Non-Fiction Spotlight: The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton

As promised in the introductory post yesterday, here is the first Non-Fiction Spotlight. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here.

I’m starting off the series by interviewing my pal Camestros Felapton about his blog series turned non-fiction book The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War.

So I’m pleased to welcome Camestros to my blog:

The Complete Debarkle by Camestros Felapton

Tell us about your book.

Debarkle is partly about the 2015 Sad Puppy campaign in the Hugo Awards…but only partly. It’s a book about the long lead up to those events and looks at how past events in fandom and in wider politics shaped those events. It then goes on to trace the political arc of that story and looks at how the culture wars in the US in particular have deep connections between the Sad Puppy era and bigger events in US politics.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a British/Australian blogger and I write about science fiction, politics and strange ideas. It can look all disconnected but what I’m trying to explore is how fiction shapes reality.

What prompted you to write your book?

I’d been thinking of a project like this for some time but the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol was a specific impetus. I wanted to talk about how a section of the US population had become entranced by ideas that seemed so sharply at odds with reality. The overlap between the thinking of some of the key figures in the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns and issues such as Covid-denial and election-fraud conspiracy theories was substantial. One key personality from that time had become a major promoter of Qanon, another had been an early proponent of anti-covid-lockdown protests and yet another had been an active proponent of election-fraud conspiracy theories. I really wanted to trace the journey that people went through and how the earlier (fairly minor) conflict foreshadowed later events.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters, in particular, read your book?

It is partly a history of fandom but it is also a story of how communities react to internal and external conflicts. I think for people new to the Hugo part of fandom, it can explain a lot of how fandom currently operates. A former Sad Puppy figure said recently that they still have scars from what happened and I think people on all sides still have sore spots from that time. The conflict also has lead to a defensiveness in fandom where people are wary of potential threats in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy.

Debarkle isn’t 100% objective or wholly divorced from my opinion or viewpoint but I’ve tried to make it rich in facts and references and to give a clear sense of what happened and when. I think there are things many communities can learn from the story.

Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?

There was a minor political scandal about the money involved in a book by Newt Gingrich that was published by Tor and Jim Baen, which I didn’t have the time to get into in detail.

SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?

That boundary between fiction and non-fiction is most obvious in SFF. Of all the many genres and sub-genres, SFF has this complex relationship between what can and cannot be treated as fiction. Consequently, you have this spillage of ideas out into sciences, philosophy, politics from SFF and then back in again

Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?

Elizabeth Sandifer’s on-going mega-project on the British invasion of comics, The Last War in Albion is a brilliant series and really extends the range of what can be done with creative non-fiction. At the same website, Christine Kelley’s Nowhere & Back Again series which is exploring the locations of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is really good. They are both at https://www.eruditorumpress.com

The Unofficial Hugo Book Club write really interesting essays on SFF, often looking at how issues like wealth or economic inequality play out in science fiction. It’s hard to pick one specific one but I enjoyed this one http://hugoclub.blogspot.com/2021/10/american-cleon.html

Of great help to me when writing Debarkle was Alec Nevala-Lee’s book Astounding, that looks at the history of John Campbell, Robert Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard and their influence on science fiction. Also Jo Walton’s Informal History of the Hugo Awards is an excellent reference.

I love the multiple series that you are doing on Hugo categories (like this one!). The fanzine spotlight is a great way to look at the big rich variety of work available http://corabuhlert.com/category/fanzine-spotlight/

For news, reviews and general fan things, I often read Nerds of Feather and, of course, File 770.

Now I’m getting to the point where there are too many other great things to mention!

Where can people buy your book?

It is free! You can get it from a range of online bookstores but this link will lead you to the ones that suite you https://books2read.com/u/bzZeME Basically it is all of them except Amazon (who won’t let me give books away for nothing)

Where can people find you?

I’m mainly here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/ but I’m also on Twitter as @CamestrosF

Thank you, Camestros, for stopping by and answering my questions.

About The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War:

The collected version of all three volumes of Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War. In 2015 a major controversy broke out in the world of science fiction’s most prestigious literary award. Debarkle traces the history of this controversy, examining the roots and consequences of the events.

Free at

Kobo | B&N | Apple | Scribd | Thalia | Vivlio | Angus & Robertson  

About Camestros Felapton: 

Camestros Felapton is an extended cosplay of a pair of syllogisms and their adventures in cyberspace. He is also the manager and amanuensis for Timothy the Talking Cat and a finalist for the 2018 Best Fanwriter Hugo Award.

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Did you publish a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2021 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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2 Responses to Non-Fiction Spotlight: The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton

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