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Hugos/Sad Puppies Guest Post by Jameson Quinn

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Hi folks! Please enjoy this guest post on the Hugos!:

Hi, I’m Jameson Quinn, the guy who came up with the basic idea for the E Pluribus Hugo proposal to fix the Hugo Award voting so that minorities like this year’s Sad and Rabid Puppy slates can’t take over the nominations. I’m also a board member of Electology.org (the Center for Election Science) and doctoral candidate in statistics at Harvard. Regular readers of this site will probably recognize me from the comment threads here, where I post using a Kafka/Martin inspired nym. I’m using my real name for this post, and ask that you refrain from using my nym in comments please. I also have to say that the political views expressed below are my own. I speak for Electology.org only when it comes to the voting theory.

Regular readers here are probably also already familiar with the basic outlines of the Hugo/Puppy affair. Here are the basics:

    • The Hugo Awards are important awards in science fiction, which for over 60 years have been both nominated and given by fans attending or supporting the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon). This year’s WorldCon was last week/weekend in Spokane, Washington.
    • For the past 3 years, conservative authors have been promoting slate voting in Hugo nominations. They coyly called their slate the Sad Puppy “List” and denied it was more than “recommendations”, but still explicitly pitched it as a counterweight to fan votes that “skew toward literary (as opposed to entertainment) … [and] skew ideological” based on a “popularity contest”.
    • This year, the nominally-within-the-lines Sad Puppies were joined by the outright-trolling Rabid Puppies, led by troll incarnate Vox Day. Day expanded the list to ensure it had 5 things in most categories (so that it would push out all non-puppy works), adding himself and works he published in many cases. He explicitly called for slate voting from his followers, and asked them to vote whether or not they were science fiction fans at all.
    • The puppies were successful in taking over most of the nominations, including all finalists in 7 categories, though this later dropped to 5 when some of their unwitting nominees withdrew upon realizing how they’d won.
    • However, it was always clear that the puppies were a minority. Indeed, when winners were announced, the only winner on the Puppy slate was Guardians of the Galaxy (which had received more than enough non-puppy nominations that it would have easily been a finalist even without any puppy support). In order to deny the puppies any wins, voters gave “No Award” in 5 categories, using that option as many times in one year as they had in over half a century of history.
    • Fans rallied against such minority takeover tactics. A group including yours truly developed a proportional voting system proposal called E Pluribus Hugo over the course of over four thousand comments on Making Light (and let me say that SF nerds rock; it may have been my idea but it would have gone nowhere without the sophistication, skills, and energy of the community at that blog). At WorldCon, after a grueling business meeting stretching 11 hours over 4 days, the proposal passed by a 3:1 margin; if it passes again next year in Kansas City, the system will be first used for the Helsinki 2017 Worldcon. Also, the controversy meant that there were more Hugo voters than ever; almost 6000 of them. The flagship Best Novel award went to a translated work for the first time: The Three Body Problem.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of these events (aside from getting to meet some of my favorite writers, fictional characters, and even a Dalek) was the dynamics of the Puppies; specifically, the love-hate symbiosis between the halfheartedly-trolling Sads and the fullthroated Rabids.

In order to understand this, it’s important to see that the Sads actually did have the germ of a valid grievance: in past years, many Hugo nominators have been from a pretty small and insular group of authors, editors, and hardcore fans, who often know each other personally and whose vote is probably influenced to some extent by factors extraneous to the work itself. Writings from authors who are personally well-liked, or whose overall body of work is stronger than the individual writing, probably have had a bit of an unfair advantage in getting nominated.

Of course, that’s not to endorse the Sad Puppy point of view. Of their three complaints — that the Hugos have been too artsy-fartsy, that they have been too political, and that they have involved logrolling — the first two are sour grapes, the second two are hypocritical, and the relationship between the three exists only in their heads. Only the third could be even slightly legitimate as cause for organized action; but certainly not for the action they took, which was basically to vandalize the awards as a whole, without any hope of actually accomplishing their objectives.

Still, next to the Rabids, the Sads look positively reasonable. And that set up exactly the kind of environment where trolls thrive: one where they could shift at will from “debaters” to provocateurs to hate-hydrants. So, even though there were initially more Sads than Rabids — my analsis of the numbers suggests that in the nominations there were about 100 party-line Sad Puppies and only about 40 party-line Rabid Puppies, with those numbers inflated 30%-100% by partial sympathizers depending on the candidate — the Rabids quickly managed to spread their poison over that entire side of the debate, and probably picked up to over 500-strong by the time of the second round voting.

The obvious analogy, of course, is with the Republican presidential candidates, with Trump making his rabid pronouncements, and the rest of them watching sadly.

And that brings me to what you knew was coming: voting systems. Because with both the Hugos and the Republican primaries, flawed voting systems end up feeding the trolls. The non-proportional Hugo nomination system enabled a minority with less than 15% in certain categories to take over those categories entirely. And similarly, the vote-for-one primaries enable Trump to be a clear and enduring frontrunner with just 30% of the Republican voters on his side, and higher negatives than any other candidate.

Better voting systems are, of course, available. In the case of the Hugos, it was E Pluribus Hugo. This system gives 1 point to each nominator, so if you nominated 5 works, they would each get 1/5 of a point from you. The points are totalled, and the two works with the lowest points go up for elimination. Of those two, the one nominated by the fewest people is eliminated. This means that in comparing the two, your nominations count at full strength, and a “bullet voting” strategy of nominating only your favorite work could not help it at that point. Then, points are redistributed (so that if one of your 5 nominations had been eliminated, the remaining 4 would now be getting 1/4 of a point each from you), and the process is repeated until only 5 works remain. The result is that slate works end up eliminating each other until just 1 or 2 remain, while non-slate nominators points naturally concentrate onto the strongest works.

At the convention, I was handing out “E Pluribus Hugo” ribbons every time I made that spiel, so I can say with certainty that I made it to over 250 people. When I initially offered the ribbons, the biggest source of skepticism was that the proposal was too complicated. But once I’d explained, people shifted to merely worrying that it might be too complicated for other people. As you can imagine, it felt pretty good to see that when the chips were down, those “other people” turned out to make up less than 25% of the people who cared to vote on the proposal.

