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…

108 comments

  1. The Scalzi series of live tweets of what became his post-awards blog post were an astonishing display of poor sportsmanship. Like drunk-blogging, with less restraint.

    1. I would have never thought I’d see a major SF figure acting like Eric Cartman in a public forum. Seriously, imagine Scalzi’s hategasm in Cartman’s voice and it fits perfectly.

      1. Apparently, Scalzi was backpeddling yesterday, claiming that he doesn’t really hate Conservatives and sometimes attacks Liberals. He doesn’t actually name any, mind you.

  2. You know, we aught to nominate some dino porn or equivalent for next year’s Hugos just to see what happens. I’m in a goofy mood this morning.

    1. Please. I paid good money for this T-rex costume. It would be a pity not to put it to good use.

      1. Hehehe…. That would be more fun than the real Hugos… Oh, wait. So would a root canal.

  3. … just please, something that’s better than the one that was nominated this time.

    Raptor Red would have been my vote for paleo-speculative fiction if it were released recently.

    Oh, and because his hilarious antics came up in dinner table conversation today, I found this: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-12/the-collected-insults-of-paul-keating/5071412

    I dunno, maybe I’m mean, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I’d watch the pollies all the time if they were as entertaining as this. Also getting related the tale of John Howard outrunning and out-stamina-ing his security detail jogging to a summit meeting (perhaps one of the G20 ones? I don’t remember) and apparently Tony Abbott takes the bus to work and rarely makes use of the cars assigned to him. It still boggles me that the PM can just walk down the street here. And as much as I didn’t like Gillard for her policies, I had to smile when I heard she drives herself around in her own car.

    1. Oh, lord yes… the memories that brings up. One of the most conservative politicians ever to hold the Prime Minister’s office – and a Labor member. He was the architect of most of Australia’s economic health – when Keating speaks about sound economics you *listen*, not just because he’s likely to say something colorful. (He once caused a diplomatic incident by describing the Malaysian Prime Minister as “recalcitrant”)

      And yeah, something better for dino-fiction would be nice.

      1. I think that Vic Milan has dino-fiction coming out next year/this year/sometime soon… he’s a super guy (don’t know his politics, don’t want to) and from what very little I’ve heard it sounds like fun.

    1. Does it provoke a George Takei reaction (Ohhhh Myyyy)? Not gonna do that search even with Safe Search on while at work.

    2. Any curiosity you might have sparked, has been quickly overwhelmed by my faith in human nature.
      (See also: Calvinism)

  4. For those who weren’t ever very good at reading, Swirsky’s story is about a pair of humans, and involves porn only in the sense that the POV character is the other main character’s fiancee.

    When you scrape the bottom of the barrel that hard for an insult, the splinters you come up with say more about you than about the piece you’re trying to badmouth. And the rest of the world does notice.

    1. This is true. It’s a revenge fantasy, though not in the way most people mean “fantasy” when they talk about science fiction and fantasy. In plain words, it isn’t is science fiction or fantasy. If imagining someone is a dinosaur suddenly qualifies as science fiction, would the same story count as fantasy if the POV character imagined her fiancee was Conan the Barbarian? (“If You Were a Barbarian, My Love…” does sort of have a ring to it.)

      If the POV character found a way to turn her fiancee into an actual dinosaur, you’d at least have a story that meets the absolute minimum requirements for a Nebula or Hugo award. In other words, it would be actual science fiction.

      Whatever other qualities the story possesses — and I openly admit I cannot see what they are — the story should never, ever have even been considered for a SF&F award, much less won the award voted on by people who write the stuff.

      If there is some actual science fiction in that story, please enlighten me as to what it is. Otherwise, it’s just a revenge fantasy with a dinosaur instead of a man.

        1. And since some people refer to something like that as “revenge porn” when it doesn’t have the dinosaurs, calling it dino porn isn’t that much of a stretch.

