On the Hugos, Sad Puppies, GamerGate, Gay Marriage, Black Lives Matter, and the Confederate Flag.

The 2015 Hugo Award seen onstage before the ceremony.


“Okay,” you’re saying, “That’s the most click-baity title I’ve ever seen. He just stuffed it with hashtags.” Yeah, a little, but hear me out. It all comes together by the end, I promise.

Over the weekend, I was fortunate to be one of the handful of survivors of the 73rd WorldCon in Spokane. Between the throngs of attendees lost to the wildfires and the bloodbath that was the Hugo Award ceremony, I was lucky to escape with my life.

At least that’s the impression the rest of the web seem to have gotten.

In reality, Spokane played host to one of the most positive, friendly, and welcoming WorldCons in recent memory. Although to be honest, the smoke was a real issue. I’ve never been in a declared FEMA emergency before, so that was kind of cool.

I’m assuming that anyone reading this is already at least passingly familiar with the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy movement and their attempt to sabotage and vandalize the Hugo Awards this year. In short, a small cabal of fans who are totally not racist, misogynist homophobes, just ask them, tried to stuff the Hugo Awards with nominated works that more closely fit their preference for Sci-Fi that skips any mention of minority struggles, gender equality issues, or homosexuality so it can instead focus on stories about killing aliens with their shooty pew-pew laser guns, which, they claim, is what fans really want to read about.

They were not entirely unsuccessful in their attempt. In five categories, the Puppy slate dominated the nominations, ensuring a victory for classic, golden-age style sci-fi that doesn’t try to hurt our thinking meats. But then, a funny thing happened. In response, the fandom community awoke. WorldCon membership swelled, blowing past previous records by 65%. And in each of the five Puppy dominated slates, the membership voted for “No Award,” isolating and nullifying the attempted sabotage through pure, grassroots democratic action, and doubling the number of times “No Award” has been used in a single night.

Here’s the thing about that, though. It was widely anticipated that the Hugo Awards were going to be ground zero in the battle dividing the fan community, possibly creating a schism that might never heal. The reverse happened. The awards were free of acrimony, and were instead the most unifying and funny that anyone can remember. There was virtually no Puppy presence at the convention. Outside of a couple of authors associated with the movement in attendance, (who largely kept a low profile) everyone of the thousands who actually showed up to add to the record attendance was somehow a member of the tiny, secret cabal of SJW’s working to ruin sci-fi. Quite the feat, if you know anything about trying to organize nerds.

Is this sounding familiar? Because it should. It’s a pattern I’ve seen repeated over and over in our country in the last few years. In the face of changing demographics and shifting conversations about equality, a small but furious minority of people with a vested interest in defending the status quo are able to project an overblown presence on social media and in the press, claiming to represent some sort of silent majority that has been intimidated into silence at the hands of ruthless progressives who eat their young, or something.

It happened with the Sad Puppies. It happened with the GamerGate lunatics, who were so concerned about the quality of videogame journalism ethics that they accidentally went on a months long misogynistic screed online that totally wasn’t about being anti-woman. You know, like when the drive through forgets to pack a straw and you accidentally let out a ten minute, uninterrupted string of racial slurs. It’s not about your abhorrent racism, it’s about quality control in the fast food industry.

It happened with the resistance to Same Sex Marriage, which wasn’t about preserving the practice of treating the LGTB community as second-class citizens denied basic human rights, it was about protecting families from, I don’t know, flower arrangements and musicals maybe? I don’t understand how these people think.

It happened with the creation of the All Lives Matter hashtag, the resistance to the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds, and a dozen other examples when the disadvantaged dare challenged the legitimacy of the status quo.

But, instead of waking the silent majority to rally around their flag, the opposite keeps happening. The Sad Puppies managed to grow and consolidate the WorldCon fanbase into a solid and historic rebuke of their behavior. The GamerGate mouth-breathers managed to wake the video game industry up to the reality of gender discrimination in employment, design, and content, leading to a slew of new opportunities for women in the field and more titles aimed at female gamers. The Prop 8 folks, and those like them around the country, managed only to crystalize support for marriage equality with their cruel tactics, forced the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, and likely accelerated the process of bringing gay marriage to all fifty states by a decade or more. The opposition to the Ferguson protests simply drew enough attention to bring in the Justice Department whose report really did reveal an enormous racial disparity in the conduct of the city’s police department. And the protests over the Confederate flag only helped to confirm what everyone had been saying about its history and meaning, hastening the day it was brought down.

In all of these cases, the small, rabid defenders of the status quo and their ugly tactics failed to bring support for their cause into the mainstream. Instead, the opposite has happened. They’ve woken people of conscious and propelled them into action, raising the very sleeping army that rises up to oppose them. As a result, positive change is happening at an ever increasing pace, with a speed that wouldn’t have been possible without the motivation to act.

In the end, the Sad Puppies, GamerGaters, etc, have managed only to accelerate their own irrelevance. I’ll be calling them #HushPuppies from now on. They took their best shot, but now it’s time to shut the fuck up.

Comments (6 Responses )

  1. M Todd Gallowglas - 08/25/2015 - 1:53 am #

    #HushPuppies it is.

