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”

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.”


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”

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

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 [ ]. 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.”

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.


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.

Debarkle: Draft outline

Coming this month (and probably for most of the year) is “Debarkle”, a history of the Puppy Kerfuffle of 2015, the events that preceded it, the political context and how it presaged events in US politics that followed it.

What follows is the draft section and chapter order. Naturally, what will actually happen is something different from this but this is the outline I’m working to.

Roughly it is in chronological order but with various chapters flashing forward or flashing backwards to keep themes together. External politics events are also a key part of this story, some of which will get their own chapters but in other cases they will be referenced in more fannish chapters to give context and establish time periods. Sadly, a lot of those external political events are violent ones but they are ones relevant to the times and also the discussions and the political atmosphere.

There are some special recurring chapters:

  • Dramatis Personae: these chapters look at backstories to some recurring names or groups in the story. I’ve tried to keep these to a minimum but if I find that I’m writing longer paragraphs about the background to given person, I may split that off into an extra one of these. Generally, they’ll cover the ‘story so far’ up to that point. So, John Scalzi and Vox Day (and maybe the Nielsen Hayden’s) get early chapters before the opening act of this So these chapters don’t all end up in section 1, many people will appear in the main narrative before they get one of these chapters but with a briefer introduction.
  • Meanwhile: these chapters cover things away from the main Puppy story but which, again, would otherwise become long intruding paragraphs of context. An obvious example is RaceFail 2009, which involved no puppies but did involve notable people in fandom. Likewise, a discussion of the 2015 Hugo awards can’t avoid discussion of RequiresHate and the Mixon report. You can skip these if you want to stick to the main plot. Part 6, covering 2020, is all Meanwhile.
  • Some book reviews: With the Hugosauriad I was pleased with how the two chapters looking at If You Were a Dinosaur My Love and the right-wing reaction to it worked out. The Debarkle is about many things but one of those things is stories. Currently these reviews will include Monster Hunter International, Redshirts, Ancillary Justice and the Broken Earth Trilogy, as well as some selected shorter fiction.

Speaking of the Hugosauriad, because that project contains chapters on Rachel Swirsky’s story and on Chuck Tingle, neither will get their own chapter in Debarkle. Obviously, both will get discussed but the longer coverage is in the Hugosauriad.

Currently, the plan is 6 sections.

  1. Beginnings 1880 to 2010. All the background and setting the scene.
  2. 2011 to 2014. This covers the SFWA conflicts and the first two Sad Puppy campaigns but also looks at Gamergate.
  3. 2015. This section is the most chronological and most chapters cover events in a given month up to the smoky skies of Sasquan. “Phew!” we all say in August, “Looks like we defeated fascism for good this time!” and Donald Trump enters stage right.
  4. 2016-2017. Two parallel stories – the political story with the alt-right and Donald Trump and also the story of how the Puppy campaigns fizzled out. SP4, the non-event of SP5, the Dragon Awards and how Larry finally gets his participation prize.
  5. 2018-2019. Follows the political story with some delves back into fandom. Specifically this is the politics of Sad and Rabid versions of the right in the age of Trump. The crappiest gate aka ‘Comicsgate’ will get a look in, as will the 2019 Nebulas, as ‘compare and contrast’ with the Puppy campaigns.
  6. Meanwhile 2020: Aside from an initial dive into the RWA’s meltdown, this section looks at the hell year in terms of the perspectives of the Puppy Protagonists. Dominating it are three major elements of the year, Qanon (particularly with Vox Day), Covid (Sarah Hoyt) and ‘Stop the Steal’ (Larry Correia but also Day and Hoyt).

Section 3 (i.e. the actual plot) is likely to blow-out. Three sections of aftermath may look like a lot but as the main thesis of the project is that the themes and cognitive style of the “crazy” behaviour of the US right in 2020 were already overt and apparent in 2015, just at a different scale and context. Note, the thesis isn’t that the Puppies caused later events (they are all minor bit players in bigger story, if that) but rather that the same underlying cultures and attitudes on the right that erupted as the Puppies in fandom, later erupted at a bigger scale (and at greater human cost) in US politics. Sections won’t be of equal length.

As always, suggestions, comments etc are welcome but it will also end up being whatever gets written at the time!

