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.