The Debarkle
September 12, 2021 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Debarkle traces the history, events and subsequent consequences of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Kerfuffle at the 2015 Hugo Awards "Six years later, the differences and similarities in stance between the members of the so-called Evil League of Evil revolved around the same framing of world events as they had used for the Hugo Awards: that powerful “elites” were siding with left wing ideologues to transform society using underhand means."

Most recent Metafilter discussion on the topic here.

Scalzi's thoughts.
posted by jenfullmoon (34 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I've always agreed that SF is a lens for the present, not a predictor of the future, so it's so weird how the Sad and Rabid puppy campaigns were such a predictor for how the US culture wars and politics would go.
posted by sgranade at 1:56 PM on September 12 [15 favorites]

I will say, that despite how long ago the sad puppies thing feels now, as Scalzi rightly points out, one effect that remains is that a lot of dormant SF fans got drawn back in. I'm one of them.

I had drifted out of SF fandom in my early 20s, but by the end of the sad puppy shitfit, I was plowing through science fiction novels and even found myself on a Hugo Awards study committee.

Like a lot of other people, seeing those fuckers attempt to ruin something as innocuous as the Hugo Awards really reminded me how much SF and fandom matter to me, and brought me back into the fold. So, I guess, I owe that to them.

I'd still happily spill my beer accidentally on a sad puppy, if the opportunity presented itself.
posted by Kattullus at 2:24 PM on September 12 [35 favorites]

So they were leading political indicator?
posted by hwestiii at 2:58 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]

I posted this and am now wading through all of it. I'm a speed reader so I can read more than most people, but I admit that the huuuuuuge amount of history going on here is... a lot.

Much to my annoyance, the original definition of "glittery hoo ha" as coined by romance author Lani Diane Rich in 2007 is no longer on the Internet, but this seems to quote enough of the original.

I do not think that their definition of the GHH here is ah....correct.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:30 PM on September 12

Gamergate, Puppies, etc were the beta test for how the right wing was going to create the next phase of the culture wars.
posted by interogative mood at 4:51 PM on September 12 [18 favorites]

It seems to be about book length in aggregate, so it'll take some time to get through, but I thought that the introduction was well-written and appropriate; it shows that the main Puppies are, if anything, even more extreme than they were before, given their general support of the 1/6 attack and election conspiracy theories. That's useful, in case people forget and think that they were just a few SF writers and critics nostalgic for Heinlein or something.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:18 PM on September 12 [8 favorites]

From senior capitain wordsmith extraordinaire Scalzi:

Basically, the post-Pup era has been a golden one for the genre and the award they tried to brigade, and that’s a much more interesting narrative.

Hopefully it's a precursor of the effect on American society of the similarly ineffective 1/6 wackos.
posted by sammyo at 5:36 PM on September 12 [13 favorites]

I own a Chuck Tingle t-shirt and I’m thrilled with that outcome.
posted by Revvy at 6:23 PM on September 12 [6 favorites]

posted by Joe in Australia at 8:10 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]

I read and audio book a lot of SF. But I'm not an insider so most of this is over my head. I wish someone would name names in an easy to follow list. Who are these puppies and what did they write? Who, specifically, do they hate?
posted by cccorlew at 10:30 PM on September 12

They write macho bullshit with guns (nothing wrong with that). They hate the fact that their macho bullshit didn’t win awards because awards were going to work written by women and minorities who wrote better stuff that was not full of macho bullshit and guns.
posted by bq at 10:45 PM on September 12 [8 favorites]

There were all these intersecting toxic groups who believed that there was a sort of conspiracy to suppress the SF they liked. From what I could tell, they liked simplistic, unchallenging SF adventures, the sort where people carry lots of guns and and unexamined cultural assumptions. At least some of them were aggrieved because they were authors and thought that they were being suppressed personally.

For what it's worth, none of the stuff the Puppies were promoting seemed very good, and some of it was basically right-wing rants in a fictional form: it shouldn't have won anything anywhere. The stuff that won after the Hugo rules were reformed, on the other hand, has often been remarkably good – even compared to earlier Hugo winners. So if there was any gatekeeping, I think it must have been the other way around. Oldthinkers unbellyfeel newsoc, as the kids say, and the new Worldcon voters probably better reflect current tastes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:19 PM on September 12 [10 favorites]

Yeah, there seemed to be huge crossover between the puppies and gamergate. Would not be surprised at all if leading figures in both communities were the same people.

Sad Puppies and Gamergate were also groups that ppl who worked at Twitter were asking executives about well before the Trump team took off. Twitter and Reddit’s role in all three of those groups shouldn’t be underestimated.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 11:53 PM on September 12 [7 favorites]

I also specifically follow the Hugo awards now, and I've read four out of six nominated works in the "Best novel" category, and three out of six series in the "Best series" category. All excellent works. Thanks, puppies!
posted by Harald74 at 12:01 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]

(I was sort-of-planning to read all the entries in those categories, but got sidetracked after reading and enjoying Piranesi which prompted me to pick up Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. And my 17 yo is reading The Murderbot Diaries right now, one of my greatest successes as a father.)
posted by Harald74 at 12:04 AM on September 13 [14 favorites]

Who are these puppies and what did they write?

The ringleaders included but were not limited to mediocrities such as Larry Correia, Brad Torgensen, and actual Nazi Vox Day. As said above, they write macho bullshit - this seems like a good time for OH, JOHN RINGO, NO. The writing is worse than you can imagine.

Who, specifically, do they hate?

Literally anyone who's not a straight white man.

The Wikipedia page is a succinct summary.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:07 AM on September 13 [14 favorites]

I enjoyed Scalzi's summary- I'll go through the full timeline later.

