Debarkle Chapter 53: The Ironic Story of Sad Puppies 4

We need to rewind back to March 2015.

Brad Torgersen’s Sad Puppies 3 was on the verge of a remarkable publicity coup — a major sweep of the Hugo Award nominations. It wasn’t public knowledge but behind the scenes, authors were being contacted by the Hugo Award administrators and notified that they were finalists and being asked to not announce this publicly until the official announcement was made.

At the Mad Genius Club blog, Kate Paulk was excited and pointed to “interesting whispers and things floating around the Internets”. Paulk was an Australian IT specialist who had moved to America and had begun writing and publishing novels independently. Having become friends with Sarah Hoyt, she had been critical of feminism in science-fiction and of the perceived role of the left in the SFWA controversies of 2013-14 (see earlier chapters). Her Mad Genius post on the Sad Puppies in March 2015 was only partly about Brad Torgersen’s campaign. In the same post, Paulk had other news to tell people…

“Because in a fit of even greater insanity than usual, yours truly, Kate the Impaler of the Evil Legion of Evil, will be picking up the banner for Sad Puppies 4 and running with it. I even promised not to impale anyone with it (it’s such a pretty flag, and getting blood and… stuff… all over it would make those poor sad puppies even more sad. Even the Evil Legion of Evil has standards, you know. We’re completely against letting Sad Puppies stay sad. We want them to be happy).” [1]

Paulk had volunteered to run the fourth iteration of the Sad Puppies but with the Sad Puppies 3 campaign thoroughly embroiled in its own controversy for much of 2015, there was little for the fourth member of the litter to do until at least some of the dust had settled after the victory of ‘no award’ at 2015 Hugo Award ceremony in August.

September 3 2015 brought the first official announcement of the campaign, courtesy of the Mad Genius Club blog:

Introducing Sad Puppies Four: The Bitches are Back
(also the Embiggening, and the Embitchening, given that I, Kate the Impaler, am Queen Bitch and I am ably seconded by Sarah, the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess, and Amanda, the Redhead of Doom, and we are all more than capable of going Queen Bitch when we need to).

The post came complete with a brand new logo by the same artist (Artracoon) who had produced the Sad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies logos earlier in the year. As well as a new logo, the campaign came with its own website which was intended to be the main venue to organise the campaign.

Paulk offered a much simpler rationale for the campaign than the previous Sad Puppies:

“The Hugo awards has entirely too small a voting and nominating pool. Five thousand votes is the largest number ever received? Two thousand nomination ballots? That’s piddly. For a field loved by millions, it’s nowhere near enough, and makes it easy for any small clique to corrupt the idea of awarding great SF and start giving themselves awards.

We want at least ten thousand nomination ballots. Tens of thousands of votes (which means tens of thousands of Hugo memberships, either supporting or attending). So many votes and voters that it’s almost impossible for any one group – and yes, that includes the Sad Puppies – to dominate anything.”


After months of argument about the Hugo Awards, the shifting rationales for the Puppy campaigns had focused on an undeniable fact. Sad Puppies 3 had led to a substantial increase in the number of people participating in the Hugo Award. True, the majority of those additional people were voting against the Sad Puppies but it was a measurable impact and arguably the Hugo Awards were richer for it.

Of course, mass participation book awards were not new. The book-cataloguing social media site Goodreads[2] had been running its own awards for several years. The winners of the 2014 Awards (run in 2015[3]) had received over 50 thousand votes for the fantasy category and over 30 thousand votes for the science fiction category[4]. Both categories carried some overlap with the Sad Puppies 3 nominees and with non-slated books that were either finalists or on the long-list for the 2015 Hugo Awards (e.g. John Scalzi’s Lock In was ranked second in the Goodreads after The Martian). Boosting the Hugo Award participation to the level of Goodreads when even a supporting membership in Worldcon cost money whereas Goodreads was free, was going to be a major task.

Sad Puppies 4 though had several advantages over the previous campaigns. Paulk had started the campaign months earlier than the previous campaigns. Also, while not conceding that the critics of the Puppies had legitimate issues, Paulk had clearly listened to many of the criticisms of how Brad Torgersen had run Sad Puppies 3.

