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Rabid Cuddlers

March 6, 2017

So last week, I had an encounter with the fly-bitten rump of the sad puppy movement. I’ve never really bothered engaging with that side of genre culture before as I think that a) providing those people with any kind of platform serves only normalise their ideas, and b) the only real overlap between their interests and mine is the Hugo awards and I don’t really give that much of a shit about the Hugos.

The encounter happened as a result of someone mentioning a right-wing fantasy magazine by name in the comments of a blog post that I had written. This had the effect of summoning the owner of the site who sensed an opportunity to promote his magazine. Having decided to treat my blog like a Reddit AMA, he changed into a robe, put his feet up on the coffee table, and announced himself happy to field any questions that people might have.

I had a look at his site, clocked the image of the Gamergate mascot stood in front of a Confederate flag, and duly told him to go and fuck himself.

Cue about 36 hours-worth of internet hugs for our ego-searching snowflake as close to a dozen right-wing genre bloggers clutched at their pearls, lamented my rudeness, and reminded their readers that the only way to defeat knuckle-dragging brutes such as myself was to continue supporting initiatives featuring right-wing authors and presses. I won’t link to these people because fuck their stupid faces and I won’t address any of the points they made because none of those arguments were written with me in mind. I’ll explain what I mean by that statement in a second but in the meantime, here are some of my favourite responses:








Despite featuring in a wide array of blog posts, comments and tweets, I was never the intended audience for those utterances. For one thing, everyone was quite disciplined in their refusal to either link directly to the site or use one of those anonymising services that hides the origins of internet traffic. Had I not been aware of the way that puppies operate, I would most likely never have noticed the silky caress of their gaze.

Bloggers and commenters spent a chunk of last weekend wanking themselves into an outraged frenzy but rather than focusing that outrage directly at me in an effort to ‘call me out’ or change my behaviour, the emotional energy was directed indiscriminately outwards in a manner suggesting the real point of the exercise was to foster feelings of in-group loyalty and out-group hostility among the people who happen to read those blogs.

The reason for their lack of direct engagement is that, as a person with a nuanced set of ideas and over a decade’s worth of clashes with the great and the good of genre culture, I am of little interest to the sad puppies. Like an ancient and preternaturally wise banyan tree, I have nothing to offer them except for shade and the occasional branch across the top of the skull. However… strip me of my humanity and turn me into a symbolic representation of the broader genre community’s ‘unreasonable’ and ‘unprovoked’ hostility towards a certain subset of right-wing science fiction fans and I can inspire blog posts, sell magazines, and generally bring the in-group closer together as they huddle for warmth against the cold of the interstellar night.




The insular fluffiness of puppy safe spaces reflects the growing desperation of their community leaders. Before Gamergate, the sad puppies were nothing but a collection of third-rate authors who spent their spare time cluelessly goading their smooth-brained fans into voting for them in popular awards. After Gamergate, the puppies were a real cultural force that could unleash hours of sustained unpleasantness with a single blog post.

In hindsight, it is easy to see why Gamergate took an interest in the puppies. From the outside, genre culture is a collection of flabby middle-aged liberals who spend their time reading books and giving themselves awards. Actually… to be fair… this is precisely what a lot of genre culture looks like from the inside too. I’ve participated in genre culture for well over a decade now and just the thought of walrus moustaches and Hawaiian shirts makes me want to set off a mid-sized convention centre’s sprinkler system.

Unfortunately for the puppies, while it must have been comically easy to convince a bunch of teenaged nihilists to troll the Hugo awards, it was never going to be easy to convince basement-dwelling trolls to set aside their Japanese pornography long enough to read a bunch of over-written Catholic fantasy novels. The fact that Gamergaters turned up to harass liberals but didn’t stick around to spend money explains why prominent puppies have  downplayed their involvement, decreased their ambitions, and failed to step back from the movement in time and wound up being forced to repeatedly beg for financial support from their dwindling fanbase:





Obviously, nobody deserves to be immiserated and socialist government would ensure that nobody would ever be reduced to online panhandling but if you are going to be a radical right-winger who burns his professional bridges because he plans to live on the money he makes giving suck-jobs to Pepes then you might want to make sure that they leave the money on the dresser before you take out your false teeth.




