So the Sad Puppies apparently shared their short list recently. I hear they include some surprising picks. I hear this mostly from the people who have been dismayed to find themselves on it.
There are three possibilities here, and human beings being complex, self-contradictory people, I suspect that all three of them are true, and that the people behind this list would claim (and probably have claimed) all three reasons at varying times, and meant them, depending on how they feel and who’s asking.
The possible reasons are:
- There is some sincerity behind their claims to be apolitical and non-partisan.
- They hope the presence of people they deem “SJWs” whose success they put down to “affirmative action” on the list will serve as a poison pill for those books/authors, resulting in those people withdrawing from consideration and/or “SJWs” refusing to vote for them and allowing them a clearer field.
- Failing that, they hope that if the authors don’t withdraw and those books aren’t affected by a backlash, then they can prevent the appearance of the same shut-out at the ballot box that so bruised their little clique last year.
2 and 3 in particular, taken together, form what we might call a “Beale Gambit”, i.e., a situation in which one forms a diabolical, cunning, and intricate plan to announce one’s own victory no matter what actually happens in reality. (For bonus points, you can announce you’re going to do this in advance.)
So, if the Sad Puppies have a plan to claim victory no matter what happens, the question is, how do we beat them?
And the answer is: we don’t. We shouldn’t. No one’s goal should ever be to “beat” these truly sad individuals at anything, no more than our goal should be to shut them up or shut them out of the process.
The Sad Puppies are at war with both the future and past of science fiction and fantasy, but no one is (or no one should be) at war with the Sad Puppies. Our goal should be to make speculative fiction welcoming and inclusive in spite of them, not to shut them out of it in the hopes that this will make things welcoming and inclusive. Our goal should be to get more people involved and keep them engaged so as to dilute the ability of small cliques of bigots motivated to become the tastemakers and kingmakers to game the system.
The correct course of action to take on the Puppy list is to ignore it. If they’re going to claim victory no matter what happens (and the fact that they claimed victory in 2015 should be enough to convince anyone that they will), then there’s really nothing more for anyone to do except get out and nominate now, and get out and vote later. Don’t let the existence of their list or its contents sway you one way or another.
And if you found yourself on their list? Well, they’re just a pack of dogs howling at the moon. This is not a situation that requires the moon to answer.
Ignoring the Puppies’ list is the correct thing to do.
First, to the extent that they are sincere in their claims and their efforts, this rewards their sincerity. If they nominated some people who actually do win on merit, let them win on merit.
Second, 2015 gave us a realistic idea of the Sad Puppies’ strength: not much, not enough to actually stuff the ballot box when fandom is on guard against them.
Third, it’s just taking what the Puppies want us to do to its logical conclusion.
They want us to ignore the history of their movement. They want us to ignore that it all started as a petulant trophy-grab by their esteemed founder. They want us to ignore the hand Vox Day had in shaping and supporting the movement. They want us to ignore the fact that Brad Torgersen explicitly laid out in his blog how his goal was to stop the “wrong people” from winning and to return science fiction to a more homogeneous idealized yesteryear where you could literally judge a book by its cover. They want us to ignore the racism and sexism and homophobia. They want us to ignore the goal-post shifting by their principals, the spin that permeates their blog posts, the lies and slander they heap upon their critics, the threats they level against their opposition. They want us to ignore the stated reasons they gave before for their crusade, each time they try to reshape the narrative to their benefit.
Well, let’s make things easy on them and easy on us, and just not ignore everything.
Just ignore the whole lot of them… not to the point of pretending they don’t exist, of course. Remember them only as a reminder as to what can happen to an institution when apathy creeps in. Remember them as a reason to participate in the Hugo process and to encourage others to participate.
Don’t give them your time, don’t give them your attention, don’t give them your energy.
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits.
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry, thirsty roots?