There’s a reason the Speculative Lit fan community gets together every year to vote for their favorite works. It’s because “which work did the most people think was the most impactful” is an open question. There’s a lot of chat. Reviews and recommendation lists highlight the top few dozen or so that the community really thinks highly of. But it’s nice to have an award, and giving an award to one single work means taking a vote to determine which one work out of those dozens clears the top.
Thus, the Hugos.
The system wasn’t designed to be robust against hostile attack. That’s now being fixed. In the meantime, we have to ask ourselves: What Question Is The Hugo System Answering (this year)?
The system can be used to answer one of many question:
“Who gets the most votes”
“Who do the Rabid Puppies vote for”
“Who do the non-puppies vote for”
Due to their well-constructed assault on the nomination process, the Rabid Puppies have turned the traditional question of “Who Gets The Most Votes” into “Who Do The Rabid Puppies Vote For.” Which in turn is simply “Who Is On The Rabid Puppy Slate.” This is a valid question, but the entire voting process seems like overkill for answering it, since you can just look that up online. A more interesting question is “Who Do The Non-Puppies Vote For”, which the voting system could still answer.
Other questions that the system can answer:
Can the nomination process be hacked by a small minority of strongly disciplined block-voters? This has now been answered, twice. The answer is yes. Overwhelmingly so. Under the current rules, the only effective counter-strategy is an opposing slate. Fortunately, the rules are being fixed to neuter slates in the future.
Can the overall process be subverted by that minority? This has also been answered. No – the majority fan community will reject the exploitative attack, and vote No Award ahead of the slated works. We can answer this question AGAIN this year if we want to. But I don’t see why we’d bother. Last year it was exciting, and the conclusion was unknown. This year the conclusion is foregone, and I don’t think it’s worth the cost in lost real nominations.
If the Rabid Puppies really want to determine which of their slated nominees they like the best, they won’t get that answer at WorldCon. And since every other interesting question has already been answered EXCEPT for “Who Do The Non-Puppies Vote For”, I believe the best course of action is to throw out all Rabid Puppy ballots and get back to the matter of answered that remaining question.