A modest Hugo Award proposal

I received the following proposal from a long-time genre fan who wishes to stay anonymous. This person cares deeply about the Hugo Awards and, like many people in the science fiction and fantasy field, wants a solution to the current controversy which is threatening to destroy the Hugos once and for all.

After considering all of the alternatives, I think a proposal like this is a solution which could end this destructive fight. Yes, some people involved in Worldcon are already working on rule changes to make it harder to game the Hugo nomination system through block voting. However, it is unlikely anything would be approved until next year's Worldcon because it takes two Worldcon cycles for members to vote and approve significant change to the Hugo nomination process.  This means we could easily experience dueling nomination campaigns next year. And the rule changes being considering are, while needed and long overdue, also unlikely to prevent anything like this from happening again. (For a description of the rule changes being considered, see the proposal below.)

But instead of simply tweaking the Hugo rules, perhaps a better solution is to find common ground and agree to fix the Hugo Awards once and for all.

The proposal below seems like something all of fandom could agree to. And even if this proposal doesn't agree with people, perhaps a different form of proportional nominating would work.

I look forward to hearing people's thoughts. And many thanks to the person who sent this proposal to me.

The Proposal

I don't know why I'm writing to you about this, other than that I've seen you post about Hugo nomination rules and potential rumors of changes thereto on Twitter. What I've heard about is a possibility of the "4/6" process, where voters may select 4 titles to nominate, and the nominees list will be at least 6 titles. I actually think this is a step in the wrong direction. (It may — may — help mitigate "sweeps" but an organized campaign can overcome that by simply having 2 (or actually 1.5) "slates" and enough of a push behind them both. But that's not why I don't particularly like it.

Where smaller categories get bogged down and overwhelmed by manipulation — short fiction, related work, etc. — is that there are many dozens of "very good" stories and (since long blog posts are related works now, though another topic would be creating a "short related work" category for that so that book-length related works can have their say, but boy is that a digression) related works, and (with the rise of so many anthologies and small press e-zines that do good work) so many short form editors, etc. That a hundred people like stories ABCDE, and another hundred like AFGHI, and another... so when an aggressive slate pushes VWXYZ everything (except perhaps the "A" that is a majority choice from the get-go) is pushed off. The long tail of good stories is its own defeat.

But! We can solve this with better democracy, in a way that (I hope) even the Sad Puppies would like. The approach is to allow *more* instead of *fewer* nominations per voter, ranked, and counted by a special Condorcet method which preserves proportional representation.

Proportional representation means basically that if 60% of ballots are A-B-C-D-E and 40% of ballots are F-G-H-I-J that the 5 nominees are A-B-C-F-G. This is what I actually favor: minority representation is important no matter which "side" one might be on. It makes for an environment where if 600 people really dig literary spectrum stories, and 400 people really dig pulp adventure, that each can put forth some nominees, instead of the 600 always having their sway. (Or the 400 turning rabid and ramming a wedged slate down everyone else's throat.)

Further, by allowing 10 short fiction nominations, for example, we can avoid the problem of so many people (who like the same 20 stories) splitting their own voice and picking non-intersecting groups of 5 stories, only to be overwhelmed by a dedicated group that won't split its vote.


At that link is a short article about the Condorcet "proportional representation" method, attached to the Cornell server which you can play around with, submitting sample ballot files, etc. (I encourage trying the 60% ABCDE and 40% FGHIJ ballot, because I think it's *awesome* that it comes up with ABCFG.)

Even without the (radical, I admit) step of expanding the nominations to 10 per category per voter, using proportional representation would also prevent a 'sweep' by a true minority bloc. I should note, though, that not expanding to 10 nominations per vote would not allow people to express their preference for more of the long tail of truly fantastic fiction that you and your fellow writers publish each year.