This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been

Illustration for article titled This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been

Last night, the Hugo Awards were handed out. And the fans rejected the attempt of a small minority to impose its ideology on the nominations via slate-voting. But last night, we also learned which works would have been on the ballot, if the nominations hadn’t been rigged.


As we covered in last night’s liveblog, the Hugo voters chose “No Award” over any candidates pushed by the slates. And where there were non-slate candidates, they overwhelmingly won the vote. You can read the full results here. If you’re new to the entire kerfuffle over the Hugo Awards, here’s a primer.

But as is traditional after the Hugo Awards, the organizers also released detailed statistics on the nominations and voting process, including the list of works that were kept off the ballot by the organized backlash of the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies.”

And last night, after the ceremony, George R.R. Martin held a special afterparty, where the A Song of Ice and Fire author staged his own awards ceremony. Martin created the brand new “Alfie” awards, named after Alfred Bester, and created them out of genuine 1950s car hood ornaments (which is what the original Hugo Awards looked like.) Martin gave Alfie awards to Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula Vernon, Jo Walton, John Joseph Adams and Liz Gorinsky, the people who should have been on the ballot (and who had received the most nominations.) He also gave special Alfie awards to Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet, who had been nominated thanks to the slates but had withdrawn from consideration, and Eric Flint, who has been a voice of moderation in this dispute.

Here’s what the Alfie Awards looked like:

Illustration for article titled This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been

Based on the newly released statistics, Brandon Kempner of Chaos Horizon has a good analysis of the Hugo vote, (as does Nicholas Whyte in From the Heart Of Europe)—they estimate that the Rabid Puppies bloc was composed of 550-525 voters, while the Sad Puppies bloc made up 500-400 voters: around 20% of the 5,950 total voters. Of those numbers, around 3500 likely voted “No Award” out of principle, objecting to the lockstep nomination process of the Puppies.

If neither slate of “Puppies” had forced its chosen works onto the ballot, the ballot would have looked like this:


Best Novel

  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
  • The Three Body Problem, Liu Cixin
  • Lock In, John Scalzi
  • City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett

The Three Body Problem edged out The Goblin Emperor in the first round by a mere 176 votes, followed by Ancillary Sword and Skin Game. Had slates not been part of the mix, John Scalzi’s Lock In and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs also would have been on the ballot. Looking at the numbers, it’s looking likely that The Three Body Problem might have been helped by slate voters, pushing it over the edge.

Illustration for article titled This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been

When it came to Best Novella: No Award earned 3495 votes off the top, knocking every slate work off the ballot. Without the slate voters, the Best Novella ballot would have looked much different:


Best Novella

  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Regular, Ken Liu
  • Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress
  • Grand Jete (The Great Leap), Rachel Swirsky
  • The Mothers of Voorhisville, Mary Rickert

The Best Novelette category was awarded to Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s story, “The Day the World Turned Upside Down,” which earned an even 1700 votes to take the top spot, with No Award coming in second. Strip everything that earned a No Award away, and you’re left with works from Seanan McGuire, Ashante Wilson, Ruthanna Emrys and Tom Crosshill as potential nominees.


Best Novelette

  • The Day the World Turned Upside Down, Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • Each to Each, Seanan McGuire
  • The Devil In America, Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Litany of Earth, Ruthanna Emrys
  • The Magician and Laplace’s Demon, Tom Crosshill

Best Short Story earned a No Award with 3053 votes, or 58% of the total. With each of the slate works knocked off, a final ballot would have looked like this:

Best Short Story

  • Jackalope Wives, Ursula Vernon
  • The Breath of War, Aliette de Bodard
  • The Truth About Owls, Amal El-Mohtar
  • When it Ends, He Catches Her, Eugie Foster
  • A Kiss With Teeth, Max Gladstone

Another category entirely dominated by slated works was Best Related Work, which earned a No Award for the top place, which allows for an entirely new ballot:


Best Related Work

  • What Makes This Book so Great, Jo Walton
  • Chicks Dig Gaming, Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith, and Lars Pearson
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor
  • Invisible: Personal Essays on Representation in SF, Jim C. Hines
  • Tropes vs Women: Women as Background Decoration, Anita Sarkeesian

What I found striking about the Best Related Work is that it’s a solid demonstration of the limitations of slate voting. Books such as William Patterson’s Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2 and Karen Burnham’s entry for Greg Egan in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, while not making the replacement ballot, might have been solid choices for more conservative readers. This did not happen, because the slates negated the real strength of the Hugo awards: the ability to draw votes from the entirety of fandom. Instead, they traded versatility for precision, and missed the target completely.


Carter Reid’s The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate was the only slate work for Best Graphic Story, but it, along with Rat Queens and Sex Criminals, were outvoted by No Award. While this leaves Zombie Nation off a replacement list, the rest of the category is relatively intact.

