehensible works” as one of the works was published by Tor (The Dark Between the Stars – Kevin J. Anderson) but that was clearly a matter of opinion.

However, the precise wording of the comment was neither here nor there. Day’s intent was to start a firestorm using the GamerGate playbook. Gallo’s Facebook post flooded with comments, to which she replied with pictures of kittens. Comments included this question from Brad Torgersen:

“Irene Gallo, I am going to ask a question, and I expect a response other than a cat picture non sequitur. How did you arrive at your conclusion that Sad Puppies is “neo nazi”?”

Brad Torgersen, comment Facebook

Even an ungenerous reading of Gallo’s comment did not support a conclusion that she had stated that the Sad Puppies was neo-Nazi but her comment had swiftly been taken to another level. Many Puppy supporters were characterising her comment as a claim that the Sad Puppies in general (including the campaign’s supporters and nominees) were neo-Nazis and that all the slated works were terrible.

Come Monday, Gallo made an apologetic comment on her post:

“About my Sad/Rabid Puppies comments: They were solely mine. This is my personal page; I do not speak on behalf of Tor Books or I realize I painted too broad a brush and hurt some individuals, some of whom are published by Tor Books and some of whom are Hugo Award winners. I apologize to anyone hurt by my comments.”


Tor book’s official Twitter account announced:

“Happy Monday! We appreciate your comments & would like to remind you that the views of our employees do not reflect those of the publisher.”

Meanwhile, Vox Day had declared war or rather an end to what he regarded as a kind of truce:

“Back in April, Larry Correia and I, among others, encouraged everyone to leave Tor Books out of it. We made it clear that our problems were with certain individuals at Tor, not the organization itself. But as Peter Grant points out, Irene Gallo’s comments, to say nothing of Moshe Feder’s and John Scalzi’s (now that the organization has bet its future on him, Scalzi is relevant in this regard), appear to indicate that we were wrong and our problem is with the organization as it is presently comprised after all.”

Day had spent much of April pointing out the connection between Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tor as well as implying that Tor was to some degree or other, rigging the Hugo Awards[6]. However, Larry Correia had indeed asked supporters of the Sad Puppy campaign to step back from making it a campaign against Tor Books[7]. While Tor was disliked for various reasons (and specifically because of John Scalzi and the Nielsen Haydens) Tor published many, many writers including Sad Puppy nominee Kevin J Anderson but also Evil League of Evil founder John C Wright. There was an additional danger that the multiple connections between the Sad Puppy leadership and Baen Books would result in the campaign looking like it was directly affiliated with the smaller publisher.

Supporters of the Sad Puppy campaign followed Vox Day’s lead in accusing Tor and Irene Gallo of insulting them. Author and advocate for the Sad Puppy campaign, Tom Knighton tweeted:

“Honestly, @torbooks has essentially said their staff can insult #SadPuppies at will, and nothing will be done. Pathetic.”

Mad Genius Club blogger and Sad Puppy nominee for Best Fan Writer Cedar Sanderson decided Gallo’s comment was the final straw:

“This has been increasingly clearly a company that was no longer in control of their employees, and those employees were determined to harm as many of us as they could possibly do, with absolutely no effort to discern any shred of truth. Irene Gallo simply blurts out the nastiest, most inflammatory things that pop into her head, as the author of the Entertainment Weekly article did, and it seems clearer and clearer that they are connected. “

Her colleague at Mad Genius, Dave Freer also joined in:

“When someone speaks of a neo-Nazi the image that springs to my mind is a large angry skinhead with swastika tattoos, possibly beating up Jews in some inner city. I’m a little confused to find that Irene Gallo, the Creative Director at Tor thinks I am one.

Do you think I need to change my appearance to fit her delusions? Put on weight? Get high heels? Perhaps I’m supposed to ‘self-identify’ as a neo-Nazi woman (of dwarfish origins), and, to account for my being married to woman, as a lesbian. Huh I would have thought they’d be threatening me with multi-million dollar contracts to avoid being thought specieists, not abuse./sarc off.”

Freer did not want a boycott of Tor Books, at least not yet. First he felt that his readers should write to the email address of the person responsible for the companies code of conduct and ask what was going to be done about Gallo’s comment.

“I urge you to do the same if you don’t want the reaction from this hurting your favorite Tor author. I think it fair to give them time to respond, to deal with this sepsis. Let’s see what they do about it. If it is not adequate I am afraid I will have to join the boycott of any Tor author who is not either a Sad Puppy, or who does not speak out publicly against this (which is very hard on authors, and that makes me angry and sad, but eventually you have to stop just hoping they’ll leave you alone.) and encourage my readers to do the same. The company did not make a fortune from me – maybe 50-100 dollars a year. It won’t break them, but I won’t support someone who abuses me and many friends who are better people than I am. As I point out below, publishers get a lot more of a book’s money than the authors. You’d think not badmouthing readers would be common sense.”


Another member of the Mad Genius Club, Peter Grant had already discussed at the weekend the idea of a Tor boycott.

