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Worldcon: Winning and Losing

Drumroll, please. The end is nigh. The climax approaches. Come Tuesday, I will be flying off to Spokane for Sasquan, Bigfoot's favorite worldcon. A week from Saturday, this year's Hugo Awards will be handed out, and we can put an end to the Puppy Wars... the 2015 edition, at least. There will be winners, there will be losers. Some will celebrate, some will weep. The vote totals will be parsed to a fare-the-well, no doubt, and spin doctors will be out in force.

The Puppies are already spinning, in fact. If you visit the Puppy blogs, you'll soon see that both the Sads and Rabids are busy constructing a nifty little narrative so they can claim victory no matter what happens. If nominees from the Puppy slates take home rockets, they won! If No Award prevails across the board, they won by destroying the Hugos. If non-slate finalists prevail, they won by "proving" something or other (since they keep changing their complaint, pretty much any result is guaranteed to prove something, if squinted at the right way).

All that is nonsense, of course. Like most Puppy claims have been from the start of this fiasco. Hypocrisy and delusion. Me and my friend Occam, we use a simpler razor. If the Puppies win, they win. If they lose, they lose. And No Award... well, that does make this a three-body problem rather than a simple binary one, but I will get to that later. So if the Hugo voters do indeed vote down the bulk of Puppy nominees, please stand up with me and blow a big loud raspberry at any Puppy who tries to claim that black is white, up is down, and losing is winning. It ain't.

WILL the Puppies lose?

I don't know. No one knows. Don't believe any fool who tries to tell you otherwise.

We do know that 5950 Hugo ballots were cast this year, smashing all previous records. You can find the details here: Last year, in contrast, only 3587 valid ballots were received, though Loncon was the largest worldcon in history. There's no doubt that the Puppygate controversy that has inflamed the internet since the nominations were announced drove those numbers. Supporting Membership rocketed up to unprecedented levels.

But who are all these new members? Over at FILE 770, the feeling seems to be that most of them are fans rallying to the defense of the Hugos. If so, the Puppy finalists will not only lose, they could very well be crushed, with lots of them finishing behind No Award. But some of the Puppies seem equally convinced that the new members are Puppy supporters, joining up in droves to stick it to those vile [fill in Brad Torgersen's offensive epithet of the week]. If that's true, the Puppies could actually win some rockets. Hell, if this betokens a mass migration of Gamergaters, the Rabids might even sweep the awards.

Which narrative is true? Which is deluded? No one knows, and no one is going to know until David Gerrold and Tanarive Due start to rip open those envelopes a week from Saturday.

For those on the edge of their seat wondering how this will all turn out, here's a hint: watch the Campbell Award.

Just as there are "swing states" and "swing counties" and "swing precincts" that act as predictors of the results of an election, this year's voting for the John W. Campbell Award (Not A Hugo) for Best New Writer will give us a strong indication of who is likely to prevail in all the races to follow.

the first Campbell winner

The Campbell Award is traditionally the first major writing award of the evening, given before any of the actual Hugo Awards. It is usually preceded by the First Fandom Award and the Big Heart Award, and sometimes by the Seiuns, the "Japanese Hugo." Some worldcons prefer to give the Seiuns at another time; I have no idea where Sasquan will come down on that. Most of the Puppies do not even know what First Fandom is, and I know damn well that none of them are going to win a Big Heart Award, now or ever, so we can be reasonably certain that those two awards will go as usual. Bringing us to the Campbell.

This year's Best New Writer finalists include Wesley Chu and four Puppies. Jason Cordova, Kary English, and Eric S. Raymond were on both slates, Sad Puppies and Rabid. Rolf Nelson, the fourth Puppy, was on the Rabid slate, but not the Sad.

In any normal year, Wesley Chu would have to be considered the overwhelming favorite to win the tiara. The Campbell has a two-year window of eligibility, and this is Chu's second and final year. He was a nominee last year as well, with the third-highest number of nominations, behind only the ultimate winner and a second-place finisher, neither of them eligible this year, so we know that a lot of fans already like his work. His body of work has only gotten stronger in the intervening year. And, honestly, bottom line, Chu is the best writer of this year's five... and that IS what the Campbell is supposed to reward after all, the Best New Writer.

