I’m not a member of the SFWA…

…so I’m just leaving this here as we appear to be on the topic of former Sad Puppies and the nature of self-delusion as art.

Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever

I had considered writing a piece about how the various right wing blogs and outlets I read are reacting to the current Covid-19 pandemic. However, I feel I have to point everybody to this frankly epic true story by Declan Finn http://www.declanfinn.com/2020/03/i-have-returned-from-italy-part-1-oh.html

If it was fiction and Declan was a made up character it would be the story for our times, encapsulating so much about 2020’s America and it’s relationship with Europe, the odd cognitive distance from reality of the American right and the very real human issues of coping in a world where the multitude of connections start shutting down. I’m reminded of John Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire as the flow shuts down the gateways between worlds.

For those who don’t want to visit Declan’s blog, let me sum up. Last week (yes, LAST week) Declan and his wife went to ITALY for a holiday. As you can imagine (and indeed could have predicted last week when Italy was already well, well into its crisis) things did not go well.

The collision between belief and reality is laid out in unwitting detail. I genuinely hope he is fine (he and his wife are apparently safely back in the US or as safely back as anybody is).

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Catching Up

So I took a few days off aside from blog posts about beer, Picard and Dr Who and there’s a few things I missed that I probably would have covered if I’d been paying attention.

  1. So I did already catch-up on Dave Freer’s odd post on BookBub numbers (see here) but if I must check out Dave’s column’s again, it would be remiss of me not to point out his piece on the Covid-19 virus and how he spins that: “All those Cons the mean girls of SF and SJW spent so much politicking effort to control… may go on hiatus, if not die.” Hmmm. (https://madgeniusclub.com/2020/02/24/some-thoughts-on-pandemics-and-their-impact-on-writers/ )
  2. Nebula finalists have been announced and Cora has an excellent summary here: http://corabuhlert.com/2020/02/20/some-comments-on-the-2019-nebula-award-finalists/ I’ll do reviews of the short fiction starting soon.
  3. Larry Correia is apparently blogging again by hurling invective at his keyboard. Not going to link to it as it is the usual libertarian-hates-free-speech nonsense but a side effect is assorted trolls come out of the woodwork and get all agitated. There’s a sort of side backstory here though that I’ll get to in the next point.
  4. Mad Sad Pups. The Sad Pups (see above) are mad at Mary Robinette Kowal mainly because they need to be mad at somebody because Larry is worked up. This is a tad convoluted….see below

Brad Torgersen was Guest of Honour at the Life, the Universe & Everything writer’s workshop (LTUE) in Utah. LTUE last year had a pro-Sad Puppy presentation (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/back-to-the-revised-history-of-a-debarkle/ ) but in the past has had presenters such as Mary Robinette Kowal (via Writing Excuses). The current spin by the Sad Pups is that she was totes unprofessional and had a loud boycott and a rival event because Brad T was GoH. Unpacking that proved interesting. Back in January MRK posted this Tweet in a conversation about Courtney Milan etc:

So…backtracking. MRK was original invited by LTUE to be GoH, turned them down and suggested alternatives (three black women). LTUE chose Brad Torgersen instead. No wonder Brad (and hence Larry) was feeling a bit sensitive about things and needed to very loudly assure everybody how great Brad was.

The stuff about MRK running a rival workshop was because the FutureScapes workshops at Utah Valley University (which she’s been involved in since 2016) where on that weekend. This is all being drummed up into a thing in Puppy circles about how unprofessional etc etc. Because they never link to anything and avoid details, the claim just becomes free-floating and hence in the comments sections of Puppy outlets it’s become a legend about how MRK tried to boycott Brad Torgersen out of spite, even though the actual facts are quite different.

[ETA the LTUE website appears to be down, hence why I couldn’t find links to it. Looks like it’s had a malware attack.]

Five years…

I meant to note this the other day but I couldn’t decide whether the 1st of February or 2nd of February was the best date (particularly given time zone differences). So I’ve ended up with 3rd of February instead…

Either way…it was five years ago (Feb 1 2015 and Feb 2 2015) that the Sad Puppy 3 and Rabid Puppy 1 slates were announced. Archive links here and here and Larry Correia’s post here. The File 770 post summarising the news is here http://file770.com/sad-puppies-wag-their-tales/

An inquiry

I had an email the other day asking if I could summarise the role of Vox Day in the SFWA and the Hugo Awards for somebody not familiar with the background. So here is what I wrote. Corrections and adjustments welcome, of course.

