Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hugos 2015 No Awards Reaction

The Hugo winners were announced today/last night (depending on your time zone), and there were some surprises. First, the completely awesome Ms. Marvel won best Graphic Story, as I said it should :) However, that's not the big news. The big news is that FIVE! of the categories had NO AWARD as the winner. That's (I think) unprecedented and pretty bad news.

My source for this is the official Hugo Statistics file, found at
  I voted for No Award in one category, Best Novella, but in the other categories I had at least 1 work that I thought was worthy. But the massive numbers of votes for No Award makes me wonder if the various calls to automatically put anything on a Sad/Rabid Puppy slate were the driving force. From what I read, most people used the list by Deirdre Saoirse Moen (to be fair, she says in her post that it's up to each vote to use or not use the list). I used this list to sort out the finalists/nominees into Puppy/Non-Puppy groups.

Personally, I think it's bullshit to automatically vote against something because of a list someone else made. Regardless of your opinion of the people, methods or views behind the Puppies, they didn't break any rules, and so their nominees should be treated the same as any other. Read* 'em, rank 'em and move on. The key there? READ*.

The only reason I noticed this was because of the Best Novelette winner, which I ranked near the bottom of my ballot. I thought it was easily the worst of the stories**, but one-third of the voters thought was the best. Which is fine, tastes and all that. However, the work closest in theme/tone (but far, far superior, IMHO) to it was "Totaled", which was hammered in Short Story. This seems fishy to me (fishy in the sense of the votes given, not the tally -- I think the counts were/are totally above board)

So I looked a little closer, and it seems like there were large numbers of voters who followed the puppy-free guide (obviously, it's impossible to tell this from the totals, or even from the votes). 14 of the 16 categories with at least 1 Puppy nominee/finalist had the non-Puppy noms at the top, then No Award, then the Puppy noms. The exceptions? Best Dramatic Long/Short Form, i.e. Best Movie/TV episode. I think (with no data to back me up) that these are least affected, because Hollywood blockbusters & TV are seen as above the fray (and, for TV, GoT is a juggernaut). And I am certain, based on nominee counts, that both Puppies and non-Puppies voted for Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar (as they should have, since they were both great, in very different ways).

