Pixel Scroll 1/26/17 What Is The Pixel Capacity Of A European Scroll? Laden or Unladen? Aaargh!

(1) END OF PERIOD. As John Hertz said in his report on the dedication of Forrest J Ackerman Square, the city promised to replace the original sign with the erroneous period after the initial “J” – erroneous, because Forry spelled his name without one. And as you can see in this photo by Robert Kerr, the city has installed the corrected sign above the intersection.

Ackerman Square corrected sign

(2) BIG ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION. Greg Ketter’s Minneapolis bookstore is featured in “Wi12: Busman’s Holiday Possibilities” at Shelf Awareness.

DreamHaven Books & Comics

Since opening on April 1, 1977, DreamHaven Books & Comics has moved 10 times and even had multiple locations open at once. Today it’s located in an approximately 3,300-square-foot storefront at 2301 East 38th street, the store’s home for the last eight and a half years, in a neighborhood around five miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis. According to owner Greg Ketter, despite various changes over the years, DreamHaven’s specialization in science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic books has remained constant. The book inventory is a mix of used and new, with a higher proportion of used, rare and collectible books than in years past; Ketter also carries a great deal of movie and comic memorabilia. One of the store’s centerpieces is a towering model of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet. Throughout the store other models and statues abound.

DreamHaven is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a party on April 1. Ketter has author appearances and a sale planned for the day, and is working in concert with Once Upon a Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

(3) BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES. Randy Byers, co-editor of Chunga, has promising news about the progress of his cancer treatment.

Again, the discussion is too technical for me to follow, but it all sounds pretty hopeful, which I assume is why Dr. Taylor was willing to be so optimistic right to my face. I feel torn between wild optimism on my own part and cautious skepticism. No doubt I’ll need to read and discuss it further, but damn if I didn’t immediately start thinking, “Maybe I *will* get to see Celine grow up!”

(4) INCONSTANT MOON.little birdie told us that Larry Niven’s award-winning story may be filmed — “’Arrival’ Producer Developing ‘Inconstant Moon’ Sci-Fi Movie for Fox”.

Fox 2000 is launching development on a movie based on Larry Niven’s science-fiction story “Inconstant Moon” with Oscar-nominated “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy and his 21 Laps company on board.

“The Specatcular Now” director James Ponsoldt is attached from a script by Daniel Casey. Levy and 21 Laps’ Dan Cohen will produce along with Ponsoldt through his 1978 Pictures company and Vince Gerardis through his Created By company.

“Inconstant Moon,” which first appeared in the 1971 short story collection “All the Myriad Ways,” begins with the moon glowing much brighter than ever before, leading the narrator to presume that the sun has gone nova and that this is the last night of his life. He spends the night with his girlfriend but then discovers that the reality is that the Earth has been hit by massive solar flare that kills most the inhabitants of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Levy received an Oscar nomination Tuesday for producing “Arrival” along with Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde. “Arrival” was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villeneuve.

(5) A REALLY BAD MAN. Atlas Obscura reminds us about a forgotten fictional character who had a major influence on genre fiction over the years: “The Criminal History of Fant?mas, France’s Favorite Fictional Villain”.

As villains go, Fantômas is a nasty one. Created in 1911, he is a gentleman criminal who perpetrates gruesome, elaborate crimes with no clear motivation. He hangs a victim inside a church bell so that when it rings blood rains on the congregation below. He attempts to kill Juve, the detective on his trail, by trapping the man in a room that slowly fills with sand. He skins a victim and makes gloves from the dead man’s hands in order to leave the corpse’s fingerprints all over the scene of a new crime.

His creators called him the “Genius of Evil” and the “Lord of Terror,” but he remained a cipher with so many identities that often only Jove would recognize him. The book that first introduces him begins with a voice asking: Who is Fantômas?


  • January 26, 1934 — One of America’s best-loved movie projects gets underway as producer Samuel Goldwyn buys the film rights to The Wizard of Oz.

(7) FAUX FACTS FOR SALE. Chuck Tingle’s Buttbart has opened an Alternative Fact Warehouse where you can purchase such alternative facts as “JOM HAMM IS YOUR HANDSOME ONLINE BUD WHO LIKES TO SKYPE” for a few dollars, with the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.

(8) HE SAID ILK. Milo is scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on February 1. He was prevented by protestors from speaking at another UC campus a few weeks ago. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has issued a statement reminding the university community that theirs is the home of the Free Speech Movement.

Mr. Yiannopoulos is not the first of his ilk to speak at Berkeley and he will not be the last. In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to “entertain,” but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas. He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community….

Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who abide by our campus rules to express a wide range of often-conflicting points of view. We have gone so far as to defend in court the constitutional rights of students of all political persuasions to engage in unpopular expression on campus. Moreover, we are defending the right to free expression at an historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of paramount importance. In this context, we cannot afford to undermine those rights, and feel a need to make a spirited defense of the principle of tolerance, even when it means we tolerate that which may appear to us as intolerant.

As part of the defense of this crucial right, we have treated the [Berkeley College Republicans’] efforts to hold the Yiannopoulos event exactly as we would that of any other student group. Since the event was announced, staff from our Student Affairs office, as well as officers from the University of California Police Department (UCPD), have worked, as per policy and standard practice, with the BCR to ensure the event goes as planned, and to provide for the safety and security of those who attend, as well as those who will choose to protest Yiannopoulos’s appearance in a lawful manner.

(9) EARLY WARNING. Declan Finn, in “Live and Let Bite, Best Horror at the Dragon Awards”, shows a photo of a Dragon Award trophy and declares —

In 2017, I’m going to be getting one of these.

Nice, huh? They look nifty, right? Here, let’s pull back a bit.

Yeah, I’m pretty much going to lay my cards on the table and say this is going to win the second annual Dragon Awards in 2017. This is not actually a boast. It’s just logical. No, seriously. Follow me around the windmills of my mind. Live and Let Bite is everything you loved in Honor at Stake and Murphy’s Law of Vampires, and then doubles down.

(10) THE MAGIC NUMBER. Dan Koboldt gives “5 Reasons to Vote for the Hugo Awards”.

2. Expose Yourself to Other Forms of SF/F

Most of us read enough novels to know how we want to vote in that category. Novels and series are the bread-and-butter of the SF/F genre. Furthermore, after the commercial success of Game of Thrones, Westworld, and other franchises, there are arguably more people reading SF/F novels than ever before. Thousand of people vote for the “best novel” Hugo Award.

I wish we could say the same about short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

Short fiction is a critical form of SF/F literature, and indeed is how many of us learned how to write. There are some wonderful markets that publish it — Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, and Nature, just to name a few — but the readership is much, much smaller. The Hugo Awards are a great opportunity to discover, read, and reward outstanding works in these briefer formats.

(11) AN ICE TOUR. Val and Ron Ontell are organizing pre- and post-Worldcon tours designed for those heading to Helsinki. Before the con there is a tour of Scandinavia, Talinn and St. Petersburg, and afterwards a tour of Iceland. Itineraries for both are at the site.

(12) FISHING WITH BAIT. John Joseph Adams has posted Hugo-eligible items and from Lightspeed, Nightmare and anthologies, and is offering to e-mail additional material to Hugo nominators with proof of voting eligibility.

If you are planning and eligible to vote for the Hugos this year, if you email me proof of your Worldcon membership (i.e., your name is listed on the Worldcon website as an attending member, or the email confirmation or receipt you received when you purchased your membership, etc.) I would be happy to make some additional 2016 material I edited available to you in digital format.

(13) ANOTHER FISHERMAN. Jameson Quinn wrote in a comment here today —

The paper on E Pluribus Hugo by Bruce Schneier and I had made it through peer review when the journal that had accepted it (Voting Matters) suddenly lost its funding and retroactively folded. We were trying to pressure the editor who had accepted it to help us find another place for it, but it looks as if that’s not happening. We’re still planning to publish it in another journal, but sadly we’ll probably have to repeat the whole peer review process. However, it is our belief that the paper is still eligible to be nominated for Best Related Work.

(14) TICKY. The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists make it out to be two-and-a-half minutes til Midnight — “Doomsday Click Moves Closer to Midnight, Signaling Concern Among Scientists” in the New York Times.

Ms. Bronson, in a post-announcement interview, explained why the board had included the 30-second mark in the measurement. She said that it was an attention-catching signal that was meant to acknowledge “what a dangerous moment we’re in, and how important it is for people to take note.”

“We’re so concerned about the rhetoric, and the lack of respect for expertise, that we moved it 30 seconds,” she said. “Rather than create panic, we’re hoping that this drives action.”

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Titley and Dr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight.

“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” they wrote. “But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Howard Osler, Van Ontell, David K.M.Klaus, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W and Yours Truly.]

I Go, Hugo, We All Go, to the MACII Business Meeting

By Jameson Quinn: As discussed in previous threads such as this one, I and others will be making an EPH+ proposal to the Business Meeting; and so I was running a fundraiser so that I could be there to help explain it.

The good news is that fundraiser has reached its goal. Yay! I’ll see you all there! Thank you to everyone who’s supported it so far. But the fundraiser is not over.

Jameson Quinn

Jameson Quinn

I have been working on these issues, unpaid, off and on since early last year. I’m doing that partly because I have always been a fan, though not prior to this a congoing fan. But my main motivation is just that I’ve devoted a nontrivial part of my life to thinking about better voting systems, and I see this as an opportunity to use that knowledge while helping educate people about the advantages such systems offer.

So, like my own involvement in this issue, my fundraiser is not merely for myself. I’m raising funds for the Center for Election Science (electology.org), and all donations are tax-deductible in the US. As an organization, we do education, research, consulting, and advocacy around issues of voting systems; that is, exactly the same kinds of work I’ve been doing with EPH and the Hugos. With the support this community has given so far, I’ll be able to be there at MAC II; but if you can give us more support, we can do more.

It doesn’t take more than a glance at the newspaper these days to see the fallout of poor election systems. I’ll discuss a few examples here, to help show what good systems have to offer. Let me begin by saying that the CES is a nonpartisan organization. I’m going to speak not as a voter with my own personal point of view on these matters, but as a voting system designer, in the faith that societies and organizations should be free to make their decisions democratically and that such democratic decision-making is the most sustainable, if not always the fastest, way to come to the correct decisions.

  • In the UK, a momentary bare majority managed to take a decision whose impact will last decades. Of course, every decision has impacts, and from a long term perspective every majority is temporary; but from my point of view as an election theorist, asymmetrical decisions like Brexit should require a supermajority. There were at least two asymmetries in this case. First, you can tear up a treaty any time, but once you’ve shredded it, it’s much harder to tape it back together. And second, the consequences of a “remain” vote were relatively clear, but the very meaning of a “leave” vote was quite vague, allowing a situation where there were groups of “leave” voters with entirely contradictory visions of what the post-Brexit relationship with Europe should be.In light of those asymmetries, the “Brexit” referendum should not have been symmetrical between yes and no. A “yes” result should have taken more than a “no” result. That could have taken the form of a supermajority requirement, but the problem with that is, any such requirement is essentially arbitrary. A better way to do it would be to have required two consecutive results in order to leave, with some time for deliberation in between.
  • In the US Democratic party, there was a tough battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Clinton won, and a key factor in that victory was her strong support from African-American voters, a cornerstone constituency of the party. Yet because of an antiquated primary election schedule, most of the early campaign for both Sanders and Clinton had focused on two of the Whitest states in the country: Iowa and New Hampshire. I believe both of the candidates would have been better served by a schedule where the initial states looked more like the country as a whole, especially in terms of the demographics of the Democrats.
  • Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Donald Trump won the nomination despite getting a minority of votes in the primary contests. Because the primaries used vote-for-one plurality, his numerous opponents split the vote, allowing his minority support to put him into the a clear lead from the start. If the primary elections and polls had been run using a better system such as approval voting, the anti-Trump voters would have had a much easier time showing their strength. We can’t know for certain who would have won under such a system; some might argue it still would have been Trump. But if it were, he would have had to win by uniting Republicans behind him, not just by dividing his opposition.
  • Elsewhere in the news, we see repeated terrorist attacks in various countries; and many of the attackers are affiliated with or claimed by ISIS/Daesh. ISIS arose in Iraq, in the power vacuum left after George Bush toppled Saddam Hussein. And George Bush would almost certainly never have become president in 2001 if it hadn’t been for the broken election system in Florida, where he got a minority of votes but still took the state’s electoral support. In this case, it’s pretty clear that under approval voting, things would have gone differently; if third-party voters had been able to support both their favorite candidate and a backup compromise, all evidence suggests that the minority Bush got would not have been enough to win the state.
  • (Bear with me for one last “river city” transition.) We recently saw a failed coup in Turkey, in which elements of a more-secular military tried to take the country from a democratically-elected Islamist president. This echoes the successful coup in 2013 in Egypt, in which Islamist president Morsi was overthrown by military strongman el-Sisi. Morsi was the only democratically elected president in Egypt’s history. But tragically, Morsi, like Bush, had won despite the fact that most of the country voted against him; and this “unpopular mandate” is arguably a large part of what led to the coup. His initial win was a two-round election. In the first round, there were several candidates: two Islamists (Morsi and Fotouh), a representative of the military and old guard (Shafik), and two more-secular reformers (Sabahi and Moussa). Morsi and Shafik were the top two in that round, and so, despite the fact that their combined total was under 50%, they faced each other in the runoff, with no reformist option on that second ballot. Though opinion polls in this situation were unreliable, all the two-way polls we have that matched either Morsi or Shafik against a reformer show that a reformer could have won if they’d made it to a runoff! And the reformist candidates’ combined total in the first round easily surpassed either of the individual totals of the two who did progress. Thus, it seems very plausible that a better voting system (such as approval with runoff, or majority judgment) could have avoided the situation that led to the Egyptian coup in the first place.

