More Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Awards

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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April 5, 2015


I’ve got a few thoughts about the 2015 Hugo Award nomination process rattling around in my head, so I thought I’d share.

First, though, I want to acknowledge that putting forth a slate and nominating a slate is not against the rules as they currently stand.

But that doesn’t mean it’s right or that it’s within what I perceive to be the spirit of the Hugo Awards.

It does a disservice to all the people who proposed works for the Sad/Rabid Puppy slates whose suggestions didn’t make the slate. The Hugo Awards aren’t a lifetime achievement award or a prize for selling a lot of books. They’re supposed to be for the best work in a particular category in a given year.

There is, for me, a massive difference between putting forth a list of recommendations or letting people know what you’re eligible for: that is providing information for voters in a genre which has become extremely large and diverse. It’s not telling people how to vote. It is not telling people to nominate in a specific way in order to upset people that you perceive as your adversaries and not as fellow readers and fans.

I don’t keep a running list of everything I’ve read over the course of a year, so I find recommendation lists and comment threads, as well as eligibility posts, extremely useful for me in terms of jogging my memory or providing lunchtime reading material as I consider my ballot–I discovered quite a number of wonderful stories this way, including Eugie Foster’s “When It Ends, He Catches Her”.

That brings me to another point: there’s nothing in the rules that says voters must read everything that’s on the ballot. Choosing not to read works because they were on a slate and to rank No Award above them is within the rules of the Hugo Awards. Which is what I will be doing–if the work appears on either the Sad or Rabid Puppy slate, it will be ranked below No Award or left off the ballot entirely.

I will try to read those works where the nominee was unaware that they were put on the slate until after the fact (which, despite multiple statements to the contrary by organizers and supporters of the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates, is a thing that happened), but the default position for those works will be below No Award.  Nominees who were aware of and participated in this process will not appear on my ballot at all. I know this hurts worthy works, but it’s the only way I can participate in the process and be right with myself and my convictions.

I am glad to hear that there are a number of folks intending to make proposals at the WSFS business meeting this year to propose changes which will mitigate this kind of manipulation of the nominating process. I am not savvy in the ways of the WSFS constitution and business meeting to do this sort of work myself, so I salute and appreciate those who are.

Finally, for all those who are exhorting folks to set politics aside and take the works on their merits: You are aware that logrolling the nominations in this way was political, right? You just have the luxury of pretending that it wasn’t.

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  1. Beth

    Did you see James Nicoll’s post about no longer accepting Baen books for review?

  2. Nick Gardner

    “I will try to read those works where the nominee was unaware that they were put on the slate until after the fact (which, despite multiple statements to the contrary by organizers and supporters of the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates, is a thing that happened)”

    No, actually the organizers have admitted it happened and that it was a mistake.

    I’m curious though, why was it a horrible thing to nominate someone for a Hugo award without asking them? Do I need to get permission to nominate someone I think deserves an award?

    • Natalie Luhrs

      I’m going to pretend you are here in good faith, Nick, and answer your question. If you’re nominating all on your own, choosing the stuff you think is the best–go for it. If you’re putting together a slate of nominees that you are going to tell other people to use to make their nominations, you better damn well make sure that the people on your slate are okay with being associated with your movement.

      And, golly. They’re now admitting that they were lying the past few months when they told everyone who would care to listen that they had asked everyone? Color me completely unsurprised.

      Beth: I didn’t see that–I’m woefully behind on reading James’s LJ. Heading over there now.

  3. Doug Muir

    1) At a rough estimate, between a quarter and a third of the voters were Sad Puppies and/or their Gamergate allies. That figure is based on the total number of nominators over the last six years. If the numbers had followed the trend from 2010 to 2013, there would be about 1400-1500 voters this year. Instead the numbers jumped to around 1900 last year and over 2011 this year. It seems reasonable to assume that those extra 500-600 votes are mostly GG / SP.

    2) Presumably the SP folks will unite on a slate of nominees to push for first place in each category.

    3) Anti-Puppy voters have two options. In those categories that have only Puppy nominees, correct play is No Award as first choice. If 51% or more of voters choose No Award, then No Award automatically wins. (If fewer than 51%choose No Award, things get complicated. Google “How Hugo Votes Are Counted” if you’re interested.)

    4) In those categories that have non-Puppy nominees, you can vote for that nominee. But if you want to avoid a Puppy win, you’ll want to keep No Award as high on the slate as possible.

    Good luck.

    Doug M.


    @Doug Muir:

    Doug, you really can’t attribute all those “extra” nominations to gg/woeful wankers. Every member of LonCon3 AND Sasquan AND MidAmeriCon2 was eligible to nominate. LonCon3 had a record of over 10,000 members.

    Heck, the boost of supporting members joining to get the entire Wheel of Time series in the voting packet could more than account for those numbers, and that doesn’t include all the extra people who joined LonCon3 for other reasons.

    No, I think the gg/ww contingent is much smaller than that.

    To those interested in how No Award works, I highly recommend Kevin Standlee’s Livejournal entry on the subject.

  5. Doug Muir

    Maybe? I’m hearing that the group involved may have been smaller, though without attribution.

    That said, one additional wrinkle: if you don’t want Puppy stuff to win, don’t put them on your ballot at all. So, instead of writing “1) No Award 2) Puppy stuff 3) Puppy stuff”, you want to just write “1) No Award” and leave 2-5 blank.

    And if there’s a slate that’s a mixture of stuff you want to vote for and Puppy stuff — Best Novel, for instance — then you’d write “1) First Best Novel Choice 2) Second BN Choice 3) No Award” and leave 4-5 blank.

    (I know many of you know this already, but I didn’t realize it until pretty recently.)

    Doug M.


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