Firstly, the Sad Puppies 4 website had been organised into multiple pages — one for each Hugo Award category. Anybody (and everybody) was invited to leave comments on the appropriate page with eligible works that they had enjoyed. Paulk promised that everything listed would be included in a list for that category. Both Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen had attempted to crowdsource suggestions for their slates but had done so unsystematically. Torgersen had later claimed that the process had been transparent but Paulk’s approach demonstrated there was a clearer way of doing it.

Paulk also had a response to the arguments about whether or not the Sad Puppies 3 recommendations had been a slate or not. Of course, Torgersen had literally called it a slate but the semantic arguments had run through 2015 with critics of the Puppies pointing to how the slate had led to a block of nominees sweeping the categories and supporters of the Puppies pointing to other recommendation lists such as the Locus Recommended Reading List. A central point in these arguments had been that the Puppy slate had four or five works in several categories, making it a de-facto slate regardless of any other quibbles. For Sad Puppies 4, Paulk stated that the outcome of the nomination process would be both a complete list of everything suggested and also a top-10 (based on the number of suggestions).

In addition, Paulk, Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green recused themselves from inclusion in the list. Further, Paulk stated that:

“Anyone can post any number of recommendations (obviously not for the same work – one recommendation per person per work), and there is NO political test. The only criteria is that you’ve read it/watched it/seen it and you think it’s one of the best in its Hugo class published in 2015.

And then the process started. In September people began leaving recommendations on the Sad Puppies 4 website. It was not a deluge and most of the recommendations were on the Best Novel page. Initially, many of the suggestions were from people who were regular commenters at Mad Genius Club or Sarah Hoyt’s blog. However, a number of critics of the Sad Puppy campaign who had been active in the comment section of File 770 also turned up to leave suggestions[5]. However, there was little tension and the comments were focused on the books rather than the culture war conflict of 2015.

In this first month, recommendations in the Best Novel category for Sad Puppies 4 including such varied works as John C Wright’s Castalia House published Somewither as well as N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. By early October, new recommendations had trailed off on the Best Novel page and the other categories were even more moribund.

December 2015 came and Kate Paulk made a new attempt to boost interest in Sad Puppies 4[6] and called for more people to leave suggestions at the site. In addition, she began at Mad Genius Club a series of profiles of each Hugo category to help people vote[7]. Within these Sad Puppies 4 specific posts, Paulk largely avoided using strong culture war rhetoric but elsewhere Sarah Hoyt attempted to draft in more of that tone via her platform at right-wing blog Instapundit:

“They called us neo nazis and bad to reprehensible.  This year we aim to show that there are real fans of science fiction not in their little club.  A lot of them.  My friend Kate Paulk nefariously explains the different categories, one a week, so you can, you know, decide for yourself and vote your conscience.  Which, needless to say is totally “neo-nazi” of us.  At least in the fevered minds of vile progs.”

Hoyt connected the comment from Irene Gallo (see earlier chapters) that had spawned the Tor Boycott with the Sad Puppies 4 campaign. For whatever reason, recommendations picked up again in December[8].

What was also increasingly obvious by this point was that one Sad Puppy supporter, in particular, was having a significant impact on the number of recommendations.

Declan Finn was an aspiring author of Catholic-themed thrillers and urban-fantasy stories who had been an avid supporter of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign. Through 2015 he had been writing a series of “parodies” about imaginary violent confrontations involving notable authors who were either supporters or opponents of the Sad Puppies[9]. Finn had recently published an urban fantasy novel entitled Honor at Stake about a beautiful Catholic Russian vampire who falls for a psychopathic (but good) young man, who together investigate a mystery involving evil vampires, the UN and Vatican ninjas.

Fans of Declan Finn’s books, as well as Finn himself, had become a small but significant number of the people suggesting books at the Sad Puppies 4 website. Finn had taken a leaf from the Sad Puppy book of campaigning and was now actively campaigning for a spot in the Top 10 of the Sad Puppies 4 recommended list. In the age of ebooks and independent publishing, it was an obvious way to boost his own profile. By mid-February of 2016, Declan Finn was vying for the top spot in the Sad Puppies 4 Best Novel list with John C. Wright. Finn was also asking for his fans to suggest his Sad Puppies Bite Back series for the Best Related Work and Best Fan Writer categories[10].

