To Destroy/survive SaurVox/ Voxdemort/ the Evil Genius in his Volcano Lair
Here I am huddled beside the still glowing ruins of my last computer ( it’s a vile slander to say I destroyed it myself with a sledge-hammer for answering back. Firstly I’d do a better job, and secondly my computer and I enjoyed many happy conversations).
Yeah, it is dead. Blue screen of death. FAT got shamed and left for parts unknown, taking with it Exel files of the data I’ve been putting together on the history of Hugo awards. Some family pictures, and some cover art, but no writing.
So there went my planned post for this Monday, which was interesting, informative and will now have to be redone. This leaves me short a computer, short of time, short of money, short a post, and just short. Fortunately, I am well practiced at all of those. One day, with all this practice, I’ll get them right.
But I still need something to write about.
You can scarcely mention the subject of Sad Puppies or indeed the Hugo Awards without a sudden hysterical bloodhound baying of Vox Day, Vooox Daaaaay, VOOOOOX DAAAAAAY! exploding from all over the Anti-Puppies (the AP). Now the puppies and friends have been frequently accused of being bad people because although they kept the rules (which the anti-puppies disregard as being for little people, which we must be in their supporter’s eyes because the silence is deafening about that.) they were just unsporting. Not fighting fair! The only logic I’ve been able to find for this is that the puppies told you what they were doing, did it all in public, and the AP didn’t take it seriously. Which is of course entirely unsporting and wicked of us. So: to make up for it, and because I’m short a post, I thought I’d do something ‘sporting’ to help to even the game. I mean, the AP have almost all the power in the Traditional Publishing world, loads of money, the ability to call down media libel, influence with just about everyone who is anyone in the literary world… they’ve used it as much as possible, and… the puppies still ain’t dead. Actually, um, some of them have done very well out of it. Their hated foe, Vox Day, now is getting around two MILLION page views a month – a long, long way above the real (not his inventive figures) of ‘Whatever’ with his stats right there on the home page. I gather it’s been just great for sales from Castalia House too. So: because the weakness of the AP seem to be in long-term strategy and forward thinking, and much seems to come down to reactive, short-term thinking, or maybe just ‘feelings’, the generous sporting thing for me to do would be to help. The AP plainly want to prove Jonathan Haidt dead right. They don’t understand us, but we understand them.
So: here you go. To defeat Vox Day… you need to become him – or at least a rival in power able to do so. Which means you need to understand that power, what attracts followers to him, and how instead to attract them to yourselves. To survive him, you at least need to understand him and those who oppose you.
Of course the problem with becoming that possible rival, that Saruman or Galadriel, is that firstly he is bright, secondly he seems to understand you. Thirdly, he is a long term planner and strategist, he writes well and is able to appeal to a large audience. He plans but seems able to flex from those plans. Of course he is obsessive and has ideas that don’t run in concordance with the ones you profess to follow. But those last features, which are all you ever focus on, are not conflict relevant, really. GRRM had a try at the wise councilor/Saruman bit, but he was not a great success. Scalzi… I wasn’t sure if he was trying Wormtongue to Larry, but as a Saruman he came over as petty and not too bright with his little twitter giggles of girlish schadenfreude glee at last year’s Hugos, just to name one of his outbursts… Anyway, let’s face it, he’s not your long-term thinker, otherwise he would have avoided attacking Baen last year. He’s a schemer and good at spin and vastly over-blowing his importance, but really, as a leader to mass a dark horde of men and Southern Orcs under, well, they’ll ruin his lawn. As for David Gerrold – I’m not sure if the purple dress is a Galadriel thing, really. (I think that’s supposed to offend us. Talk about really, really not understanding the people he hates. We don’t care, David. You could get the janitor to be the Hugo MC, in a burka, and we still wouldn’t care.) I’d avoid purple. In a purple dress people could end up thinking he was doing Barney imitations, not Galadriel. I like to try and understand my opponents and get a handle on their motives. I must admit I was puzzled by his rage and sheer throw-the-toys-of-the-cot petulance about all this, let alone the fact that he was bringing the unfortunate Con and its volunteers into disrepute by openly attacking and villifying some of the nominees and thus trying to affect the Hugo outcome. Most of us had nothing against (or for) the fellow. And an MC… he’s just there to hand out the prizes. It’s not about him. All he had to do was smile and wave, no-one expects the MC to much more, and certainly they must keep a distance and appearance of lofty decorum from the actual process. Then, while packing wallaby mince I had a Eureka moment. Fortunately, I was better dressed than Archimedes for this process, so I merely ran through the house dripping bits of raw meat (isn’t that better?) and yelling ‘eureka’ at the cats. It’s true, at times they do. Anyway, I decided that this was a little inverse gay wedding cake and the Christian baker. It’s a ritual he values and considers important into which the particularly chosen of his sect were initiated with great pomp and celebration, being defiled by vile unbelievers – and he was going to have to conduct the ceremony. Well now. I wonder what advice he would have given that baker?