Under a voting system like EPH which doesn’t give an outsized voice to minorities, I don’t think that the rabids’ outright trolling would have gotten the same traction. And I’m not the only one who feels that way; in the final debate over E Pluribus Hugo in the Worldcon business meeting, one of the speakers in support was a Sad Puppy who liked how EPH would have prevented the Rabid Puppy takeover. Remember, according to my best analysis, there were about 100 committed Sads and about 40 committed Rabids, yet because the sad slate had fewer than 5 candidates in many categories, there were a number of rabid-but-not-sad finalists, giving an exaggerated impression of Rabid strength. Under EPH, the Rabid ballots would have spent their strength nominating cross-listed candidates, and probably no Rabid-only candidates would have made the cut. Furthermore, when it came to the vote on whether to adopt EPH itself, the rabid puppies’ trollishness was actually the best ally of proposal supporters like me. In such a simple up-or-down vote, any voting system is fair and majoritarian, the depth of bile that their hateful rhetoric inspired was clearly no match for the breadth of the backlash.

In the case of presidential primaries, too, there is a way of voting that wouldn’t “feed the trolls”, and where outright hate would tend to backfire. I’m talking about approval voting, where each voter could approve as many candidates as they wanted. Instead of throwing away ballots voting for more than one, we could just count them normally. Anti-Trump voters could approve the candidates they consider more serious, and Trump, with majority disapproval, would probably be well down the list of frontrunners. While he would still have made a splash, his racist rhetoric would lack some of its triumphant appeal. Any way of avoiding fanning those flames is a good thing.

Epilogue: I wrote some of this on the train home. It turns out that about a dozen fans decided to extend the convention onto the train, calling it “TrainCon”; though I missed it on the way in, I was with them on the way back. One night, they had a sing-along in the snack car, and they invited me to give a quick lecture on E Pluribus Hugo beforehand. At the beginning of the sing-along, two singers from the group Sassafrass sang several songs, including one beautiful piece that expressed their patient, clear-eyed optimism about the long term prospects for space flight. To me, the prospect of better democracy through reforms such as E Pluribus Hugo fills me with that same kind of optimism; though I know that the way forward is not short or easy, it gives me a reason to believe tomorrow can be better. Listening to their beautiful singing, and remembering the inspiring success of the proposal, is an experience I will always remember with pride and hope.

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  • wjts

    Regular readers of this site will probably recognize me from the comment threads here, where I post using a Kafka/Martin inspired nym. I’m using my real name for this post, and ask that you refrain from using my nym in comments please.

    I’m afraid you can’t fool us that easily… Jenny.

  • MaxUtility

    I don’t really get your Trump analogy here other than to point out how minorities can have outsized impacts in standard voting systems. Beyond that, it would seem you’re conflating Trump with the various puppies based on an assumption that they have similar worldviews which may or may not be true, but seems pretty removed from the main point. I don’t support either the puppies’ views or their tactics. But even if their views of what constitutes quality in writing may be different than mine, I don’t think we would want to design a voting system to necessarily exclude that. Like I think most people, my complaint was that they were gaming a voting system in order to push an agenda rather than just to promote what they saw as quality in writing. The comparison to Trump just seems to validate the puppies’ complaint that this is all about producing our desired ‘political’ outcomes (SJW’s, etc. etc.) rather than being about the integrity of the award system itself.

    That all said, the proposed new voting system sounds very good (if a tad complex). Congratulations on developing and shepherding it forward.

    • wjts

      It does sound a tad complex, but the burden of the complexity falls on the folks tabulating the votes. Voters can keep nominating anywhere from zero to five works in any given category as they’ve always done without having to worry about strategic voting.

    • Jameson Quinn

      The point of the Trump analogy was that when a voting system gives outsized power to minorities, the incentive/winning strategy is to be a self-caricature, as the rabid puppies or Trump. Voting systems which keep power with the majority give more incentive to at least appear to compromise, as with Trump’s mainstream opponents or the sad puppies.

      • MaxUtility

        I see your point, but I think you may be projecting a lot of assumptions here about various people’s (especially Trump’s) intentions and beliefs. I’ll also point out that voting is very different from polling as I’m sure you can articulate better than me.

        Regardless, I’m sure there’s no general disagreement on the puppies’ and Trump’s general strengths and weaknesses. I just get a bit concerned when people start lumping various people/groups together because they espouse generally right wing views and have some measure of “popularity”. Again, I don’t think any of this is about fighting against the puppies specific views of what constitutes good writing, etc. It’s about them trying to manipulate existing organizations, voting systems, etc. in ways that further their political agendas.

        • Jameson Quinn

          It’s an analogy only. I doubt there’s much actual overlap between Trump supporters and rabid puppies.

          • Malaclypse

            The Troll Obsessed With Scalzi is, in fact, quite pleased with Trump’s immigration policies.

      • matt w

        With Trump I think it may be that when your voting base is a bunch of extremist whackjobs eventually someone will figure out how to appeal to them. I’m not convinced that Trump doesn’t truly reflect the electorate.

        Great work and great post, though, Jameson.

    • Jordan

      The voting system is complex “under the hood”, so to say, but its not hard at all on the voting end, and not really that hard on the explanation end.

      • That’s definitely one advantage EPH has over other proposals to change how the Hugos work. The disadvantage, as pointed out by Cheryl Morgan on her blog a few weeks ago, is that the system opens the Hugos to accusations of being biased and gamed, since it’s no longer as transparent as “the top five voter-getters are the nominees.”

        On the other hand, the puppies have already demonstrated their capacity to make a conspiracy theory out of anything, so an abstruse voting system will hardly impact their paranoid delusions.

        • Majestic_Moose

          Conspiracy? This very Post says that it isn’t

          In order to understand this, it’s important to see that the Sads actually did have the germ of a valid grievance: in past years, many Hugo nominators have been from a pretty small and insular group of authors, editors, and hardcore fans, who often know each other personally and whose vote is probably influenced to some extent by factors extraneous to the work itself. Writings from authors who are personally well-liked, or whose overall body of work is stronger than the individual writing, probably have had a bit of an unfair advantage in getting nominated.

          I also very much disagree with his outright dismissal of the political angle, especially since it’s related to the log-rolling. To whit, out of the major science-fiction publishers how many of them are in the liberal bastion of NYC? Whats that everyone but Baen? Hmmm you don’t see any coorelation there? Or given recent years in the winners alone?

