Debarkle Chapter 46: July

The substance of the argument about the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns had already run out of steam in June but the attempt to foment a GamerGate-like campaign against Tor Books fuelled the surrounding arguments for another month. July was a month of exhaustion.

Late in June, under general instructions from work, Brad Torgersen pulled back from social media but did become a scheduled blogger at Mad Genius Club discussing issues about writing[1]. Larry Correia’s professional commitments (one of his reasons for not running Sad Puppies 3 in the first place) meant that he had limited time to blog. On the other side of the widening chasm, Mike Glyer announced that he’d be winding down the daily Puppy round-up posts. The final one ran on July 6 and attracted 1,887 comments.

July was a month for pre-emptive summing-ups of events. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. was one author Brad Torgersen had suggested had been overlooked by the Hugo Awards back in January but who Torgersen had not included in his slate. Modesitt attempted his own evaluation of the struggle:

“Likewise in the F&SF kerfuffle, it seems to me that the Sad/Rabid Puppies tend to focus more extensively, at times almost exclusively, on the importance of action, storyline, and individual worth and action, while the more “liberal” side insists that the context of the society/world in which storylines exist should play a far greater role and that no functional future society should be racially/culturally unidimensional. The Sad/Rabid Puppies appear to believe that the other side wants to continue using the Hugo awards to reward works and individuals that further their goals, while the “liberal” side believes that the Sad/Rabid Puppies want to wrench the awards back to representing the male, patriarchal U.S. culture of the 1950s. That’s an oversimplification since each group has individuals who don’t fit those definitions, but I think it captures the gist of the conflict.”

https://www.lemodesittjr.com/2015/06/30/readers-conventions-and-sadrabid-puppies/

Another notable figure deeply admired by Torgersen who had largely stayed out of the fray was author, editor and multiple Hugo Award finalist Mike Resnick. At his own magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, Resnick attempted to put the months of conflict in perspective:

“The recent brouhaha (a much better word than kerfluffle) over the Hugo ballot has caused a number of people, online and elsewhere, to proclaim that this is The End of Worldcon, at least the End of Worldcon As We Know It.

So it’s probably time for a little history lesson because you know what will actually cause The End of Worldcon As We Know It?

Peace, camaraderie, and tranquility.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20150814095546/http://galaxysedge.com/ked.htm

Resnick ran through a history of Worldcon conflicts including the exclusion of the Futurians and the Breendoggle (see chapter 4) and argued that Worldcon and fandom attract passionate conflicts because people care. For Resnick, the true sign of the end of Worldcon would be an outbreak of peace.

Meanwhile, the broader right saw Sad Puppies as a major front in a culture war that included issues ranging from GamerGate to marriage equality. At the right-wing magazine The Federalist, its chief editor and publisher Benjamin Domenech wrote in an editorial:

“In just the past two years, the Counterculture’s neo-Puritanical reign has made things political that were never thought to be: Shirtstorms and Gamergate, Chik-fil-A and Brandon Eich, Indiana and Sad Puppies, and don’t you dare say Caitlyn Jenner isn’t a hero.”

https://thefederalist.com/2015/07/06/welcome-to-culture-war-4-0-the-coming-overreach/ [2]

He would go on to include Brad Torgersen’s odd CHORF term to illustrate his wider point about the perceived overreach of the left:

“If history repeats itself, it is good news for traditional Americans and bad news for the Left, which has taken on the role of Grand Inquisitor so rapidly that overnight civil liberties have become a Republican issue. Slowly but surely, the American Right is adopting the role of the cultural insurgent standing up for the freedom of the little guy. They crowdfund the pizza shop, baker, and photographer; they rebel against the establishment in the gaming media and at sci-fi conventions; they buy their chicken sandwiches in droves. The latest acronym that came out of the Sad Puppies movement says it all. They describe their opponents as CHORFs: cliquish, holier-than-thou, obnoxious, reactionary, fascists. This is their description of the cultural Left.”

