Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series

[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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


19 responses to “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series”

  1. Personally and arbitarily, I’ve decided that reading at least three books in each series works for me. Of course, I’m lucky enough that I’ve already read at least two books in five of the nominated series, and more than that in three of them — so I’ll only have a few additional books to reach my goal. But seriously, you should be able to feel the overall quality of a series within three books, IMNSHO.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If “Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen” had been a strong book, I think I’d have no hesitation voting the Vorkosigan Saga #1 and then not voting for anything else. That series, at least, I have read in its entirety and enjoyed (most of it) thoroughly.

    Of the rest, “Leviathan Wakes” is literally the only book I’ve read from any of them. I liked it okay. I’ll read the next book eventually.

    I’ve at least heard of “Temeraire” and I’ve liked other work by Novik.

    I never heard of “October Daye,” but I’ve liked other work by Seanan McGuire a lot.

    For the other two, I’ve never heard of the series or the authors.

    So I alternate between thinking I’ll just no-award the whole category and thinking I’ll just vote for the Vorkosigan Saga. I suppose the Hugos don’t really have to be about new things you read. I might read the Levithan sequel before nominations close. I certainly have no intention of looking at any of the rest of them. I suppose that puts me into strategy 1 or 2 with a hint of 7.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Personally, I think it would be a disservice to NA any of these — they’re all good series. As you mentioned, it’s always a reasonable choice to only vote for the one that you feel strongly about/are familiar with.


      • To No-Award a particular series–especially one I hadn’t read–would indeed be wrong. However, no-awarding the entire category (that is, voting NA #1 and nothing else) is a time-honored tradition to signal that you think the category shouldn’t exist. I do that for Best Editor, Long Form, every year.


    • I don’t intend to NA the current year, as I’m taking the special category in the spirit that it was intended – a test of concept.
      I do think it’s demonstrating that the current concept is flawed by the sheer amount of material and the inability to judge the category in the same way as the rest of the Hugos, and I really hope that this dose of reality is reflected at the business meeting.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I’m probably 50/50 on whether I make it for some of the con. I have a friend’s wedding on the Thursday, which…isn’t convenient. I’d love to be able to make it and meet up with some Filers though.


  3. I’ve read at least one book from all of these — enough to know if I like the writing and the characters, the idea of the series — and I’ve read all of two of them (Novik and Bujold).

    I can probably read at least one more book in each of the series I liked enough to go on with, but just hadn’t gotten around to yet. I figure that should be enough for voting purposes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I’ve read all of three of them, and a good part of two others. I just need to sample the final one.


  5. I have at least read one book of each nominated series, though I’ve only read two of them in full (or not quite, since the latest Peter Grant novel is still waiting on Mount TBR). Nonetheless, I feel confident to be able to evaluate them. I’ll probably give those series I bounced off on (The Craft) or those I liked all right, but simply lost interest and never read the later books (Oktober Daye, The Expanse, Temeraire) another try, particular those like The Expanse where I drifted off after the first book.


  6. With The Wheel of Time I mugged up on the plot and read one volume, and I take the line that this is all that can be reasonably required if this award is to be workable at all. I can see it might be a bit different with trilogies. If there are series longer than that which are so tightly plotted that one volume on its own makes no sense, I don’t think they are well suited for the award.

    Fortunately, I have read at least one volume of all the series except The Expanse. I think I will try again with the Craft sequence, since my reaction last time (when Gladstone was up for the Campbell) was that it was a genuinely new and interesting idea, but did not excite me; so it probably deserves another chance. I’ll wait for the packet before deciding what else I might read.

    Liked by 1 person

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