Those of us who hoped this year's massive turnout might give us something more palatable than last year were mistaken; the 2016 ballot and the 2015 ballot are pretty much a wash. The two editor's categories are much stronger than they were last year. Novel has some very fine and worthy choices (though my own favorite novels from last year are missing). Some talented young writers are up for the Campbell. On the other hand, Best Pro Artist is a joke, Short Story is if anything weaker than last year, and Best Related Work is a toxic swamp.
It's too late tonight to go through the list category by category, though. We have months to do that, so I will leave you all to do it for yourselves. We will have a Hugo packet eventually, which will make the process easier.
It is important, for those of you who may not have been following the awards controversey closely, to note that three important things happened since last year:
(1) MidAmericon II reported a record number of nominating ballots, more than 4000, almost double the previous record. In addition to MAC members, those who were members of Sasquan and the forthcoming Helsinki worldcon were also eligible to nominate,
(2) Sad Puppies 4, this year headed by Kate Paulk, changed its approach and produced a recommended reading list, with anywhere from one to ten suggestions in each category, rather than slating four or five. The process was open and democratic, which Sad Puppies 3 often claimed to be but never was. Paulk also avoided the ugly excesses of the previous campaign, and never stooped to the sort of invective that her predecessor, Brad Torgersen, had been so fond of, with all his talk of CHORFs and Puppy-kickers. For all this she should be commended,
(3) in contrast, the far right Rabid Puppies did a slate, as before. However, VD played it cute this year, peppering his lists with poison pills by including some major, popular works by well-known authors, works everyone knew to be contenders regardless of any Puppy support, along with the usual spate of mediocrity and a few choice picks that appear to be purely "fuck you" choices.
So how did all these factors intersect?
The record turnout seemed to have no impact. Fandom nominated in huge numbers, but it would appear that they did not nominate the same things. They scattered their nominations among dozens, perhaps hundreds, of possible choices. We won't know the full story till we see the complete list of nomination totals on Hugo night... but I suspect (unless MAC cuts the list short) that we'll see many more titles than we're used to.
The same thing happened to the Sad Puppies. By shifting from Torgersen's slate to Paulk's list of recommendations, they suffered the same fate as many other recommended reading lists, be it the LOCUS list or the Nebulas or my own recommendations. They had almost no impact on the ballot. The Sads did get works on the ballot when their choices overlapped with the Rabids, to be sure, but very few works that were "sad only" made the list. SP4 was a non-factor. (And before someone else points this out, let me be the first to admit that the Sads had more impact than I did. As near as I can tell, I batted .000 on my own recommendations, which just goes to show that all this talk of about my immense power is somewhat exaggerated. No wonder I never get invited to the meetings of the Secret Cabal).
The big winners were the Rabid Puppies, whose choices completely dominated the list. The Rabids had nominees in every category, I believe, and in a few categories they had ALL the nominees. Mike Glyer has a nice breakdown on FILE 770: http://file770.com/?p=28616 It seems obvious that while traditional fans and the Sad Puppies have minds of their own, the Rabids just vote the way they are told to vote.
We should remember that this was just the nominating round. The final vote is still ahead. How will that turn out? Well, that's up to you guys. Helinski pre-supporters and Sasquan members could nominate, but they cannot vote, so the ultimate winners will be decided by the members of MidAmericon II. So join. Read. Vote. You can sign up here: http://midamericon2.org/
One last point. The Rabids used a new tactic this year. They nominated legitimate, quality works in addition to the dross. Works by writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds (Reynolds went public well before the nominations asking NOT to be slated, but they slated him anyway), Andy Weir, and several others. Some of these writers are apolitical (like Weir), while others are known to oppose everything that VD stands for (Gaiman, Stephenson, King). One has to think they were deliberately targeted.
In some of the online comments I've seen, these writers are being called "shields." I've even read some people calling for them to withdraw, simply because they were on VD's list.
Withdrawing is the LAST thing they should do.
I urge them all to stand their ground. They wrote good books, stories, graphic novels, they did NOT take part in any slate. In some cases they were largely unaware of all this. In other cases they explicitly denounced the slates ahead of time (Reynolds, again). Punishing them... demanding they turn down this honor... simply because VD listed them is insane.
Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet did the right thing by withdrawing last year. Their was an ethical and courageous act; I applauded them then and I applaud them now. But this is a different year and a different situation. Given the well-known political views of some of these writers, it seems plain to me that VD and the Rabids picked them deliberately, in hopes they would withdraw, or would be voted under No Award. They would probably have put Scalzi (VD's best bro) on the ballot too, but he outsmarted them and withdrew before they could.
I am rather hoping that several of them win. Based on quality alone, some deserve to. Sure, VD will claim that as a victory, but as last year proves, he claims everything as a victory. We'll know the truth. The only real victory for him would be having any of these fine writers pull out. Let's not play his game.
Anyway... I am sure we'll all have much more to say about this in the months to come. Fasten your seat belts, friends. It is going to be a bumpy ride.
(Oh... and yes, for those who were asking. This does mean we will need a second set of Alfies).