Lots of Hugo Losers

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“Alien Crater” by Flickr user Serendigity. Click image to see original on Flickr.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time following the Hugos this year, including over a dozen interviews with writers and editors in the sci-fi community1, and so I was up until 3am on Sunday morning looking through the results. I’ve read a lot of reactions since then–from both pro-Puppy and anti-Puppy sources–and my main take away is that there are an awful lot of losers this year and very few winners.

One of the winners is Liu Cixin, the author of this year’s Best Novel: The Three-Body Problem. There’s no doubt in my mind, as someone who read all the best novel nominees and voted in the awards, that Liu’s novel deserved to win. But how it won is probably the most important take away for me from this whole fiasco.

First, of course, a brief recap. A group of conservative / libertarian authors–originally led by Larry Correia and this year by Brad Torgersen–led an initiative called Sad Puppies 32. Their goal was, according to Torgersen, to strike back against a small social-political clique of social justice warriors who had dominated the Hugos in recent years. The Sad Puppy strategy was to nominate authors who (1) were good, (2) were ideologically diverse, and (3) wouldn’t have otherwise made the ballot. Another group–the Rabid Puppies–mirrored the Sad Puppies slate almost exactly but had a much harder edge to their rhetoric. Their leader, Theodore Beale aka “Vox Day”is a very controversial figure. His real beliefs and actions are often distorted by an unfriendly media, but the reality is that even without distortion he’s not an appealing character.3

Things exploded in April when the nominations were announced and it turned out that the Sad Puppies / Rabid Puppies slate had basically swept the ballot, pushing almost all other works by all other authors off the slate. This was not intentional, in the sense that nobody–not Torgersen or Correia or Day–believed that their slate would be so successful. This meant, among other things, that The Three Body Problem was initially not on the ballot thanks to the Sad Pupppies / Rabid Puppies campaign.

At this point, the reasonable thing would have been for the Sad Puppies to state publicly that sweeping the ballot was not the intended goal of the Sad Puppies and that they would take steps (Sad Puppies 4 had already been announced) to avoid slate-sweeping next year. They did not.

At this point, the reasonable thing would have been for prominent critics of the Sad Puppies to concede that the Sad Puppies were reacting to a legitimate grievance. The insular sci-fi community is highly susceptible to favor-trading (aka “log rolling“) and the high percentage of social justice warriors in the community made an unwelcome atmosphere for conservatives or libertarians and could certainly have had an effect on the composition of the awards in recent years. They did not.

Instead, the critics of the Sad Puppies launched a truly breathtaking campaign of slander and intimidation that focused on calling the Sad Puppies campaign misogynist, racist, and homophobic. The best example of this is the Entertainment Weekly article that had to be “fixed” almost beyond recognition when Torgersen threatened a lawsuit over the obvious lies. (Original version. Current version.) As a result of these tactics, Torgersen and other Sad Puppies supporters were in absolutely no mood to concede their mistake and make concilliatory gestures. So nobody from Sad Puppies suggested that their tactic had been a mistake or made promises to alter the tactics for next year. In addition, several Sad Puppies nominees backed out of their awards when they saw how angry many in the sci-fi community were, including Marko Kloos. He pulled his novel Lines of Departure (which was really, really good and deserved to be on the slate) and as a result The Three-Body Problem was placed on the ballot instead.

And yet the Sad Puppy / Rabid Puppy tactics obviously were a mistake. First, as I said, there’s the immense problem with The Three-Body Problem not even making the ballot. Sure, taste is subjective, but this book was really, really good. More importantly, however, it’s a book that was originally published in China in 2008. You want real intellectual diversity? Well there you go: a book that is literally off the American socio-political map. Additionally, the Sad Puppies again and again defended many of their choices (like Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars) by referring to the author rather than the work. Best novel is an award for best novel. It’s not some kind of lifetime achievement award. So the repeated references to Anderson’s contribution to the genre (he’s written over 100 books) were not only irrelevant, but a real give-away that the Sad Puppies 3 slate had basically no serious thought behind it. It was just a haphazard collection of books a few of the Sad Puppies folks had happened to read last year, without sufficient regard for quality of the individual works.

As a result, the anti-puppies movement was able to easily cast the Sad and Rabid Puppies as invaders who had come to ruin the Hugos. Their hysterical accusations that the Puppies were Nazi’s were silly, but their accusation that the Puppies were ruining the awards had real validity. Sad Puppy opponents insisted that the only solution was for fandom to rise up in righteous wrath and repudiate the incursion by voting “No Award” above any and all Sad / Rabid Puppy nominations.4 This surge was quite strong. Nobody knew how strong until the votes were announced this past weekend, but–according to some preliminary analysis at Chaos Horizon–the breakdown of the record-breaking 6,000 voters went as follows:

  • Core Rabid Puppies: 550-525
  • Core Sad Puppies: 500-400
  • Absolute No Awarders: 2500
  • Primarily No Awarders But Considered a Puppy Pick: 1000
  • That sums up to 4600 hundred voters. We had 5950, so I thin the remaining 1400 or so were the true “Neutrals” or the “voted some Puppies but not all.”

My take away, thus far, is pretty simple. The Puppies absolutely have a legitimate grievance, and the vile slander that came out vindicates them. Furthermore, the “No Award” campaign clearly crossed a line from a legitimate attempt to punish the bad tactics of the Puppies to a witch hunt when, for example, it No Awarded the Editor categories. Chaos Horizon again:

I’m stunned at the 2500 No Awarders in the Editor categories; there were some mainstream, decent editors on that list. If 2500 people were voting No Award on that, that’s out of principle.

A lot of those editors had no affiliation with Sad Puppies and may not have given permission to be on the Sad Puppy slate (or even been aware of it). Punishing them is going too far.

On the other hand, the Sad Puppy tactic was a terrible tactic and their refusal to acknowledge this and/or pledge not to repeat it justified a lot of the negative counter-reaction. They also, in my own opinion, picked some really terrible works that didn’t deserve to be nominated on strictly apolitical, aesthetic grounds. (I will include my votes at the end of this post.)

But there was one more thing in the Chaos Horizon data that really, really stuck out to me:

What the Best Novel category would have looked like with No Puppy votes:
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Lock In, John Scalzi
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett

Other initial Best Novel analysis: Goblin Emperor lost the Best Novel to Three-Body Problem by 200 votes. Since there seem to have been at least 500 Rabid Puppy voters who followed VD’s suggestion to vote Liu first, this means Liu won because of the Rabid Puppies. Take that as you will. [emphasis added]

So, as I said at the outset, the fate of the eventual winner speaks volumes about this entire sordid fiasco. First, the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies kept Liu off the ballot. But in the end, it was their votes that put him over the top. That lineup also speaks volumes, I think, about the Sad Puppy’s original accusation. There’s really no way that Ancillary Sword should have won this year. I don’t think it even should have been nominated. It’s mediocre. But it’s also far and away the most politically palatable book and its presence at the top is a strong indication to me of exactly what the Puppies are complaining: politics ahead of quality.

In short, we’ve got two fairly extreme factions (the Sad / Rabid Puppies and the SJWs) who are basically wrecking the Hugos for everyone at this point.5 If either of these groups had had it their way, The Three-Body Problem would not have come out on top. I am very pleased with the best novel winner this year, but neither of the factions gets credit for this happy outcome.

Next Year: Sad Puppies 4

I support the stated goals of Sad Puppies, and I hope they run the campaign again next year, but only on the following conditions:

  1. Pick better books. Some of the picks were great. Others were… really not.
  2. Pick the books for the right reasons: because the work is good, not because the author is important / wrote a lot / etc.
  3. Make the pre-nomination process more transparent.
  4. Do not ask for or notify any authors that their works will be included. This puts the authors in a terrible position and is not a standard practice.
  5. In every category, nominate either 1-2 works or 8+ works. Doing this prevents the accusation of slate-voting and will also make it very unlikely that the Puppies will sweep any categories.
  6. Tell people that this is the plan, and do so earlier.

If they don’t do this–and it looks like they won’t–then I’m going back to my default position: A pox on both your houses. Damn the SJWs for making this award about politics or identity instead of quality and also for their intolerant witch hunt tactics when confronting anyone who disagrees with them. And damn the Puppies for their disregard for the traditions of the Hugo award and their stubborn refusal to be good neighbors.

My Votes

I’m including my votes for the literary categories: Novel, Novelette, and Short Story. I ran out of time and couldn’t finish all the novellas, so I didn’t vote in that category. My approach was to vote based strictly on quality. I couldn’t always remember who was or was not a Puppy nominee, and I didn’t care. Based on my approach and voting pattern, I would fit as a “neutral” in the Chaos Horizon analysis.

Also: I’m kind of a strict voter. I used “No Award” more than once when I felt that the work just didn’t deserve a Hugo. This is my first year voting, but I’ve read a lot of past Hugo winners (novel and shorter length) and there have definitely been several that I feel are blemishes on the award. So I had an attitude going in that if the book wasn’t one I could be proud of as a sci-fi fan, I would no award it, but only for that reason. Politics had nothing to do with it for me.

I noted which stories were nominated by the Sad or Rabid Puppies (had to look that up), and I also bolded the actual winner.

Best Novel

1. Skin Game (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
2. Three-Body Problem
3. No Award
4. Goblin Emperor
5. Ancilliary Sword
6. The Dark Between the Stars (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)

After reading The Three Body-Problem, I was sure it would get my #1 vote. But then I reread Skin Game (to have them all read at more or less the same time), and it really is one of Jim Butcher’s finest. I would have been really happy either way.

I think Goblin Emperor is very, very close to being Hugo-worthy, but it wasn’t quite there. I wouldn’t have been upset by that one winning. Ancilliary Sword was just mediocre in my mind. And I really, really didn’t like The Dark Between the Stars at all.

The Sad and Rabid Puppies both nominated Marko Kloos’ Lines of Departure and–since it made the ballot before he withdrew it–I read it. I thought it was great, and would have put it right after The Three-Body Problem.

Best Novelette

1. The Day the World Turned Upside Down 
2. The Journeyman: In the Stone House (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
3. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
4. The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
5. No Award
6. Championship B’tok (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)

I can’t overstate how much I loved “The Day the World Turned Upside Down.” I’m quite happy that it won. The rest were pretty good to OK. Except “Championship B’tok.” I am very confused as to how that got nominated. It felt like it could have been part of a decent novel, but it didn’t seem to function as a stand-alone story at all.  It was as though someone literally just grabbed a few random chapters out of the middle of a book and packaged them as a stand-alone story.

Best Short Story

1. Totaled (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
2. Turncoat (Rabid Puppy)
3. The Parliament of Beasts and Birds (Rabid Puppy)
4. A Single Samurai (Sad Puppy)
5. On A Spiritual Plain (Sad Puppy, Rabid Puppy)
6. No Award

“Totaled” had a lot of hype going into the Hugos, and it lived up to the hype. The author is also not remotely politically conservative and is, oh yeah, a woman. The fact that the No Award crew took her story out is an example of their defense of the Hugos turning into a witch hunt. It’s really quite indefensible that they No Awarded her story.

