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!


13 responses to “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 5”

  1. H.P. says :

    I assume you don’t account in any way for the vote on Ancillary Sword last year. Justice and Sword were both critically lauded, but I thought Sword was a far weaker book, and the voters seemed to agree. Perhaps Leckie’s core of staunch fans gets her another nomination but Mercy lacks the broader appeal of Justice (although it may be as good; I haven’t read it yet).

    I remain perplexed that no one seems to be talking about The Dark Forest. I thought it was even better than The Three-Body Problem (and better than Seveneves, which just missed by ballot).

    • chaoshorizon says :

      We think alike: I almost added a paragraph about The Dark Forest, which I also liked a great deal, seeming to not be part of this process at all. No one has really been talking about it much, and I haven’t seen much evidence it’ll be a contender. Maybe the whole “since Liu already won, let’s move on” thing.

    • chaoshorizon says :

      As for the Leckie, I chalk that up to greater exposure. She had a huge increase of readers over 2014, so even if Ancillary Sword wasn’t as well-liked as Ancillary Justice, it was just that much more broadly read. You see the same effect on the Locus List: Ancillary Justice was #17 in 2014, Ancillary Sword #1 in 2015. Is that huge jump indicative of a jump in quality or a jump in readership? I think it’s a readership jump.

  2. airboy says :

    Very interesting modeling. Best of luck on your predictive accuracy.

    Only thing I would have modeled a bit differently is Ancillary Mercy. There are very few Amazon reviews – which I think is more predictive of Sad voters. SF with a lot of Amazon votes (not as many goodreads and literary SF votes) are prime candidates to be highly correlated with the Sads.

    Sads had a totally open discussion/vote process, and I think at least part of the Ancillary Mercy votes were non-traditional Sads voting on the Sad site. Don’t get me wrong, anyone could have participated in the Sads process this year. But I question the vote total of that book being as predictive as some of the others.

    But like all forecasts, reality will hold the trump card for us all!

  3. greghullender says :

    I think some people will vote for Ancillary Mercy as a way of voting for the whole trilogy.

  4. James May says :

    I don’t think Leckie’s status has been lost in the Hugo controversies but is precisely the point. By “…of the millennia” you mean inside that SFADB bubble. Outside that bubble A. Justice got swarmed at Goodreads by Weir’s The Martian with 10 times the votes, a major film and inspiring scientists globally. Inside that bubble Weir was nobody from nowhere, getting what love he got by true word of mouth, not faddist politics embedded in non-fiction commentary or lackluster fiction. The almost slavish devotion the reviews of Foz Meadows at A Dribble of Ink and Liz Bourke at TorCom gave AJ the month it came out had little to do with art, and the art and pure story-telling of The Martian was invisible to them for obvious reasons. You may be driven by data, but this is what drives that data.

    • Mark says :

      So, that’d be The Martian that A Dribble of Ink called “bleak and intense, humorous, human, and hard to put down” and “an edge-of-your-seat thriller”, and said “I found The Martian a hard book to put down; I’d have finished it in a single sitting if real life hadn’t intervened. Almost, but not quite, a proper stonker of a novel.”

      Both venues gave strong reviews to both books. Please check your facts, James.

      Back on topic, Weir is an obvious contender for the Campbell after being slated out of a slot last year, and I think he’s going to demonstrate how the Hugos often show the intersection of popularity and critical acclaim. With the final Ancillary book making New York Times bestseller it’s very likely to benefit from the same intersection.

  5. MadProfessah says :

    I think Seveneves has a pretty good chance, and I even agree with both Puppies that it is a really good SF novel and worthy of the Hugo.

    My selections were:

    <The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
    Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
    Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
    The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
    The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

    When is the Hugo nominations announcement, exactly?

    • chaoshorizon says :

      MidAmeriCon said the announcement will happen on April 26th, “The Hugo Announcement will be on April 26, stay tuned for more details!” So a few weeks of waiting . . .

  6. Lela E. Buis says :

    Did you see the announcement for the Dragon Awards? I think the Hugo’s are officially undermined. DragonCon is huge and they’re opening it up to everybody, no membership necessary. Check it out.

    • chaoshorizon says :

      I hadn’t seen that—thanks for the heads up. Here’s the press release. Looks like an interesting award, and something more for Chaos Horizon to keep track of! No short fiction categories, no fan website/author categories, no artist categories, but a much broader range of novel categories. I’ll be interested to see how similar or diffferent this is from the Hugos.

      • airboy says :

        The award categories for DragonCon are heavily tied into gamers. DragonCon has a massive gaming track – it is one huge hotel. This is the 2nd largest gaming convention behind GenCon.

        Why is this important? Gamers are very heavy readers. Some SF categories are very heavily read by gamers – including Military SF and Alt-History SF. Baen has had a presence at many DragonCons and is always a big presence at GenCon.

        Many of the early founders of DragonCon were gamers who fled the failed Atlanta Fantasy Fair. I was not surprised by the categories picked by DragonCon given the gamer history.

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