[UPDATE: there is better number-crunching here but I think my numbers are coming out similar. Oh and I lost a whole chunk from the bottom – do scroll past the table in the middle!]

Dave Freer asked me a question over at Mad Genius while we were arguing about Brad Torgersen’s poor behaviour.

Just what do you see happening with the 2016 nominations and votes, as a direct result of 2015 and with the figures we now have?

What are the numbers telling us about the voting and the consequences for next year? Put another way what signals are there that we can use to characterize voter behaviour and how will that impact in future years? Beyond that what impact did the various players have?

The tricky thing is that the voting was massively dominated by non-Puppies and the non-Puppies are difficult to analyze. On neither side during the kerfuffle was there much internecine conflict. The only obvious flashpoint was Laura Mixon’s nomination for Best Fan Writer on the basis of her analysis of the behaviour of ‘RequiresHate’ – a person whose behaviour among the SF/F community had been the cause of much dissension independent of the Puppy Kerfuffle. However, this did not translate into the non-Puppies forming rival camps.

Instead, both sides tended to unite within themselves against a perceived common threat. The non-Puppies threat is best understood as twofold; slate nomination undermining the Hugo Awards and Vox Day. For the Puppies the threat was also twofold: perceived World Con cliques shutting them out and liberal/leftist media/cliques demonizing them. NOTE: To understand the behaviour of the two groups it isn’t necessary at this point to decide which of those four narratives had any factual merit. What matters was the perceived threat. Groups with diverse cultures and ideologies can show great unity when there is a common threat and so we didn’t see inner conflicts during the conflict even when allies overtly contradicted each other in terms of objectives or stated purposes.

I suggest there are these major groups at play in the numbers:

  • Sandiferites: Not literal followers of Elizabeth Sandifer but people voting along the lines she suggested: No Award everything on the grounds that the whole award process was fatally compromised by Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy slate.
  • Hard No Award the Slates: This is part of a bigger group – basically people who would vote No Award for slated works (perhaps on principle, perhaps on quality, perhaps because of politics or all three)
  • Soft No Award the Slates: Like the above but willing to make some exceptions.
  • GRRMs: Use No Award cautiously – avoid if possible
  • Sad Puppy voters: not necessarily part of the campaign but people who tended to vote for works on the SP3 slate.
  • Rabid Voxxers: People who followed Vox Day’s recommended preferences.
  • Didn’t get the Memo Rabids: People who voted for Rabid Puppy nominees but did not necessarily follow Vox Day’s preferences.
  • Huh?: People whose votes were more idiosyncratic.

What are the numbers for each?

  • Huh?: Edmund R. Schubert got 86 votes even though he had withdrawn his nominations (but after the ballot was fixed and hence still appeared). Let’s say about 90 people voted for reasons that won’t get caught by the rest of this analysis.
  • Rabid Voxxers: About 500 based on several categories.
  • Didn’t get the Memo Rabids: About 170 based on the Best Editor Long Form voter who put Vox Day as first preference when Vox Day had put Toni Weisskopf as 1st.
  • Sad Puppies: the Sad Puppy leadership showed some integrity by NOT putting out a recommended or suggested preference list. However, unlike with the nomination process, a recommended way to vote does less damage in the final voting because of preferences. Looking at the Best Fan Writer category, I’d suggest that was around 600 voters – possibly more in higher-profile categories.
  • GRRMs and Soft No Award: Hard to separate these two. Totalled got a decent 874 votes by virtue of 1. being actually good and 2. Vox Day not including Kary English’s story in his votes. English got 427 1st votes in the Campbell award which was 447 1st votes less than she did for Short Story. Some of that 400+ votes would be Sad Puppy voters, Huh? voters, GRRM and Soft No Award voters. How many of each is hard to tell. Best Editor Long Form has 2496 people vote for No Award – the overall vote was lower here than the more notable categories and the editor categories are hard ones to judge. However, the No Award vote was 500 less than in Short Story and Toni Weisskopf picked up a lot of extra votes for somebody who was no 1 on Vox Day’s choices. I’ll pass for the moment and calculate this as what is left over.
  • Hard No Award the Slates: No Award at its peak was picking up 3500 voters. It could be that about 2500 were solid No Award voters (including Sandiferites)  but what to make of Best Novelette? Here the 3500 apparent No Award vote (soft and hard) splits nearly evenly between No Award and The Day the World Turned Upside Down – a non-puppy nominee.
  • Sandifers: 268 people voted No Award in Best Novel. 285 people voted No Award in Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form. This was seen as the lowest stakes category and otherwise strong anti-Puppy voters clearly voted for Puppy nominated films. However, it was also the easiest category in which you could register a protest vote about the whole awards. Hence the 285 would suggest about 260ish people taking a harder line stance.

Scroll past this big table as there is a lot more below.






Didn’t get the Memo Rabids






Rabid Voxxers:



Sad Puppy voters




(possibly as high as this but with frequent abstention) 1030


Hard No Awarders



Soft No Awarders.



