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Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 3

This is where things get messy—perhaps to the point of incoherence. I estimated 5,000 voters in last years Hugos who seemed to not be associated with the Sad or Rabid Puppies: some Hugo voters of past years, some who joined to vote No Award for the Puppies, some who joined just to vote, some who maybe joined to participate in the controversy, and some who joined for unknown reasons. We don’t have much past data on this group, so how can we calculate how they’re likely to vote in 2016?

To be honest, we probably can’t, not with any definite certainty. What I want to achieve is just getting in the ballpark, of producing a low and high estimate that we can compare to the Rabid Puppies estimate. That’ll at least tell us something. You know me: I always like numbers, no matter how rough they are.

What we do have is data from past Hugo years, and if we make the assumption that voting patterns won’t be wildly different from previous years, we’d at least have a place to start. So, first thing I’ll do is take a look at previous voting percentages in the Hugos. This chart shows what percentage of the Vote the #1, #2, etc. novel receives in a typical Hugo year. For these purposes, I average the voting patterns from 2010-2013 (the 4 prior years with no Puppy influence, drawn from the Hugo voting packets).

Table 1: Voting Percentages in Hugo Best Novel Category

2013 2012 2011 2010 Average
Book #1 17.34 18.27 15.01 20.3 17.73
Book #2 12.4 17.01 12.98 15 14.3475
Book #3 12.13 13.57 12.24 14.3 13.06
Book #4 11.95 8.45 9.96 11 10.34
Book #5 10.6 7.41 9.36 8.9 9.0675
Book #6 9.07 7.3 8.88 8.9 8.5375
Book #7 8.18 7.2 8.64 7.6 7.905
Book #8 8.09 6.89 8.28 7 7.565
Book #9 6.65 6.47 7.68 7 6.95
Book #10 6.2 6.37 7.2 6.4 6.5425

This means that the most popular Hugo book, in any given year, gets around 17% of the vote, with a range of 15%-20% in the years I looked at. So if 4,000 people vote in 2016, we might estimate the top book as getting between 600-800 votes. If 3,000 people vote, that drops us down to an estimate of 450-600 votes.

Does this estimate tell us anything, or is it just useless fantasizing? I can see people arguing either way. What this does is narrow the range down to something somewhat sensible. We’re not predicting Ann Leckie is going to get 2000 votes for Best Novel. We’re not predicting she’s going to get 100. I could predict 450-800 and then match that against the 220-440 Rabid Puppies prediction. That would tell me Leckie seems like a likely nominee.

We can go destroy this prediction if we make different assumptions. I could assume that the new voters to the Hugos won’t vote in anything like typical patterns, i.e. that they are complete unknowns. Maybe they’ll vote Leckie at a 75% rate. Maybe they’ll vote her 0%. Those extremes grate against my thought patterns. If you know Chaos Horizon, I tend to chose something in the middle based on last year’s data. That’s a predictive choice I make; you might want to make other ones.

I believe voting patterns will be closer to traditional patterns than totally different from them. You may believe otherwise, and then you’ll need to come up with your own estimate. If I’m off, how far off am I, and in what direction? Too low by 100-200 votes? Too high by 100-200 votes? And if I’m off by only that much, is the outcome of this prediction affected?

So, this says . . . if these 5,000 vote along similar lines to past Hugo voters, and we imagine three turnout scenarios, where do we end up?

Let’s not drop in book titles yet, let’s just multiply table #1 by three different turnout scenarios for our 5,000 2015 voters (40%, 60%, and 80%):

Table 2: Estimated Votes in 2016 Hugo Best Novel Category Based on Prior Voting Patterns

Turnout 40% 60% 80%
# of Typical Voters 2000 3000 4000
Book #1 355 532 709
Book #2 287 430 574
Book #3 261 392 522
Book #4 207 310 414
Book #5 181 272 363
Book #6 171 256 342
Book #7 158 237 316
Book #8 151 227 303
Book #9 139 209 278
Book #10 131 196 262