  • Intro: Jan 6 2021
  • Part 1: Beginnings 1880 to 2010
    A short history of the Hugo Awards 1953 to 2000
    Dramatis Personae 1: John Scalzi
    Dramatis Personae 2: Theodore Beale
    Tor, Baen and Amazon 1990 -2011
    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 1965 to 2010
    March 1, 2005: Electrolyte
    Dramatis Personae 3: Larry Correia
    2007: Monster Hunter International
    Meanwhile: Barack Obama
    Meanwhile: Racefail 2009
    2010 Hugos and the SFWA
  • Part 2: 2011 to 2014
    2011: Larry Goes to Worldcon
    2012-13: The Day-Scalzi Feud
    Meanwhile: Mitt Romney
    2013 “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo”
    2013: Redshirts
    Dramatis Personae 4: N.K.Jemisin
    2013: Trouble at the SFWA
    Dramatis Personae 5: Sarah Hoyt and the Mad Geniuses
    Opera Vita Aeterna
    2014: Sad Puppies 2
    2014: Ancillary Justice
    2014: Vox Gets the Boot
    Dramatis Personae 6: John C wright and the Evil League of Evil
    Dramatis Personae 7: George R R Martin
    2014: The Hugos go to London
    Meanwhile: Requires Hate
    Meanwhile: GamerGate
    Dramatis Personae 8: Brad Torgersen
  • Part 3: 2015
    January: Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!
    February: Rabid Puppies 2015
    March: Warnings
    April Part 1: TSHTF
    April Part 2: Hugos Hit the News
    Dramatis Personae 9: Mike Glyer and File 770
    May: Planning Ahead
    E Pluribus Hugo
    June Part 1: The Tor Boycott
    June Part 2: The Human Toll
    July: Crescendo
    August: Sasquan
    September-December: Taking Stock
    Meanwhile: Donald Trump
  • Part 4: Fall of the Puppies 2016-2017
    The Broken Earth Trilogy
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 1: Sad Puppies 4
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 2: Rabid Puppies
    Meanwhile: The Rise of the Alt Right
    Dramatis Personae 10: Jon Del Arroz
    Enter the Dragon
    Quarter 2: Reactions
    Meanwhile: GOP goes Trump
    August: Midamericon
    September: Dragon Awards 2016
    Meanwhile: Me Too
    Meanwhile: President Donald Trump
    The Sad Demise of SP5
    Rabid Puppies 2017
    Worldcon 75 – Finland
  • Part 5: The Trump Years 2018-2019
    Meanwhile: Qanon
    Changing fortunes at the Dragon Awards
    Meanwhile: Black Lives Matter
    Gender at the Hugo Awards
    Meanwhile: 20booksto50 and the Nebulas
    Dramatis Personae: Mixed Fortunes
    The Hugos and the Campbell Legacy
  • Part 6: Meanwhile 2020
    Trouble in Romance
    Covid 19
    Black Lives Matter
    US Presidential Election
    “Stop the Steal”
  • Conclusion: Reality and the Imagination

Bonus! Here is a Rabid version of the cover art.

A novel repercussion

The right-leaning social network Parler is facing an uncertain future after being removed first from the Apple app store and then from Google and finally by being denied cloud services by Amazon. The stated reason is the poor level of comment moderation which has led to large numbers of violent threats and incitement on the service, particularly in relation to the January 6 violent attack on US constitutional processes. However, even before recent events, the weak moderation problems were causing issues for the platform:

“The surge of #sexytrumpgirl posts highlighted a broader dilemma for Parler: The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, could make it a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives, such as #keepamericasexy and #milfsfortrump2020.”

However, the action against Parler is being framed by the many on the right as part of an active suppression of conservative views. Former Sad Puppy leaders, Larry Correia and Brad R Torgersen have waded in. Brad making yet another bold attempt to unwittingly murder irony:

“Larry Correia’s excellent take (this morning) on Big Prog Tech’s attack on Parler got me to thinking about how so much of what’s transpiring in America right now, is the result of lies. Or rather, people unmooring themselves from the idea that there is an objective truth.”

The calls are coming for conservatives to boycott companies that they regard as being anti-conservative. Sad Puppy Sarah Hoyt has been promoting this ideas using the slogan “Not One Red Cent” for some time.

Ah, yeah but about that plan…What’s one of those companies listed above? Amazon? Oh…oops…

“However, since last night, this has TRULY become an emergency, not because of what Amazon will do or won’t do to ebook fiction (more on that) but because a core of my readers will now refuse to buy from Amazon under any circumstances, which means that I’m going to lose a lot of my income (and Amazon won’t give a flying fig. But I get your outrage, I understand, and yet you’ll only hurt the writers, UNTIL WE HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE.)”

Ouch! Capitalism sucks apparently! It’s almost like there is an issue with the guy who owns the means of production being an unaccountable man with enough money to ski down huge piles of coins like Scrooge McDuck (details here).

“Otherwise I’m going to ask you NOT to carry on this boycott. We right-leaning-indies are going to lose half our sales. That’ll hurt Amazon, sure. Kind of. PROBABLY honestly at the rounding error level. But it will KILL us indie writers who have a contingent of conservative fans.”

So there you go, not one red cent apart from any red cents where a proportion of the red cent might go to Sarah Hoyt.

More of a comment than a post

In yesterday’s post about the Debarkle series (coming soon!) Greg made a very good point:

“It’s the story of how the reality-denying fascist revolution came to SF two or three years before it hit the rest of the country. Long before Trump hit the scene, SF fans got a taste of the alternate reality that would spawn America’s first traitor president.
But did it offer any lessons on how to get out of this mess? If yes, I think you’ll get readers. If no, probably not.”

I was mulling over that more while doom-scrolling social media and came across this tweet:

Ah! Wallace seems like he is taking a reasonable stance. The Trump fans are angry, why piss them off more? Well here we can look at the Puppies at two levels, how they were during the Puppy Kerfuffle (the microcosm) but also how they were during the Trump years (the macrocosm). Is there any point at either scale where mollification led to détente? Did victory at any scale lead to any of the notable figures chilling out or stepping down the rhetoric or getting less angry?


