A very surprised looking sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.

Or why, if the people ‘really the only reason ‘Ancillary Justice’ won a Hugo Award’ was that it was much better than ‘Warbound’, that there is no ideological bias at all in the entire Hugo Award process, and that, indeed, they personally didn’t know what so-and-so politics were, are right, then Ann Leckie and her fellow winners should buy a lottery ticket and become a multi-millionaires overnight.

Try, if you can, to realize this is not an attack on any one individual or work, I’m not saying so-and-so should have won. Nor do I think no outspoken left-winger should ever win. If that was happening, I’d be here fighting to see they got a chance. Nor is this an attack on the Hugo committee – their sins seems to be largely of omission, not commission. I would love to see the award become – as it was in my youth, a commendation, above ideology. People claim this is the case. If that is true, it is easy to test.

So let us take the hypothesis ‘There is no ideological bias in Hugo awards,’ which we’d love to prove true and test it mathematically to do so. Yes, I know, I used a bad word and my mamma should wash my mouth out with soap. But it works, is the basis of huge industries which have worked for centuries if not millennia, and I promise I’ll keep it as funny, simple and clear as possible

When I got the second of these comments after my post, last week, and a few more trickling out of Larry’s post, I said something like ‘Expletive deleted, expletive deleted. Do these expletive deleted idiots think everyone is brain-dead? (yes, actually I had just been reading about Watergate). The odds are so astronomical no one in their right mind…”

And my wife, who takes it as her duty to see that I don’t become too much of an ass, said unto me: “Maybe they just don’t understand odds. Not everyone knows everything you do.”

Now, being a fairly normal human being (well, normal monkey), this is always a hard thing for me to get my head around. I’m my own point of reference, and I don’t think I’m particularly bright (I have met a few real geniuses). I said: “Come off it. The kids could calculate odds before they went to school. Remember…”

And she cut off my boring reminiscences at the pass. “The kids are both their Uni’s top math graduates for their years. They’re not typical either. And you taught them in the car, playing numberplate games before they went to school.”

“Umph. I still find it hard to believe. I think they’re just pretending not to, because it destroys their arguments. Let me ask a few people.”

So I did. “Off the cuff, with three dice, what are the chance of throwing three sixes at once?” “I dunno. I haven’t played board games since I was a kid.” “Not good.” “What’s 36 times 6… yeah, 1/216” and “roughly 4 in a thousand I’d say”, and “Huh?” “Oh go on, guess, how many times would have to throw the dice to get that result?” “I dunno. Ten?”

Okay, she was right, time to re-evaluate. Maybe some people don’t do this automatically… If you knew the answer, you can skip through to after the graph. You’ll be bored out of your tree. And yes I do know the subject slightly and realize this is a very simplistic take on it. I want to try and keep it anyone can more or less do this.

For the rest: I need to explain but I won’t delve into the esoteric or anything complicated. No, I’ll just keep it to an imaginary black bags (if you want it esoteric, you can imagine they’re black velvet with little stars and crescent moons appliqued to the outside) and a bunch of billiard balls.

None of this is rocket science. Many of you will know it well. Please re-assure those are going ‘aaaaaaagh!” that they will not actually be required to fondle either their brains or the balls, or even the bag. There is really nothing magical about it despite the imaginary applique. If it didn’t work, there would be no casinos, no insurance (health or otherwise) and a slew of other industry in total disarray. It can get complicated but we don’t need to go there to disprove the hypothesis: ‘There is no ideological bias in Hugo award’ beyond any vestige of doubt.

I’m going to begin at the very beginning (because it’s a very good place to start).

There is a red ball and black ball in each of 100 imaginary black bags. We have – seeing as this is entirely imaginary, a gentleman in high-heeled lumberjack boots, suspenders and a bra, reaching into each bag and taking out one ball, one bag after the other… now there is no way he can tell by feel red billiard balls from black. Possibly sometimes he will draw 2 red in a row, sometimes three black. You never know, before the ball comes out what he will draw. BUT as sure as death and taxes, the number of red balls drawn will be very close to equal the number of black balls drawn… (you can actually predict how many times and how likely it is to be 49:51 48:52 and so on, but just bear with me. It’s not important here.). If you keep on and on, until your lumberjack drops dead… and you count the total number of balls and divide it by the number of red balls 1 red to 2 total will be your ratio, or odds. You could take the red balls and put it over the red+black and express that as ½ or 0.5. There is, every time a ball is taken out of the sack 0.5 probability it will be red.

Now we’re gambling. I’ve got a bet with Freddy-the-casino-owner. He has two bags from above: I bet that the ball coming out of the bag will be red (1/2), and the next ball will also be red (1/2). Freddie offers to pay me 3 dollars for every one dollar I bet. (for clarity, this is not you put in a dollar and Freddy puts in 3 to a pot, and winner scoops the pot, That would be a payout of 4 dollars. If you want to look at it as a ‘pot’ freddy is putting in 2 dollars, and you are putting in one). Am I in the money? (Sorry if this is really simple guys – but it is really fundamental to my argument.)

Let’s look at the possible outcomes. Black black; black red; red black; red red. Or ½ x ½ = ¼ . So, 1 out of 4 times you will win. You might win trying this three times in a row, but if you kept playing all night, you’d have won 1 out of 4 times, and Freddy is making a fat profit.

And lo, I happen to be lucky that first time. And Freddy takes the third bag and says ‘$ 6 to one if you do it again (starting from fresh) 3 times in a row.’ Which I am sure you can see is ½ x ½ x ½ = 1/8 or one time in eight, or 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5. = 0.125 It will happen… one time out of 8 tries if you keep repeating this often enough.

We can make it more precise, but keep this firmly in mind: the joint probability of independent events (what the Hugo nominations and winners are
postulated as being in the hypothesis) is calculated thus.

