Debarkle Chapter 7: The SFWA

[I’m less than happy with this chapter as it stands – it lacks some other dimensions and has a perspective issue (which I discuss. I’ll plead ‘first draft’]

In our whistle-stop tour of the history of science fiction we have met publishers, editors, writers, fans, fanclubs and conventions. However, the organised aspects of science fiction include other kinds of groups. Science fiction is many things but one thing it can be is a commercial endeavour, and the nature of capitalism means that the economic interests of fans, publishers, editors and writers are not always the same (even when a fan is also a writer, editor and publisher!).

In 1934, Donald Wollheim (who would later help lead the Futurians) sued Hugo Gernsback after Gernsback failed to pay Wollheim and other writers for stories they had written and Gernsback had published[1]. I doubt that was the first pay dispute between science fiction writer and their publisher but it certainly wasn’t the last.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 7: The SFWA”

I’m trying to write sub-text here and Brad just keeps spelling it out

“Oh,” I said “I’ll write a long series exploring parallels between the Sad Puppies and the 2020 election” That’ll be clever. What does flippin’ Brad Torgersen do? Just flippin’ spells out the thesis of the whole thing directly:

“In 2015 Toni Weisskopf got more first-run votes for Best Editor Hugo than any prior winner, ever. Hell, she got more votes than many of the prior winners combined. And the Woke Children used 2,500 scab “votes” to trash Toni’s win — cough, not too different from how a hundred thousand Biden “votes” magically appeared overnight in key counties, back in November, cough — because they’ve always hated Baen as a business, and Toni by association, and also because the “wrong people” both nominated and voted for her. (see my essay, “The Mote in Gernsback’s Eye.”)”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2021/02/19/an-open-letter-to-the-old-time-fans-at-worldcon/#comment-103067

Yeah, thanks Brad.

Dis-con disinvites Toni

What had clearly been inevitable this week and was probably fated from the start has happened:

I’m going to mount a very limited defence of the original decision to invite Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honour but mainly to highlight a broader point that has come up before. In particular I’m reminded of an utterly different controversy just over a year ago when Clarksworld published a story by Isabel Fall that generated a lot of controversy and ended up causing a lot of pain for the author https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/well-i-guess-im-writing-about-clarkesworld-again/

So firstly, the original invite. I know I and lot of people looked at the original announcement that Toni Weisskopf would be Guest of Honour mainly because of her connection with notable Sad Puppies and while not part of the campaign, at least in the general vicinity of it including this essay published at Sarah Hoyt’s blog https://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/10/the-problem-of-engagement-a-guest-post-by-toni-weisskopf/ BUT! 2014 was a long time ago and people said a lot of things. Toni Weisskopf genuinely is a very notable figure in science fiction and in fandom and has fostered a lot of talent and is an interesting and entertaining speaker (based on what I have heard from her as a guest on podcasts). If we imagine a space of potential Guests of Honour for a Worldcon, she’s part of that space. Yes, associated with right-wing politics but not herself in that space of people you really shouldn’t platform because they put your attendees at risk. So as a decision looked at within a very narrow lens, not inherently absurd.

Extend that lens a bit wider, and it was a very bold decision by DisCon. Firstly, 2015 may be a long time ago but there are a lot of emotions around the Hugo Awards that year on ‘both sides’ as they say. A Worldcon making a kind of rapprochement is an interesting step and maybe, a good thing. As people keep pointing out, there are a lot authors in Baen’s stable and there a lot of fans who like them. However, even a moments thought reveal a whole pile of ways the invitation could go horribly wrong. People who followed the Puppy Kerfuffle closely would be aware of the complexity of Toni’s/Baen’s role in it but many fans with better things to do with their lives are aware of the general nature of things (an attempted far-right take over of the Hugo awards) without making fine distinctions between Vox Day’s overt racism and the messier world of the Sad Puppies. Sooner or later somebody was going to frame this as “DisCon has invited the racist Puppies back”. So what then?