Finn was just one of a new generation of Puppy-supporting writers — people not campaigning for the Hugo Awards as such but rather campaigning for recognition within the pool of readers that had coalesced around the Sad Puppies 3 controversy. Accompanying Finn in this meta-level of quasi-political book promotion was GamerGate supporter, trad-Catholic and regular commenter at Monster Hunter Nation, Brian Niemeier who described his approach as:

“I write for the quiet multitude that legacy publishing abandoned in its rush to be socially conscious–people who’d read SF for years and almost gave up, or did give up, on it for lack of the entertainment that was really all they ever wanted.”

Niemeier was also running 8th in the Best Novel lists in late January with his science-fiction novel Nethereal but was doing even better on the Campbell Award for Best New Writer page. Several people had suggested Andy Weir (author of The Martian) in that category but overall the page had received many fewer comments than the Best Novel category[11]. With so few people making suggestions, Niemeier was almost guaranteed a prominent spot in the Sad Puppies 4 lists.

With Hugo Nominations due to close at the end of March, Paulk closed the Sad Puppies 4 site to new recommendations on the last day of February, to give her time to collate votes and publish the lists[12].

On March 17, Kate Paulk cross-posted the final lists at both the Sad Puppies 4 site and at the Mad Genius Club blog. In addition, a full tabulation of all works listed was made available on a Google Drive[13]. The final top-10 were much shorter than 10 for some categories. Best Editor Long Form was particularly short:

・Toni Weisskopf – Baen
・Jim Mintz – Baen
・Tony Daniel – Baen

Other categories had more suggestions but often just one person per work. Best Novel though had 132 works suggested and a total of 419 votes. John C. Wright’s Somewither beat Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake by one vote, 25 to 24.

Across the categories, the lists were a strange mixed bag of things. Mike Glyer’s File 770 was one of the top picks for the Sad Puppies 4 fanzine list but in truth, only three people had suggested it (which was one more than Dave Truesdale’s Tangent Online). Small participation meant that even a small number of non-Puppies taking part shifted the choices for the list by a significant amount.

Brian Niemeier came joint first in the Campbell list alongside publishing giant Andy Weir. Declan Finn’s efforts paid off not just in Best Novel but also in Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work. Other categories such as Best Novella and Best Novelette looked more like a selection made without any Puppy influence at all.

What was most notably lacking was many new or overlooked conservative authors. A claim of the Puppies had been that conservative writers had been progressively marginalised by the Hugo Awards. Sad Puppies 4 was a chance for ordinary readers to promote these ignored writers but the result looked not so very different from the past. In some cases, authors promoted by Sad Puppies 3 had vanished from the lists in Sad Puppies 4. Author Kevin J. Anderson received only one vote and his sequel to the Sad Puppies 3 nominated Hugo finalist The Dark Between the Stars did not appear at all[14].

The announcement of the Sad Puppies 4 lists created a new problem for Kate Paulk. The lists as stated had fewer features of a slate (although the rankings were available so the capacity to use them as a slate was still present) but the “Sad Puppies” brand was still one of the most toxic in fandom. In January of 2016, Elizabeth Sandifer had made a telling point in an open letter to Sad Puppies IV:

“Everything you’ve done since launching last summer has looked like a staggeringly disingenuous attempt to distance yourself from your existing supporters without actually alienating any of them. You’re making a grand show of saying  “no, we’re not the people who recruited a lunatic who actively doxes anyone who gives him a bad review to help try to hijack a literary award” while trying to retain your existing support. I mean, you’re not even trying to build bridges with the people who previously opposed you; you’re just engaging in cheap theater to try to pretend that their objections aren’t true anymore.

And sure, maybe the superficial objections aren’t. You’re not providing a slate, just a “list of recommendations.” You’re not explicitly allied with Vox Day, you’re just still catering to the people he brought in. But these weren’t the reasons people despised the Sad Puppies. They were just the most blatant pieces of evidence that the Sad Puppies were a bunch of jerks. And what you’re blatantly and conspicuously failing to do is to actually give the slightest suggestion that A) you recognize that the Sad Puppies have in the past been a bunch of jerks and B) you’re not anymore.”