Okay – time to move on. What is the chance that a novel/short/novella etc will come from someone who is politically outspoken, who loudly champions causes dear to the Left wing (for example, Gay marriage, affirmative action, abortion, militant feminism, pro-Socialism) or Right wing (for example Anti-abortion, the right to concealed carry, equality of opportunity not outcome, pro-death penalty)? Defining the open left/right thing is difficult, because what do you call someone who admits he is communist or a republican but pointedly avoids pontificating on it? That’s why I left proportions at a generous 0.15. Note this not a post about these issues – please do not use it to discuss that, and I not taking a position on them. I’m just using them as markers. Jonathan Haidt kindly explained that the right were a lot more likely know what the left thought than the other way around, which may go a long way to explaining many things – but that’s a long way past the scope of this post.

Look – political viewpoints in any society are described by a Gaussian (aka bell-shaped ) distribution curve. To save explaining it I’ve drawn it with a brilliant 10 second masterpiece. It also makes a great design to make tinfoil hats to keep off alien mind rays, if you’re worried about them.
gaussian 001
For the hypothesis ‘There is no ideological bias in Hugo awards,’ to be true, then this distribution of political viewpoint would have to be true in the winners, and in the nominees. There is no reason why should not be if the system were fair and unbiased in any way.

For the purpose of this proof I’ve chosen a very generous 0.15 (or 15 out of 100 or 15%) as the proportion of any population who are likely to be loud, fervent, open supporters of the ideology of the left, or the same on the right. In reality, the loud fervent part makes the figure much smaller. Guys, you can argue about the figure, but essentially you’re splitting hairs. Take it down 0.00005, or up 0.4 (beyond that allows no undecided votes) – the outcome is the same.

“Oh but still, 0.15 – it’s still roughly a one in seven chance that that Ancillary Justice would win. And there were only 5 books nominated so really that’s a 1:5 chance. It’s just sour grapes…”

Let’s start. Now to get a Hugo nomination, without manipulation, bias etc. a book/story/etc. must be:

1) Well known by lots of people. Most folk don’t bother to do noms. Say, without any form of peer pressure and collusion (in any sense) the chances of a book/story that has less than about 20K readers getting there is basically non-existent. Worldcon attendees are not 1 in a hundred readers anyway, and assuming that 1 in five of those could be bothered to do a nomination… that would give you 40 nom votes, which I think might get you on. Tens of thousands of great stories fall at this hurdle.

2) Good enough to get voted for – which even of those novels selling 20K is probably not one in 20… lets guess at 100 books a year which could get onto the slate. (the figure could be 50 or 1000 – It’s just a convenient number to work with)
So there are 100 novels 100 novellas 100 shorts etc. and if the ‘no bias’ hypothesis holds true, they are representative of the normal distribution of political viewpoint. So: to symbolize these 100 choices…

We have fifteen red billiard balls (outspoken left wing) fifteen black billiard balls (outspoken right wing), and seventy white billiard balls. And we have an imaginary Johnathan Ross to draw 5. (Don’t worry. He’s imaginary, any fat jokes he makes will be about imaginary fat, the best kind.) And we make the poor beggar time travel back to 2005.

He draws a red ball. There is, remember, according to the hypothesis supported by among others John Scalzi, no bias, and no reason for the highest number of noms to go to anyone except merit, which is not based on ideology. The crowds clap, there was a roughly 1/7 chance that would be the case. There are 4 more to draw this year, and basically if you took 4 years of noms (20) 3 should be red, 3 should be black 14 should be white. If it deviates from that you can work out how unlikely that is. But that’s going too deep right now. Settle for this:

THERE SHOULD BE A RED BALL AT LEAST EVERY SECOND YEAR, AS THERE SHOULD BE A BLACK BALL. There are 5 places a year and they had a 15/100 chance of drawing red or black.

He draws another red ball! Wow. 15/100 x 14/99! WOW! Greater than 1:50 odds. A happening that should only happen every nearly 10 years by chance. Aren’t the reds LUCKY!

He draws a third red ball! The crowd are stilled in awe. They know the chances of 3 red balls in one year… is an occurrence that will only occur 15/100 x 14/99 x 13/98 tries because as everybody knows there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards. An old man turns to his son and says, “Well, son, your grandchild might see that again! That has a 0.0028 probability of happening! More or less 1:350! Be more than 70 years worth of tries to have it happen again. What LUCK the reds have! Still, that’ll be much less for them in future. After all out of every 100 noms they should get 15. And they’ve already had 3. And the other two balls are more-or-less white. No blacks.

So we go on to 2006. And lo. There are 3 more red balls… and two whites, and no blacks. Miracle of miracles because everybody knows there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards. And the old man says: “Well son. Two years in a row! It’ll be your great-great-grandsons’s time before that happens again two years in a row!” And his son says – “add a few greats… 1/350 x 1/350. That was something that could only happen 1:12250 tries by chance. But there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards, and they get very upset a shriek a lot if you imply their might be, so we won’t. But they’ve used 6 of their plausible 15 noms for the next twenty years. We’re bound see less reds in future. Probably not for a couple of years.”

2007 Son says: “Well, I told you so. There are less. 3 whites and 2 reds. That’s 8 gone, and no blacks out the 100 noms in the 20 years starting 2005. Still that’s exceptional. A 1/50 chance, which, following on… 1/350 x 1/350 x 1/50… “

2008 3 or is 4 red balls again…. Such a run they’re having. Even counted as three… 1/350 x 1/350 x 1/50 x 1/350… Still that’s 11 out of 15 gone. 2 whites and no blacks.

2009 Another 3 red, two whites. 14 out of 15 plausible reds for the next 20 years gone. No blacks. And another 1/350 chance. Oh well, we might see one more red nom before 2025…. I’ve given up calculating how many parallel dimensions you have to run this lucky sequence in. Thank heavens for a multiverse. And aren’t we lucky to be in the one dimension in all those millions where it all happens, because is no ideological bias in Hugo awards.

2010 A special year! 4 red balls But as there are 6 (there was a tie for winning) let’s count it as 3 red, 2 white. We’re now at 17 reds out of 15 possible in a 20 year run. And still no blacks.

