Sad Puppies

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Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness
Sad Puppies 3 logo.jpg
Logo for Sad Puppies 3
Formation 8 January 2013; 5 years ago (2013-01-08)
Founder Larry Correia
Type Internet activism
Purpose Hugo Awards nominations
Key people
Larry Correia, Brad R. Torgersen, Kate Paulk, Sarah Hoyt
Formerly called
Sad Puppies Think of the Children Campaign

Sad Puppies was a voting campaign intended to influence the outcome of the annual Hugo Awards, the longest running prize (since 1953) for science fiction or fantasy works. It was initiated in 2013 by author Larry Correia by means of a voting bloc to get his own novel nominated, and then through suggested slates in subsequent years (led by Correia in 2014, and then Brad R. Torgersen in 2015). Author Kate Paulk announced in March 2015 that she would be taking the helm of the campaign for the 2015–2016 year. The following year was intended to be led by Sarah Hoyt, but did not materialize.

The original campaign in 2013 was an attempt to get one of Correia's novels nominated for the Hugo Award in order to "poke the establishment in the eye" by nominating "unabashed pulp action that isn't heavy handed message fic". In subsequent years, it was a campaign to nominate works Correia—and later other authors—thought were more deserving, but which they stated had been unfairly passed over by Hugo voters in favor of more literary works, or stories with progressive political themes.

For the 2015 Hugos, the Sad Puppies and overlapping Rabid Puppies slates swept several entire categories of nominations. During final voting at the Hugos, however, all except one of those categories was voted "No Award", and that category, Best Film, was the only Puppy candidate to win any category. In the following year, the Sad Puppies campaign was changed to used ranked recommendation lists rather than a slate, though the Rabid Puppy campaign did not follow suit. Only two categories were swept by the campaigns and subsequently voted for "No Award", and the only Puppy nominees to win categories were ones by popular creators unconnected to the campaigns. The Sad Puppy campaign did not return in 2017, and the Rabid Puppy campaign only mustered an estimated 80–90 members and 12 nominations.


2013 campaign[edit]

Correia started the first Sad Puppies campaign in 2013 when he mentioned on his blog that one of his works, Monster Hunter Legion, was eligible for that year's Hugo Award for Best Novel.[1] The name for the campaign originates in an SPCA ad featuring Sarah McLachlan, and a joke attributing puppy sadness to "boring message-fic winning awards".[2] Correia's stated purposes for starting the campaign were to "poke the establishment in the eye" by nominating "unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy handed message fic[tion]",[1] and to "make literati critics spontaneously combust".[3] The first campaign focused mainly on nominating Monster Hunter Legion, although Correia mentioned several times a list of eligible works from Baen Books, Correia's main publisher;[4] along with a few other works mentioned in posts in which he indicated for whom he was voting.[5][6]

2013 outcome[edit]

This first campaign was not successful in getting Monster Hunter Legion nominated.[7] At 101 nominations, it was 17 nominations short of the final ballot cutoff.[8][9]

2014 campaign[edit]

The second campaign started in January 2014,[10] promoting Correia's book Warbound as a good choice for nomination.[11] In February, Correia encouraged people to send in suggestions for the various categories while also listing several he was already considering.[12][13] He then presented his own slate at the end of March, consisting of a total of twelve works or people across eight Hugo categories.[14]

The inclusion of Vox Day's story "Opera Vita Aeterna"' in the slate was criticized by some, such as John Scalzi, as a choice that made the slate appear to not be a legitimate attempt to push under-represented works, but instead an attempt to rile voters who did not back the slate;[15] Correia later explained that he had included "Opera" in his campaign because he had enjoyed it, because he wanted to increase participation in the Hugo nomination process, and because he wanted to upset people, stating that he "nominated Vox Day because Satan didn’t have any eligible works that period."[16]

2014 outcome[edit]

Seven of the twelve 2014 nominees made it to the final ballot, one nominee each in seven categories, including Warbound.[17][18]

In 2014 Warbound ended in fifth place in the final count, and only one of the seven nominees—Toni Weisskopf for the Best Professional Editor (Long Form) category—finished above last place. One of the nominees, short story "Opera Vita Aeterna", was ranked below "no award" for the category, therefore ranking sixth place out of five.[17][19][20]

2015 campaign[edit]

Brad R. Torgersen took over the third campaign, announcing a slate on February 1 2015.[21] Torgersen argued that popular works were often unfairly passed over by Hugo voters in favor of more literary works, or stories with progressive political themes.[22][23] The slate nominees were predominantly male[24] but included female nominees and nominees of various racial backgrounds.[25]

A second slate, the "Rabid Puppies", was announced a day later by Vox Day, taking most of the items from the Sad Puppies slate and adding additional works to form a similar but not completely overlapping slate.[26] While the Sad Puppies slate was listed as "recommendations," Day explicitly instructed his followers to nominate the slate "precisely as they are."[27]

Each put forward a similar voting bloc that came to dominate the ballot.[28][27] The Rabid Puppies slate successfully placed 58 of its 67 candidates on the ballot. Two of the nominations were for Day himself, and eleven were for works published by his small Finnish publisher Castalia House,[29] where Day acts as lead editor.[27]

The campaigns triggered an uproar among some fans and authors,[28][30] with at least six nominees declining their nomination both before and, for the first time, after the ballot was published.[31][32][33][34] Many people advocated "no award" votes,[35] and multiple-Hugo-winner Connie Willis declined to present the awards.[36] Tor Books creative director Irene Gallo became the subject of controversy when, on her personal Facebook page, she described the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies as being "unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic"[37] and "extreme right-wing to neo-Nazi (...) respectively".[38] Tor Books founder Tom Doherty stated that the slates did not exist simply to promote white men, and that Gallo's words were her own and did "not reflect Tor’s views or mine".[39][40] Gallo later clarified that her views did not represent the views of Tor books, and said she painted with "too broad a brush" [41]

