Debarkle Chapter 60: Dramatis Personae — The Next Generation

As a route to popular mainstream success in publishing science fiction, the controversy generated by the Puppy campaigns was not a winning strategy. Even on the side opposed to the Puppy campaigns, the main beneficiaries of increased traffic were blogs and fanzines. While opposing the Puppy campaigns didn’t hurt people’s writing careers it did not, on the whole, boost them. Alexandria Erin’s astute parodies and observations of the Puppies had given her a social media audience which grew further as she segued those skills into political commentary in the wake of Donald Trump’s election[1].

On the pro-Puppy side, there was no obvious damage to Larry Correia’s publishing success but he had already found his audience and a sympathetic publisher. Other Puppies such as Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, and Dave Freer were already disgruntled with traditional publishing and by 2015 had increasingly seen hope in publishing ebooks independently through the vast markets created by Amazon and ebook readers such as the Kindle.

From a purely commercial standpoint, the apparent winner of the drawn-out Puppy conflict was erotic author Chuck Tingle. Already something of a phenomenon, his inclusion in the Rabid Puppy slate and then his subsequent subversion of that by counter-trolling Vox Day, had led to further media coverage and interest in his bizarre social media presence[2]. Tingle had also involved himself in the US Presidential campaign in 2016 with his own website alleging Trump was communing with an alternative horror dimension Tingle calls the void[3]. There Tingle also promoted a new line of his “Tingler” ebooks about a closely related character called Domald Tromp which featured Tingle’s style of titles that mix contemporary news topics with sexual situations e.g. Domald Tromp’s Ass is Haunted by the Handsome Ghost of his Incriminating Tax Returns.

Tingle’s success rested on his genuine talent and creativity but it also illustrated an issue with the publishing space in which he had prospered. Tingle’s books were all self-published via Amazon and his initial books were quasi-parodies of the multitudinous forms of erotica available on ebooks. The vast number of books available on Amazon created niche audiences eager to consume more content but also made it difficult for authors to make a name for themselves and stand out from the crowd.

Larry Correia had built his own successful writing career by first marketing to a sympathetic audience in online pro-gun communities. His aggressive debate style and unapologetic politics had done him little harm commercially because his approach played well with his audience and the content of his books. Alienating science fiction fans of more liberal politics was not undermining his own career as it bolstered loyalty among his established fans and brought in more readers sympathetic to his political views. Correia also actively promoted other writers by organising so-called “book bombs” which encouraged readers to buy a specific book within a short time period to boost the book’s Amazon rating. In a crowded ebook world, profile, patronage and politics could all serve to make an aspiring author just that little bit more noticed.

Recent chapters of this project looked at how two supporters of the 2015 Puppy campaigns promoted their works through the events of 2016. Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier had each featured in the list generated by the Sad Puppies 4 book recommendation lists. For Niemeier, this had translated into being included in Vox Day’s 2016 Rabid Puppies slate for the Hugo Awards and for both Niemeier and Finn, this added profile had led to them being finalists for the 2016 Dragon Awards. Niemeier went on to win the Best Horror category in the Dragon Awards for his space opera after Vox Day recommended it in his final voting list for the 2016 Dragons[4].

Of Day’s picks of 2016 Dragon Award finalists, six of the seven novels went on to win that year. Whether that was just smart choices on Day’s part or the voting power of his followers is an open question. Yet both he and Correia had demonstrated that their patronage could draw attention to books by new authors. Additionally, attaching a cult-war narrative to the publishing of a book was now a demonstrated way of drawing attention and support from right-wing online communities.

In February of 2016 former soldier, actor and writer Nick Cole[5] announced that he had been “banned by the publisher”. Cole had already published a few books with Harper Collins including a trilogy of post-apocalyptic books and a novel Soda Pop Soldier in which gamers fight a virtual reality war for corporations[6]. It was the sequel (or rather prequel) to Soda Pop Soldier that led to the dispute. Cole had planned for the story to feature a Terminator-style AI rebellion and for motivation, he had decided that the AI at the source of the rebellion would deduce that humanity would kill it after watching a reality TV show in which a character has an abortion.