          I’ll agree, not the most accurate one, but still…

          1. Australian, remember? Colorful language and twisting words in ways they were never meant to bend.

            I’ll admit it’s probably more of a case of public dino/revenge masturbation, but it’s more fun to stretch to the colorful “dino porn” (besides, part of that piece *did* include fantasizing about mating with the dino, so technically…)

            1. Fair enough on all counts. But what else should I expect from someone who hails from a penal colony?

              (And since I’m from Georgia, I fall into that category too. 😀 )

              1. Oh, absolutely nothing different! Screwing with the bosses/overseers is built into the mind-set 😀

                1. Well, in all fairness It’s kind of a family tradition for me to have issues with authority. Several of my ancestors forced King John to sign the Magna Carta and plenty of them were stirring up crap in 1776 as well. 🙂

                  1. My lot are a mixed bunch of celts, vikings, anglos, and probable crypto-jewish-so-long-they-forgot. Nobody who was silly enough to make a name for themselves, though.

                    1. Well, I’ve got a lot of those too…but somewhere along the way, my wealthy ancestors lost it all and have managed to leave me broke.

                      My ancestors managed to rule England, yet I got nothing. Go figure. 🙂

            2. I believe that “technically” counts, since they’re cramming it into the ‘fantasy’ category by what seems to be the dint of revenge fantasy term.

              *smile* Besides, they hate it when we use their rules against them.

              I’ve shown a few of the puns I’ve come up with and turned loose here / on Hoyt’s / over at MHN and hubby says (proudly) that I’m learning, and will be an Aussie yet.

      1. There is none. And while revenge fantasies have their place, that place is not in any kind of literary or pseudo-literary award short list.

        1. I dunno, the rampage through the State Department in John Ringo’s “If you were a Posleen, my love” was very evocative…

      2. “If You Were a Barbarian, My Love… I’d apply a great deal of Nair, give you a bath, and put you in a bunny fur speedo, because I’ve watched too much 1970’s television and I think I busted something…”

    2. For those who have difficulty understanding irony, it’s a rather small step to go from “blatant badly-written revenge porn with dino insert to give it a shred of sf-ness” to “dino-porn”.

      The rest of the world – by which I presume you mean the feminist glittery hoo haa crowd – can take a long walk off a short pier. I call it as I see it.

    1. The vote counters didn’t change the system to Australian balloting. It’s been that way for quite some time. Changing the vote to a simple plurality would have required by-law changes and such. Which to the best of my knowledge, would have to be approved by the same voters, and couldn’t have gone into effect before next year.

      AFAICT, they did their job without fear or favor.
      They should have no problem looking in the mirror.

      Yes, some of the outcomes were ridiculous. But that’s how the voters voted. “The voters were stupid” doesn’t get us out of Obama, and it doesn’t get Toni her well-earned award.

      1. Pretty much. Larry put his auditor hat on when he got back from GenCon and said that he didn’t see any problems with how the votes were tallied. The issue rests in who did the voting.

        Of course, that’s kind of what Larry was trying to point out.

        1. I’d also say that the style of tallying is a bad match for an award. You don’t want to see something that’s brilliant and has a lot of devoted support knocked down in favor of something less controversial because a substantial number of people find it offensive.

          1. Absolutely.

            It’s funny. They want fiction that “challenges” readers, yet one of their allegedly premier awards actually discourages such things.

            Of course, it’s yet another reason I’ll never win an Hugo. Apparently, good guys shooting bad guys in the face is offensive. I’m really OK with that. 😀

            1. Gee, so am I. Oh, well. I’m sure I’ll survive not ever winning the Golden Dildo of Inoffensiveness.

          2. “You don’t want to see something that’s brilliant and has a lot of devoted support knocked down in favor of something less controversial…”

            OTOH, you also don’t want to see something banal that has a lot of devoted support from a particular in-group *not* get knocked down in favor of something with broader appeal.

