Halfway to the Hugos

For the most part, I’ve stayed out of the near-constant sniping that has characterized the run-up to this year’s Hugo Awards. (I’ve even tried to ignore it, but to no avail.) I’m caught up in it by virtue of my nominated story first being included on the “Sad Puppies” recommendation list, and if you don’t know what that is then I hope you consider yourself lucky.

After posting a few items in the early days of the controversy, I retreated to the fringe of the issue rather than stomping around in the middle of it — except when convention planners (cough, cough … ConCarolinas) put me on panels designed to dredge up the matter. Thankfully, those have come off with courtesy and even respect, two qualities I have missed in much of the debate.

But since we’re at the halfway point between the Hugo nominations announcement and the Hugo Awards ceremony itself, it seems like a decent time to add a few new observations and thoughts.

Note that I do not intend to try to change anyone’s mind. I get the impression that this feud is so rancorous because both sides genuinely love and appreciate genre fiction — science fiction and fantasy in all their various forms — and I consider it a shame that different viewpoints on it have devolved into such deep divisions. I only want to make, for the record, a few hopefully coherent remarks.

To aid the casual reader, here’s what I plan to cover in this overly-long post:
– My disappointment, but also my ambivalence, at the way things have been characterized
– The metaphor I’ve most recently developed to describe the situation I’m in
– Some Scripture verses I am trying to hold on to as this process unfolds
– My regret at being unable to attend the upcoming ceremony
Forewarned is forearmed. Now, knowing what’s coming, if you don’t want to read the rest that’s perfectly fine.

Hugo Award Logo

(This is what the fuss is all about.)

Unfortunate Characterizations. Some of the criticism that has arisen in the aftermath of the Hugo Award nominations has reflected disappointment at the way the nominations unfolded; that’s not too surprising, as reviewers and other commentators are only human. But some of the criticism has extended beyond the work, to include ad hominem attacks that only stoke the fires of righteous indignation.

People familiar with the controversy likely don’t need to be reminded of the kinds of things that have been said on both sides of this divide. In the same way that civil wars and other internecine strife are often the harshest of conflicts, the acrimony has been thick and the poison pens have yet to run out of ink.

Suffice it to say that various people, in various places, have characterized the “Sad Puppies” ringleaders and their “Rabid Puppies” counterparts — as well as those of us whose works were nominated — in … uncharitable terms. Words like racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and even neo-Nazi have been bandied about. Likewise, strong and often unduly harsh language has been used against those on the “anti-puppy” side, i.e., toward those on the side of the Hugo Award traditions and WorldCon fandom. Both of these are unfortunate, and I hope I have not contributed to the incivility. (That may be the primary virtue of being relatively unknown, and deliberately quiet.)

I find the practices of name-calling, threatening (even if only implied), and heaping scorn and vulgarity on one another to be extremely disappointing. I will leave it to those who feel hurt in the exchanges to address any accusations that have been made against them, as I do not intend to engage in any comparative analysis of who said what, when, to whom, about whom, and whether one slur or accusation was worse than another.

I will, however, say this: I find myself somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that people I do not know might characterize me in unfriendly terms, whether directly or through guilt-by-association. The fact is that most of the commentators do not know me, personally or even by reputation, and their reports can hardly be taken as reliable. I admit that I am somewhat concerned that other people, potential fans or potential friends who read such things, could come away with a false impression; however, I am confident that those who know me, who have interacted with me on a personal basis, will not be fooled into believing falsehoods about me.

I believe in the right of every person — particularly every U.S. citizen, since the right is enshrined in our Constitution, but really every living soul on the planet — to free speech. I believe that right, like all rights, carries with it certain responsibilities, and that when those responsibilities are abandoned the right can be curtailed. I believe we should exercise that right with care and compassion, and that where we fail to do so we may expect consequences and even repercussions.

And in that belief, I say: If I have been uncharitable in how I have characterized anyone on either side of this issue, or if in some other way I have failed to exercise my First Amendment rights responsibly, I apologize to anyone I may have hurt.

My Hugo Experience, in Metaphor. I’ve shared this a few times in one-on-one conversations, and once in a convention panel, but I may as well put it out here as long as I’m up on my virtual soapbox. Like members of Congress, I’ve revised and expanded my original remarks.

