Award Strategizing

So now that 2010 is done and other authors are starting to put out their not-quite-solicitations for Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy award nominations, I suppose I’ll jump on the bandwagon. Sorta. Because I’ve got an odd request.

See, I’ve got two eligible short stories (“The Effluent Engine” and “On the Banks of the River Lex”) and two eligible novels this year. I’ve actually published three shorts, not two, but the third, “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters,” is ineligible for a Hugo or Neb due to being published in the UK rather than the US. (Feel free to nom it for a WFA or BSFA, tho’!) And while I was expecting a fourth story, “The Trojan Girl,” to come out in Weird Tales in 2010, it looks like that won’t be out ’til sometime in 2011.

Which leaves me with an odd dilemma, particularly regarding the Hugos and Nebulas, since it’s nominating time for both of those. While I’m very proud of my eligible shorts this year — I don’t even send out a story unless I’m happy with it — “Effluent” wouldn’t even be out yet if I hadn’t posted it for charity (the anth it’s due to be pub’d in won’t be out ’til later in 2011), and it seems somehow wrong to me to use a charity effort for such a self-aggrandizing purpose as an award. And to put it bluntly, I don’t think “Lex” is as strong as last year’s Non-Zero Probabilities. I get that the whole reason for annual awards is so that various authors can compete against each other, not so that an author’s body of work can compete against itself. But, well, personally speaking, I do compete against myself. So if another short of mine lands on the Hugo or Neb ballots, I want it to be as good as or better than the last one that did so. I don’t want to be one of those authors who gets on the ballot every year due to familiarity/popularity, assuming I ever get to be that popular. I would rather be nominated only when I’ve written something that kicks ass.

And given that it is a competition with other authors, I think there are stronger works out there that deserve the nom. I’m planning to nominate Genevieve Valentine’s “Seeing” for the Nebula, for example, because it’s the first hard-SF story I’ve read in years that pinged my sensawunda and my sense-of-damn-good-writing. Also thinking about nomming Saladin Ahmed’s delicious fantasy adventure Mr. Hadj’s Sunset Ride, because holy crap, zombies and gunslinging magicians and a realistically multicultural Old West! Pure fun.

But back to my point. My novels represent an even bigger dilemma, award-wise. I would definitely love to see either The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms or The Broken Kingdoms nominated for some major award… but because both books are eligible in the same category and the same year, they’ll inevitably compete against each other. It would be an honor if they could both end up on the various ballots, yeah… but realistically, that’s unlikely. It’s tough enough to get one thing on these award ballots, let alone two.

So to make a long story short (too late), I’m asking that if you can nominate any of my works for an award this year, please spend your vote on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Not my short stories, not The Broken Kingdoms, to maximize my chances. I’m not gonna lie or pretend, ya’ll; I want to get nominated again this year. Hell, I want to win. So let’s see if this helps.

30 thoughts on “Award Strategizing”

  1. “…but the third…is ineligible for a Hugo or Neb due to being published in the UK rather than the US.”

    For the Nebula, it’s ineligible. But it should be eligible for the Hugo. It’s the *World* Science Fiction Convention, after all. See Section 3.2 of the WSFS Constitution for more information.

  2. Short stories don’t compete against novels in either the Hugos or the Nebulas, so there’s no reason to position them as being in competition.

    It is worth noting, though, that Hugo voting rules prohibit nominating the same author twice in one category, so if nothing else, voters will need to pick one of your novels to favor in order to keep from spoiling their ballots.

  3. I believe the ranking means the split vote problem can’t occur. I also believe this has not been made sufficiently clear to people despite the fact that I’ve seen creators fret about this going back at least as far as the 1990s.

    On a related note, there’s interesting bit of trivia about the Nebulas; getting a copy of one’s book into the hands of everyone in SFWA seems to greatly improve ones odds of getting at least as far as the Long Ballot because there are apparently always at least ten SWFAns who will nominate things they have not read on name recognition alone. See for example Dan Gallagher’s The Pleistocene Redemption. Since your books are actually good, this would also increase the odds of making it to the Short Ballot by maximizing the odds that a sufficient number of SFWAns will have read either of your books. This could give you the coveted dual Nebulas/Hugo Win for your first novels; not unique but rare.

  4. “It is worth noting, though, that Hugo voting rules prohibit nominating the same author twice in one category, so if nothing else, voters will need to pick one of your novels to favor in order to keep from spoiling their ballots.”

    Rose, are you sure about that? A few years ago, Michael Swanwick had three short stories on the ballot at once in the same category of Best Short Story. I’m pretty sure a few readers nominated more than one of his stories on their ballot.

    I think you may be misreading the following rule:

    “3.8.4: If a nominee appears on a nomination ballot more than once in any one category, only one nomination shall be counted in that category.”