“The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars, and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence or the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed ‘inconvenient.'”

https://nickcolebooks.com/the-ctrl-alt-revolt-controversy/

Cole’s editor (according to Cole) took issue with this aspect of the novel and Cole refused to change it and in a blog post (a version of which is quoted above) gave his reasons. Believing that he’s destroyed his chance of publishing the book, Cole later stated that something “wonderful” then happened.

“I took a friend of mine to get a hot dog and told him what had befallen me. This friend was a member of a secret writer group made up of many different types of people who were tired of the Tastemakers choosing who they thought was acceptable. Choosing who would get to go forward in publishing and “play for the major leagues.” As it were. The people in this wild conspiracy group I was being introduced to felt that writers should advance in their careers based on merit. Not race, gender, or being a particularly vociferous advocate of the Weather Cultist Religion. Men, women, left, right. Gay, straight. They were there. And one of them, one of those writers had long been decrying the blatant left-wing bias in Big Publishing, pointing out how they had hurt him, and others, by bullying, marginalizing, and constant vicious personal attacks that often verged into the incredulous merely because they dissented philosophically regarding politics or religion. They called this writer crazy and said, and believe me this seemed audacious then given the current no-holds-barred take-no-prisoners-live-fire status on the culture war of the present, that there was no such thing as a “Left Wing Bias” in publishing. They actually said that like it was the truth. Said it with a straight face, in fact. Can you believe that? No. No one does.”

ibid

The surprise twist is the writer Cole is discussing is, of course, Larry Correia. Cole’s blog post became widely shared and Correia featured Cole’s situation on his own blog, stating:

“Here is the beautiful part… For decades the left held all the power. Readers are sick of their shit. The fact that standing up to them can actually be a sales boost demonstrates that their power is waning. You know why I talk about the size of my royalty checks? Because nothing pisses the bullies off more than being successful despite their best efforts to trash you.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/02/10/left-wing-bias-in-publishing-your-wrongthink-will-be-punished/

Vox Day also promoted Cole’s account stating:

“Both Sarah Hoyt and I have previously written about the ideological gatekeepers in publishing, a situation that has persisted for at least 20 years and has continually gotten worse over time. The SJWs in science fiction deny it, of course, and they’ve been able to get away with doing so because most authors are afraid to talk for fear of their careers being destroyed. But the ability to publish independently is eliminating that fear:”

https://web.archive.org/web/20181206052300/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-sf-gatekeepers-strike-again.html

Day would later in the year republish Cole’s novel (Ctrl Alt Revolt) via Castalia House and promoted it for the Dragon Awards where it won the Best Apocalyptic Novel category. Cole would go on to develop a successful series of military science-fiction novels published under his own independent label.

As Correia had explained and as Day had attempted to implement with Castalia House, successfully publishing books and boosting sales with culture war rhetoric was a win-win. Fight the SJWs and make money!

Was this a template that could be replicated and what were the parameters for success?

Jon Del Arroz was a Californian fan who had enjoyed some success with a superhero webcomic called Flying Sparks. In 2016 he’d moved into writing novels with a tie-in book to a spaceship themed card game Star Realms[7]. Del Arroz’s book had received favourable plugs from its editor Jennifer Brozek[8] but was also featured on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog[9]. At the time, Del Arroz’s bio read:

“Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for the local news magazine, The Valley Citizen. From there, he went on to write a weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as ‘the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.’ He has several published short stories, most recently providing flash fiction for AEG’s weird west card game, DoomtownReloaded, and a micro-setting for the Tiny Frontiers RPG. Star Realms: Rescue Run is his debut novel.”

https://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/favorite-bit-jon-del-arroz-talks-star-realms-rescue-run/

But Jon Del Arroz was more than a fan and a writer, he was also a self-described “veteran of the Great Meme War Of 2016, Kekistani Citizen and #PepLivesMatter activist”[10], experienced with the ways of 4Chan[11] and a supporter of Donald Trump. Del Arroz had also previously had political ambitions, having made a brief run to be a Republican Party candidate for Congress in 2009.

