The sibling genres of fantasy and science fiction are often accused of being escapist. Arguably, escaping to other worlds of the imagination is a net positive but regardless, if a person hoped to escape the developments in American politics in the election year of 2016 they weren’t going to do so in SF&F fandom that year.
April 26 saw the announcement of the 2016 Hugo Awards Finalists and once again the talk was all of the puppies. The slate of notable alt-right figure Vox Day had multiple finalists in every category except one (Best Editor Short Form). People initially counting up the influence of the Puppy slates also saw a major overlap between Hugo finalists and the Sad Puppy 4 long list. The Puppies had struck again! Or had they?
In 2015 the overlap between plausible-looking Hugo finalist and Sad/Rabid Puppy slated work was small. Using data released after the 2016 Hugo Awards (to show the potential impact of the new EPH nominating system), Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank, estimated that only two works from the 2015 slates had enough “organic” votes to have made it on to the ballot regardless. Ironically, neither work appeared on the final ballot for other reasons. However, in 2016 a range of different factors was in play.
Firstly, Sad Puppies 4 had a longlist which meant that many more works were included, increasing the chance of overlap. Nor was SP4 a “slate” as such and the range of works included things suggested by overt critics of the Puppy campaigns. Secondly, Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate had also included many works that were plausible nominees by non-Puppy affiliated voters, including Seveneves by Neal Stephenson in Best Novel, Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold in Best Novella, Strange Horizons in Best Semiprozine and File 770 in Best Fanzine — works many people referred to as “hostages”. Using the same techniques he had used for the 2015 data, Greg Hullender’s analysis found 14 finalists that had appeared on a Puppy list that would have had enough organic votes to be a finalist regardless.
What the “true” set of finalists would have looked like with no Puppy campaigns at all is unknowable but the 2016 set of finalists were a very different kind of selection than it had been in 2015.
If Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies had voted for several plausible Hugo-worthy works, they had also increased the number of works included primarily to troll Worldcon members. These included a weak parody of Rachel Swirsky’s If You Were a Dinosaur My Love that had been lifted from Vox Day’s blog’s comment section, the Castalia House blog series “Safe Space as Rape Room”, artist Kukuruyo, who ran a webcomic featuring GamerGate mascot Vivian James, and, of course, Vox Day himself both as an editor and for his political book, SJWs Always Lie.
If the impact of the Puppies was more ambiguous in 2016 it was still no less visible. There had been a hope that the huge numbers of people who had joined Worldcon and voted against the Puppies in 2015 would translate into overwhelming numbers at the nomination phase. However, without a coordinated slate, a large number of people voting for a wide range of different things will not necessarily outvote a much smaller number voting for a slate. Over four thousand nomination ballots had been cast and of those, maybe less than 10% were people following the Rabid Puppy slate but in more popular categories, Day included more “hostages” on his slate and concentrated his more controversial picks on down-ballot categories.
The presence of the Rabid Puppies on the ballot again unsurprisingly left many fans feeling dejected. At Nerds of a Feather, blogger The G lamented:
“I don’t want the Hugos to be an annual rerun of the US presidential election. That already takes up too much oxygen as it is, and the Hugos are supposed to be about fans celebrating the best stuff they discovered over the previous year–not voting in lockstep to further someone’s agenda. So I won’t back any proposed counter-slates–not even one that reflected my exact political worldview (and it’s very doubtful that any would). I want nothing to do with that–nothing at all. On the other hand, what’s the point of voting in a one party system?”http://www.nerds-feather.com/2016/04/hugopocalypse-ii-where-do-we-go-from.html
As in 2015, some finalists withdrew from the ballot, including author Thomas A. Mays and fanzine Black Gate. Others saw little hope for 2016 at all.
“And that’s what I’m already seeing. And it started last year. George and John and Mary, much as I like them, were wrong. They went with the “Oh, just vote for the best of what’s there and it will work out.” No, that wasn’t the thing to do and it didn’t work out. This year even the Sads didn’t do that well, though they did better than fandom. Vox did. The 2016 Hugos are NOT the Hugo Awards. They are The Vox-hugo. They will celebrate the best in what Vox likes. If you go along with it, you are not voting for the Hugo winner. You will be voting for the Vox-hugo winner.http://fosteronfilm.com/thoughts/here-we-go-again-welcome-to-the-vox-awards.htm 
There are no Hugo awards for 2016.”
Others thought that a second year of a “no award” sweeping the awards would also be a disaster.
“Likewise, how can any publisher associate itself with these kinds of brand-threatening shenanigans? They’re risk-averse enough as it is. Why take the chance with printing the Hugo rocket ship logo on its project without thinking of two years’ worth of Hugo train wrecks?https://jgfollansbee.com/2016/04/29/the-hugo-awards-are-dead-and-the-xpuppies-killed-them/
A second year of “No Award” winners will put the final nails into the Hugos’ coffin because it would demonstrate readers’ lack of faith in the award.”
The Hugo Awards were not dead yet though.
Long term Worldcon member and World Science Fiction Society constitutional expert Kevin Standlee, floated the idea of another potential voting reform: Three Stage Voting.
“I do not wish to rehash the arguments for and against either EPH or 4/6 here. However, I would like to set out a plan that I’ve been thinking about (and have talked about) since this series of bad actors imposed their minority opinion on the majority of the members of WSFS last year. It’s a completely different change than either EPH or 4/6, and actually leaves the current nominating and final ballot phases of the Hugo Awards unchanged, but instead inserts an additional stage into the selection process that gives the membership of the current Worldcon an opportunity to weigh in on whether they think any particular finalist deserves to be on the ballot without having to resort to the rather blunt instrument of voting No Award.”https://kevin-standlee.livejournal.com/1560332.html
Standlee’s proposal would add an extra stage between nominations and determining the finalists, allowing voters to upvote semi-finalists they liked and downvote others. The proposal attracted further discussion at File 770.
Spacefaring Kitten who had been a prolific reviewer of the 2015 Hugo Ballot produced a “Puppy Free Voting Guide” modelled on the guide produced by Deirdre Saoirse Moen in 2015. However, Kitten also pointed out why the same approach wouldn’t work in 2016.
“But — and here’s the problem — many things on the Rabid Puppies slate this year are quite good and have nothing whatsoever to do with Theodore Beale. There’s silly crap up there as well, but some are worthy finalists which might well have gotten on the shortlist also without Beale’s help.”https://sfkittens.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/puppy-free-hugo-voting-guide-and-the-problem-with-it/
Instead, Kitten proposed a simpler strategy:
“So, how about just no awarding the shit and ignoring the troll’s trolling?”Ibid
Others came to the same conclusion:
“This year, I don’t think I’ll do the same. It seems ridiculous to penalize works that could plauisbly have made it onto the Hugo ballot just because (as John Scalzi put it) “the Puppies are running in front of an existing parade and claiming to lead it.” This year I’ll read all the nominees, and vote for the ones I think are wonderful; those that I think don’t deserve to be on the ballot I’ll rank below “No Award.””https://amptoons.com/blog/?p=21689&cpage=1
Of course, whatever 2016 may have produced was still under the old voting rules. 2015 had seen two major proposals be accepted that would change how the nominations work. If those changes were ratified at the 2016 Business Meeting, then 2017 would be different.
Or would it?
A paper in May 2016 by Jameson Quinn and Bruce Schneier, who had both helped formulate the E Pluribus Hugo (EPH) voting system in 2015 [see earlier chapters], examined 2015 nomination data and measured the hypothetical impact of the reform on the 2015 ballot.
“The number of slate nominees would have been reduced by 1 in 6 categories, and by 2 in 2 categories, leaving no category without at least one non-slate nominee.”A Proportional Voting System for Awards Nominations Resistant to Voting Blocs J. Quinn and B. Schneier https://www.schneier.com/academic/archives/2016/05/a_proportional_votin.html
A gain of only one non-slated work was less than many people had hoped for EPH, even though the paper demonstrated the overall effectiveness of the scheme. At File 770 a serial discussion into voting rule changes, reminiscent of the 2015 discussion at Making Light, looked at numerous proposals including Kevin Standlee’s Three Stage Voting idea (3SV).
