Nicholas Whyte has an insightful look at the 2019 Hugo stats here: https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3244665.html
The biggest issue raised is that final votes for Best Fanzine came perilously close to less than 25% of the total votes. [stats are now on the Hugo history pages here http://www.thehugoawards.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019-Hugo-Statistics.pdf ] Whyte says:
“We were surprisingly close to not giving a Best Fanzine award in both 2019 Hugos and 1944 Retro Hugos this year. The total first preference votes for Best Fanzine finalists other than No Award in both cases was 26.9% of the total number of votes cast overall (833/3097 and 224/834).”
Eeek! Consider this year that we’ve had worries about the nature of Best Fanwriter, eligibility issues with Best Fan Artist and now Best Fanzine looks a bit endangered. Fan categories are part of the soul of the Hugo Awards!
There’s two different kinds of response to Hugo issues. One is to respond structurally: change, add or remove categories; play with eligibility rules; change voting methods etc. The other is to respond behaviourally; change how we make decisions as voters. In the second case, a good example is the range of sites that came into being to help people find things to nominate in the Hugo Awards.
The Hugo voting community is big enough that a structural response makes sense but it is also small enough that change can be effected by persuading people to think differently about how they vote. One of the most positive examples of the latter is the Lady Business Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom. http://bit.ly/hugoaward2019 <-2019 version.
I decided to have a bit of a look at figures I could derive from that sheet and compare them with the Hugo stats. To do that I just counted up numbers of nominations in each category and then added nomination & final vote stats for those categories from this year’s Hugo stats. I will confess to a bit of sloppy counting: sometimes there is one header row in a category and sometimes there’s two or three and so sometimes my counts are a out by 1 or 2.
What did I find? Well, on average the number of works listed per category on the Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom (HSD from now on) was about 20% of the total number of works nominated. I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison with the long list but I think the HSD is a good early indicator of the level of interest in a category. I’ll come back to this.
Firstly some general correlations. Nomination votes correlate with final vote totals.
Whether that works causally I don’t know i.e. if we all encouraged each other to nominate things in fanzine (anything – not a campaign for a fanzine) would that lead to an increase in final votes for fanzine? Maybe.
Now let’s look at nomination counts. The more things listed in the HSD the more nominees there are. That’s probably not causal — they’ll both be related to a hidden variable that we could call “category interest”.
There’s a one point doing a lot of work on that graph though. Short story gets huge numbers of suggestions, way more than other categories.
Let’s connect some dots. Do the number of nominees correlate with the size of the votes? That sounds plausible but let’s see:
Very roughly, yes but it isn’t a tight relationship. I decided to cut out the intervening figures and just look at HSD counts versus final votes.
Unfortunately Short Story is such an outlier that the relationship gets obscured. I decided to remove Short Story and Novel as categories as they are clearly special.
It’s not nothing and considering how many steps away a very broad list of suggestions is from vote totals on a small set of finalists, it’s a fair bit of something. There’s three categories which fall well below the line of best fit on the right hand side of the graph. Interestingly they are points for Lodestar, Fan writer and Art book. Two of those categories are new(ish) and I know I personally added a lot of names to Fan Writer as part of my project to gather lots of names for Fan Writer.
Cherry picking even further by removing Lodestar, Fanwriter and Art Book, the relationship looks tighter but take this with substantial amounts of salt.
So, here’s what I conclude. Obviously just adding names to an eligibility spreadsheet won’t increase final votes. However, encouraging early interest in nominations (which we can measure with how entries on an eligibility spreadsheet) may well have a positive impact on final votes.
Promoting interest in possible picks for Best Fanzine over the following months up to the close of 2020 Hugo nominations will, I strongly suspect, lead to an increase in final votes for Fanzine.