Additional Reading and Final Thoughts

I’m kind of running out of steam on this topic, to be honest. When you don’t really feel like there are any good guys to root for, you just want to walk away. But–if you would like to know more!–here are some current articles / blog posts. I’m sure there will be a lot more coming, but I think this gives you a sense of the spectrum:

The Breitbart piece is pretty hard to read because of how one-sided and kind of delusional it is. It’s rather hard to claim victory when your group nominates a bunch of works to win an award and you win 0 awards, but Yiannopoulos sure gives it the ole college try.6 I’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing from the Puppies, and–as a sympathetic outsider–nobody’s buying it. The Wired piece is, by mainstream standards, relatively fair. It definitely has a bias, however, and frequently passes along as gospel truth fairly tenuous allegations against the Sad Puppies or, in this instance, flat out omits relevant facts to spin a particular narrative:

Consider: A woman named Adria Richards Twitter-shames two white dudes for cracking off-color jokes at PyCon, a tech developer conference (and then is fired and fields murder threats).

What Wired doesn’t tell you is that the two white dudes were fired first. Wired also gives you the impression that only liberal women faced death / rape threats from social conservatives. That is false: conservative women often face identical harassment from liberals. The sad reality is that threatening to kill or rape women over the Internet is a politically neutral activity engaged in by both the left and right. During the Hugo controversy, for example, relatively moderate social justice warriors had to call on their own supporters to stop issuing death threats at the Sad Puppies (men and women) more than once.

And the last piece is from John Scalzi, one of the most prominent SJWs in the sci-fi community. Some of what he says is dead on accurate “They [the Sad Puppies] gloated about the slates getting on the ballot, and the upset that this caused other people. That’s a jerk maneuver.” Yup. I talked to some very prominent writers7 who didn’t care about politics but hated the Sad Puppies for their tactics and attitude. But then a lot is spin, including his denial that there is any legitimacy to the Sad Puppy complaints about socio-political collusion within the sci-fi community that is quite plain for any unbiased observer. So, as a not-quite-as-sympathetic observer, no one is buying that either.

Well. I hope this is the last thing I write about this for quite some time.

 

88 thoughts on “Lots of Hugo Losers”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestions to SP4.

    And I agree, the slander in places like Entertainment Weekly completely whited out any thought of much else for some time inside the SP3 people. Looking back on it, that was exactly how we felt.

    One mild disagreement: there were comments on blogs that SP3 members and leadership were utterly shocked at how well our “suggested slate” did, but these things should have been said as formal statements (formal – ha – we’re a loose confederacy, and need to get more formal and professional about lots of things, but it’s early in the movement.) Between the constant character assassination and (some of us) realizing how badly Beale had taken us to the cleaners–it was really a Rabid Puppy win–there was no room for dialog. No one was listening. They already knew we were evil incarnate.

    And I say this as a woman who was called a white supremacist male misogynist (and Neo-Nazi). That sort of put a damper on trying to have any dialog at all. Now that the awards are over, Jim Hines, Chuck Gannon and others are creating safe spaces where the two sides can actually talk to each other instead of hurl insults. That’s a start. .

  2. I talked to Kate Paulk (in charge of SP4) at RavenCon, and she stated that she does not plan to do a slate, she plans to do a list of recommendations.

  3. Brad did actually come out and say that the nomination results were unexpected and in hind sight would have done it differently.

    Also, the no awarding is a victory for the puppies. Watching your opponent nuke their own awards because of politics is a win. Not a marching in Berlin win, but at the very least a successful landing at Normandy win.

  4. If you’re interested, both Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen have come out to state that neither of them had read Three Body Problem by the time the nomination process was done. Brad said it certainly would have made his list of recommendations too – he just didn’t get to it in time. That’s one of the reasons it won over Ancilliary Sword.

  5. Worth pointing out that Vox Day stated somewhere that he would have put 3BP on his slate if he’d got around to reading it in time. Which is about where I stood too. I’m not sure I enjoyed it, but it was fascinating and deserves(d) the wider audience that it should get from being a Hugo winner.

    If the Anti-puppies had had any smidgeon of dignity they’d have voted for the less controversial puppy nominations (e.g. Totaled or the best editor picks) and then we could all agree to be friends.

    But no. Just like those suspiciously similar puppy kicking media articles that went way over the top in their libels, they had to double down and reject everything. And then chortle to each other that their childing behavior had “won” – apparently missing the irony that this sounded like “destroying the village in order to save it”.

    So they can expect rather more voters next year of a canine persuasion.

  6. Honestly hardly anyone said that all Puppies were sexist, homophobic racists.

    What has been said is that some of them are. You yourself admit that Teddy Beale is trouble, it’s trivial to find massively homophobic posts from John C. Wright, and Brad R. Torg. But since it was important to them to stand together, the taint from one spreads to the rest. If someone stands proudly shoulder to shoulder with Teddy, then that’s enough to render them problematic.

    And Scalzi is largely right – the lead puppies acted like jerks and then when they won the first round were antagonistic when they should have been conciliatory. The mainstream fans don’t much like having poor stories force onto them, and they like being called SJWs or CHORFS or puppy kickers or Christ hating crusaders for Sodom even less.

    Otherwise, good article.

  7. The problem I have is
    “Make the pre-nomination process more transparent.”

    Having a pre-nomination process is contrary to the spirit of the awards. Nominate the things you like! Get your friends to sign up and nominate the things they like! If lots of people like the things you do, they will be on the ballot.
    Post here to talk about the things you like and get people interested in reading them in time to nominate. Get your friends to do the same. get Kate Paulk and Brad Torgersen and your aunt Sally to do the same. Read around, pick the things you like, and vote for them.

    But running a primary process, deciding what the official Puppy picks are, and getting people to vote for them because they are the Puppy picks – as far as I’m concerned that is cheating, whether you call it a ‘recommendations list’ or a slate. That is trying to convince people to vote for a thing for reasons other than the quality of the thing itself.

    (and I know, I know, the response is “but the SJWs do it”. Well, 1, that’s a claim that is made without any evidence beyond ‘books I don’t like are on the ballot’, and 2, aren’t you claiming to be better than the SJWs?)

  8. This got linked in the comments at File770. It was an interesting read, and a good perspective.

    Personally, I NA-ed Totalled after some serious thought – it was very much on the wire for me. It was decently crafted and had an emotional ending, but didn’t really tread any new ground and went a bit flat in the middle section. In the end, I compared it to other works that might have been up for the Hugo such as Jackalope Wives (which the newly published stats now show made a strong showing in the nominations) and decided it wasn’t quite up to standard, in a similar way to you not quite rating TGE as good enough. I actually loved TGE but I can see that the slow style and deliberately confusing opening third might make it not everyone’s cup of tea.

    I very much agree with you on Dark Between the Stars. It’s possible that there’s a good story in there, but it’s an enormous cast of characters with no concessions to a reader coming in cold, and I simply couldn’t get into it. I think I found one narrative strand that was interesting me, but it was perhaps 10% of the book at best.

    For myself, if SP4 is a genuine recs list that doesn’t mysteriously approach lists of 5, I will be happy to have a look at what’s on it – I’m always looking for new stuff to read. What I’d like even more is to see proper conversations about what the SP like and why, so people can join in and share their recommendations. Kary English tried to kickstart something of that sort, and got a fair response, but more is needed. The current talk makes me dubious that SP4 will genuinely move to that model, but perhaps once the heat has died down a bit we’ll see a more measured response.

  9. this “Brad, Larry, and Ted totally would have nominated 3BP if they’d read it in time” is kind of pathetic.
    It’s an obvious attempt to climb on the bandwagon, and also try to minimise what they did to the shortlist. If they had had their way, 3BP would not have been on the list. It made the list because one of their nominees cared more about the integrity of the award than they did. This is exactly why people should vote for the books they like instead of a list handed to them.

    In a similar vein, I saw a lot of people on Puppy blogs complain in the last few months that SJWs had kept The Martian off the list on a technicality. But guess who kept the author of The Martian off the Campbell award list?

  10. Ray-

    this “Brad, Larry, and Ted totally would have nominated 3BP if they’d read it in time” is kind of pathetic.

    I disagree. Given the analysis at Chaos Horizon (quoted in the OP), the reality is that Sad / Rabid Puppies did push Three Body Problem over the top, based either on (1) having good taste or (2) the fact that Vox Day announced it as his favorite after the nominations but before the voting.

    So there’s a legitimate connection between supporting 3BP and the Puppies, and it’s worth pointing out.

  11. Ray-

    Having a pre-nomination process is contrary to the spirit of the awards… running a primary process, deciding what the official Puppy picks are, and getting people to vote for them because they are the Puppy picks – as far as I’m concerned that is cheating

    This perspective is hard to reconcile with the actual history of the Hugos. Recommendation lists are not new, not controversial, not against the spirit of the Hugos, and certainly not cheating. The two most popular were Emerald City and NESFA Both are now defunct. I’m not sure what Emerald City’s last year was, but NESFA recommended from 1992 – 2013. There was, as far as I know, no major outcry or controversy over these lists. This is despite some 2007 analysis by Frank Wu that showed these lists appeared to be quite influential.

    To me, that is a model for the future of the Sad Puppies: a kind of crowd-sourced recommendation list. The very committed could participate in nominating and discussing the books and a recommendation list could be published officially in time for nominating. To my mind, this is a completely benign way to participate and it can do a lot of good: there’s no (practical, sustainable) way for anyone to read all the books published in a given year before nomination time. Recommendation lists fill a need. And, while they’re at it, the Sad Puppies can certainly achieve their goals of bringing more prominence to works they think would otherwise get ignored. (They are right about that, by the way, 100%.)

    So Sad Puppies as recommendation list is the future that I see, and I think it’s a fine one. I’d be equally happy to have any number of different recommendation lists out there with different perspectives and emphases on what they consider most relevant to Hugo consideration. If this is done with a modicum of civility and even (dare we hope?) friendliness, then it can enrich the field instead of tear it apart.

    One can hope.

  12. Maybe Puppy supporters pushed it over the top.
    But it was obviously quite popular among non-Puppy voters, because they put it on the ballot in the first place.

    By the way – there’s no reason to claim Ancillary Sword was only on the ballot because it is ‘politically palatable’. This is a best-selling book, sequel to a book that won all the awards. You don’t like it? Fine. Claiming that no-one else liked it? Silly.

  13. I agree with your analysis, Nathaniel. I think the only person who won here was Vox Day. And everyone else loses — whether they realize it or not.

    I’m not happy at all over the editing categories being no awarded. And I wish the short story category had also not been no awarded.

    The only good news that I’ve heard at all was what Wendy D. said above: that Jim Hines and Chuck Gannon are trying to create “safe spaces” so we can try to heal from this awful mess.

