Hugo Slates Inspire Altered States

This roundup starts with a link to some Hugo data, followed by a long assortment of opinions, then a couple of smaller segments focused on ideas for changing the Hugo rules, and voting No Award.

Screenshot of Hugo nominating statistics

Peter Watts on Rifters

And they call it… Puppy Love… – April 5

The thing is, we’re encouraged to act this way. We’re expected to: by agents, by publicists, by publishers who can no longer be bothered promoting their own authors. I know of one case where an agent explicitly refused to represent an author simply because that author wasn’t pimping herself on Twitter. It’s now considered unprofessional to eschew constant tub-thumping. Nobody takes you seriously if you don’t stand out from the crowd— and the only way to do that, apparently, is by doing exactly what everybody else is doing, only louder. Which is how someone who markets herself as a Fearless Progressive Speaker of Truth to Power can beg off boycotting an event over a clear matter of principle by saying “Nah, I’ve got a book to hustle” with a completely straight face.

Pimpage comes first, ethics run a distant second, and the Sad Puppies are not the only gang to run under that flag.

In fact, if you squint a certain way you can almost see how the Sad Puppies’ campaign is actually more honorable than the relentless self-promotion that’s somehow come to be regarded as de rigeur in this business. Put their reactionary motives aside for the moment; at least the puppies were, for the most part, advocating for people other than themselves. All other things being equal, whose opinion generally comes seasoned with less conflict-of-interest: the foodie who raves about the little hole-in-the-wall she discovered last Friday, or the chef who praises his own bouillabaisse to the heavens?

Which is not to say, of course, that self-promotion doesn’t work. It obviously does. (I don’t know if anyone in the genre has won more awards than Rob Sawyer, and offhand I can’t think of a more relentless self-promoter.) Then again, no one’s really questioning the effectiveness of the strategy that’s riled up the current teapot. It’s the underlying ethics that seems to be at issue.

So, sure. If you’re an end-justifies-the-means sorta person, then by all means decry the block who stacked the deck and got-out-the-vote in pursuit of their antique right-wing agenda; praise the more progressive folks who try to get you to eschew straight cis white male writers for a year. But if the road matters to you as well as the destination, don’t lose sleep over the fact that the bad guys played a better game this time around.

Give a thought to the rules that promote such strategies in the first place.

Elizabeth Bear on throw another bear in the canoe

“i spent all day yesterday waiting at a red light” – April 5

Fandom happens because people take care of it, nurture it, and make it a fun place for people to be. Preferably, an inclusive place. If anything, we often err too far on the side of putting up with assholes, because we’re bad at excluding people. There are plenty of people in fandom who I think are jerks, idiots, pains in the ass, complete eye-rolling cramps, and/or moon men. Some of those people do valuable work for the community, even while I’m facepalming over their opinions. All of them got into it the same way I did–by being volunteered or (as is very common) voluntold. These people refer to themselves as SMoFs as a joke, you understand. Jobs often get done in haphazard ass-backward ways because they are done by anybody willing, and often on limited time, in the cracks of a busy life, and with little or no funding….

There’s a new custom circulating in my tribe, and I think it’s a good one, so I will be adopting it. I have not in the past and I will not in the future participate in any popular award voting slate, public or private. I will not vote for any story or person or institution that is nominated for a popular award after agreeing to be on such a slate. I believe that slate-voting is unethical and perverts the purpose of the awards–and disadvantages almost everyone, quite frankly–and I am personally invested in making sure my fandom does not decay into a series of cage matches. That is the ethical decision I am making for myself.

 

Dave Freer on Mad Genius Club

“Bring it on” – April 6

I was quite pissed off I’d told SP3 and RP that I didn’t want to be on the slate. EDITED FOR CLARITY: I put the fact that I felt there were better more deserving people to target (such as my co-writers Amanda and Cedar) up ON MAD GENIUS CLUB. I did not contact either SP or RP organizers. They in no way ignored my request. I was in no way at all shamed or upset by being on the list. Got it, jackasses? No you can’t use it to bully Brad Torgersen. I can’t force you to quote me, any more than I could force Brad to read that on MGC or act on it, but I sure as hell will rub your noses in this if you try.

I don’t take to bullying well. I’m usually pretty easy going, but a behemoth picking on little guys infuriates and disgusts me (which is what this is. Tor is still the biggest, most powerful traditional sf publishing house at present. They wield a great deal of power and influence. They can (and have in the past) destroy and make careers.) It rubs every hair on my very hairy head the wrong way, which gave me some bad hair days, poor me.

And then it got worse. We had some joker called Steve Davidson, whose total contribution to sf seems to have been purchasing the IP address for ‘Amazing Stories’ and then emptying his bowels onto it, issuing threats and ultimatum to authors that if they didn’t renounce SP3 they’d be vewwy vewwy sorry.

 

Damien Walter in the Guardian

“Are the Hugo nominees really the best sci-fi books of the year?” – April 6

By putting forward a slate of predominantly American nominees, the campaign organisers have been able to lever the votes of a minority of non-attending members to “hack” the voting process and dominate the award nominations. Remarkably, this is all within the rules of the Hugos, and the moral defence put forward by campaign organisers for what many people would consider cheating is their belief that block voting is common in the award-giving process.

