06 October 2015

Sausage Bits

Paperwork sucks...

  • Normally — at least in the West — when one hears about economists who are skeptical of free markets, one expects the word "commie"... not concerns about deception and friction at a structural level raised by two recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (often inaccurately called the "Nobel Prize in Economics," which is part of the point).
  • Which leads to some intelligent consideration of class issues in higher education from the perspective of evidence-gathering scientists.
  • Now this is my kind of arts protest: God Hates Renoir... whose reputation has been driven for several decades as much by auction-house prices as anything else.
  • Further reflecting the idiocy all too often associated with business affairs in the arts/literary world, yet another agent's ego is leading to uncertain management of her clients' interests after her death. Guys, this is just not that hard: Establishing a corporate (or partnership, or whatever) succession plan is expected behavior even for family bloody farms.
  • Here's yet another example of special-snowflakiness among ardent liarscreationists, who cannot seem to comprehend that others can disagree with them without being evil. Of course, this is all wound up in McCarthyism (both Joe and Kevin).

29 September 2015

Losing Tempo

There has been a recent spate of outraged arguments concerning "how fast can one write a decent book?" that leaves me utterly frustrated, primarily because none of the people involved are talking about the same things.

  • There's a huge difference in the amount of pre-words-on-paper creative effort for different kinds of books. It should be pretty obvious to anyone who actually reads them that the sheer research effort supporting David McCullough's The Wright Brothers substantially exceeds that for a historical work of fiction like Anne Perry's The Angel Court Affair, let alone a context-minimized slice-of-life-in-stereotypical/hypothetical-suburbia work like Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons. And this is not a value judgment on the "worthiness" of those examples; it is, in fact, a declaration that for this purpose they are inherently noncomparable.

    And, for you barbarians east of the Hudson, this distinction still holds — if less obviously, if to a somewhat lesser extent — within much narrower categories, such as those that might be found on adjacent shelves at a chain bookstore. The preparation time for Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons is necessarily distinct from a more-historically-tied work like Scott Turow's Ordinary Heroes... let alone a wideranging "deeper" work like Richard Powers's The Echo Maker. You barbarians do not get the privilege of defining "a book" by "what is to my taste."

  • Different writers simply work at different paces. I think there's little question that the years spent by Thomas Harris on his horror novel Hannibal produced more pages... but not a better book than the few weeks that (John) Anthony Burgess (Wilson) took to create A Clockwork Orange. There's a good argument that all the extra time devoted by Harris, in a notorious string of missed deadlines, resulted in an overly-padded, lesser book — whether measured by "amount of horror inflicted," "literary merit," or "foundation for a decent movie."

But there's something much darker, much deeper, and much older lurking behind the entire argument — something that is not getting any consideration at all. The limiting factor on book-creation speed starting by the middle of the twentieth century (when authors almost all had typewriters) and accelerating since (when authors almost all had word-processing systems) has not been the speed of composition, whether we're talking about "sheer ability to put letters on the page" or "time devoted to research that can't be done in the local library" or "time needed to do the bloody typesetting (while still cringing at the inevitable mistakes)." No, the limiting factor has been a confluence of purely commercial considerations that even the rise of "indie publishing" has not managed to do more than slightly weaken. In no particular order:

  • Review outlets still want copies four months in advance of publication (because they still operate on a production calendar based on how long it takes to do hot-metal type and distribute those products, but that's for another time). And review outlets simply do not want to have multiple works in hand at the same time by the same author... whether or not they're related. This is a relatively conscious decision.
  • Historically, publishers have preferred to keep authors a bit hungry — all too often literally! — by keeping most payments due an author in the same half of the year. Plotting out the calendar of how advances, royalties, etc. actually get paid according to "careerist" contracts is disturbingly educational (or educationally disturbing). It also helps regularize the publisher's own outgoing cashflow by making some of its authors "spring payees" and some "fall payees," with much the same effect as portfolio diversification (although publishers don't want authors doing so because it makes them less dependent upon the particular publisher). This is a less-conscious decision... largely because almost nothing about publishing management is coherent or strategic enough to be truly conscious.
  • Except, perhaps, what passes for sales-and-marketing strategy. There continues to be a meme that once a year is enough; if the example of Harlequin didn't manage to blow that up four decades ago, I seriously doubt that something over which commercial publishers have no control (like, say, Amazon) is going to do so, either. Books are not cars, folks... and even the automobile industry has adopted a mid-year-product-introduction plan!
  • Once upon a time, the actual production-plus-fulfillment cycle acted as a significant brake on the pace of an individual author's output. It took time to typeset, whether we're talking about Gutenberg press, cold metal, hot metal, film, or early digital. It took time to manage fulfillment before reliable next-day (or even next-week!) delivery. And so on. Now... not so much, especially with electronic books. That has not, however, changed perceptions.