Vox wants to be a writer and wants legitimate respect as a writer. In the 2000s he’d published enough to qualify to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America aka SFWA. This wasn’t a stunt or an alt-right entryism tactic, I think he genuinely wants to be seen as a legit SF-writer. He even ends up on Nebula Awards jury. The Nebula Awards are the SFWA’s major writing awards – not as notable as the Hugo Awards but still big. At the time I think Vox is still writing his column for World Net Daily, the paleo-conservative ‘news’ site that I think his dad invested in. Of course, people notice that the Nebula jury has this guy on it who has pretty extreme views – particularly about women and Jewish people.

[2005] This all ends up as a big argument on the blog of Patrick Nielsen Hayden http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html Among the many people who wade into the discussion is John Scalzi – who at the time was making a name for themselves as a sci-fi author and as a blogger. Scalzi is actually sort of defending Vox’s role on the jury. Other notable writers such as Charlie Stross join and eventually Vox Day joins in as well and things get worse from there. Yes, it’s just a big forum argument but from that point on Vox Day deeply hates Patrick Nielsen Hayden and the sci-fi publisher he works for Tor Books. It also starts the deep enmity Vox has for John Scalzi.

By 2010 John Scalzi is President of the SFWA and it’s also a time of social change. Lots of new guard versus old guard sort of fights as well as conflicts about diversity and inclusion. Vox is in the midst of all this and he is friends with conservative old-guard writers such as Jerry Pournelle. 2013, Vox runs for President of the SFWA (again, as a serious campaign i.e. not just trolling) and loses badly. It’s a peak time for internal controversies in the SFWA [can’t summarise all of it but see https://www.dailydot.com/irl/sfwa-bulletin-jean-rabe-resigned-sexism/ ] Author NK Jemisin in a speech at a sci-fi con refers to Vox as ‘a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavours of asshole’ which kicks off attacks on Jemisin by Vox. Vox uses an official SFWA twitter account to attack Jemisin, which becomes grounds by the SFWA to expel Vox from the organisation. Vox claims the expulsion is illegitimate and that the rules weren’t followed properly and that therefore he wasn’t actually expelled and that anyway he will sue the SFWA etc. He never does actually sue the SFWA and yes, he was very much expelled.

Many conservative and libertarian people in sci-fi are dismayed by this. They know Vox has more extreme views (but they downplay how extreme) but regard Vox’s expulsion as left-wing persecution of conservatives. That’s 2013 and at that point we need to put the SFWA aside and got to a totally different organisation.

The SFWA is a *writers* organisation. The World Science Fiction Society is a *fan* organisation. It is most famous for its annual Worldcon, a relatively small but very influential science fiction convention, and for the Hugo Awards which are the biggest science fiction awards. Anybody can join the WSFS (because its for fans) but there is an overlap with the SFWA because writers are fans too. The biggest name connected with the WSFS is George RR Martin, who has been active in Worldcons for decades, long before he was famous for Game of Thrones.

Moderately conservative-leaning publisher Baen has several writers who were unhappy at the time that Baen was getting no love at the Hugo Awards and that rival publisher Tor was getting lots of awards – in particular for Best Editor. New guy Larry Correia (a libertarian-lite, Mormon 2nd amendment advocate) does manage to get nominated for a best newcomer award but dislikes the experience. He’s published by Baen and decides to help boost the votes of his own books and the books he likes by trying to mobilise a voting campaign. This ends up being called “Sad Puppies” and initially its sort of a joke. It’s not political per-se but sort of anti-PC. Anyway, this is also in 2013 and many of the same people pissed off at the SFWA stuff are also supporting Larry Correia. Naturally, many of the same people pissed off at Vox Day aren’t very happy with the Sad Puppies idea.

2014 Larry decides to cross the streams. Sad Puppies 2 nominates Vox Day for a Hugo Award in a short fiction category. The arguments about the SFWA are spilling over into Worldcon and the Hugo Awards even though the two organisations are separate. The level of bad feeling just gets higher. Vox is feeding all this with his usual stuff about SJWs supposedly infiltrating stuff and shadowy conspiracies etc. He’s just rehashing his usual antisemitism but swapping out terms but he’s playing the more moderate conservatives like a fiddle. Because people like John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (see above) and NK Jemisin are also part of the Worldcon scene, he can get at them by attacking the Hugo Awards. Sadly for Vox, he gets utterly humiliated in the final voting for the 2014 Hugo Awards.

