Yes, people, it’s that Hugos time again, when a once-great platform for the discovery and commemoration of great speculative writing reveals just how debased and degraded it has become. And provides a ringside seat for the sordid little version of what passes for the culture wars in the SF genre community. And parades for public viewing everything that is most infantile, backward, and repulsive about SF as a whole. Because it’s certainly not always and everywhere that the bursting of the pimples on the backside of a great public entity are taken as its public voice, but that’s the revolting situation that the Sad Puppies campaigns have landed us in.

Jason Sanford, still wearing the label “science fiction author” with as much dignity as he can muster, states the situation in full:

The Hugo Award nominees won’t be announced until April 4, but you don’t need to be Nostradamus to see what’s coming. The Sad Puppies slate of nominees essentially swept all the Hugo Award categories with the exception of Best Novel. Don’t believe me? Then wait until Saturday and find out. Or you can examine the evidence. Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia, who organized the campaign, have both written posts claiming a pending victory without actually stating that their slate won (since the nominations are technically sealed until the 4th). I’m sure they’ve received the same private messages I’ve had from people who either made the final ballot or know of people who made the list.

So there you go. The Hugo Awards not only have been cynically and brutally gamed – they also have their “secret ballot” process exposed as a hollow sham. Even the people who ought to have most to gain from defending the legitimacy of the Hugos are crowing about it.

And just in case you think this is all purely about self-interested infighting with no ideological dimension, just see what a very right-wing source made of the Sad Puppies debacle. According to Breitbart, a highly distinguished repository of commentary on “big government,” “national security,” “sports,” and other key priorities for gun-toting Right-thinkers everywhere, “the story begins, as ever, with a small group of social justice-minded community elites who sought to establish themselves as the arbiters of social mores. This group would decide who deserved a presence in SFF and who deserved to be ostracised.” And while respecting the need for a spectrum of opinion and even ideology that Breitbart professes to support, the idea that “the diversity that writers like Correia and Torgerson have set out to protect” is under attack when those same authors are straight advancing a slate of their recommendations for supporters to back is steaming b/s.

And incidentally, I notice zero reference to the Sad Puppies affair in the Hugo Award Wikipedia article, despite the fact that the SF grapevine has been twanging with nothing else for years. Zero reference to any controversy whatsoever, in fact. A little judicious editing by someone, perhaps?

For the reading public at large? Boycott the Hugos. Shame the organizers. Avoid the winning titles. Because – yes, thanks to Sad Puppies – there’s now nothing on this year’s winning slate that can convincingly pass as there on merit. Being a Sad Puppies author means that you are either the unwitting stooge or the willing accomplice of a politically-tainted vote-stuffing campaign. Is that the kind of rep you’d like to wear as a writer? Even the most unexceptionable candidates will be soiled. And I hope Correia and Torgerson  are pleased at having screwed the careers of the authors they claim to defend. That’s more dog doodoo than any writer needs.


  1. It’s the death of the already-moribund Hugos. I was once shortlisted for one, long before the first Sad Puppy was a gleam in some dog’s eye. I remain proud of that honor and sad that it’s all come to this, but unless and until someone does a major overhaul of the process (which given the temporary makeup of the WSFC committee seems unlikely), the Hugo is no longer an award worthy of consideration.

    • News flash! Popularity contest is contest of popularity! Film at eleven!

      To be honest, if the Sad Puppies can sway the Hugos, they probably deserve to. If the Hugos don’t have enough “legitimate” people interested in them to keep the puppies off the carpet, maybe they’re just not relevant anymore.

  2. I only looked at the slate for novels, but nothing there is going on my TBR queue. They just look so banal. My vote – if I had one – would be none of the above. Of course, this belies the point of a few authors attempting to game the results. Sad indeed.

  3. Chris Meadows is right on the money.

    Last year, it took what, less than 4,000 votes to win a Hugo? That’s hardly representative of speculative fiction as a whole.

    The nominating and voting process is openly explained. The Sad Puppies gang merely collaborated to game it.

    Do note, however, that being nominated is far from a guarantee of a win — you can always vote “No Award” as your highest choice, thereby meaning that the winner is “None of the Award.”

    Now imagine the hue and cry if “No Award” defeated the entire Sad Puppies slate* ?