“I’ve remained silent about many previous slanders and libels about this situation, but this is just about the last straw.  I would very much like to know whether Tor shares and/or espouses the false, slanderous and libelous views expressed by Ms. Gallo.  If that company doesn’t take a stand against such lies, or even chooses to remain silent about them (despite their being propagated by one of their editors), then I will have to assume that the time has come to openly call for a boycott of Tor by all objective, non-partisan, independent fans of science fiction and fantasy.  I’ll be discussing this option with other SF/F authors (and individuals involved in this controversy) during the coming days, to see whether we can co-ordinate a suitable response.”

Mad Genius Club even carried a guest post by a Sad Puppy supporter Jonathan LaForce demanding that Tor crack down on bad behaviour:

“Tor, let’s face facts: that you repeatedly allow straw man makers like John Scalzi to have a place in your stable, even as he vainly justifies his arrogant idiocy is absurd. To allow bigots like NK Jemisin bully pulpits without regard for fact or truth is wrong. To encourage people to put one-star reviews on Amazon, simply because you don’t like an author’s politics, rather than because you didn’t like the story is not only disgusting, it is a willful manipulation of the Amazon rating system.”

The criticism of Gallo’s comment was not restricted to the Sad Puppy campaigns core supporters though. Baen author and editor Eric Flint, who had been critical of the Puppy campaigns came to the Puppy’s defence:

“I will continue that debate. But I can’t possibly succeed in my goal, or even make any significant progress, if the people I’m arguing with are not only convinced that they’re being slandered but actually are being slandered. Under those circumstances, people stop listening to anyone except those already supporting them.”

In the early days of GamerGate, the campaign enjoyed a notable victory by lobbying chip manufacturer Intel to pull an advertising campaign from video game news site Gamasutra. The website had been critical of GamerGate and in response the campaign had lobbied Intel portraying themselves as angry consumers[8]. By 2015, corporations connected with the gaming industry were becoming more circumspect to online outrage before reacting. The relatively quieter world of book publishing was still learning. On June 8, the founder of Tor Books Tom Doherty published an official letter from Tor Books. In tone it was apologetic but attempted to steer a line between mollifying Sad Puppy anger without promising any action.

“Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views. Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.”

The version of the letter quickly filled with comments.

By the time Doherty’s letter appeared on Monday, Peter Grant had already written two more posts about Gallo’s comment. On Sunday he had identified the core set of people he objected to at Tor:

“No.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the problem lies in the corporate culture that’s taken over at Tor Books and  Four individuals currently or previously associated with Tor’s management and publishing activities at a senior level have now made statements that I can only regard as biased beyond logical comprehension.  They are Patrick Nielsen Hayden (manager of science fiction books at Tor);  his wife Teresa Nielsen Hayden (listed by Wikipedia as a ‘consulting editor’ for Tor Books, and formerly a senior editor there – also the publisher of the well-known web log and forum ‘Making Light’);  Moshe Feder (also a consulting editor for Tor Books);  and Irene Gallo (Associate Publisher of and Creative Director of Tor Books).  Certain Tor-published authors, primarily John Scalzi but also including others, have spouted the ‘party line’ in their support and/or on their own account as well.”

When Doherty’s letter was published, Grant responded with an open letter pointing to his experiences in South Africa.

“Given that background, you’ll understand that to be told by Ms. Gallo that, as a supporter of the Sad Puppy campaign, I’m “unrepentantly racist”, is utterly unacceptable to me.  Furthermore, I’ve fought (and I mean exchanged gunfire with) real neo-Nazis who sought to impose Nazi-like ideals of racial purity on a country at war with itself.  Thus, to be told that I’m a member of an “extreme right-wing to neo-nazi group” is equally unacceptable.  I could go on cherry-picking individual clauses out of Ms. Gallo’s statements, but why bother?  I think you can understand why I exploded with anger when I read it.  She has no idea about those realities.  I do.  I will bear their scars, mental, spiritual and physical, until the day I die.”

Grant finished his letter with an ultimatum:

“Mr. Doherty, with the greatest possible respect to you as an individual:  until Tor publicly dissociates itself from the outrageous positions taken by the individuals I have named (all of them), publicly rebukes those concerned, and takes steps to make sure that no such statements are ever again made by senior members of the company, I shall be unable to believe any assurances that their views are not those of Tor.  Actions speak louder than words – and so does the absence of actions.  All Tor has offered is words.  It’s time for actions.  What is Tor going to, not say, but DO about the situation? – because unless and until it does the right thing, others are going to do what they believe to be necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.”


By Wednesday (June 10), Grant was even more angry both with Tor and ordinary people defending Gallo’s comments.

“Those tactics are not going to work in this case.  I’ve had enough.  So have many other people. Ms. Gallo’s words were the last straw for us, as I explained in my earlier posts.  They’re merely the latest example of a long-standing pattern of behavior by senior employees at Tor.  I’m not joking about my response, either.  I’m willing to give Tor a few days – a week at most – to rectify the situation and deal with all those involved, not just Ms. Gallo.  If the company fails to do so, I will call for a boycott of its products and publications . . . and I won’t do so alone.  I’ve consulted with a large number of fellow authors and other individuals about this over the past few days.  There are some influential figures involved, as Tor may soon find out to its cost.”

