Including the Puppies

Online hate campaigns are usually bursting with irony. A campaign about "ethics in video game journalisms" dedicated to doxxing, harrassing, threatening and driving out anyone who might disagree with them. People responding to criticisms of racism and misogyny by exploding into racist, misogynistic rants and threats. Felicia Day getting doxxed within minutes to saying that she was afraid to comment on GamerGate, because she feared getting doxxed.

I guess it should be no surprise that sci-fi/fantasy publishing decided to jump on the bandwagon after the recent controversy.

Some brief backstory: two groups of sci-fi/fantasy writers and fans decided to create voting slates for the Hugo Awards to counteract a perceived liberal agenda of blocking out good, old-fashioned stories with needless diversity. Sci-fi/fantasy had become anti-conservative, and they needed to take it back. The "Sad Puppies" are the more moderate group, while the "Rapid Puppies" are the extremists, led by the explicitly and unapologetically racist and misogynistic Vox Day. Their slates dominated the Hugo Award nominees, and the furor has been going on ever since.

So. A few weeks ago, Tor Creative Director Irene Gallo replied to a question about the Puppies on her personal Facebook page, calling them "two extreme right-wing to neo-Nazi groups ... calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic." It was a fairly intense statement, but clearly one of a personal, not professional, viewpoint. And nothing happened until last weekend, when Vox Day posted an old screencap and encouraged his followers to call for her to be fired.

And call they did, prompting Tor publisher Tom Doherty to post this letter of apology on Tor.com.

There are huge problems inherent in this metaphorical throwing under the bus. GamerGate has made it unavoidably obvious what happens when the internet picks a woman to vilify, and Tor's apparent capitulation to this anger only increases the possibility of such a hate campaign. I can't find anything about what has happened to Irene Gallo since this went down -- I would hope nothing, but history suggests she's just being quiet on that front -- but at the very least, people are screaming for her to be fired, and Vox Day's twitter feed suggests that he is at least trying to create a campaign that will drive her to quit.

But there's also such intense irony in Tom Doherty's statement that it would be hilarious, if it wasn't real.

In short, we seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda.

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.

Throughout the apology, Doherty takes pains to reassure the Puppies that Tor is dedicated to diversity, that it isn't political in any way. In short, to placate the Puppies, it's pledging to be everything that the Puppies hate.

It's difficult to say what the Puppies stand for any more, with the different factions and people getting passionately involved for different reasons, but it's clear how it began. It was an attempt to stop the Hugos from being an "affirmative action award," where good, old-fashioned white male authors are shut out by people blindly voting for diverse authors and stories, regardless of quality. Because, assumedly, those diverse stories couldn't actually deserve to win.

And now publishers are attempting to placate that group by reassuring them that they are committed to diversity. Because "diversity" has been twisted to be something that they represent, where the traditional white, male sci-fi/fantasy author is somehow the minority whose inclusion must be protected. Tor promises that it doesn't discriminate based on author politics, to reassure people who think that Vox Day is reasonable that they won't be excluded or criticized for their hate. It promises it doesn't care about politics to appease a group that is entirely motivated by politics.

It's some headspinning gymnastics, so that the groups that think diverse stories and authors are undeserving of awards become the ones campaigning for diversity of thought and inclusivity, and those calling them out are the hateful ones.

It's another incarnation of that headache-inducing idea that free speech allows all kinds of racist, sexist or homophobic ideas to be stated without criticism, but that it doesn't allow for criticism of those words. It's the idea that it's more exclusionary to accuse someone of being racist, sexist or homophobic than it is to actually say things that are arguably racist, sexist or homophobic.

You have to laugh at the irony of the whole thing, really. Otherwise... well. You know.