The Kingmaker Effect and the 2016 Hugos
As we accelerate towards the announcement of the 2016 Hugo winner, it’s time to think once again about the Kingmaker effect and the Hugo awards. This is going to be essential both for 2016 and moving forward into 2017, even if the Hugo voting changes pass. The “E puribus Hugo” only addresses the nominating stage, leaving plenty of room for kingmaker effects in the final voting stage.
The long and short of it is that a dedicated block of voters can change the outcome by voting for what would normally be the #2 or even #3 place finisher, pushing them into the winner’s circle by overcoming the “organic” winner. Let’s define margin of victory as how many votes there wound up being between the winner and the second place finisher. You can pull this information off of the Hugo voting packets. Basically, this number tells us how many votes you would need to change the outcome of the Hugo. If The Goblin Emperor beat The Three-Body Problem by 300 votes, you’d need a block of at least 300 voters to come in and vote for Cixin Liu to change the outcome (in my opinion, this is pretty much what happened last year):
Other initial Best Novel analysis: Goblin Emperor lost the Best Novel to Three-Body Problem by 200 votes. Since there seem to have been at least 500 Rabid Puppy voters who followed VD’s suggestion to vote Liu first, this means Liu won because of the Rabid Puppies. Take that as you will.
Here’s the data from 2010-2014. I left off last year because the Puppy campaigns changed the results so profoundly:
|Margin of Victory||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014|
With a couple of exceptions—Leckie dominating the 2014 novel race with Ancillary Justice, and Mary Robinette Kowal winning the Novellete category in 2014 after she was disqualified a year earlier for the same story—a block vote of 300 would almost always be enough to sway the outcome. In some years, you’d only need a handful of votes. The 0 value in a 2010 is the tie between Bacigalupi and Mieville. It wouldn’t have taken much to push Feed over Blackout/All Clear in 2012, and only a little more to elevated 2312 over Redshirts in 2013. Even without deeply impacting the nominating stage, a block vote can fundamentally change who wins the Hugo award.
So, are we in for any kingmaker scenarios in the fiction categories this year?
Best Novel: I don’t think we’re in a kingmaker situation here, although I do think the Puppy block vote makes Uprooted an almost sure winner. A refresher of where we’re at:
Uprooted by Noami Novik, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie all made the ballot “organically,” i.e. without appearing on the Rabid Puppy list.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and The Cinder Spires by Jim Butcher also made the final ballot. Both appeared on the Rabid Puppy list. Prior to the Puppies, Jim Butcher had never been nominated for a Hugo Best Novel, and past Hugo voting packets show him receiving very few votes. I often refer back to the 2009 nominating data, where Butcher only received 6 votes for Small Favor, one of his Dresden novels. If that number seems shockingly low for so popular writer, remember that Butcher is associated with Urban Fantasy writing, a sub-genre that has not historically been part of the Hugos.
Stephenson is the most complex situation. He has received Hugo nominations three times before without any Puppy help: for Anathem in 2009, for Cryptonomicon in 2000, and for The Diamond Age in 1996. Diamond Age went on to win the Hugo that year. So while the Puppies certainly helped, we won’t know whether or not Stephenson would have received a nomination on his own until the final data comes out. A few more bits of data: Stephenson received 93 nominating votes in 2009, second most to Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. In the final ballot, Anathem took second, losing to The Graveyard Book by 120 votes, 477 to 357. If Seveneves performs similarly, it could have come down to how many people voted Seveneves as “No Award” based solely on its appearance on the Rabid Puppies list.
However, that’s all a moot point. On the final Rabid Puppy Hugo ballot, Vox Day put Uprooted above Seveneves (Novik/Stephenson/Butcher/No Award was the exact order). That will pretty much clinch the race for Uprooted, based on this logic:
- Uprooted was already very likely to finish either #1 or #2 in the Hugo voting, based on Novik’s strong performance in winning the Nebula, the Locus Fantasy Award, and grabbing nominations in the World Fantasy Award and British Fantasy. She has also done very well with SF Critics and Mainstream Critics, all of which are good indicators of Hugo success. She’s sold a ton of copies (46,000+ ratings on Goodreads, for instance). The closest competitor seems to be The Fifth Season, but Jemisin has already lost the Nebula and Locus Fantasy votes to Novik. As such, I think Uprooted was likely to win the Hugo without any help from the Puppies.
- The Rabid Puppies were at least 200 strong in the nominating stage, possibly higher. They might be anywhere from 200-500+ in the final voting stage (the final voting always brings more people to the table). Let’s use a very conservative 300.
- 300 additional votes for Uprooted at #1 will be enough to cover any potential margin of victory that either Jemisin, Stephenson, or Leckie might have had without the Rabid Puppies. Let’s say Jemisin squeaked out an “organic” victory of 100 votes; once the Rabid Puppies are tallied, that swings outcome back to Novik. You’d have to predict a scenario where Jemisin (or Leckie) would beat Novik by a number greater than the total number of Rabid Puppies. That’s only happened once in the last 5 years, when Ancillary Justice was a consensus book against a weaker field. So could it be Leckie again? I don’t think so; she’s already won a Hugo for this series and I don’t think voters are ready to give her a second. Even if she squeaked out an organic win, I can’t see it being by a 300 vote margin. Butcher will attract tons of No Award votes, so he’s not even in the conversation.
So that leaves Uprooted as the only novel that seems to have a chance of winning the Hugos. What other book has a path to victory? You’d have to predict a huge “organic” win for either Jemisin or Leckie, and that just doesn’t seem likely. We’ll find out shortly!
Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story:
In each of these categories, the Rabid Puppies swept 4 out of 5 positions. This means that the non-slate story is the prohibitive favorite, based on how many people voted slated works No Award last year. If there’s any drama, it might be in “Best Novella.” Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, the Nebula winner, is the non-slate work. Louis McMaster Bujold’s Penric’s Demon, from the same universe as her Hugo winning Paladin of Souls, is the number #1 Rabid Puppy pick. How many people will No Award Bujold based solely on her appearing on the Rabid Puppies slate? Let’s say Binti wins by an organic margin of 200 (before factoring in the Rabid Vote) and the Rabids are 400. It would take only 200 voters “No Award”ing Penric’s Demon to keep Binti the winner. I expect that to happen, but this will be some great data to sort through once the packets are released.
I don’t see anything preventing “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” or “Cat Pictures Please” from winning the Novelette and Short Story category. Stephen King’s huge popularity will be blunted by his not being primarily associated with Science Fiction or Fantasy. “Folding Beijing” might be competitive, but the Rabid Puppies put it lower on their list, minimizing its chances.
So, what do you think? Will there be any kingmaker effects this year? Or will the Hugo fiction categories play out pretty much as they would have without the Rabid Puppies?