Looks like the Scrappy Doo era chapters will write themselves

File 770 recently linked to the court documents in the long running legal dispute between Jon Del Arroz and Worldcon 76 http://file770.com/worldcon-76-filings-for-summary-judgment-in-del-arroz-defamation-suit-now-online which neatly has the history of JDA’s relationship with Worldcon and the SFWA written up in one place.

Meanwhile, you will all be shocked to learn that Brian “Dragon Award” Niemeier’s 2016 “shadowban” by Twitter was…a piece of marketing.

“One answer our guys have come up with is eDrama marketing. The basic idea is to pick out a representative of the establishment and find a way to sell yourself as the plucky little guy crusading against the man. People – especially Americans – love an underdog, so playing the put-upon victim of megacorp ticket-takers is an effective way to drum up sympathy. No doubt about it, eDrama can make for rapid gains. I’ve used that approach myself. If the popularity of professional wrestling has taught us anything, it’s that kayfabe works. People love to root for the face against the heel. The ringleaders of certain dissident art scenes have ridden outrage marketing to modest e-celebrity and small fortunes.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2021/03/the-edrama-egg-timer.html

Niemeier’s Twitter technical problems garnered him a write up in alt-right news/propaganda source Brietbart https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/08/02/reports-hugo-nominated-author-shadowbanned-twitter/

Anyway, as Brian notes:

“Either way, following the eDrama road past the initial breakout phase sets an egg timer on your career. The countdown to irrelevance has begun.”

Starting February: Debarkle

I’ve been mulling over for some time (years tbh) writing a history of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards. A few things have put me off doing so. Two of the obstacles is any account needs at least some treatment of RaceFail and of the Requires Hate story and they are rabbit holes of controversy (but there are ways through that I think). However, one issue is an end point. In terms of Larry Correia’s frustration at not getting an award, the 2016 Dragon Award ceremony, which also saw Vox Day’s Castalia House getting its participation trophies, is an obvious place to stop. You can finish a story there and say “and the puppies went away and had their own awards”. It is unsatisfying and misleading though.

The appeal with finishing the story there is the main action of the Puppy Debarkle ends there with things petering out with the collapse of Sad Puppies 5 and the process reforms blunting the impact of Rabid Puppies 3 the following year. However, the point of writing about the Debarkle is the wider context. Fandom has had its fair share of squabbles, kerfuffles and scandals but what makes the Debarkle interesting in particular is the connection with wider events. The Sad Puppies presented their unexpected fannish-insurrection as primarily a question of aesthetics, as Larry Correia stated in his first attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards, this was an attempt to frustrate the “literati”. Contrariwise, the opposition to the Puppies contended that they were a politically reactionary movement.

It is this second issue that frames any discussion. It’s not a difficult proposition to demonstrate, that the Puppies were a politically reactionary movement motivated by a dislike of the left in general and the advocacy for women and people of colour and LGBQTI people more specifically. By late 2016 the Puppies of all stripes were barely pretending otherwise and, of course, Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies never pretended otherwise. But a more open question is whether the process of the Debarkle radicalised the Puppies or whether a growing social rift in America (and beyond) was radicalising them regardless?

I don’t know the answer to that question but it is the kind of question I could get a better answer to if I attempt this. Of course, placing the Puppies in the context of the politics also gives a point in time to look back from and say “how did we get here?” That point looks very much like January 6 2021.

Take, for example, this artefact of current right wing discourse in the wake of the attempted putsch in America’s capitol:

“Apparently Sarah Hoyt is the only non-cuck at Instapundit.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/01/give-girl-her-props.html

Or, looking in a different direction, imagine being a future historian and trying to explain all the context to this tweet:

Neither GamerGate nor the Debarkle by themselves explain events and both were shaped by social forces that were hard to see. Yet, rather like the tracks made by invisible particles in a bubble chamber, the revealed shifts in attitudes and changing political coalitions that were also leading up to changes on a bigger scale. Within a short time, political upsets in the US and UK (Trump becoming the Republican Party POTUS nominee and the Brexit referendum) saw right-wing, populist, anti-rational positions taking hold of national policy. Where they motivated by the same thing as the Puppy movements? We can debate that but the Puppies generally thought so (Brexit more than Trump oddly).

