Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Random Thought - 2016 "What Could Have Been" Hugo Finalists

George R.R. Martin presents the 2016 Alfie Awards
Location: An alternate, better reality.

Comments: At the outset I want to make clear that this post is not an evaluation of what the 2016 list of Hugo finalists would have been had the E Pluribus Hugo system been in effect for the nomination process. I'll be posting about that at a later date. What this post is is an attempt to figure out what the 2016 list of Hugo finalists would have looked like had the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns never existed. It is, quite simply, an attempt to expunge those votes attributable to the Sad and Rabid Puppy nominators to see who would have been Hugo finalists in their absence. This post is also an attempt to assess the impact of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns once that information is at hand.

Looking through the Hugo statistics that were released after the announcement of the voting results makes it pretty clear that the driving force behind the "Puppy" movement in 2016 was, as it had been in 2015, the Rabid Puppy faction. The Rabid Puppies also almost unabashedly voted as a bloc for a defined slate. This fact actually makes it relatively easy to figure out how many Rabid Puppies voted in each category, and also reveals the power of bloc voting. Every single work that appeared on the Rabid Puppy slate also appeared on the Hugo longlist. Many of the slated works and people made it to the list of finalists. In many cases, it is relatively obvious to an informed observer that the slated works or people would not have had such success without the bloc voting support provided by the Rabid Puppies, and in fact, almost certainly had almost no support other than those bloc votes. The statistics also show that the Rabid Puppies did, for the most part, vote as a bloc. Not every Rabid Puppy voted in all of the categories, but of those that did vote in a particular category, it is readily apparent that they almost all simply wrote down the choices from the slate.

The Sad Puppies ran something slightly different from a slate, creating a "recommended list" of ten top candidates selected by means of a fairly clumsily conducted "popular vote" of those who commented in various threads on the Sad Puppies website. What is notable about the Sad Puppy campaign is just how little enthusiasm even the organizers seem to have had for it, and how anemic the resulting support for the candidates on the Sad Puppy list turned out to be. Only a handful of candidates from the Sad Puppy list actually became finalists - mostly those that either enjoyed widespread support within fandom as evidenced by previous honors such as Nebula Award nominations, or those that also appeared on the Rabid Puppy slate - and a number of candidates didn't even receive sufficient votes to reach the longlist. One would expect that Sad Puppy support would be diffuse in categories where there were ten suggested nominees, but the Sad Puppies were unable to even longlist some of their picks in categories where they had as few as two suggested nominees. Not only that, some of the suggested nominees that did not have sufficient support to reach the longlist were works or individuals that one would have expected to be popular among those who self-identify as Sad Puppies. Here is the list of those Sad Puppy candidates that failed to reach the Hugo longlist, listed by category with the number in parenthesis being the number of choices on the Sad Puppy recommended list in that category:

Best Novel (10): Honor at Stake by Declan Finn, A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z. Williamson, Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia, and Strands of Sorrow by John Ringo.

Best Novella (7): The End of All Things 1: The Life of the Mind by John Scalzi and Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente.

Best Novelette (6): If I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up in the Air by Clifford D. Simak and Pure Attentions by T.R. Dillon.

Best Short Story (10): . . . And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes by Scott Alexander, Daedelus by Niall Burke, A Flat Effect by Eric Flint, and I Am Graalnak of the Vroom Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth, Ask Me Anything by Laura Pearlman.

Best Related Work (10): Atomic Rockets by Winchell Chung, Frazetta Sketchbook, Volume II edited by David J. Spurlock, Galactic Journey edited by Gideon Marcus, Legosity by Tom Simon, and There Will Be War, Volume X edited by Jerry Pournelle.

Best Graphic Story (10): Empowered, Volume 9 by Adam Warren, Erfworld by Rob Balder, Fables: Farewell by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 15: Totem by Tom Siddell, Lazarus: Conclave by Greg Rucka. Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew, and Schlock Mercenary, Book 15 by Howard Tayler.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (10): iZombie, Season 1 and Person of Interest, Season 4.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (10): Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Melinda, Daredevil: Daredevil, Gravity Falls: Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons, Gravity Falls: Northwest Mansion Mystery, Kung Fury: Laser Unicorns, and TIE Fighter Animation by Otaking77077.

Best Editor, Long Form (3): Tony Daniel.

Best Editor, Short Form (6): Bryan Thomas Schmidt and S.M. Stirling.

Best Fanzine (5): Nuke Mars and Otherwhere Gazette.

Best Fancast (2): Geek Gab.

