“Do you remember that crazy awards system I proposed, around the time of the first Puppies slate?” asks Jo Lindsay Walton. “OK, well this year I decided to make it real.”
And the result is – The Sputnik Award.
Look at the shortlist first. It may give you enough strength to endure the rest of the explanation.
- Jim Butcher, The Cinder Spires (Roc)
- Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Berit Ellingsen, Not Dark Yet (Two Dollar Radio)
- N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit)
- Emma Newman, Planetfall (Roc)
- Peter Newman, The Vagrant (Harper Voyager)
- Naomi Novik, Uprooted (Del Rey)
- Nnedi Okorafor, The Book of Phoenix (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Adam Roberts, The Thing Itself (Gollancz)
- Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora (Orbit)
- Neal Stephenson, Seveneves (William Morrow)
- Fran Wilde, Updraft (Tor Books)
Voting for the Sputnik Award: To vote, you fill in four places on your ballot, labeled Mithril Mech, Hedgehog, Witch and Dalek.
Frequently Asked Questions: Walton anticipates fans’ first reaction to the ballot.
“I don’t understand the voting system!”
That’s OK, it’s deliberately kind of intricate. The TL;DR version is: put the book you most want to win in the Mithril Mech slot, and some other books you like in the other three slots….
Then Walton gradually spoon-feeds people an explanation of the rest of the process.
“Do I have to vote in all four categories?”
Yes. It’s not safe for any book to venture into the Dungeons of Democracy without at least three friends….
“So how is this voting system better than other voting systems?”
Oh, it’s probably way worse. Like the worst?
“OK, but how is it different from other voting systems?”
One innovation is the substitution of words like “Hedgehog” for words like “Second Preference.”
Some awards use some kind of preferential voting systems, such as instant runoff. You rank your books in order of preference. The counting process goes through a number of stages. At each stage, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated, and the Ballots that were provisionally assigned to that candidate are instead redistributed among the other candidates, in accordance with the preferences listed on the Ballot.
In 2016 the Sputnik Award is a tiny bit like that, except you have one first preference (Mithril Mech) and three second preferences (Dalek, Hedgehog, Witch). When the time comes to combine the votes and produce a winner, the procedure incorporate will incorporate elements of luck and uncertainty. By and large the books with the most votes (and especially with the most Mithril Mech votes) should rise to the top, but it’s possible there will be a surprise upset.
If you’re the sort of person who enjoys delving into these things, you can study the rules of the Dungeons of Democracy.
Dungeons of Democracy: The winner of Walton’s Sputnik Award will be the contender who survives the RPG-like Dungeons of Democracy, featuring rules such as —
(5) After the fight, if the vote in the Champion slot matches the vote in the opposing Herald slot, then the Champion becomes the new Herald for the next round.
(6) Ballots who have run out of HP flee the Dungeons of Democracy using a Town Hall Portal spell, to await the results.
(7) The process is repeated from (2). If two rounds pass in a row without any damage being inflicted, the award administrator must either:
- introduce a Monster Ballot (see below); and/or
- eliminate the ballot with the lowest number of total HP, even if it’s not yet at zero.
You may think that the only way to win is not to play, but be brave.