Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

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.

There is one other issue regarding the 1941 Best Novella ballot. Under another change passed this year (Nominee Diversity), no more than two works by a single author or single combination of authors can appear on the ballot in any one category. This would have ruled out one of the three Heinlein stories nominated for Best Novella, probably "Magic, Inc." which was well behind both of the others on nominations (but took second place in the vote). That in turn would have brought in "The Wheels of If", by L. Sprague de Camp (he is co-author of the other two non-Heinlein stories on the ballot, but the rules only exclude a third story by the same group of authors). The next story after that (and the only other one with a decent number of nominations) would have been "Darker Than You Think" by Jack Williamson, which was incorrectly placed in this year's Best Novelette category and subsequently removed.

1939 Retro Hugos
Category Removed Added
Best Novel - The Silver Princess in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Best Novella - "Tarzan and the Elephant Men" by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Best Novelette - "Seeds of the Dusk" by Raymond Z. Gallun
Best Short Story - "An Experiment of the Dead" by Helen Simpson
Best Editor (Short Form) - T. O'Conor Sloane
Best Editor (Long Form) - Howard V. Brown
Best Fanzine - Science Fiction Newsletter
Best Fan Writer - William F. Temple

1941 Retro Hugos
Category Removed Added
Best Novel - Final Blackout, by L.Ron Hubbard
Best Novella (2) "Magic, Inc.", by Robert A. Heinlein "The Wheels of If", by L. Sprague de Camp
"Darker Than You Think", by Jack Williamson
Best Novelette - "Fruit of Knowledge", by C.L. Moore
Best Short Story - "Let There Be Light", by Robert A. Heinlein
Best Graphic Story - Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr Seuss
Best Editor (Short Form) - Malcolm Reiss
Best Professional Artist no change
Best Fanzine - Detours
Best Fan Writer - Art Widner

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.

2014 Hugos
Category Removed Added
Best Novel - The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Best Novella - "How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea" by Mira Grant
Best Novelette - "The Litigation Master and the Monkey King" by Ken Liu
Best Short Story - "Dog's Body" by Sarah A. Hoyt
"A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel" by Ken Liu
Best Related Work - Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, ed. Ytasha L. Womack
Best Graphic Story - Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Best Editor (Short Form) - Sheila Williams
Best Editor (Long Form) - Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Best Professional Artist (5) Fiona Staples Joey Hi-Fi
Best Semiprozine - Clarkesworld ed. Neil Clarke
Best Fanzine - Banana Wings eds. Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Best Fancast (7) The Writer and the Critic
Best Fan Writer - Justin Landon
Best Fan Artist - Maurine Starkey
Campbell Award - Frank Chadwick

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.

2015 Hugos
Category Removed Added
Best Novel (°6) The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson Lock In by John Scalzi
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
°Best Novella (°6) "Pale Realms of Shade" by John C. Wright "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" by Patrick Rothfuss
"The Regular" by Ken Liu
Best Novelette - "Each to Each" by Seanan McGuire
°Best Short Story (°3) "A Single Samurai" by Steven Diamond "Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon
"The Breath of War" by Aliette de Bodard
°Best Related Work (°5) Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
Chicks Dig Gaming by Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith, and Lars Pearson
Best Graphic Story - Schlock Mercenary: Broken Wind by Howard Tayler
°Best Editor (Short Form)
(°4) Bryan Thomas Schmidt
(°5) Vox Day
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
°Best Editor (Long Form) - Liz Gorinsky
Best Professional Artist (°3) Kirk DouPonce John Picacio
Galen Dara
Best Semiprozine - The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
Best Fanzine - Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
Best Fancast - The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Best Fan Writer (°4) Dave Freer Abigail Nussbaum
Natalie Luhrs
Best Fan Artist - Maurine Starkey
Campbell Award - Alyssa Wong

2016 Hugos
Category Removed Added
Best Novel - Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm by John C. Wright
Best Novella - "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn" by Usman T. Malik
Best Novelette (°5) "What Price Humanity?" by David VanDyke "Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker
"So Much Cooking" by Naomi Kritzer
Best Short Story (°3) Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" by Alyssa Wong
"Wooden Feathers" by Ursula Vernon
°Best Related Work
(°2) Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini
(°3) "The Story of Moira Greyland" by Moira Greyland
Letters to Tiptree, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
Invisible 2, edited by Jim C. Hines
Best Graphic Story (°3) Invisible Republic Vol 1, written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman
(°4) The Divine, written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
(°6) Erin Dies Alone, written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell
Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine, written by Kelly Sue DeConick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Saga Volume 5, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt
Best Editor (Short Form) - C. C. Finlay
Best Editor (Long Form) (°6) Vox Day Anne Lesley Groell
David Hartwell
Best Professional Artist (°5) Lars Braad Andersen
(°6) Larry Rostant
Julie Dillon
John Picacio
Galen Dara
Best Semiprozine - Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
Best Fanzine - Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
°Best Fancast (°2) Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Andrew Finch
Best Fan Writer (°5) Shamus Young
(°6) Douglas Ernst
Alexandra Erin
Natalie Luhrs
Mark Oshiro
Best Fan Artist - Megan Lara
Campbell Award (°5) Sebastien de Castell Becky Chambers
Kelly Robson

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.
Tags: hugos 2014, hugos 2015, hugos 2016

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