Combined Puppy



Combined non-Puppy
(corrected from ‘anti-puppy’)






What else can we see?

Firstly Toni Weisskopf was not far off winning. This is not obvious as the figures make it look like she was beaten by No Award 2496 to 1216. However, 2496 is only 42.5 fewer votes than 50% of the total. What that means is the race nearly went to preferences because the combined votes of everybody BUT No Award were nearly (but not quite) more than the total votes for No Award. If No Award had got 2453 votes and Toni W 1259 then things would have got interesting! Of course, even then Toni W would have needed everybody who had voted for another editor to have put her down as a preference before No Award. Interestingly 92 people voted No Award 1 and Toni W 2 – only half of those people needed to be persuaded to swap their preferences round. Not close enough that I’d want a recount if I were her but close enough that some kind of intervention would have helped.

Put another way the 2496 No Award voters included a fair chunk of Soft No Awarders – perhaps about 750. If Toni W had managed to get nominate without the Puppy slate or if Vox Day had denounced her for some reason the numbers suggest she would have had a fighting chance at victory.

How the Puppies Lost the GRRMs

The combined Puppy and GRRM votes were 2300 which is nearly 40% of the vote. This was not enough to swing the vote but possibly with some odd votes from elsewhere, it could have swung some battles. To win a Puppy nominee really needed to get some votes from the Soft No Awarders as well. As it was, the GRRM voters represent people who collectively care most WorldCon and the traditions – in a sense, they are the most small-c conservative of the groups. Alienating them by ramping up rhetoric about inner cliques and WorldCon insiders was tactical suicide.

This is where the Puppy other major weakness came in specifically: nominating stuff that was not very good. While people didn’t like the Puppy campaign there are some signs of some people making a distinction between the Puppy campaign and individual puppy nominees. However, in general the overall quality of the slate was poor. Better works were an exception  and that made it easy for GRRMs to either vote No Award or abstain with a clear conscience.

Yet at no point in the campaign did the Puppy leaders ever seem to think that they needed to reach out to people beyond their own political sympathies. This is where the Puppy miscomprehensions about their own political position helped best – if you think you represent nearly 50% of the population you don’t feel like you need a broader base.

Anything else?

Well lets complete the circle back to the Petunias post, which is where I came into this whole Puppy stuff way back when. In this post I talked about the ‘Steadfast Conservative’ group in the Pew political typology. They constitute about 12% of the US population. Now if we identify the steadfast conservatives with the Puppies then they actually did really well mobilizing their supporters. Well done Pups!

Actually they did very well. They were probably correct when they said that the negative publicity in the popular media and antipathy from non-Puppies actually helped them recruit and mobilize supporters. As a consequence they pulled about 20% of the vote – disproportionate to their national proportion (and no the number of Republican voters isn’t the same – politically they placed themselves on the right of the Republican party). Note this doesn’t mean every Puppy voter is on the right of the Republican party.

The problem is boosting your support from 12% to 20% still equals losing big time.

What the Puppies needed to do was grab more of the middle ground but their specific anti-clique rhetoric was designed to alienate older fans. The strategy of mobilizing support could only work if everybody else didn’t notice. However, it required extreme rhetoric to mobilize their voters and that (along with a perceived assault on the award itself) meant that the Puppies essentially unified most people (who were involved) to the left of them. By making it political they guaranteed they would be severely outvoted.

It seems absurd that anybody would position themselves so clearly in a position of weakness but the faulty reasoning is compelling. Close to 50% of those who vote in US Presidential elections vote Republican. First assume all Republicans are conservatives (true for some value of conservative and backed up to high levels of identification with the term) but then take ‘conservative’ to only mean a brand of pure conservatism and it easy to consider yourself to be part of a near majority opinion. It is this error that leaves many on the US right perpetually surprised when they don’t win. It is easy to see that 12% in play at the moment in the run up to the Republican Party selecting their candidate – and easy to see how they confuse popularity with the 12% as a proxy for popularity with the population as a whole.

Worse for the Puppies is that this year was their best shot. WorldCon has long memories and the section of voters they REALLY needed to convince are the ones who are most disgusted with the anti-Hugo rhetoric that followed the Puppy defeat.

Who Framed Roger Rabid?

Which takes us to the otterly awful Vox Day. Vox did win on Saturday night – no wait let me explain. What he won was people coming to his camp. He didn’t win the Hugos and he didn’t win any real substantial victory against the left or certain but he did win on his ideological background which is for people already far to the right. It isn’t a victory we need care about particularly except in so far as the whole Puppy section are intent on mischief.

I’ve compared this before to the strategy used by vanguardist Trotskyist groups. They would get involved in a strike or a campaign to recruit radicalized supporters. Losing the particular strike etc was neither here nor there (indeed losing might even help as it made some people disgruntled with more mainstream leadership). So for Day, a humiliating defeat for the Sad Puppies is no bad thing as he ends up with disgruntled campaigners who now bear grudges.