Five years after peak-Puppy, in the hell year that was 2020 notable figures in the Debarkle were pushing firstly covid-19 conspiracies, followed by attempts to mobilise anti-lockdown protests, followed by anti-mask wearing propaganda, followed by anti-vaccine propaganda. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election defeat, chief Sad Puppy Larry Correia was a notable booster of “steal” conspiracy theories and his posts on the topic were widely shared in conservative circles. Meanwhile, since late 2017, Vox Day was an early adopter and promoter of “QANON” the free-floating anti-rational meta-conspiracy theory and also an early advocate in 2020 of the need for Trump to seize power by force to ensure a second term.

The Debarkle (in particular peak Debarkle in 2015) presaged events in a microcosm but also later events clarify questions. At the time, it was an open question as to how politically extreme many of the Sad Puppy leaders where, there even people who attempted apparently good-faith arguments that Vox Day somehow wasn’t that extreme. Supporters of the Sad Puppies would often point to Sarah Hoyt (a woman and an immigrant to the US from a non-anglophone country) as clear evidence that the Sad Puppies were neither sexist or racist. I believe that even at the time the evidence demonstrated that their argument was flawed but with 2020 hindsight, the manner in which Hoyt refers to the VP-elect of the USA Kamala Harris is a much simpler refutation of the idea that she somehow is immune to sexism and racism.

Nor would it be sensible to write about the 2015 side-plot of the infamous Tor Boycott without pointing to Mad Genius blogger and one-time Castalia House author Peter Grant stating in the wake of yesterday’s attempt to overthrow the US constitution that: “If I were in D.C. today, I’d be in the Capitol along with the protesters.” If you’ve overtly placed yourself to the right of the leaders of the Republican Party (and for that matter the very right wing current Vice President of the US) and are contemplating civil war because you’ve fully bought into a stab-in-the-back mythology of stolen victory…well…”“extreme right wing to neo-nazi, respectively” was always a very apt description. How much time did we spend dissecting the various political positions that notable Puppies might have in an attempt to tease out the nuance of their politics? It’s a lot easier to sum up as “I’m not sure what they thought in 2015 but within five years they’ll be demanding the violent overthrow of the government in a far-right putsch.”

I’ll post more about the structure and the schedule of Debarkle as a blog series. Obviously, and as always, comments and corrections will be more than welcome, indeed expected — particularly as most of you were there at the time and many of you were actively involved in countering the Puppies for years before I stuck my oar in.

The Eve of Something

…but we don’t know what.

By virtue of time zones, it is already Tuesday 3 November here. In a normal year, this would be Melbourne Cup day — the big Australian horse race that everybody bets on and people wear hats and get drunk. This year, things are a bit more subdued.

Meanwhile, it is still Monday in the USA. The final vote tally for the US Presidential election won’t be known for awhile but tomorrow things will be changing rapidly towards a conclusion. The polls and the models point toward a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket. Over shadowing those polls is the fact that Trump won last time and, more darkly, that Trump may not accept defeat even if he does lose.

Nate Silver at 538 is busy reminding people that a 10% chance is not a 0% chance https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/im-here-to-remind-you-that-trump-can-still-win/ There are uncertainties of many kinds, particularly around Pennsylvania and Florida where the chance of a Trump winning the state is much closer than in national polls.

In addition, the polls and models are unlikely to have adequately compensated for a number of factors:

  • Increased early voting
  • Potentially increased turn out
  • Attempts at voter suppression
  • Attempts at vote intimidation

There are also claims of a “shy Trump voter” bias in the polls — more centre-leaning Trump voters not wanting to say they are Trump voters out of shame or fear. This last one I am doubtful of.

Back in 2016 I thought it would be interesting to see how people associated with the Sad/Rabid Puppies movement would shift (or not) during the Trump years. As reflected more broadly in the polls, people who were already solidly right wing have only consolidated more in their support of Trump. Where a number of notable Sad Puppies were dubious (or even hostile) towards Trump during the GOP Presidential nomination process all those years ago, most shifted towards some degree of support by the election (or at the very least overt hostility towards his opponent). In between times, that has only strengthened. John C Wright and Sarah Hoyt shifted from sceptical/grudging support to full on Trump-advocacy. Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen have been more circumspect and adopted an ‘anti-anti-Trump’ position. I don’t think either of them have overtly said they’d vote for him but their anti-Biden position is unambiguous and also shallow (focusing on Biden’s age and his dodgy son — qualities which don’t distinguish him from Trump). Vox Day has been an avid Trump supporter and remains so.

On the whole, most of this former leaders of the Puppy groups remain bullish about the election. There is an underlying belief that Trump is very popular and the polls are very wrong. That is compounded with a confusion about how wrong the polls were in 2016 — as if dismissing the result of the popular vote for constitutional reasons also (magically) means the polls got it wrong that Hillary Clinton was more popular than Trump.

Adjacent to the Puppy leaders we have other puppy-characters like Michael A Rothman being super bullish on Facebook:

“Mark this as my official prediction:
Trump wins electoral with at least the same margin as last time.
Trump likely wins popular vote as well.”

https://www.facebook.com/MARothman/posts/10217545584647542

That seems unlikely.

If the opposite happens and Biden’s win is more substantial then maybe some Republicans will re-evaluate their support of the Electoral College. That will be interesting to see. Because of the above, I’ve ended up watching Utah conservatives extolling the virtue of the EC, even though it remains a bad deal for Utah conservatives (the way the Senate works is a different question). Ironically, the 2016 election would have been an opportunity for Utah Republicans to leverage the EC by voting Democratic and ironically giving themselves far more influence over the GOP as a result…but that’s not how people actually vote or behave.

Speaking of which, I was gifted yesterday a cursed item: a book! Entitled “Divided we Fall: One Possible Future” it is a political-science fiction anthology edited by the pseudonymous Mack Henckel and according to the cover features:

“Stories by Sarah Hoyt, Brad Torgersen, Jon Del Arroz and More!”

The premise is all the bad things that will happen to America if Trump loses. This is the flip side of the apparent bullishness: a deep seated fear of what happens next.

You won’t be astonished to hear that it isn’t very good but let me reassure you that even by standards of Hoyt’s, Torgersen’s and Arroz’s writing, it isn’t very good. Indeed, all three are more than capable of word-smithing readable fiction — they aren’t inherently bad writers and Hoyt in particular gains a lot more clarity when she writes fiction. This book though, is rushed and poorly edited both in a broad sense and in a copy-editing sense. It falls even below my extraordinarily low standards for typos.

Torgersen’s persecution fantasy is that the Federal Government will outlaw the Mormons:

“Ephraim Roberts watched the feds from behind his own sunglasses. Until six months prior, he’d been among their number. The injunction—which had come swift on the heels of the church having its tax-exempt status revoked—had put paid to any plans Ephraim had of retiring on a federal pension. He’d watched two nephews and one niece go to jail during the early days, when idealistic church members still actively challenged the blockades that had sprung up around every single Latter-Day Saint temple in the United States.”

Secret Combinations by Brad Torgersen, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Jon Del Arroz’s story is more unpleasant but is basically just trolling for outrage. Sarah Hoyt’s story is quasi-autobiographical which has the unfortunate effect of making it read like one of her not-intended-to-be-fiction columns. The protagonist lives in Colorado and in 2016 is considering voting Libertarian but is persuaded reluctantly to vote for Trump. Unlike Hoyt, the protagonist is gay and has a liberal wife but the dialogue from either of them reads like direct quotes from her columns. For example take this dialogue about Covid19:

‘“Sure. Very dangerous, if you’re like 80. Maybe. Look, I did a deep dive into the Diamond Princess numbers. It can’t be that dangerous. Those ships are plague vessels at the best of times.”
“Ah.”
“And what they’re doing is putting an entire country under house arrest. A lot of the economy won’t come back, can’t come back.’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Anyway then tomorrow happens and society collapses:

‘Well, you know what happened. The election was called for Joe and the Ho, and Trump didn’t dispute it. And things got crazy. Really crazy. It was hard to know what was actually happening, you know, because the news was all bizarre. They’d started the fiction with their Tales of the Covid, and they just ramped that up. The Green New Deal was going to save us. The Native Americans were coming out of the reservations to teach us to love Mother Earth. Police were disbanded. The committees of reconciliation…’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

The story rapidly skips into an apocalypse society but the protagonist and friends keep the faith and at the end have started a kind of religion whose faith is the USA (a theme Hoyt has used before).

…and so on. Yes, obviously the anthology is an attempt to make a quick buck (and a quick book) but the fear mongering is both cynical and sincere. That combination is quintessentially the story of the Puppy years — a mix of grift, confabulation and paranoia.

Ringo and Comicsgate (aka the crappiest gate)

Comicsgate, the culture war rebellion that was so self-defeating that it managed to turn its own harassment campaign against itself still drifts on. The anti-free speech group that engaged in online harassment campaigns against multiple creators (e.g. Magdalene Visaggio, Sue DeConnick, Alyssa Wong, Noelle Stevenson and Ta-Nehisi Coates to name just a few) likes to style itself in the standard alt-right opposite-day rhetoric as being pro-free speech and opposed to “cancel culture” “mobs”. The movement engaged in verbal abuse, rape threats, death threats and doxxing as well as calls for boycotts and campaigns to get creators fired for their views. Connected with the harassment campaigns were various crowd-funding attempts by comicsgate creators such as Ethan Van Scriver to take advantage of the outrage marketing to help fund their own projects. [for examples see the references]

When Vox Day decided to attach himself to the movement [see my coverage in the references] the amount of abuse increased but much of the toxicity turn in on itself with pro-Day and pro-Ethan Van Scriver factions attacking each other. Caught in the crossfire (or fuelling the crossfire depending on who you ask) was our old pal Jon Del Arroz, who after spending a few years on his own harassment/culture-war grift, is currently complaining, as a consequence of his comicsgate experience, about right-wing culture war grifters [references].

Well that’s two paragraphs just to cover the background. What has all that got to do with John Ringo?

Currently there is a crowdunding campaign on Indiegogo to turn John Ringo’s zombie apocalypse Black Tide Rising series into a series of graphic novels [references]. The creators involved are Chuck Dixon, Derlis Santacruz, Brett R Smith, and Dave Dorman.

Veteran writer Chuck Dixon became embroiled in the alt-right comics culture war after being recruited into Vox Day’s Arkhaven Comics ‘Alt Hero’ line of comics. Day, in case anybody here has forgotten, is infamous for his support of terrorist Anders Brevik and called the mass murder of over 70 people (the youngest of whom was 14) “a highly effective blow against the political machine”. Day’s randomly vandalised version of Wikipedia also spreads conspiracy theories that casts people convicted of child abuse as victims of state conspiracies [references]. I mention all that not to say that somehow Dixon is guilty by association but to point out which things bother these ‘alternative voices’ in comics and which things very notably do not seem to bother them at all.

Of the others, Brett R Smith openly aligned himself with the comicsgate campaign eg:

However, Smith’s most notable connection was with the comic Jawbreakers, which he worked on with notable comicsgate figure Richard C. Meyer. Smith also attempted to produce a comic in support of violent far-right protestor Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman. Chapman, a man with convictions for robbery, theft, and illegal weapon sales, became something of a hero among the alt-right when he was filmed beating protestors with a stick. Chapman later attempted to set up his own quasi-Proud Boys street-fighting spin off called ‘Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights’. Smith said of Chapman: “I concur but we have an army of our own. @BasedStickMan_ @ProudBoysUSA @Oathkeepers all kept the peace. They stood firm & we won the day.” [references]

I suspect that just listing all this stuff in one place and pointing to the connections will engender counter-criticism that doing so is ‘cancel culture’ or stirring up an SJW-mob. It isn’t. If people want to buy a John Ringo story in comic book form then that’s their business but we shouldn’t be shy about discussing the overt and publicly stated views of the creators. If people state they are engaged in a culture war then it is really odd, indeed psychologically unhealthy, to pretend that they aren’t.

Meanwhile, Baen Books is promoting the crowdfunding campaign on Twitter and in their forum.


References

Tying up old plot lines

There is a lot of noise amid the right-SF social media sphere currently. It’s very free form and the broader cause is that in mainstream SF&F communities there has been the recent cases of some very prominent and well connected men being held accountable for the way they have been treating other people (earlier coverage). Although post-Puppies, the world of right-wing science fiction claims to have separated and living an idyllic SJW-free life, in reality ructions in mainstream SF&F are felt keenly in the breakaway bubble. The problem they have is working out a clear position. On the one hand various authors they dislike are having a bad time of things but on the other hand, powerful men are being held accountable for their actions against women. Bit of a tricky dilemma and hence we get to see various diversions attacking the ‘wokeness’ of mainstream SF&F (e.g. Dave Freer recently).

Another recent example is Cirsova magazine. Cirsova was, in many ways, a better attempt by the right-wing SF&F community to challenge their energies into something a bit more positive i.e. an on-going story magazine. Up until recently, it had largely avoided outrage marketing techniques. However, that changed on June 29 with the unintentionally funny announcement that they had declared that the SFWA was a terrorist organisation (File 770 coverage). Cirsova’s stance on terrorism had been notably absent during their long association with Vox Day’s Castalia House despite Day’s infamous support of convicted terrorist and mass-murderer Anders Breivik. (“Virtue signalling” could be the term for it if we could find any virtue signalled…)

I draw two big inferences from this:

  1. This is another example of the diversions I talk about above
  2. Sales/income must be bad for Cirsova. There is always a grift with right-wing SF&F. Always, and this is classic outrage marketing. [That observation got me instantly blocked on Twitter by Cirsova…]

On the second point, right-wing SF&F publishing has been contracting. There are still some big sellers (i.e. Larry Correia) but in the time since the Puppies stormed off with their own football from the field, Castalia House has stopped publishing new science fiction and Superversive Press has closed, various at attempts at alt-SFWA have fizzled and Sarah Hoyt is claiming she can’t get published by Baen any more. There’s still a right wing audience out there but it’s just not big enough to maintain a large number of authors and outlets and much of it is catered to by more generic military SF provided by less partisan groups like LMBPN.

On the first point…well the SFWA statement on Black Lives Matter was June 4. Cirsova’s counter-terrorism unit didn’t make its deceleration until twenty-five days later i.e. not until mainstream SF&F was having its own ructions and right-wing SF was trying to find a way to join in.

Let’s throw in a few other bad actors (n both senses of the term). So I was watching a video by Jon Del Arroz…that’s never a good start to a story nor is it something I would recommend. Anyway, JDA’s video was about another charmer Richard Fox. Remember Richard? Fox got a story nominated for a Nebula award courtesy of the 20booksto50K/LMBPN slate in 2019 (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/nebula-shorts-going-dark-by-richard-fox/) and then had a bit of a melt-down in the comments section here partly when people noticed the similarity between him and a Goodreads commenter called “John Margolis” who wrote racially abusive comments to people who gave Richard bad reviews on Goodreads.

Fox would go onto behave in even more odd ways (to put it politely) https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/authors-behaving-badly-episode-1234543-richard-fox/ accusing Mike Glyer’s File 770 of “piracy” because it had a link to the SFWA public Nebula reading list to a PDF of his story that he had uploaded. No, that made no sense but it was enough for the axis of Jon Del Arroz and Larry Correia to try to spin into a scandal.

Where was I? Oh!…a video by Jon Del Arroz. [Here for reference but seriously, it’s just trolling. You can skip it https://delarroz.com/2020/07/01/nebula-award-nominated-author-pulls-story-from-sfwa-anthology-because-of-their-racism/ ]

JDA was proudly announcing that “Nebula nominated” author Richard Fox was withdrawing his story from the Nebula Award anthology (yes, that story mentioned above) in solidarity with Cirsova. Notably, Fox’s author Facebook page and author website say exactly ZERO about this brave stand against ‘terrorism’. It’s not something Fox wants his regular readers to know but…well he’d like some of those Dragon Award votes from the people who are most likely to vote in them.

Long story short: various right wing science fiction people are generally agitated by the fact that some specific male SF authors (who happen to people they don’t like but are also powerful men…so a bit of a dilemma) are being held to account because of misogynistic behaviour and so are finding various random ways of acting out.

Blogiversary: Greatest Hits

Five years of all this nonsense but what nonsense were people reading and when? I’m down here in the archive stacks of Felapton Towers and blowing the dust off the weird old filing cabinets to find out. These posts are just the numbers-game hits rather than special favourites and often other factors drove the traffic to them.

2015

The first year out for the blog and Puppy-kerfuffling was already in full on kerfluff.

2016

2016 was the year that the unreality field started spilling out everywhere.

2017

2017 was dominated by Rabid Puppy shenanigans. In particular Vox Day’s spoiler campaign for John Scalzi’s new sci-fi trilogy.

2018

I was downloading a report from an online database the other day and I was entering a date range. I wanted to cover the whole set of records which started in 2011. So I picked 2011/1/1 as the start date and that day’s date which I typed as 2018/5/8. What? I think my brain stopped updating the year and I’ve been stuck in 2018 ever since.

The reality dysfunction was going full-on as world politics got even stranger. Meanwhile this blog was forced into self-referentiality as I got caught up in my own Sad Puppy kerbungle and then later became a Hugo Finalist.

2019

At the very start of January 2019 I considered winding down the blog. Later I decided to post something every day. I’m fickle. Surprisingly, it was the Nebula Awards that drove traffic to the blog.

2020

The year isn’t finished yet but it started on fire and followed up with a global pandemic. This is a first-quarter list but I think some of the themes for the year are clear…

April Brings the First Slate of the Year

Buds are budding and spring is springing, at least in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. The Dragon Award website may still be in its wintery slumber but we have our first proper slate for it.*

Russell Newquist’s Silver Empire publishing has been filling the gap left in right-wing SFF publishing left by Castalia House retreating and Superversive Press closing. They’ve made an appearance on the Dragon Awards before but given the general quiescence of the awards currently, then maybe they have a chance…or not depending on how the people who run the award feel I guess.

Oddly, I couldn’t find the slate at their website but instead it appears on the Superversive website. http://www.superversivesf.com/?p=1191

  • Best Sci Fi: Overlook by Jon Mollison
  • Best Fantasy (incl. Paranormal): Victory’s Kiss by Bokerah Brumley
  • Best YA: The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
  • Best Mi-SF: Justified by Jon Del Arroz
  • Best Alt History: This Deadly Engine by (Philip) Matt Ligon
  • Best Horror: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

Only one name I’m not familiar with.

*[That I’m aware of. There’s probably more on Facebook.]

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.