The Hugos and Worldcon have always been – much like the baseball World Series – a world event in name only. Hugo winners have been overwhelmingly from the US, with almost no non-anglophone works even considered for the awards. But over the past decade or so, the Hugos and Worldcon have become much more diverse and interesting, with many more women, writers of colour and international voices among nominees and winners. It’s that diversity which has been lost in this orchestrated backlash.

Jim C. Hines

“10 Hugo Thoughts” – April 5

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

embrodski on Death Is Bad

“Sad Puppies Rebuttal”

Ahem. As everyone knows, there were problems with the Hugos. Many of us acknowledged this, and said it wasn’t that bad and it was being handled internally. His most relevant point is that he disagrees. [Larry Correia wrote] “there wasn’t a green room at any con in the country where you couldn’t find authors complaining about the sorry state of things. But nobody did anything. […] But still nobody did anything, and it got worse and worse. […] So I did something.”

Now, I’m in the camp of “It was a problem, but not a huge one.” But, to be honest, I can’t recall of anyone doing anything to fix it. Maybe something was happening? But not so that I noticed. It was mainly swept under the rug. Losing a slot or two per year to these forces didn’t feel like a big deal to me, certainly not something I would put a ton of personal effort into fixing, and I imagine most people felt the same way. Larry saw it as a bigger problem. And you know what? He did do something. And I respect the fuck out of that. It didn’t work out exactly how he’d like it to, but shit, when does anything? It’s not like there’s a playbook for this sort of thing, he’s flying by the seat of his pants, and that takes tons of guts. What the hell did any of us do? We all said in private “Man, Throne of the Crescent Moon was bad,” and some of us said it in public, but did a single person on our side publically raise the point that this should never have gotten a Hugo Nomination? Why *did* it take Larry and his crew to say that?

It sucks that we lose an entire year of Hugos to this Sad Puppies nonsense, but maybe it’ll help us be a bit more honest with ourselves in the future. Maybe we’ll feel freer to speak our minds without being worried about being called racist. That would be a good thing.

 

Arthur Chu on Salon

“Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards)” – April 6

To vote on the Hugos you have to either know and care a ton about science fiction–or you have to be convinced that science fiction is part of the vast liberal conspiracy arrayed against you and make a disingenuous post calling you and your friends “Sad Puppies” over said liberal conspiracy. $40 is a lot of money to pay to express your opinions, even strongly held ones, about fiction you love–but it’s a cheap price to stick it to liberal pro-diversity elitists you hate….

We should have learned a long, long time ago that “Just let the public give their input” is a lazy, useless and above all dangerous way to make decisions. If you want democracy you have to put effort into designing a process that actually makes sure your voting population matches the relevant population and to keep the process from being captured by bad actors. If that’s too hard for you, then accept that democracy is too hard for you and find some other way to claim legitimacy for the decision you end up making.

But don’t just leave your process open to the public and unguarded, unless you want The Comments making your decisions for you. Best case scenario, you end up with egg on your face that can be easily wiped off, like a bridge named after Stephen Colbert.

Worst case scenario, your public platform becomes a mouthpiece for the worst people in the world, who won’t give it back until they’ve run it into the ground.

 

 Adam Roberts on Sibiliant Fricative

“2015 Hugos: Delenda Est Hugo” – April 6

Nick Mamatas has it right, I think: the action of the Puppies was a piece of efficiently executed political strategy, and the response needs to be political if we want it actually to bite. This means one of two things, I’d say: either to organise an anti-Puppies slate for next year, with all the labour and cat-herding that implies. I have some doubts as to the achievability of this, and many doubts as to its desirability: for it would remove the Hugos even further from the notion that works and individuals get nominated according to their merit. Personally I think the better strategy is otherwise, essentially a Delenda est Hugo approach. First, coordinate to ensure ‘No Award’ wins every category this year. Then move to relocate the community’s esteem elsewhere. The Puppies set out to destroy the Hugos. Let them. Napoleon thought he had won the battle of Borodino, but actually he lost it. Let the Puppies retreat through the winter wasteland of community hostility and indifference. The Puppies, after all, are not interested in winning Hugos per se; they are interested in the esteem associated with the Hugos. But that does not magically inhere in the rocket-shaped trophy. It’s the other way around. The trophy functions as an index of the esteem of the community as a whole. This year’s shortlist breaks the connection between the first of these things and the second. So it goes. It is the whole community that controls how it distributes its esteem, not any one pressure group; such esteem cannot be ‘gamed’ by the coordination of voting blocks. Once upon a time the Hugos were the genre’s Blue Riband award; functionally they have not been that for several years . But there are other awards which are, even as we speak, producing much better shortlists: Tiptree award and Kitschies, to name but two. Why not invest the esteem of the community as a whole in those

 

Larry Correia on Monster Hunter Nation

A letter to the SMOFs, moderates, and fence sitters from the author who started Sad Puppies – April 6

This blog post is directed at the newcomers, the fence sitters, the undecided, and the unlucky SMOFs who’ve been caught in the crossfire. There is no need to address my detractors, because they have already repeatedly demonstrated that they’ll just ignore what I actually say and do, and fabricate their own wild and crazy narrative about what I secretly meant to say.

