Category: Hugo awards

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. http://www.thehugoawards.org/2017/09/1956-hugo-award-page-updated/

“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 http://fanac.org/worldcon/NYcon/w56-pr3.pdf

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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 http://www.thehugoawards.org/2017/08/2017-hugo-ceremony-coverage-plans/

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 http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2855654.html )

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).

Review: The Expanse (TV Show) & More Specifically Leviathan Wakes – Hugo2017

The secret forces that control my life have decided that I must do due diligence on the Hugo Award Category: Best Dramatic Presentation – Short. So with a Netflix trial on my phone, I plunge through the airlock and into SyFy’s THE EXPANSE!

The good news is this also is a handy refresher course on James S. A. Corey’s initial novel in the series. The bad news is that I probably shouldn’t have read this review by Laurie Penny first.

If you like the books, then you probably will like the series. The characters are played by people who are each plausibly the character from the book. Few liberties have been taken with the plot and the ones that have are mainly for the better. Sweary UN honcho, Chrisjen Avasarala, has been brought forward into the plot and her story line helps draw out the solar system politics more clearly. There are other tweaks to events that reduce the amount of shuttling about everybody does.

At some point, they decided that Detective Miller’s hat was stupid and he goes largely hatless so we can see his daft haircut. I say daft, but it sort of looks like they are doing a tribute to Bret Ewins/Peter Milligan future existential detective comic book Johnny Nemo. [Also if you haven’t read the books or seen the TV series there are spoilers after the pictures of Johnny Nemo]

 

johnny_nemo

Nemo’s hair flips to the right.

1452618524_will-miller-find-whereabouts-mao

Miller’s hair flips to the left.

 

The look and setting are both original and familiar: the industrial space faring look from Alien, the space-era poverty from Total Recall, the humdrum below decks of a space station from Babylon 5, or even with Holden’s crew & a stolen ship a feel of Blake’s Seven. Yet there hasn’t really been a substantial TV show with this solar system bound feel or with this kind of faux-realism.

Decent story, with good actors and nice effects, yet oddly conventional and seemingly not eager to push the limits of television. It does end up dragging a bit in the middle but picks up again as the threads of Miller’s investigation of Julie Mao’s disappearance and Holden’s quest to find the people who destroyed The Canterbury start coming together.

The specific Hugo finalist episode is the final episode of Season 1: Leviathan Wakes. Miller pursuit of the truth has led him to Eros Station – a rundown asteroid outpost. Holden and the crew of Rocinante, following their own leads into the mysterious stealth ships that are in the midst precipitating a war between Mars and Earth, have also reached Eros station. However, events have rapidly overtaken them both: Julie Mao is dead – infected with some sort of bio-weapon [ooh! ooh! says everybody who has read the books, we know what that is!]. Meanwhile, the station’s police force has decided to round up everybody on the pretext of a radiation leak. Meanwhile, on Earth, Chrisjen discovers that the conspiracy to set Mars and Earth against each other is even deeper.

It certainly is an episode with tension and some moments of genuine horror. The mounting realisation that a horror is developing on the station, is paralleled by the tensions between the disparate characters. Possibly it would have more impact if I didn’t know the plot. However, I didn’t feel this exceptional television – just a well done season finale with a cliffhanger.

I don’t regret watching it – fun, lots of action and a great sense of plausibility – but not going to be a top pick on my Hugo ballot.

Review: Black Mirror: San Junipero – Hugo2017

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is known for its twisty and cynical stories of society and modern technology (particularly media technology) in conflict. Unusually for a critically acclaimed show during the new TV golden age, it isn’t spawned from some other media nor is it a long-form, story-arc dominated serial. Each episode, although tied by common themes, are standalone stories, which puts it closer to the SFF TV tradition of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits.

Twisty as it tends to be, it can be hard to review because the central premise of an episode can either be misleading or revealed as a plot twist. San Junipero has elements of both. So beware, some major spoilers after the fold but I’ll say this upfront – this is a touching love story and yes, I did nearly cry a little and it might make you cry a lot by the end.

Continue reading

Hugo 2017 Review: Splendor & Misery by Clipping

Experimental Hip Hop group, Clipping are not a stereotypical Hugo nominee but I’d be hard pressed to name an album that is so tightly linked to the Hugo tradition. Science fiction themes are not new to popular music from David Bowie to Janelle Monae but Splendor & Misery approaches science fiction from a different direction musically. Rather than reaching for the broader aesthetics of SF visuals, Splendor & Misery dives directly into science fiction as both a narrative and as a distinct historical genre.

