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The Puppy Wars Resume

I've had most of the day to consider the new Hugo ballot and what it means, and to read some of the online commentary. The ballot, as I said in my first post, is very much a mixed bag. Some categories are much improved from what we were offered last year. Some are worse. Some much worse.

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).


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Apr. 27th, 2016 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks once again for the considered and incisive words of wisdom. A good sanity-check as always. (-:
Apr. 27th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC)
Rabid Puppies: inflating the market value of vintage hood ornaments.
Apr. 27th, 2016 02:58 pm (UTC)
It's also worth noting that Marc Aramini's book on Gene Wolfe is a serious and excellent work of scholarship in spite of coming from Castalia Press/slating, and should be given serious consideration.
Vera de Ferran
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:06 pm (UTC)
Hi George, I know the Hugo is a seriuous thing for you. I really understand your anger and I've never been really involved with the Hugo besides reading about it, but... don't you think you end up giving much attention/importance to VD? Isn't he just enjoying all that in his sad pathetic way? I've been questioning myself a lot about the attention we give to things we hate. And some of these things, just grow bigger when we do that.
Apr. 28th, 2016 01:38 am (UTC)
No doubt you are correct. As a general rule, I try not to feed trolls. When the troll seizes the Hugo ballot and pisses all over it, however, I find it harder to ignore.
Alternate Snowcrash
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:08 pm (UTC)
Sigh. Couple of things. Firstly, Thomas Mays has withdrawn "The Commuter" from the Short Story ballot, so there should be at one non Rabid entry in that category.


Secondly, this ballot is going to be the single best argument for ratifying EPH. I realise that OGH has been doubtful of it, but given the trainwreck, I think it should be clear that (a) There are trolls who will never stop trying to destroy something; (b) there is a glaring weakness in the current nomination system that enables these trolls to have an undue influence.

Incidents like these require extraordinary mitigation steps. I'm not sure if EPH will be enough, but I do think it's necessary.

Finally, I'm looking at the exchange rates and waiting for a more favourable time to buy my MAC2 supporting membership, and so I haven't decided on my voting methodology this year. Last year I at the least tried to read everything. My current feelings are that nothing from Castalia's press, site, or writers will get a look in from me. I'll see how i feel once the packet is out.

Second finally, thanks for the Alfies. Again, I wish that they weren't necessary.
Frank Probst
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:24 pm (UTC)
Beale's list
I didn't even realize that Beale's list overlapped so much with the nominees, because I didn't bother looking at Beale's list when the noms came out, and most of the categories seemed to have reasonable nominees in them. I'm still against changing the rules, but it now won't bother me quite as much if 4/6 or EPH passes. I still think that letting Beale have ANY influence over how you vote is a mistake. Yes, he's meddled with the noms two years in a row now, but I don't think that people will keep buying supporting memberships just to wreck the awards. And to everybody else, please don't pass out "asterisks" this year, and please don't applaud when No Award wins. If you're a nominee, hearing that No Award just beat your work is heartbreaking enough as it is. There's no need to pile on with raucous applause.
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC)
The Long List ("we also heard from") issued after the Hugo Awards ceremony is the top 15, by rule. The results will say how many individual works/people were nominated overall, though.

Alas, one of the things I'm seeing now is people saying that we need a Strong Administrator who will just throw out "slate" ballots based on his individual judgement. While that is how some awards programs work (and they then do not tell you that they did so, nor are they required to do so), the Hugo Awards administrative process, the rules for which are written by the members of the Worldcon, not some Secret Select Cabal, is designed to require a great deal of openness (despite what its critics would claim), and Administrators aren't supposed to use much or any subjective judgement. I try to warn people that you really don't want an Administrator to be able to throw out a ballot using the criteria "I personally didn't like this choice," or "I ascribe specific motives to this individual, and therefore won't count it."

We'll hear a lot about No Award in the months to come. The way I've approached it in the past (not just last year) and continue to approach it is this:

If you don't think a finalist deserved to be on the ballot at all, don't rank it, and vote No Award somewhere on your ballot.