    There remain some things that can't really be speeded up, such as true/proper editing, proofreading, and so on. These are the real remaining limfacs in the publishing process — but even they can be managed by redefining the other duties of those people. And, inevitably, making them nonpromotable and burning them out; but that's for another time. There is such a thing as the intellectual equivalent of a repetitive-stress injury...

  • Not all authors are truly full-time. Indeed, remarkably few authors can earn a living as full-time authors without relying on other resources (inheritance, prior earnings, spousal/family support, a horror-of-horrors day job). Those who do tend to publish widely and prolifically, not well-known blockbusters; for every Stephen King (and his H'wood history makes him a particularly poor example) there are at least two dozen of John Gardner (university professor) and Joyce Carol Oates (ditto) and Larry Niven (inherited wealth) and Scott Turow (practicing big-firm lawyer). Each. And the less said about authors whose works are beneath the notice of the barbarians, the better (even though many of them make better returns from their books).

    The publishing industry knows this, even if subconsciously — historical analysis of author compensation back to the early 18th century demonstrates it rather convincingly. But that's not the sort of work that people want to put in; I could have easily included Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Adams in that list in the previous paragraph!

It's a stupid argument. For every published piece of rapidly written crap like The Exemplar Novel By Erich Segal That Shall Remain Unnamed, there's an overblown, overwritten, and overweight piece of garbage that is purportedly the work of years or even decades. Conversely, for every rapidly written work of excellence like A Clockwork Orange there's one that took a long time to create, perhaps even overlapping with other writing. The only people who benefit from the assertion that "more than one book a year is too fast to be worthwhile" are those who themselves can't do it faster, for whatever reason (some good, some bad)... or who want to keep those who do write more rapidly in a less-favored position in the marketplace by implicitly criticizing the quality of those books without ever reading them.

23 September 2015

Why E-Books May Fail

Dear E-book Advocates and Software Developers:

There have been a couple of news items recently about a levelling-off in e-book sales. This is not at all surprising; anyone who believes that sales growth of anything is a steady onwards and upwards with no spikes, no discontinuities, and nothing unpredictable is probably an MBA who believes that the long-tail theory makes either mathematical or real-world sense. Admittedly, there are too damned many of you.

But I've been fighting with my phone this morning, after being forced to uninstall my formerly favored e-book reader — an entirely passive function that has become untenable due to an "update." It's been an adventure finding a replacement...

  • You do not get to steal my bandwidth and battery life with your bloody advertisements. Period. Not when you've changed your formerly ad-free program with no notice with a mandatory "upgrade." Not when you claim in your sales literature to be fully in-app-purchase supported (which, since I don't purchase on the phone for other security reasons, is a matter of choice). Not when, in the online store, you do not acknowledge that you're ad-supported (that's six install/uninstall cycles this morning alone).
  • You do not need my device and application history to passively read an on-storage-card passive file.
  • You do not need to know my wi-fi connection status to passively read an on-storage-card passive file.
  • You do not get to force me to synchonize my library to the cloud — and most especially not to your proprietary cloud where I may never have any idea that you've used my library as pirating source material (among the lesser of the potential problems).
  • You do not get to force me to put all of my files into the hierarchy and organization that you prefer, and refuse to read from offline storage (the SD card) despite stating that you can and do.
  • You do not get to monitor what I'm reading, when, where, how quickly, or anything else when I'm reading from a passive file on offline storage. If I choose to read on the web or in an e-store, that's still annoying; it's not allowed in my own library.
  • You do not own my bloody devices or library or reading habits or anything else.

If you really, really want to become the fashion industry — with its expectation that I'm not just their customer, but their bloody billboard for their bloody brandnames and logos — I suppose I can't stop you. But I don't have to follow you; it looks like I'll be coding a replacement this afternoon...

You've got a lot to atone for today.