This is going to be get long, but there are a lot of things being tossed around that I need to respond to.

For those of you just joining us, Sad Puppies 3 was a campaign to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards.

I started this campaign a few years ago because I believed that the awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. When I said this in public, I was called a liar, and told that the Hugos represented all of fandom and that the awards were strictly about quality. I said that if authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person. Again, I was called a liar, so I set out to prove my point.

 

Addendum to Yesterday’s Letter – April 7

Yesterday the following media outlets ran articles about the Sad Puppies campaign, in which they either directly said or insinuated that it was run and populated by racist straight white males with the goal of keeping scifi white and male. (not true)

The Telegraph Entertainment Weekly Salon Huffington Post Slash Dot io9 The Guardian

It was almost like they were all reading off the same script.

Most of them said our slate was exclusively white, straight, and male (not true)

Most of them said that last year was a big win for diversity (I believe last years winners were all white and one Asian).

Most of them said our slate was exclusively right wing (not true, in fact the majority skew left, we have socialists, liberals, moderates, libertarians, conservatives, and question marks. To the best of my knowledge, I believe that last year’s “diverse” winners all espoused the same social justice politics).

But there is no bias in this perfectly functioning system. My side said that political narrative trumped reality in this business. Believe me yet?

Larry Correia in a comment

I went to 13 cons in 2014, from 500 to 150,000 people. I love cons. However, the only place I’d be likely to find more people who actively despise me and want me to die in a fire than WorldCon would be WisCon. Which is on my list of places to visit, right after Mordor and Hell.

So instead I usually go to GenCon, and this year I’m going to DragonCon.

 

Brad R. Torgersen

“A dispatch from Fort Living Room”

I ordinarily keep my family pictures private. I don’t share many of them on the internet. But in this instance, I think I’ll post one. That’s my wife Annie, my daughter Olivia, and me, back in 2008 — when we first moved into our (then) new house in Utah. As of the writing of these words, Annie and I have been married for over 21 years. We’re opposites in most ways. Personality opposites. Political opposites. And — apropos to this particular discussion — racial opposites. From the time we got married in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple in December of 1993, until now, it’s been an exercise in learning how to live together, cherish, and love one another, despite the differences. I’m proud of my wife. She’s not only smart, she’s got an enormous heart, I’ve never seen her judge people unfairly, and she’s never been afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. Of all the decisions I’ve ever made in my life, deciding to marry Annie was by far the best. She is my best friend. She is my lover. She is the mother of my child. She is, quite simply, the better part of everything that I hold dear and precious in this world.

Those of you who watch this space know that I’ve taken on a bit of a burden since January. It’s explicitly related to the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, so I won’t bore anyone with all the long, nerdish details. Suffice to say, the Sad Puppies 3 project has brought me into the epicenter of a heated contest inside the field. It’s a very “inside baseball” affair. But today — thanks to the magic of the internet — it took on a much wider, much more personal dimension.

Because a blog “journalist” named Isabella Biedenharn — working beneath the banner of Entertainment Weekly — penned a short, error-laden article titled, “Hugo award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting.” The mistakes in the article could have been easily avoided if Isabella had done some research into the issue she was reporting on. Near as I can tell, Isabella was spoon-fed some links and a very rushed and sloppy narrative about Sad Puppies 3 being racist and woman-hating, and she posted all of this without stopping to consider whether or not anything she was disseminating into the wider world was true, and accurate.

 

Scott Edelman

“In which the Sad Puppies prove to be more powerful than L. Ron Hubbard” – April 6

For those who weren’t around in 1983 … a history lesson. Because, as I’ve said before, science fiction’s culture wars have been with us always.

The Sad Puppies, who have successfully campaigned their slate onto the ballot, hope they can break the Hugo Awards in order to rebuild them—a sentiment which has, I’m afraid, a bit too much of a “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” ring for my comfort. But note this isn’t the first time such a concept has been put forward.

“If you too are unhappy with the Hugo system, it’s time to do your bit,” wrote Charles Platt in his editorial to the March-May issue of The Patchin Review. He didn’t put a full slate forward back then, just a single novel, written by … well … you can see the name of the author in a box at the bottom of the front cover.

That’s right—L. Ron Hubbard, whose novel Battlefield Earth had been published in 1982.

Platt posited in his editorial—

If he won, would it bring about a reformation of the Hugo system, or even its abolition? There’s only one way to find out.

As Platt shared in the editorial reproduced below, he’d written Hubbard and the organization promoting the novel to let them know one needn’t attend Worldcon in order to make this happen, and that anyone willing to cough up $15.00 for a supporting membership could vote.

 

Rhiain on According To Hoyt

“Not Your Shield – Rhiain” – April 7

Yes, it is that simple. This non-white chica will be happy to rub that in your face for as long as it takes. Your multicultural diversity schtick bores me, is completely without reason, and is annoying the hell out of me with all the overemotional and oversentimental tripe thrown in. You call this a justification for the current status quo of the Hugos as recently as last year? The more you whine about your lack of privilege in this arena, the more other non-white people who refuse to be classified as such are going to start speaking up to make you look like an utter fool.