          • sharculese

            I… do not draw any conclusions from a bunch of businesses being in a major center of commerce, no.

            If the best evidence of a political bent to to the Hugos you can find is that a bunch of them were published by houses from the same extremely large city, you do not have real evidence.

            • Majestic_Moose

              Really, NYC being liberal isn’t liberal? Wow then the whole state must be conservative then b/c Upstate sure as hell is. Hell Long Island is Republican these days.

              • Malaclypse

                Really, NYC being liberal isn’t liberal?

                Yes, I trust the author of this sentence to know good literature when he sees it.

              • Hogan

                I dare you to make less sense.

              • sharculese

                Whether New York City is or is not liberal is all kinds of irrelevant. It’s a huge commercial center with a lot of publishers, and ascribing a single political character to all of those publishers based on nothing more than the perceived character of the city is a pretty weak endeavor.

          • Anticorium

            My worldview has not been so shaken since the great Lots Of Country Music Comes Out Of Nashville truth bomb of 2006.

          • royko

            I know, right?!? And our entire financial industry is full of pinko commies because Wall Street is smack dab in liberal NYC!

            Try harder.

          • Bruce B.

            The proper response to this kind of thing is the one Nick Mamatas gave at File 770: produce a list of….

            a. one work of fiction
            b. that won a Hugo Award
            c. while foregrounding a left message to the extent that the story was ruined or misshaped
            d. per set of winners since 1995.

            • William Berry

              Yeah, not to mention that the Larry Nivens, Vernor Vinges, et al, of the world haven’t exactly been slighted.

        • eean

          We already use ranked voting in the final ballot, which is really just as complex as EPH, arguably more so.

    • jon98101

      Re: Trump

      This is about a month behind:

      “And similarly, the vote-for-one primaries enable Trump to be a clear and enduring frontrunner with just 30% of the Republican voters on his side, and higher negatives than any other candidate.”

      I was watching a piece on CNN recently and it showed that Trump’s favorable/unfavorable rating had basically inverted; he was about one-third favorable to two-thirds unfavorable early in the summer and is now two-thirds to one-third. They also reported on a poll that is of the type you mention – voters chose both their first and second choices. As usual, Trump was a blowout win for the first choice, but also did well enough as a second choice that he came out as tied for first with Carson when the choices were combined.

      I do wonder, though, if this type of polling were standard whether that might have killed some of his early momentum such that he never even gets to this point.

      Question for the OP:

      In the CNN poll, they gave equal weight to a first or second choice in the combined ranking. Is that normal? If so, that would lead to the absurd result that a person who was the unanimous first choice of voters would be tied with the unanimous second choice of voters. It seems more sensible to count second as only a partial vote.

      • recurse

        It might be useful to look at how Australian political polling works in this instance. We use STV for every single-member electorate. Take a look at the sidebar for our equivalent of Natt Silver and 538, Poll Bludger.

        You will see poll results are reported in two ways: 1st preference, and 2-party-preferred. The former provides the sort of polling result you get with FPTP voting, although with greatly reduced scope for tactical voting, which helps provide a gauge of actual support for minor parties.

        2PP runs the same STV algorithm, but returns the top two candidates and their support after all preferences from eliminated candidates have been allocated (at full strength). The reason for not discounting is that you want to elect the candidate with the most support across the entire community, not the one with the most concentrated support within some subset thereof. So I see nothing absurd about seeing a 50-50 split between two candidates, 1 with 50% first choice, and the other being the most popular of ‘please dear God, anyone but him’. If it helps, think of it as accounting for both favourables and unfavourables.

  • Murc

    But Jameson, how can you let us objectively awful commenters know your real name? Aren’t you worried about us?

    I kid because I love.

    Let me see if I have this right. If I nominate a single work in a category, that work gets one point (one person, one vote) and if another person nominates five things in that category, one of which also includes the thing I nominated, that thing will now have, in total, 1.2 votes? But when you got head to head in the elimination round, both my nomination and his nomination count as one each?

    That’s clever as hell.

    I dispute your assertion that the Puppies were trolling; I think they generally did want to win them some Hugos. This should be a real positive step towards short-circuiting their tactics; it looks like if they want to do this in the future they’ll have to build an actual broad campaign that lasts from nominating all the way to the awards.

    • Malaclypse

      I dispute your assertion that the Puppies were trolling; I think they generally did want to win them some Hugos.

      Agreed. The idea that this was just “let’s make liberals vote NO AWARD ha ha liberals” is just the creepy asshat being a creepy asshat. He wanted a Hugo, as did Larry Correia.

      • wjts

        Correia absolutely wanted his goddamn Hugo. The first Sad Puppies campaign (contra Jameson above) wasn’t a slate, but a campaign to get one of his adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasies the award (follow-up post explaining the Secret Origin of the term “Sad Puppies” available here for those of you who have not yet wasted enough of your precious time on Earth on this particular tedious right-wing culture war freakout). Plenty of the Puppy authors fall into this camp (“Any old dumb story about a gay Chinese guy can get nominated for a Hugo these days, but my story about a superintelligent murder tank mowing down hordes of faceless aliens can’t even win a lousy Pulitzer. Where’s the justice in that?”). Creepy Asshat is a slightly different case. I suppose he probably feels he’s owed a Hugo for being such a smart guy and brilliant author, but I also suspect he feels that if the science fiction community won’t recognize the weird little hut he built out of popsicle sticks and his own feces as superior to the Temple of Artemis, being Herostratus is the next best thing.

        • Jameson Quinn

          My definition of “trolling” here isn’t “doing things in order to accomplish nothing but pissing people off”, but rather “doing things in a way calculated to piss people off”. Certainly the rabid puppies fit the latter definition; and I agree that the sad puppies don’t fit the former one. As two the other two group/definition combos, it’s arguable.

          • wjts

            Oh, yes, he’s absolutely trolling. Whether or not he “really” wanted a Hugo, I neither know nor care.

        • Majestic_Moose

          Really? Your post is disingenuous as hell. The Superintellegent Murdertank story was by Tom Kratman, who is published by Vox Day and is very much in his camp when it comes to the hugos (source read his facebook). That being said the superintellegent murder tank story was actually a very good deconstruction on the BOLOS series. Given the SP had it on their list, mostly b/c it was great.