My new metaphor is …

Back in January, I was offered a “Sad Puppies” seat — economy class and “bring your own lunch” all the way — on a Hugo Awards flight. During a layover, some folks with “Rabid Puppies” seats embarked, and some of our SP tickets were stamped with RP as well.

When the plane landed in Nomination City, some of us were surprised, because we expected to land in Passed-Over-Ville. (Every other time people have told me they nominated one of my stories, I haven’t even made the post-award long list, so I didn’t expect this time to be any different.)

It seemed that the plane had been hijacked. When the flight subsequently took off from Nomination City, en route to Hugotown, the reaction to the hijacking was loud and angry. Some passengers snuck off the plane during the Nomination City stop, and a couple bailed out later; I’m not sure yet if their parachutes worked, if they made safe landings, or if anyone has picked them up out of the wilderness. I hope they’re okay.

The more it looked like a hijacking, the more some people on the ground talked as if they wanted to shoot down the plane; some of them seem determined to do so, even if only with their own personal weapons. Just as worrisome, some of the hijackers have talked as if they want to crash the plane in the middle of Hugotown. My fellow passengers and I are left to wonder if there’s anything we can do to improve our chances of survival.

I’ve been in touch with my friends, both inside and outside the community of fans, throughout the ordeal. Those who contributed to my ticket or who like my work or who support me personally almost all told me that they want me to stay aboard, and ride it out. One person advised me to bail out, parachute or no. Outside my relatively small circle of family and friends, from what I can tell quite a few spectators are glued to their computer screens, watching every agonizing minute of the event; I don’t know if they care a whole lot what happens to me or the other passengers.

As for me, it’s been a pretty turbulent ride and the storms are still raging. I just want the plane to land, so I can get off and go about my business.

Like any metaphor, this one has its weaknesses; but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Some Scripture I Consider Relevant. I don’t know if you adhere to any religious beliefs, but I do. Specifically, I’m a Christian. I won’t preach at you, though; if you’re ever interested in what I believe and why, just ask.

That said, I have been trying very hard to apply some specific Scriptures to my Hugo Award situation, and particularly to how I relate to people on all sides of the debate. Among others, I am trying to live up to these, all of which are paraphrased:

  • Let your speech be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
  • Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
  • Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them your left cheek as well.” (Matthew 5:39, the words of the Lord)
  • “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.” (Matthew 5:44, the words of the Lord)
  • Do not pay back anyone evil for evil. (Romans 17:21, 1 Peter 3:9)
  • Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18)

And, perhaps more difficult than any of those, these cautions from the brother of the Lord (James, chapter 3, also paraphrased):

… we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, [but] the tongue — a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things — is a fire, the very world of iniquity…. No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God…. Brothers, this should not be….

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth…. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and evil. But the wisdom from above is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

I encourage anyone who holds to the same creed I do to consider whether they might apply these and other verses to help them maintain an even keel in the storm of rhetoric, and possibly to better represent the One to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance.

Wherever I have failed to live up to these admonitions, it is my fault alone. It always is. And at least my failures will continue to be mostly private, since

Unfortunately, WorldCon and the Hugo Awards Ceremony Are Out of My Reach. I’d like to visit Spokane in August for WorldCon, but at this point the likelihood is miniscule.

You might think I’d rather avoid WorldCon, and thereby avoid all the drama. I admit that sounds pleasant, but the drama would find me whether I’m present or not. And I would like to see my friends, on both sides of the debate — and possibly make new friends. I’d like to meet new people, become better acquainted with people I’ve only met once or twice, and hopefully convince some of them that I am a flesh-and-blood human being, neither a wild-eyed zealot nor a bug-eyed monster.

I’d probably spend a good deal of time in the filk room, anyway. Hopefully I wouldn’t be as intimidated as I was at WorldCon last year.

But, alas, between a higher-than-expected tax bill earlier this year, the production costs of my new CD, and the need to plan for some very special upcoming expenses, I don’t envision having the resources to attend WorldCon unless a whole bunch of people suddenly start buying copies of my album. (Don’t get me wrong, that would be fine by me and you can do so right here; but I don’t see it happening.)

Some Closing Thoughts. Whenever we value something highly, when we have invested time or treasure in it and derived some reward (however intangible) from it, and that thing is threatened in some way, we rightly resent and are justified in trying to defend against the threat. That is true whether we are talking about our families and friendships, our homes and personal property, our reputations, or institutions with which we identify. I think sometimes we forget that others have the same right, to defend those things which they value.