I don’t want to spark a thread of political debate — there are other blogs for that. But I hope I’ve made my point that election system reform is not just for the Hugos. In many countries, and especially here in the US, polls show satisfaction with available the political options at an all-time low, but across most of the English-speaking world we use plurality voting, a horrible system which is structured so as to blunt the incentives for the existing parties, or the ability of new parties, to viably offer new ideas. If you care about breaking this stalemate, you care about election systems, and electology.org deserves your support through my fundraiser. Or, sign up for our newsletter to learn more about how we’re working on this problem.

My original budget for going to the con was $1400, including membership, train fare (I prefer trains over airplanes to save on CO?), lodging, expenses, and youcaring’s small crowdfunding fees. I lowered that to $1300 in order to help get the fundraiser over the top. But really, I’d like to see this pass $2000, so please, if you can, support us. Frankly, the CES needs the money, as we testify before legislatures, attend other conventions and run straw polls, engage with media and produce educational materials, carry out research, work on software tools, consult with awards organizations such as the Hugos and Webbys, and other activities. Our Executive Director is committed to the cause and draws low wages, but I know for a fact there’s at least one other charity that wants to steal him from us at higher wages, so we really need to begin paying him a larger fraction of what he’s worth.

Pixel Scroll 7/18/16 Dead Sea Pixel Scrolls

(1) EYEING EARTHSEA. Ursula K. Le Guin talks about working with Charles Vess, illustrator of The Big Book of Earthsea, in a post for Book View Café.

…So, this is how it’s been going:

Charles begins the conversation, emailing me occasonally with questions, remarks, while reading the books. I answer as usefully as I can. Also, we chat. I find out that he has sailed all around Scotland. He tells me about Neil Gunn’s novel The Silver Darlings, which I read with vast pleasure. I don’t know what I tell him, but slowly and at easy intervals a friendship is being established.

Suddenly Charles sends me a sketch of a dragon.

It is an excellent dragon. But it isn’t an Earthsea dragon.


Well . . . an Earthsea dragon wouldn’t have this, see? but it would have that . . . And the tail isn’t exactly right, and about those bristly things —

So I send Charles an email full of whines and niggles and what-if-you-trieds-such-and-suches. I realize how inadequate are my attempts to describe in words the fierce and beautiful being I see so clearly.

Brief pause.

The dragon reappears. Now it looks more like an Earthsea dragon….

(2) QUINN KICKSTARTER REACHES TARGET. Jameson Quinn’s YouCaring appeal today passed the $1,300 goal. I, for one, am glad to see that news.

(3) YA HORROR. “And Now for Something Completely Different: Adding Humor to Your Horror”: Amanda Bressler tells YA writers how, at the Horror Writers Association blog.

With the popularity of dark comedies, it should be no surprise that horror and humor can be a compelling mix. However, when it comes to young adult books, few succeed at the balance that keeps a funny horror book from losing its edge or appearing to try too hard. Here are a few humorous elements used in YA horror to enhance the story, characters, or setting without sacrificing their horror-ness.

(4) EARLY HINT OF ELVEN. Soon to be available in print again: “70-year-old Tolkien poem reveals early ‘Lord of the Rings’ character”.

A poem by J.R.R. Tolkien that’s been out of print since the year World War II ended will be published this fall for the first time in 70 years, the Guardian reports.

And even if you were around in 1945, you likely didn’t see the poem unless you were a dedicated reader of literary journal The Welsh Review. That’s where “The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun” (Breton for “lord and lady”) was published, based on a work Tolkien had started around 1930.

Why should modern readers care? The poem suggests an early version of elf queen Galadriel from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion.” The poem tells of a couple that cannot have children until visiting a witch known as the Corrigan, who grants them twins, but later demands a price be paid for her assistance.

(5) GOBBLE GOBBLE. New Scientist calls it “Einstein’s clock: The doomed black hole to set your watch by”.

OJ 287’s situation is a window into what must have happened in galaxies all over the universe. Galaxies grow by eating their own kind, and almost all of them come with a supermassive black hole at the centre.

Once two galaxies merge, their black holes – now forced to live in one new mega-galaxy – will either banish their rival with a gravitational kick that flings their opponent out of the galaxy, or eventually merge into an even bigger black hole.

In OJ 287, the smaller black hole is en route to becoming a snack for the larger one. The larger one is also growing from a surrounding disc of gas and dust, the material from which slowly swirls down the drain. Each time the smaller black hole completes an orbit, it comes crashing through this disc at supersonic speeds.

That violent impact blows bubbles of hot gas that expand, thin out, and then unleash a flood of ultraviolet radiation – releasing as much energy as 20,000 supernova explosions in the same spot. You could stand 36 light years away and tan faster than you would from the sun on Earth.

Even with all this thrashing, the smaller black hole has no chance of escape.  Energy leaches away from the binary orbit, bringing the pair closer together and making each cycle around the behemoth a little shorter than the last.

Although the outbursts may be impressive, the black holes’ orbital dance emits tens of thousands of times more energy as undulations in space time called gravitational waves.

Last year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US offered a preview of the endgame of OJ 287 in miniature. Twice in 2015, LIGO heard gravitational waves from the final orbits of black-hole pairs in which each black hole was a few dozen times the size of the sun, and then the reverberations of the single one left behind.

(6) SFWA CHAT HOUR. In SFWA Chat Hour Episode 4: Special Pokémon Go Edition, SFWA board and staff members Kate Baker, Oz Drummond, M.C.A. Hogarth, Cat Rambo, and Bud Sparhawk as they discuss the latest doings and news of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as well as F&SF news, recent reads, Readercon, Westercon, and more.

(7) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo says her “Gods and Magicians” is a free read “brought to you by my awesome Patreon backers, who get bonuses like versions of new books, peeks at story drafts, and sundry other offerings. If backing me’s not in your budget, you can still sign up for my newsletter and get news of posts, classes, and publications as they appear.”

This is a piece of flash fiction written last year – I just got around to going through the notebook it was in lately and transcribing the fictional bits. This didn’t take too much cleaning up. For context, think of the hills of southern California, and a writing retreat with no other human beings around, and thinking a great deal about fantasy and epic fantasy at the time.

(8) LIVE CLASSES. Rambo also reminds writers that July is the last month in 2016 that she’ll be offering her live classes (aside from one special one that’s still in the works). Get full details at her site.

I’ll start doing the live ones again in 2017, but I’m taking the rest of the year to focus on the on demand school (http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/on-demand-classes/), which will adding classes by Juliette Wade and Rachel Swirsky in the next couple of months.

(9) FREE CHICON 7 PROGRAM BOOKS. Steven H Silver announced: “I’m about to recycle several boxes of Chicon 7 Program Books.  If anyone is interested in adding a copy of the book to their collection, I’d be happy to send them one (for the cost of postage). People should get in touch with me at shsilver@sfsite.com, but I need to hear from them before the end of the month.”

(10) DETAILS, DETAILS. In 1939, sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz, producers debated about removing one of the songs because it seemed to slow things down. The song: “Over the Rainbow.”


However, according to writer/director James Cameron, most people at that time tried to convince him not to make the movie.

After all, they reasoned, any positive elements of the film would be attributed to “Alien” director Ridley Scott, and all the negative parts would be viewed as Cameron’s fault.

“I said, ‘Yeah, but I really want to do it. It’ll be cool,'” he said in an interview. “It was like this ridiculous, stupid thing. It wasn’t strategic at all, but I knew it would be cool.”


  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn. Here’s a photo from 2012.

(13) GROUNDWORK FOR PREDICTION. Brandon Kempner is back on the job at Chaos Horizon, “Updating the 2016 Awards Meta List”.

A lot of other SFF nominations and awards have been handed out in the past few weeks. These are good indication of who will win the eventual Hugo—every award nomination raises visibility, and the awards that using votes are often good predictors of who will win the Hugo. Lastly, the full range of SFF awards gives us a better sense of what the “major” books of the year than the Hugo or Nebula alone. Since each award is idiosyncratic, a book that emerges across all 14 is doing something right.

Here’s the top of the list, and the full list is linked here. Total number of nominations is on the far left….

(14) VANCE FAN. Dave Freer tells what he admires about Jack Vance, and tries to emulate in his own writing, in “Out of Chocolate Error” for Mad Genius Club. Freer, while straightforward as ever about his worldview, makes an unexpected acknowledgement that another view could be embodied in a good story. Under these conditions —

There are at least four ‘meanings’ and stories that I’ve spotted in this particular book. I’m probably missing a few. Because I wanted to write like this myself, I’ve tried hard to pick up the techniques. I think the first key is that there must be a very strong and clear plot-line. You’re asking it to balance a lot of subtle and quite possibly overpowering elements. The second of course is that your characters cannot be mere PC-token stereotypes. Yes, of course you can have a black lesbian hero, or whatever (it actually doesn’t matter)– but if that stereotype is in the face of the reader rather than the character themselves, that becomes a compound, rather than the portmanteau. The third is that you cannot preach, or tell, your reader your ‘message’. Not ever. You can show it, you can let them derive it. If they fail to: well they still got a good story. And finally – if your audience leaves your book saying ‘that was about feminism… you, as a writer, are a failure, at least at writing entertainment or portmanteau books. There is a market for message, but like the market for sermons: it is small, and largely the converted. If they finish with a smile: you’ve done well. If they leave your book with a smile thinking: “yeah, true… I hadn’t thought of it like that. Look at (someone the reader knows). I could see them in that character (and the character happens to be a woman who is as capable as her male compatriots) then, my writer friend, you are a talent, and I wish I was more like you… Out of chocolate error…

(15) GOTCHA AGAIN. Chuck Tingle announces his retirement.

(16) HE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE. Rue Morgue reports Guillermo del Toro told Fantasia ’16 attendees that he’s retiring from producing and will stick to directing from now on.

(17) GRAPHIC STORY SLATE. Doris V. Sutherland discusses the impact of the slate on The Best Graphic Story Hugo nominees in “Comics and Controversy at the 2016 Hugo Awards” for Women Write About Comics.

After a reasonably strong set of graphic novels, the Best Graphic Story category starts to go downhill when we arrive at the webcomics. When Vox Day posted his provisional choices for the category, the list consisted entirely of online strips: Katie Tiedrich’s Awkward Zombie, Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrig Court, Kukuruyo’s Gamergate Life, Aaron Williams’ Full Frontal Nerdity, and Grey Carter and Cory Rydell’s Erin Dies Alone.

Comprising strip after strip of anti-SJW caricatures, Gamergate Life obviously fits Day’s ideology; I have also heard it suggested that he chose Erin Dies Alone as a dig at Alexandra Erin, who wrote a short e-book spoofing him. Beyond this, it is hard to discern the exact criteria behind his choices. One of the comics, Gunnerkrig Court, proved controversial within Day’s comments section: “Gunnerkrigg Court recently gave us not one, but two big, fat, awful, in-your-face gay/lesbian subplots (involving the main characters no less!) and so I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it anywhere these days,” wrote one poster.

The final Rabid Puppies slate—and, consequently, the final ballot—included only two of the above strips: Full Frontal Nerdity and Erin Dies Alone.

(18) DEEP SPACE PROBE. Will a “broken umbrella” speed space exploration?

…This sounds impressive until you remember that Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, is fitted with early ’70s scientific instruments, cameras and sensors and has been voyaging for almost 40 years.

Before mankind attempts to send another probe out towards interstellar space, engineers hope to figure out a way to get there a lot faster and, ideally, within their working lifetime.

There are several options on the table. Some favour solar sails – giant mirrored sheets pushed along by the force of photons from the Sun. Others – including Stephen Hawking – suggest flying these sails on tightly focused beams of photons generated by lasers fired from Earth or satellites in orbit.

