Dear Puppies: Your Taste Sucks

Dear Puppies: Your Taste Sucks

Hugo Award Black GateThe winners of the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced Saturday evening at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington. As we’ve discussed here several times, the Hugo ballot was largely hijacked by the Rabid Puppies slate (and to a much lesser extent, by the Sad Puppies slate), which dictated roughly 70% of the final ballot.

The results are now in, and they mark a stinging repudiation of both the Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies. Not a single Puppy-nominated work of fiction or non-fiction won, and the majority of Puppy-nominated works placed below “No Award.” In both of the short fiction categories in which the Puppies locked out all other nominees, the Hugo went to “No Award.” The complete list of winners follows.

Best NovelThe Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books)
Best Novella – No Award
Best Novelette – “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed, April 2014)
Best Short Story – No Award
Best Related Work – No Award
Best Graphic StoryMs. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (Marvel Comics)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

Best Professional Editor (Short Form) – No Award
Best Professional Editor (Long Form) – No Award
Best Professional Artist – Julie Dillon
Best SemiprozineLightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams
Best FanzineJourney Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
Best FancastGalactic Suburbia Podcast
Best Fan Writer – Laura J. Mixon
Best Fan Artist – Elizabeth Leggett
The John W. Campbell Award – Wesley Chu

I’m certain there will be a great deal of discussion on this topic in the next few weeks (and months). There will be plenty of spin, and recriminations, on both sides.

But one thing about this seems crystal clear right now: the Puppies have proven incapable of recommending fiction of any kind of quality, and certainly quality that rises to the level of Hugo worthiness.

Even with the high volume of rhetoric on both sides over the last few months, this is a train wreck that most clear-eyed viewers could see coming. While the Puppies continued to claim that they were merely reclaiming science fiction for the silent majority, and in the process rectifying some vast injustice done to right-leaning writers over the past years, they simultaneously managed to ignore or marginalize commentary from most of the genre’s most astute critics, many of whom made every attempt to evaluate this year’s ballot objectively and fairly. And that commentary was largely negative — and in many cases, harshly negative.

There’s no shortage of examples out there for anyone who cares to look, but here’s Rich Horton, one of the most accomplished (and frankly, most objective) editors the field has, in his review of the 2015 Hugo Shortlist:

Having gone through the entire list, I’m annoyed again. The problem is, simply, that very few really good stories got nominated. I really want the Hugos to celebrate greatness, or at least “very-goodness.”

Undoubtedly many past Hugos come short of that, but at least they try. There are plenty of stories that, in my opinion, fit the parameters the Sad Puppies seem to want: bedrock Sfnal themes, solid and intriguing plots, lack of preaching, lack of emphasis on good writing at the expense of “story values”… I might not sign up for all those things, but I can sure understand the desire for them – but why not nominate more stories that really qualify?

In short, the Puppies insisted that their team had been unfairly shut out of the game for too long, and gamed the system so that their superstars could finally take the field. And when they did, it became painfully obvious fairly quickly that this team simply couldn’t play ball.

The Puppies have stayed in their echo chamber for long months, and to be honest, I don’t expect even this stinging repudiation of their selections to penetrate it. My guess is that they will lay this burden at the feet of another liberal conspiracy, or simply claim that the vast majority of the Hugo electorate voted against their slate without bothering to read it (just as I did).

But when your only defense is to convince yourself that the electorate spurned you because they found what you did to be against the very spirit of the Hugos and your ballot to be wholly illegitimate, then you’re hiding sub-standard taste behind moral bankruptcy.

I’m certain the Hugo vote is just the beginning of the discussion, not the ending that so many fans had sought. But at least, on one topic, we finally have general agreement.

Dear Puppies: your taste sucks.

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incapable of recommending fiction of any kind of quality, and certainly quality that rises to the level of Hugo worthiness.


Marko Kloos
Annie Bellet
Toni Weisskopf
Jim Butcher
Blackgate Magazine

Dont rise to the standard to be Hugo worthy.



