Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't be a sad puppy about the Sad Puppies

[Note: I am assuming that if you are reading this very new blog you are already familiar with the Puppygate brouhaha surrounding the Hugo Awards.  If not, allow me to recommend George R.R. Martin's very good analysis here and here and Eric Flint's excellent post here.]

I'll admit the title of the post has to do with more with me being clever than just the Sad Puppies.  The primary villain in this whole fiasco is, as far as I'm concerned, Vox Day (aka Theodore Beale) and the Rabid Puppies.  Like John Scalzi and many others, I am fairly convinced that Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson allowed themselves to get played big time by Vox Day and now they don't know how to put the monster back in the box.

But this is less about the various breeds of Puppy but rather the effect Vox Day and his slate and his tactics have had on various people in the community of fandom.  I've just finished listening to the Nerdvana Podcast's latest two part episode on Hugogate with Kevin Standlee as a special guest to explain what happened, what can be done now and what can be done in the future to fix things.  If you haven't listened to it, you can find it here and here.  Take a couple hours and listen to what everyone has to say.

Back now?

One of the things you will notice throughout the podcast is that at several points through out it that Christopher J. Garcia seems to be on the verge of tears and he is convinced that the Hugos have been irreparably tarnished and essentially destroyed.  Chris Garcia is someone in fandom I greatly admire and respect.  He's personally a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor and his knowledge of science fiction and fandom is second to none.  He won a Hugo in 2011 here in Reno for co-editing the fanzine Drink Tank after being nominated six previous times.  Anyone who was at the 2011 Hugo ceremonies and saw his acceptance speech knows just how important the Hugos are to him.

Now while I have been a fan of science fiction since I was a kid, I've only been involved in organized fandom for the last few years.  Chris, on the other hand, practically grew up in fandom.  To a large extent it's not just friends to him, it's family.  The Hugo is not just an award but the highest accolade he can receive from that family.  Therefore by Vox Day's slate and tactics he is pissing on Chris' family.  I can truly understand why Chris is so upset about this.  And I know there are a lot of other people out there in fandom who feel the same as he does.

Where Chris and I disagree is in how much damage has been done.  He thinks the Hugos are irreparably damaged whereas I think they just got an embarrassing black eye.  He thinks that the Hugo administrators failed in not disallowing the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate nomination ballots.  I agree with Kevin that the Hugos have rules for a reason and that we need to work within those rules or else we truly are the controlling clique the Puppies claim we are.

So how do I see things playing out?

Two things are going to happen this year at Sasquan.  First, there is going to be the World Science Fiction Society business meeting chaired by Kevin Standlee that will address the issue of changing the rules to prevent slating from occurring.  I don't know what those exact changes are going to be but like Kevin I hope they go for something simple like instituting a 3/6 or 4/8 rule [1].  The other is that we will know who, if anybody, won any awards.  Vox Day actually did something miraculous by inflicting his slate on the short list, he managed to unite fandom a task akin to herding cats.  I fully expect No Award to win most, if not all, the slated categories.

"But wait," I hear you cry, "Didn't Vox Day threaten to burn down the Hugos if No Award wins any of the writing or editing categories?"  Yes, he did and I fully expect him to try.  But whatever the outcome I expect that in the immediate aftermath of the results the Sad Puppies are going not so quietly get out of the business of pushing a slate.  I fully expect various blog posts from Correia or Torgerson -who have to be aware that they've been played - stating they either proved their point about a clique (if No Award wins) or crowing about their victory (if something they supported wins) and that they don't need put forward slates any more.  This will leave Vox Day floating out there without the fig leaf of respectability the Sad Puppies gave him.  Also we will have the voting and nominating numbers after the awards ceremony so there will be a better idea of just how many people are actually supporting the puppies.  We know you don't need that many people with at least supporting Worldcon memberships to get a particular work/author on the ballot because only a fraction of the supporting membership sends in nominations.

Along comes 2016 and while Vox puts forward his slate of nominees there are going to be a lot of mad fans out there who may not have nominated before who are going to next year.  I didn't nominate this year but I won't make that mistake next.  Many of my friends have said the same thing.  I don't think it will keep VD's nominees completely off the short list but there should be enough whole punched in it that there will be worthy works for the membership to vote for instead of No Award, and No Award winning again still exists as a worst case possibility, which admittedly is a second black eye.  Also in Kansas City, whatever rules changes get decided on at Spokane will be confirmed by that year's WSFS meeting.

Therefore by 2017 it becomes a battle of attrition between Hugo supporters (whether "social justice warriors" or just people who enjoy a good story) and Vox Day and his horde of Visigoths (with apologies to the actual Visigoths) on a playing field where the rules no longer favor his gaming the system.  At this point Kevin believes, and I agree with him, that we can eventually wait out Vox until he gets bored and decides to find something else inside or outside of fandom to destroy.  Chris seems to be of the opinion that Vox can just keep buying supporting memberships for his friends in an attempt to swamp serious voters.  Perhaps he's right but the more Vox tries, the greater the chance is that we can actually nail him him for explicit vote buying and then ban him and his supporters within the WSFS rules.

