Not a Blog

Handicapping the Hugos, Part the Second

August 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm
Profile Pic

Continued from last rock. My thoughts and predictions for this year’s Hugo Awards.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM. Which is pretty much “Best Television Episode,” though in theory various other types of “short form” are eligible. In certain years it has actually been the “Best Doctor Who Episode” category. Last year, for instance, episodes of GAME OF THRONES and ORPHAN BLACK went up against no fewer than four (4!!) DOCTOR WHO episodes. (GAME OF THRONES beat them all, and in the UK no less. No one was more shocked than me. Before the ceremony, I’d told David Benioff and Dan Weiss that we didn’t have a chance of beating the Doctor on his home turf. Which might be evidence that I am really rubbish at predicting these races, but there you go). This year the ballot is considerably more diverse. Episodes of DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES, and ORPHAN BLACK have been joined by the pilot from THE FLASH and an episode of GRIMM. This may be the first time since this category was created that five different series were represented, which I see as a good thing. FLASH, GRIMM, and GAME OF THRONES were all part of one or the other slates. ORPHAN BLACK and DOCTOR WHO were not. The relationship between the three “slate” picks and the Puppies is all one-sided, I promise you; no one at HBO has the vaguest notion who Teddy Beale and Brad Torgersen are, and I figure the same is true for the producers and directors of THE FLASH and GRIMM. Nonetheless, the followers of the “Puppy-free ballot” are crossing all three shows off their list, leaving only DOCTOR WHO and ORPHAN BLACK. GAME OF THRONES has actually won three Hugo Awards in a row, and might have a good shot at taking a fourth here… but I think the Whovians (still annoyed at losing last year), the Puppy-free voters, and the Loncon voters will swing the balance. I think DOCTOR WHO bounces back and wins here. Of course, I would be happy to be proved wrong, as I was last year. (And of course I cannot hope to be objective here, since I do have a horse in this race. If GAME OF THRONES wins, HBO has asked me to accept for David and Dan and the show).

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM. Three nominees from the slates — INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and THE LEGO MOVIE — against two that were un-slated — CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and EDGE OF TOMORROW. All pretty good to excellent movies, and one that I thought was great. (I voted for that one, but don’t think that it will win). Any of them would make a worthy Hugo winner. (So would PREDESTINATION, which sadly did not make the ballot). This category, more than any other, demonstrates the folly of those voting the “Puppy-free ballot.” I am quite sure that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, the folks at Marvel, and the Lego team have never heard of the Puppies, of either stripe; they may not even heard of the Hugo Awards. To throw their work aside, just because the Puppies put it on their slate, is as unjust as it is moronic. You don’t want VD and Brad Torgersen telling you who to vote for, so why in the world would you let them tell you who NOT to vote for? Me, I voted for the movie I liked best, and I hope you all did the same. I think GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to win, though THE LEGO MOVIE could upset. If WINTER SOLDIER takes it, it will be mostly because of the blowback against the slates. The Pups will likely try to claim a GUARDIANS Hugo as a victory for them, but it’s a hollow boast; their backing is irrelevent.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY. One Puppy nominee, a zombie story. Four finalists from fandom. From the comments I have seen on Puppy blogs, a lot of Puppies will be No Awarding this category. The Puppy nominee is the weakest here, in both story and art; the Puppy antipathy to the other finalists seems to come down to “they’re not ours” and “they are more of that social justice shit.” I know that many Sads claim they have been unfairly characterized as bigots, and sure, maybe so… but there are certainly bigots AMONG them. How else to explain their hatred of MS. MARVEL, which is a sweet, charming, entertaining superhero story, distinguished only by the fact that the hero is a sympathetic young Muslim girl? No, the comic wasn’t WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT, it broke no new ground, but it was well-told, well-drawn, fun to read, funny in places. Sure, you could argue SAGA was better, or RAT QUEENS… but the negatively about MS. MARVEL is way disproportionate. In any case, I liked several of these, but I think SAGA will win.

BEST RELATED WORK. Hoo boy. What can I say that dozens of reviewers have not said before me? This will be the first NO AWARD of the evening, I think… and deservedly so. The nominees are all Puppies. Two are simply undistinguished. Lou Antonelli’s LETTERS FROM GARDNER is more a short story collection than a “related work” and really should not have been eligible (and I have to wonder, if it wins, does Gardner get a rocket too for providing those letters?). And the last two nominees are… well, one is erudite and ugly, and one is stupid and repugnant. To get this chaff on the ballot, the Puppies crowded off Jo Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and the second volume of Patterson’s biography of Robert A. Heinlein, among other things. Even one of the Puppy nominees is urging a No Award vote here, in his own category… probably so that he can then claim victory when it comes to pass. If No Award does not win here, it won’t win anywhere.

