In Which I Speak of Sad Puppies…

I’m broadly in sympathy with the goals of Science Fictions’ Sad Puppies (Not enough to spend forty dollars on a Worldcon supporting membership, though—money is tight right now.) I enjoy how they have managed to afflict the comfortable, expose hypocrisy, and get the media to make fools of themselves. Always worthy ends.

Sad Puppies have also annoyed the same sort of faux Social Justice Warriors whom Gamergate has had to deal with. That’s also of the good. It’s really too bad that term Social Justice Warrior was co-opted by a bunch of internet wankers (way before Gamergate turned around and made it into an insult). Because there are people in this world who are really fighting for Social Justice, and even when I disagree with their politics, I can respect their dedication and effort. And as a grumpy sort-of libertarian; I disagree with everyone’s politics (even my own) at times. 

<random political digression>

Isn’t it strange that this election cycle the only candidate who thinks American’s annual bombing and/or invasions of the Middle East may not be the best of ideas is on the political right? I suppose since we have the best military hardware China’s money can buy, the other politicians assume we need to use it on someone.

</random political digression>

Back to the Sad Puppies. At this point I believe it is customary to insert a ritual denunciation of Vox Day (”He is Evil; We are not; He is Rabid; We are just Sad”). But I can’t really be bothered. While I disagree with much of his politics, he’s hardly the evil incarnate he’s made out to be. He’s a guy with opinions and a soapbox. So fucking what? If you don’t like him, don’t read his blog or buy his books. And I remember that Vox Day supported Gamergate when he didn’t have to. That earns him some serious respect from me. Which brings me indirectly to Tor Books art director Irene Gallo.

Irene Gallo (who is professionally a very talented art director—Tor has some of the best-looking, but brain-numbingly boring and depressing books in the industry) posted the following to her personal Facebook page:


Unsurprisingly, people associated with Sad Puppies didn’t take kindly to being insulted in a public forum and being called “unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic” and “neo-nazi(s)”.

It didn’t bother me; in Gamergate, we call that “Tuesday”.

I first came across Gallo’s Facebook post above as a screenshot on Twitter. One of the people I follow had retweeted Vox Day’s post about it. I was skeptical that it was real. I asked for a link. Day responded, and sure enough it was real. I was surprised Gallo said what she did, as the people she was insulting
(perhaps libeling) included among their number authors published by, and
customers of, her employer Tor Books.

However unlike many people associated with Sad Puppies, I believe Gallo has a right to say whatever she wants to (though she may be brushing up against the border of libel), and have no intention of boycotting books I like by authors who publish with Tor. Gallo’s remarks are not going to stop me from buying a new book by Steven Brust or Paul Cornell. And as a person who believes in free speech, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people being fired for expressing opinions that their employers find embarrassing. I’m also quite capable of separating the opinions of a publisher from those of a writer, and even those of a writer from his or her work. Though I can imagine that Tor authors who’s politics differs from Gallo’s might be querying their agents about other publishing alternatives, out a real worry that they might get less-than-professional treatment from her in the future.

I’m a supporter of free speech—which ideally extends beyond the 1st Amendment protections against Government interference or suppression of speech. We as a society and individuals need to cultivate tolerance for opinions we disagree with.

Irene Gallo should not be fired. While her original Facebook remarks were mean-spirited and showed contempt for Tor readers and Tor authors, employers should not purge employees for having unpopular views. They may have a legal right to (depending on state laws and contracts), but they should not because: 1) the organization becomes captive to the loudest and most easily offended of their stakeholders, and 2) free speech is an objective good that writers and publishers should support, even when that speech is unpopular, or even considered hateful.

Moreover, contributing to the culture of demanding punishment whenever anyone says anything offensive is counter to the Sad Puppy goal of more intellectual/political diversity in SF and Fantasy (as well the main goal supporting the primacy of good story over message). If you like a book/writer published by Tor, buy it. If you don’t, don’t buy it. In the long run, the free market will prevail and Tor (like any other company that doesn’t get the government to bail it out) will either change or die.

The justifications I hear from some people involved in Sad Puppies for supporting a Tor boycott or a campaign to have Gallo fired, generally run along these lines of “our opponents use these tactics, so we have to as well”. (I’m oversimplifying. Duh.)

But there’s an important point that those Puppies are missing. People like Gallo are good for your side. The louder and more extreme your opponents get, the better you look. And the better you look, the more support you gain.

Look at Gamergate. Do we want people like Ben Kuchera, Randi Harper, Jonathon Macintosh, Alex Lifschtz, Sarah Nyberg, or Arthur Chu to shut up? Hell no. Every time they open their mouths, Gamergate gains more supporters, and more people who might have leaning in anti-Gamergate’s direction reconsider.

Gamergate has been slowly winning. Sites covering gaming are adopting stricter ethical codes, people in the industry are realizing the Social Justice Bullies can’t actually hurt them, people involved with Gamergate are creating new sites covering the video gaming industry, calls for censorship are being openly mocked, and the rubber mask has been pulled off Anita Sarkeesian to reveal Jack Thompson underneath.

And they can’t stop themselves. I can tell you from my experience in Gamergate that being on the receiving end of that sort of abuse doesn’t convince anyone of anything. No one ever thinks “fifty strangers on the internet think I’m a bigot! I shall immediately change how I think and act!” People just laugh at them. Which only makes the Social Justice Bullies double down on the crazy. 

And then you win.


(Image by KukuruyoArt)


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