Category: Hugo awards

Only A Few Hugo Nomination Days Left!


Don’t forget!

Mind you EPH makes me less worried about not filling every slot in a category.


Don’t Rehash an Argument Just Because

File 770 has a post by Chris Barkley that is a proprosal for the next Worldcon business meeting:

The gist of it is this: Worldcon has decided to have a Young Adult award for SFF books modeled on the Campbell Award – that is it will be an award run with the Hugo Awards and using the same processes but be technically not-a-Hugo. Being a not-a-Hugo avoids questions of multiple elgibility so that in theory a book could be a finalist or even win both the Hugo for best novel and the YA Award. Seems to me like a smart idea.

A secondary question was what to call the award. Lot of possibilities. Andre Norton already been used but Heinlein is famous for his ‘juveniles’, Madeleine L’Engle was an inspiration for many, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels were an entry point for many young readers into SF and Fantasy.

But naming it after a person has issues:

  • Their reputation changes over time and not just that they become ‘problematic’.
  • It can narrow the perception of the award – particularly with the hazy nature of Young Adult. Picking an author famed for books for younger readers may skew perception of the award in that direction (at least initially).
  • Specifically for an award for books for youngr people, there’s an issue with using a less contemporary writer as the flagship of the award.

So instead a name was picked that was not an author name: Lodestar. You can read the discussion from the business meeting here on Alex Acks’s blog

Seems like a decent name to me and in the end the reputation of the name will be driven by the award rather than vice-versa. Could the name be better? Probably but the pursuit of the perfect name for a product is a classic way of sending a project into development hell (I carry the scars). It is a classic case of where good-enough is perfect rather than vice-versa. Finding consensus on a name can be nigh on impossible and eventually consume more labour than any potential gain from finding a better name. It is a classic daft move to get embroiled in finding a GOOD name rtaher than avoiding a BAD name.

So kudos to all the people who did all that work last time and got a name that has no obvious faults. Hoorah!

And then…well the proposal linked to above is to re-prosecute the business of the name for the YA award. The co-signatories have a great alternative name but…they can’t tell people what it is yet. Not only that they can’t tell people WHY they can’t tell people what it is yet.

“We will also embargo the name until the start of the Preliminary Session.

There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.”


It would have to be an extraordinarily good explanation. I’m guessing the name will be Ursula Le Guin but that’s still a bad idea. Aside from anything else her fiction for children and YA is just one part of her writing legacy and she isn’t particularly emblematic of Young Adult writers or the genre.

Worldcon and Jon

To complete a trio of posts on related topics. Jon del Arroz, a science fiction author whose book we’ve reviewed here has had his attending membership of the 2018 Worldcon downgraded to supporting membership. The exact reasons are presumably confidential but Worldcon has indicated that they had concerns regarding Jon and their own code of conduct. People have pointed to examples of things Jon has said he would do at Worldcon including wearing a body cam to video people causing trouble at him.

In the meantime, Jon has gained a lot of publicity as a consequence. A lengthy rant in his defence on Facebook by Larry Correia, a angsty post from Sarah Hoyt on Mad Genius Club, a sneery post by Vox Day – indeed a whole set of people who expressed how much they were finished with Worldcon back in late 2015, and then again in 2016, and then again in 2018, are once again announcing how very much they are now, once again, completely done with Worldcon.

Jon himself is happy with the boost to his sales, stating on Twitter:

“Never thought I’d get up to #6 in steampunk this week (2nd highest this book has been so far) though I’d love to see it up to #1. ”

So it would seem from the conservative & alt-right perspective the “ban” had the net effect of:

  • Preventing Jon from attending a convention that according to assorted sad, rabid and scrappy-doo puppies is a terrible con full of terrible people and a complete waste of time.
  • Boosted sales of his book.

You’d think they’d be happy 🙂

There are, as far as I can tell, almost no downsides for Jon del Arrox *unless* he really, really, wanted to go to Worldcon. That seems doubtful given that Jon largely accepts much of what Vox Day and the Sad Puppies have claimed about Worldcon and the supposed Sci-Fi establishment AND given that he has been claiming that he expected Worldcon to be a hostile environment for him.

So is this some kind of own goal for Worldcon? After all, the downgrading of the membership could be seen as playing into Jon’s hands? No, just because it is a net gain for Jon Del Arroz doesn’t mean it is some kind of loss for Worldcon.