2011 and 2012 were bad years for the red balls. Well. In the scale of only 1:50 events. 2 each year, that takes it up to 21 out a possible 15 in the 20 years starting from 2005… So we know there will be no more.

2013 back up to 3 red balls 2 white. 24 out of 15. And no blacks.

2014, 3 red, ½ a white due to the Sad Puppies… 1.5 blacks!!!!! OUTRAGE!!!!! There is no ideological bias in Hugo awards! HOW DARE THESE BLACK SCUM organize to get nominated! We must campaign against them! Start the abuse, accuse this evil Larry Correia of every possible imaginary evil. Yes it’s the sort of behavior that could tarnish an innocent man’s reputation destroy his career. Yes, all the accusation are baseless and false. But there is no ideological bias in the Hugo awards and he was trying to bring one in! Death’s too good for him!

So in ten years… I’ve given up on the sperm whale of nomination likeliness. There is doubtless a parallel universe somewhere that in the tens of millions of possible where that level of red ball selection would, by pure chance, happen. When you start adding the other categories –shorts novellas novelettes — into it, it just gets worse. You need that infinite improbability drive. But in 10 years the 50 nominations should be 7.5 red, 35 white, 7.5 black. – if that tested out, with reasonable error bars, the hypothesis ‘There is no ideological bias in Hugo awards’ would be true. As I make the figures 27 red, 21.5 white, and 1.5 black…

“Yes but what about winners. Every year is unique, you know. I mean we start afresh.

Hmm. The bowl of petunias. Oh no not again. Shall we look at this year, when thanks to the sad puppies there were at least possible black balls to chosen as winners? Not much use in selecting years when there weren’t any. Let’s just stick to writing. Graphics and movies and art and editors aside… Novel, novella, novelette, short, and fan writer – 5 categories, a roughly 1/7 chance of a red or black ball winning in each if there is no bias.

All red balls. 1/7x 1/7 x 1/7 x 1/7 x 1/7 – this is likely to happen once out of every 16807 years if there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards. Wow! Aren’t they LUCKY.

To forestall the ‘oh but 1/7 is too low’, let’s run it at a ridiculously high ½, which means only red and black balls. No neutral, but they are equally probable. You can’t get more generous and possibly claim that there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards. ½ x ½ x ½ x ½ x ½ . – that is still unlikely to happen by chance more than once in every 32 years. There is a 97% chance that won’t happen. Do more complex stats, it’s just as implausible.

The hypothesis is, I’m afraid, due for the trash heap.

This was the year when the ideological bias in the Hugos was openly questioned. And lo: instead of proving otherwise… there was a concerted campaign to reward the hard left, and deny the right (or even neutrals) victory. Yeah. That worked for proving there was no ideological bias like snatching the purse off someone who had just accused you of possibly being a thief. Really proved their innocence.

As for the “I don’t care! Ancillary Justice/the water that falls from heaven/Equiod is better than all the others…” Shrug. Guys, it’s like the bloke who called his boss to say his kid was sick he’d be late. The first time his boss believed him. By the fifth time… when his child really was sick, and he was in ER and he called his boss to say ‘my kid is sick’ he got fired. It’s kind of over to you: Either all the other winners didn’t deserve to win, and your darling has a reasonable probability of being there, or accept that it was ideological award, only of value to loyalists to that ideology.

So where do we go to from here? Well, we go to me stopping because this is way too long already. I’m giving up work time to write this, and unless it makes you buy my books it’s not paying me.

(the picture’s a link, and some advertising is obligatory.)
I do it out of loyalty to the genre. The first step is obviously to stop denying there is a problem and start looking at where comes from. I think there are several sources, firstly the traditional publishing industry itself, secondly the red-ball crowd, and finally those voters who have been unaware of the problem. I’m no believer in affirmative action. I don’t want to see no red balls on the slate for a few thousand years. But if the award is going to recapture credibility, those who nominate and vote need to accept there need to be as many black as red, and more white balls in play, and that black balls will have to win too, at least as often as the red. That’s to the benefit of prior winners and nominees, and to the benefit of the award, and to benefit of readers and fans. The status quo is self-serving short term and minor benefit to the red ball crew – who, judging by the slanders they put up to achieve this are about as delightful a group as you could find outside a little prisoner beheading party.

Then we can say there is no ideological bias in Hugo awards. Until then, if you believe this I can recommend the tinfoil hat design.

94 thoughts on “A very surprised looking sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.

  1. You’re forgetting one point that was /used to be important. It used to be that no right or even neutral story got the distribution necessary to win. That was what gatekeepers did.
    Now? Well…. I think this is why SFWA is so invested in making sure that NO ONE but NO ONE takes indie seriously.

    1. Heh. Well, actually, Sarah, I mentioned it twice, without actually rubbing their noses in hard. “the chances of a book/story that has less than about 20K readers getting there is basically non-existent.” -Which means there are very few right-of-centre books, and a lot of far left because that’s where all the push for 90% of the trad industry goes.
      and in my closing comment
      “The first step is obviously to stop denying there is a problem and start looking at where comes from. I think there are several sources, firstly the traditional publishing industry itself,”

      But yes. A normal distribution should happen in Indie, which is why they hate and fear it. They know full well they have control in traditional publishing. They do not want to ‘compete’ for readers, because, rightly many think they would not get any.

    2. Oh and they would have of course persuade readers of anything but their pabulum to participate in the Hugo / WorldCon process. Which, if you have acquired a reputation for discrimination against anyone who is not left wing, isn’t going to be easy. Possible, by inviting the sort GoH’s that would make the SJW boycott the event, but otherwise, not really.

  2. As for those who say “Ancillary Justice” was better than Warbound, I’m going to point out that taste is always subjective. I tried to read AJ and quickly determined that I’d much rather scratch the back of my eyeballs with an icepick than read another word. And yet, that’s not to say that AJ wasn’t deserving of a win.

