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22 April 2015 @ 10:46 pm
Hugo Awards 2015, Thought #2: Numbers  
Right after the list of Hugo nominations came out, I did some playing around with the numbers to see if I could get a rough estimate of bounds on the size of the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy voting blocs.

Especially using categories where both slates had 5 nominees and those nominees differed, it was pretty easy to see that the Rabid Puppy voting bloc was larger than the Sad Puppy voting bloc. I ended up at around 110-130 for Sad Puppy and 130-150 for Rabid Puppy.

When a few works withdrew and the numbers were updated, it helped to confirm my rough estimates. The final nomination numbers should help finalize estimates of the size of the blocs.

The most amazing indicator of voting bloc scale and effect was when, in Novella, "Yes Virginia" was disqualified and "World Turned Upside Down" was added. The minimum number of votes for a nominee went from 165 to 72, meaning that "WTUD" had 72 votes - *Less Than Half* of the next-lowest nominated work, which was something from the SP and/or RP slates. Simply astonishing.

Of course, people have long known that a voting bloc would not have to be that big to nominate a work. It was a common joke in writing circles that one could easily get a Hugo nomination, and then maybe a Hugo, for $4000. Buy 100 memberships, get people to "vote for my work in category X and the rest of the ballot is yours to do what you want", or just do it yourself through various aliases, and you're in!

For a while this idea, along with the family wealth of the Rabid Puppy organizer (see Wikipedia), made me wonder if the Rabid Puppy bloc had been flat-out bought and the voting distributed through various aliases/supporters/etc (a la how Veruca Salt's father obtained a golden ticket in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). But I don't think it was, for the simple reason that it wasn't necessary. RP and SP were able, through appeals to supporters and other groups, to get more than enough mass into the voting bloc to set the nomination pool.

I also realized the bloc wasn't totally consistent, as evidenced by smaller ranges of voting numbers in the "down-ballot" categories. This makes sense to me. If the big push is towards controlling the more literary categories (novel, short fiction, related work, editors), then getting less support and consistency down-ballot seems logical. Especially when one gets to the more "populist" items like Dramatic Presentation(s) which will almost certainly have a wider range of opinions ("Yeah, the slate wanted movie ABC but I liked movie DEF and GHI a lot more.")

Another claim in the RP/SP circles was "evidence" of past voting blocs. The "evidence" was presented as "look, in this year, votes for work A, work B, and work C were very similar" (like 42 +- 2). THIS MEANS VOTING BLOC! In my opinion, that's just silly and an example of being highly selective when looking for correlation. In the years where an SP organizer was nominated for a Hugo, you can look at the voting numbers and find a similar "correlation" and thus VOTING BLOC which would pretty obviously have no basis in truth.

An unfortunate fact is that the nomination ballots have been destroyed. (I heard this stated by Kevin Standlee on a podcast). Entering the ballot information into a database and being able to poke at it would be quite interesting. Imagine being able to look at how voters who nominated XYZ voted in the rest of the ballot. You could get some exact details on size and consistency of voting blocs and find *real* correlation. That would be some quite fun data mining.

What's also interesting, when looking at past Hugo voting results, is that No Award is used by a lot more voters than I ever thought. Even for the work that ends up winning a Hugo, in *any* category, there was *always* a number of ballots (often in the 5-10% range) that placed *No Award* ahead of the winning work (this comparison is the last checkpoint before declaring a winner). I see this as another example showing that there actually is a strong diversity of voting opinions in the Hugo awards and that Hugo voters are *not* a mass of march-in-lockstep-to-directives-of-theoretical-cabal automatons.

Though this year I think that Noah Ward will be making a much stronger showing than in past years. M. Ward might even up setting a few Hugo records. But for that, we'll have to wait and see what the voters decide come August.

- yeff