Nasa engineer Bruce Wiegmann, however, is investigating the possibility of flying to the stars using a propulsion system that resembles a giant broken umbrella or wiry jellyfish. The concept is known as electric, or e-sail, propulsion and consists of a space probe positioned at the centre of a fan of metal wires….

(19) HORNBLOWERS. Did John Williams tell these kids to get off his lawn? Watch and find out.

This is what happened when 2 guys with horns made a spontaneous decision to set up and play the Star Wars theme in front of John Williams’ house on 7/11/2016!


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Xtifr for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/16 Dr. Pixel And Mr. Hive

(1) FIRST TO WHAT? Matthew Kirschenbaum’s latest discovery about the early days of writers using word processors is shared in “A Screen of Her Own: Gay Courter’s The Midwife and the Literary History of Word Processing” at the Harvard University Press Blog. He acknowledges that by this point, it’s hard to define the question he’s trying to answer —

*First to purchase a system? First to publish their book? First to fully compose? What counts as a word processor anyway? And so on. Besides Pournelle and the others whose names I conjecture in this passage, Track Changes also includes detailed accounts of John Hersey and Len Deighton in its discussion of word processing firsts. Hersey used a mainframe computer at Yale to revise and typeset—but not compose—his novel My Petition for More Space (1974); Deighton leased an IBM Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter for the benefit of his assistant, Ellenor Handley, in managing the revisions for Bomber (1970). The MT/ST was the first office product ever to be actually marketed as a word processor, the ancestor of the System 6—itself not a “digital computer” strictly speaking, it performed no calculations—that the Courters would purchase a decade later.

David Gerrold commented on Facebook:

I think Pournelle was computerized before I was, but I was writing on a word processor before any other writer I knew. I think I started that in 75 or maybe 76.

I had a Savin 900 which was a big box that recorded what you typed onto a cassette tape. The way it stored data, you could also use it for storing mailing lists too.

It connected to a specially modified IBM Selectric — they added a framework between the base and the top, which raised the height of the machine an inch or so. So you still worked on a typewriter, but what you typed was stored.

I put a roll of butcher paper through the machine and I could type all day. Later, I could print out what I’d typed. I could print it out with each line numbered, so I would know where it was on the cassette, or I could print it out formatted, one page at a time. I don’t remember if it numbered the pages, I might have had to do that manually….

ghostbusters-full-new-img COMP(2) SEE GHOSTBUSTERS. JJ, saying “I really love it when someone articulates so well the things which I’ve had difficulty putting my finger on. Kate Tanski does that here, in triplicate,” sent a link to Tanski’s post “The Importance of Seeing Ghostbusters” at Women Write About Comics.

One of the themes in this movie is the importance of being believed. Yes, in this movie, it’s about being believed about ghosts. Erin talks about how she saw a ghost when she was 8, every night for a year. Her parents didn’t believe her, and she went into therapy. Abby (Melissa McCarthy) was the only one who believed her, which was one of the reasons they became friends. It’s not that much of a stretch to think about all the things that women are also often not believed about, as children or as adults. And that part of the movie, thankfully, and pointedly, doesn’t devolve into comedy. It lets the moment of remembered trauma be serious….

But despite of all its very good qualities and the high entertainment factor, the reason why I want this movie to succeed so hard is because of the row of girls who sat behind me. It’s because of the little girl, probably no more than six, who hid behind her dad and whispered to him, that I was “dressed up like the lady from the movie” when she saw me in my Ghostbusters coveralls and then smiled shyly when our eyes met. It’s for the teenage girl who rolled down her window and yelled “GHOSTBUSTERS, YEAH!” as I was walking to my car after the movie got out.  It’s for this entire generation of girls who now, because of this movie, think that Ghostbusters can be women. Because it’s not something that I, even a few years ago, would’ve believed possible, even in cosplay….

… it never occurred to me when I was a child that I could be a Ghostbuster. I could be Janine, sure, and pine awkwardly for the scientist. It never occurred to me that I could be a scientist. Or that it didn’t have to be a boy I was pining for. And that’s why these movies, these reclamations of childhood favorites retold as something more than just a male power fantasy, are so important… A new Ghostbusters that doesn’t just feature a singular woman as part of a team, but a new team wholly composed of women who decide for themselves to do this not because of any male legacy, but because of who they are, and who doesn’t wait for anyone’s permission to exist…

(3) GHOSTBUSTER SHORTCOMINGS. Dave Taylor finds things he likes but also points out many flaws in his “Movie Review: ‘Ghostbusters’” for ScienceFiction.com.

Let’s start with the good news: The new Ghostbusters is funny and entertaining, the story moves along at a solid clip and has lots of cameos from the stars of the original 1986 Ghostbusters too. The story works with four women in the lead roles instead of the four men in the original film just fine.

That’s not the problem with this remake. In fact, there are two fundamental problems when you look at it more closely than just asking whether it’s funny: The first is that there’s not much actual story, no real narrative crescendo that is resolved in the last reel. That’s because of the second, bigger problem: The new film tries way too hard to pay homage to the original movie.

There aren’t just cameos, for example, there are characters on screen that have pointless, flat scenes that break the narrative flow….

(4) GHOSTBUSTER LIKER. Ben Silverio at ScienceFiction.com answers with a “Movie Review Rebuttal: ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)”.

Another thing that worked really well for me was the way that they showed the trial and error of the Ghostbusters’ equipment. This was their first mission together and most of Holtzmann’s tools had gone untested up until this point. Not only was it cool to see the proton packs evolve, but it was also very, very cool to see female scientists onscreen in a major Hollywood blockbuster bringing this technology to life.

At the end of the day, I only had one major complaint about ‘Ghostbusters’: How do you set a movie in a major metropolis like New York City and only have one Asian character with lines? (For those wondering, that character was Bennie the delivery boy, who was played by ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ star Karan Soni.) But since that’s a problem throughout the entertainment industry and not just this isolated film, it’s hard to come up with any other reasons for me to generally dislike this reboot.

(5) BUSTER BUSTER. John Scalzi delivers “A Short Review of Ghostbusters and A Longer Pummel of Manboys”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

BUT THEY’VE RUINED MY CHILDHOOD BY BEING WOMEN, wails a certain, entitled subset of male nerd on the Internet. Well, good, you pathetic little shitballs. If your entire childhood can be irrevocably destroyed by four women with proton packs, your childhood clearly sucked and it needs to go up in hearty, crackling flames. Now you are free, boys, free! Enjoy the now. Honestly, I don’t think it’s entirely a coincidence that one of the weakest parts of this film is its villain, who (very minor spoiler) is literally a basement-dwelling man-boy just itchin’ to make the world pay for not making him its king, as he is so clearly meant to be. These feculent lads are annoying enough in the real world. It’s difficult to make them any more interesting on screen.

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. “Boston area fan (and an old friend of mine) Stephanie Clarkson is in a bad way,” writes James Davis Nicoll.

Clarkson’s friend Laurie Beth Brunner fills in the details in a public Facebook post that begins —

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that Stephanie’s condition has taken a drastic turn for the worse in the last week.

(7) SILVER ON RADIO. On Tuesday, July 19, Steven H Silver will be interviewed on “The Colin McEnroe Show”, carried on WNPR in the New York-Boston corridor, or available for streaming on their website. The show will focus on Alternate History and runs from 1:00-2:00 p.m. and again from 8:00-9:00 p.m.

(8) FEEDBACK. Fynbospress at Mad Genius Club runs through the value of reviews at different stages of the process in “Reviews – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta? All Greek to You?”

Since the subject of reviews came up, here’s an overview of a few sorts of reviews, and what’s most helpful on each one. The critical thing to remember is that reviews vary by audience, as well as reviewers!

There are no fixed definitions, so these term vary wildly from author to author. I’ll just walk through the concepts in Greek letter order, completely ignoring what any particular author calls ’em.

Alpha Reviews: Technical Aspects

These are often sought before the manuscript is written, much less complete – but sometimes the author just writes the scene in their head, then hits up people afterward to fact-check. Often submitted with “So, can you parachute out of a small plane?” or “Where is the firing switch on a T-38?” or “You’ve ranched in the southwest. What do you think of this trail scene?”

Sometimes, the feedback will make it clear you can’t do the scene you wanted, not without breaking the suspension of disbelief of anyone who knows anything about the subject. Often, though, more discussion will turn up even niftier alternatives. Tell your technical expert what you want to accomplish, and they may come up with things you never dreamed of….



  • Born July 17, 1950 – P.J. Soles, whose credits include Carrie and Halloween.


  • Born July 17, 1952 — David Hasselhoff, with an sf resume that spans from Knight Rider to Sharknado.

(12) VOTE. In “The 2016 Hugo Awards: Two Weeks Out”, Abigail Nussbaum spends the first three paragraphs explaining that compared to 2015, practically no one is talking about the Hugos this year. It’s hard to imagine how with that alternate reality introduction she still manages to lead to a final, important admonition:

Which is great on one level, and on another is worrying.  Because another thing that hasn’t been happening this year is the huge influx of Worldcon members buying supporting memberships for the sole purpose of protesting against the puppies’ attempts to dominate the Hugos.  At the moment, MidAmericon II has 5,600 members, and is on track to be a mid-sized North American convention, which probably means fairly normal Hugo voting numbers, not the outsized protest vote we saw last year.  Now, as I’ve said many times in the past, I have a great deal of faith in Hugo voters’ ability to tell astroturf nominees from the real deal, and to smack down nominees that have no business being on the ballot.  But the numbers still need to be on our side.  Chaos Horizon estimated that there were between 250 and 500 Rabid Puppy nominators this year.  I’d like to believe that the real number is closer to the lower boundary than the higher–there can’t, surely, be 500 people with so little going on in their lives that they’d be willing to spend good money just to make Vox Day happy (or whatever approximation of the human emotion known as happiness can be felt by someone so occupationally miserable).  But if I’m wrong, and those people show up in the same numbers this year, then they have a solid chance of overwhelming the good sense and decency of the people who want the Hugos to be what they were meant to be, an award recognizing the excellence and diversity of what science fiction and fantasy achieved in the last year.

So, if you are a member of MidAmericon II, please remember to vote.

(13) MACII BINGO DISSENT. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is not a fan of the grid –

(14) BALLOT SNAPSHOT. Mark Ciocco says Stephen King gets his vote for the Best Novelette Hugo.

Continuing the march through the Hugo finalists, we come to the awkward middle-ground between short stories and novellas that no one else uses but SF people: Novelettes. Fortunately, this is a pretty decent bunch of stories (especially compared to the lackluster short story ballot), even if none of them really stands out as truly exceptional. For me, they are all flawed in one way or another, making it pretty difficult to rank them. As such, this ranking will probably shift over time.

  1. “Obits” by Stephen King – A modern-day journalism student who naturally has difficulty landing a real job creates a snarky obituary column for a trashy internet tabloid. One day, frustrated, he writes an obituary for a living person. This being a Stephen King story, I think you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen from there. Admittedly, this is a bit on the derivative and predictable side, but King’s got the talent to pull it off with aplomb. He ably explores the idea at it’s core, taking things further than I’d expect, even if the premise itself doesn’t quite allow him much room. King has a tendency to write himself into corners, and you could argue that here, but I think he just barely skirted past that potentiality. It’s comforting to be in the hands of a good storyteller, even if this is not his best work. Still, its flaws are not unique in this batch of novelettes, so it ends up in first place for me.

(15) CAREY’S LIBRARY. Lis Carey also has been reviewing her way through the nominees. Here are three recent links:

(16) LETTERS TO TIPTREE. Aaron Pound discusses World Fantasy Award nominee Letters to Tiptree, and notes it is a significant omission from the list of Best Related Work Hugo nominees.

And yet, despite its many other honors, Letters to Tiptree did not receive a place among the Hugo finalists. While no work is ever entitled to become a Hugo finalist in the abstract, this is exactly the sort of book that one would normally expect to receive one. The reason for this lack of Hugo recognition this year is quite obviously the Puppy campaigns, which promoted a collection of Related Works onto the Hugo ballot that range from mediocre and forgettable down to juvenile and puerile. Leaving aside the fact that the finalists pushed by the Puppy campaigns are of such low quality, it seems relatively obvious that, given the Puppy rhetoric on such issues, Letters to Tiptree is exactly the sort of book that they want to push off of the Hugo ballot. After all, it is an explicitly feminist work, with all of the letter writers and most of the other contributors being women discussing a writer whose fiction was loaded with feminist issues. This book would seem to represent, at least in the eyes of many Pups, the recent encroachment of feminism into science fiction.

Except it doesn’t. Alice B. Sheldon died twenty-nine years ago. Her best fiction – including Houston Houston, Do You Read?, The Girl Who Was Plugged In, The Women Men Don’t See, and The Screwfly Solution – was written between forty and forty-five years ago….

(17) UNDERRATED BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. Reddit is collecting suggestions for “The Long Tail: r/Fantasy’s Underrated/Underread Books”. And look what’s on the list!

God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell (Kencyrath), 1761 ratings.

In the first book of the Kencyrath, Jame, a young woman missing her memories, struggles out of the haunted wastes into Tai-tastigon, the old, corrupt, rich and god-infested city between the mountains and the lost lands of the Kencyrath. Jame’s struggle to regain her strength, her memories, and the resources to travel to join her people, the Kencyrath, drag her into several relationships, earning affection, respect, bitter hatred and, as always, haunting memories of friends and enemies dead in her wake.

When Reddit put together such a list two years ago with similar criteria (<5000 Goodreads ratings) it also had a Hodgell book – but a different one.

(18) TIME FOR POKÉMON. Pat Cadigan is mentioned in Time’s coverage of Pokemon and augmented reality.

But Go successfully uses AR as a sweetener to a mix of nostalgia for Pokémon, which peaked in popularity during the late ’90s when many millennials were preteens, as well as elements of long-gone Internet-age fads from geocaching to flash mobs. While technologists have been trying to perfect how AR works, Pokémon has provided one early answer for why you’d want it to.

The basic goodness or badness of AR—like any technology that proposes tinkering with the material of our reality—will be long debated. In science fiction, at least, the results are decidedly mixed. Star Trek’s holodeck is a (mostly) beneficent tool for shared understanding; in Pat Cadigan’s 1991 classic Synners, the augmentation of reality takes on a macabre, nightmarish quality enabling corporate interests and human sensualism to run amok. Advanced AR could allow you to experience the world from another person’s perspective—or lock you permanently into your own.

(19) BRING QUINN TO MACII. Kurt Busiek gave a plug to Jameson Quinn’s fundraiser.

(20) FAST WORK. Did Lou Antonelli maybe set a record?

Those of you who attended the panel on short stories at LibertyCon that Friday may recall I mentioned that I wrote a story, submitted it, and received an acceptance in four hours. That story is “The Yellow Flag” and it is being published on-line by Sci-Phi Journal on August 1st.

(21) MONKEYING AROUND. Ms. Rosemary Benton at Galactic Journey discovers a Japanese animated movie rendered in English, “[July 17, 1961] Bridging Two Worlds (The Anime, Alakazam The Great)”. One thing I’m curious about – was the word anime used in 1961?

I was very excited to see this film for two major reasons, as well as many many lesser reasons.  First and foremost the credited director of the film is Osamu Tezuka, one of modern Japan’s most prolific “manga” (Japanese comics) creators.  I am an appreciator of the comic book medium, so Tezuka is hardly an unknown name to me.  Thanks to my soon-to-be-aunt I’ve been able to obtain translations of numerous works of his, all of which are exceptional with whimsical storytelling ferrying intense characters into entrancing conflicts.  To date he has created numerous adaptations of western classics like Faust (1950) and Crime and Punishment (1953), and has created hugely popular works for Japanese young adults including the science fiction action story Astro Boy and the coming of age title Jungle Emperor.  Upon looking into the production of the film, however, it is unclear how much direct involvement he had.  Still, I like to think that he had a part in not only the style, but the script — both of which bear a striking similarity to Tezuka’s situational humor and Disney-inspired art style.

(22) BIG COFFIN. Another casualty of the Civil War, “Marvel kills off Hulk alter ago Bruce Banner”. According to the BBC:

The character is seen dying as a result of an arrow to the head from Hawkeye, his Avengers teammate, in the third issue of Civil War II.

Banner has been the Hulk’s alter ego since the character’s creation in 1962.

Dawn Incognito, who sent the link, calls the last line of the post “My favourite quote.”

It is not yet clear whether Banner could return in a similar way [to Captain America and Spider-Man], but Marvel indicated there were no plans for a return.

“Suuuuuure,” says Dawn. “Pull the other one, Marvel, it’s got bells on.”

(23) IMMOVABLE FORCE, IRRITABLE OBJECT. These are the kinds of questions comics fans live for. “Comic Book Questions Answered – Could the Hulk Have Torn Wolverine’s Admantium Skeleton Apart?”

Now that the Hulk has joined his old sparring partner, Wolverine, in death, reader Roger B. asked whether the regular Marvel Universe Hulk could have torn the regular Marvel Universe Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton apart (we know the Ultimate versions of the characters could).

Read on for the answer! …

(24) STAR WARS 8 SPOILER? Your mileage may vary, but you’ve been warned. Carrie Fisher may have leaked an interesting bit about the next movie while speaking at Star Wars Celebration Europe.

During a panel discussion at Star Wars Celebration Europe this weekend, Carrie Fisher, aka the iconic Princess Leia, seemingly revealed what might be a pretty big spoiler for the upcoming “Star Wars Episode 8.”

When panel host Warwick Davis asked Fisher what she knew about the time period between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens,” Fisher seemingly mistook his question to mean the time between “The Force Awakens” and “Episode 8.” As a result, she let slip two little words that caught everyone’s attention…

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Michael J. Walsh, Bartimaeus, Gary Farber, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Hugo Voting Proposal Status Update

By Jameson Quinn: Since the last thread (“To Say Nothing of the Dogs”), there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress in Hugo voting proposals, but it’s still clearly time for an update on various fronts.

To summarize the (tentative) consensus plan developed in the last thread:

  • Ratify EPH this year.
  • Make the following two proposals this year, hopefully to pass and ratify at least one of them.
    • 3SV
      • This means a second round of voting in which the “longlist” of the top 15 from the first round is publicized, and clearly-unworthy works from that list are eliminated if they have enough votes against. It is not intended to deal with mere matters of taste, but merely to insulate against offensive works promoted by slate voters.
      • The text of this proposal is being worked on by a group of (what I’d respectfully characterize as) SMOFs led by Colin Harris. They are behind schedule for various reasons but still plan to reach the finish line.
    • EPH+
      • This means using the Sainte-Laguë divisors with EPH; that is, SDV-LPE-SL, as explained in my paper with Bruce Schneier. To put it in more understandable terms: it’s like EPH, but is slightly harder on works with above-average overlap with other winning works, so that a slate or slates like last years’ puppies could probably average under 3 nominations per category.
      • The text of this proposal is included below.
  • Next year, make one or more of the following two proposals:
    • +2 (or +1) against trolls
      • This is meant to go along with 3SV. It would mean that each voter in the second round could add 2 (or 1) nominations per category for works on the longlist. These nominations would be treated the same as first-round nominations.
      • This would help people make sure that their ballot would have at least one nomination with a viable chance of becoming a finalist, without requiring them to run out and read a full longlist in each category. By doing so, it would help reduce the “long tail” issue, and thus increase the power of non-slate voters. Since slate voters can already ensure they have nominated works on the longlist, their voting power would be largely unaffected.
    • Extend finalists (if it appears necessary)
      • This is also meant to go along with 3SV. It would mean that the elimination ballot would have three options; not just “eliminate” or “keep”, but also “keep but extend”. If a work with a quota of “keep but extend” votes became a finalist, then the number of finalists would be increased by one in that category. This would ensure that slate voters could not push things off the ballot using nominations for things that have non-slate support (such as the puppy support for Sandman: Overture this year).

So, if this is the plan, what still remains to be done in this thread?

  • Discuss whether this plan should be modified (I think not, but I’m open to counterarguments).
  • Settle on a wording for EPH+, find co-signers, and submit the proposal. Current draft is below.
  • Make sure the Colin Harris/ Kevin Standlee group submits their 3SV proposal. For now, I trust that they’re on the job, but if they continue not to have a proposal, I’ll shift that trust to the community to get them back on track.
  • If people want me to be there at WorldCon, then my fundraiser has to be successful. I am very grateful to the people who have so far helped me raise just over $700, but in order to actually go, I’d need $1400. And honestly, I’m hoping to raise even more than that; any excess goes to the Center for Election Science (electology.org), which works to bring well-designed, more-democratic voting systems to contexts beyond just the Hugos. (The consequences of poorly-designed intraparty democracy are on full display these days in both the US and UK. And speaking as someone who lived in Guatemala for 10 years, many other countries would be happy to have as much intraparty democracy as those two.) All donations are tax-deductible in the US.
  • Talk about voting systems and/or electoral pathologies in SF stories. For instance: in Too Like the Lightning, (minor spoilers to end of paragraph) one plot point is an asset voting system, that is, one in which voters can vote for any other valid voter, and each person who gets votes exercises power proportional to the number of votes they hold. This is an excellent voting system, and I’d be happy to discuss how it works / doesn’t work with the rest of the plot.

Here’s the proposed wording of EPH+:

(1) Calculation Phase: First, the total number of nominations (the number of ballots on which each nominee appears) from all eligible ballots shall be tallied for each remaining nominee. Next, a single “point” shall be assigned to each nomination ballot. That point shall be divided equally among all remaining nominees on that ballot. each nomination ballot shall give a point or fraction thereof to each remaining nominee on that ballot, according to the number of such remaining nominees, using the following pattern: 1 point for 1 remaining nominee, 1/3 of a point each for 2 remaining nominees, 1/5 of a point each for 3 remaining nominees, 1/7 of a point each for 4 remaining nominees, and 1/9 of a point each for 5 remaining nominees (extending this pattern as needed if a ballot legally has more remaining nominees). Finally, all points from all nomination ballots shall be totaled for each nominee in that category. These two numbers, point total and number of nominations, shall be used in the Selection and Elimination Phases.

Co-signers (all Rot13): Wnzrfba Dhvaa, Pynhqvn Ornpu, Obaavr Jnesbeq, Pngurevar Snore, Naqerj Uvpxrl, Ebtref Pnqraurnq, Qnivq Tbyqsneo, Yrr Rttre, Gnfun Gheare Yraaubss, Fgrira Unygre, Qnivq Jnyynpr.

Pixel Scroll 6/6/16 You Don’t Send Me Pixels Anymore

(1) MIDWIVES OF THE CURSED CHILD. In “Why J.K. Rowling Endorsed ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ for the Stage” the New York Times presents edited excerpts from a conversation between Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman, producers; Jack Thorne, the playwright; John Tiffany, director; Jamie Parker, who plays Harry; and Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione – in which they spoke “about everything but the plot.”

You both share story credit with J. K. Rowling. How did it work having three writers in the mix?

John Tiffany Jo Rowling was incredibly generous. I met her first, and I already had a soft spot for her because she used to write in the cafe of the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh when I was the director. It was only after the first book came out that I realized it had been her, nursing one cappuccino for four hours. When we met to talk about the play, she asked, “What do you think the Harry Potter stories are about?” I said, “Learning to deal with death and grief.” There was something in her eye — I thought, we didn’t say it’s about transformation or magic or flying on brooms, and we’re on the right track.

Thorne We all met in Edinburgh and as the day developed, we knew we would take the epilogue of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” as a starting point.

Tiffany All the seeds are there; we start with that scene in the train station. Am I allowed to say that? Anyway, it was clear that she was going to let us take those characters and have our own ideas.

Callender Of course, Jack came to the table with an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry, so that helped.

Thorne All right, I’m a nerd. With abandonment issues.

(2) YOUR NAME HERE. Cat Rambo tells how to win a Tuckerization in one of her stories.

This month my newsletter subscribers and Patreon supporters have a chance to win a Tuckerization in one of my stories. It’s not too late to get next week’s newsletter with details about how you can enter.

If you haven’t heard of a Tuckerization, that means you supply the name of one of the characters for a story – you may want to name them after yourself, a friend, or someone else you want to pay tribute to. I will offer you your choice of three possible genres, and do reserve the right to reject names that will not work with the story. In such cases I will work with you to find an acceptable name.

(3) SARKEESIAN. “Lingerie Is Not Armor” on Feminist Frequency, a video series is created by Anita Sarkeesian.

The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters, but remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.

Click here for the full transcript, links and resources for the episode.

(4) BEWARE SPOILERS. The latest installment of Slate’s series about the nastiest folk in Game of Thrones “This Week’s Worst Person in Westeros: The High Sparrow”.

After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 6, we’ll be answering a crucial question: Who is currently the worst person in Westeros? This week, technology and culture writer Jacob Brogan is joined by Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton.

Brogan: Hi, Jack. Thanks for joining me to talk about “The Broken Man.” Last week, Dan Kois and I declared the waif the worst, with Dan going so far as to claim that she is, in fact, the worst person “in all episodes in which she appears.” While that’s a bold statement on a show that includes the (still mercifully absent) Ramsay Bolton, this episode went a long way toward proving Dan right. She shows up briefly, using mere seconds of screen time to repeatedly stab Arya in the stomach. While I have little doubt that the girl-formerly-known-as-the-girl-with-no-name will survive, I’m mostly looking forward to her doing a little stabbing of her own at this point.

(5) WORLDBUILDERS. The charitable fundraiser Geeks Doing Good 2016 is in full swing.


Worldbuilders was founded in 2008 by New York Times bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss to bring the geek community together to make the world a better place. We work hard to raise money for reputable charities while giving back to the community who supports us with things like giveaways, auctions, and our online store.

To date, Worldbuilders has raised just shy of $5 million for charities like First Book, Mercy Corps, and Heifer International, and this year, we’re continuing  to expand our fundraising efforts.

In addition to our annual end-of-the-year fundraiser, we have another tradition: the week-long Geeks Doing Good summer campaign. This is different from our usual lottery and auction set up, where you might win fabulous prizes, or you pay top-dollar at auction for something rare or limited. Instead, for this summer fundraiser, we’ve taken the chance out of it.

When you donate during this Geeks Doing Good campaign, you are guaranteed to get the advertised reward. They’re affordable, they’re cool, and there’s no guesswork. You pledge at the soap level, you will get a bar of beautiful, handmade soap. Wha-BOOM! Hit in the face with Awesome!


(6) SHE REALLY DUG DINOSAURS. “Unearthing History: Mary Anning’s Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants” from the Smithsonian Libraries Unbound blog.

You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a real person who not only sold seaside curiosities by the seashore, but became world renowned for her fossil discoveries.

(7) LEGACY. Steve Vertlieb invites people to enjoy his post “Careening Spaceships & Thundering Hooves’ … Children’s Television in the 1950s & The Legacy of Buster Crabbe”: “Here’s my affectionate remembrance of children’s television during the comparative innocence of the 1950’s, the early days of televised science fiction and cowboys upon a deeply impressionable young boy, and the towering influence of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion, all of whom both looked and sounded like the personification of celluloid heroism…Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe.”

When I was a little kid, prior to the Civil War, I had an imagination as fertile and as wide as my large brown eyes, dreamily filled with awe and wonder.  My dad brought home our first television set in 1950.  It was an old RCA Victor TV with a screen not much bigger than my youthful head, but I was glued to its black and white imagery like flies on butter.  I was but four years old. In those early days of television, programming didn’t even begin until late afternoon or the dinner hour, but I would sit in front of the little brown box staring longingly at the Indian head portrait frozen in Cathode promise.

(8) QUINNFUNDING. Jameson Quinn’s YouCaring appeal to fund his trip to MidAmerCon II has raised $580 of its $1400 goal at this writing.

For the past two years, a minority of slate nominators have managed to pick a majority of the Hugo finalists. Last year, I helped propose an improvement to the voting system, E Pluribus Hugo (EPH). I raised funds to attend Sasquan, and I was there to help explain the proposal, which passed the Business Meeting by a 3:1 margin after extensive debate; if we ratify it this year, we can start using it next year.

This year, my coauthor Bruce Schneier and I were given access to last year’s nomination data in order to see how EPH would have worked. We found that it would have helped significantly, ensuring that at least one nominee in each category was slate-free. But we also found that there would still have been several categories without a choice between two or more slate-free nominees.

There are several ways we could deal with this. We could use just EPH, and live with the possibility of only one slate-free nominee per category; we could strengthen slightly it using a proposal called EPH+, which would tend to raise that number to two; we could pass a proposal called 3SV, to allow voters to disqualify disruptive slate nominees before they become finalists; and there are other, related, proposals that have been floated. I believe that there will be at least two new proposals on the table this year, and I think that, as with last year, my voting systems expertise could be valuable in helping the Business Meeting understand the implications of these options and decide what to do.

So, again, I’m raising funds to go to Worldcon this year (MAC II). I’m also hoping to raise extra money for The Center for Election Science, an incorporated charitable organization which supports reforming election systems more generally. (I’m a board member for the CES, and of course I feel that we do good, important work.)

(9) ART SHOW There’s been some discussion of Arisia 2017’s art show space and pricing policies.

Applications for space in the 2017 art show are now open.

New for Arisia 2017, we will be allocating space by lottery. More information is available on the reservations page.

Unlike most other science fiction convention art shows, sales at Arisia 2017 will be at fixed price only.

Since I don’t know the answer I thought I’d throw open the question – are these policies unusual, or increasingly common?

(10) TENTACLE TIME. Gamespot’s introduction to a new Independence Day TV commercial points out a fresh alien image:

It might have taken twenty years, but the sequel to ’90s blockbuster Independence Day finally hits cinemas in a few weeks. Independence Day: Resurgence sees the human race once again forced to defend itself against extra-terrestrial invaders, and the latest TV spot provides a first look at the aliens’ queen.


(11) TART SENTIMENTS. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dead Horses is keeping an eye on Indiana Jim.

(12) THE LUCHA LIBRE APPROACH TO SCHOLARSHIP. “Mexican ‘Spider-Man’ weaves web of knowledge for science students” – Reuters has the story.

A Mexican science teacher has come up with a novel way to get his students’ attention – giving lessons dressed as Spider-Man.

Moises Vazquez, 26, said he was inspired to pull on the tight blue and red suit of the superhero after reading in comics that the Marvel character behind the mask, Peter Parker, worked as a science teacher after his time as a freelance photographer.

“I do the same job as anyone else, I don’t think it’s the best class in the world just because I put on a suit. But I assure you I want to be the most honest and dedicated there is, I just want to make the classroom a better place,” he said…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Dave Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John M. Cowan.]

To Say Nothing of the Dogs; or, How We Confound the Hugos’ Third Slump (Hugo voting proposal discussion 5)

By Jameson Quinn: After 1, 2, 3, 4 threads here, and countless more that are peripherally related and/or on other blogs, discussing how to make the Hugo nomination process more resistant to slate voting and other “griefer” attacks (in other words, protect them from those intent on using the rules to disrupt and provoke), I believe a logical way forward is becoming evident. Below, I outline a set of proposals that could be made and passed at the Business Meeting.

If you count every separate idea below, there are 5 new proposals. That’s a lot. Personally, I support all of them. But I realize that it’s unlikely that the business meeting will pass all 5. That’s why these proposals are designed to be as modular as possible. Sure, they could all be passed together and would work to reinforce each other; but in most cases each one would also be a sensible step forward if passed alone.

Following that, I will answer some obvious questions that these proposals bring up, in FAQ format.

At the end of this post, I’ll present a rough draft of how these proposals might be formalized. This is for illustration purposes only. In the case of 3SV, there is a group of current and future Worldcon Chairs and Hugo Administrators working on formal language, and I expect they’ll do a much better job than I have. But I needed to present an illustrative version of 3SV to make sense of the extra proposals that would modify it.

I will also have some things to say in the comment thread that shouldn’t be here in the main post.

Overall plan outline:

  1. Pass EPH this year. This should at least keep a slate from sweeping any category. (As for 4/6, it is not as important. I personally would support amending it to 5/6 passing it; but the plan does not hinge on this.) Also, remove the 5% threshold this year.
    1. Present a proposal for EPH+, a technical enhancement to the EPH vote-counting system which is projected to give slates about one fewer finalist per category in circumstances like the current ones.
  2. Create a “base 3SV” proposal, which inserts a new qualification ballot between the current nominating and final ballots.
    1. The Hugo Committee would publish a “longlist” of the top 12 or 15 works in each category from the nominating ballot without specifying their voting totals or the order in which they finished.
    2. A second round of voting would then be conducted in which members of the current Worldcon can “preemptively no-award” any of the works on the longlist.
    3. Longlisted works which are rejected by a majority of the voters AND by an absolute minimum number of voters would be excluded from consideration for the final ballot. (The absolute minimum would be a substantial number – potentially 20% of all eligible members – to ensure that a slate-voting minority cannot hijack this round of voting).
    4. The final ballot would then proceed as at present, with finalists being the highest ranked candidates from the nominating (first round) ballot who were not excluded by the subsequent qualification vote.
  3. Create several additional proposals, intended primarily to modify or go alongside the base 3SV proposal above:
    1. First, a “mercy panel”, established by the prior year’s Worldcon, with the power, by unanimous vote, to “spare” any longlist work(s) from the 3SV voting round. Works so “spared” would be able to become finalists without possibility of second-round rejection, but would of course still be subject to being voted below “no award” in the final round.
    2. Second, a “+2 against trolls”  (Hat tip) round of voting, simultaneous with the 3SV round. This would allow any eligible first-round voter to add nominations for 2 works per category, that they had not already nominated, from the longlist. These nominations would be counted in determining the finalists, just as if they had been made in round 1. (Note: most of the discussion on this point has been made on the “+1” version of it; it was first proposed in combination with 3SV as “3SV+1”. But passing +2 this year would allow us to amend that to +1 next year, while the reverse is not true; so +2 is the best way to keep our options open.)
    3. (Note: this is a new proposal which has not been discussed in the prior threads, and as such, it is far more tentative than the rest) Third, a “extend finalists” option in the 3SV voting, whereby voters may choose for each work between the options “Reject”, “Accept with extension”, “Accept”, and “Abstain”. If one or more works that had gotten more than a certain threshold of combined “Reject” and “Accept with extension” votes became a finalist, the target number of finalists in that category would be increased by 1 for each such work, up to a maximum target of 7 finalists. As with rejection votes, the totals for “Accept with extension” votes would be published after the Hugos were awarded, but the names of specific works would be anonymized, to make it clear that the judgment of “Accept with extension” has to do with voting process and not with the quality of a work itself
  4. (optional) Discuss the possibility of a proposal to go back and fix the no-awarded categories from this year and last year using retro Hugos. I do not believe that a proposal to do this should be made this year; the Business Meeting will be plenty busy enough without it. But I think it’s a good idea to begin this discussion and have a proposal like this ready for 2017 or 2018.


Overall structure

Q. You say that a way forward is becoming evident. In whose view?

A. Many of the aspects of the plan I’ve outlined have been arrived at collaboratively and have drawn more-or-less broad consensus in the relevant discussion threads (linked at the top of this post). It’s true that other aspects more clearly come from one person: me, Jameson Quinn. But the proposal drafts above are not the end of the road; please comment below, and we will continue to work on them (including discarding ideas, if appropriate).In this thread, even if you have no new arguments to add, it is useful to just say just “I like this part” and/or “I don’t like that part.” Of course, if you’re going to say one of those, please do read through this FAQ, as your concerns may be addressed already.

Q. We can’t make any actual decisions until the Business Meeting, and many people who will be there aren’t even paying attention yet. So why have this discussion now?

A. There is no question that the Business Meeting has the final word. We’re not trying to take over the decision process here, just to smooth the way. That is: the point of the discussion now is to refine the proposals, clarify their advantages and disadvantages, and get consensus on the points that become obvious through that process.

Q. Is this set of proposals too complicated to even work as designed? (joke youtube link)

A. I have several things to say to that. First off, you’re right, they are somewhat complicated; but I’d argue that well-designed voting systems, while they should avoid senseless intricacy, can reasonably be a bit involved. Secondly, each of the the three main parts of this — EPH/EPH+, 3SV, and +2 against trolls, — could stand on its own, helping solve some aspects of the current situation even if the other parts were not present. This partial redundancy means the whole is more robust, not more fragile, than any of the parts.

Q. Are these proposals worth the extra complexity they add?

A. I’ll address this question for each proposal separately. But more generally, it depends on what problem(s) you’re trying to solve. See the next question for more on that.

Q. Out of the 5 new proposals here (plus EPH), what is the least we could do that would address the problem?

A. That depends what you mean by “the problem”. You might think it’s:

  1. Slate sweeps (that is, the possibility that all the Hugo finalists in one or more categories come from a slate) In this case the minimal solution is to Pass EPH. See my paper with Bruce for more details.
  2. Slates nominating works that are intended to defame, harass, offend, or otherwise discredit the Hugos? In this case the minimal solution is to Pass 3SV.
    1. How could we solve the above without causing undue negativity? In this case the minimal solution is to may be 3SV, if social norms are enough to prevent campaigns to reject good-faith works. If not, adding on the Mercy Panel would help.
  3. Multiple categories without a choice between at least 2 organic (non-slate) works: In this case the minimal solution is to Pass EPH+. If you do not like EPH+, then you could get a similar result with a combination of EPH, 3SV and “+2 (or +1) against trolls”.
    1. If you think the problem is even 1 category without such a choice, then the minimal solution with enough of a safety margin is probably combining EPH+ and 3SV+2 (that is, both of the possible solutions just above).
  4. Slates acting as “kingmakers” (that is, supporting some works which already have organic support, merely in order to deny others the chance of becoming finalists)? In this case the minimal solution is either EPH+, 3SV, and +2 (or +1) against trolls; or, alternatively, EPH, 3SV, and extend finalists. For the greatest possible strength against kingmakers, therefore, you’d combine EPH+, 3SV, +2 (or +1) aganst trolls, and extend finalists.
  5. All of the above: to solve all the problems above, you’d probably need all the proposals.

