You want to know why the Sad Puppies campaign still exists? Do you want to know why fans continue to nominate authors they consider to be worthy of a Hugo Award even though the elitist Puppy Kickers made damn sure everyone knew that no award would be given to any worthy author or editor if they were nominated by the “wrong” people?
Here’s one reason.
“Speak Easy” by Catherynne M. Valente was submitted for a Sad Puppies 4 nomination in September 2015. Several fans thought it was worthy of the award. Comments included:
“… I liked it a lot and will be nominating it for a Hugo.”
“…There is so much to discover in this little book and it absolutely blew me away”
I would think that any author would be grateful that readers not only bought her work, but read it and enjoyed it enough to recommend it for a prestigious award. I would think the author would be gracious and thank the readers for the honor. One would think that being included in a list of recommendations that this year includes such great and diverse writers as Lois McMaster Bujold, Ann Leckie, Stephen King, Eric Flint, and John Scalzi would be met with gratitude and some dignity.
But apparently, if you’re the wrong kind of thinker, the wrong kind of reader, who has the wrong kind of social justice and political views, Ms. Valente doesn’t want your business. She doesn’t want your praise or recommendation. She doesn’t want your recognition.
For the record, I was not asked and I do not consent to be on the Sad Puppies List. I am furious.
— Catherynne Valente (@catvalente) March 18, 2016
As a matter of fact, if you’re the wrong type of science fiction fan, she will meowl and howl and demand that her name be removed from consideration. Then, she will vent her spleen on the Internet (then think better of it and admit it was not her “best reaction), and then she will post a much more temperate contemplation, trying to explain why she was so damn angry that a bunch of fans liked her writing enough to read it and to think it was worthy of an award.
I was upset because I wasn’t asked whether I was okay with being put on this list. I had thought I remembered SP saying they would ask authors for permission in the future, but it’s since been pointed out to me that my memory, as with all human cognition, is faulty, and the truth is the opposite–they, in fact, pledged not to ask permission or remove names on request.
Ms. Valente apparently thinks she should be consulted about whether or not it would be OK for a group of fans to like and appreciate her writing enough to think she merits an award. Apparently, she’s so important, that fans need her permission to publicly like her work! I will freely admit I’ve never heard of her until this year, so I wasn’t sure how successful or popular she was.
She’s apparently fairly prolific, if you believe Wikipedia, but I cannot imagine an author can get so prominent that she would actively reject readers who like her writing. But that’s exactly what she did.
Because she and other spitting whiners are suspicious that somehow this is somehow an effort to “legitimize” Sad Puppies, rather than a simple submission by people who happened to like her work.
Because somehow pointing out her lack of graciousness on social media equates to attacking her.
And it occurs to me that I would feel far less anger and confusion if one single person had calmly and without rancor said to me: “Hey, last year was a clusterfuck all around. This year we’re trying to put all that behind us and do a straight recommendation list. That’s all that’s going on.” But instead, it was the same instant name-calling and attacks that went down last time.
Of course, several people pointed out that the Sad Puppies list this year is a diverse recommendation list by fans who liked her work, but Ms. Valente appears to be so filled with rancor and hatred, that she just ignored them and continued on.
One reply pointed out that fans liked her work, and thought it was worthy.
— Steve Downey (@sdowney) March 18, 2016
Another one also acknowledged the effort to keep politics and acrimony out of it.
@catvalente to me this year seems like a good faith effort by people I disagree with. Even GRRM noted it doesn’t seem to be shitshow this yr
— James Geluso (@atlemar) March 18, 2016
A third one noted that this the Sad Puppies list is a pretty simple recommendation from multiple fans.
@catvalente From what I can tell they didn’t ask anyone this year, just took suggestions. listed top 10-ish or any which had multiple votes.
— Rebecca Newman (@tibicina) March 18, 2016
But apparently, that’s not good enough.
So I spent the night trying to get my thoughts in order on this. Because, yes, if you strip away all the context of the Sad Puppies campaigns, it’s just a recommendation list, and I was happy enough to be on the Locus List (which doesn’t ask permission), so I should simply be joyful that people liked Speak Easyenough to recommend others take a look at it. A recommendation list, as we have been saying all along, is not a slate.
But you can’t strip away the context. Context is content. Context is everything.
Here’s your context, Ms. Valente.
So, SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out. SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.
That is all. It is simple and publicly stated. There’s no hidden context or agenda. There never has been, despite some people’s best efforts to conflate the Sad Puppies movement with something onerous and clandestine.