          • Malaclypse
            • sharculese

              yeesh. He showed that to people?

              • MilitantlyAardvark

                Given the SP had it on their list, mostly b/c it was great.

                Majestic_Moose, are you or have you ever been related to Sarah Palin?

                • guthrie

                  Surely not, the impression we have over here of her is that she shoots Mooses.

                • JR in WV

                  As if relatives don’t shoot one another! Why, that’s one of the most popular parts of being related in many families.

                  Where are you from, anyways?

              • wjts

                The fact that the brilliant mind behind “Ted Kennedy and Boris Yeltsin Are Fat Drunks: The Story” was denied a Hugo is the gravest literary injustice since Tolstoy’s failure to take home the Nobel Prize in Literature.

          • wjts

            Truly, there is nothing so disingenuous as synecdoche.

            • sharculese

              Careful. You know how our friend feels about New York.

          • Murc

            That being said the superintellegent murder tank story was actually a very good deconstruction on the BOLOS series.

            I haven’t read the story in question but I’ve read a lot of Tom Kratman in general, and I question him being smart enough to write a deconstruction of anything. The man operates at Steve White levels of competence, and that’s on a good day.

            He has strength as a writer, but introspection and self-analyses have never been on that list.

            • Ktotwf

              Why in the name of Jehovah God have you read ”a lot of Tom Kratman”?

              • Murc

                Like it or not, Kratman is not an insignificant contributor to the genre of military sci-fi, and if I want to be able to discuss the genre in-depth I need to be familiar with his work. Also I had different reading tolerances as a younger man.

                He does have some strengths as a writer, he isn’t completely wretched. But when you’re a third-tier also-ran in a genre whose luminaries top out at David Weber, you ain’t exactly the second coming of Heinlein.

                • Is he even as good as White? I can read White. I looked at Kratman and walked briskly away. Any recommendations?

                  (I kinda like big chunks of military sci fi. Early Weber could be ok. I mean, it descended into awful esp the italics of doom. But they were effective and fun enough. The big flaw aside from awfulness is that there’s a tendency to build everything like it’s going to fall together like clockwork. Even when they say that there is chaos etc, all decisions and motivations are extremely rule bound and the rules are simple. There’s nearly no room for real ambiguity or risk. I mean Oh Noes Were Going To Die But The Good Guys Die Superheros And Inspire. )

                • Ktotwf

                  And we are wanting to discuss war porn in depth…because…?

                • Why not?

                  I don’t think one can or should ignore Bujold and I think that being familiar with space opera as well as military sci fi helps.

                  Just to pick one example.

                  But in any case, some of it is entertaining enough. Good enough reason to want to discuss it.

                • Murc

                  And we are wanting to discuss war porn in depth…because…?

                  I love war porn and I make no apologies for it.

                  Is he even as good as White? I can read White. I looked at Kratman and walked briskly away. Any recommendations?

                  If you can tolerate White you can tolerate Kratman. They’re about on the same level.

                  With Kratman, anything with a spaceship on the cover will be about as good as anything else he’s written with a spaceship on the cover. Run away from anything ostensibly set in the real world or real-world equivalent. Far away.

                • Ah, ok. I’ve only see the real world ones.

                  I don’t know I’d I’d read any White today. I went back and read the Fisherman series and it was ok. But maybe for giggles.

            • sharculese

              Regardless of Kratman’s strengths as a writer, gooogle tells me the BOLOS series is a larger pulp thing about murder tanks?

              Once you’re nominating one author from your niche group deconstructing another author from your niche group I have a lot of trouble taking your claims that other people are engaging in unacceptable in-group behavior seriously.

              • Murc

                The Bolos series could be quite decent at times but yeah, it’s basically a series about sentient or semi-sentient murder tanks.

                Sometimes that’s okay.

                • sharculese

                  No yeah, I think you’re misunderstanding me. I don’t have a problem with that, I read Iain Banks and that sounds at best a hair’s breadth difference from Culture ships.

                  What I’m saying is that once you get into the territory of nominating works where appreciating them requires knowing that they’re a deconstruction of this other series of books, I have a lot of trouble taking seriously the claim that the problem is that there’s a dominant in-group. It sounds to me more like you’re saying that the problem is that your in-group isn’t the dominant one.

                • Ktotwf

                  Is it, though?

        • Majestic_Moose

          Also where in that post does he say to do anything but nominate him? Where is he inaccurate at the stupidly low number of people needed to nominate? Hell His biggest selling point is the free books! Also where except the number of his fans and the mentioning of liberals crying is he different from any other author, looking at Scalzi here, mentioning their eligible works?

          • The Temporary Name

            If you’re talking about Correia it’s difficult to see what all the fucking moaning is about without taking the Hugo as a mark of respectability. Yes he wants a Hugo.

        • Ktotwf

          The whole ”I never wanted a Hugo” thing was calculated to prevent ”SJW” crowing in what Beale knew would be the most likely outcome – Puppy massacre. If he or any of his close crew had won a Hugo he would have milked it for every single ounce of spite possible.

  • Yay! I take full credit for this post because I suggested that you do it in a comment threat. Since the post clearly produced the proposal by backward causation, I am ultimately responsible for the proposal, which I hereby demand be renamed E Pluribus Hugo By the Grace of God or Bijan (Whomever Gets First Post).

    Seriously, great work. It seems like a good all on its own. Good show.

    • Jameson Quinn

      I suggested that you do it in a comment threat.

      Nice argument you have there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “Since the post clearly produced the proposal by backward causation”

      QUICK! To the Time Machine!

  • in past years, many Hugo nominators have been from a pretty small and insular group of authors, editors, and hardcore fans, who often know each other personally and whose vote is probably influenced to some extent by factors extraneous to the work itself. Writings from authors who are personally well-liked, or whose overall body of work is stronger than the individual writing, probably have had a bit of an unfair advantage in getting nominated.

    You mean like Mike Resnick, or David Langford, who won the best fan writer award for twenty straight years?

    The Hugos have always been cliquish and vulnerable to logrolling. The shift in the last decade or so has done nothing more than reflect the shift in the fandom that votes for them, and the increased presence of online fandom within it. So instead of Resnick you get John Scalzi and Seanan McGuire (and I should say, as someone who isn’t a fan of either of those writers, that’s a massive improvement).