Inviting Toni Weisskopf could be a bold move but a bold move requires strategy. If there was pushback (and sooner or later there would be public pushback and I know there was private pushback) WHAT WAS THE PLAN? I love the quirky anarcho-democracy of Worldcon but it isn’t a governance method that can easily pivot and control messaging and this would have been a difficult bit of messaging towards a membership used proverbially by cats in the phrase “It’s like herding Worldcon members”. I can imagine a different style of con pulling off the controversial guest plan but we know Worldcon can’t.

Worse! That was the BEST CASE scenario. The above ignores the key point about Baen and fandom. Despite the “oh but there’s Eric Flint and X, Y, Z” authors, Baen’s brand is intimately connected with a set of right-wing, loud mouth contrarians. It’s connected to them because 1. they are loud bullying voices who take up all the oxygen in the room and 2. Baen’s played along with their schtick for years. In particular, Larry Correia, Tom Kratman and Michael Williamson but to a lesser extent John Ringo as well. I won’t document the multiple brouhahas we’ve seen from them over the years but just wave in the general direction of my blog archives.

Now Toni Weiskopf isn’t the keeper of that quartet. She’s not their mum or their employer. However, when they go off on one they tend to drag Baen into things as a brand. Baen has played into that and even played along with that https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/a-chronicle-of-outrage-marketing/ The particular trio of Larry/Tom/Mike also tend to drag in other Baen authors or former Baen authors like John Ringo, David Weber, Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer into the brouhaha of the day. It’s all part and parcel of the we-are-under-constant-attack-by-SJWs ideology they promote.

So that leads to two other things a Worldcon needs to plan for if they invite Toni Weisskopf as a guest:

  1. There was a near certainty that one of the set of controversialist/outrage marketing authors listed above were going to be doing SOMETHING controversial within the next few months and would drag “Baen” as a brand into it and by extension drag Toni Weisskopf into it. You’d need a plan for that.
  2. Any criticism, concern or issues raised by Worldcon adjacent fans about Toni Weisskopf had a high chance of being perceived as an attack by Larry Correia (in particular) who would respond with his trade mark tactic of setting a mob on people on the fan (but in a deniable way). You’d need a plan for that as well and you’d need a plan that included Toni Weisskopf outlining how she’d get Larry to back down (and if the answer was that she has no control over Larry [fair enough, understandable] then…well, you have to ask how this was EVER going to work).

We got option 2 and DisCon didn’t have a plan and I doubt they had a plan for any of the three scenarios not because they are incompetent but because Worldcon’s really can’t manage these kinds of PR risks easily. Now, that’s not great for Toni Weisskopf and I’ve got some sympathy for a woman whose professional profile is being impacted by shouty right-wing men. It is the situation though. Baen’s always leaned right but as we’ve seen it’s not conservative ideology in an abstract sense that is the issue per-se but a bunch of pseudo-libertarians who regard online misbehaviour and brigading as an expression of their personal freedom. Baen’s played into that, first with John Ringo and then with Larry C etc and other authors have (with less success because their core personalities don’t match) tried to play along with that approach (Hoyt, Freer, Torgersen) and other Baen authors have fallen in to back them up (Weber). That’s been a business decision by Baen and hence by Toni Weisskopf and I don’t know how they can extricate themselves as a business from it.

Baen’s not my main point here though. As people like to say Science Fiction should take risks. However, “risk” implies that there are potentially bad outcomes. To go off on a tangent, consider Taika Waititi’s film JoJo Rabbit which had an imaginary Hitler as a comical role in a story about a family hiding a Jewish girl from the Nazis during WWII — that was a risky idea that could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. It didn’t but 1. I get why many people I know wouldn’t watch it and 2. it took a lot of skill to make it work and it still could have been a disaster.

Risk implies possible bad consequences. A risky decision that entails no chance of bad stuff happening is a contradiction. To skip back to the earlier example of the Clarksworld story, reclaiming/subverting a right-wing transphobic meme is a bold (even laudable) idea but the obvious risk with the idea is that a story attempting to do that might end up looking like it’s endorsing a right-wing transphobic meme. That doesn’t mean Clarksworld shouldn’t take risks but what it does mean is they NEED TO PLAN FOR THE MOST OBVIOUS RISK. They didn’t, and an author got hurt.

I really, really, don’t think Toni Weisskopf should be persona non-grata for science fiction cons. I think she’d be an interesting guest but there are risks and those risks need to be managed. One of those risks is that if somebody is critical of a guest of honour then they shouldn’t find that Larry Correia is siccing his comment section on them and ringing up their employer. That’s a shitty situation for a prominent woman in professional science fiction having to shoulder the behaviour of poorly behaved man but I literally can’t see how a Worldcon committee can deal with that as an issue.

More bad Baen’s Bar defences

Firstly Eric Flint has chimed in with a weak defence of Baen’s Bar https://ericflint.net/information/controversy-about-baens-bar/

Flint’s been serving as Baen’s token socialist for a long time and to be honest, that whole performance has become very old. Multiple Baen authors at one time or another (Hoyt, Correia, Kratman, Williamson, Freer, Torgersen) have cited Flint as evidence that they aren’t politically intolerant because they are fine with Eric Flint, as if Eric Flint’s existence magically makes what they literally say disappear. While Flint did make some critical statements about the Sad Puppies in 2015 he also indulged in some poorly thought out both-sidesism over the Irene Gallo issue https://ericflint.net/information/in-defense-of-the-sad-puppies/

I’ll borrow my own comment from File 770 http://file770.com/weisskopf-correia-weber-defend-baens-bar-jason-sanford-subjected-to-harassment-over-his-report/comment-page-2/#comment-1278136

Flint summarises Jason Sanford’s argument as “Baen’s Bar… is being used to advocate for extremist political violence. Evidence will be presented. Comments by a number of the forum’s users will be shared.” Now putting aside all of Flint’s various quibbles and objections to other details of Sandford’s report, consider the summary. Is it true? Is it literally true?

Yes, without a doubt. Sanford is not claiming that every comment or every writer is doing so. Sanford is not evaluating how credible the threats are (but I would add that in this age of stochastic right-wing terrorism the intent of any one writer is a separate question from its impact and Flint should know that).

The claim of Sanford’s report as Flint summarises it is true and Eric Flint utterly fails to engage with it.

Irony, jokes, absurdities etc are not a safe indication that the violence is purely “some blowhards jacking off”. The manifesto of the murderous right-wing terrorist who killed 51 people in the Christchurch Massacre of 2019 is literally full of jokes, memes and absurdities. Stripped of its context as the manifesto of a literal mass murderer, much of it looks like the kind of far right comments found on the internet.

Flint is correct at least that somebody needs to “take a remedial course in common sense.”

Fake Free Speech

Meanwhile over at Larry Correia’s den of slime, the defenders of “free speech” are busy attacking…freedom of speech with doxxing. Multiple commenters are posting details about Jason Sanford’s employer, because they are such nice tolerant people or as Eric Flint would say just “some blowhards jacking off”.

Meanwhile, meanwhile the host of the website is trying to dox Jon Del Arroz by publishing IP addresses. I’ve obscured the numbers in this screenshot.

Now, I’ve had my issues with Jon Del Arroz (as have many other people here and in the science fiction community) but publishing IP addresses of individuals without permission and connecting that IP address to a person’s real world identity breaks privacy laws in many countries (don’t know about the US) and is a breach of the terms of service for WordPress hosted blogs (Monster Hunter International uses WordPress software but isn’t WordPress hosted). Even if it isn’t illegal, it’s still shitty and intended to harm Jon Del Arroz through releasing identifying information.

