Some Book Bub numbers and petunias

My attention was drawn to a set of numbers from BookBub available here: https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing?fbclid=IwAR1mMlf6nO5oAS5QN0pD-9V-NRAxkdNz6AQMNOJurGT1NnD_DQEjiPzOEL0

Some major caveats before we go into them. Firstly these are for marketing purposes and as they say “averages are based on historical data, but are only meant as a reference and are not guaranteed”. The book figures also only apply to free downloads and discounted book sales. Lastly, these are BookBubs numbers and other retailers of books may show different patterns.

A broader caveat to add when considering any kind of average sales within books (or other media) is the dreaded power-law distribution. A small number of books account for a large number of sales and conversely a large number of books account have small sales individually but account for a lot of sales together. The arithmetic mean has many flaws but it is particularly flawed in such circumstances. One huge hit (e.g. The Da Vinci Code) will have an outsized impact on the average book sales even if other books are selling poorly.

Tables and things after the fold…

Continue reading “Some Book Bub numbers and petunias”

Twitter Polls Suck

So I referred to the Sad Puppies “extreme politics” on Twitter the other day. Somebody questioned that and I didn’t reply immediately because there’s a lot to unpack. Instead, I offered a Twitter poll with the options of replying as

  • Threaded tweets
  • A linked blog post
  • Talking to cat

Six people voted and each option got exactly two votes each. So much for power aw distributions. Luckily Tim tweeted me immediately allowing me to deal with the third option quickly. (more after the fold).

Continue reading “Twitter Polls Suck”

Crunching

editorvotes

[UPDATE: there is better number crunching here https://chaoshorizon.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/2015-hugo-stats-initial-analysis/ but I think my numbers are coming out similar. Oh and I lost a whole chunk from the bottom – do scroll past the table in the middle!]

Dave Freer asked me a question over at Mad Genius while we were arguing about Brad Torgersen’s poor behavior.

Just what do you see happening with the 2016 nominations and votes, as a direct result of 2015 and with the figures we now have?

What are the numbers telling us about the voting and the consequences for next year? Put another way what signals are there that we can use to characterize voter behavior and how will that impact in future years? Beyond that what impact did the various players have?

The tricky thing is that the voting was massively dominated by non-Puppies and the non-Puppies are difficult to analyze. On neither side during the kerfuffle was there much internecine conflict. The only obvious flash point was Laura Mixon’s nomination for Best Fan Writer on the basis of her analysis of the behavior of ‘RequiresHate’ – a person whose behavior among the SF/F community had been the cause of much dissension independent of the Puppy Kerfuffle. However this did not translate into the non-Puppies forming rival camps.

Instead both sides tended to unite within themselves against a perceived common threat. For the non-Puppies threat is best understood as two-fold; slate nomination undermining the Hugo Awards and Vox Day. For the Puppies the threat was also two fold: perceived World Con cliques shutting them out and liberal/leftist media/cliques demonizing them. NOTE: to understand the behavior of the two groups it isn’t necessary a this point to decide which of those four narratives had any factual merit. What matters was the perceived threat. Groups with diverse cultures and ideologies can show great unity when there is a common threat and so we didn’t see inner conflicts during the conflict even when allies overtly contradicted each other in terms of objectives or stated purposes.

I suggest there are these major groups at play in the numbers:

Continue reading “Crunching”

The Unified Puppy Theory

Last Sad Puppy post for awhile. More when the Hugo votes come in or when some issue becomes a big deal over nothing.

On the final Puppy Round Up at File770 Snowcrash asked: http://file770.com/?p=23595&cpage=3#comment-303817

Here at the End of All Things, are some answers/ things we’re still missing:

– A honest explanation as to how the SP3 slate was created,

– How the tactics of slate-nominations furthers *any* of the constantly changing rationales provided by the Puppies

– Anyone taking on the Mamatas Challenge

– Evidence of a previous slate/ bloc-voting effort. The Puppies keep saying that’s the only way Stuff They Don’t Like Could have won, but are strangely reticent at providing any evidence or proof of their allegations.

– Why Wisdom of the Internet???? Seriously why? (And yelling about Scalzi is not a good answer)

I only had stupid answers at the time but I think I can give a better answer now.

Firstly, by way of background, The Mamatas Challenge was a comment by author Nick Mamatas on John Scalzi’s blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/04/20/keeping-up-with-the-hugos-42015/#comment-781272

If the Hugos have really been dominated by leftist material that prized message over story since the mid-1990s (Brad’s timeline), it should be very simple for members of the Puppy Party to name

a. one work of fiction

b. that won a Hugo Award

c. while foregrounding a left message to the extent that the story was ruined or misshaped

d. per set of winners since 1995.

