2016 Hugo Prediction 1.0
The 2016 Hugo Best Novel is going to be extremely unpredictable. We know that it’s going to attract enormous attention—just think of how many posts were published about the 2015 Hugos—and that it’s going to be controversial.
The difficulty in predicting the 2016 Hugo lies in how little information we have: how big will the Rabid Puppies vote be? How will the Sad Puppies 4 operate? How much will the rest of the Hugo vote increase? Will other Hugo voters change their voting habits to stop a Puppy sweep? Will specific authors turn down endorsements and/or nominations? Earlier, I anticipated a year-to-year nominating vote increase of at least 1.8x, and that could wind up much higher depending on how broadly discussed the nominations are. The kind of predictive methods I use at Chaos Horizon (data-mining) react to such massive changes very poorly. As such, my goal is to begin developing a broad picture and then refine that as more data becomes available.
So, while I listed my prediction in order from #1-#15, I think any of the works from #1-#10 have a strong chance of grabbing an eventual nomination. Remember, I predict what I think is likely to happen, not what should happen, and that my predictions are based on past Hugo patterns and a variety of data lists I collate and track. Opinions are mine alone, and this should be used as a starting place for discussion, nothing more. Have fun with the chaos!
Anyone can vote in the Hugo awards, provided you pay the supporting membership fee ($50 this year, I believe). EDIT 1/1/16: Remember, anyone who was a member of last year’s WorldCon (Sasquan) can also vote in this year’s nomination stage. So that means everyone who was part of last year’s kerfuffle has another vote. You do have to join this year’s WorldCon to vote in the final stage, however.
Last year, the nominations came out on April 4, 2015. The Hugos nominate 5 works per category unless there are ties.
1. Uprooted, Naomi Novik: Novik and Stephenson are pretty interchangeable at the top. These books are just so much more popular than every other contender this year that it’s hard to picture them not grabbing nominations. Novik has a prior Hugo nomination, a front-running Nebula status, and strong placement on whatever popular votes we see out there, including the Sad Puppies themselves. Combine all of that overlapping support, and I think Novik’s fairy-tale inflected Fantasy novel has a strong chance of getting nominated (and eventually winning) this year’s Hugo.
2. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson: Stephenson is another author who does well across all sectors of the Hugo voters. Prior nominations for massive books like Anathem and Cryptonomicon show that Hugo voters aren’t turned away by Stephenson’s length or complexity. The Hugo still leans towards Science Fiction, and this was one the biggest SF books of the year. It shows up well on a variety of lists, including Sad Puppies 4, and that broad support should drive it to a nomination. There is some dislike of this book out there (it splits into two very different parts), but dislike doesn’t really impact the nomination stage, only the final vote.
3. Rabid/Sad Puppy Overlap Nominee: Before Correia and Kloos declined their nominations in 2015, the Sad/Rabid overlaps (i.e. appeared on both lists) took 4 of the top 5 Hugo slots. While we won’t know what these overlaps will be until the Rabid Puppies announce their slate, we can predict that they’ll grab several tops spots. Based on my early Sad Puppy census, I’m currently thinking this overlap could be something like Jim Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass, John C. Wright’s Somewhither, or Michael Z. Williamson’s A Long Time Until Now. Of those three, Butcher would place highest because of his massive popularity. More popularity = more potential voters.
4. Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie: Leckie broke up the Puppy sweep last year with the middle volume of her well-liked trilogy; this final volume was received as a fitting end to a series that has already won a Hugo and Nebula. This series is one of the most talked (and nominated) SF publications of recent years.
5. Rabid/Sad Puppy Overlap Nominee: The less popular/mainstream book that the Rabid/Sad Puppies overlap on could land here. A John C. Wright or Michael Z. Williamson just has so many fewer readers (thus fewer votes) than a Bucther. Based on last year’s number, you would still anticipate a Top #5 placement for this overlap, although we won’t know the exact numbers/impact of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies until the nominations come out.
6. The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin: The 2015 Hugo was very close. Spots #3-#11 were separated by only 100 votes. If we have 1000+ new voters, any of these #3-#11 spots could shuffle. I have Jemisin high because of the strong critical reception of this book, her previous Hugo and Nebula nominations, likely Nebula nomination this year, and her increased visibility in the field (she now has a regular NY Times Book Review column). The Fifth Season also fits the mold of The Goblin Emperor, as a sort of twist/revisioning of secondary world fantasy. The fantasy side of the Hugos has been driving quite a few nominations/wins lately: think about Graveyard Book, Norrell & Strange, or Among Others.