This is a class issue, a race issue, a gender issue.

This middle-class, Samoan female says this is only in your imagination, and only because you keep hammering on this point like there’s no tomorrow. You know what’s interesting about a hammer? It’s actually two tools in one – one to put the nail in, and one to take the nail out. You’re just pissed because other people are able to take that hammer away from you and use it to remove the nails you keep trying to put in. I’m a patient woman, and I’m willing to learn how to use tools for everything they’re intended for .

And I know some of you have a hard time with that concept. I don’t care. You’ve had plenty of time to figure it out. I’m real tired of your inability to understand these things.

Oh, I understand these things perfectly, but I refuse your attempts to maintain this as the overall narrative. No. You have not yet begun to see pushback on your lazy, self-absorbed whining.

Do you hear me, Tempest?

YOUR. NARRATIVE. IS. BROKEN.

And so help me God, people like me are going to break it into irrecoverable pieces.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to add something: I despise the hypocrisy on full display in this post. Here’s a non-white woman who grew up with more privilege than I did complaining about the lack of diversity in the Hugo Award nominations, and trying her best to persuade fellow scifi fans that promoting a more diverse platform in the name of equality should be done by excluding certain people because of their skin color and sex

 

John O’Neill on Black Gate

Black Gate Nominated for a Hugo Award in a Terrible Ballot

However, this isn’t a major accomplishment. As I demonstrated in my comment to Matthew above, it can be done by as few as 200-300 people. There are literally dozens of individuals (and companies) inside the industry who could mobilize that many people with relative ease (and a few, like George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and Joss Whedon, who could easily mobilize thousands.)

But it has never been done before, because it’s been completely apparent to everyone that such an effort would damage the integrity of the Hugo awards. Worse, it would negate an entire year of Hugo Awards.

But John!, you say. Sure it’s been done before! Look at what Tor and DAW have done. Or that rascal John Scalzi!

Except, John Scalzi never did anything like this. He posted the entire Hugo ballot on his blog some time ago, and invited readers to make a case for their favorites. But he never advocated for a single writer, or slate of writers, as a block vote.

But John!, you say. The Puppies haven’t negated anything. They’ve just put the candidates they believe in on the ballot. They’ll win this year, they’ll sell lots of books, the industry will benefit, and all will be well.

No, it won’t. Because it’s highly likely that all three short fiction categories will go to “No Award” this year. That’s exactly how the Sad Puppy ballot was treated last year, and it’s a virtual certainly that it will happen again this year. Already the backlash is louder and more aggrieved than it was last year.

The Sad Puppies should have known this. Maybe they did know it, and they don’t care. Maybe they just want to wreck the awards. If that’s their plan, they’re doing a pretty good job.

John O’Neill in a comment –

I think what you’ve done sets a dangerous precedent that could spell the end of the awards if it’s not quashed immediately, and I feel strongly enough about that that I would be willing to burn a Hugo Award for Black Gate to send that message.

 

Charles Stross on Antipope

“The Biggest Little SF Publisher you never heard of pulls on the jackboots”

Vox Day writes:

It’s time for the church leaders and the heads of Christian families to start learning from #GamerGate, to start learning from Sad Puppies, and start leading. Start banding together and stop accommodating the secular world in any way. Don’t hire those who hate you. Don’t buy from those who wish to destroy you. Don’t work with those who denigrate your faith, your traditions, your morals, and your God. Don’t tolerate or respect what passes for their morals and values.

Over a period of years, he’s built an international coalition, finding common cause with the European neo-nazi fringe. Now they’ve attempted to turn the Hugo Awards into a battlefield in their (American) culture wars. But this clearly isn’t the end game they have in mind: it’s only a beginning. (The Hugos, by their very nature, are an award anyone can vote in for a small fee: it is interesting to speculate on how deep Vox Day’s pockets are.) But the real burning question is, “what will he attack next?”

 

 John Scalzi on Whatever

“Human Shields, Cabals and Poster Boys” – April 7

Also, let me suggest that when Brad Torgersen (or whomever) went off notifying people of their presence on the slate, he probably did not lead with “Hi, would you like to be part of a slate of nominees whose organizers whine darkly and incessantly about the nefarious conspiracies of the evil social justice warriors to infiltrate all levels of science fiction, and which will also implictly tie you and your work to at least one completely bigoted shitmagnet of a human being?” Rather more likely he played up the “we’re trying to get stuff on the ballot we think is cool that doesn’t usually get on it” angle and downplayed, you know, that other stuff.

And you might think, well, how can you miss that other stuff? The short answer to that is that, as difficult as it might seem, not everyone actually spends a lot of time following the Hugo and the controversies therein. It was, until very recently, kind of an insider sport. So it’s possible to have missed this stuff and/or not fully grasped the implications of it until after the awards came out. Not for me, clearly, and possibly not for you. But it is possible.