    Not saying I want that to happen … but it would be immensely entertaining.

    * Since Jim Butcher was named on the Sad Puppies slate for best novel, presumably because even the Sad Puppies gang can see that the Dresden Files rocks, not because of any particular affinity for their agenda, I would be most gratified to see Mr. Butcher win, followed by No Award.

  4. It’s not as if Sad Puppies have any monopoly on hinky behavior. Just look at the award to Goblet of Fire a few years back. How many Harry Potter fans do you think actually bothered to read any of the other titles on the list?

    The Hugos are a popularity contest. They’ve always been a popularity contest. And they’re a popularity contest with a remarkably low hurdle to entry. You just pay some money and boom, you get to vote. Nobody comes along to check to see if you’ve read all the stuff. Most people only have their own conscience to go by in those matters, and who knows how many people’s conscience is overridden by seeing something they LIKE get nominated. Or even something by an author they like but they haven’t read yet. After all, how good could all those other things they haven’t read be? Can’t be any good, or they’d have already read them.

    Hell, for all I know people some people might roll dice or throw darts to decide who they’re going to vote for. And you can’t stop them. Any of them. Be they Sad Puppies or convention-goers.

    And even if they did read them all, what makes them qualified to vote for a particular book on its artistic merits, as opposed to whichever one they just happened to like most? They’re a popularity contest.

    For that reason, it’s really kind of silly to care much about who wins or loses in the Hugos. To anyone who knows anything about how they work, they’ve really got about the same credibility as your average Internet poll.

    They do look impressive on the covers of books to the people who don’t. But then, so does foil embossing. And as far as an indicator of overall quality goes, they really both have about the same level of significance.

    So, what the hell. If there aren’t enough “legitimate” voters to keep the puppies off the carpet, maybe the Sad Puppies deserve to win. It’s just a popularity contest, after all. Not as if it really means anything.

  5. Chris, absolutely right. A popularity contest between two very small, vocal groups of “mean girls and guys” who are determine to make everything part of their “I have a grievance” agenda.

    I should clarify my perspective —

    Just because someone is on the Sad Puppies slate, that does not mean their work is without merit, in my opinion and in the opinion of a great many people.

    Every work should be read and judged on its own merits.

    And honestly, in theory, I agree with the stated philosophy of the Sad Puppies slate: To bring attention to books that appeal to a broad spectrum of the speculative fiction community and that might otherwise be overlooked in the nomination process and deserve to be nominated.

    I am all for all kinds of people coming out and saying, “Hey, I loved this book, it’s great, take a look.”

    I agree with Sad Puppies commentating that some circles within Spec Fic are elitist and tend to marginalize points of view that disagree with theirs. I do suspect that many award winners are not representative of the genre as a whole, just as the Academy Awards tend to reward “art house” work while the box office results make note of what the average movie fan thinks is worthwhile. Totally different perspectives.

    I just believe that while the Sad Puppies folks are disingenuously positioning themselves as “We’re promoting science fiction for everyone — we’re taking sci-fi back for the FANS, not the elitists,” while they have their own very distinct political and social agenda that is transparent to anyone who’s paying attention.

    (For example, Larry C.’s fascination with conservative politics and big guns. The big guns think makes me wonder if somebody is possibly compensating for something missing in his own personal life there 🙂 ); Vox Days’ reprehensible misogyny, racist and fascist opinions — and yes, he has been attacked by people on the Social Justice Warrior side, so neither side has clean hands in this matter.)

  6. Bill Smith, I cannot agree that there’s a truth somewhere between Sad Puppies and Social Justice Warriors. The Sad Puppies claim that their supporters are legion, that they have the fans and the best-sellers. So far as I can tell (reading sff since 1956, part of online fandom since 1988, currently editing sff book reviews) the only author who is a declared Sad Puppy and has some hefty sales figures is Correia. The rest of the Puppies are also-rans.

    I’ve only heard gossip about the Puppy slate, haven’t seen it, but understand that they broadened it this year to include writers whom they liked (who gave off the right whiff of testosterone and cordite), but were not declared Puppies. That might give them a chance at a few wins. Dunno. No award might sweep the awards this year.

    The Puppies certainly represent the back-to-the-1950s element in fandom, but based on long immersion in the field, I would say that this is a small segment of fandom, and getting smaller all the time.

