However, the next thing I see really bothers me and completely invalidates any year-to-year analysis I had planned:
“Results were tabulated using the system put together by webmaster Mark Kelly, with Locus staffers entering votes from mail-in ballots. Results were available almost as soon as the voting closed, much sooner than back in the days of hand-counting. Non-subscribers outnumbered subscribers by so much that, in an attempt to better reflect the Locus magazine readership, we decided to change the counting system, so now subscriber votes count double. (Non-subscribers still managed to out-vote subscribers in most cases where there was disagreement.)”
They changed the vote counting system after the polls closed. If they were so concerned about the results reflecting reader opinion, why allow non-subscribers the chance to vote in the first place? Doing something like this makes it seem like they were unhappy with the results and put a fix in. Given their long-standing reputation, I’m sure that wasn’t their plan, but what were they thinking?
For obvious reasons, Neil is most interested in the effect this has on the “best magazine” category; he also notes the one that first caught my eye, which is the result of Best First Novel. As described by Locus:
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill won by a slim 10 points over The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This is one place where the doubled subscriber votes made a difference; the Rothfuss had more votes and more first-place votes but subscribers put the Hill first, and their doubled points gave it the edge.
Similarly, in Best Collection:
Connie Willis’s The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories won with a lead of just over 70 points, followed by Jack Vance’s The Jack Vance Treasury in second. Cory Doctorow’s Overclocked came in third — despite having the most votes and the most first-place votes. The doubled subscriber votes made Willis, ever a favourite with Locus subscribers, the winner; without the extra points, she would have come in second behind Doctorow, who has a large online fan base.
I have to say I’m deeply disappointed by this. The big selling point of the Locus Awards is, or always has been to me at least, their representativeness, precisely the fact that anyone can vote and that they are thus the best barometer of community-wide opinion that we have. As the notes at the start of this year’s result somewhat smugly put it, “We get more votes than the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy nominations combined … Nominees need at least 20 votes to make the final list, even though it frequently takes less to make the Hugo or Nebula publishing ballots.” All of that is still true, but it seems wrong to imply (as I think it’s intended to imply) that this legitimizes the results when you’ve just changed the scoring system to make some voters more equal than others — particularly if you only make the change after voting has closed, particularly if you only mention it in the print version of the magazine.