Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81

An Audio Interview With Dave McCarty by Chris M. Barkley

Dave McCarty. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Yesterday, Saturday February 3rd, my partner Juli Marr and I drove from Cincinnati to attend Capricon 44 in downtown Chicago.

We went because we were cordially invited by Helen Montgomery for a semi-surprise party in support of Leane Verhulst, a beloved Chicago area fan. The Facebook Invitation read as follows:

In September 2023, Leane posted that she had a brain tumor. Since then she had surgery to remove it, and the tumor was biopsied. As some of you may have heard, Leane has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma. She has completed chemo and radiation, but this cancer is aggressive and unfortunately has a low survival rate.

As some of us discussed this, Dave had the idea that we would much rather celebrate her *with* her now instead of later. (I mean, we’ll celebrate her later too. Probably often. Because we embrace the power of “and” here.)

Please come join us at Capricon 44 on Saturday night at 8pm Central for our Celebration of Leane. Capricon 44 is held at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. 

Juli and I have known Leane for many years and have socialized and worked with her at other sf conventions, including several Chicago Worldcons. 

Leane had been in remission and was expected to be there but unfortunately, she had a rather sudden relapse on Friday that required her to be hospitalized for immediate treatment.

As of this post, she is conscious and in stable condition but tires easily. 

As a consolation, Helen Montgomery set up a laptop and people attending the party spent a few minutes chatting with and to lift her spirits up. Juli and I were among the last to speak with her and I must remark that she was bearing up very well despite the difficult circumstances. In one way or another, we all told her that we loved her, wished her well with the hope of a speedy recovery…

Leane Verhulst

The other less important reason was that I was also there to receive my Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer from Dave McCarty, who was until recently the head of the Hugo Award Administrators for the Chengdu Worldcon. (He was also a co-host of Ms. Verhulst’s party.)

The party was a success and a literal Who’s Who in fandom was there including Don and Jill Eastlake, Ben Yalow, Alex von Thorn, Marah Seale-Kovacevic, Laurie and Jim Mann, Steven H and Elaine Silver, Stephen Boucher, Tammy Coxen, James Bacon, Jesi Lipp, Greg Ketter, Geri Sullivan, Janice Gelb, Ann Totusek and Kathy and Paul Lehman.

(Although many photographs were taken, I refrained from doing so for personal reasons.)

As all of you are probably aware of by now, these Administrators, and Mr. McCarty in particular, have been under fire for the shocking and unexplained disqualifications of the works of fan writer Paul Weimer, Chinese-born Canadian sff writer Xiran Jay Zhao, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman mini-series on Netflix and the novel Babel by novelist R.F. Kuang from the Long List of Nominations that was released on January 20.

Mr. McCarty, who has been involved in sf fandom for decades, was bombarded with inquiries from most of the ineligibles (save for Ms. Kuang, who issued a brief statement of her own on Instagram), from outraged sff fans on social media and from curious factions of the mainstream press as well. 

(Full Disclosure: I have not stated this recently but I must make it known that I have known and worked with Mr. McCarty for several decades. I have worked with him on many conventions in a subordinate role and clashed with him on many occasions involving contentious issues that I have brought before the World Science Fiction Fiction Business Meeting. Despite this, I have maintained a cordial and respectful relationship with him over the years.)

As a journalist, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum; being the recipient of the Hugo in Best Fan Writer category this year, I am in the uncomfortable position of being a part of the story I am reporting on.  

But, since I am in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, I am also in the unique position to observe and report on the situation. Keeping my bias in check, I extended an invitation to interview Mr. McCarty several days before I left for Chicago. A day before I left, I receives a text from him accepting the offer, something he did not do when asked by Adam Morgan,  a reporter from Esquire Magazine, which ran the following story this past Thursday, the first day of Capricon 44, much to Mr. Carty’s chagrin: “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

On Sunday morning, Mr. McCarty and I sat down in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Riverwalk Hotel for an extensive talk about his experiences as the Chengdu Hugo Administrator, the Chinese colleagues, he worked with, his future in fandom and the mysterious origins of and his reactions to being named, “the Hugo Pope”.

[Here is a transcript of the interview produced by consulting two different AI-generated transcripts, and lightly copyedited by Mike Glyer.]

