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The strangest thing to me about the puppies - Zer Netmouse
April 16th, 2015
02:06 pm

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The strangest thing to me about the puppies
I spent a little bit of time this week reading the comments on various Sad Puppies blog posts and articles. It was sometimes interesting, sometimes appalling, but mostly it was just kind of confusing.

Who do these people think are Social Justice Warriors, and why do they think Tor is their favorite publisher?

I mean, I know, SJW is mainly a derogatory term people use in order to dismiss and harass those who work for social justice as being too shrill and bullying to the people they criticize, and that it isn't a term people usually apply to *themselves*. And as such, 'SJWs' mostly represents an imagined group of "Leftist authoritarians" that are somehow repressing people on the Right. (One of my favorite comments, in a discussion of why some commenters were using melodramatic language that set up the Sad Puppies as though they were truly at war with leftist Hugo voters, was a sad puppy supporter saying, essentially, "They started it! What do you think the W in SJW stands for?" As though SJW was a self-applied term.)

But my first experience with 'SJW' being used to smear science fiction fans and activists was during Racefail '09, when The Man Who Shall Not be Named started using it to complain that the people who think race, class, disability, and gender, etc, are all intersecting problems and yes, racism is still a problem, were missing the Real Truth which is that it was all about class (and furthermore they were a bunch of snooty middle-class people who couldn't see that because of their own privilege and deranged liberal education, and also they were being mean).

If you actually were a participant (or interested observer) in Racefail '09, you may know that one of the main people who was sharply criticized by online masses of angry anti-racist activists was Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whose comment about there being more usernames than IP addresses in a Racefail discussion came across to many as an accusation that some real people who were up there possibly risking their future careers to express their personal truth despite the fact that powerful members of the establishment like Teresa were in the room were in fact sock puppets.

Now people supporting the puppies slates (which, in one way of looking at it, essentially encourage masses of real people to nominate for the Hugos like sock puppets) are calling Nielsen Hayden "The Queen of SJWs" in what has got to be one of the most ironic moves of the century. I mean, seriously. I can only imagine this history is part of why this is all rubbing Teresa so raw, and she has my sympathy. Because the people who are calling her that are so wrong it's not even funny, DESPITE the fact that there is not actually any such thing as an organized group of "Social Justice Warriors". If there were a group of people who were SFF SJWs, she would still not be its queen.

All of the supposed SJWs that I have seen under specific attack by puppies for participating in an alleged conspiracy, or whisper-campaign, to exclude right-wing writers from the Hugo Awards are white people. Have you noticed that? The Nielsen Haydens, John Scalzi, Jim C. Hines, Mary Robinette Kowal. Others by implication. And in fact, they pretty much have to be because the Worldcon attending, nominating, and voting population is skewed so older white fannish establishment that using the term "SJWs" in this whole debate is kind of ridiculous. At least, if you're looking for some kind of consistency with how the term was used in 2009 (perhaps that meaning has been superseded by how it was used in Gamergate? But no... the puppies insist there's no connection to Gamergate here.)

I mean, yes, Scalzi, Hines, the Nielsen Haydens, and Robinette Kowal are advocates for diversity in the field. And yes, Tor has published some diverse works and authors.

But when I think SJWs and SF, I think of the female writers (most of them people of color) who felt so harassed and targeted following Racefail '09 that more than half of them have essentially stopped blogging.

I think of activists like Kate Nepvue, whose open letter to white people in SFF Fandom is on my must-read list for smofs interested in promoting diversity, and who transforms good intentions into actual progress via the Con-or-Bust program to get fans of color to conventions -- NOTE: Con or Bust is even now gearing up for its annual fund-raising auction (items up for auction are being posted as they come in; bidding opens April 20th).

And when I think of Social Justice and SF, I think of the many authors who are participating in the We Need Diverse Books campaign. I think of editors like Sheree Renée Thomas, Nalo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan, Bill Campbell & Edward Austin Hall, Tobias S. Buckell, Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios, Walidah Imarisha & adrienne maree brown, Rose Fox & Daniel José Older, Mikki Kendall & Sofia Samatar, who are out there giving brothers, sisters, and the genderqueer a hand up, working hard to publish inclusive and transcendent works like Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, Diverse Energies, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History (and Long Hidden 2: coming next year!)

