We Didn’t Start the Flamewar — Part Three

We Didn't Start the Flamewar -- Part Three

*dons shades and sits at a table in a kitchen from the 1940s*

Larry Correia, Sarah H., Puppy Sadness, Vox Day
Social Justice, WrongFen Haters, Scalzi’s Twitter Mob

We didn’t start the flamewar
It was always burning
Since the ‘Net’s been churning
We didn’t start the flamewar
No we didn’t light it
But we’ll damned well fight it

Lyrics to be continued

So, this is the first part of the in depth history of the Sad Puppies part of this series (wow, that’s a mouthful). I spent a lot of time yesterday reading up on this. Sad Puppies has been running for three years now and was started by Larry Correia back in January 2013. That means it predates GamerGate by a fair margin (since there have been some accusations that Sad Puppies and GamerGate are the same thing or that GamerGate started the Sad Puppies. The only way that could have happened would have been for the GamerGate movement to have access to 1) a time machine, 2) a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor and either a Mr. Fusion or Plutonium, or 3) a TARDIS. Since I’m fairly certain none of those three things are true, it’s a safe bet that GamerGate and Sad Puppies are two distinct phenomena which simply have some members in common since people who like video games also tend to enjoy reading and occasionally writing fantasy or sci-fi books).

Like many of us, Larry noticed that there had been a divergence between what was selling well and what was winning the Hugos and had been for some time. He informed his fans that all they had to do in order to nominate a work for the Hugo or the Campbell awards was to purchase a membership to WorldCon. Since the membership for WorldCon is rather small, it doesn’t take many votes to get on the ballot or to win an award. He called his effort to get his own work on the ballot “Sad Puppy” as a tongue-in-cheek commentary against the current tendency to award works that were literary-fic or message-fic instead of works that were selling or well-liked by the entire sci-fi/fantasy audience. It’s not the first time such a gag was used — after all, on various tech forums I hang around, “Think Of The Children” is used in the same sarcastic fashion.

Won’t someone think of the sad puppies and the children?

In Sad Puppies 1, Larry did suggest his own works because there wasn’t any real organization back then. It was just him on his own. He was soliciting his own fans to nominate him (but he did not buy votes or memberships for anyone) and probably felt it would be a bit strange to ask them to nominate someone else. Additionally, he had a theory about the Hugos that he wanted to test — namely that they were biased, represented the preferences of only one tiny section of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom community, and that authors with the “wrong” political beliefs (meaning politically to the right of Mao and Stalin) who got on the ballot would be attacked, slandered, libeled, made the subject of whisper campaigns, harassed, have Twitter mobs set upon them, have their books given negative reviews, etc etc etc.

Sad Puppies is not about getting Larry himself the Hugo or getting any particular author the award (Sad Puppies 1 actually failed to get Larry nominated at all though it did get some of his preferences listed in other areas). It’s always been about proving that WorldCon is full of crap when they hold themselves out to represent all of fandom, about proving that there is a definite bias that has nothing to do with whether a work is good or not and everything to do with whether or not the author has the right skin color, the right genitalia, and adheres to the proper groupthink. It also has been a test as to whether or not WorldCon is really open to welcoming new members and new writers regardless of their skin’s melanin content, whether their genitals dangle or not, and what their political philosophies are. Based on the current reactions I’d have to say that Correia’s premises have been proven. WorldCon is not open to newbies of any kind who aren’t clones of their current members and the awards are biased to message-fic and it’s pretty clear that the author’s identity is far more important than whether or not their story is well-written and interesting.

So, back in 2013, Larry campaigned on his own behalf throughout January to try to get his own work on the ballot. He was almost successful (missing it by only 17 votes). Overall, there wasn’t much outcry over it and the first effort didn’t have a massive impact. Still, the idea caught on and began to generate buzz which culminated in Sad Puppies 2 which was a Much Bigger Deal and which will be the subject of the next entry in this series so stay tuned!

— G.K.

Sad Puppy image taken from Larry Correia’s site, Monster Hunter Nation

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