Best Fan Writer (9): Charles Akins, Ron Edwards, Declan Finn, Dave Freer, Dorothy Grant, and Brandon Kempner.

Best Professional Artist (6): Frank Cho and Dustin Nguyen.

Best Fan Artist (4): Otaking77077.

Campbell (9): Charlie D. Holmberg and John Sandford & Ctein.

I am entirely unsurprised that stories by people like John Scalzi and Catherynne Valente didn't get much support as a result of being on the Sad Puppy recommendation list. It even seems reasonable that Correia's book might not have made the longlist, given that he has publicly stated that he'll decline any Hugo nomination he receives. On the other hand, it seems somewhat puzzling that, for example, Williamson, Ringo, and Flint got no love from the Puppy voters, or at least not enough love to reach the top fifteen in the categories their works were eligible in. I can understand not having sufficient numbers to get some of these works onto the list of finalists, but the inability of the Sad Puppies to even get these candidates onto the longlist speaks to the limited numbers they had participating in this year's version of the crusade. What these results suggest is that there were few people who participated in the Hugo nominations as "Sad Puppies" using the Sad Puppy recommended list as their guide to voting, and of those who did, in many categories they didn't vote with much bloc discipline at all. In some categories it is apparent that the Sad Puppies voted together as a group, but in others categories it is much less clear.

As a result, it is difficult to get a good fix on how many Sad Puppy voters there were. In many categories it is possible to use specific works to help come up with an estimate - there are a few nominees scattered about that one can reasonably determine would have limited support aside from the Sad Puppies to use as a guide for assessment the number of Sad Puppy voters in that category. In others, it is possible to use works like Somewhither that were on both the Sad Puppy recommended list and the Rabid Puppy slate and deduct an amount attributable to the Rabid Puppies (determined by looking at the nomination totals for other "pure" Rabid Puppy choices) to come up with an estimate of how many Sad Puppies were voting in the category. Using these kinds of methodologies, plus some educated guesswork, I came up with the following totals for Sad and Rabid Puppy participation in the nomination process for the 2016 Hugo Awards:

CategoryEstimated Sad PuppiesEstimated Rabid Puppies
Short Story
Related Work
Graphic Story
Unknown, could be up to 100
Dramatic Presentation, Long
Dramatic Presentation, Short
Editor, Short
Editor, Long
Professional Artist
Fan Writer
Fan Artist

Admittedly, this is not an exact science, but on the other hand it isn't just random guessing either. There are some guideposts to look to, and some reasonable inferences that can be drawn. For the most part, I tried to be conservative with my assessments, usually choosing the lowest option where there was a decision to be made between two or more possibilities. To the extent that there is a range of voters expressed in any of the estimates listed in the chart above, I used the lower range of the estimate when making the adjustments to the ballot. In some cases, I decided that it was too close to call who would be on the ballot, and for those instances I have listed all possibilities after marking them as being contingent. I also explain why I think they were contingent in the notes for the category, and at least try to give a stab for the implications of the various options.

As a final note, I think it is clear that in 2016, the presence of the two allied Puppy campaigns served to make the list of Hugo finalists worse in overall quality than it would have been otherwise. This makes three years running that the Puppies have, through their actions, pushed work onto the Hugo ballot that was inferior in quality to the available alternatives. This reality, I believe, will be the lasting legacy of the Puppy campaigns. They likely won't be remembered as the champions of virtue they think they are. Instead, I predict that ten or twenty years from now, when most of the various Puppy leaders have faded to obscurity and fans are looking back on the Puppy years to see the effect of their influence, those fans will wonder why a small group of sad authors decided to collude to wedge weak finalists onto the Hugo ballot.

Note: I have written a follow-up post separately assessing the impact on the Hugo ballot of the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies titled Separating the Sad Puppies from the Rabid Puppies in the 2016 "What Could Have Been" Hugo Finalists.

Best Novel

Revised Finalists:
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Notes: Given that the Best Novel category is one of the categories that receives the most nominations overall, it is one of the ones that was least affected by the actions of the Puppies. Based upon the nominations received for the longlisted novels Golden Son (444) and Agent of the Imperium (404), I estimated the total number of Rabid Puppies voting in this category to be between 400 and 440. Based upon the total number of nominations received for the novel Somewhither (533) I estimated total Sad Puppy strength in this category at roughly 90. With 877 total nominations, Seveneves still made the list of finalists once one deducts 490 to account for the Rabid and Sad Puppy influence, but The Aeronaut's Windlass dropped enough that it ended up behind the fifteenth place finisher The Water Knife. Butcher's place on the ballot was taken by Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, which is something of an upgrade, albeit a modest one.