Based on that, I understand the impulse on the part of longtime WorldCon participants and serious fen to protect the institution and its flagship award. I understand that barbarians storming the gates, brazenly and with unexpected success, is frightening and naturally foments resentment and anger.

I choose the barbarian example deliberately. Outsiders are labeled barbarians not because that is what they call themselves, but because their language is incomprehensible to the insiders — to the refined ears of the citizens it sounds like “bar-bar-bar” (which among science fiction convention-goers is not, in itself, damning). But the outsiders do have language and culture, however strange it may seem to the citizens: from their own point of view they are not barbarians but Goths, Visigoths, or Ostrogoths; Celts, Huns, or Vandals.

This year’s Hugo-nominating barbarians, unlike historical tribes characterized as such, brought alms with which they gained entry into the city and bought their citizenship: the $40 Supporting Membership. And they brought their own opinions — perhaps studiously formed, perhaps informed or even influenced by others — which they expressed in the nomination process. They joined the community, but some of the original citizens still see them as barbarians, as outsiders, and seethe. I understand that, and I have seen the results in some of the reviews and comments about my own nominated story.

So I offer this: Reading should be a pleasure and a joy, and if any Hugo Award voter is upset at the way my novelette wound up on the ballot and has not read it yet, I encourage them and give them my full permission to ignore my entry completely.

Let me reiterate, and emphasize, that if the manner in which my story was nominated gives you any ill feelings, from the slightest nausea all the way to migraine-inducing rage, please do not read my story. Skip over it in the Voter’s Packet, pretend it doesn’t exist, and with my full blessing vote “No Award” in its place.

Our brief lives have limited joys, and I do not want to steal anyone’s joy for any reason. If reading my story will be more burden than blessing, set it aside and read something that is likely to please you. Pick a story that will engage you without setting your teeth on edge. Maybe in a month, or a year, or ten, you can return to my story and read it dispassionately and extract from it some small something of value. But even if not, if you never feel free from the 2015 Hugo Awards controversy and so choose never to read my story, that’s okay; at least it will not have added to your distress. I will content myself with knowing that a few people, at least, who read it have liked it.

For my part, I will continue to hope for the ire and indignation to wane, and for the firestorm to burn itself out without consuming the village. Or, if you will, for the plane to land so we can disembark.

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28 Responses to Halfway to the Hugos

  1. Jonathan, thank you very much for your kind words. They are a balm and a blessing.

    You used a word that regretfully is not much considered these days: decency. Our culture has become so coarse, indeed in ways so base, that there is little agreement on the bounds or even the existence of “common decency” anymore. It reminds me of a Heinlein quote, from Friday (emphasis in original):

    Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms … but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

    Insofar as I am able, I will endeavor to practice decency and consideration regardless of how far others go in being indecent and inconsiderate.

    Thanks again,
    G

  2. Jonathan Edelstein says:

    I should add one thing more: I haven’t seen any non-Puppies going after the Puppies’ livelihood in the way that Vox and his legions are now doing with Irene Gallo. I think she was wrong to say what she did, but she’s apologized for it, and trying to get her fired is despicable.

  3. Jonathan Edelstein says:

    Hi Gray,

    First of all, your story, like Kary English’s, was a jewel. I’m always a sucker for stories that involve folklore and folk memory, and your use of myth as a means of resistance was inspired. More than that, you captured the strange dynamic between oppressor and oppressed, in which there are often flashes of mutual regard amid the bitterness. I only wish that you had more worthy competition, so that the Hugo you’re likely to get – that you will get if I have anything to say about it – wouldn’t be tainted by an asterisk.

    Nevertheless, I can’t agree that an even-handed, “both sides have behaved badly” approach is an accurate description of the Hugo controversy. One side of the controversy (and yes, at this point there are sides) has behaved much worse, and offended much more frequently, than the other.

    I heard of the Sad Puppies for the first time this year. Before that, I’d enjoyed reading and writing SFF, but I was never part of the fan community and was blissfully unaware of its infighting. I became interested in the process when my brother-in-law self-nominated for a Hugo and Campbell (he didn’t make either short list – whether deservedly or not I leave to others) and after the nominations came in, I became aware of the Puppies and their discontents.