    The folks who don’t realize that the SF&F community must heal and stop savaging each other are the truly sad ones, it seems to me.

    Anyway, aside from the stuff about pre-nominations being clearer/more understandable (I’m not sure how this could be done whatsoever), I agree with you otherwise.

    BTW, I’m one of the folks caught in the middle. I have friends on both sides of this. I’m not a puppy of any persuasion, just a SF&F fan, writer and editor who’s upset that we can’t all find a way to get along at least a tad better. Because we really do have more in common with each other than we do with anyone else…and it’s sad we can’t figure that out.

  14. Nathaniel, I didn’t argue against recommendation lists. I said,
    “Post here to talk about the things you like and get people interested in reading them in time to nominate. Get your friends to do the same. get Kate Paulk and Brad Torgersen and your aunt Sally to do the same.”
    I’m all in favour of recommendation lists, the more, the better.

    I said a pre-nomination process is against the spirit of the awards. If you, me, Kate and Brad draw up our individual recommendation lists, and then say, “Okay, let’s vote between us for 5 novels, and the 4 of us agree to nominate those 5”, that’s gaming the system. Instead of voting for the 5 novels I like, I’m trading some of my votes for some of yours.

    If the Puppies open a thread where everyone can talk about the books they like and why they like them, share recommendations with people who’d appreciate them – that’s great. If they collect all those recommendations into a big list of fiction that is character-based, action-driven, full of big ideas, no SJWs in sight – that’s great too.
    If they winnow it down and say, “Here are the five Puppy recommendations for best novel” – it’s entirely obvious what is going on. And it doesn’t matter if they don’t say the word ‘slate’, or there are six recommendations, or four. If the idea is that people vote for the books that someone else picks instead of their own choices, they are trying to game the awards again.

  15. Ray-

    By the way – there’s no reason to claim Ancillary Sword was only on the ballot because it is ‘politically palatable’. This is a best-selling book, sequel to a book that won all the awards. You don’t like it? Fine. Claiming that no-one else liked it? Silly.

    I didn’t dislike it all that much. I liked it better than, say, The Dark Between the Stars. But I also think that a lot of the popularity of Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword is political, and that is purely based on the things that made its fans so excited about it. I really think it’s kind of silly to debate that point, all you have to do is scan through blog posts and reviews and see how often the politics come up, and then compare with political pieces at outlets like Tor.com. It’s adding 2+2 to see that at least some of the hype is politically based.

    How much?

    Impossible to say for sure, obviously. I thought Ancillary Justice was a solid book, and I have no real beef with it getting the Hugo last year. But Ancillary Sword is inferior–and that’s not just my read, it’s the reaction of most folks including those who liked Ancillary Justice quite a lot–and so I stand by my view that it really didn’t need to be among the nominees and was probably pushed over the edge for political reasons.

    Take it or leave it, but that’s my read.

  16. Ray-

    I don’t want to get into a debate that ends up being just about semantics, so let me just say that I don’t really understand the distinction you’re drawing between (1) a recommendation list and (2) a pre-nomination process.

    What you outlined in your post are two extreme examples:

    1. Sad Puppies allow anyone to recommend a book, collect that list, don’t winnow it at all, and call it a recommendation list.

    2. Sad Puppies use some process (undefined) and end up with a list of 5 (or 4 or 6, but close to 5) works per category and that’s a “pre-nomination process”.

    This is a false the dichotomy. What I suggest falls in between those two extremes. The Sad Puppies can have a process where they (it doesn’t have to be open to just anyone) recommend books. They can collect that list and winnow it down quite substantially (hypothetically: from 100 total recommended works to 12 that make the final cut for a given category). Then they can put out that list of 12 works. To me, that is a “pre-nomination process” that results in a “recommendation list”.

    But again: who cares about the terminology? The question is: would you have a problem with a process like the one I actually described (no matter what name you want to give it)?

  17. Ray-

    What is the purpose of winnowing down the list?

    What is the point of a recommendation list? To give people a list of books they should read and consider nominating. If that list is 100 novels long, then that recommendation list is useless, because very few people can read 100 novels in just a few months. So the list should be winnowed in order to make the recommendation list actually useful.

    10-12 novels is a lot, but it’s manageable. (Especially if the person has already read a few of them.) Many more than that is not manageable.

    EDIT: Another reason to winnow the list is to put more emphasis on higher quality works. If you have 100 novels on your list and some of them were suggested by one person and others were suggested by dozens and dozens of people well… you probably want to give preference to the one that had lots of recs. A shorter rec list is one that is more likely to include only higher-quality works. That’s also why I think you shouldn’t have a set number for this. It could be 8 one year, 12 the next year, 15 the year after that, and then back to 8. The exact method isn’t important. What’s important is just that (1) the process be understood and (2) the results not function as an attempt to game the system.

  18. No point in arguing about Ancillary Sword, except to note that
    I enjoyed it
    Have seen plenty of people saying they preferred it to the first book (I didn’t)
    It ended up third of the non-puppy nominees on the ballot
    In my experience, the people who talked about ‘the gender trick’ most were puppies, non-puppies were more likely to remark on the shared mind. And the space opera. And the character-driven, plot-based nature of the story.

    And you imply that SJWs are wrecking the award by having it on the ballot.

  19. 1. How is anyone in a position to pick out the best 12 from that 100, except by reading all of it?

    2. If you include a short description of why the book is so good, there is no need to winnow the list down. People can read who recommended the book and why, and decide for themselves whether or not to follow up.

    Note that this is how the world works with multiple recommendation lists today. Locus might recommend 5 novels, Strange Horizons some more novels, this blogger some novels and that blogger some more. I’m not going to get to read all of them. But if one guy says, “this book is like X meets Y, but in space!” I’ll push it up or down my own list. If a guy who I trust for space opera but not more mundane SF recommends something, I’ll take my knowledge of his preferences into account.

    So, why not just list all the recommendations?

    (of course, you don’t need to have a central list of recommendations at all. Or you could have a list of links to blogs where people recommended their favourites)

  20. (the books with more recommendations might just be the bestsellers, or the books that have been out longer, but that’s a side issue)

  21. “Pick better books. Some of the picks were great. Others were… really not.”

    With Kate Paulk running things? You might as well be casting stones at the moon. It’s going to be nominees from the Mad Genius Club clique and their camp followers.

  22. Ray-

    1. How is anyone in a position to pick out the best 12 from that 100, except by reading all of it?

    No one person is in that position. Which is why it should be some kind of group process. That’s one major thing group processes are good at: distributing workload. So, as just a super-simplistic example, if a bunch of Sad Puppies get together and make recommendations and they pick the top 10% most recommended books, that’s as good a way of any at trying to find high-quality books. Perfect? No, but neither is the Hugo process itself. The same problem applies there: a typical person can’t read all of the books published in a year, so how can they know which books to nominate for the ballot? They can’t. That aspect of the process is always going to be a little haphazard.

    2. If you include a short description of why the book is so good, there is no need to winnow the list down.

    Well, if you think a description like “this book is like X meets Y, but in space!” is actually a reliable quality-metric, then OK. But I don’t agree that that is the case. There are often very similar books (in terms of description) where I will think one is fantastic and the other is not good at all. That’s one reason I like recommendation lists: they prompt me to read exactly the kinds of books that I wouldn’t pick on my own based on a blurb.

    So, why not just list all the recommendations?

    I’m not saying they should hide the info or something, but I would be much happier to see a short list of 8-12 novels and then read all of them–regardless of the blurbs–rather than sift through 100 novels and look for ones that I think I’d like. What’s the point of that? That’s how I already read my books. For me, the Hugo award is in large part about stepping outside my comfort zone and seeing what other people like.

    But anyway, I’m still curious to get a direct answer to my question: would you object to a process like the one I described? Where there’s a group of Sad Puppies who get together, recommend books, winnow it down to 8-12, and then present that as their recommended list?

  23. alauda-

    With Kate Paulk running things? You might as well be casting stones at the moon. It’s going to be nominees from the Mad Genius Club clique and their camp followers.

    That is more less exactly what the Sad Puppies have been saying about the Hugos for the last few years.

    And so for me the big test is whether or not they can be something other than just one clique competing with another clique. Brad Torgersen made a good faith effort in that direction. Several of the authors on SP3 were absolutely not political allies of conservative / libertarian folks who typically constitute the Sad Puppy movement. And that was really important to me. It showed that, under Brad, SP3 was not an attempt to just dethrone one clique and replace it with another. That it was really an effort to break the Hugo contest wide-open.

    As I understand it, Kate plans to continue that. I hope she does. I certainly won’t criticize her for doing differently unless / until that actually happens.

  24. I do object to that approach, because you’re introducing a filter in an attempt to concentrate votes on particular works.

    You see, what you describe in point 1 – a large group of people get together and make recommendations, and the works with the most votes are skimmed off for a shortlist – is THE NOMINATION PHASE OF THE HUGO AWARDS. I can’t read all the SF books in a year, and neither can you, or anyone else. But if I vote for the things I like, and so do you, and so does Brad, and so does Kate, and so do hundreds of other people, then between us we should cover the field. And between us, arrive at a shortlist with a lot of the best stuff on it.

    But if 10% of the voters meet up in advance and agree their own shortlist and vote for just that, the knowledge of the other 90% is wiped out. And even if that 10% don’t all vote for the same 5 works, if their votes are concentrated on 12 works, they have an influence in the nomination phase that far outweighs their numbers.

    “if you think a description like “this book is like X meets Y, but in space!” is actually a reliable quality-metric”
    I don’t, I think it might help me decide whether or not I want to read the book. (That’s a short version of a recommendation/description, more detail is useful, obviously)

    “For me, the Hugo award is in large part about stepping outside my comfort zone and seeing what other people like.”
    And yet you want to read from a shortlist put together by the sad puppies?

  25. “That is more less exactly what the Sad Puppies have been saying about the Hugos for the last few years.”

    but without any evidence.
    Where is the slate organised by the SJWs?
    if the SJW clique has been running the Hugo nominations, how come the puppies swept the board this year?
    If the SJW clique is not representative of Hugo voters, how come the overwhelming majority of voters voted for No Award over puppy nominees?

  26. Ray-

    But if 10% of the voters meet up in advance and agree their own shortlist and vote for just that…

    First of all, it sounds like you don’t have a problem with the list per se. You have a problem with coordinated voting. But if the list is 8-12 works, then there isn’t really coordinated voting anyway.

    Secondly, does this mean that you had a problem with NESFA, Emerald City, etc. when they were operating just a few years ago?

    “For me, the Hugo award is in large part about stepping outside my comfort zone and seeing what other people like.”
    And yet you want to read from a shortlist put together by the sad puppies?

    Absolutely. I like recommendation lists. I’d love to see several of them. I’d love to see a Sad Puppy list and see an Emerald City and an NESFA list along side them. I’m bummed those aren’t active anymore.

