Brad Torgersen's 'Science Fiction Civil War'

Brad Torgersen

Since 2008 I have voted in the Hugo Awards, the science fiction/fantasy honors that have the most prestige. The ballot for this year's awards has been hijacked by three right-wing authors -- Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen and Vox Day -- who ran bloc-voting campaigns that put their nominations all over the ballot to the exclusion of everyone else's. For months, they campaigned for people to vote for their slate of nominees by saying this act would stick it to a secret cabal of "social justice warriors" who had been keeping conservatives like them from winning.

There is no cabal.

Anyone can vote for the Hugos by buying a $40 supporting membership in the next Worldcon. That's what I did seven years ago, and since then I've been nominating works I liked without outside interference from anybody else, just like thousands of other fans.

To give you an idea of how cynical and politically motivated the bloc-voting campaign was, Correia reached out to GamerGate for support in his attack on the Hugos. ("I think GamerGate has been awesome," he declared yesterday on Twitter.)

Rather than cover the entire mess a week later than everybody else, I'll direct you to the blog of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, who has written an excellent series of posts as an author who has participated in the Hugos since the 1960s and loves the institution of Worldcon.

There's a lot about this situation that gets me all het up, but I'm beginning to savor the insane grandiosity of Torgersen (pictured above), a previously obscure SF/F author who led the bloc-voting campaign this year and dubbed it "Sad Puppies 3."

On April 8, Torgersen wrote a blog post on his personal site called "The Science Fiction Civil War" that he later deleted.

Here's the text of that post, which offers a fantastic glimpse into the preening self-regard that inspired him to lead a culture war against a much-loved SF/F award that fans of all political beliefs have nurtured since 1953:

A personal note, from a guy who has been trying hard of late to recapture some of the sense-of-wonder he felt for science fiction, when he was a boy.

The cannon have been fired. There's no doubting it now. Decades of simmering tension are being unleashed in an emotional struggle for the future of the field. The Hugo award is just a thing; a mere football. These divisions go far beyond a silver rocketship. They are drawn along political lines -- liberal, and conservative; progressive, and libertarian -- as well as along artistic lines -- taste, expression, and the desire for meaning. If one side has announced angry shock that Sumter got shelled, it's because that side had the luxury of ignoring the other side. At least until now. The grays have thrown off their teeth-grit veneer of second-class citizenship, and the blues are rallying to the status quo. Voices long quiet, have erupted with the yell of rebellion. And there is every sign in the world that the blues will stop at nothing to put down the grays.

I remember when I used to think science fiction was this happy, fraternal place. If there were disagreements, they were small things, and no adult would let them stand in the way of a rousing all-for-one-and-one-for-all cheer. A round on the house for everybody, ladies and gentlemen! Hip-hip-hooray!

I believe there may have been a time when the reality at least approached this naive impression -- an idea planted in my imagination, and fueled by the dreams of ambitious youth.

Now I am no longer green. This year finds me a veteran. I have seen the quiet hate in the eyes of so many colleagues. For each other. For the other guys. For the people beyond the next rise of mountains. It is a hate bred by a thousand slights and prejudices, snobberies and injustices and cuts which have bled quietly into the night. You see it every time one professional's celebration is conducted so as to kick sand in the face of another professional. The fans -- volunteers from the common parts of every locale -- line up along the fence rows and rock walls, nervously checking their cartridge boxes, and wondering when they can get a chance to lick the enemy.

Many people never thought it would come to this.

Now that we're in it, I have to ask: how could it not have come to this?

You can only paper over cracks in the foundation so many times, before the foundation falls apart.

The silhouette of Larry Correia stands on a lonely knoll, his beard jutting proudly like Robert E. Lee's -- or is it Ulysses S. Grant's?

The judgments of history -- far removed from the sound of the guns and the bloody casualties laying like cord wood across the fields and in the gullies and meadows -- will have to judge which "side" in this fight is the blue, and which is the gray.

I knew the moment I took up the flag for Sad Puppies 3, that I was sacrificing forever any chance of ever being a Hugo award winner. There would be no forgiveness. Not from the traditionalists who jealously guard their trophy and consider all complaints against it to be heresy. But I was resolved. As an object of merit, the thing had fallen into question for me -- along with so much of the rosy history I thought I understood, before I was published.

Now there is only the war. A war which nobody wants, and yet nobody can avoid. All the rancor and chaffing and preening distaste for "those who are not like us" ... flooding forth in a wave of bitter rage that is enabled from behind the immunity and protection of ten thousand keyboards.

I have the sense that this thing is going to change us all in some way, forever -- those of us who make some part of our lives in this country called science fiction. Now splintered and divided.

What's left for a man now is to do what his heart, and God, tell him is right.

And it will be up to the future to decide if I am a hero, or a villain. Perhaps I am both?

I will either be Phil Sheridan, or A.P. Hill. George Henry Thomas, or Stonewall Jackson.

If I hope for anything -- when all of this is over -- it's that the Hugo means something again, and that the blind spots, biases, prejudices, and petty shadowing are reduced, if not erased. So that other people who come to it in the future, won't find it the way we found it -- before the fighting turned hot.

Most folks will stay home. Many already bitterly resent the conflict. Damn all flags.

When the survivors are old and all the generals long dead, they may ask, "Was it worth it?"

Lord, I sure hope so.

Torgersen and Correia, who have cultivated an enormous sense of personal aggrievement about alleged anti-conservative bias in the Hugo Awards, were both nominated by Worldcon voters to the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in the last four years. That's the highest compliment that we pay to new writers and often a springboard to a successful career in SF/F.

But neither of them won. Correia lost to Lev Grossman in 2011 and Torgersen to E. Lily Yu in 2012.

So to them, I guess "THIS MEANS WAR!"


I don't recall many of my favorite authors winning a Hugo over the decades. It's never influenced my reading habits.

I think the "Here's other Authors you might like" in the back of the paperback or, perhaps, a first chapter of a new story were more likely to steer me towards a new Author.

So, once you distill ego out of this, how much profit is there in winning a Hugo? More guaranteed advance money? Better spot on the bookshelves or end caps? Better links on Amazon? Chance to write for film or television?

I question whether a lot of this isn't the legacy of the "everybody is a winner" generation. You know, kids who got trophies for participating instead of winning? Now they've grown up and realize that their efforts might just not be as good as others. And others receive awards that they feel should also be theirs.

Wait, he's fighting against the traditionalists? I thought he represented the traditionalist, fighting to take back SF/F from the new wave that has hijacked it?

For that matter, I can never keep track from day to day of whether he's the plucky underdog facing off against the innumerable orc hordes or if he represents the teeming masses who are being oppressed by a tiny handful of oligarchs...

All I can say is that Brad Torgersen must have a rich inner life. I imagine his day goes a lot like an episode of Doug: one minute he's a suave super-spy, the next he's a two-fisted pulp adventurer, then a hard-bitten noir detective, and in between all of that he's got to time to imagine minor slights as grievous injuries or envision himself as a prisoner in a gulag because someone disagreed with him in public.

If only he could find a profession that would allow him to vent this overactive imagination in a creative fashion.

Um, I've read a few articles about this, and the one that struck me most was Sarah Hoyt talking about her apprehension of being discovered to have "libertarian" views. One's personal political feelings should have no bearing on whether or not they're able to be employed in a certain field. Yet based on her description of the industry, it seems there's only one publisher (Baen) that will publish books by conservative/libertarian authors. It did indeed sound like a "clique" of insiders manipulating the industry for political agendas.

Sarah Hoyt's description of the industry is pure paranoia. Conservative and libertarian SF/F authors are not being excluded by publishers.

Libertarians are so welcome at Worldcon that since 1979, the Prometheus Awards have been given out at that convention.

Are you sure, Rogers? Have you read the news lately? Or maybe Making Light? It is very clear that anyone with views that aren't considered 'acceptable' by a certain group of influential content-makers and editors will see some smearing.

Anyone who claims conservative persecution in SF/F needs to provide actual evidence. There's already more than enough fact-free complaining by Puppies supporters all over SF/F blogs.

Thank you for a voice of sanity and exposure of the inner life of Brad Torgersen.
There is a wide spectrum of political persuasion at Tor although many prominent members lean left and there is a wide spectrum at Baen while many members lean right. There is no secret cabal determining who gets nominated for awards or who wins.
Obviously long-time active fandom members have a network of friends that are inclined to vote for them. There are critics and publications that have a bit of influence because they are widely read. This is far from a secret cabal blackballing works.
The SF field is so large that any determined group effort can get a work on the ballot. Until this year it was not known they could lock out all other nominees. I suggest limiting the number of nominations a voting member can make to prevent future lock outs and a bit larger final ballot.

Great article, Rogers - reprinting Brad's now-deleted post (the Internet knows, Brad) gave a particularly useful insight into Brad's thinking at this stage of the game.

A few random thoughts on the Puppy leadership (I will try to avoid making this ad hominem, but I do intend to be critical):

1. The Puppy leaders seem to be remarkably thin-skinned for people of principle leading a popular revolution. Messrs Correia and Torgersen in particular don't seem to be handling the pressure well if their respective blog posts are anything to go by. VD on the other hand is as cool as a cucumber, apart from threats to sue Popular Science, but this was to be expected; he's enjoying the show, has the least to lose and is probably also the Puppy with the most voters at his beck and call given how the nominations turned out.

2. All 3 of the Puppy troika have vocally criticised the popular media's coverage of the Puppy crusade, which I suppose is not surprising given they've variously been described as misogynistic, homophobic, racist white men. I'm not actually convinced that Messrs Correia and Torgersen are any of those 3 adjectives. (VD on the other hand - ironic given he's the only one of the three that has explicitly talked about taking legal action for defamation, that would be one hilarious court hearing....). But I've absolutely no sympathy given Larry was caught out asking pro-Gamergate journalist/hypemonger Milo "Nero" Yiannopoulos to give the Puppies sympathetic coverage - the point being that Milo's not famous for his adherence to journalistic ethics or accuracy. Live by the sword, die by the sword. (By the way, do you think any of the Puppy leaders realise Milo's an out gay man?)

3. With each passing day, the divergence between the stated aims of SP3, as per Brad's blog post which was quoted by GRRM (in particular " Boost authors, editors, and works â€" regardless of political persuasion"), and the reality of "sticking it to the SJWs" is becoming more and more apparent. Somewhat cowardly of Puppy leadership not to state upfront that this was about "sticking it to SJWs" but politically savvy - there must be some moderates on the Puppy Express who never would have climbed aboard had they realised this was all about the politics as opposed to the writing. (And to the cynics who would say "it was always about the politics" - yeah, it was, but it wasn't in the mission statement.)

4. Very sly of the Puppies to hand over leadership of SP4 to Ms Kate Paulk. Not that she's a shield against claims of misogyny or anything.

... there must be some moderates on the Puppy Express who never would have climbed aboard had they realised this was all about the politics as opposed to the writing.

I'm guessing that when Brad Torgersen told people they were on his Sad Puppies slate, he didn't tell them that one of the goals of the effort was to stick it to "social justice warriors."

It was manipulative to say it was all about finding excellent overlooked authors. Anyone who read Larry Correia's blog or Twitter feed saw that he treats the awards as an excuse to engage in a culture war.

Pete # @3: I guess, then, it follows logically from what you say that it would totally inconceivable for multiple Rabid Puppy nominee and arch-conservative MilSF author John C. Wright to be published by Tor Books, right?

Rick Moen

I get that Sarah Hoyt feels excluded, and that sucks, and I sympathise. But I mean, there are plenty of conservative writers being published by both Tor and Baen. Not just Mr. Wright, but OSC, Kevin J. Anderson, and more.

Uh, Tor, that bastion of wildly lefty leftyism publishes David Weber. And Heinlein. They published the huge, two-volume biography of Heinlein, and the SP/RP crowd didn't even nominate that work!

And Baen publishes Spider Robinson. And Lois McMaster Bujold. And Eric Flint.

Can I just say the publishing houses publish anyone who sells books? There is no litmus test except that of the almighty dollar, which is as it should be.

Sarah may not have heard about this guy call David Brin. Highly sucessful author, self proffessed libertarian and winner of Hugos!

There's proof of a "clique" that excludes conservatives from publishing at Tor and other publishing houses the same way there's proof that vaccines cause autism.

Sarah Hoyt and even Vox Day had the good fortune to have a much more widely read author promote thier books. That author was John Scalzi. If they hand't been such horrible people to him and others, he'd probably have promoted other books by them. But they burned that bridge way before the Sad/Rabid puppies.

That's the "conspiracy". If you act horrible and throw tantrums, no one wants you around. The reason that the conspiracy was invented was to make them seem like the victims.

So he's *explicitly* putting himself & his gang on the side of Treason in the Defense of Slavery. I am boggling, holy shit.

It's a good analogy, don't get me wrong! There's a reason James McPherson has called it The War of South Carolina Aggression. I just didn't think he would say it in public.

Rogers, were there any comments to the post before he took it down? Is it possible that someone pointed out that putting oneself on the side of slave-owners might be bad publicity?

The Google cache didn't have any comments in it. He said something in another discussion on his blog about being contacted shortly after he published it and persuaded to take it down.

I don't know what he meant by comparing himself to a general of an army fighting to preserve slavery.

Torgersen announced Sad Puppies 3 by claiming the Hugos were being used as an "affirmative action award," so people could wonder whether there's any racial ill will at play here despite his family background.

But personally, I like to think he identifies with the South because he knows this is a war he will lose.

Every time Torgerson or one of the other Sad/Rabid Puppies rants about Social Justice Warriors they prove that they are the ones with a political agenda. It is that simple. Allying with Vox Day and then the GamerGate (pro-rape threat) crowd just emphasizes it.

Wow... It's certainly telling that Torgersen compared himself and his compatriots to the Southern Confederates, who attacked the north in "defense" of the institution of Slavery (and who, for more than a century thereafter, would be the central exhibit in the fight for civil rights against Jim Crow laws and blatant, institutionalized racism).

Color me unsurprised... I am reminded of a wise saying given once by a wise man: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

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