But will he win? Well, that's in the hand of those 5950 voters.

If Wesley Chu takes the Campbell, as he should, I think we will be in for a fairly reasonable night in Spokane. There will be some winners from the slates, and some categories will go the No Award, but most of the rockets will actually go to deserving work. If Chu wins, I think the vast majority of the fans in the auditorium will be more happy than not by night's end.

If No Award wins, however... if No Award takes the Campbell, it will represent a huge and ominous victory for the "nuclear option," for the faction of fandom that wants to destroy the village in order to save it. A victory by No Award in this category will signify that the voters decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and will likely betoken a long ugly night ahead, with category after category going to No Award. Myself, I think this unlikely. I think the hardcore "vote No Award on everything" voters are a small (if noisy) minority. But I could be wrong. It could happen.

And what if one of the four Puppy finalists takes the tiara?

That would represent a victory for the Puppies, certainly. But even there, certain distinctions should be made. Rolf Nelson was a candidate of the Rabids, but not the Sads. A victory by Nelson would be a singular triumph for Teddy Beale and the most extreme elements of Puppydom... and could suggest even worse results ahead, up to and including VD actually winning one or both of the Editing Hugos for which he is nominated.

Kary English, on the other hand, represents a much more moderate side of Puppydom. Though initially put forward by both the Sad and Rabid slates, VD later dropped her and removed her from his suggested ballot entirely when English put up a couple of blog posts that distanced herself from the Puppy party line. English is also a Hugo nominee this year, for her story "Totalled." She's the strongest writer of the four Puppy finalists, and in any normal year would be Wesley Chu's toughest competition. This year? She could well finish last, since some trufans will not forgive her for being part of the slates to begin with, and the Rabids will not forgive her for breaking ranks. Myself, I think English deserves better. While I don't think she is as good as Chu at present, she is plainly a talented new writer, and not unworthy of a Campbell nod. I would prefer a Chu victory in this category... but I'd rather see English take the tiara than No Award.

Oh, and while we are crunching candidates here, Eric S. Raymond warrants a few words. A candidate of both the Sad and Rabid slates, Raymond was nominated as one of the field's best new writers on the basis of a single published story, the thinnest resume in the entire history of the Campbell Award. Maybe if that story was the greatest short ever published in our genre, that would be warranted... but it's not. Even Raymond himself expressed incredulity at his nomination. Given how little SF he has produced compared to Chu and the other finalists, one might think that Raymond would be the longest of long shots. Ah, but there's another factor. However much a neophyte he may be as a writer of science fiction, Eric S. Raymond is a well-known figure is the gaming world. Should Raymond win the Campbell, despite his shaky credentials as a writer of fiction, it would suggest strongly that large numbers of gamers had purchased supporting membership to vote for him. (Whether those gamers were Gamergaters is another question entirely, and one that cannot be proved. So far as I know, Raymond has not been a part of the Gamergate controversy).

I have no idea who is going to win.

But once we know the winner, it will tell us a lot about how the rest of the night will go.

Watch the Campbell.

(Some thoughts on the other Hugo categories to follow, if I find the time)


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Joel Duncan
Aug. 14th, 2015 11:34 pm (UTC)
Not on topic
Its pretty crazy that I read every single one of your posts. Just in hopes you post something about The winds of winter. Thank you for making me addicted to everything from the world of Westeros. That might sound sarcastic but it's not.
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:39 am (UTC)
Re: Not on topic
Thank you for your balanced and cogent analysis. With so much intensity blowing around I do enjoy your thoughtful takes on this malakios.