    However, it’s impossible for me to just accept that it’s deserving for the reasons Dave outlined above. Sure, part if it is that I generally dislike “literary” SF. However, part of it is also that when you’ve been stacking the deck for so long, it’s difficult for me to accept that you suddenly stopped.

    Of course, if they just awarded it to the best in SFF, and AJ won, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’d get over it. After all, I can accept that people don’t share my tastes. I can’t accept politics over substance.

    1. I agree as to taste, as you know. But there is now a delightful rejoinder. “Given that it totally statistically improbable that all the writing categories should also be won by far lefties, I’ll agree that (insert winner being defended here) being more popular and a fair winner… if you go to the sites of all the other ‘winners’ and tell them they are not deserving because your choice was. ;-/

    2. The Hugos aren’t for “literary” SF. That is for editor-awards. The Hugos are (supposedly) FAN awards. They ought to be awarded to things that fans /enjoyed/ reading. Except for a few statistical outliers, most people do not enjoy icepicks to the eyeballs. Fan awards are supposed to be good reads. Fun. Not something you have to slog through for the sake of some nebulous idea of “literary merit”. (Or worse, “social relevance”)

    1. You Have: No Tea and Pocket Fluff

      (I’ve had these running through my head since the title. Now I need to go re-read something.)

  3. Oh, there is math for determining whether the mean and distribution match claims or differ from it, and what amount of uncertainty there is in that claim due to the possibility of the deviation arising by chance.

    Given the data, the chance that there is no bias is down there in the unicorn range. Maybe a couple hundredths of a percent. The chance that there is a bias is the converse (1 minus 0.02%).

    By comparison, the general consensus uses a 95% certainty level to show significance for scientific publication. And courts judging bias cases are way more sensitive than that. If you wanted to take data like this into court to claim there was no bias in your selection, this time tomorrow you’d be looking at a court order obligating you to pay six or seven figure damages.

    1. 🙂 I was trying to keep it simple Dan, A regression of least squares means ‘uh, like you know, these squares are like so unimportant that kind of devolving into Morlocks’ to some of those who are claiming there was no bias. Yes, the data is as clear an indictment of bias as you could get, but they’re STILL saying loudly and often that there is none. So I tried to put it in flip-of-the-coin level simple.

      1. Oh, I get your point, but this isn’t a regression. It’s a statistical sampling problem with Gaussian distribution. Does sample mean and variance match the claimed mean and variance? One rule of probability and statistics is that no matter how improbable an outcome may be, it can happen (and will eventually) unless somehow forbidden. But you can show that the probability of achieving this result by random action from a sample of the claimed characteristics – and the only reason any of the stat people I worked with would run these statistics would be to show how ridiculously unlikely it is, and exactly how certain they are that the results aren’t random. They’d reject the “no bias” hypothesis out of hand as statistically untenable.

    1. And this is what I hear over, and over, and over, and over. It’s mostly just that our readers look at the Hugos and ask, “why even bother?” Especially when Larry won at the nomination level.

      1. KilteDave – they were handed a golden opportunity to substantially enhance the value of their brand ‘the Hugo.’ This was of huge value to winners of past, and future, and even the noms. Basically that meant displaying that there definitely was no bias, and the only way to establish that was to have an outspoken right wing person win by popular acclaim (not just sad puppy votes.) It was, in that way, a generous and forgiving gesture from the ILoH. To not see this you have to be either really stupid or really really myopic or deluded. On the basis of the evidence – which is it?

    2. And this, if I was Hugo winner, nominee, or organizer, is what they need to realize is eroding the value of the thing faster than an over-ripe mango through a short grandmother.

      Defending the value of the Hugo takes more than some pompous individual (they have a fellow who is supposed to do this. Unfortunately he’s one of the red balls, and not very good at social interaction. His method seems to be to tell you you’re stupid rednecks and how dare you. Works real well ;-/) getting abusive when the flaws in their system are pointed out. They’re still treating people who tell them this as their enemies, because they don’t want to deal with reality. Shrug. Either they deal with it, or it’ll deal with them.

  4. And lo, I happen to be lucky that first time. And Freddy takes the third bag and says ‘double if you do it again, get another red!’ Which I am sure you can see is ½ x ½ x ½ = 1/8 or one time in eight, or 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5. = 0.125 It will happen… one time out of 8 tries if you keep repeating this often enough.

    I haven’t read the rest of this yet let alone the comments, but I couldn’t pass this by. This looks like a mistake. As worded, you’ve already “won” the bet with the first two bags. All combinations for the first two other than red red have already been excluded. All that’s left is that third bag. And the probability for that one is 0.5.

    If you start with three bags and ask for the odds of red-red-red, that’s 1/8. But once you’ve already got the first two that’s no longer the situation and you only need consider the odds on the unknown bag.

    I have added the word ‘again’ to clarify – Dave

    Once something has happened, it’s happened, and is no longer a matter for “odds”.

    I have added the word ‘again’ to clarify – Dave

    1. My read of the bit you quote is that it is another round of drawing, with three bags.

      1. “takes the third bag” read to me as “double or nothing if this one is also red”.

        A common mistake when people look at the odds of something happening is the “gamblers fallacy”. This is where something believes that because you’ve had a string of events that fell one way the odds that succeeding ones will fall the other are higher (if you had three heads in a row flipping coins the odds that the next one will be tails is better than 50:50). If the event is truly random than past events have not effect on future events. The next flip of a fair coin is 50:50 regardless of how long the string of heads has already been flipped. (At a certain point, one might decide that perhaps the coin isn’t fair after all–which is the point of Mr. Freer’s essay. 😉 )

        1. Oh, I understand stats, at least to that point.

          ‘double if you do it again, get another red!’

          ‘do it again’ seems to cover that it is an independent set of trials. I think he shortened things down because ‘and get n reds, where you got n-1 this time’, is not what the guy representing the house would say. One, most people do not speak formally and precisely all the time. Two, the fuller explanation has a chance of convincing the gambler to quit while he is ahead.

