Archive | April 2016

Analyzing the 2016 Hugo Noms, Part 1

No use putting this off any longer. I was hoping we’d see some more leaked information/numbers, but we’re stick with pretty minimal information this year. Here we go . . .

Where We’re At: Yesterday, the 2016 Hugo Nominations came out. Once again, the Rabid Puppies dominated the awards, grabbing over 75% of the available Hugo nomination slots.

If you’re here for the quick drive-by (Chaos Horizon is not a good website for the casual Hugo fan), I’m estimating the Rabid Puppies at 300 this year, with a broader range of 250-370. Lower than that, you can’t sweep categories. Higher, more would have been swept. Given this year’s turnout, 300 seems about the number that gets you these results. Calculations below. Be warned!

EDIT 4/28/2016: Sources are telling me that there were indeed withdrawals in several categories. This greatly muddies the upper limit of the Rabid Puppy vote. As such, I think the 250-370 should be read as the lower limit of the Rabid Puppy vote, with the upper limit being somewhere in the range of 100 higher of that. I did some quick calculations for the upper RP limit using the Best Novel category, assuming Jemisin got 10%, 15%, or  20% of the vote. We know she beat John C. Wright’s Somewhither. That gives upper limits of 335, 481, and 615. I think 481 is a good middle-of-the-road estimate. Remember that Best Novel numbers are always inflated because more people vote in this category than any other, so a big RP number in Best Novel doesn’t necessarily carry over to all categories.

So revised RP estimate: 250-480. If there were many withdrawals, push to the high end (or beyond) of that range. Fewer withdrawals, low end. Perhaps the people who withdrew will come forward in the next few days and this will allow us to be more precise. If those withdrawals are made public, please post them in the comments for me.

EDIT 4/28/2016: Over at Rocket Stack Rank, Greg has done his own Hugo analysis, using a different set of assumptions. While I assume a linear increase of “organic” voters (non-Puppy voters), he uses a “power law” distribution. Most simply put, it’s the difference between fitting a line or a curve to the available data. I go with the line because of the low amount of data we have, but Greg is certainly right that the curve is the way to go if you trust the amount of data you have.

Using his method, Greg comes up with a lower Rabid Puppy number (around 200), but that’s also accompanied by a lower number of “organic” voters than my method estimates. Go over and take a look at his estimate. It’s a great example of how different statistical assumptions can yield substantially different results. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which estimate you think is better. I personally love that we now have multiple estimates using different approaches. It really broadens our understanding of this whole process. Now we need someone to come along and do a Bayesian analysis!

The Estimate: This year, MidAmeriCon II released minimal data information at this stage. They’re not obligated to release any, so I guess we should be happy with what we got. Last year, we got the range of votes, which allowed us to estimate how strong the slate effect was. This year, we only have the list of nominees and the votes per category. Is that enough to make any estimates?

Here on Chaos Horizon, I work with what I have. I think we can piece together an estimate using the following information:

  1. The Rabid Puppies swept some but not all of the categories. That’s a very valuable piece of information: it means the Rabid Puppies are strong, but not strong enough to dominate everything. With careful attention, we should be able to find the line (or at least the vicinity of the line).
  2. Zooming more closely in, the Rabid Puppies swept the following categories: Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Story, Professional Artist, Fanzine. Because of this, we know that the Rabid Puppies had to beat whatever the #1 non-Rabid Puppy pick was in those categories.
  3. The Rabid Puppies took 4/5 slots in Novella, Novelette, Semiprozine, Fan Writer, Fan Artist, Fan Cast, and Campbell. This means that, in the categories, the #1 non-Rabid Puppy pick had to be larger than Rabid Puppy slate number.

With that information, if I could just find out what the number of votes the #1 non-Rabid Puppy pick likely received, I could estimate the Rabid vote. Now, couldn’t I use the historical data—the average percentage that the #1 pick has received in past years—to come up with this estimate?