Note that does not indicate that we should not always recognise that people we are in dispute with are real people with genuine feelings who, simply because they are people, deserve some fundamental respect and kindness. They do. Charity, in the moral sense, extends even to the hateful.

However, we have to recognise the cognitive fork employed. Any victory is regarded by this ideology/mind set not as a contingent event that arose out of hard work or circumstance but as moral vindication and a confirmation of the universe acting as it should. Hence there is no magnanimity that they will extend in victory, a narrow win is taken as a landslide, a technical win (e.g. Trump winning the EC in 2016 but not the popular vote) is taken as a mandate. As a consequence, any opposition, even if it is purely vocal is taken as an affront. Likewise, any defeat is taken as illegitimate.

If fandom had objected to the 2015 Puppy slate but followed GRR Martin’s advice and stated their objections but eschewed large scale No Award, the Puppies would have not been gracious in victory. The very fact that people had said “this is wrong” would have been held as a bloody shirt of persecution. We know that because of how SP1 and SP2 worked out and how the Puppies mythologised SP4. By the time of SP4 the Mad Genius pups had already elevated me to a status of a major “Puppy Kicker” and yet I had said quite plainly and genuinely that I thought the Sad Puppy 4 process was a legitimate, healthy way forward for them. It was something I thought we could live with going forward. I said it here (and at the time there were definitely key Sad Pups reading this blog) and I said it directly to them. People who had been active commenters at File 770 even participated in good faith in giving recommendations at the SP4 site. I watched carefully and at no point were there any leftwing or antipuppy shenanigans directed at SP4 site to disrupt it or the process. Yet, contemporaneously and afterwards the official Puppy line was that with SP4 they showed that even if they conceded to all of the ‘SJW’ demands then the they would still be “attacked”. There was and is zero recognition by the Sad Pups of any kind of détente. I wasn’t surprised by that nor was I cross about it because I’ve had to work with difficult people in all sorts of circumstances.

SP4 was just added to another list of Puppy grievances. It wasn’t even a failure when judged against reality. Building up a place where right leaning people could coordinate book recommendations is a process that would take years, hard work and many people acting in good faith — just like any fannish community. That it didn’t immediately take the world by storm was seen as just another sign of wrongness, of events being unnatural, out of step, gross, rotten.

These are the axioms, some apply to microcosm of the Sad Pups as writers and some to macrocosm of the ideology/mind set we saw on January 6.

  • They are the majority (they aren’t — obviously)
  • They are writing what people want to read
  • They have the support of good people
  • They deserve and are entitled to success
  • Everybody who understands the world knows these first four points
  • People sit in these four groups and only these four groups
    • good people who understand the world and tell the truth about it (i.e. themselves)
    • evil people who also understand the world and lie about it and thwart them (i.e. “them”)
    • good people who do not understand the world because they have been lied to
    • evil people who do not understand the world and don’t want to
  • The lies by the evil people are about EVERYTHING but the good people can through intuition discern what is truth and what is lies.
  • The empirical evidence that supports the above is that any success demonstrates that they deserve success and that any lack of success demonstrates that the evil people are working against them.

Did John C Wright or Larry Correia chill out after they won Dragon Awards? No. They got the trophies and the validation but here’s the thing: it didn’t change any of our minds and we still went around getting excited about the new NK Jemisin book. John C Wright was never going to be happy in that circumstance just because he had got his award, any more than he is content with the fact that he lives in a world where he can have a heterosexual marriage — the offence to him, the very personal and deeply held offence is that others can have other kinds of marriage. Nor will he be happy and chill until we all concede that he is right.

So the Dragons didn’t mollify, any more than Gab or Parler or Socialgalactic (or whatever Jordan Peterson’s one was) has mollified all those alt-righters and conservatives who are offended by Twitter. Not even “here have your own play house” will make them happy because the source of unhappiness is the continued wrongness of our existence. It is consistent but more overt for some of us than others, I’d get a pass if I just shut up because I’m white, male, cis, native English speaker, living a conventional life so long as I don’t point out that I’m a haunted meat robot that thinks mathematics is fiction and that fiction is powerful.

In short, “but if we do X then the Trumpist/Sad Puppies/Alt-right will get angry” is a non-starter. We do not have access to or control over their anger. There isn’t a knob we can turn. That does NOT mean these are people incapable of becoming chill or who can’t learn to live with the fact that some people don’t fit their gender stereotypes – they can and there is evidence of that. They aren’t irredeemable or hopeless, it’s just that the work lies with them not us.

And there is a wider lesson from Sad Puppies. In the end, they looked for procedural short cuts around doing hard, long term inter-personal work — the kind of work that fandom (with all its flaws) runs off. Doing that work requires recognising that you may well not succeed and that chance and contingency are what are in play, rather than fate or destiny.

Hmmm, that was more of a post than a comment. [Damn! I know how to write about RaceFail now!]