    If I read enough, I’ll probably put my own list out there, too. I think it’s great to have more input before the process, and I think lists are great. The more the merrier. It would be paticularly interesting, for example, to see what books crop up on multiple lists. What lists are unique, etc.

    But here’s the really obvious thing: if you think that the Sad Puppies tried to game the Hugos, then you’re just not going to like anything they do. So, there’s no satisfying you. But, for what it’s worth, I think that is conspiratorial nonesense. If they wanted to game the Hugos, there would have been a lot more coordination in the actual final ballot. So, clearly, seizing control or gaming the system is not the objective. Having an influence? Sure. But I don’t have a problem with factions trying to have influence, as long as they play nicely. The SP3 folks did not this time around, although that was accidental. I hope they will next year. That will satisfy me and–judging from comments over at File770–several other sceptics as well.

    But not you. Fair enough. We just have different ideas about how the Hugos should be conducted, and I think I’m a lot more live-and-let-live about the whole thing.

  27. Thank you for this even-handed review of the situation. I’ve wavered backwards and forwards over the last few months and I feel that TruFen, SJWs, Sads and Rabids have all made some good points regarding Science Fiction.
    However, the reason that I’m broadly on the TruFen side is because I haven’t seen any credible evidence of ‘socio-political collusion within the sci-fi community that is quite plain for any unbiased observer’. It seems to me that many of the fen might lean liberal, and therefore might share recommendations and tastes – but collusion? Could you link to it?

    I agree with Ray regarding recommendation lists and slates. Brad first requested suggestions from his blog readers for SP3 and the comment section had loads of good books recommended in it – if Brad’s fans had voted for the books that they suggested to Brad, instead of the books that Brad listed for them, then the final ballot would have looked very different. Instead, enough of them voted for the ‘official’ Sad Puppy list to act as block vote. A puppy list of 5 or 10 books would have the same effect next year. Instead, what if the puppies did the same as the fen? There are hundreds of blogs, large and small, that list their favourites and encourage others to do the same in comments. If the SP4 put forward Sarah’s list, Brad’s list, Amanda’s list, Kate’s list, Larry’s list and all of their fans suggestions, there would be a great deal more diversity and a lot less block voting.

  28. Pluviann-

    It seems to me that many of the fen might lean liberal, and therefore might share recommendations and tastes – but collusion? Could you link to it?

    A lot of my conclusions are based on individual interviews I conducted with various authors and editors in the sci-fi field. That’s what convinced me. They were conducted for publication in a print magazine that cancelled the article at the last minute. I’m trying to find a new venue. If I do, I’ll let you know. If I don’t, I’ll post the article I wrote with the research here myself.

    So yes: I will provide the back up, but not now. Sorry.

    A puppy list of 5 or 10 books would have the same effect next year. Instead, what if the puppies did the same as the fen? There are hundreds of blogs, large and small, that list their favourites and encourage others to do the same in comments. If the SP4 put forward Sarah’s list, Brad’s list, Amanda’s list, Kate’s list, Larry’s list and all of their fans suggestions, there would be a great deal more diversity and a lot less block voting.

    I prefer a recommendation list because it’s easier for me (all the books in one place vs. following a ton of clicks and building my own list), but this approach has a lot of merit as well.

  29. Brad Torgersen made a good faith effort in that direction. Several of the authors on SP3 were absolutely not political allies of conservative / libertarian folks who typically constitute the Sad Puppy movement.

    The people Torgersen slated who were not his ideological allies were his personal friends and writing acquaintances. He asked for public suggestions, then ignored a bunch of them while choosing a lot of his friends, editors and professional colleagues on his slate.

    I wouldn’t call that a legitimate effort to broaden the diversity of Hugo nominees. It was a form of logrolling.

    My guess is that Torgersen didn’t take much time to legitimately assess the issue of who’s being wrongly overlooked at Hugo time. He didn’t dig deep into what came out during the year, which is hard for every Hugo voter. Neither did the other Evil League of Evil authors who helped him compose the slate in private discussions.

    So they foisted a lot of average work on the Hugo ballot and some truly execrable stuff such as Wisdom from My Internet, which surely was put there just to poke ideological enemies in the eye.

    I don’t see how anyone expected the Hugos voters to reward any of that with rockets.

    That is more less exactly what the Sad Puppies have been saying about the Hugos for the last few years.

    Without any proof.

    There is no cabal. If there was, the Puppies would not have taken the entire ballot.

    I’ve voted in the Hugo Awards for six years. I made my picks as an individual and never colluded with anybody, nor took as marching orders the recommendations of others.

    I see zero evidence that has ever happened. The Puppies are making that up to justify their stunt.

  30. Good luck finding a home for your article! I think everyone would be interested to see it when it comes out.

  31. “But if the list is 8-12 works, then there isn’t really coordinated voting anyway.”

    There is, of course. If 90% of the electorate are voting their preferences from the 1000 SF books published in the year, and 10% are voting from a list of 12, that 10% is going to have an influence out of all proportion to its size.

    As I said, I have no problem with recommendation lists. I have no problem with you, or Kate Paulk, or NESFA saying, “These are the books I think were great. I think you’d like them too.This book is great because…. That books is really interesting because… This book stayed with me for weeks, I really liked the way…” The more people that do that, the more likely I am to hear about books I might enjoy.

    If sad puppies 4 is people posting about the books they really like – even if they are books I don’t like, even if they are books I think are mediocre message-fiction – I have no objection.

    I have a problem – and I don’t know how much clearer I can be in saying this – with a group of voters running a pre-nomination selection to concentrate their votes on a shortlist of candidates. If that pre-selection process is Brad and his buddies choosing a set of books for puppies – I have a problem. If that pre-selection process is John Scalzi and Patrick Nielsen Hayden choosing a set of books for SJWs – I have a problem. If that pre-selection process is a bunch of voters getting together and voting in a primary to determine what they will vote for in the nominations – I have a problem. Because all of these things go against the principle of people deciding their favourites independently and voting their own choices.

    It’s not true that “there is no satisfying me”. I have given you a clear principle that explains why I opposed the puppies this year. I have explained – in my first comment! – what would satisfy me. It isn’t complicated. Recommend the things you like. Vote for the things you like. Don’t game the system to have an influence on the results that is out of proportion to your share of the voters.

  32. You’re not wrong with your prescription (except see the reaction to SP2 when only a few works were listed in each category), but I think your criticism is somewhat misplaced.

    You acknowledge that the category sweeps were unintended, and that Brad et al. publicly recognized this immediately after the nominations were announced. What more do you want them to have done? Promised a different tactic next time? it’s months later and we’re still working out the details. Apologized? you might recall that the primary mode of attack was the lie that Sad Puppies was a fascist/racist/sexist/homophobic/sinful plot to push women/gays/etc. out of the genre, this lie repeated ceaselessly in the general press, and Sarah, Brad, and the rest were a little focused on countering that.

  33. Nathaniel

    “A lot of my conclusions are based on individual interviews I conducted with various authors and editors in the sci-fi field. That’s what convinced me. They were conducted for publication in a print magazine that cancelled the article at the last minute. I’m trying to find a new venue. If I do, I’ll let you know. If I don’t, I’ll post the article I wrote with the research here myself.”

    No offense, but I find myself a bit dubious at this. If this cabal really existed (and the various claims state it has existed for lengths starting at over decade), and could be discovered simply by interviewing people, then why hasn’t it come to light before now? And now you’ve uncovered it, but won’t publish yet? If it’s that convincing, I’m quite sure VD would pay you good money for it ASAP.

  34. Excellent article. I am on the left (not an SJW, but sympathetic with SJ perspectives on many political issues outside of SF), and I agree with much of what you have to say.

    I’m surprised how many of the Puppy short story nominees you thought were above the “No Award” bar. “On a Spiritual Plain” in particular made me question whether Lou Antonelli had been through grammar school, on top of the fact that it had nothing remotely resembling an interesting plot, concept or characters. Kevin J. Anderson is a horrible writer, but Antonelli’s story was much worse than anything I’ve ever read by Anderson.

  35. I found your post through Jason Sanford’s blog and wanted to say thank you very much for writing it. I’ve been trying to find a rational assessment of what happened from a puppy-sympathetic point of view, and it’s been hard because the puppy movement is clearly wounded with a lot of angry people.

    I wanted to see what happened from a non-soapbox perspective and you’ve given me that. Thank you.

  36. Your description of the earlier development is almost identical to what happened in the gamergate movement in video games. The part where you you say they should’ve just admitted at that point the Sad Puppies had a point, but instead, they just tried to ruin their reputation. 100% identical to what happened with gamergate. It’s absolutely horrifying to watch happen, and it gives you an almost direct sight at just pure dogmatic ideology in action.

  37. It is interesting how you have absorbed a lot of anti-Puppy rhetoric.

    You speak of the ‘SP/RP campaign’ and ‘SP/RP slate’ when it seems uncontestable that they are two different campaigns with different methods and even incompatible objectives (as reflected by many of Vox Day’s nominations). But you don’t speak of a ‘No Award campaign’ even if it’s clear from your own description that this is exactly what happened: “Sad Puppy opponents insisted that the only solution was for fandom to rise up in righteous wrath and repudiate the incursion by voting “No Award” above any and all Sad / Rabid Puppy nominations.

    You claim, and surely believe, that SP organizers didn’t clarify that sweeping the nominations was not their objective.

    You fail to note that SP3’s stated objective was to get nominations for previously slighted authors, whence it is actually discussion of Anderson’s novel deserving or not an award that is irrelevant for the nomination stage. In order to have a justified belief that Anderson’s novel deserved a Hugo nomination you don’t necessarily have to believe that it deserves a Hugo award or that Hugo awards must be granted on the merit of their past work. In absence of evidence that SP3 voters who nominated Anderson disbelieved that the novel was good enough for a nomination and voted against their own criterion, your discussion is misguided. It is certainly common for people to receive nominations because they ‘deserve it’ or ‘it’s already time’, as an example Jim Baen died in 2006 and recieved a nomination for Best Editor in 2007 after not having been nominated for almost two decades. I wonder whether we should be chastising that, and maybe we should, but it’s absurd to bring it against SP when it has always existed.

    You also buy the 3BP point that SP and RP kept it out of the ballot. It is much more reasonable to claim that its publication date (November 11th 2014) kept it out of the ballot. Hugo voters are not required to nominate good novels they haven’t read. Unless you have evidence that SP3 voters who didn’t nominate 3BP had actually read it and nominated against their criterion, they didn’t have any special moral responsibility to nominate it, something indeed the vast majority of the nominators didn’t do.

