Last year, I did a roundup on the history of the Sad Puppies Hugo campaigns, focusing on what the leadership of the different puppy campaigns had actually said and done, as opposed to what was being said about them. What began with Larry Correia campaigning for a Hugo in year one turned into a full blown slate, with more explicitly political goals. Sad Puppies III last year also got tangled up with Theodore Beale’s Rabid Puppy campaign to promote himself and his publishing house, which resulted in the two puppy campaigns sweeping much of the ballot, and then losing to No Award as Hugo voters expressed their distaste for a) slates and b) the puppy-nominated material.
Sad Puppies 4:
Sad Puppies IV launched under the leadership of Kate Paulk, Sarah Hoyt, and Amanda Green, all of whom have officially recused themselves from the awards this year. Having read some of their commentary in the past, I was worried this meant we were in for another year of all-out war and nastiness. I’m happy to say that so far, I seem to have been wrong.
From the About page:
SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out.
So far, I’m more or less on board. I like the idea of getting more people involved in fandom and Worldcon and the awards. I worry that they’re starting out by dragging last year’s grudges into this year, and the belief that the asterisks were about trying to drive people out.
That paragraph continues:
SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.
I guess it wouldn’t be a puppies campaign without a jab at “message fiction.” But overall, when you compare it to Brad Torgersen’s announcement post and comments from last year, the SP4 announcement is positively friendly and welcoming.
SP4 has open threads to collect nomination recommendations, which will be tallied up and posted with the top ten or so works recommended in each category. They explicitly say “The List will not be a slate.” Which is good.
What’s less good is the follow-up.
If you want to see your favorite author receive a nomination and an award, your best bet will be to cast your nomination ballot for one of popular works on The List – provided you’ve read it and agree that it’s worth an award.
If they’d stopped at putting together recommendation lists, I’d be on board. Instead, they’re giving advice on how people should strategically cast their votes, and that advice is not to simply vote for your favorite works.
On the other hand, Paulk, Hoyt, and Green are keeping the threads and the process open. Whereas Torgersen last year dismissed Ann Leckie’s awards as “affirmative action,” Leckie’s name shows up with several nominations in the SP4 threads. I expect the SP4 recommendation list to still reflect the same sort of political and ideological leanings as in previous years, but that feels more like an effect of who’s still following and invested in the puppies, as opposed to deliberately mocking and attacking those with different political leanings like we’ve seen in previous years.
Theodore Beale’s Rabid Puppies campaign piggybacked on the work of the Sad Puppies last year. He’ll be releasing his Rabid Puppies slate soon.
“The Rabid Puppy List of Recommendations That Is Most Certainly Not a Slate, Much Less a Direct Order From the Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil will be posted in February.” (Source)
This means the rabid slate will be out before the Sad Puppy recommendation list (which will be out in early March). This could mean less overlap between the groups. I’ll be interested to see if this dilutes Beale’s influence this year.
SP4 leader Sarah Hoyt has an fascinating perspective on the relationship between the Sad and Rabid campaigns:
“They also don’t realize that Sad Puppies was the only thing PROTECTING them from Vox. I don’t know if we still are enough to protect them…” (Source)
Um … okay, sure. Thus far, Beale has taken his Rabid Puppies campaign to Goodreads to try to attack his Enemies with one-star reviews, a strategy carried out so cleverly that he immediately got himself and his group booted from Goodreads. He also ran a five-part series about SF/F and child molestation, in part as an excuse to bad-mouth his hate-crush John Scalzi again. I imagine he’ll be pushing this for Best Related Work.
Meanwhile, Beale’s darling Hugo nominee John C. Wright continues his reasonable and level-headed discussion of the conflicts.
“[T]he Thought Police of SocJus. Morlocks laugh their barbaric, harsh, ungainly laughter at facts. Appeals to justice and fairness they greet with dull, slow stares of open-mouthed incomprehension … They will never cease to abuse, demean, and insult us, and desecrate everything we love, and to slander and libel us with mouth-frothingly stupid and freakishly counterproductive lies … So, you had your chance with the Sad Puppies, Oh hypocrites, sons of vipers, Social-justice propagandists, socialists, christophobes, Morlocks and morons.” (Source)
Brad Torgersen has doubled down on his insults against “the other side” and his unsupported claims of vote manipulation, but I’m not sure how many people are paying attention now that he’s stepped out of the leadership spotlight.
“All is fair in love and war, and for the block-bombers and CHORFholers, this was absolutely a war. Before, it was a cold war — when they could treat the not-quite-good-enough-fans like shit, and nobody said or did much about it. Sad Puppies became an exercise in second-class citizenry demanding full participation and recognition, which caused the block-bombers — and the CHORFs, with their crybully accomplices — to launch not just a wide media slander campaign, but a deliberate destruction of the Hugos proper; in direct violation of their own stated principles.” (Source)
What feels encouraging to me is that Sad Puppies 4 seems to be less about this kind of frothing and ranting, and is focusing on collecting nominations instead of amplifying rants like Wright’s and Torgersen’s. I questioned whether it was even worth including them here, but decided to do so mostly for the contrast between them and Sad Puppies 4.
I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.
Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.
As for Beale specifically, I suspect he’ll continue to do whatever he believes will best promote himself and his work, and help him wallow in his grudges against Tor, SFWA, John Scalzi, etc. I also fully expect him to direct his minions to vote No Award for any and all of the final nominees he doesn’t like. I don’t expect this to work, but I expect him to try.
If you can, and if you want to, pick up a supporting or full membership to Worldcon, and then nominate stuff you think is awesome. (You must have that membership by today in order to nominate, by the way.)
Don’t be that guy who uncritically accepts the lies and fear-mongering to the point where you feel you have to carry a gun at Worldcon to protect yourself from SJWs.
If you want to recommend works for the SP4 lists, go for it. If you want to avoid them, that’s fine too. I would recommend avoiding the comments on the blog posts. Those can get pretty nasty and political, but it’s not being facilitated and encouraged by the SP4 leadership the way we saw last year, which is nice.
Basically, nominate what you love, and try not to let this year’s process cause as many ulcers as it did last year.
Several people have asked whether it’s possible to escape the negativity and political baggage of previous Sad Puppy campaigns, and I think that’s a fair question. If the goal is truly just to broaden participation in the Hugo process in an inclusive and politically neutral way, why attach yourself to the Sad Puppy name at all?
I don’t have an answer. I suspect partly the desire to “broaden” Hugo participation comes from the perception of it being dominated by “the other side’s” stories and politics. Doing this as Sad Puppies 4 instead of an independent effort means a lot of the core SP supporters from previous years will be on board, which isn’t exactly a politically moderate crowd.
Alternately, it could be an effort at reclamation, to take Sad Puppies 4 and use it as a way to prove “not all puppies” are as over-the-top with their nastiness and hatred as Torgersen was last year.
I don’t know. Like I said, I’m happy to see the changes in how SP4 is going about everything this year. That’s not the same as saying I trust them. At this point, I mostly have a wait and see attitude. And I hope whatever happens, it won’t be as unpleasant as last year.