[Content warning for dicussion of a racist mass shooting in a later section]
The Tor Boycott and harassment of Tor creative director Irene Gallo by supporters of the dual Puppy campaigns dominated the discussion in fannish spaces in June. However, neither fandom nor the rest of the world stopped for the quixotic campaign against the publisher.
The same weekend that Vox Day started his campaign against Gallo (see the previous chapter), the SFWA presented the Nebula Awards for works produced in 2014. The timing of Day’s release of the screenshot of Gallo’s Facebook comment and the Nebula Awards was almost certainly not a coincidence. Out of curiosity, Mike Glyer emailed Day and asked him directly about the timing. Day explained:
“I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the “sinister plotting”, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.”Vox Day via email quoted here http://file770.com/vox-day-reponds-about-gallo-screencap/
The Nebula Awards presented a what-might-have-been look at works that potentially could have been Hugo finalists if the Puppy campaigns had not occurred. The Hugo and the Nebula awards often have an overlap in finalists but the outcomes can vary substantially between the awards. Nonetheless, the difference between the two awards was quite stark in 2015.
The winners in categories with equivalent Hugo categories were:
- Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; Harper Collins Canada)
- Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
- “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
- Short Story
- “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
- Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
- Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Of those, only the Dramatic Presentation category had any overlap with the Puppy slates and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was arguably the least controversial Puppy-pick.
In a contrast to the tone of debate that would dominate June, one of Vox Day’s sternest critics, Elizabeth Sandifer, debated Vox Day in a podcast where they discussed two stories of their own choosing. Sandifer picked Iain Banks’s debut novel The Wasp Factory, while Day picked John C. Wright’s Hugo finalist novella One Bright Star to Guide Them. The discussion demonstrated Day’s capacity to present a demeanour of reasonableness as they examined the allegorical aspects of Wright’s story:
Sandifer: Sure. Now then, do you want to just explain quickly the broad strokes of the allegory? In particular, the talking cat character, Tybalt. Who does he represent, and in particular, there’s this climactic scene where Tommy has to kill this magical cat in order to lose his fear and become able to wield the magical sword that’s necessary to defeat the villain. So, can you just explain how that allegory works, quickly?https://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/the-vox-day-interview-transcript
Day: Well, Tybalt represents two things. Number one, he’s obviously the Jesus Christ figure, because he has to die in order for the sacred fire to be lit, and then of course he comes back after his death, so he’s the Aslan, he’s the Jesus Christ. He’s also, however – in that he’s a black cat who has to be killed – he’s also representational of the sin in Tommy’s life, and it’s the same reason that Mel Gibson, when he was filming…
Sandifer: Passion of the Christ, using his own hands to actually be the one to hammer the nails into Jesus’s hands, right?
John C. Wright struggled to maintain the same degree of détente in the aftermath of the discussion suggesting (in the abstract) violence in the comments at Day’s blog. Sandifer examined Wright’s tendency to suggest violence while noting the probability of Wright acting on his statements was very low:
” “-Mysticism is an aesthetic of observation and contemplation–Elizabeth Sandifer quoting John C Wright https://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/john-c-wright-has-just-advocated-for-my-murder
This is why the Christians are right to kill the magicians. If one does not define one’s terms correctly, mental disorganization is the only result, and one speaks only darkness. Mysticism is an epistemology of non-rational truths: knowledge that comes through oneness with the universe, the spirit world, or the creator.”
The first line is Wright quoting a previous post of mine. The second paragraph is him advocating for my murder. Because he disagrees with my definition of mysticism. I am, to be clear, not particularly scared by this. I do not imagine that John C. Wright will now be hiding in my bushes, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. This is empty, vicious rhetoric of the sort that Day and Wright specialize in – sound and fury that, while not exactly signifying nothing, is still clearly told by an idiot.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Hoyt found far less substantial things to be concerned about. Mike Glyer’s daily round-up of events in the so-called ‘Puppy Kerfuffle’, each had titles that used wordplay to mix puns about dogs with pop-culture references. The June 12 title was The Hydrophobia That Falls On You From Nowhere — a pun based on rabies (because of Rabid Puppies) and the 2014 Hugo Award-winning story The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere (see chapter 32).