One question I neglected to ask at the time was whether or not he, or anyone on the Chengdu Hugo Awards Administration team, were required to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement by the Chinese government or any other entity involved with the convention. I sent Dave McCarty a text message asking the question after I arrived home Sunday evening. His response:

“Nobody on the administration team signed any kind of agreement like that, we’re just bound by our regular WSFS confidential customs.”

And finally, there was the matter of my Best Fan Writer Hugo Award:

I was informed via text by Mr. McCarty that the six or so Hugo Awards shipped from the People’s Republic of China to the United States for distribution arrived at his house this past Monday.

Unfortunately for all involved, all of the awards had been damaged in transit; while he did not detail the damage to the other awards, Mr. McCarty told me that mine had suffered the most damage in that the panda had chipped paint and had also become completely detached from the stargate. He theorized that this happened because the cases did not have any cushioning material inside to insulate it, so that any practically any motion during transport would cause the awards to rock and bounce against the case.

Mr. McCarty reported that all of the custom cases were for all practical purposes, unusable. 

He did tell me that he thinks that the awards can be either fully repaired or possibly even replaced in the next month or so. 

He did offer to give my award as is and have it repaired on my own but I declined and said that anything that he could do to have it restored would be fine with me.

This turn of events will mean that my daughter Laura and her family, my bookstore and library friends and all of ardent admirers at my local Kroger’s supermarket will have to wait just a little while longer to take their selfies with one of the most iconic symbols in literature… 

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259 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81

  1. @Doctor Science: What if he knows and simply doesn’t care? He does have that “I am above the little people and can do what I want” attitude.

  2. However, Dave is dead on that taking the Hugos away from the hosting Worldcon, having them imposed from above by an outside permanent committee, will end in tragedy.

    The Hugo Awards committee would likely be most of the same experienced longtimers who’ve done the work in the past, aside from the ones involved in Chengdu. How would that become a tragedy?

  3. However, Dave is dead on that taking the Hugos away from the hosting Worldcon, having them imposed from above by an outside permanent committee, will end in tragedy. It would probably kill off the awards. He’d be a lot more credible making that argument if it weren’t for the lies and omissions.

    I don’t know about tragedy. It would make them less fannish and be a break from the tradition. Many awards are run by the same group, and they don’t end in tragedy. In fact, most awards are run this way.

    We want every worldcon to be a local product with local flavour (though still sharing things with other worldcons.) It’s not clear that McCarty is right that we want the same for the Hugos, other than what we get by the fact that a lot of voters/members to a convention may be local to it. In many ways we want the Hugos to be run the same every year: Efficiently, accurately, unbiased, smoothly. The main “tragedy” danger is if the common process becomes biased, and then the bias or other problems get entrenched. There are a few solutions to that common in the world. These include transparency, audits, checks and balances and term limits. While you might view the fact that each year a new committee is technically in charge is a type of term limit, in fact quite often the usual suspects return, and McCarty was one of those usual suspects, and he corrupted things more than anybody.

    In addition to transparency, audits, checks and balances and term limits, the local role does not have to be entirely eliminated. Certainly the local con would continue to make the base and host the ceremony and all that goes around it, and do the PR. And they should also play a role in the rest of the process, as long as they can promise that role will not be subject to local censorship or influence. The WSFS constitution already touches on this. Its clause that denies eligibility for members of the concom has a section, almost always invoked, that if the Hugo subcommittee is given autonomy, it is the only group ineligible. What we missed out is that we want that subcommittee to have autonomy from its local government, not just its concom. If it can’t, then it maybe should not exist in that particular year.

  4. @ Brian Z

    Chinese cops didn’t recommend censoring it.

    Even if they had, the correct response would have been, “Excuse me, officer, your task force is in error”

    In an authoritarian country, telling an officer that it’s actually them who is in error is never the correct response.

    Some of these responses are bafflingly naïve

  5. McCarty keeps using the word “clearly.” I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

    Regarding the idea that explaining the disqualifications would give offense to either Chinese or Western fans: It seems like many fans from both regions are already offended. Also, while one should generally avoid offending people for no reason, avoiding offense isn’t a value that overrides everything else. It’s dramatically less important, for example, than being fair to the Hugo voters and the prospective nominees.

    There’s one other line in the transcript that stood out to me: “The SQL query from from the data for the ballot counts in
    each category actually has a fucking flaw and it’s and it’s mistaken. “
    I’m not a programmer, but that sounds to me like there’s a bug in the code that’s used to construct the nomination statistics. If so, that can and should be fixed regardless of any rules changes made to the Hugos.