That’s all. Just a list of twenty books or stories—a single winner per year. Even though a single winner per year wouldn’t prove domination, I’m happy to make it easy for the Puppies.

Naturally the Mamatas challenge has not been met by anybody – although the odd work of fiction has been suggested (e.g. John Chu’s The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere has been suggested as a single example)

Continue reading “The Unified Puppy Theory”

Revenge of the Petunias

Dave Freer has kindly replied to On Petunias and Whales: Part 9 in comments on the Mad Genius Club blog. This post is a reply. The format of my post is a bit ‘fisk’ like and I’m not keen on that because: The fisk approach I think always ends up being a bit aggressive When I see “fisk” now I can’t help but think of Vincent Donoforio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk in the Netflix TV series of Daredevil. “To fisk” somebody definitely sounds aggressive. Having said that Dave has offered lots of points and I’d like to reply to them in turn and so the quote-reply style makes sense. In terms of quoting Dave’s comments, I am editing them to focus on particular points. This can lead to comments being distorted from the intended meaning and so I would recommend people read Dave’s reply in full in its original context. Dave’s comments will be bold and italic and be preceded by “DF:”.

Continue reading “Revenge of the Petunias”

More Petunias: some extra data [updated]

[updated] I’m even less sure of that data below now. The 100% figure for book publisher seems unlikely. Going to the FEC website and searching on ‘book publisher’ I find lots of hits and some are obviously to Republicans. That isn’t to say the Verdant Labs data is wrong, just without a clear statement of what they did and what they counted it is hard to tell what the numbers are saying. Interesting though.

In the comments to Part 9 timbartik said:

You might add to this that the political orientation of science fiction fans and writers might have some similarity to that of scientists whose political beliefs are to the left of the overall U.S. population. See this recent report: http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/index.html

At the extreme, astrophysicists have 98 Democrats for every 2 Republicans. Astronomers are 93 Dems to 7 Repubs, and computer scientists are at 89 to 11. Even engineers are 71 Democrats to 29 Republicans.

This is an interesting data set. It is based not on survey data but from campaign contribution data from the FEC that includes profession of the donor as part of the metadata. The producers of the data the simply assume that the proportions by donation reflect the proportions by occupation (as explained here http://verdantlabs.com/blog/2015/06/02/politics-of-professions/ )

I think the data needs to be treated with some caution as it doesn’t tell us for any given profession how many actual data points there are in the stats. For example a 80%-20% split in a given profession is less impressive if it only represented 5 people and was a 4 person to 1 person split. Continue reading “More Petunias: some extra data [updated]”

Pink SF and Puppies

It is easy to see the puppies as an amorphous block – a single set of uniform beliefs held by all the main puppy leaders informing their every action. That would be an error though and even a cursory glance at the multiple rationales for the SP’s actions shows a great deal of diversity of belief.

In reality the Sad Puppies as a movement have a lot in common with the tradition of populist movements in the United States. Such movements often make significant political gains with a show of apparent unity, only to seemingly evaporate when the various agendas, personalities and ideologies of key players in the movement assert themselves.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to see quite different viewpoints on the roll of women ad the intersection between SF and Romance genres.

pink puppies
Pink Puppies – apologies to Artraccoon

The most extreme examples can be found by contrasting statements from some Sad Puppies with those of Rabid Puppies.

Here is Amanda on The Mad Genius Club:

he fear that someone who writes fantasy with a distinct romance bent might be nominated, much less win was so over the top. It was as if those making the complaint truly believes science fiction and fantasy are still pure genres. Obviously they haven’t read much lately. If they had, they would see that there is genre crossing all around. Yes, you can, with a lot of searching, find a pure hard science fiction novel, but they are few and far between. Fantasy has, for years, had some aspect of mystery or romance or the like in it. The mixing of genres, when done well, is a good thing.

I’ll repeat that, mixing of genres when done well is a good thing.

Contrast with Vox Day’s attitude:

Pink SF is the dominant form of science fiction today. Or rather, more properly, the currently dominant form of SyFy. It is necrobestial love triangles. It is using the superficial trappings of science fiction or fantasy or war fiction to tell exactly the same sort of goopy, narcissistic female-oriented story that has already been told in ten thousand Harlequin novels and children’s tales and Hollywood comeuppance fantasies.