What I’m interested is whether or not these numbers beat the Rabid Puppy numbers from last post. Even if we assume robust Rabid Puppy turnout of creating 440 votes, we have 1 novel above that in the 60% scenario and 3 in the 80% scenario. Even if you pump the Rabid Puppy number up to 500, we still have at least 1 novel above in both the 60% and 80% scenario. If we lower the Rabid Puppy vote to a more modest 400, we wind up with 2 in the 60% and 4 in the 80%. This is the piece of data I want: in most turnout scenarios, a few “typical” books beat the Rabid Puppies, but not all. I’d estimate we’re in store for a mixed ballot. Only in very modest turnout scenarios (40%) do the Rabid Puppies sweep Best novel.

We do need to factor the Sad Puppies in (next post), but the numbers don’t suggest to me that the Rabid Puppies will manage 5 picks on the final Hugo ballot. The numbers also don’t suggest that there won’t be 0 Rabid Puppy picks.

Two questions remain for this post: what will the turnout be? I don’t know how many of those 5,000 will vote. I know passions are high so I assume the turnout will be high. Then again, this stage is difficult to vote in: you have to read a bunch of novels, remember when the ballot is due, realize you’re eligible to nominate, etc. To my eye, somewhere between 50-75% seems about right. I’m going to pick a conservative 60% just to have something to work with. Since I included all three bands, you’re free to pick anything according to your tastes and your own sense of what will happen.

Next, what is Novel #1 going to be? Novel #2? Novel #3? I’m just going to utilize my SFF Best of Critics list to drop in here. I definitely think the top of the list (Leckie, Jemisin, Novik) is what this group will be voting for. I’ll preserve ties, so if we go to the Top 12 contenders I’m tracking for this prediction, here’s where they show up:

1. Ancillary Mercy (estimate 17.73% of vote)
1. Uprooted (estimate 17.73% of vote)
3. The Fifth Season (estimate 13.06% of vote)
3. Aurora (estimate 13.06% of vote)
10. Seveneves (estimate 6.54% of vote)

Golden Son and The Aeronaut’s Windlass did show up on the list, so I’m going to give them a 1% of the vote. Something but not a lot. This is in line with Butcher’s past totals from before the Sad Puppies; he was only getting a few votes based on 2009 Nomination Data, where WorldCon showed us how many votes everyone got.

Could those be off significantly? Sure they could. That’s why it’s an estimate! Multiply those out in the scenarios, and you get this chart:

Typical Voters
Turnout Scenario 40% 60% 80%
Voters 2000 3000 4000
Ancillary Mercy 355 532 709
Uprooted 355 532 709
The Fifth Season 261 392 522
Aurora 261 392 522
Seveneves 131 196 262
Golden Son  20  30  40
Somewhither
The Aeronaut’s Windlass  20  30  40
Agent of the Imperium
Honor At Stake
A Long Time Until Now

Leckie and Novik get lots of votes, probably enough to beat the Rabid Puppies without any help. Given Leckie pulled in 15.3% of the vote in 2015 and 23.1% in 2014, wouldn’t her vote percentage be somewhere in that ballpark for 2016? The average of those two is 18.15%, and I predicted her at 17.73% in the chart above. Estimating is a different act than logical proof, and one that is ultimately settled by the event—come a few weeks, we’ll known the ballot, and I’ll either be right or wrong. Jemisin and Robinson get votes and will be competitive. Stephenson is down lower, but he also appears on the Rabid and Sad lists, so that jumps him over Jemisin and Robinson’s total and onto the ballot.

I know this will be the most disliked of the predictions. You know my theory at Chaos Horizon: any estimate gives you a place to start thinking. Even if you vehemently disagree with my logic, you now have something to contest. What makes more sense? If you apply those estimates, what ballot do you come up with? So argue away!

Tomorrow the Sad Puppies, and then we combine the three charts to get a bunch of different scenarios. If we see patterns across those scenarios, that’s the prediction.

