2023 Hugo final ballot – quick take and details

The Hugo final ballot statistics are out! Though the nominations stats are not yet available.

There were some notably close results:

  • Chris Barkley won Best Fan Writer by *one* vote
  • Zero Gravity Newspaper beat Journey Planet by 8 votes in Best Fanzine
  • Strange Horizons lost to Uncanny Magazine by 18 on the last count for Best Semiprozine, despite having led throughout

The only possible closer vote in the final ballot is a tie, which has happened only once since 1993, when The City & The City and The Windup Girl both won Best Novel in 2010. Between 1953 and 1993 there were ten tied results for the Hugos – two in 1953, one each in 1966, 1968, 1973 and 1974, two again in 1977 and one each in 1989 and 1993. Plus also the Campbell Award in 1974, for a total of twelve. We also had a tie in the 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) in 2020, which I think is the only tied result for the Retros ever.

Other results this year were much more one-sided, very few going to all stages of the count. Best Short Story (“Rabbit Test”), Best Related Work (the Terry Pratchett biography), and Best Professional Artist (Enzhe Zhao) were all decided on first preferences, and Everything Everywhere All at Once got exactly 50% of the first preferences for Best Related Work (but of course had to got to a second count). Rob Wilkins’ biography of Terry Pratchett got a massive 59.7% of first prefs in Best Related Work.

Camestros Felapton crunched the numbers, and there are only 11 first-count wins on record from this century, five of which were “No Awards” in 2015, and another three were the Lord of the Rings films in 2002, 2003 and 2004. (The other three were Naomi Novik winning the then Campbell Award in 2007, Sarah Webb winning Best Fan Artist in 2014, and “Cat Pictures Please” winning Best Short Story in 2016.)

But we have had them much more often in the Retro Hugos : John W. Campbell for Best Editor (Long) in 1996, 2001, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020, Margaret Brundage for Best Professional Artist in 2020, “Foundation” for Best Novelette in 2018, Fantasia  for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form in 2016, “The War of the Worlds” for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, in 2014, “The Nine Billion Names of God” for Best Short Story in 2004, and three other than John Campbell in 1996 – Animal Farm in Best Novella, “First Contact” in Best Novelette and Bill Rotsler in Best Fan Artist. That’s fifteen in total, twelve this century.

1674 final ballot votes is the lowest since 2010. It is only the third time since my records begin in 1971 that that nomination votes have exceeded final ballot votes; the other two occasions were 2016, which was a side-effect of the Puppy wars, and 1994, when the previous year’s convention made a determined effort to get members to nominate.

“No Award” votes are significantly higher for Best Series than any other category – 12.2% of first preferences (next highest is 7.0% in Fan Artist); 21.2% in the runoff (next highest is 11.1% in Fanzine). I have to say that this confirms me in my view that the problem with the Best Series category is not that it needs various tweaks relating to eligibility, but that it exists in the first place.

Best Novel had the highest participation, 1068 (63.8%); and Best Fancast had the lowest, 572 (34.1%), still comfortably ahead of the old 25% threshold, which has anyway now been abolished – it would have applied this year, but no category was anywhere near the danger zone.

To the details. I note below whenever a result was decided by less than 20 votes. I voted for four of the winners, which is a little more than usual.

Best Novel
Nettle and Bone beat both The Island of Dr Moreau and The Kaiju Preservation Society on the fifth pass; Legends and Lattes then beat The Island of Dr Moreau for second place; The Kaiju Preservation Society beat The Island of Dr Moreau for third place; The Island of Dr Moreau (my own choice) finally won fourth place ahead of The Spare Man, which came fifth with Nona the Ninth sixth.

Best Novella
The Drowned Girls beat both Ogres and Even Though I Knew the End on the fifth pass; Ogres beat Even Though I Knew the End for second place, Even Though I Knew the End came from behind to beat What Moves the Dead by only 19 votes for third place, What Moves the Dead (my own choice) beat Into the Riverlands for fourth place, Into the Riverlands beat A Mirror Mended for fifth place, and A Mirror Mended took sixth.

Best Novelette
“The Space-Time Painter” beat “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” on the sixth count, by 112 votes; “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” beat “A Dream of Electric Mothers” by 15 votes for second place; “A Dream of Electric Mothers” beat “Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness” for third place; “We Built This City” sneaked ahead in a tight field to beat “The Difference Between Love and Time” for fourth place; “Murder by Pixel” (my own choice) beat “The Difference Between Love and Time” for fifth place; and “The Difference Between Love and Time” came sixth.

Best Short Story
As noted above, “Rabbit Test” won on the first count, with “Zhurong on Mars” next but a very long way behind. “D.I.Y.” beat “Resurrection” for second place, “Zhurong on Mars” beat “Resurrection” for third place and finally “Resurrection” beat “The White Cliff” for fourth place. “The White Cliff” beat “Razor’s Edge” for fifth place and “Razor’s Edge” came sixth. For once, I too voted for the winner.

Best Series
Children of Time won a convincing victory on the fourth round, with October Daye, the Scholomance and Rivers of London still in the field. As noted above, this was also the category in which No Award had by far its best performance. Rivers of London beat The Locked Tomb by 16 votes for second place; The Scholomance beat October Daye by 10 votes for third place; The Locked Tomb beat October Daye for fourth place, October Daye beat the Founders Trilogy for fifth place and the Founders Trilogy came sixth, beating No Award by the relatively slim margin of 313 votes to 213. As noted previously, I voted No Award in this category but put Children of Time second.

Best Graphic Story or Comic
Cyberpunk 2077, which I hated but is massively popular in China, won on the third pass with everything except No Award and Once and Future still in the picture. The Dune adaptation beat Saga for second place by 5 votes; Monsters beat Supergirl for third place also by 5 votes; Supergirl (my own choice) beat Saga for fourth place by 17 votes; Once and Future beat Saga by 20 votes for fifth place, and finally Saga, which had been within five votes of taking second place, came sixth.

Best Related Work
As noted above, Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes won a stinking first-round victory with almost 60% of the votes cast. The other placings, in order, with the runner-up for each place winning the next one, and no results particularly close, were Chinese Science Fiction, An Oral History, Volume 1 in second place, Blood, Sweat & Chrome third, Still Just a Geek fourth, Ghost of Workshops Past fifth and the Buffalo World Outreach Project sixth. Here too I voted for the winner.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
As previously noted, Everything Everywhere All at Once got exactly half of the first preference votes and was easily brought over the threshold by the elimination of No Award. The other placings, in order, with the runner-up for each place winning the next one, and only one close result, were: Turning Red second; Nope third; Severance fourth by 8 votes; Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (my own choice) fifth and Avatar: The Way of Water sixth.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes” won on the fourth count with Andor: “One Way Out”, Stranger Things: “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” and She-Hulk: “Whose Show is This?” still in the game. The other placings, in order, with the runner-up for each place winning the next one, and several close results, were: Andor: “One Way Out” second, Stranger Things: “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” third by 19 votes, Andor: Rix Road” fourth by 9 votes, For All Mankind: “Stranger in a Strange Land” (my own choice) fifth by 18 votes, and She-Hulk: “Whose Show is This?” sixth.

Best Editor, Long Form
This only went to five counts, but that was because of a double elimination; Lindsey Hall won a convincing victory over Haijun Yao. The other placings, in order, with the runner-up for each place winning the next one, and only one close result, were: Haijun Yao second, Lee Harris third, Ruoxi Chen fourth by 12 votes, Sarah Peed fifth and Han Yan sixth. I have my doubts about the existence of this category, but it was really very nice to see Lindsey Hall’s joy as she accepted the award on the night.

Best Editor, Short Form
Neil Clarke won on the third count, with Xu Wang, Feng Yang, Sheree Thomas and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki still in the picture. This was one category where Chinese finalists did not get many transfers from non-Chinese finalists. Sheree Thomas beat Xu Wang for second place; Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki beat Scott H. Andrews for third place, after Xu Wang was eliminated by a 5-vote margin on the penultimate count; Scott H. Andrews beat Xu Wang for fourth place; Xu Wang beat Feng Yang by 15 votes for fifth place; and Feng Yang came sixth.

