a_cubed: (Default)
[personal profile] a_cubed
John Scalzi presented an interesting analogy about this year's Hugo controversy as graffiti which [livejournal.com profile] kevin_standlee used to describe his intentions.
It's an interesting analogy, but it doesn't work for me. I've followed [livejournal.com profile] grrm's long-range discussion with some of the principals - I couldn't stomach reading through the original blogs of the SPs/RPs. The argument from the SPs/RPs is that everything they did is within "the rules", finally leading to a mention of a "gentlemen's agreement" that they've violated, and feel no shame in doing so. That claim helped me to coalesce my own feelings on this.
Every rule set sits within a social context. The rules are there to provide formal arrangements when the social rules don't achieve the goals of the community. Either a small number of people disobey the social rules and the society defines its rules more formally, including what the consequences for breaking those rules will be. Such rules also provide consistency from year to year, clarity for members of the society to know what the rules are, introductions for new members of the society.
No set of rules covers all the aspects of the social settings. For example, as people have pointed out elsewhere, there are no actual rules in the WSFS constitution saying what to do when someone refuses the honour of being a finalist, or what to do if a work on the finalist list is later discovered to be ineligible (either through lack of information on behalf of the administrators or their mistake). Custom and practice is to back-fill the ballot with lower-ranked works. Provided the community trusts the administrators, and that they act year-to-year with reasonable consistency, then the community accepts these withou demanding that they be codified. Where significant disagreement within the community exists about the correct course of action, the society debates and adds to the rule set. The rules also evolve as the society evolves.
This is what we have now. The society's customs and practices said that each individual should nominate their own viewpoint, campaigning was banned (information provision - here is what I or others published last year that in my view is eligible for nomination, and perhaps good enough to nominate - is borderline but accepted). Slates were always against our social rules but there was no need for formal rules against it because no one seemed to be managing a slate (as we'll see when the nomination figures come out because slate voting is visible in the patterns), even when in previous years someone tried. This year, they managed to screw with the process against the community expectations of process. So, we have to change the rules to, as well as we can, preserve the intent of the society that the list of finalists represents, on the whole, things most members see as potentially worth of a Hugo Award. In addition to altering the way the nomination process works to avoid approximately 20% of the nominators from dominating the finalist list with their slate, we'll also have to consider our definition of what constitutes "the society". This latter was already being discussed for the last couple of years anyway, as things like social media, the marketing of the Hugo Awards more broadly, and the Hugo Packet, have coincided with our open "buy a membership and get to nominate and vote" process to perhaps overwhelm the society with outsiders with a separate agenda. Any society must decide who is a member and who isn't. Any claim that by restricting voting to members of WSFS (or as some are suggested just to Attending Members (removing Supporting Membership holders from nominating/voting), or even to those who actually attend the convention) misses the fact that all societies do this. US political policies effect people worldwide, as do Chinese politics these days. I see (virtually) no US citizens saying that everyone worldwide should get to vote for their president because their military is the largest on the planet and they're not afraid to use it to further their own economic and political goals. I see no one saying that everyone around the world should be able to vote in China (though many around the world passionately believe that the Chinese should be able to vote their consciences).
Like Kevin, I'll (once again) be rolling up my sleeves and discussing the issues and trying to do my best to create rules which reflect our community (yes, I'm a member, too and my voice counts, particularly because I'm willing to put my time and money into making Worldcons happen).
The rules are there to represent those elements of the society's processes that need clarity. Those rules are openly decided (Business Meeting minutes from most of the last 20 years are on wsfs.org) by those members of the society that give up their time to make them work. There are no shadowy cabals. There is plenty of disagreement amongst those turning up to the meetings about what those rules should be, and we have a system that's deliberately slow to require time for members of the society who are not at one meeting to decide that this is an important enough issue to make them come along and block or support it.
While I wish we didn't have to make these rule changes, it's necessary and valid that we do. The 2015 and 2016 Hugos may be a mess because of people following the letter but not the spirit of the rules, but we should be able to get them back on track by 2017, and that's just a blip in the decades long history of the Hugo Awards and the Worldcon/WSFS.
Sorry, that went on longer than I expected when I started writing it.

Date: 2015-04-21 11:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] louisedennis.livejournal.com
It seems to be a very thorny problem, in particular you are going to want amended rules that are not too much of an effort to police. It doesn't help that, so far as I can see, the RPs are not actually interested in change at all and would quite happily destroy the Hugos if they could.

