sad puppyGiven so much time has passed since last year’s uproar, you may have managed to forget all about the controversy around the Sad Puppies Hugo award voting lobby and their slate of recommendations. Well, it’s time for a reminder.

This year, the Sad Puppies ran their recommendation list creation process out in the open, with a series of forums on their website where Puppies and non-Puppies alike could participate in the creation of their list of recommendations. (We’ll leave aside the issue of whether this year’s list can be called a “slate,” given that they’ve said they don’t intend it to be used as one.)

That much seemed reasonable and even laudable on the face of it, and there were reasons to hope that perhaps this year’s campaign might have learned from the lessons of last year’s and try to tone things down a little.

However, the Puppies have since released the final version of said list—and the controversy that has subsequently emerged suggests those hopes might have been too optimistic.

The recommendation list actually does have a lot of good works on it this year, from a broad spectrum of authors—including Lois McMaster Bujold, John Scalzi, Cat Valente, and others. This stands in sharp contrast to the Puppies’ prior slates, which had a lot fewer works of interest to non-Puppies and hence made it an easy choice for most to decline to vote for them. (And many of those who weren’t Puppies insiders requested to be removed from the Sad Puppies slate, or declined their nominations if they learned about their inclusion on the Puppies slate after the fact.)

But something else that stands in sharp contrast to prior slates is that the Sad Puppies are firmly refusing to remove any names from the recommendation list this year. Sad Puppies member Sarah Hoyt posted about this to her blog, in an essay entitled “The Gang’ll Know I Died Standing Pat.” It starts out:

Over the last few days, since Kate published the list of Sad Puppies recommends, we’ve been inundated both in email and in social media by people requesting, clamoring and whining to be removed from the list.  The eructations from these special snow flakes vary in levels of self-delusion and insanity and at least one was very polite.

and continues from there in similar vein. The thrust of the essay is that the Sad Puppies have the free-speech right to recommend whoever they want to, regardless of whether the recommendees want that “honor” or not.

As for us, we shall make some note you requested removal, in some way that YOU insult the fans who went through so much trouble to nominate you and who up-voted your work enough times to get it on our list.  We won’t insult them for you.

In the blog post’s comments, Hoyt explained the current plan was to put an asterisk next to the names of those who asked to be removed—which prompted chuckles from other Puppies, in reference to the controversy of last year’s Hugo Awards ceremony that involved the handing out of laser-cut wooden asterisks to every winner that year.

Kate Paulk, this year’s Puppies campaign organizer, was at a SF convention over the weekend, and couldn’t respond to the affair herself.

Meanwhile, authors who have asked to be removed are by and large being ignored or mocked in similar vein. Alastair Reynolds, whose novella “Slow Bullets” is on the list, writes that his comment requesting removal hasn’t made it out of moderation on Paulk’s blog.

Update: Paulk has let Reynold’s post out of moderation, and responded:


I will not insult those who consider your novella to be Hugo-worthy by removing you from the List. I will, however, be updating the version of this post at to note that you prefer that your work not be purchased, enjoyed, and nominated without your prior approval.

Another novella author on the list is John Scalzi, who had previously asked that none of his 2015 works be considered for nomination for any award. It should be noted that Scalzi and the Sad Puppies have a history of cordially disliking one another—and Vox Day, ringleader of the Rabid Puppies, likes to accuse Scalzi of being a rapist. In that light, Scalzi’s inclusion on a Puppies recommendation list seems a trifle suspicious at best.

Scalzi himself writes that he considers his inclusion on any such list against his wishes to be a fairly transparent demonstration of the actual principles behind said list.

If I or my work has been placed on an awards slate without my desire, knowledge or consent, it’s worth asking what other work may have been placed on such a slate, also without the desire, knowledge or consent of the author. You might also consider what sort of person would add an author and their work to an award nomination slate without their consent, and why those doing so would choose to do such a thing.


If those who have made an award nomination slate, who did not seek the approval of those they have placed on it to be on it, will not then remove those who ask to be removed, at once and without delay, it is reasonable to ask why they will not, and what purposes their refusal serves.

Of course, it’s a free country. The Sad Puppies—and indeed, anyone else—has every right to post a list of works that they recommend for consideration for awards voting. It’s not even against the rules of the Hugo Awards, though it is contrary to convention. There is no requirement that the makers of such lists should have to remove anyone who asks.

That said, the past behavior of the Sad Puppies has made the brand increasingly toxic among anyone who is not aligned with it. As Alastair Reynolds writes:

At this point it’s of no concern to me whether this is a slate or a set of recommendations. Given the taint left by last year’s antics, I don’t care for any work of mine to be associated with any list curated by the Sad Puppies.

And it seems highly likely the other requests for removal come from people who feel the same way.

Furthermore, fans who disliked the Sad Puppies’ slate nomination strategy have declined to vote for anything named on such a slate, even if they otherwise liked the work. This led to a number of Hugo categories last year going to “No Award.” As such, even if one didn’t object to being associated with the Puppies due to their past behavior, it would behoove them not to be included on such a list if they wanted any real chance of winning.

