I'm starting to think this whole tale Brad Torgersen is telling about how he and the puppies are the lone freedom fighters waging an against-all-odds battle the Trufan oppressors is actually a piece of performance art. I may nominate it for Best Dramatic Presentation next year. -- Nonnie discussing Torgersen's defense of the Sad Puppies.
Brad R. Torgersen is a science fiction author. His work has received some critical acclaim; he has been nominated for prominent science fiction awards such as the Nebula and the Campbell, and he won the Writers of the Future contest in 2009. However, meme's interest in him primarily stems from his integral role in the Hugopocalypse, when he led several right-wing authors and editors in a successful attempt to fill up the 2015 Hugo ballot with a handpicked slate that pushed all other works off the ballot. Torgersen made several outrageous statements in defense of the slate nominees (as well as slates as a whole), which meme has dissected.
He is also a Chief Warrant Officer in the US Army Reserve. Nonnies discussed his military status here.
The Hugos are a set of prestigious awards in the field of fantasy and science fiction. They are awarded by popular vote; anyone who pays a nominal fee can nominate up to 5 works or people in each of several categories (such as Best Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Professional Artist), and the top 5 nominees in each category are placed on the final ballot. Voters then rank the nominees for each category in order to determine the winner.
In 2013, fellow author Larry Correia announced that the Hugos had a insular bias; people who were popular among the tiny subset of fandom which were Hugo voters kept getting nominated, he claimed, even though their works weren't really popular in fandom as a whole. To change this, he announced an effort to get one of his novels on the ballot; the idea was that it was a good work but was being unfairly shut out because he wasn't friends with the big-name fans at Worldcon (the convention where the Hugos are presented). He christened this effort the 'Sad Puppies' on the basis that puppies would be very sad if good authors continued to be denied Hugos. Unfortunately for him, this effort failed and his novel did not reach the final ballot. So he tried again in 2014, recommending several works as part of the Sad Puppies 2 campaign. These included two of Torgersen's as well as one of his own and one of noted lunatic Vox Day's, though no more than 2 per category. Many of the slate works got on the ballot (but not the two that were ineligible; Correia didn't do a very good job of vetting them), but they were crushed in the final vote, and non-Puppy works won all the awards.
With Correia having failed twice, Torgersen took over the Sad Puppies efforts for 2015 and started by asking for recommendations in the comments of his original Sad Puppies 3 post. Agreeing with Correia's view that Worldcon had become too insular and was nominating the same old favorites every year, he claimed that the Puppies would shake things up by getting new, popular works onto the ballot. Their presence would, he said, encourage more fans to come to Worldcon, since they would see works that they liked being honored (instead of stuff only the graying Worldcon regulars cared for). He also had a logo made for the project.
He eventually published his slate, which proved to be distinct from Correia's in one major way--instead of nominating one or two works per category, it often included a full five suggestions. This meant that, if the entire slate made the ballot for a given category, it would push all the other works off the ballot in that category.
At about this time, Torgersen also produced a long justification post for why the Puppies were needed, featuring an analogy that was, to put it charitably, rather strained:
Imagine for a moment that you go to the local grocery to buy a box of cereal. You are an avid enthusiast for Nutty Nuggets. You will happily eat Nutty Nuggets until you die. [...] Then, one day, you get home from the store, pour a big bowl of Nutty Nuggets . . . and discover that these aren’t really Nutty Nuggets. They came in the same box with the same lettering and the same logo, but they are something else. Still cereal, sure. But not Nutty Nuggets. [...] The box may say NUTTY NUGGETS but you won’t be fooled any longer. Nutty Nuggets are dead. Or at least they are no longer of any interest to you. So, you reluctantly turn to another brand.
He went on to explain that science fiction literature was like nutty nuggets--it was once awesome, but it changed for the worse, and now people are staying away in droves. In other words, it used to be like:
...if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth.
But, he claimed, the genre had changed for the worse:
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?
A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.
Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.
Torgersen was roundly mocked (including by meme) as people tore apart his analogy and also discussed how his complaint was, literally, that one could no longer judge books by their covers. A parody twitter feed was also created (meme discussion).
In any event, the Sad Puppies (and their companions, the Rabid Puppies, led by Vox Day who copied Brad's slate and added a few nominees of his own) did manage to sweep the ballot. Their victory was slightly weakened when several authors withdrew, either feeling that their placement was illegitimate or just not wanting to be associated with Torgersen and Day, but enough remained that most categories were dominated by the Puppy nominees.
Torgersen, upon hearing complaints about the slate (such as Jason Sanford's decrying of slate tactics), declared that people were just trying to rule that he and the other Puppies were not true fans. He decided to come up with a new name to describe people that wanted to gatekeeper the Puppies out, eventually settling on Cliquish, Holier-than-thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary Fans, or CHORFs.
His antics continued throughout the Hugo voting period. At one point he even compared the Puppies to the South in the American Civil War. Somehow he thought this would make them look good. At another point, in response to people calling the Puppies racist, he insisted that this charge could not possibly apply to him because he married a black woman and fathered a child with her. This particular bit of illogic was roundly mocked by many (Meme)
Ultimately, the Puppies flamed out at the Hugo awards; except for the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees, every single Puppy pick finished below No Award. In the five categories that were completely filled with Puppy works, No Award was given to the category. Torgersen promptly threw a tantrum on his blog, which included editing the comments of all detractors to read "YOU MADE ME DO THIS." (Meme)
Discussion on meme
Shortly after the ballot was released, meme discussed the criticism Torgersen was receiving. It also came out that Torgersen hadn't actually checked with everyone to see if they were willing to be part of his Hugo takeover attempt, despite Torgersen's claims to the contrary, and meme noted this as well.
A couple days later, legendary fantasy writer George R. R. Martin called out the Puppies for enabling the sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, and general-purpose lunatic Vox Day by voting his slate and keeping him as a member of the Puppies in good standing. Meme agreed with his callout, and John Scalzi chimed in with similar thoughts. At the same time, Torgersen posted an overwrought 'letter from a gulag' about the sad fates of those who defy the SJW thought police; nonnies mocked this repeatedly, and one noted that this nonsense made GRRM seem too charitable in assuming that Torgersen was a basically honorable guy except for his support of Day.
Nick Mamatas listed out the Puppy nominees and showed how they were all either friends of Brad, mentors of Brad, or people Brad worked with on a close professional basis. A commenter on Naomi Kritzer's site also showed that only about 10% of his slate picks came from recommendations on his site; he came up with the rest himself, apparently just by looking at what his friends and mentors had available. Puppy Michael Z Williamson explicitly confirmed that this was how his book 'Wisdom from my Internet' got on the slate. Meme discussed this.
Correia and Torgersen both tried to distance themselves from Vox Day, but meme wasn't having it. (Torgersen would later compare Day to a 'weed that must not be watered'; meme was bemused by the analogy). Meme also re-examined Torgersen's claims that he'd contacted the people on his slate in light of an exchange on File770, in which the case of Juliette Wade--an author who had been on the slate but then asked to be removed--was discussed. Torgersen claimed that Wade had requested to be removed from it so that the CHORFs wouldn't target her for destruction on account of being affiliated with Puppies. Juliette herself showed up and said that this was nonsense; Torgersen had made the slate sound like it was just a rec list, so Wade had agreed to participate; when she learned that voters were supposed to copy it wholesale, she was incensed and demanded to be removed. Fear of CHORFs never came into it. (Meme mockery.)
A flailing Torgersen tried to insult John Scalzi by calling him gay. Scalzi patiently explained that being called gay isn't actually insulting. Myke Cole, who is also in the military, subsequently called out Torgersen on his shameful behavior. (Meme discussion).
While meme hasn't discussed Torgersen's actual fiction much, there was a thread discussing how he'd screwed up NASA's relation to the US military in a story.
Editor (and Winterfox stan) Nick Mamatas did say at one point that Torgersen's career was moribund, but nonnies noted that Torgersen actually does have some critical and commercial success, his Hugo-related inanity notwithstanding.
As the Hugo award ceremony approached, Torgersen wrote a thinly-veiled analogy featuring a crusty drill instructor telling new recruits that, if they're going to colonize space, they can't waste time whining about privilege--they've just gotta toughen up and take their lumps. Meme showed this all the respect it deserved, which wasn't much.