Bourbons and Bakunins: The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies

I’ve been inspired by people like Mike Glyer at File 770 in keeping up with the Hugo conversation.The “Big Guy” George R R Martin is weighing in too, now.

I have some further thoughts myself, now. Thanks go to Kari Sperring and Charles Stross, too, for urging me to talk this out. They’re smarter than me. You should listen to what they say.

One of the developments as the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Axis managed to garner most of the slots on the Hugo ballot by slate voting that Tammany Hall would be proud of is the insistence, especially on the Sad Puppies front, that they are aren’t affiliated with the Rabid Puppies at all. There is a strong decrying of any calls that *they* are racist, although they don’t quite throw Theodore Beale under any buses. Similarly, Theodore Beale has stated he is “not affiliated” with the Sad Puppies.

I think this is a facile and deeply misleading attempt at a difference, since the two slates clearly are connected together. Its akin to insisting the Tea Party is not part of the Republican Party. It just isn’t believable. And people like James May is more seen in Sad Puppy land, but acts in a very Rabid Puppy manner. Sarah Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club appear to partake of both types.

So what I observe, and think, is that the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies are overlapping (oh no, a Venn Diagram again!) but distinct portions of groups I am going to call Bourbons and Bakunins. Both groups seek to change the Hugo awards, in different ways.
I name the Bourbons after the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830). The Bourbon Restoration, in France, was a recapitulation of the Ancien Regime monarchy that had gotten throw over in the French revolution and Napoleon’s rise to power. It was an attempt to turn back the clock to the way things were as much as possible. It wasn’t a complete restoration and, in the end, it could not succeed or last. The world, and the people of France, had changed too much, and France convulsed as a result.

The Bourbons in science fiction, like Brad and Larry, want the Hugo awards to reward the things they used to, and what Brad and Larry like and value and write in their own fiction:

“That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.

It’s a clear call and wish for the way things were. Ancillary Justice has Space Opera, but it does interesting things with gender. The Mirror Empire is big epic fantasy, but with all sorts of interesting societies and female characters in power. These books have an audience and reflect the diversity of SF readership, but not Brad and Larry’s tastes. To them, these books are “Social Justice fiction” and see them in terms of politics they don’t like. This must be turned back, and they’ve decided to turn the Hugos back. I think this is part of Brad’s admonition and hope that the nuclear No Award option doesn’t win categories this year. The No Award option IS a nuclear one, and they know it. It would hurt the Hugos, and that is not the Bourbons’ Goal.

The Bakunins are another matter. I name these after Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin a 19th century Russian revolutionary anarchist. The Bakunins, people like Theodore Beale and his crowd, and the more vile members of Gamergate, are vandals of the first order. They hate the “Social justice warriors” with even more fervor than the Bourbons, but their goals are different. Their goals, to my observation, aren’t to reform the Hugos, but to destroy them. The reason why they want to destroy the Hugos is simple—their political opponents value them, and so to destroy them redounds to their advantage. Some of the dark corners of the Rabid Puppies are truly dark, with Mens Right’s Activists, virulent sexism, racism, and homophobia on full display. The Bourbons can and do vehemently deny their racism (despite strong evidence to the contrary). The Rabid Puppies revel in the anarchical chaos and personal destruction they cause. A No Award Hugo night is no skin off of their nose.

“Revolution requires extensive and widespread destruction, a fecund and renovating destruction, since in this way and only this way are new worlds born” –Bakunin.

The Bourbons can sometimes be talked with and debated, even if I disagree with their agenda. Although, with politics hardening on all sides, I have seen that to become more and more difficult this year.

The Bakunins, however, seek only to ‘win’, especially if it means the Hugos are crippled or destroyed. There is no rational debating with them, as far as I have ever managed.

5 thoughts on “Bourbons and Bakunins: The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies”

  1. I’m not a Sad Puppy, in the sense that I don’t vote in the Hugos and I don’t regularly follow their blogs, but I do have a certain sympathy for their position, with some serious reservations. One of those is that I strongly disagree with their Hugo campaign, which instead of engaging honestly with the award has gamed its deficient voting rules, disrespecting a beloved institution of fandom.

    I’m obviously no speaker for the Sad Puppies, but I believe that even people who are not calling them racist and misogynous tend to misrepresent their position. They are not against women or people of color or leftists winning the award, they are not against books exploring genre issues winning the award, they are against them winning the award because of that. They think the award should go to the better stories, and they are against what they perceive as increasingly organized positive discrimination.

    Unfortunately their taste in fiction seems to be a bit erratic, and along with some reasonably good choices they include some stinkers in their slate.

    Having said all that, my personal hope is that the notoriously indecisive WorldCon business meeting wises up and approves a change to the nomination voting system so that voting blocs are given a fair representation without allowing them to sweep the nominations beyond what their percentage of votes warrants. There are many reasonable systems that would prevent voting blocs from having more impact on the nominations than their numbers give them in fairness. There wouldn’t be more Sad Puppies sweeps but they would not be disenfranchised, and at the same time it would prevent other cliques from having a disproportionate impact too.

  2. Oh boy, this comparison really gives anarchists and Bakunin a bad name.

    What I’ve taken away from the posts and counter-posts of GRRM and Correia is that even though Sad Puppies make much noise about the positive discrimination of SJW stuff (or whatever’s a proper handle), what they really have first-hand experience of is a negative attitude towards conservatives in some parts of the SFF community.

    1. Yes, I mostly agree with that, spacefaringkitten. Since I wrote my previous comment I have been thinking about this from time to time and trying to sort out my feelings. Again, I speak only for myself, although I would be surprised if no Sad Puppies shared this opinion: this is not really about the Hugos.