Judging by Hoyt’s post, and the timbre of comments left to it, the Puppies are by and large reacting with undisguised glee that they are upsetting these “special snow flakes.” From this behavior, it isn’t unreasonable to wonder whether this was the entire reason for the inclusion of some of them on the list at all. (For example, Scalzi, above.)

But then, as Jim C. Hines notes (with supporting quotes from Puppies themselves), from the outset the Sad Puppies campaigns started as space opera fans striking back against the snobbish literati elite who they felt kept them down. This adversarial nature showed up in rhetoric about “making SJW heads explode.” It is unsurprising, if sad, that the campaign might devolve into coming up with more and different ways to troll their adversaries, even to the point of putting them on a recommendation list and then refusing to remove them.

It could also be a way to muddy the issue and make it harder for fans to avoid voting for people on the Sad Puppies recommendation list. If fans do choose to vote for the fan favorites that the Puppies included, especially if they pay attention to who asks to be removed, then the Puppies can still claim victory since they did put those works on their list in the first place and they’re still there. It’s just another form of trolling.

All this trolling is is a real pity, because if nothing else, Sad Puppies are fans just like the rest of us, and at least some of them can be genuinely nice people in person. But someone is wrong on the Internet, and who can resist that clarion call?

When the Sad Puppies turn the nomination process for SF fandom’s most-respected award into a fan-versus-fan jihad, we all lose.

(On the bright side, at least this further demonstration of Sad Puppy obnoxiousness will make it easy for the anti-slate proposals that were preliminarily approved last year to pass again this year so they can go into effect for next year’s Hugos. If the Puppies had decided to take a more conciliatory tone this year, it’s possible they could very well have derailed them. But it seems the Puppies can’t change their spots.)


  1. The last paragraph of this post needs to be removed, you are doing what you “claim” the sad puppies are doing.

    Oh by the way the way, after the success of “MR. No-award” at last years Hugo I no longer use it for recommend expect for the older works form before the mid 1990’s.

  2. One of my stories is on the Sad Puppies list. I didn’t ask for it to be there, but I’m not going to ask for it to be removed. Doing either seems dishonest. A work should stand on its own. Politicizing it is exemplary of what’s wrong with our entire society – and make no mistake, both sides are politicizing these lists.

    To act or vote against a story merely because it’s on the Sad Puppies list is every bit as despicable as acting or voting for it just because it’s on the list.

    How about if we simply read the stories and vote for the ones we think are best?

  3. I particularly noted the section in the Hoyt reply where she wrote that those not wanting to be on the Sad Puppies 4 list were worse than Stalinists and Nazis.

    I can understand why some may not want to be associated with SP4..

    “I can’t tell which is which: whether you’re dumb or conniving. I’ll leave that for you to decide in front of your mirror every morning of the rest of your life.

    “I’ll only note you’re worse than the Soviets who condemned the Kulaks during holodomor, worse than the people on the street who mouthed the Nazi lies about Jews during WWII. Why worse? Because those people lived in fear of their lives. They had to say what they did because they feared being next on the kill list.”

  4. Your article implies that the Sad Puppies added various authors (Scalzi, Valente, Leckie etc.) to their list in order to stir up controversy and put those authors in a Catch 22 situation. Unfortunately, you did little research.

    Should you go to the Sad Puppies 4 website, you can look at exactly who nominated each individual work to be put on the list. Doing so, you will notice that the people who voted for the above works had the following usernames: Snowcrash, Robmatic, Nathaniel Haraden, Joe Sherry, Hypnotosov, Mad Professah, “KAT”, etc. I quick reference to the File770 website (which, incidentally, promoted your story) will show that these users are regular posters there who were attempting to test and/or troll the Sad Puppies declarations that they would run an open and honest nominations cycle. They openly admit doing so in the comment sections of various posts.

    In sum, if anyone was trying to put these particular authors in a bind, make their lives difficult, or otherwise stir up controversy, it was not the Sad Puppies.

  5. Strangely enough, this article leaves out that among those nominated is Sad Puppies originator Larry Correia, who ALSO asked not to be nominated and has said he’ll refuse any nomination.

    Anyone was allowed to nominate. This shows from the fact that some of the nominators on the SP4 site were vocally and significantly to the left of Stalin. If you don’t want people you might disagree with on something somewhere to vote for you, you’re free to decline a nomination.

    But appeasing people who have to have something to whine about? Nah.

  6. You quoted John Scalzi writing:

    You might also consider what sort of person would add an author and their work to an award nomination slate without their consent, and why those doing so would choose to do such a thing.

    If you want to ask the motivation of those who put Scalzi’s The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things Episode 1 on this list, take a look over at and you’ll see whom to ask: Will McLean, Rick Krueger, and “Snowcrash”. (I don’t recognize the first two names, but “Snowcrash” had previously been blogging and commenting quite critically of the Sad Puppies campaigns.)

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