Among people paying close attention to Sad Puppies 4, the lists once produced were relatively innocuous but that didn’t mean authors wanted to be associated with the Sad Puppies brand. Several writers including Catherynne M Valente and David Levine asked to be removed from the lists. British author Alastair Reynolds explained his objections:

“I was away for a few days without internet access and discovered when I returned that my novella “Slow Bullets” has been included on the “SP4” Sad Puppies list for Hugo nominators.

At this point it’s of no concern to me whether this is a slate or a set of recommendations. Given the taint left by last year’s antics, I don’t care for any work of mine to be associated with any list curated by the Sad Puppies.”

Paulk declined to remove people from the lists but as a compromise, she added an asterisk to those names who had objected to being included. At Mad Genius Club she replied to Reynolds, saying:

“I will not insult those who consider your novella to be Hugo-worthy by removing you from the List. I will, however, be updating the version of this post at to note that you prefer that your work not be purchased, enjoyed, and nominated without your prior approval.”

At the end of the process, it was unclear what had been proven. Paulk had avoided many of the objections raised against Sad Puppies 3 but in doing so had created lists of works that were largely unremarkable. Inadvertently, Sad Puppies 4 had demonstrated that without the culture war style campaigning there was not much substance to many of the Puppies broader claims.

Sad Puppies 4 and Kate Paulk’s involvement in the 2016 Hugo Awards did not end there. However, the bigger question people had been asking about the 2016 Hugos was not about the Sad Puppies but rather, what was Vox Day going to do next.

Next Time: Rabid Puppies 2…



61 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 53: The Ironic Story of Sad Puppies 4”

  1. However, the bigger question people had been asking about the 2016 Hugos was not about the Sad Puppies but rather, what was Vox Day going to do next.

    Yup, I do remember the dread “anticipation”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “I will, however, be updating the version of this post at to note that you prefer that your work not be purchased, enjoyed, and nominated without your prior approval.”

    This twisting of Reynolds’ words is one of the things I remember most from SP4.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Well, Declan is not in jail for violating airport security, so that’s a win. On the other hand, he still hasn’t won a Dragon Award either.

      Meanwhile, Brian Niemeier has won a Dragon Award (for a space opera in the horror category), but has not been nmaed Witchfinder General, which must be a disappointment to him.

      Liked by 4 people

      • At the time, I was annoyed that Declan got away with violating national and international law and didn’t go to jail, but on reflection, I realized I don’t hate the Italians and wouldn’t want them to have to put up with him any longer than necessary. I did feel sorry for the US embassy personnel who had to deal with him.

        For some reason I kinda see the appropriate-ness of Brian winning for horror, even though that wasn’t the correct category.

        That definitely shows that the Dragon admin(s) whoever they are don’t do anything but count the stuffed ballots. Nothing so exact for them as putting things into the right category or eliminating ineligible works; that kind of thing is WAY too much work for an award that’s never announced on time and had sweepstakes boilerplate in the rules for more than one year.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I noticed both at the time and now that the enthusiasm for working on and publicizing slates/recommendations/lists dropped off precipitously when persons named Kate, Sarah, and Amanda took over.

    More things that make you go hmmm…

    Liked by 3 people

    • On the one hand, yeah,
      on the other hand, the work of compiling, recommending, appreciating individual works is one that wasn’t done to any great degree in the previous iterations, either…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I made a point to thank Kate Paulk in person for taking over the SP campaign and having promised to not do a slate. Right after the Business Meeting in Kansas City. Mostly because I don’t mind if people go “I liked reading ” (I adore people doing that, even if I may not like the work, nor the reason they like the work), but I do mind when people blatantly slate in the Hugos.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My take on it is that there is a minimum standard of decency which everyone should be meeting, and we should not need to thank people for doing the minimum decent thing (aka, for not running Hugo cheating campaigns).