What was the net effect on Worldcon?

  • A community of people who have been claiming for half a decade that Worldcon is to very varying degrees a terrible thing, once again complain that Worldcon is a terrible thing.
  • The extent to which Jon can use their time to promote his books is now limited.

The negatives are almost zero – Vox day would be making up shit about Worldcon regardless – and the positives are avoiding a huge amount of timewasting.

It is hard to see anything wrong with a decision in which everybody benefits.

The common element between this trio of posts is that early action does the least harm to all concerned but a less obvious element is that these issues are often presented as a zero-sum game when in fact they are not – or at least are not if action is taken early enough.

  • Vox Day didn’t actually suffer because he was expelled by the SFWA and SFWA did not suffer by expelling him.
  • Jon Del Arroz has gained by being ‘banned’ by Worldcon and Worldcon has gained by banning him.
  • …and Twitter would have probably gained by closing Trump’s account years ago and Trump would have been no worse off as a consequence.

So what are they so upset about? Aside from fragile egos and conspiracy theories – nothing but then aside from fragile egos and conspiracy theories what are the right ever upset about?

Ooh 1956 Hugo Page Updated

The Hugo Award pages carry lists of winners and nominees but for the early years of the award full lists of nominees aren’t always available.

So for Hugo history nerds here is some news. The 1956 page now has nominees listed as per this announcement.

“Thanks to new information coming to light, we have updated the 1956 Hugo Award history page with the finalists that appeared on the ballot that year. We thank Olav Rokne for bringing to our attention an article on page 15 of the 1956 Worldcon Progress Report 3 that included the names of the finalists along with voting instructions.”

The listing was found here

I probably won’t be watching the Hugo Ceremony this year…and that’s OK :)

Details of the Hugo Award Ceremony coverage are out here

For those not at Worldcon, there will be live coverage both as a text stream and a video stream (see link above for details). It really is wonderful that people can participate at a distance in this way – it is easy to forget how technology is adding to our lives.

Unfortunately for me, my current location means I will definitely be very much asleep when the ceremony starts. So my reaction and comments will be quite late – unless things are still going at 9 pm Helsinki time…which they might be! So if there are some unforeseen delays to the start of the ceremony it may be due to my psychic influence. Apologies in advance for that.

Everybody else – have a great time! The odds of amazing things winning are very high!

Three Stage Voting and the Hugos

The Back Story

(see also Nicholas Whyte’s post here )

The procedural response to the Rabid Puppy and Sad Puppy campaigns has consisted of use of existing rules and the proposal of new rules. I’ll pick on three to start with.

  • To vote you need to be a supporting member of Worldcon and to have paid the associated cost.
  • No Award – the existing procedure that allows voters to pick ‘none of the above’ from a set of finalists. This was used by voters to deliver a very forthright rejection of the slates in 2015.
  • 5-6 a rule change as a consequence of the Puppy campaigns – people nominate five works but six works become finalists. This change was voted on in 2015, ratified and came into force for 2017. It limits the impact of slate voting on the list of finalists. If it had been in place in 2015 and everything else had been the same, then in more categories there would have been at least one more non-slate finalists.

The first process limits the extent to which the Hugos are vulnerable to click-farms or other coordinated attacks by large numbers of spurious voters.

Together, those second two processes amount to damage control. No Award stops unpopular finalists winning by being the only option because of a slate. 5-6 makes it likely that there is at least one non-slate finalist that could win, instead of the whole category going to No Award. Neither, in themselves, would stop a repeat of the Sad Puppies 3 / Rabid Puppies 1 combo but they strongly disincentivise the use of slates as a way of trying to control the award.

The next two are more complex:

  • EPH – a voting system for the nominations that limits the impact that one disciplined minority can have on the nomination process. By ‘disciplined minority’ I mean a large group of voters who vote in a similar way. That could be people voting on a slate or it could just be an natural grouping of people with very similar tastes. It doesn’t stop a slate from getting works onto the ballot but it helps other works make it as well.
  • EPH+ – a tweeking of EPH to improve the extent to which slate voting has limited impact.

My feelings about EPH have been that it is a good thing in itself, regardless of the slates. More generally it further disincentivises slates. Its down sides include some mathematical complexity which leads to some lack of transparency with the counting process.