    I had no preconceived notion of them at the time, but I was shocked to learn that Brad Torgersen, in inaugurating Sad Puppies 3, had described the Hugos as an affirmative action project. That’s a deadly insult to every woman and POC who has won or been nominated in the past decade – it was a statement that none of them could possibly have won on merit – and Brad still doesn’t seem to understand that it was an insult. He also went around inventing labels like CHORF and using them with glee, along with indiscriminate bashing of “SJWs.” Everyone who knows Brad, including people whose opinions I trust, says he’s a good and decent person, and as a former Army reservist I respect his service, but that decency doesn’t seem to show much in his online persona.

    And then, of course, there’s Vox Day, who I don’t think I need to introduce to you. Despite occasional attempts to distance themselves from him rhetorically, the Puppies have been quite willing to bite when he barks, as shown by the current Irene Gallo affair. Some of the comments made by his minions (their word, not mine) have to be seen to be believed, and are much worse than anything I’ve seen from the other side.

    I could go on, but a review of the comments on the Puppy thought-leaders’ blogs is really all that’s needed.

    Yes, some of the things said by people in opposition to the Puppies have been over the top, insulting and wrong. But there isn’t anyone on the “anti-Puppy” side orchestrating the invective the way Vox or Brad or Sarah Hoyt does. Also, when “anti-Puppies” have made jokes about things like putting the Puppies down, there’s been pushback, while I haven’t seen similar self-examination from the Puppy leadership – they’re quick to take offense at any slight, but rarely utter a peep about the labeling and name-calling coming from their corner.

    And so I ended up joining Worldcon specifically to stop the Puppies. Your story was so good that it made me compromise that goal, but I still hold to it as a general matter, and I think this is one case where studied neutrality really amounts to taking a side.

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  5. lL says:

    Gray, thanks for your reply. No, I did not know how the name “puppies” came to be applied (and I’m happy to substitute a more acceptable name when one is supplied) as I only starting following this after the nominations came out. When the group in question has a logo with “sad puppies” at the top, I assume that’s what they call themselves.

    It is regrettable that the RP and SP are lumped together. I know some “SP”s have distanced themselves from Vox Day and the “RP”s, have either Brad Torgerson or Larry Correia done this? (I honestly don’t know, I’ve tried to keep up via File 770, but miss a day or two and who knows…)

    Finally, I have now read at least parts of every nominated novel, ditto for the novellas, and all of the short stories. To my sorrow, most of what was on either “puppy” slate is not Hugo quality. Some are simply competent, others are downright bad. I have to hope for better from the novelettes. If the skates were truly excellent but overlooked works, I might feel differently about slate voting, but I doubt it. Such an approach inherently seeks to persuade others to nominate works that someone else has selected, not those the personally think best. With all good will in the world, my favorites will not be the same as yours, or even the same as my SF reading friends. Overlap, yes, but not an identical list.

  6. Pedro Terán says:

    Hi again, Rebekah.

    Since I am not a native English speaker, I cannot make it any clearer than I already have. I’m sorry that it was so far from being sufficiently clear.

    What your reply raises and is interesting to me is whether the word “ecologist” has a different meaning in the US than it has in my country. My notion of an ecologist is a person who spends part of their time doing things expected to be “good for Nature”, or otherwise a person who believes everyday people have a responsibility to behave in a way less damaging to Nature than they’re legally bound to act. I hope this clarifies the analogy, since I see it didn’t come across as intended.

  7. Greg says:

    This is one of the more reasonable things I’ve read, Gray, and I look forward to reading your work. Sorry you can’t make Worldcon this year, but if it’s in a place I can afford to get to next year, I hope to see you there.

  8. lL says:

    Pedro wrote Rebekah, one problem with your self-characterization as ‘not an anti-puppy’ is your referring to those people by a derogatory term that has been overused for purposes of dehumanizing rhetoric That is news to me, and I expect to most who only became aware of the controversy and slate voting after the nominations came out. If the term is derogatory, then the group should call itself something else. Otherwise, it is a way to take offense from people who know no other name than the group has on the website.