        Especially since Paulk has been so vile and dishonest about so many other things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JJ: It was a step in the right direction, so I understand people wanting to encurage it. I think many people were still on the belive that the situation would be better with the Sads becoming recular voters. (This is not in Ingvars direction but a general impresion I had)
        On the other hand the fact that a lot of the Sads (including Paulk) made still vile comments made the thanks I felt towards her, hard. The question how much she was involved in 2015 is another fact that I have problems with.
        And last if she stopped with vile attacks, lies and slating would have still be only the minimum standard of decency but I would have been thankful for that. So dificult, I am happy to not see the Sads slating anymore but not really thankful to them. Curriosity what would become of them was there (Spoiler: Next year they just vanished, after a big fight over the valuble brandt, which was strange) not more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You reward the behavior you want to see—even when it *should* be the standard—if you want to see more of the behavior. If that requires thanking someone for being less of an asshole, then thank them for being less of an asshole than erstwhile.
        Seriously, rewarding a step, even a baby step in the correct direction is Animal Training 101.


        • The onus is not on Worldcon members to train Puppies to be less assholish, any more than the onus is on liberals to train T*ump supporters to be less assholish; it’s on the assholes to be less assholish.

          And we’ve seen just how well positive reinforcement for less assholish behavior has worked with both those groups: not at all.

          They regard any positive reinforcement as validation that they’ve been right all along. They are neither educable nor trainable.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. More tyops:

    “The post came complete with a brand new logo by the same artist (Artracoon) who had produced the Ad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies logos” — “Ad” should be “Sad”. Though Ad Puppies has a ring to it too.

    “Paulk had clearly listened to many of the criticism of how Brad Torgersen had run Sad Puppies 3.” “criticism” should be “criticisms”, plural.

    “…making it a defacto slate regardless of any other quibbles.” “defacto” is two words, “de facto”.

    “In January of 2016, Elizabeth Sandifer had made a telling point in an open letter to Sad Puppie IV:” “Sad Puppie” should be “Sad Puppies”.

    I always thought that one of the reasons Paulk and Hoyt got very little attention for Sad Puppies IV was that it was run by women. Paulk and Hoyt seem to have been pretty much ignored by the important manly men in the group, and VD was even disdainful of Hoyt (somewhere, I don’t remember where). Well, and of course SP4 didn’t feed them the red meat they craved, and that the other campaigns had given them in such abundance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The coroners who want pin misogyny as the cause of death on SP4 need to remember it suffered from more than one disease. There was also malnutrition — there never were that many “Sad Puppies” in the first place, the voting power came from the Rabids. And there was heart failure — Correia drummed up this whole thing, then declined the 2015 nomination for his novel, leaving even less reason for Sads to hang around. Vox Day was holding the leash after that. And it’s true, he wrote several posts and comments over the years trashing Sarah Hoyt’s (perfectly accurate) perception that the American (USian) identity comes from adopting a bundle of abstract ideas, not being born on the right dirt. So between the people who avoided SP4 because of the toxic brand, and the ones who followed Vox Day’s misogynistic and bigoted lead, where was the support left to come from?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well said. And Paulk largely avoided the let’s-have-a-culture-war tactics practiced by the boys, and Hoyt. Those who came for a fights were foaming and drooling with Beale.

        Liked by 4 people

      • Sexism was one of those co-morbidities, though. And it was baked into the Puppy brand to start.

        When Hoyt was in charge the next year, the silence was even more deafening. Sure, the momentum was completely gone, but the boys never even gave her a token shout-out.

        I wasn’t aware Teddy had slammed Hoyt for correctly identifying what being an American is about, but I’m not surprised. Hell, she’s lived in the US longer than he has at this point, I think, and still does — I’d say she’s more of an American than he is now! And her kids certainly are.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Vox attacked her more than once on the issue but the first time is in the next chapter. It’s the point where maybe some Sad Puppies maybe begin to sort of think that, you know, maybe Vox Day really is a bit racist…


      • *Deletes provocative analogy*

        Misogyny is so deeply baked into the Puppy types that it has experiences a multiplier effect. I am quite certain that if one of the male Puppy supporters had run things that same way, that the Pups who say Kate’s lack of red-meat own the libs rhetoric as proof of weakness would have instead credited it as a canny x-dimensional chess move.