The publishers of these works are not Tor Books. They are Aspect - Warner Books, Arsenal Pulp Press, Rosarium Publishing, Tu Books, Twelfth Planet Press, ak press, and Crossed Genres Publications. And the main publisher I think of when I think social justice in SF is Aqueduct Press, which publishes the WisCon Chronicles and guest of honor speeches, and many other important collections, essays, and novels from marginalized and feminist perspectives and authors, including the very useful and highly recommended Writing the Other, by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

So perhaps it is appropriate that these campaigns about the Hugos have had nothing to do with these people, because they are not Social Justice Warriors, they are Social Justice Workers. But it still makes me want to laugh when I see a headline like "Social Justice Warriors Aren't So Tough When Even Sad Puppies Can beat Them". Because the rabid puppies of the world are not really going up against the people fighting the hardest for social justice in SF. Some of the people who are most visible to other white people, maybe. But as some of the articles I've read this week have alluded to, the groups of people you often hear from in campaigns like these are not necessarily the people who care the most -- they are the people who have the most free time. Usually, you know, white people. (Because, whoops, class and race do actually intersect in this country.)

So I want to laugh, but I also don't feel like laughing, because it's sad that the people fighting so hard for social justice are still so invisible on the national scene. That this debate that invokes the term "Social Justice Warrior" is still basically by or about white people, just like so much else in the dominant culture of SF and the country as a whole.

[And I want to acknowledge here that some people who supported the sad puppies campaign would not characterize their actions as anti-anyone so much as pro- more diverse participation in the Hugo Awards. But the anti-SJW presence in the campaigns and online discussions is definitely highly visible and, as you see above, lauded by the right-wing press.]

The social justice workers I mentioned above? They're mostly not party to this. And they are not really part of the fannish power elite who run and have historically nominated for or recommended works for the Hugo Awards. Perhaps they are too busy doing other amazing things. :)

(Or dealing with issues like cancer, like Mary Anne Mohanraj, who says her intro to the next WisCon Chronicles is basically an essay on how she wants social justice conversations to change in SF/F. Wouldn't that be nice?)

When their work is admired, it is because it is admirable. I highly recommend you check it out.

And while you're at it, please support the Carl Brandon Society, which is in need of both volunteers and funds. Thank you.

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[User Picture]
From:apostle_of_eris
Date:April 17th, 2015 05:58 pm (UTC)
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I was totally with you, until “the fannish power elite who run and have historically nominated for or recommended works for the Hugo Awards”. The Hugos are decided by the people who join Worldcon and vote. There is no power elite.
Do you want to edit that?

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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:April 18th, 2015 03:41 pm (UTC)
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I was about to say something like that. The people who get to vote on the Nominations for the Hugo, and the Hugo itself, are anyone who pays $40 for a year's Associate Membership (which sfaik does not include attending the WorldCon convention or get them anything except those voting rights and free copies of some of the nominated works).

There is a power elite (SMOFs) who control the rules for the elections -- and are posting about how to change the rules to prevent future Puppy slates.

The Puppies and their sympathizers are self-named. Their issue is about works getting nominations/awards not on their content, but on the demographic of their authors (and/or how the work's message fits into current, er, SJ issues.) A quick term for those fans is SJs/SJWs; it doesn't mean they are card-carrying members of a literal international conspiracy.

Edited at 2015-04-18 03:46 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:apostle_of_eris
Date:April 19th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
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There is a power elite (SMOFs) who control the rules for the elections -- and are posting about how to change the rules to prevent future Puppy slates.
sorry, no
The rules are in the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society. Every Worldcon member is a member, and the annual business meeting at Worldcon, where rule changes are proposed, debated, and voted on, is open to any member.
Naturally, there is a lot of conversation right now about tinkering with the rules, but like, duh? what would you expect.
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From:the_leewit
Date:April 19th, 2015 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I saw that as kind of tongue-in-cheek. While my impression of that part of the spec fic subculture is that there is definitely a core or three of high-activity influencers, borrowing the rhetoric of the whiners does point out the silliness of this notion.

