Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007, 12:11 pm
Nippon 2007's badly-flawed Hugo nominating ballot



Note: I emailed what follows to hugoadmin@nippon2007.us, and posted it on the smofs list. Nippon 2007's Hugo Awards Administrator is Joyce Hooper, assisted by a committee consisting of Hiroake Inoue, John Pomeranz, and Peggy Rae Sapienza.

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Further note: See the update at the end of this post.

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I've just received my Hugo nominating ballot, and it looks to me like Nippon 2007 has thoroughly messed up all three of the "body of work" professional Hugo categories. In the case of Best Professional Artist, the errors amount merely to bad practice, but in the case of the two newly-created Best Editor categories, this is simply not a legal ballot. I don't say this lightly, but Nippon 2007 needs to act immediately to replace it with one in compliance with the WSFS Constitution.

Moreover, Nippon 2007's errors in connection with the two Best Editor categories are fundamental; they do not arise from any failure to understand the reforms passed in 2006, but from a basic misunderstanding of the concept of a "best editor" award.

Nippon 2007's nominating form for the two Editor categories looks like this:
Best Editor, Short Form. The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections, or magazine issues devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which was published in 2006.
Editor & Title_________________________Where Published________________
Editor & Title_________________________Where Published________________
Editor & Title_________________________Where Published________________
Editor & Title_________________________Where Published________________
Editor & Title_________________________Where Published________________

Best Editor, Long Form. The editor of at least four (4) novel-length works primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy published in 2006 which do not qualify under Best Editor, Short Form.
Editor & Title_________________________Publisher______________________
Editor & Title_________________________Publisher______________________
Editor & Title_________________________Publisher______________________
Editor & Title_________________________Publisher______________________
Editor & Title_________________________Publisher______________________
What's wrong with this? Everything. To begin with, something very basic. The Best Editor awards, like the Best Professional Editor award which they supersede, are for a body of work in the year in question, not for any single "title." In every other category of Nippon 2007's nominating ballot, the blank line is preceded with the thing the award is for. Only the forms for the two Best Editor awards conflate something the award is not for (a specific "title") into the actual award.

Hugo nominating ballots often ask for source information. And it makes sense to ask for "Publisher" in the nominating forms for the two book categories (Best Novel and Best Related Book), and for "Where Published" in the three short fiction categories. Those are awards for specific works, and the nature of the source information being requested makes that clear.

However, to demand that information in the two Best Editor categories makes the nature of these awards anything but clear. These are meant to be for a body of work, but by replacing "Editor" with "Editor and Title" and demanding "Where Published" and "Publisher," Nippon 2007 is saying the exact opposite, in complete contravention of the clear wording of the WSFS Constitution.

Nippon 2007's nominating form for the Best Professional Artist category looks like this:
Best Professional Artist. An artist or illustrator whose work appeared in a professional publication in the field of science fiction or fantasy in 2006. If possible, please cite publication.
Artist/Illustrator_____________________Title of Publication___________
Artist/Illustrator_____________________Title of Publication___________
Artist/Illustrator_____________________Title of Publication___________
Artist/Illustrator_____________________Title of Publication___________
Artist/Illustrator_____________________Title of Publication___________
From Kevin Standlee's writeup of the 2006 Business Meeting:
"The Best Professional Artist Hugo Administration resolution passed in a slightly amended form, asking future Worldcon committees to request that artist nominees provide references to three or more pieces of artwork. In addition, a separate constitutional amendment that would require Best Professional Artist nominees to provide citations of at least three works from the eligibility year received first passage and was sent to Nippon 2007 for ratification. The constitutional amendment was the only vote that looked close enough to count, and it turned out to not be as close as the show of hands initially indicated--it passed 66-24."
First, it's evident that Nippon 2007 has ignored the 2006 Business Meeting's resolution "asking future Worldcon committees to request that artist nominees provide references to three or more pieces of artwork." This is their right, but it should certainly be noted, and remembered the next time the Business Meeting revisits this issue.

Second, writing "If possible, please cite publication" (singular) and then asking for "title of publication" (singular) implies that the Best Professional Artist Hugo is for one particular, single piece of work, which has never been the intent of the category, either before passage of 2006's nonbinding resolution or afterwards. Much better would have been to write "If possible, please cite someplace where this artist's work was published in 2006." Then the indicia on the actual line could have read "Citation". As it stands, while the wording of this Best Professional Artist nominating form doesn't rise to the level of actual constitutional violation, it's very bad practice.

To repeat. It is true that Hugo nominating ballots often ask for supporting information, and that the WSFS Constitution does not provide an exact formula for what information to request and how those requests should be worded. However, what has been done to the two Best Editor categories goes far beyond asking for a citation or a pointer. By defining the two awards as being for "Editor and Title", Nippon 2007 has completely redefined both awards, in total contradiction to the requirements of the WSFS Constitution.

I've been a Worldcon department head under adverse circumstances, and I believe in cutting Worldcons a great deal of slack. Human error happens. The Worldcon is run entirely by volunteer labor, and its continuance is a small annual miracle. I try not to criticize Worldcons over trivia.

However, a great deal of effort went into reforming and fine-tuning the editorial Hugo categories over the last two years, most of it from Business Meeting regulars who gave generously of their time and energy in order to produce a formula that would be widely acceptable. This nominating ballot from Nippon 2007 has completely disregarded that work, the decisions of the Business Meeting, and the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society. I apologize for the formality of this, but I object to the use of this nominating ballot and I call upon Nippon 2007 to immediately replace it with one in compliance with the WSFS Constitution.

UPDATE: Geri Sullivan points out that I'm wrong about the 2006 resolution concerning the Best Professional Artist award. As best as she and I can remember now, it called on Hugo administrators to ask potential nominees to cite three works they'd published in the year in question. It wasn't asking for three citations from nominators.