  5. I think we’ve past beyond the inifinite improbability drive into the realm of bistromathics 🙂

  6. I never learned about Odds and your explanation, although simple, will probably not stick with me. But, I could smell the stink for the longest time of the “no bias” bias. 😉

    1. Count the number of things that might happen. That goes on bottom. Count the number of those things that you are interested in happening. That goes on top. That fraction is the chance of the things you are interested in.

      If you have a bunch of different independent events, you multiply the fractions.

  7. I understood ‘ignorant of stats and still willing to argue’ as an indication of innumeracy, and being perhaps too deep in the closet to learn.

  8. Ever been to Vegas or seen pictures?
    Very fancy architecture they have there. All paid for with the profits from casino gambling. That profit comes from the house edge built into the rules, and that can vary from a fraction of a percent to 4-5 for most legitimate games of chance. That edge is the reason why a roulette table has 0 and 00. It’s built into the payout ratios on other wagers.
    What the folks involved in the Hugo votes did was either decide that in fairness every ball they picked had to be red, or that if they picked a black ball it was morally justified to put it back and pick again.
    Not saying anyone cheated, just that I now have the same regard for the Hugos as I do for the mayoral votes in Chicago.

    1. And don’t forget that all those impressive buildings are just props in the advertising. Very little of substance exists in Vegas (at least on the Strip), which again is applicable to the Hugos. I recognized most of the nominees from the 1939 ballot (even some of the short stories), but I’d be hard pressed to recognize any of the recent winners, much less the also rans. It’s all gold leaf over rotten wood, something that impresses the eye but cannot connect in an enduring manner.

      1. Oh Gnardopolo! Why how could you? Don’t you know Cora Buhlert herself has pronounced that that they will have glory everlasting and sad puppies will just have all the money and be forgotten ;-/

    2. A huge part of the Hugo problem starts well before the noms. There has been overwhelming bias at the publishing, distribution and retailing level, as well as in reviews and other publicity. The noms take an underlying problem and make it far worse, rather than correcting it all. There is considerable ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours in the noms, and lets face it, the left is better at marching in lockstep – or rather slavishly imitating their ‘leaders’ than the right, so a left nom out of a predominantly left pool is very likely. The right – it’s more like herding cats. And it’s not serious to most of them. It’s IMPORTANT – particularly to the loony far left as they think it gives them legitimacy. It’s a bit stupid – they want to stand on the high point – but they couldn’t get there in fair competition. So they knock it down a 1/4 the height and woner why they’re not standing very tall.

  9. One thing I’d like to point out, as far as the outspoken left is concerned the best books did win…because their selection priority is based upon adherence to ideology and author purity. It’s not bias if you redefine the bar. Of course, this means we should start a campaign for next year to try again…since it’ll be in the US the gnashing of teeth will be amazing if we can push hard enough.

    1. Oh yes, as far as they concerned they did. But they have been trying to snow-job everyone that there was no ideological bias. I just got tired of it and did the figures at a level I hope is clear to anyone.

      I don’t know about next year. Shrug. Honestly it’s like trying to help an alcoholic or drug addict. You can force them to dry out, while you keep them under watch but unless they want to reform, you’re wasting your time. They’ll try and cheat in any way they can, unless that desire is there. So: unless the people who normally attend and vote want to clean the Hugos up… you can force it, but you’d have to keep doing it endlessly. Is it worth it? Only if they they want to support cleaning it up. So far the answer seems to be they’d rather lie in the gutter covered in their own vomit and with their trousers soiled, begging for money to do it again, than clean up their act.

  10. Mr. Freer is (of course) a racist sexist homophobe for colonizing the Hugo award debate with his white man math logics and stuffs! WE HATES IT! WE HATES IT FOREVER! GAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

      1. You and me both.

        I think Brad just won the thread.

        As his prize, he gets the complete boxed set of Misfits of Science and a collectors edition DVD of Ice Pirates. 😉

    1. You’re doing a frightening good impression of an SJW.

      Are you feeling ok, Brad?

  11. “The first step is obviously to stop denying there is a problem and start looking at where comes from.”

    For the Red Ball crowd, it’s NOT a problem. As the saying goes, “It’s not a bug, it’s a FEATURE!”

    1. Oh I agree. But as they’re actually a small group, who spend their lives going la la la to anything they don’t want to hear, I had no hope of reaching them anyway. But they have – as is their normal practice been lying very loudly to the rest of the audience that there was no bias. It’s those people I was talking to and proving the red balls are bunch of lying rogues.

  12. As a result of writing this, you have sold a copy of Cuttlefish to a voracious Kindle reader who had not previously heard of you. Said reader hopes Cuttlefish is awesome and therefor a gateway drug.

    1. You have a problem, the first bite leads to the “Lay’s” commercial. You can’t stop with just one- You don’t have to ask me how I know.

    2. And once you’ve read that (and its sequel) try “stardogs” . I prefer Stardogs personally because I had a problem with the glowball worming caused flooding part of the Alt Hist of Cuttlefish. I don’t blame Dave for that because he took a fairly well known idea (see e.g. Waterworld) and tweaked it, but the actual sea level rise posited for some of the effects is actually next to impossible because there isn’t enough ice in Antarctica

      1. If you have the version printed on gold leaf, it explains that ancient astronauts had been pulling comets from the oort cloud and carefully dumping them in the oceans.

      2. You know, I’ve been dying for someone to ASK me the glowbull warming question. No one ever did :-(. No-one seems to realize the book is not about CO2, but specifically ABOUT BLACK CARBON (a problem the west has almost entirely overcome, Chna and India haven’t) and methane bursts resulting from that. The sea-level rise to achieve the flooding is actually relatively small – I I think total melt of the Arctic and Antarctic adds (oh, my lamentable memory) about? 50-60 meters? Which was certainly NOT what I posited- I’d have to go back to the calculations but much of London is actually very low lying – the Thames is tidal right through to to Teddington lock. I think (it was 5 years ago, during a period of some upheaval in my life! that I settled on what height I was going to decide on – and sitting with google earth and checking the water levels in the places referred to.