For the 14 categories where the final placement was: non-Puppy noms (if any), then No Award, then Puppy Noms, I added the votes for No Award + No Preference as a percentage of the eligible votes for the category. Numbers below, but some thoughts:
  • In the 14 categories, at least 2000 people voted No Award above any Puppy nominee/finalist, and it was 51% or more of the eligible votes in each category. If half of these (not necessarily the SAME 2000 people -- info only the votes could give) were voting strict non-Puppy, that's almost 20% of the voting population and 10% of the year's members. That's HUGE.
  • Since 1038 of the 1966 non-GOTG voters for the non-Puppy Marvel movie (Captain America: Winter Soldier) preferred No Award to the Puppy Marvel movie (Guardians of the Galaxy), the above 1000 hardcore non-Puppy guess gains some weight. This is likely coincidence, but it makes me more curious about the actual votes
  • Based on the nominee data (at the bottom of the Stats pdf), there probably weren't more than about 200 Puppies nominating out of 2122 ballots in any given category (most finalists had fewer than 200 noms), and were almost definitely fewer than 400 (no non-movie had 400 noms). Puppy noms dominated for the simple reason that NOT MANY PEOPLE NOMINATE. I'm in that group, and both Puppy supporters and opponents have a very simple solution to their gripe: NOMINATE good works.
  • Personally, my reading tastes are closer to non-Puppy than Puppy, but I STRONGLY feel that one should weigh the nominees/finalists equally and fairly. The numbers below give strong circumstantial weight to a large number of voters that dropped the NO PUPPY hammer. It's disappointing, but not surprising, given the level of vitriol on both sides over the last few months. So, thanks to BOTH hardcore Puppy and anti-Puppies: THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS. Stop calling people SJWs, neo-Nazis, commies, racists, etc. and just discuss the damn books POLITELY. The anonymity of the Internet is not a license to be an asshole (TBH, I've forgotten that a few times). Ugh.
There is a clear trend:
  • Best Novel: Position 4 is No Award vs the 2 Puppy nominees: No Award + No Preference = 2674 + 387 = 3061 possible non-Puppy votes of 5653 eligible (54%)
  • Best Novella: All are Puppy Noms , Winner is No Award, so 3495 possible non-Puppy votes of 5337 eligible (65%) (I voted No Award here, but didn't follow the non-Puppy guide, so there's 3 basis points explained :D)
  • Best Novelette: Position 2 is No Award, the non-Puppy won, so there are 3089 + 89 = 3178 possible non-Puppy votes of 5104 (62%)
  • Best Short Story: All are Puppy Noms, Winner is No Award, so 3053 possible non-Puppy votes of 5267 eligible (58%)
  • Best Related Work: All are Puppy Noms, Winner is No Award, so 3259 possible non-Puppy votes of 4901 eligible (66%)
  • Best Graphic Story: 1 Puppy Nom, Position 5 No Award + No Preference = 3722 possible non-Puppy votes of 4412 eligible (84%). Personally, I thought this was the weakest Puppy offering, and the
  • Best Dramatic Long Form: The lone Puppy winner. Honestly, I'm not sure how to sort out the non-Puppy vs other voters, and I don't want to waste more of a sunny Sunday going through the minutiae of voting order. Of course, with the full voting data, I could get this with no problem :) Which means I'll need to email the Hugo people after I finish basking in the sun.
  • Best Dramatic Short Form: This is category where the Puppies have been clear in their boredom with Doctor Who's dominance***. People love the top Puppy nom, GoT, so that will muddy the waters (non-Puppy noms got slots 1 & 2). So I used it in Position 3 -- No Award + No Preference = 381 + 1194 = 1575 of 4705 eligible (33%)
  • Best Editor, Short Form: Personally, both Editor votes were tough for me, as I've never dealt with an editor (like most voters, I'd bet). Still, an all-Puppy slate. 2672 for No Award out of 4850 eligible (55%)
  • Best Editor, Long Form: Another all-Puppy slate. 2496 for No Award out of 4907 eligible (51%)
  • Best Pro Artist: Full discretion: I didn't vote, because I knew nothing about anyone here. Won by only non-Puppy nom, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2350+271 = 2621 of 4354 eligible (60%)
  • Best Semiprozine: 3 non-Puppy noms were top 3, so Position 4 No Award + No Pref = 2021 + 479 = 2500 (ROUND NUMBER ILLUMINATI/PENTAVARATE ALERT!) of 3880 eligible (64%)
  • Best Fancast: 2 non-Puppy noms were top 2, so Position 3 No Award + No Pref = 2098 + 219 = 2317 of 3384 eligible (68%)
  • Best Fanzine: Only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2356 + 148 = 2504 of 3818 eligible (66%)
  • Best Fan Writer: Only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2687 + 224 = 2911 of 4183 eligible (70%)
  • Best Fan Artist: No (Edited: had incorrect "non" here) Puppy noms (so, the opposite of Short Story/Novella), so no relevant data. Interesting to note that 485 votes for No Award -- upper bound for (completist****) hardcore Puppy-only voters
  • Campbell Award: The only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2381 + 377 = 2758 of 4388 eligible (63%)

* By "read", I am including watching the dramatic presentations, listening to podcasts, etc. Basically, "experience" or "consume".
** It ranked with/above 2 stories that I downgraded as clearly excerpts of novels, rather than being a novelette. I liked the other 2 better, but I didn't think they should be eligible.
*** A boredom I share. Dr. Who is good, occasionally great, but 3 episodes nominated in each of the previous 5 years? C'mon. And beating Community's Remedial Chaos Theory? Whovians need to put down the Kool-Aid and try something new. Rant over.
**** What an ugly word. With or with out a second "e", it looks wrong. English spelling is the worst. 


Janet said...

Thank you for posting this--I had no idea this voting list existed until I read your piece and I think that this voting pattern is fully as reprehensible as the original nomination runaway was. I was scratching my head over the results, certain that my opinions couldn't possibly be so uniformly out of touch. I read every single fiction piece and while I thought that many were not award worthy, I now wish that I had just left that option out altogether and left nominees blank.

steve davidson said...

I'm just curious about a conclusion you seem to be coming to: that voting No Award above Puppy slate entries is the equivalent of "not having read the works and just voting No Award"

I don't think there's any way to determine (from the data available) how many voters who seemed to follow the "puppy free list" did or did not read the works that they then placed below No Award.

However, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest that many voters DID read the works provided in the voter packet and decided that voting No Award in those categories was in complete alignment with their assessment of the works. As in - "it's pretty easy to vote No Award in this category considering the poor quality of the works on the puppy slates"

I personally think (no data) that the above was the prevailing circumstance for at least a full-third of the voters.

