Hugosauriad 4.7: Extinction event 3 – Vox Day, Alien Strippers and Voting Reform

Of all the stories I’ve covered in this series, this chapter has the most inconsequential. A story of little merit and no lasting impact, it exists simply to mark an end-point. It’s presence on the Hugo ballot was as a doomed attempt to repeat a prank that had already badly backfired on its perpetrator.

When last we met Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies in 2016 they were being mocked as losers by a performance artist/erotic novelist famed for unfeasible book titles. We will never know whether Vox had sufficiently mindless followers that they were wasting their own money on Worldcon memberships or whether many of the Rabid Puppy votes were fake accounts. Whether sock-puppets or meat-puppets, the exercise in ballot vandalism was not cheap.

Beyond the confines of fandom though, Vox Day could enjoy the electoral victory of Donald Trump. The so-called “alt-right” was in ascendence and Vox’s brand of extreme nationalism was drawing interest by news media.

Meanwhile the Hugo Awards had changed. The Sad/Rabid Puppy success at storming the ballot in 2015 had led to voting reforms designed to limit the impact of slate voting. One was a very simple change: in the first stage nomination vote, members would continue to nominate five works per category but the set of finalists would be six works. This change would ensure that a simple slate of five works would still leave one work as a finalist which would hopefully give voters at least one non-slated work to vote for.

The other reform was a new voting method called EPH. This system involved ordering nominees by number of votes but then eliminating lower scoring nominees in pairs by comparing the number of points each nominee had. The points were based on similarities between ballots in a way that would also reduce the impact of slates without having anybody ever have to decide whether something was a slate or not.

Day reduced the number of works on the Rabid Puppy slate hoping that would result in a greater impact. Indeed, in principle EPH would even give his nominees an advantage as they would unlikely to have much in common with other voter’s set of nomination. In at least one case (Fanwriter) the Rabid Puppy nominee became a finalist on points rather than raw votes, ironically beating a blogger who had been a very vocal advocate for the wonders of EPH (and who has a passing resemblance to the person writing this).

In the Best Novelette Category there were six finalists, five of which were non-Rabid nominees. The sixth was Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock. It doesn’t really need explaining that this was an attempt to try to make the same joke again after the previous attempt had headed off in to its own tingelverse.

Stix Hiscock was a pseudonym of course but at least one media outlet managed to interview her:

“”Alien Stripper was written as a lark,” Hiscock said. “I actually think it’s quite good, and published it not expecting anything to come of it. I just wanted to add shock and a little comedy to people’s day. Plus, making the cover was incredibly rewarding.”

The cover of the book does not quite match the contents. The stripper in the story is a green alien woman with three breasts who crash landed on Earth. She has taken up stripping to earn money to repair her space ship. The stripper partly shown on the cover isn’t green and appears to have only two breasts. Five minutes in photoshop with the hue-saturation settings and the clone tool and both those issues could have been rectified but perhaps I’m asking too much of disposable ebooks.

There are flashes of comedy in the story but you have to pick through the bits about laser nipples.

“The man turned to Tyrone, his hand still on me, smoldering. “Well now, I don’t think this is any of your goddamn business, now is it you fucking large theropod? Is it true you people only have a brain the size of a walnut? That’s what I fucking heard…” “You’re thinking of stegosauruses, buddy, and some of my best friends back in the day happened to be stegosauruses…” This he said through gritted teeth, and I tried to back away, knowing what was coming, seeing it in his eyes, but the man’s grip continued to tighten around me like a vice.

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

Or this moment later in the book where the two characters are sharing photos of their former loved ones:

“What happened to her?” I asked, walking on eggshells here, knowing it was likely a sensitive subject for him, yet I nonetheless felt as though I needed desperately to know. “A, um… A meteor got her… And my family… And friends… My neighbors… My church group… My dentist… My weed dealer… Pretty much everyone I knew, actually…” “Oh… God…” I said, feeling as though I’d just touched on a very bad subject that I shouldn’t have. “Yeah… It was a pretty shitty week,” said Tyrone, shrugging, and we continued in silence for a while. Eventually, just to put an end to the oppressive quietness and get his mind off of the mass extinction of everyone he knew and loved, I reached into my purse and pulled out a photograph of my own. “This is Charlie,” I said, and Tyrone lifted the picture to his eyes, studying it closely. Charlie was a tentacle monster, and pretty much just looked like a living bowl of spaghetti

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

And that’s about it for the story.