Debarkle Second Chapter 5: Dramatis Personae — Vox Day

A curious fact about Vox Day is that in his list of the 10 greatest novels, his number two pick is Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Not only that, it is a novel he has mentioned several times and Eco is one of his favourite authors and one he has made the effort to read in Italian. He has a particular reason for liking it more than Eco’s other novels:

“Perhaps my subscription to the conspiracy theory of history is one reason I rate Foucault’s Pendulum so highly, but I stand firmly by my high regard for Eco.”

ibid

If you haven’t read the book, it is a long and complex work. Central to the story is a group of editors at an Italian publishing house who cynically create a conspiracy theory (lumping in the Templars, the Holy Grail etc) using a computer to spew out random, unconnected claims but then get caught up in their own deception. By then end of this saga I’m calling Debarkle, Vox Day would have made himself the chief editor of his own publishing house and would be heavily promoting a conspiracy theory sourced from random statements on an anonymous web forum. On the way Vox Day will promote extreme ideas in particular about women, race and immigration.

Like the proceeding chapter, this chapter will follow Vox up to around the mid-2000s. From there, the rest of the story (as far as it is relevant) will be carried in the main chapters as various characters react to events. I will be drawing on three main sources and any unreferenced statement will be either my opinion or drawn from one of these:

A general content warning applies through out. Day has expressed many views that I know readers will find confronting and disturbing.

Continue reading “Debarkle Second Chapter 5: Dramatis Personae — Vox Day”

Larry C weighs in on the Baen’s Bar controversy

For background start here http://file770.com/weisskopf-announces-hiatus-for-baens-bar/ but the short version is that Baen has shuttered its venerable forums because they’ve had a bit more let’s-have-a-civil-war & protocol-fascism than usual AND people have noticed.

I’ve not covered this so far mainly because I’ve been busy covering the broader issue (eg https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/02/07/no-that-really-is-want-they-meant-by-augusto/ ) and I’ll confess much of this seems less shocking to me because I’ve been seeing this in conservative forums for years.

Any way, here to throw oil onto troubled fires is Baen author Larry Correia. https://monsterhunternation.com/2021/02/16/publishing-house-baen-books-attacked-by-cancel-culture

It is a text book example of using “free speech” as an excuse to avoid talking about what was being said. Barb’s Bar is not a “free speech” forum and does not claim to be. It is a moderated forum and the publishing house had limited what people have said in the past.

Notably, Larry Correia also moderates and limits the range of discussions on his fan sites on Facebook and MeWe. Notably there is a “no boogaloo” policy designed to limit discussion advocating violent insurrection in the USA.

There’s also there’s something of a false-flag two-step in the comments (aka the old line of nobody did anything bad and we support what they did and anyway the bad things were done by outsiders who are secret leftists etc etc).

I’ll keep watching 😐

Debarkle Chapter 5: Dramatis Personae – John Scalzi

The Dramatis Personae chapters will take a biographical look at selected key figures in the Puppy Kerfuffle, some of whom will be people who were instrumental in one or several of the Puppy campaigns and others (as in this chapter) people that the Puppy leadership/Evil League of Evil regarded as their opposition.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 5: Dramatis Personae – John Scalzi”

Debarkle Chapter 4: An Inadequate History of Fandom & Worldcon 1939 – 2000

‘FOLLOWERS and glorifiers of the fantastical like to think that they are different, that they represent something new on the face of the earth; mutants born with an intelligence and a sense of farseeing appreciation just a bit higher than the norm. They like to believe that their counterpart has never before existed, that they have no predecessors. “No one,” they say, “has ever seen our visions, dreamed our dreams. Never before has man’s brain reached out so far into the limitless stretches of the cosmos about him.”‘

The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, Sam Moskowitz 1954 https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/1330615