The puppies’ experiences as nerd-fuhrers may well come to define their adult lives but their flirtations with moral entrepreneurship failed to secure them the kind of following that might provide access to the lucrative world of conservative cultural commentary. Even worse, their attempts to cultivate a right-wing alternative to the stuttering multiculturalism of mainstream genre spaces appears to have resulted in little more than a handful of underwhelming blogs supporting the work of a few self-publishing authors.

The more time passes, the more apparent it becomes that the puppies didn’t just fail to storm the barricades of genre liberalism, they failed so spectacularly that it has wound up costing them significant amounts of money and prestige. Unfortunately for anyone with an interest in literary science fiction, this means that the puppies will inevitably come crawling back to liberal genre spaces in the hope of rebuilding their shattered careers. At this point, I give it about a year before we are introduced to a ‘woke’ Brad Torgersen who dusts off his military uniform to condemn Trump’s foreign wars and blogs about how his day job in the healthcare industry has helped him to understand the suffering caused by the decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

A couple of weeks ago, Angela Nagle wrote a great piece about the ideological instabilities at the heart of the alt-right and everything she says is relevant to the declining power of the sad and rabid puppies:


While liberals enjoyed cultural hegemony and became complacent and intellectually lazy, the young transgressives of the alt-right produced an undeniable level of creative energy. The war for the soul of America Pat Buchanan waged in the 1990s has long since been won by the cultural left, and the tyrannical overreach of liberal intellectual conformity undoubtedly helped create the youthful rebellion against it. But this temporary alliance of very different factions — the most stark being between the traditionalist right and the libertinism of chan culture — has produced a schizophrenic incoherence.


The social and ideological instabilities of the puppy movement should come as no surprise once you realise the gulf that separates adolescent edge-lords  from a bunch of stupid old men who want fandom to go back to the way it was in 1953. What is surprising is the speed at which a movement whose ruthlessness once made international news has been reduced to bleating about politeness and passing out internet hugs. Liberal genre culture may be ponderous, self-serving, and morally confused but it was never quite that pathetic.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2017 6:20 pm

    Good work, comrade!


  2. March 6, 2017 6:23 pm

    Thanks Danny :-)


  3. March 6, 2017 6:27 pm

    I sadly think it will be longer than a year, if ever, than Brad tries such a gambit. He really, really has burned a lot of bridges in fandom, as have the Sad and Rabid Puppies in general.


  4. March 6, 2017 6:43 pm

    Woke Brad was a riff on Woke Glenn Beck in his scarf and tinted glasses but yeah… Some Puppies are going to struggle to move back to the centre.


  5. Mark permalink
    March 6, 2017 7:47 pm

    “The reason for their lack of direct engagement is that, as a person with a nuanced set of ideas and over a decade’s worth of clashes with the great and the good of genre culture, I am of little interest to the sad puppies.”

    I’m afraid that not naming you is nothing particularly to do with your nuances, it’s just their standard MO.

    The PuppyGG links weren’t really as simple as you described (no less discreditable, mind) but it’s close enough for government work.

    I assume you wrote this because you had a gap in your schedule this week for being furiously blogged at, and thought this would fill it nicely?


  6. March 6, 2017 7:51 pm

    Never said it was anything about me.

    Nobody forces you to read my stuff Mark. I suggest not bothering in future.


  7. Mark permalink
    March 6, 2017 8:25 pm

    Ummm, you seem to have read significantly more hostility into my comment than I intended, which was zero.


  8. March 6, 2017 8:26 pm

    In that case, I apologise :-)


  9. March 6, 2017 9:27 pm

    That’s what I love about rabid rightwingers, always imagine themselves to be the victim!


  10. March 7, 2017 2:55 am

    As Jack Black says to that kid in School of Rock – I liked the delivery because I could feel your anger. Really well-written article!

    And good news too, really. I’m not that plugged into fandom, for some reason I had just been assuming that puppy-like forces were ascendant in science fiction just like the alt-right at other places in society.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. March 7, 2017 10:52 am

    Rahul, One of the things that has probably upped their temp is that their corner of the alt-rt world has not been uplifted like the rest. They’re the failures of the “revolution”


  12. March 7, 2017 11:19 am

    I think Steve’s right. The Puppies have got nothing to show for their revolutionary activities but then… it’s not like their revolutionary activities netted them much in the first place.

