Two small groups, calling themselves Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies, used disciplined slate voting to dominate the 2015 Hugo final ballot. After some people refused or withdrew nominations, the Puppies gained 59 out of 85 slots: 45 from both slates, 10 purely from the Rabid slate and 4 from the Sads. Black Gate, a Fanzine nominated by the Rabids, also withdrew after the ballots were finalized. Less than 14% of the ballots cast in the novella category was enough to win the last of the slots, and the most popular Puppy novella got only 32% of the ballots in that category, so small minorities willing to use slates could dominate everyone else.
Many objected that the slate tactics, although legal, were mean, unsporting, pernicious, unethical and wicked.
Particularly after the voter packets came out, many complained that poorly written slate nominees kept better choices of the ballot. I would say that the slated writing nominees ranged from competent pieces by Butcher and English that didn’t quite rise to Hugo quality, to flawed or mediocre, to actively bad, and in the case of Williamson, unrelated to SF/F. And I’m seeing a ballot that’s slants more male than the prior year or the field and readership as a whole. Even if some Puppy motives were sincere, they had bad consequences.
On May 11 Irene Gallo, Creative Director in Tor’s art department, posted a comment on her personal Facebook page that, as she later admitted, painted the beliefs of the Puppies and the quality of the slate nominees with “too broad a brush”. This received little comment until Vox Day, born Theodore Beale, leader of the Rabid Puppies, released a screencap that he had been holding for several weeks for maximum effect, on the weekend of the 2015 Nebula Awards. Tor was also closed for the weekend. Of course, someone who genuinely cared about harm to the Puppies criticized would have simply sought an immediate correction.
Although Gallo rightly apologized for her statement on June 8, and Tom Doherty of Tor issued a statement that Gallo’s views in the comment were hers alone, and was if anything diplomatically deferential to Puppy views, enraged Puppies have continued to demand that Gallo be fired, as well as any other Tor executives that have said unfavorable things about puppies. This is in spite of the fact that judging by their nominations, the Puppies weren’t big fans of Tor books to begin with.
Like nominee Jim Butcher, I think Gallo’s apology is sufficient: Tor should not sacrifice a valued and talented employee to opportunistic Puppy baying.
Nonetheless, Vox Day is trying to whip up the threat of a Tor boycott. Of course, it makes perfect sense for him, since his tiny publishing house competes with Tor. But it won't be doing Tor's authors any favors.
Next year, I would love to see the Sad Puppies express their desire for more stuff they like on the ballot with an actual recommendation list: ten works or more in each written category. And they could improve their selection process: although they solicited recommendations, the final slate seems to have been chosen by the self proclaimed Evil League of Evil, apparently consisting of Correia, Hoyt, Torgersen and Wright. Details are murky for a process that aspired to be open and democratic*. That’s a small group that seems to have had a lot of overlap in their tastes. A committee that can only come up with a single choice for Best Graphic Story, and that a poorly drawn and unfunny zombie comic by one of Torgersen's neighbors, really needs more breadth.
*I welcome correction.