Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Friendship, and the SF Controversy “du jour”

with 23 comments

Folks, I continue to be consumed by my edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, which is the main reason I haven’t been online to blog in the past week-plus.

But there are other reasons.

One of them caused me to ponder what the meaning of the word “friendship” is all about. For when someone knows you for a long time, there is a presumption that if there’s a disagreement — regardless of what the disagreement is about — the other person will listen to you.

He or she may not agree with what you’ve said. But the other person will at least listen, and try to understand.

During this past week, I’ve seen more distress coming out of the community of science fiction and fantasy writers than I’ve ever seen before. I can’t really summarize this for people who don’t understand it, and it seems like “inside baseball” unless you’ve been caught in the crosshairs of this particular bit of internecine strife.

But the upshot of it is this: Writers are fighting other writers, mostly using words — something writers are very good at using, by definition. And rather than trying to find any common ground with one another, writers are continuing to duke it out with our words instead.

How does this have anything to do with friendship, you ask?

It’s simple. I have a friend, Jason Cordova, who got nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in SF&F — the John W. Campbell Award. He got nominated due to the auspices of a group that many other long-term SF&F writers do not like (this group being called the “Sad Puppies”). Jason was not the only writer to be nominated by the “Sad Puppies,” mind you, but he’s the one I know the best.

He is my friend. (You may have gathered this, yes?)

So when some long-term writers started saying that all the people who’d been nominated by the “Sad Puppies” were racists, or homophobic bigots, or the like, I protested. (Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that I am not shy about such things.)

Jason is Hispanic. He has a sister who’s married to another woman. He is far from wealthy. He is an honored and honorable veteran of the military. And he’s written some lovely short stories along with his solo novel, CORRUPTOR, and several co-written novels with Eric S. Brown, most particularly KAIJU APOCALYPSE and MURDER WORLD.

I don’t think Jason in a million years thought that he’d ever be considered for the John W. Campbell Award, whether the “Sad Puppies” nominated him or not. But he was.

And, being a friend, I congratulated him. And then defended him, even though he probably did not need my defense, because that is what friends do.

To make things a bit more complex, one of the people who was upset was also my friend. This person saw my defense and became irate.

Instead of asking me what I was about, this person walked away. At this point, I don’t know if this person will ever return, either.

Now, there’s a whole lot I’m leaving out, partly by design. (As I said, it’s “inside baseball” for those who aren’t following it — lucky you.)

But the important thing is this: If you are my friend, I know we’re not always going to agree on everything.

(How boring would the world be if we did? But I digress.)

What I would hope we’d agree on is the fact that our friendship deserves at least a little care. A little understanding. A little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, common ground can be re-established.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten upset with my friends, including Jason at times. I’m sure he’s gotten upset with me, too. We don’t agree in our political philosophy, we don’t always agree on other issues…but we are friends, and we work things out — sometimes by agreeing to disagree, sometimes by trying to meet each other halfway.

This is what friends do.

I wish that the SF&F community could try to do that now. Because SF&F writers have far more in common with each other than we do with anyone else…and it’s sad that instead of using our immense energy and creativity to create new worlds with, we’re instead savaging each other.

And as for my other friend? I will care about this person until the day I die. I owe this person a great deal, and I haven’t forgotten this.

But like Lillian Hellman, I will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.

Note: I thought long and hard before writing this. I am willing to discuss the issues of friendship and whether or not SF&F writers can somehow try to find common ground with one another again. Anything else will probably raise my blood pressure unduly; besides, there are many other places discussing these issues in far greater depth than I am.

I’ve taken a general course mostly because I wanted those who are just finding out about this issue to understand just how messy this nonsense is. I’ve already lost one friend over this because I chose to defend another friend I felt was being unjustly attacked.

I neither like nor dislike the “Sad Puppies.” I do respect many of them, most particularly Brad Torgersen and Amanda S. Green. (Before anyone asks, we’re not going to discuss the merits of the “Rabid Puppies” group right now. Or the lack thereof.) I feel they have a right to be heard, and under the rules, they did nothing objectionable. But to some, me saying that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

And I neither like nor dislike the vast majority of writers on the other side of this mess.