The question in 2016 was whether together these would be enough. With the Rabid Puppies still impacting the 2016 ballot and analysis suggesting EPH would not be completely sufficient to prevent impact from a well disciplined slate, there was concern that other measures were needed. More pressing was the tactical change from the Rabids – their nominees came in three kinds:

  • Hostages – plausible, popular works nominated to prevent a blanket ‘No Award’ vote against slates hard.
  • Promotional – Castalia House works nominated as a publicity stunt by the publisher and chief Rabid Puppy.
  • Trolling/griefing works – works intended to mock the Hugos or defame individuals or otherwise nominated in the hope of causing consternations.

Those three categories were overlapping.

The voters rose to the occasion again. The hostage plan didn’t work and at least one of the trolling attempts backfired when the inimitable Chuck Tingle was adopted as popular hero. However, despite the failure of Rabid Puppies 2 to make a lasting impact, it still suceeded in being a pain in the arse for everybody. In other words the griefing element of the campaign was a reward for the Rabids.

What to do? There was much discussion but a consensus arose around a proposal called Three Stage Voting or 3SV. In short, adding an additional round of voting after the initial nomination period. This round would allow votes to remove works not regarded by voters as legitimate possible finalists.

The Current State of Affairs

I believe it is fair to say that on the whole Sad Puppies were motivated by a genuine desire to gain some award recognition. Vox Day and the Rabids were more motivated by general mischief. However, both were motivated by the promotional/publicity-stunt elements of getting nominated for the Hugos.

Larry Correia’s capacity to motivate a significant number of fans to buy supporting memberships and nominate led to there being a significant Puppy voting block. Correia’s withdrawal from the Hugos has led to a decline in that block. More overtly Sad Puppies such as Sarah Hoyt have overtly stated that spending money on such memberships is a waste and essentially giving money to people the pups dislike.

In short, the immediate cause of the Puppy Kerfuffle has gone. The Sads have ceased to be a factor. However, that doesn’t mean others may not try similar antics in the future.

Of the rules above, I think the top two effectively stopped the Sad Pups – it’s just the effect was not immediate nor was it obvious to the organisers of Sad Puppies 1,2 & 3 what would occur. The effort of a slate, combined with membership costs, combined with the likelihood of a humiliating loss to No Award was enough to make the whole Sad Puppies campaign as a slate an unattractive option. 5-6 and EPH sealed the deal.

Longer term 5-6 and EPH(+) also mean that if another naive slate campaign arises from some other quarter, the damage done while that campaign follows the same cycle will be much less.

That’s all great as far as it goes. The 2017 finalists were rich and varied and good in all categories but…

The griefers are still there and their motives are not the same. The Rabid Puppies managed to get some griefing-style and promotional style nominees on the ballot. That impact was diluted by quality works but it was still present. The griefers don’t need to win to feel that their behaviour has been rewarded. Their goal is not a Hugo nomination but to create ill-will and to make people deal with their crap.

So 3SV is the Answer?

As things stand the only option on offer to deal with the griefing element is 3SV. There is no viable alternative that I’m aware of. A strong admin role during the nomination phase could theoretically remove griefing nominees but that idea is a non-starter: Worldcon/Hugo admins do not want that power and the consensus I’ve seen from Hugo voters is that such a proposal would never pass.

3SV is more acceptable because it passes that strong-admin style decision to the voters. In doing so, it potentially deals with other issues such as eligibility questions.

But, does it actually do the job?

It certainly would be another check against slate voting but I really think that is a solved problem. The issue is does it deal with griefing?

Nominally it does, in so far as it can prevent offensive works becoming finalists. However, does that solve the problem? Put another way which of these is the actual problem with the griefers:

  1. Works nominated by griefers becoming finalists?
  2. Hugo voters having to deal with works nominated by griefers?

3SV is a barrier to 1. but by its nature it makes 2. more feasible.

3SV will give voters an opportunity to reject specific works/nominees from the top 15. They won’t know how many nominations those nominees will have got or their ordering.

Now to get in top 15 for Best Novel in 2017 took about 200+ votes. A not insubstantial barrier but obviously significantly less than it takes to get an actual nomination. In less popular categories the number needed to get in the top 15 is substantially less – in many it is less than 100 and in some around 30 to 40.

So what, you might think, these nominees won’t be finalists and get no bragging rights or special status. I think that is missing the point. Works with abusive or insulting titles (for example) could be more easily gamed into the top 15 and by doing so griefers will get their psychological reward of Hugo voters acting to vote those works down. This may seem like an extraordinarily petty motive but the existing motives for the Rabid to spend more effort getting finalists on to the ballot are no less petty.