21 September 2015

Drogon's Back

... and you're gonna be in trouble! America's second-favorite single mom finally gets the recognition she is due; now, if only we'd stop recognizing the "favorite"...

  • In a breathtaking, Oxbridgish, earnestly regressive interview, George Saunders and Ben Marcus condescendingly try to explain the "status" of the American short story by simultaneously (a) extolling the virtues of "magic" and "darkness" and "[f]antastical effects" and "tweak[ing] the setting into the future" while (b) never acknowledging the existence — let alone the excellence — of American short fiction that appears in periodicals with rocket ships and dragons on the cover. This is rather disturbing: Ursula Le Guin told us why forty bloody years ago (in a collection — The Language of the Night — that was sabotaged commercially and remains caught in rights hell), and even the Emmy Awards finally recognized dragons last night (for the second-weakest season thus far of Game of Thrones). Simultaneously, it's not surprising at all, given Granta's avowed audience (of which I was once a member, several decades back; not much has changed, at Granta anyway).
  • As a further demonstration of the culture of secrecy that pervades the publishing industries, consider (again) how many copies it takes to be a bestseller: Only a couple more than the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The scary thing is that the numbers mentioned in that article have been largely unchanged for over two decades, despite population growth (both in the US and among English speakers more generally) and the softening of acquisition barriers.
  • Ponder some sobering thoughts on the nature of colonialism — and on how fiction reacts to it — from a native of Vietnam who now lives in the second-worst of the colonial powers (OK, Belgium was worse... but not by an awful lot, or perhaps any lot was awful).
  • All of which leads to the critical question asked by the editor-designate of an academic law journal: Are EU policy-makers fighting the right copyright battles? But it's not just the EU; it's not just the policy-makers; it's not just copyright. It's at least about for whom the "battle" is to be fought... and the definition of "successful outcome" of that "battle." Get either of those wrong — or, worse yet, fail to consider them in the first place — and several thousand years of military history demonstrates the certain result.

19 September 2015

Let's Go Crazy, Shall We?

Life has intervened (mostly in not-good ways, but that's sort of the price of life) for the last weekish — thus, this comment on Lenz is both overdue and less-well-researched than I would ordinarily put forth.

A few days ago, the Ninth Circuit decided Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., No. [20]13–16106 (9th Cir. 14 Sep 2015) — the "baby dancing to The Artist Formerly Known as 'The Artist Formerly Known as Prince'" case. This is a thoroughly messy case; about the only thing that the Court got right was the outcome. The reasoning in-between gets a C- on my Intellectual Property Controversies exam... and that only because it did reach a defensible result.

That defensible result was that the owner of a copyright must consider fair use prior to issuing a DMCA takedown notice, or it has failed to form the necessary "good faith belief" that the target material was an infringement of its copyrights. Bluntly, any holder that does not consider fair use before issuing a takedown notice is a bloody moron. This is something I've done since 1999, when I first started issuing notices... and have counselled clients to do for that entire period. That's because — apparently unlike the lawyers at Universal Music — I read the whole bloody statute before ever issuing a notice. And because unlike the vast majority of lawyers and legal assistants — even, and perhaps especially, those who deal with copyright as specific instances and not just broad proclamations of "what's good for my client is good for the country" — I'm pretty damned familiar with and respectful of the process and influence issues involved in the distributed arts. There is no excuse whatsoever for establishing an apparent policy (at least based on the summary of facts in both the Ninth Circuit and District Court opinions) that implements what the transferee-holder wishes the statute says, instead of what it actually says. There are, however, lots of explanations...

...and that leads to the first fundamental reasoning error in the opinion, and indeed by the parties. Nowhere does anyone acknowledge that the "real motivation" for UMC was to protect brand identity and identification, without any consultation of the actual creator. The usual way to understand this is to bounce the "market effect" factor for fair use (17 U.S.C. § 107) against the passing off/reverse passing off prohibition in the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A)). That's right: Although the specific potential infringement is a copyright infringement, whether there is a viable defense depends upon noncopyright considerations. This reflects one of the disturbing overextensions of "copyright ownership" endemic among transferees via the endowment effect, as enforced by accounting goodwill calculations — the latter of which, thanks to MBA-think, dominate. If one completely misses the context, one probably misstates one's rationale... and this is primarily the lawyers' fault, even if the courts themselves should have called them on it. What we're dealing with here is more akin to a partial differential in a complex, interdependent, multivariate system (with significant lacunae and other discontinuities!) than a linear independent variable; no matter what the courts did with what was put in front of them, they could not reach a result that would reliably predict the outcome of other instances.

