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Fan Bases

Sad PuppyJames Schardt/Contributor

Okay, I’m going to talk about the Sad Puppies campaign because I think I saw the dead horse twitch and zombie horses are bad. So… hit it again!

I participated in a conversation on David Gerrold’s Facebook page with twice Nebula Nominated author Chuck Gannon. Some of the things Mr. Gannon said brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

When Larry Correia started Sad Puppies 2 in 2014 who do you think he had the most influence over? Larry Correia fans! Just as when John Scalzi allegedly campaigned in 2013 the people he most likely influenced were John Scalzi fans. Prior to 2013, the number of people nominating in the Hugos had been going up by about 100 people a year for a few years. In 2013 it went up by about 250 people. Something changed, and I think it was John Scalzi’s small campaign. In 2014, the year of Sad Puppies 2, it went up by about 600. Now, if you go by Amazon sales, Correia and Scalzi have roughly equivalent-sized fan bases. So how was Correia able to bring in more voters with his campaign than Scalzi? He wasn’t. John Scalzi had been nominated for several Hugos before. I surmise that he had a significant number of fans already involved in the Hugo voting process. This meant there was a smaller pool of new people who would join to vote for John Scalzi’s book. Hence the smaller, but still significant, increase. Of course, it could be that his fans just don’t like him as much as Correia’s fans like Larry Correia. But the number of people I’ve seen jumping to his defense during past and recent controversies does not make me think that is true. John Scalzi’s fans like John Scalzi.

This year, Sad Puppies 3 was headed by Brad Torgersen. There is a lot of overlap between Torgersen and Correia fans which is probably why the number of new voters “only” went up by about 200 voters this year. There simply were not as many new people to bring in. That, and Torgersen’s fan base is much smaller than Scalzi’s or Correia’s. This year also brought in the Rabid Puppies campaign, headed up by Theodore Beale (AKA Vox Day) which overlapped quite a bit in both fans and nominations with the Sad Puppies. 200 people, while significant, is still a far cry from the 600 people brought in the previous year. I am willing to prognosticate that next year, with the Sad Puppies 4 campaign already announced, the number of voters for the Hugo nominations will only increase by about 150 people at most. The Sad Puppies fan base is almost tapped out. Does this mean eternal war between the old establishment of Hugos and the Sad Puppies?

Certainly not! Science Fiction is bigger than both these factions. I could go into film and television but I’ll stick to books. Jim Butcher has been nominated this year. To my knowledge, he has not activated his fan base at all in regards to the Hugos. If he were to do so, I’m sure it would overwhelm both Correia’s and Scalzi’s fan bases in the voting. His fan base is huge. Jack Campbell (AKA John Hemry) has a fan base. What if they were to become involved? Don’t like his stuff? Try Brian McClellan. Has Glen Cook written anything this year? How about Todd McCaffrey? There are many authors that are writing things that are worthy of the Hugos. I can’t name them all because the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre is so big I don’t know them all. But they all have fan bases.

Here is the thing about fan bases: They will generally reflect the author’s interests. Larry Correia fans will generally like the same sort of stories Larry Correia likes, John Scalzi Fans will generally like the same stuff John Scalzi likes, and Stephenie Meyer fans will generally like the same things Stephenie Meyer likes. That’s just human nature. This also gives the appearance of bloc voting. While it is doubtful that everybody would vote for the same thing all at once, even a 50% overlap is going to skew the awards towards one group. So if one group has been consistently represented in the Hugos and another group shows up that has not been active and decides to participate, there will be a significant shift in the voting. That is what has happened over the last couple years. And it still isn’t big enough.

The Hugos, up until this year, have been portrayed as one of the biggest awards in Science Fiction. This year a faction has started claiming the Award only really belongs to the World Science Fiction convention. Really? While technically true, you are trying to tell me an award that has been lauded over by everybody from Heinlein, to Ellison, to Asimov and Clarke is really just a minor award put out by an overpriced, traveling Sci-Fi convention? I’m not buying it. If it’s not significant now then it never was. And I don’t think 70 years of tradition can be overcome so easily.

So is there a problem and what is the solution? Yes, there is a problem. It isn’t the voting method, it’s the lack of participation. Not enough Science Fiction and Fantasy fans are participating. That needs to change. We, as fans, need to step up and tell people they can participate. Authors and editors, you have a bigger platform than your individual fans do. Tell people about the award. Tell them $40 and an internet connection can get them involved (Don’t forget to mention the potential for free stories that should represent the best the genre has to offer that year.) If you have not written anything this year you probably have read something you liked. Tell your fans about it! Let people know what is out there. And when January rolls around, tell your fans about the Hugos. Let them know it is their award too. The more people that participate then the more representative of Science Fiction and Fantasy the Hugo Awards are. And this is a good thing. Go out and tell people about the Hugos. Advertise for each other and advertise for the award. The more fans that know they can participate the more that will. Let’s keep the Hugos what they always have been: The Most Prestigious Award in Science Fiction!

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About James Schardt

A retired Army Aviation Mechanic and former Non-Destructive Testing Technician, James Schardt is currently a college student studying Mechanical Engineering. He has been known to contribute book reviews and articles to the Otherwhere Gazette.

