Predictably, my recent post about how advances in media technology are driving the Sad Puppies phenomenon--and the hostile reactions of its detractors--drew hostile reactions from SP's detractors.
I argued that new tribes of science fiction fans are forming around movies, video games, and eBooks; leaving the New York publishing establishment ever more obsolete.
That's not to say that the folks in charge of NY publishing are politically neutral. To the contrary, the clear pattern of behavior on display at the Big Five leaves little doubt of their left wing bias. But that's tangential to the real casus belli.
The main reason why the NY establishment's knickers are in a twist is that the medium they control--books printed on paper--is losing cultural prominence.
The gatekeepers' identities are invested in their control over mainstream publishing. Any serious threat to their control causes cognitive dissonance: a physiological; not a rational, response. As independents who threaten the gatekeepers' identity, the Sad and Rabid Puppies are convenient scapegoats for their irrational frustration.
Case in point
After hearing about my post, self-identified SP opponent Matthew M. Foster posted his reaction on Facebook. Once again the form, if not the content, of his comment is highly instructive.
Before proceeding to my analysis of Foster's response, read this post on cognitive dissonance "tells" by master persuader Scott Adams. He explains that cognitive dissonance is caused when someone faces an argument against a belief that is foundational to his identity. and to which he has no rational response.
How can you tell when your argument has been convincing enough to cause cognitive dissonance in your opponent? Here's a selection of quotes from my original post, Matt Foster's response to it, and a few of the relevant tells that Scott Adams has identified. Keeping in mind that my goal is to engage in reasoned argument about the causes of SP, ask yourself if Matt's responses are rational or not.
Brian Niemeier: Hugo-nominated author Mike Flynn has written about how people will fall into one of three broad categories when faced with change.
Innovators will champion a new idea just for the sake of novelty. They drive change, but their motives aren't always selfless. They could be narcissists, or on the make for a fast buck.
Conservatives will consent to change, but not until they have reasonable proof of success. Some are true skeptics. Some are hardliners. Some just have cold feet.
Inhibitors will not agree to make changes under any circumstances. However convincing the innovators' logic, and however sound the conservatives' data, the inhibitor's mantra is "No!"
Nonetheless, there are still those who are beholden to the big NYC publishers and their obsolete business model. Interestingly, these folks' behavior perfectly fits the classic inhibitor profiles.
Matthew M. Foster: So, cute to switch what the Pups stand for, and what those who are not sometimes do by switching the definitions of words--but probably best to stick to what most Pups cling to: That the Pups are true and loyal conservatives fighting against the evil forces of Progressive change. It is a silly outlook, but at least closer to true. Of course I don't call the Pups progressives conservatives (the movement is neoreactionary).
Lone Penguin: The Lone Penguin is the person you see on the Internet imploring others to stop listening to person X. The usual phrasing looks like “Why is anyone listening to that terrible person X?”
The tell is that the Lone Penguin will offer no data or reasoning to back up the emotion. At most, the Lone Penguin will offer a link to a story in which a journalist got something wrong or out of context.
Interpretation: The Lone Penguin hates person X because the argument made by person X is persuasive, and that violates the Lone Penguin’s identity as a person who always disagrees with person X and similar lines of thinking.
BN: Last time, we talked about the drastic changes currently underway in sci-fi fandom, and the media that are driving those changes.
I took a conservative approach to eBook technology and self-publishing in general. I was traditionally published first and only went indie when hard evidence indicated that it was the smarter move.
All of the controversy, tantrums, and libel over Sad Puppies can be chalked up to big fish in the shrinking legacy publishing pond who are standing athwart inevitable industry changes, desperately flailing their arms, and yelling "STOP!"
Given that the CHORF phenomenon is an atavistic reaction to inevitable changes in fandom driven by inexorable advances in technology, we needn't take any specific action to defeat them. Just as new theories ultimately triumph when the prior generation of scientists die off, SF will continue to thrive and grow long after the last CHORF's demise.