I mean, can you imagine the meeting of these illustrious Illuminati? "Well, we were going to hammer out the political spin, issues, and fan fashion trends of the year, as well assign the new fangirls to deserving television shows, but we got bogged down in what to order for lunch. Also the fact that we are so flamingly and garishly politically diverse as to make a university professor's head spin that we are even in the same continent, let alone the same room did get in the way of our agreeing on a hegemonic political slate. In the end, we figured out how to make getting up to the stage easier for Weber and called it a day. Stupid celiac disease."
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From:netmouse
Date:April 20th, 2015 01:43 am (UTC)
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I was about to say something like that. The people who get to vote on the Nominations for the Hugo, and the Hugo itself, are anyone who pays $40 for a year's Associate Membership (which sfaik does not include attending the WorldCon convention or get them anything except those voting rights and free copies of some of the nominated works).

Sort of wrong, and wrong, and also not necessarily. There is no such thing as an "Associate Membership." The term is "Supporting Membership." This is partly because such memberships are often a result of either supporting a Worldcon bid before it is selected to be a Worldcon, or from participating in the site selection process itself, which is in part a fundraiser to support said Worldcon.

A Supporting Membership, by WSFS rules, carries with it voting rights (for the Hugo and Campbell Awards, as well as site selection for the Worldcon two years hence), the right to submit business to (but not vote in, because they do not Attend) the WSFS Business meeting, the right to receive Worldcon publications such as progress reports, program books, souvenir books, and newsletters (in recent years rules are shifting as to whether those are printed or delivered electronically), and the right to nominate for the Hugo Awards for both this year and next year. If you buy your membership early enough, you also get the right to nominate for the Hugo Awards the year before the Worldcon of which you are a member.

In recent years, the Worldcon has generally taken the effort to provide a "nominees packet" for prospective Hugo Award voters. This is by no means a guaranteed benefit of having a membership, and the inclusion of specific works in that packet is not under the control of the concom -- the publishers or other producers of those works have to choose to participate in giving a copy to voting members.

The group of people *allowed* to vote for the Hugo Awards includes all the members of the current Worldcon, including both Supporting and Attending members.

The group of people who are allowed to *nominate* works for the Hugo award (and boy howdy do I HATE the use of the term "vote" for the act of *nominating* something to the ballot) is, as mentioned above, all members of the current, previous, and next Worldcon.

The group of people who *get* to nominate is some subset of that group, including those who a) realize they have that power; b) figure out the process; c) choose to do so (which includes developing opinions on works from the eligible year) and d) find the time during the nominations window to fill out and turn in a nominating ballot.

There is a power elite (SMOFs) who control the rules for the elections -- and are posting about how to change the rules to prevent future Puppy slates.

Wrong again. The group of people who are allowed to change the rules for the Hugo awards is in no way different from the group allowed to vote [whoops, I was wrong about this -- please see this post for info on this] -- all Attending members of the Worldcon are full voting members of WSFS (the World Science Fiction Society) which includes making changes to the Hugo Rules or any other part of the WSFS constitution and other business brought to the WSFS business meeting, held annually during the Worldcon.

SMOF is a general term (Secret Masters Of Fandom) for all fans who participate in running fannish conventions (and perhaps also clubs) of any stripe, so long as they are fannish (which generally means not-for-profit/volunteer-run, in this context). There are plenty of (thousands of) SMOFs who do not attend Worldcon and know nothing more about the Hugo Rules or how to change them than the average fan. There are also plenty of SMOFs discussing the rules this year who are not members of the worldcon and will not (and may never) do anything to change the rules. It currently takes two years to actually change the rules, so two years of members have the potential to control or influence that process. A very small percentage of Worldcon attendees actually attend the business meeting and participate, but any attending member *could* do so.


Edited at 2015-04-20 02:08 am (UTC)
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From:netmouse
Date:April 20th, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
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The Puppies and their sympathizers are self-named. Their issue is about works getting nominations/awards not on their content, but on the demographic of their authors (and/or how the work's message fits into current, er, SJ issues.) A quick term for those fans is SJs/SJWs; it doesn't mean they are card-carrying members of a literal international conspiracy.

I do agree with you there. SJWs can't be card-carrying members of a literal international conspiracy because there is no such thing. However, your pointer of "those fans" also points to NIL (an undefined space in the register) -- what fans are you talking about? The ones who supposedly have been nominating works based not on their content, but "on the demographic of their authors (and/or how the work's message fits into current, er, SJ issues.)"?

Is that the same group of people who supposedly conspired to put Redshirts on the Hugo ballot? A novel by a well-off white guy that has almost exclusively male protagonists, and a distinct shortage of officers of either color or a non-male gender represented?
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From:netmouse
Date:April 20th, 2015 12:57 am (UTC)
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The Hugos are decided by the people who join Worldcon and vote. There is no power elite.
Do you want to edit that?


