The idiot’s guide to Puppygate

Finally, after weeks of hearing about this Puppy business, I decided it was probably time to inform myself. To the internet!

And, as with Gamergate, Puppygate has left me baffled. I think online politicking is clearly destined to go waaaaaay over my head.

Okay, let me try to put down what I think this furore is about.

There are these two literary organizations. For some bizarre reason, they are called Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. Though they have no clear affiliation to dogs of any kind.

Real puppies

Real puppies

These two parties, um, put forward candidates for the Hugo awards? Something about ‘slates’.

As far as I can work out, there are fourteen Hugo categories; best novel, best novella, best semi professional magazine, etc. Sci-fi/Fantasy peeps create shortlists of five candidates and then more important and knowledgeable peeps select the winners each year at the annual Hugo’s shindig.

The Puppies Institute has/had considerable clout when they put forward their selected candidates. Because of their influence, most of their candidates end up on the shortlists, as opposed to the non-Puppy (Kittens? Geckos? Wallabies?) candidates.

Kay. Think I’m on top of this thus far.

The Problem Of The Puppies is that the canine clan aren’t very nice. Apparently. Or at least the Head Pups aren’t.

It probably has not escaped the notice of anyone remotely affiliated or interested in the literary scene that women writers are not furnished with awards to the same degree as their male counterparts. It is of particular interest that a woman writing about women is sure to garner the lit world’s scorn.

“Sigh… She’s talking about feelings again. Better retreat to fiction about dissolute men in bars who revel in their detachment from emotion. And cigarettes. We need those.”

But occasionally, a female writer, a black writer, a black female writer (God forbid), will win an award. They might even get a Hugo or two.

This is not acceptable to the Puppies. When fiction about gay characters, or non-white characters, or gay non-white characters (okay, I’ll stop) wins any kind of validation, it is not because it is worthy of an award. No, it’s simply a matter of “box-checking” political correctness.

Not the SJWS!

Side note: why would anyone not want to be a Social Justice Warrior? It sounds like it comes with superpowers and a cape. Social Justice is a good thing, right? Right? *voice echoes off into the distance*

The Puppies are about pulp. They are explicitly anti-literary, all about the straight-forward, plot-driven, conventional sci-fi/fantasy. Think Conan the Barbarian, I guess. I like pulp too. I have read more than my fair share of the stuff, to be honest. It’s like dining hall food. Predictable, usually edible, rarely surprising except when you find non-food items in your spag bol and damage your teeth.

It would be a bit sad if pulp were to consistently win awards. Not because it is terrible; it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s like giving a Michelin Star to your Ouma’s macaroni.

And pulp is old-fashioned, which means, unsurprisingly, that is it extensively influenced by old-world patriarchal and racially discriminatory tropes. #notallpulp. If I have failed to convey my misgivings about the Puppy Empire, allow me to briefly draw attention to this one thing I read during my research.

Irene Gallo, art director for Tor, said some not very nice things about the Puppies on her private Facebook page. She included the words “neo-nazis” and “unrepentantly racist, misogynistic and homophobic”. Get the impression she is not a fan.

This spawned a small explosion of blog posts from both camps. But in the comments section of a particularly long article (that I now cannot find, bad journalist), the author of the article insisted something to the effect of “I don’t care about women as much as I care about womanhood.”

Uh huh.

So, if I have this straight, the construction of femininity as posited by the patriarchal system is of greater importance to you than individual women’s rights, opinions, humanity, etc. Correct?

Look, you might be a fancy author person, but you aren’t succeeding in wooing me right now.

I am not the most informed on this topic and as a left-leaning intersectional feminist, I’m certainly going to be somewhat biased. On the other hand, Chuck Wending is on the same side, so I must be right.

And now I leave you with this video that I found in a Cracked article by David Wong, which sums demonstrates a similar kind of attitude to that shown by the Puppies.

This thing got 2 million views. Think about that and fear for humanity.