With the Sad Puppies largely absent from the fight and with most of the substantive arguments having already played out in 2015, the 2016 award season was less riven with feuding disputes. There was a degree of pressure on some finalists who had been on the Rabid Puppy slate to withdraw but few did. Included in those who had been asked to withdraw was erotic humorist Chuck Tingle whose short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion had been slated by Vox Day in an attempt to mock the Hugo Awards. Tingle didn’t withdraw but instead turned his attention to mocking Vox Day and rolling the whole process of being nominated into his bizarre metafictional book titles.
The official Sad Puppies 4 participation in the 2016 Hugo Awards was led by Kate Paulk via the Mad Genius Club blog. When the finalists were announced Paulk celebrated the increase in voting numbers and stated that her main objective was to encourage people to vote.
“I said when I started this that I didn’t care what won: I wanted to see more participation. Damn near doubling nomination ballots is a good start. Phase 2 for 2016 is a similar level of increase in the actual award ballots, and again, I do not care which of the finalists wins. If hordes of people vote for dino erotica, so be it. If they vote for something else, so be it.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2016/04/28/the-obligatory-post-hugo-finalists-post/
Through the following months, she set out to write summary posts about the finalists in each category. Overall, Paulk’s summary varied from neutral to negative but in so far as they were negative they were often negative about both slated and non-slated work. When it came to Best Editor Long Form, Paulk found the same problem many voters had with the category.
“I think I’m going to have to sit out this category. There simply isn’t enough in it that’s caught my attention over the year for me to make a judgment, and I personally refuse to simply say “Oh, X is a good person and they’ve done a lot of good over the years”. That’s not what the award is for.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2016/07/07/hugo-category-highlights-the-finalists-best-editor-short-form-and-long-form/
This summary included Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf.
Early August, as the start of the 2016 Worldcon approached, Dragon Con announced the finalists for their new award [see chapter 55]. August also saw the unofficial reunion concert by the Evil League of Evil with Brad Torgersen, Larry Correia, John C. Wright and Vox Day all complaining about a report done by Fireside Fiction which looked at the low proportion of stories published by SF&F magazines by black authors.
“The field of short science fiction and fantasy — at least U.S. publications, which make up the bulk of the field — is essentially not publishing black writers. This locks them out of this valuable process.”Cecily Kane, Introduction to Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction Special Report https://medium.com/fireside-fiction-company/antiblack-racism-in-speculative-fiction-7e30eff97008
Having spent 2015 complaining about systemic bias in the Hugo Awards against conservatives, Brad Torgersen felt in 2016 that it might be many factors other than racism for Fireside’s findings.
“So, I have a tough time believing that the supposed dearth of other-than-W authors publishing in the short fic markets, is a matter of prejudice.”https://bradrtorgersen.blog/2016/08/05/addressing-the-problem/
Larry Correia was blunter, calling the report “defeatist garbage” and Vox Day then endorsed Correia’s “fisking” of the report with John C. Wright following suit.
The 74th Worldcon was held in Kansas City, which famously is in Missouri. The convention itself carried the usual mix of panels, events, cosplay masquerades and fans milling around.
The con had its own controversies. Tangent editor Dave Truesdale found himself expelled from the convention due to his action at a panel (“The State of Short Fiction”) he was supposed to be moderating. His speech entitled “Science Fiction is not for Snowflakes” led to the panel being disrupted. The expulsion itself led to further debate whether the con organisers had overreacted to Truesdale’s behaviour.
Meanwhile, at the business meeting, the key voting reforms of EPH and the “4 and 6” amendment were ratified, ensuring that they would be in place for the 2017 Hugo nominations. “4 and 6” was intended to restrict voters to 4 works per category on their ballot, from which 6 finalists would results. However, to work better in tandem with the EPH voting algorithm, the change was amended to 5 and 6.
New proposals were also considered. The Three-Stage Voting proposal was passed but would require ratification at the 2017 Worldcon (as was normal). Likewise, a stronger form of EPH which would impact slate voting more (entitled EPH+) was also passed but once again would require ratification the following year.