      I’m sorry this is affecting the Hugos. I felt identified with what GRRM wrote about them recently. I remember as a kid seeing a new book in the book shop with Hugo Award Winner on the cover, and counting my money full of excitement to see if I could take it home, because I felt sure that I had the best of the best in my hands. However, time passes and our genre has got so large that one award can not capture the best of it. There is no best of it to capture, there are many bests, all of them very different to each other. It’s been years since I last looked at the Hugos as a guide for what to read. If the Hugo does not reflect my tastes because people with different interests are more active there I’m perfectly OK with that.

      What really worries me is that I feel that SFF fandom is becoming more and more dysfunctional. In a healthy adult society, when people are unfairly bullied other people stand up for them, not because they necessarily are their friends, but because it’s the right thing to do, because everyone is worthy of being treated with respect, like a human being.

      A few years ago I started having the impression that this was no longer happening in SFF fandom, that it was OK to insult and vilify people who did not have the right opinions on some issues and that those who did not join the harassment would just look elsewhere. When I first got a clear idea of how serious the problem had become was during the lynching of Jonathan Ross last year when he was named toastmaster of the London Worldcon Hugos. For absolutely no good reason someone decided that he was a menace or something, gave the word on twitter and immediately a large group of people fell on him and his family like a pack of hyenas heaping all kinds of abuse. And all this for no good reason whatsoever, most of those people did not even know who Jonathan Ross was, but they had been told they should be enraged and, since being enraged is what gets results for them, they were enraged.

      When Ross saw what was going on he immediately ran away, and who can blame him. And it’s a pity because he is a great guy and a SF geek, apart from an excellent professional. He would have had a great time hosting the Hugos and made everyone have a great time. That did not stop a famous SFF author from saying that she would not feel safe at the ceremony if Ross was there. I mean, wait a moment, you can’t say something as awful as that about someone for no good reason! You are saying that that person should be ostracized because he is a danger to society. How can you say something like that without a real reason? I mean, it’s Jonathan Ross we are talking about here, not Vox Day or something! A charming person who genuinely likes people and knows how to make them comfortable. You don’t feel safe around Jonathan Ross? Really?

      Later she said that she did not need a reason because she was talking about her feelings, and feelings are always valid. At that point I would have expected the most respected voices in the SFF community to speak up and say that it was not right to treat people like that, to insult them and exclude them from civilized society because of a baseless outrage. However, very few said anything, and those who did tended to say it very softly and trying to be equidistant. “Yeah, OK,” they would say, “maybe Ross did not deserve this, but LondonCon organizers should have asked around if anyone had any objections before naming him toastmaster.” Really? That’s what you are concerned about after witnessing this? Are you OK with this behavior then, or are you just oblivious or are you scared of being persecuted too if you say the wrong thing or what?

      And the fact is that it’s very difficult to oppose what this group of people are doing (the SJWs or whatever the respectful term to refer to them is). They claim to defend diversity and fight against racism, sexism, etc. So, if you don’t like their methods you know you’d better shut up, because if you speak up you are going to be immediately called racist, homophobic and misogynous, and no matter how unfair that is, you can be sure that people are going to look the other way instead of defending you. It’s like your not having the right opinion makes you not human. And by the right opinion I do not mean believing that all people should be treated equally, respected and given the same opportunities no matter their gender, race or sexual orientation. I strongly believe that, but that does not make me feel safe when I give an opinion, because I don’t agree with the tactics SJW use. (Again, I’m using SJW for lack of a better term, I do not intend it to be offensive).

      Then I read things like this account:
      Is there nothing true about this? Is it just that Sarah Hoyt is oversensitive and a paranoid? Perhaps. I wouldn’t know. I’m not part of the publishing world, and I only take part in online fandom, being at the other side of the world. However, the scary thing is that seeing how people are behaving online I do not find what Hoyt says impossible to believe.

      Well, sorry for the long rant, but I needed to get it off of my chest. I’m sorry the Hugos are in the middle of this conflict. What the Sad Puppies did is not what I would have chosen to do. However, it would be nice if this served to have people at least think about what is going on and what kind of community we want to be.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have high hopes of that. I’m afraid that we can look only forward to more polarization.

  3. Is there nothing true about this?

    Pretty much, no.

    Hoyt lives in a world that seems to bear little relationship to the world the rest of us live in. Whether this is due to intentional deception on her part or not is unclear, but she has a tendency to misstate things to suit her rhetorical purposes.

    For example, much of the post you linked expresses incredulity that someone would need to be warned that someone else is recommending their work. And if that was all the SP campaign was, then that would be a reasonable point. But that was not all the SP campaign was. Both Torgersen and Correia spent a lot of their posts decrying the “evil SJWs” that they said were secretly controlling the Hugo nominations. When he declined his nomination, Correia couched it in these terms:

    This is just one little battle in an ongoing culture war between artistic free expression and puritanical bullies who think they represent *real* fandom. In the long term I want writers to be free to write whatever they want without fear of social justice witch hunts, I want creators to not have to worry about silencing themselves to appease the perpetually outraged, and I want fans to enjoy themselves without having some entitled snob lecture them about how they are having fun wrong. I want our shrinking genre to grow. I think if we can get back to where “award nominated” isn’t a synonym for “preachy crap” to the most fans, we’ll do it.

    The Sp campaign wasn’t just “the SPs recommending works they liked”. It was a political campaign with political aims that included “sticking it to the SJWs”. The reason that people say Torgersen should have asked the slate nominees if they wanted to be on the slate is that he should have asked if they were okay with being drafted into a political campaign.

    Leaving that part out, and saying that all the SPs were doing was recommending works they liked is disingenuous at best. The rest of Hoyt’s complaints should be viewed in the light of her less than accurate description of this aspect of the SP campaign.

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