Appearing on the initial list will get more attention than appearing on the post-ceremony top 15 list. Although the two lists will contain the same works, the initial list is a list of potential winners in a way that the post-ceremony list isn’t. For the purpose of Castalia House’s publicity stunt motives, it may be more than sufficient to encourage nominations. For the same cost as getting one nominee as a finalist, the griefers can get multiple nominees on the initial list.

But ‘can’ is not the same as ‘will’ and its heart this is a psychological game rather than a procedural exercise. Are people like Vox Day or other people who might act in bad faith more motivated by the thought of gaining a single finalist and less motivated by a system that would deny them that? In which case 3SV could be a success. However, I think that they are primarily motivated by a desire to cause upset and dissension – in which case I fear that 3SV would simply a way of lowering the bar for their antics at precisely the time when they may have fewer resources to engage in them (where ‘resources’ are voting members of Worldcon).

Yet maybe that whole line of reasoning is a mistake. Acting in any diretion solely on the basis of the likes and dislikes and strange motivations of trollish-ideologues is, arguably, an error itself. A better approach is to place your own interests first and make those paramount. I think EPH is an example of that because I think it is a good thing in itself – yes, the Puppy antics gave the impetous to introduce it but it is defensible as a thing in its own right. For those who DON’T think EPH is defensible in its own right, the argument still holds – you’d be right to oppose it regardless of whether it was an effective vaccine against hydrophobia.

So is 3SV a good thing, in a circumstance in which there are no griefers? It does possibly pass questions of eligibility of borderline SFF works to the membership but, I’m not sure it will be an effective tool in that regard. Otherwise – does it do anything useful? I’m genuinely open to suggestions there – I’m not sure it does but that maybe just that I haven’t thought it through entirely.

Hugo 2017: Best Novel

These ballot posts I’m doing when I’m ready. I’ve read and reviewed all of these now:

The dilemma I have is with Too Like the Lightning – should I judge it by itself or wait until I’ve read the sequel? A lot rests on the sequel in terms of how I judge the book but the award is just for Too Like the Lightning. So, I’m going to do my list now and reserve my right to change my mind later.

As a set, this is a tougher choice than last year where The Fifth Season stood out despite the high-quality competition. This year there are four books that are vying for my number 1 votes and 2 books that will get my lower preferences.

7 – No spot for No Award. I think every one of these deserves a fraction of my vote.

6 – A Closed and Common Orbit. I know a lot of people have really connected with Becky Chamber’s humane and empathetic take on space-adventure. This one was more planet centred and despite being a sequel stands on its own well. I did enjoy a lot of it but it didn’t grab me the way the other books did.

5. – Death’s End. There are moments of genuine sparkle in this lengthy future history but also parts which just seem like a slog. Full of ideas and the refreshingly different pacing and plotting makes me glad I read it.

So that’s the ‘easy’ bit. The next four are more of a challenge. All six of the nominees pushes boundaries and took the genre to new places but I feel my top four did so with more success. They each have their flaws though. The Obelisk Gate suffers by being a middle novel strung between the intensity of The Fifth Season and the finale. All the Birds…  does its own thing but sometimes gets caught between epic and whimsy. Ninefox Gambit‘s brilliance is on a slow burn and its intentionally alienating language hides a more conventional story. Finally Too Like the Lightning is half a story, its plot left hanging.

4. The Obelisk Gate. When quality is this high, small things end up making the difference. With a Hugo already on the shelf for this series, I’ll give my higher votes to the other three. Feels wrong though. Happy to see this win.

3. Too Like the Lightning. Ha! Opposite problem! I don’t know where this book is going whereas The Obelisk Gate I knew where it had been. I can see me changing my mind multiple times. Clever and a great conversation starter.

2. Ninefox Gambit. Or as my spell checker likes to say Nice fox gambit. What if our technology outpaced our capacity to conceptualise our technology? A military space adventure with weapons that manipulate reality and where how you track time can be heretical.

1. All the Birds in the Sky. A story about stories and a story about science and fantasy. Pulled me in and refused to accept any distinctions between magical realism, science fiction, fairy tales or fantasy.

Or, maybe some other order. Can I give them all a 1? Seriously, this was a fun and engaging set of books to read. Ideas you want to share and characters you glad you spent time with (except Mycroft).