But you were recommended.

Allen Snyder

I haven’t read the majority of the Puppies’ slates–but then, I wasn’t voting. What few I did read, or try to read, had writing almost as wooden as Ayn Rand’s (OK, the ones I read anyway at least didn’t reach Randian levels of speechifying). So about this year’s Hugos, all I can say is, “Good.”

Also good to see Ms. Marvel win–I have to catch up in the two most recent issues come to think of it, and also Guardians of the Galaxy, and most definitely Orphan Black. But Mr. Robot better win in that category next year–it’s up there with Game of Thrones, iZombie, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine in my favorite TV list.

“… the Puppies have proven incapable of recommending fiction of any kind of quality, and certainly quality that rises to the level of Hugo worthiness.”

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this. You mean they were JUDGED by voters as incapable of recommending fiction of any kind of quality?

I can’t claim to have read much on the list this year, but I’ve read some exciting books by Jim Butcher. And Toni Weiskopf has done some great work over the years. And, though Black Gate withdrew, it WAS nominated. I think that there is definitely some quality in the works of these three nominees I’m familiar with, which suggests a probability to me that there is some quality to be found in some of the other puppy nominations.

Perhaps instead of an argument against taste this result should be used as a huge repudiation of organized slate stuffing.

Jay Maynard

Uh, John, you can’t say that, and there’s a simple reason: there were lots and lots of people coming out and saying they would vote against the Puppies on principle, no matter how good the works themselves were. There’s no way for you to demonstrate that those voters were not the ones dominating the results.

Back when this whole thing started, I participated in discussions here, and you invited me to contribute n article making the Puppy argument. My life got insanely busy and I couldn’t ever find the time to sit down and write. Does the offer still stand?


I am a long-time lurker who has been reading Black Gate regularly for seven years now. Not anymore.

Ever since your completely off-topic climate change editorial, you have come out of the political closet and turned Black Gate into a platform for your views. As a Sad Puppy supporter, I get insulted by the title of your post, a post written by the editor of Black Gate.

I’m done.

Allen Snyder

“Lots and lots of people coming out and saying they would vote against the Puppies on principle…”

Yes, and there were lots and lots of people saying they would vote *for* the puppies on principle, *and* there are lots and lots of people who say they’ll do lots of things they never end up doing.

At any rate, here is an analysis of the voting that pretty much backs up what John is saying, not to mention all the people–including esteemed editors (e.g., Rich Horton, who John even mentioned in this article)–who have read all the entries who agree that most of the puppies slate was not that good.

Allen Snyder

Whoops, forgot the link to the analysis:

J. C. Salomon

Given the number of people who no-awarded the Editor slots, where I think you’ll agree most of the nominees were Hugo-worthy if they hadn’t been Puppy-supported, all the data show is that people block-voted against the Puppies list—they voted principle, not quality. They may well have had opinions on quality, but that cannot be discerned from the votes.

Jay Maynard

“Still… which is a more satisfactory result for you?”


Which is the point of the article I have in mind. I’ll hone it, and flesh it out, and pass it along. Thanks for the offer.

Jay Maynard

Allen, I don’t see anything in that analysis that backs up John’s point.


Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet also both withdrew, so they were not on the final ballot.

For what it’s worth, I really liked what I read of the first book in Marko Kloos’ trilogy — so far. I got it through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library but might just give up and buy it. 🙂


I think the fact that “Guardians of the Galaxy” won, despite being on a puppy slate can leave the myth to rest, that “No award” was only voted, because it was nomninated from the puppies, despite the quality.
A quality movie won despite the slate.

Also – when exactly Vox Day changed his objective from “If I dont win Ill destroy the Hugos next yeart” to “I want No award everywhere?”


