Debarkle Chapter 51: Meanwhile…Donald Trump

It is 1987 and the question for American conservatives is who will succeed Ronald Reagan not just as President of the United States but as the ideological figurehead of the conservative movement. The most likely candidate for the Republican nomination is George H.W. Bush, the current Vice President but Bush’s credibility among the right of the Republican Party isn’t strong. Nevertheless, his role at Ronald Reagan’s side will make him a difficult candidate to beat. The alternatives to Bush include Bob Dole and Jack Kemp but many on the right are putting their hopes in televangelist Pat Robertson who was promising to clear out liberals from the apparatus of the federal government.[1] Robertson had built his campaign by appealing for millions of volunteers in his Evangelical Christian base to rally to his cause. Press coverage of the race has focused on the increasing influence of the radical Christian movement within the Republican Party:

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Debarkle Chapter 50: 2015 Aftermath — July to December

The Sad Puppy defeat could have been taken as a repudiation of what the Sad Puppies had stood for but in the wake of the Hugo Award ceremony, nobody had a clear idea what the Sad Puppies had stood for. Larry Correia’s original campaign had framed itself as promoting fun, honest action in science fiction as a blow against overly literary fiction yet Sad Puppies 2 had promoted Vox Day’s Opera Vita Aeterna, a story in which an elf discusses theology and Sad Puppies 3 had promoted the work of John C Wright, a writer even more obsessed with literary aesthetics and philosophical themes. Critics of Brad Torgersen’s original framing of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign had pointed to his anti-diversity rhetoric and yet Torgersen could genuinely point to a slate that was not homogeneously white and male. True, the impact of the Puppy slates reduced the representation of women on the ballot compared to 2013 but it was still a better balance than relatively recent Hugo ballots (e.g. 2007). Sad Puppy supporters had rallied around a claim that the Hugo Awards were biased against conservative writers and works but also the Sad Puppy leadership had denied that the campaign was political. In an attempt to prevent critics of the Sad Puppy campaign from framing the campaign in any particular way, defenders of the campaigns had counter-examples ready.

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Debarkle Chapter 49: August Part 3

The 2015 Hugo Award results were an emphatic repudiation of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign by the voters. Of all the works nominated on either Puppy slate, only the Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy won a Hugo and “no award” had won the five categories which only had Puppy slated works on the ballot.

Following the award ceremony, the Hugo voting statistics were released[1] showing how the votes were distributed and also what works had been nominated. The statistics showed a further level of pushback from the voters against the Puppy slates. Even in the categories where a non-Puppy-slated work had won, ‘no award’ had beaten the Puppy-slated works in the final rankings. The final ballot used a preference system so the official order is determined after elimination rounds of counting but often ‘no award’ beat the Puppy-slated finalists at the first preference stage. A majority of voters in most categories voted for ‘no award’ above having any Puppy-slated finalist win.

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Debarkle Chapter 48: August – Part 2

In a metaphor so thick that it literally assailed your senses, the 2015 Worldcon aka Sasquan opened with the smell of smoke as Spokane felt the impact of Washington State’s wildfire season. However, neither fears of having to evacuate fans because of fire nor fears of violent fallout from the past months of bitter argument about the Puppy campaigns were realised[1].

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Debarkle Chapter 47: August Part 1

Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, had received a record-breaking number of votes for the Hugo finalists[1]. Whatever else the Puppy campaigns had done, they had led to a substantial number of people voting in the Hugo Awards. In early August nobody except the people counting the votes knew how the majority of voters had voted. On the last day of July, Nicholas Whyte updated his round-up of how multiple bloggers had stated they had voted. He observed:

“This final snapshot doesn’t change the picture much; the three front-runners for Best Novel remain close to each other, and No Award remains in front in the other categories.”

If the pattern of voting among these bloggers was reflected in the final voting then ‘no award’ was going to win several categories. Ambitiously, Jim C Hines made multiple predictions of how events would play out[2].

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Debarkle Chapter 46: July

The substance of the argument about the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns had already run out of steam in June but the attempt to foment a GamerGate-like campaign against Tor Books fuelled the surrounding arguments for another month. July was a month of exhaustion.

