Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015 Hugo Ballot and some thoughts...

This year, 72% of the ballot was claimed by a troll-led block vote. 90% of the written fiction ballot was claimed by the troll-led block vote (and 25% of the written fiction nominees are this guy). ALL of the shorter fiction (novella, novelette, short stories) nominations were claimed by the troll-led block vote.

There were two slightly different block-vote campaigns this year: a nominally more temperate block-vote ballot (created through discussion among a number of fans)*, and a slightly modified block-vote ballot put forward by an outright troll. The block vote success we see on this year's Hugo ballot primarily matches the troll’s ballot. This surprised and confounded me. The chatter I'd seen made it sound like the more temperate-sounding block-vote campaign was attracting a wider audience of people who were more often fans wanting their favorite works on the ballot, and not trolls. I was excited to see some overlap between this first block-vote ballot and everyone else's ballots (particularly in the dramatic presentation categories), and I was hoping this meant the "issue" had calmed down into your normal dueling fan-groups. At the very least, I really expected the more temperate-sounding group to outnumber the rabid backers of the troll. Evidence is starting to emerge that explains how the troll group won out, however. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it would become "all about ethics in science fiction journalism." REALLY??

I made a decision regarding the troll block-vote last year. I decided that I would give the nominees a try, and give them a fair shake, with the exception of the works of the actual trolls themselves. (The spoilers for the trolls' works confirmed that I wouldn't like them anyway.) I decided I wouldn’t purchase the works that made it onto the ballot due to a troll’s Let’s-Break-The-Hugos initiative, however; I would wait for the voter’s packet. I will do the same thing this year, especially since the few works on their ballot I *have* read, I have enjoyed (Jim Butcher, and some of the long/short form dramatic presentations).

Practically, though, this means I have NOTHING on the ballot I can buy and start reading now. I’ve already read the non-block-vote novels. I tried Wesley Chu last year and The Lives of Tao was soooo not my cup of tea. This leaves me … nothing, until the voter’s packet comes out. Maybe I’ll start getting a head start on 2015 sff. Maybe I’ll read through the Nebula nominees I haven’t yet read. I guess I'll start by re-reading the nominated novels I already own. I never did write any of them up.

I’m going to be following, with great interest, the conversations brainstorming how we can modify the Hugo rules so that the award process doesn’t become a boring political war between voting blocks, or a perpetual playground for GG'ers. I will be at the business meeting at Sasquan, and I will be voting. I’m hoping to be at MidAmeriConII, as well.

How can we modify the rules to make it impossible (or at least more difficult) to game the system? Speculative fiction attracts a lot of brilliant, creative people. If this problem is solvable, I know we can solve it! I know this conversation is already ongoing - please post links in the comments.

In the meantime, probably the easiest solution is numbers. If you have a supporting membership, nominate and vote! Bring in your friends! 

I know I have a lot of friends who enjoy science fiction/fantasy - what would entice you to become a Hugo voter? The fee for a supporting membership is not bad (usually around $40) - this enables you to nominate for the current year and the next year, vote on the Hugo awards in the current year, and (usually+) receive a LOT of free science fiction and fantasy in e-reader form in the voter's packet, way more than your $40 worth. If time is a concern, you aren't required to read and vote in every category. Nominate what you know and love. Vote on the categories that interest you. It's fun, and you'll make the awards better!

+participation in the voter's packet is voluntary, and publishers don't always choose to participate. They USUALLY do, though.

* ETA: I can't continue to say that Sad Puppies 3 were a nominally more temperate block-vote slate, created through discussion with fans. It has been thoroughly proven that the vast majority of the ballot came only from the few people making up the self-named 'Evil Legion of Evil," which included Vox Day. And the leader of Sad Puppies 3, Brad Torgersen, has increasingly been showing his true colors

And now, this year's Hugo Awards ballot. 

[1] troll-led block vote only
[2] nominally more temperate block vote only
[3] common to both block vote ballots
[4] everything else

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marco Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B'tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy's Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)
Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • V-x D-y
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)
  • V-x D-y
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf
Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid
Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief
Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
  • Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale
Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson
Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots) - [note - there was no block-vote ballot for this category)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.


  1. Just a reminder, which I'm sure none of you actually need - the staff at WorldCon are volunteers. Most of them have nothing to do with the actual Hugo Awards nomination and voting process. Those who do are constrained by the WSFS Constitution as currently written:

    If you're unhappy with the block-voting shenanigans this year, please don't take it out on the folks who are working hard in their own free time to ensure that you have an awesome Worldcon this year!