    What this means is that if I were to nominate the same story in all five slots on my nominating ballot, then they would only count it once. But there’s no reason why I couldn’t nominate two different stories by the same author in the same category. (In the fiction categories, the nominees are the works; in a category like Best Artist or Best Editor, the nominees are the people.)

  5. James, the Nebula rules were radically altered in 2010, and there is no more preliminary ballot. There is a nomination period that is taking place now, and the six works in each category that get the most nominations end up as the final ballot of nominees.


    Still, getting copies of books in hand can’t hurt. Well, it could if you did it by projecting those books at high speed at the recipients but I no longer know where my trebuchet is.

    I bet the effect is less for e-books.

  7. This could give you the coveted dual Nebulas/Hugo Win for your first novels; not unique but rare.

    Actually, getting a double nomination for both of your 2010 books in both the Nebula and the Hugo would be a first. I don’t know if anyone has ever had two books on the same Short Ballot in the past.

  8. Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside and The Book of Skulls were on the Hugo and Nebula shortlists in the same year, so the double double nomination has been done before.

  9. Rose Fox:

    What Michael A. Burstein said. You can’t nominate the same work multiple times in the same category, but there’s no prohibition against nominating multiple works by the same author in the same category. In theory, all of the nominees in a category could be from the same author if s/he had been prolific enough and sufficiently well-liked by the electorate.

  10. Michael, I’m going by this instruction on the Hugo Voting System page:

    “Nominations are easy. Each person gets to nominate up to five entries in each category. You don’t have to use them all, but you have the right to five. The only thing you can’t do is nominate the same work/person more than once.

    I translate that slash as “In any given category, you can’t nominate the same work more than once, and you can’t nominate the same person more than once”.

    In the rule you quote, it’s not clear to me whether “nominee” refers to a work or to a person.

  11. Rose, you can’t nominate the same person more than once, but people can’t be nominated in the fiction categories at all. It’s perfectly in order to nominate two different works that happen to be by the same person, because the nominations are for the works and not for the person.

  12. Rose:

    The phrase “work/person” is because there are two types of categories: categories for specific works (the written-fiction categories, the dramatic-presentation categories, the magazine categories) and categories for people (the artist, editors, and fan writer categories).

    I guess I’d better go revise the sentence in question (I’m a maintainer of the Hugo Awards web site) to clarify this, if it’s caused you confusion.

  13. I read that person rule as applying to the categories where a person and not a work was nominated: Best Editor, and so on.

    I figured how to salvage the double Nebula/Hugo claim: nobody has pulled that off for their first two novels, have they? Therefore I was right all along and I win! Well, NK Jemisin wins if this works but I get a moral victory.

  14. Thank you all for the clarifications!

    So the short version is that this entire post is unnecessary other than the bit where our lovely hostess graciously promotes other people’s work ahead of her own, right?

  15. Rose: I wouldn’t say that the post is unnecessary, for the following reason. Although the Hugos still use a preferential balloting system, in which voters can rank the final nominees when they vote, the Nebulas no longer allow you to do so. On the Nebula final ballot, voters can now only choose one nominee as their favorite. So should both of her novels get onto the Nebula final ballot, it’s possible that the vote would get split, and neither novel would manage to win. Whereas if she only had one novel on the Nebula ballot, all the votes for her work would only go to that one novel.

    (I will add that even though the Hugo’s preferential balloting system is supposed to make a split vote a non-issue, there are some creators who still choose to decline multiple nominations in a category. Part of that is a desire to see the nominations spread among many works, but some of it is also a feeling that if you have multiple works in the same category it might still split the vote somehow.)

  16. I have attempted to edit The Voting System page at the Hugo Awards web site to clarify the distinction between nominations for specific works (like novels and short stories) and nominations for people (like editors and artists).

    (Note that none of my examples attempt to list every category; they are examples, not an exhaustive list.)

    If the way we were explaining the Hugo Awards voting system was discouraging people from nominating multiple works by the same author in the same category, then I’m glad Rose effectively pointed it out to one of us who edits the web site so that we could correct that. Also thanks to James Nicoll for “paging” me on the subject.

  17. It does seem entirely rational to wonder whether seeing the same author on multiple entries on the final ballot might cause people to think they shouldn’t rank them high too many times. I don’t have any evidence beyond the anecdotal (which says that yes, there are people who think that way).

  18. I believe the ranking means the split vote problem can’t occur.

    In practice, the problem can occur during Hugo nominations. People may wish to nominate only one work for an author in a category (regardless of the theory of how people ‘should’ think while nominating). If they have no clear preference for which eligible work they nominate, the author’s preference could be useful to them.

