August 27th, 2016


Interesting Links for 27-08-2016


First of three posts: 1941 Retro Hugos in detail

Have you recovered from Worldcon? Good. I was travelling all weekend, and then back at work last week, so even if the statistics had been out earlier I couldn't have easily processed them. This is the first of three posts about what I take from the figures, in this case concentrating on the 1941 Retro Hugos. Official results are here, full stats here.


  • Closest result was "Robbie" beating "Requiem" by 24 for Best Short Story; followed by Slan beating Gray Lensman by 28 for Best Novel.
  • Closest result of any count was Hannes Bok beating Margaret Brundage by 7 for second place in Best Professional Artist.
  • First count victories for Fantasia (Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form) and John W. Campbell (Best Editor, Short Form)
  • Three of the finalists in Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) and Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) had enough nominations to appear on either ballot.
  • Given the smaller vote pool, there were a lot of close results at the nomination stage:
    • The first Tom and Jerry episode, "Puss Gets the Boot", and the Oscar winning The Milky Way both missed the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) ballot by a single vote. Ghost Wanted missed by 2, The Invisible Woman by 3, the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia by 4, and five others by 5.
    • The Phantagraph missed the final ballot for Best Fanzine by 2 votes, Detours and Snide missed by 3 votes, and another three missed by 4.
    • Art Widner missed the final ballot for Best Fan Writer by 3 votes.
    • Horton Hatches the Egg missed the final ballot for Best Graphic Story by 3 votes. Two others missed by 5 and one more missed by 6.
    • Final Blackout, by L. Ron Hubbard, missed the final ballot for Best Novel by 4 votes, Twice in Time by Manly Wade Wellman missed by 8 and Typewriter In The Sky by L. Ron Hubbard missed by 10.
      Malcolm Reiss missed the final ballot for Best Editor (Short Form) by 7 votes.
    • "Fruit of Knowledge" by Catherine L. Moore missed the final ballot for Best Novelette by 8 votes, and "Into the Darkness" by Ross Rocklynne missed it by 9.
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Under current rules, no more Retro Hugos can be awarded until 2022 (on behalf of the 1947 Worldcon, ie for works and activity of 1946). There were no Worldcons in 1942, 1943, 1944 or 1945, and Retro Hugos for 1946 were awarded in 1996. However, this year's WSFS Business Meeting passed a change which would allow Retro Hugos also to be awarded for the missing WW2 years. If that is ratified next year, the 2019 Worldcon could decide to hold Retro Hugos for 1944 (ie celebrating work of 1943).

Second of three posts: 2016 Hugos in detail

I normally like to do these posts on the night, but circumstances prevented me this year. Next year will likely be a different matter...

Results are listed here, full details here; and analysis of the effect EPH would have had on the ballot (absent any other changes) here.

  • All four written fiction categories went to women who had never won a Hugo before, three of them WoC
  • Women also won both Best Editor categories and Best Professional Artist
  • An unusually high number of first-count victories:
    • Best Short Story (Cat Pictures Please)
    • Best Related Work (No Award)
    • Best Graphic Story (Sandman: Overture)
    • Best Fanzine (File 770)
    • Best Fancast (No Award)
    • Best Fan Writer (Mike Glyer)
  • Closest result at the top was Andy Weir beating Alyssa Wong by 34 votes for the Campbell award, second closest was Abigail Larson beating No Award by 84 for Best Professional Artist
  • Abigail Larson won Best Professional Artist despite being third on first preferences with only 16.7%
  • Alyssa Wong got the most first preferences for the John W. Campbell Award but lost on transfer to Andy Weir
  • No Award:
    • won only two categories this year, Best Fancast and Best Related Work
    • came second in Best Short Story, Best Graphic Story, Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist
    • came third in Best Editor Long Form, Best Fanzine and Campbell Award
    • came fourth in Best Novelette, Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and Best Semiprozine
    • came fifth in Best Professional Editor, Long Form
  • Closest result in nominations was Julie Dillon (last year's winner) missing by 14 votes to Larry Rostant in Best Professional Artist
  • The winners of Best Short Story ("Cat Pictures Please"), Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (Jessica Jones, AKA Smile), Best Fan Writer (Mike Glyer) and Best Fan Artist (Steve Stiles) were only on the ballot because others declined nomination or were disqualified
  • Jerry Pournelle and Hello Greedo got the most nominations for Best Editor (Short Form) and Best Fancast respectively, but both came last, behind No Award, in the actual vote
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Obviously a lot to consider here in terms of the effects of EPH, which will be the subject of my next post.

