In light of recent events and posts, I’ve been asked, if it fell to me to create a literary award, how I might work the voting process.
My response is, first, I think I would rather pull out my own teeth with pliers than to take on the work and aggravation of helming an award, and this is from someone who was (only very nominally, and insulated by a couple of layers of extraordinarily competent people) previously in charge of the Nebulas. I’m super-impressed with anyone who can handle an award on the front lines. It’s not a gig for me.
Second, if you put a gun to my head and made me do one, or, alternately, put the gun to my head but then promised me that someone else would have to actually run the things so that all I had to do was think up the process, then here’s what I would do, for the process of a popularly-voted award.
1. Categories: Doesn’t matter, think up any category or categories you want, as the process would be the same no matter how many categories there are. I would suggest that every category would have to have a minimum number of initial voters to be considered; say, 500.
2. Who votes: Anyone can vote. Each voter gets their own ID, which can be used only by them. Stupidly obvious attempts to game the system can be disallowed by the poor bastards who actually have to run the system at any step in the process, but for reasons that will become obvious in a second, stupidly obvious attempts to game the system here doesn’t offer much long-term benefit.
3. How the vote works: There are three voting rounds: Nomination, long list, and finalist.
Nomination: Everyone votes for one and only one work (or person, if it’s that sort of category) in the category. The top ten or twelve vote-getters are sent to the long list stage (ties, etc are fine but the goal would be to get number of long list nominees as close to the ideal long list number as possible).
Long List: Everyone votes for up to three works on the long list, none of which can be the single work they originally nominated. That’s right! You have to choose something else in this stage, and hope enough other people like the work you originally nominated to include it among their own selections!
But what if people choose not to make selections in the stage in the hope that their lack of selection of other work will bump up the chances of their preferred work? Well, I would consider making a rule that says failure to participate in this round counts as a point against your original choice’s score in this round — which is to say if you don’t vote in this round, a point is deducted for your original choice’s score in this round (presuming it made the long list at all). You’re better off voting if you want your original selection to make it to the final round.
In this round, the top five or six vote-getters graduate to the final round. Hope your original choice made it!
Finalist: This vote is done “Australian Rules” style, where each voter ranks the works from first to last choice. “No Award” is an option in this round, so if you hated everything in the long list round, this is where you may register your disapproval. The winner is the one which collects the majority of votes, in either the first or subsequent balloting rounds.
Why would I do the voting this way? Because it emphasizes both individual choice and community.
- Picking a single work in the first round makes you really think about what you loved that year and forces hard choices early; knowing that you will have to rely on other people to carry your choice into the final round also makes you think about what you believe others will find worthy.
- Picking an initial single work also avoids obvious slating, while a long list allows for the possibility of a wider diversity of choices for the finalist round.
- Forcing people to make a selection other than their original choice in the long list round makes them consider what else out there might be worthy of consideration, and also again punishes attempts at obvious slating.
- Three choices for a finalist slate of five or six also again cuts down on obvious slating and allows for diversity in the finalist round of voting.
- “Australian Rules” in the final round allows for a consensus vote for the best work in any particular category.
If you want to further reduce any chance of slating you could employ EPH to the long list round, but you get the idea.
Would this work? Got me. And as I noted I’m not going to go out of my way to implement them, because: Ugh, effort. But if anyone wants to try it and see how it works for them, knock yourself out. Could be fun. As long as someone else but me does the work.
Now: Pick it apart in the comments!