This is the most straightforward way of "downvoting" a finalist. Rank anything you want to win above No Award. When you get to the point where you don't think any of the remaining finalists deserve to be on the ballot, rank No Award and stop ranking candidates. But remember that "did not deserve to be on the ballot" and "I didn't personally like it" are two different things. In fact, they're not even mutually exclusive. You can personally like something but think that it did not deserve to have a place on the Hugo Award shortlist.
Red Zen
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
So, more of the same. This year, and all years.

Every year of the Hugos from now on is to be another cycle of identity-politics, draining the souls of everybody involved, with partisans on all sides writing strategizing blog posts about how the other side is to blame.

What a waste.

Edited at 2016-04-27 03:51 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - snowspinner - Apr. 27th, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Alfie List - EneaszWrites - Apr. 27th, 2016 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Alfie List - rcade - Apr. 27th, 2016 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 27th, 2016 09:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ianrgillespie - Apr. 27th, 2016 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 27th, 2016 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Frank Probst
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC)
Thomas Mays (Short Story)
Looks like we have our first withdrawal.
Apr. 27th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Thomas Mays (Short Story)
Yes. He tried to have his cake and eat it too, by accepting knowing full well he was a slate candidate, then very publicly withdrawing immediately afterwards. He's trying to be a martyr and a hero at the same time.

His previous blog posts are full of mealy-mouthed rhetoric in the vein of "I'm not on the Puppies side, but you have to admit they make some good points"... . Guy's trying to play both sides, and it's really distasteful to watch.

Edited at 2016-04-27 08:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Thomas Mays (Short Story) - Frank Probst - Apr. 28th, 2016 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2016 03:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Thank you for taking the time to research and write about this topic. A lot of people might think it's a shame that you're being 'distracted' from ASOIAF, but I'm thankful you've made this issue a priority. If all authors focused solely on writing their own work without giving back to the professional community (in both good and bad times), the world of fantasy and science fiction writing would be much poorer for it. So thank you!
Red Zen
Apr. 28th, 2016 10:05 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you!
Everyone agrees that writing is a way of "giving to the professional community", sure.

Not everyone feels that this public drama is "giving" in the same way. I think it's harmful to everyone. Arguing that EPH is a better Hugo election process is one thing, that's constructive. But all of this public strategizing of a "war" (AKA internet drama) against a cultural enemy is not a good. It's not giving to the community. It's dumping trash in the community pool.
RE: Re: Thank you! - grrm - Apr. 28th, 2016 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Thank you! - Red Zen - Apr. 28th, 2016 10:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2016 04:11 pm (UTC)
Couldn't We Solve This with a Longlist?
I hate to see a joke made out of the Hugo nomination ballot. We need to pass EPH, but it will still let people like Beale run campaigns to put one or two joke works or provocations in each category. That devalues the prestige of the words "Hugo Award nominee."

We should consider adopting a two-step nomination process. The first step works like what we have today and produces a longlist of 15 works per category. The second is a vote to whittle that 15 down to 5. Those five are Hugo nominees.

I don't think Space Pirate Butt Invasion or other obviously unqualified works would make the shortlist. But if a slate campaign put a qualified work on the longlist to act as a shield against No Award, that work would have a decent shot of making the ballot.
Apr. 27th, 2016 11:47 pm (UTC)
As it happens, the term "Hugo Award Nominee" is already devalued, and is in fact an officially meaningless term, as of the ratification of a constitutional amendment at last year's Business Meeting. This has nothing to do with puppy or other campaigns, and everything to do with people declaring that the "plain meaning" of "Hugo Award nominee" is "I got at least one nomination, even if I cast it for myself." WSFS officially abandoned the term "nominee" in the historical sense. If you are on the Hugo Awards shortlist, you are officially a "Hugo Award Finalist," a term that can be objectively verified in a way that what I called the one-(nomination) vote-wonders cannot be.

The process you outline is something I've suggested in the past, but forbear to introduce last year inasmuch as I was presiding (I already had to recuse myself three times as it was) and because people seemed pretty certain that a three-stage voting process was "too complicated," so instead they loaded up the first of the existing two-stage process with a bunch of relatively complicated math.