    I do take issue with the idea that any one who is not a “puppy” (waiting for you to give me a better name)!is then “anti puppy.” If I am not a Catholic, am I then “anti-Catholic”? If I disagree with some things done by the state of Israel, am I “anti-Jewish”? If I fine what some Protestants say distasteful, am I “anti-Protestant”?

    Obviously, I do not think I am anti these religions (I belong to one of them). What I would say, and I believe many have, is that I am anti certain actions: namely slate voting.

    • IL, you are right to take issue with being characterized as “anti” something you are not actually against.

      I have noticed a tendency these days for people to equate “not” being something with being against, being “anti,” that something. The more radical (and possibly just the more entrenched) a person’s views, the more they seem to assert such equivalencies even when they are false. For instance, some people seem to consider being “not” a minority to be equivalent to being “anti” minorities, i.e., racist; others seem to consider being “not” a woman as equivalent to being “anti” women, e.g., misogynist. Likewise, some people seem to have equated being “not” one of the puppy factions with being “anti” puppy. None of those equivalencies are automatically true.

      You probably know that the term “Sad Puppies” started out as a joke, based on the kind of tear-jerker advertisements that invite people to contribute to various causes. In case some casual reader doesn’t know about that (and with the caveat that I may not have the wording precisely correct), the idea was that “boring message fiction” garnering awards and accolades was the major cause of “puppy-related sadness.” The invitation to join WorldCon and nominate fun, accessible works was then accompanied by the tagline “Won’t you think of the puppies?” and the effort became known as the Sad Puppies campaign. (The Rabid Puppies campaign has a shorter, and less amusing, history.) Some people — I don’t recall who — began calling the ringleaders (and the nominees) “puppies” and the name stuck, even though I and others never considered the name of the SP campaign to apply to the people within it and despite the fact that the single word “puppies” lumps SP and RP together even though they need not be. The term became derogatory when people on the other side of the issue — who probably would identify with being “anti-puppy” — began applying unsavory elements to it such as calling for the puppies to be put down, neutered, etc.

      Thanks for your comment!
      G

  9. Cat Rambo says:

    I’m sorry to hear you won’t make it to Worldcon; I was looking forward to speaking with you. Thanks for a thoughtful and carefully considered post.

    • Cat, it would be a pleasure to see you again and perhaps I will find a way to make the WorldCon trip happen. In the meantime, I am at your service and wish you the best.

      Many thanks!
      G

  10. Mark says:

    Gray, I find your metaphor rather disturbing. My metaphoric self wishes to see the plane turned around, not shot down.

    I also don’t think the SP are barbarians, although I would probably use words of similar or greater harshness for some members of RP.

    The issue is not language, or culture; the issue is slating.

    Incidentally, I’ve read your story and will be judging it on its merits.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark, and you might guess that I make the same distinction vis-à-vis RP and SP.

      As for the metaphor, I recognize that it’s weak in several respects; but since turning the plane around doesn’t seem possible, perhaps “forced to land” would express some folks’ preference better than shooting down.

      Thanks again,
      G

  11. This was one of the most reasonable and constructive Hugo posts I’ve read in quite a while. Thanks!

    You seem like a very sympathetic kind of guy and I sort of hope I would have liked your story enough to vote for it. C’est la vie, I guess.

  12. Hampus Eckerman says:

    Thank you for your text. Hope you have a good time at Worldcon.

  13. I enjoyed your story but I will be putting it below No Award when I vote. I hope you understand that while that is necessarily a criticism of your story, it is not intended as personal attack.
    I don’t like the slates and I think if the Hugos become simply dueling slates in the future then the outcome will be an unsatisfactory one to all sides (i.e. we all lose).
    I’ve explained my voting strategy here: High-bar no award.

    I think all nominees (sad, rabid or neither) deserve the respect of having their work read and considered.

    • Several friends told me the same thing, and I support people exercising the “NA” option. The first four words of your comment are the only award I need.

      Thanks much,
      G

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  15. Cat Faber says:

    There is not an “anti-Puppy side” in the sense that you seem to be trying to suggest. There are the Puppies, who joined a movement advertised as being about political resentment that there were too many women and minority Hugo winners and nominees, and there are the rest of us.

    Many of the non-Puppies resent that the Puppies broke the Hugo nominations and locked the majority of the nominators out from having any say in the nominations. We don’t have a leader or receive marching orders the way Puppies do, and of those of us who resent it, we each have our own reason(s).