While many people had been commenting on the issue, there was a concession among Puppy supporters that Grant was in some way leading the way with this issue. On the Thursday of the same week, Larry Correia wrote an uncharacteristically short post about the controversy:

“As far as I’m concerned, this is between Tor and its customers. A bunch of folks have come out to condemn Tom Doherty as a misogynist for trying to protect his company, and more #standwithGallo to double down on her comments about how everybody who disagrees with them politically is a racist, sexist, homophobe. That’s awesome. You guys do far more to prove my original contention than anything I could have ever done on my own.”

Meanwhile, Doherty’s letter had indeed come in for a lot of criticism by people opposed to the Sad/Rabid Puppies. Multiple authors and editors and fans were taking to social media to overtly express support for Irene Gallo. Examples include:

“You can’t even say “the sky is fucking blue” on the internet, as a woman, without public shaming. Where was the public employer outcry during RaceFail, or FrenkelFail?”

Kameron Hurley [9]

“I’m not an eloquent debate enthusiast. My words dry up when struggling to defend myself or my positions. Fiction is easy. Arguing is not. It’s just the way I am. And as it’s the end of the day, more eloquent people than me have written about this. So I will link to them, and just say I stand with Irene. I definitely would want someone to stand with me.”

Mur Lafferty

“I stand in solidarity with Irene Gallo. I respect the hell out of her and her work and I think she is doing amazing things with art direction. She makes an incredibly difficult job look effortless and easy. And publicly chastising her for what she said on her personal Facebook page was wrong.”

Natalie Luhrs

“What I am specifically concerned about, and why I’m disappointed in Tor, is their reaction to a complaint from one of the Puppies about a comment made by a Tor employee, Irene Gallo, on her personal Facebook page. Rather than taking a considered approach, Tor threw their employee under a bus, and appear to have broken every rule in the crisis comms rulebook. It’s sad to see that a company that in many other respects really gets the web, fails to understand how to manage the fallout from an online furore. “

Suw Charman-Anderson

I don’t know if you’ve been on the internet lately, but in the current Gamergate climate, a man calling out a woman for talking about misogyny is a fucking bat signal to the worst elements of the internet. It’s basically painting a giant target on her back for harassment, threats, doxxing, and all the other methods misogynist mobs use to attempt to shut up women they don’t like.  And leaving the comments open? That’s generally not done in these situations, because THAT’s basically inviting the harassers into the online equivalent of her workplace.

Jessica Price

Eric Flint followed up his earlier post defending the Sad Puppies from the claims made in Irene Gallo’s comment with a specific rebuttal to Brad Torgersen. Flint quoted a verbal attack Torgersen had made on the Nielsen Haydens back in April, where he had called them cowards and without ethics and scruples and portrayed himself and the Sad Puppies as Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae fighting “the forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes”[10]. Flint then stated:

“Anybody who posts something like this online has no business complaining about the rhetoric of other people.

What this debate has basically come down to is the Sad Puppies defending their frequently irresponsible and sometimes outrageous conduct by insisting “they did it first!” And, often enough, their opponents yell back the same thing.”

At the right wing news outlet Breitbart, Allum Bokhari regarded Gallo’s apology and Doherty’s letter as a victory in a culture war.

“Everywhere we look, the authoritarian left is on the retreat. As I predicted in January, a chorus of liberal voices has risen to condemn their behaviour. On social media, in tech and on the campus, ostensibly liberal and left-leaning commentators are busy condemning the extremists of their own tribe. Meanwhile, campaigns like GamerGate and the Sad Puppies are routing them in the culture wars. As in so many other cultural arenas, the SJWs of sci-fi are long past their heyday. And much of that decline can be attributed to the Sad Puppies themselves.”

He went on to state:

“Of course, many of the Sad Puppies have accused both Gallo and Tor Books of being insincere. That may well be true. But just a few short years ago, when the authoritarian left were at their peak, the idea of someone like Gallo feeling the need to issue an insincere apology would have been inconceivable.

Regardless of the outcome of the Hugo Awards, the Sad Puppies can start smiling. They are now a force to be reckoned with. And when you’re standing up to bullies and authoritarians, that’s often the only thing you need.”


Sometime before Friday, June 12, an anonymous comment at a Reddit thread (since deleted) claimed to be a Tor employee and stated that the complaints were coming from bots[11]. Vox Day decided to treat this as a serious claim and responded as if the comment was a new set of false claims by Tor.

“Fascinating. So, let’s examine the claims to determine how credible this is:
1.The Puppies are using “terroristic tactics”. That’s false.
2. The Puppies have created bots and sent “thousands of threatening emails”. That sounds like a variant of the old “#GamerGate is just 200 people” narrative that everyone in GG knows to be false. We’re expecting 100 for GGinParis alone. In any event, it means that if you have sent an email to Tor Books or Macmillan, you had better send another one with proof that you are not a bot. And “thousands” of emails? I know people are pissed off, but I find that hard to believe. Dozens, definitely. Hundreds, maybe. But thousands? No. And I very much doubt the emails were threatening anyone either.
3. Tom Doherty didn’t write the statement from Tom Doherty. That’s a fascinating claim. Doubtful. If he was angry about it, why did he leave it up?
4. Tor’s reputation is heavily damaged. All right, that’s true enough.
5. No one is going to get fired. If that’s true, then I will publicly endorse the boycott of Tor that many have been urging. However, given the nature of the previous statements, we should probably get confirmation before taking any such action.”