  6. It would have useful to explain from the beginning that McCarty is still refusing to explain what happened, or why the works were ineligible.

  7. I have been a Hugo administrator four times (from Bucconeer through Sasquan), and each time I have tried to give the most accurate results as possible, and to treat everyone fairly (even during the Sad Puppies mess in 2015). And I feel that, in the majority of the years, the other Hugo administrators have also tried to be accurate and fair.

    Despite this, because of issues this last year, it feels like I (and other former admins) have been convicted in the court of public opinion and should be term-limited out and never be allowed to be Hugo admins again. That seems incredibly unfair.

    (Admittedly, I have retired from running any future Hugos after 2015, and this doesn’t have a practical effect on my future plans. But other former admins may want to do it again.)

  8. @Mike Glyer:

    And I try not to say “you know” anymore — that was a childhood habit I worked on breaking — but I just read it about 500 times while working on the interview transcript. I hope I don’t regain the habit.

    My boss has been working on breaking me of my verbal tics and placeholders. Good news is that it’s kind of been working. Bad news is that I’ve been replacing them with his.

  9. @ Brad Templeton

    We want every worldcon to be a local product with local flavour

    I have yet to see a good argument why this should be affected by who is counting the votes, rather than who is casting them. There’s been an underlying assumption by several posters that Worldcon bids and attendees care deeply about the idea that it’s their local bureaucratic structure doing the actual administration, but little evidence that it’s actually true. The presentation, yes, the administration, no.

    Has anyone on any winning bid committee ever been excited by the chance to sit in a room validating ballots? Happy to help out perhaps, but actively getting involved specifically to do that? Is anyone going to feel cheated if they just… don’t have to, and can devote more energy to the actual convention and the awarding of the awards?

    The character of the Con and the awards comes from the location and the attendance, not the legal address of the Hugo award IP holding company.

    No one was surprised that Robert J Sawyer did particularly well at Torcon in 2003. Even those with reservations about China hosting last year were, I think, looking forward to seeing what sorts of unexpected things surfaced by emphasizing a different fan base.

    None of that would have been changed one iota if the official ballot counting for either had happened in California

  10. @John Lorentz:
    I haven’t seen this at all. I have seen individuals questioned about problems, but nowhere do I see any such blanket condemnation of Worldcon Admins, past and present. Where is this happening?

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  12. The real question is, do we want this to happen again? And if not, what concrete steps will be taken to prevent it? If WorldCons are “Individually Owned and Operated” affairs, with no oversight, and Hugos are administered and votes counted by the cons, then this will happen again. Or worse.

    So far, a separate Hugo administration, one where all activities are required to be open, seems the best solution. Maybe not the best solution, but it has to be obvious this situation cannot go on as it has been.

  13. @John Lorentz
    One of the more upsetting things about this is that we thought McCarty as a experienced past Hugo Admin could be trusted not to do something so outside of expectations. But I haven’t seen anyone painting any other past Hugo Admins with the same brush.

  14. Do a back of the envelope calculation of how much money Chen Shi raked in for Chengdu then tell me again how he couldn’t possibly stare down the comically ineffective local anti-porn officer from one of the most porn-saturated places on the planet Earth long enough to note that Babel received a Chinese publication license.

    I don’t know what happened either, but that’s not it.

  15. John Lorentz, I did suggest term limits for the most senior roles and think creating a SMOF secretariat that controls from afar and imposes the results on each hosting Worldcon is sure to create more problems instead of solving any. But I didn’t mean nobody should ever come back, just we don’t want to encourage another Hugo Boss.

  16. @rcade

    The gate has been knocked down for at least a quarter century — since blogs came along.

    The gate has been knocked down for nearly 90 years — since fanzines came along.

  17. the comically ineffective local anti-porn officer

    Objection, assumes facts not in evidence. (1) We’ve seen some guesses about why things were removed from the ballot, but “anti-porn” is a straw man, because nobody except you thinks they were accused of being porn.

    (2) You’re also assuming, with no evidence, that the “anti-porn officer” or officers are “comically ineffective.” You can’t seriously argue from “they are ineffective, therefore they can’t have done it” without proving the antecedent. As it stands, this is no more valid than “George Bush is a pink unicorn, therefore he has a horn.”

  18. The various censorship and compliance regimes of authoritarian states are typically not that worried about actually catching everything. They know a lot slips though. They don’t care. Their superiors don’t care. Pretty much all the way up the chain.