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Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 2

Let’s start with the most controversial group, the Rabid Puppies. Vox Day posted a “list” on his website; how will this affect the Hugos?

I estimated the Rabid Puppies at around 550 strong in the 2015 Final Hugo vote. I feel solid about that number; I estimated it from the 586 people who voted Vox Day #1 for Best Editor, Short Form. Vox Day leapt up to 900 by the end of the voting, and that extra 400 is how I estimated the low range of the Sad Puppies.

If the Rabid Puppies had around 550 votes in 2015, how many will they bring to 2016? Since all those who voted in 2015 can nominate in 2016, I imagine it will be a big number. Even so, I can’t imagine carrying 100% over—the nomination stage is simply less interesting, less publicized, and more difficult to vote in. Let’s imagine three scenarios: an 80% scenario, a 60% scenario, and a 40% scenario. I think 80% is the most likely; this is the group most invested in impacting the Hugos and the most likely to team up again. And since they don’t have to pay an entry fee to participate in the nomination stage . . .

I also think this group will have solid slate discipline, voting the list as Vox Day published it. If you want to factor in some slate decay, I’d do so for lesser known books like Agent of the Imperium. I won’t bother with any decay in the model. With that in mind, here’s my three scenarios the following chart:

550 max Rabid Puppies
Scenario 40% 60% 80%
Total Votes 220 330 440
Ancillary Mercy
Uprooted
The Fifth Season
Aurora
Seveneves 220 330 440
Golden Son 220 330 440
Somewhither 220 330 440
The Aeronaut’s Windlass 220 330 440
Agent of the Imperium 220 330 440
Honor At Stake
A Long Time Until Now

A pretty simple model and not terribly informative so far. What you’ll glean from this is that the Rabid Puppies are likely to deliver a large block of votes to the works on their list. When we combine this chart with the estimated chart from the Typical vote and the Sad Puppy vote, that’s when we’ll be in business.

The core question is whether or not this block will be larger than other voting groups. In more lightly voted categories like Best Related Work or categories where the vote is more dispersed like Best Short Story, 400 votes is likely enough to sweep all or most of the ballot. Think about Best Related Work: the highest non-Puppy pick last year managed only around 100 votes. The top non-Puppy short story only managed 76 votes last year. Even if you triple those this year, you’re still well under 400 votes. In a more popular category like Best Novel or Best Dramatic Work, I expect the impact to be substantial but not sweeping. Perhaps 3 out of 5? 2 out of 5?

In 2015, the Rabid Puppies placed 4 out of their 5 picks on the initial Hugo ballot (Correia and Kloos declined, leaving them with only 2 spots). They were this successful partially due to their overlap with the Sad Puppies on those 4 choices. This year, the overlap is less (only 3), so I expect the effect to be less. Even with first mover advantage—remember, the Puppies took the 2015 ballot largely by surprise—Ann Leckie still had enough votes to break up the Puppy sweep in 2015. I fully expect some non-Puppy novels to show up on the final ballot.

How does this number compare to last year’s nomination vote? My best estimate of the Rabid Puppy 2015 nomination vote comes from the Rabid Puppy pick that placed #9, Brad Torgesen’s Chaplain’s War with 196 votes. Now, Torgersen could have received a number of votes outside the Rabid Puppy process, but other solo Rabid Puppy picks like the John C. Wright novellas earned in the range of 150 votes. This year’s estimate would double to triple that vote. Is this reasonable? I’ll leave that in your hands. Has the year-long controversy, with thousands of blog posts, increased the Rabid Puppies to the range of 400-500 votes? Controversy tends to drive strong reactions on both sides. Or is there a top limit to Rabid Puppy support? How would you calculate that? Is this roughly 200-400 votes enough to sweep a lot of categories? Or will the typical vote also triple, making this year much more competitive? Since the Rabid Puppies overlap with the Sad Puppies on several picks, are those novels a sure thing? What band do you expect the Rabid Puppies to be in, 40%, 60%, 80%, or something else?

