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Sasquan and Beyond

July 26, 2015

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A couple posts down, I posted about worldcon and what it means to me, and why I am going to be going to Sasquan and throwing a big party there (someone needs to make a big futile, stupid gesture, and it might as well be me).

From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will NOT be going to Spokane, mainly because the Hugo Wars have left a bad taste in their mouths. Others will attend, but not without trepidation. They wonder how much of the acrimony of Puppygate will spill over into the con itself… to the panels, the parties, the hallways. Will this worldcon be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud?

I wish I could answer that question, but no one really knows. I’m hoping for “celebration” and “family reunion,” and I think that’s the best bet… but we won’t know till the fat lady sings and the dead dogs howl.

There are a couple of questions that are key here.

Number one, how many Puppies are actually going to be coming to Spokane? Hundreds of people have bought Sasquan memberships in the last couple of months, presumably to vote on the awards and site selection, but the majority of those have been supporting memberships. Are any of the Puppies buying attending memberships?

I have no idea. We do know that none of the Puppy leaders will be in Spokane. Brad Torgersen is in the military, and on deployment. Larry Correia attended the Reno worldcon (and blogged about what a great time he had, though he changed his mind a few months ago and revised his trip report retroactively), but he has clearly stated a number of times that he finds Dragoncon and Gencon more congenial and does not plan to return to worldcon. And VD, we are told, cannot attend any worldcon held on US soil. (I do not know the truth of that, though it does appear true that Beale lives somewhere abroad).

Torgersen, Correia, and Beale are by no means the only Puppies, of course. What about the others? Wright, Kratman, Hoyt, Williamson, May, Paulk, the Tor Boycott guys? Any of them? If any of the slate nominees should win a Hugo, will they be there to accept? Sure, many of those on the slates will be there, folks like Mike Resnick and Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, but just as we must distinguish between the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, we need to distinguish between the actual Puppies and those they chose to nominate.

Will the Sad Puppies be sitting on panels, signing autographs in the dealer’s room, attending the parties? Hell, will they be throwing parties? (The Furries sometimes have room parties at worldcon, what about the Puppies?) Will any of the Rabids turn up, without their rabid leader?

The fannish fears about Sasquan becoming a battleground are going to prove baseless if no Puppies actually come to Spokane. Which is entirely possible. Way back in one of my first posts on Puppygate, I said that the Puppies want to decide who gets the Ditmars, but they don’t want to be Australians. That analogy still holds true; the Puppies want to decide who gets worldcon’s award, but they don’t seem to want to come to worldcon.

But maybe I am wrong.

If so, the second question arises. Assuming some Puppies do indeed come to Spokane — a lot, a few, just one — what will that do to the atmosphere of the con?

This of course is a two-sided question. Will the Puppies behave? How will the trufans behave toward them? Will people get along, agree to disagree, maintain some semblence of courtesy? Or will we have blood in the halls and the party suites?

Tor always throws a huge party at worldcon. Will the boycotters try to make their presence known there, or at the Tor table in the dealer’s room? Baen Books often has a party too. Is that going to be a Puppy stronghold, or will writers from across the spectrum be welcome? If there is a panel on Puppygate, will it turn into a bloodbath?

And then there the two biggest potential flashpoints. The Business Meeting, and the Hugo ceremony itself. The Business Meeting takes place AFTER the Hugos, and I suspect that much of what happens there will be determined by what happened the night before. But it could get very contentious. The Hugo Awards… David Gerrold has stated several times that he wants to make the ceremony fun and non-political. I commend him for that. But there is only so much that a presenter can do. There’s only one of him, and hundreds in the audience. David can set a tone, but he cannot control what will happen.

What happens at Sasquan, I believe, is going to be very important… because it will go a long way toward determining what happens after worldcon, next year and the year after and the year after that. “The culture war has come to science fiction,” some of the headlines about this kerfuffle have read. True enough, I fear. The question is, is the culture war here to stay, or can we make a peace? Will Puppygate fade and be forgotten after Sasquan, or will we need to fight the same battles next year?

The answer to that lies with the Sad Puppies. The Rabids? Forget it. Beale has vowed to destroy the Hugos, to burn them to the ground, and I have no doubt he will try… this year, next year, the year after. There’s no reconciliation possible there.

The Sads, though… as much as I have disagreed, and continue to disagree, with Correia and Torgersen, I have managed to have relatively civilized and courteous exchanges with them both, and I don’t think either intended what has happened. Beale wants to wreck the Hugos; Correia and Torgersen just seem to have wanted to get themselves and their friends nominated. I don’t like the way they went about it, but they are not the first to have that impulse. Neither one will be involved with Sad Puppies 4, we are told… and that’s good. I can only hope that their chosen successor will go about things differently… recommendations rather than a slate, discussions of the virtues of the writers they like rather than attacks on the writers they don’t like, an end to all the crap about SWJs and CHORFs, the endless name-calling.

I am old enough to remember 1974, when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle published THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE and Samuel R. Delany published DHALGREN. Both major works by major writers, both bestsellers, both instantly recognized as classics… but in what may have been the last great battle of the Old Wave and New Wave, the fans who loved MOTE hated DHALGREN, and vice versa. (I loved them both myself, but I think I was almost alone in that). At every con I went to that year, fans and writers alike debated the virtues of those two important novels. The arguments were impassionated, endless, often heated, sometimes derisive… but underneath it all was always the sense that we are all still fans together, united by a common love for our genre.

It was not a culture war. It was a literary debate.

That’s what we need to return to, if we are ever to get beyond Puppygate.

Can we? I hope so. One of the things that gives me hope is — surprise — one of the Puppies, a writer named Kary English. She will be up for two awards on Hugo night. Both the Sad Puppies and the Rabids had her on their slate for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and she’s on the ballot there. And both slates also pushed her story “Totaled,” which is on the ballot for Best Short Story. English did not refuse the nominations or ask to be removed from the ballot, like Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and (later) Edmund Schubert, for which sin some of those on “my side” of this fight will not forgive her. But she did later make two blog posts about Puppygate — you can read them here and here– calling for the Puppies to talk about the work and why they liked it (which none of them were doing, all the actual literary debate and reviews were coming from the other side) and then asking me to left out of any future Puppy slates. For that sin, she got on the Rabid shitlist too, and Beale dropped her from his slate.

I don’t know Kary English. (It is possible I have met her or been in the same room with her at some previous con, but if so I don’t remember. I meet a lot of people). Until Puppygate and her double nomination, I had never read any of her work. But I agree with much of what she had to say in those posts, and I applaud her for saying it, knowing (as surely she must have) that by breaking ranks with “her side,” aka the Puppies, she would face the wroth of some of those who had previously championed her. I know that there are some on “my side” who have slammed English despite these posts, insisting that she spoke up too late in the game, that she was trying “to have it both ways.” No, sorry, that’s idiocy. Like Kloos and Bellet and Schubert before her, she’s opting out of the kennel and the slates. I will not fault her for not doing so sooner. This thing has been hard for all concerned, and these choices are painful… especially for a young writer who has just received his or her first Hugo nomination.

If there is any hope for reconciliation post-Puppygate, it lies with voices of moderation and forgiveness on both sides, not with the extremists and the haters. It lies with Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert. I hope they are all at worldcon. I would like to meet them, buy them a drink, shake their hands, and argue about books with them.

And Kary English too. The chances are good that, come Hugo night, she will be losing a Hugo Award and a Campbell Award both (maybe not, upsets happen, no one knows, I get surprised every year, but that’s my best guess). If so, I’ll have a Hugo Loser ribbon for her badge, and she’ll be welcome at my Hugo Loser Party.

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