    This is not to say that there haven’t been changes in how the Hugos are voted on in recent years. It’s become more accepted for authors to “publicize” their eligible work, which used to be heavily frowned upon, and on the other hand you get a lot of people (including myself) posting recommendations lists and creating resources where people can share recommendations. The puppies’ sole distinction was in taking this increased level of involvement and weaponizing it, and as this essay notes, it’s questionable whether the sads, at least, realized that this was what they were doing.

    To bring this back to the topic of the post: there was some talk during Worldcon that the convention would make the anonymized nominating data available to the group proposing EPH, in order to test-drive the method and see if it would have eliminated at least some of the puppy nominees. Do you know if that’s still happening?

    • Jameson Quinn

      Supposedly, yes, they will release the data. But they have not been answering messages. I’m willing to give them time for now, even though I would rather have had the data the first night if possible.

    • sparks

      Hasn’t logrolling long been a part of jacket blurbs, writing reviews/criticism, and awards for writing? What I mean, isn’t it unexceptional that it happens in the Hugos as well? Writers do form insular communities.

      • It’s not remarkable, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t undercut the legitimacy of the award if it happens too often or too blatantly. The Nebula award, which is given out by the SFWA, had a period where it was heavily prone to logrolling. It basically lost all cachet, and the organization had to seriously revamp it. It’s only just started regaining its reputation – used to be you’d mention the Hugo and the Nebula in the same breath, but we’re nowhere near that point yet.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Well that completely passed me by – I’ve always looked at the Hugos as more or less a joke, but taken the Nebulas moderately seriously. Too long away from fandom, clearly.

  • tsam

    This year’s WorldCon was last week/weekend in Spokane, Washington.

    WUT?

    • Jameson Quinn

      Whoops. When I wrote that, it was true. But Bspen was a bit slow to post it.

      • tsam

        I was stunned because I live in Spokane and didn’t know this was happening.

        • Jameson Quinn

          Can you breathe now? At the con, the filkers were all making up songs called “Smokane”.

          • tsam

            Yes–the smoke has pretty much cleared out and we got some VERY welcome rain Sunday. It’s cooler, clearer and much better than the last few weeks.

  • LeeEsq

    I’m no longer an active reader of speculative fiction and never was deep enough in the fan community to care about the Hugos. Even when I was a slightly active fan, this was between 1998 and 2009 roughly, I found the conservative claim that science fiction used to be about fun but now it’s all literary, leftist nonsense really weird. H.G. Wells, probably the first true science fiction writer, filled his books with topics that deeply concerned late 19th and early 20th century socialists. Science fiction was political from the start. Even a lot of the pulpy science fiction that the Sad Puppies prefer has a politics of a Middle American Republican sorts.

    • Jameson Quinn

      Just because the sexual politics of (say) Heinlein or L Sprague duCamp aren’t progressive doesn’t mean they are in any sense “middle American Republican”.

      • LeeEsq

        I was thinking more of pulp fiction with the can-do farm boy or preppie heroes heroes rather than Heinlein or duCamp. Things like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers.

        • Craigo

          You can go back further to the Frank Reade stories of the late 19th century, which are pure jingoism alongside technological utopianism and social darwinism.

    • Malaclypse

      H.G. Wells Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, probably the first true science fiction writer, filled his her books with topics that deeply concerned late 19th and early 20th century socialists early 19th century feminists.

      Friendly correction.

      • LeeEsq

        I would argue that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley does not count as the originator of science fiction except in a proto-sense. Frankenstein while having some proto-science fiction elements was rather light on the actual science part. It also did not inspire a lot of other writers to write similar stories. It was decades between Mary Shelley and Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

        H.G. Wells was just as interested in the science part of his fiction as the political part. He was more or less self-consciously creating a new genre of fiction. Rather than just write one book with speculative elements, although we do not know if Mary Shelley would have followed suit from Frankenstein if she lived longer, Wells wrote many books with speculative elements concerning different topics. By the time of Wells death, there were more than a few science fiction writers of different degrees of quality. Many of them were at least partly inspired by Wells to go into the genre.

        This is why I consider Wells to be one of the first true science fiction writers and not Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. She was edging towards science fiction but did not quite reach it. Its like how a lot of gothic writers were inching towards the horror genre but it really took Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker to get it down into an actual genre.

        • Murc

          You’re both wrong. Margaret Cavendish.

          If The Blazing World isn’t science-fiction, I don’t know what is.

          • Richard Hershberger

            I confess that I have not read this, but based on descriptions it appears to fall comfortably within the genre of utopian fiction. This goes back either to Thomas More or Plato, depending on who is counting. Utopian fiction can plausibly be fitted under the broad umbrella of Speculative Fiction. If so, then it is the original form of SF. Placing it more narrowly within science fiction is to over-emphasize some incidental features of some utopian fiction.

            • burritoboy

              Utopian fiction was quite the genre in the Greco-Roman world. Besides Plato’s Republic and the mentions of Atlantis in the Timaeus and the Critias, there’s also Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, Euhemeros’ Panchaia, Iamboulos’ Island of the Sun and others. Lucian was satirizing the genre by the 2nd century AD.

          • rea

            You are all three of you wrong. Cyrano de Bergerac.

            L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (1657)

            And (the first SF sequel):

            Les États et Empires du Soleil (1662)

            • eean

              Someone argue that Gilgamesh is scifi so we can end this thread early.

              • Ktotwf

                The Sumerians were huge neckbeards.

        • Malaclypse

          Rather than just write one book with speculative elements

          There was a second speculative work.

          Margaret Cavendish.

          Murc wins, and that adds to the basic agreement on the political origins of science fiction.

          • LeeEsq

            Okay, Mary Shelley wrote two books with speculative elements but she did not lead to an entire genre of science fiction writers. She was a proto-author but there was a big gap between Frankenstein/Margaret Cavendish and Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, who I actually consider more or a true science fiction writer than Verne. Wells influenced enough other writers that science fiction writing did not die with him.

            • Richard Hershberger

              This is the age-old debate over whether “science fiction” is a marketing category or a label assigned to stories with certain internal characteristics. I agree with John W. Campbell: defining it as a marketing category more accurately conforms to actual usage.

              • LeeEsq

                It could be both a marketing category and a label assigned to stories with certain internal characteristics. My main argument against calling Mary Shelley a science fiction author is that other people did not follow suit after her. To be a founder of a particular genre, your style and ideas need to survive your death because other author’s are following your lead.

                Not only did many science fiction authors exist by the time of Wells death, so did a nascent fandom. Wells died in the 1940s and the first WorldCon, complete with cosplay, occurred in 1939. Since many people were obviously influenced by Wells to write about alien invasions, genetic engineering, weird evolution and other topics than Wells clearly had greater influence than Mary Shelley.

              • LeeEsq

                It could be both a marketing category and a label assigned to stories with certain internal characteristics. My main argument against calling Mary Shelley a science fiction author is that other people did not follow suit after her. To be a founder of a particular genre, your style and ideas need to survive your death because other author’s are following your lead.

                Not only did many science fiction authors exist by the time of Wells death, so did a nascent fandom. Wells died in the 1940s and the first WorldCon, complete with cosplay, occurred in 1939. Since many people were obviously influenced by Wells to write about alien invasions, genetic engineering, weird evolution and other topics than Wells clearly had greater influence than Mary Shelley.

                • Jameson Quinn

                  Can you explain all the double posts? I couldn’t make as many as you do if I tried. And why don’t you erase them once you see them?

                  It’s been going on for long enough, and now I want to know.

                • Now that it’s been asked, I’d love to know too.

                  ETA: esp as when I submitted this comment I got:

                  Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

                • LeeEsq

                  My work computer is old, so if I press submit comment too fast it double posts.

                • My work computer is old, so if I press submit comment too fast it double posts.

                  Yes, but sometimes if I *single* post, I get chided for double posting! You have some magic touch!

                  (Thanks for explaining!)

            • burritoboy

              Except that there’s any number of science fiction tales before Wells. Samuel Butler is satirizing an already established genre in Erewhon and Erewhon revisited.

            • I believe Joanna Russ has this argument covered:

              “She wrote it, but she only wrote one two of it.”

              “She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly.”

              Look, I get your point about Mary Shelley not having spawned a legion of imitators while Verne & Wells did, but that doesn’t make Mary Shelley any less of a writer of science fiction.

          • burritoboy

            Science fiction must have political origins, because you’re describing a future, which inherently includes a future political regime (broadly conceived to include economic and cultural regimes) within which the characters are set. If the future political regime is just the same as ours (or not especially different), the science is not adding anything to the fiction – you should just set the story in our own time and get on with the writing.

            • Hogan

              Maybe not origins. A world like Starship Troopers or Ender’s Game is the world Bujold has chosen for some of her storytelling, but I don’t know that a desire to live in that world is what motivates the storytelling.

              • MilitantlyAardvark

                Science fiction must have political origins, because you’re describing a future, which inherently includes a future political regime (broadly conceived to include economic and cultural regimes) within which the characters are set.

                By that logic, we could argue that science fiction must have origins in the garment industry, because all the characters are part of worlds that include clothing.

    • Bruce B.

      As I’ve commented before, the luminaries the Puppies claim to venerate include folks like a socialist Jewist atheist (Asimov), a crusading anti-theocratic advocate of ongoing experimentation in marital arrangements (Heinlein), and a gay British expatriate who helped sponsor continent-scale social engineering (Clarke). We are free to doubt how much they’re engaging with anything outside their own heads.

  • LeeEsq

    My brother, who posts here as NewishLawyer, would argue that any award based on fan voting would always be vulnerable to various cliques gaming the system. The only solution would be to turn the Hugos from a fan-vote system into a more traditional critic voting system like the Academy Awards with a small electorate.

    • Not sure that’s your best example of a voting system that’s free of cliquishness and logrolling.

      The fact is, the Hugo voters are a self-selecting group – they’re the group of people who care enough about the Hugos to spend at least $40 on a supporting membership, and who frequently spend a lot more than that to attend the convention. There are genre awards that are open to anyone who wants to vote, such as the David Gemmell award for epic fantasy, and their results are very different from what you see in the Hugo nominations.

      • guthrie

        The sad thing was seeing how many sad puppies apparently didn’t realise that the Hugo awards didn’t belong to SF as a whole, and had no idea they could actually take part. Naturally some of them then thought this was a liberal plot against them.

        • Majestic_Moose

          It wasn’t that they didn’t realize it, so much as the leaders, Corria, et al Were repedatly mocked when they claimed that yes it is just an insular small subset that nominates / votes, and it doesn’t really reflect greater fandom outside Worldcon. Seriously read the earlier SP posts.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            Correia and comrades were mocked for their ridiculous blend of bravado, whiny self-pity and complete inability to keep their stories straight. Then, of course, there’s the little issue of their hastily deleting blogposts that contradicted their claims not to know anything about invitations to GamerGate and Tedious Teddy Beale to join the fun. Nothing says rugged manliness like a deleted blogpost!

          • Murc

            It wasn’t that they didn’t realize it, so much as the leaders, Corria, et al Were repedatly mocked when they claimed that yes it is just an insular small subset that nominates / votes,

            They would sometimes claim that.

            Other times they would quite literally complain that there were explicit behind the scenes cabals forming to ensure the victory of this or that work or author for purely political reasons.

            They would switch back and forth with remarkable flexibility on that.

          • guthrie

            Nope, that doesn’t match what I saw at all. The puppy leaders were derided for demanding that the Hugo’s should change to suit their own likes, dislikes and perceptions of what the awards should be like, without say putting the effort in to change them from the inside. The puppies were determined to be outsiders in all this, all along.

    • Hogan

      critic voting system like the Academy Awards

      Wait what?

      Are you thinking of the Golden Globes?

      • That’s actually not inaccurate to the Oscars. Membership of AMPAS is by invitation, and most members can only vote on categories in their field (actors vote for actors, directors for directors, etc).

        • Hogan

          But not critics.

    • Murc

      The only solution would be to turn the Hugos from a fan-vote system into a more traditional critic voting system like the Academy Awards with a small electorate.

      You mean panel awards. Locus operates that way, and it has its own set of problems.

      • Not exactly. The Locus recommended reading list is compiled by a panel of editors and contributors to the magazine. After its publication, readers are invited to vote for the Locus Awards. They don’t have to choose from the list – there’s a write-in option – though obviously works that are on the list have a tremendous advantage simply because people don’t have to remember them before they come to vote.