One potential wrench: what if people withdrew from nominations? There’s no way to know this, and that would screw the numbers up substantially. However, with more than 10 categories to work with, we can only hope this didn’t happen in all 10. If you believe at least one person withdrew in Novelette, Semiprozine, Fan Writer, Fan Artist, Fan Cast, and Campbell, add 100 to my Rabid Puppy estimate for 400. There’s also the question of Sad Puppy influence, which I’ll tackle in a later post.

Or, to write it out: In the swept categories, Rabid Puppy Number (x) is likely greater than the Non-Rabid voters (Total – x) * the average percentage of the #1 work from previous years.

In the 4/5 categories, the Rabid Puppy number (x) is likely less than the Non-Rabid voters (Total – x) * the average percentage of the #1 work from previous years.

While that won’t be 100% accurate, as the #1 work gets a range of numbers, it’s going to give us something to start with. Here’s the actual formula for calculating the Rabid Puppy lower limit in swept categories using this logic:

x > (Total – x) * #1%
x > #1% * Total – #1% * x
x + #1% * x > #1% * Total
(1 + #1%)x > #1% * Total
x > (#1% * Total) / (1 + #1%)

So, quick chart: we need the #1%, the average percent of vote the #1 work gets, i.e. the highest placing non-RP work, in all categories that were either swept or had 4/5. I’ll use the 4/5 Rabid categories in a second to establish an upper limit.

Off to the Hugo stats to create the chart. I used data from 2010-2013, giving me 4 years. I didn’t use 2014 and 2015 because the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies changed the data sets by their campaigns. I didn’t use 2009 data because the WorldCon didn’t format it conveniently that year, so it is much harder to pull the percentages off. I don’t have infinite time to work on this stuff. :). I also had to toss out Fan Cast because it’s such a new category.

Chart #1: Percentage the #1 Hugo Nominee Received 2010-2013

2013 2012 2011 2010 Average High Low Range
Short Story 16.2% 12.3% 14.0% 13.7% 14.0% 16.2% 12.3% 3.9%
Related Work 15.4% 11.1% 18.4% 21.6% 16.6% 21.6% 11.1% 10.5%
Graphic Story 29.7% 17.4% 22.3% 19.0% 22.1% 29.7% 17.4% 12.3%
Professional Artist 23.9% 40.1% 26.9% 33.6% 31.1% 40.1% 23.9% 16.2%
Fanzine 26.9% 25.2% 20.3% 16.1% 22.1% 26.9% 16.1% 10.8%
Novella 17.6% 24.8% 35.1% 21.1% 24.7% 35.1% 17.6% 17.6%
Novelette 14.5% 12.1% 11.3% 12.9% 12.7% 14.5% 11.3% 3.2%
Semiprozine 42.6% 29.3% 37.8% 32.4% 35.5% 42.6% 32.4% 13.3%
Fan Writer 23.9% 21.7% 21.7% 13.8% 20.3% 23.9% 13.8% 10.1%
Fan Artist 16.7% 22.6% 26.1% 20.6% 21.5% 26.1% 16.7% 9.4%
Campbell 18.7% 13.1% 20.3% 16.0% 17.0% 20.3% 13.1% 7.2%

Notice that far right column of “range”: that’s the difference between the high and low in that 4 year period. This big range is going to introduce a lot of statistical noise into the calculations: if I estimate Best Related work to get 16.6%, I’d be off as much as 5% in some years. I could try to offset this by fancier stat tools, but 4 data points will produce a garbage standard deviation, though, so I won’t use that. On 300 votes, this 5% error would throw a +/- halo of 15 votes. Significant but not overwhelming.

Okay, now that I have this data, let’s use it to calculate the lower limit of Rabid Puppies:

Chart 2: Calculating Min Rabid Puppy Number from 2016 Swept Categories

Swept Category Total Votes #1 % Min RP
Short Story 2451 0.140275 301.52
Related Work 2080 0.166225 296.47
Graphic Story 1838 0.2211 332.8
Professional Artist 1481 0.310975 351.31
Fanzine 1455 0.22125 263.6
Average 309.14

Okay, what the hell does this chart say? The Short Story category had 2451 voters this year. In past years, the #1 Sad Puppy pick grabbed 14% of the vote. To beat that 14%, there needed to be at least 302 Rabid Puppy voters. With that number, you get 302 Rabid Votes, (2451-302) = 2149 Non-Rabid votes, voting at 14% = 301 votes. Thus, the Rabid Puppies would beat all the Non-Rabid votes by 1 point.

Now, surely that number isn’t 100% accurate. Maybe the top short story this year got 18% of the vote. Maybe it got 12%. But 300 seems about the line here–if Rabid Puppies are lower than that, you wouldn’t expect it to sweep.

Keep in mind, this chart just gives us a minimum. Now, let’s do the other limit, using the categories were the Puppies took 4/5. This is uglier, I’m warning you:

Chart 3: Calculating Max Rabid Puppy Number from 2016 4/5 Categories

4/5 Category Total Votes #1 % Max
Novella 2416 0.246575 477.89
Novelette 1975 0.12665 222.02
Semiprozine 1457 0.35505 381.76
Fan Writer 1568 0.20265 264.21
Fan Artist 1073 0.2151 189.95
Campbell 1922 0.170125 279.44

Ugh. Disaster befalls Chaos Horizon. This number should be higher than the last one, creating a nice range. Oh, the failed dreams. This chart is full of outliers, ranging from that huge 477 in Novella to that paltry 190 in Fan Artist. Did someone withdraw from the Fan Artist category, skewing the numbers? If I take that out, it bumps the average up to 325, which fixes my problem. Of course, if I dump the low outlier, I should dump the high outlier, which puts us back in the same fix.

A couple conclusions: the fact that both calculations turned up the 300 number is actually pretty remarkable. We could conclude that this is just about the line: if the Rabid Puppies are much stronger than 300 (say 350), they should have swept more categories. If they’re much weaker (250), they shouldn’t have swept any. 300 is the sweet spot to be competitive in most of these categories, with the statistical noise of any given year pushing some works over, some works not.

It also really, really looks like Novelette and Fan Artist should have been swept. Withdrawals?

To wrap up my estimate, I took the further step of using the 4 year high % and the 4 year low % (i.e. I deliberately min/mixed to model more centralized and less centralized results). You can find that calculation on this 2016 Hugo Nom Calcs. This gives us the range of 250-370 I mentioned earlier in the post. I’d keep in mind that the raw number of Rabid Puppies might be higher than that—this is just the slate effect they generated. It may be that some Rabid Puppies didn’t vote in all categories, didn’t vote for all the recommended works, etc.

There’s lots of factors that could skew my calculation: perhaps more voters spread the vote out more rather than consolidating it. Perhaps the opposite happened, with voters taking extra care to try to centralize their vote. Both might throw the estimate off by 50 or even 100.

Does around 300 make sense? That’s a good middle ground number that could dominate much of the voting in downballot categories but would be incapable of sweeping popular categories like Novel or Dramatic Work. I took my best shot, wrong as it may be. I don’t think we’ll do much better with our limited data—got any better ideas on how to calculate this?


2016 Hugo Finalists Announced

The 2016 Hugo Finalists have been announced. Press release here.

The best novel category played out in this fashion:

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
The Cinder Spires: Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
Uprooted, Naomi Novik

I got 4/5 right here on Chaos Horizon, and Jemisin was the novel I had as #6 on my prediction. I’ll take that in an unpredictable and chaotic year. I also estimated 3620 votes, and the category had 3695 votes, so at least that part was close!

Jemisin making the list means that a surge of extra Hugo voters broke in her direction, pushing her over the combined weight of the Rabid and Sad Puppy vote and Wright’s Somewhither. Given how well the Rabid Puppies performed elsewhere, that means Jemisin performed very well. The Fifth Season also outperformed Jemisin’s previous novels (this is a scourge of how I model on Chaos Horizon), which may speak to her chances of winning either the Hugo or the Nebula.

The Rabid and Sad Puppies are primarily responsible for the Butcher nomination, and doubtless pushed Stephenson up higher, although Stephenson had a good shot of making it normally. Uprooted appeared high on the Sad Puppy list, and likely picked up voters from that area.

