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What Now?

For all of you who are sick of Puppygate... I am too, but there's still a few more things that I need to say. Another day, maybe, and I will move on to happier topics.

Yes, I know about Larry Correia's response to my earlier posts and I will reply to him here... but not just now. There's another topic I need to cover first, one that I have been leading up to all along -- what the hell do we do now?

Whether you think what the Sad Puppies did is right or wrong, it's done. The ballot is out. It is what it is. So the ball is in our court now. What to do?

(Here is where I will probably piss off everybody on the anti-slate of this mess. Sorry).

Over at Making Light, and on several other sites, various rules changes are being proposed to prevent this from happening ever again. There are so many different proposals they make my head spin. More nominating slots, less nominating slots, weighted voting, eliminating the supporting memberships, outlawing slates, limiting nominees to a single nomination, juried nominations... on and on and on. The worldcon business meeting is never exactly a funfest, but if the proponents of half these proposals show up at Sasquan, this year's will be a nightmare. And will probably still be going on when MidAmericon II convenes.

I am against all these proposals. If indeed I am at Spokane, and if I can get myself up in time for the business meeting, I will vote against every one of them.

Most of them, frankly, suck. And the mere fact that so many people are discussing them makes me think that the Puppies won. They started this whole thing by saying the Hugo Awards were rigged to exclude them. That is completely untrue, as I believe I demonstrated conclusively in my last post. So what is happening now? The people on MY SIDE, the trufans and SMOFs and good guys, are having an endless circle jerk trying to come up with a foolproof way to RIG THE HUGOS AND EXCLUDE THEM. God DAMN, people. You are proving them right.

I hate what the Puppies did. It was based on false premises, and though it was not illegal, it was mean-spirited and unsportsmanlike. So how about we do NOT prove them right by rigging the rules against Sad Puppies 4? How about we try to be better than that? There is nothing wrong with the Hugo rules. If we want to defeat the Puppies, all we need to do is outvote them. Get in our own nominations. This year, the Puppies emptied the kennels and got out their vote, and we didn't. Fandom danced the usual, "oh, too busy to nominate, I will just vote on the final ballot," and for that complacency, we got blindsided. We lost. They kicked our fannish asses, and now we have the ballot they gave us. If we don't want that to happen again, we need to get out our OWN vote.

But let's not give in to our worst impulses. I do not want to disenfranchise anyone. (Well, okay, maybe a few, rabies is dangerous). The fandom I joined in 1971, the fandom I love, is open and friendly and welcoming, and has room for every shade of political opinion and literary taste. Those are values worth defending, a culture worth fighting for.

Oh, and there's another (lesser, admittedly) reason not to change the Hugo rules. The Nebulas. I have been a SFWA member since 1972, and I swear, the organization spends half its time arguing about the Nebula rules, year after year, decade after decade. I have seen a dozen "reforms" in my tenure, all in the interests of making the voting "more fair," but no matter what rules we adopt, a couple years later the bitching starts and members start demanding we change them again. It's endless. We do NOT want to open that Pandora's Box at worldcon. Change the rules to deal with the Sad Puppies, and a year or two from now we'll be changing again. Aside from adding the occasional category, or splitting one, the Hugo Awards have operated more or less the same way for decades, and that stability is part of their prestige. Let's not mess with that.

Which brings me to another proposed countermeasure: the No Award strategy.

This comes in two flavors. The hardliners propose we vote NO AWARD for everything. Every category, even the ones where the Puppies have no nominees. No Hugo Awards at Sasquan, whatsoever. We'll show them. Rather than letting them move into our house, we will burn it to the ground. "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." It worked so well in Vietnam.
All I've got to say about this idea is, are you fucking crazy?

The other approach is less radical. Vote NO AWARD in all the categories that are All Puppy. In the others, chose between the nominees (there are a few) that did not appear on either the Sad Puppy or Rabid Puppy slate, and place all the rest, the SP/RP candidates, under No Award.

That's less insane than the "No Award For Everything" idea, but only a little bit. Sorry, I will not sign on for this one either. For a whole bunch of reasons. For starts, the Puppies are already proclaiming that "No Award" equals victory for them (though sometimes it seems as though they believe anything that happens constitutes victory for them). Also, near as I can tell from reading the blogs, it appears that some of the Sad Puppy candidates never consented to joining their slate, and that none of the Rabid Puppies were ever asked if they wanted to be included (I am ninety per cent certain that none of the films or TV shows in the two Dramatic Presentations category were ever contacted). There are also a whole bunch of people -- all the editors except Vox Day, for starts -- who may or may not have been contacted. No one has said, no one talking about it, we just don't know.

