Here’s How to Beat the Sad Puppies: Let Them Win

Don Vito Corleone
Marlon Brando rejected his 1973 Oscar for his portrayal of Don Vito Corleone. Does anyone care 42 years later?
Cheaters never prosper. That’s what I was taught in kindergarten, and although the dissident science fiction writers known as the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” have only gamed the 2015 Hugo Awards ballot to their benefit, rather than defrauding it, the principle still applies. People who twist a system to their benefit only hurt themselves in the long run. Science fiction readers who love the Hugo Awards face the challenge of preserving its value while sending a message to the tricksters. Letting them win may be the best revenge.

Even casual science fiction readers know about the Hugos. It’s one of the oldest, most prestigious awards, the Oscars of sci-fi literature. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Ursula K. Le Guin are among its recipients. The awards nominations are crowdsourced: Readers who purchase a $40 membership in Worldcon, itself a venerated fan gathering, nominate their favorite books and authors. Writers love the recognition, and publishers love the marketing opportunity; They use the award in the same way motion picture studios scream a movie’s nomination and/or award for “Best Picture” in advertising.

High-profile awards are also a ripe opportunity for political grandstanding. I watched a lot of awards programs on TV as a kid, and one of my earliest memories is Marlon Brando sending a little-known Indian actor, Sacheen Littlefeather, to reject his Best Actor Oscar in 1973 for his portrayal of Don Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” The issue was real—the despicable history of Hollywood’s portrayal of indigenous people—but the scene at the Oscars show was pure theater.

The successful gaming of the Hugo Awards’ nomination system by the Puppies cliques represents a similar kind of grandstanding on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Supporters resent a long-term trend in science fiction in general, and the Hugos in particular, away from the classic high-tech, shoot-em-up style of scifi popular in the 50s and 60s towards an emphasis on softer subjects, such as gender equality and racism, that don’t necessarily involve ray guns. The baby doggies feel put upon, expressing their own version of FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly’s claims that Hilary Clinton’s run for the White House represents a declaration of “open season” on white, middle-aged men and Christians.

The Puppies’ temper tantrum about the culture’s drift away from their point-of-view has about as much chance of an impact as Brando’s gesture, no matter how you view the politics. In 1973, the culture was already moving on. The western, where most Indians appeared, was comatose as a genre, though later portrayals of Indians in movies such as Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves” had their own political issues. The vociferousness of the Puppies’ protests and their awards tampering tactics underscores their marginalization; The world is rejecting their views, and they can’t stand it.

What should science fiction fans who love the Hugos do now? Assuming the Puppies nominees take home one or more awards, let them have their day in the limelight. The most likely long-term outcome will be… nothing. It will have no impact. Their gamesmanship will become no more than a footnote. It’s a one-shot deal; no one will take them seriously in the future. That’s how they will lose; their awards will be forever tagged with an asterisk: “Oh, you’re the guy who won because of those Sad Puppies freepers.” It may feel good now, boys, but in a few years, you’ll put your award in a closet because you’ll be ashamed to display it.

3 thoughts on “Here’s How to Beat the Sad Puppies: Let Them Win

  1. Your sarcasm is duly noted, but the thing is, your proposal is precisely what it would require to make the Sad Puppies, et cetera, settle down. Their whole point was to expose that the Hugos were overrun with politicized cliques that would harass and blacklist people who don’t hold approved opinions, and the wild overreaction to the first two years of Sad Puppies has proved that more than anything else could have done. Want them to sit down? Be scrupulously fair and polite with them, just like you should be doing with everyone anyway.


  2. New voters are franchised is usually considered good thing, but not in the upside down SF world.

    This is very simple. One group controlled the playground. A new group,the SP, wanted to play in the playground. The trufans wanted to protect their playground from the SP because they saw the SP as vandals.
    The SP invaders said the playground belongs to all. The trufans got upset and called the SP nasty names.

    The SP used the rules process to get in and the trufans did not lose gracefully.

    The new members may be supporters of the trufans or the SP. No way to know.

    Base on the new members of 1500 in 15 days. We could expect another 9000 supporting members.

    Fandom will survived. Partly it is new generation pushing out the old.
    Worldcon 2015 will be an interesting and potentially unhappy event with old members possibly forced to award the SP nominees. That is why accepting a loss is important to maintain civility.

    The trufans can either accept the SP gracefully or not. IF not then do not expect graciousness on the SP.

    SF &F has been open to new ideas and that has made it very open and accepting of new fans such as Furries. Many who have felt discriminated in general society got acceptance and accolades. That is a good thing. Open ideas mean open to ideas that rae not popular.

    That is why the rules of courtesy are followed to prevent the toxic confrontation with in a group. Calling each other names is discourteous. Refusal to accept at least on the surface is rude.

    The problem with the internet is that people blurt out their hurt feelings without consideration. Ms Hayden initial reaction was signaling to her group, the trufans, to freeze out the SP. Many took that to call them names to destroy their credibility. The many articles in EW, Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, Telegraph , The Guardian. To any person observing this was coordinated. To deny that is to stick your head in the sand.

    This is a shame and uncivil. There are hurt feelings all around. Two fine writers bowed out.

    IF the invaders win the awards , accept them gracefully. Hopefully it has not gone so far that the invaders will in turn accept the writers and and fans that support the trufans.

    The lesson is that all are fans. Not trufans or SP and to accept all with graciousness and courtesy. Hopefully the old order and the new order will do that.


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