    What they care about is compliance. The point is public obedience. They don’t care if you’re right. Their superiors don’t care if you’re right. But you’d be shocked at how far up the chain of authority people will very quickly care about public resistance to even the lowest level official.

    There is no such thing as an acceptably small level of disobedience to the state.

    This is authoritarianism 101 stuff. And it’s very, very effective.

    It’s sounding more and more like there was effectively two conventions taking place at the same time. There was the big cultural movers and shakers who swept in to throw a propaganda party, and there was the fannish base who they allowed to still run a more traditional con in the shadows of their media event so long as they didn’t get in the way or make waves.

    The movers and shakers have their own authority. The fan people doing their best? Even the most minor local bureaucrat could have told them to jump and they would have asked how high.

  19. I think maybe Dave’s younger than I am, but he sure sounds older. He’s got “stereotypical early Boomer SWM” written all over his responses/attitude.

    At least now we can get him off our lawn.

    @John Lorentz: I haven’t seen where everyone is condemning all former Hugo administrators. Mostly the response seems to be insisting that no one who had anything to do with this year’s should ever be allowed near raw stats again — which Seattle has already confirmed for their con — and that giving the Worldcon to a totalitarian country with no free speech that’s proud of its censorship is a bad idea.

    However, I realize you may legit feel differently. But fandom can always use new blood.

  20. I read the word “audited” in this thread and it seems to me that that is a good way out of the “who should administer the Hugos” problem; what if, whoever gives the Hugos, there is a procedure in place to audit them independently?

  21. Ryan H wrote

    I have yet to see a good argument why this should be affected by who is counting the votes, rather than who is casting them.

    I certainly can’t see any advantage to continually reinventing the wheel this way.
    There should be a standard system for nominations and votes. It should produce reams of audit trail. A local committee should inspect said audit trail.
    There should be no need though for every con to develop it’s own software.

  22. Lurkertype: [Dave’s] got “stereotypical early Boomer SWM” written all over his responses/attitude.

    What happened is pretty much exactly what I figured had happened — but for him to so brazenly come out and openly admit “… and so I decided, screw all of you WSFS members, I’m going to do whatever I want”… how much incredible arrogance, what sort of delusions of grandeur, does someone have to have, for that to make perfect sense in their brain? and to expect everyone to not be terribly upset about it?

    (And how incredibly innumerate does someone have to be to not recognize just how nonsensical the stats doc was? Is that why he opposed the passage of EPH — because he can’t math, and couldn’t understand how it works?)

    If this hadn’t been his pattern of behavior over many years, I’d suggest that he get checked for dementia. But no, he really seems to believe that he should be able to do whatever he wants and everyone else should just have to accept it.

    Seattle has ruled out letting him near their WSFS division. Now we have to work on getting the same assurance from the LA in 2026 team — some of whom were having dinner with McCarty in Chicago this last weekend.

  23. Dave starts off talking about how he agrees with the censure for mouthing off on his facebook page. Ignoring that the more important part of the censure was how he administered the Hugos. That’s the real damage. The wrongful removals are bad enough, but the garbage nomination stats call everything into question.

  24. I work with SQL every day. If the queries they used to pull the data were messed up, that means that the whole process was blown from that point onwards. I liked the work of the victors, but we’ll never know if they really won. Are these the same queries that were used in previous years?
    Honestly, that throwaway line upset me as much as anything else he did. He just casually mentions that no part of the totals can be trusted, as if he wasn’t admitting that the process was 100% tainted from that point. I know he’s a computer developer in real life, but his attitude about the admission suggests he had no idea what he was admitting. It’s like a surgeon, after telling an anxious family that their loved one will be fine, just be patient, casually admits that they died in the first 15 minutes of surgery because the surgeon made a serious mistake and just ran with it instead of correcting it while there was time. All the hours since were spent coming up with a way to convince the family their loved one had survived.

    He seems to think he was admitting there was a little fuzziness in the results, but what I heard was that no part of the results can be trusted, and rather than fix the problem they spent months trying to fake counts that would match their tainted queries. I try not to curse, but I have to say this situation is rather testing that resolve.