Before I continue, I have to point out the three-part discussion of the story, themes and layers (upon layers) of references in the album:

http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2016/10/14/prognotes-clippings-splendor-misery-part-i-all-black-everything/

http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2016/10/20/prognotes-clippings-splendor-misery-part-ii-long-way-away/

http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2016/11/03/prognotes-clippings-splendor-misery-part-iii-break-the-glass/

Given that some are apparently delivered by secret codes, I can’t claim to have spotted every reference. Many of the overt references to other music/performers went right over my head. However, there is no shortage of overt SF references from Delaney (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stars_in_My_Pocket_Like_Grains_of_Sand), Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin (who’d have thought mandible rhymes with ansible?) amid less specific layers of connections with 60s, 70s and 80s space fiction.

Musically it is dominated by rap but interspersed with acapella songs that make use of African American song traditions to establish yet another layer of history and cultural connections. On each dimension, even its sense of the future, the album connects with the past.

So Best Dramatic Presentation? Absolutely and unambiguously, it fits into the category as a worthy nominee. It is (mainly) a science fiction story. Not a vastly original one but one told via a different medium.

The story is told in three (maybe) voices:

  • The AI controlling a starship carrying a human cargo. Called ‘mothership’, this is the primary narrator of the story.
  • Cargo 2331, a man who escapes from incarceration and takes control of the ship.
  • Something best described as a chorus – basically I’m lumping together tracks that divert from the main story to add background, mythology or connections.

The story starts where lots of space ship stories start: something goes wrong  – ‘A small anomaly has become evident’. Mothership alerts the crew that the ‘cargo’ is waking up. One in particular, is awake and dangerous and has escaped his confines. 2331 somehow commandeers the ship. Quite what happens to the crew, we don’t know but the AI does reveal as it describes events, that it has methodically killed the rest of the ‘cargo’. 2331 though survives the blow to his head and the ‘fever’ sent as a countermeasure. Watching, the violent, disturbed man who has taken control, Mothership shifts emotionally and decides to protect him, announcing to the ships now seeking to reclaim the stolen spaceship:

Warning: mothership reporting
This will be the last report, turn back, everything is fine
Warning: mothership reporting
Cargo number 2331 is not a danger, let him be
Warning: mothership reporting
If you continue to pursue there will be no choice but to destroy you
Warning: mothership reporting
This love will be defended at all costs, do not fuck with it

Avoiding pursuit via hyperspace (I assume) jumps, 2331 eventually goes on a mission of vengeance (or possibly simply imagines doing so). However, his erratic behaviour leads to a distance between him and the ship. Their personal conflict intensifies until they decide to avoid pursuit permanently and head off into the unknown.

And somebody gotta keep watch where the watch stops
He talks about his pops in polarity
Fingers fantasize of rocks there will never be
“Land ho!” Likely
Lest a hole in the mantle of Heaven
He’s demanding the evidence for something
That maybe never was for anyone
He’s missing something pretty
He’s missing where the air tastes gritty
He’s missing the splendor and misery
Of bodies, of cities, of being missed

In between, the songs hit a background mythology, hint at war, conflict and sinister trade in human beings.

As a story, it becomes more indistinct and tangential through the album. Earlier songs address events more directly, later ones reflect 2331’s possible psychological decay (and he doesn’t start in a great state – alone, wounded and assaulted by disease) and Motherships own ambivalent emotional state. The song Story 5 (about a woman named Grace, a former soldier who attempts to expose the bosses of an unsafe factory and is murdered for it) has no obvious connection to the plot but feels heavy with hidden relevance.

The third time listening through and after reading the ‘prognotes’ articles above, I started REALLY liking this. I don’t think it is easy to instantly like – aside from anything else, there is a distracting amount of things going on. Arguably, it shouldn’t take three long essays to make sense of an otherwise simple tale of hibernating man waking up on a spaceship in deep space but Splendor & Misery is not just cryptic but compressed like some file format that has been encoded to cram as much in as possible, even if it makes difficult to unpack.

I think it will be hard for me to give anything else a 1 in this category.