2015. Round three for the Sad Puppies, this time run by Larry Correia’s friend and fellow Mormon Brad Torgersen (also published by Baen). Brad’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but he also hate John Scalzi because Brad used to comment at Scalzi’s blog but kept making a fool of himself. Brad puts together a slate of nominees. Vox decides to run his own campaign for the Hugo’s called “Rabid Puppies”. He takes Brad’s slates, adds a few extra works from his own Castalia House and tell’s his followers to buy memberships for Worldcon so they can nominate for the Hugo Awards.
April comes along and the Sad/Rabid Puppies have swept the board i.e. there are whole categories were the only nominees are works from the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates. What that means is that no matter how people vote, the only choices in some categories have been picked by Vox. Checkmate, says Vox.

…except…

People can vote for ‘No Award’ if they don’t like any of the nominees. Huge numbers of people join up for Worldcon 2015 to vote in the final stage of voting. Nobody knows who has the most new votes. Final votes come in and the Rabid Puppies get smashed. Vox still declares victory, saying that was his plan all along.

2016 Vox tries again. Doesn’t do as well in the nominations and gets smashed in the final votes. To add salt into his wounds Best Novel (the big premiere award) goes to N.K. Jemisin (see above).

2017 Vox tries again. Does very badly in the nominations and gets very smashed in the final votes. N.K. Jemisin wins her SECOND Hugo Award for best novel.

By 2018 he’s given up but declares victory claiming it was his plan anyway to destroy the Hugo Awards by making people vote for left wing works.

[ETA It is always worth noting for people who haven’t read it, N.K.Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season is absolutely genuinely brilliant and IMHO one of the best novels to win a Hugo Award ever. That it winning would also have pissed off Vox is secondary to the actual nature of the win.]

Superversive Press is closing

In an announcement on January 20, Superversive Press announced it was closing http://www.superversivesf.com/?p=841 This follows on from the announcement that a series of planet-themed anthologies were shifting publisher (see Declan Finn here http://www.declanfinn.com/2019/10/release-update-moon-anthology-is-sort.html and File 770 here http://file770.com/pixel-scroll-10-21-19-oh-this-is-the-scroll-its-a-beautiful-scroll-and-we-call-it-pixela-scrollte/ )

Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

I don’t want to sound to hypocritical and laud their output with praise. The books they published very much weren’t for me and some pushed quite toxic ideas (eg https://www.amazon.com/MAGA-2020-Beyond-Milo-Yiannopoulos/dp/1925645487 which is no longer for sale). However, the many authors and editors who tried to make a go of Superversive genuinely attempted to do what many critics of the Sad Puppies said conservative writers should do if they felt shut out: set up their own outlets and demonstrate the works that they claimed were being overlooked.

More generally, the capacity for like-minded authors to collaborate on boutique e-book publishing houses is something that is of interest beyond the specific politics of Supervesive Press. I’d rather niche publishers were more viable and were less vulnerable to the vagaries of life.

Sad Puppies 5 update

Yes, it is that time when I notice links gone awry on old pages and give you an update on the web page formerly known as The Sad Puppies 4 blog announcement of Sad Puppies 5. When last we visited that page in 2018 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/sad-puppies-4-is-now-slot-machine-spam-but-in-italian/ ) it had been co-opted by Italian slot-machine spam. Fans of the Sad Puppies 4 website will be relieved to hear that it is no longer a den of Mediterranean gambling iniquity.

The top level “sadpuppies4.org” resolves as 404 not found (see https://web.archive.org/web/20200108015654/http://sadpuppies4.org/index.html ) However, the historic announcement http://sadpuppies4.org/2017/01/10/sad-puppies-5/ resolve to a wholly new page. No more gambling but instead a site offering MP3 files of the Quran (see https://web.archive.org/web/20200108020026/https://islamiques.net/ )

While the current use is ironic, I expect it’s a coincidence and somebody has just grabbed up lost URLs with lots of incoming links to boost a website.