BEST SHORT STORY. All Puppies, but a stronger lineup than Related Work. Kary English has a real shot here with “Totalled.” Of all the slate nominees, that’s the one that the non-Puppy readers and reviewers have found the most interesting. The Steve Diamond story was a late addition after Annie Bellet withdrew; straightforward adventure, and from a major house (Baen), it could be a dark horse. The two Castalia House stories have a shot only if there are a lot more Rabids among the new voters than anyone dreamed. So… English has a decent shot, but in a fairly close race this one goes NO AWARD.

BEST NOVELETTE. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is pitted against four Puppies. The Heuvelt slid onto the ballot only when a John C. Wright story was disqualified as ineligible. The Moens and others opposed to the slates will all be voting for it on those grounds, I guess, but it is not as strong as standard bearer as might be hoped, and if it carries the day it will be mostly because of backblow against the slates rather than its own innate literary quality. The four Puppy nominees range from “meh” to “not too bad,” in my opinion. I don’t see any of them as Hugo calibre. Three of them are from ANALOG, however, and ANALOG still has the highest circulation of any of the print magazines. One of those might emerge, as the others are eliminated and the ANALOG votes cascade. But I think this category goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVELLA. All Puppies. FOUR Castalia House stories, three of them by John C. Wright. If the Puppies have been winning earlier, if lots and lots of those new voters are Puppy supporters, maybe one of the Wrights will emerge. But the fifth nominees, “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, is from ANALOG, which is much more widely read than anything by Castalia House, and Andrews has not antagonized nearly as many fans as Wright and Kratman have. He may even get some non-Puppy votes. Enough to win? Likely not. Novella goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVEL. Aha. “The Big One.” Last award of the evening. Two finalists from the slates, against three that came out of fandom. This will be an interesting contest. There are, I think, four strong contenders. SKIN GAME is hurt by its association with the slates, and by being part of a long-running series, and by being urban fantasy, never a popular subgenre with Hugo voters. That’s three strikes right there… but it would be a mistake to count Jim Butcher out. He’s a very popular author, a megaseller with millions of fans, and one should NEVER underestimate someone like that (as I learned at Millenium Philcon, when I got schooled by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling). Internet fandom has been fighting the Puppy Wars for months now, and we assume the whole world is aware of them, but that’s far from true. A certain percentage of the Hugo voters may be entirely unaware of all of this, and many of them may vote SKIN GAME, a fast-moving and entertaining Harry Dresden. I think Butcher is the strongest candidate the Puppies have for a major win… though Butcher himself is not a Puppy, and has stayed entirely above this fray. That being said, his competition is pretty strong. I don’t think Anne Leckie will win for ANCILLARY SWORD. She took the big one last year with ANCILLARY JUSTICE, and — unlike the artist categories — it is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row. (Orson Scott Card did it, with ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, but he’s the only one I can recall). THREE-BODY PROBLEM and GOBLIN EMPEROR are very different books, but both them have real strengths. Here’s the thing, though: although THREE-BODY was not on the Puppy slates, some of the Puppies have praised it afterward, so if and when the Puppy nominees are eliminated in successive rounds of the Australian ballot, some of their votes will shift to Cixin Liu, enough to put him over the top. I think THREE-BODY PROBLEM wins a Hugo for China (but I won’t be too shocked if GOBLIN EMPEROR or SKIN GAME scores an upset). No Award has no chance here. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN remains the best novel I read last year, and I am going to be very curious to see how many nominations it got, and whether it came close to making the ballot).

And there have them. My picks.

Let me close with this. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If I am wrong, and the Nuclear voters or Deidre Moen’s Puppy-Free crowd prevail, I will be unhappy and sad, but I will be the first to admit that I lost. If it turns out those 2400 new voters were all Beale fans, and John C. Wright and VD emerge clutching rockets, I will be disgusted and sick to my stomach, but I will also tell the truth and say, “We lost. Bad.”

But if the vote goes the way I am predicting, with a mix of slate and non-slate victors and a few No Awards where they were earned, I will applaud that as the best result we could have hoped for, and a victory for worldcon, fandom, and the Hugos themselves.

I hope at least a few of the more honest Puppies will have the integrity to admit the same.

Win, lose, or no award, I intend to have a great time at the con with my fannish friends.

See you all in Spokane.

Handicapping the Hugos

August 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm
Profile Pic

I do not own a Tardis, nor a crystal ball, and I cannot gaze into the flames like Melisandre of Asshai to see glimpses of the future. So I really have no idea how the Hugo Awards are going to shake out this Saturday, when the rockets are handed out in Spokane.