Like I said earlier, I don't have Chris' history with fandom and I am looking at this very dispassionately from my view as a politics junky who does statistics for a living.  We are looking at a couple painful years but I don't think the Hugos are a lost cause.

Finally, I would like to say that I hope I am interpreting Chris Garcia's feelings and opinions on this correctly.  I am basing it largely on what he said on the Nerdvana Podcast and what he has publicly written.  If I'm wrong, I hope he will set me straight.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what separates a mature adult from the various puppies.  They can have strong opposing opinions and discuss them rationally and if one person or another is in the wrong they should be willing to admit so.

[1] If you haven't listened to the entire podcast, there are several proposals that would change the number of finalists slots and the number of works/people you can nominate in those slots.  So rather than the present five nominees for five slots there would be six slots and you can make three nominations in each category or eight and four if that's the way things go.  That way it makes it, if not impossible, at least very hard for a group of people to completely control who gets all the nominations in any given category.


  1. While I would not call myself a part of Sci Fi Fandom – in fact, I was dimly aware of how the Hugo awards are decided. If I want to be completely honest, I generally recognize Hugo Award winners by the medallion on the book jackets. Considering that I haven’t set foot in a mainstream bookstore since Borders’s closed, preferring to rely on recommendations of friends, following my favorite authors and the occasional Amazon suggestion, the Hugo’s haven’t been on my radar for a few years.
    Having satisfied the requirements of full disclosure…
    While I can only speak semi-intelligently about the Hugo awards, (and as such will restrict my comments to what I have been reading recently), what I can speak expertly of, unfortunately, is Vox Day. Not because I know him – (I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, though I hope that someone will be able to when the time comes, as it is only a matter of time before he ends up in front of one), but because I know people just like him.
    You see, Vox Day has all the markers of a raging malignant narcissist. He does what he does solely and exclusively to draw attention to himself, to the point where he does not distinguish good attention from bad attention. He is also exhibits traces of sociopathy, in that he seems to conduct himself as if he is above all others and entitled to whatever he wants just because he wants it.
    The problem with these sorts of behaviors is that they are all masks for a profound and extreme insecurity. It is little factoid that makes him problematic. Extremism, which is never good, tends to be about the worst thing you can pair with “insecurity”. It tends to be what drives this type of person from an annoyance to a full on threat, as they are only reacting (extremely) to what they feel is threatening to them. Like swatting a fly with a nuke.
    Vox Day has yet to get to that stage. I suspect this because part of he doesn’t think that anyone can really do anything to him, to stop him from getting what he wants or doing what he wants to do, and so he doesn’t see anyone in this as a real threat. Depending on how this all shakes out…Vox Day might yet employ his version of the nuclear option, whatever that may be. (Which I don’t think, by the way, is another crack at slating next year – he just may want people to think that – unless he really is that unoriginal. I don’t know – I’ve never read his work).
    Just because you aren’t feeding the trolls doesn’t mean you should still keep an eye on them.

    1. A lot of these points came up over the course podcast. You're not alone in your opinion.

    2. This is extra-amusing, even given the low standard set in this debate so far. Let's rank up the statements made by harlequinbell:

      1. "what I can speak expertly of, unfortunately, is Vox Day. Not because I know him. . ."

      2. "Vox Day might yet employ his version of the nuclear option, whatever that may be. (Which I don’t think, by the way, is another crack at slating next year – he just may want people to think that – unless he really is that unoriginal. I don’t know – I’ve never read his work"

      3. "Vox Day has all the markers of a raging malignant narcissist."

      That is some impressive diagnosis there, Kreskin. I myself, despite my vast acumen, might have hesitated to pinpoint the particular mental disorder of a man whom I ' could not pick out of a lineup', and whose works I had not read. But you jumped right in.

      But don't feel bad, you got one part right: "he doesn’t think that anyone can really do anything to him, to stop him from getting what he wants or doing what he wants to do, and so he doesn’t see anyone in this as a real threat".

      Hard to figure . . .

  2. There are a lot of ties between me and the Hugo that I don't really expect others to have in any form, but I really do believe they are severely tarnished, quite possibly forever, though what Kansas City does will really be what determines it all.

  3. Nice post Arthur but I don't 2016 and later playing out as you've suggested - Kate Paulk has already been announced as the convenor for Sad Puppies 4, and while it's possible that the final voting for the 2015 Hugos is so embarrassing for the SPs that Kate does indeed announce there will be no SP4, I'm not convinced the various egos involved will allow that.

    If anything, the interaction between SP4 and RP2 will be fascinating though...

  4. The solution for reforming the voting for nominees is known as "proportional representation", whereby a group amounting to 20% of the voters can never take more than 20% of the slots on the list.

    6/3 wouldn't solve the slate problem; two slates could take over the entire nominee list. Proportional representation would solve the problem. Permanently.

    Single Transferrable Vote is one form of proportional representation; Reweighted Approval Voting is another.