2015 Hugo Prediction
No use putting this on any longer! The situation isn’t going to become any clearer or easier. Here’s the official Chaos Horizon mathematical model for the 2015 Hugos:
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword: 25.7% chance to win
Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem: 22.4% chance to win
Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor: 21.1% chance to win
Jim Butcher, Skin Game: 18.1% chance to win
Kevin J. Anderson, The Dark Between the Stars: 12.7% chance to win
Unfortunately, the model depends on the idea that 2015 Hugo voters will vote like the Hugo voters of the past 15 years have voted. Of course, that’s not going to happen this year. Too many new voters have come into the process this year for the model to be reliable. But I’ll get to that in a second. I also didn’t factor in “No Award” sentiment (the model can’t handle that). So think of this as a raw snapshot, that’ll need to be corrected by an analysis of what happened this year.
Leckie emerges as a close winner this year. Ancillary Sword has everything going for it: Leckie has a strong Hugo history (winning last year), it was universally praised by critics, it won the Locus SF vote, it won the British SF award. My model doesn’t currently punish texts for being sequels; if Leckie loses this year, that’s something I’ll factor in for next year.
Cixin Liu does second best, and that’s partly due to Ken Liu’s influence. Ken Liu is a well-known quantity to Hugo voters, and that helps what would otherwise be a debut novel in the formula. Addison is also right in the mix. Think about last year’s prediction, which gave Leckie a 33.6% chance and Stross only 24.9%. Here, the difference is only 4.6%. Keep that in mind as the analysis continues: it’s likely a close year. That makes any potential swing votes (such as Rabid Puppies . . .) incredibly important.
The two Puppy picks, Butcher and Anderson, do not do well in the formula. The formula elevates works with strong Hugo history and works that do well in the current awards season; neither book has those credentials. Even without the “No Award” sentiment floating around the SFF blogosphere, these would have had slim chances. Butcher had a slight chance if the community had decided Dresden as a whole was worthy, but that hasn’t (at least to my ear) been the chatter on SFF websites. Being so late in the series also hurts its odds. Still, Butcher is popular enough to bring in casual fans; if everyone who attends WorldCon votes, he could do surprisingly well.
Here’s what the formula is based on:
Indicator #1: Nominee has previously been nominated for a Hugo award. (73.3%)
Indicator #2: Nominee has previously been nominated for a Nebula award (prior to this year). (73.3%)
Indicator #3: Novel won a same year Nebula award. (87.5%)
Indicator #4: Nominated novel is science fiction. (53.3%)
Indicator #5: The nominated novel wins one of the main Locus Awards categories. (53.3%)
Indicator #6: Nominee places in the Goodreads Choice Awards (100%)
Indicator #7: Nominated for at least one other major award (80%)
Indicator #8: Nominee highly regarded by critics, as judged by Critics Meta-List. (86.7%)
If you want to run down the rabbit hole of how things work, check out my Nebula methodology posts; the Hugo methodology is the same, just with different data.
Let me repeat. THE CHAOS HORIZON MODEL IS NOT RELIABLE FOR 2015. It may still work, but that’d just be luck. Too much has changed in the last six months. The Sad/Rabid Puppy controversy has led to a huge surge in the Supporting Memberships of WorldCon. According to their own webpage, the membership of Sasquan as of June 30, 2015 is:
(there are also other categories like Children I’m not listing)
Over 1200 more members for Sasquan—and Spokane is not the same attraction as London. In fact, the number that really matters here is “Supporting Memberships.” I assume that most new people who bought those bought them for the express purpose of voting in the Hugos. We’re looking at difference of 5410-2768=2642 potential voters! 3587 people voted in the 2015 Hugos; we could be looking at a voter total of over 6000 in 2015.
Chaos Horizon works by the premise that WorldCon voters will vote in the ways they have in the past. Since we may have over 2500 new voters, we have no data on how they’ll vote. Are they here just to vote against the Puppies? What does that mean for Liu, Leckie, and Addison? I suspect this might help Leckie since she won last year; it’s easy to vote for the familiar. But maybe these new voters will drift towards Addison, or Liu. There is no way to tell at this point.
The situation grows even murkier when we factor in two additional unknowns. We don’t know whether these 2500 new members are here to vote for or against the Sad/Rabid Puppy slates. The huge controversy will bring in passionate voters on both sides: but what will the ratio be? In the nomination stage, I estimated about 300-400 Sad/Rabid Puppy supporters, or about 15% of the whole. Of these 2500 new voters, will that ratio hold? Will it be 10% Puppy/90% Anti-Puppy? 20% Puppy/40% Neutral/40% Anti-Puppy?
Let me answer as honestly as I can: I don’t know what the ratios will be. I look forward to seeing the final numbers, but any guesses at this point are simply guesses.
We also have to consider another possibility, the so-called “Kingmaker Scenario.” In a closely divided election (i.e. if Leckie, Liu, and Addison are within a few hundred votes of each other), any unified block vote can swing the balance in one direction or the other. If all the Rabid puppies, for instance, vote Cixin Liu ahead of Ann Leckie, that might be enough to push Liu to a win.
There hasn’t been much discussion of the Kingmaker scenario online yet (or I haven’t see it; if you know of some good articles please link them in the comments), but this may be where the Sad and Rabid Puppies have their greatest influence on the 2015 Hugos. While categories swept by the Puppies will likely result in “No Award,” a category like the Best Novel could be more decisively influenced. Let’s say the non-Puppy voters give Ann Leckie a 300 vote win over Cixin Liu, but 400 Rabid Puppy voters vote Liu over Leckie. Liu would end up winning in that scenario.
To understand whether or not a Kingmaker scenario is in play, we’ll have to explore a couple things over the next few days. We’ll have to look at “Average Margin of Victory” in the 2011-2014 Hugos to get a sense of how wide the final vote count is. Then we’ll have to consider whether or not either the Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies have enough influence/organization to overcome that gap. My initial thought is that the Sad Puppies do not have the influence or numbers, but that the Rabid Puppies might. That’s a lot of “ifs,” and it will make this already unpredictable Hugo season the most unpredictable one on record.