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

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier. https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/12/no-american-man.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/sad-popcorn/ ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

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

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

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

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

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html

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

Looking back at a kerfuffle

Back in July the Galaxy’s Edge* magazine, Robert J Sawyer’s regular column discussed some issues around the SFWA. The column was also covered in this Pixel Scroll at File 770. I didn’t engage a great deal with Sawyer’s comments because I’m not a part of the SFWA and I’m unlikely to ever be and I’ve also really zero idea of what the make up of the organisation should be or what practical impact a writer’s organisation can have. Suffice to say, Sawyer has had a long career writing science-fiction and is a former SFWA president so ostensibly knows a lot more than I do on the topic. Having said that…well I didn’t get a clear sense of what he thought the issues were (other than that the SFWA should be more like the Writer’s Guild of America).

There was one point that bugged me though but I decided not to focus on it at the time because it was secondary to Sawyer’s broader points. The point was a throw away comment part way through the column:

“The crisis that led Lawrence to resign was precipitated by an unprecedented loosening of SFWA’s membership credentials, undertaken by fiat by the board, allowing huge numbers of self-published authors to join. Hustlers by nature, some of them immediately organized a successful block-nominating slate to get self-published authors onto the Nebula ballot, hijacking the Academy Award of the science-fiction and fantasy fields.”

Sawyer is referencing the controversy earlier in the year regarding Nebula finalists connected with the publishing self-help group 20booksto50K and the independent publisher LMBPN. I wrote about it extensively at the time but the best overall account is by Cora Buhlert here: http://corabuhlert.com/2019/03/01/the-latest-developments-regarding-the-2018-nebula-award-finalists/

So what is my issue with Sawyer’s brief description? Several things but primarily it promotes the misleading framing of the kerfuffle as self-published versus traditionally-published authors. That framing was pushed by various people at the time and while there is some superficial truth to it, the framing is deeply misleading:

  • Many of the authors nominated who were on the 20booksto50K list had been traditionally published previously.
  • At least one was a long term member of the SFWA.
  • Some of the most vocal SFWA members objecting to the list were from an indie-published background.
  • The framing obscures the role of a publisher (LMBPN) in the list.

That misleading framing was part of the issue with the original not-a-slate i.e. byt setting up not just a list but a narrative as to why random voters should feel some loyalty towards the list is part of how the whole issue became problematic.

However, those aren’t the only issues with Sawyer’s statement. He also overstates the impact of the list, the nature of self-published writers and ignores the subsequent behaviour.

  • “huge numbers of self-published authors to join” – I don’t know how many people voted for the 20booksto50K list but it didn’t need to be huge numbers to impact the Nebula short-list and it probably wasn’t. That only some works from the list were finalists implies it was a significant but not large number.
  • “Hustlers by nature” – is just pointlessly insulting. Sure, there is a Wild-West aspect to the world of Amazon self-publishing but we have a very obvious comparison group to compare with (which I’ll get to). There are certainly notorious examples of self-published authors behaving badly but they aren’t the norm.
  • “hijacking the Academy Award of the science-fiction and fantasy fields” – I’m not making excuses for the not-a-slate but the overall impact on the awards I believe was small. Multiple, excellent works that would have been finalists regardless were still finalists and the final outcome was probably indistinguishable with what would have happened regardless.

The comparison group I mentioned above is, of course, the Sad Puppies. It is true that post-hoc leaders and supporters of the Sad Puppies have used the same framing of indie/self-published versus trad-publishing as a kind of factional distinction. However, Correia, Torgersen, Hoyt and Wright were all from a traditionally published background and at the time (at least initially) there focus was on authors and works that were traditionally published. As hustles go, the Sad Puppy Hustle was bigger, more damaging and more significant to literary awards and had its roots in traditional publishing.

It is also notable how much better key figures around the 20booksto50K/LMBPN groups behaved. Again, I’m not making excuses for anybody’s actions, just making a comparison with the obvious other kerfuffle. Of the various interactions I had with authors connected with the Nebula fuss at the time, only one was reminiscent of the way Sad Puppy leader’s behaved and that one example had their own connections with the Sad Puppies.

No deep conclusions to draw other than messy things are messy.

*[Maybe too many things are called Galaxy’s Edge. It gets confusing.]