The Decisive Hugo Awards
The 2016 Hugo Ceremony featured novelist Pat Cadigan as toastmaster who managed the proceedings with dry humour. The awards themselves adapted to the times. Voters had taken the Spacefaring Kitten option: the Castalia House works lost to “no award” and the various “hostages” were treated on merit on the whole. In the end, only two categories, Best Related Work and Best Fancast, had no winner.
Unsurprisingly for an award based on a popular vote, popular candidates won. Mike Glyer and File 770 won Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine respectively, in no small part due to the site’s coverage of the 2015 Puppy Kerfuffle. However, the biggest cheer of the evening was for the headline award for the night. The Hugo Award for Best Novel went to N.K.Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The novel had received widespread popular and critical acclaim and the win also marked the first time a Black woman had won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. That Jemisin was also particularly hated by Vox Day [see previous chapters] was an added bonus for many fans.
Jemisin’s win marked a decisive point in the culture war that had been raging in the Hugo Awards. Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies had shown they could impact the nomination stage but their capacity to shape the awards themselves was sharply limited. Meanwhile, Hugo voters were more than capable of adapting to Day’s shifting tactics and despite multiple years of disruption, the Hugo Award for Best Novel had once again managed to pick out a historic winner that pushed the boundaries of what science fiction & fantasy was as a broad genre and who the genre was for.
Not be outdone, Vox Day declared victory again:
“Things went very much according to form, and we have the SF-SJWs exactly where we want them at this point in time. Observe that after only two years, we already have them voting almost entirely in reaction to us, changing and complicating their rules, and awarding SJWs instead of merit in most categories.”https://web.archive.org/web/20170424153244/http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/post-hugo-analysis.html
In a later post, Vox Day claimed that this was simply the first stage in a much longer campaign.
“Anyhow, the first stage is now over. The new award has been established and the Hugo rules have been modified and complicated, as anticipated. Now we’re onto the second stage, which will last longer and promises to be more interesting than the first. RPs, be sure to keep your voting/nomination emails from Sasquan and MidAmericaCon, as you may need them next year if you are neither Brainstorm nor VFM.”https://web.archive.org/web/20210808190629/https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-worldcon-changed-rules.html
However, the voting statistics released after the announcement of the winners told a much clearer story about the direction of the Puppy campaigns. At the nomination stage earlier in 2016, Vox Day had received 437 votes for Best Editor Short Form. Those votes would have included Worldcon members from 2015, as well as any new members who had signed up in time for 2016. Yet, in the final voting in the category (which included ONLY 2016 members) Day had received 165 first preference votes. At Chaos Horizon, Brandon Kemper summed up what had happened:
“It’s highly unusual to get 437 votes in the nomination stage and then collapse to 165 in the more popular, more voted in final stage. That 165 represents the most “Rabid” of the Rabid Puppies; some of the other Rabid Puppy picks did considerably better in the first round of voting “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” got 392 votes in the first round of Short Story, for instance. It’s hard to know what exactly to chalk that up to at this point—people enjoying the joke, a broader pool of Rabid Puppy associated voters who didn’t want to vote Vox Day #1 in Long Form Editor.”https://chaoshorizon.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/2016-hugos-some-initial-stat-analysis/
The voting power of the Rabid Puppies had reduced during 2016. It was harder to tell numerically but it was likely the voting power of the broader (and less disciplined) Sad Puppies had reduced as well. The Sad Puppies 4 campaign had not engendered much enthusiasm except from a small number of self-promoting authors and without the combative rhetoric of Larry Correia, the campaign had not pulled more Sad Puppies into buying Worldcon memberships.
Of course, that didn’t stop Larry Correia from attempting to have the last word on the issue:
“Funny. When I started Sad Puppies four years ago, the narrative was all about how the Hugos were a celebration of what was great, representing the best of all of fandom. I said nope, it is decided by cliques, ass kissing, and politics. They called me a liar. Fast forward to now, and at least they are open it is all politics. Hell, they’re celebrating it.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/08/22/my-thoughts-on-the-2016-hugos/
The Hugo Awards had not died but the Hugo Awards were dead to the Puppies. The good news for Correia was that he now had an alternative.
The Dragon Coda
Atlanta, early September 2016.
It was a much smaller affair than the grand Hugo Award ceremony that had been held in Kansas City a few weeks earlier — one event among many in the bustling pop-culture convention of Dragon Con but still a significant one.