Did you see Eric Flint's thoughts on the problem? He identified what he felt were some factors why the outcomes of the Hugo nomination and voting process might not accurately reflect that actual evaluation of the society. Some of which it was hard to do anything about (so much SF&F is published these days that it is difficult for an individual nominator to feel they have even a partial grasp of the field in a given year and so the nominations end up in the hands of a very small number of folk) and some of which might be fixable (the fiction categories no longer adequately represent the types of fiction in the market having too many categories for short fiction and not enough for longer fiction - in particular no adequate mechanism for handling series). This all assumes, of course, that the SPs identified a genuine issue (that nomination/voting outcomes did not represent the evaluation of the society) however ill-conceived their attribution of blame and resulting response.

Date: 2015-04-22 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-cubed.livejournal.com
I was already considering a proposal to increase the short story finalist list to 10 to account for the diverse places that short fiction is published these days (another technical element that would need fixing is the 5% rule: each finalist requires at least 5% of the ballots to name them to be included).
The argument about series is part of a broader argument about where everything must be in a Hugo category. The nomination of "The Wheel of Time" as a single long work last year prompted a lot of discussion, but the trouble is that series and serials are amorphous. One thing we try not to do is present the Hugo Administrators with a no-win situation. We also try not to burden them with more work than is necessary (that's one reason the current rules are as they are - we try to make it relatively simple to administer assuming good will on behalf of almost all nominators/voters - that element has broken down so we need to fix some elements).
It's possible that the two-stage process we have can no longer be supported. Any fix requiring more complicated processes, though, runs into time constraints. I though for a while that we needed to move the eligibility window to reflect the timeline of Worldcon, and any three-stage process would need this. Some of my reasoning about time eligibility window, though, has gone away with the ebook revolution - it used to be that many works only saw paperback publication after the nomination period closed (for some, even after the voting closed - this is one of the reasons for the hugo Packet). It's now more common for reasonably priced e-books to be out before the nomination period closes, but even so I think there is a time-of-publication versus nomination window to consider. The Hugos are a lot more complicated to run than most people beleive and there's a lot of fine-grained compromises in there to try and make them work logistically and qualitatively. The SP/RP disruption may well require us to re-work the entire edifice. The edifice wasn't broken, but it had fragilities which this bunch of spoilers have deliberately targetted. Fixing it is complicated and may take a few years. Given that this is all volunteer run and that any financial costs come out of the limited Worldcon budgets (Loncon 3 despite its size ran at damn-near break-even while the 2007 Worldcon made a 10%/$90,000 loss and even some US Worldcons often have worrisome times, particularly when membership levels changed due to the world financial crisis), any changes need to take into account these issues as well.
One possible fix is just to increase the short list of "finalists" to some much larger number, say 20, or to "anything which is on more than 1% of nominators lists". That would remove the "it's an honour just to be nominated" benefit and would mean that traditions like the pre-Hugo reception, the Hugo Losers Party, rocket pins for nominees, etc. would have to go away. It would also mean more work for the administrators in various ways.
Not only does the nomination process sit within a set of social rules, the whole Hugo Awards system sits within a volunteer-run and very budget-limited social system that recently has seen more opprobium than thanks directed by people even within the membership and certainly by people outside the attending membership of the conventions. Sadly, speaking as one of those who has dedicated enormous amounts of time to the Worldcon/WSFS, and who has friends who've dedicated far more of their time and money only to be slapped in the face (figuratively) by all sides of the politics spectrum over the last few years.

Date: 2015-04-22 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] louisedennis.livejournal.com
I like the ideas of limiting nominations while extending the ballot places.

I'm not sure to what extent the Hugos are "unrepresentative" (and unrepresentative of what?) but a hypothesis would be that the pool of people who nominate have self-selected to have a more homogeneous set of tastes than the pool of people who vote (or that the nomination rules produce more homogenous ballots than is indicated by the way final voting plays out - e.g., works that only got on the ballot because another withdrew, going on to win it). Given I almost certainly mostly live in the echo-chamber which the puppies accuse of dominating the nominations I don't feel I'm well placed to judge that, but I'm open to the possibility its the case.