11 comments on “Fan Bases

  1. Yes, I like what you’ve said. Now if we can only get people to agree on whether or not the Hugos are a prestigious award representing all of the best of fandom or merely a small award at (what is now) a backwater convention with a long lineage. It can’t be both.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Up until very recently pretty much anyone who was anyone agreed it was very prestigious. That why I’m a bit incredulous some people have suddenly changed their minds. It’s like they are saying “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia. Dammit, you’re remembering last week all wrong!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To minor nitpicks.

    1) The Rabid Puppies slate was not presented till after the registration period for nominations was closed. This means that slate probably had a small affect on the number of new registrations (for nominations). The RP followers have however been incited by the vitriol so their numbers may swell both the award and next years nominations.

    2) On a separate front, I fear your number of new nominations for next year are way off. Because any person who registered this year to vote on the finalists automatically are eligible to nominate next year, a very large base that shall not be named will probably drive the number up quite a bit. And don’t blame the puppies, blame their opponents.

    Will the other fans actually get involved as you have asked? I really don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Rabid Puppies Slate was published on Vox’s blog on 2 February. The nominations were not due until 10 March. If it had been otherwise, there is no logical way Rabid Puppies could have had the success rate of 90-95% they achieved. Here is a link to someone who has crunched the numbers

      http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2015/04/14/sad-puppy-data-analysis/

      Also looking at the numbers, far more people vote in the finals than in the nominations. This is odd because far more people are eligible to nominate than to vote*. In 2013, 1343 people cast nominating votes while 1848 voted for the finalists. In 2014, it was 1923 nominating ballots to 3587 ballots for the finals. I’d love to see more people get involved in the nominations. In many ways, this is the most important part of the process.

      However, most people do not let their lives revolve around this stuff. They forget or are not aware they can nominate stories they have read or don’t feel they have read enough to make a sound judgement**.

      Because of the above reasons I think the number of new ballots will be closer to the 100 that had been the average prior to 2013. I’d love to be wrong about this. The more people that vote, the less any suggested slate matters. “Dilute the vote!” seems like an odd rallying cry but it’s exactly what we need to do.

      I don’t know if any other fan bases would participate either. We won’t know unless we ask. Anybody who reads this, please pass it on by whatever means you have. Ask your fellow fans to get involved. You know what you like to read and the best way to get more of it is to be active and let people know it. This is a means of doing that.

      *Voting in the finals require you have a membership to that year’s WorldCon while nominations can be done with membership to that year’s WorldCon, or the year before, or the year after.

      **To the latter I say vote for what you read and liked. It’s not a test. You’re not being graded. You’re allowed to leave blank spaces on your entry. I did.

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  4. Reblogged this on Mick On Everything and commented:
    Yes! More people voting is the endgame for the puppies, and should be the edngame for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree completely with this article. After finding out about the debacle this year, you can bet I’m reading a lot this year, and I will be voting next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well Said

    Like

  7. “Now, if you go by Amazon sales,”

    Actually “Amazon sales rank” … of which no one outside of inner depths of Amazon.com have any idea how they are calculated.

    I sell books on Amazon. I saw one of my sales move the sales rank of the item from 2 million plus to 60,000 or so. And a day later it went to 3 million plus. Go figure. A better metric would be the NIelsen BookScan numbers which track sales at the register. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nielsen_BookScan

    At best the Amazon Sales Rank is a picture of an item at a particular time. A just released book by Scalzi will have a better Amazon Sales Rank that a year old Larry Correia, and the reverse is also true.

    “This year a faction has started claiming the Award only really belongs to the World Science Fiction convention. Really? While technically true,”

    Legally true too. If the Puppies and Co want to create a wide ranging award that covers a lot more categories than what Worldcon offers fine! Just don’t call it a Hugo. The Gernsback Award would be amusing, no?

    I remain sad that Bill Patterson’s Heinlein bio, vol 2 failed to make the final ballot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found my information to compare Correia and Scalzi’s fan bases from another article that compared the release of their most recent books (“Monster Hunter: Nemesis” and “Lock In”, I think). I’m pretty sure the author used Amazon on that one. It may have been a snapshot. My gut says it sounds about right. Of course, my gut also says eating pizza and donuts everyday is fine too, so maybe it could be wrong.

      Whether Technically or legally true, that is not how the Hugo Awards has been talked about until recently. Traditionally, it has been the fan’s award. And, no matter if anyone likes it or not, the Sad Puppies and Rabbid Puppies are now as much a part of WorldCon as the Old Guard. They paid their membership fees. Their votes count just as much as anyone else’s. The demographics have now changed. And it sounds like they are changing again this year. I hope the number of ballots submitted is high enough to make factions irrelevant. That would be the best outcome of this whole thing. According to a very recent article by George RR Martin, I may be happily wrong about the number of Hugo nominating ballots next year. Nothing would make me happier than to own that failure at prognostication.

      Internet chatter points towards some Heinlein fans being extremely annoyed about the Heinlein biography. Nobody knew it was published. Tor did no push or advertising for the book. People don’t read books they don’t know exist. It didn’t make it to the nominees because no one knew about it until after the nominations had closed.

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  8. “Nobody knew it was published. Tor did no push or advertising for the book. People don’t read books they don’t know exist. It didn’t make it to the nominees because no one knew about it until after the nominations had closed.”‘

    I never heard of any of the nominees in Best Related … pity they didn’t advertise.

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