With the exception of Butcher, that looks pretty similar to what I would have predicted the Hugos to be without the Rabid/Sad Puppies. That is certainly not the case lower down the ballot: categories like Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Graphic Story, were swept by the Rabid Puppies, and Best Novella and Best Novelette almost swept. I’ll do some more careful analysis over the next few days, but the main reason this happened is because the large number of voters in Best Novel did not carry over to those categories. We had 3695 Best Novel ballots, but only 2451 Short Story ballots and 2080 Best Related Work Ballots. Those missing 1000 voters are the difference between a sweep and a mixed ballot.

My initial thought is that Uprooted will win, as it’s the only novel that seems acceptable to all camps. The typical voters will shoot down the Butcher; the Rabid Puppies will shoot down the Leckie and Jemisin. That leaves Stephenson or Novik. We’ll need to track the dialogue around the Stephenson nomination; if it is deemed a “Rabid Puppy” pick and thus No Awarded, that would seem to clear the path for Novik to win. It’ll take some time for me to sort through the numbers, though.

Perhaps the most interesting categories are Best Novella and Best Novelette, which had 4/5 Rabid Puppy sweeps, with the other book being the #1 story on the Sad Puppy list. While those stories—“Binti” and “And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead”—doubtless picked up support from other quarters (they were Nebula nominees, after all), that shows the Sad Puppies had a noticeable effect on the Hugos. I’ll give some thought to what that means and report back to you!

As I suspected, the “overlaps” did very well: if you appeared on multiple lists (Rabid + Sad Puppies) or being one of the Nebula nominees + Sad Puppies, you made the ballot. That may be the key to unraveling the fiction ballots: Rabid Puppies won unless a work appeared on both the Nebula and Sad Puppy lists. That makes for an odd alliance, with Sad Puppies possibly being the swing vote against a total Rabid Puppy sweep.

More analysis to come!

MidAmeriCon II Announces Record Number of Hugo Nominating Ballots

MidAmeriCon II issued a press release, tipping their hat as the number of Hugo nominating ballots:

 Kansas City, Missouri, USA – MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction

Convention (Worldcon), is delighted to announce that the finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards, 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards will be announced on Tuesday, April 26. We are also proud to announce that this year’s number of nomination ballots set a new record.

Science fiction fans around the world will be able to follow the announcement live via MidAmeriCon II’s social media, and celebrate the authors, editors, artists, and works that have been selected as the best of 2015. The finalists will be released category by category, starting at Noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT, 10 a.m. PDT, 6 p.m. London, 7 p.m. Western Europe), through the convention’s Facebook page ( and Twitter feed @MidAmeriCon2

The announcement will begin with the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards then continue with the 2016 Hugo Awards and Campbell Award.  The full list of finalists will be made available on the MidAmeriCon II website directly after the completion of the live announcement, and will also be distributed as a press release to all MidAmeriCon II press contacts.

Over 4,000 nominating ballots were received for the 2016 Hugo Awards, nearly doubling the previous record of 2,122 ballots set last year by Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon held in Spokane, WA.

The final ballot to select this year’s winners will open in mid-May, 2016, and will be open to all Attending, Young Adult, and Supporting members of MidAmeriCon II. The winners will be announced on Saturday, August 20, at the MidAmeriCon II Hugo Awards Ceremony.

The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the science fiction genre, honoring science fiction literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The Awards were first presented at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and they have continued to honor science fiction and fantasy notables for well over 60 years.

For additional information, contact us at  ENDS

4,000 votes is a huge number, even bigger than I estimated. Nothing drives interest like controversy! Since most of us think the Rabid/Sad influence caps out around 750 votes, that high turnout number pushes us toward a mixed ballot in many categories. I wouldn’t anticipate a full sweep like last year.

We’re done with predicting though, and now we’re just waiting! Just a week or two before we know.

Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 5

Let’s wrap this torturous series of posts up with a few final things.