    If you think about it, the whole talk of works being kept out of the ballot is based on the assumption that the nominations and votes by people brought in by SP3 or RP are a priori invalid or at best worth less that other people’s. But all those people are members of WSFS with the same right to nominate and vote as older members. Unless you have the prior conviction that those people are somehow ‘faux’ or ‘invalid’ members (and this conviction has actually been expressed by some anti-Puppies in various forms) it makes no sense to claim that to obtain the ‘real’ results one has to subtract the SPs or RPs. Therefore, SPs didn’t keep 3BP off the ballot any more than Ancillary Sword nominators kept one SP recommended novel off the ballot. The nominations entered, they were tallied, 3BP got less than other novels and thus did not qualify as a finalist, all business as usual.

    People who didn’t nominate 3BP may or may not have regretted it after they discovered the novel, certainly the SP and RP promoters did, but these people are not responsible for what others nominate (not even Vox Day). This is another point you have bought, that somehow Brad Torgersen is responsible for what others freely nominated, and so he is responsible for people probably not having even read 3BP not nominating it and creating an imbalance in the cosmos. Torgersen is hold responsible for that even when the evidence available is that the 2015 nomination stats look much less like a lockstep vote than previous ones.

    In File 770 after the Hugo awards, ‘Cat’ (who seems to be Catherynne Valente) attributed the No Award bloc vote to a confluence of free decisions from individual fans. Let’s just hold people on the other side of the fence only to the same standard, which will be good for a change.

  38. Enjoyed your article & largely agree with it.

    I voted this year for the first time. I did not nominate anyone.

    I think it is funny that 2,500 people voted a lock-step, coordinated slate to protest nominations which followed the written rules made by the “wrong fans.” Look at Chaos Horizon’s breakdown of the vote. I did an independent confirmation of his math. There were 2,500 lock step “torch anything nominated by the wrong people in a perceived wrong way” votes. Or you can call it “2,500 lock step votes to protest a valid method of making nominations.” But however you interpret it, there were 2,500 lock step votes.

  39. This is very well-written, and I actually am going to disagree with Ray: If there’s a rec list that ends up being 12 items per category from SP4, I have no problem with that. (It looks like those were about the sizes of the NESFA and Emerald City lists).

    I do take issue with the citation of the Entertainment Weekly article. Given that Vox Day does in fact have the abhorrent views cited, it’s not surprising that Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies got jammed together, particularly since their slates were so similar. This idea that one inaccurate article (by a low-level intern, no less) is so hurtful suggests a thin-skinned-ness at best, and a grievance complex the size of Montana at worst. You want hurtful? Try getting actual bad reviews sometimes. I have. I got over it.

    Also, I think it’s important to note that a lot of people liked “Totalled” and voted for it–I did–but Hugo voters can have a very high bar. Lots of ’em still No Award Graphic Novels just on principle. You can think a story’s *good*…but not good enough to get within range of, say, “Why I Left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” or “A Study in Emerald.”

    Editor is a very tough category to evaluate fora lot of people, so some just no-award it anyway. Resnick and Gilbert and Broznek and Weisskopf are all awesome, and fully deserving, but Weisskopf gave voters literally nothing to work with–her entire statement was a link to baen books, with no indication of what, specifically, she’d done. I know it’s tough because they group-edit, but even a one-page statement of “here are three of the books I worked in, here’s what I did” would’ve made it a lot easier for people to vote for her.

    I’ll only say that I’m not sure what the point is of saying “Rabid Puppies put 3BP over the top!” Goblin Emperor is an equally awesome book, one a lot of folks would’ve had no problem winning, and the slates kept 3BP *off* the ballot in the first place. Marko Kloos deserves a lot of credit for his withdrawal, absolutely. (Also: a sequel to a popular work getting nominated again /= politics any more than Speaker for the Dead winning the year after Ender’s Game equals an endorsement of OSC. It equals many voters liked Ancillary Justice. This idea that because *you* don’t like something, other people couldn’t possibly like it for legitimate reasons has got to stop. It’s one of the most frustrating things about the puppies–their inability to just accept that large numbers of other people might think different stuff has value… and to subsequently abide by basic community norms when nominating valued works.)

    However, overall, this is a very helpful article; I look forward to reading what you recommend for 2016.

  40. This was a great, sober read amongst the flames of the Great Hugo Wars’ aftermath. Thanks for doing it.

    “Do not ask for or notify any authors that their works will be included. This puts the authors in a terrible position and is not a standard practice.”

    I…wouldn’t endorse this. If pre-listing notification puts authors in a terrible position, post-listing notification is comparatively apocalyptic. Even if the rest of your suggestions were put into effect, the Puppies have a reputation and an ideology that plenty of authors and editors don’t want to be associated with. Probably more important is the trouble that any author on that list is going to have to go through – that’s bad enough on its own, and gets worse for anyone who ends up declining a nomination after the fact.

  41. @Lexington

    It isn’t the puppies fault that a collection of unhinged lunatics decided to punish the authors they happened to like. Maybe you should point the blame at the unhinged lunatics and not at the fans who suggested a work that they liked.

  42. @Jason,

    Even if we’re taking all of the assumptions in your post to be true, I don’t see any justification for knowingly bringing that kind of trouble down on someone’s head without first giving them a heads-up, and making sure they know precisely what they’re getting involved in.

    It was actually Brad Torgersen’s fairly dishonest treatment of Juliette Wade – and his awful behavior after she made that treatment public – that completely soured my view of the Sad Puppies this year. If you’re getting somebody involved in a nominations slate as heavily politicized and controversial as SP, you let them know about it in no uncertain terms, and you do so before you make that slate public. Not doing so was extremely unprofessional of Torgersen, as well as just rude and unthinking on a personal level. That kind of blindsiding shouldn’t be happening at all, much less as a matter of policy.

  43. @Lexington

    Except _nobody_ least of all the Puppies expected the sweep of the nominations and the choices were not political that is simply untrue. The politics, sex and race of the authors were very diverse.

    Torgersen did try to contact the people, some he managed some he didn’t. You attempt to blacken him by telling obvious untruths that bear no relation to reality.

    The result was not expected and the back lash and lies told against the puppies was also unexpected and not the fault of the puppies either.

    No matter how many times the frothing mental patients screech “Look what you made us do!” it wont change the reality that they made all of the choices they did in spewing venom, over reacting, and behaving liked spoiled spiteful children at the awards themselves. They own _all_ of that.

  44. “The politics, sex and race of the authors were very diverse.”

    The SP fiction nominees were 21% female, when the Hugos had reached the 50% mark in recent years.

  45. Except _nobody_ least of all the Puppies expected the sweep of the nominations and the choices were not political that is simply untrue.

    Sweep or no, he had every expectation that at least some of his nominees would make it to the ballot this year, given the success of last year’s efforts. Besides, Torgerson’s expectations aren’t really material here, as the Puppy slate is inherently political. Even if the specific choices weren’t (and, let’s face it, they clearly leaned in a certain direction as a whole), the original Sad Puppies slates were originally created, promoted and operated on the principle of “let’s go poke those damn SJWs in the eye!” I understand Torgerson tried to expand on that mission, but he sure as hell didn’t abandon it. Sad Puppies is controversial, it’s political, and it’s not something to drag an unwilling author into.

    You attempt to blacken him by telling obvious untruths that bear no relation to reality.

    I’m not really sure what “untruths” you’re referring to here. Unless Torgersen disputes either Wade’s account of their conversation, or his authorship of the responses attributed to him in the File 770 comments thread – and I don’t believe he’s done either – the whole story is right there in black and white for anyone to read.

    Personally, I consider…

    1) Not indicating the slate you’re putting someone’s work on is a well-known and controversial one

    2) Repeatedly and baselessly attributing their wish to be removed from the slate to cowardice, and

    3) Refusing to apologize (or even really acknowledge the error) after they’ve come along to personally tell you how wrong you are in your characterization of their motives

    …to be a series of increasingly crap moves that reflect very, very poorly on Torgersen. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

  46. > The SP fiction nominees were 21% female, when the Hugos had reached the 50% mark in recent years.

    The Hugos may have done, but SF submissions by women to Tor books in 2013 was only 22%
    (http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2013/07/10/sexism-in-genre-publishing-a-publishers-perspective).

    It is simply untrue that large numbers of female authors are being overlooked. The under-representation of women starts before the publication stage. Women simply aren’t submitting SF to publishers.

  47. @Vivienne

    I believe I’ve seen broader analyses that show a better %, and of course that article defines SF more narrowly than the Hugos do.
    Ultimately, the stats over the last few years show female fiction nominees breaking the 50% mark, then dropping off once SP 2 and 3 came into play. I know that my (very provisional) draft nom list is pretty well split between the sexes at the moment, so women appear to be producing good works to the same extent as men so far this year. Do you believe the Hugos were over-recognising women before, or have under recognised them this year?

  48. @Mark

    I think that the Hugos were over-representing women, yes. I know affirmative action to encourage women is happening in SF&F publishing, from personal experience. I was asked at a con (based on three chapters of my novel) whether I’d finished the book because “so-and-so agent is looking for hard SF by women”.

    When I was a member of a political party, I actively campaigned against positive discrimination. I felt it didn’t tackle the issue of why fewer women were putting themselves forward in the first place and, also, because I felt the “leg up” would make me (and everyone else) doubt I’d earned my achievements.

    In the case of the Hugos, I suspect only 22% of submissions of SF are women and the increasing Hugo percentage is a change in the content of what gets nominated for prizes – not a growing recognition of existing female SF authors. I suspect there’s been a slant towards fantasy, which has a higher percentage of female authors (according to the Tor UK stats, anyway).

    I suspect the percentage of women dropped with the Puppies because they nominated less fantasy and, thus, the female percentage dropped in line with the SF percentage. My personal experience of the Puppy authors (in my case the RPs) has been the absolute opposite to misogyny.

    Hope that makes sense.

  49. @Vivienne

    Well, as I suspected your TOR UK numbers are unrepresentive. Try the annual review at Strange Horizons showing 40% of books submitted to Locus were by women. As Locus is probably SF tinged, it suggests that’s a low estimate.

    I also took an eyeball at the Best Novel nominees for the last few years, over the period when female representation increased. Strangely, from 2010 the majority of women nominated were writing SF, not fantasy, and the fantasy works were actually 50/50 male/female.

    I don’t think your theory about women and fantasy holds true at the Hugo level. In the same period, I make it 5 nominations for fantasy in 5 years (i.e. 20%). SP3 nominated a work of fantasy in each fiction slot, for 30% fantasy. So your explanation about SP3 doesn’t fly either. (RP looks no better on either front, and JCW writes more fantasy than hard SF). The fact is that they nominated less women than is represented by either the market, or the total pool of books being written, is very telling.

    Finally, I really don’t see your piece of anecdata as showing what you claim. Surely, given the demographics above and the fact that the readership (in terms of books bought) is pretty close to 50/50, this agent was aware there was a gap in the market and wanted to fill it in order to make money? You can ascribe all sorts of motives to the Hugo electorate, but agents are pretty much all about the bottom line.