Third of three posts: the effect of the new rules on the Hugo Awards

Several significant changes to the Hugo rules were ratified by this year's WSFS meeting. Although discussion has tended to focus on the new tallying system dubbed EPH (short for E Pluribus Hugo) by its creators, two of the other amendments can also be retrospectively applied to past voting results - specifically, that there will now be (at least) six finalists in each category rather than five; and that the 5% cutoff for finalists no longer applies. Some commentators, looking just at EPH (to take two fairly representative cases, Jed Hartman and Cheryl Morgan), have expressed disappointment that the consequential changes of EPH are less satisfactory than expected. I think that, taken with the other changes made (particularly the increase of ballots to six finalists while keeping the number of nominations a member can make at five), the picture is a bit more encouraging.

(I wrote a long piece on how EPH works last year. The original proposal is here, and the version passed last weeknd here.)

EPH results have been published (except for the Best Dramatic Presentation categories) for 2014, 2015 and 1940; for 2016; and for 1941. These tables, however, don't take into account the other new rules and just show the effect of EPH if there were five finalists rather than six on the ballot for each category. They also don't show the effects on the Best Dramatic Presentation categories.

Adapting from a table created by Steven desJardins, and adding in some further data, I tabulate below exactly what difference the new rules would have made to recent Hugo ballots, starting with the Retro Hugos for 1939 (awarded in 2014) and for 1941 (awarded in 2016). There's not a huge difference in those two cases, though I think it's worth noting that in both years, one of the additional finalists in the written fiction categories would have been a story by a woman. In one category, there is no change at all, because a fifth-place tie meant that there were six finalists, all six of whom would also have been on the ballot under EPH.

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My initial analysis of the impact of the new rules on the 2014 Hugo ballot turns out to have been too pessimistic. If we have six finalists per category rather than five, I think in almost all cases the ballot would have looked better. Personally, I regret the loss of Fiona Staples from the Best Professional Artist category, but since she came 5th overall in the real ballot, I can't really argue that the voters would have been cheated of a viable candidate for the award. The only other finalist who would have lost their place on the ballot under the new rules came 7th and last in their category under the 2014 rules. Most notably, the change to six finalists per category means that the one Hugo winner who would have lost out, if EPH was brought in with no other changes, would have been able to keep their place on the ballot. NB also that there are two new finalists for Best Short Story due to the abolition of the 5% threshold.

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And so to the years of the slates. As in the 1941 and 2014 tables, I've indicated the ranking of real-life finalists who would have lost their places on the final ballot under the new rules. I've also marked with a degree sign ° where No Award was given in a particular category, and also where an excluded finalist was ranked below No Award by voters in real life. In 2015, 8 finalists would not have made it to the final ballot under the new rules; in 2016 the number was rather higher, 14. In every single one of these cases, the voters ranked those finalists below No Award, so EPH does not really seem to be removing viable candidates from the process. You will need to decide for yourself if these hypothetical ballots would have been more representative of fan opinion than the real ones, and whether No Award might have won fewer categories if the extra finalists had been available as options for the voters.

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I did have a moment of concern about EPH before the Business Meeting. It obviously does have an immediate impact in opening up categories which would otherwise be closed by slates - of the 7 No Awarded categories last year and this, the new system would have brought an additional 14 non-slated finalists onto the ballot. But it also seemed to me that EPH risked losing some of the diversity of the ballot through edge effects in non-slated years. However, I had not taken into consideration the additional positive effects of i) the six-finalist ballot and ii) the removal of the 5% threshold, both of which actively increase diversity. In addition, it's now very clear that the real-life finalists that would have been excluded from a six-member ballot by EPH in the last two years all came below No Award in the actual vote, and the two who would have been excluded in 2014 both did exceptionally poorly in their categories, so my previous concern that potentially popular candidates on the final ballot would be excluded by the new nomination procedures appears to have been ungrounded.

All in all, I'm confident that this year's rule changes give the 2017 Hugos a very solid foundation.

Saturday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (finishing up at a chapter a day)
Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 4, ed. Usman T. Malik
Brother and Sister, by Joanna Trollope 

Last books finished
The Sea and Summer, by George Turner
Planet of Judgement, by Joe Haldeman
Les Lumières de l'Amalou, by Christophe Gibelin and Claire Wendling
The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Vol 3: This Mortal Mountain

Last week's audios
You Are the Doctor, by John Dorney
Come Die With Me, by Jamie Anderson
The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel, by Christopher Cooper
Dead to the World, by Matthew Elliott

Next books

Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin
Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Short Trips: A Day In The Life, ed. Ian Farrington