Given 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 http://sadpuppies4.org/the-list/ 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.)