    If, as you say, you are concerned about barriers to women in a structural sense (and I would join you in that concern) then neither SP or RP have done a jot to improve that. What exactly do you think Castalia House (official author list 13 men, 1 women) are doing to address this imbalance?

    Finally, good luck with your book.

  50. Mark wrote:
    “No offense, but I find myself a bit dubious at this. If this cabal really existed (and the various claims state it has existed for lengths starting at over decade), and could be discovered simply by interviewing people, then why hasn’t it come to light before now? And now you’ve uncovered it, but won’t publish yet? If it’s that convincing, I’m quite sure VD would pay you good money for it ASAP.”

    It’s not that hard to find. Back around the time the nominees were announced, someone pointed out a several years old video of Harlan Ellison’s, in which he talked about efforts to game the nominations (to be clear, this was before Larry Corriea ever published any fiction). Vox posted about past nominations, using the official statistics to show that Tor editors picked up almost identical numbers of nominating votes for Best Editor Long Form several years running. Dave Freer posted about being approached for a Nebula nominating ring, in which each year one of the members of the group would get the votes of the whole group for a selected story. There were other stories along these lines, go back and read the discussion from the time.

  51. @Mark To be fair, you don’t even need an organised cabal. I went through the numbers on my blog (pingbacked). Only 43 people nominated the short story that went on to be last year’s winner ‘The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere’.

    You don’t need a conspiracy to generate numbers like that. You simply need to be a popular blogger, or someone who an editor feels is a promising young author who needs recognition. Once you have a nomination, if no one tells the voters there’s an evil right-wing conspiracy to game the Hugos, they’re probably going to give the nominees the benefit of the doubt.

    ‘The Water That Falls’ isn’t actively ‘bad’, it’s simply mediocre (like student-quality work on a good MFA programme). So, if you are sympathetic to increasing representation of minority groups, then you’re unlikely to No Award a minority writer writing about minority issues. Hence, mediocre work wins Hugos.

    It was interesting how many people No Awarded the non-Puppy story ‘The Day the World Turned Upside Down’. It only narrowly escaped No Award. In a year where people were pre-primed to reject work, they responded to the mediocre literary fiction as I (a casual reader of good literary fiction) did.

  52. “So there’s a legitimate connection between supporting 3BP and the Puppies, and it’s worth pointing out.”

    Yes, it is worth pointing out that Three Body Problem because a single person controls 500 votes. Regardless of the quality of the book, to mind that’s lousy.

    I voted “no award” above all slated nominees. Not a to punish the nominees, but to reject slate tactics. If Sad Puppies 4 put together a reasonably long (8+) recommendation list, I have no problem with that.

    There has been no evidence that I have seen to indicate an SJW cabal, sinister or otherwise. Also, I regard the political dimension as a sideshow. I don’t care about anyone’s politics, but I reject slates as antithetical to the Hugo Awards.

  53. > Well, as I suspected your TOR UK numbers are unrepresentive. Try the annual review at Strange Horizons showing 40% of books submitted to Locus were by women. As Locus is probably SF tinged, it suggests that’s a low estimate.

    Ok. For starters, submissions to Locus are already-published books being sent for review. The Tor UK figures are manuscripts received through their open submission process. So it’s apples to oranges. If you’re examining underlying causes, the difference is important.

    When I was a politico, there was a lot of talk about women being – on average – less keen to self-publicise and more aware of their own limitations. As we were a liberal party, the non-women shortlists plan was to mentor women so they didn’t hold themselves back by thinking “I’m not good enough yet”.

    > I also took an eyeball at the Best Novel nominees for the last few years, over the period when female representation increased. Strangely, from 2010 the majority of women nominated were writing SF, not fantasy, and the fantasy works were actually 50/50 male/female.

    You’re right about the fantasy hypothesis, re: Best Novel. That’s my theory down the pan :)

    2011 was 4/5ths female. Mainly SF with one SF/alternative history novel.
    2012 was 2/5ths fantasy and 50/50 male/female. The rest of the stories were SF and 1/3rd female. Total of 2 female writers.
    2013 was 4/5ths SF (one book comic), 2 female writers.
    2014 was 4/5ths SF, 2 female writers.
    2015 was 1/2 fantasy, 1/2 female.

    > The fact is that they nominated less women than is represented by either the market, or the total pool of books being written, is very telling.

    Very telling of what? You’ve implied a motive, own it :) Larry Correia is a pulp author who writes, from what I’ve seen, about giant monsters. His market is probably not the same group of people who read Blackout, which is a slow literary/alternative history novel framed by a bit of time travel. That’s like saying Transformers 3 and The Time-Traveller’s Wife are both SF films and – thus – must appeal to the same market.

    As always, the devil is in the details. So you’ve also got to question what ‘market’ means in this context. Percentage of books submitted to Locus? Cumulative sales figures? Bear in mind, there are literary authors now writing ‘SF’ and they don’t count in the Locus figures. Take, for example, Sunshine State by James Miller (http://eco-fiction.com/sunshine-state-james-miller/). Sometimes it feels like SF has mainstreamed and this is a bun-fight between different sub-genres over who owns the Hugo brand.

    > What exactly do you think Castalia House (official author list 13 men, 1 women) are doing to address this imbalance?

    Finding women authors who write non-pulp military SF and don’t run a mile at being associated with Vox Day. I genuinely don’t know what percentage of women write hard SF about future weaponry and warfare. I know they publish other stuff, but the Hugo anthology was military SF.

    I think we’re getting close to debating whether women and men prefer to write different sub-genres and why… :)

  54. > Surely, given the demographics above and the fact that the readership (in terms of books bought) is pretty close to 50/50, this agent was aware there was a gap in the market and wanted to fill it in order to make money?

    Which gap? The gap in the market where, purely by virtue of having two X chromosomes, someone miraculously appeals to 50% of readers? I could understand it if the agent wanted ‘more chick lit with realistic physics’ or ‘a story about childbirth in zero G’ or something specifically gendered… but I found it bizarre.

    I mean, does your average reader go into a bookshop and look specifically for a hard SF novel authored by a woman? And, if so, what expectations do they have of the book? Presumably gendered ones? Given that my native writing style is similar to Frederick Forsyth-meets-Michael Crichton, if they pick up ‘written by a woman’ expecting Wuthering Comets, they would be pretty disappointed.

    > What exactly do you think Castalia House (official author list 13 men, 1 women) are doing to address this imbalance?

    Hey, actually, I realise that we’re arguing different terms of reference. I’m pretty sure Castalia House has no policy to address the imbalance in gender at all. Because positive discrimination to get a 50/50 gender split is a political act, and not everyone shares those politics. In fact, some women (myself included) are highly offended by being invited into a space to make up an arbitrary clit quota.

    The actual question is ‘Do you think Castalia House would discriminate against/discourage a woman who wrote stories that appealed to their target market?’ Given their roster is not 100% male, the obvious answer is ‘no’.

  55. re: Secret Cabals

    @Stephen M. Saintonge

    Stephen, you have given an example of Harlan claiming a single person had gamed the noms, nonsensical number crunching from an utterly unreliable source, and Dave “I won’t engage with criticism” Freer talking about an entirely different award.
    You could have thrown in John C Wright claiming Patrick “Smeagol” Hayden had personally led the TOR cabal, and I’d be pointing out his utter lack of credible evidence as well.

    No, there is no Secrit Cabal, no, there is no credible evidence of a Secrit Cabal.

    @ Vivienne Raper (1:47am)

    If I read you correctly, you don’t think there is a cabal, but there are popular people getting votes in a contest for a popular vote? Great, case closed.

    Actually, I agree that “The Water…” is below par, and my vote reflected that. I’ve seen plenty of anti-slate commenters of broadly the same opinion. Others presumably liked it more; that’s voting for you.

  56. @Vivienne Raper (later posts)

    I take your point about underlying causes etc, and the point about women being less keen to self-publicise is one I’ve seen in various different contexts, such asking for payrises etc, and it appears to be entirely correct.

    I’m going to drop back to the start again, which was me replying to a claim that SP was very diverse on sex by pointing out that, no, it wasn’t. I didn’t bother with race because arguing about whether Vox Day is a Native American is deeply tedious, and politics instantly bogs down in definition (for which see Dave Freer tying himself in knots while failing to prove historic political discrimination in the Hugos).

    So, when you’re asking me to own to what I’m implying, I don’t think I’ve implied anything, I think I’ve said straight up that the claim that SP was more diverse in female representation is utter nonsense unsupported by facts.

    We’ve established that the SP fiction nominees were 21% female, which I say is under-representation. You are saying that it’s about right, and that the previous Hugo stats are over-representation. So, we have a disagreement, let’s look at what we can say about the demographic pool of published authors from which Hugo Award nominations are made:

    You were talking about stats for submissions. However, in the context of what gets a Hugo Award, Step 1 (or maybe step 0) is “Get Published”, and so statistics about what has been published are far more relevant than what has been submitted, not to mention that the Locus stats take a wider look at the market than one publisher in one year. I take the point that Locus won’t show the entire market either, but I’m going to say that we have two info sources, and Locus shows the state of the market better than your Tor UK stats do, so right now I’m happy to stick with my claim that the Hugo noms hovering around 50/50 m/f were representative, and SP was a spectacular step back on that particular point.

    Now, there’s one other angle to look at this from: if you (or anyone else) thinks that the Hugos were over-representing women in previous years (ditto race or politics), feel free to look at the lists of nominees and identify a) which ones were clearly too weak to have made the list by merit and b) which more meritorious works ought to have replaced them. If “over-representation” is true, then even allowing for individual tastes you ought to be able to establish a broad pattern of this happening. If anyone wants to take me up on that one, please remember that b) is as important as a).

  57. > If I read you correctly, you don’t think there is a cabal, but there are popular people getting votes in a contest for a popular vote? Great, case closed.

    @Mark. My problem is that 43 people nominated The Water That Falls… for what is, basically, supposed to be ‘science fiction’s most prestigious award’ presented at ‘World’con. The ‘world’ and ‘prestigious’ sets up some expectations. These expectations include ‘more than 6,000 voters in a high watermark year’… Bear in mind that Dragon Con attracted 52,000 people last year – and that was physical attendance in America.

    Also bear in mind that The Water That Falls was not alone in being mediocre literary fiction. Others nominees in that category in 2014 included If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, which is pretty, but not innovative if you’ve read any literary fiction (e.g. http://www.solearabiantree.net/namingofparts/namingofparts.html)…

    In short, the ‘popular’ is arguable…

  58. @Vivienne Raper

    OK, what exactly do you think is up, then? I ask because it’s not really clear.

    I’m getting:
    a) You don’t like The Water That Falls. Fair enough. Others did.
    b) You don’t like Dinosaur. Fair enough. Others did.
    c) Dragon Con is bigger than WorldCon. OK, so are Yacht Shows. Your point is?

