The week isn’t over, but it’s just getting crazier. Aside from the “No True Fan” argument, publications like Entertainment Weekly (though the editors almost immediately retracted the hit piece), Salon, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and more, as well as numerous websites like Cracked and various blogs, have been saying over and over that the Sad Puppies campaign is vile, vicious, vulgar, and villainous. It seems that the campaign that nominated works by liberal, female, non-white, and gay artists did so out of a strong desire for a right-wing utopia dominated by straight white men. Who knew?

But I’m not going to get into that right now. I’m going to leave that up to others. For now, if you want my opinion on the subject, I invite you to look at my previous blog posts. In “Piers Plowman and the Hugo Awards,” I discussed the problem of putting a message before the story. I followed that with a look at those who argue differently, with “G. K. Chesterton and the Social Fiction Warriors.” Finally, after the Hugo ballot was released, I talked about the effort to deny the validity of opinions, and what makes a fan a fan, in “You Are All Fake Geek Girls.”

According to the trackbacks and referrals I’ve been getting, these are all considered moderate opinions, and as unbiased as someone who’s taken a side can get. I’m flattered, everyone, and I’m glad the posts have been useful.

However, unless and until more specifically writing-related topics come up, I’m leaving it there. I’ve been enjoying the extra traffic, but my focus here, on this blog, is on writing and reviews. I’ve said as much as I can really think of about that in relation to the Hugos.

. . . well, almost. I still have to get on to reviewing Hugo nominees. I fully intend to crank out as many reviews of nominated material as I can get before the end of July, when the final ballot is due. I already have non-spoiler reviews of Jim Butcher’s Skin Game (nominated for Best Novel) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The LEGO Movie (both nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form).

But, for now, I want to talk about the voting process.

Yes, you can still vote for the finalists. The kerfuffle in the last week was only about the nominees. You can still register to vote until the final ballot is due.

To vote, you need a membership. Only Worldcon members can vote. This includes supporting memberships, which are $40 each. This will give you voting rights for this year’s nominees, and also to select next year’s nominees. You will gain access to the Hugo Voter Packet (containing digital copies of many, if not most, of the nominated works), as well as some convention material sent by snail mail.

Yes, the membership is open to anyone with forty bucks. Voting in the Hugos is a privilege of an elite, inasmuch as that elite is made up of the members of a particular club. Pay your dues, and you’re a member. That’s it. There’s no other gatekeeping involved.

Final ballots are due at the end of July. I expect this year to be no different.

Voting has not begun yet. In previous years, this wasn’t until summer. This year, however, we had the nominees announced roughly a month early. I don’t know if that will change things.

The Hugo Voter Packet has not yet been released. Be patient, people! The publishers have to be contacted, and said publishers have to decide whether to participate in the packet. The nominations were only released five days ago. Even in an age of near-instant communication, this stuff takes time. In previous years, the packet has been released in May; however, this might happen earlier, because the nominees were announced earlier.

How the Votes Are Counted

The Hugo Awards use what I consider to be a very sane system. It’s not winner-take-all, however, so some people find it confusing when they first encounter it. It’s a system called the alternative vote, or instant-runoff voting. It’s designed to ensure that a result that the largest possible number of people can agree on is reached, through simulating multiple elimination elections using just one ballot.

Back in 2011, C. G. P. Grey released the following video, which serves as an excellent five-minute primer to this voting system. I highly suggest watching it to understand how it works, and why it’s useful. The Hugo Awards are slightly different, but we’ll get to that after the video.

Done? Good.

The main difference that the Hugo Award voting has compared to the political version is that in the latter, you have to end up with someone as the winner. In the Hugos, however, the voters can determine that none of the candidates deserve an award. This is because in every category, there is an extra option: No Award.

No Award (sometimes jokingly referred to as “voting for Noah Ward”) is treated like any other nominee. You can rank it in any order, from highest to lowest, as if it were a book, movie, person, whatever fits the category.

For each category, ballots are counted until one nominee receives more than 50% of the vote. As described in C. G. P. Grey’s video, the nominee with the least amount of votes gets axed, and those votes are redistributed according to the voter’s preference, in successive rounds until the 50% threshold is exceeded.

Once that happens, however, No Award still gets a final look. Even if “Noah Ward” didn’t come out on top the first time, the Hugo system still applies the “No Award Test.”

In this example, we’ll say that the potential winner was The Best Book Ever by Someone. All ballots, including those that might have been eliminated because they didn’t mention The Best Book Ever, are then sorted into three categories. (This used to be done by hand, but it’s now done by computer.)

  1. All ballots that ranked The Best Book Ever as a higher preference than No Award, or that include The Best Book Ever but not No Award.
  2. All ballots that ranked No Award as a higher preference than The Best Book Ever, or that include No Award but not The Best Book Ever.
  3. All ballots that do not include either The Best Book Ever or No Award.

This means that even after The Best Book Ever won on straight votes, “Noah Ward” could still win if the majority of voters prefered that. This keeps the award from going to a nominee that, while it might be the popular choice, was still counted as a poor choice by the majority.

In case you were wondering, this is precisely the threat that the Social Fiction Warriors were leveling even before the nominees were announced (as some of said warriors were leaked the information ahead of time). It is entirely possible that a record number of categories will be given to “Noah Ward” this year.