MMF: I do agree with him that time will settle things. New generations will grow up in a world that the Golden Age never saw, and the broader range of stories, diverse stories if you will, will be the norm. The Pups will be a glitch, hanging on to a past, even when, as in this article, trying to pretend that their past is actually a new future.
Personal Attack: A personal attack without reason is among the strongest tells. That means the person being attacked has been so persuasive that it is shaking someone else’s self-image.
Politician: My policies will stimulate the economy. Here is the data proving that this plan worked in every country where it became law.
Citizen: That guy is a reactionary asshole
Interpretation: The politician’s argument is so strong that it violates the citizen’s identity as someone that is always on the other side of that particular argument. How can the citizen maintain his old self-image and still feel rational? Cognitive dissonance is triggered and anger comes out.
BN: Storytelling to make a political point to the detriment of fun is what the Puppies have always been steadfastly against. An author's publisher is not his boss. His readers are.
MMF: An amusing twist.
Jokeless laugh: When I [Scott Adams] was training to be a hypnotist, our instructor taught us that a subject will often laugh at something you say, or a background sound, that would normally have no humor trigger. The real trigger is that the subject is feeling the hypnotist’s words translate into bodily reactions and it causes an involuntary giggle.
BN: As the story thus far shows, not only are claims of Puppies injecting politics into the awards the diametric opposite of the truth, politics is just a red herring in this whole controversy--a fig leaf used to conceal the CHORFs' fear of change and to justify their attacks on the agents of change.
MMF: So he paints the Pups as progressives (without using the word of course--he does realise that ushering in change in order to help people is the definition of progressive?) while painting those who oppose the Pups, who've been called progressives over and over again by the Pups, as extreme conservatives (for which he swiped an unnecessary word).
Nonsense Rebuttal: When you hear an irrational response to your rational argument, it probably means the argument was sound but it violated someone’s sense of identity. Here I am talking about the truly illogical responses you see on the Internet all the time, not routine disagreements over data and priorities.
There are two possible explanations for why Matthew responded to my evidence-based arguments with nothing but ad hominem attacks.
- False positives: all of his "tells" are in fact rational responses to unknown stimuli.
- Cognitive dissonance: lacking contrary evidence against arguments that shook his worldview, Matthew responded with a slew of irrational accusations.
I admit that option 1 could be the right answer. But if it's not, then Matthew has unintentionally provided me with an abundance of useful information about his own self-concept, the beliefs upon which that self-concept is based, and arguments that effectively undermine those beliefs.
Happily, both hypotheses are testable.
All I need to do is present data that refute Matthew's beliefs in ways that challenge his identity. If my analysis is correct, cognitive dissonance will prompt him to respond with irrational rhetoric that simply ignores my hard evidence.
Evidence such as his only book's Amazon rank of #509,455 Paid in Kindle Store:
Compared with my lowest selling book:
Again, I could be wrong. Perhaps Matthew has correctly predicted the future of SF publishing. History isn't linear, and current trends aren't always reliable indicators of future performance.
But if you hope to become a successful author, it stands to reason that objectively considering books that are currently pleasing readers might help you build your own audience.
I can honestly say that I learned a lot from reading books by John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and George R. R. Martin (and I had a good time in the process). Besides adding more tools to your writer toolbox, reading works by people with whom you disagree deepens your understanding of your own position.
Update from Hugo winner Mike Glyer at Rabid Puppies 2 nominee for Best Fanzine File 770:
(12) SETTING AN EXAMPLE. Here is Brian Niemeier’s tweet, inviting people to read his post criticizing Matthew Foster for using ad hominem attacks.
My comment: See "Personal Attack" in the list of cognitive dissonance tells above. The response isn't surprising, but the point of origin is. Since I expected Matthew Foster to prove my hypothesis first, I may need to work on my aim.
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