    Going back to your earlier post, I also seem to be getting that you believe mediocre work wins Hugos due to a desire to increase representation of minority groups. If that is your position, then I have to disagree. If that is your position, then in line with my last post I suggest you either a) demonstrate systematic over-representation of minority groups in Hugo nominations or b) start identifying by name both the unworthy nominations and the works they pushed out.

    On that particular point, I feel I can name an unworthy nomination and the work it pushed out: “On A Spiritual Plain” and “Jackalope Wives”.

  59. @Mark

    My problem is I thought the Hugos meant something because they were science fiction’s ‘most prestigious award’ and awarded at a ‘world’ event. My attention has been drawn to just how few people nominate and vote, which means that my preferences and your preferences and what we think got pushed out…those things don’t matter a jolt because we do not represent the mass of people who actually buy books. If we were, we wouldn’t be having a conversation about the Hugos on Difficult Run.

    We’re not arguing over whether the Puppy nominations had merit. Most of the Puppy nominations came from the Rabid Puppy slate, which had the stated aim of nuking the Hugos. Thus, quality was not (presumably) the primary consideration in nominating the works as the aim of the slate was not to ‘win’, but – rather – to make a point in a wider culture war. Thus, yes, Jackalope Wives is a cute story and I liked it, but the fact that something else got nominated is rather beside the point.

    As a side point, I have political views. These are classically liberal. Those views mean I am against positive discrimination because it strips people of their individuality. I am also against third-wave feminism because I do not acknowledge that I belong to a monolithic identity group with common interests called ‘women’. I am a person; not a label. I do not agree that I, personally, am oppressed by my XX chromosomes; I don’t live in Saudi Arabia or under the Taliban.

    Some of the ‘Hugo Award’ entries that were chucked out by the Puppies showed a clear, political bias towards an ideology I disagree with. For example, the ‘alternative slate’ (http://io9.com/this-is-what-the-2015-hugo-ballot-should-have-been-1725967147) showed that “Tropes vs Women: Women as Background Decoration” would have been nominated in Best Related Work. I have watched this video and it has nothing whatsoever to do with science fiction novels. It is about video games. There is no doubt this is a political nomination that has no merit as ‘Best Related Work’ EXCEPT to push a political agenda. Compare this to, say, an encyclopedia of science fiction or – actually – Jackalope Wives (which is a compelling fantasy story independent of any political views it may or may not express).

    If you want to be overtly political, you have to be prepared for other people to be political back. And you also need to accept the idea that some of those people aren’t ‘evil’, ‘Nazis’ or kill babies. They just have a different ideological position from you.

    Hope that makes sense.

  60. Nathaniel: I find a lot to agree with in your post. But here’s a question for you, after a bit of setup: I enjoyed the heck out of Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Justice both. I loved the worldbuilding; the protagonist fascinated me; I thought Leckie wrote great action scenes. I don’t think either book ends satisfactorily, so they’re four-star books for me rather than five-star books. But they got me excited – excited – specifically about science fiction after years in which most of my genre reading was urban or heroic fantasy. I will be downloading and reading Ancillary Mercy the minute it is available for my Kindle.

    Contrariwise, I read the first dozen or so Dresden files books but gave up after that. There were a few really good ones in the Books 5-8 range, but eventually I got tired of Butcher’s flabby prose and his mannerisms – “On what page will we be told, in the exact words, that ‘Murphy was good people.’ this time?” e.g. – and I thought Ghost Story included an unforgivable cheat. (Literally a variation on “The Devil made me do it.”) Plus, you know, that ain’t Chicago.

    So for me, Leckie’s books are thrilling stories while it’s Butcher’s books that merit the term “mediocre” – the exact opposite of your own reaction. I have no desire to argue you out of your fondness for the Dresden Files, but I tried them and found them wanting.

    Here, finally, is my question: Do you think I’m lying about my tastes? Do you think I’m deluded? Or do you think I like what I like for reasons that are every bit as valid as your reasons for liking what you like?

  61. @Vivienne Raper

    “My attention has been drawn to just how few people nominate and vote, which means that my preferences and your preferences and what we think got pushed out…those things don’t matter a jolt because we do not represent the mass of people who actually buy books.”

    I’m guessing you’re familiar with opinion polling, and so you know that with care a small sample can accurately represent a larger population. However, this misses the point that the Hugos are no more or less than they claim to be: the results of a vote by the people who wished to join that vote. More broadly, the Hugos would never have become prestigious if they didn’t represent something to a mass of people who went on to think them prestigious, so clearly this methodology has been successful. Frankly, if they didn’t have that prestige then Larry Correia wouldn’t have been so offended at not getting one that he started the “Get Larry a Hugo” campaign.
    Nothing in the numbers who nominate leads to the conclusion that “my preferences and your preferences and what we think got pushed out”. That’s your assertion, which you have yet to back up.

    “Most of the Puppy nominations came from the Rabid Puppy slate, which had the stated aim of nuking the Hugos.”

    Nope, 48 works from both lists, then 3 SP only and 10 RP only. That’s slightly more influence for RP, yes, but not “most”.

    “We’re not arguing over whether the Puppy nominations had merit.”
    There was a very clear claim from the SP that they had great works that were being ignored. With some honourable exceptions, they did not. This was the cornerstone of their campaign, and it is built on shoddy foundations.

    Previously we were discussing bias towards or against women in the Hugos and SP. You haven’t replied to that point. Do you accept my position?

    “Some of the ‘Hugo Award’ entries that were chucked out by the Puppies showed a clear, political bias towards an ideology I disagree with.”
    You now wish to argue political bias. Fair enough, let’s discuss that. It’s rather ironic that you look at Best Related Work, which saw the SP nominate the most appalling political drek. Wisdom from My Internet was mindless blatherings with frequent political comment and no SF relevance, “Science is Never Settled” was a dogwhistling continuation of the author’s arguments about Climate Change, and Transhuman took various detours into JCWs political views.

    I have neither watched “Tropes v Women” nor nominated it, but the Best Related category isn’t required to be about SF novels, merely of Sfnal interest. It’s frequently acknowledged that video games could technically be nominated for Hugos, and a very great many have SF content. Therefore this is a work about a wider field which includes SF, and is clearly a valid Related Work. I agree that it is a clearly feminist work, and no doubt the nominators who voted for it thought it great commentary from a perspective they shared; that is rather the point of the nomination process.
    You could also say that others on the “shadow” nomination list had feminist content, but what about the work from White Mormon Male Conservative Brandon Sanderson? Or the masterful Jo Walton work? A cherry-picked example gets you nowherte.

    In my last post I suggested a course of action if you wanted to show some sort of bias, and you’ve gone with half an example, so I really have to say you need to go a lot broader if you want to attempt to prove your case. In addition, Best Related isn’t exactly the best touchstone for the rest of the Hugos.

    “If you want to be overtly political, you have to be prepared for other people to be political back. And you also need to accept the idea that some of those people aren’t ‘evil’, ‘Nazis’ or kill babies. They just have a different ideological position from you.”

    I’m afraid that without showing that the Hugos were “overtly political” this classic SP justification fails. I’d be interested to hear who you believe said that members of the SP were ‘evil’, ‘Nazis’ or kill babies. I’m sure it got thrown around by random commenters, but who of relevance said it? Was it George R R Martin? John Scalzi? David Gerold? Irene Gallo called the Rabids Neo-nazis, of course, but that was neither the SP or “Nazis”. (That might be a fine distinction, but I see a difference between “mass-murdering fiends” and “pathetic wannabe extremists” as an insult. YMMV.)
    I’m well aware that “we were called Nazis” was a very common SP cry, but it was rather lacking the most important point of being true. Of course, plenty of heated and politicised insults have been throwing around, but when you import the US Culture Wars into a previous unconcerned space you get a lot of outrage going around, and I certainly don’t condone the more heated words on either side. However, the most notable accusation of Nazism so far has come from Kate Paulk, anointed leader of SP4. Perhaps she should realise that people just have a different ideological position from her?

  62. Previously we were discussing bias towards or against women in the Hugos and SP. You haven’t replied to that point. Do you accept my position?

    Mark, in all honesty I tell you that you’re embarrassing yourself. If you want people to reply to your points, at least give them something they can take seriously, not a ridiculous homework list they imaginarily have to do in order to reject your “position”.

  63. @Pedro Terán

    Thank you for your concern, but I’m happy with my position of pursuing proof via facts rather than proof by assertion. I’d be quite willing to have a different discussion from the ones I suggested provided it was anchored in facts. Feel free to start.

  64. @ Mark

    > Nothing in the numbers who nominate leads to the conclusion that “my preferences and your preferences and what we think got pushed out”. That’s your assertion, which you have yet to back up.

    I’m missing the assertion. I noted that < 6,000 people voted in the most popular category of the Hugos, Best Novel, this year. This was a high watermark year (because the publicity brought in new voters). Last year <4,000 people voted for Best Novel, including supporting membership. These people do not, numerically at least, represent world fandom as 52,000 people attended Dragon Con – in person.

    These people were voting on stories some of which, last year, were nominated by Previously we were discussing bias towards or against women in the Hugos and SP. You haven’t replied to that point. Do you accept my position?

    I realised that we were arguing from different premises. You were arguing (I think) from the unspoken assumption that the exact percentage of women on a slate was indicative of widespread structural discrimination or – generally – something that systematically disadvantaged women. As in, if a space has 20% women then, obviously, the men are discriminating against them.

    If I see 20% women, I assume there are a range of reasons of which discrimination may be one, but that may be a massive oversimplification. For example, in 2014 only 20% of US women had completed bachelors degrees in physics (http://www.aps.org/programs/education/statistics/womenphysics.cfm). Since SF was traditionally associated with space exploration, robots – the sort of subjects that interest physicists – you could argue that SF was traditionally less female for the same reason that fewer women study physics. And, if so, you must wonder why the problems recruiting female SF writers were so easily solved (pre-Puppy), but the problems getting women into physics have not been.

    So I need to ask you a question now: Do you believe there is positive discrimination in favour of women in Sci-Fi publishing? If you agree with that, but don’t believe there is over-representation, you must ask the question ‘why is the positive discrimination not working?’

    > Fair enough, let’s discuss that. It’s rather ironic that you look at Best Related Work, which saw the SP nominate the most appalling political drek. Wisdom from My Internet was mindless blatherings with frequent political comment and no SF relevance,

    My understanding was this was a ‘troll’ entry in response to some political writing about George W. Bush by John Scalzi that was nominated for something (I don’t know the details…) And, yes, Wisdom from My Internet was unreadable dreck. We agree there.

    > It’s frequently acknowledged that video games could technically be nominated for Hugos, and a very great many have SF content. Therefore this is a work about a wider field which includes SF, and is clearly a valid Related Work.

    You’re clutching at straws :) It had no right to be there. There isn’t a video game writing award in the Hugos. And, having watched the video, it had very few examples that involved SF video games. Most of the examples were taken from games about modern-day organised crime because these disproportionately feature prostitutes and brothels.

    > A cherry-picked example gets you nowherte.