  19. Bear in mind that we are talking about nominations here, not the final ballot. The ranking system is irrelevant at this stage. When filling in a nominating ballot you just have five spaces to fill. It is entirely possible that someone will be left thinking, “Oh, I’ve got four nominees already and I really love N.K. Jemisin, but I’ve only got one slot, which book will I choose?”

    Once you get to the final ballot, having more than one work on it doesn’t disadvantage you, but some writers keep insisting that it does and no one else complains when they withdraw nominated works.

    So yes, this post most definitely has a point. It also helped us find a wording problem with the Hugo web site, and gave us yet another opportunity to stomp on the pernicious meme that the Hugos are for Americans only. That meme is as touch as a cockroach, it just keeps coming back.

  20. What Errolwi said is true: a form of “vote splitting” can happen at the nomination stage unless voters nominate all of the favored authors’ works equally.

    Say an author has three eligible short stories: if voters who like that author’s works nominate all three stories equally, then they’ll either all make the ballot or none of them will. If some nominate A, some B, some C, and some various combinations of ABC, it’s possible that none of the works will make the ballot even if the voters wanted at least one of the works to make the ballot.

    On the final ballot, vote-splitting is all but impossible. The idea that having fewer of your works on the final ballot would make you more likely to win is laughable to anyone who understands how a preferential (instant-runoff voting) ballot works. Or to put it another way: If having multiple works on the final ballot makes it less likely that an author would win the Award, then wouldn’t having all five nominations make the author infinitely unlikely to win? (After all, No Award is always a candidate.)

    In any event, I don’t think it hurts an author listing all of his/her award-eligible works to say “If you like my work and want to nominate something but only have one slot on your ballot, I’d suggest you nominate X.” The Hugo Awards voting system puts a lot of reliance on the individual voters being able to make responsible choices, so giving them some guidance seems like a good idea to me.

  21. I’ll bet that, if you ended up with all five works in a category on the Hugo ballot being by one author, you WOULD get a lot more “no award” votes than is usual for that category. Some people would vote in protest at what looked to them like some kind of “fix” being “in”, I imagine. (I think it’s tremendously unlikely we’ll actually get to see this happen. That’s probably good — though I suppose having a new author THAT popular appearing on the scene might be interesting. A fourth nova, as it were.)

  22. And the moral of the story, boys girls et al., is “don’t post something wrong on the internet when you’ve got a busy day at work ahead and won’t be able to respond to the comment thread.” D’oh. Sorry.

    OK, clarifications are necessary, I think. Rose, I know that shorts can’t compete against novels in the practical, strict sense. And Cheryl, I know there’s no disadvantage in having multiple works on the final ballot, again in the practical, strict sense. But in the emotional/psychological sense, I suspect there is a competitive disadvantage. My thoughts are more in line with what David Dyer-Bennet has been suggesting (and David, feel free to correct if I’m mischaracterizing): that under ordinary circumstances, many voters will simply feel it’s unfair to give too many votes to a single author, no matter how many different works she’s got eligible. And given that I’m a newbie and don’t yet have the clout/kudos to make people believe that I deserve to X times in X categories, I’d rather husband what clout I do have, and steer it toward a single purpose. Of course, people will do what they want and it’s kind of silly of me to try and control what direction they want to fling their energy in… but if the author’s wishes can make any difference, I wanted to let people know what I want.

    Cheryl, I stand corrected on misunderstanding the Hugos; I think I was getting it confused with the Nebulas. But then I can’t make heads or tails of the Hugo rules or voting; I saw the results of last year’s vote and still have no idea what all those columns mean.

    More later; gotta get back to work.

  23. If you can catch me in person, I’d be happy to go through the voting results slowly and show you what the columns mean. Don’t let the sheer volume of data overwhelm you; if we take apart a single category and think of it as piles of paper with votes on them, it should be easier to understand, and you can then extend that to the rest of the numbers.

    The key point about how the voting system works is that it’s not a “first past the post” (like a horse race) system, but a system intended to produce a winner who is not disliked by a majority of the voters.

  24. Hi. I’m not a regular reader of this blog; I came here via a link on another one.

    “[…] that under ordinary circumstances, many voters will simply feel it’s unfair to give too many votes to a single author, no matter how many different works she’s got eligible.”

    If Hugo voters worried about someone winning too much, Dave Langford and Charles N. Brown wouldn’t have 20 Hugos each.

    “And given that I’m a newbie and don’t yet have the clout/kudos to make people believe that I deserve to X times in X categories, […]”

    Seriously? After you were a nominee last year? What percentage of the people who try writing sf manage one Hugo nomination, ever? I’m afraid clout and kudos have already arrived. :-)

  25. I am surprised you don’t think Lex kicks ass. I really liked it. It might not be as serious or heavy as Non-Zero Probabilities, but I thought it was great.

