Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Puppy Wars: Episode IV -- The Puppies Strike Back (Lamely)

The list of 2016 Hugo award finalists was released yesterday, and the Sad and Rabid Puppies are at it again.  Since this is the fourth iteration of the Sad Puppies, we might say this is the fourth episode in the Puppy Wars (and yes, I realize The Empire Strikes Back is Episode V).

A short time ago in an SFF fandom not far away...

Episode IV 

It is a dark time for the Hugo awards.  Although most Hugo voters rejected the Sad and Rabid Puppies in 2015, the Puppies have continued their yelping across fandom.  
Having evaded basic decency in 2015, the Puppies put forward new recommendations and slates in 2016.  Many Puppy-approved items have appeared on the list of 2016 Hugo award finalists. 
Fans, authors, and the media, obsessed with having their say, have dispatched thousands of words across the far reaches of the internet... 

The media have reported on the issue with headlines like The Guardian's "Hugo awards dominated by rightwing campaign."  Fan sites have provided helpful comparisons of the finalists with the Sad Puppy recommendations and Rabid Puppy slate (see this one from Mike Glyer's File 770 and this one from ComicMix  ... and another thorough summary from File 770 -- seriously, Mike Glyer totally deserves his nominations).  Authors have responded, including Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi, who wrote an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times as well as some posts on his blog.  And, of course, there is the delightfully bizarre story of Chuck Tingle, whose Hugo-nominated short story, "Space Raptor Butt Invasion," is either brilliant dinosaur erotica or an absurd Puppy plant.

So... what to think?  

A lot of it's unsurprising, especially the appearance of a few Rabid Puppy leader Vox Day's works on the Rapid Puppy slate.  Others are slightly surprising, like the Sad Puppy recommendations of Mad Max: Fury Road  and Ann Leckie's Ancillary Mercy.  I was happy to see some authors I like, especially Nnedi Okorafor and N.K. Jemisin, on the Hugo shortlist without any help from the Puppies, although I was bummed that my favorite novel of 2015, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, didn't make the Hugo cut.

A bit on the odd side, several of the Puppy-approved items are things that would easily have been nominated on their own: hugely popular authors like Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson don't need Puppies, kittens, hamsters, or anyone else to get nominated.  So what's the strategy there?  Hines and Scalzi have suggested that some Puppies may be attempting to push non-Puppy Hugo voters into a dilemma: either vote for stuff you like, in which case the Puppies claim victory despite your Puppy-distain, or vote "no award," in which case the Puppies claim victory in that they ruined the Hugos for everyone.  For a millisecond I was reluctantly impressed, but then I realized how incredibly lame this strategy would be.  It's like nominating chocolate for Best Candy and then congratulating yourself for being so clever for picking something everybody likes anyway.

It's also possible that the looser recommendations of the Sad Puppies, as opposed to a more concrete slate, made the process more open, somewhat watering down the message of the Sad Puppies.  Their Rabid cousins, on the other hand, are more on point, although I'm still a bit confused that Stephenson's Seveneves appears on their slate.  I had some mixed feelings about the book for other reasons (see my review), but as a story in which women, many of whom are not white, literally save the human race, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that Vox Day types would like.  Maybe they put it on the slate just to confuse liberal happy kittens like me.

What to do?  A new hope?

For non-Puppy Hugo voters, all of this raises a number of questions.  Should we vote for things that are deserving even if they're Puppy-approved?  Or should we exercise the "no award" option?  Are we going to have to deal with this next year?  I'm not sure.  Scalzi advises avoiding the "no award" option, which seems sensible, but I somewhat understand the desire to make an anti-Puppy statement.  Luckily I still have to read a lot of stuff on the list before I make these kinds of decisions.

At the 2016 WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Society could put "E Pluribus Hugo" legislation into effect, which would discourage slate voting.  If so, in 2017 we might look forward to Puppy Wars: Episode V -- A New Hope.


  1. Puppy wars .. ☺ . Iam never heard it before hehe

  2. Puppy wars .. ☺ . Iam never heard it before hehe

    1. Thanks for commenting! I'm glad to point you in the right direction. The links in my post contain a lot more information, especially the posts from File 770.