Analyzing the Hugo Award Results

After months of build-up, the winners of the Hugo Awards were announced on Saturday evening. You can get all the voting stats here, but here's the quick summary: Generally speaking, voters ranked all Puppy-slated nominees below "No Award," with No Award winning all five pure-Puppy categories (Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Editor Long Form, Best Editor Short Form, Best Related Work). The only Puppy nominee to win anything was Guardians of the Galaxy, and the only other Puppy nominees to rank above "No Award" were Interstellar, the Lego Movie, Game of Thrones, The Flash and Grimm.

So what does this mean? To me, it suggests that voters very firmly rejected the Puppies and their slates, but didn't necessarily vote against things simply because they were on the slates. Slate inclusion was a count against a work, but it wasn't enough to get it completely dismissed if people still enjoyed it. In categories where people had strong existing opinions, it didn't matter much. But in categories that are more obscure, the "Puppy" vs "non-Puppy" status played a much bigger role.

Although I am far from a statistician, I've taken a look at all the official Hugo voting statistics, and particularly at the nominees that people ranked first on their ballots, in order to build a few theories about who exactly was voting, how many of them were voting, and why they voted the way that they did.

People weren't voting simply to exclude anything the Puppies supported

This is clear from Best Novel, which was won by The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Although it wasn't on either Puppy slate, both organisers expressed their support for it, and Vox Day said he would have included it if he'd known about it. So people aren't hunting down what Sci-Fi Conservatives like and blindly deciding to dislike it because of that. The Three-Body Problem may have been helped by the fact that it wasn't "tainted" by the slate, and Goblin Emperor may have won if it had been included, as there were only about 200 votes difference between them. But people weren't rejecting it purely because of that.

And this is even clearer from the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category, which was won by Puppy-nominee Guardians of the Galaxy by 1578 votes to Captain America's 1145 in round one, and 2748 votes to Captain America's 1966 in the runoff. Yes, the Puppies supported it, but people liked it best, so they voted for it.

People were willing to rank "No Award" above non-Puppy nominees too

Aka they weren't blinded by "Non-puppy = good, puppy = bad." In the Best Novelette category, most people ranked No Award first, by a tiny margin of 1732 to The Day the World Turned Upside Down's 1700. In the runoff, The Day the World Turned Upside Down won by 2618 votes to 2078 for No Award, but this is interesting because it wasn't on the Puppy Slate. If people wanted to simply vote for non-slate works over slate works, they could easily have just voted for The Day the World Turned Upside Down first, as the only non-Puppy nominee in this category. But people had opinions, and "Puppyness" wasn't the only factor in declaring No Award.

But most people didn't blindly vote No Award for everything

Yes, 1700 people voted "No Award" in the Best Novelette Category above the non-Puppy nominee, but they weren't "No Award across the board" voters. Only 268 people ranked No Award first in Best Novel, and 285 people did so for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

When people had strong positive opinions about works, they definitely voted for them.

In fact, pure "No Awarders" only seem to be around 200 people, or 3.3% of the voter base

I've seen people estimate the "No Awarders" at several thousand, based on categories like Best Novella, but this is incredibly flawed thinking. To see the number of pure "No Awarders," we need to look at categories with a fairly even mix of Puppy and non-Puppy nominees where many voters are likely to have strong opinions.

As said above, 268 people voted for No Award first in Best Novel, and 285 ranked it first in the movie category. It could be the case that 4.7% of readers disliked all the nominated novels and 5.7% people disliked all those movies, but this is at odds with data from previous years. Last year 88 people voted for No Award in Best Novel (2.8%), and 103 people did so in Dramatic Presentation Long Form (3.5%). The year before, it was 2.7% for Best Novel and 2.8% for Dramatic Presentation Long Form.

I'm sure an actual statistician could look at all the data and figure out precisely how many No Awarders there were, but it seems fair to say there was a small but not massive increase in the percentage of No Award voting in the biggest categories. I've said 200 above as a generous estimate, with the most generous estimate being 268, as the smallest number of No Awards we saw. But a look at numbers from previous years suggests that the number of pure No-Awarders, rather than people voting No Award because they thought none was deserved, was even less than that.

