2015 Hugo Analysis: Nominating Stats, Part 2
There’s a last few pieces of data I want easy access to before I move on from 2015. It’s been quite a year, and I think 2016 is going to be even more chaotic.
Not only do we have the specter of further Hugo voting kerfuffles, but 2015 is one of the stronger award years in recent memory. Of the last 7 Hugo Best Novel winners, 5 published new novels in 2015. Bacigalupi, Walton, Scalzi, Cixin Liu, and Leckie are all back at the party with well-received works—and that’s not including past Hugo heavy-hitters like Neal Stephenson (I think Sevenves will be a major player) and Kim Stanley Robinson (Aurora likely for a Nebula nom?).
That’s 7 books already . . . and you have to think Pratchett will grab plenty of sentimental votes for the final Discworld novel. Then we’ve got a whole range of other authors with competitive novels in 2015: George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (I don’t know whether this is eligible or not as a novel, but if it is, watch out), Ken Liu’s debut Grace of Kings, Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self (without the Puppies, he was awfully close to breaking through for a nom this year; see the stats below), N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (1 Hugo Best novel nom and 3 Nebula Best novel noms for Jemisin in the last 5 years), the list goes on and on. And I haven’t even mentioned potential breakout novels this year, like Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. Throw in the chaos of various Puppy picks, and you’ve got a very murky year coming up. I better roll up my sleeves and get to work!
So there’s two sets of numbers I want to look at today: sweep margin in various categories and the Best Novel nominations with the Puppy picks removed. Both will give us some good insight as to what might happen next year. Once again, I’m using the official Hugo stats for this info, which can be accessed here: 2015HugoStatistics.
If we look at categories where the Puppies, Sad and Rabid combined, had at least 5 picks, we can calculate something I’m calling the “sweep margin.” Basically, we subtract the Puppy #5 nominating number from the highest non-Puppy pick. This tells us how close the category came to getting swept. If the number is greater than 0, that means the category was swept, and we know how many votes it would have taken the non-Puppies to break up that sweep. If the number is less than zero, that means the category wasn’t swept. Note that I’m not taking withdrawals into account here; I just want to look at the raw numbers. Here’s the table:
A little hard to parse, I know. Let’s think about Novella first: this chart tells us that Patrick Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things just missed the ballot by a mere 21 votes. So the Puppy sweep in Novella wasn’t particularly dominant; just a few more voters and one non-Puppy would have made it in. Does that mean a category like Novella might not be swept next year?
Look at another category, though, like Short Story. Since there are more short stories published in any given year, the vote is usually more spread out, and this time the Puppies were much more dominant. They actually had seven stories that placed above every non-Puppy pick. Two eventually declined, Bellet and Grey, but I’m not tracking that in this study. If we look at the #5 Puppy story, “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa, it got 162 votes. The highest non-Puppy story only got 76 votes, “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. That’s a heft margin of 86 votes—Vernon would have had to double her vote total to make it into the field (before Bellet and Grey declined, but you can’t count on people declining). Possible? Sure. I think the Hugo nomination vote can double next year—but the Puppy vote will also increase. Depending on Puppy strategy, it’s very possible that Short Story or Best Related Work will be swept next year.
I’m most interested in Best Novel here at Chaos Horizon; it’s the area of SFF I know best, and what I’m most interested in reading and predicting. Despite all the Puppy picks, Leckie was safely in the 2015 field: she placed 3rd in the raw nomination stats, above 5 different Puppy picks. Even Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (256 votes) and Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (210) beat two Puppy picks, Trial by Fire (199) and The Chaplain’s War. Those two picks, Ganon for Sad and Torgersen for Rabid, are examples of the Sad and Rabid picks not overlapping. The Best Novel category received enough attention, and enough votes, and was centralized enough, that the non-Puppy voters were able to overcome the Puppy votes when they didn’t team up. I think that’s a key piece of evidence for next year’s prediction: when the Sad and Rabid picks overlap, they’ll be very strong contenders. If they’re separate, I don’t think they’ll be able to beat the motivated Hugo nominators. We’ll see, of course.
That leaves out one obvious point—if the Sad/Rabid picks overlap with something already in the mainstream, that will definitely boost the Sad/Rabid chances.
Last thing is to look at the Nomination stats with the Puppies taken out. I need these for my records, because they’ll me to do year-to-year comparisons for authors. What I’m going to do is subtracting all the Puppy picks and then recalculating the percentages. Skin Game got 387 votes, so I’m just going to brute force subtract 387 from 1827 votes and recalculate. Were all of Butcher’s votes from the Sad Puppies? Probably not, but Butcher doesn’t have a strong history of vote-getting in the Hugos. By erasing those 387 votes, I’ll restore the percentages to what they might have looked like otherwise, which will help for my year to year tracking. I like to ask questions like, is Sanderson getting more or less popular?
Here’s that chart:
Fun little note: they misspelled Katherine Addison’s name as Katherine Anderson in the Hugo nominating stats. It’s incredibly hard to enter all the data correctly when you’ve got so many data-points! EDIT 9/13/15: The error has been fixed! Check the comments for the full story.
Those percentages make a lot of sense. Leckie grabbed 23.1% for Ancillary Justice in 2015, and I don’t think the sequel was quite as popular.
A couple things of note: Weir probably would have been ineligible and many Hugo voters knew that. If that wasn’t the case, I expect he would have easily made the top 5. VanderMeer is much lower than I would have expected. Walton did very well (8th) for what was an experimental novel; that means The Just City might have a shot this year. Sanderson in 7th place has been moving steadily up in these Hugo nomination stats; he managed only 4.2% for Steelheart last year. Will his return to his very popular Mistborn universe be enough? I’m still going to predict just outside the Top #5, but it looks like it’s just a matter of time. Okorafor is actually eligible again in 2016 (Lagoon just only came out in the United States). There’s also a lot of experimental-ish fantasy on the list (Addison, Bennett, Hurley); that might speak well of Novik or Bear’s chances in 2016.
Well, that brings to an end my 2015 Hugo analysis! It’s been quite a year. I’m going to spend the several weeks doing Review Round-Ups of the big contenders for the 2016, and I should have my first 2016 Hugo/Nebula predictions in early October.