Porn and science fiction aren’t so very far apart. They both have sides with literary aspirations (in the case of porn, ‘erotica’) and both have histories in disposable literature. Science fiction writers such as Robert Silverberg have written softcore pornography to maintain an income. I don’t think Ray Bradbury ever wrote any porn as such but he was the subject of comedian Rachel Bloom’s sexually explicit song “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” – itself a Hugo Award finalist in 2011. Fans and fandom are not easily shocked or perhaps they are easily shocked but not simply by verbal descriptions of sex.

Of the 2,057 votes cast in the Novelette category only 45 went to Alien Stripper which was eliminated in the first round having been beaten by No Award by 31 votes. In the end the erotic tale of dino-romance would finish seventh out of six, which is an impressive result in some ways. Notably the story got fewer votes in the finalist ballot (45) than it did in the nomination stage (77). Members of the previous Worldcon have nomination rights in the Hugos for the next Worldcon. The drop in votes indicated that the number of Rabid Puppy members of Worldcon had declined even further in the previous months.

The Hugo Awards had met their end of an epoch extinction event and…had adapted and survived.

Next time: The rise of Uncanny and “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat”

Even More Hugo Wisdening

I’ve never been a fan of cricket but my family growing up were and there were numerous copies of Wisden in the house, which for those who don’t know of it is best described here I guess some in the house hoped that I might find it intriguing and I could see the appeal but resisted.

These days we’ve got something better! All the fun of tables of dry numbers PLUS science fiction books! I don’t have a round up of other takes on the numbers yet though.

Normally Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon has posted something by now but there’s not been a post there since February. I hope he is OK.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank is actually in Helsinki – and having a fun time I hope – so probably won’t post anything yet.

In the comments JJ gave links to three rich sources of data:

The first one is great for seeing EPH in action.

Continue reading “Even More Hugo Wisdening”

Hugo Stats Time Some More

…that last post got a bit derailed by a sudden and immediate loss of personal objectivity.

OK the category to look at for EPH fun is Best Fan Artist. This category has a wide field, an intrinsically hard to judge topic, and low participation by voters. This means a much higher chance of a tie. One ‘feature-not-a-bug’ qualities of EPH is that it should reduce actual ties but that does mean the results start to look complex and arbitrary.

Virtual ties (in my head at least) are also important – where the number of votes between two people is very close. If it is down to one vote then it is good that EPH adds more elements to the contest.

At the low end of the nominations were these outcomes: (v = votes, p = EPH points)

  • v 39 p 28.25 Spring Schoenhuth
  • v 33 p 29.00 Steve Stiles
  • v 34 p 24.00 Elizabeth Leggett
  • v 33 p 24.75 Ariela Housman
  • v 33 p 20.17 Galen Dara
  • v 27 p 19.57 Richard Man
  • v 28 p 14.83 Kathryn M. Weaver

Lots of close vote totals and low points. The stats PDF has a nice explanation:

“Pay attention, this is complicated.

If Galen Dara had had 0.33 more points, Elizabeth Leggett would have been eliminated on an earlier count and Galen Dara would probably have been a finalist.

Ariela Housman needed 1 more vote to displace Elizabeth Leggett from the final ballot.

To do the same, Richard Man needed at most another 7 votes worth 4.43 more points, Megan Lara needed at most another 9 votes worth 8.00 points, and Kathryn Weaver needed at most another 9.17 points.

Steve Stiles would have been displaced by Ariela Housman with 5.25 fewer points, and Spring Schoenhuth would have been displaced by Ariela Housman with 7 fewer votes, or 6 fewer votes worth more than 3.5 points.

If Spring Schoenhuth had had precisely 6 fewer votes worth precisely 3.5 points, she and Ariela Housman would have tied for the last ballot spot and both would have qualified when Mansik Yang was disqualified.

Put another way. If Galen Dara had been *less* popular with people who had voted for higher ranked nominees THEN she might have made the ballot. Likewise, if Steve Stiles’s support was more common among the other top rated nominees then he wouldn’t have made the ballot.

Is that fair? YES! Look at what it is doing. In borderline cases, close races are being decided by results that MAXIMISE the number of voters the resulting set of finalists represent. Put another way, more voters get somebody they voted for in the list of finalists. OK, in this case, the loaf is getting sliced microscopically thin but the only super-fair way of resolving this would have been to have 9 or 10 finalists.

Onto the Rabid nomination vote (not counting hostages).

  • Novel 85 votes
  • Novelette 77 votes
  • Short Story 87 votes
  • Best Editor Long 83 votes
  • Semipro 80 votes
  • Fanzine 85 votes
  • Fancast 76 votes
  • Fan writer 80 votes
  • Campbell 91 votes

J.Mulrooney, the Castalia House nominee for Best Novel and the Campbell got 6 more votes for the Campbell than for Best Novel – which is a bit odd I suppose. John C Wright’s Short Story would have also picked up some votes from random Puppies still involved and I’d have thought it would have landed further from the Rabid mean…but it was effin awful even by JCW’s standards so maybe not.

So a mean in the low 70s and a median of 83 votes. Which looks to be irrelevant because those votes are probably all from 2016 members. The Rabid vote drops precipitously in the final numbers.

  • Novelette 45 votes
  • Short story 58 votes
  • Best Editor Long 32 votes
  • Semipro 17 votes (ouch)
  • Fanzine 22 votes
  • Fancast 15 votes
  • Fanwriter 20 votes
  • Campbell 26 votes

That’s it for now. Have to eat ice-cream for breakfast it seems 🙂


Hugo Stats Time

Two PDFs and a slightly different format than previous. The final No Award run-off rounds don’t seem to be listed but they aren’t relevant. [eta they are there I jsut wasn’t paying attention]

Click to access HugoReport2_nominations.pdf

The main vote stats are reassuringly dull. In most categories, the final winner got the most first round votes and maintained a lead throughout. An exception is Best Fan Writer. Chuck Tingle started out well, with Mike Glyer second and Abigail Nussbaum third. However, as others got eliminated and votes transferred, Abigail Nussbaum ended top. Round to decide second place then saw Foz Meadows leap ahead on the strength of transfers from Nussbaum. All very exciting! In the end, Mike came third and Chuck fourth, Natalie Luhrs fifth. Sixth place went to previous fan favourite No Award.

Rabids? The first round vote for Rabid nominees dropped to about 20 or less. The highest Rabid nominee on first round votes was Vox Day himself in Best Editor Long Form with 32. The Rabids are done folks – a last gasp (yes, I know that in the stories we love that is the worst possible thing to say…)

To the nominee stats and…um…gosh…thanks people.

How close was it?
Camestros Felapton needed 3 more votes to displace Natalie Luhrs from the final ballot.
Mark Oshiro needed 5 more votes to displace Natalie Luhrs.
Um. I don’t think I’d have felt happy at knocking either Natalie Luhrs or Mark Oshiro off the ballot – particularly as both suffered from Puppy shenanigans over the past few years. So thanks! And it is great company on that whole list as well! James Nicoll, Cora, Alexandra Erin.
Ah, but added to the fun! I got 81 votes, Jeffro Johnson got 80 but many more points by virtue of EPH and THAT IS A REALLY GOOD THING. OK, not Jeffro specifically (although there are worse Rabids and he is actually a fan writer) but that is exactly how EPH should work. I was obviously a common pick with many of the others who got on the ballot, whereas Jeffro wasn’t and given a close vote between Jeffro, Mark and myself, a system that picks out a finalist who has less in common with the other finalist is the right result. Yes, in this case that difference was due to Rabid shenanigans but that’s a different issue.

