So, as predictably as rain is wet, the Puppies have declared a boycott on Tor Books unless they get a swath of demands met, including apologies from Tor for true statements made by people who are not Tor employees. While the most famous of the white supremacists in the Puppy movement didn’t start it – this guy didthe oberpuppyführer has, of course, endorsed it. So has the Internet’s biggest Korrasami hater, and some others, too.

Anyway, the demands are ludicrous, but to summarise:

  • Tor must publicly apologize for writings by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Moshe Feder, Irene Gallo, and John Scalzi that “demonize, denigrate, slander and lie about the ‘Puppies’ campaigns”
  • Tor must “publicly reprimand those individuals for stepping over the line”
  • Tor must “publicly indicate that it is putting in place policies to prevent any recurrence of such issues.”

See, this is exactly what you get when you hang one of your own out to dry for making personal comments on their own Facebook page like Tor did. You get escalation. So I’m honestly having a hard time feeling sorry for Tor Books here; it was as predictable a piece of politics as one can imagine. And I’m not just saying that in retrospect; I said so at the time.

Now mind you, this “boycott” is pretty must sad-trumpet amateur hour for several reasons, not the least is probable inability to make visible economic impact. As Vox himself admitted, he hasn’t bought anything from Tor in years, and I doubt all that many of the others who are going to sign on to this thing have either. A few, sure, absolutely – with the hilarious side-effect that means the writers they might be able to hurt are the ones on their side.

But even were it all of them, I have to wonder – how small a pond do they think this is? As I’ve, again, written before, if you want an effective boycott, you need three things: 1) a specific and reachable goal, 2) the ability to have economic effect, and 3) a functional alternative to the thing you’re boycotting.

They don’t have these conditions met. They have maybe half a point on item one: there are stated demands. But the thing is, those demands are mostly stalking horses for greater goals, and the Puppies have already proven they will unilaterally escalate. Therefore, no one sensible should assume those demands will be stable here, either. Meet them, more will arise. It’s like Hydra.

Plus, and this should not be left unsaid, their demands are simply ludicrous. But moving on.

They have more than half a point on item three, the alternative – they have a mishmash of selfpub (which, as we know, is Real Publishing for Real Men Now, apparently) and small-press, particularly the Oberpuppyfurher’s small press. (“Shocked! Shocked to discover there might be economic motive to my political boycott!”) Plus, there are plenty of other publishing houses. So maybe a full point, but so much of their work is Campbell-reject shenanigans that I don’t think it really matters.

And most importantly, they have exactly fuck and all on item two. “Oh look, a few dozen people who hate us and don’t read what we publish are calling a boycott.” “‘K.” The whole “muzzle a whole fleet of people or we’ll ruin you” threat doesn’t have a lot of bite if you can’t pull it off. And their 10%-of-the-vote crowd simply can’t.

Sure, they managed to game the Hugo system with numbers that small, because nobody else was block voting; parties vs. no party always win. But that trick doesn’t work when everybody is throwing dollars around for things they actually want and there’s no shortlist to pack. It’s not the kind of closed environment where these tricks work.

Plus – and this is probably my favourite part of this particular fail – the political movement whose original rallying cry was “Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo today” is now boycotting Robert Heinlein’s publisher.

I guess keeping him off the Hugo ballot this year just wasn’t enough. Man, they just must hate Heinlein.

So, in conclusion: doomed.

eta: Steven Savile on Facebook claims Puppy leader Torgersen told him this was all about exposure, and wasn’t ever about the Hugo awards, back at a Writers of the Future event. And lj:yamamanama reminds us that one of the boycott organisers threatened to sue them for… boycotting that organiser’s vanity-press publisher. Hilarity!

This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.