However, on his public-facing blog, he avoided political controversy through the tumults of 2016. That approach changed in January 2017. Later, in court documents, Del Arroz would state that he received substantial hostility because of his support for Donald Trump[13] both from strangers and from people he knew in his fan and author communities.

Del Arroz had been a participant in his local convention BayCon for several years but early in 2017, he learned that he was not being invited as a speaker for the 2017 event due to a shift in policy at the con. He reacted by claiming that he was being ostracized because of his politics.

“This was a wanton act of discrimination, and perhaps more importantly, a show of utter disinterest in promoting prominent local science fiction authors. With a supposed emphasis on diversity, this act done to a Hispanic author casts an even darker shadow. It’s about as disturbing as it gets to see folk that you considered friends for years treat you with that level of disregard, while in the same stripe ignoring attendees who deliver me death threats.

Most shockingly, the event organizers (of whom I know very well and very personally) in question did not respond personally, but delivered a form letter to explain the ostracization. It’s disingenuous and displays a dismissal and dehumanization of which I could hardly conceive.”

https://delarroz.com/2017/02/09/bringing-home-the-baycon-or-what-i-learned-from-being-blackballed/

The convention organisers explained that was not the case but rather it was a natural consequence of the convention trying to include more speakers and that Del Arroz had already been pre-invited for 2018 as a speaker.

“There never has, nor ever will be any decisions made to invite or not invite guests based on their political beliefs or personal philosophies. Every decision we make in regards to who participates in our con as a guest always takes into consideration our theme and focus for the year. Each decision is made professionally, communicated professionally, and always comes down to a group decision by executive and programming staff.”

BayCon statement quoted at http://file770.com/jon-del-arroz-off-baycon-2017-program-claims-decision-is-politically-motivated/

Del Arroz’s framing of not being included in a convention’s programming as being “blackballed” and discriminated against for his politics was elevated as cause célèbre among the network of right-wing authors including Nick Cole, Brian Niemeier, Declan Finn and, of course, Vox Day. Thus began what court documents would later allege was:

“a marketing strategy that involves pitting himself against other professionals in the science fiction industry in order to increase his visibility in the media and on social media sites.”

Memorandum: Points and Authorities San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. SFSFC, 18CV334547 Jonathan Del Arroz vs San Francisco Conventions, Inc. et al 2/19/2021 retrived from https://portal.scscourt.org/case/MTk2MTAwMA==

As well as the immediate dispute with people connected to BayCon, in early February 2017, Del Arroz was in dispute with Baen author Sharon Lee who ended up having to ban him from her Facebook wall[14]. On his blog Del Arroz stated

“My interactions with Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia have been far different than with leftist author Sharon Lee as an example. The first two hardly know me at all, but have promoted my book, been encouraging to me and others, been stellar people all the way around. The truth is the exact opposite of what’s whispered (and sometimes shouted) about them at sci-fi convention halls. By contrast, I’d been a staunch fan of Ms. Lee for years, have all of her and her husband’s work including self-printed chapbooks. They know me, and don’t like me first because I’m openly Christian (another story), which bothers them for whatever reason. Even though my novel contained a lot of homage to them, and probably would appeal heavily to their fans, they wouldn’t lift a finger in that regard. When the going got tough with politics, Ms. Lee turned her social media into a hate fest. She called me names and blocked me instead of standing by me. That’s the difference between the two sides at this juncture. As Vox Day said, SJWs have no loyalty, and despite Dario’s call for civility, one has to remember that truth.”

https://delarroz.com/2017/02/16/friendship-in-the-time-of-sjws/

Del Arroz’s objections to Lee would continue into 2017. On a new alt-right sympathetic social media platform Gab, Del Arroz called for people on the site to help him troll Lee.