Bring it on - Hugo Saturday.
(no subject) - Grant Edward Stallcup - Aug. 15th, 2015 10:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not on topic - admnaismith - Aug. 15th, 2015 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 14th, 2015 11:37 pm (UTC)
It's the age of Aries George. Nothing to be done
Aug. 14th, 2015 11:45 pm (UTC)
What happened to the Age of Aquarius? When peace would guide the planets, and looooooove would steer the stars?
(no subject) - admnaismith - Aug. 15th, 2015 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xenaclone - Aug. 16th, 2015 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
1991-2001 - po8crg - Aug. 15th, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Keith Glass - Aug. 15th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yamamanama - Aug. 16th, 2015 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2015 12:14 am (UTC)
If nominees from the Puppy slates take home rockets, they won! If No Award prevails across the board, they won by destroying the Hugos. If non-slate finalists prevail, they won by "proving" something or other (since they keep changing their complaint, pretty much any result is guaranteed to prove something, if squinted at the right way)

I read something similar over on Jim C. Hines's blog. I guess it's really easy to claim a victory when the situation is made into a Kobayashi Maru.
Aug. 16th, 2015 09:34 pm (UTC)
Xanatos Gambit is the phrase they use. (Warning: TVTropes link.)
(no subject) - grrm - Aug. 16th, 2015 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidgoldfarb - Aug. 16th, 2015 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Scott Schaffer
Aug. 15th, 2015 01:07 am (UTC)
Ah, but there's another factor. However much a neophyte he may be as a writer of science fiction, Eric S. Raymond is a well-known figure is the gaming world. Should Raymond win the Campbell, despite his shaky credentials as a writer of fiction, it would suggest strongly that large numbers of gamers had purchased supporting membership to vote for him.

It's possible, but Eric S. Raymond isn't enough of a well-known figure in the gaming world that I didn't have to google him when you brought his name up. I suspect it would be no different for gamergate people.
Aug. 15th, 2015 03:55 am (UTC)
Yea he is most known as an open source guy, he wrote a book in 1999 about it. I just turned around and found it on my bookshelf, the copy I read when I was in high school.

I don't really know what he has been doing since then. If he has attracted the attention of gamergaters that's news to me.
(no subject) - mrs_norris_mous - Aug. 15th, 2015 07:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Scott Schaffer - Aug. 15th, 2015 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sconzey - Aug. 15th, 2015 08:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Aug. 15th, 2015 11:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Scott Schaffer - Aug. 16th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - apep727 - Aug. 16th, 2015 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2015 04:21 am (UTC)
ESR isn't so much a well-known member of the gaming world as he is of the computer world as a whole, where he is one of the leading lights of the Open Source movement.

He is also, FWIW, a fan of long standing; I remember him asking about ride-sharing to cons back on usenet in the long-ago.
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC)
Note, though, that "one of the leading lights of the Open Source movement" isn't so universally considered a good thing, as (AIUI) he's basically the one who split off Open Source from Free Software...
(no subject) - bruceb - Aug. 16th, 2015 07:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2015 04:42 am (UTC)
Eric S. Raymond's main association as far as I know is with open-source software. I'm not sure what association with gaming you might be thinking of; I haven't heard of him in that context.
Adam Shelton
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:08 am (UTC)
Paradise Lost...
I can't help but feel like no matter how things shake out next weekend, the Puppies have managed to permanently taint the Hugos, and while it used to make me angry, I recently just feel incredibly disheartened. I hope that fandom is able to rally and win the day, but it is depressing just how much damage a handful of malicious idiots can do.
Bob Jenson
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Paradise Lost...
I dunno. Sure, it's been awful, but I think we can ride it out. I can't believe that the slate vote can be sustainable over the years. People won't want to cough up membership each year just to do that. I think they'll get bored with it. Maybe not - I never underestimate stupidity or spitefulness, but it just doesn't seem like something that will keep the Puppies' interest.
Re: Paradise Lost... - kurtdbusiek - Aug. 16th, 2015 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: Paradise Lost... - Adam Shelton - Aug. 16th, 2015 06:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Re: Paradise Lost... - kurtdbusiek - Aug. 16th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Tom Hill
Aug. 15th, 2015 12:50 pm (UTC)
Membership up but what about sales?
George, Has there been an increase in book sales due to the Puppy controversy?
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Membership up but what about sales?
Hard to tell. The controversy only really went wide in late April, when the ballot was announced. Royalty statements are issued semi-annually, with a considerable lag. And in any case, every author has his own trajectory.

My own sales are consistently strong, but spike every spring when the HBO show returns to the air.
Aug. 15th, 2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
One data point
Thanks for laying it out so clearly. I didn't know the Campbell is first, so that will help me when I watch the results play out.