7. Rabid Puppy Nominee: This is a wildcard. Last year, when the Sad/Rabid puppies separated, they fell below 3 non-Puppy picks (Leckie, Addison, and Liu). Would the same happen this year? I’ve got no idea or even suggestion of what this book might be; we’ll have to wait and see. This would be the truest measure/test of the Rabid Puppies voting strength. Even a slight rise of the Rabid Puppy numbers could push this up 2, 3, or more slots. Depending on how often the Rabid/Sad Puppies overlap, you may have to add more Rabid Puppy nominee slots in at about this point.
8. Sad Puppy Nominee: The longer SP4 list will dilute their vote somewhat, so I expect their solo picks to place below the Rabid puppies. In the similar spot last year, they clocked in with 199 votes for Trial by Fire, although Gannon’s vote total was doubtless helped by his Nebula nomination.
9. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson: The next three are basically interchangeable in this prediction, all belonging to the category of SF books by past Hugo winners. Aurora is a tale of a multi-generational ship and planetary colonization, and is almost the opposite of Sevenves in terms of its approach, characterization, and philosophy. SF voters looking for an alternative to Stephenson—or even just a book to round out their ballots—might go in this direction.
10. The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu: Normally last year’s Hugo winner would be higher, but I’m not seeing the buzz for Liu you would expect. Cixin Liu himself commented on Chinese voters potential driving this book to a nomination by saying, “That’s the best way to destroy The Three-Body Trilogy. And not just this sci-fi work, but also the reputation of Chinese sci-fi fans. The entire number of voters for the Hugo Awards is only around 5,000. That means it is easily influenced by malicious voting. Organizing 2,000 people to each spend $14 is not hard, but I am strongly against such misbehavior. If that really does happen, I will follow the example of Marko Kloos, who withdrew from the shortlist after discovering the ‘Rabid Puppies’ had asked voters to support him.”
11. The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi: Bacigalupi is under the radar going into the 2016 awards season, but The Water Knife was a well-reviewed SF novel, his first since the Hugo and Nebula winning The Windup Girl, with many of the same eco-SF themes Bacigalupi is acclaimed for. Can it cut through the noise of this year’s Hugo controversies? If this shows up on a lot of the other awards, it could move up the Hugo list.
12. Nebula Nominee (Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, etc.): The Nebulas have exerted considerable influence on the Hugos over the past few years. The increased visibility of the Hugo nominees can springboard a book to a Hugo nomination; this seemed to have helped both The Goblin Emperor and The Three-Body Problem last year. I’ll keep an eye on who gets Nebula noms, and then boost them in my Hugo predictions.
13. The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett: Pratchett is going to be a sentimental favorite going into 2016. I think some people will try to nominate Discworld as a whole, which will split the Pratchett vote. Even if Pratchett is nominated, I suspect his estate would turn it down, following the precedent established by Pratchett turning down his Hugo nomination for Going Postal.
14. Nemesis Games, James S.A. Corey: I may be too high with this, but I think The Expanse TV series is going to revitalize Corey’s Hugo chances over time. The big impact may be felt next year, particularly if we have Hugo rule changes.
15. The Just City, Jo Walton: Walton’s a stealth candidate—she missed last year’s ballot by only 90 votes, and The Just City is a little more accessible and well-liked than My Real Children. Walton still has a lot of good will (and readers!) as a result of the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. I don’t expect a nom, but it should get some votes.
Scalzi’s not on the list because of this post saying he’s sitting out the 2015 awards. Brandon Sanderson just missed because Shadows of Self is #2 in a series; he’s an author that could greatly benefit from Hugo rule changes (huge fanbase). Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab has a huge Goodreads following, but isn’t showing up as popular in other places. Mira Grant had a run of numerous best Novel noms earlier this decade, so she might be hanging around the Top #15. Her current series isn’t a popular as her earlier zombie series, though. Charles Stross tends to get nominated for his SF, not The Laundry Files, so that’s why he isn’t in the Top #15 for Annihilation Score. Anyone else who seems an obvious contender that I missed?
Also remember that January is very early. Three Body-Problem and Ancillary Justice, the last two Hugo winners, just started picking up steam about now. As we see more year-end lists and the beginning of the 2016 Award nominations, the picture should snap into sharper focus. I’ll update my prediction on the first of the month in February, March, and April.