Now, given the leadership on offer, I think the Saruman/Galadriel routine is a bad strategic choice for the AP. Besides New York publishing is already far, far too close to Mordor. People might start arguing about who got to be Shelob and Gollum. But seriously, what have the AP tried so far, and what success has it brought them? They’ve brought out media attacks accusing the Puppies and nominees of being sexists, racists, misogynist, homophobes – the usual made-up get out of jail cards rubbish with no substance and some funny twists – we’re all white Mormon men. Especially Sarah Hoyt. And a twenty year bi-racial marriage makes Brad Torgersen a racist. Then the voters weren’t real fans but slaves who voted to order (which was a true PR disaster, angering a huge circle of people). Then there were the ‘you’ll never work in this town’ again threats to careers and reputations – with the Nielsen-Haydens and David Gerrold shrieking ‘who will rid us of these troublesome puppies?’ and providing precise instructions of what to do. Not a ‘blacklist’ of course (slither). Just things that people would do, like exclude them from publications, cons and reviews. Unlike the puppies, who actively said that their people shouldn’t, for example, boycott Tor, no such criticism came out of the AP. We’ve had people inform us we’re mad (at great length. It was funny, and very revealing – about the bat-sh!t loony writer), and bad, and just downright unfeeling to poor David’s tender sensibilities. Some AP camp-follower called Jane Carnall of Edinburgh, who has written a few opinion pieces in ‘The Guardian, went off and followed the instruction issued on ‘Making Light’ and started issuing fake 1 star reviews on Amazon on John Wright’s stories. Oh and the cheering announcement that they will ‘No Award’ the Pups nominees out of existence, and we’ll never ever win Hugos. The latest (from a chorus, including Scalzi) has been that if the puppies and nominees do not immediately and forthwith viciously denounce Vox Day they will declare us stupid dupes and one with him. Deserving of his fate too. I’ve kind of lost track of the ‘if you do’ offer. Maybe we’ll be allowed to live out our short miserable lives like penitent whores in a nunnery, being kindly permitted to clean their chamber-pots with our tongues. Think for yourselves what you’d do given that choice: live free and maybe win or die, or surrender and live as a second – or third or fifth class citizen, continually used as a kicking boy? And if the AP told me otherwise, I wouldn’t believe a word, given their track record. The AP really have credibility issues they need to work on.
So far, casualties 3. None of whom could be considered AP enemies, all of whom the Pups have openly encouraged their supporters not to take it out on. On the other hand… I haven’t seen any sign of the SaurVox of their nightmares taking any damage from this. To the contrary, nothing since their attempt (where they broke their own rules – and thus, legal speaking have failed) to expel Vox Day from SFWA has sent him more readers. His publishing ventures do better with every shrill denunciation. Thousands more people have signed up for Sasquan, and will vote, some for, some against… but that cosy incestuous group that controlled the nominations for so many years have lost their monopoly. They don’t seem to grasp the nettle that almost every action they’ve taken so far has been essentially proving the Pups point… the more CHORFs with obvious interests in maintaining the status quo shriek and point and the more they attack and maul people who have really no axe to grind… the more people notice. I doubt more than three people in the Gamer Gate movement knew we existed before.They do now – entirely due to the stupid actions taken by the AP. And yes, some of us may never get an invite from some Cons. Do we care much? Maybe some people do. I don’t give a damn, and I doubt if their main targets do. They’ll get more invites from some other cons as a result. The AP haven’t been able to touch Amazon as a sales outlet, and both Baen and Castilia have got a bunch of new sales – not from the noms, but from the controversy. And you have to realize, being called a sexist, racist etc… attracts some people. Both people who have had the same garbage directed at them when it wasn’t true, but was convenient, and yeah, sexists, racists etc. That’s actually a lot of people, between those two groups. You simply have to look at the reaction to that Pizza Parlor, or Chick-a-filla, or Duck Dynasty, to realize that this is not a marginal group. They’re just a group who have, up to now, mostly been quiet. The CHORFs thought ‘quiet’ meant ‘gone’. This is not the case, and methinks, in the way those who learn from history know, the worm is turning. The conflict has moved into a place where the AP strategists would be pulling faces and drawing lots to NOT be the one to explain to the masters and mistresses of Mordor, that the army at their gate is not actually able to lose.
If they behave as they have, they send more recruits to SP and Vox Day. They make their enemy look sane, honorable and mistreated. If they go ahead an No Award the Pups, not only will it be seen as incredibly petty spite (my sandbox. if I can’t have all of it, I’m going to crap in it) but the favor will be returned next year (which many people would consider fair play). How many years will the Hugos survive that? If you have a Hugo… or ever hoped to get one, that’s the kiss of death. An award has value only by going on being awarded, preferably to top candidates, whose work does it proud. That’s been a problem for the Hugos for a while, and only going to get worse if poor quality candidates make it because they’re voted in by the CHORFs or the puppies from shrinking pools. The handful of AP candidates like Ann Leckie will be tarred with their brush of collusion and block voting (win or lose). And win a Hugo or not, the Puppies have proved their point – which as they stated well before, was their goal – not winning. Literally everything the AP done so far seems to have been anticipated by their foe, and played out against them.
So… given that they’ve done… not exactly well so far, what would I, kindly me, being sporting, advise them to do? Not to win, but survive best. Well, I’d say that Mike Glyer has been the most astute Anti-puppy so far. Mary Robinette Kowal has tried but failed to grasp the nettle and pull (she still clings to defending the indefensible.). Mike Glyer, after a very shaky start of alienating a lot people with his ‘not real fan’ has taken- at least to my eye – the sensible attitude of seeing making further enemies was not actually clever. So he’s now trying to give at least some coverage to both sides, and as far as I can see, trying not to spit into anyone’s eye. As a guy with a lot of Noms it’s hard to not be portrayed as part of the old order, and I respect the fact he’s actually been able to look the situation and see that as being wisest.
It’s easy to be wise in hindsight, but the cleverest tactic would have been for the CHORFs instead of their vicious and failed attack, to say ‘wow! So-and-so -Pup-Nom. He/she is an exiting writer!’ and made no fuss at all. There’d have been no new Worldcon sign-ups, Vox Day would would not have increased his blog following and there’d be no SP4, and no ‘No Award’ threat. And in two or three years, they’d have been able to go back to business pretty much as usual. But AP seemed to have been in world of arrogant short-sightedness, and now have a mess in which it’s more a case of ‘take casualties but try to survive’.
The first and most obvious thing I’d do is tone it right down and publicly break a few of the hot-heads screaming ‘no award’, and utterly and loudly disavow and cast out the Amazon review fakers. The ‘blacklist’ needs to be publicly walked back from really hard and fast (because that could backfire so badly if readers take it up) and this needs to be shown to be the case, with reviews, Con invites and publication invites – with the organizers, reviewers and editors making a point of saying that they’re doing it. It’s not going to be popular with some CHORFs but it needs to be done even if it means tossing David Gerrold and Neilsen-Haydens under a bus – which, tactically would be pretty smart. When the packages go out – accept – and cheer a few puppy Noms. Personally push a few to win. Forget the AP darlings – a clean sweep makes the puppies look less good. “I was doubtful about that book/story. but now I’ve read it, it’s a great book.” will go a long way. The single cleverest move – which I see no chance of the level of tactical sense need for, would be to put AP votes behind Vox Day for short form editor, because THEN he has reason not to nuke the process. ‘No Award’ the next year would then hurt him. Forget about all the stupid let’s change the rules’ – learn to live with the situation, put up your own slates of good reads to recommend… and here is the crucial detail – try for a diverse (socially, politically, religiously) slate yourselves – be seen to be inclusive of centrist and indeed right-wing authors. Try to actually get a bit closer to the demographics of the US in all respects. And pick new names, ones coming out of Independent publishing. You’d probably do well to forget Tor or Tor.com for about 5 years at the very least. Like it or not, they’re somewhat tainted by the process. That’s harsh on some authors, and I hope they can find somewhere else to publish. They can always go indy.
That’s lowest damage, best future I can see for Anti-puppies. No charge. I did it to be sporting.
Now do any of you sporting folk want to bet on the bulk of the AP going on with the same old playbook?
Pity. I could use some fix-teh-computer funds. :-). Oh well. I’ll just have to write something.