Thoughts on ‘Sad Puppies’ Three

Those of you in the SF online community are probably aware of the “Sad Puppies” project, which has been a pet hobby horse of a segment of the SF community who believe the Hugo awards and science fiction is under attack by soi-disant Social Justice Warriors. Larry Correia, Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, Brad Torgersen and John C Wright are the notable luminaries in this “counter movement.”

The Sad Puppies 2 program last year got a number of works onto the final Hugo ballot that were rather categorically different in tone, politics and (in my opinion) quality. In the final voting, these works all flamed out, some of them coming out below “No Award” in the final voting tallies.

This year, Brad Torgersen has decided to organize Sad Puppies 3, to further this cause. It is his latest post (https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/why-sad-puppies-3-is-going-to-destroy-science-fiction/) that has caused me to think about this whole fracas. The title in a bit of hyperbole is “Why SAD PUPPIES 3 is going to destroy Science Fiction!”

Read it, or not, as you will. I don’t use Do Not Links and other such devices. I can understand people who do, but I generally can’t be arsed to do that.

The centerpiece of his argument (seen in his graphic which I am going to borrow here) is that the Hugo awards, the hugo voters, are a tiny portion of SF fandom.

hugo_dilemma

The amount of Hugo voters is in the thousands at best, and there are several orders of magnitude of readers more who read SF.

I think he makes a number of errors.

According to the graph (and his own words)
“the little yellow circle is the total body of “fandom” at Worldcon; which ignores games, tie-ins, comics, and other forms of popular SF/F. “

His implication, and the graph, is that a significant, even large portion of fandom at Worldcon ignores popular SF forms. That fandom intersects but is not wholly part of the General F/SF Consumer Audience.

Here I have to protest and say “really?”. I don’t know if his explicit intention is to “other” Worldcon voters as not being part of the General SF/F audience, but he certainly is implying that with the graph. His graph seems to suggest that Worldcon voters are by and large not
General F/SF Consumer Audience. And that’s crazy. If you look at the voting patterns of Hugo awards, the media categories get tons of votes, each and every year. Shows like Skiffy and Fanty (which I am a part of) talk about movies on a regular basis. There are recaps, rewatches, podcasts and more on everything from comics to videogames. Or does my review of Civilization Beyond Earth somehow not count?

the voting body of “fandom” have tended to go in the opposite direction: niche, academic, overtly to the Left in ideology and flavor, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun

Even if I buy this argument, Mr. Torgersen, they are still part of the General F/SF Consumer Audience. Its a portion you don’t care for, and frankly thing is anathema to the values of SF you treasure, but they are still part of the conversation, part of the audience. Some of us play Civ BE, Half-Life 2 and read BOTH Charles Gannon and Ann Leckie. (I was on a podcast that discussed the Nebula nominees last year, we covered FIRE WITH FIRE. Go look it up) . Oh, and Shaun, my Skiffy and Fanty co host, talked with Gannon at Worldcon (an interview I wanted to make but missed, to my chagrin).

So that pea of Worldcon fandom should be inside of the General F/SF Consumer Audience. To say otherwise is a categorical error.

Now, as far as this goal:

“Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion.”

Again, Mr. Torgersen, if the work is good, I don’t have any objections to it being on the ballot. What pissed a lot of people off last year wasn’t that it was necessarily Theodore Beale, or yourself, on the Hugo Ballot. Sure, Mr. Correia did his campaign to get a slate of people on the ballot. Fine. Logrolling happens in fandom, and has long since before the Internet. What pissed me off is the quality of the work. If FIRE WITH FIRE had been on the ballot, I’d have no issue with that at all. But “Opera Vita Aeterna”? Just, no. The story is boring, turgid and dull. The Sad Puppies 2 project did the exact same thing that the fans of L Ron Hubbard did with getting Black Genesis on the ballot back in 1987.

Get a work of quality on the ballot and I’ll read it and vote for it. I’ve seen Jack McDevitt’s name bandied about, and he has Nebula nominations aplenty and a win. But the Hugo voting audience seems to have not seen his work. I think that’s criminal, myself. Help a good work of his get on, and I’m behind you. Help get shit on the ballot, and that’s another matter entirely.

It’s not the politics, its the quality of the work that I care about. And what a lot more people than you think care about.

Oh and “As a tertiary objective, SAD PUPPIES would like to see the Hugo categories re-structured so that consumer sectors like gaming are not ignored”

I have absolutely no problem with this objective. I do tabletop roleplaying face to face, on Skype and email. And already indicate that I play a lot of video games. Bring it.

The rules on changing rules and categories for the Hugos are slow and arcane. It makes the US Senate seem positively speedy by comparison. Maybe there should be categories for RPGs, Videogames, and YA. But the process required to do that is so slow and byzantine, and the body that generally is active in that so conservative, that it hasn’t happened and would be difficult to do so. But should it? Yes.

Instead of a campaign of “stop the Social justice warriors” (I’m a social justice combat photographer myself), a campaign for recognizing worthy work is another matter entirely.

I am part of the General SF/F audience, just like you. And I care as deeply as you do.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on ‘Sad Puppies’ Three”

  1. Torgerson’s writing was, IMHO, the worst I’ve seen in a Hugo nomination in years; it had no business being there. It was more technically skilled than Vox’s story, but it was utterly soulless. There was no bloody there there. His Mil-SF stuff had the tropes of Mil-SF without any interesting ideas or character development. Vox’s wasn’t good, certainly wasn’t Hugo material, but would have been just fine in a typical SF/Fantasy pulp magazine back when there were more of them. Torgerson’s was a waste of my time.