Years after having lost the Campbell/Astounding Award for Best New Writer and years after his “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo” blog post, it was trophy time for Larry Correia. The inaugural Dragon Award for Best Fantasy Novel went to Son of the Black Sword, book 1 in Correia’s new fantasy epic.
Nor was Correia the only former member of the self-styled Evil League of Evil to be offered consolation by the Dragons. For the other headline category of Best Science Fiction Novel, John C. Wright’s Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm published by Vox Day’s Castalia House won. Beyond the main players in the Puppy conflict, minor players such as Brian Niemeier (a GamerGate supporter and regular commenter at Correia’s blog), won Best Horror novel for his self-published space opera Souldancer.
The Dragons offered a parallel vision of science fiction and fantasy. In the novel categories, they were largely male and largely conservative. They were also surprisingly opaque. The administrators of the awards did not publish detailed voting statistics. The nomination process remained vague as to how the final set of nominees were chosen. It was also unclear what measures they had in place to prevent people from voting multiple times.
But in the end, did any of that matter? Larry Correia was happy.
“I don’t even know what the rules are for prior winners, but I’ll tell you guys right now, since I’ve been lucky enough to get one, I am perfectly happy if you never nominate me for a Dragon again. I’ve been recognized. There are so many awesome writers out there who have been ignored by other awards for years and years, that I would love to see some of them get a shot. Spread the love. Read great books. And then next year, nominate whoever you think was great.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/09/05/son-of-the-black-sword-wins-the-1st-annual-dragon-award-for-best-fantasy/
Next Time: Trump, Pizza and Everything Changes
-  http://www.thehugoawards.org/2016/04/2016-hugo-award-finalists-announced/
-  “organic” here meaning votes not based on slate discipline and estimated on the basis of the number of people who nominated these works but not other works on the slate in the same category
-  “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” was disqualified because of its publication date and “Goodnight Stars” was withdrawn by its author. Hullender’s analysis can be read here http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2015-hugo-nominations-organic-estimate.html
-  http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2016-hugo-nominations-organic-estimate.html
-  Day’s book was eligible in the Best Related Work category on the grounds that in had a chapter on the Sad Puppy campaigns.
-  Number of ballots cast from here http://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2016HugoStatistics.pdf estimate of number of Rabid Puppy votes from Greg Hullender http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2016/09/reanalysis-of-slate-voting-in-2016-hugo.html Brandon Kemper at Chaos Horizon arrived at a figure of 440 Rabid Puppy nominators https://chaoshorizon.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/2016-hugos-some-initial-stat-analysis/ and Aaron Pound made a similar estimate http://dreamingaboutotherworlds.blogspot.com/2016/09/random-thought-2016-what-could-have.html
-  http://file770.com/thomas-a-mays-withdraws-his-hugo-nominated-story/
-  the analysis in the quoted post makes no attempt to distinguish the “hostages” or that the SP4 list included works suggested by Puppy critics and hence led to a pessimistic conclusion.
-  http://file770.com/three-possible-hugo-voting-alternatives/
-  https://www.dragoncon.org/mediarelations/2016/08/12/vote-for-the-dragon-con-awards/#more-1940
-  http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/08/08/fisking-the-latest-diversity-in-sci-fi-freak-out/
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20170423202913/https://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/larry-correia-fisks-latest-sf-sjw-drama.html
-  http://www.scifiwright.com/2016/08/larry/
-  except when it isn’t
-  Various accounts. Jim C Hines https://www.jimchines.com/2016/08/worldcon-expels-truesdale/ Jeb Kinnison https://substratewars.com/2016/08/24/worldcon2016-the-dave-truesdale-affair/ Death is Bad blog (which has the recording) https://deathisbadblog.com/truesdales-worldcon-panel-recording/ and Truesdale himself https://web.archive.org/web/20160823065053/https://tangentonline.com/articles-columnsmenu-284/3227-2016-worldcon-panel-on-the-qstate-of-short-science-fictionq
-  http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-WSFS-Minutes-Final.pdf
-  http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/2016-hugo-awards/
-  http://file770.com/first-dragon-awards-presented/