    They should just set up their own awards, like the Prometheus and the Lamda. If they do have the fandom they assert, their con will be awesome.

  7. The Sad Puppies are clearing embracing the “manly men” wing of 1950s nostalgia sci-fi. They claim to represent the mainstream, which I think is clearly not the case.

    But I think the SJW wing of fandom has had disproportionate representation in awards circles and in selecting Hugo winners in recent years (relative to their actual percentage within fandom).

    That’s just my opinion and I will readily admit that I am not all that immersed in the politics of sci-fi fandom — I am a fan, I read what I enjoy. I think a lot of fans are like that.

    I believe it is kind of like American politics — the Tea Party is very vocal and is trying to pull the Republican party further and further right, the liberal wing of the Democractic party is very vocal and tries to pull the party further and further left, so you get primary results where ideological candidates do well because they pander to those extremes (because those are the people most likely to vote in primaries, they are the most motivated).

    And when it comes to the general elections, extreme candidates can’t win because most voters are more or less in the middle and feel that both parties extremes do not represent their views.

    What we are seeing is an ideological argument between the two most extreme, most vocal (and tiniest) segments of fandom. And the Hugos are becoming the Superbowl (or Academy Awards) of people who are otherwise not all that influential.

    And most fans shrug their shoulders and read the authors they like, not unlike the movie going public that will undoubtedly flock to Avengers: Age of Ultron and will probably be hard pressed to remember which film won best picture a month or two ago.

    Me, I’m with the Avengers.

  8. Bill, perhaps what I am not liking in your responses is the use of the term Social Justice Warriors. That’s a term invented by enemies to cover a wide swathe of people, not all of whom agree with each other. People who have NOT adopted the term as their own and run with it (as happened with terms like Quakers and Mormons).

    The Sad Puppies chose that name themselves.

    I would probably be perceived as a SJW by many of the puppies, but, while I do feel that SFF could do to open up to some new people and perspectives, politically I’m not OK with going overboard on identity politics and callout culture.

    Drop the SJW and we’re cool 🙂

  9. What’s wrong with being a Social Justice Warrior? If you want social justice, and you’re willing to fight for it, that’s something to be proud of. People who don’t understand that using it as an insult always seem to come off like a cartoon villain calling someone “You darned good guy!

  10. I wouldn’t call myself a SJW because I do not want to adopt a slur and also because I do not want to be grouped with some people I do not like. I do not feel that using the right terms for trans folk or people with disabilties (if some of the combatants can stop tearing each other to bits over what those terms might be) is as important as global warming, or poverty, or water shortages, or over-population, or totalitarianism, and …. well, I could go on.

    I should also note that while Quakers and Mormons do not get their special underwear in a bunch at being called those names, when they talk to each other they are Friends and LDS.

  11. I wouldn’t call myself a social justice warrior simply because while I support efforts to reduce prejudice, I haven’t made a lot of personal sacrifices myself to do that. As an insult, however, it’s right up there with “reality based community.”

    If the Sad Puppies thought that the crunchy fringe of people who oppose prejudice were too well represented among Hugo voters, persuading the manly man fiction lovers to vote would be all well and good. More people, come on in.

    The problem with a *slate* is that a small percentage of fans can have a huge effect at the nomination stage, when most fans are spreading their nomination votes out thinly over hundreds of good works in a category, but the slate-followers are concentrating theirs on five. They can effectively shut out all the works that are not on the slate–including, by the way, conservative works that are not on the (conservative) slate.

    The slate-followers can leave the rest of the fans with only slate finalists to choose among for the award, graciously allowing the rest of us to choose *which* of the slate-followers nominees to crown as “best.”

    The Hugo Awards have long had the No Award option as a serious prospect. It has been a long time since it won a category. But non-Puppy Hugo voters tend to be fiercely independent types who hate being told what to do and I suspect they will have little sympathy for this kind of trick.

  12. Zora — Did not mean SJW as an insult and I was actually under the impression it was a badge of honor among some groups. (Again, I’m not really immersed in fandom, so I did not understand.)

