Over the last year and a bit, it has been with some sadness that I watched GamerGate tear through the video game community like a hegswarm attacking everything that is not a hegswarm (that’s an Iain M Banks reference – remember it, I’ll be coming back to it later). Now the same madness is coming to the SFF community in the form of the Sad Puppies, the anti-SJW voting block that have pushed a list of their preferred nominees into every category of this year’s Hugo awards.
The Sad Puppies, much like GamerGate, claim to be against the politicising of science fiction literature and in favour of going back to a time when reading books was fun and not a political statement. They claim that a group of politically correct SJWs have dominated the award bodies and given science fiction’s top prizes to writers who share their political beliefs. The Sad Puppies are an anti-political movement, but being anti-political is a political position in itself. Opposing writers who share a certain political belief is a political position.
Sad Puppies are a political group as much as SJWs are, so let’s look at their political beliefs. They oppose the “social justice-minded community elites” as they call them. The SJW’s main goal is to increase the diversity in science fiction, diversity in terms of writers but also in terms of the types of characters and plots in sci-fi stories. If the SWJs are in favour of diversity then the Sad Puppies are in favour of the status quo, the dominance of straight, white, middle-class, cis-gendered, British and American men in sci-fi publishing.
The Sad Puppies would argue that they are not against diversity, they are against elitist cliques pushing diversity onto sci-fi against the wishes of the fans. Their solution to a supposed SJW elitist clique is to form an elitist clique. An elitist clique is what the Sad Puppies are, as the establishment in sci-fi publishing is straight, white men. For proof of this, look at this article on the number of women who have won Hugo awards, or this article on racism in sci-fi fandom or go to a sci-fi book event and see how it is mostly made up of straight white men.
So the Sad Puppies are supporters of the sci-fi establishment and in favour of the status quo. They are against cliques suppressing writing that does not conform to certain political views, so they have formed a clique to suppress writing which does not confirm to their political views.
All of this reminds me a lot of the rise of UKIP in the UK. The Sad Puppies, like UKIP, claim to be standing up for the silent majority against the overbearing authoritarian left. Like UKIP, the Sad Puppies are from the establishment and are protecting the establishment - a party with a former public school boy and banker as their leader is not against the establishment, just as opposing diversity in a genre dominated by straight, white men is not against the establishment.
UKIP and the Sad Puppies are a radical pro-establishment reaction to the establishment being threatened. Claiming they are fighting community elites and the authoritarian left is just a way to distract attention from the fact that these groups are made up by the sort of people who are in charge everywhere.
I am not against the means by which the Sad Puppies have gone about achieving their goals, they have not broken any rules and have organised themselves efficiently. I am against their politics and against their claims to be anti-political or above politics. There is nothing more political than a straight, white man claiming that their subjective political opinion is object truth and above the petty squabbling of politics.
Diversity is important in science fiction, which is what the Sad Puppies essentially oppose as these are main goals of the SJWs, lefties and feminists – or the forces of darkness as the GamerGate/Sad Puppies axis think of them. Diversity makes sci-fi fiction stronger, more interesting and more fun as a genre.
Diversity also needs recognition from the sci-fi awards bodies. For too long science fiction has been dominated by straight, white, middle-class cis-gendered, British and American men and I say this as a straight, white, middle-class, cis-gendered British man, some of whose favourite books are written by straight, white, middle-class, cis-gendered British or American men. All this stuff is great but diversity is equally important and it is something I am bad at myself but I am trying to be better at.
Years of courageous writers, journalists and fans talking about the appalling lack of diversity within sci-fi was just starting to make a difference with some great books receiving recognition recently, such as Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. If the Sad Puppies get their way, it will be harder for women, for people from ethnic monitories, for people from the LGBT community, for writers without English as a first language to tell their stories. If the Sad Puppies get their way, authors and fans will be constantly looking over their shoulders to make sure a group of middle class white men are not following them around screaming that they are an oppressive authoritarian clique.
If the Sad Puppies get their way, they will become a hegswarm (hegemonizing swarm), devouring everything that does not look like them. The hegswarms are mentioned in several of Iain M Banks’s Culture novels, but feature most prominently in Surface Detail. They are tiny nano-machines that, due to a flaw in their tiny nano-machine brains, will not stop until they convert all matter in the Universe to be exactly like them. If the Sad Puppies get their hegswarm way, I fear they will turn the entire sci-fi genre into an image of themselves and diversity will be dead forever.
Fortunately, in Surface Detail, there are the Restoria, a group whose job is to contain hegswarm outbreaks. We need to be Restoria against the hegswarm by standing up for diversity and calling out reactionary authoritarian groups pretending to be grassroots fan organizations. It is not too late to register for a supporter’s membership for the Hugo awards and vote for the works not on the Sad Puppies list.
We cannot let the Sad Puppies get a foothold in SFF fandom the way GamerGate has in the video game community. We are a diverse group and standing up for diversity was going so well until they came along. The Sad Puppies are not a reflection of SFF fandom and they need to know it.