2008 Locus Poll… Did we get the REAL results?

Last year, I did an analysis of how online magazines were represented in the results of the Locus Poll and was looking forward to comparing this year’s results to last. The July issue is out and I jumped right to the numbers.

The first thing I see is that online magazines are well-represented in the magazine results: Subterranean (5th), Jim Baen’s Universe (8th), Strange Horizons (9th), Ansible (13th), Clarkesworld (14th), SFSite (15th), Fantasy Magazine (16th), SFRevu (21st), and IROSF (22nd). Locus counts only eight online magazines, where I see nine. My bet is they considered Subterranean a print magazine.

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?

I think this action significantly hurts the credibility of the poll and the Locus Awards. By their own admission, changing how they counted the votes took the Best First Novel Award away from Patrick Rothfuss and handed it to Joe Hill. That’s just a horrible way to lose and a horrible way to win.

I’d love to get my hands on the raw data and see how things really shook out.

15 thoughts on “2008 Locus Poll… Did we get the REAL results?

  1. pbray says:

    They’ve done this before– back around 2000, they decided to ignore online votes for a certain title on the basis that fans who weren’t Locus readers had banded together to swamp Locus with votes. When they published the results, there was an explanation that basically said “NAME received the most votes, but we decided not to count them, therefore it is disqualified.”

    They really need to decide what they’re trying to do with the poll–either make it subscribers only or leave it open and live with the results. What happens next year, do they multiply subscribers votes by 3?

  2. jtglover says:

    By their own admission, changing how they counted the votes took the Best First Novel Award away from Patrick Rothfuss and handed it to Joe Hill. That’s just a horrible way to lose and a horrible way to win.

    Agreed.

    I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, Locus is the unofficial trade magazine for all things spec fic, and I think it behooves them to deal with the field at large fairly, impartially, and representatively. On the other hand, they’re just one publication (however important to the field) and they can do whatever they damn well please, as long as the $$$ keeps coming to support them.

    Personally, however, I’ve never read/purchased anything because of a Locus Award, and I wonder how much that holds true for other new/young SF readers and writers. At some point I should subscribe to Locus, but I haven’t gotten there yet…

  3. k_dunlap says:

    “I think this action significantly hurts the credibility…”

    Completely removing the votes of non-subscribers would have reflected reader opinion, but this way? Yeah, it really does feel like a fix with a logic spin so hopefully you won’t catch that it’s still a fix.

  4. scbutler says:

    I’ve all but stopped reading Locus, mainly because I get tired of seeing the same book reviewed by three different people in the same issue. If everyone gave a different review, that would be a good thing, but that generally isn’t the case. Instead fewer books are reviewed. Since I generally read the magazine as a way of finding books I might want to read, fewer reviews does not help.

    • dqg_neal says:

      gotten to the point that I almost completely skip the reviews, because they are reviewing popular authors to the point that I don’t see anything that I’ve already seen review on in half a dozen other sites. I really wish they’d review more (some) of the mid-list and new authors.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Huh.

    Thanks much for posting up about this. If you hadn’t, the news never would have been passed, friend-of-a-friend along to me.

    Pat Rothfuss.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Huh.

        I was a Locus subscriber but no way will I be renewing my subscription after this fiasco. So what if they counted my votes twice, unfair is still unfair.

        This kind of thing casts doubts on the credibility of the entire SF field in a way. ‘Outsiders’ like me have always heard stories of how people at the top run things their way and do what they have to to keep friends in business while shutting out others. Now, it looks like American SF is even willing to fudge voting results to get the results it wants.

        What’s next? Lying about print runs and sales figures? Oh, I forgot, that’s been going on for decades now.

        Reminds me of another American election where the votes didn’t seem to add up right.

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