Sad Puppies: Lords Temporal and Spiritual

Last time, we talked about the drastic changes currently underway in sci-fi fandom, and the media that are driving those changes.

People with their fingers on the pulse of fandom have observed that SF is becoming more tribalistic. They’re right.

Due to the dominance of movies, TV shows, video games, and even eBooks, today’s geeks are having a much more homogeneous SF experience than fans did back when print was king.

As a result, sci-fi has swept the world in a bloodless revolution. Today fans can gather by the hundreds of thousands at mega-conventions like Gen Con, Dragon Con, and the San Diego Comic Con with not a scintilla of conflict. We are one friggin’ huge happy tribe.

If sci-fi has broken into the mainstream and allowed millions of nerds to party together in relative peace and harmony, then where’s the much-hyped friction coming from?
Enter the Inhibitors

Hugo-nominated author Mike Flynn has written about how people will fall into one of three broad categories when faced with change.

Resistance to Change

Innovators will champion a new idea just for the sake of novelty. They drive change, but their motives aren’t always selfless. They could be narcissists, or on the make for a fast buck.

Conservatives will consent to change, but not until they have reasonable proof of success. Some are true skeptics. Some are hardliners. Some just have cold feet.

Inhibitors will not agree to make changes under any circumstances. However convincing the innovators’ logic, and however sound the conservatives’ data, the inhibitor’s mantra is “No!”

It’s worth considering the three demographics that Flynn says make up the inhibitors’ ranks:

  • Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.
  • Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.
  • Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways.

 

Caveat: it’s vital to note the context of this post, which is technological advancements in entertainment media. It’s also worth pointing out that different people can be different types at varying times and in response to various kinds of change.
For example, when it comes to morality I’m definitely a traditionalist inhibitor. That’s because if history has proven anything, it’s that change has killed, and will kill, everyone.
Yet as our good friend Dr. McLuhan informs us, technology is morally neutral in and of itself. Applications of technology can be morally good or bad, but a light bulb has no content.
I took a conservative approach to eBook technology and self-publishing in general. I was traditionally published first and only went indie when hard evidence indicated that it was the smarter move.
Nonetheless, there are still those who are beholden to the big NYC publishers and their obsolete business model. Interestingly, these folks’ behavior perfectly fits the classic inhibitor profiles.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.
John Scalzi
Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.
David Gerrold
Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways.

All of the controversy, tantrums, and libel over Sad Puppies can be chalked up to big fish in the shrinking legacy publishing pond who are standing athwart inevitable industry changes, desperately flailing their arms, and yelling “STOP!”
What can Puppies do against such reckless hate?

The lies told about the leaders and allies of Sad Puppies have been so numerous and so absurd that picking the most ridiculous lie in the bunch is like spotting the fattest maggot wriggling on a dead horse.

But a close second to Arthur Chu’s risible attempt to disqualify Brad Torgersen as a racist is the accusation, repeated in the mainstream media with Goebbels-like bombast and frequency, that SP’s goal was the politicization of the Hugo Awards.

As the story thus far shows, not only are claims of Puppies injecting politics into the awards the diametric opposite of the truth, politics is just a red herring in this whole controversy–a fig leaf used to conceal the CHORFs’ fear of change and to justify their attacks on the agents of change.

What must Sad Puppies do to overcome their unprincipled opposition and make fandom safe for what the CHORFs denounce as “Wrongfans” having “Wrongfun”?

The answer is: nothing.

Given that the CHORF phenomenon is an atavistic reaction to inevitable changes in fandom driven by inexorable advances in technology, we needn’t take any specific action to defeat them. Just as new theories ultimately triumph when the prior generation of scientists die off, SF will continue to thrive and grow long after the last CHORF’s demise.

There is, however, a far more pressing reason to keep engaging with the SF mainstream; to keep telling our stories.
SF authors work for the fans.

Tolkien rightly said that the only reason to tell a story is to tell a story, i.e. the purpose of storytelling is entertainment. This is the true credo of Sad Puppies.

Storytelling to make a political point to the detriment of fun is what the Puppies have always been steadfastly against. An author’s publisher is not his boss. His readers are.

Luckily, the growing sense of community spreading throughout fandom is bringing together a number of sub-tribes who are vocally dedicated to the principle of Fun First.

“Author” and “authority” come from the same Latin root for the admiration and obedience due to great personages by virtue of their mighty deeds. The European nobility descended from those who helped to hold society together in the chaos after Rome’s fall.

Prominent figures have arisen to lead their tribes through the upheavals currently transforming fandom. Some of them have been lauded with titles befitting their work on the fans’ behalf.
The Evil Legion of Evil

In sum, the three ideas of the so-called reactionary Evil League of Evil are that that Science Fiction stories should be workmanlike, honest, and fun. Stories should serve the reader rather than lecture, sucker-punch, subvert, or hector him. Stories should give the reader what he paid for.

–John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor of the Evil Legion of Evil

 

Supreme Dark Lord

Vox Day, Supreme Dark Lord

A modern-day Renaissance man as accomplished as he is controversial. Vox’s publications include works of science fiction and fantasy, as well as economics, political philosophy, Christian apologetics, and more. His incendiary online persona–purportedly adopted in response to unprovoked attacks by Tor SF Manager Patrick Nielsen Hayden–facilitates Vox’s preferred rhetorical style of “counter-punching”.

Vox has also edited numerous Hugo-nominated works and has been nominated for Hugo awards as both an author and an editor. The SDL has found success in several fields besides publishing, including the music and video game industries.



Though the title of Supreme Dark Lord was bestowed by John C. Wright as a rather playful gesture, the degree of loyalty that Vox inspires in his readers gives one pause to consider its implications. Hundreds of Vile Faceless Minions currently serve at his command. Their efforts proved effective enough to ensure an SP/RP sweep of last year’s Hugo nominations and secure a Best Novel win for The Three Body Problem. Much speculation surrounds what Vox will do next.

 

Larry Correia International Lord of Hate

Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate

Outstanding accomplishment in multiple fields seems to be a condition of ELoE membership.

Not only is Larry Correia a best selling author, Hugo nominee, and Audie Award winner, he has pursued successful careers in accounting and machine gun sales. In addition to the ELoE, he is also a member of G.I. Joe.

Larry started Sad Puppies to prove the bias exercised by an influential Hugo voting clique against out-group authors. He took up the mantle of the International Lord of Hate in mockery of detractors who hurled baseless accusations of bigotry against him.

Having been vindicated for three consecutive years, the ILoH has retired from Sad Puppies to focus on writing kick-ass urban and epic fantasy for Baen Books.

 

Sarah Hoyt

Sarah Hoyt, Beautiful but Evil Space Princess

The purpose of this is to create a new ‘idea’ in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

–Sarah Hoyt

An American author originally from Portugal, Sarah Hoyt writes both traditionally and independently published science fiction. Among her many accomplishments, she is a card-carrying Mensa member and a Prometheus Award winner. She is a co-organizer of Sad Puppies 4.

Sarah has founded a literary movement known as Human Wave which aims to maximize authorial freedom and cultivate SF’s sense of wonder.

 

John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor

By all accounts, one of the best living authors of science fiction. Mr. Wright was formerly published by Tor Books, but his works now appear, by his choice, predominantly through Castalia House. He is a Nebula Award nominee and has a record six Hugo nominations.

Like his fellow ELoE members, SF writing isn’t Mr. Wright’s first career. Unlike them, he failed at his first two careers. It’s chilling to imagine what the world would have lost had he succeeded.

A lifelong philosopher and relatively recent convert to Christianity, Mr. Wright’s thoughts on science fiction are too copious to list here, but his Hugo-nominated collection of essays is a good place to start.
The Superversive SF Movement

What, then, can we do, those of us who are not Progressives? We cannot fight subversion by its own methods; that only makes the hole deeper. But if subversion means ‘turning from below’, there can be such a thing as turning from above. We have nothing to gain by digging a bigger hole, but we can build right over it. It seems natural enough to me to invent a new word for this by changing part of the old one; so I call it superversion.

–Tom Simon

Tom Simon

Though the Evil Legion of Evil boasts one of the greatest working science fiction authors among its members, the Superversives have perhaps the greatest essayist currently writing in the English language: Tom Simon.

Mr. Simon, a Canadian independent author, coined the term “superversive” and defined it in a landmark essay. Superversive SF turns the tables on subversive celebrations of lies, evil, and ugliness by overturning it from above with truth, goodness, and beauty.

“…[C]ourage is the essential quality of a superversive story: not the dumb, dull fortitude that passively endures in the face of suffering, but the courage that allows the character to take action – to risk becoming a hero.”

Superversive science fiction has much in common with, and is a natural ally to, Human Wave SF.
Jason Rennie

A Hugo-nominated podcaster and the editor of Sci Phi Journal, Jason has risen to leadership in the Superversive movement. He carries out his editing duties and moderates the Superversive Livestreams from his home in Australia.

 

L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright

A superb author of SFF short stories and novels (and the editor of my book), Jagi is a leading public voice and a tireless behind-the-scenes organizer of the Superversive SF movement.

In the venerable tradition of chivalric diplomacy, Mrs. Wright’s marriage to Mr. Wright cements the Superversive-ELoE alliance.
These are just a few of the authors who are working hard to ensure that SF remains open to truth, beauty, endless possibility, and most of all, fun.

The future of the fictional future is looking bright.