    But one think I will point out is that there is a side here, and that side began with uncharitable characterizations. “Affirmative action picks” is an uncharitable characterization of Hugo winners, because it suggests those works and authors didn’t deserve their win. “Literati” was an uncharitable characterization of people who want more from their fiction than explosions. “SJW” was an uncharitable characterization of people who had discovered that stories by and about women or minorities often took us in interesting new directions and taught us interesting new things.

    Puppy leaders have been happy from the start to toss out uncharitable characterizations of people whom they did not know personally or by reputation.

    In addition, if we’re going to bring up threats, I saw T*m Kr*tm*n threatening to take his gun and someone who commented about him on Brad’s blog, and then posting tidbits of information he managed to glean on their location etc from web searches.

    Perhaps I am but a gently reared and sheltered maiden, but I found that quite scary–much more so than the occasional reminder to Puppy leaders that behaving like a jerk makes it less likely that you will be invited to parties.

    If that behavior is a problem for you, perhaps you should rethink whether the Puppies are the sort of people you want to associate with. If you decide to continue the association in future years, perhaps it is them you should address with your concerns.

    Brad and others will try to tell you that the problem is that new people have joined the nomination process. That is entirely untrue. The problem is the slate. They could have brought in all the new people they wanted, and it would have been fine–yes, even though they were trying to only bring in conservatives–yes (to a less enthusiastic extent) even though they whipped up culture war resentments that really had no place here to do it–it would have been fine if they just had said “read widely, no, we’re not going to tell you what to read, and choose your honest favorites, no, we’re not telling you what ‘everyone else’ is choosing; ask them; and nominate.”

    But they didn’t. They used a slate. Because Brad wanted to get goodies for his friends and professional associates and Vox Day wanted to get publicity for his publishing house. That’s what this was about all along.

    • Thanks for your comments, Cat.

      I thought you might appreciate my admission that you are justified in resenting and trying to defend the Hugos against the threat represented by the barbarians who have stormed the gates. I’m sorry if that fell flat. C’est la vie.

      If I may, however:
      – When you write, “There are the Puppies, … and there are the rest of us”, you kind of imply that there is an “anti-puppy” side, at least in the sense of “if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them.”
      All of the invective, in each direction, disappoints me. I find it unnecessary and unhelpful. Apparently I was not clear about that.
      – I am not perfect, and I do not expect those with whom I associate to be perfect. With all due respect to your suggestion, I will continue to associate with everyone who wishes to associate with me, on either side of this or any issue.

      As always, wishing you only the best,
      G

      • Rebekah Golden says:

        Gray Rinehart: “When you write, “There are the Puppies, … and there are the rest of us”, you kind of imply that there is an “anti-puppy” side, at least in the sense of “if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them.””

        I think it’s the opposite actually. A group of people who choose to call themselves “Puppies” say you’re either one of us or you’re an anti-puppy. The people who aren’t puppies don’t feel the same “us” cohesion.

        Imagine three circles, one is puppies, one is anti-puppies, and one is “the rest of us.” A lot of the “rest of us” question the existence of anti-puppies. We wonder if it isn’t just a monster in the closet that isn’t real. It doesn’t sound real. It sounds like a shadow or an old shoe.

        The problem is when someone gets given the label “anti-puppy” just for disagreeing with either the methods used or the morality of the people involved. Suddenly anyone can be an “anti-puppy” simply as a result of being anti-slating.

        That creates an us/them dichotomy that leaves no room for discussing particulars. That need for complete agreement which is so often displayed by people who self identify as puppies is part of why it is so difficult to find common ground.

        I actually came here to discuss slating. To wonder if it wasn’t similar to using performance enhancing drugs while participating in sports. A way of giving individuals a boost in competition which may or may not be legal but doesn’t feel honorable.

        Your response to Cat made me feel that instead of listening to my words that you would instead listen to the specter of your fears. That you would interpret anything I said as an attack. I almost walked away. In fact I did. But then I wanted to clarify to see if you would listen. And maybe you will. Maybe you can talk about this. Or not.

        • Thanks for your comment, Rebekah; I’m glad you took the time to submit it. I acknowledge the us/them dichotomy, but I am open to discussing particulars.