Pink SF primarily concerns a) choosing between two lovers, b) being true to yourself, or c) enacting ex post facto revenge upon the badthinkers and meanies who made the author feel bad about herself at school. Pink SF is about feelings rather than ideas or actions.

Pink SF is an invasion. Pink SF is a cancer. Pink SF is a parasitical perversion.

For Day/Beale it as if even the mere hint of something ‘girly’ will contaminate his reading and render it unclean in the manner of some clause in Leviticus.

What is notable is at this point pro-Romance Sad Puppies are not directing their ire at anti-Romance (actually anti-any hint of romance) Rabid Puppies. Long term these differences lead to populist movements  dividing and mutating.

[Note on image: apologies to the artist Artraccoon for the parody of his excellent Puppy logos. I can’t say there is much I like about either camp but the logos were excellent. Note also that I can only draw beagles – I’ve a very limited range]

Revenge of the petunias (and whales)

A new sighting of Dave Freer’s argument has been spotted on Sarah A Hoyt’s blog.

But it goes beyond that. Yeah, this started by noticing that anyone who wasn’t parroting the mintruth’s line of the year had as much chance of winning awards (except for the Prometheus) as a snow ball of setting up residence in hell. As Dave freer noted, and file 770 figured, only 19 conservatives earned an award in the last 20 years (and that’s counting as conservative anyone who doesn’t think Stalin had some good ideas but was a bit eager.) This is far less than is statistically likely.

I don’t know which post Freer claimed 19 conservatives in 20 years, as I don’t think it appeared in the Petunias argument. If anybody knows I’d be grateful for a pointer (or if it was in Petunias, which bit).

Anyway. 19 out of 20 years. I’ll assume this awards rather than nominations but I’m unsure of the categories she is including. The more categories, the more unlikely a small number will be. For example, if she was just referring to Best Novel (she presumably wasn’t) then 19 out of 20 would make the Hugos the Fox News of literary awards. If it is 13 categories then we’d expect about 30 winners. 19 or less would be just under p=1%. 12 awards gives p=2.7%

8 awards seems like the best guess (on the grounds that artists and editors and other things may not be very obvious in terms of leanings). For 8 I think it comes to about 54% of 19 or less (assuming 12% as the US proportion of steadfast conservatives) I’ll also assume Hoyt’s characterization of “anyone who doesn’t think Stalin had some good ideas but was a bit eager” if literally applied would provide a different value than 19 – for example by that definition China Meiville would be a conservative (he is/was a Trotskyist – they aren’t keen on Stalin because of the whole ice-pick thing)

On petunias and whales: part 9

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

A conclusion

Dave Freer’s argument does not show what he thinks it shows. The flaws in the argument are:

  1. His description of a left wing category of authors is probably faulty as it relies on key issues that enjoy more popular support in the US public than some conservatives realize.
  2. Consequently his estimate of 15%, while accurate for genuinely “solid liberal” people, is too low when considering Hugo eligible authors. The likelihoods he needed to model may have an upper range beyond 50%.
  3. The model he uses in his analogy has some flaws but is not unreasonable and the flaws don’t severely undermine his argument
  4. Using his model an expected proportion of 45% for what he calls “red” nominees would produce results that are not highly improbable and which match his analysis of past Hugo nominees for best novel.
  5. His choice of years to analyze may be distorted by avoiding 2004 and by including WorldCon years held in countries other than the US, but his analysis would still hold if his assumption of 15% for reds was correct.
  6. There is some plausible evidence of statistical bias against very conservative authors but overall the evidence of bias is slim
  7. Dave’s argument even if it was sound does not address multiple sources of bias – some of which may be beyond WorldCon (or Puppy) influence

In truth there is no good reason why we should expect the Hugo awards to reflect the political spectrum of the USA. Neither authors, reader or fans are a random sample of the US population. Ideology in the United States has geographic, socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural dimensions. While none of those are deterministic, there is no reason to assume that group defined by common cultural interests would coincidentally be a decent random sample of the US population when it comes to ideology.

The shortest, simplest objection to Dave’s argument is this: any person knowledgeable about statistics would not use science-fiction/fantasy readers as a way of generating a representative cross-section of US politics. Yet the core premise of his argument relies on that being the case – otherwise in what sense is their a discrepancy?

Worse yet the 2015 Year of the Puppy has revealed a very narrow set of nominees, with conservative works being represented by a small number of authors.