5 thoughts on “The idiot’s guide to Puppygate

  1. Hi Kerstin! Lovely article, really like how you write 🙂

    So i’m interested in a few things. Firstly, your thoughts on the Franschoek Lit Fest. We can agree that not everything is groovy there, politics-wise, but is it worth keeping it and ones like it (see: the Knysna fest) open at the cost of deepening social divides? I went to the Knysna one last year and i struggle to recommend it, especially after running into Tim Noakes and his dazzling smile. But you did a reading from your book (belated congrats!) – that adds a different perspective. Thoughts?

    Secondly, what’s your stance on Gamergate? Obviously i suspect you’re anti-gamergate, but what are your thoughts on the journalism ethics side of it? I recently discovered that what i thought was my well-rounded opinion was in fact very slim on facts, so i’d like to know what you think. Is there any merit to the pro-gamergate side of the argument?

    I know this is a long comment but i want to be a fanboy for a second and say your writing is great: making someone laugh while informing them and making them want to keep reading is quite something. Saved to bookmarks.

    That’s all, sorry if other people read this and wish i hadn’t written something so long.

    • Hi Matthew. 🙂

      Thanks a lot, I really appreciate your praise. I’m getting a lot of warm and fuzzy vibes this evening.

      Ah, the question of the lit fests. Well, to be honest, Franschoek was a bit bizarre and certainly uncomfortable (plus the accommodation was legit terrible – the lecturers actually abandoned us and went to stay in Paarl). There were parts of it that I enjoyed and some of the authors were really funny, but there were also whole panel discussions that I felt were ridiculously self-indulgent and unhelpful. Such as “Your Writing Space” or “Finding Your Voice”. Naturally, most of the people who attend these sessions are never going to be authors, but if they want to spend money to hear some guy prattle on about his formative years of debauchery in New York, well, *shrugs*.

      I wrote a piece about Thando’s departure. Most of the article just details what happened in the session, but my opinion can be found near the end. It’s a tricky topic. Suffice to say that I disagree with any exclusionary politics in the literary scene, regardless of who excludes who. So I don’t believe that black writers should be excluded from traditionally white festivals, nor do I believe in entirely overturning the literary scene to covert to a new model that purposefully excludes whites. I apply similar beliefs to the issue of gender in publishing. I see that there is a problem, but I don’t want a ‘women’s only’ publisher. That’s patronizing. (Matronizing?)

      Obviously, this is not up to me and perhaps I am not called on to have an opinion, being the privileged party. But I have an opinion anyway.

      Gamergate was something I discovered late. 😛 I actually only came across it because of Anita Sarkeesian. My knowledge of her struggles and story is more comprehensive by far. Obviously I’m anti-Gamergate. I think most sensible and self-aware people are and I never really understood how “ethics in games journalism” fit into the issue of some asshole trying to ruin his ex’s life using the internet, followed by the 4Chan misogynist mob. My understanding might be somewhat lacking in nuance however.

      With regards to video games and gender in general, see . Or rather, go check out how someone responded to my article. Interesting levels of defensive behavior going on there.

      Like I say, Gamergate = not my area of greatest expertise. But definitely distasteful.

  2. For the record, Anita Sarkeesian is AMAZING and deserves mad amounts of respect. I also got into the gamergate discussion through her (and also wouldn’t have known a thing if it wasn’t for the harassment and threats). I don’t know if you followed the E3 gaming conference last week, but Anita was there and has really interesting stats about female representation in new games (all on @femfreq on Twitter). On day two of the conference there were posters all around the event defacing her and what she stands for. I can’t imagine what she goes through on a daily basis – yet she continues to produce fantastic material.

    Image is safe:

    I think the nuance in the gamergate discussion is found in seeing that the group that complains about ethics in journalism does not fully overlap with the (smaller) group that sends rape and death threats. Of course some folks are going to raise an eyebrow at a journalist deriding a game that was developed by someone she has recently broken up with, or being paid to write a favourable review for her current partner’s game. I think there’s some merit to that argument. But then, rape and death threats? As you say, interesting levels of defensive behavior.

    Having said all that, i couldn’t help but laugh at the “Anita uses debunked and discredited theories that gender is a social construct” comment in your article. Okay then. You have commenters writing from the 1800s 🙂

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