            I think that most sorting systems have drawbacks of one sort or another. I’m unsure what I think of the Australian System for a literary award, but I do have a strong distrust of the purely popular vote. In theory, at least, being able to elevate the entry that had an overwhelming number of #2 choices would seem to take care of “This story is fabulous, but I have to vote for my friend.”

          1. Very much so.

            Anyone who libels Larry is someone who doesn’t really know him. I have never met him in real life, but he has answered every question I’ve ever posed to him and been nothing but awesome to this nobody.

            So yep, I take the libel personally. Larry’s on my “good” list, and I go to war for the people on that list.

      2. There was another factor besides “stupid voters” in this vote and in the presidential vote. Just by the way the vote was set up … made it easier to scam. If you want to compare it to the political election– then, you are comparing apples and oranges. If you are saying that the Prez supporters scammed the system using the electronic political machines (close family members have personal experience with the scam), then I agree. It means that not all the “voters were stupid.” It just means that their votes were changed to the PC vote.

        Stuffing the ballot box… has been a time honored tradition for centuries. It doesn’t mean that it is right or that the voters are stupid. It means that the controllers of the ballot should be hung up by their thumbs.

        I won’t go any further with this line of discussion–

        1. I’d choose something different to hang them by, in both cases, but beyond that, I’m also leaving the discussion there.

          1. There’s no fraud in the Hugos. There are voters and Worldcon attendees with more money for memberships and political correctness than they have good sense or taste. Also there are people’s friends and fellow partiers who vote and logroll for them (and no shame there). Also there are a fair number of Worldcon attendees and supporters who don’t bother to vote because they’re just not interested.

            So there are many stupid Hugo results, but none of them are dishonest.

            1. Technically speaking logrolling isn’t “fraud”, even though it’s not precisely ethical either.

              I’m not accusing them of fraud, just of staggering mismanagement of… well… pretty much everything they manage. (Seriously. If the Hugos were at all valuable, winning one would boost sales. Nuh-uh.)

      3. I didn’t say there was fraud, or that the current administration changed the system to this.

        I simply said it’s not a good vote counting system for an award.

  5. A Tweet from one of the Usual Suspects:

    “Retweeted by Cora Buhlert The Worst @popelizbet · Aug 17 Dear SF/F bigot brigade: enjoy the knowledge that even if you sell a few books you remain entirely irrelevant to the field & the future.”

    The authors who are being read are the ones who are relevant.

    1. I would dearly have loved to see the tears, hairshirt and ashes of Ms. Buhlert after her slate had been humiliated.
      Sadly, I don’t always get what I want.

      1. Alas, too true. If I got what I wanted, I’d have lots of $$$ and a big big smile (and I wouldn’t be writing this now because I’d be at work and not at home with a !@#$!!!! stomach bug)

    2. She tends to forget that Shakespeare wrote what would sell. So did Dickens.

      The artists whose works survive a century or more aren’t the ones who few read, but the ones who are so heavily read that their work can’t help but survive.

          1. Some folk feel the need to overcomplicate things to the extent that that they keep looking for the hidden catch when they run into something simple.

    3. I’ll take the folding green relevance, thank you. Now I need to get me some more of that.

    4. If the only Hugo titles I could find in my local B&N were Warbound and Wheel of Time, just who is irrelevant again?

      1. It is somewhat reminiscent of the drift in fine arts. Fine art went from a form all could appreciate to a form where a specialist degree is required to understand. Maybe the same thing happened in fiction. From a readable novel to “Literature.”
        For all their esotericization of the field, readers still buy what they like. The SFWA is becoming as irrelevant to the reading public as Melville and Salinger.

  6. Hmm. You appear to be saying (and correct me if I’m wrong) that Hugo voting is flawed because it reflects what’s most popular, not what’s objectively best. Replacing voting with evaluating works against a set of objective criteria, though, opens up several new cans of worms. What would the objective criteria be? Who would establish that criteria? Literature professors? (Dear God I hope not!) Who would be the judges? How would the judges be chosen? Would they be elected or appointed? If a Hugo-winning novel leaned to the left or right, wouldn’t the opposite side just complain that the judges were biased? Or, worse, that the “objective criteria” itself was inherently biased?

