Measuring the slow Hugo Award death of the rabid puppies

Congrats to this year's Hugo Award winners. Plenty of great works won Hugos at the 75th Worldcon in Helsinki, including a Best Novel for The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin. This means the first two novels in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy have won the Hugo Award. I'm really looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, which comes out in a few days. The Broken Earth trilogy is now one of the most acclaimed and honored series in SF/F history, so if you haven't read the novels do so.

It was also exciting to note the crossover between this year's Hugo and Nebula Awards, with the novella "Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and the short story "Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal El-Mohtar winning both awards.

One of the most interesting aspects of this year's Hugos was to see how the new voting rules revealed the overall weakness of the rabid puppies slate. Under this year's Hugo rules, designed to reduce the impact of bloc and slate voting, people were able to nominate up to 5 works or people in each category. However, the top 6 works or people in each category become finalists, ensuring slate voting can't stuff all slots on the final Hugo ballot.

In addition, nomination votes were tallied by both the total number of nominations received and by points, with a single point assigned to each individual voter’s nomination ballot. That means if you nominated works in all 5 slots within a category, each of those nominations would receive 1/5 of a point. If you nominated only a single work in a category, that nomination would receive a full point.

Because of these new rules Vox Day, who organizes the pup slate each year, urged his followers to only make a single nomination in most categories, ensuring their slate would receive the maximum number of points. While this strategy placed a single one of their slate in many of the categories, it also revealed exactly how small their movement is.

For example, in the nomination tally released last week by Worldcon (PDF download), eventual Best Novel winner The Obelisk Gate received 480 ballots with a final points tally of 295.97 (out of 2078 total ballots cast for 652 nominees). Most nominees on the nomination tally received similar ballot to point spreads, indicating the people nominating those works were also nominating 2 or 3 or more works in each category. Since their points were spread across multiple works in each category, the points for most nominees were far less than the number of ballots those nominees received.

Not so with the pup slate. For example, in the Best Novelette category the pups' joke nomination "Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By the T-Rex” received 77 ballots and 76.50 final points, meaning almost every person who nominated that "story" didn't nominate anything else in that category. 

In the Best Short Story category, "An Unimaginable Light" by John C. Wright received 87 ballots and 87 final points out of 1275 ballots cast, suggesting no one outside of the pup slate nominated his story. In the Best Editor (Long Form) category, Vox Day received 83 ballots with 83 final points out of 752 total ballots cast. As with Wright, this suggests no one outside of VD's slate nominated him.

These numbers back up previous estimates of the weakness of the rabid puppies and give more evidence that at most 80 to 90 Hugo voters support Vox Day's ballot stuffing. These are extremely small numbers compared to the more than 2,000 people who cast nominating ballots this year, or the 3,319 people who voted during the final Hugo ballot.

The reason the rabid puppies were able to cause so much trouble with the Hugo Awards in recent years is because the awards were easily gamed by a small group of slate voters. Only cultural constraints within fandom prevented this from happening previous to the rabid puppies.

The results of this year's Hugo voting shows that making an award resistant to slate voting is a must in today's genre.

Perhaps the Dragon Awards, a new SF/F award now being ravaged by slate voting from the pups, will learn from the Hugo experience. Or perhaps not.