It’s difficult to miss them now, of course. But this increases my sympathy for these nominees. The whole reason the Puppies are so transparently covetous of the Hugos is that they are a big deal in a (relatively) small community. So imagine being part of this community, being told that you’ve gotten a Hugo nomination, and then finding out that there’s this metric load of toxicity around it, manufactured by the people who got you the ballot — or at least claim that they did.

 

Matthew Foster on Foster on Film

“The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

As for gaming the Hugo awards, it is surprisingly easy. Like all popularity contests, it doesn’t take much to mess it all up. It only keeps a feeling of legitimacy as long as everyone is very polite and careful, because there’s no rule that says you can’t muck it up. The Hugo nominations come from the attendees of this year’s, last year’s, and next year’s WorldCon convention. That’s not a huge group (and figure many people haven’t bought their memberships to this year’s or next year’s yet). Actual number of ballots comes out not greatly over 2000, and if no one is playing games, the nominations are spread out over a huge number of different stories, books, etc. So, if you can get 200 people to vote along a party line, you’ll win. This is even easier since you don’t have to go to the convention, just sign up for a voting membership, pay $40, and you’re good to go.

Individuals have been making suggestions for nominations for years—as individuals. A writer or editor might suggest the stories they thought were worthy of an award. Individuals would suggest what they liked. Sad Puppies, though, was a political movement. It wasn’t an individual saying what he liked, but a group, bound together, to stop things from winning that didn’t share their politics. And while following the rules, is a dick thing to do. It is like those films that won Oscars after their distributers went over the normally expected promoting, and basically bought the statue. Talk to film fanatics, and those awards will always be tainted.

“Part 2: The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

Sad Puppies leadership had changed. Correia turned it over to Brad Torgersen. Torgersen is a different kind of bird than Correia. He doesn’t burst into bouts of swearing, avoids blatantly racists statements, and his insult tend to avoid simply name-calling (though he did suddenly find the need to call me fat in a conversation that was irrelevant to my weight and that I wasn’t supposed to see, but I’ll just take that as his writer’s need to be descriptive, and I have put on a few pounds over the years). He’s still following the “leftist cliques are out to get us” troupe and he still names the same people Day did as opponents. But he has a lighter touch.

His line is that all the meaning in writing, all these themes and messages, are bad, and that science fiction needs to be fun tales of adventure. It needs to be about manly men (he actually uses that term) performing daring exciting deeds and things ending up happy in the end. That the leftists (social justice warriors) have been putting in all these messages into fiction (which is bad) and then getting those stories given awards (again, through secret insider trading). I tried to explain this view to a friend and she just stared at me. It is hard to imagine any artist objecting to theme. Pretty much every other artist I’ve ever met: filmmakers, painters, sculptors, and other writers, wanted to say something with their art. It’s kind of the point. Otherwise, what you’re making is equivalent to a rollercoaster. It can be fun, for a moment, but that’s about it.

 

Mary Robinette Kowal

“Please stop with the deaththreats and the hate mail” – April 7

I, too, am angry about how things went down with the Hugos, but am also realistic about the fact that much of the work — not all of it — but a lot of it is on there because people are legitimately excited about it. Yes, there are some things from Rabid Puppies that seem to be there purely for shock value.  But others? Sheila Gilbert does damn good work. Jim Butcher is a serious writer.

When I sit down to vote, I am, in fact, going to open every file and start reading it. As soon as it doesn’t work for me, I’m going to shut the document. Now, in two cases, I’ll admit, that means that the author’s name is as far as I’m going to read because I’m familiar with their work and know that it makes me angry. I am not going to vote for it, so why make myself angry for no reason?

Everyone else? Sure. Let’s see if that’s fiction that I might enjoy. I have voted for works before of authors who I have disagreed with politically. Shocking, but true.

 

Doctor Science at Obsidianwings

“Hugo ballot go BOOM” – April 6

  1. My Opinions, Which Are Mine:
  2. Elizabeth Bear, abi sutherland, many commenters at Making Light, and especially Cat (in a comment she cross-posted widely) have persuaded me that slates wreck the process of voting for awards. Slates are useful and often necessary when you’re voting for people who need to work with each other (= politics), but they’re destructive to the process of choosing excellence. Slates narrow the field radically, and let (or force) voters to make their choices other than from their own personal perspective, which is naturally idiosyncratic.

Mieneke van der Salm on A Fantastical Librarian

“2015 Hugo Awards Nomination Thoughts” – April 7

On the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast in the interview episode with Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, Torgerson stated something to the effect that SJWs/the Hugo voting public thought his ‘side’ were having fun wrong. But to me that just smacked of hypocrisy as by his standards I’m having my fun wrong, since I enjoy works that include stuff I find important that clashes with his preferences. So I value diversity, equality, and yes, I’d call myself a feminist. That does not make me an SJW as the Puppies designate everyone who holds these values. And yes, looking at my nominating slate, my nominees reflect my preferences, but I didn’t pick them based on this. I picked them because I very much enjoyed reading them.

