Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Targeting A Readership Part 10 - The Sad Puppy Hugo Controversy

Targeting A Readership
Part 10
The Sad Puppy Hugo Controversy
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here is the Index post to this Targeting a Readership series:

This Hugo Vote controversy is a sensitive issue.  The underlying issue actually targets the whole Presidential Election Cycle which is shaping up to reflect the cultural shift in America.

The Hugo Awards (a reader popularity contest) Voters do now represent a cross section of America with major infusion of voters from many countries because Science Fiction has gone Mainstream.

We often use the term "Values Voter" to refer to people who vote according to some very strict, Religion based, code of what is more important than what (Values are a prioritization of the issues, not a particular stance on a precise issue.)

The term, Values Voter, is another "Misnomer" -- a very popular one that totally misleads, and sows the seeds of behavior ( a great technique for characterization by actions).

See my clues about how a Romance Writer can use the Misnomer in dialogue to good effect:




And a large number of references to misnomers in the series on how to write Dialogue:


We are all Values Voters -- we vote our own values. 

We try to discern some kind of similarity between our Values and the Values of the candidates, but in the end our behavior is shaped by the candidate's words -- and non-verbal cues, replete with misnomers.  We trust people with Values we can discern as similar to our own.

As a writer looking to Target a Readership (sell a lot of copies to people who will tell their friends all about the book), you profit by being aware of the Values common among your target Readers.  As a Science Fiction writer, you would expect to be welcome to challenge those most cherished Values of your readership -- but at the end of the novel, the moral of the story has to confirm the righteousness of your reader's Values.

If you are not going to confirm your reader's righteousness, you might consider whether your idea would work better as non-fiction.  Some genres of Fiction do welcome the 'disturbing' story.  Science Fiction used to be one of those.  Romance is taking over that niche.  But do your research.  Read a slew of novels from the imprint you want to sell to.   

In general, the novels considered Art or Great Art have characters who espouse the target reader's Values, characters who oppose those Values, and characters who are making up their minds (or changing their minds).  Religious Conversion stories are one such, Romance Triangle stories another, Building A Business stories do this, too and Benedict Arnold betrayal/spying/double-agent stories are perhaps the most famous for it. 

When you "have an idea" for a story or novel, it is your idea.  It comes up out of your Values.  If you don't know what your Values are, you may have a problem separating the points of view in your stories into separate characters who remain consistent and thus believable even when changing their minds. 

Values are the core material out of which you fabricate Theme. 

Today, in the USA, we are in a transition culture which is split 40%/40% with 20% in the middle (either underinformed, not-thinking, or in-transition). 

The media has muddied the waters by imposing artificial distinctions (misnomers) on the underlying arguments, often confusing methods with goals. 

As I see it, nobody is against Love -- but 40% are against Gay Marriage.  Nobody is against women, but 40% oppose abortion and/or birth control. 

You may know where you stand on Gay Marriage or Abortion -- but are you crystal clear in your own mind about why you stand there?  Where did you get the idea that you think is correct?

Or do you just stand in opposition to the idiots on the other side?

Do you know what evidence might change your mind?

If you don't know what could change your mind, you can't formulate a deep and believable Character who changes from one position to the other.  So you can't write the Story (the Character's Internal Conflict moving to a Resolution), because all Characters must "Arc" or change in some fundamental way from one point of view to another because of what happens to them, because of the Plot Events.

Characters must "learn their lesson." If you don't know where you got your ideas of correct Values, and why you think they are correct, and what would change your mind, you won't write convincingly about a character who learns his/her lesson.

Take War as another issue: we're all against war, destruction, killing.  But some of us have an alternative procedure in mind for resolving a conflict, and for recognizing a resolved conflict when we see one -- and others don't. 

The writer has to be able to argue both the Political Right and the Political Left (as defined by the Media of the USA in 2015) in order to capture a 2015 readership.

In a long series of long novels, you can redefine Right and Left, Liberal and Conservative.  In a short story, you need to use shorthand for these positions. 