Best Novella

Revised Finalists:
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

Notes: The only item in this category on the Rabid Puppy slate that was not on the Sad Puppy recommended list that appeared on the Hugo longlist was Fear of the Unknown and Self-Loathing in Hollywood by Nick Cole, which I used as a benchmark for determining how many Rabid Puppies voted in this category. Combining this with the numbers from the Best Novel category, I estimated that there were 400-440 Rabid Puppies and 90 Sad Puppies voting for Best Novella. To be perfectly honest, I estimated the number of Sad Puppies in this category mostly out of a pro forma sense of completeness, because if I had left those estimated 90 voters out of my calculations, it would not have made a difference to how the list of finalists changed. Even with no Sad Puppies removed from their totals, simply removing the Rabid Puppy support takes Sanderson's Perfect State and Polansky's The Builders off the finalist list. Those two stories are replaced on the ballot with Robson's Waters of Versailles and Malik's The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn. As with Best Novel, these changes to the list of finalists move the quality needle a bit, but not by an enormous amount, since both Sanderson and Polansky appear to have been slated in an effort to provide "human shields" for the Rabid Puppy slate, or perhaps so Beale could run out in front of an existing parade and claim to be leading it.

One element that throws a monkey wrench into these sorts of estimates is that there are some occasions where there is reason to believe that Rabid Puppy slate discipline broke down. The most notable is where a work was slated that had appeared on Tor.com. I have seen comments from several Rabid Puppies to the effect that they won't vote for anything associated with Tor, even if it is on the slate. From this perspective, it may not make sense to attribute the full 400-440 Rabid Puppy voters to Polansky's work, since it was a Tor.com publication. On the other hand, even if we only attribute 300 of the nominations to Rabid Puppy slate voting, that knocks The Builders off of the finalist list. The point is that this sort of analysis isn't an exact science, and there is a lot of guesswork involved. For my part, I don't want to even try to go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out the Puppy support for each individual finalist (which would probably be a Quixotic effort anyway), and confine my efforts to estimating both strains of Puppy support in each category and applying that to the finalists and longlisted nominees as best I can.

Best Novelette

Revised Finalists:
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander
Another Word for World by Ann Leckie
The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne M. Valente (reviewed in Clarkesworld: Issue 100 (January 2015))
Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker
So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer

And possibly:
Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang

Notes: Best Novelette is the first category in which the uncertain nature of the Puppy support for various potential finalists makes it difficult to determine what the "alternate" list should be. Hao Jingfang's story Folding Beijing appeared on both the Rabid Puppy slate and the Sad Puppy recommended list. With a total of 576 nominations, the story topped out the category, which would seem to make it relatively safe. But when one looks at the three "pure" Rabid Puppy nominees, it appears that the Rabid Puppy bloc was somewhere between 415 and 440 strong. With no good benchmark for Sad Puppy participation in this category, I can only make a broadly educated guess that places their number at somewhere in the 30 to 40 range. That, however, doesn't answer the question of how much support Jingfang's story got from either camp. If one deducts more than 419 votes from Folding Beijing's total, then it is knocked off the final ballot completely. If one deducts less than 419 votes from the story's total number of nominations, then there are six finalists, with Another Word for World and The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild tying for the final slot with 157 total nominations.

This conundrum illustrates the sometimes murky nature of the data. While some conclusions are easy to reach - without the boost provided by being on the Rabid Puppy slate, it is almost certain that Flashpoint: Titan and What Price Humanity would not have been on the longlist, let alone on the final ballot - others are less clear, such where Folding Beijing would have landed had it not benefited from being on the Sad Puppy list and the Rabid Puppy slate. This also poses a question that has not come up in Puppy-related comparisons before: Would removing Folding Beijing, the eventual Best Novelette winner, from the list of finalists reduced the overall quality of the ballot in this category? The answer, like so much else, is unclear. Yes, Folding Beijing won the category, but much of its competition was of lesser quality, and it would be removed as well and replaced by better stories. The real key is the "next question", which is how Folding Beijing would fare, not against the competition it had, but rather the revised competition that included Our Lady of the Open Road, So Much Cooking, Another Word for World, and The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild. Could it have won against the changed field? Of course. But I would also suggest that there is also a good chance it would have lost to one of those stories, or even, against the revised competition, to And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead. This is, I believe, one of the most pernicious side effects of the Puppy campaigns over the last couple of years: They cast a shadow over the victories that have been gained, because one has to always wonder in the back of one's mind if the winner would have fared as well against a "fair" field of competition.

Best Short Story

Revised Finalists:
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon

Plus two (or possibly three) of:
Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar;
Pocosin by Ursula Vernon;
Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker (reviewed in 2016 WSFA Small Press Award Voting); and
Tuesdays with Molokesh the Destroyer by Megan Gray

Notes: Best Short Story is another category where figuring out the numbers of Sad Puppy voters is difficult. Using Space Raptor Butt Invasion and If You Were an Award My Love as benchmarks for Rabid Puppy participation gives a rough estimate of 385 to 425 Rabid Pups. Most of the various works that appeared on the Sad Puppy recommendation list had relatively broad appeal beyond the confines of the Puppy world, so using them as benchmarks for determining Sad Puppy numbers is problematic. The one exception is Asymmetrical Warfare, which appeared on both the Rabid Puppy slate and the Sad Puppy recommended list. With a little math and guesswork, I came up with a figure of between 25 and 50 Sad Puppies nominating in this category.

That's not the end of the analysis, however, because Sad Puppy support was likely scattered unevenly across the stories on the Sad Puppy recommended list - there were, after all, ten stories listed in this category on the Sad Puppy list, six of whom showed up among the finalists and longlisted nominees. This makes it impossible to attribute all of the Sad Puppy support to any particular nominee, making it unclear how many votes to remove from Sad Puppy picks such as Today I Am Paul and Tuesdays with Molokesh the Destroyer. For Today I Am Paul, removing more than twelve votes knocks it out of contention for a finalist slot in the revised finalists, while for Tuesdays with Molokesh the Destroyer a subtraction of five or more votes has the same effect. There is also a slight chance that there could have been six finalists in this category, as Madeleine and Pocosin tied with 177 total nominations.

Despite all of the uncertainties that surround determining who would have been the finalists absent the Puppy campaigns, one thing is certain: The resulting ballot would have been far superior to the actual one. Retaining the only worthwhile story in the bunch in Cat Pictures Please along with the addition of Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers and Wooden Feathers would have elevated the quality bar quite a bit. Adding a further two (or perhaps three) stories from the four "uncertain" possibilities would have made this category even more impressive. This category is the first clear example in this year's Hugos of the pervasive truth of the Puppy campaigns: They have done little except degrade the quality of the finalists, and any lasting legacy that they have will center upon this fact.

Best Related Work

Revised Finalists:
Invisible 2 edited by Jim Hines
John Scalzi Is Not a Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels by Theophilus Pratt (aka Alexandra Erin)
Letters to Tiptree edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce
Lois McMaster Bujold by Edward James
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Notes: There is no category in the 2016 Hugo ballot where the replacement of the Puppy choices that made the finalist list with alternative selections does more to improve the quality of the ballot than the Best Related Work category. All of the actual finalists were drawn from the Rabid Puppy slate, and figuring out a rough estimate of the number of Rabid Puppies was relatively easy using SJWs Always Lie as a guide. Even figuring out the total number of Sad Puppies was reasonably easy as the relatively obvious benchmark of Sad Puppies Bite Back sits on the longlist, although it was almost pointless to do so given how irrelevant the Sad Puppies actually seem to have been in this category.

The revised ballot, however, is fantastic. Gone are the mediocrity and out and out trash of the Rabid Puppy selections, and in their place are the brilliance of works such as Letters to Tiptree, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Invisible 2, as well as the biting satire of John Scalzi Is Not a Very Popular Author and the bubbly enthusiasm of You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). The blunt truth is that over the last couple of years the Puppies have pushed junk onto the ballot in this category that ranged from mediocrity to a garbage fire of borderline slander while those the Pups have claimed are "ruining" science fiction have been voting for an excellent collection of works. I predict that history will not be kind to the Pups on this score. I predict that many of those who supported the Pups will, at some point in the future, become so embarrassed by the association that they will begin denying they ever did so as they desperately try to scrub their record to cover their tracks.

Best Graphic Story

Revised Finalists:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

Plus either:
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams, III; or
Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Notes: One of the clarion calls made by Brad Torgersen when he took over the Sad Puppy campaign in 2015 was that Hugo voters had been ignoring the world of comic books and their fans, pointing to the movie goers who were happily munching popcorn as they watched The Avengers as an example of a demographic Worldcon was ignoring (apparently not noticing that The Avengers actually won a Hugo award). The ironic thing about this Puppy call to action is that both the Sad and Rabid Puppies over the last two years have been mostly ignoring that demographic. In 2015, the Sad Puppies put a single graphic story on their slate - the mostly forgettable Zombie Nation, and in 2016, the Puppy-driven finalists were the final volume of Sandman and a collection of fairly uninspired other choices, including one that was pretty obviously chosen merely as a joke due to its title. Meanwhile, in 2015 the Hugo voters Torgersen said didn't care about Marvel or DC Comics were busy nominating Ms. Marvel: No Normal, and then voting it to a Hugo win. In 2016, Hugo voters threw their support behind a variety of mainstream comic book titles including Ms. Marvel: Generation Why and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power, although they were blocked by the slate voting of the Rabid Puppies. One criticism of Worldcon voters that has been raised in the past is that their knowledge of the graphic story world is limited, resulting in quirky and eccentric Hugo finalists lists, but that charge is clearly not valid any more: The revised list of finalists in this category is leaps and bounds better than what was pushed onto the ballot by the Puppies.

When the Hugo finalists for 2016 were announced, one of the things that was said about some of the works that appeared on the list as a result of Rabid Puppy slate voting was that "they would have appeared on the ballot anyway", and one of the prime examples given was The Sandman: Overture. I wasn't entirely convinced, in large part because there are worthwhile works that don't become Hugo finalists every year - there are many worthy works produced in a given year, and only five of them will become Hugo finalists. The question of whether Sandman: Overture remains on the finalist list is difficult to answer, because of how difficult it is to evaluate how many Sad Puppies voted for Saga, Volume 5. Using The Divine, Full Frontal Nerdity, and Erin Dies Alone as guideposts, one can come up with a range of 350 to 375 for the number of Rabid Puppy voters. Subtracting an amount equal to the lower bound of that range from Sandman's total of 520 yields a nominating total of 170, which puts the book behind Saga's total of 258. But Saga was on the Sad Puppy recommendation list, so one has to discount its total by some amount. The trouble is that Saga and Stand Still Stay Silent were the only two "pure" Sad Puppy picks to make it onto the Hugo longlist this year, and neither seems like a particularly good guidepost for determining the total number of Sad Puppies who voted in this category. If one looks at the vote total for Stand Still Stay Silent, one could attribute up to 100 votes to the Sad Puppies, but given that they were only able to get three of the ten suggestions from their list onto the Hugo longlist, that seems optimistic. The end result of all this speculation is that if one concludes that there were more than 88 Sad Puppies voting for Saga, then Sandman makes the revised Hugo finalist list. If one concludes that there were fewer than 88 Sad Puppies voting for Saga, then Sandman does not. The conclusion one has to draw is that before one is able to see the Hugo complete statistics after the results are announced, claiming that one can tell if any particular nominee "would have" made the ballot absent the Puppy campaigns is usually a bit optimistic. Even after one has the statistics, the answer is often unclear, as it is in this case.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Revised Finalists:
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Notes: The Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category routinely garners the most nominating voters, and as a result is the least susceptible to the kind of bloc voting that the Rabid Puppies engaged in. The only change between the actual results and the revised results is the replacement of Avengers: Age of Ultron with Inside Out on the list of finalists. As much as I enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron, I can't argue with the alteration, mostly because Inside Out was probably a better movie.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Revised Finalists:
Doctor Who: Heaven Sent
The Expanse: CQB
The Expanse: Dulcinea
Game of Thrones: Hardhome
Jessica Jones: AKA Smile

Notes: This is another category where the Sad Puppies had almost no influence, and the Rabid Puppies were in a position to essentially dictate much of the final ballot. The recurring incompetence of Theodore Beale as the Rabid Puppy architect resulted in the group spending many of their bloc votes on works that were ineligible in this category, which was a fortuitous turn of events, as it allowed some reasonably good finalists to appear on the ballot. Deducting the 310 to 400 Rabid Puppy votes from the nominees drawn from their slate results in a revised list of finalists that includes both Doctor Who and Jessica Jones from the actual ballot, one episode of Game of Thrones and two episodes of The Expanse.

This revised set of finalists represents a substantial upgrade in quality from the set that the Rabid Puppies manipulated into existence. My Little Pony is good for what it is, but it is clear that Beale engineered its appearance on the Hugo ballot as a means of trolling the Worldcon voters. Oddly, one would think that The Expanse would have gotten some love from the Sad Puppies (or even the Rabid Puppies, if they weren't so busy trying to outsmart themselves with troll nominations), as it is a relatively high-boiled detective story with a space opera setting, but they seem to have entirely ignored the series. Go figure.