One thing I do know, though: No one should be threatening anyone else over this. Ever.

Anyway, the floor is open. I welcome comments, providing they are civil. Any that aren’t will be deleted. (You have been warned.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 13, 2015 at 6:31 am

23 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Barb, I am sorry that you have had to deal with this. I have noticed that there a new trend in writers attacking other writers. It makes me shake my head sadly because we are not competing again each other. We are all artists who see the world differently. Each of us writes from our own point of view and no one had the right to tell us we’re wrong. Labeling people on the basis of a nomination is not only judgmental but immature. Jealousy is rampant in the writing world and instead of banding together, we’re cutting each other down. I shake my head. Writers, please take a moment and UPLIFT each other! It’s a small community and there is room enough for all!

    I am honored to call you my friend, Barb, and I have a deep respect for your openness and honesty! 🙂

    MRS N, the Author

    April 13, 2015 at 7:29 am

    • Thank you, Mrs. N. I appreciate your kind words and thoughts.

      Yes, I wonder at all of this, too. I am pleased that at least some writers are trying to understand this, and to be more inclusive to other writers — I’m particularly heartened by what Mary Robinette Kowal has been writing, for example. She doesn’t like the “Sad Puppies” but she’s doing her best to be fair, and knows that those who’ve supported people or who will vote for people on the SP slate are not bad people. That’s a very good thing, and I hope more writers will join her in that.

      And yes, we need far more uplifting in this world and far less destruction. No lie.

      Thanks for understanding why I needed to write this. I was fairly sure I’d get blasted from both sides on this one, but felt it _must_ be said.

      Barb Caffrey

      April 13, 2015 at 7:32 am

  2. I think these things in the SF writing world are part of a “bigger problem”.

    Too many people believe that it is OK to hate people who don’t support the “Proper” Politically Correct ideas.

    Sadly, they often don’t consider it hatred when they do it while labeling other points of view as hatred.

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    April 13, 2015 at 8:07 am

    • Agreed, Paul. I do hope that we’ll someday get back to supporting each other in SF&F rather than tearing each other down because of perceived political differences. (I think there’s room for all of us, if we are civil. Which we should strive to be — mind, being “civil” does not mean we can’t disagree, sometimes even profanely, providing we’re not trying to savage someone else in the process.)

      Barb Caffrey

      April 13, 2015 at 5:02 pm

  3. Barb, you know me. You know I’m anything but a conservative. Heck, I took one of those “Where are you on the political spectrum” tests once and came out as a Socialist-Libertarian (yeah, i know, I’m wyrd).

    I’m also, technically, a Sad Puppy. I say “technically”, because I found out about the WorldCon supporting memberships getting a say in the Hugo nominating and voting process, and since I might actually have the time and money to go this year, I decided to buy one.

    Did I nominate the slate? No. Did I nominate Charles E. Gannon? No, I just couldn’t get into his books, so I don’t consider them as being eligible for the Best Novel :In my opinion:. Nothing against Chuck, just can’t get into his writing. If it was my nomination that kept him off the ticket, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to vote for/nominate someone just because I know them.

    By the same token, I sincerely hope that friends I have won’t stop being my friends just because i like different things than they do. If they do, then they weren’t very good friends in the first place. I’ve had friends for a short time, and I’ve had friends (like you) for a long time — anything over a decade is a long time, and I’ve noticed that it’s the friends I’ve had for the longest time that I can get back together with most easily after a long time separated.

    My longest friendship is coming up on 36 years. I had a friend before I knew her and he was a tangential friend with her as well, and I’d still be a friend with him had he not done something stupid. After having known him for only 20 years, and been friends with him for 15, he went and died on me in 1988, of AIDS that he had contracted as a street prostitute in Vancouver. Yes, I was friends with a gay prostitute who died of AIDS. I didn’t agree with his lifestyle, but it was his to choose and it didn’t make us any less friends.

    I haven’t seen my 36 years friend in almost 23 years now, but that has more to do with the fact that she’s a bit of a “crazy cat lady” and I’m severely allergic to cats. Had I not been allergic to cats, I’d probably still be going to see her any time I was in Red Deer just for our house rules Scrabble games, but I am, so I don’t.

    I had a point here. I know I did. I think it was something like: Politics aren’t important. What you do isn’t important. We’re here (at the Hugos) about the writing. We should be voting on things because we like them, not because they fit an agenda/fill check boxes. As I wrote over at the Mad Genius Club ( ), I will be voting to an agenda, but it’s an agenda that I think people should get behind, and not one that fills any socio-political check boxes.

    And to that point, I’ll log off now, else I’ll be late for work — and speaking of work, I’ll be posting information about the Hugos, Supporting Memberships, the low cost of same, and the fact that you get a digital package of a whole bunch of stuff to help you make your mind up about who to vote for, on out Spirit Committee (looser form of a Social Committee) Board, so everyone I work with can get in on the goodies as well. 🙂

    Be well, Barb!


    April 13, 2015 at 8:10 am

    • Thanks, William. I agree with you, to a large extent. I definitely think story is paramount. Mary Robinette Kowal’s posts (if you haven’t read them) are probably the closest to where I’m coming from…I know so many people on both sides of this, and I can’t understand why one side is upset that other SF fans of all races, creeds, colors, and religions (not to mention sexual preferences) would want to nominate people for themselves if they buy the $40 WorldCon membership. (Or vote, either, for the awards.)

      What Mary Kowal says is that she believes everyone should vote who wants to vote. That fans should be welcomed and included. That no one should feel excluded. That whether you’re a “Sad Puppy” or a “Social Justice Warrior/Paladin” (she likes Paladin much better), if you love SF, you should not feel shamed for wanting to vote for the books that you love.

      I agree wholeheartedly with that.

      I don’t know if my friend will come back or not. It was a long-term friendship, as you guessed.

      At any rate, Mary RK and some others (including at least one “Sad Puppy”) have contributed to buying 75 supporting WorldCon memberships and people can nominate themselves at her blog. All she wants is for people to read the slate and vote their consciences.

      Barb Caffrey

      April 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

  4. Okay lets try this again[mudder pocking word press!] what I’m taking away from this is that the A. the folks in charge of the Hugo’s and those screaming the loudest on the ‘sad puppies are eeebil’ side of the argument are afraid. Afraid of losing control. Hell Dave Freer said it real good over at MGC today. Me? I wrote it real good over at my blog the other day, in response to the whining diatribe from that idiot Damien Walter who wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him in the hind end. It boils down to 2 things. 1 the bigger the voting pool gets…the less “control” the cabal has over the nomination and voting process. It’s why the TNH types involved in this are calling for rules changes so only attending can vote.

    It’s why commentary from Moshe Feder, editor extraordinaire over at Tor[who I swear is trying to commit career suicide by pissing off the people who provide the funds that pay his munificent salary] leaves me feeling cold and pissed off. I’m going to post something here I posted on his wall. Something I pulled from teh annals of history. Modified to fit the current controversy and what I believe from reading Moshe and others reactions is their mind set on this. Read it and tell me you can’t guess the provenance of this

    Just as the night rises against the day, the light and dark are in eternal conflict. So too, are the Sad Puppy the greatest enemy of the dominant thought in fandom. Equality for all . The Sad Puppy is a biological creature, crafted by nature, which has hands, legs, eyes and mouth, even the semblance of a brain. Nevertheless, this terrible creature is not one of us, a TRUE Fan.
    Although it has features similar to a TRUEfan, the sad puppy is lower on the spiritual and psychological scale than any other. Inside of this creature lies wild and unrestrained passions: an incessant need to destroy, filled with the most primitive desires, chaos and coldhearted villainy.

    A sad puppy and nothing more!

    Not all of those who appear fen are in fact so. Woe to him who forgets it!

    Misogynist and racist barbarians, supporting members and consumerist book savages all make up this modern underworld of not TRUEfans that is always headed by the appearance of the eternally Sad Puppy


    April 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    • This one got through, Sean. Sorry that WP acted up before.

      I like your sarcastic note about what a “Sad Puppy” is.

      Again, at least a few people do get it, even if they’re in the middle like I am. I have nothing but respect for the many conscientious people who thought hard and read much and voted with the “Sad Puppies,” and I think that’s where at least some other authors are at right now.

      As for the rest of them…I don’t know what to say there. I believe in inclusion, but not at the expense of Story. And I definitely believe fans come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, colors, religions, and gender expressions…how not?

      Barb Caffrey

      April 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      • Which is why the attitude of the TNH’s and the Moshe’s and the rest are pissing everyone off. I can tell you this. if they succeed in pushing through a rules change, which one of the flies tells me will be diffcult because it has to get a yay vote two years in a row by all the attending [and supporting members too I think] members? the Hugo’s will most likely go up in a big ball of flame. World con will become irrelavent and a new award will be born from the ashes in a new place. Probably one of the big comic cons or Dragon I would think


        April 13, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      • You did see, I trust, that GRRM said he will vote “no” to any such proposed amendment? (He seems to believe that’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.) And I don’t think MRK is in favor of that amendment, either.

        As for the Nielsen Haydens, I think they are very upset because they feel their professional competence has been called on the carpet. This one thing I do have sympathy for, because I believe they are highly competent editors and I also believe they do not deserve to be threatened or treated poorly because of their beliefs.

        However, I am with GRRM on this one — I do not believe there should be any rule changes. I think fandom needs to be _inclusive_, which includes the “Sad Puppies” and the folks like the Nielsen Haydens and GRRM and MRK and everyone else who loves SF&F and believes their assumptions should be challenged and/or believe in the power of story, the power of world as myth.

        I don’t blame you at all for being angry at this, in other words, Sean. I think it’s the wrong thing for the folks on the other side of this mess to do. But they have to follow their own consciences, just as I must follow the dictates of my own…I do not think they are bad people, even if I disagree profoundly with them.

        Barb Caffrey

        April 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      • Barb.As for the Nielsen Haydens and Feder [Oh no..lets not forget Feder] .I think they’re neolithic morons myself, because they are acting that way. Also, if they’re going to be reacting this way to something that has nothing to do with their jobs as editors being called into question…they DESERVE to be thrown out on their asses. I also seriously doubt if you pointed out my little edited pamphlet blurb to them, that
        A. they’d recognize it for what it was.
        B. agree that they might be acting that way at worst [which lets be honest about it..they are]
        C. or putting a best face on it, Seen to be to be acting that way by the Puppies. and the silent majority that probably hasn’t bothered to speak up yet. [though I’ve seen one post that is a lurker in…The diner I think it was, that says he is one of the silent majority and he’s soundly pissed by their attitude. Though not happy with either side.]


        April 14, 2015 at 10:56 am

      • Believe me, Sean, I understand where you’re coming from. I don’t understand what’s going on with half of the folks in the traditionally published community, no — but I do understand you.

        I haven’t ever heard anything before about Mr. Feder, so I can’t really say anything beyond that.

        I just wish we could somehow get back to celebrating SF&F and trying to meet each other halfway rather than one side calling the other side names. (And to be honest, most of the name-calling seems to be coming from the traditionally published side by my current reckoning. Though not, of course, all.)

        Barb Caffrey

        April 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

  5. arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh and Kloos and Bennet pulled out! Damn Damn Damn. Sigh now they’re probably gonna be replaced with stuff I wouldn’t use to stuff a mouse hole. meh


    April 16, 2015 at 12:45 am

    • hmm…yep…judging by others reaction…to the one we know is one of the replacements elsewhere…mouse hole material


      April 16, 2015 at 12:47 am

      • What did get put up instead, Sean? And will this hold? (There’s apparently nothing in the rules that allows for someone to withdraw after that person has accepted a nomination, either. Has anyone talked about this yet?)

        Barb Caffrey

        April 16, 2015 at 1:52 am

    • Yeah. I saw that, Sean. I am very disquieted by it. I understand why, of course — they were put under enormous pressure. And Marko said flat-out that he refused to be affiliated even by association with VD.

      But it hurts that they felt they had to do this. (I don’t want to take their choices away from them, or even hint at doing that. I know this must’ve been difficult.)

      I was looking forward to them doing well, because I believe both of them write very, very well and I think their words had very strong merit.

      Barb Caffrey

      April 16, 2015 at 1:51 am

  6. […] past several days I have been wired for sound over this SF&F contretemps (which I referenced here a few days […]

  7. A very reasoned response to the whole kerfuffle. I hope your friend comes back. I follow a bunch of people on both sides of the issues. Rabid Puppies…well they are Rabid. stay away from them. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. As for Hayden, well… my politics are pretty left wing, and after visiting her blog and the comments thereof, and how she treats visitors and people who disagree with her, I think she shouldn’t be trusted with a spoon lest she hurt herself. I literally facepalmed after reading some of the comments and the way in which they treat people who disagree with their little echo chamber. Meh, whatever. I find the whole thing silly. David Gerrold’s final point of view on the matter, and yours come pretty close to how I feel about it. It’s a big playground. Let’s all play nice. If you are a Hugo voter, read and vote for what you think is best. Done deal.

    Kevin Harron

    April 19, 2015 at 11:53 am

    • Thanks, Kevin. I’m glad that you understood my response, and that you appreciated it.

      It’s too soon for me to know if my friend will ever come back. I hope that this person does. I respect this individual highly. But I cannot and will not say that my other friend, Jason Cordova, did anything wrong when he didn’t exactly _ask_ for the Rabid Puppies to help him. (The Sad Puppies, sure. He knows many of them. I respect many of the SPs, too, including Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk and Amanda Green. I’ve known them for many years, and I believe them to be honorable and honest people.)

      I’m very disquieted that both Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen had to come out and say, “I am not Vox Day” last week. You’d think a bunch of SF&F writers and editors could’ve figured that out without them having to say it.

      I’m also very disquieted that both Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet felt they had to withdraw their nominations. Neither of them had anything to do with either the RPs or even the SPs (Annie apparently knows Brad T., and that’s it); they are honest authors who write good stories and they didn’t deserve to have a whole bunch of nonsense thrown at them by folks who apparently are so entrenched in their own belief system, they can’t see the forest for the trees right now.

      I have been to “Making Light” before, and usually they are reasonable and respectable people. The Nielsen Haydens are excellent editors. They understand the field of SF&F and I hold no malice toward them.

      However, I do not understand why there can’t be any meeting of the minds between them and the SPs. All the SPs want, really, is for more fans to get involved with the process of nomination. I do not see this as objectionable; how could it be?

      Ultimately, people need to make up their own minds and decide.

      But one thing I will say for the Nielsen Haydens (sympathy for them, I guess) — I think they’re upset because at least two very good books were left off the Hugo list, one of which probably would’ve been on there: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel. Ms. Mandel used to be a small press/indie author with a few “Indie Next” picks to her credit, and STATION ELEVEN is a very worthy book.

      I don’t know if that’s the reason they got so upset, mind. STATION ELEVEN is not a Tor property. But I know the Nielsen Haydens are honorable, and they want quality work to represent the field. (I’m not saying the other novels nominated aren’t, mind. I’m just saying STATION ELEVEN deserved a nomination if anything did last year.)

      However, while I can at least go that far, there are obviously many, many other books that deserved wider mention, including Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s SPIRAL PATH and (though I don’t think it was eligible for the ’15 Hugos; it would’ve been eligible in ’14, I think) Stephanie Osborn’s A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. These two authors write excellent books, and that’s why I recommend them so highly.

      Barb Caffrey

      April 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: