Sunday, August 27, 2006

Well, At Least They Got the Dramatic Presenation Awards Right

Locus Online has the Hugo results, and the short fiction category winners are nothing short of dispiriting. OK, so I called Peter S. Beagle's "Two Hearts" winning the novelette category (and anyway there was no other story on the shortlist that desperately deserved to win), and I can hardly say that I'm surprised that Connie Willis' "Inside Job" triumphed over stronger, more interesting, and better written work by Kelly Link and Ian McDonald, because that pretty much sums up her entire award-winning history (I'm still baffled by Doomsday Book's double whammy). But how is it possible that Margo Lanagan, with one of the strongest short stories I've read in ages, lost out on both the Nebula and Hugo?

Oh well, I suppose I should just be grateful that it wasn't Mike Resnick or Michael A. Burstein that took the trophy.

UPDATE: The vote breakdowns are now available online. Here's a helpful primer on what all those numbers mean.


Molly Moloney said...

I share your underwhelment with the Beagle and Willis wins for these particular works (though I'm certainly much more of a fan of Willis than you)-- but I was absolutely thrilled to see the (heretofore, at least) underrated/underappreciated Wilson win for Spin.

David D. Levine said...

how is it possible that Margo Lanagan, with one of the strongest short stories I've read in ages, lost out on the Hugo?

It seems to me that she lost because of the preferential ballot system, which is designed to deliver a winner who is acceptable to the majority of the voters rather than a winner who is the first choice of a plurality of the voters.

If you look at the vote breakdowns for Dramatic Presentation (Short) and for Short Story you'll see a similar voting pattern. In each case there is one representative of a certain popular group ("Singing My Sister Down" representing more "literary" SF and "Pegasus" representing Battlestar Galactica) and several representatives of another popular group (four more "traditional" SF stories, three episodes of Dr. Who). In each case the singleton got the most first-place votes, but wound up losing to one of the works in the other popular group, because the voters who preferred that group (who hadn't all chosen the same work in the group first) tended to rank stories in the group higher than the singleton.

In effect, the Dr. Who voters didn't all get behind any one episode of the three on offer, but there were more Dr. Who voters than Galactica voters, and as episodes were eliminated during the ballot counting the Dr. Who voters converged on a single episode and put it over the top. A similar phenomenon put one of the more "traditional" stories ahead of the more "literary" Lanagan story. (I'm not trying to make a value judgement here, just analyzing the voters' preferences between two fairly distinct writing styles.)

Different voting systems produce different results. In a system in which each voter got only one choice, "Singing My Sister Down" and "Pegasus" would probably have won (I say "probably" because people might have voted differently if they'd known the votes would be counted differently).

Honestly, I expected to lose to "Singing My Sister Down" (the critical favorite) or Mike Resnick (a consistent popular favorite). I'm pleased and honored to have won, and I'm sorry that other good works had to be passed over to make it happen.

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