Allowing a wider set of candidates onto the ballot might also help off-set this problem. Though I suspect the lower number of people who consider themselves qualified to nominate compared to those who feel qualified to select from a list is always going to be an issue and always represent some skewing towards the opinions of those who nominate.

The political spectrum as become more (or at least more visibly and vocally) polarised over recent years with both sides inclined to turn on moderates. This isn't just a problem for Worldcon. I have no solution.

Date: 2015-04-23 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-cubed.livejournal.com
"I'm not sure to what extent the Hugos are "unrepresentative" (and unrepresentative of what?) but a hypothesis would be that the pool of people who nominate have self-selected to have a more homogeneous set of tastes than the pool of people who vote"
If this had been the case, then more of the finalists would have been listed below No Award in previous years. No Award rarely beats any of the finalists, and in many years gets is only ranked above any of the finalists in around 10% of the ballots. This means, to me and to others who frequent the Business Meeting and do the work to try to make the Awards work well (*), that until this year there were no serious problems with the system being accepted by the voters. It should be noted that when the Sad Puppies manged to push Vox Day onto the ballot for one of the editor awards last year, No Award did not win that category, but it handily placed above Vox Day. Protestations of any other motives aside, my reading is that Larry Correia's original Sad Puppies ballot was prompted by him losing the Campbell Award (he lost, but wasn't placed below No Award - [livejournal.com profile] grrm was placed last on the ballot the year he was a finalist and took and takes the view "it's an honour to be a finalist". Vox Day's Rabid Puppies was prompted by him being placed below No Award in the final ballot.

As to the Hugo awards being representative, that's a tricky one. With the best of intentions, [livejournal.com profile] grrm and others including the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee (one of the few official bodies of WSFS separate from the currently seated Worldcon committees) have been representing the Hugo Awards as somehow representative of fandom as a whole (and even "owned" by fandom as a whole). As [livejournal.com profile] grrm admitted on his blog after this year's controversy over the nominations came up, they were wrong. The Hugo Awards are owned by WSFS, which is an unincorporated society consisting of members of the current (and with more limited rights, the previous and following) Worldcon. Nothing more, nothing less. The fact that the Hugo Awards have garnered the prestige they have is because they have a solid process worked on very hard and constantly tweaked by dedicated people, and administered by dedicated volunteers, and by the fact that Worldcon fandom has good taste in SF. I haven't always agreed with the winners myself - I was appalled that Rowling won the Best Novel for "Goblet of Fire" for instance. But, I didn't claim that was some sort of conspiracy but chalked it up to hype and the popularity even amongst Worldcon voters of something that really isn't to my taste (I happen to think she's an awful writer as well as not particularly imaginative in setting). I didn't try to get YA/children's books banned from the Best Novel ballot (nor have I supported attempts to create a specialist Hugo for that marketing category of works).

It's not so much the "turning on moderates" that bothers me, it's the unreasonable attacks (*) on the people who do the work to make conventions happen with their volunteer labour that irks me. Very few of either political extreme work on building things, only on tearing into things built by moderates.
(*) criticism is useful, constructive criticism is very useful. What bothers me is the assumption of poor character, ill-will, favouritism and other characterisations that often go along with those criticisms. I don't always agree with the other people who run conventions, but we all see the work (time and money) others put in and generally we give them the benefit fo the doubt that even when they screw up they didn't have bad intentions. There's also a lot of attacks which assume things are possible when they're just not, within the constraints of volunteer labour and limited budgets we have.
Edited Date: 2015-04-23 12:17 am (UTC)

Date: 2015-04-23 05:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] louisedennis.livejournal.com
I think there's always been a tendency for complainers to make a lot of noise about things not being entirely to their liking. One of the reasons I'm happy to be out of teaching is that the 1% of students who thought it totally unreasonable to be asked to attend a tutorial at 10am on a Tuesday seemed to loom far larger than the 1% who would come and tell me how interested they were in the subject, or how much they had enjoyed a lecture. Partly because the former 1% were quite capable of escalating matters and then eating up a lot of my time.

However, I think the more recent problem is people running things being attacked on idealogical grounds from both ends of the spectrum. It's not just con runners. I've seen it happen to creative people across the spectrum from fanfic writers to full time professional authors (though I suspect the latter are more shielded from it than the former), people attempting to run Internet communities of various kinds, open source projects and so on. As you note while the criticism is idealogical in initial impetus it generally carries with an assumption of ill-will etc and often (though not always) comes from people who are not in the business of actually volunteering time, energy and money themselves.