    And while I think Correia may be personally and politically annoying, and his writing wasn’t as good as the people who beat him, it was fun; after the voting was over I went back and finished reading his trilogy (still working on Wheel of Time 🙂 It was more comic-bookish than deep, but the pacing was great, the characters were good enough, there were some ideas and he handled them well.

    (And Orbit didn’t do themselves many favors by only providing excerpts; there wasn’t enough of Ancillary Justice for me to decide whether I liked it.)

  2. See, my problem with the argument that SJW’s (? an appellation I would never give myself, curiously enough, and with which I do not identify) don’t like swashbuckling fun is that I, for one, thought my own Spiritwalker books WERE swashbuckling fun, and I’m not the writer whom they ID as an SJW who writes “fun” books.

    1. There is some kind of major typo in the last phrase of that comment! I think I must have accidentally cut out a few words.

      The point I was trying to make is that if writers they ID as SJWs can’t write swashbuckling fun, and if I *did* write a trilogy with swashbuckling fun, then, by that definition I can (thank goodness) no longer be defined (by them) as an SJW. RIght?

  3. This whole idea makes my head spin. It’s illogical. I keep wanting to shout “That idea does not mean what you think it means” to mangle a Princess Bride quote.

    Every single person who votes for the Hugos buys SFF books and DVDs of SFF movies. Every single one. Voting for the Hugos doesn’t negate that fact. It doesn’t take ANYONE out of the General SFF Consumer Audience.

    If anything, Hugo voters probably consume more SFF books and movies than average. An argument could be made that being exposed to more…variety…in genre might, somehow, give voters a better feel for quality in the writing, insight into tired, over used tropes, build in a bullshit meter, and in general make them more discriminating in the works they vote for. It’s a radical idea, I know, and I’m sure someone less sarcastic than I am could make a good case for it. ::cough::

    The only reason I don’t vote for the Hugos every year is money. I’m not the only one who can’t afford a membership to WorldCon, even a supporting membership. That sad yellow ball, so tiny and forlorn, would be much larger if we could.

  4. I don’t see the logic (so to speak) in proposing to open Hugo voting to a wider population, when most of the people who currently qualify to vote aren’t even interested enough to vote. I’ve forgotten the figure , but isn’t it something like: only about 1/3 of WorldCon members vote on the Hugos?

    Before saying, “Hey! Let’s get everyone interested in any aspect of sf/f–including people who watch lots of sf movies but almost never read a book–in voting on the Hugos!”…. Wouldn’t it make more sense to study why most of the people who currently qualify to vote don’t bother to? And see if that “problem” can be addressed and improved on?

    Is the solution to Hugo relevance really to make the vote available to even MORE people who might not vote? To people who don’t read? To people who only read NYT bestsellers?

    If the Hugo becomes a reflection of sf/f books that open at #1 on the NYT bestseller list (ex. Diana Gabaldon, Charlaine Harris, GRRM, Neil Gaiman, Stephanie Meyer, Laurell Hamilton, JD Robb), which strikes me as a not-unlikely outcome of opening it to everyone who reads sf/f (since the number of people who read mega-selling titles is HUGE) then won’t we wind up reading writer blogs before long that demand the genre create another award that reflects “quality” or “genre values” rather than “just mainstream popularity” and gives midlisters and genre writers who’ll never open at #1 on the NYT list a shot at wining/recognition? Maybe via an award that only truefen vote on? And then a few years later, before you know it, we’re right back in this very spot, with some writers complaining that the new award left wing, exclusive, irrelevant, and/or ignores mainstream audience preferences.

    I also don’t see how creating even MORE categories would make the Hugo more relevant or less obscure. My impression has long been that TV/movie companies don’t care if they win a Hugo, and that awarding Hugos to Hollywood has not raised the award’s profile at all. And I am unconvinced that this would be very different with gaming companies than with film/TV production companies.

    I’m not trying to say that the Hugos are perfect as-is. And I agree that greater voter participation would help make them more relevant. But when most people qualified to vote on the Hugos don’t bother, I can’t agree that opening the Hugos to a much wider vote is the game-changing solution, in much the way that Hugo’s experience with Hollywood also make me disagree that opening them to gaming companies would be a game-changing profile raiser.

  5. Based on what I read on the Internet and see in the 2014 Hugo results, Sad Puppies appears to be a method to take money from conservstive Authors and redistribute it to a Liberal Conventions that honor Libeeral Authors.

    I’m not sure how much this will help Sad Puppies, but it has got to help finance WorldCon for a few more years. Until Sad Puppies figure it out.

  6. Social Justice Warriors write boring shit. Their boring shit suffers from two big problems:

    1. It is all about sexism racism homophobia transphobia etc, in other words, about our world now, Even if the condemnation of racism is nominally being done by greenskinned martian elves, it is obvious that they are not greenskinned martian elves, but early twenty first century Americans mouthing early twenty first century American piety. And even if the social justice warrior is an englishman, still early twenty first century Americans. Further, even if the greenskinned martian elves are standins for black americans, and the author is herself is black female lesbian american, they still sound like white early twenty first century Americans.

    2. Utilitarian ethics are no fun. For example in Iron Sun, a peaceful planet is destroyed in an unprovoked attack. However the inhabitants of that planet had anticipated this, it was not a total surprise to them, and prepared a doomsday fleet of planet busting killer robots to avenge their deaths in the event that their world suddenly got blown up.

    Stross then proceeds to piously argue that vengeance does not restore the dead, that most of the people on the planets to be destroyed in the vengeance strike had no part in the decision, etc, etc.

    That is no fun. The men that built the doomsday fleet were right, Stross is wrong, and, more importantly, the men that built the doomsday fleet were more fun.

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