    1. No, I believe the point is that Hugo votes are being cast by a few folks based not on popularity but on how well each story fits with their vision of correctness. A truly fair popular award would have to be based either on total units sold or gross revenues. You know, quantifiable metrics rather than inherently biased opinion.
      Thus the title of this blog: the best award folds and is green.
      And none of this would matter a lick were it not that a few incredibly vindictive folks were attempting to use SF fandom as a tool to punish the writers who’s works they find objectionable.

      1. Pretty much, Uncle Lar yes.
        Most of the people I interact with don’t give diddly what that crowd is saying unless it’s mockable (in which case all bets are off). They’re entitled to their opinion and can voice it where they choose (although they will get pushback if they voice it here because we like debate).
        It’s when someone tries to silence other opinions that I get pissy, or when they try to have their own facts.

    2. You appear to be saying (and correct me if I’m wrong) that Hugo voting is flawed because it reflects what’s most popular, not what’s objectively best.

      Not really. The complaint is that it’s selecting for what is LEAST UNPOPULAR, meaning that if a very popular work has a large number of detractors, those can drive the award to works which fewer people think is best, but which more people don’t actively dislike.

      1. Bingo, Wayne. That’s exactly my point.
        It’s one thing to use that style of ballot in a political race where a consensus “least offensive” candidate is usually a GOOD thing.
        In an award, the consensus “least offensive” candidate isn’t, unless that’s what you’re calling the award.

    3. Wayne nailed it. The current voting system was explicitly designed to find the *consensus*, least offensive candidate. First-past-the-post would be a better choice for the Hugos because it wouldn’t harm the unusual or controversial choices quite so much.

      There is no objective criteria that can be used for any form of literature beyond the one called “X number of people paid to own this book”. Anything that purports to represent quality is entirely subjective.

      1. “There is no objective criteria that can be used for any form of literature beyond the one called “X number of people paid to own this book”. Anything that purports to represent quality is entirely subjective.”
        Does that apply to other forms of entertainment like movies, plays, television, video games etc?

        1. IMO Yes.

          When talking about any form of entertainment, I’ll give my opinion but often will include “YMMV”. IE Your Mileage May Vary.

  7. Lots of gloating from the SJWs. The future of the Hugo Awards, they say, belongs to the Kameron Hurleys and Ann Leckies and . . . they’re right. I’m absolutely certain that the future of the awards will tend ever more Leftward. The institutionalized bias, which Larry stated from the start was his goal to expose, ensures that only people with the right politics will get rewarded.

    1. Lets face facts. The Hugo awards jumped the shark years ago. That’s when your average reader realized that they were no longer a valid mechanism to discover interesting new authors.
      What Larry and company did was take a dirty little truth and turn it into a fan production of Sharknado 3. That’s the one where all the winners are swallowed and never seen again.

  8. Aside from Wheel of Time, Warbound, and Redshirts, I do not think I have seen any of the Hugo or Nebula novel winners from the past three years in the regional and local book stores. This includes B&N, Hastings, and a couple of used book shops. Which again shows that, at least in this region of the US, popular sci-fi and fantasy are what sells and what people read.

    1. Same here. Hell, Terry Pratchett didn’t get awards until he got to be such a giant of the field it was outright *embarrassing* that he didn’t have any. So suddenly there was a flurry of guilt-driven “make-up” awards for books that (in at least one case) weren’t necessarily worthy but were making up for the fact that the award-givers had their noses too far in the air to go near him for the ones that *should* have been award winners.