        1. I understood the methane and carbon black thing. And soot on Greenland was really the only way you could have got it to melt fast enough – do the sums on the energy required to melt 3 million km3 of ice, you need most of the sun’s energy per year to stay on the ice instead of being reflected. But I’m skeptical enough soot would have made it to Antactica to melt enough of that too. I calculated you needed 20-30m or so of rise and Greenland on its own would only get you about 6 – http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/icesheets.html. IIRC you were a bit inconsistent in the sea-level rise as well – you needed a good 30m of SL rise to get at least one of the descriptions of London and that would have totally borked some other UK description (East Anglia? I forget) where the implied rise was more like 15-20m.

          But like I say I never stressed out too much about it, it was a great story even if I didn’t totally buy into the background

      3. the actual sea level rise posited for some of the effects is actually next to impossible because there isn’t enough ice in Antarctica

        That was a brainfart, I meant Greenland

  13. I leave this comment humbly, as the chance of my getting a Hugo nomination is about as good as my meeting Larry Correia and finding out he’s a real nice guy with a sense of humor. My son and I were at the local book emporium, and since I had forgotten the name of the Hugo winner, I looked it up on my phone thingy. They had one copy, and after thumbing through it I could feel my eyes burning. I spent my $15 on one of the 50th anniversary LOTR.

    1. Er. Larry IS a nice guy with a great sense of humor. So your chances of meeting him must equal your chances of a Hugo nom. Therefor if you want a Hugo nom, why don’t you look up his schedule 🙂

    2. about as good as my meeting Larry Correia and finding out he’s a real nice guy with a sense of humor.

      So pretty good then (if you look for the right cons or book signings anyway).

  14. Still, that’ll be much less for them in future. After all out of every 100 noms they should get 15. And they’ve already had 3.

    I like the article but, but that little bit bugs me, since we hope that knowledgeable dad knows the gambler’s falacy isn’t true.

    1. I know. The ‘I’ve used up all my bad luck’ or it’s got to come good now. -the chances in each independent event are precisely what they were before -so even if you’re betting on tails and the coin has given you 5 heads… the chances the next time are still 50:50 – 1/2. I was simply using this to illustrate what would be true within a high level of confidence, were the sample large enough.Like the lumberjack pulling balls out of the bags until he dies, the ratios will move back to the predicted in time. The only way they can do that is for less red balls to come out later.

  15. I reblogged this and got my first rude comment from some anonymous person about Mr. Freer. I thought the post was really good (I’m horrible at math though).

    1. How surprising ;-/. I had a look. You have an infestation of the infamous Clamps – A well known troll. He is I believe among other ‘desirable’ things sort of semi-professional stalker of Asian women. Sorry about that.

  16. There doesn’t have to be any bias in the Hugo process itself to generate these results. Organized fandom (Worldcon-attending, Hugo-voting fandom) skews left. If fans just do what they do, read what their friends recommend, and nominate what they like, you will tend to get results like this, even if they nominate and vote without bias. It doesn’t mean that the individual nominees are unworthy.

    Everyone I’ve spoken to about Ancillary Justice in person, liked the book, across a range of political opinions. It may well be a worthy winner. I didn’t like it much though I didn’t hate it. I’ve disliked other novel nominees in other years considerably more.

    I think it’s likely, given how many novels are published, that a big part of the process of getting five nominees to each clear 5% of the total nominating ballots is people making recommendations, and I I suspect that like-minded people will tend to recommend like-minded things to one another.

    Since we didn’t actually get 5 nominees to clear 5% in short stories, given that there are a lot of short stories published, I’d say that there wasn’t enough recommending going on.

    I think the most interesting category in this respect was Best Fan Writer. The whole category was heavily dominated by essays represented by a very red ball. There is an awful lot of fan writing. Clearly the pieces that got linked, and forwarded, and generally shared by fans were politically quite similar.

    1. Bias “in the process” sort of misses the point… which for me at least is that the Hugos are not inclusive… for whatever reason. They do have a bias… for whatever reason. And it would be a good thing to try to encourage a better representation of the genre if the award is meant to represent the genre.

      There are other more narrow awards. We’ve been talking some about starting a Human Wave award. It makes sense, then, that the winner of a Human Wave award would be a Human Wave book. Is it Prometheus that’s the libertarian award? Same there.

      I get that there is a bit of conflict between wanting to get more people involved in literary fandom (as opposed to gaming, comics and movies) and there’s this hangover still from the 1980’s “we are not hacks! we are not! we are not!” tantrums… but the doors should be opened and when they are opened the rabble are going to get in. Exclusivity and Inclusivity are incompatible concepts.

      1. Synova, I am VERY wary about the term ‘inclusive’ – because it translates as the tiniest minority getting equal weighting to biggest group. Demographically representative makes financial sense :-). At the moment exclusivity is actually illegal for some groupings and seemingly fine for others.

    2. The hypothesis being tested was not ‘is the Hugo process biased’ (I think it could be argued that because certain substantial blocks of people can vote in concert and may have vested interests (let’s say the staff at Orbit, who would one assumes attend a con in their home city – I think they’re based in London)) but that the result produced did not substantively match the demographic spread of readers.

      As for AJ. Ask those who think it a worthy winner – as only one deep red ball is really plausible across the writing categories… whether they’ve told the rest they should step down, give their award back, so the deserving AJ can get the recognition it should? That’s all they need to do- see the rest go to whites or a black (or possibly two – would after all be plausible by now). If it had been the only red to win, no-one would logically question it. And there is the nub of the problem, not that a red ball should win occasionally, but that black should win as often.

      The ‘fan writing’ is part of the process that is badly flawed and displays it quite well (it’s also as the ‘fan writer’ is a published and award winning novelist… a bit unfair to real fan writers. The noms are, I will bet, largely log-rolling of the same group, and represent the fact that these activists will nominate, whereas normal con goers do so rarely. So yes, more noms would change things, I think.

      1. The Nebulas were probably worse for this than the Hugos, since at least the Hugos didn’t award a clearly ineligible work (albeit they did allow the nomination).