  25. @John Lorentz and Nicholas Whyte:
    There is a problem that we have a Hugoadministrator who screwed every member of the WSFS(Stolen from JJ) and people are angry. Independendly from the data he handled all very incompetent.
    It has got to the point that people have called the Hugos 2023 invallid (and I don’t believe any number on that nominationsheet) and people even calling the whole Hugo dead.
    We also have the feeling that we have to do something.
    I personally am not familar with John Lorentz handeling the Hugos, because I wasn’t that in towards the Hugos during his time. I have seen a lot of praise for Nicholas times as Hugoadministrator (and I join in the praise how he handeled disqualications and how open and practical the Nominationstats were).
    Of course every mesure we take is taking away some of the freedom of futher Worldcons and we react to one bad apple.
    Of course their are questions about other worldcons that McCarthy was the Hugoadministrator of. How fair was that year?
    I know of 1 case where a teacher in my hometown interfeared with the tests of students, a friend who had him a few years before was not sure, if his tests were acurate after that.

  26. Creating a rule about it is overkill if long-time Worldcon runners organically pull back to advisory roles.

    It would be very complicated to audit while running/rerunning EPH. EPH is audit-like in that it reveals or hints at false data, but it provides no paper trail to act on, and is itself too much work. It might be better to have just the audit, if it doesn’t require a lot of time or money or arcane specialists. Keep EPH if that somehow creates much more transparency than obscurity. Before these results, I’d hoped EPH might choose an interesting mix of English and Chinese items, but instead it appears to have amplified a secret slate. Start work on an audit process while sending the EPH question to commmittee? Preferably a committee that could be sworn to secrecy or whatever is needed in order to inspect the Chengdu raw data?

    You know (!), paper ballots would be more fun. A positive experience with great visuals tabulating at a table with all kinds of observers. Bring in young people but keep it old school. Each con creates a retro or futuristic ballot design. Whoever you are, to participate in the Hugos, prove your mettle by heading down to the post office to grab some stamps.

  27. JJ said:

    Seattle has ruled out letting him near their WSFS division. Now we have to work on getting the same assurance from the LA in 2026 team — some of whom were having dinner with McCarty in Chicago this last weekend.

    People are allowed to stay friends with folks who’ve made bad decisions and done bad things. I still consider Dave a friend. But I also recognize that he can no longer be a Hugo Administrator, and I’d be very careful in considering him for other Worldcon positions. This weekend I explained to someone else why yes, it’s appropriate that Worldcons are not willing to work with Ben Yalow – while I was standing in front of Ben Yalow. Actions have consequences. But those consequences don’t have to be ostracization from the people that they’ve been friends with for decades, and it’s rude of you to imply that going out for dinner with Dave makes people unwilling to recognize his flaws (or anyone else who has made mistakes and fucked up).


    Of course their are questions about other worldcons that McCarthy was the Hugoadministrator of. How fair was that year?

    I was Dave’s boss (WSFS div head) and a member of the Hugo Subcommittee in 2016. We sure as hell would have LIKED to disqualify all the Puppy ballots. But we didn’t. Heck, we decided we couldn’t even disqualify a work that arguably contained (quoted) child pornography. So my experience with Dave is that he is a good Hugo administrator. I think Brad Templeton’s summary really nailed it – “He felt he was the Chengdu Hugo admin, charged with preparing Chinese compatible Hugos, not the WSFS Hugo admin. He feels all his decisions were 100% correct, from the context of being asked to run a Chinese Hugos, because the Hugos should be from the convention and of the convention and match the convention. No government orders, but his Chinese colleagues were clearly of a clear view that those nominees were not eligible under local rules.”

    I think Dave acted consistently with his beliefs as laid out above – this was a Chinese convention, and had to be run in accord with Chinese laws, and the Hugos were part of that. We can argue (and are arguing) that the Hugos should be arranged to be outside all of that. But I have no doubt that if Dave were to be Hugo Admin again in a place that didn’t have limits on freedom of expression, he would only disqualify works for reasons clearly laid out in the constitution, because those would then be the only “rules we must follow” for that convention.

  28. “People involved in the Hugo 2023 fiasco won’t be part of administering the Hugo Awards at ______” is necessary, but the fact that there was a question of whether that would be declared is somewhat damning (not to those specific conventions, but to WorldCon conrunning fandom in general).

    I’d be more impressed with a statement that, based on the damage they had done to the Hugo Award and the WSFS in general, they would not be welcome at the conventions at all.

  29. That’s a fair point. I still think they should be quietly barred, however. At least for some period of years. Otherwise, what are the actual penalties for their actions?