Congratulations to the Hugo Winners 2017

I missed most of the ceremony because of timezones but it was great to wake up and see all the good stuff that had won. Stats later I hope and it looks like File770 servers have been swamped again on Hugo night.

Suprised but pleased that The Obelisk Gate won best novel. Brilliant book, but I didn’t expect a sequel to win and it was a very strong field.

In the something for everybody category, The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold winning best series is not a surprise and a well-deserved win – plus a Hugo for Baen.

No live streaming, so I am only aware of rumours about how brilliant Ursula Vernon’s acceptance speech for The Tomato Thief was – apparently on the amazing ecosystems of dead whales.

Sad that Seeming’s Splendor & Misery didn’t win Best Dramatic Presentation Short. The Expanse is a worthy winner but not my top pick.

And that’s all I’ve got to say for the moment!

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!

The Hugo Novellas Form One Weird Novel

Gods, children, doors and keys – read the Hugo Novella finalists in the right order and you will get a weird, disjointed story about another world, close to ours, where pople become gods, those gods slowly lose their minds and their reality becomes fractured. To travel around this world or to reach ours requires magic keys and special doors.

  1. A Taste of Honey: the gods are human like, we see the first splintering of reality
  2. Penric and the Shaman: the gods have become more distant but still relatable, magic is more common place. Demons now exist.
  3. This Census Taker: The world has ceased to make sense. A strange, muderous man makes magic keys. A band of census takers vainly attempts to keep track of people. Their numbers no longer make sense.
  4. The Ballad of Black Tom: In 1920s America a man opens a door into other realities. The gods of the other reality are no longer benevolent.
  5. Every Heart a Doorway: In our world, a school looks after children who have crossed doorways into another reality of strange powerful beings who act on whims. Most of those who have returned are girls.
  6. The Dream Quest of Vellit Boe: In a chaotic inconsistent world where even mathematics is inconsistent and powerful gods dream mad dreams, a woman sets out to find keys to reality crossing doors. He world is strangely bereft of women.

As this uber-novel is hard to make sense of and jumps aound in time, it is presumably actually by David Mitchell, but then maybe ‘David Mitchell’ has always been a sceret project by Bujold, Meiville, McGuire, LaValle, Johnson and Wilson.

[Reading order originally appeared here ]

Bechdel and Hugos

The Bechdel Test (or if you prefer, the Bechdel-Wallace Test) is back in the news because of a particularly silly essay in the conservative National Review

Now, yes, it is not some infallible instrument of feminist quality but it does a couple of things well:

  1. It is simple and sounds in principle like an easy bar to get over and that many films and other media don’t does highlight a genuine issue with the lack of representation of women.
  2. It is a handy criteria to use to aggregate data. Yes, yes, lots of exceptions – good positive stories about women that don’t pass and sleazy, stereotyped stories that do BUT in aggregate we can get a sense of how women are being portrayed.

Take the Hugo written fiction for example. Death’s End passes the Bechdel Test, whereas The City Born Great doesn’t but that doesn’t tell us much about either story specifically (particulalry given their different lengths).

But what if NONE of the Hugo finalist stories passed? What would that tell us? It would show that in aggregate that women were not well represented as characters and that at best they are represented in the context of men.

I did a quick count of some numbers using a sort of modified Bechdel test. The modification was partly out of laziness and partly to make the test a bit stricter. What I did was count up the stories were I could recall (without re-reading) whether two women had a conversation about something other than a man. In effect, that meant that the characters and the conversation were significant enough to the story that they were memorable. While I was at it I also counted up whether there was a significant woman character at all in the story.

I won’t give the data per story for two reasons:

  1. As I said above it isn’t about the individual stories.
  2. I may have forgotten a particular conversation in a story or dismissed it as not being substantial enough and that would be beside the point.

Anyway, of the twenty four* stories:

  • 21 (87.5%) had a major character who was a woman (more depending on your definition of ‘major)
  • 12 (50%) passed the Bechdel Test based on my recollection (possibly more if there are less memorable conversations)
  • 12 (50%) passed a reverse Bechdel i.e. two men having a conversation about something other than a woman (again, possibly more – based on what I could remember of the characters)

Make of that what you will.

*[I counted “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” as a yes, even though there aren’t any conversations as such or maybe the whole thing is a conversation]

Hugo Ballot 2017 – Novellas!

Last one of these – not time left to do justice to reviewing other categories. Best Series? Sorry, but I have failed to tackle it in any meaningful way. I’ll vote on the artist categories and maybe editor categories, as well as the ‘zine categories. Podcast? Sorry casters but I’ve not had the time to engage with any of them 😦

But novellas! What an interesting bunch! None of them was a knockout but collectively that was a solid set of reading fun.

In reverse order:

7. No Award – nope, had no need of Noah’s help in this ballot. The least good were well written and even their flaws were interesting.

6. This Census Taker: An interesting writing experiment but not a successful writing experiment. However, of all of them, it is the one I want to read again…it feels like a secret yet to be unravelled.

5. A Taste of Honey: An original fantasy following a single character’s life but I felt like I was missing out on chapters from a more varied novel.

4. The Dream Quest of Vellit Boe: A clever journey through the landscape of an older novella. Some fresh perspective and a really good read but…maybe not original enough for the top spot.

3. The Ballad of Black Tom: The other response to Lovecraft. Oh, this was a tricky choice. A less successful story than Vellit Boe but it packed more punch.

2. Penric and the Shaman: Bujold knows how to tell a story and she told one. An original fantasy story with interesting characters.

1. Every Heart a Doorway: Weird – I didn’t think this would be my number one when I read it. It has sort of got the spot by default. The novellas were a struggle between the familiar and the experimental and sometimes a struggle with making the experimental familiar or making the familiar experimental. None of them quite manged the achievements of the others but Every Heart came closest.

Only This Census Taker didn’t have weird gods (or god-like beings) in it and I’m not really sure it didn’t have them lurking somewhere…

Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe – Hugo 2017 Novella

In the lands of Dreaming, in the city of Ulthar, Vellit Boe has given up a life of wandering to become a professor at a college for young women, but when the daughter of a powerful man runs away with her lover to seek a new life in the waking world, Vellit Boe must follow and face the anger of the sleeping gods.

H.P.Lovecraft’s “Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” was an unusual novella. While closely connected with his horror stories and featuring his regular protagonist Randolph Carter, the story fits more neatly into the modern category of fantasy rather than horror. Published posthumously, it’s a weird trippy premise of a journey through a geography of dreams was re-embraced in the sixties.

Kij Johnson’s novella, flips the structure of Lovecraft’s novella. A denizen of dreaming sets off to find the waking world, she is a woman rather than a man and she does so because she has too. In doing so, the story revisits many of the locations from Lovecraft’s story, including a visit to his protagonist Randolph Carter. The stakes in Vellit Boe’s quest steadily increase as she discovers more at work than simply an absconding student and finally the story resolves itself with a bittersweet ending in the modern waking world.

Johnson more closely echoes Lovecraft’s style in her new perspective on an old story than Victor LaValle did in the Ballad of Black Tom. However, both stories use non-Lovecraftian protagonists to re-explore the assumptions of the originals – in the case of Vellit Boe the absence of women. Johnson takes that absence and makes it a feature of the story both in terms of the underpopulated human contingent of the world of dreams and the non-existence of women visiting from the waking world. Although niether are explained, she links them with the repeated contrast between the small number of stars in the sky of dreams and the millions of stars in the waking world.

You don’t need to have read Dream Quest of Unknown Kadeth to enjoy Johnson’s novella but you have to like the same style of wandering through strange locations and unnatural beasts in a sequence of episodes that blend into each other.

Enjoyable, weird and well executed.