“If anyone is a fan of Sharon Lee — super SJW author who hates me, getting ready to troll her by tagging on twitter/facebook with these. Would love some help. Even if not a fan, can still tag”

Jon Del Arroz on Gab (@otomo) quoted in a comment at his blog https://delarroz.com/2017/07/21/more-sci-fi-fake-news-dishonesty/#comment-983

Sharon Lee was just the start of a series of social media conflicts from Arroz during 2017 with unwanted social media harassment towards people such as fan writers Shaun Duke and Paul Weimer, SFWA President Cat Rambo, Setsu Uzume, and the Codex Writers forum among others[15].

The ensuing disputes brought Del Arroz both conflict and publicity but also status among the broader cloud of right-wing writers and fans associated with the past Puppy campaigns. Del Arroz’s opinions and works would be further amplified by Vox Day whose blog and status as a significant alt-right figure was gaining him even further attention as the first year of Donald Trump’s Presidency raised the political temperature.

We will be meeting Jon Del Arroz again as we follow the events of 2017 within science fiction conventions and awards but also beyond when the alt-right looks for new fronts in the culture wars.

Next Time: The Sad Demise of SP5


Footnotes

47 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 60: Dramatis Personae — The Next Generation

        1. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are with Baen for historical reasons – basically, they had terrible publishing luck with the Liaden Universe series and Baen was the only company who would let them write and publish what they want without trying to steer them in different directions. But I don’t think they were ever really part of the Baen in-crowd.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Everything he does is a jackass move.

          He’s a rich boy who throws his toys out of the pram when things don’t go 100% his way, much like Domald Tromp.

          There were a TON of different people on panels at Baycon that year. Big shakeup of the “usual suspects”. Nobody but him cried about it. He wasn’t banned, he just wasn’t on programming and could have come to the con and networked as usual. Although maybe he didn’t have anyone to network with if he wasn’t on panels… he certainly wasn’t well-known, most of the local fen had *never heard of him* before this foot-stompy whinefest.

          I will never forget the explanation to the Baycon Writer Guests of Honor of his precious snowflakeness, and his claim of being “the leading Hispanic author of SF.” At which point Ty Franck, half of “The Expanse” writing team, said, “I’M Hispanic!” Exactly.

          Ty’s mom and grandmother were migrant farm workers — that’s super-Hispanic compared to a rich-exurb rentier kid. And Ty has a Hugo and a long-running book series that became a long-running TV show. Pretty damn outstanding, I’d say.

          Possibly JDA’s hissy fit and abuse of a new (female) author at Baycon the year before had something to do with it. I vas dere, Cholly, I saw it.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. @Cora: No, I’m talking about the hissy fit a year before the online hissy fit that you’re talking about (The boy’s got form). And I had no idea who he was, and I’ve gone to that con every year since the late 80s, and occasionally been on programming.

              The incident made sense to me a year later.

              Like

          1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t the California courts taken judicial notice of the fact that JDA is NOT “the leading Hispanic author of SF” since part of the reason he succeeded in his lawsuit was that the court ruled he was a private person? It seems to me if if were “the leading Hispanic author of SF” the court would have found him to be a public person.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Yes, his court settlement required him to legally admit he is NOT a leading author of any sort. He is not a famous, well-known, well-respected, etc. author.

              He accepted that public legal declaration, so if he was to claim that again, he might be in contempt of court, or have the settlement rescinded.* It’s all there in the record.

              But I’m talking about several years beforehand, when it was still not true.

              *IANAL, but hey. Dude had to admit he’s not a big-time author, and that admission is legally binding on him.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Once Castralia published Ctrl-Alt-Right it seemed pretty clear that the real reason it was bounced by its original editor was the unlicensed use of vast amounts of Star Trek IP. The virtual reality war takes place entirely in a Star Trek based virtual universe without any attempt to even file off the serial numbers. Romulans, Klingons, Vulcans, Gorn, the Federation.. that’s going to get you sued.

