It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier.

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.

A Three Dimensional Model of Genres

This is not an exhaustive model and it will inevitably break under the weight of counter examples (which is a good thing). However, like all models it helps to conceptualize underlying ideas and so allows us to see how reality departs from the model.


The axes are:

  1. Reality distortion: Magic versus science. How is the fundamental reality different from the one we know about? Is it via new scientific principles (faster than light drives etc) or magic? What if it is both? (then the work is a line rather than a point!)
  2. Plot interaction: is this story driven by interaction with things or people? Aliens, elves all count as ‘people’! More action orientated plot events counts as ‘things’ i.e. shooting at people doesn’t count as interaction with people! What I mean by ‘people’ is interpersonal interaction, social interaction, smooching etc.
  3. Fictional setting: Fictional future or fictional past?

The blue rectangle projected onto axes 2 & 3 shows a space in which the story doesn’t play with magic or science. A blue dot shows a possible position for a historical romance. A book like 1984 would sit in a near future space (ignore the title date – it is set in the reader’s near future).

In the next graph I’ve shaded a rectangle projected onto the space which shows only stories set in the present. A blue blob shows a position for a paranormal romance story.


Being sceptical about 2+2: Sandifer v Day again

There is a section in the Sandifer-Day discussion (review here and transcript here)

Sandifer: Right, but when we’re talking about a world where people are – where there are subtle evils and mocking misrepresentations, isn’t a degree of skepticism a good thing? Isn’t a resistance to anyone’s demand that you should obey them a good thing?

Day: No! Not if what is being told is true! How is being skeptical about the truth a good thing? All that means is that you’re opening yourself up to something that is false. Are you skeptical about 2+2?

Sandifer: I am not skeptical about 2+2, but the question becomes…

Day: Right, but would you consider it to be good for someone to be skeptical about 2+2?

Sandifer: But at least within this story, we’re not talking…

Day: Then you agree with me.

Sandifer sensibly ignores Day’s point because it is a distraction. 2+2=4 is an analytical truth whereas the issues that Sandifer was referring to is not even obviously something to which truth values can be applied (whether you should obey your superior in general) but if it was would be a synthetic truth. However I would also say that she is wrong to be not skeptical about 2+2=4. The right thing to say is either “Yes, I am skeptical about 2+2=4 although I have strong reasons to regard it as true universally”. I’ll need to explain that particularly as I’m obviously very much in the pro-mathematics-isn’t-it-great-camp.

Continue reading “Being sceptical about 2+2: Sandifer v Day again”

A warning from the future

[In which our hero learns the future fate of the Sad Puppy campaign and discovers a list of the Puppy Slates of the future]

I had been sitting in the small library in the south wing of Felapton Hall, perusing the annals of the Felapton estate in my set of antique Kindles, when I was jarred from my studies by a sudden ache in my ankle. Such an ache could mean one of two things – either my gout had returned or there was a disturbance in the space-time continuum.

I jumped to my feet, which displaced Timothy the talking cat from my lap and sent him scurrying up the pile of dusty Kobo’s at my feet, where he perched complaining loudly about something called “Jade Helm”. As always I ignored both the cat and the pain in my ankle and strode purposely to the croquet-green. It has been my long experience that temporal occurrences are most apt to happen in the vicinity of sporting activities. It is for this reason that I had been dispatched to Australia only recently to ensure that a time-displaced troop of Varangian guard did not slaughter the Collingwood Australian-Rules Football team under a mistaken belief that they were the hereditary enemies of the Emperor of Byzantium.

Sure enough as I approached the exquisitely manicured turf of the croquet green, I could smell the heady scent of burnt grass and tachyons. A late 23rd century chronoPrius had manifested itself and all the visual evidence suggested that it had arrived without sufficient due care and attention to the vagaries of the space-time vortex.

The hatch cracked open and a chrononaut part-stepped and part collapsed out of the opening. [Timothy advises that I should say “a beautiful chronoatrix” so readers are not too alarmed when I reveal shortly that the chrononaut was a woman. Instead I’m placing this brief note here so that any sensitive minds can anticipate this revelation. Also she wasn’t that beautiful in the circumstances, having just crashed through the time-walls without an adequate temporal-paradox shield] Continue reading “A warning from the future”

Why Guardians?