I can make guesses, though. Educated guesses, but guesses nonetheless. Once upon the time, back in the 70s and 80s, I used to be pretty good at handicapping the Hugos. I had no special knowledge, but I knew the field and I knew fandom, so I could look at the list of nominees and predict the winners, and I’d be right at least half the time. Damned good ((for baseball)).

Admittedly, I seem to have lost that knack in more recent decades, and my batting average has gone way way down. Maybe I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the field as well, being too busy with my own books. But what the hell. You win some, you lose some, and some get no award.

I still have no special insider knowledge, so your guesses may be as good as mine… but I’m in a quixotic mood, so I’m going to take a run at it and tell you what I think is going to happen come Saturday… and what I WANT to happen, which will not always be the same thing. For the most part, I won’t tell you which nominees I vote for myself, though in certain categories you may be able to winkle it out.

More Hugo ballots were cast this year than ever before: 5950 of them, to be precise. Last year, Loncon only received 3587 votes. That’s almost 2400 new voters. Virtually all the races are going to turn on who those voters are. Trufans? Sad Puppies? Rabids? Gamergaters? My own guess is “all of the above.” Ah, but how many of each?

The proof is in those ballots.

Past Hugo races were simple. You read the nominees, ranked them in the order that you liked them. Maybe you put some below No Award, the ones you thought unworthy… but No Award almost never won anything. Usually it finished last.

This year is very different. Thanks to Puppygate, we now have distinct groups of voters. There are the Sad Puppies and the Rabids, each seemingly committed to its own slate of nominees. Judging by the nominations, the two Puppy factions command at least 200 votes, and may well have doubled or tripled that number during the controversy. We have the “nuclear option” advocates, the most extreme of those on the other side, who want to vote No Award in every category. Their close cousins, not quite so radical, are those taking Deirdre Moen’s “Puppy-Free Ballot” as their bible, excluding all the finalists from the slates (plus Laura Mixon, just for pique) and choosing from what remains, voting No Award in the All Puppy categories.

And then there are the rest of us. I don’t like what the Puppies did, and have not been shy in saying so, but once it was done, it was done. So my own approach has been the simplest. Read the work, make your judgements, cast your vote. If there are nominees you feel are unworthy of a rocket, rank them below No Award. If ALL the works in a category are unworthy, vote No Award.

The interplay between these five groups of voters will determine who wins and who weeps.

I have already discussed the Campbell Award. Taking the rest of the ballot in turn, we have:

BEST FAN ARTIST. The only Puppy-free category. Either the Sads and the Rabids do not care about fan art, or they did not know any fan artists. I would like to see Steve Stiles win this one. He’s nominated almost every year, but never wins. Spring Schoenhuth came on strong last year, and could contend. But the award will probably go to BRAD W. FOSTER, who has won eight times before. In the artist categories, once you start winning you tend to keep on winning.

BEST FAN WRITER. The ballot pits four Puppy picks against Laura J. Mixon, who earned her spot with her devastating expose of the notorious internet troll Requires Hate. In a normal year, Mixon would be a long shot. Most fan writing is… well, more fannish, often featuring wit and humor. Trip reports, con reports, satires. Investigative journalism, of the sort featured in Mixon’s report, is seldom seen here, and might have had a tough go. But none of the usual fan writers made the cut this year. Most of those opposed to the slates are going to unite behind Mixon, I think. The strongest of the Puppy candidates is Jeffro Johnson, who seems to be mostly a book reviewer. And yes, book reviewers have won here before. Dick Geis comes to mind, and Charles N. Brown as well (though Charlie did a lot more). The other three are more purebread Puppies, most of whose writing seems concerned with attacking “SJWs” and other bugaboos. In their own way, they are minor league versions of Requires Hate… far less venomous, yes, and coming from the right instead of the left, but still more heat than light. Unless there are a lot more Puppies than I think, I doubt that any of them are contenders. The real threat to Mixon is No Award. The Puppies will all be ranking her last, since she’s all that opposes their foursome; Hate’s allies and enablers (yes, there are still some) will be voting against her, because How Dare She; the Nukes are No Awarding everything; and Deirdre Moen has crossed Mixon off her “Puppy-Free Ballot” as well, the only non-Puppy accorded that singular honor. Will the combination of all these factions be enough? I hope not. I think Laura Mixon’s courageous and compassionate article was not only the best piece of fanwriting out last year, but IMPORTANT as well. If there was ever a time to stand up against hatespeech and bigotry, whether from the right or the left, it’s now. If Sasquan gives out only one Hugo next Saturday, I hope it is Laura Mixon who wins it… for herself, and for all of the victims of Requires Hate. When I put on my handicapper’s hat, however, I rate the odds about even between Mixon and No Award. I will pick with my heart instead of my head, and predict a Hugo for LAURA J. MIXON.