This round-up included as the eleventh entry a quote and link to a post by Sarah Hoyt which discussed Irene Gallo’s use of the term “neo-Nazi”. As a consequence, Hoyt was not happy about the coverage at File 770:
“This brings me to something I was musing about this morning, right after I figured out what it meant that the lack-brains at File 770 (henceforth club 770) linked back to my post with “the hydrophobia that falls on you from nowhere” because apparently my saying something about “arrangements that must be made for people of different orientations as reproduction and sex become more divorced from each other” means I’m homophobic. This despite the fact that you don’t need to scratch very deep in this blog to figure out I was pro gay marriage well (WELL) before their sainted president evolved.”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/06/15/by-angels-for-angels/
Puppy nominated Hugo Finalist Kary English was unhappy for different reasons. In comments at File 770, she expressed her frustration with the nature of the conflict. After criticising Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen for not apologising for the sweep of the nominations, she explained her reasons for not withdrawing:
“It seems I can’t say anything remotely in that vein without someone saying that if I truly thought that, I would withdraw. I’ve already given my reasons for not withdrawing, but I’ll mention again that a large part of it is not giving Vox Day the satisfaction.Kary English in a comment at File 770, later reposted http://file770.com/furface-tension-626/
All that stuff about nominating liberals just to watch them self-flagellate and see how fast they withdraw? I’m not his marionette, and I won’t dance to his tune. He set us up to be targets, just like he set up Irene Gallo. I’m not giving in to Vox Day.”
On her own blog, she explained her issues with the claimed goals of the Sad Puppy campaign when compared to the actual outcomes:
“I’m also not comfortable with the ballot sweep. My sense from the Sad Puppies is that locking up the ballot was never one of the goals of the movement, and that it was accidental, unintentional and unforeseen. If I’m wrong, and nominating five works in some of the categories was a deliberate attempt to sweep the ballot, then I wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that, either.http://karyenglish.com/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-puppies-and-everyone/
The Hugos should represent all voices, so if Sad Puppies is about drawing attention to works that might otherwise be overlooked, I can support that and I’m happy to stand for it. But if it’s about shutting out other voices and other work, if it’s about politics or pissing off certain segments of fandom, that’s not something I can get behind.”
Vox Day was dismissive of English’s critique, making it clear that he doubted any of the Evil League of Evil was sorry about the ballot success at the nomination stage. Day concluded his post with this warning:
“As several of the VFM have pointed out, the SJWs have it all backwards. They have to think that I am somehow duping thousands of idiots and fools into openly opposing them because the alternative is to accept how massively unpopular they are and how dismally their decades-long campaign to tell people what science fiction they may and may not read has failed.https://web.archive.org/web/20150630174136/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/i-dont-care-what-you-do.html 
What should frighten them is not the idea that Brad and Larry are the moderates in this regard. What should frighten them is the fact that I AM THE REASONABLE ONE here. Because the Evil Legion of Evil, the Dread Ilk, the Ilk, the Rabid Puppies, and above all, the Vile Faceless Minions, are not here to negotiate.”
Day very publicly stated that he didn’t care about English’s views but by the end of June, when Day published the voting order for the Rabid Puppies in the Best Short Story category, he notably did not include Kary English’s work Totaled.
Beyond the Kerfuffle
Meanwhile, two events would impact the broader culture war in America: one tragic and the other hopeful.
On June 17, nine people were murdered in a racially motivated mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims included the pastor of the church, who was also a state senator. The murderer, Dylann Roof, had released a manifesto before the shooting describing his racist belief. Photographs of the killer with images of the apartheid-era South African flag, the former Rhodesian flag and the Confederate Battle Flag were made public.
Later investigation into Roof’s motives found a young man who had “self-radicalised” online, initially through following alarmist reports of “black on white” crime by the white-nationalist/paleoconservative Council of Conservative Citizens and then through material from the more overtly neo-Nazi group The Northwest Front. This latter group was led by a man named Harold Covington who was a former member of the American Nazi Party who had later moved to South Africa and Rhodesia before returning to the US. Covington had also authored his own series of science-fiction novels of the sub-genre of near-future US civil war. The Guardian described Covington’s influence of Roof in an article that drew connections with the Puppy campaigns:
“Covington, if you believe his website, runs a growing enclave of white supremacists near Seattle called the Northwest Front. The non-profit group is reflected in a series of sci-fi novels, authored by Covington, about a dystopian future in which a white nation is the only answer to US economic and racial woes.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/28/harold-covington-northwest-front-dylann-roof-manifesto-charleston-shooting
American science fiction has long had a rightward tilt, from the contemporary strain of small-press sci-fi Tea Party fantasias swarming the Hugo Awards nominations all the way back to libertarian deity Ayn Rand. But Covington’s novels are a breed apart.”
There were no actual solid connections between Covington and either of the Puppy groups but the article highlighted the role fiction played in imagining nationalist civil conflict within the USA.
As well as the extremist content, Roof had adopted from Covington (and probably elsewhere) the use of semi-covert neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbols, such as the use of the number 88 (which has multiple meanings) and 14 in reference to a key tenet of white supremacist beliefs.
