SAD PUPPIES 3: The unraveling of an unreliable field

The inimitable Brad Torgerson, token cuddly liberal of the Evil Legion of Evil has a theory which just might be right.

Brad R. Torgersen

One thing that’s become apparent during this third go-around of SAD PUPPIES, are the many and divided opinions on why the Hugo awards are broken. Much of this conversation is simply a continuation of the debate held during (and in the wake of) Loncon 3. Depending on who you ask, the Hugos are broken because they are either too insular (this is part of the SAD PUPPIES theory) or too easily manipulated by outside voting blocs (the “fandom purist” theory) or because “fandom” itself is still too white, too straight, and too cisnormative (Call this the “Grievance Studies theory”) or even that the Hugos spend too much time dwelling on popular works, at the expense of real literature (the “pinky-in-the-air snob theory”) or that “fandom” simply falls into predictable ruts, and is easily swayed by sparkly bellwethers, such as the Nebulas.

I want to introduce another theory. One that others…

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23 responses to “SAD PUPPIES 3: The unraveling of an unreliable field

  1. Good Post. Except I noticed it in the ’70’s. By the time the nineties arrived, I was no longer reading Science Fiction.

    • Kate Paulk

      In Australia the trickle-down took a bit longer – but then the Brit publishers didn’t have the absolute lock-in on distribution that US ones had, so they still had surprise bestsellers.

  2. bfwebster

    [This is a copy of a comment I made on Charlie Martin’s Facebook page, in response to him linking to this post]

    That’s actually an excellent explanation of — in part — why I don’t buy a lot of F/SF any more.

    As someone who has worked in IT for 40 years and who has had to find, interview, and hire other software engineers, I encountered (and still encounter) a similar problem. I can get wonderful-looking resumes, but then interviews don’t quite match reality. Occasionally, even the interview goes great, but the person fails to perform as expected. And about 20 years ago, I reach this conclusion: the single best predictor of an individual’s actual on-the-job performance is the strong recommendation of someone whom I trust professionally.

    That’s what the Hugos and Nebulas used to be. There was a time [60s, 70s, even into the 80s and 90s] that anything that made it as a Hugo or Nebula nominee was worth taking the time to read. Now I don’t even bother and haven’t for a good 15+ years. I’m actually happy to see the “Sad Puppies” list, because I think it’s the equivalent of what the Hugo/Nebula lists used to be 20+ years ago. And I might just use it as a shopping list.

    • Kate Paulk

      Yes, to all those points. That’s more or less what the Sad Puppies campaign is aiming for: well-written works that don’t fit the ideological straitjacket and so would ordinarily never make it through the Hugo nomination gauntlet.

      Seriously, when a piece of badly-written revenge porn with a barely-there fantastical element is considered one of the best of the best, the whole thing is well on its way towards the sewage processing plant.

  3. questionableprovenance

    A concise and precise diagnosis. As for the SPL [Sad Puppies List], I consider it one of the only reliable recommendations – and just bought a book off of that list. Another reliable source, of course, is Baen.

    • Kate Paulk

      Indeed so. My tastes tend to the eclectic (as anyone who’s had stylistic whiplash from the music in my collection can attest), but I do prefer a story and characters who interest me in what I read.

  4. Bob

    A story where the dragons are good and the knights bad? That actually sounds…a little intriguing. Thinking about an unscrupulous, Captain Ahab-esque dragonslayer who chains a maiden to a rock to lure the great worm out so he can spring the trap, probably risking said maiden’s life and a bunch of innocent villagers in the process, then the real hero shows up…

    Can’t comment now. Must go write a story.

    Hugos? What’re those? Never mind. Other than story idea fodder, I dont’ really care.

    • McChuck

      “Knights in Tarnished Armor” by Kate Paulk. JoeBob sez, check it out.

      • Bob

        Aw, it’s already been done??? (bangs head against wall)

        • Don’t let that stop you!

        • Right, that just means you’ll have to do it differently! Seeing as you’re not Kate Paulk, this ought to be easy.

          As long as you don’t transform yourself into Shadowdancer and rewrite Sparrowind: the dragon who lived as a knight.

          And if it’s a good story, we’ll be waiting to hear it – after all, you know this crowd likes stories where the good guy (or dragon) wins 🙂

        • Mary

          If everyone here wrote a story based on that description, we would all come up with something different. Go ahead, write your own.

    • I kind of want to do one that is the archetypical story where you have bad old emperor and heroic good people who try to overthrow him, but, when you actually dig deeper, it turns out that the evil emperor is actually more like an International Lord of Hate. He really is evil, but randomly killing people and oppressing folks cuts into his fun time and can spur all kinds of ugly backlash, so he mostly doesn’t bother anyone who doesn’t bother him. And the Good Guys are more like the SJW scolds. I don’t want it to be gray goo, more like something that turns the readers preconceived notions upside down.

      All done with lots of action and slapstick humor, of course. Story before message, after all.


  5. Pat Patterson

    Sad Puppies IS a good place to find good books, and so is Baen.
    BUT: we must not let this opportunity pass! MAD GENIUS CLUB is ALSO a WONDERFUL place to go to find good writing!
    I have just read and reviewed Cedar’s short story ‘Little Red and the Wolf Man’ and if you haven’t, the pleasure is yours to be had.
    Also just read and reviewed Sarah’s short story ‘The Blood Like Wine.’
    You got the wolf man. You got vampires. You got TWO love stories. And they made me like it. Ladies, I like Tom Kratman! What are you doing to me? Am I going to find myself getting rid of my motorcycle and sit drinking herbal tea? I’m a redneck, dadgummit, why am I enjoying LOVE STORIES?
    Keep up the good work
    What should I read next?

    • I just put “Elizabeth of Starland” into Kindle Select, if you are interested in alt-history/ lost colony stories. No romance, I assure you.

      • Pat Patterson

        Okay, just read and reviewed “Elizabeth of Starland.” Magnificent exposure of two separate literary conspiracies!

    • questionableprovenance

      I was wondering why there were no amazon links for the books on the SPL. Doesn’t this blog want to make some easy money? Or is that capitalistic claptrap beneath their dignity.

  6. One of the strangest parts of constant misrepresentation is that you get a second crop of people who’ve grown up with the horrid taste of the new thing, and get whiplash when they encounter “Classic Nutty Nuggest!”

    Peter’s gotten low reviews from people who are unsure what to do with a protagonist that isn’t an antihero. They’re not quite sure what you do with one of them, or what you’re supposed to call them, but they don’t like it ’cause it’s different, and there’s not enough grittiness or darkness or angst. (Yes, that would be the entire fanbase of Baen going “they’re called the hero. Learn to love the hero.”)

  7. Reality Observer

    Discussion (over on Sarah’s blog) about starting the alternative for SFWA.

    Don’t know about everyone else, but “Nutty Nuggets” sounds like a good name… It’s not the Evil League of Evil – it’s what they scream when ELoE comes calling. “Nu… Nu…”.

    OK, time for my medicine and bed, sorry…