Q. Even if you consolidated all of this, it would still be at least 2 and probably 3 different proposals. Do you really expect all of that to pass through the BM?

A. Well, it’s not impossible. But frankly, no, I wouldn’t expect all of this to pass. But I still think it’s worth comprehensively laying out all the different problems and what it would take to fix them all, so that we can make this decision with our eyes open.

Q. Isn’t there a simpler way? Have you looked for one?

A. We have looked for one, and I believe the proposals above are the best of what we’ve considered. Others may disagree. For now, this FAQ is just a starting point for more discussion.

Q. OK, enough beating around the bush. What do you actually hope passes?

A. I’d like all of it to pass. But I’d be pretty satisfied with EPH+, 3SV, and +1 against trolls. I’m not attached to the mercy panel or extended finalists.

EPH and EPH+

Q. Is EPH+ worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I think it clearly is; but then again, I (Jameson) may not be the best person to answer this question. The advantages of EPH+ are clear; it helps ensure more of the finalists are determined by organic voters. As for the disadvantages and/or complexity: since I live and breathe voting theory, it actually doesn’t seem any more complex than EPH to me. Though I realize that is probably not true for other people, it’s hard for me to judge how much of a problem that is.

Q. This is complicated. Where can I read more about why it was proposed?

A. Start with Bruce Schneier’s post. If you’re up for some academic jargon, you can supplement that with our paper. Finally, read this post from the previous thread in which I try to explain the reasons for EPH+ in plain language.

 Q. Is EPH or EPH+ still needed if we have 3SV, or if we have 3SV along with some of the related options?

A. I believe that at least EPH is still necessary to prevent a slate from taking over the longlist. Beyond that, see my answer to the “what is the least we can do” question.

Q. I want to look at lots of graphs!

A. I have a bunch. (more to follow on this, in the discussion.)

3SV base

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I believe it definitely is. If we want keep offensive and/or harassing works from becoming finalists, we need to empower somebody to do that. And fandom is too broad to entrust that power to a small group, so we need some proposal similar to 3SV. Obviously, we could write the proposal differently, but I believe the version above is a reasonable starting point and sticks to the essentials.

Q. Why 3SV (voting to eliminate finalists) and not just a second round of positive “semi-final” voting to decide finalists?

A. Several reasons:

  1. A semi-final ballot would give voters just a few weeks to assimilate and vote on an extended list of longlisted items. Many of the most careful nominators would barely vote for any; while the most prolific voters would probably be going mostly by kneejerk reactions. This is somewhat true for 3SV, too, but it is less of an issue as explained below.
  2. A semi-final ballot conflates two questions: “Do I like this work and feel it may deserve a Hugo?” with “Do I feel that this work’s presence on the longlist or in the list of finalists would be a legitimate result of honest fan preference?”. In 3SV, those questions are separate, and votes to disqualify a work are based on the second question alone — one which does not require fully reading/reviewing every longlist work.
  3. Unlike a semi-final ballot, 3SV deals decisively with the issue of “troll finalists”: that is, works promoted by slates explicitly in order that their shocking and/or offensive nature might cast discredit on the awards.
  4. 3SV would be similar in spirit to the “no award” option which is already enshrined in the constitution, except that works thus eliminated would not take up space on the list of finalists, and awkward moments at the awards themselves would be minimized.
  5. A semi-final ballot opens up new kinds of attacks on the list of finalists, such as actually increasing slate voter’s capacity to act as “kingmakers” and/or perform “area defense” against certain kinds of works. All they’d have to do was to have enough voting power to reverse the gap between two works which both have significant organic (non-slate) support. But under 3SV, actually eliminating a work would not be possible without a relatively high “quorum”* of voters, and we hope that community pressure would lead to a low background level of organic rejection votes, so a minority of slate voters would be unable to use rejection as a weapon.

Q. Wouldn’t this lead to constant campaigns to eliminate works people just happen not to like, and thereby to hurt feelings?

A. There are several safeguards against this. First and most important is social pressure; it should be clear from the outset that this is a just safeguard against outright bad faith, not a chance to express differences in taste, and I believe that any Worldcon members who promote disqualifying a work just because they don’t like it will not get much support. Second, there’s eligibility. Various rules, discussed below in “open issues”, have been proposed to prevent a campaign to bring in Worldcon outsiders after the longlist is public. Third, there’s the quorum; if participation in the second-round voting is low, it will not be enough to pass the threshold to eliminate any work. Fourth, there’s the relatively short period of the semifinals, also discussed below. And fifth, there’s the possibility that (under some versions of this proposal) elimination votes for a specific work would never be publicized; only anonymized distributions of votes for each category. (In some cases, of course, the identity of which work got a certain vote total would be easy to guess, but that would still be just a guess.)
See also the Mercy Panel FAQs below.

Mercy panel

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. That’s up to the Business Meeting to decide.Multiple people have expressed concern with 3SV, calling it too negative, and worrying how possible “rejection campaigns” would feel to the authors in question. This proposal would remove the possibility of such campaigns in clear-cut cases, reserving the power of 3SV for the edge cases which need it.It would also simplify the task of voting in round 2. This is a case where a little extra complexity in the rules actually simplifies life for the majority.

Q. Would this proposal let the panel keep something from becoming a finalist? That sounds like a bad idea!

A. No! The only power this panel would have would be to allow the nominations (from round 1 and possibly the “+2 against trolls” round) to stand. In other words, the panel can be a “good cop” by letting a work with strong support become a finalist without passing through a rejection vote, but could not be a “bad cop” by preventing it from becoming a finalist. The only group who could keep something from being a finalist would be the voters at large; exactly the same group that currently has the power to rank something below “no award”.

Q. Would this be too much power to give to a small group?

A. I think not. The only power this panel would have would be to exempt a work from the 3SV process. Even if they overstepped that power, we’d be no worse off than we are currently. In particular, the voters as a whole would still be able to put an offending work below “no award”.

Q. Wouldn’t this just be painting a target on the individuals on the panel, setting them up for harassment?

A. To a certain degree, the answer is yes; if you can’t handle people on the internet saying mean things about you, you probably shouldn’t be on this panel. But I don’t think this is a good reason not to have such a panel. Here’s my reasoning:

First off, there are manifestly people in fandom who can handle being a target, whether it’s because they bear it as a negative, because they actually enjoy the battle, or because they are such towering figures as to be beyond good and evil. I believe that there is a subset of these people who have earned fandom’s trust and could well serve as “your mercy”.

Secondly, I think that a “mercy panel” is designed to minimize such targeting. The question they’re answering is not the fundamentally controversial one, “does this work deserve to be kept from being a finalist?”, but rather, “are there reasonable questions about whether this work should be kept from being a finalist?”. It is at least possible to believe the answer to the first question is an emphatic “no”, and still accept that the answer to the second may be “yes”.

Finally, the fact is, haters gonna hate. There is really nothing we can do to prevent some people from becoming targets in this mess. With a panel, at least the targets will be people who’ve signed up for the job.

+2 against trolls

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I feel that it is. Because there are so many eligible works each year, many people nominate without naming even one thing that has any chance of becoming a finalist. This would focus attention on a list of 15 strong works, and give nominators some extra time to review these and add one or two that deserve it. The resulting finalists will have been reviewed by more fans, will have won more support, and thus will almost certainly be higher-quality overall. The fact that this proposal helps resist slate voting is almost just a side-effect.

Q. Why not let people add as many nominations as they want?

A. The 3SV voting round, when +2 is happening, should go by relatively quickly. Voters have limited attention to devote to this issue. Asking them to look at the longlist, do whatever extra reading/watching is necessary, and pick one or two extra nominations per category is probably the limit of what they can do without cutting corners.
Slate voters, on the other hand, are all about cutting corners. They can easily decide to add as many extra nominations as they’re allowed to.

EPH or EPH+ both make the story a little bit more complex, because it’s no longer optimal to add too many extra nominations. Still, there are some cases where adding more than 2 nominations could be a smart move for a slate. Why give slate voters that freedom, even if the cases where it helps them are rare?

Q. OK, so why not allow just +1 instead of +2?

A. That may well be the best course. But if we pass a +2 proposal this year, then changing it to +1 next year during ratification is a valid “lesser change”. So +2 keeps our reasonable options open. (For instance: what if we decide it should be +2 for Best Short Story, but +1 for all other categories? With all the proposals to look at this year, it’s probably not worth getting into details like that now; but next year, things may be clearer.)

Extend finalists

Q. What’s the idea here?

A. This proposal helps 3SV deal with the issue of “hostage” or “kingmaker” works, which have clear merit of their own but which have evidence of mindless support from slate voters. For instance, this year (2016), Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves was supported by a slate and became a finalist. He’s had several books nominated for Hugos, and several that weren’t; without the slate support, it’s impossible to be perfectly sure whether Seveneves would have made it. This option would allow works in this situation to become finalists, as the slate support was not the author’s fault; but to do so without pushing any other work off the list of finalists, because the list would just expand.

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. Perhaps; it’s worth at least considering, though for simplicity in the business meeting it may be better to fold it into 3SV rather than taking it up separately. This proposal helps 3SV deal with the issue of “hostage” or “kingmaker” works, where a slate throws support behind things that have clear merit of their own, so that those things gets some votes from people who read them and some from people who didn’t.

Q. Would this make authors feel bad?

A. It shouldn’t. A vote of “accept with extension” is in no way a judgement on the work itself, just a judgement that there is reason to doubt the motive of some significant fracion of the work’s supporters.

Proposal Texts (rough drafts, for discussion purposes only):

A proposal for 3SV is currently being prepared by a group of highly experienced Worldcon runners led by Colin Harris (2005 Worldcon Chair) and also including former Worldcon Chairs Kevin Standlee and Vince Docherty and former NASFiC Chair Warren Buff. They expect to have a draft proposal published within two weeks (by 12 June), and if this were just about 3SV, I would rather have waited for them and not written something myself. But the other proposals following 3SV relate to it closely. So in order to write those other proposals in a form clear enough for further discussion, I needed to first write an illustrative text for a 3SV proposal.


Moved, to amend Section 3.A.1 (1) of the E Pluribus Hugo proposal, as follows:

(1) Calculation Phase: First, the total number of nominations (the number of ballots on which each nominee appears) from all eligible ballots shall be tallied for each remaining nominee. Next, a single “point” shall be assigned to each nomination ballot. That point shall be divided equally among all remaining nominees on that ballot. each nomination ballot shall give a point or fraction thereof to each remaining nominee on that ballot, according to the number of such remaining nominees, using the following pattern: 1 point for 1 remaining nominee, 1/3 of a point each for 2 remaining nominees, 1/5 of a point each for 3 remaining nominees, 1/7 of a point each for 4 remaining nominees, and 1/9 of a point each for 5 remaining nominees (extending this pattern as needed if a ballot legally has more remaining nominees).  Finally, all points from all nomination ballots shall be totaled for each nominee in that category. These two numbers, point total and number of nominations, shall be used in the Selection and Elimination Phases.

3SV base (for reference only; to be superseded by the text from Colin Harris’s group)

Moved, to amend Section 3.7.1 (Tallying of Nominations), Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance), and Section 3.11.4 (Tallying of Votes) as follows:

Section 3.7: Nominations.

3.7.1: The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select begin the process of selecting the nominees finalists for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year shall be allowed to make up to five (5) equally weighted nominations in every category.

Insert new sections 3.B and 3.C after section 3.8 and, if appropriate, 3.A from the E Pluribus Hugo proposal.

Section 3.B: Longlist publication.

3.B.1: In each category, the “longlist” shall consist of the top 15 nominees, as selected by the process detailed in section 3.8 [if EPH has passed] and section 3.A[end conditional]), but changing the number of desired nominees to 15 as appropriate. Any numbers involving limits on individual ballots shall not be changed.

3.B.2: In order to foment quick and accurate publication of each category’s longlist, the Worldcon Committee may exercise reasonable discretion in increasing the number of nominees on the longlist up to a maximum size of 18 nominees. Possible examples of situations that would call for such discretion are given in sections 3.B.3.1 and 3.B.3.2 below:

3.B.2.1: If eligibility cannot be quickly determined for a nominees, but it is thought to be ineligible, both it and an extra nominee may be included in case it is not eligible.

3.B.2.2: If the 15th-place nominee is nearly tied with the 16th-place one, and it is thought that a recount might show that their proper positions had been reversed, both may be included.

