“Nielsen-Haydens, your fellow travelers, and media goombahs . . . I MOCK YOU! I MOCK YOUR ASININE INCESTUOUS CLUSTERFUCKED LITTLE CULTURE OF DOCTRINAIRE PROGRESSOSEXUAL MEDIOCRITY MASKED AS SUPERIORITY! You are all dolts. You are moral and physical cowards. You are without ethics, without scruples, and if you weren’t so patently pathetic, I’d say you might be dangerous.
Fuck you. Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.”
So that was Brad Torgersen, talking about two editors at the science fiction publisher Tor. Torgersen is the leader of the “Sad Puppies,” the public face of a bunch of right-wing science fiction writers whose proudest achievement is gaming the Hugo award nominations this year.
(Note also the homophobic “pink and poofy” comment. Not Torgersen’s first homophobic comment, either.)
So that’s the kind of rhetoric Puppies engage in.
Well, okay, it happens. I’m not bothered by Torgersen losing his temper – almost everyone does, in these situations. (I am icked, but not at all surprised, by Torgersen’s homophobic comments.)
So, anyway, Irene Gallo, who (I think) is in charge of cover design at the science fiction publisher Tor (which has published more than one Puppy author), was asked on her personal Facebook page “what are the Sad Puppies?” Gallo replied:
There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.
This is impolite, and hyperbolic, and you could argue it’s inaccurate as well. For instance, one could argue that Rabid Puppy leader Vox Day is not literally a neo-nazi, but merely a vicious fascistic racist misogynistic trans-and-gay-hating anti-semite. I think that’s a specious distinction, because many English speakers use “neo-nazi” to refer to racist anti-semitic fascists in general, whether or not the person in question has actually joined the Nazi party; but it’s a distinction that reasonable people might make.
And, in my opinion, the primary goal of the Puppies isn’t to end social justice in sf/f, but merely to find a way to win a prestigious writing award without having to earn it through merit. (That’s certainly what the history suggests). But reasonable people might disagree.
A lot of Puppies have been arguing that it’s unfair to refer to Sad Puppies like Torgersen as “neo-nazi.” But Gallo straight-out didn’t do that; she called the Rabid Puppies neo-nazi, not the Sad Puppies.
It’s true that she refers to the puppies collectively as “unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.” Although probably this isn’t true of every single Puppy, it’s no more unfair to characterize the Puppies by their leaders’ statements than it is unfair to characterize Republicans by the positions of George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. And multiple Puppy leaders have said things that can be fairly interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic, or all three.
And certainly, that all the Puppy nominated works were terrible is a reasonable opinion to hold.
I don’t think the way Gallo wrote would be a good way to open a respectful dialog with a Puppy supporter. But that’s fine, because Gallo was writing on her personal Facebook page. She’s not obligated to pitch her words to Brad Torgersen’s or Vox Day’s oh-so-delicate ears.
That was back on May 11. Vox Day screencaped it immediately, but didn’t publicize it until he could use it to create a distraction from the Nebula Awards. So he tweeted it, and his loyal followers exploded in the predictable way, many of them (including Day himself) demanding Gallo’s “resignation.”
Tor’s founder, Tom Doherty, responded with a blog post that sucked up to the Puppy narrative and apologized:
We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views. Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.
Okay, enough summary. (A fuller summary can be found on BlackGate). A few thoughts:
1) As many people have pointed out, Doherty seems to have a notable – and sexist – double-standard. Harry Connolly writes:
For years, Tor editor Jim Frenkel was widely known as a serial sexual harasser at conventions. What was done about it? Not much, for a very long time. Eventually, he was encouraged to resign after the public outcry became too much, which was announced with typical corporate blandness.
Last year, Tor contracts manager Sean Fodera publicly attacked one of Tor’s authors, Mary Robinette Kowal, in a typically gross and sexist way. […]
Did Tor CEO Tom Doherty release a letter apologizing publicly for Frenkel’s or Fodera’s behavior, while insisting that they should have been smarter about separating the personal from the professional? Of course not. For one thing, Frenkel’s shitty behavior happened while he was representing Tor Books at public events. For another, they were dudes and their victims were women.
However, it took Doherty less than 24 hours to issue a letter of apology for Gallo’s comment on her personal Facebook…
2) Trying to get someone fired because of their political opinions is terrible.
We can have a country in which people can feel safe and secure while stating political opinions. Or we can have a country where people live in fear and are subject to losing their livelihoods if they ever say anything that gets people angry. Everyone who is now trying to get Irene Gallo fired for what she said on Facebook has shown they favor the second option.
3) Prominent Puppy Dave Freer once wrote:
We should look rather harshly on anyone who takes their grudge – whatever it is, and says ‘gee I don’t like Joe Writer. I can’t get at him any other way, but let’s hurt his ability to make a living. That’ll teach him.’ […]
So far, to best of my knowledge, the Puppies, both sad and rabid, and their followers have avoided attacking things which make people a living.
Freer has changed his tune now that so many Puppies are calling for a boycott against Tor until Irene Gallo resigns or is fired. Freer doesn’t explicitly advocate the boycott, to be sure; but he weasels out of opposing it, and adds “I will hold off on buying any books from them in the meanwhile.”
Hopefully Freer will return to the principles he once claimed to believe in.
4) Happily, I’ve seen many people in the sf/f community stand by Gallo. A chorus I’m pleased to join.
5) I’m going to end by quoting Chuck Wendig at length; his entire post is excellent.
I find it no small irony that both the Sad and Rabid Puppies — who so strongly espouse freedom of speech, would then endeavor to rob that from Irene Gallo unless, gasp, we’re talking about another double-standard in play? It’s almost like women get treated differently in the world and held to different standards… hmm. *strokes beard thoughtfully*
Regardless of whether or not you agree with what she said, the fact remains: her publisher publicly rubbed her nose in the mess, then threw her under a bus, then threw her body to a pack of wolves. Again: publicly. Not privately. Perhaps this was all part of some legal stratagem or even a legal necessity — but what it feels like is an entreaty by the publisher to appease folks who believe and opine about really horrible things. And any time you want to make sure that your “inclusiveness” includes the most awful amongst us, please understand you’re not creating a safe space for anybody but the abusers. It’s like putting up a sign in your flowerbed: POISON IVY WELCOME.
I stand by Irene Gallo because she is a person who has the right to air her personal sentiments, regardless of whether or not we find them disagreeable. She has that right without being smacked across the nose by her employer in a sanctioned public shaming. I do not agree with Tor’s posturing on this point because it represents a double-standard of sexism and favoritism. I do not agree with Tor because they are opening the tent flap to the worst among us.