There’s lots of authors I love, who have never been nominated for a Hugo, who are very successful commercially, but will probably never be nominated, such as Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan, or Jacqueline Carey to name but a few. But there are also a large number of authors I love that fit the “SJW-message fic” the Sad Puppies decry who haven’t made the ballot either (thus far; I still remain hopeful for the future) so I can understand it is frustrating not seeing the things you love on the ballot, but I very much think what happened with the SP/RP slates isn’t the answer.

 

PROSPECTIVE RULES CHANGES

Mike Scott on Dr. Plokta

 “Hugo Puppies”

The problem with the puppy slates is not that they’ve got stuff on the ballot. They’re members of the Worldcon, and they’re entitled to have the stuff they nominated on the ballot, regardless of their decision processes in making their choices. The problem is that they have kept off the ballot some other stuff that most voters would probably prefer to vote for. So what we should be doing is preventing a slate from forcing stuff off the ballot, not from getting stuff on the ballot. The voters can then use their alternative vote preferences to take care of the slate, as happened last year when the slate failed to completely dominate any categories. It seems to me, therefore, that the solution is to have some rule for varying the size of the final list of nominees in each category based on the nominating patterns. Nothing on a slate would be banned or disqualified, but the slate wouldn’t be allowed to dominate any category. We already do this a bit — we increase the number of nominees if there’s a tie for fifth place, and we reduce the number if not enough nominees pass the 5% threshold. I would propose that for each category we take the total number of nominations received in that category, subtract the number of nominations received by the most popular nominee in the category (thus removing the effect of a slate, if there is one, on the numbers), and then the shortlist consists of everything that got at least 10% of the remaining number, but with a minimum of five per category and scrapping the existing 5% rule (which has already been causing problems).

 

Brad Templeton on Brad Ideas

“Hugo Awards suborned, what can or should be done” – April 5

Eliminating the supporting membership, or boosting it

Two contradictory suggestions. If only people who buy the much more expensive “attending” membership can nominate or vote, it becomes very difficult to convince people to just buy memberships to promote an agenda. On the other hand, it’s a matter of debate whether a lot of the SPs were outsiders who came in just to nominate their agenda. The alternate suggestion is to make it very cheap to nominate and vote, so lots more people do it, overwhelming the affect of slates. I seriously doubt that would work.

Variations could include allowing supporting memberships only for recent holders of attending memberships, or those who have not had a worldcon on their continent for several years (and thus could not attend.) One could even count actual attendance based on who picked up badges.

Allowing fewer nominations than slots

Today you can nominate 5 works for 5 positions, allowing a slate sweep. Making it so you get fewer nominations than there are slots makes it much harder to do a slate sweep, though you can still have a slate that pushes some number of non-slate works off the ballot. A sweep is still possible, but requires a group twice the size.

Note that this, or any other change the rules requires 2 years to enact, as all changes must be voted on at one convention, ratified at the next, and come into effect at the next after that.

It’s also been proposed to develop rules to greatly increase the number of slots (particularly if a slate is present) to make sure non-slate works are not pushed off. Unfortunately, a ballot of 10 or 15 entries is not workable, nobody has time to read them all.

Elimination Nomination

Well known cryptographer Ron Rivest has proposed a nomination system where ballots may nominate several entries, but as soon as one of those entries makes the ballot, the ballot is eliminated, and none of its other nominations will go in tallies. (In one variation the nominations may be given preferences, so that we understand the voter’s desire as to which candidate should get a nomination if it is to be only one of them.) This approach resists slates, and any other clustering of nominations, producing much greater diversity in the ballot — possibly to the extreme. (For example, if a large section of nominators strongly favour one particular subgenre, like hard SF, and send in only that, then once the most popular of their group choice gets a nomination, the rest have much reduced chances of getting one.)

Another proposal involves weighted nominations, where nominators can spread a fixed number of points over their nominees. This encourages ballots with just one nominee among those who care.

These systems resist slates, but introduce strategic factors into the nomination process. Generally, the Hugo awards seek a system where “strategy” is not productive. This is why the ranked single-transferable-vote system is used in the actual voting. In the prior system, there are few effective stratagems, except collusion, which is what SP introduced.

This proposal and much discussion can be found in an article by my fellow EFF board member Bruce Schneier on the Making Light blog.

 

 VOTING NO AWARD

NoAward.com

“How to Vote ‘No Award’ in the 2015 Hugo Awards So that Good Triumphs over Evil”

It is the belief of the creators of this web site that the perpetrators of this action have damaged those who would otherwise have been nominated by actual fans of the field, that they have damaged several people on their “slate” who apparently did not realized they were being so used, and that they have shown their disdain for fans and fandom through this process.

It is our intention to help people “reward” them as they so richly deserve. We also recommend that, since they clearly do not care about fans or fandom, convention runners do whatever possible to ensure that the actual perpetrators of this bit of ugliness never have to interact with fans at conventions again.

 

Dara Korra’ti on Crime and the Forces of Evil

“on buying some hugo awards and voting NO AWARD” – April 7

Some fans are considering counter-slates for future years. I cannot state strongly enough: This would be a disaster. And not just because it would insure the Puppies more slate victories. To reply with counter-slates would be to enter what in foreign affairs is called a Red Queen’s Race – a continuing escalation of resource expenditure to less and less effect resulting eventually in structural collapse. (See also: wars of terrorism, current case study: Syria. But I digress.)