After readiong and thinking a bit, Id like to add some more words. Im from Germany and Id say the European SF-scene didnt follow the debate as closely as the US – I wouldnt even know about it, if I wouldnt follow some english blogs (which not every SF fan here does).
The sad puppies tried to get some recognition for “their” writers. Did they suceed? No. At the End of the Award-Day they actually damaged their cause.
For people within the controversy they damaged some writers by assoiciation with the slates.
For the people who dont follow the debate or remained neutral, they damaged writers, because they ended up BELOW no award. If I dont know anything about the slates, I see that they are not good enough to even come close to an award. Would I read them? No. Nominating sub-par work was simply a disservice to the artists involved.

Lets see if they burn more artists next year or if they will try to look at the work of an author and not his publisher or political agenda or what have you.

Jay Maynard

“But I’m certainly interested in what you’ve got to say.”

Sent to your email address as listed in the contact link.


A few points:

1- It is my personal opinion that Vox has always wanted to “burn down the Hugos”. (I will grant that if he had been successful at winning awards, instead of having “no award” awarded, he would be crowing about it). He saw the reaction to Correia’s fairly innocuous (other than nominating Vox) Puppies 2 recommendation list, and decided he could make more folks (on every side) dance to his tune. (And the folks danced very well) That he has used it, and his involvement in other causes, as promotion for his “brand”. There are reasons why demagogues and firebrands are successful.

2- I still wouldnt characterize myself as a puppy, I didnt nominate, or vote for or against any slate but my own. Though I do sympathize and agree with their arguments quite a bit.

3- I dont think I have ever argued intelligently…

BTW, I was just thinking, if the Hugo stuff had never happened, I wouldnt even know who Vox is if not for Black Gate…I mean I may have heard of him through the Jemisin/SFWA Kerfuffle, but I wouldnt have followed it in more than a puerile fashion, just to use as a footnote, like fishboob…

So Mr ONeill, you should have that on your conscious… 😉


I don’t agree that the Puppies have damaged the reputation of certain writers. As I’ve mentioned in other comments here, I’ve only recently returned to SFF after being duped into focusing exclusively on literary fiction for a long time. I’ve only been reading Black Gate for about half a year. Through this site as well as other SFF news sites I became aware of the Hugo controversy. I never had a horse in that race, simply observed from the side lines. The controversy has made me aware of writers like Larry Correia, who seems interesting to me. His appeal to pulp writing fits with my own interests. Also, he is knowledgeable and favorable towards guns, which I also like. How often is a SFF writer knowledgeable about firearms?


Larry Correia was not nominated, was he?

Where the controversy did not result in a flame-war there was a discussion (I give the puppies that) and I dont deny that people who followed the discussion may have found writers they enjoy. I guess the two nominees who withdrew their nomination also found fans.

But the ones that ended up on the slates and below “No award” – how much people who havent heard of them before will be inspired to try their work now?


Besides this year, I’ve never seen the voting results of the Hugo. Normally I would be oblivious. And even with these I couldn’t tell you who fell out where without going back and looking at the results. In a few days, I won’t remember it at all. I’ve also never read books because they won a hugo or a nebula. I read books because they sound interesting. Sometimes the cover will say Hugo and/or Nebula winner.

[…] It’s clear that a number of voters chose to vote No Award across the board when presented with options that came entirely from a slate. But it’s also clear that there was another large group of voters who weighed their options and simply voted out slate works as inferior. As one publication that was nominated by the slates, Black Gate, noted in an editorial last night: “Dear Puppies: your taste sucks[13].” […]

Sean Stiennon

I don’t think the conclusions are so clear, John. The Puppies can just as easily look at the results and say that the tastes of the Worldcon voters suck–which is what they’ve believed all along.



As a first-time Hugo voter who No Awarded all five Puppy categories, I would like to say that I think April-John was correct, and GRRM (and today-John) misread the data. My own voting decision was (like yours) based on principle of slates, but that’s anecdote, not data. There are three things to consider if you want to look at the data:

1) The short-fiction categories (and Related Work). About 3500 first-run No Award votes. Completely slate-dominated, and also (as you point out) many reviews saying the offerings were poor. “No Award” voters here could have been motivated by either of the two. The 3500 votes are the SUM of those voting on principle plus those voting for bad Puppy taste.

2) The Best Novel fifth-place voting results. “No Award” took fourth, above both Puppy nominees. According to the posted Hugo results, there were 3117 ballots expressing a preference between fifth and sixth place, and 2536 which didn’t. In other words, 2500 ballots left both Skin Game and Dark Between The Stars off of the novel category (presumably voting the other three in some order plus No Award). Voters who found the Puppy selections poor presumably would have read and ranked them, so those 2500 voters are approximately the size of the “principle” group.

3) Best Editor, Long Form. The commentary I’ve seen over the past ~6 months suggests pretty much unanimously that Toni Weisskopf is a worthy editor who was going to get caught up in the slate blacklash; if No Award voters were doing so because of poor nomination quality, this is the category where they most would have broken away from the anti-slate position to support her. And indeed this category only had 2496 first-run No Awards to 1200 first-run Weisskopf votes. Again we see that the “principle” group appears to number about 2500 out of the 3000-3500 total No Awarders, putting the “bad puppy taste” group at 500-1000 in size.

My conclusion is that the group voting against slates on an anti-slate principle is about 2.5x-5x the size of the ones who rejected Puppy nominees based on poor quality.

This is not to say that the “principle” voters thought the Puppy works were high quality. I certainly didn’t. But I would have voted them down anyway, because the normalization of slate tactics would have rendered the Hugos meaningless.

Allen Snyder

“I expect that debate to be going on healthily for decades.”

Let’s be honest: No one is ever going to admit that their own taste sucks. 😉

R.K. Robinson

Before the Hugo nominations were announced, I had read two things by what I later learned were Puppy people, one a short story collection by Torgerson, the other a novelette. That’s just two works out of a ton of things to be considered, but I found both of them ill conceived and poorly written. The Torgerson wasn’t on the ballot, the other was. IF they are exemplary, then I’ll have to agree with your assessment. But that’s only two works. The reviews I’ve read of other slate works also support your view. Of course there’s a wide range of taste, but politics aside (if that’s possible these days, or ever), it seems the better works didn’t have much of a shot, thanks to the slate process. I’m particularly sorry for the Editorial result, but that’s neither here nor there.

The old saying that “quality will out” may no longer be true in award processes which are basically popularity contests.

[…] It’s clear that a number of voters chose to vote No Award across the board when presented with options that came entirely from a slate. But it’s also clear that there was another large group of voters who weighed their options and simply voted out slate works as inferior. As one publication that was nominated by the slates, Black Gate, noted in an editorial last night: “Dear Puppies: your taste sucks.” […]

Rich Horton


As (I’ll mention this first, just because I’m still thrilled) a now two-time Hugo winner (or, perhaps more correctly, holder of two Hugo statuettes for my contributions to a two-time Hugo winner in Lightspeed), I have taken a good deal of interest in the whole process. I also got to talk to a lot of people at Sasquan, both Puppies (no Rabid ones, though) and Puppy-opponents.

I believe Baxil’s analysis is entirely correct — the No Awards were FAR more a vote against the slate process than a vote against the slate people or stories.

In my case, as my post made clear, I felt that most of the slate nominees were not Hugo-worthy. That said, several were decent work. In a normal year, I vote for the stories I think Hugo-worthy, and leave the rest off the ballot, and don’t vote No Award at all, unless there is a story I find simply awful, in which case I will vote No Award ahead of it, which means the merely OK stories need to get votes too.

This year I kind of did the same, only all my votes were for stories I thought OK, but not really Hugo-worthy. In my earlier post I didn’t say where I put the No Award, and I won’t say so here, but in each category I did vote No Award, but only after voting a few entries ahead of it. This was because it was my conviction that the field would be harmed more by indiscriminate No Awarding than by having somewhat sub-optimal winners. Others disagreed, and voted No Award on principle, as a statement against the slate process — a process I also unequivocally condemn — and I understand that sentiment and won’t criticize it.

I can say that in the editor categories, even though I agree that John Joseph and Neil and Ellen and Jonathan and Sheila — and Trevor too! — were more worthy of a Hugo than folks like Mike Resnick and Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Jennifer Brozek; I still voted them ahead of No Award because they really did do good work. The one “editor” who was behind No Award on my ballot was Vox Day, partly because of my distaste for his avowed plan to destroy the Hugos, but also because I did not see evidence of particularly good work by him in either Long Form or Short Form.

I need to add that I was very distressed by the cheering at the ceremony for No Award. No Award is NOT something to cheer. Whatever the reason (and the reason may be very good) that No Award is necessary in any category, it is NOT an occasion for cheering. It is a sad time for the field, and even if we agree with the No Award decision, we should be mourning the fact that we got there, not cheering.

I was up until 4 last night — you can guess why! — and I spent most of Sunday on a plane (or two planes). So perhaps I’m a bit incoherent. I’ll write more about this later — I can even do a con report if you want one! It was a great con, but any con for which you have to explain to TSA what that heavy pointy (super pointy!) metal thing in your baggage is is going to be great!

Wish you were there, John (and everyone else here) — hope to see you in KC next year!


[…] of principle, without having read the nominees. But I also know voters also had problems with the quality of the Puppies’ […]


The Puppies are trying to simultaneously claim that a small Small Social Justice Warrior clique controls the Hugo Awards and that being rejected by thousands of voters proves it.

The common refrain from voters in the categories that were No Awarded is that the nominees were just no damn good, even from those who thought the Puppies might have a point about too much political correctness.

This is coming from someone who proudly calls himself a liberal and voted a number of editors and a Puppy story above No Award.

Jay Maynard

Rich: Thank you for your comments about the cheering. Not even GRRM, who said beforehand that he would consider such particularly classless, has denounced it afterwards, and there’s a large number of people over on David Gerrold’s Facebook page saying they found it highly appropriate.


Let me chime in that I am also a definite non-puppy that was dismayed by the no award cheering. These are human beings that were present to have a crowd rub their faces in this undeservedly. I had bumped into John C Wright earlier in the day, and he was nothing but polite despite his overwrought posts. He should have been accorded the same dignity. Many of the others deserved such treatment even less. What did Jennifer Brozek or Toni Weisskopf do to earn that?

[…] Black Gate is succinct in saying “Dear Puppies: Your Taste Sucks”. […]

[…] It’s clear that a number of voters chose to vote No Award across the board when presented with options that came entirely from a slate. But it’s also clear that there was another large group of voters who weighed their options and simply voted out slate works as inferior. As one publication that was nominated by the slates, Black Gate, noted in an editorial last night: “Dear Puppies: your taste sucks.” […]

Sarah Avery

Allen Snyder said:
Let’s be honest: No one is ever going to admit that their own taste sucks. 😉

Actually, in less fraught times, people sometimes do. In this long-ago post, noted interactive fiction creator Andrew Plotkin says:
I did not see Snakes on a Plane. I am not enough of a fan of action thriller movies to enjoy a terrible action thriller movie. (I am a fan of sci-fi movies, which is why I enjoyed Aeon Flux, Underworld 2, and Ultraviolet last winter. All terrible, thanks for asking.)

He also advocates in earnest for fruitcake as a valid form of baked good.

And just for the record, the 1997 film Kull the Conqueror was a ridiculous exercise in camp. I saw it in the theaters, twice I think, and it was all I hoped it would be.

We may never be able to look back at Puppygate and laugh — not all together, regardless of faction — but I do think we’ll be able to look back together at other things and laugh.


I like fruitcake!


It is my contention that those who voted a straight anti-puppy slate without reading the actual nominated works did the whole voting process a disservice, and are in fact guilty of the same puppy-behavior they objected to in the first place. That said, I also don’t think the results would have been all that different, because overall the puppy slate was extremely weak. Shame about Toni Weisskopf though.


Well John ONeill did post that garbage article by Liz Lutgendorf in the New Statesman. So apparently his taste sucks too.

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