Tomorrow, I’ll wade into the typical vote. Be warned!

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.

2016 Hugo Nominations Now Open

MidAmeriCon II Has finally opened up for 2016 Hugo nominations. To nominate, you need to either be a member of MidAmericon II or to have been a member of last year’s WorldCon or next years WorldCon. Deadline to join and vote in this year’s Hugos is January 31st. Here’s some specifics from their website:

•Hugo Pins and Membership Numbers will be emailed out, in batches, to the members of Sasquan, MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) starting on January 27, 2016 and going through February 5, 2016.

•People who register for MidAmeriCon II or Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) in January, 2016 will be in the last batch of pins to go out, but they will get theirs within a week of the nominations opening.

•The reason we cannot just email everyone at the same time is because of the last group of eligible voters as well as the need to coordinate 3 different Worldcon committees work together to ensure that everyone eligible to nominate gets their Hugo Pin and Membership Number in a timely manner.

After a relatively calm January, this should pick up the Hugo conversation significantly. Happy nominating!

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.

Here’s the Hugo info on the voting process. MidAmeriCon has stated Hugo voting will start in early January this year.

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.

Chaos Horizon Declaring Itself Ineligible for 2016 Hugos

After careful thought, I’m declaring that Chaos Horizon (and myself) will not accept a Hugo nomination in 2016. Because Chaos Horizon reports so extensively on the numbers related to the Hugo process, I feel it would be a conflict of interest to be part of that process in any way.

Since I do reporting and analytical work here at Chaos Horizon, it’s important from me to maintain some journalistic distance from the awards. I couldn’t do that if I were nominated. This is consistent with my past practice; I haven’t voted in the Hugos since I began Chaos Horizon. Simply put, the scorekeeper can’t play the game.

I do want to thank anyone who has said nice things about Chaos Horizon or suggested me for a Hugo. Everyone, of course, is free to discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of Chaos Horizon in any venue they so wish. I’ll just silently turn down the nomination if I happen to be nominated.

I waffled on making a statement like this. I don’t think Chaos Horizon is competitive in the Hugo, so this seems a little like too much like grandstanding . Still, my old journalism professors would say it’s necessary: you either report on the story or you are the story, not both.

To be safe, I’m also going to declare myself ineligible for the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize, and the NBA MVP.

Thanks to everyone for supporting Chaos Horizon this year! The site grew by about 100 times from 2014, and I think we’ve done some interesting work creating lists, looking at data, and making predictions. Thanks to everyone for keeping my honest by double-checking the stats. Here’s to a great 2016!

Hugo/Nebula Contenders and Popularity, December 2015

It’s the end of the month, so let’s check in on Goodreads and Amazon popularity (as measured by number of rankings) for various Hugo and Nebula contenders. This is one of many different measures I look at when predicting the Hugo and Nebula nominees.

As I’ve said before, this data is interesting but not necessarily predictive for the Hugos and the Nebulas. Goodreads and Amazon # of rankings doesn’t accurately measure popularity; they measure popularity with the Goodreads and Amazon crowds, which may or may not be well-synced up with Hugo or Nebula voters. We have no real access to sales number to actually measure books sold, so this is about the best we can do. Historically, being popular hasn’t helped much for the Nebulas. For the Hugos, it matters more, but only when that popularity is combined with strong critical response and past Hugo history.

I’m slowly migrating all my data over to Google Sheets and the cloud, so that you can look at and process the data any way you want. Here’s the link.

Table #1: Popularity of Hugo/Nebula Contenders on Goodreads, December 2015Goodreads December 2015 Chart

Table #2: Popularity of Hugo/Nebula Contenders on Amazon, December 2015Amazon December 2015 Chart

It’s interesting how static these charts are; no one really moved up or down more than 2 spots from November to January. I also track some books that aren’t contenders (Armada, for instance), just to give us some reference.

