[Update: In the end I just didn’t vote on this category!]
This is not a post about WHAT to vote for and despite the title, it is even a post telling you how to go about voting. No, it is a post about me thinking about how to vote…and I have done posts on voting strategies for the Hugos in 2015 and 2016 but it is really nice that this time it’s about a nice problem rather than puppy poo.
So Best Series is a special category this year courtesy of Worldcon 2017’s prerogative – rather like an exhibition sport in the Olympics. The nominees are:
- The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)
- The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
- The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
- The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
- The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)
- The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Of those, I’ve read ONE of the series completely (The Expanse – as far as it has gone) but know of the others to varying extents.
In the comments to the previous post, Greg and Mark and others made various good points about ways of approaching voting. The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.
- No Award. Maybe this category just isn’t meant to be. If it is just fans of series X turning up to vote for their fave then it isn’t really like the other categories. The fun thing about the Hugos is fans reading and thinking about works other fans liked. You can’t feasibly catch up on multiple series and evaluate them in the time available.
- I’m not going to go down this path. I like how Best Series has got stuff in it that wouldn’t necessarily get an individual nod for Best Novel. I may change my mind but let’s see.
- Don’t vote or don’t vote for things you haven’t read. You can’t read them all? OK but maybe this category isn’t for you.
- Yeah but – look at those nominees. The Hugos are great to vote in because they give you an incentive to try out that thing that other people were talking about. You may end up hating or you may end up loving it but that encourages sharing and communication and hence…community. The series nominated are all things I’ve THOUGHT about jumping into or had recommended or read parts of. I’d like to engage more with these nominees.
- Use this category as a proxy for a category you would rather be there. For example, some people vote for Best Editor Long Form as ‘Best Publisher. It’s bending the spirit of things but thinking about a category differently can be a way into making more sense of the nominees. In this case, Best Series is close to Best Novel from a Series. To qualify the Best Series needs a 2016 entry which will typically be a novel, so a different spin on the category makes sense.
- I think this has some merit but judging a series on the most recent book may be flawed. Part of the attraction of series novels is that characters can develop slowly and indirectly over time and hence an individual book may have relatively weak characterisation even though the series as a whole has some depth of character (and the characters are often why people love a series). I think this may be PART of the answer.
- Reputation and review. Other people’s reviews can tell you a lot about a book. For a series, there is going to be a lot more reviews in total than an individual book. Also, people whose opinion you trust are more likely to have encountered a series than an individual book juts by volume of stuff.
- Hmm, not really in the spirit of the Hugo awards, though. I wouldn’t vote in Best Novel that way and over the past couple of years even slogged through some awful crap just on principle of reading what I’m voting on. Maybe Best Series is an exception but…that’s also an argument for point 1 (No Award because Best Series is the start of a slippery slope?). Maybe this is part of an answer? A way of lessening the burden of all that reading but without giving up on the reading altogether?
- Sample! What does a rational person do when there is too much data to process? Sample! Look at a smaller, more manageable subset. This is not unlike just looking at the most recent volume.
- Yeah but, even just reading TWO books from each series I haven’t read is a lot of extra Hugo homework and what if I pick bad examples!
- See what’s in the packet. The Hugo packet gives the finalists a way of shaping how we see a series. Maybe they’ll include a synopsis or highlights or a guide for a reading order (Vorkosigan may need this).
- We’ll have to wait and see what we get but there is no reason to assume that each of the nominees will take the same approach to the packet.
- Read until you’ve got the vibe. Don’t read the whole thing, just read until you feel you can make a judgement.
- Good for weeding out the definite ‘no’ examples but less good for better series.
- Read the whole blinkin’ lot.
- No, I have a life and other hobbies. That’s a LOT of books
I’m tending to all of those strategies at the same time aside from point 8. Use reviews and reputation to prioritise series (4), read more than one entry in the series (but maybe pick novellas etc when available) (3, 5, 7), pick some stuff out at random (5) and for stuff that really didn’t work No Award and for stuff that I couldn’t get a handle on, not vote.
Maybe. I’ll think some more on this.