Nineteen Puppy Four

Well, so much for the notion that this year’s litter of Sad Puppies were kinder, gentler, or even more moderate than last year’s. Over the past weekend, when the initial reactions to their new list were still more initial, Sarah Hoyt posted a response that was… well, we’ll say “typically hyperbolic”, but also quite telling.

A lot of it follows the “BUT MOM, I’m NOT Touching Him!” school of legalism that sprouts up whenever reactionaries try to argue with or by what they think is progressive logic, but as she goes on, she eventually compares Puppy critics to such nuanced things as German citizens whipped into a frenzy of anti-Semitism by the Nazi party, only “worse” because those who disagree with the Pups are doing it of our own free will. In the same piece, she refers to those who dissent from her party line as being slaves bound in chains.

If you ask the Sad Puppies what their goals are, you’ll get any of a dozen different answers, depending not just upon whom you ask but when you ask them it. The answer changes as needed to suit the needs of an evolving narrative… but you don’t dare acknowledge that it changed. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

If you want to know what their goal actually is, though, you need only look at how they comport themselves when they’re not trying to earnestly convince you of their goals. Here we see Sarah Hoyt telling us that disagreement with the Puppy platform is the worst crime she can imagine, and equating the freedom to dissent with slavery.

Of course, that part of the Puppies’ egos that will not allow them to think of themselves as bad people also will not allow them to admit that they want to quash dissent, that their dream is a world that is marching, if not in perfect lockstep, then almost entirely in the same direction. Sarah Hoyt does not equate freedom with slavery because of some conscious Orwellian master plan to redefine the world, but because it’s the only way she can make sense of things, the only way she can square up the facts on the ground in a way that leaves her on the side of angels fighting the good fight.

The Puppies have a certain vision for how the world should look, a certain order to things that they think is natural and inherent and default and  good. When the world fails to conform to this vision, there are two basic possibilities, and one of them is too horrible to be contemplated: either the vision is wrong, or the world is.

If the vision is wrong, then that’s the end. Game over, time to get a new vision.

If the world is wrong, though, then the game not only keeps going, it gets more exciting.

Because now there’s an enemy to be fought. Now there’s a problem to be fixed. Now there’s a desperate struggle where they get to be the plucky underdogs doing the Lord’s work against a rising tide of darkness.

But however they rationalize it, their “enemy” is dissent and their only victory condition—the thing that will signal they have won and can stop fighting—is a world free from it.

Consider: 100% of the evidence they have of a clique (aside from themselves) trying to control the science fiction and fantasy publishing and reading world consists of people making decisions they don’t approve of. People who write or read books and stories that vary from their tastes past a certain threshold are evidence of corruption, because why in a free society would people bother with such things? People who praise those books are further evidence, because how could anyone sincerely praise something of which they don’t see the appeal?

If any of those books or stories win awards or are even nominated… well, then, the fix was in, wasn’t it? How else do you explain it?

Last year, Brad Torgersen said that he’d be happy no matter what the outcome at WorldCon was, so long as the Puppy campaign succeeded in mobilizing more people to participate. Well, as I previously observed, that happened, and he didn’t seem happy about it. Even though the number of people who voted “No Award” in various category varied by a margin of nearly a thousand votes, the only explanation the Puppies have for the stinging rebuke that fandom issued their movement and their tactics is that it wasn’t the result of free people individually acting their consciences, but rather that the innumerable enemies of freedom had compelled these thousands of people to do so.

This subtext became text at several points during last year, particularly whenever one of their hand-picked nominees objected to being included in their slate. Every time one of their picks dissented from their party line, their response amounted to, “You see? You see how the enemies of freedom force these people to loudly denounce us? Don’t worry, my friend! We will liberate you!”

At one point, we were treated to the pathetic spectacle of Brad Torgersen trying to explain how a particular nominee had felt so frightened of the backlash while she was in the same comment thread telling him and everyone else otherwise.

So it’s not that the Sad Puppies have a conscious platform of opposing dissent. It is simply that they believe certain things are so inarguably, objectively true that dissent is literally unthinkable to them. If they see dissent, they will try their level best to “liberate” the dissenter from whatever chains are compelling the dissent… and those who will not be liberated, must be destroyed. All disagreement with the fundamental tenets of Puppydom must come from a puppet or a puppetmaster, after all, and if when they go to cut your strings they discover you have none… well, then you’re obviously a puppetmaster, aren’t you?

My recommendation that the best thing to do about their list this year is ignore it still stands. One commenter elseweb suggested that this recommendation amounts to doing nothing about the Puppies, but not so. As Hoyt’s response shows, the greatest threat to the Puppies is dissent, is free people acting individually as according to the dictates of their tastes and consciences.

To prevent the Puppies from running roughshod over the process and driving all dissent from the larger fandom, it’s not necessary—or desirable—for you to stoop to engaging with them. It’s only necessary that you continue to participate in the larger conversation and in the process of nominating for and voting on awards, in reading and writing and talking about science fiction and fantasy, in exercising critical thought about what you read and what you write, and basically just actively be your own inimitable self.