Meanwhile, Tor did not concede to Peter Grant’s demands and censure its editors or one of its best selling authors. However, Grant did claim to have received inside communication from somebody at Tor:

“I woke up to an e-mail from someone working at Tor. My correspondent begged that I not say anything that could lead to his/her/its identification, for fear of retaliation, but provided details that allowed me to confirm his/her/its identity and position there. A certain amount of ‘inside info’ was provided, and I’m promised more such information from a second correspondent later today.”

The anonymous insider explained to Grant that there was a lot of upset in the upper echelons at Tor.

In a later post Grant reported his insider’s claims, many of which mirrored what had been said by the anonymous commenter at Reddit.

“It appears that there’s immense anger and bitterness among some senior personnel at Tor.  They reportedly believe the current backlash against that company is basically ‘manufactured outrage’, deliberately stirred up by Vox Day (whose name is allegedly an expletive there now).  Some have even asserted that the thousands of e-mails complaining about Irene Gallo’s statement aren’t genuine, but the product of a bot-net, a manufactured wave of pseudo-indignation that has no foundation in reality.  Apparently Macmillan and others involved aren’t so sure about that, but it’s a defense the SJW’s are using with might and main.  It’s also apparently why almost none of us have had any acknowledgment of our complaints, not even a notification that our e-mails have been received.  (Some correspondents who requested confirmation when their e-mails were opened have received it;  others have not.)”

This idea, based purely on anonymous comments, that Tor’s management believed that email complaints were from bots fuelled a new phase in the campaign.

On June 14, Vox Day escalated his campaign:

“But none of those people ever had a means of striking back at the people at Tor Books who were raining contempt on them at every given opportunity before. All I have done is provide tens of thousands of people with an opportunity to hit back at the very small number of individuals they know to hate and despise them. The outrage is not manufactured, it is merely directed. I can’t make people angry at Tor Books because they already are.

So, now it is time to demonstrate that we are not bots. Now it is time to let Macmillan know that we truly exist and we do NOT approve of the senior SJWs at Tor Books who have been publicly attacking us for more than a decade.”

Author and editor L. Jagi Lamplighter made a new request of her readers in a similar vein:

“The last week or so has been very painful. On one hand, I have tremendous sympathy for the many good folks at Tor, some of whom I have known for 30 years. On the other hand, I also have tremendous sympathy for the fans—a few of whom are veterans who fought actual Nazis—who feel they are tired of being heckled and humiliated by a very few Tor employees, who have been behaving in a less than professional manner. Many of these readers are people I know, people I interact with online, or fans of John’s who have written us thoughtful letters explaining why they regretfully feel they must stop buying Tor book, despite their desire to keep reading John’s latest series.

I was thus appalled to see posts suggesting that the emails to Tor—many of which, I am led to understand, are arriving with photos of the reader’s Tor book collections, in some cases, collections worth thousands of dollars—were not legitimate but were sent from automated bots.”

Lamplighter requested that readers write a physical letter to Tor, perhaps with pictures of Tor books they had bought previously, to demonstrate that they were real people.

Lamplighter’s husband, Evil League of Evil founding member John C Wright followed Vox Day’s lead with a similar request of his readers. Wright’s most notable books were published by Tor, so the possibility of a boycott was a thorny issue for him.

“I can speak with authority for the other Sad Puppies. We explicitly and openly said and meant from the outset to promote the opposite of a political agenda with our slate: We promoted for your consideration, dear readers, works thought good because they were entertaining, well crafted and imaginative; not bad works thought useful because they served political correctness, starred or were written by some favored mascot or supported some cause of the Left, and had no science fiction in them at all. The only color we care about is the black of the ink and the green of the pay. The hue of the hand that wields the pen does not somehow magically make the story more well written.

For this we were libeled, slandered, and insulted in every possible way in every venue the enemy could reach, with a fervor and a blinding soul-destroying hatred even now impossible to credit.”

On Monday June 15, Peter Grant made an ultimatum to Tor:

“I am simply not prepared to allow the lies, slander, libel and open contempt of those named above to continue unchallenged.  Therefore, those expectations still hold.  If they have not been met by noon on Friday, I shall call for a boycott of Tor Books.  I’ve spoken to a large number of SF/F authors, fans and others about this.  Some will publicly support a boycott.  Others will do so more tacitly.  I imagine we’ll both find the result interesting.”

By Tuesday, Grant was considering what the deafening silence from Tor and its parent company Macmillan to his ultimatum meant[12]. On Friday, Grant announced that the boycott of Tor was on. He was keen though to point out that this was not a Sad Puppies campaign as such:

“I am not a member of, and I do not speak for, either the ‘Sad Puppies’ or ‘Rabid Puppies’ campaigns (although I support the former). I don’t represent cute puppies, playful puppies, cuddly puppies or hush puppies – only myself. If you share, in whole or in part, my values and outlook on life, I invite you to join me in this boycott. Don’t do so just because I, or anyone else, is asking you to do so. Act on the basis of your own informed conscience and reasoned judgment.”