I'm not wrong about the Best Editor reforms, however. Unlike the nonbinding Professional Artist resolution, the work of the 2006 Business Meeting in connection with the Best Editor Hugos is now reflected in the WSFS Constitution.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden
pnh@panix.com
http://nielsenhayden.com

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
womzilla

Not much to add, except: Shame on them.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
nwl

I hadn't realized that those changes had been made, so it's good you pointed them out. I'm guessing the people mailing them out at Peggy Rae's didn't know that either. We haven't received the ballots yet. are they doing an on line ballot as well?

Considering the quality of the publications we've received so far, I don't think this Worldcon is going to go down in the books as a great one.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
pnh

Nippon 2007 does indeed have an online nominating facility; it features the same critical mistakes as the printed balllot.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
kalimac

That's not only wrong, it's terribly confusing. It looks as if they copied the editor category formats from those for fiction, substituting only "Editor" for "Author".

Seems to me like extreme absent-mindedness, a blitheness about one's work that frankly terrifies me.

On my printed ballot, the description for Professional Artist does not read "please cite publication." It reads "please site publication." More absent-mindedness.

I'm not going to look at what the con's web site says. The con's web site installed some adware on my computer close to a year ago, and I'm not going back there.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
feorag

the description for Professional Artist does not read "please cite publication." It reads "please site publication."

kalimacさんの日本語は流暢ですね。

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
shsilver

So what would they do if I nominated a single editor for five different specific books he worked on?

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
kgbooklog

Is there any reason why they can't make the ballot part of the constitution? That way, the people changing the rules can also *show* what the new ballot looks like.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
kevin_standlee

Well, there's a limit to how much micromanaging the Business Meeting wants to do to individual Worldcons. (For instance, a few years ago, they almost adopted rules defining type size on membership badges, but they backed off and punted the job to the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee.) And the Constitution is considered very long as it is. Committees are already required to include a copy of Article 3 of the WSFS Constitution with the ballot -- not that many people read it.

And I can also see how much "fun" it would be if 200 people started debating the precise format of a Hugo Awards Ballot on the floor of the Business Meeting.

And for that matter, I don't know that even attempting to solve things this way would work. A committee can still end up ignoring instructions.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
womzilla

Well, the N&FC (or some other permanent committee) could be given the authority to draft the ballot in accordance with the Constitution, thus assuring that the job stays in the hands of people who actually care about what the ballot says and how it works.

By the way, how has the whole "type size on badges" thing worked out? I haven't been able to attend WorldCon since Philadelphia in 2001, where the awful badges precipitated the discussion you mention.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
smofbabe

I'm amazed that the administrators, who have to know that (a) they're new at this and (b) this is the first year for this category, didn't think to get this reviewed by past administrators, or Peggy Rae, or the chair of the business meeting, or you, or *somebody* before blithely sending it out. This is appalling on several levels.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
feorag

Actually, I think I know why the scenario you describe could happen, based on something my Japanese teacher told me about Japanese culture. Basically, asking questions, or for help, is a bad thing. It's like admitting you are not up to the job and are no good at it. The only solution would involve the previous administrators knowing about this and making sure that the new ones knew that they wouldn't take such behaviour as a sign of incompetence, or think any less of them for asking for advice on what is, after all, a difficult and complicated job, with added extra bonus rule changes. And doing it impeccably politely, of course.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
pnh

A good theory, ruined by the fact that the Nippon 97 Hugo subcommittee is run by an American fan, assisted by one Japanese fan and two further Americans.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
feorag

Ah well, that negates all excuses really.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
nwl

Considering that the Hugo ballots were sent out to the L.A.Con members from Peggy Rae last weekend (I know because she emailed local fans for help), she must have seen them. I don't know about the category problems, but I think someone might have noticed the poor English. We've noticed problems with English on the progress reports.

Considering the ballots were mailed out last weekend, we have yet to receive them.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
kevin_standlee

If you're members of Nippon 2007, you won't. They de-duplicated the mailing and sent it only to members of L.A.con IV who aren't yet members of Nippon 2007.

Nippon 2007 members will get their copy with the next Progress Report, which was about to go to press when this news broke.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)

I object to the use of this nominating ballot and I call upon Nippon 2007 to immediately replace it with one in compliance with the WSFS Constitution

Seconded.

Cheryl Morgan

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
sinboy

That we a very reasonably worded and polite objection. I hope they pay attention to it.

Mon, Jan. 15th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
sinboy

that was a ...

No sleep after Arisia. D'oh.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
kalimeg

Well, perhaps the amendment should have included a format or ballot sample.

Yah, that would have been too easy.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 04:50 am (UTC)
angriest

Ah, nothing like science fiction awards to get people riled up and irritated... : )

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)

The best artist discussion covered two distinct topics; the nominating phase and the final ballot.

The discussion on the nominating phase was about whether *nominators* should be asked to provide a citation to a piece of work produced in the relevant year. This was the more contentious element not least because the first year of publication is often not stated on artwork and hence the info is hard to find.

The less contentious element, which was supported, was that the nominated shortlist of artists should be asked to provide citations for items. This means that a portfolio or links to relevant works can be published with the final ballot, helping voters to make sensible decisions and avoiding name recognition voting alone.

Given the spirit of the meeting the ballot in this area is certainly wrong in my view.

On the Editor issue, I fully endorse your concerns and the supporting comments of others. I have been somewhat appalled that the Administrator has stayed apart from SMOFs and similar sources of advice in particular; this is one of the areas where the experience of others is most important.

Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)
palatinate

Sorry that was me - for some reason my LJ had been logged out.

Colin Harris
Co-Chair and Hugo Sub-Committee member, Interaction