  2. Shane McCook - 08/25/2015 - 4:31 am #

    … I’m kind of disappointed. Once again the Sad Puppies have been conflated with the Rabid Puppies when they are, in fact 2 different groups of people with 2 very different goals.

    The Sad Puppies protest what they see as a bias in the Hugos where the social and political message of the story and of the story teller out weighs the merits of good story telling. Their contention is that unless an author meets the SJW criteria of correctness, nothing the author produces is worth of consideration. Their goal is to actually increase the diversity of the Hugos to include both liberal and conservative authors and where the works stand as islands judged by its own merit and not by a litmus test of political correctness for it or its creator. My example is that if Orson Scott Card were to sit down today and write the equivalent of Ender’s Game or Speaker for the Dead, he would not be considered for a Hugo because Card doesn’t pass the test. Connecting Sad Puppies with GamerGate is just disingenuous.

    Rabid Puppies or more accurately Theodore Beale’s (Vox Day) “Rabid Puppets” is small cabal of fans who are totally racist, misogynist homophobes, or at least pretend to be to troll and watch shit burn. Their only goal was to “sabotage and vandalize the Hugo Awards this year.” Beale was quoted as wanting to leave a “smoking crater” where the Hugos used to be. The world could only be a better place by Beale’s removal from it. Connecting Rabid Puppies with GamerGate is accurate and just because, well, Vox Day.

    Sad Puppies want to effect change in what they see as a bias system. Rabid Puppets just want to burn the house down to watch it burn. They aren’t the same. They aren’t connected. The shame is that Beale doesn’t have enough creativity to come up with an original name so he hijacked one.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 08/25/2015 - 8:44 am #

      This is a common, but misguided, interpretation of the situation. The difference between the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies is in tone, not in goals and objectives.

      There is no bias in the Hugos. It doesn’t exist. There is not, and has never been, a conspiracy to rig the nomination process. White conservative male authors have won before, recently even, and will do so again. But, as is true of the larger society, tastes and preferences within the fan community have changed over the years. Things that were once acceptable and tolerated have fallen out of favor.

      Sci-Fi has always spoken about current social conditions through a thin veil of metaphor. There was never a “Golden Age” of science fiction free from political and social commentary. Much like the Leave it to Beaver 50’s the GOP wishes to return the country to, this time is a figment of the imaginations of the Sad/Rabid Puppies.

      Looking back at a work like Dune, or even Speaker for the Dead through contemporary eyes, it can be easy to forget how controversial and even subversive these works were in their own time. Such continues to be true of the sorts of work Hugo voters are rewarding today. If OSC actually sat down to write today’s equivalent of Speaker for the Dead, it would have a lot more in common with something like Ancillary Justice. Speaker was, for its time, a powerful argument for greater inclusivity, religious tolerance, and a universal celebration and respect for what makes us different. OSC’s only problem was he never quite figured out how to apply those lessons to his own thoughts.

      Both the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies remain blissfully unaware of this important historical context, often intentionally so, I suspect. They both want to go back to what never has been, unwilling to recognize the changing social and political landscape in which they’re operating, and willing to scream their umbrage to the heavens.

      Well, good on them, but a bunch of predominantly white heterosexual males crying about how they no longer get to utterly dominate every part of the culture anymore isn’t going to garner a whole pile of sympathy from contemporary readership.

  3. Dave - 09/11/2015 - 5:23 am #

    The attempt by the leftists to shut down the awards and resort to slander instead of producing any equally substantive works of literature speaks volumes to the intellectual bankruptcy of your kind, Patrick.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 09/22/2015 - 9:39 pm #


      Let’s start at the top. I’m a conservative. I know that a conservative siding with the evil SJW class must confuse you to no end, but I assure you it happens. Secondly, the awards were not “shut down.” I know, I was there sitting in the audience, watching some of my friends and colleagues accepting their awards. The show went on. Third, I wouldn’t be talking about “substantive works” if I were you. The Puppy slate was loaded with dreck. Entire categories were stuffed with crap from Vox Day’s pathetic little vanity press. Meanwhile, real works of weight and achievement were locked out by the slate voters who showed up only to nominate crap that fit with their political beliefs, regardless of its quality. Which, ironically, is the exact behavior they accused their opponents of doing, utterly without evidence. Thankfully, George R.R. Martin was gracious enough to find some small way to reward those works that would otherwise have gone unrecognized. Works that we will still be talking about in ten years, unlike ANYTHING on the Puppy slate.

      Nice try, Dave, but no cigar.


  1. Friday Links (cephalopods and crazies edition) | Font Folly - 08/28/2015

    […] ON THE HUGOS, SAD PUPPIES, GAMERGATE, GAY MARRIAGE, BLACK LIVES MATTER, AND THE CONFEDERATE FLAG. “In the face of changing demographics and shifting conversations about equality, a small but furious minority of people with a vested interest in defending the status quo are able to project an overblown presence on social media and in the press, claiming to represent some sort of silent majority that has been intimidated into silence at the hands of ruthless progressives who eat their young, or something… But, instead of waking the silent majority to rally around their flag, the opposite keeps happening.” […]