Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 1

Time to do what Chaos Horizon does: break out some numerical estimates for the 2016 Hugo Awards. Over the next several posts, I’m going to try to estimate how many votes the different voting groups in the 2016 Hugos are likely to generate under a number of different scenarios. We can then combine them to come up with my prediction, which I’ll post April 1st, the day after Hugo voting closes.

I’m going to start with my estimates from the end of the 2015 Hugo season using the final vote statistics. Here’s what I estimated back then:

Core Rabid Puppies: 550-525
Core Sad Puppies: 500-400
Sad Puppy leaning Neutrals: 800-400 (capable of voting a Puppy pick #1)
True Neutrals: 1000-600 (may have voted one or two Puppies; didn’t vote in all categories; No Awarded all picks, Puppy and Non-Alike)
Primarily No Awarders But Considered a Puppy Pick above No Award: 1000
Absolute No Awarders: 2500

I think those numbers are at least in the ballpark and give us a place to start modelling. Since you can’t vote against a pick in the nomination stage, we don’t need to know the difference between “No Awarders” and other more traditional Hugo voters. I’m going to combine all the non-Puppy voters into one big group, called the “Typical Voters.” I’ll initially assume that they’ll vote in similar patterns to past Hugo seasons before the Puppies. I’ll have more to say about that assumption later on.

Here’s the numbers I’ll be using; you may wish to adjust them up or down depending on your thoughts from last year.

Rabid Puppies: 550
Sad Puppies: 450
Typical: 5000

Due to a quirk in Hugo voting rules, everyone who voted in 2015 is eligible to nominate in 2016. Note those are the max raw numbers, not how many votes each group is likely to generate. I don’t think everyone will vote in 2016, but due to the high passions surrounding the 2015 season, I expect we’ll get a high turnout. I’m going to model the three groups at 40%, 60%, and 80% turnout. By using data from past voting patterns, specifically what percentage the various choices for each group received in past Hugo nominations, we might be able to ballpark which books will make the ballot. We can pull this data for the typical voters from the past Hugo packets. Remember, I even estimated what the “decay” percentages were for both the Rabid and Sad Puppies.

There are a lot of shifting variables and unknowns here, so I don’t know if we can land at something reasonable. So, to estimate (as an example) the #3 pick from the Typical voters, I’ll need to do the following:

Typical Pick #3 estimated total: 5000 * estimated turnout * average % of the #3 pick

So, if you estimate 60% turnout and used past Hugo data to see that #3 pick averages a 13% showing, you’d get 390 votes. Now, there’s plenty to critique here: maybe turnout will be higher or lower. Maybe this year’s patterns won’t follow previous years. Maybe I don’t have the right books in the right slots. Still, I always find any estimate more interesting than no estimate. If you don’t, Chaos Horizon probably isn’t the website for you!

The first thing I need is to come up with a list of books to try and model. By taking the top 5 novels from the Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, and my SFF Critics list we get a total of 12 likely Hugo nominated novels. Note there is overlap, and also overlap lower down on the lists. That’ll be accounted for in my estimates:

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (SFF Critics)
Uprooted, Naomi Novi (SFF Critics, Sad Puppies)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (SFF Critics)
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson (SFF Critics)
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho (SFF Critics)
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson (Rabid Puppies, Sad Puppies)
Golden Son, Pierce Brown (Rabid Puppies)
Somewhither, John C. Wright (Rabid Puppies, Sad Puppies)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher (Rabid Puppies, Sad Puppies)
Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller (Rabid Puppies)
Honor At Stake, Declan Finn (Sad Puppies)
A Long Time Until Now, Michael Z Williamson (Sad Puppies)

Let’s call the list of “possible contenders.” Sure, a different novel may sneak up on us—but I find it unlikely in a year that’s as hotly contested as this. If you don’t show up on near the top of best of list / recommendations / slate, how are you going to beat the books that do? What’s your path to accumulating votes?

Let’s stop here for today—no need to overwhelm each post with data. I’ve got a couple questions for my readers: are there are any other “major” novels I should try and estimate? I could see someone thinking that Aurora isn’t a top pick, but that spot should go to The Water Knife or The Just City (i.e. novels by former Hugo winners), but changing the name of the novel won’t change the estimate for that slot. It’s still “Typical Slot #4”. Same thing with Sorcerer to the Crown: maybe it should be Sorcerer of the Wildeeps in that spot. The important thing to have on the list are any novels that might overlap between the groups. But I’d be interested to hear if you think there’s another big contender, and why. I can add a few more novels to the list pretty easily. Otherwise, we’ll dig into the Rabid Puppy vote tomorrow.

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6 responses to “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 1”

  1. Gary Denton says :

    Just as an aside as of now Ancillary Mercy is the last slot on the Sad Puppies 4 top ten list but someone demanded a recount.
    You are correct that only top 5 on some list should be contenders.

    • chaoshorizon says :

      Given that we only have 2 days until voting closes, I don’t figure we’ll have a recount in time. I think the list as published now is what’s going to affect the Hugos, although I don’t know how much of an impact being in the #10 slot on Sad Puppies will really have.

  2. sojournerstrange says :

    Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is actually novella length. It wouldn’t be a contender for novel.

  3. Semiba says :

    I would toss in Nethereal by Brian Niemeier. There are quite a few Sad Puppies who might skip over Seveneves or Somewither in part because they don’t like how the Rabid Puppies operate. The same could be said of Jim Butcher’s novel, but I think he’s too popular.

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