Proverbially every dog has its day but when that day has passed, some dogs leave not with a bark but with a whimper. There was always going to be a Sad Puppies 5 and in November 2016 Sarah Hoyt took on the mantle as chief organiser of the fifth iteration. Previously she had nearly taken on this role for Sad Puppies 3 and then again for Sad Puppies 4 but health and work had prevented her. What was clear to Hoyt was the coalition of fans and writers that had gathered to support the Sad Puppy campaign needed a new direction and that direction would not include the Hugo Awards.
“I saw what they did with the money we gave them in 2015 and, honestly, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It wasn’t the Noah Award of books they PUBLICLY refused to read, no. It was the kabuki skits before and the self congratulatory smirks, and their assumption they’d saved the awards from racistsexisthomophobe, which meant they never bothered to read any of the works, or any of the blog posts on our side, either. I was not going to give them any more money.https://madgeniusclub.com/2016/11/23/and-be-a-dog/
I am still not going to give them any money.
But Sarah, you’ll say, how can you lead Sad Puppies 5, when you’re not going to nominate and vote on the Hugos.
Well, as much as I hate to say this, the Hugos as the award Heinlein won, are dead. There is nothing that can be done. I’m not a necromancer. In that sense the Sad Puppies won. We proved the game is rigged, and we can walk away.”
However, the Dragon Awards were a more promising award and also Hoyt felt that the whole scheme should be less award focused.
“This year the Sad Puppies (5) will host a page, on which you can make recommendations, and which will, every month, give you a collated list of the 5 works with the most votes, in each subcategory (if we have that many, of course) and if/what awards they’re eligible for. The list will also include mystery, where a lot of the indie are quite good and by and large unnoticed.ibid
Before the nominating dates for major awards, I’ll put a notice on the page, and a list of the however many (5 or 10) most recommended books for your consideration.
However, the awards are NOT the point anymore. Frankly in the hyper-distributed world of indie publishing, they might never be the point again.
The point is to give science fiction and fantasy that escapes the bounds of what traditional publishers encourage — which is often not what the public at large will even read — and to promote the health and popularity of our genre.”
Hoyt was reintroducing the culture war rhetoric that had been toned down for Sad Puppies 4 but the basics of her idea were substantially less confrontational than the awards focused versions of the Puppy campaigns. This approach was heading towards many of the existing resources that fans, in general, had created over the years to help them track what was popular with award eligibility.
Not long after Hoyt’s post, Sad Puppies 4 supremo Kate Paulk followed up with her own post entitled “Yipping at the Dragon’s Feet” affirming the shift away from the Hugo Awards and towards the Dragon Awards.
And then nothing happened.
December passed and 2017 began with the last days of the Obama Presidency but no Sad Puppies 5 website. However, the Sad Puppies had always been a broad and participatory movement and inevitably somebody would fill the void. That somebody would be Declan Finn.
Acknowledging that he didn’t know what format the Sad Puppies 5 site would take and also making it clear he was more interested in the Dragon Awards than the Hugo Awards, Finn laid out the books that he would be recommending using the Hugo categories as a template.
And then stuff happened.
At Mad Genius Club, Amanda Green’s blood pressure was rising.
“Sigh. There are mornings when it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Or perhaps I should learn not to look at my phone as soon as I get up. What usually happens when I do is that I see something on social media that sends my blood pressure rising and has me racing for the keyboard to fire off a response. Yeah, yeah, I know. It sounds sort of like what the president-elect must act. At least I don’t do Twitter.https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/01/10/sad-puppies-5-and-recommendation-lists/
Anyway, this morning, the BP rising bit came in the form of a private message from a friend of mine. We are in a number of groups together on Faceplant. In one of those groups, someone had posted a notice with the header of “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” Now, that got my eyes open real quick because the person posting it wasn’t Sarah and, the last I heard – which was last night – Sarah was the one coordinating SP5. So, with coffee starting to brew, I figured I’d go see what I had missed overnight.”
While not mentioning Declan Finn by name, the post title identified his post as the issue. By using the name “Sad Puppies” Finn had apparently crossed a line, even though his open campaigning during Sad Puppies 4 had not visibly caused offence.
Green was clear though. Sad Puppies 5 was coming soon.
“With that said, Sad Puppies 5 will be getting off the ground very soon with a new website, a blog and more. Sarah A. Hoyt – yes, our Sarah – is running it this year. (The only reason the site isn’t up already is because she has been ill and has had a deadline to meet.) The official SP5 site will be the only place where recommendations for the various lists SP5 compiles will be accepted. If you go to anywhere else and they claim to be speaking for SP5, they aren’t. Not unless Sarah has specifically announced it here, on her blog or on the SP5 site.”ibid
Green was also clear that she would be helping Hoyt with SP5 and also be taking over the reins (leads?) for SP6.
