Before we get into it… Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, was awarded the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, besting:
- Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics))
- Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
- Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
- No Award
- The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
Also, Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn, won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, ch ch ch ch ch cherry bombing:
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
- Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
- Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
- The Lego Movie, written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
The bigger upset? Doctor Who losing to Orphan Black. (The Dalek presenter was miffed, but did not exterminate anyone at the awards show. See… that’s how you lose graciously!)
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty numbers for the graphic novels in a moment, but first, the background:
In the distant past, the occasional graphic novel or superhero movie might be honored. Given that comic book conventions (and fans) evolved from science fiction conventions (such as a well-known gathering in San Diego), and that the superhero genre is science fiction/fantasy (not to mention that the earliest manga/anime fans came from SF fandom), well, it’s no surprise that the World Science Fiction Convention decided to give an award for “Best Graphic Story“.
Hugo Award bylaws allow a hosting convention to add an award category, and so the 2009 Worldcon added the category. It achieved provisional status when the 2010 Worldcon also honored the category, and it achieved permanent status in 2012.
The Hugos are a popularity award, voted by anyone who buys a supporting or attending membership to the present Worldcon. These awards honor the best, nominated by anyone with a Worldcon membership, but usually by fans who read a lot of work. Once the finalists are announced, a reading packet of the nominees is usually mailed out, so that voters can review the work and vote critically. ($40, and you get a free download of great stuff!)
This year, the system was gamed. The rules were bent. Fans and professionals who felt that the awards were becoming too literary, too progressive, too boring encouraged their online followers to vote a straight ticket of nominees, to Make A Point because The End Justifies The Means. Of course, this usually ends with those individuals hoisted upon a petard, as said petard explodes spectacularly and, usually, ironically and hypocritically.
This resulted in many deserving works being shut out, as it only took… 210 votes in the largest category to make the cut. In some categories, all five “slated” suggestions dominated the finalists.
Again, this was not against the rules. In the past, people have campaigned to get certain works nominated, and generally, fandom reacts negatively to such campaigns. The Hugos are powered by idealism and merit, something which science fiction fans, in general, not only value, but seem to require as a nutritional supplement. So, to see something which violates the spirit of the Awards, well, a lot of people got angry. On both sides. On the Internet.
Fortunately, David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were the hosts this year, and both did a stellar job of jitterbugging through the Internet minefield. (I follow Mr. Gerrold’s Facebook posts, and he has been extremely tolerant, thoughtful, and magnanimous about this entire mess, ever since the nominees were announced.) The actual awards? Well, people voted. People who don’t normally vote, paid the $40 to vote. Most voted against the slated entries.
Unlike most awards, the Hugos offer a “No Award” choice on the ballots, and a preferential voting scheme where people rank the finalists.
Here’s the official explanation:
Under each category you will also be given the choice of voting for No Award.
You should vote for No Award as your first choice if you believe that none of the nominees are worthy of the Award, or that the Award category should be abolished. If you vote for No Award in any other position it means that you believe the nominees you placed above No Award were worthy of a Hugo, but that those not placed above it were not worthy. However, as we shall see, it is possible to rank nominees below No Award and have an effect on the outcome.
The first round of balloting
OK, time now to count the votes. Firstly, any invalid ballots are separated and removed. Note that votes for No Award are not invalid; they are treated just like an ordinary nomination. No Award can win; in which case no award will be given in the category that year. All of the valid votes, including those for No Award, are separated into piles depending on the first preference vote and counted. If, at this point, one nominee has more than 50% of the total valid ballots we have a potential winner. Otherwise, we need to eliminate someone.
Elimination and second round of balloting
As there is no outright winner it is time to consider second preferences. All of the votes for the nominee with the lowest number of first preference votes are sorted again, this time by second preference. These are then counted, and the second preference totals for each nominee are added to the first preference totals. What is happening here is we are saying to the supporters of the least popular candidate, OK, your guy has lost, so out of the remaining candidates, who would you prefer to win.
Note that No Award is being treated just like other nominees. This means that No Award can be, and indeed normally is, eliminated as a candidate. Any preferences below No Award can then be redistributed just as they would be for any other candidate.
The new totals for the remaining candidates are then checked. If one nominee has more than 50% of the total votes then we proceed to the No Award Test. Otherwise we continue counting.
And so on
[Go and read the entire page. It’s a bit complicated, but actually works really well.]
What does this mean, this year? Well, in those categories where the slate monopolized the nominations, No Award was the “winner”, as many people voted in protest over the gaming of the nomination process.
The members of the World Science Fiction Society rejected the slate of finalists in five categories, giving No Award in Best Novella, Short Story, Related Work, Editor Short Form, and Editor Long Form. This equals the total number of times that WSFS members have presented No Award in the entire history of the Hugo Awards, most recently in 1977.
Of those five categories, “No Award” won the majority of the vote on the first counting. So that’s a big backhanded Vulcan salute to the campaigners and their slates.
More interestingly, one can vote “No Award” ahead of lesser works, as happened this year, with “No Award” gaining the second spot in many categories.
How do I know this? Because the Hugos, unlike almost every other award, publishes their statistics!
Here’s the vote breakdown for Best Graphic Story:
Sasquan 2015 Hugo Award Statistics Page 6 of 26
2015 Final Results for Best Graphic Story
5,950 total voters. 25% cutoff = 1488 voters. 4,412 valid votes cast in category
Race for Position 1
|Nominee||Pass 1||Pass 2||Pass 3||Pass 4||Runoff|
|Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal||1729||1764||1932||2280||3160|
|Saga Volume 3||718||745||872||1120||0|
|Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery||540||564||662||0||0|
|Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick||408||423||0||0||0|
|The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||207||0||0||0||0|
The runoff is the “No Award” test. It works like this:
To put it another way:
- If the PW ranks higher than No Award (or the PW is ranked and NA isn’t mentioned), count this as a YES vote for the PW.