      1. Only fault I can find in your logic is where you assume the award-givers noses were located.

  9. I’m still confused about Aussie voting. Not so much by how its done but, by who does it. Many of the original voters voted for the first round. OK, now comes the second round- who voted or from where did those votes come from? Like did the members at the con do the second, third or fourth votes or did they instead take the first round votes and play with them? If it were only the ones that were at the con, then of course the SWJs would win based on voting ability. Like I said, I’m just glad I’m not part of that nonsense.

    1. The voters only ever cast one vote – I’ll give an example with numbers pulled from anatomy.

      Let’s say we’ve got 5 choices, A B C D E.
      The ballots will list all 5, and ask voters to rank them from 1 – 5 with 1 being their first preference, and 5 being their last preference.

      In the first round of counting, only first preferences are counted.

      Let’s say with 1500 voters, the first preference results come out looking like this :
      A: 500
      B: 100
      C: 450
      D: 400
      E: 150

      In the Australian ballot system, B is removed from contention, and the second preferences of those 100 ballots are tallied.

      So now the numbers look like this:
      A: 500 + 5 = 505
      B: 100
      C: 450 + 80 = 530
      D: 400 + 10 = 410
      E: 150 + 5 = 155

      The lead has shifted already because very few of those who voted 1 for B liked A enough to put it in second place – but since there is still nothing over 50% (750 votes) there’s at least one more round needed.

      Exactly how the second and later rounds get calculated varies. I’m guessing the method for round 3 was to take E’s ballots aside, and tally second preferences for those who voted E #1, then 3rd preferences for those who voted E at #2, since E is clearly at the bottom of the second round. This could result in B gaining some votes and some further messing around.

      Other methods include a weighted count where the first pass tallies rank 1 votes, the second rank 2 votes, etc, then they are added according to the weightings.

      Regardless, it’s messy, confusing, and tends to result in a consensusy (or in some cases not terribly noticeable but inoffensive candidate entry) bubbling to the top.

      1. With the Hugo, it’s pretty common for voters not to have read everything in the categories (although the Hugo committee certainly tries to make sure people can try everything out).

        So very often, people are placing things at the bottom that they hate or that they haven’t read; or on happy occasion, they have to pick which one they like least.

        There are all sorts of odd consequences.

        1. Which is another reason to ditch the preferential voting in favor of a first past the post system.

      2. OK: I’ve earned my “How stupid can you be to have asked” point for the day. I think I will go look at Abbott and Costello and “Who’s on first” before getting a bottle of Negra Modelo, well, after the Aussie thing, two, and the north porch. Maybe, I can see an angel in the clouds or something.

        1. Nah. It is confusing when you haven’t grown up with it. When you’ve grown up watching shifting vote tallies after each election, it makes a bit more sense.

      3. When I was a ballot-counter for a preferential-voting election a couple years ago (electing officers of a non-profit), the rule we used for second and later rounds was to take all the ballots due to be redistributed (because that candidate was last in the previous round and got knocked out) and, looking at each ballot, assign it to the topmost candidate on that ballot who had not yet been eliminated. So if B gets knocked out first, and E is knocked out in round two, there’s no way that any E ballots can go back to B. Instead, the guy who voted E B C D A will have his ballot assigned to C in round three, because that’s the topmost candidate on his ballot who has not yet been eliminated.

  10. I just wanted to say that I almost hurt myself trying not to laugh aloud when I read this: the Golden Dildo Award. My co-worker would not understand or appreciate the interruption. [the dangers of reading the blogs during lunch]

    Thanks, I needed a good (if suppressed) laugh. 😀

      1. So is that a pocket rocket in your pocket or are you just glad to be here?

        (Sorry… I could not resist a straight line like that. My bad)

  11. Maybe we could put fins on one and call it the Pocket Hugo?
    The resemblance of the Hugo to something you’d find at Good Vibrations in the Castro pretty much makes its own jokes. I’m sure they come in gold as well as pink.

    1. I’m sure, and yes, I do take more than a little amusement from the way the feminist glittery hoo haas are so very protective of their gold phallic symbol.

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