Interview: Sad Puppies Spokesmanatee Wendell the Manatee

Wendell the Manatee

Harvard Business School, the Florida state legislature, and interdimensional insurance agents know him as Wendell T. Manatee: CFO of CorreiaTech. Crusaders against Puppy Related Sadness know him as the spokesmanatee for Sad Puppies. But this aquatic American largely remains an enigma to his legions of adoring fans and whiny detractors alike. The manatee himself recently sat down (actually, he floated inside his giant fish tank at CorreiaTech HQ and called me via Skype) to share some insights on his personal motivations.

BRIAN NIEMEIER: Thank you, Mr. Manatee,  for taking time out from overseeing the Monster Hunter Nation server upgrades to address the public’s insatiable appetite for all things Wendell.

WENDELL THE MANATEE: Mewoooooooooooo.

BN: Wow. Eloquent though they are, your printed quotes failed to prepare me for the heart-melting rapture of hearing you speak in person. I am utterly disarmed and profoundly stirred!

WM: Weeeewooooooo.

BN: Hilarious! Such a legendary wit would have been the toast of the Algonquin Round Table.

(Starts laugh-crying uncontrollably.)

WM: Mehwhoooo?

BN: (Finally composing self) Sorry. Just needed a moment. I’m still here.

WM: Fleeeerp. Mehwoo?

BN: To talk about your background, your work with Larry Correia, and your involvement with Sad Puppies.

Not to step on your fluke, but fans might take exception to the term “dork fest”.

WM: Foooooooooooo.

BN: With your Harvard MBA and your membership in an endangered species, you were free to write your own ticket. Why manage the finances of a D-list author of explosion porn?

WM: Flooooooo.

BN: So it’s all because of Lance Henriksen. Fascinating.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: Careful. You know how prone people are to misreading those kinds of comments as threats, and Mr. Henriksen is formidable enough to make Alien 3 almost watchable.

Young Wendell
Even as a child, Wendell was right at home in the public eye.

Back on topic, was there a specific pitch you made that convinced Larry to hire you?

WM: Meeeeeww-oooooo.

BN: Yeah. You can only milk thinly veiled B movie and X-Men fanfic for so long. I tried the same thing with 90s anime and Dune, which barely pays for the movie tickets I need to stay out of the cold. (Indie author pro tip: if you buy one for the first showing, they’ll let you stay till closing time. And you can hide in the crawlspace under the screen after that!)

Like I told that derelict who lives in the hobo camp in the woods by the interstate: “Punk, I an’t trading no electric blanket for no bag of CVS disposable razors!”

Where was I? Oh yeah. Did you have a vision for breaking out of the niche market for war game nerds and gun nuts?

WM: Mewwwooooo. Moooooo-gurgle gurgle.

BN: Great point. Romance is huge. I’d hop on that gravy train faster than you can say E. L. James if only I understood the physical and emotional bonds that are so popular with humans.

WM: Hoooon?

BN: Aquatic mammals, too. Sorry. Why did Larry veto the shift from gun porn to regular porn? It can’t be moral qualms. He’s a libertarian.

WM: Meew-whooooo.

BN: I suppose that finding the mandatory female pen name for him would be a daunting ordeal.

WM: Moo.

BN: Let me get this straight. You’re saying that you came up with the idea to do Son of the Black Sword!?

WM: (Pauses to take a bite from what resembles a Primanti Brothers sandwich, except the coleslaw seems to be made from iceberg lettuce, waterlogged straw, and ranch dressing.)

Wendell shark-wrestling
Shark wrestling: one of Wendell’s many hobbies.

Meeeeeeeeeeeen.

BN: Congratulations. Still, you have to admit that Larry does all the toiling in the word mines.

Let’s take a moment to talk about your personal history. You were born and raised in the ocean off the Florida coast. Manatees are renowned for their fierce determination, but yours took you in an unusual direction. You graduated from the Ivy League. where you earned a reputation as a–pardon the expression–party animal. Your exploits on the wrestling team have led some to call you a jock. You’ve also found time to cultivate world-class skills in Call of Duty.

WM: Fleeeerp.

BN: Yet you’ve had your share of setbacks: your narrow defeat in the race for your home state’s legislature in 2012, losing Time’s Person of the Year to the Ferguson protesters, your arrest for slapping a cosplayer, and most discouraging of all, being mistaken for Chris Matthews by a White House aide. Any one of these tragedies would have crushed a lesser man. To what do you owe your unconquerable tenacity?

WM: Mooorr-gurgle gurgle.

BN: (voice breaking) Your sage words have overcome me once again. If your detractors only had ears to hear, this divisive conflict in science fiction would end, and all fans would embrace as brothers. Have you spoken with George R. R. Martin?

WM: (Shakes his ponderous bulk in the negative) Moowhooooo.