        Up until a few years ago, voting for the Locus Award was open to anyone, including online. In 2007 or thereabouts, the award’s administrators tallied the votes and realized that online, non-subscriber votes were becoming dominant and, to their mind, “skewing” the results. They decided to change the voting system so that non-subscribers only get half a vote each. Unfortunately, they decided to use this system retroactively to that year, which to my mind has tarnished the award beyond repair.

        • Majestic_Moose

          Really? It’s the online users that made TOR the best Publishing House for 20+ years? /sacr

    • Richard Hershberger

      Let’s take the opportunity to change the name at the same time. I suggest “Nebula”.

  • Jordan

    Pretty legitimately great, and very nice solution.

    Do y’all have any plans for how next year is going to go (i.e. it has to pass then too, right?).

    /eta: so you did, in fact, take a train from spokane to [where you live]? Jesus, how long did that take? How much did it cost? I’m actually interested, also living on the east coast.

    • Jameson Quinn

      I will not personally be going next year, but enough people are that I think it will pass and will not lack for articulate supporters.

      The train cost about $400 round trip, and took 2.5 days each way. On the way back, both legs were independently several hours late and a lot of people were pissed about that. I didn’t really care. Oh, and I got to play cards (Love Letter) with hugo winning author Jo Walton; she’s fun.

      • Murc

        Love Letter may be the best-designed card game I’ve ever played. It is tight.

      • Dave W.

        Hi, Jameson. Since there’s also a David W. in this thread, I’ll note that I’m the Dave W. who was part of the EPH group with you in Spokane (with my son), and the David W. downstream is someone else.

        My experience with long-distance Amtrak service years ago was that the schedule was more of a hope than a promise, although they seem to have gotten somewhat better in recent years. (In contrast, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor service in the Bay Area is almost always on-time, except for specific incidents.) I understand that part of that is because they don’t own a lot of the long-distance rails they run on, and can’t always get priority over freight trains on the same line. And of course, once they get off schedule there are various factors that tend to cascade.

  • libarbarian

    If “Puppies” is short-hand for the clique that tried to game the Hugos then I propose we nickname the faction who voted “No Award” the “Hugo-Nots”.

    BAM! Bonus points because Vox Day is Catholic!!! BAM!!!!!

    **VICTORY LAP**

    • David W.

      Here’s your Internets-For-A-Day tiara.

    • tsam

      Wow, this comment really ties the whole room together.

      • libarbarian

        Are you pissing on it? It’s hard to tell on the internet, but if so I must warn you that your aggression will not stand. I’m talking about a line in the sand here!

    • Ktotwf

      Are we sure? I thought Beale was a member of the same backwoods Protestant sect his ubernutzo inmate father was in?

      • Bruce B.

        If I’ve got this right, Beale is Protestant, Wright is Roman Catholic (despite his explicit rebellion from the church’s teachings on myriad subjects).

        • rea

          despite his explicit rebellion from the church’s teachings on myriad subjects

          More Catholic than the Pope . . .

      • libarbarian

        Hmmm … I could be wrong but I was under the strong impression that VD was ultra-conservative Mel Gibson style Catholic.

        Still … making a pun with Huguenot deserves more props than I feel I got. Very disappointing.

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  • Thanks for this post, and for EPH. I was hoping you could expand a bit on one thing in your post:

    my analsis of the numbers suggests that in the nominations there were about 100 party-line Sad Puppies and only about 40 party-line Rabid Puppies, with those numbers inflated 30%-100% by partial sympathizers depending on the candidate

    To me, this says that there were about 100 people who voted for the full Puppy Slate without altering it, and 30 who voted for the full Rabid slate without altering it, plus an additional 30-100% who voted for multiple slate nominees but not ALL of their slate’s nominees.

    Is this understanding correct?

    And if it can be explained briefly, how were these estimates calculated?

    Thanks.

    • Jameson Quinn

      I looked for the minimum votes for works on each of the three combinations of the two slates. Ignoring the cartoon network episodes on Sad-but-not-Rabid (from which apparently a number of otherwise-faithful Sad voters defected), that led me to focus my attention on the Best Fanzine category, where both slates were 5 long but not the same 5, and there was relatively low voting overall. In that category, there were about 70 votes for the Rabid-only, 130 for the sad-only, and an average of 170 for the both-kinds. This tends to suggest that there were about 30 non-slate votes each for all of these, with 40 faithful Rabids and 100 faithful Sads.

      (Being more exact about these estimates would make a good question for a PhD qualifying exam in statistics. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the right ballpark, though. We’ll know for sure when they release the full data.)

      Note that there was a good deal of “slack” in the sad slate, so some of the 100 sad voters I inferred may actually have voted “sad until complete, and then rabid for any remaining empty slots”.

      • Jameson Quinn

        And yes, you’re right about what I meant by 30-100%

      • Thanks for your answer!

      • Majestic_Moose

        So you based your analysis on one of the categories that traditionally gets very little noms and no one cares about? Especially the very Libertarian minded SP voters? Way to go!

        • Jameson Quinn

          Yes, because I was looking for faithful across-the-board slate voters (except for the cartoon network stuff). This is not at all an estimate of the total influence of the puppy slate on the outcome, it’s just a guess of the people who voted an exact slate or nearly so.

          • Majestic_Moose

            Yeah and good luck finding the SP’s as actually voting the “slate” as was said before getting the SP’s in line is herding cats. Hell as an SP surproter my favorite Best Novel Nominations missed in SP2 and SP3

            • The Temporary Name

              Yeah and good luck finding the SP’s as actually voting the “slate” as was said before getting the SP’s in line is herding cats.

              Yeah, those cats just couldn’t be herded into flooding the nominations. They’re true individuals!

            • In early February, Larry Correla, in his big strategy post about Sad Puppies 3, said that getting the puppies to do anything together is like herding cats.

              And since then, hundreds of puppies have said, that the puppies didn’t bloc-vote because that would be like “herding cats.” Over and over, mindlessly echoing Larry: “Herding cats.” “Herding cats.” “Herding cats.” Do none of you see the irony?

              A whole bunch of you did vote, to a significant extent, the slate. And we know that because numbers. If puppies hadn’t voted the slate, then the puppy slate couldn’t have been so successful in the nomination stage. Denying it at this point is denying reality.

