Friday, March 27, 2015

Who let the Sad Puppies out?

I have not been one of the organizers of the Sad Puppies project, a recommended reading slate for the Hugo awards, but I have two entries on it, in the Short Story and Best Related Work categories.

The name of the project is a jab at unreasoning emotional appeals to thoughtless entimentality, I believe. I didn't even know about the first year. Last year it caught my attention. I was unhappy when I saw its recommended list didn't have any suggestions for short stories, which is mostly what I've done over the past dozen years.

Last year things got interesting when seven of its 12 suggested works made the Hugo ballot, including a novelette by Theodore Beale (Vox Day), a prolific blogger who has has expressed views that have made him infamous in s-f circles.

None of the Sad Puppies recommendations won in their categories, and even Beale seemed to chuckle at himself as his work came in sixth in a field of five - since "No Choice" is a voting option. But the hounds (puppies, I mean) had been loosed.

Sad Puppies had been organized, I believe by Larry Correia, who is one of those authors who writes for his readers and otherwise doesn't care what you think. This year Day split off to do his own thing, and came up with a slate called the Rabid Puppies. Correia handed off organizing the third incarnation of Sad Puppies to Brad Torgersen, who was one of the nominees last year. I know Brad from SASS, the small semi-pro writers group we both belong to.

Brad did a very thorough job of soliciting and compiling a slate of recommended reading for Sad Puppies 3. The choices were made with an eye towards encouraging a greater appreciation of authors who have been overlooked or shunted aside by the greater s-f community.

This year's slate of recommended works offers people an excellent line-up of top notch, mind bending science fiction in the finest tradition. They seem to have reacted well, and predictions are the Sad Puppies recommendations may make up a large percentage of the final Hugo ballot.

In a time when typical literary s-f is dystopian slipsteam pornography, it's nice to be reminded that there is still core s-f out there. I took a few minutes this afternoon to read my story which is on the Sad Puppies slate, "On a Spiritual Plain", with the Kindle I was given for Christmas.

This was the first time this old troglodyte read a story on a Kindle. Somehow reading it from this new medium, which is the way so many people have probably read it, made me look at it in a whole new light. As I went along, I though to myself, "Hey, this IS pretty good!"

If Sad Puppies got more people to read it, as well as my book nominated in the Best Related Work category, "Letters from Gardner", more power to the pups!

I'm proud and happy to have been a part of the Sad Puppies 3 slate. The formal announcement of the ballot finalists will be made on Saturday, April 4. Authors have already been contacted, but the formal announcement is embargoed until then.

My prediction is that Sad Puppies will take 30 percent of the nominees in the writing categories, while the more hardcore Rabid Puppies slate will take half as many, 15 percent. That will give Puppies of either stripe 45 percent of the total noms. Bear in mind, Vox Day repeated a number of Sad Puppy suggestions, so that number includes some overlap. For example, while I was in contact with Brad as he prepared Sad Puppies, I had nothing to do with Day's picks. But he picked up both my works.

We'll see how it goes. I can't imagine how a volunteer project that encourages people to read more s-f, and a more diverse and varied selection of s-f, can hurt. Of course, people will make up their own minds as they vote on the final ballot, but a great deal of good has already been done.

Brad and his pack of pups are to be commended! Good boy! WOOF!

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