    To me, the conservative types use SJW to describe the whole spectrum of liberalish perspectives, from people who have pesky notions about civil rights, gay rights, equal pay, and all of those pesky things that have been irking conservatives since the dawn of time to the more militant wing of spec fic that has been advocating to stop reading stories written by white men, etc.

    I hate the divisiveness of both extremes. We are all people, we are different, we don’t have to agree or even particularly like each other to co-exist, but we can leave each other alone if we can’t see eye to eye. I’m an advocate of live and let live and if you don’t like what someone else does, leave them alone as long as they are not hurting someone else. Respect our differences, celebrate our commonality (all of us breathe oxygen, most of our are humans for a start), and enjoy our lives without wasting so much time being so angry at everyone else.

    When I hear Rush Limbaugh use the phrase “liberal” like it is something dirty and unspeakable, I stand up straight, smile and say, “Darn straight, that’s me.”

    The thing about publishing in general is that the argument is so pointless — the gatekeepers are gone. With self-publishing, everyone can speak, every voice can be heard. Quit begging the publishers to annoint you as one of the chosen ones — write your stories, publish them to the world — and then see if you have an audience.

    It is an amazing time to be an author. Let’s celebrate it!

  13. Tis true that SJF can mean more than what the Sad Puppies use it for. I think their term is CHORF (Cliquish, Holier-than-thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary, Fanatics). I think it captures what the SP group tells themselves about the SJW crowd. Whether it’s accurate or not is a matter for debate

  14. I do take exception to: they also have their “secret ballot” process exposed as a hollow sham…
    Having nominees ‘leak’ their selection a day or two before the ‘official list’ is released has nothing to do with ballots nor voting. “Loose lips sink ships” comes to mind; however, no one was really sunk by the premature release. It all took place *after* the ballots were counted.
    Otherwise, time will tell if your comments are accurate or not.

  15. Sad Puppies was a Voter Registration Drive for the Hugos.

    One would think SJW’s would be all kinds of supportive of that.

    If Irony was a mineral, YOU sad gits could build city out of yours.

  16. What PavePusher said: The *Puppies campaigns increased awareness of the Hugo awards and added a fair amount of money to Hugo/Worldcon coffers. Is that a bad thing? The real problem is that too few people decide the awards, and the SFF world is far, far broader than recent awards would suggest. My take: The Hugos should not be decided by a few hundred people, of whatever political slant. They should be decided by *tens of thousands* of people, among the millions who read and enjoy fantastic literature. Only then will they reflect what is actually being read, which is what the Hugo awards are supposed to reflect. The Nebula Awards are nominally awards for artistic merit, awarded by the artists who (theoretically) understand artistic merit. The Hugos are in fact a popularity contest, and there is no insult in that.

    The more people who actually nominate and vote on the Hugos, the less likely it is that any one faction will dominate the awards. So if you object to the Puppies, gather support for a competing slate. If even ten of twelve groups did this, each a little different from the others, no single slate (and hence no single political faction) would dominate.

    So don’t insult your supposed enemies. (Calling them “gits” insults *your* intelligence, not theirs.) Engage your allies. If your allies won’t engage, well, you don’t really have any allies, and you don’t deserve to “win” anything.

  17. I’m coming to this controversy late after years of gafiating. What I see in Sad Puppies is an alliance of writers of various political and ideological stripes trying to bust what they see as a culture of exclusion. Yes, a lot of Sad Puppies organizers and supporters are on the political right, and that makes sense since theirs is the ox that’s getting gored most often. But I also see supporters who just want to break down a wall between insiders and outsiders.

    I think that after the dust settles, we may have a culture of greater true diversity in fandom. And that’s a good thing. Fandom belongs to everyone who wants in. Indeed, fandom is one of the few institutions where people of diverse politics talk to each other and are even friendly. Sad Puppies didn’t campaign to say, “We are the one true science fiction.” They campaigned to say, “We’re here, too.”

  18. Oh, PavePusher is here. I see that username on a lot of blogs, pushing a Sad Puppies line. There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of SP stypes to show up on blogs where they have hitherto been scarce (blogs that skew liberal/progressive/term of choice). They are showing the flag, trolling, and sealioning.

    I did some rudimentary googling on PavePusher. He seems to be someone named Robert Reis, of whom there are many online, so it is hard to pick him out of the crowd. I found a reference to a 2012 post of his on Democratic Underground, which had been removed. Judging by the context, it was something re veterans, PTSD, and gun rights.