Best Professional Artist
As noted, Enzhe Zhao pulled off a first-round victory, with Alyssa Winans the least far behind of the others. Kuri Huang beat Jian Zhang for second place; Sija Hong beat Alissa Winans for third place; Alyssa Winans beat Jian Zhang for fourth place; Jian Zhang beat Paul Lewin for fifth place; and Paul Lewin came sixth, with none of the results particularly close. I actually found myself chatting to Kuri Huang and Sija Hong on the way to the ceremony, which was nice as I had myself voted for Sija Hong.

Best Semiprozine
Strange Horizons led on all counts except the last, when Uncanny Magazine got enough transfers from FIYAH to win by 18 votes, the only result of the night where the winner did not also have the most first preference votes. Strange Horizons then pulled off a rare first-round victory for second place, with FIYAH the least far behind; FIYAH beat Escape Pod for third place, Escape Pod beat khōréō for fourth place, PodCastle beat khōréō for fifth place and khōréō took sixth place, none of them terribly close.

Best Fanzine
In the first home victory announced on the evening, Zero Gravity Newspaper was nip and tuck with Journey Planet but eventually won by 8 votes. Journey Planet beat Chinese Academic SF Express for second place; Nerds of a Feather beat Chinese Academic SF Express by 11 votes for third place; Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog beat Chinese Academic SF Express for fourth place; and finally Chinese Academic SF Express beat Galactic Journey for fifth place with Galactic Journey coming sixth.

Best Fancast
Hugo, Girl! won an impressive second-round victory on the first count, with Coode Street Podcast next in line. Hugos There, which had actually had the fewest first preferences, took second place ahead of Coode Street Podcast by 13 votes. Coode Street Podcast came third, 19 votes ahead of Octothorpe. Octothorpe beat Worldbuilding for Masochists for fourth place, Worldbuilding for Masochists beat Kalanadi for fifth place and Kalanadi came sixth.

Best Fan Writer
As noted, Chris Barkley beat RiverFlow by just one vote, the closest result of the night and probably of the decade. He had been ahead throughout, and transfers from Arthur Liu were not quite enough to make the difference. RiverFlow beat Arthur Liu for second place; Arthur Liu won a convincing third place with both Bitter Karella and Örjan Westin still in the game; Bitter Karella beat Jason Sanford for fourth place, Jason Sanford beat Örjan Westin for fifth place and Örjan Westin came sixth.

Best Fan Artist
Richard Man (my own choice) won on the fifth round, with Iain Clark and Laya Rose still in. The other placings, in order, with the runner-up for each place winning the next one, and no close results, were Iain Clark second, Lara Rose third, Alison Scott fourth, España Sherriff fifth, and Orion Smith sixth.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
Akata Woman won a fifth-round victory with The Golden Enclaves and Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods still in the game. The Golden Enclaves beat Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods for second place; Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak beat The Serpent’s Wake for third place; The Serpent’s Wake beat Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods for fourth place; and Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods (my own choice) finally beat Bloodmarked for fifth place, with Bloodmarked coming sixth.

Astounding Award for Best New Writer
Travis Baldree was close to a first round victory and clinched it on the second round, with Isabel J. Kim the least far behind. Isabel J. Kim (my own choice) came from behind to beat Everina Maxwell by 17 votes for second place, narrowly avoiding elimination in favour of Maijia Liu by 2 votes in the penultimate round. Everina Maxwell beat Maijia Liu for third place, Maijia Liu beat Naseem Jamnia for fourth place, Naseem Janina beat Weimu Xin by 7 votes for fifth place and Weimu Xin got sixth place. Personally I thought Weimu Xin’s stories were excellent, but they were only made available in Chinese, and I fear that not many non-Chinese voters will have bothered to run them through the translation sites.

Looking forward to seeing the nomination statistics.