BEST FANCAST. Not a category I have much interest in, if truth be told. Three of the finalists come from the slates, two from fandom. I am going to throw a dart and predict a Hugo for TEA AND JEOPARDY, by Emma and Peter Newman.

BEST FANZINE. Four nominees from the slates. Only JOURNEY PLANET stands apart. One of the Puppy choices, BLACK GATE, has withdrawn, but too late to be removed from the ballot. TANGENT, a long-running and venerable review zine whose roots go back to the 70s, has name recognition with pros and traditional worldcon fans as well as the Pups, which should make it a threat. But I think JOURNEY PLANET wins out in the end.

BEST SEMIPROZINE. This one should go to LOCUS in a walk… except, oooops, the rules were jiggered so that LOCUS is not eligible. Only two nominees from the slates, and one of those, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS, seems horrified to have been slated. No matter. I think that LIGHTSPEED takes this one.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST. The finalists are last year’s winner, Julie Dillon, and four Puppies. JULIE DILLON wins in a rout. As with fan artist, once someone starts to win in these categories, they tend to win a bunch in a row. Dillon would have had an excellent shot at repeating in any case, but the Pups made it much easier for her by displacing John Picacio, Marc Simonetti, Michael Komarck, Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, and a lot of other major artists, some of them past winners, who could have provided her with real competition.

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM. The first All Puppy category. If Vox Day wins, the end time is surely nigh for both worldcon and the Hugo Awards. VD is not the best editor in the field, or one of the best five, or one of the best fifty. His presence here is no more than a “fuck you” from his followers to those dreaded SJWs. I think… hope… he will finish last. The other four finalists are legitimate editors, however, and deserving of their nominations. I think the contest is between Sheila Gilbert of DAW and Toni Weisskopf of Baen. Jim Minz is a good guy and a good editor, but he’s at Baen, and the Baen voters are going to go for Toni, who is the senior presence there. Anne Sowards of Ace and Roc is a worthy choice too, and it’s nice to see her getting some recognition, but I think she’s a long shot this year. Weisskopf and Gilbert were both nominees last year at Loncon, and Weisskopf was the last one eliminated in the first round of voting, losing out to the eventual winner Ginjer Buchanan. And she had more nominations even than Ginjer last time around. I think this may be her year. The Puppies love Baen the best of all the publishers in the field and will rally around her, but Toni is a solid professional with a lot of friends in fandom and prodom as well, and she’s done a commendable job with Baen Books since succeeding the late Jim Baen. The Nukes and the Moens will be No Awarding this category, since it is all slate, but I think (hope) there are not enough of them to matter. It would be a tragedy if we threw out four good editors just because the Puppies like them too. So my prediction here is TONI WEISSKOPF. The first nominee from the slates to take a Hugo.

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM. All Puppies again. VD again. Last place again. Edmund Schubert of ORSON SCOTT CARD’S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW withdrew, but too late to be removed from the ballot. That leaves Jennifer Brozek, anthologist Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and Mike Resnick. I think the Hugo goes to MIKE RESNICK. And yes, he’s a deserving winner. He’s founded an interesting new magazine, GALAXY’S EDGE, at a time when the old magazines are dying. He’s a former worldcon GOH, a mainstay of midwestern fandom for decades, well known and much beloved. He’s edited lots of good anthologies. Oh, and the Puppies love him… albeit for the wrong reason (losing the column he and Barry Malzberg did for SFWA BULLETIN in a kerfuffle over sexism). More important than any of that, Mike has been a mentor to uncounted number of new young writers over the years, some of whom have gone on to become Hugo and Nebula nominees themselves. Discovering and nurturing new talent is one of the most important things an editor does. Resnick has won numerous Hugos (and lost more), but all for his writing; this would be his first win as editor. All that being said, I do think the slates seriously fucked up this category. A win here, whether for Resnick or one of the other nominees, would be far more meaningful if it came against stronger competition, against Sheila Williams and Ellen Datlow and Gordon van Gelder and Gardner Dozois and the other great editors who have long dominated this category. To be the champ, you need to beat the champ, I always heard; this year, the Puppies kept all the champs off the ballot.

I am only halfway done, I know. But this is very long. I will break here, and cover the rest of the categories in another post.

If any of you out there want to post your own picks, feel free. It could be fun to see who gets the most right. But remember… we’re handicapping here, not fighting another round in the culture war. Attack posts and abuse will be deleted.