  19. Paul St. John Mackintosh —

    Don’t blame the Hugo administrators. The secret ballot is still secret while it’s in their hands.

    The Sad Puppies knew the outcome in advance because the Hugo administrators contact presumptive nominees in advance and ask whether they consent to be nominated. This is supposed to be confidential information. It’s obvious that the SP nominees compared notes; and because they’ve so thoroughly overrun this year’s voting, their pooled information was enough to substantially reconstruct the final ballot.

    Just so you know: Hugo administrators tend to be some of the most reliable, experienced, trustworthy people in fandom. Usually their own con committees don’t hear a thing about the Hugo voting results until very late in the process. Take any story involving misbehavior by a Hugo administrator with a very big grain of salt.

  20. Hmmmm. So, you mean the author’s are contacted “BEFORE” the noms come out. OH MY GOD, WHATEVER SHALL WE DO?! especially since that jig was up when Teresa Hines Heywood or whatever the heck her name is STATED THAT THEY HAD DONE THAT VERY SAME THING IN A ROUND ABOUT WAY ON HER BLOG BEFORE THEY HUGO’S CAME OUT!

    I’m shocked. Shocked I tells you. The perfidy. The tragedy. OH THE HUMANITY MANATEE’s.

    Sorry, I know this supposed to be some big huge bomb that disputes and decry’s the SP’s, but honestly, ya’ll just implicated that you’ve been doing it for years now. And no one at SP has said that they sad down and tallied things up.

    Good Job!

  21. There is a lot of incorrect information flying around here.
    1. SP is not for right wing males. Many of the SP authors are females, minorities and even (gasp) liberals.
    2. They’re using the same system as John Scalzi and others have used to fleece the Hugos for years as a protest against those very practices.
    3. Look at the state of the Hugos before. They were dominated by a small group with a political agenda and anyone that didn’t conform to that narrow agenda was blacklisted and ignored. Winners were judged by how well they toted the party line, not on how well the book was written.

    Stop looking at what you think they’re saying and look at what they’re actually saying. (Exept Vox Day does appear to be an actual troll.)

  22. “It’s obvious that the SP nominees compared notes; and because they’ve so thoroughly overrun this year’s voting, their pooled information was enough to substantially reconstruct the final ballot.”

    No, but several of us were taking note of comments on some other pages that alluded to other people having inside knowledge.

    Since I was one who got a WC membership because of the information SPIII gave (Like where to go – which I’d never seen anywhere else) I would be considered by some to be a SP supporter. And I can assure you that several of my nominations were not on either the SP or RP list. Ergo, that line about all of us block voting is erroneous.

    SP is bringing new fans to the table, it is sparking interest in the Hugo Awards – our Peoples Choice Awards. I’m sorry if some of us are not your kind of fans, but we deserve to have our voices heard just as much as you do.

  23. There is something sadly amusing about someone who was posting messages days before the announcement saying that it was going to be bad claiming that somebody *else* polled prospectives to find out whether they’d been contacted and leaked the results.

    Wasn’t there a line about motes and eyes that got turned into a classic science fiction novel? It might be appropriate.

  24. “Chris, absolutely right. A popularity contest between two very small, vocal groups of “mean girls and guys””
    Small? There were roughly 4 times the nominating votes this year than there were in 2008. I’m going to say that Sad Puppies has brought a significant number of new voters into the process.

    “(For example, Larry C.’s fascination with conservative politics and big guns. The big guns think makes me wonder if somebody is possibly compensating for something missing in his own personal life there :)”
    Holy shit. That’s the best you can do? Larry’s got a small penis? Maybe he does, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure he compensates for it with his huge paychecks

    “The Puppies certainly represent the back-to-the-1950s element in fandom, but based on long immersion in the field, I would say that this is a small segment of fandom, and getting smaller all the time. ”
    Yeah, that’s why we set records all the SP years for Hugo nominating votes. Because we’re a tiny group with fewer and fewer members. I guess that’s why Larry’s a best-seller too. Because there are so few of us.