          So much of this is a matter of perception: as you note, “A lot of the ‘rest of us’ question the existence of anti-puppies.” Questioning (or even denying) the existence of something does not mean the thing does not exist, just as believing in something does not verify its existence. Rather, we perceive things either to exist or not. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

          I’ll try to break it down this way: the “Sad Puppies” have existed, in one form or another, for the last three years. If there were no SPs, one might suppose there would be no anti-SPs. And this year the “Rabid Puppies” came into existence — something none of us who are caught in the middle of this anticipated — and again if there were no RPs there would seem to be no anti-RPs. Since the SPs and RPs exist, then, it seems disingenuous to claim that no anti-puppies exist. And acknowledging that anti-puppies exist — or at least that some of the rhetoric gives the appearance that anti-puppies exist — does not identify or label any particular people as such, nor does it speak to whether someone might be anti-SP, anti-RP, or anti-all-P.

          The easy thing would be to stop looking for causes after acknowledging that the SPs came into existence in the first place; that seems to what many people have done. Things become murkier when we probe a little deeper and ask why the SP program started (e.g., the reaction to Larry Correia being nominated for the Campbell in 2011), but perhaps that’s a topic for another day.

          I’ve heard the performance-enhancing drug analogy; in fact, I recall discussing with several people whether an asterisk might be placed next to my name in the “record books,” if you will. The question that occurs to me is whether anyone’s nomination which benefitted from a social media push (either the author’s or someone else’s) would also be considered in the same way. If so, we might apply asterisks to any number of different individual nominations over the last few years, though we might not agree on which ones.

          In the end, this is a lot of angst over a popularity contest. A beauty pageant or talent show, even. It seems rather trivial in the grand scheme of things, considering the larger problems that plague our world. I’m disappointed that the controversy has generated such vehemence, on both sides of the divide, and hope I live long enough to see the tide of anger ebb.

          Thanks again for your comment,
          G

        • Pedro Terán says:

          A group of people who choose to call themselves “Puppies” say you’re either one of us or you’re an anti-puppy.

          The problem is when someone gets given the label “anti-puppy” just for disagreeing

          Rebekah, one problem with your self-characterization as ‘not an anti-puppy’ is your referring to those people by a derogatory term that has been overused for purposes of dehumanizing rhetoric.

          Like, you know, the puppies should be put to sleep, the puppies belong in the kennel, the puppies are pooping all around the house, puppy bites woman, and so on.

          As a matter of fact, those people didn’t call themselves “puppies”. The people who started the puppy pun season were aware of the meaning of “Sad Puppies” and were presumably retaliating for it or just venting out their frustration.

          Many people who felt short-changed by the result of the 2015 Hugo nominations then jumped on the bandwagon, with Torgersen and friends eventually giving up on correcting them, thus accepting to be vulnerable to puppy pun abuse for indefinite time.

          That is, a few people initially lied about the Sad Puppies campaign being led by a group self-called the Sad Puppies (insert oh-so-smart puppy-related verbal abuse here), but as the thing caught fire it eventually became true as even SP proponents started calling themselves SPs. (Cedar Sanderson still resists, btw.)

          But, as SP voters do know the truth, you have as much of a chance of being perceived as not-anti-SP as of not being perceived as anti-ecologist if you said: “There are three circles of people, the treehuggers, the anti-treehuggers, and the rest of us”, the rest of us presumably meaning the people who call ecologists “treehuggers”. And that’s aggravated by the fact that no-one goes around saying that treehuggers should be put to sleep or in a kennel.

          Additionally, you also choose to conflate “puppies” and “slates”, when it is pretty clear from both the nomination data and people’s direct testimony in blog comments that only one variety of so-called puppies voted in lockstep.

          Failing to distinguish SP and RP will also automatically have you perceived as being anti-SP, as SP proponents and voters, and interested observers like myself, are acutely aware of the strong framing effort that has gone on to conflate SP and RP in people’s minds.

          The take-home message is that what you perceive as totally innocent language and fair statements may be perceived across the fence as offensive, insulting, and flying on the face of all known facts.

          I only wish all sides of the conflict understood that they all are guilty of precisely the same kind of unrespectful disinterest for how reality looks from another group’s vantage point. (Haven’t been talking about Rebekah for some time now, obviously.)