        Hell, I skipped AJ when it was on for $2 because it was linked with IYWADML in my mind.

  17. Go look up the voting results for every non-US Worldcon over the past five years.

    How many American Hugo-winners are there?

    _Ancillary Justice_ won because the author was a Homie — period, end of discussion, next case; same as with all the other winners. (News Flash: Outside the US, no one has the first clue who “Vox Day” is — much less do they care.) Correia and his crowd had as much chance of winning this year as I did.

    So if you’re going to make accusations about the Hugo Voters being anything, at least get it right, and call them “provincial-minded putzes”.

  18. Outside the US, no one has the first clue who “Vox Day” is — much less do they care.) Correia and his crowd had as much chance of winning this year as I did.

    I’m not so certain about that. Most people inside the US don’t have any idea who Vox Day is. It’s a controversy largely limited to those who follow fannish inside baseball. It’s also the same group who were aware of the huge deal that got made out of Jonathan Ross being named as the Hugo MC. If I know about that, why wouldn’t a Brit know something about Vox Day.

    Corrieia’s novel may be more likely to be more popular among Americans because it is a story about Americans who describe themselves as Americans. I think that is independent of the fact that Correia is American.

    _Ancillary Justice_ won because the author was a Homie — period, end of discussion, next case; same as with all the other winners.

    Ann Leckie is an American.

    Charles Stross is a Scott. I’m not sure if that counts as a homie for these purposes, but he didn’t win.

  19. The ‘fan writing’ is part of the process that is badly flawed and displays it quite well (it’s also as the ‘fan writer’ is a published and award winning novelist… a bit unfair to real fan writers

    Over the years, there has been no shortage of ‘fan writer’ nominations going to pros, for doing writing that is fannish. I don’t really see a problem. Writers can be fans. Quite a few writers go to SF cons where the trip really probably isn’t really justifiable in professional terms. They like to do so.

    The hypothesis being tested was not ‘is the Hugo process biased’ [snip] but that the result produced did not substantively match the demographic spread of readers.

    I don’t know the demographic spread of SF readers. Among fans who attend cons, there is, in my opinion, a leftward skew. There could easily be a mismatch between the two. If you are saying that this is the reason for a disproportionate number of red balls, then I’m inclined to agree. If you are saying that the Hugos need a wider base of people nominating, then I also agree.

    1. Khazlek – my take on the ‘fan writer’ is that one has to look at why any award was created. You and I may differ mildly on this but in my opinion the novel etc is to my view not so much recognition and reward for the author — which it is of course, but in fact to label a work as ‘worth reading’ to people who don’t know it. This, if the author is popular, the book good, has the effect of making the award credible and making it valuable, Now obviously fan writing (which in the vast volume of it I’ve read is about the books, the genre, the cons and even awards) will rarely be possible to label a work of fan writing as ‘worth reading’ to people who don’t know it. It’s not impossible, but would be hard to expect, when you were deciding to have the award. So the purpose of the award is purely for a reward for the people who do the unappreciated grunt work of the genre. I think that’s a great idea myself. But of course when you start giving it to professional writers, it still won’t do much introducing of those pieces to those who don’t know it (they’re not on bookshelves with ‘hugo winner/s’ on them) but it will exclude many of the hard core fan writers, who can’t or won’t write novels. My bet is said professional who have won now describe themselves as ‘Hugo award winners’ in blurbs and interviews – exploiting this as an easy way to get something they can’t otherwise, at the expense of the loyal fans who aren’t there for that. That’s my feeling on the subject, and it is quite possible I am wrong :-).

      On the demographic spread – my point, now and often previously (heh, it’s an old drum of mine) is that there is no intrinsic reason for sf/fantasy readership not to broadly mirror the demographics of readers. If it doesn’t, authors and publishers should be interested and trying to capitalize on those niches. If the genre covers them all it is a bigger pie and better for all, in the medium to long term at. Pointing out the gap is a desirable thing to do.

      I’m saying the left claims it is not skewed. And I didn’t actually dictate what conclusions to reach as to why they are wrong – I think it has multiple causes, starting in publishing. I do agree with your statements about fans at cons and noms, but that wasn’t what I was trying to prove. Just that it is skewed.

      1. On the demographic spread, I think I failed to recognize that you meant to distinguish SF readers from readers in general, and that you mean a skew between SF readers and all readers more than a skew between SF readers and likely Hugo voters. I believe I better understand your point.

        On the point of fan writer, it seems to me that the purpose of the award is to recognize fan writing. That is to say, writing about fandom, or of interest to fandom which is not fiction. Therefore if you write an article about eBook pricing, you are potentially eligible for a fan writer award. This is complicated a bit by the fact that the award is for the writer and not the work. While the Hugo packet may contain samples from the nominees, we aren’t to construe that sample work is the only work by that writer that deserves consideration.

        If we were to try to exclude pros, how would the rule to exclude them be written? Would a single professional sale exclude you for the year?

        . My bet is said professional who have won now describe themselves as ‘Hugo award winners’ in blurbs and interviews

        I don’t know how all pros handle this. I have exactly one data point. John Scalzi has discussed this on his blog and said that his books wouldn’t be marked “Hugo Winning Author” until he won a Hugo for fiction, though he had Hugos for Fan Writer and Best Related Work before winning for Best Novel.

        1. Good for Scalzi. I will see if this year’s does the same. Bet you a beer one day not.

          I wasn’t making up rules, just giving my ethos on it. I’d say I was not eligible and would turn down nomination 🙂 After all I want fans to write, and I will anyway.

  20. I don’t get it. If 3/4 of the time Freddie wins $1 off you and 1/4 of the time you win $3 off Freddie then chances are you break even, and the chance you break even goes up the longer you play. Freddie’s not making a fat profit. Unless there’s some sort of percentage the house takes that you didn’t mention.