Larry Correia made a similar point from a different direction:

“I’m seeing this narrative pop up that Sad Puppies is calling for a boycott of Tor, but that is simply not true. Speaking as the guy who started the Sad Puppies campaign, I’m not calling for a boycott of anything. I’m not asking anyone to do anything. As far as I’m concerned this mess is between Tor and its customers. I’ve said very little about it so far, but I’ve been clear about that much.

The Sad Puppies Campaign is NOT calling for any boycotts.”

Both Grant and Correia made use of a fine distinction. Grant regarded Gallo’s comments about the Sad Puppies as a personal attack on himself as a supporter of the Sad Puppy campaign but for the Tor boycott, he wanted to be clear that he was not a member of the Sad Puppy campaign.

Meanwhile…Steve Davidson at Amazing Stories had an alternative to Grant’s boycott announcement. Picking up a suggestion from the comments at File 770, Davidson declared that the next day, June 19, should be Buy From Tor Day.

“Why does the world’s largest publisher of science fiction and fantasy need your help? Well, I don’t think they do, actually.  I think they’re doing just fine – and I think they’ll be doing just fine despite the Puppy-inspired almost-might-be-happening-maybe boycott. Our friends over in Puppyland, county of Rabid (mostly) have taken great exception to one Irene Gallo’s supposedly libellous statement and are using it to try to make TOR cave to their demands that they fire her and several other puppy-kickers – Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Moshe Feder who also work at TOR – for the crime of not living in Puppy Bubble Land.  (Excuse me,.  That’s Happy Puppy Bubble Land.)”

After Twitter had huge numbers of tweets on June 19 of people stating that they had bought a Tor book that day. In response, Vox Day posted sets of tweets where people had used the same wording. This, he suggested, showed that people were lying. Among the Tweets quoted was one by comic book and graphic novel writer Kurt Busiek. When Busiek was also challenged on Twitter by a person repeating Day’s claim, Busiek simply posted images of the receipts.

While the initial stages of the campaign had repeated many of the tactics used by GamerGate (target an individual woman but using the frame of a consumer complaint), the boycott lacked the same quality. The important feature of these tactics was to give supporters something active (but easy) to do. Not buying a book was easy but it wasn’t active. Buying a book on the other hand was both active and for the mass of science fiction fans opposing the Sad Puppies, relatively easy to do.

With Tor Boycott campaign essentially stalled by design, Vox Day announced “Stage 2”. This was essentially the same as L. Jagi Lamplighter’s earlier idea of sending physical letters. Day announced his demands:

“Until Irene Gallo and Patrick Nielsen Hayden are no longer employed by Tor Books or, I will not:
1. Purchase any books published by Tor Books
2. Read any books published by Tor Books
Given (2), this means that if Ms. Gallo and Mr. Nielsen Hayden are still employed by Tor Books in 2016, I will not nominate any books published by Tor Books for any awards.”

Day had also changed the tags under his blog’s main title to “#SadPuppies BOYCOTT TOR BOOKS #GamerGate

A snail mail letter campaign was not the kind of activity to mobilise a culture war. Nor was this the only problem with the boycott campaign. At the Otherwhere Gazette Francis Turner (who had proposed a Baen Hugo campaign in 2006 – see chapter 10) explained:

“the posts inspired me to take a look at my book buying habits and it turns out I jumped the shark gun on the boycott thing because it seems I’ve been boycotting Tor for a while now. Not intentionally, but that’s probably more serious for Tor and its owners than a straightforward determination to boycott. You see Tor don’t actually publish books I want to read and, Kevin J Anderson apart, haven’t done so for a few years.”

Much of the dual Puppy campaigns’ supporters were people buying books from Baen or independently published books from Amazon or (more recently) books from Castalia House. Aside from a small set of authors (such as Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, David Weber, John C Wright, Kevin J Anderson) they were less likely to buy newly published books from Tor. A boycott of Tor by Sad Puppy supporters was unlikely to make a dent in Tor’s bottom line but it might impact authors such as John C Wright.

The Tor Boycott had dominated the discussion in June 2015 but it wasn’t the only event in our story that month…

Next Time: June Part 2



80 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 43: June Part 1 — the Tor Boycott”

  1. Vox clearly picked the date — Saturday, June 6, 2015 — to upstage the Nebula Award ceremony happening that day.

    Vox had sent me a copy of the screencap on June 5. He didn’t explicitly ask me to run it, though why else? (I only linked to Gallo’s comment on June 7 after it was a story everywhere.)

    In response to my question, he told me on June 8: “I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had intended to note that it upstaged the Nebulas but that itself prompted to mean to do a June part 2 so as to have space to discuss the Nebulas. I’ll mention Vox’s timing there as a segue

      Liked by 2 people

      • As a writing decision, I would think it strengthens the presentation to answer the question of timing right off the bat. Before you may only have inferred it, but what I am saying is I can document his answer when directly questioned about the timing — he had the screencap, and held it back to a more fraught moment.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I agree with Mike that at least teasing that the screenshot was very likely released to coincide with a particular event (to be discussed in the next chapter) would be good. Wait, I guess Mike didn’t say that. I’m agreeing with the notion that the timing should be noted as more than just a weekend.