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Revised Finalists:
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
C.C. Finlay
Sheila Williams

Notes: Removing the boost from appearing on the Rabid Puppy slate drops Jerry Pournelle off of the finalist list in this category. The Sad Puppies were too small in number to affect the standings much one way or the other. Removing Pournelle opens up a space for C.C. Finlay, meaning that the finalist list trades an editor who had one fairly weak anthology to his credit for one who edited one of the flagship fiction magazines of the genre for the entire year. Needless to say, I think this change represents a substantial step up in quality for the ballot.

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Revised Finalists:
Sheila Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Anne Lesley Groell
Devi Pillai
Toni Weisskopf

Notes: For the second year in a row, Toni Weisskopf didn't actually need any Puppy help to get onto the Hugo ballot. For the second year in a row, Toni Weisskopf provided no information about anything she actually edited and finished behind No Award. The other Puppy-supported editors in this category drop off of the finalist list when the estimated bloc votes are removed from their totals, resulting in two excellent editors -Anne Groell and Devi Pillai - taking their place. Any change in a Hugo finalist list that results in Theodore Beale being replaced by pretty much anyone else is an upgrade in quality. Heck, replacing Beale on the ballot with a cactus would be an improvement.

Best Professional Artist

Revised Finalists:
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon
John Picacio
Cynthia Sheppard

Plus either:
Larry Elmore; or
Michal Karcz

Notes: I pegged Rabid Puppy participation in this category at somewhere between 260 and 350 voters. Based upon the support shown for Sam Weber, I estimated Sad Puppy participation to be roughly seventy voters. Even deducting the lower bound of the Rabid Puppy range from the slated nominees drops most of the Puppy finalists off of the ballot, and if one uses a slightly higher estimate, pushes all of them off of the revised list of finalists. Given the estimates I used, Elmore and Karcz wind up within a few nominations of one another in a close race for the fifth slot on the revised list.

Best Semi-Prozine

Revised Finalists:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
The Book Smugglers edited by Thea James and Ana Grilo
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams
Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A.J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, and Maureen Kincaid Speller
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Erika Ensign, and Steven Schapansky

Notes: Daily Science Fiction and Sci-Phi Journal were both on the Rabid Puppy slate, and Sci-Phi Journal was also on the Sad Puppy recommended list. Evaluating their nomination totals in conjunction with those for fellow Rabid Puppy pick Abyss & Apex yields a reasonable estimate of both Rabid and Sad Puppy strength in this category. After applying the relevant adjustments, the two weakest finalists on the original ballot drop off, and are replaced by two superior alternatives. As usual, eliminating the Puppy influence on the ballot results in an overall upswing in quality.

Best Fanzine

Revised Finalists:
A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon and Christopher J. Garcia
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, K.J., Renay, and Susan
Rocket Stack Rank edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Notes: The original finalist list in the Best Fanzine category contained two raging garbage fires and another entry whose editor carries around a can of gasoline and a lighter that he periodically uses on himself or his fanzine. Unraveling how many Sad Puppies voted in this category is effectively impossible, but figuring out how many Rabid Puppies did so is relatively straightforward. Removing the finalists who were only present due to the Rabid Puppy slate voting makes room for Journey Planet, A Dribble of Ink, and Rocket Stack Rank. Just getting the trash off of the ballot would have improved it, but putting those three excellent replacements onto the list represents an upgrade in quality of mammoth proportions.

Best Fan Writer

Revised Finalists:
Alexandra Erin
Mike Glyer
Natalie Luhrs
Mark Oshiro
Abigail Nussbaum

Notes: The original Best Fan Writer finalist list was essentially Mike Glyer and a collection of people who were either terrible or were pretty good, but not really writing much on topics that one would call "fannish" in the sense that the word is ordinarily used by Hugo voters. I want to be clear here: Shamus Young's writing is good, but his writing on "fannish" topics is relatively limited. Douglas Ernst isn't a terrible writer either, but one has to wade through piles of clueless political bloviations to get to his actual fan writing. Jeffro Johnson and Morgan Holmes, on the other hand, are two of the individuals responsible for the worst of the garbage fires I mentioned in the Best Fanzine category. It would not be difficult to generate a list of fan writers better than the one that resulted from the Rabid Puppy bloc voting.

Given that reality, the fact that the revised list of finalists in this category is filled with absolutely brilliant individuals means that this would have been that much more of an upgrade. Natalie Luhrs, Mark Oshiro, Abigail Nussbaum, and Alexandra Erin offered trenchant and insightful analysis, criticism, and commentary on the world of fandom and related topics through all of 2015. While I think that Mike Glyer was a very worthy winner in this category, I have to wonder if he would have still won had this collection of writers been his competition. He certainly would have had a tougher road to victory. One might ask why Eric Flint is not on the revised list, as he had more nominations than Nussbaum. The answer is that Flint was on the Sad Puppy recommended list, and if one attributes as few as two of his nominations to the Sad Puppy voters, then he drops behind Nussbaum. I can't say for certain how many Sad Puppies voted in this category, but I am fairly confident that there were more than two.

Best Fan Artist

Revised Finalists:
Brad W. Foster
Megan Lara
Likhain (aka Mia S)
Richard Man
Steve Stiles

Notes: To a certain extent, the original ballot for Best Fan Artist is somewhat similar to the ballot for Best Fan Writer. There was one really notable finalist, a couple of kind of ordinary finalists, and one raging garbage fire of terrible. Given that three of the finalists were Rabid Puppy picks, and one was a combined Sad and Rabid Puppy pick, estimating the number of both Rabid and Sad Puppies was relatively easy, as was discounting the number of nominees received by the finalists they supported to remove their influence. In every case, a Rabid Puppy finalist was replaced by a better artist, with the standout being Likhain, whose art is brilliant, bold, intricately detailed, and always fascinating.

Best Fancast

Revised Finalists:
Fangirl Happy Hour by Renay Williams and Ana Grilo
Galactic Suburbia by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Skiffy and Fanty Show by Shaun Duke, Paul Weimer, Julia Rios, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, Rachael Acks, and Jennifer Zink
Tea and Jeopardy by Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Verity! by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Notes: For the most part, the Rabid Puppy nominees in this category weren't bad, but were merely dull. Okay, I thought one of them was pretty awful, but it delivered its awfulness in an incredibly tedious manner. If there is one thing that exposure to the choices from the Rabid Puppy slate has demonstrated, it is that Theodore Beale has tastes that run to the incredibly pedestrian and boring, and his sense of "humor" runs to the tediously juvenile. As usual, the worst thing that can happen to the reputations of the Pups is that people will actually read or otherwise consume those items the Pups tout as being good.

On another note, anyone who doesn't think the Rabid Puppies voted as a bloc need only look at the vote totals of the items from the Rabid Puppy slate in this category to be disabused of that misapprehension. The nomination totals were as follows:
Rabid Puppy PickTotal Nominations
Tales to Terrify
8-4 Play
Cane and Rinse
The Rageaholic
Of all the Rabid Puppy picks, HelloGreedo got the most nominations with 364, but some of those can be attributed to the fact that HelloGreedo was also on the Sad Puppy recommended list. Even if one includes HelloGreedo in the group with the "pure" Rabid Puppy picks and treats all of its nominations as attributable to the Rabid Puppies, the range of nominations received by the slated fancasts is still extremely tight, running from 330 to 364. Clearly the Rabid Puppies voted as a group, and voted for pretty much all of the same things.

The revised list of finalists is full of interesting and engaging podcasts. I have spoken before of my love for Galactic Suburbia - I could probably listen to Alex, Alisa, and Tansy talk about quilting and be entertained by their banter - but their discussions concerning the field of science fiction, awards, and fandom itself are always insightful and fascinating. I enjoy Verity! almost as much, for almost the same reasons, although the science fiction content of the show is focused on Doctor Who. Tea and Jeopardy is a bit drier than the first two, but the in-depth analysis provided by the podcast is always excellent. I had not listened to the Fangirl Happy Hour prior to this year's Hugos, but they have quickly made their way onto my regular listening schedule. I am not a fan of The Skiffy and Fanty Show, but I can understand why some people like them. Taken as a group, this hypothetical alternate list of Hugo finalists is so much better than the slate-driven actual Hugo finalists that the No Award result in the voting in this category seems to have been completely justified.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Revised Finalists:
Becky Chambers
Sunil Patel
Kelly Robson
Andy Weir
Alyssa Wong

Notes: The Campbell Award is, quite pointedly, not a Hugo, but its finalists are chosen and its winner is determined with the exact same procedures. Four of the finalists in this category were from the Rabid Puppy slate, three of them appeared on the Sad Puppy recommended list, and two of the finalists appeared on both. Once one edits out the estimated number of Rabid and Sad Puppy voters, two of the finalists from the original list remain, and three new ones fill out the ballot. As I have noted before, the Sad Puppies (led by Brad Torgersen) have used Andy Weir as a club to try to beat the traditional Hugo voters with, accusing Hugo voters of ignoring the kind of good old fashioned science fiction represented by Weir's signature work The Martian. It turns out, when one unpacks the statistics, that Weir didn't need any help from either stripe of Puppy to make it onto the list of finalists for the Campbell Award in 2016 (and if one looks back at 2015, it was the Sad Puppy slate that kept him off the list of finalists for the award in that year). In 2016, more non-Puppies nominated Weir than Sad and Rabid Puppies combined.

