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August 31, 2014


he main effect of the Sad Puppies campaign was to keep both Abaddon's Gate and The Ocean At the End Of the Lane off the Hugo ballot

Well, Ocean WAS nominated (it was #2 in raw nominations according to the post-mortem statistics file) but Gaiman withdrew the nomination from consideration. So the Sad Puppies had nothing to do with it missing the cut.

And the point was the FU, not the win. I would have felt...strange if the Sad Puppies had backed work that I liked and wouldn't have been nominated otherwise, like Corey, Lynch or Tregellis. Actually, until I stopped reading it, I did discover that Lynch, in particular, may be on Elitist Book Reviews list, but Vox considers him no longer readable.

Another issue with Correia's books in particular is that the major characters are just plain hard to like. "Petty and self-absorbed" as one person put it. Francis has enormous wealth during the Depression--people are standing in breadlines and shivering in cardboard shanties, but *he's* upset that his taxes are going up. Faye decides that God won't mind that she slaughtered thousands of Japanese soldiers because they were all bad. That kind of thing. Apparently Correia's fans see such people as perfectly likable, but I have a hard time warming up to them, and I suspect I'm not the only one.

However you are mistaken in one respect; the Sad Puppies did not keep _Ocean At The End Of The Lane_ off the ballot--it won a place in the top five, but Neil Gaiman declined the nomination, allowing _Parasite_ on the ballot. _Warbound_ did keep ..._Shining Girls_ off the ballot (had to go check.). But I'm not entirely sure that _Warbound_'s nominations were all due to Sad Puppies nominations. About 70 people nominated _Opera Vita Aeterna_; if we subtract those nominations from _Warbound_ it still has 114 nominations, which is still enough to make the ballot, so _Shining Girls_ might have been out of luck no matter what.

As for Freer, "a vote for us means the works deserve it; a vote against us means the voters were biased" is an unfalsifiable assertion. He has left no way for the data to tell him he is mistaken about the quality of the work. I had thought better of him, but I have to go with reality when it contradicts my initial assumptions.

As for "social justice warrior" if I thought for one second that they could reliably distinguish a social justice warrior from an Invisible Pink Unicorn, I would be incredibly flattered by the designation. As it is, I had to decline the honor on account of being unworthy.

Have you considered that possibility that some (or all) of the "Sad Puppies" were deliberately picked precisely because they were badly written? Because, after all, if you are heavily invested in the game being rigged against your political view, how damaging would it be to have some works which share that point of view actually win? Being a victim is a status that sometimes takes careful work to maintian.

SJW = Social Justice Warrior, which is supposed to be an ... insult?

This "insult" entered my vocabulary w/in the last 6 months on an image board I frequent primarily for earthporn and cat pictures (predominant and most vocal demographics being American males in and around their early 20s, but with a lot of variance). By usage, my understanding is that it's supposed to evoke an image of an attention-seeking teenage girl (probably a frequent user of Tumblr) who's such a hypocrite that she can't even rise to the level of slactivism, and who is so naive as to actually think that there's meaningful civil rights issues to fight for in the First World (aside perhaps for the cruel injustices that the Men's Right Movement strives valiantly to overcome). Urban Dictionary more or less agrees. The usage I've seen has suggested that the very fact that the concept exists in the zeitgeist is latched onto by a lot of those using this term as sufficient justification to dismiss most any expression of leftwing opinion as hypocritical preening. In my experience, its usage gets a lot more baggage put into it than thought.

Yeah, I was also pretty shocked at how bad both of the Torgersen pieces were, on a sentence-by-sentence level. Bad, as in: how was this professionally published? I haven't read Analog regularly for a while, but I had trouble believing that this passed Analog's minimum bar, let alone that anyone could think it was the best that Analog had to offer.

The Wells was... not awful. It's not embarrassing that it was published (although the cover, and the fact that it was a game tie-in, did make me cringe a little). But again, the idea that it represented the very best the genre had to offer last year? Nope.

Have you considered that possibility that some (or all) of the "Sad Puppies" were deliberately picked precisely because they were badly written?

Yeah, I was also pretty shocked at how bad both of the Torgersen pieces were, on a sentence-by-sentence level. Bad, as in: how was this professionally published?

Hm, Atlanta Nights? ;-)
(I had a lot of fun with that, esp. in listening to a hilarious audio rendition that can be found on youtube)

[I do not actually support that hypothesis. Very unlikely for someone from that part of the spectrum. Really bad writing is an artform in itself]


huh, I hadn't seen the nominations stats before. I'm *really* surprised Abaddon's Gate didn't do better, especially since it won the Locus Award for SF novel -- Locus put Ancillary Justice under "First Novel", you see.

I suspect those 70 nominations for Vox Day are the hard core of the Sad Puppies, while the 184 for "Warbound" includes every Sad Puppy plus maybe 30 others.

Doctor Science:

I'm not familiar with Abaddon's Gate; maybe I should have a look at it.

In the actual voting, "Warbound" managed to pull down 370 votes in either first or second place. So on top of those 184 who nominated they managed to pick up another 86 votes between either regular Hugo voters who genuinely liked the book after reading it, or newer Sad Puppies attracted by the post-nomination publicity.

If they want to have a serious chance at actually *winning*, they'll need about five times as many as they brought in this time. (Unless this is a temporary WoT bump, in which case three times as many will do nicely.)

None of the Sad Puppies' horses is fit to race. - When somebody (me, to be specific) asked Correia why FDR was portrayed as putting people in concentration camps, I was told that I was "upset at seeing an accurate portrayal of that old racist FDR." In short, the fact that they're not fit to race is a feature, not a bug.

2] SJW = Social Justice Warrior, which is supposed to be an ... insult?