ibid

The Tor Boycott hadn’t stopped but without anything to do and no sign of Tor officially taking any action, the campaign fizzled. Mad Genius Club blogger Peter Grant updated people on July 1 with his hopes that the boycott would cost Tor a six-figure sum in 2015. He also attempted to disentangle Grant’s Tor Boycott from the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns:

“The SJW’s also appear to be trying to conflate the Tor boycott with the Hugo Awards controversy. Please recall that I didn’t call for a boycott of Tor because of anything to do with the Hugo Awards. I did so because of the lies and unconscionable actions of a number of senior Tor staff. It looks to me as if the loony left is grasping at straws here. Vox Day, who as organizer of the Rabid Puppies is the SJW’s favorite demon, has done a great job cataloging their manic efforts to further polarize and inflame the situation. I know that some people regard him as all sorts of nasty things because of various incidents in the past, but I don’t know anything about those. I’ve only had dealings with him since this situation blew up. In that context, I have nothing but praise for his openness, honesty and willingness to co-operate.”

https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-state-of-tor-boycott-and-sjws.html

Day, of course, was making no secret that his Tor Boycott campaign was part of his wider culture war and personal animosity to Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and (of course) John Scalzi. Day was feeling bullish about a positive victory for the Puppy campaigns when the final results were announced. Member numbers had grown substantial for the 2015 Worldcon and nobody truly knew whether all these new members were voting for or against the Puppy campaigns.

“I don’t know. Perhaps they fear that the record influx of Supporting Members are not all reliable SJWs and Truefen flooding in to defend the Hugo Awards by voting to not give out any awards. Perhaps they notice that my site traffic has continue to rise, and that support for both Sad and Rabid Puppies continues to grow as more sane people observe the behavior of the SJWs and realize we were not exaggerating. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of the wider cultural war that has heated up of late. Perhaps it is a reflection of the economic instability that now haunts even those who don’t pay much attention to the economy. Perhaps it is because we use their tactics against them more effectively than they do.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20150703204104/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-hysteria-crescendos.html

Day also claimed to be getting secret information from inside the management at Tor Books:

“Things are getting very heated, as it has been reported that Patrick Nielsen Hayden has threatened to take his Scalzi (and other writers) and go elsewhere if either Irene Gallo or Moshe Feder are fired or forced to resign. Whether John Scalzi backs PNH to this extent or not (and if he is even aware of this threat on his behalf or not), I do not know, but I personally find it very difficult to believe that Scalzi would ever consent to put his ten-year contract with Tor Books in jeopardy for anyone’s sake. He may be grateful to PNH for launching and repeatedly propping up his career, but he’s not THAT grateful.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20170119084659/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-war-at-tor.html

However, without tangible drama visible to everybody else, Day’s dubious accounts failed to stir up much interest. With no actual signs of either firings or mass departures or a sudden drop in revenue at Tor, there was a lack of any inherent drama in Day’s boycott.

Author and fan writer Jason Sanford had been tracking sales numbers for a set of current Tor releases. By July 22, Sanford concluded:

“After examining two additional weeks of sales data it appears my initial analysis was correct. This new data shows that for the five weeks prior to the boycott starting on June 19, the total weekly sales average for these Tor titles was 1652 books per week. For those same Tor titles, their total weekly average sales for the last four weeks of the boycott has been 1679 books per week. So on average, Tor’s total sales for these titles are up slightly since the boycott started.”

http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2015/7/sticking-a-fork-in-the-pups-boycott-its-done

Baen author and Best Related Work finalist Michael Z. Williamson took on a far more defeatist tone for the Puppy campaigns. After making fun of the victims of a racist mass shooting (see the previous chapter) in June, the chance of anybody voting for what was one of the weakest works nominated by the Sad Puppies had collapsed even further. Williamson cast his vote on the ballot by voting ‘no award’ in all categories including for his own work ‘Wisdom from my Internet‘:

“The sheer, frothing, irrational vitriol aimed at us makes it clear that content will not be considered.  We are Unclean, and many have stated they will not even look at our works.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20150719235523/http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=368

Vox Day disagreed with Williamson’s choices. Day stated that mass ‘no award’ had been an option he had originally considered thus rendering the Hugo Awards null and void. However, he had changed his mind given that many people opposing the Puppy campaigns would vote ‘no award’ anyway.