What does this mean for the Hugos? Well, Uprooted and Seveneves are hugely popular books this year, with 4 or 5 times more rankings than other award contenders like The Fifth Season or Ancillary Mercy. Even though someone like Stephenson may prove divisive (lots of people love or hate that book), the sheer number of readers may translate into more voters. Remember, you can’t vote against a book in the nomination stage. All that matters is how many people like a book, not how many hate it; the reverse can be true on the final ballot. The huge number of rankings for Novik and Stephenson is why I’ll have them very high in my initial Hugo predictions.

On the flip side, a book like Karen Memory is languishing with only 1,500 Goodreads ratings / 75 even though it came out in February. I don’t think that’s enough readers to drive Bear to a Hugo nomination in a competitive year, but only time will tell. I often use these popularity charts to distinguish between similar books. If Dickinson, Cho, Liu, Jemisin, and Novik all vaguely fall under the category of “experimental fantasy,” I’ll pick Novik/Jemisin over Liu/Cho/Dickinson based on their apparent popularity, using the theory more readers = more votes. Hopefully once I have several years of data I can find a more solid correlation, although one certainly isn’t visible yet.

Lastly, it’s fascinating at how different the Amazon rankings are than Goodreads. Why does Goodreads like Armada more than Seveneves? A book like A Long Time Until Now does terribly on Goodreads but well on Amazon (#12 on my Amazon chart, #28 on my Goodreads chart). Darker Shade of Magic is loved on Goodreads but middle-of-the-pack on Amazon. This goes to show how fundamentally different these audiences are. We shouldn’t trust either. Instead, I boost a book’s chances when it’s high across many of my different lists: if Uprooted is #2 on my Goodreads list, #3 on my Amazon list, #1 on the SFWA list, #1 on the Goodreads vote, #7 on my Mainstream Critics list, #1 on my SFF Critics list, etc., shouldn’t I predict it near the top? Throw in past Hugo/Nebula history, and that’s how the Chaos Horizon logic works; make what you will of it.

Later this month (let’s say mid-January) I’ll look to see what the ranking score is for each of these texts. Those scores don’t change much over time, so it hasn’t been worth tracking them month to month. I’ve also not found any correlation between the ranking score and award chances.

Let’s finish with a threat: I’ve gathered enough lists, 2016 is almost upon us, so I’ll make my first Nebula and Hugo predictions tomorrow!

Predicting the Hugos: Checking in with Sad Puppies IV

As we turn to the new year and thinking about predicting the 2016 Hugo nominations, it’s important to see what kind of recommendations are emerging from the Sad Puppy IV camp. According to Kate Paulk (one of this year’s organizers with Sarah Hoyt and Amanda from the blog Mad Genius Club), this is how it will work:

To that end, this thread will be the first of several to collect recommendations. There will also be multiple permanent threads (one per category) on the SP4 website where people can make comments. The tireless, wonderful volunteer Puppy Pack will be collating recommendations.

Later – most likely somewhere around February or early March, I’ll be posting The List to multiple locations. The List will not be a slate – it will be a list of the ten or so most popular recommendations in each Hugo category, and a link to the full list in all its glory. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s a pretty open question of how exactly what kind of impact this will have on the 2016 Hugo nominations. Will these recommendations operate as slate, concentrating 100-300 (or more?) Sad Puppy votes into a unbreakable voting block? Or will a longer list diffuse the Sad Puppy vote, leading to a subtler effect on the final ballot? A lot is going to depend on what the list actually looks like, so, without further ado, here is the Chaos Horizon tabulation of the Sad Puppies IV recommendation, taken from the Best Novel web page:

Somewhither Wright, John C. 12
A Long Time Until Now Williamson, Michael Z. 10
Seveneves Stephenson, Neal 10
Uprooted Novik, Naomi 8
Honor at Stake Finn, Declan 7
The Aeronaut’s Windlass Butcher, Jim 6
The Just City Walton, Jo 5
Strands of Sorrow Ringo, John 5
The Desert and the Blade Stirling, S.M. 5
Ronin Games Harmon, Marion 4
Son of the Black Sword Correia, Larry 4
Ancillary Mercy Leckie, Ann 4

To produce this, I went through and counted each recommendation from the 150 comments. Sometimes the recommendations were a little unclear, so don’t take this as 100% accurate, but rather as a rough picture of the current state of the SP4 list. If anyone wants to count and double-check, please do! Here’s a link to my spreadsheet, which contains all recommended novels.

