Gus. A case study in Sad Puppy ignorance.

The Sad Puppies are, once again, frolicking in my twitter feed after WIRED magazine’s take on the 2015 Hugo awards was republished in an extended form. It’s a good read, followed by the usual tail of comments with members of the Mad Harpies “movement” publicly humiliating themselves by repeating the same old tired excuses for their bigotry.

Among the comments was this gem from a “Gus”, who chose to publish on a public forum a rather revealing insight into the ignorance of the Bad Guppies. I’ll just drop it here for you to read in full. The bold is a quote from the article , the italics are Gus “rebuttal”.


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, arguably the first sci-fi novel, was a monster story that explored the ethics of technological advance and the responsibilities of parent­hood.
Only a brain-washed product of a US humanities department could ever come up with such nonsense. The sole purpose of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was macabre entertainment, as entertainment is the sole purpose of Sci-Fi: when I want to be preached to, I go to church. The puppies, of course, are right. A good story that sells well is what counts every time. Thank God, we no longer have to rely on Hugo and its gang of prim PC hypocrites for suggestions. There’s plenty more where to find a good read. And neither is “Frankenstein” (1818) the first sci-fi novel. There have been many before, for example, “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift (1726), “Adventures of Baron Munchhausen” by Rudolf Erich Raspe (1785), or “The Blazing World” by Margaret Cavendish (1666), and plenty more going all the way back to “Arabian Nights” and the Japanese tale of “Urashima Taro” (720) that talks about time travel.


I wish I had an effective emoticon for side eye, and I’m not going to lower myself to inserting a gif here, so I will simply ask you to imagine me giving Gus all the side eye. Where to even begin?

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

Secondly. Does Gus then go on to place, alongside Frakenstein : A Modern Prometheus by early feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the novel Gulliver’s Travels by famed polemicist, essayist and, yes, political activist Jonathan Swift, as examples of entertaining scifi stories written for the sole purpose of entertainment? Because I hate to break it Gus, but while Gulliver’s Travels may well be a “good read”, it absolutely does have a message. Google is your friend Gus, look it up.

Wherever Had Herpes gather the whining about “message fiction” is endless. Stories should only entertain, and not contain any kind of message, apparently. Reading old Gus’ words, it becomes clear how these clowns arrive at such idiocy.

They are ignorant.

These are the kind of people who can read Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by early feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and not notice all those messages flying past their ears. Or, likely, they just haven’t read it at all, and are the very particular kind of stupid that can believe that they, and they alone, know the “sole purpose” of something they haven’t even read.

There is a name for this kind of stupid. It’s ignorance. The people who don’t know, and don’t want to know, and ignore anything that challenges them, even when it’s explained in the simplest way, those are the ignorant people. And they’re ignorant, above all else, about science fiction itself, a genre so full of messages that even its most ardent fans can’t agree on a proper definition to hold them all. Gus is a good case study in Sad Puppy ignorance, look out for its signs in everything they do.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

22 thoughts on “Gus. A case study in Sad Puppy ignorance.

  1. Wow you are full of yourself. Gus may have things you disagree with him about, but you completely overlook the fact that he shows your ignorance by citing major pieces of literature that clearly predate Shelly and are clearly Science Fiction.

    Also while you miss the point, an entertaining read can be educational and thought provoking. But if it is not entertaining, people will not read it.

    Currently the king of Science Fiction is not Corriea or Scalzi, it is a guy name Hayao Miyazaki and he uses visuals to tell the stories. (I have been enjoying him tell me stories for over 35 years.) His stories can be thought provoking and have an onion of messages in them. But all of them are entertaining.


    1. Readers are not only entertained by “story”. And if a good story that sells well is so important, you must really be annoyed that Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele have not won the Noble Prize for Literature. Or that “The Beverly Hillbillies” never won the Pulitzer Prize.


    2. “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift (1726), Fantasy,
      “Adventures of Baron Munchhausen” by Rudolf Erich Raspe (1785) Fantasy,
      or “The Blazing World” by Margaret Cavendish (1666), Fantasy
      “Arabian Nights” Fantasy
      “Urashima Taro” (720) Fantasy


  2. Gus and Brad show amazing lack of reading comprehension. Frankenstein and Gulliver’s Travels are what they say Sad Puppies doesn’t want, political and ethical commentary in a science fantasy setting.