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Remember, above, how I mentioned that Mission Earth: Volume 1 finished behind NO AWARD?

If NO AWARD wins, no Hugo in that category is awarded. This has happened before – not since 1976, I think, but it has happened.

NO AWARD short-circuits the Red Queen’s Race. It makes all slate efforts null and void, as long as fans collectively decide not to award any award in slate-controlled categories. It burns most of one year, to save the rest. Compared to the alternative of competing political slates that reduce the value and meaning of the award to absolutely nothing on any axis – other than spite – it’s a dramatically better option.

 

David Gerrold on Facebook

One of my pen names, registered with the Writers Guild of America, is “Noah Ward.”

I have used that pen name on two scripts, so it is an active pseudonym.

Should “no award” win any Hugos in August, I intend to take the trophies home myself.

And no, I am not campaigning.

Fund Launched to Bring
Peter Watts to Aussiecon 4

Cat Sparks is raising money to bring Canadian SF author Peter Watts to Aussiecon. Cat gives full details on Talking Squid:

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says, “Make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

[Via Australian SF Bullsheet #100.]

Peter Watts Receives Suspended Sentence

On April 26 Canadian author Peter Watts was sentenced to a 60-day jail term suspended upon payment of court assessments — $68 state minimum costs, $60 victim rights, $1000 court costs and $500 fines, according to the St. Clair County Court database.

This past March 19 a jury found Watts guilty of violating Michigan state law Section 750.81d “Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty.”

Watts had gone into the morning prepared for the worst after seeing the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. According to the Port Huron Times Herald:   

Information [in] his online court record shows the recommended sentence is 180 days in jail with credit for one day served and 60 days suspended upon payment of $1,600 in fines and costs. A jury found Watts guilty of refusing to comply with orders during a random inspection at the bridge. An officer testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him.

Watts posted his reaction over the weekend before heading for Port Huron for this morning’s hearing:

After receiving some very positive indications from the Prosecution earlier this week — she wasn’t going to push for jail time, she doubted the judge would hand any out, the guy writing the presentencing recommendations was “very mild” — I’ve just been hit with a presentencing report that recommends jail time. Four to six months of it….

Of course, in a rational system this would have ended the moment the Feds decided not to press charges. In this system, there’s now a significant chance that I go into Port Huron on the 26th and simply don’t come out again. I’ve therefore been running around for the past couple of days making arrangements for the paying of bills and the feeding of cats should I go dark.

Fortunately, he has avoided the worst case scenario and hopefully is on his way home.

Watts Case Footnote

Late last week I wrote that the news coverage of Peter Watts trial didn’t explain clearly why the prosecutor was requesting an enhanced sentence under the habitual offender statute. So I sent an e-mail to the contact person at the St. Clair County courts and received this answer:

Habitual offender relates to previous convictions. It is not clear from the court record whether this will apply in the Peter Watts case but it will be clarified by the time of sentencing. 

Peter Watts by now has addressed this on his blog, but at the time I sent in my question I never expected anyone in his situation to be so forthcoming.

Looking Down the Road

The Port Huron Times Herald story about Peter Watts’ conviction begins with the following lead:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Watts calls this a mistake — saying he was not convicted of assault. Indeed, one of the jurors has written to tell Watts he felt obligated to vote for a conviction on grounds of resisting and obstruction, but says Watts was not guilty of assault.

I wondered if a look at the statute would reconcile both viewpoints. By that I mean — What if the newspaper reporter’s phrasing is legally correct, just less insightful than the juror’s explanation?

The St. Clair county court records and the Michigan code are all available online. Watts was charged under this section of Michigan law:

Section 750.81d: Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty; felony; penalty; other violations; consecutive terms; definitions.

(1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

Section 750.81d(1) deals collectively with seven distinctly different actions, five of which are in the title of the statute. So a jury that found someone guilty of any one of these actions might be said to have convicted him of violating the law against “assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing or opposing” a person performing his or her duties.

But the reporter (or copyeditor) has taken a cafeteria approach, selecting just a few of the listed items. So it doesn’t read like a paraphrase of the statute — it reads like an assertion about the jury’s factual findings that led to Watts’ conviction. And since the jurors were willing to talk out of court the reporter had as much opportunity as the defendant to get the most insightful possible story. I don’t score the lead’s accuracy very highly.

On another topic… For the past two days I have searched for information about how frequently people convicted under this law avoid a prison sentence. I located the Michigan Department of Correction statistical report for 2008 (PDF file): it shows 42% of the people convicted under Section 750.81d just received probation, and another 8% received delayed or suspended sentences (or were dealt with under terms of a youth offender statute).

Everything ultimately comes down to the details in individual cases, of course.

Watts Trial FAQ

All the nagging questions left over from the trial are answered in Peter Watts’ latest post DVD Extras and Director Commentary. Was the video shown? What was on it? What did the jurors say in their public statements and in conversation with the author after the trial? Is there an appeal coming? A countersuit? How many have contributed to pay the legal costs? Most important, how is he standing up under the incredible strain?