Best Graphic Story

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
  • Saga 3, Brian K Vaughan / Fiona Staples
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, Kurtis J. Weibe, Laura Tavishati, Roc Upchurch, Ed Brisson
  • Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
  • Saga 4, Brian K. Vaughan / Fiona Staples

There seems to have been one place in which slate and non-slate voters agreed: movies. Slated works included Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, The Lego Movie, and Captain America: Winter Soldier, each of which survived No Award. Likewise, Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, was a bit less muddled, but not decisively so. No Award earned a bottom spot, edging out Grimm, but slate picks for The Flash and Game of Thrones seemed to have enjoyed votes from both slate and non-slate voters. Ultimately, however, Orphan Black picked up the top award.


The short form editor category was overwhelmingly voted for No Award, with 2672 votes cast, at 55.1% of the total vote. If you remove the slate candidates, you end up with a list which matches the 2014 list and most of the 2013 list (the exception being Ellen Datlow).

Best Editor, Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Likewise, the Long Form editor award was voted No Award, at 50.9% of the total vote. A revised ballot looks similar to that of last year’s awards, except without Toni Weisskopf, who took second to No Award, and with Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Anne Perry joining the ballot this time around. (Last year’s ballot also included Ginjer Buchanan, who retired last year and wasn’t eligible this year).


Best Editor, Long Form

  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Beth Meacham
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Lee Harris
  • Anne Perry

For Best Professional Artist, Julie Dillon earned the top spot at 2570 votes, with slate artist Kirk Douponce earning second place at 600. The rest of the slated works fell under No Award. Without the slates, you get a whole different list of artists:


Best Professional Artist

  • Julie Dillon
  • John Picacio
  • Galen Dara
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • Chris McGrath

When it came to the best Semiprozine, one slated publication asked to be removed, (Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show), while Abyss & Apex survived the No Award cut, but Andromeda Spaceways InFlight Magazine didn’t. Without slates, here’s what you get:

Best Semiprozine

  • Lightspeed Magazine
  • Strange Horizons
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • The Book Smugglers
  • Interzone

In the Fanzine category, only the winning entry, Journey Planet, was not from a slate. Remove the slate picks, and you see a ballot that includes some publications from last year’s ballot making a return appearance:

Best Fanzine

  • Journey Planet
  • The Drink Tank
  • Lady Business
  • File 770
  • A Dribble of Ink

Likewise in Best Fancast, removing the three slated works (which were voted below No Award) would allow for The Coode Street Podcast, Verity! and The Skiffy and Fanty Show to join the replacement ballot:


Best Fancast

  • Galactic Suburbia
  • Tea and Jeopardy
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Verity!
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show

In “Best Fan Writer,” Laura J. Mixon was the sole non-slate entry in the category, and a number of other writers would have been included in the nominations otherwise:


Best Fan Writer

  • Larua J. Mixon
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Liz Bourke
  • Natalie Luhrs
  • Mark Oshiro

The last Hugo category, best Fan Artist, there were no nominees from the slates, which would have allowed that ballot to remain intact in any case.


Finally, for the ‘Not a Hugo’ John W. Campbell award, Wesley Chu (the only non-slate nominee) earned the top spot with 60% of the vote with 2655 votes cast. Remove the slated authors, and you’ll find a whole new group:

John W. Campbell Award

  • Wesley Chu
  • Andy Weir
  • Alyssa Wong
  • Carmen Maria Machado
  • Django Wexler

Looking deeper into this replacement ballot, one sees right off the bat that the non-slate ballot would have been far more equal when it comes to gender representation, which brings it more in line with the ballots from 2014, 2013 and 2012. While the stated purpose of these nominating slates were to bring “actual science fiction and fantasy, rather than excellence in intersectional equalitarianism, racial and gender inclusion, literary pyrotechnics, or professional rabbitology,” before Hugo voters, they did so in a way that was purposefully discriminatory, while setting up their nominees for rejection from the larger fan community.


And as I said earlier, these slate votes traded the versatility of an inclusive vote for a precise goal—a group of nominees chosen by a minority, which just about missed their target completely. Additionally, by acting as a kind of “immune system” against this abusive behavior, fans demonstrated that there’s resistance to slates in general.


It’s clear that a number of voters chose to vote No Award across the board when presented with options that came entirely from a slate. But it’s also clear that there was another large group of voters who weighed their options and simply voted out slate works as inferior. As one publication that was nominated by the slates, Black Gate, noted in an editorial last night: “Dear Puppies: your taste sucks.”

And looking at the above slate-free ballots, it’s clear that the ballot-stuffing crowded a number of worthy nominees off the ballot. Going forward, this year marked a record in voter turnout for the award, which also means that there’s now a large voting pool that’s already qualified to nominate works for next year’s awards. But this year, we were robbed of a ballot that featured a more representative group of authors and—based on the works I’ve read on it—a fairly strong set of stories.


It’s a shame we couldn’t vote for it.



I am officially delighted and charmed by GRRM. Those Alfies are total class and much-deserved by their recipients. I keep smiling that he did such a thing.