Earlier this year, we reported on the “Sad Puppies”, a campaign by a politically diverse set of sci-fi and fantasy authors to promote political tolerance, openness, and creative freedom within the medium.
Because their chief opponents were a set of hard-line progressive authors hell-bent on ostracizing anyone who challenged their ideology, the Puppies were attacked by multiple media outlets as a force of ‘white male reaction’.
This panicked narrative has taken yet another blow after an intervention by Tim Dohety, the founder and president of Tor books, one of the most influential publishing houses in sci-fi. Writing on the Tor’s blog, the 43-year veteran of the publishing industry acknowledged that media stories portraying the Sad Puppies as a racist, sexist campaign aimed at promoting white men was entirely inaccurate.
The Puppies groups were organized to support a slate of authors for the Hugo Awards, given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. Media coverage of the two groups initially suggested that they were organized simply to promote white men, which was not correct. Each Puppies’ slate of authors and editors included some women and writers of color, including Rajnar Vajra, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda Green.
Of course, level-headed observers of the campaign already knew that the media narrative was hysterical. Partly due to the Woozle effect and partly due to the natural affinity of progressive journalists with progressive activists in sci-fi, the success of the Sad Puppies sent the media into panic mode. As Breitbart previously reported, some of the initial media stories on Sad Puppies had to be virtually rewritten due to their sheer number of wild, baseless accusations.
More significantly, Doherty also affirmed one of the Sad Puppies core principles: that sci-fi and fantasy publishers should neither promote nor exclude any particular political worldview.
We seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda
That may sound uncontroversial, but prior to the Sad Puppies, it was a principle that was under genuine threat, with astonishing reports of political intolerance to non-progressive authors at sci-fi conventions. Doherty’s blunt affirmation that Tor is in the business of publishing good authors, not politically homogeneous authors, is therefore important.
For the left-wing authoritarians of sci-fi, who previously seemed able to exclude whoever they want from the community, Doherty’s words came as a serious setback. Tor Books was once perceived to be in the grip of hard-line progressives and identity warriors, but now some angry social justice warriors are even threatening to boycott the company.
Naturally, Gawker was also upset.
But such opinions represent an ever-dwindling minority. Everywhere we look, the authoritarian left is on the retreat. As I predicted in January, a chorus of liberal voices has risen to condemn their behaviour. On social media, in tech and on the campus, ostensibly liberal and left-leaning commentators are busy condemning the extremists of their own tribe.
Meanwhile, campaigns like GamerGate and the Sad Puppies are routing them in the culture wars. As in so many other cultural arenas, the SJWs of sci-fi are long past their heyday. And much of that decline can be attributed to the Sad Puppies themselves.
It should be remembered that Doherty’s blog post did not come out of nowhere. They were prompted by a wave of complaints by the Sad Puppies and their supporters, following comments from Tor’s Creative Director, Irene Gallo. Gallo had accused the Sad Puppies of being “neo-nazis”, “bad-to-reprehensible”, and “unrepentently racist, misogynistic and homophobic”.
These comments quickly led to a backlash —not just from the Puppies themselves, but also from unaffiliated figures, including New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher. The bulk of Doherty’s post was aimed at distancing Tor Books from the comments of Gallo —who later issued her own apology.
Of course, many of the Sad Puppies have accused both Gallo and Tor Books of being insincere. That may well be true. But just a few short years ago, when the authoritarian left were at their peak, the idea of someone like Gallo feeling the need to issue an insincere apology would have been inconceivable.
Regardless of the outcome of the Hugo Awards, the Sad Puppies can start smiling. They are now a force to be reckoned with. And when you’re standing up to bullies and authoritarians, that’s often the only thing you need.