  2. What about letting everything onto the ballot that passes the 5% hurdle? This might give us a higher number of nominees per category, but would allow a more diverse ballot. Also, gaming the nominating process would become more difficult.

    1. Brilliant!! I LOVE this idea! Looking at last year's numbers, yes, it would double the offerings in a bunch of categories (including Best Novel). But this would also solve just our general numbers problem. There's a lot of good stuff out there, but there's too much of it for all of us to have read before the nominations start. It would make the ballot a lot more time consuming to get through, but we essentially already do a double ballot's worth of reading when we have a Retro-Hugo year. I love it!!!

  3. Of course I made a mistake in my reasoning up there in my previous comment. My suggestion would not make gaming the ballot more difficult. Actually, it would become easier to block-vote a particular person or work onto the ballot. But it would make the nominating process robuster helping to prevent block-nominations pushing others off the ballot.

  4. Hi. I'm writing here principally as a voting theorist. Though I do consider myself an SF fan, I'm not very hard-core; without checking, I'd guess I've probably only read about a quarter of Hugo winners ever, and I've never gone to a con or anything like that. But I am a hard-core voting theorist; I quit my job and am pursuing a PhD at Harvard because of my interest in this matter. So I think I pretty much know whereof I speak in this domain.

    The obvious, simple solution is this: reweighted proportional voting. That is:

    1. People nominate as before.¹

    2. The work which receives the most nominations "wins" — that is, becomes an official nominee on the final-round ballot.

    3. Anyone who voted for that "winning nominee" has all of their other nominations downweighted by 1/2. Thus, three nominations from "satisfied voters" (those who already have 1 of their nominees on the final ballot) count as 1 nomination overall.

    4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have enough works on the final ballot. (Currently, 5 per category; though going up to 6 wouldn't hurt). Thus, any voter who had supported 2 winners would be weighted at 25%, etc.

    Imagine that this had happened this year. Looking at the numbers, it looks as if there were around 200-300 "puppy" voters this year. That is to say, where the two slates split, they still had 150 votes for the weakest winners; and where they combined, there were at least 200 party-line puppy votes. With this many, the most popular "dual-slate" works would probably have been the first "winning nominee". But that means that all slate voters would be downweighted, leaving 100-150 slate votes for the second winner. That is probably enough so that outstanding non-slate works would have a chance to be the second winning nominee. The slate would still possibly have gotten the third or fourth nominee slot; but after that, their voting weight would be at 25%, leaving 50-75 votes; certainly not enough to accumulate a third or fourth nominee slot.

    So, in the end, the Puppies, with about 30% of the voters in the non-headline categories, would have gotten 20-40% of the nomination slots; that's about fair. (Yes, of course, we all have opinions about whether the Puppy nominees deserve the award at all; but I'm just saying that proportionality is fair).

    In voting theory, this proposal is based on a system known as "reweighted approval voting". It's different in a couple of respects — for instance, in RAV, the weights for ballots with 0, 1, 2, 3... winnners go 100%, 50%, 33%, 25%, (1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4)... or 100%, 33%, 20%, 14% (1/1, 1/3, 1/5, 1/7...), not 100%, 50%, 25%, 13% (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8) as I've proposed above. But that doesn't really change the basic idea, and I think my proposal is simpler to understand.

    ¹Actually, given the rules below, there would not be any need to limit people to nominating 5 works per category; nominating just 1 or nominating 50 should have about the same voting power on average. I'll explain why below. But I understand that changing the "nominate 5" rule would probably be controversial, and that a lot of people would have a knee-jerk reaction against it (in perfectly good-faith). So while I'd advocate lifting the "no more than 5" rule, I wouldn't want that to be considered part of my main proposal.

    1. Oops, I forgot a couple of things.

      "rules below" should have been edited to "rules above"

      To explain why allowing more than 5 nominations per ballot wouldn't be a problem, just think of taking it to an extreme: imagine somebody who hated a popular novel one year, so they nominated basically every other novel that had come out this year, putting (say) 100 different novels on their ballot. So what? It would be almost certain that whichever novels won the first two nominee slots would be something they'd included, so by the time the third and later slots were being decided, they'd have at most 50% voting weight, and probably 25% or less. In the end, their ballot could never give more than a total of 2 weighted votes to the final nominees — which is no more than they could get by picking 5. The difference is, by not limiting the number, you don't discourage people from "wasting their vote" by nominating something that doesn't have a large following. In other words, allowing more than 5 nominations per ballot would lead to more diversity, not less.

    2. Very interesting idea! If you haven't already, I suggest you go to this blog to post and discuss your suggestion:

      There's a very lively brainstorming session going on there. Not very many people come by my blog here. :)