So, if this were the final list—and I expect it to change greatly by time we reach March—how would this impact the 2016 Hugo nominations?

I immediately see 4 “overlap” situations with more typical Hugo books (Stephenson, Novik, Walton, Leckie). Any number of votes driven to Seveneves, Uprooted, or Ancillary Mercy all but assures those books of a Hugo nomination. I have each of those as very likely to get nominations anyways (Leckie beat several SP/RP recommendations last year; Novik is buzziest Fantasy novel of the year; Stephenson is well-liked by Hugo voters with numerous past noms). Walton is the dark horse here; My Real Children missed the 2015 ballot by only 90 votes. How many votes could being in the #6 slot of Sad Puppies IV get you?

Three other texts stand out to me from this early list as real potential Hugo nominees. A Long Time Until Now is a military-SF novel published by Baen; it has a solid number of Amazon rankings (269); Michael Z. Williamson was in the middle of last year’s kerfuffle with the Hugo nominated Wisdom From My Internet. This could emerge as the “Baen” book for both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, although RP is much harder to predict. If this overlapped between those two groups, it would be a strong possibility.

Somewhither by John C. Wright was published by Vox Day’s Castalia House, and would seem to be exactly the kind of book the Rabid Puppies would select for their slate. Wright was nominated 6 times for the Hugo last year, although one was rescinded for eligibility reasons. This will be a work to keep your eye on as a test of SP/RP numbers.

Jim Butcher grabbed 387 votes for Skin Game last year. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first in a new fantasy series, which might make it easier for new readers to get into. I don’t think this book is as well-liked as the Dresden novels, but is it capable of grabbing tons of votes? Butcher’s reading audience is just that big.

Lastly, will certain writers from this list turn down Hugo nominations? Correia did exactly that last year, and I’ve heard rumors (but not seen sources; if someone has one, please post in comments) that Ringo would do the same. Would someone like Butcher or Stephenson just not want the hassle in 2016? They’re so famous and so sell so many books that they don’t need the Hugos.

There’s still a long ways to go in the Hugo Wars of 2016. What I’ll do at Chaos Horizon is the work I always do—collecting information, posting lists, and speculating as to what might happen. Enjoy the chaos!

Predicting the Hugos: Thinking of 2016

It’s getting close to the first of the year, and I’ll have my first 2016 Hugo prediction up soon! Here at Chaos Horizon, we use the stats and data from previous years to predict what will happen going forward. Obviously, that’s a very specific methodology that won’t be to everyone’s taste.

Here’s how it works: I begin with the assumption that what will happen in the 2016 Hugos will follow the patterns of previous years, particularly 2015. Of course, every year is different, but this gives us a starting point to begin a prediction. This assumption is useful in some cases (the Warriors have gone 28-1 games in the NBA so far; should I predict the Warriors to win their next basketball game?) and not useful in other cases (let’s say I rolled three fours in a row with a pair of dice; should I predict the next roll to also be a 4?).

The tricky part for the 2016 Hugos is to make a decent estimate of how much impact the Sad/Rabid Puppies will have this year. Before Correia and Kloos withdrew, the Puppies took 4 out of the top 5 Novel spots in the 2015 Hugos. After the controversy surrounding the slates hit in 2015, there was a huge increase of Hugo voters (5,653 people voted in the Best Novel category, up from 3,137 in 2014). All 5,653 of these voters are eligible to vote in the 2016 Hugo nominations—but how many of them will? And what percentage will follow/be influenced by the Puppies?

I don’t think we’ll exactly know until the nomination stats are released next August, but what we can do is work on some sensible guesses.

First thing, how many people will nominate in 2016? We saw a voting increase between the 2014 and 2015 Final Hugo Ballot of 5653/3137 = 1.8X. If we apply that number to last year’s nomination number, we’d get a 1827 2015 nomination ballots * 1.8 = 3289 nomination ballots in the Best Novel category. The controversy and high emotions surrounding last year’s Hugo could drive that number even higher. Remember, though, that the nomination process doesn’t get near as much ink as the final ballot does.

Next, to predict the nominees for the 2016 Hugos, I’ll begin with some stats from 2015:

Best Novel Nominations 2015 Hugo (1,827 ballots)
387 Skin Game Jim Butcher 21.2%
372 Monster Hunter Nemesis Larry Correia 20.4% *
279 Ancillary Sword Ann Leckie 15.3%
270 Lines of Departure Marko Kloos 14.8% *
263 The Dark Between the Stars Kevin J. Anderson 14.4%
256 The Goblin Emperor Katherine Addison 14.0%
210 The Three Body Problem Liu Cixin 11.5%
199 Trial By Fire Charles E. Gannon 10.9%
196 The Chaplain’s War Brad Torgersen 10.7%
168 Lock In John Scalzi 9.2%
160 City of Stairs Robert Jackson Bennett 8.8%
141 The Martian Andy Weir 7.7%
126 Words of Radiance Brandon Sanderson 6.9%
120 My Real Children Jo Walton 6.6%
112 The Mirror Empire Kameron Hurley 6.1%
92 Lagoon Nnedi Okorafor 5.0%
88 Annihilation Jeff Vandemeer 4.8%

Correia and Kloos turned down their nominations. We need to be aware that something similar could happen again. Also note how close Addison was—she almost beat Anderson (7 votes).

Let’s transform that chart by taking out the author’s names and replacing them with either Sad/Rabid Overlap (appeared on both the Sad + Rabid slates), Sad No Overlap (appeared only on the Sad Puppy slate), Rabid No Overlap (appeared only on the Rabid Puppy slate), or Typical (did not appear on a slate). Here’s what you get:

Best Novel (1,827 ballots)
Spot #1: 387 Sad/Rabid Overlap #1 21.2%
Spot #2: 372 Sad/Rabid Overlap #2 20.4% *
Spot #3: 279 Typical #1 15.3%
Spot #4: 270 Sad/Rabid Overlap #3 14.8% *
Spot #5: 263 Sad/Rabid Overlap #4 14.4%
Spot #6: 256 Typical #2 14.0%
Spot #7: 210 Typical #3 11.5%
Spot #8: 199 Sad No Overlap #1 10.9%
Spot #9: 196 Rabid No Overlap #1 10.7%
Spot #10: 168 Typical #4 9.2%
Spot #11: 160 Typical #5 8.8%
Spot #12: 141 Typical #6 7.7%
Spot #13: 126 Typical #7 6.9%
Spot #14: 120 Typical #8 6.6%
Spot #15: 112 Typical #9 6.1%
Spot #16: 92 Typical #10 5.0%
Spot #17: 88 Typical #11 4.8%

This allows us to see the relative power of the picks. When the Sad and Rabid Puppies overlapped, they were able to generate more votes than anything but the most popular Typical pick. At the top, in Spot #1 and #2, they had a comfortable margin (100 votes). When the Sad and Rabid puppies separated, they fell behind Typical #1, #2, and #3. We can also see that the Sad/Rabid numbers fell off rapidly: Overlaps #1 and #2 generated more votes than less popular Overlaps #3 and #4.

So, if everything stayed the same, or the number of votes generated by the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies increased at the same rate as the Typical votes, you’d predict Sad/Rabid Overlap #1 and #2 to make the final ballot, with the most popular Typical #1 book also to make the ballot, and then a dogfight for Spots #4-#5.

But everything isn’t likely to stay the same. Sad Puppies IV is already putting together a crowd-sourced list; with more than 5 suggestions in the Novel category, that could very well dilute the vote across those nominations. I suspect we’ll see something similar to last year: works at the top of the list that are very popular, on the order of Butcher popular, will generate far more votes than less popular works lower down on the list.

We also have no idea whether what I’m calling the “Typical,” “Sad,” and “Rabid” votes will increase at the same rate. Other discernible blocks could also emerge, although you can’t vote against someone in the nomination stage, so nothing like an explicit anti-Puppy vote can occur without generating an opposing slate.

This could also create a situation where the Sad Puppies and the Typical votes overlap, like if the Sad Puppies picked Seveneves or Uprooted, books already strong Hugo contenders. I’ll take a look at the leaders in the Sad Puppy nominations tomorrow.

I think things will be very close in the lower spots. A surge of 100-200 voters in either direction can imagine it, and the kind of predictive work I do at Chaos Horizon is incapable of tracking things that finely, particularly when faced with major change.

So, here’s my initial thoughts, what I’m calling the Overlap Theory: Since the 2016 Hugos nominations are likely to draw such attention, the works that are most likely to get nominations are those that overlap in more than one of the Typical/Sad/Rabid categories. The power of overlapping will usually be more powerful than going alone. So here’s what my initial top of the Ballot might look like:

1. Typical/Sad Overlap #1
2. Sad/Rabid Overlap #1
3. Typical/Sad Overlap #2
4. Sad/Rabid Overlap #2
5. Typical No Overlap #1
6. Sad/Rabid Overlap #3
7. Sad/Rabid Overlap #4
8. Typical No Overlap #2
9. Typical No Overlap #3
10. Sad No Overlap #1
11. Rabid No Overlap #1

That’s assuming no major shifts in percentages in the relative group sizes from last year. If you’ve got any suggestions on how to calculate such shifts, let me know!

So, as we dive into another controversial year, what do you think? Do the 2015 stats provide any meaningful guidance for 2016, or will things be so dynamic/unpredictable that the past is no guide to the future? What impact do you think the Puppies will have on the 2016 nominations? How can we best model that impact here at Chaos Horizon?

Best of 2015: Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice

A few weeks ago, the 2015 Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice list came out. Over the past several years, this has been an important list to track for several reasons. First, it gathers recommendations from 11 Tor.com critics, making it a collated list of its own. Second, it has been fairly well synced up to the Hugos and Nebulas, at least before the campaigning of last year. In 2013, they recommended Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice three times; it swept the Hugo and Nebula. Last year, Goblin Emperor was recommended 3 times; it scores Hugo and Nebula noms and that could very well have won the Hugo if not for the Puppies.

I’ll eventually include this list in my SFF Critics Meta-List, but for that I’ll only give each book mentioned one vote to keep the stats lined up. In this post, I’ll collate how many times the 11 critics mentioned each book, to see if there’s a Tor.com winner. I don’t count honorable mentions, and I don’t decide whether a book is a novel or not, or eligible or not. You’re mentioned as the top of the year, you make it. Without further ado, here are the results of books that got more than one recommendation:

3 mentions: Uprooted, Naomi Novik
2 mentions: Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho
2 mentions: Escape from Baghdad!, Saad Hossain

No surprise to see Uprooted at the top of another list (it’s also leading the SFWA recommended list). At this point, I think it’s clear to say that Uprooted is the Hugo and Nebula front-runner. Escape from Baghdad! was a surprise, but 2 mentions is hardly dominant. Zen Cho has done fairly well so far this “Best Of” season and has a shot at the Nebula.

The Tor.com list was light on SF this year. Only one mention of Seveneves, and none of Aurora, The Water Knife, or Nemesis Games, just to pick three SF novels that have been getting attention elsewhere.

This lists become more valuable the more of them we get. Eventually, I’ll gather all the lists I find from big SFF websites into one Meta-List. If you want the sneak-preview, here it is. Only two lists so far (Tor.com and the Barnes and Noble SF Blog), so it’s not very useful (yet!).

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