He might decide to actually cheat next year but that will cost money but as he doesn’t actually need any kind of victory against the Hugos, I’d expect more bluff and appearance of action rather than actual substance. His long term target is the Sads, not the Hugos as they represent the kind of people that make up his recruiting pool/potential customers.

What I would do if I was a Sad Puppy

I wouldn’t bother. The Puppy turn-out was impressive but it required both strong political rhetoric (which alienated the center right) and Vox Day (who helped mobilize the left and alienate the center right). In some ways Vox Day looks almost like a left-wing false flag operation – his comments are intended to wind up people on the left put with just a smidgen of deniability so that conservatives defend him. Strategically winding up people on the left accomplishes nothing other than having people on the left wound up and Day’s rhetoric is not something people on the centre or the center right are ever going to defend. Consequently attacks from the left towards Day do zero harm to the anti-Puppy cause but instead help push the overall Puppy cause a bit further rightwards, which in turns pushes it further from broader support, which in turn results in them winning zilch.

If the objective is to move the Hugo Awards to the right, that will require a long patient strategy and GOOD QUALITY conservative fiction and some bridge building by the puppy leadership [Note: bridge BUILDING not bridge burning and screaming YOU MADE US DO IT! 🙂 ]

Yes but it was all the lamestream media’s fault!

A full discussion of how modern news media treats the US right is beyond the scope of this essay. Whatever we might think about bias, media-hegemony etc, it is clear nothing is going to change in that regard between now and next year’s Hugo Awards. The Guardian isn’t going to suddenly endorse Donald Trump and Entertainment Weekly is not suddenly make a leap forward in journalistic standards. Future Puppy campaigns will have the same issue and from a get-out-the-steadfast-conservative vote having the ‘lamestream’ media criticize you is probably an advantage in recruiting rather than an impediment.

Next year, the news cycle in the US will be dominated by the US Presidential election. With a new economic crisis on the horizon, it is unclear how that will play out politically. I don’t know but I strongly suspect that the overseas contingent of the many, many new additional supporting memberships leans towards the left and No Award. That all helps the left-hand side of the equation and is bad news for the right REGARDLESS of how well the Republican Presidential campaign goes.

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4 responses to “Crunching”

  1. Enjoyed your analysis. Glad you were looking at the math.

    However, I disagree with some of the analysis. I think the hard core “no slate” lockstep vote was 2,500. That is roughly the “no award” vote total against both editor nominees (short and long form). I have heard very little in the way of criticism of the “quality” of the editor nominees. Resnik has won multiple Hugos. Yet because both were nominated by the “wrong” fans who nominated in the “wrong way” following the rules – they were no awarded. This observation mirrors that of chaoshorizon and I think is a better interpretation of the data.

    In your analysis the categories examined had fewer total votes and were less relevant to the average Hugo voter. Basing your analysis on best fan writer and other minor categories instead of editors or novels (Jim Butcher was not involved) is less persuasive than an analysis relying on the editors.

    End of the statistics discussion.

    IMHO Vox Day was successful in building his sales base by identifying with a profitable segment of the market. He hitched his wagon to the puppy cause and was so bombastic that he generated more book sales than he would have otherwise. His new book launch “SJWs Always Lie” has generated pretty good initial sales based on Amazon. I’m hearing a “cha-ching” of the cash register rather than some obscure political theory. Money is generally a better explanation than politics of behavior. I’m not a fan of his – but as a pure marketing ploy it was inspired.

    Really loved the Hugo political map. That was very well done. Bravo to you.

    Like George RR Martin – I think the cheering, cat-calling and general nasty behavior during the awards ceremony was amazingly rude. Being nasty to people face-to-face, especially in a group situation, makes you enemies for life. I doubt if Mike Resnik, Toni, or Kary English will be quick to forgive and forget.

    I’m a first time Hugo voter. I’m sure I will continue to nominate and vote (I did not nominate this time). I think the Hugos are broken. Up to about 10 years ago I used the Hugo Novel as a sign of quality. Now it has become a sign to avoid reading something boring or focused on obscure politics. For a mere $40 I can vote to hopefully fix something that once meant a lot to me. I read a couple of things this year that were wonderful. Goblin Emperor, Totaled, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale; Championship B’tok; the art of Kirk DouPonce. Big Boys Don’t Cry was an excellent viewpoint story in the Hammers Slammers vein.

    But unlike many voters this year, I plan to read the nominees and vote what I like. Only a couple of people have been so nasty that they have changed my future purchase and voter behavior.


    • I think 2500 is a plausible number. I went with a smaller number because it made more sense with the Day The World Turned Upside Down numbers. I think I need to explain that a bit more – but essentially people voting straight NON-puppy would vote for it but Sandiferererers and people who if-in-doubt No Awarded and people like me who read than No Awarded and wasn’t that keen on it would vote No Award….but it was a weird category. If somebody says ‘2500’ I’m not going to contradict them (well except when I do, like just then)


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