I mentioned in my last post on Pink SF Puppies the Rabid Puppy’s objection to any vague hint of romance fiction in science fiction.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Even the tank is pink

According to Day, Pink SF has the following qualities and is supposedly the dominant form of SF currently: (edited excepts)

  •  It is ‘necrobestial’ love triangles.
  • It is using the superficial trappings of science fiction to tell ‘goopy, narcissistic female-oriented story’
  • Pink SF primarily concerns a) choosing between two lovers
  • b) being true to yourself,
  • c) enacting ex post facto revenge upon the badthinkers and meanies who made the author feel bad about herself at school
  • Pink SF is about feelings rather than ideas or actions.

He contrasts it with “Blue SF” which is supposedly like this:

  • avoids strong independent female protagonists
  • avoids sexual equality, salutes la difference

    Yes - it is like the colour coded the two movies to make this post easier
    Yes – it is like they color coded the two movies to make this post easier
  • doesn’t deign to throw bones to women
  • shows disdain for [I’m being polite] to ‘every idiot of either sex who whines about it being too this or not enough that’
  • does not apologize for being male, for being insufficiently inclusive, or for refusing to fall in line with the dynamic demand for character quotas concerning sex, race, religion, and sexual preferences.

So here is a thing. This year two movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe were nominated for a Hugo: Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Captain America was the non-Puppy pick (why? because it was a great movie)
[warning some spoilers below the fold]

Continue reading “Why Guardians?”

Pink SF and Puppies

It is easy to see the puppies as an amorphous block – a single set of uniform beliefs held by all the main puppy leaders informing their every action. That would be an error though and even a cursory glance at the multiple rationales for the SP’s actions shows a great deal of diversity of belief.

In reality the Sad Puppies as a movement have a lot in common with the tradition of populist movements in the United States. Such movements often make significant political gains with a show of apparent unity, only to seemingly evaporate when the various agendas, personalities and ideologies of key players in the movement assert themselves.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to see quite different viewpoints on the roll of women ad the intersection between SF and Romance genres.

pink puppies
Pink Puppies – apologies to Artraccoon

The most extreme examples can be found by contrasting statements from some Sad Puppies with those of Rabid Puppies.

Here is Amanda on The Mad Genius Club:

he fear that someone who writes fantasy with a distinct romance bent might be nominated, much less win was so over the top. It was as if those making the complaint truly believes science fiction and fantasy are still pure genres. Obviously they haven’t read much lately. If they had, they would see that there is genre crossing all around. Yes, you can, with a lot of searching, find a pure hard science fiction novel, but they are few and far between. Fantasy has, for years, had some aspect of mystery or romance or the like in it. The mixing of genres, when done well, is a good thing.

I’ll repeat that, mixing of genres when done well is a good thing.

Contrast with Vox Day’s attitude:

Pink SF is the dominant form of science fiction today. Or rather, more properly, the currently dominant form of SyFy. It is necrobestial love triangles. It is using the superficial trappings of science fiction or fantasy or war fiction to tell exactly the same sort of goopy, narcissistic female-oriented story that has already been told in ten thousand Harlequin novels and children’s tales and Hollywood comeuppance fantasies.

Pink SF primarily concerns a) choosing between two lovers, b) being true to yourself, or c) enacting ex post facto revenge upon the badthinkers and meanies who made the author feel bad about herself at school. Pink SF is about feelings rather than ideas or actions.

Pink SF is an invasion. Pink SF is a cancer. Pink SF is a parasitical perversion.

For Day/Beale it as if even the mere hint of something ‘girly’ will contaminate his reading and render it unclean in the manner of some clause in Leviticus.

What is notable is at this point pro-Romance Sad Puppies are not directing their ire at anti-Romance (actually anti-any hint of romance) Rabid Puppies. Long term these differences lead to populist movements  dividing and mutating.

[Note on image: apologies to the artist Artraccoon for the parody of his excellent Puppy logos. I can’t say there is much I like about either camp but the logos were excellent. Note also that I can only draw beagles – I’ve a very limited range]