Rocket Stack Rank Site Predicts the 2018 Hugo Winners

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For anyone who’s somehow not noticed, Rocket Stack Rank is a fairly new short fiction review site established by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong. The site posts short reviews and rankings of long and short fiction from major pro magazines and anthologies (no novels) during the year, and also compilations of how other reviewers rated the stories. The wrap-up at the end of the year shows three clear leaders for the Hugo Award, based on this system:

Best Novella – Nexus by Michael Flynn from Analog
Best Novelette – “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad from Clarkesworld
Best Short Story – “The Martian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata from Tor.com

In comparison, here’s what the Nebula Reading List predicts, based on the number of recommendations from SFWA members:

Best Novella – And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker from Uncanny Magazine
Best Novelette – “Small Changes over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara from Uncanny Magazine
Best Short Story (tie) – “Carnival Nine” by Caroline Yoachim from Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)” by Rebecca Roanhorse from Apex Magazine

Interestingly, Nexus rated right at the bottom of the Nebula Reading List, and “A Series of Steaks” rated fourth in its category. I don’t see “The Martian Obelisk” on the Nebula list at all. Does this suggest a bias toward hard SF among reviewers? A bias toward fantasy among SFWA members?

The Locus poll results will be available soon, so I’ll have a look at those when they come out. A quick skim of the ballot right now shows no sign of Nexus or “Small Changes over Long periods of Time.” I wouldn’t expect they’d rate as write-ins.

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Breakdown of the Hugo wins

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55327_girl-writing_md
As a follow-up to recent discussions on the Hugo Awards, Greg Hullender and Eric Wong of RocketStack checked the Hugo nominees by magazine and came up with the a breakdown here. Their graphs show a clear shift in the Hugo tastes over the last six to eight years.

The decline of Analog as an award-winning magazine stands out. I’ve already written a couple of blogs a while back about the sorry state hard SF looks to be in as judged by the Hugo packet, and here’s another indication. Also visible in the graph is the meteoric rise of Clarkesworld and Tor.com. Hullender points out an additional shift within the last three years that seems to be more than what the Puppies’ slate would warrant. He then compares the Hugo with the Nebula nominees, which are slate-proof but show similar trends, except that Lightspeed weighs in here. In the last three years, the Big Three heavy-hitters of the print era, Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF, have seriously lost market share in the awards to the newby online magazines.

So what’s happened? The Big Three are built on the old paradigm, of course. In previous blogs, I’ve pointed out the shift in taste, the shift in diversity, the shift in generation and the shift to e-pubs. What’s happening is the current editors of the Big Three aren’t doing a good job any more of predicting what the awards voters want to read.

Slates and Hugo reading lists

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Edward Lear
I got a comment on the last blog from Greg Hullender about the difference between a “slate” and recommendations. Greg and Eric Wong operate a website called Rocket Stack Rank that reads, reviews and ranks stories from pro magazines including, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Apex, Tor.com, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Their express purpose is to make it easier for people to find stories to nominate for the Hugo Awards, and Greg notes in his comment that the Rocket Stack list only represents the authors’ tastes and not any political agenda. Because I am now a WorldCon member and faced with making a responsible effort to nominate stories next year, I really appreciate this. I also appreciate the annual Locus recommended reading list as a helpful aid, along with efforts from other well-known reviewers. However, as a writer, there is something about these lists that bothers me.

Like everyone else, the authors of the lists are swamped with the amount of material out there, which means they have to make choices. This is usually to read award-winning pro magazines and anthologies, expecting what Greg calls the top 10-15% of outstanding stories will be located there. Locus has a broader recommendation list than Rocket Stack, as presumably they have a larger staff to read. As the Sad/Rabid Puppies suggest, these listings can’t help but include the authors’ social and literary biases. The end result of using these lists to prep for nominations, of course, is that a large body of SF&F writing is totally eliminated from consideration. It also helps insure the same magazines win the award over and over again. Because some pro magazines have low scores on diversity scales, this also reduces the likely diversity of the awards and contributes to the likelihood the same winners will be nominated over and over, to the detriment of writers who may be off-beat and brilliant, but publishing on the fringes.

I don’t have any solution to this problem. It’s just bothering me.

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