A COMMON MISTAKE

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The Hugo Vote Vote Ramble

In checking blogs between furious mastur… writing sessions (15 chapters left as of this writing), I ran across George R.R. Martin’s complaint about the upcoming Hugo Vote Vote. It also lines up fairly well with File770s sum up using 2015 data.

That is to say, the fine WorldCon elite are voting on what sort of amendments to make to the voting process to ensure that slates (no matter their proponents) see a diminished effect on the finalists. Clearly, from the No Award results of last year (which I still consider the larger Hugo debacle by far) there is no reason for George to think there is a need to change finalist voting methodology. That’s fine by me, so long as something is put in place that will sate people enough to avoid No Award results in the future. I will add this on before talking about the post proper, however: If “one side” voted their slate last year, then it’s hard to hold water with any argument that there is no “other side” considering the No Award outcomes. Clearly SOMEONE felt upset enough at the state of the Hugos to push the Puppy slate into the places it ended up and SOMEONE ELSE felt upset enough to vote against them. Considering the way final awards are issued, if anything, it gives an amount of legitimacy to the claim that, whoever they are and whatever their agendas, someone does not like the puppies. Doubtful anyone would ever admit that, but in a den of liars, the deaf man hears only truth. Or something like that.

So let’s talk about the voting methodologies a bit for a second. EPH is simple enough in essence, though people seem to struggle with it. You divide your points up among books, and as books you voted for are eliminated, those points get added to other books. This will be handled by software (HOPEFULLY OPEN SOURCE) and is an incredibly clever, effective way to minimize slates of any stripe. I am very much in favor of it. Very, very much. As I said before, people who paid their $40+ should have their vote. And further, $40 WorldCon members are no less valuable than any other. I’ve seen the blogs that suggest otherwise. Awful.

To sum it up, EPH lets your vote gain weight as books that didn’t make the cut get dropped. A sort of Last Book Standing sort of thing. Clever, mathematically sound, hard to subvert without super-mega-majorities voting in lockstep (which the slates tend to be, but still, it will prevent the sweeps that seem to be the major point of contention [buttherearenosides{thisisjustaboutslatesdontbesilly}]).

4/6, the other, is hot trash. Basically, there will be six finalists and only four can be nominated by any given user. This is INCREDIBLY easy  to mass organize around and would result in (even at the most inept) four book slates battling it out and (at any level of organization with a brain) all six being taken. The simplistic nature of slating around 4/6 is as follows: “Dear All Rabid Trufan Puppy Chorfs: If you first name begins with A-M, vote these (slate). All others, vote this way (votevote).”

Obviously, you would want to correct here for common name first letters or whatever. This would be easily enough done and is unlikely to change in the near term, so the work would only need to be done once for many years worth of voting. You could use any number of things to determine it (including optimizing to ensure positions 1-6 get a proportion of votes that are most likely to give them the slot, such as top-loading the first vote to grab 1-4 and the second to ensure 5-6). States of residence might make vote brigades easier to follow, but any number of other systems could be put into place. But still, if this process is repeated across a wide enough field of voters, you have places set up pretty cleanly and it’s a simplistic example. The same could happen in EPH, but it would require one book per subsection of voter and is less likely to land and slightly easier to suss out, again. Loads and loads of single-entry votes pour in near the same time? Well, easier to prove slating and another round of angry/so-over-it-you-guys-seriously-but-one-more-post Scalzi blogs will keep everyone enjoying the weeks after.

At the baseline, you get to Martin’s issue with the proposed replacement systems and the point of this post. He doesn’t like that they don’t kill bloc voting. And, in doing so, he has shown the frustration of literally every human being on the planet who has a problem with Donald Trump. But here’s the problem with it all. With the entire complaint from the ground up:

If you want a free and open vote to go your way, you have to convince people to vote the way you want them to. Otherwise, what you want isn’t a fair vote.

There is no magic bullet to stopping the majority from being represented in a free and open vote. Removing that vote would destroy the meaning of the Hugo and essentially put it behind the same sort of walls as the Nebula Awards, which is a curious award lately, but I’ll refrain from commenting on it since I don’t much care about awards either way. Keep in mind, these are meant to be measures to REDUCE the power of bloc voting, not erase their ability to contribute or remove their reason to vote.

I doubt I’ve said anything not already in Martin’s comment section (well, other than DURRR WHEN BOK SIX COME?). The wonder I am left with after the whole of things are said and done, though, is why there is so much concern over wiping slates out entirely? All the suggestions I’ve seen beyond those who are satisfied with the EPH system or 4/6 have a strange emphasis on exposing slates and compensating by removing slated works entirely or expanding the nomination list to work around them (essentially, removing the slated works if No Award is anything to go by). Now, so long as this was an intellectually honest endeavor, where a slate was not considered a “recommendation list” for some and a hard voting slate for others, fine. Why not motion for a ban on public recommendations or anything remotely suggestive of one and enforce it strictly? That sounds fine to me. I think slates disincentive people voting as much as the system as it stands. If the first round system is fixed and No Award votes continue, then No Award should be removed as a consideration as well.

I’ll try to say it short to end up. If there is not a fair system from the first vote to the award being handed over, then the overhauls should continue. No fan of SFF should be made to feel their vote is worthless, no matter the side they sit on. If Scalzi/Stross list (or thread or innocent post about books and Hugo Awards) is fine, so is any Puppy slate, even Vox Day’s. If the others are out, the same diligence must be applied to the others.

There just needs to be honesty and even-handed responses to things. Or transparency when there is not. Or people can stop worrying so much. Jim Butcher is doing fine. John Scalzi is doing fine. Andy Weir is doing fine. Books are for fans. Awards are for fun. Or should be. Maybe not so more now that everyone all over needs some fucking crusade.

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