But leaving context aside for the moment (even though context really controls both the real-world and legal outcomes!), the parties gave the courts the opportunity for two separate doctrinal errors... and they obliged.

  • Fair use is a defense. The inelegant drafting of the Copyright Act and its fair use provision (that a fair use "is not an infringement") is largely irrelevant here; at a functional level, one need not consider fair use until all of the other elements of an infringement have been at least arguably demonstrated, making fair use a defense. Would one even consider the possibility of "fair use" absent a valid (if not necessarily sound or well-considered) possibility that a given reuse infringes? Further, one must consider what fair use does: It asserts a limit to the "exclusive right" granted to copyright holders, because that limit is necessary both under the First Amendment and itself for "Progress in the useful Arts." What makes this doctrinal error more embarassing is that the Supreme Court has already foreclosed the argument in 2Live Crew, proclaiming directly in reaching its ultimate holding that "Since fair use is an affirmative defense...." Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 590 (1994), citing Harper & Row, Pubs. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 561 (1985). The Ninth Circuit's attempt to remove fair use from the panoply of "mere defenses" was, therefore, wrong, and is going to be cited out of context for a lot of rather predictable abuses.
  • Nonetheless, anticipating complete defenses is part of forming a good-faith belief. This is where the legal doctrine fundamentally fails to actually allow parties (these or others) to comport their conduct to the law's requirements. Since the song in question concerns going crazy, let's consider the insanity defense as a guide. Hannibal Lector would have had a complete defense under Maryland law (he dumped "Hester's" body in that storage unit in Baltimore) to a murder conviction, because Maryland treats "insanity" as a complete defense to criminal conduct. So, then: Would a prosecutor who persisted in pressing a capital case against Dr Lector, in the face of uncontroverted and convincing evidence that Dr Lector was at the time of the killing and continuing at the time of prosecution completely insane and unable to "conform [his] conduct to the requirements of the law," Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 3–109(a)(2), be proceeding in good faith? No matter the public outcry, both general ethics and the particular legal ethics rules applicable to prosecutors say no. The Court blew it by not focusing on this element, as opposed to the doctrinal box into which it tried (incorrectly) to shove fair use. (And my invocation of Hannibal Lector is, itself, fair use...)

At least, however, the Court saved its butt with the procedure it chose for remand. It could have made the further error of declaring an actual outcome; instead, Lenz sends the matter back for trial, because whether UMC considered fair use at all — let alone adequately — in forming its belief that Ms Lenz's short YouTube video of a baby dancing to, well, a dance tune (and a then-two-decade-old one at that!) infringed the copyright of a party for whom it was a transferee/agent (the record is unclear whether the copyright in the composition had been transferred to UMC, or only in the performance) was not uncontested in the record. This is becoming a distressingly common problem in copyright matters in the digital age — they are matters of civil procedure, and in particular of the limits of summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56 rather than actual doctrine. Indeed, the contrast with the recent blurred yellow lines in the snow is itself instructive... as is that other DMCA cases decided by the Ninth Circuit (including Ellison) held that the respective District Courts had improperly failed to recognize triable issues of material fact and incorrectly granted summary judgment.

This leads to the next level of abstraction — the one that demonstrates why so many of these cases seem so ridiculous on reflection. The accounting rules relevant here demand bright-line-rule compliance. That gets imported into management imperatives, and further imported into management directives concerning related areas that are nonetheless outside the scope and intent of those bright-line rules. Conversely, many (not all, by any means!) members of the public also demand bright-line rules for what they may, and may not, do. But the arts by their nature are not consistent with bright-line rules, especially when those arts are (I hate to use this frequently misused term) transformed by intersection with daily life and unappreciative behavior. Because that's really what is at issue in Lenz: Not the mother's conduct in videorecording her baby and posting that baby video on YouTube, but the baby's interaction with a copyrighted artistic performance. This set of facts is about as clean as the baby's diaper... or at least as clean as it will be in the forseeable future...