        N.b., there is inconsistency in this regarding the dot after Kevin Anderson’s middle initial.

        I remember the Gallo thing but had forgotten the “boycott” and its inversion (buycott?).


    • I just found all of this, and it’s fascinating. I have to admit that I struggled to keep on top of a lot of the Puppy shit as it was happening; I had two full-time careers around the time of its kickoff, and my mother was deteriorating (she passed in 2017). I tried to pay attention to the stuff that was relevant to me, but I definitely missed the rest, and this is helping me get a fuller picture of everything. Thanks for doing all this amazing work, Camestros!

      Liked by 7 people

  2. Sigh. Hard to believe that so many people who write for a living didn’t know what “respectively” means and chose to respond to things not actually said. If the Sads had no bad faith, they’d have no faith at all. And for all their claims of independence from Beale, they reliably foamed at the mouth every time he rang the bell. Still, I got my copy of Ancillary Sword out of it.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’ve had far too many frustrating conversation where I attempted to explain “respectively” to people infuriated by Gallo’s post. I’m pretty sure at this point that they just don’t have a good grasp of English.


  3. Not a typo, but possibly redundant: starting with “The named people were Patrick Nielsen Hayden…” you list a series of people but you’ve already also quoted the text you’re talking about, where it listed those people.


  4. This is one of the events that I remember Cam’s original coverage of – so time is now a circle for me.


    • That’s the dude’s name, Peter Grant. I keep forgetting. Poor guy, he wasn’t even successful enough of a Puppy to be remembered as anything other than “that dude who tried to spearhead a Tor boycott and instead ended up increasing their sales for the month. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • For me it is not that dificult to remember his name, because it is shared by the maincharacter of Rivers of London. Of course the puppyone is the one who sucks…
        Btw everyone who did suppport the Torboycot was saying they were a rapid puppy.
        It was the only time that the slated Jim Butcher did make a comment (his opinion was Irene Gallo did apologise affair over).
        For me a highlight was Laura Resnicks reaction to Wrights support of the Torboycot. She was clearly shocked about his actions.
        If it is okay to call Beale that is probably today less an isue than it is today. (Probably a very high yesratio along fans)
        In a way, that was I think the moment were the puppys lost any goodwill they had left and any chance they could distance themselve from Beale a little bit. It is for me the one moment were you can point at everythink and see as easy proof that Beale was their leader.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I adore the Rivers of London books, and I still couldn’t remember his name either.

        He didn’t even turn out to be one of the Scrappy-Doos.


  5. Wright’s most notable books were published by Tor, so the possibility of a boycott was a thorny issue for him.

    I seem to recall that during the boycott that he contemplated or tried to get people to buy copies of his books directly from him

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also had to check, what I did on June 19th in response to the boycott

      Found a tweet:

      Tried my best. I have spent about $30 today. More if I buy an audio companion or two…

      Looking at my amazon purchases, it came to about $50 that day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Cora: I adored those books so much that I ended up volunteering for anything and got to be one of the many beta readers on the last one. Her reaction to our reactions was always great. Especially when she pulled the big switcheroo about [ENORMOUS SPOILER] Rivy Sngure orvat qrnq, ohg abcr. Virtual fists were shook at her.

        I’m pretty sure I bought a Tor book at Amazon on the selected day, probably something I’d had on my Wish List.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had MRK’s Glamourist Histories on my list of books to check out anyway and the Tor buycott was the perfect opportunity to buy them, especially since those were exactly the sort of books that would make puppies cry.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Participating in the Debarkle worked out pretty sweet for Wright. He set Hugo records and minimized the correspondence he had to handle from Tor.

    Liked by 8 people

  7. It’s worth mentioning that boycotts almost never work. I don’t just mean that they don’t achieve their goals–I mean that they don’t affect sales enough for the target to even notice that they’re being boycotted.

    A few very celebrated boycotts in history did succeed, but those are very rare, and they involved groups that a) were a big part of the target’s market and b) suffered severe personal discrimination that motivated people to participate in droves. The Puppies had neither.

    This reflects a problem the Puppies failed to recognize over and over: that they represented very few people. Sure, Trump’s election showed us that a lot more Americans have Puppy-compatible beliefs than we’d ever believed, but those people are underrepresented in science fiction. Ultimately it makes sense that people who don’t believe in science tend not to read science fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A boycott is actually more than not buying works from X. It is a public statement. I think Publicity is always a goal. You also need an endgoal. Mostly you want the public to get involved. Press and moral outrage. All this was missing in the Torboycott. You had a few hundred emails wich wanted a lot of thinks that the puppies never would get. It was a dreamproject of Beale that was very easy to see that it would fail.

      Liked by 3 people

    • It’s tough to tell if the “Ender’s Game” movie boycott worked or not.

      Might have just been a bad movie.

