So, the past week saw both camps of Puppies, Sad and Rabid, evolving their narratives in significant ways.
Vox Day, over on his blog, made a post declaring that burning the Hugos to the ground is “now a sub-optimal strategy” for the Sad Puppies, which is a weird thing to say given that this was never stated as the Sad Puppies’ goal, but was associated with his own campaign, the Rabid Puppies.
But let that go.
What does our master gamesman see as the optimal strategy now? Ah, he sees it as a big win if no slate fails to have any impact beyond the nomination process because there are too many people involved in voting now…
It’s weird, I’d swear I’ve heard that before. Oh, right. In their more moderate moments, that what the Sad Puppies have claimed to be fighting for all along.
He’s declaring it a firm victory because he either believes or is depending on the cattle that stampede behind him believing that there is a powerful clique that the Puppies are a countering force to, so if no one controls the final voting this doesn’t mean the Puppies win, it means their invisible enemies lost.
But of course, part of his meta-strategy is to declare everything a victory for him. He keeps referring to this as a “Xanatos Gambit,” which is a term for when someone engineers a situation so that all possible outcomes ultimately benefit them. It’s named for a fictional mastermind, though, not someone who simply doesn’t care what actually happens as long as his followers still think he’s cool, so I’m not entirely certain it’s the most accurate application of the term.
But let that go
This is a significant shift from Day for two reasons.
The first is that it signals what he thinks is most likely to happen. He rode high on the sweeping fantasy vision of himself as a Roman general leading a slavering horde of berserkers across the frozen river to assault the well-fortified position of his enemies (note to self: suggest history lessons for Vox), but he has just enough self-awareness to know that his strategy of lying and repeating the lie could come back and bite him if he tried to claim a sweeping victory where none existed, so he’s starting the spin now.
The second is that—as mentioned before—the endgame he now endorses is something the Sad Puppies have claimed to have wanted as their ultimate endgame.
I will not speculate as to the extent to which Day worked with the Sad Puppies. It is apparent from the timeline that he either did not read all the works he nominated or he had an advance look at their slate, since he nominated the same works within a day. It seems likely that there was similar cooperation in coordinating the official campaign artwork.
But let that go.
As the strangely moderated Vox Day’s stance melds seamlessly with the more moderate version of the Sad Puppies’ stance, it’s no longer necessary to try to tease out how their origins may have intertwined, as they’ve ended up in exactly the same place. If Day has enough awareness to even be conscious of the fact that he’s now thrown in completely with the Sad Puppies, I have to think he imagines this some sort of complex flanking operation he’s just completed, or maybe a pincer maneuver where two columns come together to the surprise of… well, absolutely no one, in reality.
And then the two columns get lost in the mcHe’s declaring it a firm victory because he either believes or is depending on the cattle that stampede behind him believing that there is a powerful clique that the Puppies are a countering force to, so if no one controls the final voting this doesn’t mean the Puppies win, it means their invisible enemies lost in the crowd? The wargame metaphor breaks down pretty quickly, to be honest.
But let that go.
On the other side of the increasingly illusory divide, we have Brad Torgersen. In what looks like a Facebook conversation, he appears to have dropped the central contention of the Puppy campaign. That is, he’s no longer maintaining that there was an organized effort by “SJWs” to nominate works and authors for “PC cred” reasons or to reward members of a clique and that the Sad Puppies were conceived to make sure that the nominees and winners really deserved them.
Nope. Now it’s just a matter of taste. You can read the comments in full at http://www.deathisbadblog.com/brad-torgersen-goes-full-post-modern/, where I read them, but I’ll excerpt the most significant lines here:
“Gents, thing is, there is *no* objective standard. None. Pretense to the contrary, [it] is just that: pretense. […] Year after year, a great swath of SF/F’s audience watches as the Hugos parade off to works which leave that swath cold. […] Again, no objective standard. Just taste. If people with taste similar to yours can vote in sufficient numbers, then your taste prevails. If those with a different taste can vote in sufficient numbers, your taste does not prevail.”
I kind of doubt at this point that Torgersen is either honest enough nor self-aware enough to be consciously admitting that the Puppies were founded on a pretense, that the lines that have been used to rally up a small army of small-minded followers were essentially lies, but there you have it. Just as I’ve been saying all along, just as many others have been saying: different people like different things for different reasons.
No need to imagine a clique or conspiracy or cabal or collusion or whatever scary c-word you want to slap on it this time. It’s just differing tastes.
The post I’m linking to is already almost a week old, so I’d expect if this admission were to herald a serious change in the Puppy discourse we’d have seen it already. But why should they start being self-consistent and internally coherent now? The Puppies are an apolitical group, except when they’re not. The Puppies don’t care about diversity, except when they’re its true champions. What exactly they did and why they did it changes from day to day, and I’m not even just talking about if you ask different members of the effort.
That is because at the end of the day, what we’re dealing with is people rationalizing away an irrational response to their feelings at not having their tastes represented as best/most mainstream. When defending its own naked, ugly self-interest, the human brain can and will pivot smoothly from one position to another and just not acknowledge the contradiction between the two but not acknowledge that any movement occurred at all.
They love to throw around the word “Orwellian”, but the way the Puppies constantly shift and evolve their narrative would leave the Ministry of Truth dizzy. If today the Puppies are about subjective taste, then the Puppies have always been about subjective taste.
But let that go.