Peter Wilkinson (pwilkinson) wrote,
Peter Wilkinson

Some not so quick and not so brief thoughts on the Hugos

This year's Hugo voting and results were interesting in a number of ways - more than I can deal with in any depth in a single post. So here is a summary, and I might come back to some of the topics later:

* I wasn't in Helsinki, but I was reading the text feed of the ceremony. The one award announcement I was most enthusiastic about was not in fact for any of the Hugos - it was the Big Heart award to Carolina Gomez Lagerlöf. I have known Carolina for several years as an active fan, networker and organiser not only in her native Sweden but across much of the rest of Europe, and it was great to see this acknowledged.

* As for the actual Hugo results - overall, it was probably not the best set of winners ever, but there were at least a couple of outstanding ones (Ursula LeGuin in Best Related Work, and Lois McMaster Bujold in Best Series), and every single Hugo (and the Campbell) this year went to a fully deserving winner. All of the winners were of high enough quality that there is no good reason to question the honesty or taste of the people who nominated and/or voted for any of them - and, unlike the last two years, the same goes for the majority of finalists in all categories (though there were still - and may continue to be - one or two exceptions in some categories).

As others have remarked, there was a statistically significant trend in favour of female winners this year, but there have been statistically even more significant trends in the opposite direction in many past years. I will only start worrying if this trend either looks like becoming permanent or becomes pronounced enough to perceptibly affect the quality of the finalists. Neither is the case so far.

I am not going to comment on my nominations or votes here, as doing so even briefly would make this post longer than I think it should be. But I may find reason to do so in a future post.

* The main reason for the better general quality of the finalists this year, compared with the previous two, was almost certainly the new nomination process. A detailed discussion of how E Pluribus Hugo worked in practice would require at least another post, but I will make a couple of comments about it here.

First, I really must congratulate nwhyte on his impressive administrator's report (all five parts of it) as well as the slightly less formal reports he has made since here on LJ. In particular, a detailed discussion of EPH such as I suggested just above would be far more difficult (and probably less detailed) without in particular the third and fourth parts of the administrator's report (respectively giving significant details of the nomination count and comparisons of the resulting shortlists under EPH with what they would have been under both the simpler previous nomination system and under the EPH+ variant of the new system.

Also, while the introduction of EPH almost certainly greatly reduced the impact of the Rabid Puppies this year, they still had (and they or any other future organised groups can be expected to continue to have) a limited influence, which may well grow somewhat as and when they work out how to best game it. Indeed, there is some suggestive (though probably not conclusive) evidence in this year's nomination details that the RPs may have been using this year to experiment with various tactics - but that is best left for another time.

* As a result of the WSFS Business Meeting, we now know that the Hugo nomination process next year will use the same rules as this year, despite several other options being put forward. I regard this as the right decision. After just one year, we can not be totally certain that EPH and 5/6 will work as a long-term solution to the problems they were designed to solve - but suspending them after just one year in which they do seem to have greatly reduced the previous problems would have been perverse. And while, in the long term, EPH+ may well do what EPH seems to do but rather better, I do not currently see enough evidence that the likely improvement would be large or certain enough to be worth making the change after just a year of EPH. But a detailed discussion of EPH should certainly look closely at EPH+.

As for Three Stage Voting (3SV) - it was aimed at solving the problems of the last few years in a quite different way, and could in fact be combined with a wide range of nomination procedures (including both EPH and the traditional method). I don't think that in practice it would have worked as its supporters supposed - but the reasons for this again get too complex to discuss here.

* A final note - the Hugo nomination rules specifically allow for the nomination of works not published in English, though to the best of my knowledge this has never yet happened. However, this is probably closely connected to the fact the overwhelming majority of eligible Hugo nominators are usually native English speakers. But during almost any year's Hugo nomination stage, the majority of eligible nominators are in fact members of the previous year's Worldcon - and Worldcon 75 had a very large proportion of Finnish members (about a quarter). By my reckoning, supposing that eligible Finnish nominators were to turn out in the same proportion as other eligible nominators and were to nominate Finnish works to the same extent that, say, Americans standardly nominate American works - there would be a Finnish finalist next year in pretty much every category. How fluent are you at reading Finnish?
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