    How about Lightspeed, which was lauded for its ‘Women Destroy Science Fiction’ edition? That’s political and not in ‘Best Related Work’. If you’ll let me use Best Related Work, I can write you a laundry list.

    > Rabids Neo-nazis, of course, but that was neither the SP or “Nazis”. (That might be a fine distinction, but I see a difference between “mass-murdering fiends” and “pathetic wannabe extremists” as an insult. YMMV.)

    Ok. Neo-Nazi is like the ‘n’ word. It’s basically one of the worst things you can say about someone. It is worse than c**t. It’s not politically descriptive – it is just vulgar abuse. Ultimately, the Nazis were about a lot of stuff – ranging from the banal (goose stepping and wearing suits by Hugo Boss), to the Holocaust, to invading western Europe and starting one of the bloodiest wars in history, to being of the totalitarian right. So – before deploying Goodwin’s Law – I prefer to work out whether the target of my abuse is anti-semitic and denies the Holocaust, dons jackboots and kicks people to death, is about to start a Third World War, is just a bit right-wing, or simply disagrees with my ideological position…

    > I’d be interested to hear who you believe said that members of the SP were ‘evil’, ‘Nazis’ or kill babies. I’m sure it got thrown around by random commenters, but who of relevance said it?

    Well, Philip Sandifer – an otherwise unknown blogger – got quoted in the UK’s Independent newspaper (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/game-of-thrones-author-george-rr-martin-condemns-the-hijacked-hugo-shortlist-10166367.html). And his major contribution to the whole affair was his lengthy discussion of why Vox Day was a fascist (http://www.philipsandifer.com/2015/04/guided-by-beauty-of-their-weapons.html#part3).

    Now, you could split hairs and say he wasn’t calling Vox Day a Nazi, but he makes the implication in the paragraph:

    The fascist narrative comes, in effect, in two parts. The first involves a nostalgic belief in a past golden age – a historical moment in which things were good. In the fascist narrative, this golden age was ended because of an act of disingenuous betrayal – what’s called the “stab in the back myth.” (The most famous form, and the one that gave the myth its name, being the idea that German Jews had betrayed the German army, leading to the nation’s defeat in World War I.)

    And he goes on to say the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies were related: “But as we’ve seen, it’s not really Torgersen who is most important here; it’s Theodore Beale. Although we ought not treat these as unrelated matters. The Rabid Puppies were the slate that actually dominated the Hugos nominations, but the Sad Puppies give every appearance of having been actively constructed to allow them to.”

    Again, this is not evidence. But, bear in mind, the first Entertainment Weekly article (before editing) made all kinds of claims about the Sad Puppies. And EW still quotes Mr Sandifer, who has become some kind of public intellectual – specialist subject, Vox Day’s political views:

    http://www.ew.com/article/2015/04/06/hugo-award-nominations-sad-puppies

    So it is a little disingenuous to question whether Brad Torgerson and friends haven’t been slurred, by implication, with a range of political views they have publicly stated they don’t hold.

    [NOTE: I should mention that I don’t agree with Vox Day politically, but I am – as I say – a classical liberal. And, as Voltaire apparently did not say, ‘I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’].

  65. Ooops, typo. Missing bit said.

    These people were voting on stories some of which, last year, were nominated by Previously we were discussing bias towards or against women in the Hugos and SP. You haven’t replied to that point. Do you accept my position?

  66. Oops. There’s some sort of problem with symbols on the blog. The missing bit read that, last year, some entries were nominated by less than 50 people. Jakalope Wives was nominated by a whopping 76 people.

    You mention opinion polling. Opinion pollsters use statistics and models to choose a representative sample of a wider population. To vote in the Hugos, you just need to turn up with 40 dollars. There is no reason to believe that will generate a representative sample of a readership.

    In addition, the Hugos are prestigious because they have a brand identity through their long history since 1955. It is possible for a brand to become tarnished and the Puppies lifted the tablecloth to show the filth of infighting, politicking and low voter numbers.

    I will now bow out. Responding taking a lot of time…

  67. Mark, you have repeatedly tried to derail Vivienne’s attempts at presenting her views, and to force her to have the conversation reframed as a rhetorical carousel in which you constantly change the topic for the other views to get lost, left behind in an ever-changing landscape. With your last long comment you just aim at flooding all the space so as to make conversation impossibly cost-ineffective. It’s unsurprising that Vivienne has left after that and it’s unsurprising that I wouldn’t touch your tactics with a stick and am leaving as well.

  68. @Pedro

    Your concern is noted, but in point of fact Vivienne engaged me in conversation on the subject of the Sad Puppies discrimination against women, and then shifted the topic to politics. I have responded.

    The length of responses on lengthy topics I’d hardly relevant, as pixels are free.

    The cynic in me notes that you are leaving at the same time you are challenged to back up your position with facts.

  69. > In point of fact Vivienne engaged me in conversation on the subject of the Sad Puppies discrimination against women, and then shifted the topic to politics.

    Funnily enough, I thought the conversation started on politics and continued that way. We were discussing whether third-wave feminism has any place in science fiction awards.

    Now I *am* unsubscribing from the thread… :)

  70. @Vivienne

    Anyone who wants to see the beginning of the conversation only needs to scroll up, or follow the link to your first post to me.

    http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2015/08/24/lots-of-hugo-losers/#comment-62234

    All about percentages, nothing about third wave feminism.
    I’m really not sure why you’re throwing in with Pedro’s mischaracterisations, but if you wish to end the discussion then you are perfectly at liberty to do so. I’ll probably be leaving a reply later for posterity, but please don’t feel obliged to respond if you do not wish to.

  71. Jim Henley:

    Do you think I’m lying about my tastes? Do you think I’m deluded? Or do you think I like what I like for reasons that are every bit as valid as your reasons for liking what you like?

    I absolutely don’t think you’re dishonest or deluded.

    The Dresden Files is my very favorite fiction series, and Jim Butcher is my very favorite living author, but I am not blind to the strengths and the weaknesses of the series. I’m a huge fan, but even I will skip over entire chapters of tedious sex scenes and roll my eyes with frustration at the cheesy, adolescent obsession with boobs. I like what is in the series so much that it outweighs the weaknesses by a huge margin, but the weaknesses are there. I am not at all surprised or offended or perplexed that some people find the books mediocre.

    (I do think it’s worth pointing out, however, that a reasonably similar series to the Dresden Files would be the Vorkosigan Saga, and Bujold has 2 best novels and 4 additional nominations for that series. I think it’s quite hard to justify that track record while at the same time not giving the Dresden Files a single nomination ever, which was the case before the Puppies went into action this year.)

    As for Ancillary Justice / Ancillary Sword: I really, really didn’t like Justice the first time I read it, and wrote a scathing 2-star review for Goodreads. Eventually some of the commenters convinced me I had been blinded by politics. I reread the book in preparation to read Sword this year, and I upped my review to 3-stars. It’s hard for me to not read the book as a silly exercise in superficial politics, but I do recognize that there’s a lot there for other folks to like. The world-building is quite good both in its detail and in its originality. I think there are still some pretty serious weaknesses–aside from the politics–but once again I’m neither outraged nor perplexed that other folks like it and find it award-worthy.

    Let me put it this way: if I could retroactively take away a Hugo from bad books (not that I would, but just as a thought experiment) then Ancillary Justice wouldn’t be at the top of my list. I’d start with Ringworld and The Snow Queen, if you’re curious. There are some decisions that I disagree with, but that I think are reasonable. Skin Game losing and Ancillary Justice fall in that category. There are other decisions that I think are wrong.

    Final thought: When skeptics ask the puppies to prove their assertions on a case-by-case basis, that’s applying an unjustifiably high standard. It is not the argument that politics is the only or even the determining factor in any given year. So if you’re looking to find books that are totally unjustifiable in terms of quality but won anyway because of politics: you’re not going to find them.

    You don’t find a trend by looking really, really hard at one data point at a time. You find a trend by looking at many data points and seeing trends. There is a pretty clear trend, in my mind, away from books that are at least as good in terms of popularity and quality but that don’t conform to the right politics / aren’t from people connected to the right clique. This is bolstered by ample evidence from a wide variety of sources that indicate both (1) serious political bias in the publishing industry and (2) a tendency of biased social groups to antagonize the outgroup and to be blind to that bias.

    Just look, for example, at Jonathan Haidt telling social psychologists that they have a problem with anti-conservative bias in their ranks, and the reactions of denial and outrage that he got despite some really, really obvious bias. (The proportion of self-identifying conservatives in that field is basically non-existent.) Is it really so hard to imagine a similar thing happening in publishing in general and in sci-fi in particular? I don’t see why it should be so unimaginable.

  72. There is no cabal, there is only bias. And a fair bit of outright bigotry. I grant, however, that proving the same can be a challenge.

    An amusing exercise is to read the convo Ms. Raper is having about the cabal in SF which is apparently keeping women out of the market, and, as recently as five years ago, out of the Hugos. Replace all innstances of the fair sex with “consevative.” By the standard of evidence presented to support a gender gap, “we” “need” a scheme to vastly increase political diversity in SF, and should stock anthologies according to set ideological quotas.

    We could all agree to only read Mormon women for a year. Heh.

    Very reasonable article, but it assumes that good faith efforts can survive coordinated mass-media slander campaigns. I don’t perceive how it is that the anti-puppies have such broad access to so many non-SF/apolitical outlets (Popular Science, Booklist, Ent. Weekly, etc.) when neither the rabid puppies nor the campaigners to end puppy-related sadness do, but that imbalance of power gives the WSFS 1-percenters no incentive to be conciliatory.

    I forsee interesting times ahead, alas.

  73. @Carbonel,

    I don’t perceive how it is that the anti-puppies have such broad access to so many non-SF/apolitical outlets (Popular Science, Booklist, Ent. Weekly, etc.) when neither the rabid puppies nor the campaigners to end puppy-related sadness do

    I imagine it’s the prevalence of thinking/language of this sort within the Puppies that grants the “access” you’re perceiving.

  74. Nathaniel, I’m just now catching up to this post, and I wanted to thank you for it. While I don’t agree with some of your points (especially that The Day the World Turned Upside down is worthy of reading, let alone awards – it may be the worst thing nominated for a Hugo in recent years whose title didn’t include the word “Dig”), I do appreciate the constructive attitude they’re presented in.

    One question, if you’re still reading comments here: Now that SP4 has been announced, do you still feel it doesn’t address your concerns? Seems to me it more than adequately deals with each.

  75. Alex-

    One question, if you’re still reading comments here: Now that SP4 has been announced, do you still feel it doesn’t address your concerns? Seems to me it more than adequately deals with each.

    I did read the SP4 announcement, and I thought it was great. Consider me a fan thus far.

    However, the announcement didn’t address every recommendation/concern that I had, and it’s still early days. Things could go sideways.

    However, I think it’s off to a great start and I really do like the approach they are taking.

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