If you are of the Left or even the Middle and can envision a Character who shares that Value set, can you also slip into the point of view of the Right and argue that Value set with equal passion?

Can you argue the Right's position in a way that would convince a reader whose personal position is Right that you, yourself, are aligned with the Right?  Good writers do that, routinely. 

It doesn't matter where you set your Romance, or whether it's Science Fiction or Fantasy Romance, or even Paranormal -- or Historical with characters from the 1700's via time travel -- to produce a story that is Art, you must be able to think and feel like readers of the opposing Value Set, or from a time when sets of Values were not divided into opposing camps the way they are today.

Read some international news sources online during their political campaigns to discover how differently the labels "Right" and "Left" are used elsewhere.  The divisions we use in the USA today are not the divisions that arise from the fundamentals of the Universe.  They are misnomers fabricated by journalists whose readers have no patience with long phrases repeated.  

Depicting all sorts of Values convincingly is the meaning of a) Conflict is the Essence of Story, and b) Show Don't Tell.

Show Don't Tell is the main subject of the series on Depiction:


So, if a novel has characters who portray with passion and verisimilitude only the traits and beliefs of one of the factions among the Targeted Audience (say the Political Right), the other factions among the Targeted Audience may conclude that the AUTHOR is of the Political Right.

That confusion of Story, Plot and Author's Personal Convictions is the core of the controversy over Intolerance in the Hugo Awards.  This is tagged the Sad Puppy controversy -- and another group joined in tagged the Rabid Puppies.

This controversy has emerged in Major Media and is drawing attention to Science Fiction as a genre.


http://www.mhpbooks.com/hugo-awards-nominees-withdraw-over-political-controversy/  is a description of the issue by a major publisher's blog.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/17/hugo-award-nominees-withdraw-amid-puppygate-storm  is on The Guardian.

Where Intolerance has been triggered in a reader by a fictional character, the author of the character becomes the target of the very real wrath of the reader.  Or where an author has expressed a real-world-view at variance with the prevailing group view of the reader, that author's fiction becomes the target of Intolerance. 

The Fans of the Literature of Ideas seem to have become intolerant of Ideas, especially Crazy Ideas.

Ideas are separate from the people who hold them.  Throughout a lifetime, people change their Ideas and Values maybe three to five times -- some more than that.

The confusion of Idea with the Holder of the Idea may be the result of the avalanche of misnomers flooding the media and personal speech.  Or perhaps the confusion has created the misnomers.

If the Left/Right controversy is not the core issue in the novel's Conflict, you might think that it wouldn't matter whether there are characters representing all sides.

That may have been true some decades ago, but today there is heightened sensitivity to disagreement with unconsciously held beliefs. 

People who do not know why they believe what they believe are most sensitive to Characters who portray a divergent view.  This sensitivity happens when people adopt the beliefs of other people, instead of meticulously reasoning from their own Values to a belief that conforms with their Values.

If you haven't done the work, you do not own the Belief.  It is not yours, so you can't defend it. You can only attack anyone threatening to take your Belief away. 

If you, as writer, successfully portray a character who does not hold your Values, and that character's Values are at odds with a reader's values, and that reader has no clue why they believe what they believe, they are helpless to argue against your compelling character.  The result is rage, not engagement, among those readers.  That rage will be vented on you, the writer -- not the character you created.

Consider the classic Romance situation where two Teens fall in love, and the parents disapprove of the chosen.  The Teens will not, together or individually, be able to argue with their parents, point by point in favor of their chosen, explaining exactly what traits make that chosen a perfect Soul Mate.   So instead of presenting their reasons, and arguing their parents into agreeing with them, the Teens yell, scream, stomp, elope, and vilify the parents. 

That Romance Classic situation is exactly what is happening in the Sad Puppy Hugo Controversy.  People who are passionately dedicated to an idealistic vision don't know how they got that vision, and so can not defend their espousal of that vision with arguments that could change the opposition into supporters.  If you don't know what to say, you scream vilification.

So now to the Hugo Awards.  The Hugo is Awarded by the World Science Fiction Society at the World Science Fiction Convention.  The only people who may vote for this award are members -- paid a membership fee to the convention. 

This is in contrast to the Nebula which is voted by dues paying members of the Science Fiction Writers of America -- professional writers.

The Hugo is not voted by all science fiction readers, or all science fiction fans.

The Hugo Award is voted by members -- and membership is about $200 or more per year.  (less if you register early; sometimes reimbursed if you work at the con.)  Voting but non-attending membership is usually about $40, a lot to pay unless you are supporting a cause. 

Either fee is a lot of money just to express a literary preference.  So the Hugo is usually all about the tastes of a very narrow slice of a broader readership.

These days, there is a very broad swath of the general public who might say, "Yes, I like science fiction.  Hunger Games is great -- Star Trek was nice -- and I Game in the Star Wars universe, of course."

The current trend is that only a tiny percentage of the total Worldcon membership (about 4 or 5 thousand total) vote for the Hugo (a few hundred).  And of those who vote, not all vote in all categories. 

So you can see the Hugo is a popularity contest among a narrow slice of a self-selected group of people who have a total passion for the subject.  It is a well defined Readership which is not so easily Targeted. For the most part, the voters feel obligated to have read all the candidates in the categories they choose to vote. 

Oddly enough, the real-world composition of this tiny slice of Hugo Voters mirrors the Values of the demographic distribution of the general population.

Though Asians, Blacks and Hispanics are under-represented at Worldcon, they are still there.  After Star Trek impacted Science Fiction, the percentage of women evened out almost with the general population. 

But the Left/Right (USA media definition, not European) dichotomy among Hugo voters has leaned Left -- and more and more Left.  The Left takes pride in advocating tolerance.  But now this slice of the Worldcon membership has started to appear intolerant (from the point of view of the Right leaning Worldcon membership and their favorite writers), and that intolerance has become culturally sanctioned.  In the USA, the general public has lost patience with the Far Right mindset. 

Operationally, from the point of view of a writer, it isn't so much "Left" or "Right" or even Liberal vs Conservative (all of which labels are Misnomers.)  The writer must be aware of the readership's choosing of sides in order to create a scrimmage line amidst a melee.   In a bar brawl, friends clump together for mutual defense. 

In 2014, one writer noticed this shift in the formless bar brawl of fan politics and took action to awaken the Political Right among the Hugo Voters -- or members of Worldcon who didn't bother to Vote.  Once they had a defined target in that clump of Right-leaning writers, the Political Left among the Hugo voters struck back in the same way the Political Left does in other venues. 

Here's a seminal blog post that explains the origin of the Sad Puppy Hugo Controversy by its originator:


It is a very long post, with the short-explanation at the top, and an even longer, more detailed one at the bottom. 

About the Author who started the Sad Puppy Hugo list.

Larry Correia is the award winning, New York Times bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International Series, the Grimnoir Chronicles, and the Dead Six thrillers. All of my books are available in eBook format from the Kindle store or at Baen.com, and in audiobook on Audible.com. I'm on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at @monsterhunter45.

This Hugo controversy has attracted the general media very large blogs:




I do believe there is much more to be said about the Left/Right dichotomy in the USA (or Liberal/Conservative) and especially the surge to dominance in the entertainment arena.  Entertainment is in the business of making a profit.  The larger audience's taste will dominate.

Entertainment is not (necessarily) Art.  In Art, no side or division can "dominate."  That would be bad composition. 

Romance writers are in the Entertainment business.  If there's an error in the way the Left/Right division has been defined, if there's a "misnomer" underlying this division, Romance is the natural genre to use to discuss those errors.  Love Conquers All.

Romance is ruled by Neptune, and Neptune is all about Idealism.  People with a strong Pisces (Neptune "rules" Pisces) emphasis make good Engineers (Scotty on Star Trek).  Romance is where Idealism and Science join into one, seamless whole: Love Conquers All

Romance writers must keep tabs on these macro-social developments because the macro trends have a lot to do with the acceptance or rejection of the Happily Ever After ending - the HEA. 

Study what is going on in the general population using the demographic analysis I put forth in this post:


Pluto is the slowest moving "planet" which tracks the "Generations."  It spends about 20 years in each sign.  Where it was when you were born determines where it will be throughout the decades of your life -- and describes the "Generation Gap" between you and your children.  Pluto signifies change, revolution, transformation, but magnified with gigantic amounts of Power.

Pluto was in Scorpio, but only 1985 to 1995 (elliptical orbit so it goes faster some times).  That generation (the Millennials ) have the Power of Pluto multiplied by Scorpio, the sign Pluto "rules" or signifies best. 

Study the Power behind the roaring conviction of the 20-30 year old population.

Note Scorpio is the sign that brings forth a determination to defend privacy.  Statistics are showing the Millennials are against government snooping into their phones and computers.  Look to Pluto to time macro-trend-shifts.

 Depending on the distribution of other Natal Chart elements, a person with an exaggerated Pluto emphasis can become a Champion of Freedom or a Ruthless Dictator. 

Study the current Readership you are targeting using the Generation Gap trends. 

Study the Sad Puppy controversy for its heated, powerful, adamant destructiveness, it's undermining of a standing Institution (the Hugo Awards). 

It has been said the instigators of the Puppy controversy are willing to see that the Hugo is never awarded again if it continues to go to nothing but the Left-authors.

And as noted above, several authors who were touted on the Puppy slate have withdrawn their work from consideration.

These two developments illustrate the effects of Pluto when it disrupts a foundation.

Pluto is the "upper octave" Mars, -- Pluto is not just "War" but "Annihilation."  Mars fields an army to fight another army, and take spoils.  Pluto is the tidal wave of genocide, and leaves rubble.  

You must not assume that, just because a person was born between 1985 and 1995, they have a malfunctioning Pluto.  Most people have perfectly fine Pluto placement.

You can never determine anything about an individual by scrutinizing the Groups they belong to.  There are just too many independent variables that make up individuals, and too many misnomers defining Groups.

Our personalities are just like our genes have recently been discovered to be. 

We are born with a set blueprint in our genes, but experiences turn "on" or "off" certain kinds of "expression" of our genes.  Likewise, with personality -- a Natal Chart does not determine what kind of adult will come out of it.  Though we may share individual traits, no two people share every trait.  We start out one thing and become another, and we keep evolving throughout life.  The Idea is not the Person.  People change their Ideas, and often hold contradictory Ideas at the same time because they are in flux. 

MISNOMER: Nature vs. Nurture. 

The misnomer in the Conflict definition Nature vs. Nurture lies in the presentation.  Choose one or the other.  The real world uses 'both and' as the actual way individuals are shaped.  We start with one Natal Chart -- one set of genes, our Nature -- and then our Nature morphs into something else because of the things that happen to us, because of Nurture.  

But with a "Generation," (such as born 1985-1995 ) you can describe a "Readership." Those members who are not "expressing" the fingerprint of their generation will nevertheless have an intuitive grasp of what drives other members of that Generation, a kind of grasp that their elders and their children don't have. 

The same is true of other kinds of Groups people belong to -- all members may not share a trait, but they can find it intriguing to read about a Character who has that trait because they almost understand it at a gut level, a non-verbal level.

One such trait of Pluto is the inability to see any other way to handle opposition other than to undermine and annihilate, to overpower and obliterate.  Revenge is a favorite fantasy of Pluto.  Everyone has a Pluto somewhere and Scorpio is in every Natal Chart.  We all can resonate to these all-or-nothing vibes. 

Mars conducts affairs more the way Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai did -- do read Dickson's The Tactics of Mistake if you haven't yet. 


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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