Digging the Hugo Data

For seasoned Hugo watchers there’s nothing better than poring over the vast pile of stats that gets released after the award ceremony. Because it was 6:30am and I’d had very little sleep I had to put that pleasure off for a while this year, but I have finally got around to digging into the data. Here are some observations.

The thing that jumped out at me is that not one single Finalist finished below No Award this year. Last year we were still dealing with the zombie tail of the Puppy Infestation and several Finalists, including VD himself, were hit with the Loving Mallet of No Award. This year the Mallet was not required. This is surely a good sign.

I’m also pleased to note that all of the categories were quite competitive. In previous years we have had categories that resulted in first round victories for one of the Finalists. The closest we came to that this year was in Fanzine where File 770 needed just one more round to secure the win.

Having said that, in most categories the Finalist with the most first round votes normally held the lead throughout. That wasn’t always the case, however. The Campbell was a thrilling race with the lead swapping back and fore between Rebecca Roanhorse and Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The began counting on 324 first preference votes each. At the end of the 5th round they were tied with 437 votes each. Redistributions from Rivers Solomon finally gave the win the Roanhorse. It makes you wish that the vote tallying had been televised (except that both Finalists might have had heart attacks in the process).

What does interest me is the contrast between nominations and first preference votes. In some categories everything proceeded as expected. For example in Novel, Nora Jemisin got easily the most nominations and easily the most first preference votes. Murderbot’s domination of Novella was even more pronounced. Not every category was like that. Possibly the most interesting was BDP: Short where, of the two episodes from The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” got more than twice as many nominations as “The Trolley Problem”, but the latter got a lot more first preferences and went on to win.

Incidentally, BDP: Short also gives the lie to the oft-repeated myth about “splitting the vote”. That’s important in the nomination stage, but once you get to the final ballot the vote redistribution works in your favor. It was precisely the huge chunk of preferences it got from “Michael’s Gambit” that allowed “The Trolley Problem” to pull ahead of the Black Mirror episode.

The lower rankings were mostly more or less as I expected. I was surprised that New York 2140 did so poorly, and diappointed that “The Deep” did the same. Philip Pullman finishing last in the Lodestar was also a bit of a surprise.

Finally a few notes on the also-rans. Kameron Hurley and Analee Newitz lost Finalist slots to John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson in Novel thanks to the EPH voting system. That shows that a significant segment of the voters in Novel had similar tastes. It will doubtless be a source of great joy to Men’s Rights Activists everywhere that EPH kicked a couple of women off the ballot and gave one of those places to John Scalzi instead.

Liz Gorinsky (Editor Long) and Julie Dillon (Professional Artist) both declined nomination, as did Emma & Pete Newman for Tea & Jeopardy in Fancast. I’m sad that we didn’t have our local heroes to cheer for, but I’ve done the same thing so I can’t complain.

Of the other local candidates, Gemma Anderson finished 9th in the Campbell. That’s her second year of eligibility so her last chance, but given her talent I expect to see more fiction awards in her future. In Fancast, Breaking the Glass Slipper, featuring Exeter-based Lucy Hounsom, was 11th. It is a good, feminist podcast that I’m sure would have a wider appeal if more of you knew about it. With Dublin being so close to us, the mighty South West Block Vote might come into play next year.

I think that’s it for the numbers. There’s one more thing I want to talk about, which is the report of the Hugo Study Committee. We’ve had enough Hugos for now, though. I’ll leave that for another day.