Facing a sudden and unexpected backlash to his list Declan Finn came to the only possible conclusion he could make. The negative reaction he was receiving must be coming from the comment section of the popular fanzine File 770! At the top of his post he added a disclaimer in all-caps, bold and underline:
“EDIT: FOR THE READING BEREFT — APPARENTLY, THE USUAL CROWD AT FILE 770 CAN’T READ — I MUST PUT IN AN EVEN BIGGER NOTE HERE. I’M NOT IN CHARGE OF SP5. THE FOLLOWING IS, IN PART, A GUIDE FOR MY RECOLLECTION, SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE VOTING, AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO GUIDE MY VOTING. APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO STUPID TO HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT FROM THE BELOW. THAT IS ALL.“http://www.declanfinn.com/2017/01/sad-puppies-5-suggestions.html
In the comments the editor of File 770, Mike Glyer pointed out that the fanzine was not the source of the criticism. While readers of the fanzine were paying attention to things Puppy-related, this new Puppy controversy was coming from within the broader movement.
The next day saw Sarah Hoyt express her anger at Finn’s post also.
“…in one of my normal hangouts I found someone had echoed his post, which was something like “It’s time to make a list for Sad Puppies 5”.https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/01/11/sad-puppies-gate-keeping-and-we-did-build-this/
I don’t know how much of this is intentional, and how much was just the poster being stupid, in the sense that his blog posts are normally so scattered you have to read tea leaves to find out what he’s saying. I have to assume he didn’t know the impression he was giving, or else he doesn’t know me very well, after being with me in various places on line for several years.
On the other hand, this same person had approached me, multiple times by proxy and in person, being very ah, delicate, I’m sure he thought, and asking me if I wanted to share the burden of Sad Puppies, or perhaps off load it completely to him. The fact he even thought this was appropriate as well as his tendency to blog posts his own mother couldn’t interpret is the reason he would be the very worst person for it.”
According to her own words, Finn’s post had driven Hoyt berserk and had left her shaking and crying.
Declan Finn had recently moved to a new independent publisher, Silver Empire led by author, software developer and martial artist, Russel Newquist. If Mad Genius Club perceived Finn’s post as an attack on their territory, Newquist regarded Amanda Green’s post as an attack on his domain.
“Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green over at the Mad Genius Club have declared to one and all that Silver Empire author Declan Finn is not one of the “cool kids.” Evidently, he’s so uncool that they can’t even name him over at their blog, making it difficult for him to even defend himself. Yet nobody seems to have any doubt who they’re talking about.”https://russellnewquist.com/2017/01/sad-puppies-meet-regina-george/
Newquist’s post was illustrated with a picture of the cast of the film “Mean Girls”. The Puppy campaigns had always been a very loose coalition but this kind of infighting only further loosened any common bonds between supporters.
And then…nothing happened again. Indeed very much nothing happened with Sad Puppies 5. The Hugo nominations opened and closed, the deadline for the Dragon Award nominations crept closer and by mid-2017 it became clear that one thing that wasn’t happening was Sad Puppies 5.
Come June the absence of Sad Puppies 5 required an explanation. At Mad Genius Club Sarah Hoyt explained that illness and work pressure had overwhelmed her time in 2017 and with technical problems at the website she had hoped to use, it had just been impossible to get Sad Puppies 5 up and running.
“Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened. But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again. (My author site is down also.)https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/06/20/about-those-lost-puppies/
So, that’s where we are. We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.
When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.”
Getting complex projects off the ground while juggling illness, work, family and life is a struggle and there’s no big surprise here. Larry Correia’s original Sad Puppies campaign was little more than sarcastic blog posts and a list of people he liked. Even a simple recommendation site takes time, effort and most of all focus. Unfortunately, the January dispute with Declan Finn had also undermined the perception of good faith among former Sad Puppy supporters.
Russel Newquist was one of many to dissected the lack of an outcome.
“Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.”https://russellnewquist.com/2017/06/complete-leadership-failure-looks-like/
Newquist finished his multi-part post with a stinging attack on Hoyt.
“Given all of this, you’d think that somebody who spent months literally doing nothing would have an easy time just… letting it go. But now, that play would require at least some competence, and Hoyt has demonstrated that she has absolutely none. So instead, she’s penning more posts about the subject as recently as yesterday.ibid
But is she actually accomplishing anything? Nope, she’s just out playing Mean Girls again. She’s hitting hard on Mr. Finn (while still lacking any courage and refusing to name him out loud), and also hitting on everyone around him.
In a word, an author of mediocre success is trying to bully a less successful author in order to feel better about her own failure. She’s admitted herself that she’s several books behind, and no wonder. She’s too busy writing several-thousand-word-long insanity-fests.
Here’s a tip, Sarah: lay off my authors and get back to work, before your publishers call and demand their advances back – as they have every legal and moral right to do if you’re that far behind.”
Hoyt replied in the form of a GIF filled post on her own blog.
“I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe[sic] expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom,”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2017/06/25/bright-shiny-buttons/ 
Hoyt was still promising that the Sad Puppies recommendation site would be coming but as June turned to July there was no sign of it. Nor did Amanda Green take up Sad Puppies 6.
Six years after Larry Correia had first put his name forward for a Campbell Award, the Sad Puppies had finally departed.
Next Time: The Rabid Puppies Go Out Swinging
-  https://madgeniusclub.com/2016/12/01/yipping-at-the-dragons-feet/
-  http://www.declanfinn.com/2017/01/sad-puppies-5-suggestions.html
-  a point later endorsed by Sarah Hoyt https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/01/11/sad-puppies-gate-keeping-and-we-did-build-this/#comment-88414
-  https://russellnewquist.com/about/
-  and “Regina George” is a character from the film
-  “Volksdeutshe expatriate” i.e. Vox Day