The bottom line is that Lenz doesn't actually help anyone. It fails to acknowledge either process or motivation in "good faith"; it misstates legal doctrine in a way that will be cited out of context by others; it doesn't even provide a realistic guide to conduct other than "consider fair use" (with no real guidance on what that consideration must be... or the consequences if it's cursory and economically efficient, but objectively and indefensibly wrong, and probably performed by unqualified drones). Nobody benefits. That's at least as much the lawyers' fault — on both sides — as it is the courts; it's even more the litigants'/litigation backers' fault. And, in turn, that comes back to Congress's inexcusable inability to write a clear statute, or acknowledge that the statute does not exist in isolation.

It's just crazy.

10 September 2015


Those who have followed this year's round of Revenge of Grandsons of the Yapping Curs know that I don't have an awful lot of respect for the yapping curs... or for the trufen. (Whether you care is another issue entirely.) I think it time to change the debate a little bit. Let's not talk about animals, but about pie.

Part of the problem with awards and "shortlists"/final ballots/nomination lists is that they are always restricted to a purportedly "manageable" number — the same amount of pie on the potential voter's plate, even if the total size of the pie is rapidly increasing. This tends toward monotony in both the pie on the plate and the winning bite, so to speak; if you want a horrific example, consider the US Congress, which has been fixed at 435 members in the House of Representatives for over a century — when the US population was less than 30% of what it is today. The corresponding limit of "five or six novels" on the final ballot was established as much by tradition from the early 1960s as anything else, when fewer than 50 eligible works were published each year (including magazine serials)... but the eligibility field now approaches 1000, and that's just from US and UK publishers!

So, where is this longwinded introduction going? Consideration of diversity — all kinds of diversity. Not just the purported "good old-fashioned storytelling" that the yapping curs purportedly champion, nor just gender/sexual orientation, nor race/ethnicity, nor literary merit ([insert deity here] forbid that a literary work being proclaimed "best" of the year be judged on literary grounds instead of the rocket ship/swordwielder on the cover!).

... I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed. You can put as many women as you like into Fifa, or make the entire cast of Gears of War tough action chicks – I still won’t play those games. I don’t care about climbing a tower to reveal more of the kill-map, I don’t care about shooting people, I don’t care about winning the World Cup. You can’t put a pink bow on a tank and assume different audiences are going flock to it because you gave them some token aesthetic validation. Adding representational diversity to those kinds of games is important, but how often do we consider diversity of genre; diversity of experience?

Anon., "Video Games Have a Diversity Problem That Runs Deeper Than Race or Gender," The Guardian (10 Sep 2015) (typography Americanized, boldface emphasis supplied). n.b. The implications for "diversity" in a heavily American-centric award system of citing to a non-American publication are entirely intentional.

And perhaps that's the yapping curs' problem: They are demanding that what is granted awards — "earned" gives the process too much credit for integrity and meaningful consideration — must reflect only their own experiences. Their almost-uniformly middle-to-upper-middle-class, English-as-a-first-language, Caucasian-or-passing-for-Caucasian, Western-Abrahamic (that is, christian or jewish), white-collar-day-life experiences. As I've noted previously, it's rare for the most militaristic speculative fiction authors to have commissioned, let alone command, experience. That command-experience deficit includes, to my knowledge at this time, all of the publicly outed yapping curs... whereas I've got multiple medals earned as a real Social Justice Warrior and the better part of a decade of command experience behind them. (Note to certain yapping curs: "Platoon leader," "tank commander," and "aircraft commander" are not command positions, no matter how you warp your kewl rhetoric... and get it past editors/proofreaders who either don't know or don't give a damn.)

Sucks to be an unappreciated minority, doesn't it? Have another slice of pie... Schadenfreude Pie, specifically (although the source is Not Yapping Cur Approved).

04 September 2015

Slightly Damp Link Sausages

I feel a lot like George entering the bowling alley in Pleasantville: "Rain. Real rain." I've missed it.

  • Over at The Economist (and I'm a bit apprehensive about the ownership change), there's a Dorian Grey-like picture of an argument that will be current concerning print publishing in about a decade. A decade? Well, it's been going on in recorded music for about two years now, and there's that historical twelve-year gap... so, what are the cost, compensation, and risk factors of the various players in recorded music? And more to the point, how does the corresponding analysis look for print publishing — let alone e-books? Because unlike recorded music, the "method of consumption" transformation is far more significant for text.
  • And so another martyr to TheocracyNow! has been made — one who, based on her public statements anyway, doesn't quite understand anything about what is going on. That's disturbing about a government official in and of itself, but hardly that surprising; the County Clerk in Champaign County, Illinois was unable to conceive of how the in-one's-face sign praising JC as the savior (emblazoned with stylized 48-star American flags, one might add, which was at least as ridiculous) just might be inappropriate in the office in which international students, staff, and faculty from the University of Illinois got their marriage licenses a decade ago.