    On the Puppy side, it’s pretty clear that, despite sacrificing their social capital and professional contacts in a bid to distance themselves from liberal nerds, the puppies haven’t really received very much from right-wing institutions by way of compensation. None of them have become elevated to the role of conservative cultural commentator and none of them appear to have parlayed their ‘right-wing outsider’ status into the kinds of book deals that were given to (and then promptly withdrawn from) people like Milo.

    On the alt-right side, the puppies failed to deliver genre culture in the way that Gamergate delivered video game culture. Spend any time in gaming spaces now and it’s pretty clear that alt-right views are considered mainstream and acceptable whereas genre spaces still tend to look askance at people banging drums for Trump, ranting about abortion, and calling for the expulsion of immigrants.

    If you look at the rhetoric deployed in the early iterations of the Sad Puppies then it’s pretty clear that people like Correia and Torgersen believed that there was a silent majority of right-wing genre fans who had been effectively frozen out of liberal genre spaces. The voting slates were not just about getting their names on Hugo shortlists but about breaking what they saw as a cultural monopoly and inviting thousands of ‘real fans’ into genre spaces. In truth, those ‘real fans’ either don’t exist or are quite happy reading books and letting genre culture do its own thing.

    Ideology aside, if you can’t deliver bodies and cultural spaces to your right-wing pay masters then you can’t expect them to give you a regular slot on Fox News.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Gregory Benford permalink
    March 7, 2017 7:39 pm

    Haven’t followed the Puppies story but your writing here is fab–laughed with appreciation.


  14. March 7, 2017 7:40 pm

    Thanks Greg :-) I’m rather fond of your writing too!


  15. People Who Actually Buy Books permalink
    March 8, 2017 3:28 am

    Who the hell is Jonathan McCalmont? Never heard of him.


  16. Trumpist Inquisitor permalink
    March 8, 2017 3:41 am

    So gay


  17. F Harper permalink
    March 8, 2017 4:53 am

    The profanity and attempts to downplay and marginalize speaks volumes. Yes, you are rude and quite full of yourself. No, you will not see us come crawling back to get in your good graces. You are the past. The culture is shifting, moving away from the delusions of Marxism, nihilism and moral relativism. You can feel it slowly accelerating, like an ocean liner picking up speed. The old, corrupt insitutions, those edifices of lies, are faltering, and people are embracing truth and real virtue. Being a leftist and lacking in moral courage or principles, wedded to your groupthink and terrified of ostracism, you will one day proclaim that you were with us all along.


  18. hoocott permalink
    March 8, 2017 5:33 am

    “Unfortunately for the puppies, while it must have been comically easy to convince a bunch of teenaged nihilists to troll the Hugo awards, it was never going to be easy to convince basement-dwelling trolls to set aside their Japanese pornography long enough to read a bunch of over-written Catholic fantasy novels.”

    You say this but then I see this:

    Interzone #268 (January-February 2017): New Science Fiction & Fantasy

    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,732 Paid in Kindle Store

    Cirsova #4: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,980 Paid in Kindle Store

    How do you rectify Indie unknown Cirsova rivaling Worldcon awarded Interzone at the kindle store with your above statement?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. mmaier2112 permalink
    March 8, 2017 6:07 am


    A “male” wrote this page? Damn…. now I feel dizzy from my world reeling…. Can we get you a fainting couch, Dear?


  20. March 8, 2017 6:51 am

    Wow… You guys really are terrible at insulting people. At least when Scalzi dropped his supporters on me I actually felt momentarily uncomfortable at the sheer number.


  21. March 8, 2017 7:46 am

    Apologies. When I posted about Cirsova, I didn’t intend to provoke further ripples in the turbulent waters of online genre culture!

    You may be right that there isn’t much right-wing genre culture. I’m only aware of two Anglo-American conventions that are welcoming to openly conservative authors (DragonCon and LibertyCon). Some of the Puppies posting here might be able to help me out with any others.

    This may be because genre culture is often about geek pride, overcoming social ostracisation and finding a place to belong. That’s significantly less appealing to social conservatives, I suspect, especially in the States where religion can provide a readymade community. That doesn’t mean conservatives don’t read books. It does mean they’re less likely to nominate for genre awards, especially those that involve turning up in person.

