So, let’s talk about the business meeting of the World Science Fiction Society at Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon.

As I mentioned previously, there was no organised action to disrupt the meeting, or, indeed, any part of Worldcon. There were a few minor things, like a fairly vile stack of flyers left on the flyer rack, but nothing important.

So what did happen?

The business meeting was far larger than usual – some days may’ve been the largest ever. We had a huge room, and needed it. Everybody there showed up to be serious – including, I will say, some self-identified Puppies – about the various reform proposals, as well as to debate the other amendments, resolution, and business.

There were a few genuinely fun moments, as hard as that may be to imagine in four days of marathon business meeting. And one really just nice moment, to wit:

The day after Ben Yalow won the Big Heart Award for service to fandom, he was recognised to speak in opposition to E Pluribus Hugo, one of the reform amendments. While he was on the way up to the microphone, Chair Kevin Standlee introduced him as, “Mr. Yalow, or, I should say more correctly, Mr. Big Heart,” and everybody just rose up and cheered.

And then Mr. Standlee ruled that the applause (and his embarrassed thank you to the attendees ^_^ ) did not count against his debate time, as applause normally would, which was just funny and nice.

But let’s talk the first of the two voting reform proposals.

4 and 6 – so-called because it reduces the nominees per members to four, while expanding the total shortlist to six nominees. It changes nothing else. Amusingly, during the preliminary meeting, the specific numbers were replaced with blanks to be filled in during debate, and the result of that debate three days later during consideration was… putting it back to 4 and 6.

That was pretty hilarious, in a punch-drunk kind of way.

Regardless of the numbers, I think this is a very bad proposal for three reasons. First, even in the optimal case, it still lets a single similar slate (less than 15%) take four of six positions on the final ballot. That’s less terrible, but it’s still terrible.

Second, as a system, it’s trivially gameable. Tell your slate voters, “okay, last names A-L vote this subset, everyone else vote this subset,” and you still capture all six positions with a smallish fraction of the popular vote.

And third – and this is the big one – it rewards politicisation of the process, insuring the rise of multiple “slate” parties. That is a catastrophic outcome, but inevitable.

See, in pretty much every open election system, you have parties. That’s because one party vs. unorganised independents means the party always wins, every time. That’s what the Puppies tried to do set up; they came close to success. Only “No Award” kept that from happening, and now we’re seeing some of their reactions to that. (Spoiler: it’s hilarious.)

So given these facts, the inevitable reaction to single-party success is the creation of opposition parties. Possibly one, possibly two, it doesn’t matter, because as I said way back at the beginning of this thing, making this into yet another goddamn political football makes the whole award meaningless.

“4 and 6” doesn’t prevent that outcome. “4 and 6” outright encourages it, as an unintended side-effect. I asked the people who wrote it whether they’d considered what happens in the case of an opposition slate; they said they knew two slates would split all six shortlist slots, but didn’t think that would happen, despite the fact that this is the result every time in every polity ever.

I’m willing to consider the idea that It’ll Be Different In Fandom, but it’s an extraordinary claim, and will require extraordinary evidence.

Despite that, 4 and 6 passed, on a slim margin. It now goes to next year’s meeting for ratification. I am hoping they will defeat it, but we’ll see.

The other reform proposal is called E Pluribus Hugo, or EPH for short. Because this is getting long and I need more rehearsal time for this weekend’s show, I’m going to leave EPH for the next post. But I’ll say this now: the math is wonderful. The math scares some people because they think it’s “too complicated,” but it’s not, really; it’s no more complicated than what we already do for Worldcon site selection. And once you get it – and it doesn’t take that long, I was explaining it in person in 30 seconds – the elegance is self-evident. I really have to congratulate the election math wonks who spent several months this year figuring it out.

But for now, I’m off to rehearse. See you at the show tomorrow, I hope!

Saturday, August 29th, Tacoma


This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.