    The entire set of circumstances reflects a failure to accept the least-quoted of the Gospels and its command to purported followers of JC, and its not-quite-explicit-enough-for-morons rejection of theocracy:

    They said, "Caesar's [face is on the coins]." Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

    Matthew 22:21. Unless, that is, one wants the Pharisees in charge. Again. And we in the West (think we) know what happened next...

  • Due process has really been in the news this week, with the explicit rejection of the Deflategate penalty imposed on Tom Brady. (That will make my fantasy-league draft tomorrow a little easier.) What this says about the relationship among "prominence of participants in arbitration proceedings," the purported "mandatory and exclusive" nature of arbitration, and the reality of disputes and dispute resolution in the face of unclear factual foundations must be left for another time. It cannot, however, be left aside forever (I've been struggling with it for a quarter of a century in various contexts), no matter what the post hoc ideologically developed "federal policy in favor of arbitration" — a purported policy that appears nowhere in the legislative history, which is where one would expect to find it — seems to imply.

03 September 2015

Papieren, Bitte

Jaws and I slipped over the border a couple of days ago. So far, our travel papers have held up, and the Orca has gotten only a few sideways glances due to its foreign plates. It was truly fascinating to watch gas prices drop fifty cents a gallon (fifteen percent) in twelve miles...

29 August 2015

"Heck of a Job, Brownie"

Ten years ago today, every resident of New Orleans was given a horrifying example of why the kneejerk "all government is bad" ideology that has been mainstream among the Heffalumps (and a constant consideration among the Jackasses) is not only dumb, but counterproductive. Lesson not learned: Louisiana Heffalumps still spew forth the same doctrine (except, that is, when announcing government contracts that will provide local jobs... and make their campaign donors a pile of cash).

Of course, things were not helped in the aftermath by the nepotism and incompetence of that administration. Had an actual review of appointees for something other than loyalty and ideological purity been anything close to what was occurring, perhaps New Orleans would be better (and more equitably) rebuilt by now. Perhaps... because there have been a lot of other barriers, too.

23 August 2015

Only One Puppy Adopted (But He's a Really Cute Mongrel)

... whether "sad" or "rabid."

The 2015 Hugo Awards were announced last night. Congratulations to the winning works and their creators; I'd ordinarily offer congratulations to all of the nominees, but not this year (and last year only in part): The ballots were as appropriate and representative as a Soviet-era ballot. Not that this is entirely unknown to popular-awards ballots — the Hugos, in particular, have an "acceptable to the Central Committee" flavor reminiscent of Dixie prior to the Civil Rights Act, in that fiction from "literary" imprints must sit quietly on a different part of the bus — but this year it was particularly egregious.

So, then, how about some alternate history of dubious factual specificity that nonetheless has some interesting implications? Let's pretend, just for a moment, that inclusion on either of the yapping curs' slates — or being written by a yapping cur — was actually disqualifying from the ballot (whether or not that particular item got onto the final ballot), in the same manner as "actually published the previous year by a small press/self-publishing effort" is (and took two works off this year's ballot!). n.b. Unfortunately, there's a "guilt-by-association" issue here, too: Although two of the authors whose works appeared on the slates later disavowed the slates and turned down the nominations, the available data simply doesn't allow that distinction.

This still requires a couple of additional caveats:

  • Unfortunately, it's impossible to figure out which nominating ballots were only partially canid, or anything else like that. Fortunately, the nominating ballots are all equal-weight-per-mention rather than weighted voting, so this particular rabbit hole doesn't go all the way to the center of the planet.
  • As a cross-check, I've arbitrarily established a cutoff of 90% of the mean of the last two WorldCons (London and San Antonio) as the minimum to get on the ballot; otherwise, we might be going off into a fight between a handful of nominations to become a finalist (especially if I extended this further to other categories). I set this cutoff before looking at the data. I've also ignored the "5% rule" due to the ballot-stuffing effect of the yapping curs... and further because it's both a particularly stupid rule designed to keep unusual sources off the ballot and is misleading when comparing US-based and non-US-based ballots.