      But everyone involved in it disavowing OSC, and that getting more PR than the actual movie PR, can’t have helped.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Your regular reminder that the Spartans were the losers of that battle.

    Let’s see.
    Spartans: Losers
    Confederacy: Losers
    Nazis: Losers.

    Exactly how is anyone supposed to see the Right as a virtuous and desirable ideology when all their heroes are losers?

    Liked by 5 people

    • The Spartans weren’t really losers at Thermopylae in the same way as the Confederacy or the Nazis, though. Yes, they lost the battle – but they fought the battle in the full knowledge that they would all be killed, in the expectation that it would be an important contribution to the overall campaign – and indeed, the Greeks did (improbably!) manage to unite and defeat the Persian invasion, and Thermopylae was an important contribution to that. The Spartans lost at Thermopylae in the same sense that the Allies lost at Dunkirk – in fact, arguably less so, as the British didn’t expect, let alone intend, to be driven off of the continent by mid-1940.

      Liked by 2 people

      • But no. That’s not what they celebrate. They celebrate Leonidas saying “Come and take them” and conveniently forget the inconvenient little fact that Xerxes indeed did come and take them. They also forget the 900 Helots, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans. In their rush to celebrate the losers of the battle.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Greece: Saved by non-professional sailors from Athens’ business community, including the playwright Aeschylus, along with allied ships.

      Sparta: Professional soldiers who all died even after they sent their many, many unarmed slaves out front to be cannon sword fodder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And I have no objection to criticising the Right for their lauding of the Spartans, if our criticism is that the Spartan social system was based on a foundation of slavery propping up a small hereditary elite, and that it was eventually self-defeating insofar as the rules of membership of that elite were so strict that it basically died out within a century of the height of Sparta’s power.

        But if we’re going to do that, we should probably acknowledge that Athens, for all of their superficial similarities to modern democracy, was also fundamentally a slave-owning society, and that Athens’ “non-professional” navy was built off of the proceeds of slave-labour at the silver mines at Laurion. “Athens Good, Sparta Bad” is not a helpful framing of the ancient world; Athens engaged in many practices that we would find abhorrent today, and when Athens and Sparta themselves fought in the Peloponnesian wars, Athens committed their fair share of atrocities.

        (And we should also remember that for all Sparta’s problems as a society, their position in the Greco-Persian wars was in fact one of the more defensible ones, by modern ethical standards. Persia were the invading imperialistic power; Sparta were helping their allies defend themselves despite their geographical position and the fact that unlike Athens, they had not previously antagonised the Persians, making them one of the safest states among the Hellenes. Sparta could have holed up beyond the isthmus of Corinth and waited to see how things shook out, and nobody could have blamed them.)

        What I object to is the idea that our criticism of Sparta should be that “they lost at Thermopylae”. Firstly, because their loss is itself questionable – does it count as a loss if you achieve all of your objectives, at a cost which you had already determined was a reasonable price to pay for them? Secondly, because looking at the winning and losing of individual battles in the context of a larger war (whether those battles and wars be literal or metaphorical) is simply meaningless. Thirdly, because we shouldn’t accept the right-wing notion that Might is Right and that what matters in history is simply “who won?”. The left, and progressives, celebrate plenty of heroes who died for their cause. If we frame Leonidas at Thermopylae as unworthy of celebration because he lost, do we also believe that Martin Luther King should not be celebrated for the same reason? Leonidas’ cause was totally achieved within ten months of his death; MLK’s fight is still ongoing, over 50 years on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “According to Russian writer, chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov, “whataboutism” is a word that was coined to describe the frequent use of a rhetorical diversion by Soviet apologists and dictators, who would counter charges of their oppression, “massacres, gulags, and forced deportations” by invoking American slavery, racism, lynchings, etc. Whataboutism has been used by other politicians and countries as well.

        Whataboutism is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda.”

        Liked by 2 people

      • What I object to is the idea that our criticism of Sparta should be that “they lost at Thermopylae”. Firstly, because their loss is itself questionable – does it count as a loss if you achieve all of your objectives, at a cost which you had already determined was a reasonable price to pay for them?

        Yes, it is a loss, because they didn’t achieve their objectives. At all. The Greek strategy at Thermopylae was not to make a stand and lose. It was to make a stand and hold the Persians off. The Spartans and the other Greek land forces were to hold at the pass, while the Athenians and the other Greek naval contingents were to hold at the Straits of Artemisia. The strategy was not to buy time, or merely slow the Persians. It was to stop them.

        The only reference we have that suggests that the Spartans thought they were going to die was Leonidias’ selection of men who all already had sons to accompany him, but that wasn’t entirely uncommon in Spartan choices for expeditionary forces – the Spartans were extremely leery of any losses, and knew the only way to replace them was to breed new Spartans, since Spartan society didn’t allow for upward mobility.

        Every other reference we have to Themopylae points towards the Greeks having a strategy that did not involve the battle being a suicide mission, at least until the shepherd’s pass was compromised.

        Liked by 2 people

      • And shouldn’t guys like Spartans with such a great grasp of strategery have known about that small trail and sent some guys to hold that, too?


