Sad Puppies: The Superversive Mandate

Sad Puppies 4

The highly anticipated Sad Puppies 4 recommended reading list has been released. Just in the nick of time for Hugo Award nominations, which close at the end of this month, these works were suggested by SF fans from around the world and across the web.

The full list can be found here.

Suggestions were completely open to the public, and SP4 even received signal boosts from genre heavyweights who've taken issue with past Puppy campaigns, like Mike Glyer and George R. R. Martin. These factors support the view of SP4's recommendations as a representative sample of broader SF fandom's tastes.

Sad Puppies 4 gave the fans a chance to speak. What did they say? If the most-suggested works are any indication, SP4 voters made a statement that echoes what folks like Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, and Tom Simon have been saying for a while, now.

The Superversive Mandate
I've written previously on the Superversive literary movement.

A quick recap for those who are just joining us: the Superversive movement seeks to return SFF to the service of beauty, truth, and the good--a service which the curators of literature in NY publishing have  not only abandoned, but betrayed. Tom Simon in particular has called for overturning the gatekeepers' subversion of SF, not from below, but from above, i.e. superversion.

Judging by SP4 participants' choices, most of them are sympathetic to Tom's vision. So many recommended works contain superversive elements, or were written by authors affiliated with the movement, that it's no exaggeration to say that Sad Puppies 4 represents a superversive mandate.

Hugos asterisk
The old guard's open contempt for 70% of their audience may have contributed to the backlash.

SP4 List Highlights
Here are highly placed entries from the official recommendations list that contain superversive themes, were written by superversive authors, or both.

Quite a showing for such a young movement.

Many creators of works listed above wouldn't describe them as superversive. Some might actively deny affiliation with the movement. But whether intentionally or not, all of the works above celebrate heroic courage, treat beauty as something real and transformative, honor objective truth, or a combination of multiple superversive elements.

Speaking from Experience
For once, I'm not just some armchair pundit peddling secondhand opinions on the internet.

To my amazement, five projects to which I have direct creative involvement appear on the Sad Puppies 4 list--each near the top of its category (viz. Nethereal, Sci Phi Journal, Superversive SF, Geek Gab, and, in the case of the Campbell...me).

Obligatory reminder of author's well-received book for sale.
When I decided to turn my writing from a hobby into a profession, I had no idea how my work would be received. Rather than fret over possible rejection, I just wrote the kinds of stories that I wanted to read, but that no one else seemed to be offering.

Obligatory reminder that the well-received book has an even better sequel. (Eligible next year.)
Along the way, I kept coming across like-minded individuals who were dissatisfied with the current state of SFF. Some of them accepted the challenge of writing for themselves. A few of these people must've thought I had something interesting to say, because they invited me to co-host their podcasts and post on their blogs. I continue gratefully doing so.

The takeaway is that, without a NY publisher, and with no advertising budget, resources, or contacts to speak of, Sad Puppies 4 let me compete on a level playing field against this:

the Martian

and tie for first place.

From where I'm standing (next to Andy Weir, as it happens), the predictions of indie making the gatekeepers obsolete look thoroughly vindicated.

I brought books to market, found readers, and--if past years are reliable indicators--stand a non-zero chance of being nominated for a major literary award. All of this was done without granting all of my rights and most of my profits to a publisher.

Sure, it's survivorship bias to say that if I can do it, then so can you. But I'm not the only example. Indie has produced far greater successes than me.

Oh yeah, that part about zero resources and no contacts? That problem's been pretty much solved--thanks to my fellow superversives, those who support the cause, and most importantly of all, my phenomenal readers. You guys have achieved what all of the industry experts said was impossible just a few years ago.

Congratulations to everyone who made the list. Thanks to all of the overt and covert superversives out there, to the Evil Legion of Evil, and Sad Puppies everywhere (especially Kate, Sarah, Amanda, and the volunteers who collated the suggestions). And once again, extra special thanks to my readers.

We're just getting warmed up, and I'm proud to be at the starting line with you.

Update: in the time since this article was first written, my name has also been added to the Rabid Puppies list of Campbell nominees. The Supreme Dark Lord is indeed kind.


  1. Bravo. Well done, by you and by everybody else. There's been a sort of "shadow fandom" for years now, and the noise made by SP3 last year broke it all into the open. Suddenly I have new friends, new writers to read, new ways to publish, and new online communities to be part of. All that talk last year about how the Sad Puppies lost (for various silly reasons) is absurd. The movement is about a great deal more than just awards.

    Now, I still think that subversion (i.e., overturning from below) can be useful, especially if you steal some of the floorboards from the APs' usual haunts. A few of them will then doubtless fall into the cellar and break something.

  2. Thanks! I hope to see both of you on the list next year.

  3. *Ten Gentle Opportunities* will be eligible next year. We'll see if I can fight the turbulence enough to finish something else...

    1. Everybody got that? Good. The book is here:

      Get to it!

  4. Also, you're on the Rabid Puppies list for Campbell. Not, alas, for Best Novel.


    1. Thanks for mentioning that. Nethereal may not have made the RPs' cut for best novel, but I'm grateful for the Campbell nod.

      On a related note: I can't wait to lose to Andy Weir!

    2. Next year you'll still be in the running. We'll go for that!