    The idea that Harper (a News Corporation publisher with it own dedicated conservative political imprints that have no problem publishing Dinesh D’Souza and Ben Shapiro) would reject a manuscript because it contained a conservative viewpoint is ludicrous.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nick Cole was already self-publishing way before his fall-our with Harper Collins over Ctrl Alt Revolt. He was well known and respected in self-publishing circles in 2014/15. I even shared a TOC with him in an indie fantasy anthology, which originally came out in 2015.Though the publication date given on Amazon is 2016, because the original publisher died and it took a few months for someone else to republish the anthology. You can see it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01NAFQL2I/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But then, “I was forced to turn to self-publishing because of the evil SJWs” makes for a better story than “I refused to make the changes my editor requested and cancelled my book contract and then did what I had been doing for a few years, namely self-publish”.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. More like “I refused to make the changes my editor requested — because the plot point and characterization came out of nowhere and made no damn sense in context — and cancelled…”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Or like

          “in context, not to mention the whole thing was a giant copyright infringement that would have gotten us all sued from here to next Sunday by the notoriously-litigious Paramount/ST lawyers — and cancelled…”

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I tried convincing an acquaintance of mine some years back that a novel with “Borg” “phasers” and a “Federation” might not be the best way to impress a publisher. He assured me that as they were totally different from the Trek versions, it would be fine.
            This was a while back so who knows? He may have learned better and be writing good stuff by now.

            Liked by 3 people

  3. Typo patrol:
    “that mix contemporary news topics with sexually situations”
    Should be “sexual situations”.

    “Del Arroz’s book had received favourable plugs from its editor (naturally) Jennifer Brozek”
    To me, the parenthetical reads like it’s saying that it’s not surprising that Jennifer Brozek was his editor; perhaps move it to be after plugs.

    (My inner editor also wants to attack the first Nick Cole quote, but that’s presumably the source’s fault.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I decided to remove the “(naturally)” – I was trying to avoid sounding snide about an editor giving a book they edited a favourable review but I don’t think people will read it that way anyway.

      Like

  4. Other winners that were not Chuck Tingle were Marco Kloos and Annie Bellet. For most writers who were nominated for the Hugos by fans and not by the puppys that got a boost in their sellings the boost was probably more because of socks in orbit than for their oposition towards the puppys.
    (This said their were some people who got aware because of the whole think and picked up books by for them new writers, so their was probably at last some plus for some writers)
    On the puppysite some writers who were nominated didn’t face bad consequences, mostly those who weren’t that active in the war. (Butcher and Anderson are good examples)
    Others hurt their carier badly by asociating with the puppys (and other actions).
    It was not as dangerous for Larry, but their are quite a lot of people who will never pick up his books because of his actions.
    Now the rest. Joining the puppys to get new readers seems to be a pretty pitful tactic. (Exspecially if you look at the numbers from Greg at a former chapter theire weren’t that many sads left)
    And I think if you aren’t very far far right, beeing published by Beales Vanitypress is hurting you without question.

    Like

    1. Nick Cole still has a career, because he wrote a military SF series, whose appeal went beyond the puppy types, even if he marketed it as Star Wars from the POV of Stormtroopers and with all those pesky women and POC removed. Cole and his writing partner Jason Anspach also profit from from Kindle Unlimited mass readers who read everything that has a spaceship on the cover and features manly space marines killing reptilian or insectoid aliens in space.

      Cole and Anspach also profit from the fact that they mainly hang out in self-publishing circles where association with the far right is not considered an issue, as long as you sell enough books and make enough money. In fact, I originally wondered whether I should have warned some of those self-publishers about the likes of JDA (though he’s too small a fry for them), Cole, Richard Fox, Robert BasedCon Kroese and similar characters, but it wouldn’t have helped. They don’t care.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m wondering how Basedcon is going to go, given that everyone attending already knows each other and there won’t be anyone new to grift on. They must all have each other’s books by now, as would any non-writers who might be attending.

        Are they just going to sit around telling misogynist jokes and comparing gun collections?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This friend was a member of a secret writer group made up of many different types of people who were tired of the Tastemakers choosing who they thought was acceptable.

    Suddenly I’ve got the old coffee commercial in my head: “Little does Nick know, we’ve secretly replaced his usual blend with Folgers Decaf!”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tyop patrol: “The convention organised explained” should presumably be organizer or organization.

    Like

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