I offer a single data point: myself. I joined Worldcon this year as a supporting member. My original intention was to just nominate next year, but I went ahead and read the stuff in the packet and decided to vote as well. I judged the works on their merits, not whether or not they were puppy-nominated. Most of the puppy stuff ended up below No Award on my ballot because they simply weren't that good.

I know of a few others who did the same as I did, but anecdotes aren't enough. Suffice to say I have hope that we aren't going to end up with "Wisdom from my Internet" as the top vote-getter. But as you say, I don't know.
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
Re: One data point
Your approach is the one I have favored myself.

While I oppose the Puppies and their slate-making, I cannot see voting down any work just because it appeared on a slate. Especially since many of the slated finalists never asked to be on the slate.
Re: One data point - saare_snowqueen - Aug. 16th, 2015 07:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2015 02:35 pm (UTC)
That 5,950 is a tantalizing data point to conjecture about. I'm nearly as excited to see the voting tallies (they're released the day after the ceremony, right?), as I am to attend my first Worldcon.

I'm an optimist, hoping the majority of those new memberships are not canines or their purple/green voters-for-hire. Our family bought two supporting memberships in response to the shenanigans. We later discovered we could manage the trip to Spokane and upgraded to four attending memberships. If I'm wrong, you might find me walking with Vonda.
Aug. 16th, 2015 05:07 am (UTC)
Stats are usually released immediately after the ceremony. They may be in paper form shortly after the ceremony. I expect to see them on the Sasquan web site. We'll get them posted to the Hugo Awards web site as soon as we can after the ceremony, but that might be an hour or two because I'm anchoring our text-based live coverage of the event and then I've been asked to be one of the guests on the post-show-show on the live stream. (And then I still have to be up early the next morning to chair the Sunday morning WSFS Business Meeting where we'll be debating changes to the Hugo rules in light of the results of this year's Awards. Ugh.)
(no subject) - TJaneBerry - Aug. 16th, 2015 05:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saare_snowqueen - Aug. 16th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC) - Expand
Michael A Ventrella
Aug. 15th, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC)
Just a generic thanks for summing up this whole controversy so well; I've enjoyed reading your takes on this.
Aug. 15th, 2015 04:39 pm (UTC)
Remember that WorldCon is, first and foremost, our Big Fat Geek party. Here's a filk song to remind us.

Cue Taylor Swift, "Shake it Off"

to play
I read my life away
That's what people say, uh-huh
And then they look away

What I put on display
May rub them the wrong way
Well, be that as it may, uh-huh
I'm doing it my way

I'm animating, I'm not hibernating
It's so fascinating, I'm at the World Con, and it's gonna be alright

'Cause the panelists will speak, speak, speak, speak, speak, speak
And the filkers gonna shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek
We're gonna have all week, week, week, week, week, week, week
To geek it up, geek it up!
The cosplay will be chic, chic, chic, chic, chic, chic
And steampunk is antique, tique, tique, tique, tique, tique
It's all in the technique, nique, nique, nique, nique, nique
We'll geek it up, we'll geek it up!

Sci-fi and fantasy
They set my spirit free
And that's what they don't see, uh-huh
They don't see why I squee

The stories that they show
That make my spirit grow
That's what they don't know, uh-huh
They don't know where I go

But I'm just nerdy, literate and wordy
Filking till 4:30, we're at the World Con and it's gonna be alright

'Cause creators will create, rate, rate, rate, rate, rate
The animators animate, mate, mate, mate
The artists gonna illustrate, strate, strate, strate
And geek it up, and geek it up!
The writers gonna narrate, rate, rate, rate, rate
Their tales exhilerate, rate, rate, rate
I wanna hyperventilate, late, late, late
And geek it up! And geek it up!

I geek it up! I geek it up! I geek it up! I geek it up!
I geek it up! I geek it up! I geek it up! I geek it up!

Hey-hey-hey, just think while you've been getting down and posting comment after comment about that rotten old Hugo ballot, you could be getting down to Our Big Fat Geek Party!