- If No Award ranks higher than the PW (or NA is ranked and the PW isn’t mentioned), count this as a NO vote against the PW.
- If neither the PW nor No Award is listed, this is a blank ballot and doesn’t count at all.
Total the YES and NO votes. If YES wins, the PW is confirmed. If NO wins, then No Award wins.
You can even do some voting speculation… in each pass, they take the last place nominee’s votes, and look at what was picked at #2.
So, for those Zombie fans (some whom voted the slate, as that title was recommended), of the 207 voters, 35 liked Ms. Marvel, 27 liked Saga, 36 voted No Award, 24 liked Rat Queens, and 15 enjoyed Sex Criminals, for a grand total of 137 (+70 no preference, totaling 207).
The 423 Sex Criminal fans (which includes 24 Zombies)? 168 liked Ms. Marvel, 127 toed the company line with Saga, 11 drew the line at No Award, 98 liked Rat Queens, and 19 ended the list there with No Preference.
And so on… it gets more confusing with each pass, and less clear.
Then they do this for each runner-up. Yes, when you see the official listing of winners, it’s by vote totals!
Race for Position 2
|Nominee||Pass 1||Pass 2||Pass 3||Pass 4|
|Saga Volume 3||1280||1327||1700||1754|
|Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery||1056||1103||1385||1429|
|Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick||706||723||0||0|
|The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||245||0||0||0|
Race for Position 3
|Nominee||Pass 1||Pass 2||Pass 3|
|Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery||1623||1715||2646|
|Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick||1100||1134||0|
|The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||286||0||0|
Race for Position 4
|Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick||2270|
|The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||382|
Race for Position 5
|The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||690|
You may wonder… “The Zombie Nation Book“? It’s a webcomic. It’s the only graphic novel title listed on the two campaign slates.
Okay. So we’ve seen how the titles fared in each round of voting. While “No Award” did have a strong, early showing, the actual voting placed it fifth of sixth.
You may wonder… what was nominated this year, and in what numbers? What was the cutoff for the top five titles, and how difficult would it be for a publisher or author to get something placed on the final ballot?
Well, as we saw this year, not very difficult at all… here’s the breakdown of the top fifteen nominees:
|Best Graphic Story (785 Ballots)|
|201||The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate||Carter Reid||25.60%|
|145||Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal||G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona||18.50%|
|110||Saga 3||Brian K Vaughan / Fiona Staples||14.00%|
|64||Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery||Kurtis J. Weibe, Laura Tavishati, Roc Upchurch, Ed Brisson||8.20%|
|60||Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick||Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky||7.60%|
|59||Saga 4||Brian K. Vaughan / Fiona Staples||7.50%|
|51||Schlock Mercenary: Broken Wind||Howard Taylor||6.50%|
|37||The Wicked & The Divine Volume 1: The Faust Act||Keiron Gillen / Jamie Mckelvie||4.70%|
|33||Through the Woods||Emily Carroll||4.20%|
|29||Girl Genius an Beast of the Rails [sic]||Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio, Cheyenne Wright||3.70%|
|28||Order of the Stick: Blood Runs in the Family||Rich Burlew||3.60%|
|26||Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More||Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez||3.30%|
|26||Saga||Brian K Vaughan / Fiona Staples||3.30%|
|23||Sing No Evil||J.P. Ahonen & K.P. Alare||2.90%|
(Of the voting block, the 201 nominating voters of Zombie Nation gained 6 additional first-place votes on the final vote.)
(2014? 28, or 5%. 552 total nominating ballots.)
That’s all it took to make the final list. Sixty people with memberships to this Worldcon. 2,122 nominating ballots were validated this year. 785 of those (37%) nominated at least one graphic novel title.
Why does a publisher want to make the final list? Well, aside from being a nominee, which gains you shelf cred with a blurb on the cover, it does something even more important: it gets your work seen by every Worldcon attendee. How so? Each attendee can download the Voter Packet, containing many of the nominated works.
All of the short fiction and graphic novels are included in their entirety. The packet contains the full text of three of the novels…
A publisher can send out 6,000 digital copies to some of the most passionate and well-read fans in science fiction, some of whom may have never considered reading graphic novels before, or realized that there were amazing graphic novels which appealed to their tastes!
Also, publishers might want to consider exhibiting as well… of the SIX comics exhibitors listed in the program guide, the biggest (and the only one I recognized) was… Girl Genius, Phil Foglio’s publishing house. He’s been a SF fan favorite for decades, and won the first three Graphic Story Hugo Awards (and then bowed out the next year to prove the viability of the category when it was up for certification).
Are the Worldcon organizing committees willing to work with publishers? (Each year, Worldcon is hosted by a regional SF convention.) Does Worldcon, which prides itself on a tradition of a large family reunion, desire these camels in the tent? Might this be a slippery slope towards corporate sponsorships? (Which could also reduce the cost of admission, making the Con more appealing to a younger audience?)
What will happen next year? Will everyone recommend a slate? Could that create a passionate discussion of worthy titles BEFORE the nomination process? (I hope so!) Will the nomination process be amended? Might some take their marbles (before they lose them) and start a new award? (Oooh… I want to call it the BEM! The statue would feature a rocket jockey firing at a bug-eyed alien as the alien carries off a scantily-clad damsel!)
Time will tell…
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!