    1. Cat, I could probably explain it better but think of it like the tote. There are four(or 24) four horse races (the four possible outcomes). You put in a dollar to possibly win 3. The tote de facto keeps your dollar if you lose, and if you win, pays you back your dollar, and another two. So given normal 1/4 chance (you don’t know the horses at all, it’s like the coin flips pure chance) you put in your dollar, you lose the first one, you’re a dollar down. you put in a second dollar, you lose the second one, you’re 2 dollars down, you put in a third dollar you lose the third, you’re 3 dollars down. And you put in the fourth dollar – And you win the 4th. So you’re actually 4 dollars down but you get 3 back. You don’t get 3 AND the one you bet (that would be a payout of 4 dollars, and break even). I’ve edited the original for clarity.

  21. The problem, of course, is that if the best that the right-wing sf authors of the world can produce in 2013 is “Opera Vita Aeterna” with its illiterate Latin title and “The Exchange Officers” with its really-lazy worldbuilding, it’s not the awards process that is biased but the distribution of talent and effort that is lopsided. There ain’t no handicapper general giving everybody an equal chance, and the claim that “Opera Vita Aeterna” was best in its class in 2013 is a really stupid hill for you to die on…

    Brad DeLong

    1. As a troll, I give it a C-. Late to the party, and hasn’t done the 30 seconds of research necessary to learn that Ancillary Justice was competing against Warbound. For that matter, a bit more research would have turned up that the title was not intended to be Latin. Bonus troll points, however, for completely ignoring the entire premise of this article, which is the mathematical impossibility of what’s been happening. Also, if we’re throwing stones, “if my love were a dinosaur?” That’s a really stupid hill for you to die on.

    2. Brad are trying you prove that that some people just don’t get math, even at junior school level, and logic is right outside the ball-park? And their reading comprehension is lower than the average kid coping with see-spot-run and yet they can still vote for ‘the best sf novel/short etc etc.? Because you have demonstrated that very well. 1) let’s pretend the sad puppies slate wasn’t there at all. There is still more chance of puce and lime green winged pigs whistling the internationale through their anal sphincters while doing loop the loops around the moon, than 5 outspoken left wingers winning all the writing categories in an unbiased system. That’s without looking at the noms in the previous years, which I bothered to set out for you. Got it? IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO CLAIM IT IS NOT BIASED AT SOME LEVEL. Maths fail, Brad. 2) Then to try logic. If there were no suitable nom candidates this year from right wing candidates… where were they the year before? And the year before? And the year before… If it is UNBIASED, logic states you could have some years when one side was up, as long as you had some years when the other was up. We’ve had plenty of outspoken left-wingers winning in the last twenty years, When was the last time an outspoken right winger won? Poul Anderson, is the last I can think of. When someone says there is a left wing bias loudly and publicly, and says you will organize and orchestrate that they lose… what is the logical to thing to do to prove them wrong? See five lefties out of five win? Logic fail. Do it in such a way as to show lockstep tactical voting? When you want show no bias? Logic = fail squared. The sheer stupid is just unbelievable. Reading comprehension – you’re commending books and stories, but you can’t actually understand simple, clear, plain English? I never said ANYWHERE, that any specific work should win. What I did say is to begin to credible SOMETHING which was not from outspoken left, but from the outspoken right had to win. Pick one, any one. That at most _one_ of the shrieking left could win and be plausible. Pick one. Any one, No more. Oh for what it is worth I think VD made a mistake with the title. His mistake was thinking his audience would grasp that it was written in transition from Latin to Italian – contemporaneous with his setting. That takes a bit more knowledge than most people have and instead of realizing the possibility that they don’t get it, they assume his Latin is bad.

      1. Because you haven’t been in the US, Dave, let me help you with this: they think it’s fair for leftwingers to win year after year because right wingers are just “not creative.” Yeah, you see, they just support the status quo and don’t want to change anything so they’re not creative.
        Sorry. I should have warned you, before you read that and splurtched all over the monitor. Here, have a napkin. Yeah, I’m 51 and AS LONG AS I’VE BEEN ALIVE the left has been in control of the education, the government, the entertainment and most of the high bridges of culture. To disagree with them, back in the days without internet, took a leap of faith that I wasn’t going crazy, that they really were selling a vision that didn’t agree with reality, and that history proved this. A leap of faith into the unknown, alone, and then creating my own system of belief (which is why the details piss off so many people 😉 ) BUT I’m just a conformist “going along” with received wisdom. Because I have a time machine and received my wisdom int he 18th century.
        I’ve heard them for decades saying this, and couldn’t say anything. They just told themselves over and over again that all the free spirits were on the left (Dave, they’re so SQUARE and wedded to their received belief, you could measure corners with them) and so all the creatives, and therefore the right JUST DIDN’T CREATE.
        Now that there are no gatekeepers and that indie is showing that in fact people of all political persuasions create art as they have throughout history, they’ve retreated to “Yeah, but that’s just bad and appalling prose, because we don’t like it.” In the dark midnight of vile prog’s soul, it’s always certainty o’clock. And the one thing they are certain of is that their belief makes them smart and important. Their teachers told them so, and they did everything they were supposed to like good boys or girls or whatevers. How dare we take away that gold star they brownnosed worked so hard for?

        1. Sarah, I was peripherally aware of this nonsense. It’s just so daft as to defy anyone taking it seriously… But I suppose that just about wraps it up for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis then… Not creative. No literary value. No one will ever read them (meanwhile, the Bloomsbury crowd – the left lib ‘opposition’ at the time… who actually reads any them, outside left wing English lit courses? )
          And yes when it comes narrowness and uniformity of viewpoint, the US left do seem to be setting new levels in demanding doctrinaire obedience. I am sure limiting what you may think or say or write has to logically make you ‘more creative.’ It’s just lucky all those wonderful, wonderful state approved novels that came out of USSR, and outsell Tolkien prove this.
          And yes, again, there seems a genuine fear and anger coupled with a willingness to do anything (no matter how vile, cruel or debased – the slanders about Larry) to preserve their status quo, their monopoly on publishing, that they brown-nosed and conformed so hard for.

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