My proposal (I intend to write it up again soon on my own LJ) would leave the first stage unchanged from the current process: 5 nominations per person per category. The top 15 nominees would be the "semi-finalists" and would not be contacted to give them a chance to decline, but would be published as the "Longlist." The Longlist would not be ordered by how many nominations each semi-finalist received. The members of the current Worldcon only would be given the opportunity to vote yes or no on each semi-finalist. Any semi-finalist that a majority (or 3/5 or 2/3, or whatever percentage is deemed sufficient) votes against is disqualified from the final ballot. During this stage, semi-finalists are contacted and asked if they would accept a spot on the final ballot if they qualify. Also, it may turn out that some semi-finalists are found to be ineligible. At the end of semi-final voting, the five semi-finalists that aren't rejected by the members, do not decline nomination, and are confirmed eligible are announced as the Shortlist.

Note that you don't get to learn how many nominations each semi-finalist gets, nor whether it was disqualified by the voters, until after the Hugo Awards ceremony, as that information is released with the other statistics. Whether a semi-finalist declined is up to the individuals involved to determine. I would also include a provision that you can't back out of the final ballot, although you could effectively decline your Award in advance.

Again, I'll write this up in more detail and post it to my own LiveJournal soon. I'm loathe to even propose it this year as an alternative to EPH because I'm chairing next year's meeting in Helsinki and would prefer to not have to recuse myself to debate my own proposal yet again.
Apr. 27th, 2016 04:36 pm (UTC)
Sensless and wasteful
Looking over the Rabid Slate I can make sense of the nomination of popular authors(Gaiman, King, Weir) so as to make a claim they are inclusive in a sad attempt to avoid backlash for a publicity stunt and/or self ratification. I even get the mockery of throwing in crude titles and self published rants. What I don't get is why a Campbell nominee,(and I am only mentioning this because I know and really like his work, there may be other examples) Pierce Brown, was on their list. His series is entirely based around people fighting against conformity and is quite liberal in its view towards politics. Did they totally misconstrue the material and twist it in their minds to fit their worldview? Bizarre. Anyway, it is to bad he got lumped in unjustly with this fiasco.

Edited at 2016-04-27 04:37 pm (UTC)
Apr. 27th, 2016 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Sensless and wasteful
Us too at Black Gate. It's what GRRM says - shields.
RE: Sensless and wasteful - dhhargat - Apr. 27th, 2016 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Max Hayden Chiz
Apr. 27th, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC)
Why don't they just fix the process?
I haven't followed this issue very closely, but from what I can understand, nominating and voting currently use methods that reward strategic voting by small, organized coalitions. This is what the "puppies" are ostensibly upset about and why they are gaming the system to begin with. Given that, why don't the awards just fix the process? Why keep an easily abused process that is creating a conflict when other, fairer voting methods don't have these problems? While the change wouldn't eliminate the controversy, it would at least force anyone who wanted to hijack the process to assemble a majority instead of merely a passionate coalition.

Based on my experience with other organizations that have had voting-related problems, I'd recommend using schulze STV for the nominations and cloneproof schwartz sequential dropping for deciding the winner. (You could also do a one-step process using only schulze STV only.) These methods are much harder to manipulate because they look at all possible run-offs and find the choice that wins head-to-head against every alternative (with some additional complexity to deal with corner cases that I've never seen "in the wild"). They also limit the (winning) majority coalition to a proportional number of nominee slots, ensuring that deserving works supported by strong minorities still secure a nomination. In contrast, the current methods tends to eliminate broadly acceptable candidates in favor of polarizing choices and tend to select overly narrow nominee slates.

Am I missing something? Or do the Hugo people just not realize that parliamentarians have tools for dealing with these kinds of problems? (If you want to set this up for your alternative awards or if you know someone at the Hugos who needs help setting this up for future years, I'm fine lending my time.)

NB: I realize that there's the e pluribus hugo proposal, but that alternative can also be gamed. A deliberately proportional process would solve the problem much better.

Edited at 2016-04-27 04:48 pm (UTC)
Apr. 27th, 2016 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Why don't they just fix the process?
By WSFS rules, it takes two years to pass these rules changes. I was heavily involved in the WSFS Business Meeting last year, supporting the "e pluribus hugo" rules-change proposal to mitigate the slate damage. Pleasantly, it passed first reading.