BN: Yes, the resemblance to a whale shark is uncanny. It was clearly an honest mistake. I’m sure you can get the restraining order dismissed.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: You’ve become the public face of Sad Puppies. Why associate with that campaign?

WM: Eeeeewhoooo.

BN: I had no idea! People who think of you as a stoic tough guy will be equally shocked and touched by this intimate revelation.

WM: Hoooooon. Gurgle. Gurgle.

BN: With that single remark, you’ve put paid to every accusation lodged by the puppy-kickers. I stand in awe of your rhetorical mastery!

WM: (Plunges his yawning jowls into a barrel of CHEETOS.)

BN: (Voice raised over sounds of crunching) Thank you, Wendell, for gracing us with this portrait of courage, ambition, and yes, vulnerability. Before we wrap things up, do you have any parting words for our contemplation and enrichment?

WM: (Munching continues unabated until the connection times out.)
Interviewer’s note: a link to this video later arrived in my inbox.

If you were a modern, my love….

I spent six or seven hours in a masters level course on evangelism today. This is nothing new; my seminary has this neat little arrangement where some classes only meet once a month. Upside? Lot of free nights you wouldn’t have otherwise. Downside? Eleven hours of class in a space of about 20 hours once a month.

Anyways, one of our topics that we keep coming back to is worldview. Some time relatively recently– the last few decades, I’d guess– the worldview of our culture began to change.  We aren’t so much a modern society as a postmodern one. In terms of evangelism, this is a huge thing. You can’t reach a postmodern person with logic and rationality; you reach them by appealing to their feelings. (Appalling, I know.) You tell a postmodern person that X proves Y, and they say, “So what? I don’t care about your proof.”

Now, I’m sure you’re asking why this crazy guy is on your scifi site yakking about the nuts and bolts of spreading Jesus. And I can’t say that I blame you. But here me out.

Modernism is the product of the Enlightenment, which is a four-letter word in a lot of emergent church circles. Modernism sees the world in a scientific manner and seeks answers in logic and reason. Modernism draws authority from what is provable and observable. Unmitigated modernism doesn’t work terribly well for theological folks, because we tend to believe that an ultratranscendent being created everything by fiat, but that’s another subject altogether.

Ripley.

Man’s inhumanity to space bugs.

Postmodernism, on the other hand, first really begins to come to the fore after the world wars. Logic and rationality failed us, and instead of making human beings better, it made human beings better at killing each other. So the postmodern mindset rejects logic, rationality and reason. The postmodern doesn’t care about what you can prove; they care about experiences. About how they feel. About what’s in it for them.  If you’re saying this sounds like an awful lot of people you know, you’re probably right. If you’re saying you’d cheerfully feed those people to acid bleeding space bugs…. I’d probably agree with you. Yes, yes. I’m in seminary, and the Imago Dei, and yes, Jesus loves them as much as he loves me. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that postmodernism is something of a memetic disease that’s been been spread around.

Or maybe that’s just my modernism talking.

So here’s where science fiction comes into play. I have this theory about Sad Puppies and the state of the field. Old school scifi, that scifi that most of Sad Puppy folks love and want to see return, is the product of a modern mindset. Even our whackiest stories tend to follow a modernist structure and narrative ethos: the inverted check mark that we’re all taught to work from comes into being because of a logical chain of events. House Atreides is given control of Arrakis as part of a conspiracy. The conspiracy nearly wipes out the House. Paul survives, goes native, and leads the natives in revolt. The Padishah Emperor is overthrown and the galaxy is now ruled by the kid who would’ve lived his life fairly uneventfully if it weren’t for the conspiracy.

Compare that to every Puppy’s favorite target, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” There’s logic, yes, and a structure of sorts. It’s not incomprehensible. But it looks at things like plot and asks, “So what? What does that have to do with me?” It’s about feelings, and about what’s in it for me. And I think that’s the thing about a lot of this stuff that the puppy-kicking crowd crow about. They’re operating on a fundamentally different worldview. Experiences matter more than reason. Emotion and feeling matter more than logic. Ancillary Justice, a mildly competent revenge story dressed as a space opera, gets worshiped because it ignores plot in favor of character experience and a glimpse of a gender neutral society.

If you look at the things these people love, it’s all about experiences. Microaggression is a laughable concern, but it’s an experience, so it’s paramount. Identity politics? Poisonous tripe, but again, it’s all about an individual’s experience. Safe spaces? Come on now, really? But again, it’s about experience and feelings, not about what’s real.

So what does this mean for science fiction? For Sad Puppies, for the future of the Hugos? I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I can understand postmodernism on an academic level, but I can’t even seem to approach a writing assignment with it in mind, much to my professor’s concern. (None of us in the class can, apparently.) I’m really just throwing this out there for people to chew on. Maybe someone else can take this and run with it.