And I'd much prefer to believe that most voters actually did what they said they would do: read the works and vote accordingly.

It's just fortunate for the awards specifically and the fans in particular that the two things were generally in alignment this year - with the slate nominees largely equating to works that wouldn't have won regardless of the outside politics.

Anonymous said...

It does look like this:

There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 Hugo Voters who came into this process biased explicitly against the Puppy slates irrespective of who was on those slates. About 1000 did so with the intention of placing "No Award" above every single Puppy nominee regardless of quality.

I think another 2000 had a strong anti-Puppy prejudice that they were willing to overlook only if they had prior familiarity with the nominees. Having prior familiarity with them, they were willing to vote for them, which mostly mattered in the case of the "dramatic presentation" category (since those were widely watched shows / movies, for the most part).

Prejudice is a funny thing, and if you go into reading a story assuming it will be bad, it is very easy to convince yourself it is bad, especially if you are willing to drop it after the first few pages.

The thing that suggests, to me, that a lot of anti-Puppy voters did not carefully evaluate Puppy-nominated works is the fact that most expressed no preference between works below "No Award." Some of this may be due simply because of lack of understanding of how the system works, but a sincere and well-informed voter should continue to rank works below "No Award" in case "No Award" does not carry the day.

On the other hand, for categories where the Puppy nominees were all ranked collectively below "No Award," we can discern how many voters simply left their ballots blank.

For Novel, there were 2404 voters who wrote "No Award" and simply left the two Puppy nominees off their ballot completely. Only 270 who voted "No Award" over Puppies expressed a preference between "Skin Game" and "The Dark Between the Stars," which are from wildly different sides of the SF&F spectrum. (Fast-paced urban fantasy vs slow-moving space epic.)

For Novella, there were 2313 voters who wrote down "No Award" followed by nothing at all. 1182 "No Award" voters differentiated in any way between the five different Puppy nominees. This is actually strikingly higher, we'll get to that later.

For Novellette, there were 2745 voters who wrote down "No Award" above the four Puppy nominees, followed by nothing at all. Only 344 differentiated in any way between the four different Puppy nominees, and this category had a lot of stylistic variation between those four nominees. (Wright's short story in particular was very different from the others.)

For Short Story, there were 2566 voters who wrote down "No Award" followed by nothing at all. Only 487 "No Award" voters differentiated between the five different short stories - which, as JT has pointed out, included some very different styles.

Numbers are actually fairly similar to the non-novella categories for the other categories. Lots of people voting "No Award" followed by zero preference.

Out of the five fiction categories, the one in which the "No Award" voters differentiated themselves the most looks like it was motivated by trying to make absolutely sure that Wright didn't win an award in the category.

jtingermany said...

Janet, I was torn at the time between living my ballots below No Award blank, but i ended up ranking them. I think I will again next year, at least when I feel there's a material difference in those below NA.

Steve, I didn't state this, because I thought it was obvious, but it's impossible to tell from any voting data what the person did or didn't read. I am not surprised that 2618 people thought "The Day The World Turned Upside Down" I disliked was worthy of the Hugo -- I'm surprised that AT MOST one-third of those felt that a similar story, "Totaled" was also worthy. Even accounting for tastes, that's a very large swing. Perhaps those 1500 people read both and ranked them accordingly, but based on various postings online, I know that quite a few people were at least claiming to only rank (and some openly said only read) non-Puppy votes.
The short form editor results also strongly imply that lots of voters were voting a slate, since I doubt that Toni W or Sheila G's works (they were noms both years) were that different from 2014, but it went from at most 20% of 2014 voters for No Award to 50%.

Anonymous, you might be right, but it's impossible to tell voter motivations from any data (a point i made above). I didn't even think to look at the number of No Prefs AFTER No Award. But I disagree that it was likely voters trying to prevent Wright from getting an award, as I'm fairly sure that same hypothetical voter would feel just as strongly about keeping Vox Day from winning. Yet Novella had the MOST No Prefs after No Award and Editor, Long Form had the fewest (except for graphic story, which i don't count as there was only 1 nom left after NA) -- you'd expect both to be high or low, not opposite ends of the list. And I wasn't entirely certain of the effects of votes after No Award, so I considered stopping my ballots there (even though I'd read the ones below NA). Again, based on online chatter, I'm certain other voters had similar uncertainties.

Laura said...

Just a typo alert...Best Fan Artist should No Puppy noms, not No non-Puppy noms.

Rolf said...

