Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory”

I wasn’t going to write about Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies and their Hugo Awards slate this year. I was just going to enjoy Uncanny Magazine‘s win for Best Semiprozine and Naomi Kritzer‘s win for Best Short Story with “Cat Pictures Please“, because it is a weird and wonderful thing when people I know win awards for work I like. I was going to enjoy the success of a fiction slate swept by women, three of whom are women of color and one of whom didn’t write in English, because the WorldCon should look more like the world than it generally has. I was going to enjoy looking at a slate full of winners of serious quality, because I like this genre, and I get tired of defending it from charges it is only pulp (mmm, pulp).

I was going to do all that, which is plenty. Then I looked at the numbers in the nomination long lists (pdf, de-Puppied numbers at the bottom of this post). I noticed something important.

There is one thing you should know about Vox Day, assuming you can’t avoid him altogether. Well, one thing aside from him being alt-right before the alt-right was identified as a thing. One thing aside from him being such a secure sexist that he has to declare the inferiority of women whenever anyone will listen. One thing aside from his self-published fiction being just sort of tedious and fascinated by its own fascinations.

That one thing is that he always declares victory.

As schticks go, it’s not terribly impressive. It’s a lot like those people who look at science, scrinch their foreheads at the math, and pop out some late-night, freshman-who-took-one-philosophy-class deepity about “But what if the world is really…?” If your musings aren’t falsifiable, you’re not going to impress a scientist with your depth of thought. If you claim everything is a win condition, we all know you’re just not prepared to lose.

This year, Vox Day lost badly.

I don’t mean like last year, where No Award won the all-Puppy categories. That happened in a couple of categories again this year as well. Life went on smoothly, though as always, it was frustrating to see good work go unawarded. Still, though, that happens every year, with or without Puppies, because there is always more deserving work than can win.

No, this year, the principles for which Vox Day claims to be fighting lost badly.

There were two changes that made that happen this year instead of last year. The first is that the merely Sad Puppies were dissuaded from slate voting this year by general opprobrium and their faves being ranked below No Award last year. The second is that the Rabid Puppies, in an attempt to pull something out of all that No Award-ing, created a slate this year that was not entirely politically conservative. “Ha ha!”, they said, to put not terribly charitable words in their mouths, “Deal with that!”

As it turns out, reading science fiction and fantasy is something of an education in contrived, no-win scenarios and cutting Gordian knots. Hugo Awards voters dealt with it, apparently without any problem. They had no difficulty telling crowd favorites stuffed onto a slate for kicks from people who were only nominated for their politics.

Nobody thought Andy Weir only made the Campbell finalist list because of his politics. This shows in his win and in the fact that The Martian took home a rocket ship for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Certainly no one thought the nomination for “Folding Beijing” was a conservative act. It also won. And while many were delighted to hear Neil Gaiman excoriate the Puppies as sad and rabid when he won for Best Graphic Story, no one was surprised. Voters could tell the difference between people nominated by slate only and fan favorites, and they voted accordingly.

Mostly. It turns out that there were a few conservative artists who would have been nominated without being on the Rabid Puppies slate. Jerry Pournelle still would have been a finalist for Best Editor (Short Form). Toni Weisskopf would have topped the nomination list for Best Editor (Long Form). Jeffro Johnson’s Appendix N still would have been a finalist for Best Related Work. These are all people whose work appeals to enough people to be nominated without any slate.

The Puppies, though, say this can’t happen. They say Hugo Awards voters don’t nominate conservative artists, that there’s a bar, a litmus test, that makes this impossible.

Well, Vox Day and his friends turned out to be convincing on this one point, if nothing else. They managed to convince Hugo Awards voters that no one who nominates for Hugos really likes Pournelle or Weisskopf or Johnson’s work. They managed to convince people that, not only is this the sort of art they don’t much care for, but no one else really cares for it either. They managed to convince people that those nominations were only about politics.

Photo of small bulldog with only its head visible in a large, plastic cone.
“So Very Sad” by Tricia, CC BY 2.0

Because of Puppy rhetoric, all three of those artists were voted below No Award in the final Hugo Awards counts. The Puppies have created and preached a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as the Puppies create and vote for Hugo Awards slates, conservative artists can’t be taken seriously in the Hugo Awards voting. They are and will be seen as the recipients of affirmative action for political conservatives.

That doesn’t stop the Puppies from claiming victory, of course. Nothing does. They may have been reduced to crowing “We’re taking up space in your brain!” as their victory conditions. (They were. Really. This showed up several times in the award hashtag Saturday night.) They’ll still continue to crow.

However, everyone who looks, everyone willing to assess the picture on their own, anyone looking at the math, can see what slates do. They hurt the reputations of the people they claim to champion. If Vox Day wants to claim that this is victory, well, I can’t be bothered to stop him. Someone with more vested than I have may want to, though.