Also... really, when you come down to it, this whole "were they contacted?" thing is a false issue. Torgensen says he contacted almost everyone, but missed a few. Some of his slate say no, they never heard from him... but does it really matter? I have been trying my damndest to get Alan Lee and John Howe nominated for Best Artist for years, and I never asked if I could. This year I wrote a long post about the brilliance of STATION ELEVEN and why it should be nominated in Best Novel, and I never contacted Emily St. John Mandel to ask if I could. I will not condemn Brad Torgensen for failing to do what I never do myself.

I do not believe in Guilt by Association, and that's what we'd be doing if we vote against every name on the Puppy slates simply because they are on the slate. That was a classic weapon of the McCarthy Era: first you blacklist the communists, then you blacklist the people who defend the communists and the companies that hire them, then you blacklist the people who defend the people on the blacklist, and on and on, in ever widening circles. No. I won't be part of that.

I have looked over the ballot, but I have not read all of it. Will I read all of it? Well, not every word.... but I will at least glance at every nomination. I know, from past experience, that there are some very talented writers on the list. There are also some very bad writers, and at least one whose picture probably appears next to MEDIOCRE in Websters. There are a lot of writers I have never read before, whose work I need to sample. Torgensen has claimed that the Sad Puppies slate is diverse, and a cursory glance at the names suggests he is not wrong.

I intend to consider every story and every finalist in every category, and vote for those that I think worthy of Hugos. I will vote NO AWARD, I promise you, but only where No Award is warranted. (Truth be told, I vote No Award every year in almost every category. Usually not in first, admittedly... but I don't just look at a category and rank them one to five in order of preference, I rank the ones I think rocket-worthy above No Award, and the ones I don't below).

This ballot is the worst I have ever seen, admittedly, and there are stories and writers on it who are not fit to polish a Hugo, much less win one. But there's good stuff as well, and talented writers whose work I have enjoyed, and I am not going to vote against them just because the Sad Puppies like them too.

As I get further into my reading, I will let you know my thoughts on what I've read. But that may be a long process, so be patient.

Honestly, I don't think any of the choices we have now are good ones. All roads seem to lead to perdition, but each of us will need to walk the one we think best. Meanwhile, I urge everyone who is reading this to go to the Sasquan website and join the convention. Attend if you can; if not, join as a Supporting member, just as the Puppies did. It is too late to nominate, but not too late to vote. The Puppies will be getting out their vote, you can be sure. We need to do the same, unless we care to see some poor guy hand Vox Day a rocket.

I wish I was more optimistic about how all this is going to turn out.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

(That's Yeats, not me. Just to be clear).

Comments

grrm
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
"To give everyone a fair share based on their share of the electorate."

I don't know what that means. The way I see it, if 2000 people vote, my "fair share" of 1 of 2000. I am one person with one vote. Everyone should be one person with one vote.

The problem here is that the Sad Puppies broke that down. Bloc voting means one person had two hundred votes, effectively.
ethereal235
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:47 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
So if you reduce the weight of identical votes (IE 1st unique vote counts as 1, subsequent votes count for 3/4s or something like that), could't this kind of bloc voting system be reduced in effectiveness while still preserving your fair share?

I may misunderstand the nomination process, but it seems like you submit more than one option per vote, so identical votes aren't THAT likely to arise organically.
mneme
Apr. 10th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
That's the point. Everyone should be one person with 1 vote.

But the system actually gives you one person with 5 votes. Statistically, the average person will waste something between 3 and 4 of those votes nominating things that have no shot -- which means that in addition to the concentrating power that slates have in people nominating things they wouldn't normally care enough to (an amplifying effect--one, or more realistically 5 people's votes turn into 200 votes), they also have a concentrating effect--as any vote for the slate is not going to be wasted on a 3rd party candidate, but is guarunteed to be going for a soldid contender.

This is why the strongest set of suggested rules changes (STV, my "single divisible vote" idea, vote weighting) all focus on each nominator having -one- vote -- which gets moved about until they've successfully voted something in (STV), or divided among all the things they've voted for and redivided as those things get eliminated (SDV), or converted to a smaller vote once they successfully nominate something (vote weighing schemes).

The key element of these items is that they don't just make a slate less powerful (not in the ways it was powerful last year -- that's pretty much impossible to police until we get telepaths, and just no, but the ways it dominated the ballot this year); they also make a slate less -necessary-. Part of the reason that a lot of the same thought tends to dominate the ballot is that the rules encourage this; the same people who nominate one item are pretty likely to get some of their other choices on the ballot too. So going back to "one person, one vote" as a goal makes it much more likely that diverse voices will be expressed on the ballot, rather than a single viewpoint.
jamesonquinn
Apr. 10th, 2015 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
If 2000 people vote in a category, your fair share is 1/2000 of the nominations in that category, or 1/400 of a nomination. That rounds down to 0. But if there are around 400 people who agree with you, it rounds to 1 nomination.