Dr. Science, I consider you to be one of the most thoughtful writers in the liberal blogosphere, so I'm going to take the risk of actually engaging with this as a non-rhetorical question.

There actually is a community(ies) of people who are broadly liberal, opposed to sexism and racism, and yet think that self-described Social Justice activists have gone off the rails in some important ways. I'm not the most articulate proponent of this view, so I'm just going to limn a couple of examples, and then I'm going to link you to someone smarter who explains it much better than I do.

The Social Justice movement as it exists now is the product years of (totally understandable given the broader social context) discourse in online "safe spaces" that has produced it's own horrible epistemic bubble. (Originally, this was mostly tradtional blogs; now I'd say the epicenter is Tumblr and Twitter.) It's a totalizing ideology, and questioning any specifics, even if you are broadly sympathetic in general, gets you labelled as a concern troll and either chased away or brownbeaten into conformity.

Among many other unfortunate consequences, it's actually a common view among self-described Social Justice activists that privilege is absolute rather than contextual -- the idea that, while society as a whole advantages men over women and whites over minorities, there can be specific sub-contexts where some whites or some men are disadvantaged has become literally unthinkable (in the descriptive 1984 sense). You see phenomena such as, for example, accusations of "mansplaining" metastasizing from (addressing legitimate problem) "a man trying to explain a woman's lived experiences to her" to (method of crushing dissent) "any time a man contradicts a woman about anything relevant to identity politics."

Similarly, the originally quite beneficial idea of "checking one's privilege" -- examining whether one is lacking perspective that might be provided by coming from a less privileged demographic -- has morphed into the accusatory imperative "Check your privilege" as means of silencing white and/or male perspectives. (That is, non-rhetorically, one ought to be able to ask "Have you checked your privilege?" and be ready to accept the answer, "Yes, I actually have considered less privileged perspectives on this and I still hold my view because..." But the rhetorical imperative "Check your privilege" is just a means of censoring dissent whether it's well-informed or not.)

The short answer to your question, basically, is that there are liberals who think (parts of) the Social Justice movement have become distinctly illiberal.

This comment is probably excessively long already, so I'm going to stop here and simply link you to the most cogent defender of the perspective I'm offering instead. (Adding that he's an amazing writer; social justice commentary is a minority of his ouvre, and the other stuff in this link is worth reading as well:

Please read this stuff

ps. This is tangential to the whole Hugo Awards thing, on which I entirely agree with you. This comment is solely addressed to your footnote.

The short answer to your question, basically, is that there are liberals who think (parts of) the Social Justice movement have become distinctly illiberal.

This is of course true, and so is the commentary preceding it, but... it's not really relevant here. Larry Correia is a self-identified conservative. Most of those I've seen use the insult "SJW" are at least casually conservative. While there is a left-wing critique to be made of elements of the Social Justice movement, I've seen no sign that dismissive usage of that epithet is in any way related to it. SJW is a term used to lump broad swathes of left-wing thought and activism into a crude strawman that can be punted out of sight with neither thought nor effort. Perhaps it was the case that the current usage of SJW began in leftist circles - I do not know - but it has moved into broader usage, and many - if not most - of those using it are wielding it as a uncritical rhetorical bludgeon to silence their critics rather than as a considered call for more measured thought and action.

So is it or isn't PC to use "SJW"?

Nombrilisme Vide --

As I hope my own postscript made clear, I understand it's not directly relevant. I posted here because my experience is that Social Justice Warriors are an actual thing, that they employ their accusations as a "rhetorical bludgeon to silence their critics," and that their influence is large, extremely harmful, and spreading to an ever-wider part of the left-osphere.

I posted here, because while it was not central to Dr. Science's post, it also wasn't random threadjacking, and because ObWi is a place where I was reasonably confident that criticism would come in the form of measured replies like yours, rather than a mob rhetorical torches and pitchforks running me off as as racist, misogynist interloper. There are not many liberal blogs that feel safe in this way these days.


While there is a left-wing critique to be made of elements of the Social Justice movement,

Yes, there is. And since I can do it here without being tarred and feathered, I am.

There is a non-identitarian left, which is sharply critical of social justice warriors. It's the right that's picking up the term from them.

Many people on the left get something of a cold shower on meeting the SJW phenomenon. Ask Amber A'Lee Frost or some of her supporters/co-victims in the recent "Jacobinhghazi" debacle: Matt Bruenig, Megan Erickson, Elizabeth Stoker, Fredrik DeBoer. Maybe most of all Will Shetterly, who wrote the book on the SJW phenomenon.

I do kind of long for the days when I could just enjoy a piece of fiction with out any clue as to the authors politics.

I can't say I will look at a Hugo nomination in the same way after all this activism.

Anyone who has wandered by a bookstore or a movie theater lately knows the kids these days love a nice dystopia. Their heroes are Katniss from Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, Tris from Veronica Roth's Divergent series, Thomas from James Dashner's Maze Runner novels. The number of English-language dystopian novels published from 2000 to 2009 quadrupled that of the previous decade, and not quite four years into the 2010s, we have already left that decade's record in the dust.

For most of this century, literary critics have been proclaiming an "explosion" in the young adult (YA) category, and the trend shows no sign of losing momentum. Sales figures are buoyed, in part, by crossover readers-adult fans of books targeted at kids, part of the so-called "Hunger Games effect." In 2012, Bowker Market Research, an affiliate of global information company ProQuest, came to the (now much-cited) conclusion that 55 percent of YA titles are currently purchased by adults for their own reading pleasure. So impressive is these novels' success that even if only 45 percent of their readers are young adults, this would still represent a gain in readership over past decades.

Not Your Parents' Dystopias: Millennial fondness for worlds gone wrong

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