      • They did have a detachment of Phocian Greeks guarding the shepherd’s pass, but for reasons that are not entirely clear, they withdrew towards Phocia when the Persians approached rather than defending the pass.


  9. Some tyops —
    First paragraph — “occured” should be “occurred”
    “Sad Puppy nominated finalist Lou Antonelli…” Hyphen between “Puppy” and “nominated” Same paragraph — “Gamergate” should be “GamerGate”. (Both “Gamergate” and “GamerGate” occur for the first few paragraphs — change for consistency.)
    “Reading and reviewing books… easily maintain a Gamergate style culture war.” Hyphen between “Gamergate” and “style”. Also, capitalize “Gate” in “Gamergate.”
    You mention the word “kerfuffle” in the first paragraph but only explain it a few paragraphs down.
    “…a self-styled “leader of GamerGate Vox Day…” Commas before and after Vox Day. Later another hyphen is needed, in “GamerGate stye”
    In the sentence that starts “Racism, misogyny and homophobia” and goes on “gender, sexuality and ethnicity and been a core principle…” “and” should be “had”?

    More later?


  10. Aside from a small set of authors (such as Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, David Weber, John C Wright, Kevin J Anderson) they were less likely to buy newly published books from Tor.

    I do find the irony of condemning Moshe Feder, who was Sanderson’s long-time editor, pretty delicious though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And I would bet, that except one writer on the list, that for most of writers the action of the puppys had no consequences, at last in the long run.
      Sanderson is an interesting case. He was in comunication with some of the puppys and friends with some, but stayed clear away from the slate. One year later, he was still friendly and diplomatic but the puppys had zero success in recruting him. Which shows the problem of Larry and Brad, they were not good in recruting even their friends, or make them understand their actions.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. I can still remember Wright’s own response to Gallo’s apologetic comment, in which he started off saying “Honor is satisfied…” and claiming to accept the apology, and then immediately transitioned from that to calling for her head on a pike. (Metaphorically speaking.) It was teeth-grinding in a way that the people who were just straightforwardly hostile somehow weren’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Scott Lynch’s piece (linked above) analyses this:
      “ Note the striking way in which the tone of Wright’s rhetoric veers wildly from one paragraph to the next. … This tonal shift is a constant tic of his; the opponents that are part of a “silly kerfluffle” will, just a few lines of text later, be described as willing Satanic defilers who must be fought with prayer, fire, and sword unto the ending of the world. You’d think there wouldn’t be much ideologically consistent wiggle room between these two extremes, but what the hell. Magical thinking pants always come with an elastic waistband.“

      Liked by 2 people

  12. The thing that strikes me now as I read through all the righteously indignant puppies calling for Irene Gallo’s head: they demand that Tor publicly disassociate itself from Irene because Irene implied that they’re associated with neo-Nazis, at around the same time that they all loudly refused to disassociate themselves from Vox Day, who espouses a mix of racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, and fascist beliefs that overlaps with bona fide Nazism to a degree that the Venn Diagram is basically a circle. What do you call a table with a Nazi, and a guy who’s hanging out with a Nazi? You call it a table with two Nazis.

    Liked by 7 people

    • It still blows my mind that people do you look at Beale and don’t react with slowly walking away. How could anyone want to do anythink with the guy? Actually sad puppies was dead the moment Larry did put Beale an his slate in Sad Puppies 2. Nothink good came after that. It blows my mind that a lot of your follow writers had no problem beeing promoted by him. We had a few who distanced himself from him(more the following year, where he nominated a lot of hostages, another strange tactic) but I would have to exspect a lot of people to be smarter.
      Also did the Sads completly forgot that they were nominal independent from Beale? All their work the last month was for nothing. (Cam did make a joke about this on File 770, where he did compare this to an online game)
      Of course after the appology from Tor more people were angry.
      The puppys made it very obvious that they would go after other targets next. Patrick and Theressa have been identified as has been John Scalzi (who was imho very nice to exspecially Larrys writing abilitys).
      I am sure that Beale had allready the next targets in mind. That was not a winning strategy.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. @JDN:

    “I have a hate sink local to me that absorbs most of my ire. Although admittedly just now it takes the form of sitting on my hands because my plan is involves inexorable ineptitude-driven decline and that requires not drawing potential recruits to the fact the organization exists at all.”

    I recognized that reference.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A few more typos:
    “(target an individual woman but using the frame of a consumer complaint)” – “but” should be “by”, I think?

    “Much of the dual Puppy campaign’s supporters where people buying” – where -> were, and maybe campaign’s -> campaigns’ ? I’m not entirely clear whether “dual Puppy” is intended to modify a single aggregate campaign or both of two separate campaigns.

    Stylistic note: remove comma in “Author and editor, L. Jagi Lamplighter”


  15. Since it is referenced in this chapter, I will reproduce the tweet that made Antonelli go ballistic:

    “Dear Correia, Torgersen, and Antonelli, people don’t hate you because you are conservative. People hate you because you are assholes.”

    That’s what made Antonelli get his nose entirely bent out of joint.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Meanwhile, there Doherty’s letter had indeed […]

    I’m really not sure what word was supposed to be in ‘there’, but that sentence seems rather odd.


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