In the categories which the puppies swept this year, the number of voters is closer to 1000-1200, and the number of puppies appears to be 200-300. That means that their "fair share" is 1-2 nominations, not 5. There are voting systems that can guarantee that they will get no more than their fair share (up to rounding error).

Would adapting such a system be opening Pandora's box? I can understand why you feel that way. Here's why I don't. These voting systems are not ad-hoc creations in response to this particular crisis, but rather ideas that have been studied and advocated in different contexts for years. Yes, it's true, voting theorists still find plenty to argue about, and there's no agreement on which is the One True Ideal System. But there is generally a reasonably-good consensus on which systems are good and which systems are bad. The current system is well understood as a bad one. Several of the reform proposals I've seen are well understood as good ones — including my favorite proposal, reweighted approval voting; but also including single transferrable vote (ranked or unranked), Bucklin transferrable vote, proportional Schulze, and satisfaction approval voting. I cannot speak for all reform advocates, but I can say that if any of the aforementioned were adopted, I would not be coming back next year and suggesting some new change. The differences between these systems are too minor to be worth arguing about in practice, however much I enjoy discussing them in theory.
hereville
Apr. 10th, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
That's exactly the problem. But a better voting system can reduce the power of bloc voting while still giving everyone, including the bloc voters, their fair share of the vote.

Here's a pretty readable explanation of reweighted approval voting (RAV) by Jameson Quinn, who describes himself as an "electoral method geek." I'm going to quote a bit of it, but if you're interested I'd recommend reading Quinn's entire explanation (it's only eight paragraphs).

1. Voters¹ could nominate any number² of works in each category.
2. The work with the most nominations would "win" an official nomination slot.
3. Any ballot which had nominated that winner would have all of its other nominations in that category downweighted by half.³
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 four more times, until all 5 nominees in each category have been selected.

Under this system, the "puppy" voting blocs combined could only have captured about 1-2 nominations per category. That would mean 20-40% of the nominations, an amount commensurate with their voting strength, which was apparently about 30% of the voters in most categories.


This system wouldn't pick on the Sad Puppy voters; it would treat every single vote the same. But it would remove the power of bloc voting.

(Note: Although Quinn suggests allowing each voter unlimited nominations in each category, the system would work perfectly well with the limit of five per category that is the status quo).

I admit that you might not find this a perfect system. But - now that people have begun bloc voting - it's better and fairer than the status quo voting system is. And it restores the idea that every voter - not just bloc voters - should be able to have their vote count equally.
hereville
Apr. 10th, 2015 08:35 pm (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
" Bloc voting means one person had two hundred votes, effectively."

That's exactly the problem. But a better voting system can reduce the power of bloc voting while still giving everyone, including the bloc voters, an equal ability to affect the outcome.

There's a pretty readable explanation of reweighted approval voting (RAV) by Jameson Quinn, who describes himself as an "electoral method geek." I tried linking to it, but I think that caused my comment to be mistaken for spam, but you can find it easily by googling "quora How should the Hugo Award nominees be decided?".

I'm going to quote a bit of it, but if you're interested I'd recommend reading Quinn's entire explanation (it's only eight paragraphs).

1. Voters¹ could nominate any number² of works in each category.
2. The work with the most nominations would "win" an official nomination slot.
3. Any ballot which had nominated that winner would have all of its other nominations in that category downweighted by half.³
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 four more times, until all 5 nominees in each category have been selected.

Under this system, the "puppy" voting blocs combined could only have captured about 1-2 nominations per category. That would mean 20-40% of the nominations, an amount commensurate with their voting strength, which was apparently about 30% of the voters in most categories.


This system doesn't discriminate against Sad Puppy voters; it would treat every single vote the same. It would remove most of the power of bloc voting while still counting their votes.

(Note: Although Quinn suggests allowing each voter unlimited nominations in each category, the system would work perfectly well with limited nominees, as in the current system.)

I admit that you might not find this a perfect system. But - now that people have begun bloc voting - it's better and fairer to use a system that can deal with bloc voting fairly, than to stick with the old system. A system like this restores the idea that every voter - not just bloc voters - can have their vote count equally.
bdfinst
Apr. 11th, 2015 12:43 am (UTC)
Re: don't quite agree
Only if 200 people agree with their suggestions. No one can, as I understand, give a proxy.

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