          • Rebekah Golden says:

            Just so you know what this conversation sounds like to me:

            Person A: “You’re either a puppy or an anti-puppy.”
            Me: “I’m not an anti-puppy but neither am I a puppy.”
            Person B: “You used the term puppy so you’re an anti-puppy.”

            ““There are three circles of people, the treehuggers, the anti-treehuggers, and the rest of us”, the rest of us presumably meaning the people who call ecologists “treehuggers”. And that’s aggravated by the fact that no-one goes around saying that treehuggers should be put to sleep or in a kennel.”

            Actually there are treehuggers, anti-treehuggers (save a logger eat an owl), and the rest of us who are more moderate in our approach to environmentalism. And a lot of people say treehuggers should be shot or put in jail. Let me just invite you to family dinner in rural logging America.

            The take-home message is that what you perceive as totally innocent language and fair statements may be perceived across the fence as offensive, insulting, and flying on the face of all known facts.

            Obviously these facts aren’t universally known. I don’t know them.

            I haven’t been a part of the Hugo Awards before this year. I never knew that average people could vote on the Hugo Awards until the news broke about the system being gamed. I came to participate, to read, share my opinion, and vote honestly. Now I’m wondering if it’s possible to vote honestly in a contest that has been rigged.

            My main angst is over the fact that slating was planned, slating happened, and now a bunch of work ranging from horrible to good are on the ballots. Sadly most of what is on the ballot this year is horrible. Trust me, I’ve been reading it.

            I came here to get another opinion from someone reasonable who does not appear to think poorly of slating.

            Would it be possible not to nit-pick language and just assume I have good intentions? Why does disinterest in the politics of these groups have to be disrespectful?

          • Thanks again, Rebekah, and for the record I do not believe that anyone must be either “pro” or “anti” anything. The world is too big and wonderful a place for us to have to be placed in such narrow categories. Some people are in such categories, however, and others who might deny it seem by their statements to at least lean in one direction or the other.

            I have not read much of the voter packet, so I cannot agree or disagree with your assessment of the nominated works. I actually laid out what I nominated, and why, in an earlier blog post; perhaps you saw it, but if not and you’re interested, it’s http://www.graymanwrites.com/blog/what-i-nominated-for-hugo-awards-and-three-ideas-to-consider/. I did not follow any “slate” in my own nominations.

            Which brings me to your assessment that I don’t “appear to think poorly of slating.” In general, I agree with that assessment, and I think it goes back to what I wrote in the above post about the difficulty of understanding one another’s language. I will try to explain.

            To me, a “slate” is what the dictionary says it is: a list. It’s a list of candidates, in an election, or a list of choices. I get the impression that to some people a slate is something more, along the lines of a monolithic, all-pervasive, and perhaps domineering set of required choices. I recognize that point of view, and I think I understand it, but I do not share it … maybe because I can’t recall ever voting a straight “party line” ticket.

            So, you’re right, I don’t think slates are the bugaboo that some people seem to think. I acknowledge that some people, possibly a great many, treated the slate as more than a recommendation list, and I believe I’m not alone among the people on the list who consider that unfortunate.

            Did my story’s appearance on the SP list give it an advantage that it would not have otherwise had? Yes. No question. Very few people read the online magazine in which my story appeared — and some people have been quite vocal that they do not do so for political reasons, and not because of the magazine’s content or quality — so being on the SP list meant that more people would know of the story’s existence, and if all went well more people would read it than would have read it otherwise. I don’t think that advantage was any worse than the advantage held by people with thousands of blog readers or social media followers, or hundreds of fans of their work in other media, who mention what they have eligible for awards.

            I think this issue has become as large and divisive as it has not because the slate existed, but because the slate was so overwhelmingly successful. (It’s important to note that the RP version, which I initially thought did not include my story, was more successful than the SP version; hence the hijacking metaphor in my post above.) Had only one or two SP/RP entries made the ballot, some people would still decry the slate’s existence, but I don’t think the resistance would be as widespread or as vehement. And if the SP/RP ballot had been shut out, I get the impression that the general response would not be “slates are terrible” but would be the same kind of gleeful mockery that came after last year’s Hugos were awarded. (Those reactions, by the way, were pretty disdainful and disrespectful … and they were exactly what had been predicted, just as the outrage that has been leveled at the SPs was predicted far in advance.)

            Thanks again for your thoughtful comments!
            G