This year, the Worldcon will consider it again in the WSFS Business Meeting, and hopefully it will pass second reading and thereby be adopted.

If you want to catch up, I have written far too much on this, and the many articles are collected here. (You may have to scroll down a little.)
Re: Why don't they just fix the process? - solarbird - Apr. 27th, 2016 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't they just fix the process? - solarbird - Apr. 27th, 2016 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't they just fix the process? - lydy - Apr. 28th, 2016 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't they just fix the process? - jamesonquinn - Apr. 28th, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't they just fix the process? - the_corbie - Apr. 27th, 2016 09:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 27th, 2016 11:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Max Hayden Chiz - Apr. 28th, 2016 12:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
I was hoping that this year you wouldn't need to do the Alfies again, but I'm glad that, since they are needed, you are doing it.
Gregory Hullender
Apr. 27th, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC)
Disqualification Method with Option for Fans to Overrule
If it turns out that we need a method to disqualify works like "Space Raptor Butt Invasion," I think a system that allows the fans to overrule a capricious disqualification would work. We learned last year that the fans respond fiercely to injustice.

EPH attempts to solve the problem algorithmically. That's great if it works, but my own estimates suggest that the slates will still be able to grab 2 or 3 slots in most categories. At that point, it makes sense to try to solve the problem politically, and that means something with checks and balances.

One can suggest many ways to implement a disqualification mechanism. A committee, the existing Admins, a separate vote by the membership, a downvote option for the membership at the nomination phase, etc. I don't think it matters a lot which one is picked. The end result is five qualified finalists and a list of disqualified ones. Anyone with a disqualified nomination could choose to appeal to the fans, in which case his/her work would be on the ballot, with an asterisk. If it ranked above No Award in the final vote, the disqualification would be invalidated. The work could even win the Hugo. Giving the fans the final choice would keep the system honest.

However, I think we need to see how well EPH works in practice. It may well be that since EPH eliminates almost all hope of sweeping categories, that will discourage enough slate voters to make them disappear from the process.
Max Hayden Chiz
Apr. 27th, 2016 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Disqualification Method with Option for Fans to Overrule
Again, I'm not involved in this process. But based on my limited understanding, either the pool of voters needs to be changed so that it goes back to being mostly regular attendees and not an internet campaign. (By, e.g. disqualifying people who voted but didn't show for some number of years.) Or you are going to have to tolerate some slots going to things you don't like.

There are established methods with rigorous mathematical backing that can limit the influence to a proportional amount and would limit the possibilities for strategic voting. But because EPH is novel and due to the complex math surrounding Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, there are quite likely a bunch of unforeseen problems with the method. In particular, because it is based on instant run-off, it will probably still eliminate picks that could command a majority in favor of more polarizing options that can't. It probably works better than what you have, but I don't really get why an off-the-shelf, known-good method isn't the first option.

As an outsider to the process and an amateur parliamentarian, I genuinely don't understand why people are doing the things they are doing re: this and would like to find out without having to delve through thousands of blog posts. I presume people have their reasons, but I haven't been able to figure out what they are by google searching. I posted here because I figured that with GRRM moderating and/or responding I'd be more likely to get a sensible, concise explanation of what I'm not understanding.

Edit: after posting this someone replied to my original post and linked to a set of posts that look promising.

Edited at 2016-04-27 06:44 pm (UTC)
Apr. 27th, 2016 05:33 pm (UTC)
WorldCon 1994
So I just found out that WorldCon was once held right here in my home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba back in 1994... it seems impressive considering the other Canadian cons were only in Toronto (or once in Montreal).

Were you there for that one George? It was quite some time ago but I'm wondering if you have any memories of this particular event or our city? If it ever returns, I already know all the best places to eat!

Oh, and are you going to hold another huge Alfies party this year?
Apr. 27th, 2016 05:53 pm (UTC)
RE: WorldCon 1994
Yes, i was at the Winnipeg worldcon. (The only one I've missed in the last 30 years was Japan). I remember the Asimov's party, on a riverboat...
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 27th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cashcraig - Apr. 28th, 2016 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Apr. 28th, 2016 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
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