Various media outlets reported the two campaigns as stating they were a reaction to "niche, academic, overtly [leftist]" nominees and winners in opposition to "an affirmative action award" that preferred female and non-white authors and characters.[28][35] The slates were characterized by some journalists as a "right wing",[28] "orchestrated backlash"[42] by a "group of white guys"[43] and were alleged to be linked with the Gamergate controversy.[27][44][45] The Rabid Puppies faction has been described as members of or sympathetic to the alt-right political movement.[46] Conservative journalist David French, who supported the campaign, characterized the negative responses as "leftist" and "slanderous".[47]

2015 outcome[edit]

In 2015, 51 of the 60 Sad Puppy recommendations and 58 of the 67 Rabid Puppy recommendations made the final ballot.[48] In five categories, "Best Related Work", "Best Short Story", "Best Novella", "Best Editor (Short Form)", and "Best Editor (Long Form)", the nominations were composed entirely of Puppy nominees.

All nominees in the Puppy-only categories were ranked below No Award, and therefore no Hugo was given in those categories. In all other categories except "Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form"—that is, in the categories "Best Fan Writer", "Best Fancast", "Best Fanzine", "Best Semiprozine", "Best Professional Artist", "Best Graphic Story", "Best Novelette", and "Best Novel"—all Puppy nominees were ranked below No Award; this was also the case for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The only winning work to appear on a Puppy slate was the film Guardians of the Galaxy.[49] In reaction, Correia initially wrote only "See? I told you so."[50] Day stated, "I wanted to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were. All this has ever been is a giant Fuck You—one massive gesture of contempt."[2]

2016 campaign[edit]

In March 2015, author Kate Paulk announced that she would be organizing the fourth Sad Puppies campaign.[51] Addressing criticisms from previous years, the Sad Puppies 4 campaign was handled very differently from previous years,[52] abandoning the slate approach for a recommendation list, with recommendations open to anybody in the public with "no gatekeeping."[53] Rather than being selected by a committee, the recommendations in each category were listed in order of how many recommendations each work received, and the list now contained more than five items, in order to address the accusations of being a slate. Paulk also stated, “there is no political test.”[54][55]

Again, Vox Day put together a variant Rabid Puppies list, partially overlapping with the Sad Puppies, but shortened so that each category (except for editor) comprised a slate of exactly five nominations (equal to the number of allowed nominations.)[52]

Some of the authors of nominees on the two lists requested to be removed, such as Alastair Reynolds for his novella Slow Bullets, but were not removed.[56]

The nominees were announced in April 2016, with several nominees from the two groups appearing on the list, though fewer than the prior year.[56] 64 of the 81 Rabid Puppy nominations appeared on the final list.[52] John Scalzi stated in a piece for the Los Angeles Times that the change in process for the Sad Puppy 4 list, as well as the larger overlap in both lists with more generally popular works, meant that many of the works on the final ballot such as those by prior winners Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson were unlikely to owe much of their success at the nomination stage to their presence on the Puppy lists.[57] For the second year, nominated authors requested to be removed after the list was published; author Tom Mays declined his nomination for Best Short Story on the grounds that his work was only on the ballot because of his presence on the Rabid Puppies slate, as all of the nominees in his category were on the slate. He had initially accepted the nomination on the belief that that would not be the case.[58] For the second year in a row, Black Gate declined their nomination for Best Fanzine. The two nominees were replaced on the ballot by "Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer and Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan.[59]

2016 outcome[edit]

For the final Hugo ballot, three of the Best Novel finalists were mentioned on the Sad Puppies' recommendations lists, all five of the Best Novella finalists were mentioned, as well as three of the Best Novelette finalists, three of the Best Short Story finalists, two of the names up for Best Fan Writer, and four of the Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation.[60] Two of the Best Novel finalists were mentioned on the Rabid Puppies' recommendation list; four of the Best Novella finalists, four of the Best Novelette finalists, four of the Best Short Story finalists and all five of the Best Related Work finalists were mentioned.[61]

In the final vote, items on the longer Sad Puppies recommendation list[61] won in the fiction categories of Best Novella (Nnedi Okorafor[62]), Best Novelette (Hao Jingfang[62]) and Best Short Story (Naomi Kritzer[62]). Items on the Rabid Puppies' slate won only in the Best Novelette category.[61] Regardless of this, The Guardian described the results of the final voting as a defeat for the Rabid and Sad Puppies; in two categories, the results were "No Award"—Best Fancast and Best Related Work—while the remaining winners were either assumed not to be on the Puppies' recommendations lists or were largely seen, like Gaiman, as unconnected to the groups.[63]

2017 campaign[edit]

A change in the Hugo award nomination process starting with the 2017 awards was implemented to reduce the power of "bloc" voting.[64]

For the 2017 Hugo awards, although author Sarah Hoyt had been announced to run the Sad Puppies 5 campaign,[65] and as late as January 2017 a recommendation list was stated as forthcoming, no such campaign was created.[66] A Rabid Puppies list was created by Vox Day containing 22 items across the categories, 12 of which ended up on the shortlists; a further 4 received enough nominations, but were disqualified as ineligible. Several categories contained no Puppy nominees, including Best Novel, and none had more than a single nomination. An analysis by Mike Glyer of File770 estimated that the number of Rabid Puppy slate voters was around 80–90.[67]


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