Other than Weir and Wong, the other three finalists change when one edits out the Rabid Puppy support, with Chambers, Patel, and Robson replacing Brown, de Castell and Niemeier. Overall, I think this is an improvement because at the very least replacing Niemeier with one of the three new authors is a huge upgrade in talent and potential. I tend to think replacing Brown is an upgrade as well: I believe Brown has hit his ceiling as a genre fiction author, and his ceiling is that of a purveyor of fairly standard issue not quite young-adult dystopian fiction. In point of fact, Theodore Beale's constant praise for Brown's work as "the best science fiction novel of the year" is one of the things that I think highlights just how completely pedestrian Beale's tastes truly are. There's nothing particularly wrong with Brown's fiction, but it isn't superior to any number of other standard issue dystopian futures that are written every year. Even if one regards replacing de Castell and Brown with the alternative choices listed above is a neutral change, replacing Niemeier represents a huge leap forward in quality for the ballot as a whole. This, to a certain extent, encapsulates the net effect of what the Puppy influence on the Hugo process has accomplished: Even in those rare cases in which it is arguable that the Pups have pushed reasonably good candidates onto the list of finalists, their choices have been at best neutral with respect to the alternatives, and have always been packaged with other selections that are clearly inferior to the other available options. Sad Puppies indeed.

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Go to the 2016 list of Hugo finalists complete with Puppy picks: 2016

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  1. Interesting analysis. Though I'd like to point out that "I am Gralnak of the Vroom Empire..." and "The Aeronaut's Windlass" didn't only have puppy support. For example, I nominated Gralnak and my mother nominated "The Aeronaut's Windlass" and neither of us are puppies.

    1. @Cora Buhlert: I estimated 400-440 Rabid Puppies and 90 Sad Puppies nominating in the novel category. The Aeronaut's Windlass received 688 total nominations, which means that by my calculations, at least 158 non-Pups nominated it, and possibly as many as 198.

      I don't think Gralnak actually got much Puppy support of any kind - if it had, it probably would have shown up on the extended list of the top fifteen nominees. The notable thing about Gralnak is that it didn't get enough votes to make the top fifteen even thought it was on the Sad Puppy list. I suspect that what support the story did have probably came from non-Pups.

    2. I suspect Gralnak, which is a story told as a Reddit AMA, might have been a bit too experimental for the rather conservative tastes of the puppies. Plus, the alien invasion is averted by non-violent means, which again isn't what puppies are looking for.

  2. Overall solid work here, though the nit I'd like to pick here is how you're viewing the Sad Puppies.

    Given the overall success of the Rabid Puppies, we can reasonably assume that a significant portion of them voted in lock step with the slate. That's what they do.

    However, in previous years, people have called upon the Sad Puppies to be open about the process, let anyone participate, not put out a slate of 5 selections, and not call for everyone to vote the slate. That's exactly what Kate Paulk did and I know that a number of people who don't identify as Puppies participated in SP4, in some cases to see if they would be as open and fair as claimed. They were.

    So far as I can tell, people who identify as Sad Puppies did exactly what "everyone" has said they wanted: They participated as fans, talked about books, and nominated those works they liked and thought were worthy without any sort of organization.

    I know your coverage here is about what would have happened without any of the puppies, but I'm just not comfortable with taking the Sad Puppies out of the equation. They acted as fans and NOT as voters of a slate. So if that means some works not traditionally popular end up on the ballot, that's how fandom and the Hugos work and are supposed to work. That's how we got 5 nominations for Seanan McGuire that one year. There's work that already makes it on the ballot that I can't agree with. That's how it works.

    Side Point: Eric Flint wrote a lot of scathingly anti-Puppy essays last year and was reasonably disseminated and linked on File 770 as part of the conversation.

    1. @Joe: It will comfort you to know that, for the most part, the calculus involved in determining the number of Sad Puppies didn't really change the revised ballot much. For example, once I estimated Rabid Puppy strength in Best Novel to be 400-440 strong, that was enough to knock The Aeronaut's Windlass off of the list of finalists. The fact that I estimated Sad Puppy strength at roughly 90 nominators doesn't change that result other than to knock it out of the top fifteen, which isn't particularly important for the assessment I was doing.

      Most of the results were of this nature - once one figured out how many Rabid Puppies there were in a category, the changed results were only minimally affected by the Sad Puppy faction. Most of the areas where they did affect the outcome are where I listed contingent results, because assessing their impact was so difficult.