Over the last few days, I’ve built a series of models to predict the 2016 Hugos based on a number of assumptions. Those assumptions are that voters will vote for the 2016 Hugos in similar patterns to last years. That’s an easy assumption to knock, but it gives us a place to start thinking and debating. Here are those posts with estimates: Introduction, Post 2 (Rabid Puppies), Post 3 (Typical Voters), Post 4 (Sad Puppies). I view Chaos Horizon more as a thought experiment (can we get anywhere with this kind of thinking?) than as some definitive fount of Hugo knowledge. The goal of any prediction is to be correct, not elegant.

By breaking these out into three groups and three turnout scenarios (40%, 60%, 80%), I produced 27 different models. To conclude, we can look to see if certain books show up in a lot models, and then I’ll make that my prediction.

To view the models or create your own, use this Google Worksheet. Instructions are included in the worksheet, but you can cut and paste the data to create your own prediction.

Let’s look at one likely scenario: 80% Rabid Puppy vote, 60% Typical Vote, and 40% Sad Puppy vote. This represents the organization and high turnout of the Rabid Puppies, moderate enthusiasm from the more typical (or new) Hugo voters, and then lower turnout because of the way the Sad Puppy list was built. Here’s what you end up with:

Novel Names Rabid  Vote Sad Vote Typical Vote Totals
Vote per Group 440 180 3000 3620
Seveneves 440 108 196 744
Uprooted 144 532 676
The Aeronaut’s Windlass 440 151 30 621
Somewhither 440 180 620
Ancillary Mercy 65 532 597
Golden Son 440 30 470
Agent of the Imperium 440 440
The Fifth Season 392 392
Aurora 392 392
Honor At Stake 173 173
A Long Time Until Now 122 122

So that makes the official 2016 Chaos Horizon Hugo prediction as follows:
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
Somewhither, John C. Wright

Seveneves makes it in every scenario because it receives votes from all 3 groups. Now, my assumptions could be wrong—perhaps some voters are so angry that Seveneves appeared on the Rabid Puppy list that they won’t nominate it at all. However, even a modest showing for Sevenves among typical voters gets it on the ballot. Remember, a similarly complex SF novel by Stephenson in Anathem made the ballot just a few years ago.

Uprooted does well in my model because it’s own of the most popular SFF books of the year (as evidenced by both its Nebula nomination, it’s appearance on year-end lists, and it’s popularity on Amazon and Goodreads), and picks up votes from both the Typical and the Sad Puppies (it’s #4 on their list). This might be the major effect of the Sad Puppies in 2016, to act as a kind of swing vote when things are close, as they’ll likely be between Novik, Jemisin, and Leckie.

Then we have the two other books that overlap between the Sad and Rabid Puppies. You can think of this in two ways: two separate groups voting for these texts, or some Sad Puppies converting to Rabid Puppies. Statistical results are the same. I’d be a little cautions about the John C. Wright. While it placed #1 on the Sad Puppies list, was this placement inflated by passionate Wright fans? Compared to Butcher’s massive popularity, Wright is a fairly niche author. If Puppy support is weaker than predicted, I’d drop the Wright out and replace it with Jemisin’s book. That’s the slot I’m watching closely when nominations come out. I do have Jemisin down as a real possibility; it seems like a lot of readers think The Fifth Season is her best book. I may be underestimating Jemisin based on past performance. The modelling I use is prone to that problem, of using historical data even when conditions on the ground have changed. Every model has its flaws.

Then we have Leckie. Lost in the Hugo controversies is the fact that these Ancillary novels have been some of the best received, reviewed, and rewarded SF novels of the millennia. Take a look at SFADB to see just how well these books have done: 12 major award nominations, 5 major wins including prior Hugos and Nebulas. If one book is likely to break up a Rabid sweep, this is it.

Of course, things can also go the other way—I may be under-predicting the Rabid Puppies, and if I’m by around 100 votes, that would push Leckie out and Pierce Brown up.

So that’s it! I’ll update my Hugo prediction page tomorrow when I get a chance. Does a ballot of Stephenson / Novik / Butcher / Wright / Leckie make sense? Is Jemisin or Pierce next in line after that? Are there other books that could be major contenders that I’m not seeing?

Predict away!

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