I promised last year not to allow my name on any slate, for any reason, in perpetuity. Which means that if SP4 is, somehow, a slate, it would be hypocritical of me to shrug and say I’m cool with it just because my name happens to be on it. This is where I get stuck, because I feel there is a moral morass here. Call me old-fashioned: when I give my word, it still means something to me. This puts me in an incredibly difficult position, from which there is no easy extrication.
This is not about you allowing anything, Ms. Valente, unless you really expect fans you don’t like for nebulous reasons such as their “association” with other fans, to refuse to like or read your literature, in which case I would question your sanity and your intellect.
Bottom line: some people read your novella, and they liked it enough to submit it for an award. That’s it. Nothing else. But your lack of congeniality is noted.
The problem is, I spent a year listening to how the Puppies are Master Strategists. You can’t blame me for doing a Perception Roll and looking for traps. And that is my fear. That, with apologies to Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap.
Maybe you should take a year actually examining evidence with an objective eye, reading what has been written on the subject without judging, and stop being so paranoid.
I don’t want to be anyone’s shield. I want any nomination to be about my work and my work alone. I don’t want to be used to add legitimacy to a slate, I don’t want to be used to whitewash the history of a movement that, at the very minimum, has behaved poorly and rudely toward a large number of people, including me, my loved ones, and my colleagues. I don’t want to be fodder for a “we all know the first five are the real slate” strategy. I don’t want to be used as agotcha!, forced to withdraw in order to keep my moral house in order and make room for more works along the lines of “Safe Space as Rape Room” and “Sad Puppies Bite Back” or remain on the list and force a conversation about No Awarding so that the Puppies can watch the people they targeted last year get No Awarded or call us all hypocrites at large for not doing it–victory declared at any result.
Couple of things are notable here.
First, Ms. Valente appears to be hanging out with the likes of Arthur Chu, who last year viciously attacked Brad Torgersen as a racist and even posted a photo of his African American wife and biracial daughter, claiming they were shields for Brad’s alleged racism.
Are these the kinds of people with whom you want to be associated, Ms. Valente? Because you certainly sound like one of them.
A shield? It must be difficult to think so little of your own work that you believe the only reason people with opposing views to yours would like your writing is as a shield!
Second, Ms. Valente ignores the very real, vile, repugnant, and false accusations of racism, misogyny, bigotry, and other filth hurled at the Sad Puppies last year. It must be so comfy living in that soft, opaque world, so devoid of diverse points of view!
Third, she admits outright that the “No Awarding” of numerous categories at the Hugo Awards last year was an effort to keep the “undesirables” out, and worse, she’s afraid inclusion by the “wrong” kinds of fans will deprive her of her rightful chance for an award.
I will give Ms. Valente credit for admitting that the Sad Puppies this year did exactly what they said they would – create an open, transparent, diverse list recommended by numerous readers.
They seem to have done everything people said they should do to make it a recommendation list and not a slate. It’s democratic, it’s open, there are either more or less than five recs for every slot. The Rabid Puppy list has almost nothing in common with the Sad Puppy list.
At least she’s intellectually honorable enough to admit this much, but then she slides back into paranoia, and proceeds to blame the fans – the same fans who recommended works they enjoyed last year for a prestigious award and included her on this list – for her own paranoia, and continues to perpetuate the lies that angered kind, generous, gentle authors and fans last year, accusing us of racism, homophobia, and sexism and conflate Sad Puppies with the snarling, frothing Rabids, whose stated goal was to submarine the Hugos.
But it’s absurd to get angry at someone for thinking there might be something more to it. After all the talk about manipulation and strategy, all the insults flung and accusations levied, this is the result. It is hard to trust. And it is impossible to just pull the tablecloth out from under the Sad Puppies and leave the flowers and the silver still standing. The Puppies are a political group. They specifically did what they did last year to make “SJW heads explode.” Members have engaged in racists, homophobic, and sexist rhetoric. They have stated that the last several years of Hugos, during which I won and was nominated, were a lie and a farce, only existing due to affirmative action.
The rest of her post is self-inflicted angst and agony. Her stomach hurts. She’s honestly torn. She doesn’t know what to do.
And then, she “magnanimously” proclaimed that she will give us all a chance. She will give us her oh-so-generous benefit of the doubt. She’s choosing to believe that the Sad Puppies are sincere, despite the skewed history that she’s been led to believe, and dog forbid we let her down!
Give it a rest! People read your work. They enjoyed it. They liked it enough to recommend it for a prestigious award. Be gracious. Say “thank you.” Enjoy the fact that a bigger fan base read your novella and enjoyed it, despite their perceived disagreements with you on politics or whatever else.
Stop worrying about some biased version of “history” and realize you’re not ENTITLED to demand that fans ask your permission to like and recommend your work.
You promised to believe in our good faith? So stop with the caveats and the angst, so we can believe in yours!