  3. Look, this one guy has different ideas about books written 200 years ago, what an idiot… let’s generalize and call him symptomatic for other people I don’t like.


  4. I am sure you can point me to the press release fro the Sad Puppie HQ that states their single opinion on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.

    Also, what about the shameless cultural appropriation of my ancestors Mrs. Shelley has comitted? The owner of Castle Frankenstein still has to throw stupid Halloween-Partys each year because of how she misinterpreted my culture and heritage. ;) (inserting link to my Patreon)


  5. I’m not part of the pathetically sad SF community. But I’ve been watching everything that’s been humiliating both sides of this ridiculous debate for the past few years, and it seems to me that the only complaint the “sad puppies” have, but aren’t intelligent enough to verbalize it, is that a good story should not take a back seat to whatever trendy social issue is on the docket this year, whether it’s homosexuality, feminism, racism, or whatever… And the “Not so sad puppies”, or whatever they call themselves, seem to think they’re on some kind of social mission to rid SF of these current problems in society by focusing their award nominations on lesser books that aren’t deserving of awards, but fit their vision of an all-inclusive society, while ignoring better books that see story and character as more important than whether or not the main character is a lesbian.

    Either way, you’re all a complete joke. Heinlein, Bradbury, and all the rest are rolling over in their graves over the sheer stupidity shown on both sides of this pointless argument.


    1. This is precisely my position. The sad puppies and the SJWs, despite their avowed orientations to science fiction stories, really only want to promulgate their pet political agendas (Christian fundamentalism and regressive liberalism, respectively). Those of us who are lifelong readers of the genre are the true victims here. Let’s face it, Ann Leckie and John C. Wright are equally abysmal writers. Should Ancillary Justice have swept the awards because of its “message” (it’s a truly atrocious piece by any standard)? Hell no. But Wright should never have been nominated for the Hugo, either. He’s a piss poor C. S. Lewis wannabe.

      I pine for the days when one could admire a reactionary nutbag like Heinlen and a radical wacko like PKD equally, based on the fact that they were both great writers. Messages in fiction are probably unavoidable, and why the heck would we want to if we could? The current trend toward polarization of fandom is slowly destroying the genre. Or maybe it has already destroyed it. I’m not sure I’m even going to care if this goes on much longer…


      1. Not sure your Wright / Leckie comparison works. I don’t lov Leckie’s books, but I can’t dismiss their qualities. Wright’s works have no qualities to dismiss. Also not convinced by this somewhat common idea that “SJWs” and Sad Puppies are either ends of a spectrum. Perhaps it only looks that way because some SF fan ar quite extreme on the conservative end of that spectrum?



      2. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure it does either. All I know is that I’ve tried, with completely honest intentions, to enjoy reading both authors and I’ve completely failed based on my perception that neither of them were writing stories so much as polemics (however well disguised) to the detriment of artistry. (Ancillary Justice and Wright’s Night Land pastiches were the works in questin, btw).

        I don’t know enough about SF fandom to comment if it’s typically conservative, but it does certainly seem to me that there is a trend toward enforcing political correctness in new SF publishing that is troubling. To be clear, I’m a male radical feminism atheist, so I’m by no means sympathetic towards some parties to the conflict… I’m a social justice sympathizer, but not a kneejerk one.


      3. Appreciate both your well considered comments here David. There are, I have to concede, a few reactionaries on the liberal side of fandom, and they do no good for anyone. I try to put them to one side. I enjoy genre MUCH more as a diverse field, than as the virtual monoculture it still was even 10 years ago. Hope it continues to diversify.



  6. This reminds me of the current debate about Captain America. There are people who believe that a character, with Jewish creators who debuted punching Hitler in the face before the USA entered into WWII and wears a flag, should never be used to tell political stories with opinions.


  7. Heh. Dumbass reads “arguably the first” and thinks he can disprove that part of the thesis by citing earlier novels. Without displaying any knowledge of what science fiction is, he imagines himself prepared to win a debate. Gonna go ahead and guess: white dude, and it’s about ethics in games journalism.

    He can’t really mansplain when he doesn’t know how to ‘splain.


  8. When I read ‘Frankenstein’ (skipping over the boring bits a lot), I had the same opinion as Gus. And the same with Gulliver’s travels.
    But I was about thirteen or so.
    I suppose that tells me something about the ‘Sad Puppies’.



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