My biggest joy is that my previous comment on this matter here proved to be nonsense. Why do we still bother with awards? Because hard working people who produce great writing deserve recognition.
posted by Braeburn at 12:30 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]

... Framed by a group that had jokingly called themselves “The Evil League of Evil” (Hoyt, Day, Wright, Correia and Torgersen)...
When somebody tells you who they are, believe them.
posted by flabdablet at 5:05 AM on September 13 [11 favorites]

Such a long read, and so depressing. I'm rationing it. As I read, I am reminded of why I never read any Baen books, why I am not a con person, and why I have never gotten involved with the politics of SF/F. Also, it's so depressing to read the writings of people making evolutionary arguments about human nature when they clearly know nothing about evolution or human behavior.

I did read a lot of so-called "hard SF" back in the 50s and 60s and as a girl in a male-dominated society I was used to identifying with male protagonists (and Heinlein's attempts to write female characters were like meat to the starving, so I didn't examine their flaws closely).
posted by Peach at 7:20 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]

this seems like a good time for OH, JOHN RINGO, NO. The writing is worse than you can imagine.

That John Ringo thinks "inconsiderable strength" means big strong instead of strength not worthy of consideration cracks me up.
posted by srboisvert at 8:06 AM on September 13 [8 favorites]

Parenthetically: when Vox Day first popped up on my radar (pre Puppies) he introduced himself as my biggest fan, and wanted to interview me.

The last time I paid any attention to him was when be published an essay describing twelve chromed skulls he wanted as desk ornaments: the Nielsen Haydens featured on it, I'm pretty sure Nnedki Okorafor and John Scalzi were also there ... and so, to my eternal gratification, was I.

I don't think he'd twigged that as a bi, Jewish guy on the autism spectrum I was unlikely to share his values.

And Puppygate was entirely about values: the quality of writing had nothing to do with it: the Puppy leadership were either believers in or panderers to cishet male white supremacism. The whole thing is best understood as a dry run for GamerGate, ComicGate, and the wider Trump culture wars program. And it's still with us today, even though the Hugos have been detoxified.
posted by cstross at 8:08 AM on September 13 [38 favorites]

Peach, Lois McMaster Bujold is a Baen writer for most of her books, and they're pretty inclusive. And also excellent.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:10 AM on September 13 [7 favorites]

Lois is, I understand, self-publishing her latest series (the Penric novellas). She only uses Baen for the Vorkosigan series.
posted by cstross at 8:21 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]

Nancy Lebovitz, thanks - I take it back, then - I've read most of the Vorkosigan novels. I don't care for the Penric and Desdemona books, though I tried a couple.
posted by Peach at 9:03 AM on September 13

I read the first two or three Penric books, and wasn't that interested. I'm not sure whether Bujold has gotten too kind to her characters or what.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:57 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

And Puppygate was entirely about values: the quality of writing had nothing to do with it

I vaguely remember them trying to pitch John C. Wright as the next Gene Wolfe at one point. It boiled down to "hey, they're both Catholic and hard to understand, if you don't like Wright you're a hypocrite".
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:00 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]

I have a huge number of Wolfe's books, but while he's not necessarily a misogynist, most of his characters are. And even in the New Sun series, almost all the women his narrator encounters are literally either whores, angels, or his mother.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:52 PM on September 13 [6 favorites]

I have a huge number of Wolfe's books, but while he's not necessarily a misogynist, most of his characters are. And even in the New Sun series, almost all the women his narrator encounters are literally either whores, angels, or his mother.

Fair (and one of his later books basically casts the UN as an evil boogieman), but he's a good and interesting writer, while John C. Wright's sentences are all dogshit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:47 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]

Well, I finished read/skimming and I agree with what Scalzi said: "It was about small group of people acting like jerks, and another, rather larger group, expressing their displeasure at them acting so."
posted by Peach at 5:43 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]

The Peniric stories get more involved later on once she starts writing story arcs/direct sequels rather than one offs.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:20 AM on September 14

This was quite a read, even with doing a lot of skimming. I sent to a friend of mine who is, by any definition, a SMOF, and she quizzed me about what I knew about the author, and gave some information, and she said "I sense a Quarantine project," which seems about right, although that doesn't make it any less worthy or interesting. She was at least peripherally involved in WorldCon during those years, so I am not sure if it has a quality of "too soon" or bringing up bad memories, but I'd be interested in hearing her analysis, should she tackle it.

As for the Hugos... I don't know. They are definitely a popularity contest, which limits their value as a yardstick of absolute quality as opposed to being what was impactful at a particular time in history. I pretty often feel that the wrong book won, and, puppies aside, I wonder what was going on that some books made it onto the short list at all (Little, Big not only did not win but had to share a shortlist with The Many-Colored Land, and how did The Lathe of Heaven lose to To Your Scattered Bodies Go?). It's a very haphazard way to decide what the best novel of the year was. None of which excuses any of the puppies' jankery, and I think Scalzi calls it that the story is that a group of bad actors found a loophole, were reprimanded by people who didn't like them shitting up the place, and none of the bad actors seems to have learned anything useful from the process.

On the other hand, I did take away a couple of great short story recommendations, things that I had missed with "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" being especially good. So there is that. Also, it is fantastic to chart, moving towards the present day, the diversity of authors appearing in the short lists. It's a testament to the changes that SF&F have undergone in the last 3-4 decades and that it is still a living and evolving genre(s) rather than trapped in "what I read when I was 12."
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]

Oh my, the farther I get in, then I find Chuck Tingle and the Hugosauriad....
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:03 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

Finally caught up (it's apparently ongoing) and so I've started on The Hugosauriad. I expected it to just cover Swirsky's and Tingle's stories but it is a surprisingly extensive look at Hugo adjacent dinosaur works. That turns out to be an interesting way to consider the history of the Awards and SF writing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:02 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

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