Nope. I've been running conventions for about twenty years this year. I know most of the worldcon-affiliated fannish power elite personally, or at least by reputation. Some of them are smofs, otherwise known as the floating worldcon committee, and many of them are involved more in their local clubs than in running worldcon (except when it's in their neck of the woods), but all of them consider participation in and the continuance of, "fannish" culture, important. It's not a single, coordinated entity, and there are people who gafiate for years and may or may not come back, the community is plunged into war on a semi-regular basis, yada yada yada. But there are very definitely fans who have more authority and influence in the worldcon community than other folk, and I don't think it's inaccurate to refer to that influence as "power". They are the type who can and will get things done, which includes publishing or otherwise expressing their opinions, whether in fanzines, blogs, club newsletters, listserv discussions, at club and concom meetings, on panels at cons, in pro or semipro magazines, or podcasts, or wherever. They are a motley assemblage of people and their power has been earned through years of putting in their hours and proving their worth. I do not mean elite in terms of people with a snobbish attitude (though a few of them do have that), but more as you might refer to someone as an elite athlete, or perhaps an elite stockbroker or business consultant.

The Hugos are voted on by (a subset of) anyone who pays at least $40 and is a member of the Worldcon, yes. But this whole sad puppies thing started because that's not (historically) the same group that determines what gets on the ballot. Many fewer people nominate, and the group that most influences those nominations includes both the nominators themselves and the people who both run and appear on a lot of convention programming (at Worldcon and similar conventions), such as "best X of the year" panels, as well as those who write fannish reviews, run well-attended online discussion forums, etc.
[User Picture]
From:the_leewit
Date:April 19th, 2015 05:21 pm (UTC)
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If it weren't for its coincidence with my daughter's wedding, my costume for Halloween this year would definitely be "Social Justice Warrior." Maybe I could find some people to dress up as Kate Beaton's "Straw Feminists." On my shield would be the Douglas Adams' quote, "...how great it would be to be nice to people for a change."

I would actually like to hear more about the pups who are promoting diversity. Links?

Edited at 2015-04-19 05:22 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:April 20th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC)
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I don't know that I can provide links. I mean, sometimes what the sad puppies say is they just wanted to promote diversity. But actual history is they did things like actively invite Vox Day on board. So... I'm finding myself in a skeptical position.
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From:the_leewit
Date:April 21st, 2015 03:58 am (UTC)
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I admit, it's really hard for me to see the pro-diversity agendum I had hoped you were hinting at when alluding,

"[And I want to acknowledge here that some people who supported the sad puppies campaign would not characterize their actions as anti-anyone so much as pro- more diverse participation in the Hugo Awards...]"

This whole movement just strikes me as being cartoonishly, melodramatically evil and stupid. The author in me rejects the notion that I am understanding it correctly, the same way my inner editor wanted to go after the League of Evil Mutants with a blue pencil. No-one thinks of themselves that way... there is just no way a human being can lack self-awareness on that level.

... or so I'd hoped. The more I read of what I call the "Unhousebroken" slate, the more I find this notion challenged.
[User Picture]
From:the_leewit
Date:April 19th, 2015 06:23 pm (UTC)
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Sorry to pile onto your entry with all sorts of comments not central to the issue, but there's this behavior I've seen pointed out as a red flag for the whole complex of behavior tied to classical bullying as a pathology. I've found it immensely helpful in weeding out my own bullying tendencies, which I hope were mercifully small, as well as identifying what's going on in situations personal or political.

This is: when asked or told to stop an aggressive, oppressive, or hurtful behavior, a bully will immediately (and often sincerely) respond with, "You are oppressing/ bullying me by asking me to stop!"

A normal person will say, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were hurt by that! It was not motivated by malice!" A thoughtful person will ask, "Oh! Can we explore what about that behavior bothers you so we have a greater understanding of each other?" A straight-up jerk will say, "No, I won't stop." But the classic bully mindset is binary: there are controllers and victims. Controllers make others alter their behavior, and if I alter my behavior at the behest of another, I am a victim.

It's probable that you're aware of this, but it seems rather blatant in the worst of the Puppies' case.

Edited at 2015-04-19 06:26 pm (UTC)
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