Worldcon 75

The 75th World Science Fiction Convention, 9-13 August 2017, Messukeskus, Helsinki, Finland

What’s new about the Hugos this year?

The WSFS Business Meeting at MidAmericon II made a number of changes to the Hugo rules – specifically on how nominations are tallied to produce the final ballot.


So what are the changes?

  1. From now on, there will normally be six rather than five finalists in each category. Worldcon members still nominate only five candidates, but it is the top six that will be on the final ballot.
  2. There is no threshold other than being in the top six. (In previous years, finalists had to get at least 5% of the total nomination vote in their category, though the top three would always get on the ballot.)
  3. No work shall appear as a finalist in two different categories (which was theoretically possible under the previous rules, though it had never happened).
  4. No author, or group of authors, or dramatic presentation series, can have more than two finalists in any one category.
  5. A new counting system tallies nomination votes so as to reduce the impact of bloc voting. (See the section on tallying below.)

Who made these changes?

Every Worldcon holds a Business Meeting (strictly, the Business Meeting of WSFS, the World Science Fiction Society, which all Worldcon members are also members of). Every year’s Business Meeting may consider changes to the WSFS Constitution which defines the Hugos and the procedures of awarding them. Any change must pass in two successive years – so the changes which take effect in 2017 were first proposed in 2015 and then ratified in 2016. Any member of Worldcon may propose changes, but votes at the Business Meeting are cast only in person.


How does this affect our nominations and voting?

Practically speaking, not at all. As in previous years, members of this year’s Worldcon (Worldcon 75) and last year’s and next year’s (MidAmeriCon 2 and Worldcon 76 in San Jose), can nominate up to five candidates in each category. Although no work shall appear as a finalist in two different categories, that does not prevent you from nominating the same work in more than one category. Although no author, or group of authors, or dramatic presentation series, can have more than two finalists in any one category, that does not prevent you from nominating more than two such candidates in any category.

And nothing has changed at all with respect to how the final ballots are counted to determine who wins the Hugos. Any impact of the new rules on the final ballot will be reported by Worldcon 75 after the Awards ceremony.


How are Hugo nominations going to be tallied?

Starting from Worldcon 75 in 2017, a new counting system will be used to calculate the final Hugo ballot in each category. This system, technically a single divisible vote with least popular elimination, but popularly referred to as E Pluribus Hugo ("Out of many, a Hugo") was approved by the WSFS Business Meeting at Sasquan in 2015 and ratified by the WSFS Business Meeting at MidAmeriCon 2 in 2016.

This is not the place to discuss the merits of the new system, or the reasons behind it – there has been plenty of debate about it elsewhere, including the data regarding re-runs of several recent years of Hugo nominations under the new system which was presented to the MidAmeriCon 2 Business Meeting. Further changes are in the hands of future Business Meetings.

Under E Pluribus Hugo votes are tallied like this:

  1. First, the total number of nominations from all ballots is tallied for each nominee.

  2. Next, a single point is assigned to each individual voter’s nomination ballot. That point is divided equally among all nominees on that ballot. (After the first round of calculation, it is divided equally between remaining nominees.)

  3. Next, all points from all nomination ballots are totaled for each nominee in that category.

  4. Next, the two nominees with the lowest point totals are compared.

  5. Whichever of those two has the fewest number of nominations is eliminated and removed from all subsequent calculations.

  6. Back to step 1 with the remaining nominees after the elimination.

The above steps are repeated until there are only six nominees left. Those six become the finalists.

Rather than giving one whole vote to each of the candidates you nominate, the value of your nominating ballot is divided evenly between your candidates, for as long as each of them remains in the race. If one or more of your nominations proves to be less popular and is eliminated, the value of your vote is cumulated onto the front-runners that you liked, maximising the difference you make to the outcome.

This system will be used for the first time in 2017. The results of the last ten rounds of the finalist selection process for each category (or all the rounds if there are fewer than ten) will be published as part of the overall Hugo report.


Breaking Ties and Filling Vacancies

If you really want to know how ties are broken in the generation of the final ballot, this is the fuller version of the process at each stage.

  1. First, the total number of nominations from all ballots is tallied for each nominee.

  2. Next, a single point is assigned to each individual voter’s nomination ballot. That point is divided equally among all nominees on that ballot. (After the first round of calculation, it is divided equally between remaining nominees.)

  3. Next, all points from all nomination ballots are totalled for each nominee in that category.

  4. Next, the two nominees with the lowest point totals are compared. If there is a tie of more than two nominees with the lowest or second lowest point total, all of them are compared.

  5. Whichever of the nominees being compared has the fewer or fewest number of nominations is eliminated and removed from all subsequent calculations. If two or more nominees are tied for the fewest number of nominations, the nominee with the lowest point total at that round is eliminated. If two or more nominees are tied for both fewest number of nominations and lowest point total, then all such nominees tied at that round shall be eliminated, unless that would leave fewer than six in play, in which case they all get onto the final ballot.

  6. Back to step 1 with the remaining nominees after the elimination.

If any finalists are removed from the final ballot for any reason (for example due to disqualification or withdrawal), they will be replaced with the last eliminated nominees, in reverse order of elimination.


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