With the Hugo voting continuing I thought it was important to consider more carefully what my voting strategy should be, Specifically in what circumstances should I vote for No Award above a nominated work?
Philip Sandifer has recommended voting No Award on everything and there is much merit in his argument. However, it would only be effective if most non-Puppies did the same and it is not a viable strategy in the long term. Specific puppy-free voting guides have been produced e.g. by Deidre Saoirse Moen.
However a few things have made me reconsider automatically voting No Award for Puppy nominees:
- Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet withdrawing from the Hugo because they were nominated without their permission by the Puppies.
- Kary Engish‘s Puppy nominated story ‘Totaled’ being not bad.
- The Three Body Problem being a brilliant novel which somewhat hypocritically is now being promoted by the chief Rabid Puppy even though it only got onto the ballot because one Puppy nominated work withdrew
- The cynical, trollish approach to the Hugos by the Rabid Puppies.
My concern is that the issue of Rabid Puppy slates will continue and the Rabid Puppies will nominate people without their permission. The RPs may well add writers and works just for the express purpose of challenging people to withdraw as a response or to place non-Puppies in a difficult position. With withdrawals and No Award being the two major responses to the Rabid Puppy slate, it is likely that the next Rabid Puppy slate will take some measures to disrupt both responses.
Hence what I’m calling High-bar no award. I don’t think this is original but I can’t think of a specific site saying exactly what I was thinking. I’ll add links if I find one.
By high-bar no award what I mean is that a work that received a nomination because of a slate has to pass a higher standard of scrutiny to be voted above No Award when I vote. This is so firstly slated works are at a severe disadvantage (discouraging slates) but are not guaranteed a No Award vote.
So how does it work? Firstly , read and judged any non-slated work in a category and pick a provisional winner. Secondly consider a COMPARISON WORK for that category that was a) not nominated and b) you felt was really good. For example Jeff Vanddermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy in best novel. The point here is to establish some subjective yard sticks to judge slated works by.
- Having read and judged the non-slated works now look at the works on the slates. Don’t feel an obligation to read everything – if it has had multiple bad reviewers from reviewers you trust, then save yourself the effort. Given the very poor quality of some of the Puppy nominees there is no moral obligation to read everything.
- Consider the best example of a slated work in a category against the best non-slated work. Is the slated work of comparable quality i.e. if it wasn’t a slated work would you have found it difficult to choose the best non-slated work? If yes then consider voting it above No Award, if no then vote it below No Award. In other words only vote for a slated work above No Award if you personally would have seriously considered it for your number 1 vote if it wasn’t a slated work.
- Consider all the non-No-award works you now have. If the pool is less than 4 then the category has been severely impacted by slates. In that case now consider are the nominated works at least as good as the non-nominated work you picked as a yard stick? No? Then consider No Award for all of them or just the slated work. Yes? Then vote accordingly.
For 2015 this works out for me basically the same as No Award for all Puppies. “Totaled” by Kary English was OK but not so good as to get beyond No Award. Skin Game and The Dark Between The Stars are competent but would never get my number 1 vote so No Award beats them.
I think this approach is ethically defensible and also mischief proof for future years.