Late in June, under general instructions from work, Brad Torgersen pulled back from social media but did become a scheduled blogger at Mad Genius Club discussing issues about writing[1]. Larry Correia’s professional commitments (one of his reasons for not running Sad Puppies 3 in the first place) meant that he had limited time to blog. On the other side of the widening chasm, Mike Glyer announced that he’d be winding down the daily Puppy round-up posts. The final one ran on July 6 and attracted 1,887 comments.

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Debarkle Chapter 45 – The Reviews (April to July)

The focus of this project has been on a small number of people who set chains of consequences in motion but at every stage, it was fans who determined the outcomes of the Hugo Awards by voting.

The sheer volume of comments and debates that the dual Puppy campaigns engendered makes it impossible for this project to adequately capture the range of opinions and discussions that took place. In particular, lengthy comment threads at File 770, Making Light, Monster Hunter Nation, Mad Genius Club and Brad Torgersen’s blog saw opponents and supporters of the Puppy campaigns duelling over the aims and legitimacy of the Puppy campaigns.

As the leader of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign, Brad Torgersen had appealed to critics of his slate to read the works nominated and evaluate them fairly. Proponents of the No Award Strategy argued that the impact of slate voting (particularly from the Rabid Puppy campaign) meant that even a reasonable work was compromised as a finalist by the Puppy slates. In those categories where there was a single non-slated finalist (such as Best Fan Writer and Best Novelette), even the non-slated finalist was competing against a field that many fans regarded as illegitimate.

A pertinent question then was whether the 2015 finalists were any good.

  • Had the Puppies actually nominated award-worthy works and people?
  • Would a No Award strategy unfairly penalise worthy finalists?
  • Were the few non-Puppy-slated finalists any good or were they unwitting beneficiaries of a distorted nomination process?

There was no simple, objective process that could decide these questions. In the end, the decision would come down to how Worldcon members voted but in the meantime what fans could do is read and review the Hugo 2015 finalists.

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Debarkle Chapter 44: June Part 2

[Content warning for dicussion of a racist mass shooting in a later section]

The Tor Boycott and harassment of Tor creative director Irene Gallo by supporters of the dual Puppy campaigns dominated the discussion in fannish spaces in June. However, neither fandom nor the rest of the world stopped for the quixotic campaign against the publisher.

The same weekend that Vox Day started his campaign against Gallo (see the previous chapter), the SFWA presented the Nebula Awards for works produced in 2014. The timing of Day’s release of the screenshot of Gallo’s Facebook comment and the Nebula Awards was almost certainly not a coincidence. Out of curiosity, Mike Glyer emailed Day and asked him directly about the timing. Day explained:

“I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the “sinister plotting”, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.”

Vox Day via email quoted here

The Nebula Awards presented a what-might-have-been look at works that potentially could have been Hugo finalists if the Puppy campaigns had not occurred. The Hugo and the Nebula awards often have an overlap in finalists but the outcomes can vary substantially between the awards. Nonetheless, the difference between the two awards was quite stark in 2015.

The winners in categories with equivalent Hugo categories were:

  • Novel
    • Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; Harper Collins Canada)
  • Novella
    • Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • Novelette
    • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
  • Short Story
    • “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
  • Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
    • Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Of those, only the Dramatic Presentation category had any overlap with the Puppy slates and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was arguably the least controversial Puppy-pick.

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Debarkle Chapter 43: June Part 1 — the Tor Boycott

The discussion on the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns had not burned out by the start of June 2015 but it had plateaued. The back-and-forth of the argument had reached a point of circularity where people argued about events that had occurred in the course of the discussion. Earlier in the conflict, people had been giving one-star reviews at online book stores of works by notable Puppy-associated authors and counter campaigns had also occurred[1]. Sad Puppy-nominated finalist Lou Antonelli had found a Tweet critical of the Sad Puppies so objectionable that he contacted the Tweet’s author (reviewer Aaron Pound) at his place of work[2]. These kinds of bad-faith interactions further fuelled hostility but at this stage, the surrounding discussion remained one mainly about books and awards. It wasn’t a polite discussion about books and awards but it had not reached the kind maelstrom of toxicity that GamerGate had.

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Debarkle Chapter 42: May

At the blog of Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the mammoth thread on voting reform for the Hugo Awards continued into May. The proposed voting method for the nomination stage was still labouring under the lengthy acronym of SDV-LPE and while the algorithm had been fine-tuned and tested the public-relations work in selling the idea to Worldcon members was only just beginning. Voting method expert Jameson Quinn presented his way of explaining it to a lay audience:

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