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Jury Finds Watts Guilty

The jury returned a guilty verdict in the Peter Watts case on March 19 reports the Port Huron Times Standard:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Jurors returned the verdict today in St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Adair’s courtroom. He faces up to two years in prison when sentenced April 26.

Court records show that in the meantime the judge has continued Watts’ bond and he remains free pending sentencing. His case has been referred to the probation department for a report. And the court will review the prosecution’s request for an enhanced sentence under Michigan’s habitual offender statute.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, “in Michigan anyone convicted of more than one felony can have his or her sentence lengthened if requested by the prosecutor and agreed to by the court. Prisoners serving under the habitual offender statute cannot be paroled prior to their calendar minimum.”

The news coverage from the case hasn’t made it clear whether this law is being invoked based on the multiple felony charges from the border-crossing case or a previous conviction.

Peter Watts has posted detailed comments about the trial and verdict on his blog. He analyzes the statute the jury had to work with and the factual questions they had to resolve, then concludes:

Whether that’s actual noncompliance or simply slow compliance is, I suspect, what the jury had to decide. That’s what they did, and while I think they made the wrong decision I’m obviously not the most impartial attendee at this party. I still maintain I did nothing wrong; but as far as I can tell the trial was fair, and I will abide by its outcome.

Update 3/19/2010: Added link to Peter Watts’ comments about the trial and verdict.

Jury Deliberating Watts Case, 3/18

Peter Watts’ case was submitted to the jury in mid-morning on March 18 following closing statements by defense and prosecution attorneys, reports the Port Huron Times Herald.

Watts himself testified on March 17 in the afternoon, as did the passenger in his car on the date of the border-crossing incident.

Watts said he was returning home to Toronto after helping a friend move. He had just paid his toll on the American side of the international bridge when he noticed a “flicker of motion” outside his car window. The motion, as other witnesses had testified, was a border officer attempting to wave his vehicle to a stop for a random inspection. Watts said the wave was “ambiguous.”

Watts said he stopped after his passenger, Marcus Kumala, told him to, and when he rolled down the window, the officer said: “‘When I go like this (Watts put up his hand), I’m not waving hello.'”

Watts said he responded “I guess we’re not in Canada, because in Canada that sometimes means hello.”

Times Herald reporter Lis Shepard’s article adds: Watts said he became irritated by the officers’ search of the car and bags in the back seat and got out of the vehicle because he wanted to know what was going on. Watts heard an officer twice order him to get back into the vehicle, but he didn’t immediately comply. An officer grabbed his arm and he pulled away in a “flinch response.” Watts said he was starting to get back in the vehicle when Officer Andrew Beaudry grabbed him and tore his shirt.

Watts said he was trying to comply with orders as things seemed to escalate.

“I was trying to get the hell back in the car,” he said. “It turns out I had company in the car.”

Watts said he remembers feeling leather in his hands, but doesn’t remember grabbing the officer and might have been trying to fend him off.

“My own recollection of this is kind of frenzied because I was under siege,” he said.

Update: 3/18/2010: Deliberations ended at 5:20 p.m. without a verdict. The jury is expected to resume work on March 19 at 9:00 a.m. According to the Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel blog, during the afternoon the jury requested to see the security camera video tape again, which was permitted. But the jury was not allowed to take the tape into the jury room to review and still-frame it, which the judge said would be conducting an investigation and the jury must make its decision based on evidence presented at trial. // Peter Watts’ first post on his blog since the trial began is brief and ends, “Nails are being bitten, ulcers are being eroded, and I am out of clean underwear.”

Watts Trial, 3/17 Update

The second day of Peter Watts’ trial began with three U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers testifying about stopping Watts’ car and allegations that he assaulted and resisted Officer Andrew Beaudry.

Watts’ attorney Douglas Mullkoff has said the defense will call two witnesses and that Watts plans to testify.

Late last night the Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel blogger, who attended the first day of Peter Watts’ trial (March 16), posted an account of the opening statements plus details of the first witness’s testimony unavailable elsewhere. He followed up with some editorial comments, the most significant being:

…There is a video tape. It was not shown today, but both sides alluded to it. Mullkoff stated that if the prosecution did not introduce it, he would. Watts himself told me the tape is not very good, that he was but a “few pixels” in the frame. And here I thought we’d spent millions putting cameras all over the border.

Watts Trial, 3/16 Afternoon

Opening statements and the testimony of the prosecution’s first witness completed the first day of Peter Watts’ trial reports the Port Huron Times Herald.

The Toronto sf author is charged with assaulting U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Andrew Beaudry when stopped at the Blue Water Bridge while returning to Canada.

The prosecution began with a timeline of events leading up to the struggle between officers and Watts, when Watts allegedly tried to choke Beaudry.

Defense attorney Douglas Mullkoff told the jury Watts was repeatedly hit, then pepper-sprayed “because he didn’t move fast enough” and that he is not guilty of any crime.

The first prosecution witness, Customs and Border Protection Officer Julie Behrendt, said that Watts was the subject of a random stop, and that he didn’t comply with any commands until after he was pepper-sprayed.

When the trial resumes March 17 the prosecution is expected to call three more witnesses.