3.B.3: The names of the nominees on each category’s longlist, but not their order or vote totals, shall be made public with all due haste after the nominations poll is closed.

3.B.3.1 “Made public” means that the information should be conveyed to all eligible voters through some direct, personal means such as email and/asor postal mail, and also made generally accessible in some medium or media such as a web page.

3.B.4: Nominees on the longlist shall not be referred to as “semifinalists” or otherwise given any honorary status unless and until they have passed the eligibility voting described in section 3.C without elimination.

Section 3.C: Nominee eligibility voting.

3.C.1: After the longlist is published, each member of the administering Worldcon who had been eligible to vote in the nominations poll as described in 3.7.1 may vote on the eligibility of the longlist members.

3.C.2: At the discretion of the Worldcon committee, and with reasonable prior notice, the set of persons eligible to vote on nominee eligibility may be frozen before the close of voting, in order to ease calculation of the vote thresholds in 3.C.7 below.

3.C.3: The ballot for this round of voting shall present the voter with the following options for each longlist nominee: “Accept”, “Reject”, and “Abstain”.

3.C.4: Any voter who does not submit a ballot will be considered to have voted “Abstain” on all nominees.

3.C.5: Any voter who does submit a ballot but does not explicitly choose one of the three options for a given nominee will be considered to have voted “Accept” on that nominee. This default choice should be made clear on the ballot insofar as practical.

3.C.6: Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.C.7: A nominee shall be eliminated and considered ineligible if it meets the following two criteria: the number of “Reject” votes it receives is greater than 20% of the pool of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes it receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes it receives.

3.C.6: At the end of this voting round, the 5 finalists shall be chosen as follows:

3.C.6.1 The process described in section 3.8 [if EPH has passed]and section 3.A[end conditional] shall be used to put the entire set of nominees (eligible or not) in as strict an order as possible (that is, if the process is one of elimination, it shall continue until all nominees have been eliminated).

3.C.6.2 The finalists shall be the top 5 eligible nominees on this list.

Section 3.9: Notification and Acceptance.

3.9.1: Worldcon Committees shall use reasonable efforts to attempt to notify all of the nominees on the longlist, or in the case of deceased or incapacitated persons, their heirs, assigns, or legal guardians, in each category prior to simultaneous with the release of such information. Each nominee shall be asked reminded at that time to either accept or decline the nomination. If the nominee declines nomination, that nominee shall not appear on the final ballot.

3.9.A: [after 3.9.1]Since the longlist will be public information, members of the public may also help contact the responsible persons. Any nominee on the longlist which has not explicitly withdrawn by the end of the second round of voting shall be assumed to accept becoming a finalist.

3.9.2: In the Best Professional Artist category, the acceptance should include citations of at least three (3) works first published in the eligible year.

3.9.3: Each nominee in the categories of Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine shall be required to provide information confirming that they meet the qualifications of their category.

3.11.4: The complete numerical vote totals, including all preliminary tallies for first, second, … places, shall be made public by the Worldcon Committee within ninety (90) days after the Worldcon. During the same period the nomination voting totals shall also be published, including in each category the vote counts [if EPH has passed] and points tallies as of elimination [end conditional] for at least the fifteen highest vote-getters and any other candidate receiving a number of votes equal to at least five percent (5%) of the nomination ballots cast in that category, but not including any candidate receiving fewer than five votes. 3.11.A This information shall also include eligibility and reason (if any) for ineligibility for each member of the longlist.

3.11.B In addition, for each category, the list of numbers of “reject” and “accept” votes for each work shall be published in descending order of number “reject” votes. The names of each work shall NOT be published alongside this list.

Mercy panel

Moved, to add Section 3.BA (Mercy panel) after section 3.B, and to amend Section 3.C.1 (Nominee eligibility voting) as follows:

Section 3.BA: Mercy panel

3.BA.1 Each Worldcon Committee shall appoint at least 3 natural persons and 2 alternates, and no more than 6 of each, to serve as a Mercy Panel for the following Worldcon. Presence on the Mercy Panel shall not necessarily preclude assuming other functions for any Worldcon. The procedure for such appointment shall be at the discretion of the Committee, and may or may not include voting.

3.BA.2 If for any reason there are not at least the minimum number of members and alternates from the prior year, the current Worldcon Committee shall appoint any which are lacking, using the same degree of discretion.

3.BA.3 The Worldcon Committee and the Mercy Panel shall remain in contact during the first round of voting, and the WorldCon Committee may elect to share preliminary voting counts as appropriate and practical. This information shall be treated as private, maintained with reasonable security precautions, and erased as soon as practical by the Mercy Panel.

3.BA.4 As soon as the longlist is published, the Mercy Panel shall proceed with all reasonable haste to rule on whether each nominee on the longlist should be subject to an eligibility vote as described in section 3.C.

3.BA.5 Any member of the Mercy Panel who has a conflict of interest regarding a given work shall allow an alternate to vote in their stead on that work. Any work which for this reason cannot be reviewed by at least 3 members of the Mercy Panel shall be subject to an eligibility vote.

3.BA.6 Nominees that should be subject to eligibility votes include any in the following categories:

3.BA.6.1 Those for which there is a reasonable argument that they contain harassment or libel against a living person or any past member of WSFS.

3.BA.6.2 Those which any member of the Mercy Panel considers to be likely to be offensive to the standards of at least 20% of WSFS members.

3.BA.6.3 Those for which there is some clearly-defined credible reason(s) to suppose that over 20% of the nominations were made based more on outside influences than on the nominator’s judgment of the nominee’s merit.

3.BA.7 Any nominees which are unanimously considered by the Mercy Panel not to fall in any of the categories enumerated in 3.BA.6 shall not be subject to an eligibility vote.

3.C.1: After the longlist is published, and after the Mercy Panel has ruled on all members of a category, each member of the administering Worldcon who had been eligible to vote in the nominations poll as described in 3.7.1 may vote on the eligibility of any of the longlist members not exempt under section 3.BA.

+2 against trolls

Moved, to amend Section 3.7.1 (Tallying of Nominations), Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance), and Section 3.11.4 (Tallying of Votes) as shown above in “3SV Base”; and also to add section 3.D as follows:

Section 3.D Addition of nominations during round 2

3.D.1 During the second round of voting (that is, simultaneous with the process described in 3.C, if present), all persons who were eligible to nominate in the first round of voting may add nominations as follows.

3.D.2 Each voter may add up to two (2) nominations per category.

3.D.3 Any additional nominations for the same nominee a voter has already nominated in the same category shall be ignored.

3.D.4 All new nominations must be for nominees that are on the longlist in the same category.

3.D.5 Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.D.6 All nominations added during this period shall be treated in all ways as if they had come during the first round of voting, except that they shall not be counted as violating the allowed number of nominations per category.

Extend finalists

Moved, to amend Section 3.C.3 and 3.C.7 of the 3SV proposal above, and to add section 3.C.A after 3.C.7, as follows:

3.C.3: The ballot for this round of voting shall present the voter with the following options for each longlist nominee: “Accept”, “Accept with extension”, “Reject”, and “Abstain”.

3.C.4: Any voter who does not submit a ballot will be considered to have voted “Abstain” on all nominees.

3.C.5: Any voter who does submit a ballot but does not explicitly choose one of the three options for a given nominee will be considered to have voted “Accept” on that nominee. This default choice should be made clear on the ballot insofar as practical.

3.C.6: Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.C.7: A nominee shall be eliminated and considered ineligible if it meets the following two criteria: the number of “Reject” votes it receives is greater than 20% of the pool of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes it receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes or “Accept with extension” votes it receives.

3.C.A: If the number of “Reject” votes and “Accept with extension” votes a nominee receives is greater than 10% of the number of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes and “Accept with extension” votes the nominee receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes it receives; and if the nominee is selected as a finalist; then the number of finalists in that category shall be increased by 1, up to a maximum of 7.

Watch This Space

By Jameson Quinn: The discussion here of Hugo reform proposals (3SV, EPH+, etc.) will have a new thread anon.

There’s a bit of a delay to make sure we’re not stepping on the toes of the people who were already working on this issue.

As soon as we work this out, we’ll have a post that summarizes and explains a set of proposals from the previous threads, and a chance to discuss things further.

They’d Rather Free Ride: Hugos and Game Theory (Proposal Discussion Thread 4)

By Jameson Quinn

1. Intro and disclaimers

This is a summary of the discussion thread on the post by Kevin Standlee discussing three proposals for expanding the Hugo nominations process in order to help avoid problems like the current list of Hugo finalists.

In summarizing a thread that’s over 500 comments long, and that refers extensively to two other threads with hundreds of comments, I am of course going to simplify matters. In particular, I’m going to overemphasize the points of agreement, without listing every qualification, caveat, quibble, or outright objection that was brought up. Obviously you can read the thread yourself, but if you don’t, please imagine it to have all the disagreement and misunderstandings (as well as off-topic filk, execrable puns, cute references, hastily-constructed codes, etc.) that you’d expect.

2. Initial options: A+2, DN, and 3SV

Of the three initial proposals by Kevin, one of them (nicknamed “+2” or “A+2”) relied on giving new discretionary powers to Hugo administrators. In the discussion thread this idea encountered significant opposition, so it will not be discussed further here.
The other two proposals would both create a new intermediate round of voting, in which the initial votes have been used to create a “longlist” of 15 works which is publicized and voted on in some fashion in order to get the list of 5 finalists. In the Double Nomination with Approval Voting (“DN”) proposal, nominators would vote for (“approve”) the longlist items they liked the best; and in the 3-Stage Voting (“3SV”) proposal, a majority of nominators would be able to disqualify some of the 15 works, without affecting the ordering of the remaining works from the nominations phase.

3. Consensus: 3SV (+1?)

Many of the participants in the discussion began with a preference for DN; they felt better about voting for the longlist works they liked than about voting to reject the ones they felt were illegitimate. However, as the thread progressed, and the strengths and weaknesses of the two proposals were analyzed in more depth, the consensus shifted, and by the end of the thread proposals based primarily on 3SV were the clear winners. Many supported a proposal nicknamed 3SV+1, described below, which integrated some aspects of DN onto the base of 3SV.

4. Why 3SV and not DN?

Why did people’s preferences shift from DN to 3SV? Several reasons:

A. Under DN, voters would have just weeks to assimilate and vote on a list of 255 longlisted items. Many of the most careful nominators would barely vote for any; while the most prolific voters would probably be going mostly by kneejerk reactions. This is true for 3SV, too, but it is less of an issue as explained below.

B. DN conflates two questions: “Do I like this work and feel it may deserve a Hugo?” with “Do I feel that this work’s presence on the longlist or in the list of finalists would be a legitimate result of honest fan preference?” In 3SV, those questions are separate, and votes to disqualify a work are based on the second question alone — one which does not require fully reading/reviewing every longlist work.

C. Unlike DN, 3SV would deal decisively with the issue of “troll finalists”: that is, works promoted by slates explicitly in order that their shocking and/or offensive nature might cast discredit on the awards.

D. 3SV would be similar in spirit to the “no award” option, except that works thus eliminated would not take up space on the list of finalists, and awkward moments at the awards themselves would be minimized.

E. DN would open up new kinds of attacks on the list of finalists, such as actually increasing slate voter’s capacity to act as “kingmakers” and/or perform “area defense” against certain kinds of works. All they’d have to do was to have enough voting power to reverse the gap between two works which both have significant organic (non-slate) support. But under 3SV, actually eliminating a work would not be possible without a relatively high “quorum”* of voters, and we hope that community pressure would lead to a low background level of organic rejection votes, so a minority of slate voters would be unable to use rejection as a weapon.

So, tell me more about how 3SV would work

The details are still up for discussion, but the basic idea is as follows:

3-Stage Voting (3SV) adds a new round of voting to the Hugo Award process, called “semi-finals,” between the existing nominating ballot and the existing final ballot. In 3SV, the “longlist” of top 15 nominees (as selected by the same process as the finalists will be selected; that is, EPH or EPH+ if those have passed) are listed in a way that doesn’t show how many nominations they received. Eligibility for this voting is being debated (see below), but the original proposal is that it would be restricted to members (supporting and attending) of the current Worldcon (not the previous and following Worldcons). Eligible voters presented with this list, with a question on each of the fifteen semi-finalists in each category: “Is this work worthy of being on the Final Hugo Award Ballot?” with the choices being YES, NO, and ABSTAIN.

If a work gets more than a “quorum” of no votes, it is not eligible to become a finalist. There are several proposals for how to calculate the quorum. The formula may involve such things as the number of eligible voters, the number of “YES” and/or “ABSTAIN” votes, the turnout in round 1 or in previous years, etc. The idea is that the quorum should be high enough so that a minority of slate voters will be unable to reach it, but low enough that a clear majority of fans can pass it, even given reasonable turnout assumptions.

During the “semi-final” voting period, admins would also be checking the eligibility of the works on the longlist, and accepting withdrawals from the author (or other responsible party; henceforth, we’ll just say “author”) of those works. The admins would make a good-faith attempt to contact authors, but note that since the longlist is public, the admins may assume that non-responsive authors have heard of their presence on the longlist, and thus that any authors who do not explicitly withdraw their works would accept becoming finalists.

The finalists will be the top 5 works from the longlist that have not been declared ineligible by vote, found ineligible by the admins, or withdrawn by the authors. EPH or EPH+ would not be re-run after ineligible works or withdrawals.

After the Hugos are awarded, admins would publish the usual statistics (that is, for EPH, the votes and points-when-eliminated for each of the members of the longlist). They would also publish the reason for ineligiblity (voted out, ineligible, or withdrawn) for any work that otherwise would have been a finalist. They would also publish the anonymized set of vote totals for each longlist item in each category, where “anonymized” means that they would not indicate which title was associated with which vote total.

What’s this “3SV+1” you mentioned earlier?

The “+1” means that, in addition to 3SV, all voters who were eligible for round 1 may add a single nomination per category, for something from the longlist they did not already nominate, to their existing ballot, during the same “semi-final” voting period. These combined ballots would then be counted by the usual process (that is, the current system, EPH, or EPH+) to find the finalists.

How would all of this interact with EPH, EPH+, 4/6, and/or 5/6?

The short version is that without EPH a realistically-sized, well managed slate could hope to entirely take over the longlist in many categories; with EPH, it could take about 2/3 (around 10 slots); and with EPH+, it could take over about half (6-8 slots), or possibly a bit more with cleverer strategies (but not as much as EPH, even then). 4/6 or 5/6 don’t change that story by much, though they help a bit in keeping organic slots among the finalists in spite of “kingmaker” slates. And +1 helps push slates towards around 1-2 finalist slots; hurting them in the common case that they had been going to get more, but actually helping them if they had miscalculated and were heading for less than that.

Here’s a graph of how many slots slate nominators could have gotten in 2014, as a function of number of slate nominators, if they’d split 3 ways and had the same level of coordination as they did in 2015. Note that 2016 had many more nominators than 2014 so it would have taken more slate nominators to get the same effect.



Here’s a similar graph, but assuming the slate nominators are better coordinated:



Here’s yet another graph, but assuming the slate voters split only 2 ways. In theory, this is better for them if there are fewer of them, but worse if there are more, because they max out at 10 slots. However, as you can see from the graph, it’s really not that much better even for small numbers; the random “bootstrap sampling” effects almost overwhelm any advantage:



Have you thought of any downsides? What about…

Yes, kinda. We have people (both honest supporters and honest opponents) thinking of attacks. And there’s always room for more on this “red team”. So far, here are the criticisms we’ve come up with. First, for “3SV” (we’ll talk about “+1” below):

Couldn’t slate voters take over the shortlist? As you can see in the graphs “take over 6-10 slots of the longlist” is the only one that we think is a concern if (as we expect) EPH or EPH+ is in place.

Wouldn’t this just increase negativity? There are several safeguards against this becoming merely an excuse for people to campaign against works they happen not to like. First and most important is social pressure; it should be clear from the outset that this is a just safeguard against outright bad faith, not a chance to express differences in taste, and I believe that any Worldcon members who promote disqualifying a work just because they don’t like it will not get much support. Second, there’s eligibility. Various rules, discussed below in “open issues”, have been proposed to prevent a campaign to bring in Worldcon outsiders after the longlist is public. Third, there’s the quorum; if participation in the second-round voting is low, it will not be enough to pass the threshold to eliminate any work. Fourth, there’s the relatively short period of the semifinals, also discussed below. And fifth, there’s the fact that elimination votes for a specific work would never be publicized; only anonymized distributions of votes for each category. (In some cases, of course, the identity of which work got a certain vote total would be easy to guess, but that would still be just a guess.)

Wouldn’t this fundamentally change the nature of the Hugos? They have already been changed by the slate. Many of the people in the discussion felt that this change, though it would not go back to exactly as before, would still be a change in the right direction.

Would this be more work for the administrators? In some ways, yes, of course. However, in at least one important way, it would actually simplify their lives. Since the longlist would be public, it would be much easier for them to contact authors. On a related note, authors could not leak their status as finalists, because until the list of finalists came out, they would know no more than the public at large.

Would this allow some unanticipated downside? Obviously, we can never rule that out 100%. However, we do think we’ve been pretty thorough at exploring all the angles. Again, you can read the thread and decide for yourself.

And, downsides for the +1 addition:

Would this be tough to administrate? Not if EPH or EPH+ were in place, since any program capable of doing either of these would already be able to associate multiple nominations with the same nominator and make sure that invalid votes, such as a single nominator nominating a given work multiple times, were not counted. It has been suggested that a proposal to institute +1 should say that this change will sunset (require re-approval) if EPH or EPH+ ever does.

What are the open questions/issues?

Eligibility: who should be eligible to vote on the semifinal round, and who should be able to add +1? The former question is more fraught. Several people said that they would want eligibility to be restricted enough that outsiders can’t come in and get memberships after the longlist is published. Others said that it is important to let the community respond and that if membership spikes on seeing the longlist that could be a healthy thing. One compromise proposal (suggested by yours truly) was that in order to be eligible, you would need to be a current member (attending or supporting) of this year’s Worldcon, AND also have been eligible to nominate (whether or not you actually did so). So if you were a member of the prior or following year’s worldcon, you could sign up after seeing the longlist; but not if you weren’t.
Quorum size/formula: There’s been various discussion of this issue.

+1 as attached or separate: The overall consensus seems to be that, if we propose +1, it should be in a separate proposal from 3SV, even though they share certain aspects (such as the concept of a semi-final round). However, there are varying opinions on whether +1 is a good idea, either in general or as a proposal for this year in particular.

Whether to try EPH+ this year: I’ll talk about this more in comments.

The admin discretion 14-18 longlist thing: I was thinking that, if the time between closing round 1 nominations and announcing the longlist is short, admins might have a hard time cleaning the data perfectly. In that case, it helps them be more certain of the list they publish if the next work below the list was not a near-tie with the lowest work on the list. To allow them to avoid such near-ties, especially in cases where they aren’t 100% sure they’ve cleaned the data perfectly, I suggested allowing them discretion to decide how long the longlist for each category would be, between 14 and 18 works.

http://file770.com/?p=29020&cpage=14#comment-436327: Define “nominating membership” in a way that legally allows for the possibility of a code of conduct that could lead to one year’s worldcon revoking voting privileges from a member of the prior year’s; in other words, closes the loophole whereby prior-year members are immune from any consequences for their actions.

Moderated Shortlist for Member Consideration: http://file770.com/?p=29020&cpage=16#comment-436437 This is an alternative to 3SV, where an administrative committee would tentatively suggest eliminating or adding certain works, and that suggestion would have to be ratified by an up-or-down vote of the members of the current Worldcon.

Where do we go from here?

A group led by Colin Harris that includes Kevin Standlee is writing up a proposal are writing up a proposal and are surely watching these threads. When that proposal is ready, we could write up +1 as an amendment or as a standalone proposal. Decide about EPH+ and deal with that. Anything else?

Analyzing EPH

By Bruce Schneier: Jameson Quinn and I analyzed the E Pluribus Hugo (EPH) voting system, proposed as a replacement for the current Approval Voting system for the Hugo nominations ballot. (This is an academic paper; the Hugo administrators will be publishing their own analysis, more targeted to the WSFS Business Meeting, in the coming weeks.) We analyzed EPH with both actual and simulated voting data, and this is what we found.

If EPH had been used last year in the 2015 Hugo nominations process, then…

The number of slate nominees would have been reduced by 1 in 6 categories, and by 2  in 2 categories, leaving no category without at least one non-slate nominee.

That doesn’t seem like very much. A reasonable question to ask is why doesn’t it reduce the number more. The answer is simply that the slate was powerful last year.

The data demonstrates the power of the Puppies. The category Best Novelette provides a good example. This category had 1044 voters, distributed over 149 different works with 3 or more votes. Of these voters, around 300 (29%) voted for more Puppy-slate works than non-Puppy ones, and about half of those (14%) voted for only Puppy-slate works. These numbers are also roughly typical. The other 71% of the ballots included under 3% with votes for any Puppy work (this is relatively low, but not anomalously so, compared to other categories).

Despite being a majority, the non-Puppy voters spread their votes more thinly; only 24% of them voted for any of the top 5 non-Puppy works. This meant that 4 of the 5 nominees would have been from the Puppy slate under SDV-LPE or SDV.

(SDV-LPE stands for “Single Divisible Vote – Least Popular Elimination,” the academic name for this voting system. SDV is “Single Divisible Vote,” a long-standing and well-understood voting system.)

To further explore this, we took the actual 2014 Hugo nominations data from Loncon 3 and created a fake slate, then analyzed how it affected the outcome at different percentages of the vote totals:

In Figure 1, we assume perfectly correlated bloc voters. They vote in lockstep (with minimal exceptions to prevent ties), and their five nominations are completely disjoint from the other nominations. As you can see, both SDV-LPE and SDV reduce the power of the bloc voters considerably. Under AV, the voting bloc reliably nominates 3 candidates when they make up 10.5% of the voters, 4 candidates when they make up 12.5%, and 5 when they make up 19%. Under SDV-LPE, they need to be 26% of voters to reliably nominate 3 candidates, 36.5% to reliably nominate 4, and 54% to reliably nominate 5….

Figure 2 simulates a more realistic voting bloc. We sample the actual behavior of the bloc voters in the 2015 Hugo nominations election, and add them to the actual 2014 nominations data. For the purposes of this simulation, we define bloc voters as people who voted for more Puppy candidates than non-Puppy candidates. In this case, the actual bloc voters did not vote in lockstep: some voted for a few members of the slate, and some combined slate nominations with non-slate nominations. For the purposes of the simulation, when they voted for the nth most popular non-Puppy candidate in 2015, we imputed that into a vote for the nth most popular non-Puppy candidate in 2014. In this case, SDV-LPE and SDV reduce the power of those voting blocs even further. Under AV, the voting bloc reliably nominates 3 candidates with 14% of the voters, 4 candidates with 17% of the voters, and 5 with 39%. Under SDV-LPE, they need to make up 27.5% to nominate 3 candidates, 38% to nominate 4, and 69.5% to nominate 5….

The upshot of all this is that EPH cannot save the Hugos from slate voting. It reduces the power of slates by about one candidate. To reduce the power of slates further, it needs to be augmented with increased voting by non-slate voters.

There is one further change in the voting system that we could make, and we discuss it in the paper. This is a modification of EPH, but would — for the slate percentages we’ve been seeing — reduce their power by about one additional candidate. So if a slate would get 5 candidates under the current system and 4 under SDV-LPE (aka EPH), it would get 3 under what we’ve called SDV-LPE-SL. Yes, we know it’s another change that would require another vote and another year to ratify. Yes, we know we should have proposed this last year. But we had to work with the actual data before optimizing that particular parameter.

Basically, we use a system of weighing divisible votes named after the French mathematician André Sainte-Laguë, who introduced it in France in 1910. In EPH, your single vote is divided among the surviving nominees. So if you have two nominees who have not yet been eliminated, each gets half of your vote. If three of your nominees have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/3 of your vote. And so on. The Sainte-Laguë system has larger divisors. If you have two nominees who have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/3 of your vote. If three of your nominees have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/5 of your vote. Each of four get 1/7; each of five get 1/9. This may sound arbitrary, but there’s well over a hundred years of voting theory supporting these weights and the results are still proportional.

Implementing SDV-LPE-SL using the actual 2015 Hugo data:

SDV-LPE-SL comes even closer to giving slate voters a proportional share, with 7 fewer slate nominees overall, and only 1 category without a choice between at least 2 non-slate nominees.

For the perfectly correlated voting bloc simulation:

Under SDV-LPE, they need to be 26% of voters to reliably nominate 3 candidates, 36.5% to reliably nominate 4, and 54% to reliably nominate 5. Under SDV-LPE-SL, they need to be 35% for 3, 49% for 4, and 66% for 5.

And for the more realistic voting bloc simulation:

Under SDV-LPE-SL, they need 36% for 3, 49% for 4, and over 70% for 5.

That’s a big difference.

Here’s our paper. It’s academic, so it refers to the voting system by its academic name. It spends a lot of time discussing the motivation behind the new voting system, and puts it in context with other voting systems. Then it describes and analyzes both SDV-LPE and SDV-LPE-SL.