    On those grounds, I don’t think the Puppies are going to come ‘crawling back’. Most people go where they are welcome. In fact, I suspect there is a cohort of aspiring conservative and libertarian authors who will now avoid liberal genre culture completely as it’s obvious that they aren’t welcome and don’t belong. If enough people do that, SF&F will segregate by political affiliation. That would be a shame as a fiction of imagination benefits from people with different views.

    Finally, I will stick up for Cirsova. The editor was just passionate about his magazine. There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s just providing another venue where people can get stories published (and read). He’s not standing for public office. The issue of Cirsova I read wasn’t overtly political either, as far as I remember. That said, it’s your blog, and if you don’t want US right-wingers commenting, that’s your prerogative.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. hoocott permalink
    March 8, 2017 7:54 am


    “I’ve never really bothered engaging with that side of genre culture”


    “The reason for their lack of direct engagement”


    “Nobody forces you to read my stuff Mark. I suggest not bothering in future.”

    and last

    “At least when Scalzi dropped his supporters on me I actually felt momentarily uncomfortable at the sheer number.”

    Wew lad

    Why bother insulting you when you are doing such a fine job of it on your own.

    As too the silent invisible army I am sure you are seeing in your wordpress metrics I think most are amused at you bringing your own rope to your own hanging and too stunned at your vacillating cognitive dissonance to say anything.

    How does one insult such a spectacular dog’s breakfast?


  23. overgrownhobbit permalink
    March 8, 2017 8:06 am

    Interesting collection of slanders you’ve got going there. I always get a kick out of the way John Wright’s “third-rate SF” was cover-of-Locus and darling of intellectual SF whilst he was a loud-and-proud atheist, but magically turned khreppe at the same time he turned Catholic – even when it’s the same story.

    But I particularly admire the Un-personing of all the non-leftoid, long-time female fen. Bravo.

    But hey, I hate straw-Campaign to end Puppy-related Sadness too. She’s a real bitch.


  24. The Flower of Marxism permalink
    March 8, 2017 9:19 am

    Jonathan McCalmont: The prolapsed rectum of SF criticism.


  25. swedish cavalier permalink
    March 8, 2017 9:25 am


    Aye, back when The Golden Age was originally released critics were salivating over it and Wright, were describing him as the only new author to rival China Mieville. And then, while latter gentleman continued to be heavily promoted, mainstream writers and critics went silent about Wright even though his writing continued to be of exceedingly high quality and very well received by actual readers. Years passed until I figured out real reasons for that…


  26. March 8, 2017 9:29 am

    Vivienne — No probs :-) old-school genre blogging was nothing but people pissing in each other’s comments. If anything this last week has made me quite nostalgic for the times when it was like this all the time.

    Besides which, you didn’t do anything wrong. Our ego-searching snowflake took a passing mention to be an invitation to start loudly promoting himself in someone else’s space. Had he been less of a self-serving prick and a bit more sensitive to the fact that not everyone welcomes Confederate flag-wearers then he wouldn’t have had his whiskers burned.

    A lot of what passes for drives towards inclusivity and diversity in genre spaces is really nothing more than the market correcting itself. Back in the ’80s and ’90s many of what we now think of as geek content-providers relied on exclusionary marketing tactics in order to target teenaged boys. What we’re now seeing is geek content providers realising that this effectively left quite a lot of money on the table.

    This is particularly obvious in SFF as all stats point to the fact that the majority of men don’t read and those men who do read buy significantly less books than female readers. Last survey of the industry revealed that somewhere close to 80% of people in publishing with less than 5 years experience are women and so the market is naturally correcting itself. It’s taken decades to get there but SFF publishing has finally realised that marketing directly at women is a lot more effective than spending your PR money.

    I can sympathise with some of the men appearing in my comments as I imagine it must be quite unpleasant to feel your cultural spaces shift from treating you like the centre of the universe to treating you almost like the enemy. I can imagine that must feel not only like a betrayal but also like a form of violence and so I completely understand their need to create their own safe spaces and myths to sustain them.