Much of America was in shock after the killings but not everybody. Baen author and Sad Puppy finalist for Best Related Work Michael Z Williamson responded by taunting people discussing the murders on Twitter. In addition, he included a number of comments on his Facebook page about the murders, including criticism of the murdered pastor because he had been opposed to concealed carry gun laws. More shockingly, Williamson also posted a “joke” about the murders that was a supposed recipe for a cocktail called a “A Charleston”. Fan writer Natalie Luhrs documented Williamson’s comments:
“I don’t care if you think they’re jokes. And I know full well what kind of context they’re coming from, when your Twitter feed is full of you taunting people who are grieving and angry over an act of terrorism perpetrated against their community and you have pictures of yourself with guns and your Facebook profile pic is pro-waterboarding. I know exactly what kind of asshole you are and you can’t slither out of responsibility for your words because you think they’re jokes.”https://www.pretty-terrible.com/documenting-a-wannabe-supervillain/
Dylann Roof’s use of the Confederate Battle Flag led to a renewed examination of the flag as a symbol of racism and white nationalism. After much debate, on July 6, the South Carolina senate voted to remove the Confederate Battle flag from its position on the State House. Multiple online retailers, such Wal-Mart and eBay, announced plans to end sales of merchandise with the Confederate symbol on it.
Vox Day blamed the corporate response to the killings on a government conspiracy and claimed that it was censorship. In a later post he would state:
“All the SJWs have succeeded in doing is heating up the cultural war while taking one of the more potent historical symbols of the past and making it relevant to tomorrow’s rebels.”https://web.archive.org/web/20150627180735/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-game-of-thought-police.html
The Charleston murders would have wider repercussions, raising questions about not just America’s problem with mass shooting but also racism and the role monuments celebrating the slave-owning Confederacy play in mobilising hate.
A more positive change for America occurred on June 26. The Supreme Court came to a majority opinion on the Obergefell v. Hodges case. The case effectively made marriage equality the law across all US states. The impact on millions of Americans would be substantial, cementing their right to be married and ensuring legal recognition of their families.
Marriage equality had been a long-running battle in American politics and a Supreme Court decision shifted the politics of the issue considerably. Brad Torgersen saw a strong positive aspect to the decision despite his religious beliefs on the issue.
“The Supreme Court has swept away an inequality. Well, and good. I’ve thought this outcome inevitable for probably ten years now. Just because of the trajectory of the legal wrangling.https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/love-one-another-its-the-only-way-part-2/
Does that mean I, as a person of conservative religious belief, have to cheer and applaud a thing which my religious doctrine says is wrong? Nope. But then, not every wrong thing in the world has to be barred legally. Like I’ve said before, freedom of choice is a bedrock principle of my LDS faith. And while I am not an authority — nor do I claim any ability to speak for any Mormon other than me — I do think choice is a huge part of these very divisive and contested political fights over the rights of other people.
Because the choices other people make, sometimes offend us terribly.
This past week, it seems to me that the Supreme Court decided in favor of more rights. More freedom. More choice.
I think that’s the way it should be. Even if my church doctrine believes also that the exercising of these freedoms (gay marriage) is against the plan of God.”
John C. Wright was far less happy:
“In one hundred years, when this ruling is only an historical curio, like the Dred Scott Decision, studied by law students, or in five hundred years, when the Padishah-Emperor of the Americas finally converts to Christianity and makes the worship of the God of Abraham legal once again, or in fifty million years, when human beings are half forgotten legends in books written by the Coleopterous Race that rules earth after mankind has passed away, the One, True, Apostolic and Catholic Church will still be in business, still preaching and teaching the same truths that she has always taught.”http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/06/the-feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul/
Vox Day was even more upset by the court decision, calling gay marriage “government-imposed abomination and the legal parody of marriage”.
“It has become abundantly clear that the U.S. federal government is increasingly opposed to the U.S. Constitution, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. And like every other government that has been foolish enough to take on the Body of Christ throughout history, it will demand obedience in vain.https://web.archive.org/web/20150621154222/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/bow-not-before-caesar.html
Of course the lukewarm and the nominal believers will fall in line and fall away, that is what they always do. But as the pressure mounts, the faith of the faithful will grow harder and stronger, until their oppressors break upon it like a pane of glass striking a diamond.”
Despite these complaints on the right, marriage equality was no longer the polarising wedge issue that it had been in American politics.
Next Time: Mid-Kerfuffle Reviews
-  http://file770.com/the-hydrophobia-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere-612/
-  VFM = “vile faceless minions”, numbered recruits for the Rabid Puppy campaign drawn from his comment section. Ilk and Dread Ilk were nicknames for long-standing regulars at his blog.
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20150630174101/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/hugo-recommendations-best-short-story.html arguably Day was doing English a favour by not listing her work. Alternatively, it could have been an experiment on Day’s part to see how much his final recommendations would impact the results.
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clementa_C._Pinckney
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America#Battle_flag
-  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/08/22/prosecutors-say-accused-charleston-church-gunman-self-radicalized-online/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Conservative_Citizens
-  …at the time. However, Vox Day would in later year promote and publish One America News Network journalist Jack Posobiec. Posobiec was a fan of Covington’s novels https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/07/08/jack-posobiecs-rise-tied-white-supremacist-movement
-  https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fourteen_Words
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20150628195221/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/corporate-action-or-censorship.html
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges