It came to my attention early this morning that Jon Del Arroz, author of Star Realms: Rescue Run and For Steam and Country and several shorter works, who is also slated to write two novel spin-offs for the new Alt-Hero comic book series, has been banned from WorldCon, the annual convention that hands out the Hugo Awards, apparently without provocation. WorldCon claims that Del Arroz threatened to engage in some behavior contrary to the convention’s code of conduct, but the only information available indicates that he promised to wear a body cam and record it if anyone harassed him, something that is legal to do in the State of California, where the convention is to be hosted.
In the sci fi fandom—well, actually, it’s more among writers than among fans—there is a long-running political feud over WorldCon and the Hugos. It started a few years back, spearheaded by independently successful sf author Larry Correia, who suspected political bias in the way the awards are handed out. He started what became known as “Sad Puppies,” which grew into a small group of authors writing lists of what they considered the best sf of the previous year, and encouraging people to read those works and consider voting for them, as an alternative to alleged block voting dominated by Tor Books. The write-up on the situation at Know Your Meme is surprisingly even-handed.
Although this is a relatively innocuous activity, the Sad Puppies were labeled white supremacists and smeared in major media outlets including Entertainment Weekly (which retracted) and National Public Radio (which did not). I was an observer rather than a participant in the whole Sad Puppies debacle, but I know the authors involved. There’s a lot of talk lately about media bias and whether it’s a real thing, but for me, that’s not a matter of debate. There is most definitely a problem with media bias: I know this because I have watched the media lie about, smear, and write hit pieces on people I know.
My own opinion on Sad Puppies, if anyone cares, is that the Puppies’ complaints were legitimate if sometimes exaggerated. Hugos and Nebulas have in recent years gone to garbage in short fiction, but that is in large part because the short fiction market is garbage. The Hugos for best novel have remained considerably less awful. Nonetheless, it is certainly true that the social justice cult (and it does deserve to be called a cult) has wormed its way into sf as surely as into every other area of life, and this has affected who can get published, and what authors can say in public, as the present case illustrates.
Complicating the matter with the Sad Puppies was the involvement of Vox Day, who used it to further his personal feud with author John Scalzi and the Science Fiction Writers of America, which had ejected Day in violation of its own bylaws after he finally responded in kind to an authoress who had been insulting him for years. After being kicked out of the SFWA, Day took his ball and went home: living in Italy, he is the one-man show in charge of the Finnish publisher Castalia House, which has gathered a stable of talented yet disaffected authors, published numerous Amazon bestsellers, and is now planning a move into comics. While the Sad Puppies merely encouraged people to read, buy WorldCon memberships, and vote, Day’s “Rabid Puppies” created a voting block that skewed the award’s nominations; his greatest (and funniest) triumph was getting the self-published niche porn “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle on the ballot for best short story. In subsequent years, however, changes to the voting rules largely defanged the Rabid Puppies.
Meanwhile, the Sad Puppies gave up because they have jobs and families and insufficient interest in being repeatedly libeled. Also, the Puppies have largely decided to ignore the Hugos in favor of the new Dragon Awards, given out by DragonCon, which have recognized authors that WorldCon and the Hugos have shunned for their political opinions.
Although the Puppies thing is mostly over, Vox Day has more than one prong to his attack: he has recently published Moira Greyland’s The Last Closet, which chronicles Greyland’s childhood sexual abuse at the hands of celebrated sf author Marion Zimmer Bradley. This publication follows up on several years that Day has spent shedding light on the long-running sheltering of pedophiles in the sf community; see especially the Castalia House blog series Safe Space as Rape Room. Day’s Rabid Puppies got Safe Space nominated for a Hugo, but WorldCon refused to put it in the voting packet on the tenuous grounds that its content might be illegal in some countries—thereby furthering the impression that WorldCon shelters child molesters.
Anyway, Jon Del Arroz is something of a latecomer to all this, as his name wasn’t made yet when Sad Puppies was at its height. Nonetheless, he is is openly right-leaning in his politics, which has made him a target for abuse by other sf writers and high-level fans, as indicated by his feud with File 770, whose creator Mike Glyer seems to have a hate-crush on him. After Del Arroz was banned from WorldCon for no apparent reason, Vox Day naturally followed up with the provocatively entitled blog post, “Worldcon doesn’t ban pedophiles.”
In the interest of Twitter sniping, I made the same the same point in a Twitter thread and suggested that Del Arroz was banned because he might catch someone grooming children on video. After I made the comment, I was within seconds kicked out of my Twitter account, and my comment disappeared—maybe coincidence, maybe not.