By the 1950s Science Fiction Fandom was so well established as concept that notable fan, writer and critic Sam Moskowitz felt that he could write a history of (mainly) US fandom[1]. As the opening paragraph (above) suggests, Moskowitz was observing many of the same features often attributed to science fiction fandom and fans. Moskowitz also noted that a common fallacy was to think of science fiction and fandom as being particularly American (or American-British) whereas it was a worldwide phenomenon even if fan groups in other nations were necessarily closely connected. Nor was fandom simply people sharing reviews of favourite stories. Of the international fannish groups that Moskowitz identified, he included the pre-war German group Verein für Raumschiffahrt (which Moskowitz calls the German Rocket Group)[2] whose practical interest in rocketry “presaged the German “buzz-bombs’ of the Second World War” (the group had come together as advisors for Fritz Lang’s film Frau im Mond, and did later include a young Werner von Braun). Willy Ley, a member of the group who fled Germany because of the rise of the Nazis and who was also notable figure in US fandom and a science fiction writer.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 4: An Inadequate History of Fandom & Worldcon 1939 – 2000”

Debarkle Chapter 3: Part 1 Overview 1880-2010

Epic sagas need a summary of the pre-saga history. This one is a bit too long for the opening crawl text of Star Wars, so if it gets too dry, imagine it is being read by Cate Blanchett in the style of the first Lord of the Rings film.

Part 1 of our Debarkle saga is eleven stories about the past. Most of them take place this century but some of the precursors to the events in our saga take place in the Twentieth Century. I can’t hope to do justice to the full breadth of science fiction’s history but I will be looking at selected events from that history that have repercussions to later events. What follows in this chapter is a whistle-stop tour over many decades up to the early 1990s to just briefly touch on some elements of the past that will re-appear later. We’ll touch briefly on the roots of early fandom but mainly highlight some parts of US history that will be important later.

There is no fixed start to the history of science fiction. There is no point at which people haven’t invented fantastical stories. In English literature we can point to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or before that Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World but other candidates for the ‘first’ exist. So why pick 1880 as a starting point? This is a political story as well as a story about a fannish kerfuffle. In particular, while the Puppy Kerfuffle had a significant international dimension, it was an event that revolved around American politics.

By 1880 the Reconstruction era in the post-Civil War south was over. It was a decade in which the USA managed to have five different Presidents but also began the process of electrification and stepped further down the road of eventually becoming a global super power. It was also a time in which advances in steam-powered sea travel led to even greater immigration to the USA, particularly from southern and eastern Europe.

For our story, 1884 marks the birth of one of the more idiosyncratic candidates for the founder of science fiction: Hugo Gernsback. Born in Luxembourg, Gernsback emigrated to America in 1904 to pursue a career as an inventor in the field of electronics and radio. That career would lead him into publishing as well as writing fiction. It was his role as editor of Amazing Stories that would lead him to be regarded as a seminal figure in shaping American science fiction and also American science fiction fandom.

Just as science fiction has no unique starting point, neither does fandom. For example, in 1891 The Royal Albert Hall in London held a “Vril-ya Bazaar” for devotees of the popular-at-the-time book by Edward Bulwer-Lytton entitled The Coming Race — a fantastical tale about a subterranean civilisation of telepaths. However, for our narrative the relevant iteration of the development of an organised science fiction fandom in the United States, Gernsback’s Science Fiction League is an important pre-World War II example which spawned off-shoots in the UK and Australia. We will return to this history of organised fandom in the next Debarkle chapter.

In world politics, the first half of the twentieth century saw the decline of the powerful Empires of the nineteenth century accelerated by World War I, economic depression and the rise of nationalism. The Russian revolutions saw the rise of the first Communist nation and conceptual shift in world politics to ideological conflicts. In Western Europe political groups combining nationalism and militarism co-opted the mass-movement politics of socialist parties as counter-movements. While in Japan, a similar extreme nationalist ideology fuelled territorial expansion and new imperialism.

In the US, the 1920s saw a resurgence of white supremacist movements, including a new version of the infamous Ku Klux Klan. Policies promoting systemic and overt racism against Black Americans led to further disenfranchisement, particularly (but not exclusively) in the former Confederate states. The Democratic Party in the “Solid South” exploited these policies to maintain political power. This was part of a long pattern of political racism which had included violence to undermine democracy. In 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Southern Democrats used mob violence to overthrow the town government [https://revealnews.org/episodes/the-evolution-of-all-american-terrorism-2/ ]. The ‘Red Summer‘ of 1919 was followed in 1921 by the Tulsa Race Massacre led to massive destruction and “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/04/what-is-black-wall-street-history-of-the-community-and-its-massacre.html

Immigration policy in the US also attempted to enshrine a specific view of race for the country. The National Origins Formula used quotas as a means to limit immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Using the census of 1910 as a baseline, the quota mandated that immigration from a given country could be no greater than 3% of the population of that background currently in the USA. As a large number of Americans were of Protestant Northern European descent, the numbers of people allowed to immigrate from Northern Europe were much higher. Immigration from many Asian countries had already by restricted by earlier laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

More positively, the 1920s also saw the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which established the rights of women to vote.

World War II marks a political and cultural boundary between the two (unequal) halves of the Twentieth Century. For our narrative it was a defining period for many of the influential science fiction writers. The war was framed as an existential struggle against the unambiguous evil of the Nazi-regime and also led to technological innovations in computing and nuclear weapons. The mass murder of civilians as overt ideological policy was not an innovation by the Nazis but the horrific extent and systematic nature of the Holocaust re-shaped post-war attitudes on racism and eugenics.

In the aftermath of World War II, America emerged economically and culturally dominant but in a nuclear rivalry with the Soviet Union. The 1950’s saw not only the anti-communist Red Scare aimed at rooting out communist sympathisers within politically or culturally powerful positions but also the less famous but more damaging (in terms of number of people impacted) Lavender Scare targetting homosexuality.

Post World War II also saw a decades long fight for civil rights by Black Americans. Protests against school segregation led to multiple legal rulings and counter-protests by white supremacists to maintain segregated education. In 1957 President Eisenhower deployed federal troops to ensure that nine Black children could attend their school in Little Rock Arkansas despite sustained attempts to stop them by protestors and the state government. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and other forms of direct action against segregated business were met with a counter-reaction that was often violent. The murder of 14 year old Emmet Till received national attention, as did the subsequent acquittal of his two murderers.

In US party politics the post-war period led to a long period of ideological re-adjustments. Both the Republican and Democratic parties had their own progressive and conservative wings. Positions on the role of government, social-welfare, military spending, and civil-rights did not split simply along party lines in the 1950s. The massive cultural change and trauma (Cuban Crisis, the JFK assassination, the MLK assassination, the Vietnam War, the peace movement…) didn’t change that over night. The civil rights movement and subsequent legislation in 1964 and 1968 were passed by bi-partisan votes when consider by political party. However, Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ would mark a shift in the political balance within both parties.

The 1960s also saw a marked shift in immigration policy to the USA with the abolition of the racist National Origins Formula. While a substantial reform the new laws prohibited gay people from emigrating to the USA.

Ronald Reagan’s 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party nomination for president marked a major attempt by the conservative wing of the Republican Party to gain control. Unsuccessful in that election, Reagan would go on to win the nomination in 1980 and then win the presidency twice, marking a high point electorally for overt modern conservatism. Although beset by a series of political scandals (in particular Iran-Contra which somehow managed to touch on nearly every aspect of Reagan’s approach to foreign policy), Reagan proved to be electorally popular and after two terms was succeed by his Vice President George H. W. Bush.

Bush Senior became president at a remarkable point in twentieth century — a century which had not been lacking in remarkable points. Post-war US foreign and military policy had been defined by the Cold War but with the reform and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the status-quo changed utterly. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war led to the Gulf War, the first major post-Cold War military conflict by the US. Bush followed policies aimed at America and American business being the dominant force in the post-Soviet world. Bush also enacted bi-partisian liberalisation of immigration laws with the Immigration Act of 1990, and also signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Bush Senior’s tenure proved to be unpopular with the right of his party and his candidacy in 1992 was challenged by Pat Buchanan in the primaries. The electoral landscape was further complicated by the independent candidacy of the eclectic populist Ross Perot. Perot’s 1992 campaign was a mix of economic nationalism and novel ideas (such as electronic ‘direct democracy’) but in terms of overall votes, it did surprisingly well for a third-party with 18% over all but with higher concentrations in Maine and in Utah. However, Perot’s votes were too widely distributed to win even a single vote in the USA’s Electoral College system.

At age 18, with his first science-fiction writing credit for an on-going radio drama, Brad R Torgersen casts his vote in 1992 for Ross Perot.[1]

Next Time: yet another potted history as we run rapidly through the history and past conflicts of Worldcon and the Hugo Awards.


[1] https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/01/02/iowa-caucuses-seriously-man-who-knows-right/#comment-296528

Debarkle: Notes, Caveats and Excuses

Before I start part 1 and delve into the early history of things, there are several notes, caveats, warnings and excuses I need to make.

Firstly names. As far as is sensible, I will call people by their current, public, fandom name that they use. I will avoid dead-naming transgender people (obviously) but also just in general, it is simplest to refer to people by the name they are currently using. This makes sense for nom-de-plumes, internet handles or changes in proper names. However, this project includes historical references and at times quotes may use older names, in those cases I may add a footnote clarification. In other cases we have people with multiple online personas and the connection between those personas was itself a significant topic within fandom. Where dual names are common knowledge and undisputed, I may make some reference to them if relevant (e.g. Vox Day will normally be called “Vox Day” in these essays but with reference to his father Robert Beale, I may use “Theodore Beale”).

‘Sad Puppies’, ‘Rabid Puppies’ and similar terms. Sad Puppies is not a well defined group. I will try and stick to the following convention:

  • Sad Puppies/Sad Puppy leaders: I will be referring to people who took active organising or quasi-official roles in at least one of the campaigns: Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, Amanda Green and, to a lesser extent, Dave Freer.
  • Sad Puppy supporters: anybody more generally advocating for or stating support for a Sad Puppy campaign. This is a much more vague group. Any claims about this group are generalisations that will not consistently apply to everybody who might fit that label. Some use of weasel words and hedged claims is necessary.
  • People/authors nominated by the Sad Puppies: this is the term I prefer to use for those people, in general, nominated by one of the Sad Puppy campaigns. In some cases (and to varying degrees) the individuals may also have been a Sad Puppy supporter but not in all cases. I want to avoid “Sad Puppy nominees” because it implies an allegiance that may not have existed.
  • People/authors nominated by the Rabid Puppies: Likewise with the people nominated by the Rabid Puppies. Indeed, it is especially the case with Rabid Puppy nominees many of whom were unwillingly included in slates.
  • Evil League of Evil: This ironic name was coined by John C Wright to mean himself, Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia and Vox Day. Later, Larry Correia used to mean a broader group that formulated Sad Puppies 3 that may or may not have included Vox Day. I’m adding Brad Torgersen to the list as he definitely was part of the Sad Puppy 3 discussion.
  • Mad Genius/Mad Geniuses: Any one of the bloggers at Mad Genius Club at the relevant time.
  • Rabid Puppy/Rabid Puppies: Generally these aren’t named people and in this context I mean people following Vox Day’s direction. Day’s various sub-groups of supporters (Vile Faceless Minions, Evil Legion of Evil, Dread Ilk etc), I’m not going to bother keeping track of. Given that they boast about almost slavish obedience to their “dark lord”, I feel that I’m not infringing too much on their sense of individuality.

I’ll try and avoid use of other groupings except to clarify quotes e.g. ‘Barflies’ for regulars at the Baen’s Bar forums or terms like ‘Puppy Kickers’ which are poorly demarcated. However, while these are the conventions I will be using, the people I quote from the height of the kerfuffle will have been less specific in their usage.

Derogatory nicknames of individuals I will not use and in I will attempt to change these even in quotes. So “Cameltoe is a stupid head” would be written as “[Camestros] is a stupid head”. However, I may miss some or there may be times where the reference is unclear or times where the nickname is particularly pertinent requiring explanation (e.g. if I was trying to explain that some Puppy supporters used sexualised nicknames then I would quote “Cameltoe is a stupid head” as an example).

Some caveats. This is a first draft and, if you are new here[1], note that I frequently misspell words and make grammatical and punctuation errors. Many of these errors are not typos, I really do spell that badly. I also have a bad habit of long run on sentences with multiple clauses (and occasional asides) that, with the addition of inconsistent punctuation, I may lose track of even as I write them resulting in an unintelligible mess and grammatical disagreement. I do not consider it rude for people to point out errors or ask for clarification. It’s fine. My life is a world of being copy-edited. I’m used to it and it is helpful for this project.

Likewise these essays are first drafts. I am writing them directly in WordPress. I have over five years of blog research behind them but you are getting this stuff unfiltered. Corrections and observations and your own memories are welcome in the comments — indeed they are important as many people participated. I’m fine with people telling me I got a fact wrong or events in the wrong order or offering a different interpretation of the facts. I will correct things! I’m unlikely to take the whole project in a new direction on your say so though! Push back and quibbles are fine. I’d also ask people in the comments to be somewhat tolerant of puppy-apologetics that may arise — I’d rather things I say get stress tested, as it will make the finished product tighter.

This project will touch on many fan controversies. I’m not trying to restart old conflicts but I will inevitably touch on some sore spots and not just ones involving the Puppies. I’ll try to be diplomatic but be aware. Also, if it looks like the comments are getting too heated I may step in. Again, push back, corrections, quibbles are welcome but also I may need to draw a line under some arguments so we can move on.

There is also a big and fundamental flaw to the approach I’m taking here. Debarkle uses the Puppy Kerffule of 2015 as a lens to look at extreme right wing politics and fandom. The flaw in this approach is that it centres some terrible people with some appalling and disturbing views. That also means that fans and fannish voices of all kinds get less centred in the narrative than they deserve to be. When I announced this project people did strongly suggest that I ensure that the voices of fans are enabled. I don’t know how well I can achieve that and maybe to do that right requires a completely different approach[2]. I will try though.

Another issue with this approach is that I will be quoting and discussing some extreme views including racism, misogyny and transphobia, as well as people advocating violence against people with left-wing views. Some quoted material will be distressing.

I’m being up-front in calling this a narrative rather than a history. I’m picking and choosing what to include. However, I aim to avoid factual claims that cannot be substantiated without quotes and links. In many cases this will mean linking to some websites (or archives of those websites) that promote conspiracy theories, anti-democratic propaganda and target hate based on race, gender and sexuality. As a general rule, I do not encourage people to follow those links but they are provided so that people can see the full context.

Next Time: Introduction to Part 1 as I lay out a whistle-stop tour of science fiction fandom from 1880 to 2010.


[1] If you are not new here then you know this already and also know that I like footnotes.

[2] Once I was well under way with planning this, I thought of a completely different way of doing it. Instead of my approach of quotes and links and observations, you could do a history as a series of interviews of fans of all kinds asking them what they thought and how they remembered things. I’d love to read that as a series or as an approach to fan events or distributed controversies like GamerGate or RaceFail where the “aboutness” of the thing was also in dispute. It’s also a project that I know I would be singularly useless at.