  30. The removals due to being in China were not entirely unexpected. However the garbage nomination stats which put the whole process in question are the big reason why McCarty and Yalow cannot be trusted to be part of the Hugo team again.

  31. @Tammy Coxen:
    If the problem would have been only the disqualification your point about Dave would perhaps been okay, but unfortunatly that is by far not the only problem with the ballot. I take your word that 2016 you can garantie that there weren’t any shanigans.

    2016 is the year that I feel quite a few Hugofinalists could have been skating laws.
    Child pornography is even not exclusive to one of them. (What at last at my homecountry would have been not broken laws would have been the work by Chuck Tingle, but perhabs distributing it to all members would have been problematic)

    I have no problem that people would still engage civil with their friends, even after that. Banning someone is also somethink that I feel should be done sporadicly and I don’t exspect this from any con. I do think that exspecially Dave will find the next con he goes to a bit frosty and people very angry, but this is his problem.

  32. The problem is people want actual answers to their questions, not an explanation of what was done. Dave has made it clear that he won’t provide any answers,just a brief glimpse at his process.

    He’s flat out damaged the IP, and for that I’m glad he’s off the MPC, but that body should condemn the actions of the Chengdu Worldcon in this matter, not just the individuals they censured, and do so publically, calling for full accountability and a detailed PUBLIC report of what actually happened. And, when they inevitably say no, they should have their representation removed from the MPC entirely.

    That’s the level of infraction they committed.

  33. @StefanB: “Child pornography is even not exclusive to one of them.”

    Could you expand on this?

  34. My inclination in terms of a solution would be:

    Create a WSFS organisation with legal personality (a WSFS, Inc, if you will). Have it bound by a charter which is also the constitution of WSFS, as appropriately modified to make that work.

    It should be run by a group of people (a board, a committee, a council, a congress, whatever you want to call them) who are elected by the membership of WSFS, electing a fraction of the group each year for a multi-year term (I suggest either a third for three year terms or a fourth for four-year terms).

    It would:

    Maintain a permanent membership database, which can be accessed by a worldcon to verify if someone is a WSFS member or not; members would pay membership to WSFS and an attending supplement to the Worldcon.

    Take over the IP management and pay lawyers and accountants to maintain it properly, and establish fighting funds for any IP disputes. Also, draw up a proper IP licence for future Worldcons.

    Run all Hugo and site selection voting using the central membership database.
    Also run the elections for its own ruling group using that same central membership database.

    Exactly how to divide up WSFS membership fees (ie supporting memberships) between WSFS and the Worldcon for the year would be a question – my proposal would be that the Business Meeting would have to approve a shareout after the Site Selection results have been announced and there is a new seated Worldcon, so WSFS and the newly-elected Worldcon committee would have to reach an agreement and then bring it to the BM. I’m sure they would normally talk about this in advance and this would be a formality.

    And yes, I’d give WSFS some supervisory powers over Worldcons, so they can ensure they don’t damage the Worldcon brand.

  35. I repeat what other people have said: The Oscars outsource the actual voting and counting work to experts** , but keep control of the presentation for themselves. There’s no logical -as opposed to procedural- reason that Worldcon couldn’t outsource the balloting and counting to reliable experts, but maintain control of how the awards are presented. Counting the votes isn’t a core competency. (Quite the reverse, apparently.)

    ** including one who was too busy fanboying to hand out the correct envelopes; no system is perfect

  36. Jake:
    This is about 2016
    We had one related work finalist who quoted very large parts of a book that dealt with CP(and was published on VDs website) and we had one best fan artist, who did work that was acused of it, while VD was defending this artist.
    The related work finalist had quite a few lies and was a hitpeace against John Scalzi, one of the best short stories had a murder fantasy atteched to it. That were the most problematic works I remember.

  37. @Madame Hardy
    They also allow nominees to advertise publicly for votes, and AFAIK it’s straight one-member, one-vote, unlike the Hugos.

  38. @PJEvans In some categories, but they have others that are ranked-choice.
    The Oscar rules are Byzantine and at many points, dumb. I have to read them every year because I program an Academy-qualifying short film program.

  39. @madame hardy
    As I and others have said here, counting the votes is not simple, and can involved hundreds of hours of labor. It would be very expensive to outsource that to a professional firm, and I do not think it is a good use of our member’s money. The Hugos are but one part of a Worldcon, and we’ve had one vote counting scandal in 80+ years.