Speaking as a Sasquan attendee, and a rabid puppy nominee.

I overhead many conversations as I wandered about the convention hall, just another anonymous new guy. Many conversations about many things. I heard much more than a handful of people say they didn't bother to read any of the puppy noms. One lady at dinner the next booth over referred to "those Castalia guys, the Patriarchy press" and bragged about not having to read any of "their crap."

The plural of anecdote isn't data, but a LOT of people didn't read and judge. They simply judged - guilt by association - as they so often accuse their political opponents of doing. The direct insult the MC offered us to our face "year of the asterix" was classless, and the cheering of the crowd and chortling of the MC during the announcements was infantile and tasteless.

Consero deletum.

jtingermany said...

Laura, thanks! I fixed it.

Rolf, I didn't watch the video of the ceremony, just read a live blog. I took the asterisk to be making fun of the controversy, not of the nominees. I also thought the Death bit was a Pratchett nod. Of course, i was LITERALLY reading into those :) and the blog by Standlee was neutral, so I didn't get a feel for the room/presentation.

For me, a first time voter with far too much time on my hands, I wanted to read everything, but I seriously considered only reading 1 of the Wright Novellas. I knew nothing of him at the time, but I felt that Day nominating 3 works by one author (all published by his company) was a sign of seeking personal gain rather than the best possible noms. I read all three, though (and should've just read one and saved myself time). Other than that, I tried to be thorough. I have, however, referred to some of it as crap after reading, which really wasn't nice.

Rolf said...

Tastes are different. I take no offense if someone read and doesn't like my works (or anyone else's).

John C. Write is a masterful writer and a genuinely nice man (I met him for the first time in person on Friday); though not all his stuff is to my tastes I know talent when I see it. He received multiple nominations because he's been deliberately overlooked and abused by his previous publisher (Tor) for so long. He went to Castalia House BECAUSE they were not attempting to actually sell his books. His wife was yelled and sworn at during the Hugo pre-event get-together read about it at Write's blog). And, being there, I can assure you it was absolutely clear that the "asterix" was meant as an insult (the room gasped and was largely silent in a collective "WTF, did he just say what I think he said" sort of way, and in retrospect it seems likely he knew the results beforehand and wanted to rub it in. Vox had asked me to remain calm and polite no matter what happened, and I was. Had he not asked me to be, I would not have stayed quite so low-key.

Look at the history of nominations and awards; it's turned into a CHORF playground, and the works nominated not very good. It needs to be shaken up, and return to it's roots of diversity of thought and ideas, not PC groupthink, hatred, and spite.

Anonymous said...

(Same anon here)

I think the novella category was very special because it had multiple nominations of the same person (essentially), but it's hard to be sure.

The pattern of no preference after no award, though, is really quite remarkably strong. The novella category stands out from the others in being not quite as high, but from what I've been able to find in prior-year Hugo data, even the novella category showed a very unusually high level of "no preference" votes.

It is by no means conclusive, but I think it's highly suggestive that prejudice played a strong role, especially when combined with the other evidence. (I was struck by your comparison of "Totaled" and "The Day the World Turned Upside Down.")

I'm not convinced that people simply didn't read the works in question at all, though that may have happened as well.

jtingermany said...

Rolf, The asterisk is disappointing - I was hoping I'd correctly inferred! However, we'll have to disagree on Wright's works: only one of his fiction pieces rose above mediocre for me, and i still didn't like his flat characters, nor his odd word choice. His non-fiction was, to me, neither well-written nor well-argued. I did read his piece on the treatment of his wife, which is bullshit (and should be dealt with by his bosses, since it was at a professional event). Also, please don't use any of the various derogatory acronyms -- they're insulting (and have definitely not helped the Puppies' perception amongst neutrals like myself) and I don't want to have to google them :)

Anonymous, I'd hoped that people were following George Martin's lead on the votes (in method, not content) -- read, regardless of slate, then rank. Looking at "Totaled"/"The Day the World Turned Upside Down" and Captain America/Guardians, I think that a fairly significant portion of the voters (I'm betting roughly 1000) had what I'd call a strict vote -- all non-Puppy noms, then No Award, then Puppies or No Pref. Personally, I feel that starting with this is just as bad as nominating an unread slate (though i have 0 problem with reading and feeling that the works were unworthy -- though I think most would find at least one palatable work). This is to say nothing of the Editors, several of which were deserving under most any criteria.

The whole thing has just been a beatdown, not the discovery of good new SFF I'd hoped for.