Date: 2015-04-21 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danjite.livejournal.com
See you at the business meeting!

Date: 2015-04-22 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-cubed.livejournal.com
Maybe, maybe not. I'm as sure as can be that we'll both be there. Whether we can see each other in the crowd this year will be another matter. Bring (healthy) snacks! They're gonna be marathons.

Date: 2015-04-21 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purplecthulhu.livejournal.com
'Every rule set sits within a social context.'

I think this is an assumption that isn't shared by some of the people involved with this. In fact, there seems to be a strong thread in US culture that seems to believe that the rule set is everything. You can see this in people who argue everything from the constitution, and in the attitudes in parts of US law enforcement where anything they say and do is right because 'they are the law'.

This applies to the Hugos and the puppies explicitly when they SPs/RPs defend themselves by saying everything they did was in the rules, because they see the rules as the only things that matter.

This also goes back to Maggie and 'there is no such thing as society'. If that's what they think then there is no social context for the rules to work within, and so anything that isn't forbidden is permitted. And that's what they've done.

Rules tweaks can help - I quite like [livejournal.com profile] drplokta's suggestions - but I think the only way that this can be addressed in the long term is by whacking the SPs/VPs strongly over the head with the social context, and voting No Award above their entire slate. Sad for those writers who have been unwittingly caught up in this mess (though they still get 'Hugo Nominee' on their books) I know, but there are bigger things at stake.

Date: 2015-04-22 02:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-cubed.livejournal.com
Ranking No Award above all RP slate nominees is a valid tack to take in 2015 and 2016. However, lots of Vox Day supporters seem to be quite willing to spend $40 once every three years in order to pack the finalist list with a slate (remember, they only need to join once every three years to gain nominating rights, and a slate can only guarantee the finalists list - the IR voting system and the No Award rules mean that the voters as a whole CAN no Award any such cataegory). However, there are thousands of new Supporting Members who have joined Sasquan this year and we've no idea until the results come out how many of those are RP supporters, how many are anti-SP supporters, how many are joining to get the Hugo Packet (a poor deal this year given what it contains, though Best Novel category has a majority of non-Puppy picks and even one of their picks is a widely popular book which might not have made the finalist list in most years but isn't a pile of right wing dogma).
VD and others have threatened that if NA wins they'll organise to make sure NA always wins: they could do this two ways - either by making sure that the finalist slate is always their slate and prompting the NA backlash, or by buying enough votes to ensure NA wins. If they could do the latter, they could buy an award for their slate candidate anyway. So, we have to fix the nomination process so that a single slate can't dominate. If we don't do that, then the social response will be other slates and the Hugos still become, IMHO, something so completely different we might as well do something more radical. [livejournal.com profile] drplokta's suggestion is too complicated and not transparent enough. Using a complicated algorithmic solution would convince you and I that the process was good anf fair, but to even the average fan, I don't think it would. Ask [livejournal.com profile] kevin_standlee how hard it was to get the Business Meeting to adopt serpentine voting, or to get instant runoff for the finalist ballot accepted. The much simpler proposal to limit nominations per member and increase the number of finalists: 3/6, 4/6 3/7, 4/7 are a much simpler fix and would prevent the current numbers of slate voters from succeeding. If more slates emerge, then things are truly broken. We'll be able to see slates from the nomination data, although we may need slightly more (but still anonymised) data than is currently released. One thing the Business Meetings at Sasquan/MAII may have to do is authorise/require this more detailed release.

(I'd prefer condorcet counting for the final ballot, myself, but I've been persuaded that it's too complicated for too many of the members to understand and that the increase in theoretical fairness of the result isn't worth the distrust from lack of understanding of the process by the electorate.)

Editing PS. Yes, I agree that "there is no social setting, only THE RULES" people are a problem. Vox Day's statement that if any RP-dominated category gets "No Award"ed then he will make sure no award is ever given again in that category shows their logical inconsistency. No Award is perfectly within the rules, as it was when an award was given in the best editor category he was nominated in last year but when the voting figures showed that Day had lost badly to No Award.
Edited Date: 2015-04-22 02:49 am (UTC)

October 2016

30 31     

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 24th, 2017 08:48 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios