Are the Hugos getting more clique ridden?

This is a question that is still hard to grapple with but one kind of evidence i have seen cited by critics of the Hugos is that some authors have had a large number of nominations. Of course it is hard to judge just by count whether an author has a large number of unwarranted nominations but we can look at the distribution.

Below is the start of a larger table I have generated from the Hugo nominee data set I mentioned here. Continue reading “Are the Hugos getting more clique ridden?”

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:

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 )

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]”

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.

On petunias and whales: part 8

In part 7 I found some evidence of bias – specifically a plausible bias against Hugo eligible authors who might fit into the Pew typology (covered in previous posts) of “steadfast conservatives“. Dave Freer’s argument had looked at this from the other direction – considering whether there was a bias in favor of “red” authors.

Overall I don’t think the numbers do suggest an active political bias in the Hugo voting for people who are particularly left wing. However, there may be a bias against people on the right of the spectrum. [NOTE: I shan’t say ‘far right” because that is a whole other argument. The Pew typology I’ve used is looking at mainstream beliefs on mainstream issues. There are fringe views beyond these that will behave quite differently]

This takes me back to Part 1 and Part 2 of this discussion. If you recall I’d discussed the fact that discovering a statistical bias is not the same as discovering some active discrimination, prejudice, vote rigging or nefarious acts against a given group. The bias can come from many directions. Here are a few: Continue reading “On petunias and whales: part 8”

On petunias and whales: part 7

In part 6 I wandered off topic to nit-pick on issues that do not add much to the overall argument.

So far I think I have shown that we can’t, based on Dave Freer’s red/white/black classification of Hugo nominees conclude political bias towards the left in the Hugos. the central feature of that argument has been simply that he the author’s aren’t as left as he might think they are – but the case isn’t closed yet and I’ve made challengable assumptions and broad estimates.

In the next two posts I’m going to do a couple of things. Firstly the checks for bias aren’t quite finished and secondly I need to return to an earlier point – the potential sources and characteristics of bias in the Hugos.

Note that all I’ve shown so far is that we can’t really reject the “unbiased” hypothesis. That is not same as actually showing there isn’t bias – it just shows that using the methods we employed (Dave Freer’s methodology) I couldn’t detect it.

What about the steadfast conservatives?

Dave’s account of past Hugo results was intended to show two things that pertain to bias and I’ve only looked at one of them “too many reds”. The other thing we have not considered is the flip-side “not enough blacks” i.e. not enough outspoken conservatives. Continue reading “On petunias and whales: part 7”

On petunias and whales: part 6

Part 5 was the number crunching post. I promised pedantry and I delivered 🙂

This post is about some nit-picks, caveats and other stuff that are worth pointing out partly because it is important to get the maths right as best we can and partly because they don’t matter that much in terms of the broad sweep of Dave Freer’s argument. Put another way: all models are simplifications and imperfect representations. When critiquing an argument based on a model, figuring out what is a deep flaw and what is a minor departure from reality is important.

Independence day

Dave uses for his analogy a person pulling colored balls from the bag. When he calculates the probability of several of the same color in each row he uses the same probability each time e.g. ” ½ x ½ x ½ = 1/8″. This is not quite correct. Continue reading “On petunias and whales: part 6”

On petunias and whales: part 5

In part 4 I started trying to get a better handle on Dave’s 15% estimate. I explained why category he thinks of “left wing” maybe much larger than he imagines when considering authors as a population.

In this post I’ll try and look at how Dave Freer then models the actual results from various Hugos and what results we might have expected.

Dave starts with 2005 – unfortunately that breaks the model straight away. I assume he picked 2005 to avoid Dan Simmons’s nomination for Ilium in 2004. In fact 2005 is an excellent year to consider bias because it was a year in which the best novel nominations show an indisputable bias! Continue reading “On petunias and whales: part 5”