But people WERE willing to "No Award" against the puppies when they didn't have strong opinions

Let's look at the two editor categories, both of which were 100% Puppy nominees.

Last year, 45% of voters voted in Best Editor Short Form, and 43% voted in Best Editor Long Form. In 2013, 53% voted for Best Editor Short Form and 51% voted in Long Form. This year, 82% voted for both Best Editor Short Form and Best Editor Long Form (4850 and 4907 votes respectively). Unless a massive number of voters suddenly became more interested in the editor categories than ever before, that increase in voters suggests some Puppy influence. And yes, some of those voters may have researched all the editors and come to the careful conclusion that none were worthy, but probably not all of them, since many people have argued that in fact there were several worthy names on those lists, Puppy-slated or not.

The simplest conclusion is that people voted based on preference in categories where they had strong feelings (like Best Novel), and in categories where they had chance to read all or most of the works (like Best Short Story), but without this, people seem to have voted No Award instead of abstaining based on lack of knowledge.

I do wonder, however, how much this was to do with keeping all Puppy nominees out, and how much was to do with Vox Day in particular, with people voting No Award simply to prevent his supporters from giving him the Best Editor Hugo when otherwise they might not have voted at all.

Not all Puppy Works were equal

In Best Short Story, No Award won with 3053 people ranking it as their first preference. But unlike in Novella, where the next three nominees were quite close, all with around 500 votes, Short Story had a much clearer order of preference, with 874 people ranking Totalled first, 525 ranking Turncoat first, and 396 ranking A Single Samurai first. And this seems to reflect online buzz before the awards, where many people seemed to agree that Totalled was the best of the nominees here, and a decent story, but perhaps not award-worthy.

"Puppies" didn't vote blindly for Puppy nominees, but may have voted against non-Puppy nominees on principle too

Take a look at the Graphic Story category, which only had one Puppy nominee. That got 207 votes in the first round, which means that many of the votes that had been going for Puppy nominees each time were missing. So clearly, Puppy voters were happy to say "no, I don't like this, I'm not voting for it," even when something was on the slate. But although Ms Marvel swept the category with 1729 first-ranked votes out of 4412, No Award was the second most common first choice, with 810 votes. Once Ms Marvel was given first place and removed from the count, the other non-puppy nominees defeated No Award, but No Award was a powerful initial force.

One interpretation is that people weren't just ranking non-Puppy nominees purely on the merit of being "more left wing," and were willing to say when they didn't like any of them. But in last year's awards, No Award only got 98 of 2344 initial votes, or 4.2%, compared to this year's 18%. I doubt the nominees this year were that much worse than last year's.

Another interpretation is that these are across-the-board No Awarders -- but the figure is a lot higher than in other categories with several non-Puppy nominees, suggesting either that people were more willing to No Award this because they hadn't read the works and so didn't have strong feelings, or that other people were No Awarding too.

My bet, although it's difficult to tell from the numbers, is that many Puppies voted "No Award" in this category, either because they didn't want to vote for non-Puppy nominees, or because all the Graphic Novel nominees were pretty darn liberal and diverse, going against the stated Puppy agenda.

The Rapid Puppies were about 586 people, or about 9.8% of the vote

At least, I assume that the people who voted for Vox Day as best editor were those who counted themselves among his supporters.

Voters didn't like what I liked the best

Ho hum. With the exception of Best Professional Artist and our good friend Monsieur No Award, none of the works I voted for won their categories. Maybe I should start a slate to represent the interests of All Female Adventurer Comics and Darker Superhero Movies with Scarlet Johansson, because clearly people are biased against me, and didn't just prefer other nominees over them.

But, in conclusion, this year's Hugos went about as well as they could have done, in my opinion. Many worthy works from 2014 lost out on nomination and potential Hugos because of the slates, and many unworthy works were pushed onto the ballot in their place, but, among all the political voting and drama, the message seems to be clear: people like good stories, no matter who else likes them. But they won't support crap. And they definitely won't support people gaming the awards because they've decided that their lack of popularity automatically means they're being excluded by conspiracy.

And now everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and forget about it all... until early next year, of course, when nominating for the 2016 awards begins, and all of this turmoil will start once again.