De-Puppied Hugo Nomination Lists

A couple of notes about process:

  • I estimated 330 hardcore slate votes. More people than that voted for most of the slate picks. I assume some people liked the work on its own. Three slate picks got fewer than that; I can guess the reason for two of them. I’m curious what the third person did to piss so many of them off.
  • If you see works here that aren’t eligible, please let me know. I caught one, but that means nothing that didn’t end up on the finalist list went through that vetting process.
  • I kept the total number of votes for the denominator in percentage of votes. I wanted to know what would happen if Puppies had just voted for whatever they liked. Of course, some of them might still have voted for some of the same works, but this is my alternate history here.
  • Everything here is listed as number of votes, title, author(s)/artist(s), and percentage of total nominating ballots.

Best Novel

  • 797, Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie, 21.57%
  • 761, The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, 20.60%
  • 715, Uprooted, Naomi Novik, 19.35%
  • 547, Seveneves, Neal Stephenson, 14.80%
  • 358, The Cinder Spires, Jim Butcher, 9.69%

Best Novella

  • 725, Binti, Nnedi Okorafor, 30.01%
  • 612, Penric’s Demon, Lois McMaster Bujold, 25.33%
  • 381, Slow Bullets, Alastair Reynolds, 15.77%
  • 307, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Usman T Malik, 12.71%
  • 272, Perfect State, Brandon Sanderson, 11.26%

Best Novelette

  • 246, “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang (tr. Ken Liu), 12.46%
  • 245, “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”, Brooke Bolander, 12.41%
  • 214, “Our Lady of the Open Road”, Sarah Pinsker, 10.84%
  • 196, “So Much Cooking”, Naomi Kritzer, 9.92%
  • 157, “Another Word for World”, Ann Leckie, 7.95%

Best Short Story

  • 367, “Cat Pictures Please”, Naomi Kritzer, 14.97%
  • 253, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”, Alyssa Wong, 10.32%
  • 200, “Wooden Feathers”, Ursula Vernon, 8.16%
  • 189, “Today I Am Paul”, Martin L. Shoemaker, 7.71%
  • 181, “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer”, Megan Grey, 7.38%

Best Related Work

  • 359, Letters to Tiptree, Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce, 17.26%
  • 316, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day, 15.19%
  • 188, Invisible 2, ed. Jim Hines, 9.04%
  • 152, Appendix N, Jeffro Johnson, 7.31%
  • 149, John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels, Theophilus Pratt (aka Alexandra Erin), 7.16%

Best Graphic Story

  • 271, Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson, 14.74%
  • 265, Nimona, Noelle Stevenson, 14.42%
  • 258, Saga Volume 5, Brian K. Vaughn/Fiona Staples, 14.04%
  • 205, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why, G. Willow Wilson / Adrian Alphona (Artist), Jacob Wyatt (Artist), 11.15%
  • 190, The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman/J. H. Williams III, 10.34%

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • 1484, The Martian, Drew Goddard, dir. Ridley Scott, 51.10%
  • 1256, Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, dir. George Miller, 43.25%
  • 1157, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, dir. J. J. Abrams, 39.84%
  • 696, Ex Machina, Alex Garland, 23.97%
  • 396, Inside Out, Pete Docter, Josh Cooley, Meg LeFauve, dir. Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen, 13.64%

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • 261, Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent”, Steven Moffat, dir. Rachel Talalay, 11.76%
  • 200, Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile”, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, dir. Michael Rymer, 9.01%
  • 180, Game of Thrones: “Hardhome”, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, dir. Miguel Sapochnik, 8.11%
  • 160, The Expanse: “CQB”, Naren Shankar, dir. Jeff Wollnough, 7.21%
  • 157, The Expanse: “Dulcinea”, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, dir. Terry McDonough, 7.08%
  • 157: Person of Interest: “If-Then-Else”, Jonathan Nolan, Denise Thé, dir. Chris Fisher, 7.08%

Best Editor (Short Form)

  • 478, John Joseph Adams, 25.28%
  • 342, Neil Clarke, 18.09%
  • 290, Ellen Datlow, 15.34%
  • 257, Sheila Williams, 13.59%
  • 246, Jerry Pournelle, 13.01%

Best Editor (Long Form)

  • 471, Toni Weisskopf, 26.70%
  • 302, Sheila Gilbert, 17.12%
  • 287, Liz Gorinsky, 16.27%
  • 229, Anne Lesley Groell, 12.98%
  • 204, Devi Pillai, 11.56%

Best Professional Artist

  • 244, Julie Dillon, 16.48%
  • 147, Galen Dara, 9.93%
  • 147, John Picacio, 9.93%
  • 132, Cynthia Sheppard, 8.91%
  • 114, Richard Anderson, 7.70%

Best Semiprozine

  • 461, Uncanny Magazine, ed. Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky, 31.64%
  • 404 Strange Horizons, Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff, 27.73%
  • 302, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H. Andrews, 20.73%
  • 193, The Book Smugglers, Thea James & Ana Grilo, 13.25%
  • 118, Sci-Phi Journal, Jason Rennie, 8.10%

Best Fanzine

  • 697, File 770, Mike Glyer, 47.90%
  • 131, Black Gate, John O’Neill, 9.00%
  • 125, Lady Business, Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan, 8.59%
  • 108, Journey Planet, James Bacon and Christopher J. Garcia, 7.42%
  • 85, A Dribble of Ink, Aidan Moher, 5.84%

Best Fancast
[This category was changed, then changed back. See the discussion in the comments to clear up any confusion.]

  • 212, Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman, Peter Newman, 16.73%
  • 135, Galactic Suburbia, Alex, Tansy, Alisa, 10.66%
  • 102, Verity!, Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L. M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, 8.05%
  • 91, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Shaun Duke, Paul Weimer, Julia Rios, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, Rachael Acks, Jennifer Zink, 7.18%
  • 89, Fangirl Happy Hour,Renay Williams, Ana Grilo, 7.02%

Best Fan Writer

  • 243, Mike Glyer, 15.50%
  • 213, Alexandra Erin, 13.58%
  • 182, Natalie Luhrs, 11.61%
  • 161, Mark Oshiro, 10.27%
  • 142, Eric Flint, 9.06%

Best Fan Artist

  • 88, Steve Stiles, 8.20%
  • 60, Megan Lara, 5.59%
  • 57, Karezoid, 5.31%
  • 55, Likhain, 5.13%

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • 715, Andy Weir, 37.25%
  • 456, Alyssa Wong, 23.73%
  • 247, Becky Chambers, 12.85%
  • 214, Kelly Robson, 11.13%
  • 197, Sunil Patel, 10.25%
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Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory”

10 thoughts on “Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory”

  1. 1

    The longlist has “Coode Street Podcast” and “The Coode Street Podcast”, which should have been consolidated. Add them together and they have enough nominations to be on the de-puppied shortlist, at the expense of Fangirl Happy Hour.

  2. 3

    Andy Weir wouldnt have won the Campbell Award, rather Alyssa Wong would have, without Rabid Puppy support of Weir.

    That’s because Wong is a political darling which checks off “Diversity” boxes for Progressive Lefties.

    The Hugos are politicized. Blaming the Reactionaries is sticking ones head in the sand.

    You might be fine with Progressive dominion and exclusion of wrongthinkers from World Con and The Hugo Awards, that’s fine. It just proves that Social Justice isnt about equality and it isnt about inclusion, it’s not about democracy, it’s about power. Banal as that may be. Ideological dominion over all institutions, to impose taboos on thoughts and speech, reward “goodthink” and punish “badthink,” which in turn produces groupthink.

    Subordination of Literature to Ideology, wont end well for the Hugos.

  3. 4

    EscapeVelocity, what you’re telling me, aside from all the alt-right politically correct word salad, is that Rabid Puppies didn’t like Weir enough to vote for him without having someone else tell them what to do. If he wasn’t going to win a Campbell, that would be the problem.

    Also, we have no idea how many Rabid Puppies bought memberships again this year, though based on how many people voted for Rabid Puppy nominees that weren’t already crowd favorites, I’d say the numbers dropped significantly. People who were members of last year’s WorldCon could nominate but not vote this year. So, no, you’re probably entirely wrong, particularly since this race went to runoff. The likely few dozen Rabid Puppies likely made no difference in the final result.

  4. 5

    The correction in comment nr 1 is not correct after all. The double entry for Coode Street was a typographical error in the original stats document, not a consolidation error. See info at http://www.thehugoawards.org/2016/08/1941-retro-hugo-statistics-released/

    Andy Weir would have been a Campbell finalist in 2015 if the sad and rabid puppies had not pushed him out by slating their political darlings. My prediction is that he would have won over Chu. Keep that in mind when puppies complain about how wrong it is for non-puppies to vote for anyone else.

    (And my personal opinion is that Alyssa Wong writes brilliant stories that I like regardless of how many diversity checkboxes she ticks.)

  5. 9

    If I understand you correctly,

    1. Rabid Puppy favorites would have been nominated without the slates because Hugo voters are apolitical.
    2. The Rabid Puppy noms were voted below No Award in the finals because Hugo voters punished them for political reasons.

    So your contention is that the Hugo Award has always represented the highest quality works regardless of political leanings…because the Hugo Voters don’t use political litmus tests during nominations, only during the final round?

    That’s not a very convincing argument. So what am I missing?

  6. 10

    You appear to be missing the part where the Rabid Puppies put together a slate. Whether you’re convinced of the basic facts or not, 1 and 2 both happened. There were creators who would have been nominated without the slates. Unless you’re going to dive deep into conspiracy theory (in which case I will point and laugh), that means the Puppy premise that there is a major bias that keeps politically conservative creators from being nominated is wrong.

    Then, because there was a slate, and probably because there have been years of complaining to this effect, a large mass of Hugo Awards voters perceived that those creators were only on the ballot because they were on the slate. They were wrong, as we know now, but that was the perception the Puppies had created. There was a highly visible proximate reason for their nomination, so others reasons were discounted. Thus, people voted them below No Award.

    Does that count as punishing them for political reasons? Not really, except in as much as the slate was a political move that people resisted directly. It’s certainly not about political litmus tests. As for what I think about what gets nominated for the Hugos, I’ve talked about that before.

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