What might the mange-free 2015 Hugo ballot for literary works/creators (that is, no "fan awards", editors, or such) have looked like? Remember, this is a starting point for possible discussion and nothing more; it is no more definitive a statement of events than, say, an alternate history in which an isolationist demagogue keeps the US out of the 1939-45 portion of the Second Thirty Years' War. Synthetic "nominees" are listed in alphabetical order by author/source, with the number of nominations in parentheses.

Novel (calculated cutoff: 97; 3 other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 210)

  • Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (256)
  • Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (150)
  • Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem (210)
  • Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword (279)
  • John Scalzi, Lock In (168)

Novella (calculated cutoff: 71; 2 other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 145)

  • Nancy Kress, "Yesterday's Kin" (103)
  • Ken Liu, "The Regular" (104)
  • Mary Rickert, "The Mothers of Voorhisville" (83)
  • Patrick Rothfuss, "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" (124)
  • Rachel Swirsky, "Grand Jeté" (95)

Novelette (calculated cutoff: 49; no other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 72)

  • Tom Crosshill, "The Magician and Laplace's Demon" (54)
  • Ruthana Emrys, "The Litany of Earth" (54)
  • Thomas Olde Heuvelt, "The Day the World Turned Upside Down" (72)
  • Seanan McGuire, "Each to Each" (69)
  • Kai Ashante Wilson, "The Devil in America" (65)

Short Story (calculated cutoff: 34; 3 other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 132)

  • Aliette de Bodard, "The Breath of War" (73)
  • Amal El-Mohtar, "The Truth About Owls" (48)
  • Eugie Foster, "When It Ends, He Catches Her" (44)
  • Max Gladstone, "A Kiss With Teeth" (41)
  • Ursula Vernon, "Jackalope Wives" (76)

Graphic Story (calculated cutoff: 24; 8 other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 60)

  • Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky, Sex Criminals 1, "One Weird Trick" (60)
  • Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Saga 3 (110)
  • Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Saga 4 (59)
  • Kurtis J. Weibe, Laura Tavishati, Roc Upchurch, & Ed Brisson, Rat Queens 1, "Sass and Sorcery" (64)
  • G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Aldona, Ms. Marvel 1, "No Normal" (145)

Long-Form Dramatic Presentation (calculated cutoff: 125; no other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 204)

  • Don Hall & Chris Williams, Big Hero Six (183)
  • Bong Joon-Ha & Kelly Masterson, Snowpiercer (131)
  • Christopher McQuarrie, Jess Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, & Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow (204)
  • Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Anthony Russo, & Joe Russo, Captain America [2]: The Winter Soldier (295)

Short-Form Dramatic Presentation (calculated cutoff: 57; no other eligible works exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 71)

  • Agents of Shield, "Turn Turn Turn" (62)
  • Doctor Who, "Listen" (89)
  • Game of Thrones, "The Lion and the Rose" (61)
  • Orphan Black, "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried" (71)

Related Work (calculated cutoff: 41; 1 other eligible work exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 206)

  • Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith, & Lars Pearson, Chicks Dig Gaming (92)
  • Jim C. Hines, Invisible: Personal Essays on Representation in SF (79)
  • Brondon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, & Howard Taylor, Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology (83)
  • Anita Sarkeesian, Tropes vs Women: Women as Background Decoration (77)
  • Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great (105)

John Campbell Award for Best New Writer (calculated cutoff: 46; 3 other eligible authors exceeded this cutoff; actual ballot this year required 106) (officially "not a Hugo" — yeah, right)

  • Wesley Chu (106)
  • Carmen Maria Marchado (61)
  • Andy Weir (95)
  • Django Wexler (55)
  • Alyssa Wong (80)

The most interesting aspect of the necessary follow-on discussion is "How much does guilt-by-association really matter in the arts?" Some of the yapping curs' nominees — especially in the dramatic presentation categories (one of which was the only puppy adopted this year) — are... puzzling. Indeed, there's almost nothing about the top three nominees at either length that fits either the stated political or the stated esthetic meme. Similarly, some of those slated withdrew, with various degrees of horrified self-abnegation (and those withdrawals have been respected here). There's also a serious "tunnel vision" problem; even if this were entirely about politics, one must still — somehow — resolve "Hymietown" and slave ownership when "honoring" specific people and efforts.