So the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts was wonderful, exactly the week of joyful conversation, food, thinky bits, and community that I needed, and then some. So of course that couldn’t last. The day we returned from Orlando I saw the first indication that the Puppies had made common cause with GamerGate.
The Sad Puppies are a group of writers and other fans dissatisfied with what they saw as a trend in the Hugo process toward overrepresentation of “liberal” works at the expense of traditional, meat-and-potatoes science fiction and fantasy. So in 2014 they gamed the Hugo nomination system to place nominees in several Hugo Award categories. What the Puppies did was very simple: They encouraged people to buy Worldcon supporting memberships and vote for the Puppy slate of nominees, and they got one or two nominees into several categories. These “Sad Puppy 2” nominees failed to land any trophies; in fact, with the exception of Toni Weisskopf in the Best Editor, Long Form, the SP2 finalists came in last in every category. And, like any well-intentioned, thoughtful group of principled actors, the Sad Puppies responded by encouraging the attention of a group of woman-hating terrorists.
Some of the terminology here gets tricky. The “Sad Puppy” movement was formed by Larry Correia, and in 2015 was mostly run by Brad Torgersen. There is a parallel movement this year called the “Rabid Puppies” which is run by the woman-hating white supremacist Theodore Beale. (Beale, aka “Vox Day,” is the only person to ever be expelled from SFWA; he has praised Anders Brevik, the Norwegian mass-murderer who killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, to draw attention to the threats of feminism and multiculturalism. Theodore is the son of millionaire Robert Beale, a Pat Robertson crony who is currently in prison for evading taxes and threatening the life of the judge in the tax evasion trial.) The Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies proposed separate but overlapping ballots, with the Rabid Puppies actually having more success in placing nominees in the fiction categories. It would be misleading, though, to treat them as separate forces, because the principals in each have set of puppies have long trails of praising each others’ work, and the SP2 ballot proposed by Correia and Torgersen included Beale.
In 2015, they repeated the tactics they used in 2014. Rather than settling for one or two nominees in several key categories, the Puppy slates between them filled all the slots in many categories. (Oddly, “Best Fan Artist” was untouched and “Best Graphic Story” has only one Puppy finalist out of five.) Another key difference is that Puppies went outside of sf to find people spoiling for a fight.
Correia is an avid supporter of GamerGate, the formless, leaderless group that has no official agenda and totally, completely, emphatically does not support targeting people for online harassment, death threats, publication of private information, or calling in false crime reports to get people’s homes attacked by police SWAT teams. Yet somehow whenever a person (okay, let’s be honest, a woman) draws the attention of GamerGaters, somehow the harassment, threats, doxxing, and SWATing follows in its wake like maggots in an incision. Correia also reached out to the reactionary Breitbart news organization, who seized on the opportunity to frame the sf community’s ongoing discussion and reassessments of race, gender, and representation as a “social justice” war on true free-thinkers.
(Because I’m covering a lot of material, I’m not going into as much detail as I could, but one example may indicate the fundamental dishonesty involved. The Breitbart article <www.breitbart.com/london/2015/02/05/the-hugo-wars-how-sci-fis-most-prestigious-awards-became-a-political-battleground/> alludes to Beale’s expulsion from SFWA with the sentence “Right-wingers like Theodore Beale face ostracization over accusations of racism.” Beale said to N. K. Jemison that “genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens” and that “whites [must] defend themselves by shooting people, like her, who are savages engaged in attacking white people.” Yes. Accusations. Beale is ashamed enough of his statements to thrust them down the memory hole, but not to acknowledge, disavow, or apologize for them. This is the person running the Rabid Puppy ballot, and these are the types of people who carry his water.)
The Hugo Award system is very easily gamed; at least two incidents prior to Sad Puppies 2 showed how easy it was to get a work onto the ballot. The award has survived for 60 years on a shared agreement that people wouldn’t attack it. That agreement is now gone and it is not coming back. Everything related to the Awards is very much in flux right now—just today two nominees took themselves off the ballot, a full fortnight after it was published. (That’s unprecedented.) I’m fairly certain that I will return to this topic next time.
Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying: I had a great time at the ICFA and have spent the weeks since then watching monsters tearing away at something I care about a great deal. How’s your spring going?
—Kevin J. Maroney
and the editors