  40. Tammy: I’m sorry, any Hugo administration that involves McCarty is not one whose results I am going to trust, no matter where it takes place. How CAN I trust it?

  41. @Tammy I was mush-minded. What I should have said is that it’s practical to detach the presentation from the counting. I said “outsource”, when what I should have said was “separate”. It would be sensible to create a standing fandom voting committee that handles all the implementation details of a vote, then passes the tallies back to the convention. This addresses not just the specific Chengdu problem, but also the problem of not using the same counting methods every year. There should be a standard piece of software that is kept in a git and maintained, including back-testing against preserved data after each update.

  42. @Paul Weimer – am I ever arguing that you should? I’m on record above as saying I don’t think any Worldcon should let Dave be the Hugo Admin again. But I also do not think Dave acted capriciously or randomly or out of personal preference or disdain for potential finalists. I think he decided that there was a set of rules he need to operate under for a Chinese Worldcon, and he operated faithfully under those rules. But again, I don’t suggest that any Worldcon should do it, if for no other reason than it’s just not worth the reputational damage it would bring to that con.

  43. Do we really need more than one discovered betrayal to lose our trust? To question whether this hasn’t happened before or could again? And McCarty hasn’t even acknowledged not counting the nomination ballots correctly or that the report is inaccurate in more than just a couple substantive ways.

  44. Tammy Coxen: I also do not think Dave acted… out of personal preference

    “he decided that there was a set of rules he needed to operate under for a Chinese Worldcon” is the very definition of “he acted based on personal preference”.

    I know he’s your friend, but please stop trying to make excuses or justifications for what he did. He arrogantly chose to play God — and that was so far outside of his remit as Hugo Administrator that it’s in the next galaxy.

  45. Do the Oscars have Price Waterhouse Coopers decide what works are eligible? I think there’s 100% agreement on how counting and processing would be done for the Hugos, and those can be judged by objective standards. The issues in question will come from things like disqualification of candidates, moving candidates from category to category, deciding between two categories for series/episode (that’s fairly objective) and the sometimes considered question of alleged fraud in ballots (things like memberships signed in the same hand or with sequential money orders, but also collusion among voters and more things we have not yet thought of.)

    It is for those issues that we have human administrators, because otherwise a piece of software, whose source code we can all see, could do a lot of the job. (It could even canonicalize names these days.)

    I sense a large number of us do not feel that those human administrators should be applying local laws and principles to their decisions.

    There is a way (though it has flaws) to resolve subjective elimination decisions. Leave the work on the ballot, and expand the ballot to include works that would make the shortlist if it were eliminated. There is no harm in that – if the 7th place work ends up winning, even if the work in question is not eliminated, it is the rightful winner.

    However, if the work the admins wanted to eliminate wins (which will be known not long after voting closes, long before the ceremony) then the elimination decision can be escalated up to some body for ratification in this fairly rare circumstance. This could be a multi-national group which normally sits dormant and ideally is never convened, of con chairs and hugo admins from other worldcons. It could include a randomly selected group of WSFS members who have volunteered for this duty (and the agreed to the needed confidentiality.)

    Of course, when the results come out, and fans find their top choice was disqualified, they will be upset, though they will get a detailed explanation as to why, and who ratified the decision to disqualify it. If the disqualification is reversed, it wins, and the policy could either be to still say why, or perhaps not to, though it will be clear from the final totals that one of the works on the shortlist, or more, was proposed for disqualification by the Hugo admin, and they will speculate as to which endlessly on File770.

    This is an expression of the idea that if a decision can be made reversible, then do so, and punt it up to another layer to provide checks and balances. The minor issue is that when fans see a list of 7 nominees, they will suspect it happened (though it can also happen with ties.) But this should not affect how they rank nominees on their voting ballot.

    Now, during puppies, the admins might have proposed the slate for elimination, and the ballot would have had 10 or more finalists and all would have guessed what was going on. Fans would have ranked their choices, then no award, and then left off the slate nominees if they so wished. If the eliminations were not ratified, no award would have won (as it did in the real history.) If they were approved, the “real” winners would have won. And beyond that, all of WSFS would have been allowed to, if it wished, propose and ratify a special rule declaring a choice, switching the winner from No Award to the non-slate choice. This is the beauty of ranked-choice voting. If people vote correctly, you can retroactively eliminate candidates and find out the real result, as long as others were on the ballot. The main downside is the list becomes long, and for those who feel a duty to read all nominees, it’s more work.

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