    I completely sympathise with the puppies… I just think that they’re being sold a line. The single greatest fear of the American Republican party is that the white working class will someday realise that they have more in common with working class black people than with white millionaires. The greatest fear of the puppies is that white dude SF readers will one day realise that female black and minority ethnic writers have a greater understanding of what they’re going through than a tax exile with a trust fund.


  27. March 8, 2017 9:31 am

    Overgrownhobbit and Swedish Cavalier — You guys read Locus? LOL


  28. Grimscribe's Muppet permalink
    March 8, 2017 9:35 am

    Cirsova is actually pretty good. You should check some of the stories before you judge them, there is nothing there that might be offensive on ideological basis meaning there is nothing to prevent left wing readers from enjoying them.


  29. March 8, 2017 9:48 am

    Sorry Grimscribe, I did read some of their stories. I found them derivative, poorly-written and tedious. Genre magazines have been churning that type of shit out since the 30s, we really don’t need any more of it.

    As for the idea that Cirsova is a non-political space: Bad faith and bullshit. Stick a GG mascot and a Confederate flag on your website and you lose the right to claim that you’re somehow neutral or above the fray.


  30. Tom E. permalink
    March 8, 2017 3:11 pm

    “… the puppies will inevitably come crawling back to liberal genre spaces in the hope of rebuilding their shattered careers. At this point, I give it about a year before we are introduced to a ‘woke’ Brad Torgersen who dusts off his military uniform to condemn Trump’s foreign wars …”

    What a weird comment. I’ve never read Torgersen, but I know the man volunteered to be in our armed forces and served our country in the Middle East for at least one deployment. Your fantasy of him being forced to crawl back to the people who ostracized him in the hopes of keeping food on his table tells me something about YOU. And it’s not something good.


  31. swedish cavalier permalink
    March 8, 2017 3:56 pm

    “The greatest fear of the puppies is that white dude SF readers will one day realise that female black and minority ethnic writers have a greater understanding of what they’re going through than a tax exile with a trust fund.”
    Those writers had so much time to prove that, as did their more numerous white liberal brethren. “Understanding” they have displayed is what started all this, in a way.


  32. March 8, 2017 5:24 pm

    Tom — I’ll have you know that I’m a high-ranking Royal Marine. You should be more respectful.


  33. March 8, 2017 6:45 pm

    Fair play to old Voxy really… Most lifestyle Doms have to beat their slaves, verbally demean them, dress them in frilly maid’s outfits. All he needs to do to get you guys to empty your wallets is call you the future of science fiction and look like the kind of guy you wish was fucking your wives.

    If you paypigs were ever to meet China Mieville you’d probably spontaneously cream the inside of your chastity devices and sign over the deeds to your home.


  34. Tom E. permalink
    March 8, 2017 7:26 pm

    If you say so, General. The reason I vote straight down the list, just the way Voxy tells me to, is it pisses off the Holier Than Thou crowd. They crave something to be morally outraged about anyway, so why not this?

    Also, (Hugo-nominated) Space Raptor Butt Invasion. That was worth the price of admission alone.


  35. March 8, 2017 7:45 pm

    I just don’t bother to vote.

    Thing is, while I don’t read the stuff the Puppies enjoy, I totally understand hating the smugness of a lot of genre culture. I mean… Fucking hell… How many award ceremonies do these people need?

    I can understand hating that scene and I can understand wanting to read something different but why try to conquer that hill of shit? Why care what the smug jerkoffs think of you? And why jump through the hoops laid out for you by some swaggering daddy’s boy?

    Read what you want.

    Do what you want.

    Respect yourself.

    Fuck anyone who wants to use you to work through their own stupid issues.


  36. Tom E. permalink
    March 8, 2017 8:34 pm

    “Why care what the smug jerkoffs think of you?”

    Because I got emotionally invested in the Sad Puppies campaign. For the first time ever I saw authors nominated that I actually read and liked. Naively, I hoped some of them might even win. Over the course of several months there was a vicious media campaign against the SP’s that culminated with the biggest, self-congratulatory circle-jerk awards show that I’ve ever seen.

    $35/year to throw a monkey wrench into that hot mess? It would be a bargain at twice the price, sir.


  37. March 8, 2017 10:14 pm

    I think you guys were on the right path when you were trying to build your own thing. Continuing to fuck with the Hugos just makes you look like pathetic cucks applying life-support to VD’s ego.



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