Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Quick Post-Hugo Thought

Various people have started to look at the results, and the usual wave of moaning and gnashing of teeth has begun. (The complaints shift a bit every year, but there always are complaints.)

One thing I wanted to point out, before the conversation gets too big to keep track of:

Buzz Means Nothing

The people discussing any particular work or person online are not necessarily Hugo voters to begin with, and no one has a group of friends that matches the makeup of the Hugo voters. So posts of the type "I can't believe X lost; everyone I knew thought it was easily the best in the category" just makes you look like Pauline Kael in 1968.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do it -- I'm sure people will -- just that relying on "what people were talking about" is a bad strategy for the Hugos. (There are awards, usually run by media people, which are entirely dependent on buzz and can be predicted quite well from levels of buzz. But the Hugo isn't like that at all; it's given by lots of cranky SFF fans, most of them with idiosyncratic tastes and a mile-wide streak of contrariness.)


Ran said...

The main selection I had thought would have done better than it in fact did due to buzz was Watts' Blindsight.

But I noticed in the last couple of months that some of the shine seems to have come off the book as people mulled it over, or maybe had a chance to read it after the buzz had been tamped down a bit.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Elio: What a lot of people don't really take into account is how the Hugo process captures relative support for all of the items in a category. Works with high negatives tend not to win, because the Australian ballot system rewards voters' second and third choices.

I haven't looked at the detailed results yet, but I bet Blindsight came in first on a lot of ballots, and last on a lot of ballots (and wasn't even listed on others). That kind of work tends to start strong and then fade.

(After a quick look at the voting results, I see Blindsight was the first book dropped. Honestly, Blindsight is a good book, but it's also an incredibly dense, gloomy book -- I can easily see a huge segment of the audience either not finishing it at all or hating it. It just doesn't feel like the kind of book that wins a Hugo to me.)

Ran said...

You're right. That, and Novik's domination of the Campbell, are the two things that really made me recognize (and taken into account for the future) the buzz factor. Specifically the internet buzz factor.

Re: Novik, it's not so much her win (which was well-earned) but the fact that someone who seems to have a fair amount of buzz -- Scott Lynch -- doesn't seem to have made as much of a splash as I had suspected.

I had had the sense that Lynch was more widely read than it seems that he actually is. This is probably due to the fact that the _A Song of Ice and Fire_ board quickly adopted him as a favorite, and so within that particular circle just about everyone knows about him. Obviously, that sort of thing can be misleading.

That said, buzz or not, I expect Patrick Rothfuss will be a Campbell nominee next year. May even beat Lynch, as it's said his sale figures are very impressive in comparison, suggesting that there's a broader appeal there.

Or maybe not. Hard to prognostiate a year out.

Cheryl said...

Elio: you are dead right about people getting fooled by buzz within their own circle. It is very easy to make the mistake of thinking because all of your friends liked a book, that all of the Hugo voters will like it too. But if you friends are not voters, then that's by no means a reliable guide.

Andrew is also very right about the voting process. There are particular types of book that can always get a champion on the ballot, but have to win outright because otherwise they will fall behind as preferences are redistributed. Fantasy books, and hard science fiction, are both example of such types.

That said, while I was pretty sure that Blindsight would get overtaken by Stross or Vinge at some point, I was astonished at how badly it did. Most of my friends are Hugo voters, and many of them loved it. You never can tell.

dirty dingus said...

But the Hugo isn't like that at all; it's given by lots of cranky SFF fans, most of them with idiosyncratic tastes and a mile-wide streak of contrariness.

Lots is not part of a definition I would use to describe the Hugo electorate. "A few hundred, if you're lucky" would be a better choice

Andrew Wheeler said...

dirty dingus: It depends on your frame of reference, I guess -- the Nobel, NBCC, Man Booker, and World Fantasy Awards are all given by far, far smaller groups. I don't see why hundreds of people aren't "lots;" it's certainly large enough to contain several different factions and groups with different ideas and agendas.

I generally don't agree with the mania to induce a larger number of people to participate in any type of voting, since those people presumably care less and have been paying less attention to begin with.

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