My best friend's moping at my door
Going, "Oh my God, the puppies piddled on the floor!"
I just took her to explore with the fella dressed like Thor
And with a rebel yell, we cried More, More, More

'Cause the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Don't matter what they nominate, nate, nate, nate
Just No-Award the slate, slate, slate, slate, slate, slate
And geek it up, and geek it up!
And daleks will exterminate, nate, nate, nate
And succubi will undulate, late, late, late
And I for one can't wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait
To geek it up! To geek it up!

We geek it up! We geek it up! We geek it up! We geek it up!
We geek it up! We geek it up! We geek it up! We geek it up!
Brooklyn Ann
Aug. 15th, 2015 05:56 pm (UTC)
Man, that VD guy is completely nuts. Apparently he tried sticking his nose in the RITA awards after hearing about readers' reactions to a controversial book being nominated. The RITA nomination structure is completely different than the HUGOs. Five judges read a book and score it on a point system. Highest score in each category gets the nomination.

I'm just shaking my head.

I hope everything goes well at the Hugos. I live in Coeur d'Alene, so I'm right next to Spokane, but alas due to deadlines and budget I won't be able to attend. I will be well-wishing in spirit, though. :D
Aug. 16th, 2015 12:00 pm (UTC)
Re: VD
Aren't the RITAs a Romance focussed award? VD sounds like someone who doesn't want girl cooties in his SF, so why would he even go near those. *shakes head*
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC)
Completely off-topic, but it may please you to know that due to following your posts on this subject, I recently won a Trivial Pursuits-type game that required identifying past Hugo winners. So if nothing else, you've educated someone!
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:04 pm (UTC)
Knowledge is Good.
Aug. 15th, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC)
Holy cow...
That is a lot of hand wringing up there. Though I guess you are correct in that the worst thing that could happen is that every faction casts their votes against the other faction. Vox is likely enjoying the mayhem no matter what the end results are.

You know what the best thing that could happen is? People read all that wonderful material and vote for the people and pieces that speak to them most. Sure, there will be some that will vote straight slate, but I think the majority of those who were new and were brought in by the controversy just want to read good stuff. While I side more with Larry and Brad in terms of where I have seen message given more weight than the strength of writing and storytelling, I'm not gonna pass up a Scalzi book even though I don't agree with him or like his opinions. There are likely a whole lot more moderates that were attracted to this years voting than the true believers who will vote straight slate.

I hope that when all things come out that there will be deserving writers and editors from all sides. Perhaps the greatest victory here that can be claimed is that the Hugos seem far more alive this year than in years past and people are actually excited for the results?
Aug. 15th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Holy cow...
Excitement is good... unless it leads to acrimony and anger.

When people get so excited they start filing police reports against convention guests, well, that's way too much.

We should be having a literary debate. Old Wave v New Wave, the Sequel. Not this shit.
Re: Holy cow... - joshmst - Aug. 17th, 2015 05:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - lauowolf - Aug. 16th, 2015 12:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - adbrn - Aug. 16th, 2015 07:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - sjw75126 - Aug. 17th, 2015 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - joshmst - Aug. 16th, 2015 10:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - grrm - Aug. 16th, 2015 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - sjw75126 - Aug. 17th, 2015 03:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Holy cow... - sjw75126 - Aug. 17th, 2015 03:10 am (UTC) - Expand
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

Latest Month

April 2018



  • grrm
    5 Mar 2018, 19:17
    Still working on that. When we have a final, I will share it.
  • grrm
    5 Mar 2018, 05:32
    All the Wild Cards books under Tor have had absolutely stellar covers. I'd frame them and hang them on my wall if I could.
  • grrm
    4 Mar 2018, 03:28
    Are all these examples digital artwork? It doesn't look like traditional oil on canvas. I miss the fantasy/sci-fi covers of the '70s and '80s. Even the paperbacks had amazing covers.
  • grrm
    3 Mar 2018, 17:49
    Whatever anyone can get their hands on is, I suspect, the right answer.

    At the last party, it was an open bar with pretty much everything you can imagine on offer. There were some special drinks as…
  • grrm
    3 Mar 2018, 00:07
    Any chance you could tell us who’s doing the cover art for Fire and Blood? And maybe when we can expect a glimpse of it. Thank you!
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