        I have gotten some grief from some of my fellow queer men when I have pointed out that however vile the homophobia of Pups/Tr*mp-supporters/et al is, said homophobis is actually nothing more than a subset of their more deeply-ingrained misogyny.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Agree that there are a lot of reasons SP4 fizzled, but I don’t remember seeing the misogyny pointed out. (It may have been mentioned and I forgot, or didn’t see it.). Another thing I found was interesting was that although Hoyt’s work was recommended by various Puppy iterations, she never got on the Hugo ballot. And since these people would nominate just about *anything*, it seemed strange. I was hoping Hoyt would get a clue about the nature of the group she’d joined (i.e., a lot of them didn’t like her, or any women writers), but I guess this crowd needs a lot more than that for obvious thing to become obvious.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hoyt narrowly missed the short story ballot in 2014 because of the 5% rule. However, if enough puppies had cared to nominate her, she might have made it.


      • I remember a Sad Puppy defending the Sad Puppies against accusations of misogyny by talking about SP$ and noting (unironically and obliviously) that “critics who attack the Sad Puppies as being misogynists this year will find three women with great racks staring back at them”.

        The irony in that defense is just staggering.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Through 2015 he had been writing a series of “parodies” involving violent confrontations involving notable authors who were either supporters or opponents of the Sad Puppies”

    Too much involving.


  6. I think the fact that Ancillary Mercy the third book in Ann Leckies trilogy managed to become nominated on the list, when her work was so demonised by previous incarnations of the puppys deserves a mention.
    Her reaction to that was posted on File 770, also worth a read.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Not sure what this means: “Sarah Hoyt attempted to draft in more of that tone.”

    I seem to remember that Paulk got a little heat from her original post promoting SP4 when she said something to the effect that everyone who wanted to promote their favorite authors should vote. But a big criticism of SP3 was that it was all about promoting authors, without regard to the quality of the books.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A couple of corrections about the Goodreads Awards. First, it’s worth mentioning that the vote totals given on the site are accumulative counts from across three rounds, meaning that you’ll need to divide them by three to get a rough idea of how many accounts voted. Secondly, the numbers you cited are only for the winning novels: the total voting counts were much larger (233,544 for fantasy, 146,367 for SF; again these are sums from all three rounds)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Others have caught most of the tyops I saw, but here are some notes:

    >victory of ‘no award’ at 2015 Hugo Award ceremony
    at the 2015

    You need a [2] in the body for your Goodreads footnote.

    [3] Goodreads Awards are run in the tail end of the year they are for. There have been finalists which have yet to be officially released during the earlier rounds (hello Brandon Sanderson). I think the eligibility is actually November something of the previous year to November something of the current year.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is ironic that though the SP4 proponents seemed concerned about modern science fiction insulting their religions, the SP4 Retro Hugo recommendations included a novel that was about as anti-organized religion as possible to publish in the 1940s (by an author who had very little good to say about organized religion in any of his works).

    Liked by 3 people

  11. So the 3rd italics quote paragraph once again (like the results at Sasquan) showed that there simply wasn’t any giant silent majority who wanted Nutty Nuggets of 30’s-50’s style books.* I mean… either younger people never cared (like JDN’s Young People Read Old SF), or older people had read all that stuff which is still readily available and wanted something fresher.

    *Or whatever it was the Puppies claimed that week.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I note that while the open letter to Sad Puppies IV appeared on Elizabeth Sandifer’s blog under her author tag, it is signed “Phil Sandifer” at the bottom. Might be worth a quick inquiry to ensure proper attribution.


  13. Tyop patrol (and apologies if someone else has pointed this out):

    > the same artist (Artracoon) who had produced the Ad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies logos earlier in the year.

    Unless there was another campaign I don’t remember (not enough conservative products in advertising??), I think you’re missing an “S”

    The next one is more typography than typo:

    > with his science-fiction novel Nethereal but was doing even better on the Campbell Award

    You italicize other novel titles, so Nethereal should be italics.

    This one is more a philosophical quibble:

    >Inadvertently, Sad Puppies 4 had demonstrated that without the culture war style campaigning there was not much substance.

    I would tighten this up so say “there was no substance.”

    Liked by 2 people

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