Friday, April 29, 2016

Slates, Handicaps and Equitable Results

As though you haven't heard, the Hugo nominations have been announced, and just as last year, they're largely dominated by a certain neo-fascist clique that's engaged in a ballot-stuffing campaign. Things are slightly better than last go around, and several legitimate works have made it on the ballot in major categories, whereas the Puppy domination is confined to categories that only the nominees and their friends care about.

However, there's an added wrinkle this year in that Vox Day decided to poison the well by putting several works that would've been nominated anyway on his slate. Whereas last year there were only two options on the ballot -- crap that got nominated through underhanded scheming, and good stuff nominated on its own merit -- this year we have a third category -- good stuff that received a boost from underhanded scheming. For those who advance the idea that every work should be voted on its merits, this isn't a problem -- the good stuff is good stuff regardless of how it reached the ballot -- but for those who oppose the undermining of democratic processes for their own sake, it creates a bind.

In general, this year's categories can be divided three ways. In the first group, we have things like Best Related Work that contain nothing but crap, where the best solution is to vote No Award above everything. Simple enough. Then we have Best Dramatic Presentation Longform, where the final ballot looks like it would even if the Puppies hadn't gamed the nominations, so that can safely be treated as it would in any other year.

The problem comes in categories where there's a mixture. Remember, while the Puppies aren't a powerful enough bloc to win on the final ballot, that doesn't mean they aren't large enough to swing a close race. Imagine, for instance, that Seveneves wins this year, but when the balloting data comes out we see that it was in a narrow race against The Fifth Season, and the margin of victory was smaller than the number of slate voters. If you find slate voting anathema in and of itself, this is a bad outcome. Some will dismiss this by saying that Vox Day will declare victory no matter what, but in this case he'd be correct -- he was able to exert enough pressure on the process to affect the outcome.

But at the same time, if Seveneves wins, the majority of its support will come from legitimate voters who genuinely like the book. If you're one of those people -- maybe even one of the people who nominated it without orders from Day -- should you vote it under No Award on principle? That's a tough question, but then standing up for a principle is never an easy choice.

Probably the best option at this point is to handicap your votes to counter any boost a work is likely to get from the Pups. For instance, let's say your preference for best novel is:

  1. Seveneves
  2. Uprooted
  3. The Fifth Season
  4. Ancillary Mercy
  5. No Award
  6. The Aeronaut's Windlass
You could promote anything that's not slated by one spot, then demote anything that's on the Rabid list by the same amount (since the Sads seem to have very little affect this year, we can simply leave them with no handicap). This would give a revised ballot of:

  1. The Fifth Season
  2. Seveneves
  3. Uproooted
  4. Ancillary Mercy
  5. No Award
  6. The Aeronaut's Windlass
There are several other ways you could handle the handicap. Reversing the order in which you apply the rules would give you:

  1. Uprooted
  2. The Fifth Season
  3. Seveneves
  4. Ancillary Mercy
  5. No Award
  6. The Aeronaut's Windlass
Or, if you want to handicap the Sads as well, you could demote them by one spot and the Rabids by two:

  1. The Fifth Season
  2. Uprooted
  3. Seveneves
  4. No Award
  5. Ancillary Mercy
  6. The Aeronaut's Windlass 
 Personally I think that ones a bit overkill, but I don't see it as illegitimate. The point is to come up with a system where you feel comfortable with the results, both in terms of your personal ballot and with the impact the Pups will have on the end results.

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