The Best Award folds and is green
By now I imagine everyone knows how the Hugo Awards went, and of course has heard about – or witnessed – the inappropriate gloating, the Scalzificated meltdown and all the other fun and games that went along with it.
I’ve seen a few arguments over the way the votes were handled too, along with no small amount of confusion over how the tallying system should work.
So. They’re using a pretty standard version of preferential voting, sometimes known as the Australian ballot. The technical aspects is pretty simple, for someone who grew up with it and absorbed the details more or less organically.
First all first preference votes are tallied. This gives the initial totals. At any point, if one candidate has more than 50% of the votes, it’s legitimate to stop because nobody else can win. Next, the votes for the candidate in last place are recounted, tallying second preference this time. There are variations where second preference votes are given less weight than first preference votes, but it doesn’t look as though the Hugo people used that variant. There will always be one fewer round of tallying than there are candidates, and in each round, the preferences of the lowest ranked candidate are distributed.
This, incidentally, is why in Australian elections it can often take a week or more to know the outcome of some seats. Usually who takes government is pretty obvious, but the last seats can take a while, depending on how far down the preference list the vote counting people have to go.
For elections, where you want the winner to be someone most of the people voting can at least look at without wanting to throw up (it helps the process of negotiation a little), this works out remarkably well. The system tends to bubble up the least offensive candidate and push down the controversial ones.
I’m sure you can all see why that makes it completely inappropriate for something like the Hugos, which purports to be a literary award. It pretty much guarantees that winners will be either whatever fits the prevailing views of the voting membership or whatever offends the voting membership least. Needless to say this practically guarantees that the winning work will not be the “best” anything. Nor the “most popular” (we have the folding green award for that. Smart authors love that one. To steal from the inimitable Mike Williamson’s Care and Feeding of Knives, they love money. Never have enough).
Of course, the Hugo Award for the Least Offensive Novel of 2014 just doesn’t sound at all prestigious, does it? It sounds almost as bad as the Golden Dildo Award for the Least Offensive Novel (the description is just as accurate).
All of which sounds like a call for something better – except that apart from the folding green awards, I’m really not sure that there is anything better. The folding stuff is at least an indication that someone likes what you’ve written enough to part with beer and pizza money, and tends to be a widespread sort of thing.
Hugo voters are rather more of a… let’s be polite here and call it cliquey group, so they’re prone to the groupthink disease.
That said, I think it’s a tragedy the dino porn didn’t win its category. Just imagine the fun one could have with live readings with sound effects and improv…