    “What’s wrong with being a Social Justice Warrior? If you want social justice, and you’re willing to fight for it, that’s something to be proud of. People who don’t understand that using it as an insult always seem to come off like a cartoon villain calling someone “You darned good guy!“”
    Yeah, that’s what SJWs are, the good guys. Screaming “Bush’s fault, racist, sexist, homophobe” if someone doesn’t agree with everything they demand be supported. They want diversity, as long as it’s the right kind of diversity. So no, calling someone an SJW isn’t calling them a good guy. It’s calling them an intolerant, hateful fascist.

    “If the Sad Puppies thought that the crunchy fringe of people who oppose prejudice were too well represented among Hugo voters”
    That’s not the issue. The issue was that concerns over things like gender terminology and “fixing” prejudices was a bigger concern in the Hugos than the quality of the stories.

    “The more people who actually nominate and vote on the Hugos, the less likely it is that any one faction will dominate the awards. So if you object to the Puppies, gather support for a competing slate. If even ten of twelve groups did this, each a little different from the others, no single slate (and hence no single political faction) would dominate.”
    Exactly. I can see a time, in 5-10 years, when there are a couple main facets of fandom that each release the works they think are the best each year. Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dr Who, Sad Puppies, SJWs…….

  25. Teresa Nielsen Hayden do you have proof? Please site some sources or some kind of proof. I have seen a lot of lying, and it has not come from the SP group. The Entertainment Weekly article was disgusting. It was just plain done in a mean spirit. It is sad when people can not be civil and think just because you disagree it means hatred. You can disagree and still find you don’t have to destroy people.

  26. I am truly amazed by the hypocrisy and blatant dishonesty displayed by the anti Sad Puppies coterie. When Scalzi and Stross called their fans forth to vote en masse no one had complaints. That the Sad Puppies group has followed suit is a reaction to ground broken by others.

    And, the libelous statements and petty insults from many “true fans” reveal more about how it’s less about what is worthy of recognition and more about kissing the right ring (or ass)

    Shameful. The Hugo’s aren’t being brought down by this. They were already diminished by pathetic politics and cliques.

  27. @Kevin: There a significant difference between posting, “Here are my books that are eligible this year. Please nominate them, if you want, along with anything else you find worthy” and “Nominate exactly these five titles in this category, and these five titles in this other category, and…”

    Everyone’s perfectly free to stump for a few titles they like, be they their own or someone else’s. I even did it myself. That’s not a “slate,” that’s ordinary human behavior.

    But asking people to nominate an exact list of titles across all categories? That’s excessive.

  28. I think Humm must be confused by the way that the page only shows the oldest comments unless he clicks “Newer comments” at the bottom. This does tend to be rather the opposite of the way most blogs do their comments. Maybe we should see if we can get that changed.

  29. You do realize that people do see you removing comments right? It weakens you and your site. It really is sad that you are doing this. The comment I removed was nice and civil. The funny thing is I have no stake in either side of this. Just wanted a question answered. Oh well.

    • @Humm, We’re not removing anything. Our Spam filter was updated recently, and I’m having to manually approve more comments. When lots of people comment while I’m asleep, there’s a lag. As our filter learns, more will be approved automatically. I responded to your comment about removing comments several down the line.

  30. I would for someone to post a link to an example of Scalzi posting a slate to vote for. I read Scalzi’s blog and don’t remember it.

    I remember him stumping for his book. I even remember him recommending books. I don’t recall him ever writing, “here is my slate. Let’s get them on the ballot and send a message.”

    I have also never said anyone was not a “true” fan. Which right now quite a few people in Sad Puppies seem to be implying about me because I don’t necessarily like what they like.

  31. Scalzi solicited suggestions from people of works they thought were good enough to be nominated. Lots of people chimed in, and there was no slate — just hundreds of suggestions. Consequently the votes get scattered around to the things that different individuals individually like.
    The Sad and Rabid puppies solicited suggestions — and then assembled slates which they TOLD their mob to go and vote for. Thus they ensured that their deterministic slate had more votes than anything else — but they also crowded out many individual preferences even from their own camp.

    It’s a profoundly dishonest gaming of the system to do that, and ensures that theselected nominees are not there purely on the merit of appealing to the most people. And it is not at all the same as what Scalzi does.

    An d sorry, but I really don’t think that bad behavior like that should be rewarded.

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