              • Jameson Quinn

                Not to mention in the actual award voting, Vox “I like chapters numbered 5” Day got over 580 voters to say he was the best editor of the year for short fiction. Regular cat stampede, that was.

        • Ktotwf

          Puppies? Libertarian? What the –? Any article about Puppygate and they flood it bringing the Mass Line of their One True Leader.

          • wjts

            “Now don’t you start arguing,” said the Ape Super-Genius whose IQ was staggeringly far above the mean, “for it’s a thing I won’t stand. I’m a Man: you’re only a fat, stupid old Bear. What do you know about freedom? You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you’re wrong. That isn’t true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you.”

  • Jameson Quinn

    So over on File 770, people are debating whether or not this post is likely to hurt the chances of EPH passing a second time. The blog owner there thinks it is:

    The efficiency of Quinn’s self-sabotage is impressive when you consider that half of the post is wasted concern-trolling the Republican primaries.

    • sharculese

      I’m not up on this stuff to have an informed opinion but I kind of feel like that dude is really hard to take seriously considering he wants to characterize any suggestion that the Sad Puppies are wrong in there conclusions to be ‘insults.’

      Weak coalition or not that really feels like a mad scramble to the fainting couch.

      But I dunno, how many people are there involved who are like ‘please do not get politics involved in my awards, like at all?’

      • Jameson Quinn

        AFAICT he seems to be mad at me for saying anything anybody might disagree with, whether it is when I dismiss some puppy concerns or when I take others seriously.

      • wjts

        I think you’re misreading Glyer – he is very much not a Puppy. I think what he regards as insulting is the idea that Hugo voters are even slightly cliquish or insular (I seem to remember George R.R. Martin saying something along the lines of, “Science fiction fans are incapable of forming cliques – we were all nerds and outcasts in high school so it’s impossible for us as adults to form any sort of in-group.”).

        • Hogan

          That was my impression too.

        • Science fiction fans are incapable of forming cliques – we were all nerds and outcasts in high school so it’s impossible for us as adults to form any sort of in-group.”).

          Good god, that’s a delusional thought.

          • Murc

            Martin is a smart man, but he’s capable of being wrong and he has cultural blind spots same as everyone.

            • Yeah, but that feels exceptional to me, esp to someone immersed in fan culture.

              ETA: I’m just surprised. I guess I can see romanticising sci if fans but you have to massively edit your world to get to this.

              • wjts

                I found the post I was thinking of. The specific quote is this (bracketed text is from a post by Chief Sad Puppy Larry Correia):

                [[CORREIA: Then I went to the award ceremony, and the parties, and the various schmoozefests, and I discovered that the Hugo Awards were like one great big In Joke. And the cool kids told their cool stories to the other cool kids, and lorded it over those who weren’t part of the In Joke. Honestly, it reminded me of high school, and I was the poor fat kid who had inadvertently pissed off the mean girls.]]

                Come on, Larry. The cool kids? Surely you have been around fandom long enough to realize that there are no cool kids. We’re all the fat kids, the nerds, the computer geeks, the guys who always had their nose in a book, who loved comics and played chess and couldn’t get a date for a prom. And the girls are the geek girls, our female counterparts.

                I’m inclined to think that Martin has always found science fiction fandom in general and Worldcon in particular to be fun, welcoming, open environments and simply can’t imagine that someone else could possibly have a different experience.

                • Ok, that’s less bald and can be read as “we will welcome you” rather than “we did welcome you”. Still a bit off, but the we have common ground bit isn’t bonkers per se.

                • Halloween Jack

                  Well, the Five Geek Social Fallacies are a thing. That doesn’t mean that fandom can’t be or isn’t cliquish; it’s certainly been my experience that it can be. But I think that a lot of fans don’t want to believe that it is.

            • Ktotwf

              His conduct during the Puppygate thing was embarrassing. He was more dramatic than a Southern belle defrauded of her honor about ”The Hugos being ruined FOREVER”.

              • Murc

                Martin is allowed to be deeply attached to an institution that’s formed an enormous part of his professional and personal life for longer than many of us here have been alive at all.

                I mean… I was frustrated by some of his stuff as well, in particular either his remarkable naivete or remarkable disingenuousness regarding the role politics and the endless culture war play in sci-fi and fantasy writing; he thinks his particular literary niche is somehow isolated from all that.

                This is not an uncommon author delusion, however, and for the most part his conduct during Puppygate was a positive influence, in some cases enormously so.

                • Ktotwf

                  I’m not mocking his attachment to the Hugo’s, I am deriding his, for lack of a better word, defeatism and pessimism over something that, with hindsight, blew over with few negative consequences.

                • Murc

                  I feel like I shouldn’t have to trot out “hindsight is always 20/20” but I can’t think of a more appropriate response.

        • sharculese

          No I didn’t think he was a Puppy. What I got was more, ‘if you express even the mildest criticism of Puppies who may be allies, this fragile alliance will shatter on contact.’

          which yeah, basically the stuff you said after that. But also, it was all very silly, and he sounds like someone who needs to calm the fuck down. He comes off as the John Cole of talking about spaceship books.

          • Jameson Quinn

            I’ve met him in person. He seems to be a nice guy. I think he probably knows whereof he speaks when it comes to votes hinging on petty stuff. I just don’t think he’s really considering how stale this particular outrage will be by next year.

            • Or maybe you’ve brought the end of civilisation about by pure partisanship!

    • Ktotwf

      Glyer’s site was the place to be during Puppygate, so I will give him a pass on this.

  • petemack

    It’s a good idea, but a bad implementation. My preference would be 3 votes distributed over 6 slots, and increase nominations to top 6. Alternatively 2/5. 1/5 encourages logrolling, which is the puppies’ genuine valid complaint.

    • Jameson Quinn

      Voting theory is a branch of… whatever it’s a branch of (Math? Game theory? Political science? Mechanism design?) that’s interesting because a large fraction of the advances are made by amateurs in an academic sense. This is not, say, knot theory, where you have to melt and reforge your brain several times before you’re qualified to even have an opinion about things. However, that doesn’t mean that the first thing that occurs to you is going to be better than something that experienced people have been thinking about for months.

      I don’t know exactly what you mean by “distributed over”, but unless you have a plan for redistributing (and possibly even if you do have such a plan), I think it would open the door to effective strategizing.

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