    Can’t argue with your short story nominations though. Both great stories, easily two of the best I’ve read in awhile. And 100K deserves big consideration. Best of luck.

  26. Ben, it’s not that I don’t like Lex. I think it accomplished what I set out to do, which was to play with the idea of those we usually mythologize making myths of us. With bonus cephalopods and crumbling cities. (These are a few of my favorite things.) But then, to this day I don’t really understand why NZP got nommed. I always think of Hugo/Nebula-worthy stories as genre-changing mind-blowers like Mieville’s “Reports of Certain Events in London” or Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything like that; I write quiet, simple stuff, maybe with a little snark. But I guess the problem is that my concept of Nebula/Hugo stories is just wrong.

  27. Petréa, you’re kind to say so, and you’re right — not many authors can claim even one Nebula/Hugo nom. And I’m humbled and honored for that. But I think that to *win* with more than one work in more than one category, I’d need to have the clout of a Charles N. Brown, as you note. Or a Mike Resnick, or some other eternally-nominated awards fave. And seriously, I won’t have that kind of name recognition or fan loyalty for like 30 years.

    Working on it, tho’. ;)

  28. Kevin, I’ll happily take you up on that sometime, because I literally spent hours poring over the Locus that printed the vote count (and it wasn’t just me confuzzled; several members of my writing group put their heads together over it) and we just didn’t get it. Your explanation helps, though I don’t really understand why it’s done this way — why would it matter how many voters the winner is disliked by? Is there some history here that I’m not aware of, which caused this?

  29. nkjemisin:

    Let’s see if I can explain parts of this in a way that will make it clear why we count this way.

    First, consider what would happen if we used the same method we seem to use in most “mundane” elections, sometimes known as “first past the post.” In this system, the candidate with more votes than any other candidate wins. Consider how this plays out in an election with five candidates and this hypothetical vote:

    A: 22%
    B: 21%
    C: 20%
    D: 19%
    E: 18%

    (I’m ignoring “None of the Above” for now.)

    In this race, the trophy goes to A, who has more votes than anyone else. However, look at how many people voted _against_ A: 78% of the voters preferred another candidate? How can we possibly consider this to be a fair outcome?

    Now in many elections, majority rules. That is, you have to get a majority of the votes cast to win the election. In the election above, nobody won an outright majority. In many elections, what would happen is that candidates A and B would be re-submitted to the voters in a run-off election. But in the case above, A and B combined were only the preference of 43% of the electorate. 57% of the voters disliked _both_ candidates.

    If this were a club meeting or a political convention, what would happen after the first ballot is that you’d vote again, and there would be pressure on the lowest-placing candidate to step aside; his/her supporters would then vote for other candidates. You’d then repeat this process until someone had a majority. We obviously can’t do that in an election by mail, so the Instant Run-Off method applies.

    When you mark your ballot, you put a 1 by the candidate you want to win. You then look at the ballot and say, “If my first choice wasn’t on the ballot, who would I want to win?” and put a 2 by that candidate. You then repeat that process until you run out of candidates or run out of preferences.

    When we count the vote, we count the 1s first. If someone has a majority of the votes, that candidate wins, fairly obviously. (This almost never happens.) When nobody has a majority, we look at who had the least number of votes, and we then eliminate that candidate and examine the ballots of those people who voted for that candidate. We redistribute those votes to the 2nd preferences. Essentially, we ask all of the people who voted for the eliminated candidate, “Who would you prefer to win if E wasn’t on the ballot.” We then see if someone has a majority: if so, that candidate wins; if not, we eliminate the lowest-place remaining candidate and repeat the process until someone has a majority.

    In the example I gave above, just because candidate A got 22% of the initial vote doesn’t mean s/he is necessarily going to win a multi-round run-off. S/he might be an intensely polarizing candidate, with a bunch of vocal supporters, but whom everyone else dislikes. Candidate E’s supporters might prefer D over A, and so when you use their second preference, suddenly D now has 37% of the vote and takes the lead over A. Nobody has a majority, so you eliminate C (who is now in last place with 20%) and redistribute votes again. When you’re done, you may have D — the fourth-place finisher in the first round — as the preferred choice of the largest number of voters.

    This system leads to what might be considered “consensus winners,” that are generally liked more than they are disliked among the electorate. A polarizing work that is either worshiped or reviled with no middle opinion is unlikely to win unless its supporters represent an outright majority of the electorate.

    Sorry to go on so long, but this system, which pre-dates my entrance into fandom, is generally perceived to produce fairer results than a first-past-the-post election would produce with large multi-way races.

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