“Also, and more importantly, not voting No Award permits us to correctly gauge the full extent of the SJW influence in science fiction and see how it compares to the current strength of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. That’s my chief interest in this year’s vote, because it will inform the strategy that we pursue in the future.

Remember, we haven’t even begun to finance “scholarships” in the way the other side has. Our 2015 numbers do not reflect the full extent of the force we can bring to bear.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210403123736/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/07/m-zed-votes-no.html

On July 24 Day released his final picks for the Hugo Awards, showing the ranked voting order he would be using[3]. His choices largely followed the Rabid Puppy nomination slate in categories where they had won most of the slots. For the two editor categories, Day ranked himself first for Short Form and Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf first for Long Form. For Best Novel, Day’s number one pick was The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, the Chinese SF novel that had only made the final ballot because of Puppy nominees withdrawing. Day also picked one category for a blanket “no award”: Best Graphic Story.

Blogger and Hugo Award statistician Nicholas Whyte collated the rankings of multiple bloggers/fan writers for the main story categories of the Hugo Awards. By looking at their choices he was able to make so tentative predictions about the likely results. For the headline Best Novel category he concluded:

“On that basis I think it’s impossible to call a winner, though I think it’s also fair to say that Skin Game, The Dark Between the Stars and No Award are probably out of the picture. Fans of both Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor transfer to The Three-Body Problem, so I think it’s fair to say that it has an edge. For what it’s worth, fans of The Three-Body Problem tended to put Skin Game second, so it may pick up a lower place more easily than its first preferences suggest. I will note, however, that my surveys of 2011 and 2013 failed to pick up a single blogger who admitted voting for the Best Novel winner in either year, and that Skin Game‘s supporters may not be fervent bloggers.”

https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2489342.html

The awards themselves were not the only things in play. Each Worldcon has a business meeting and the 2015 meeting had a number of proposals that would be voted on in August[4]. The proposals included two measures intended to fix the perceived flaws in the rules that had allowed the Puppy sweep of nominations.

The first proposal, entitled “4 and 6” was the simplest change. Instead of members nominating five works for five finalist positions, the proposal would mean that members would nominate four works for six finalist positions. If this rule had been in place in 2015, then the Puppy slates may have only achieved four finalists in each category and there would have been two non-Puppy nominated finalists in each category[5].

The second proposal to change the nomination method was E Pluribus Hugo, the complex transferable vote method that had been thrashed out over several weeks at the Making Light blog (see earlier chapters). This system would limit the number of finalist position a large but minority voting bloc could achieve but also make it likely that such a bloc would get at least one finalist position. In effect, if the Sad Puppies were to continue to nominate in the same way they had in 2015, EPH would ensure that they would get some of their choices on the ballot but not all of them. The system was complex though and even with an extensive FAQ[6] members were struggling to understand the system and its implications.

Among the other proposals for the business meeting was to add a Best Series category to the awards. This idea had been floated for some time but it was also seen as a reaction to some of the more legitimate criticism of the awards that had arisen in the discussion about the Puppy campaigns. Adding a Best Series category would allow the Hugo Awards to better recognise those many lengthy multi-volume works of science fiction and fantasy that were unlikely to be finalists on the basis of a single novel.

Meanwhile…

If fans had been spending their time arguing about the meaning of “respectively”, “reactionary” and “neo-Nazi” or tracking the sales figures for one publisher’s books, the rest of the world had continued on.

In the UK, a general election had returned a majority Conservative government under PM David Cameron. Cameron was seen as a moderate in his party but for the sake of party unity, he had promised the “euro-sceptic” wing a referendum on whether Britain should stay within the European Union[7]. At the time the EU was looking particularly embattled as the lingering impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis had plunged Greece into an ongoing state of financial insecurity. In a referendum on July 5, the Greek people decisively rejected harsh bailout conditions offered by the European Commission and the IMF.

Meanwhile, in the wake of another electoral defeat, Britain’s Labour Party was looking for a new leader. The press had initially been dismissive of the campaign by long-term left-wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn but by July his campaign was attracting a lot of grassroots support[8].

A quite different outsider was making a political splash in the United States. Donald Trump had initially been dismissed as a publicity-stunt candidate for the Republican Party 2016 Presidential Primaries. However, by mid-July he was at the top of two major opinion polls as a potential Presidential candidate. The press was still sceptical about his chances:

“Trump has been at the center of a media firestorm since he kicked off his campaign last month. Much of the attention is focused on Trump’s statements against illegal immigration. The real-estate magnate has accused the Mexican government of sending “rapists” and others criminals to the US. Many of the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have condemned his remarks.

However, Trump’s position atop of the polls may be a bit of an illusion. Two polling experts previously told Business Insider that his support could simply be a product of his high name recognition: Trump is a national figure partially thanks to his luxury brands and his reality television show, “The Apprentice.””

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/polls-donald-trump-in-first-place-2015-7?r=US&IR=T

Black Lives Matter protests continued in the USA as more cases of deadly and excessive force used by police officers against Black Americans were reported[9]. In particular, the death of Sandra Bland in a jail cell[10] led to more protests demanding answers and accountability.

Meanwhile, across Syria and Iraq, violence spread as the civil war in Syria collided with the ongoing campaign by the radical Islamist group ISIL to control the region[11].

2015 was already a hot year both in politics and in climate but the temperature was only going to rise.


Footnotes

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49 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 46: July”

  1. >the was a lack of any inherent drama in Day’s boycott.
    there was

    >violence continued as a continuing civil war in Syria
    suggest “continuing as an ongoing”

    Like

  2. Tyop Patrol:
    “Day ranked himself first for Short From and Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf first for Long Form.” >> first instance should be Form

    Though I admit to wondering what he is short from….

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Remember, we haven’t even begun to finance “scholarships” in the way the other side has.

    “But we’re not going to, since I’m a second-generation cheap grifting bastard.”

    And of course since it was a random draw, some Pup supporters got those memberships too. But apparently most of them couldn’t expend the vast effort it takes to send an email.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Tyop: “tracking the sales figures for one publishers books” -> “publisher’s”

    BTW, whatever happened to Peter Grant? His self-positioning as the “reasonable” Sad Pup willing to overlook Vox’s past transgressions while praising Vox’s openness and honesty and bashing the ‘loony left’ certainly hasn’t aged well. And extra points for calling himself the “Bayou Renaissance Man.”

    Like

  5. It’s fascinating to see Beale’s claims of an insider feeding him information from Tor that happens to support his image of a company being torn apart by egotistical, blackmailing leftists is a forerunner of the endless supply of “Democratic” and “Biden Campaign” insiders declaring the party was terrified about being investigate for fraud after Biden’s victory and panicking at each new lawsuit. (And to a lesser extent, the “lawyers” claiming that these lawsuits were absolutely, positively valid and could not fail.)

    He is a man of limited tricks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Day told me the insider’s name, but since I wasn’t going to write to the person and ask for verification (“Hey, are you Vox Day’s Tor insider?”) I had to leave it alone….

      In addition, if there was somebody at Tor he talked to, one would have to consider whether what the person told Vox is the same as what Vox printed.

      Liked by 5 people

      • And doubtless if you had asked them, and they’d even given a blanket denial of ever speaking to him, Beale would claim that they were only buckling under pressure.

        It is a reliable grift.

        Like

        • See, here we are back again at the article of anti-faith that Vox Day could never tell the truth. But consider this — Tom Doherty published an apology for Irene Gallo’s statement. So if they would accommodate him to that extent, in public, why would we not think that long before that happened somebody at Tor was trying to reach out and defuse the situation? An insider, yes — but not a mole.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think that Tom Doherty’s apology was in any way an attempt to accommodate Beale. While it should have been enough to satisfy reasonable people I don’t think that Beale fits in that category (nor would it suit his purposes to be reasonable on this issue). Indeed, it’s rather hard to find reasonable people in either of the Puppy factions.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The Doherty apology was something written up hastily by Tor’s PR person and/or attorney on the weekend, without the author(s) first gaining a good understanding of the situation.

          I strongly suspect that everyone involved with that statement later wentm “Oh, shit, if we’d understood what was going on, that isn’t what we’d have said.”

          Liked by 2 people

        • Well what can I say, that’s precisely what it was — an attempt to neutralize Beale’s supposed interest in litigation against them.

          Because it hadn’t yet been demonstrated that Beale was only waving that as a threat, and wouldn’t follow through.

          You look at Jon Del Arroz’ recent defamation suit against Worldcon and tell me that Tor’s attorney’s looking at Beale’s situation would think they should ignore the threat rather than try to do something to manage it.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. On the other side of the widening chasm, Mike Glyer announced that he’d be winding down the daily Puppy round-up posts. The final one ran on July 6 and attracted 1,887 comments.

    However, the Pixel Scrolls which replaced the Puppy round-ups (and still contained plenty of Puppy news) consistently drew 100 to 500 comments each, up through September 2016, and some of them had a lot more than that.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The Tyop Patrol has done so much, that I have only a couple of wording nits to pick.

    “ He also attempted to disentangle Grant’s Tor …” -> Grant also attempted to disentangle his Tor

    “ After making fun of the victims of a racist mass shooting (see the previous chapter) in June, the chance” -> After Williamson had made fun of the victims of a racist mass shooting (see the previous chapter) in June, the chance

    Like

  8. ““In just the past two years, the Counterculture’s neo-Puritanical reign has made things political that were never thought to be: be: Shirtstorms and Gamergate, Chik-fil-A …”
    This reminds me a little of some of Fred Clark’s recent posts at slacktivist about how Billy Graham’s FIL insisted Christians getting involved in civil rights distracted from the important mission of spreading the Gospel — and a standard he didn’t apply to his own writing in support of segregation.
    “neo-Puritanical.” In the world of the Federalist and similar outlets, the left are libertines encouraging women to destroy their lives by having sex before marriages. But at the same time they’re also Puritans and cock-blockers discouraing men from having fun and flirting with women.
    We contain multitudes.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. So, reading this makes me think:

    Teddy: Scalzi will be broke soon!
    Also Teddy: Scalzi would never leave Tor and all that money he’s getting!

    Teddy: We must abjure File 770 and all its works!
    Also Teddy: emails Mike regularly

    Liked by 5 people

    • Vox craves attention. Ultimately, he wanted to make sure I never missed a chance to give it to him. (And as long as he was permitted, he magnified those opportunities by wading into the comments section.)

      Liked by 3 people

  10. It really is the whole strategy of the right wing — take civil rights activism and criticism and declare it to be grand inquisitor, super powerful oppression from the inferiors but that will be bested — upside down world. The superior righteous are always the heroes who should be in charge and letting the marginalized have a real seat at the table is not to be borne. Aristos forever and always, claiming they are the virtuous keepers of the flame. Trump felt that worked well with his own schtick and adopted it, and with white supremacy evangelicals and Repub voter suppression, he just squeaked through. They always try to pretend that liberals are never working class folks, when most progressive movements came out of them, so they can be the “folksy” downhome heroes.

    It’s also interesting here to see Beale over the several months keep crafting the narrative of a years long campaign, to build up the slate voting army and take over the Hugos, with himself as virtuous consultant/leader, (and also rationalizing them getting squashed in the finalist voting the “first” year he led.) It does seem like he was hoping to get a full grift off of “financing scholarships.” And then the next year he mainly just walked off. He goes where he might get attention and aggrandizement but definitely has an attention span problem.

    But the funniest bit is Beale’s fantasy about how publishers work re PNH and Scalzi. He’s trying to make it sound like Hollywood — or a movie of Hollywood. And that’s the usual strategy too — cartoon villainization.

    Liked by 1 person

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