Weekend Update (8/21/2015): Bad Statistics and Hugos Tonight!

qVU3FO8o_400x400First, congratulations to the Helsinki Worldcon Bid Committee! They’re hosting WorldCon 2017 in Helsinki! So at least one of the votes being counted at WorldCon this weekend went the way I voted. Woo hoo! Onneksi olkoon! Congratulations!

In other updates to things that I’ve included in recent Friday Links posts, a lot of people I follow have been posting a link to a Vocativ post about how very, very white the winners of the Hugo Awards have been over the years: Science Fiction Is Really, Really White. The article has graphs and some statistics and seems legit, right?

Screenshot of the graphic, caption, and a bit of the article.
Screenshot of the graphic, caption, and a bit of the article.
The first thing that made me wary about simply retweeting the link is something really minor: the caption on the picture that they illustrate the story with. “Amazing Stories was a comic that helped launch the sci-fi genre.” No. Amazing Stories was a magazine that printed literary stories founded in 1926 by Hugo Gernsbeck. It was not a comic book. While it is often credited with launching the pulp version of the genre science fiction, so that part is true, but it wasn’t a comic.

Bar graph as originally published.
Bar graph as originally published.
Now, ordinarily that would be a quibble, but this article is about statistics, so seeing in the caption that they have already gotten a fact wrong made me a teeny bit apprehensive. Then we get to the most dramatic graph, and I think, “That can’t be right.” What about Saladin Ahmed, author of Throne of the Crescent Moon, Best Novel nominee in 2013? Shouldn’t there be a bar labeled “Arab” with at least 1 person it it?

This only just barely qualifies as data...
This only just barely qualifies as data…
Amusingly, I started this post early this morning, then had to go to a nearby clinic for some scheduled medical tests, and while I was sitting in the waiting room, Mr. Ahmed’s tweet commenting on being erased from the data came through my feed. Since then, one of Vocativ’s editors sent out a tweet that they’re correcting the article. The bar graph now does list one Arab-American. That’s a bit better, but that’s the thing. Now how do we trust them about the other 295 authors they claim are white? You might think that clicking on the “Get data” link under the graph would give you a spreadsheet of all the nominees, right? Nope. You get a spreadsheet, all right, but it just says “White 295, Black 3, Chinese 1, Arab American 1.”

This may seem really petty and nitpicky, but here’s the thing: if you are trying to make a statistical argument to back up a claim, you have to get every fact right. And you have to give us confidence that you are likely to get every fact right. There is a big argument to be had about what we mean by race. Race is a social construct with no basis in biological science, so there will be lots of people who will want to nitpick the data if we did have a big spreadsheet that listed all 300 nominees. I suspect that the graph now is close enough to correct to still illustrate the point that the Hugo Awards have hardly been a paragon of diversity. Even more importantly, the ludicrous charge that the Hugos have been being somehow secretly controlled by a liberal cabal that has imposed political correctness onto the ballot for many years is demolished by facts such as this.

But to the next person who wants to compile something like this: quadruple check your results before publishing!

Hugo Awards Announced Tonight!

The award are tonight! From the official Hugos website:

The 2015 Hugo Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 8 PM Pacific Daylight Time in the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane, Washington. The Hugo Awards web site will once again offer text-based coverage of the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony via CoverItLive, suitable for people with bandwidth restrictions. For those with the bandwidth for it, Sasquan will also offer live video streaming of the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony via UStream. In addition, Sasquan will present “The Road to the Hugos”, a livestreamed Internet pre-and-post Hugo broadcast featuring hosts Stephen Schapansky and Warren Frey of Radio Free Skaro, as part of the coverage, starting one hour before and ending one hour after the ceremony.

Here’s the link for the text coverage of the ceremony.

And the link for the live video stream of same.

And the link for the Radio Free Skero livestream pre- and post-shows.

I predict:

  • No Award will take maybe two categories, causing cheering from some and more threats from the Überpuppy,
  • At least two nominees from one of the Puppy slates will walk home with a Hugo,
  • Some people on both sides will claim victory,
  • Some people on both sides will claim it is a defeat for all that is right and just in the world,
  • Regardless, science fiction will survive!

I plan to have a mini Hugo Watching Party here tonight.

Now matter what happens, please offer congratulations to the winners and please console any nominee (and I mean anyone) who does not get a trophy. Similarly, offer condolences to anyone you know who is disappointed that their favorite in any category didn’t win.

And for the future: if you are a fan, read and watch good science fiction and fantasy (however you define it) and support the writers and artists who make it. If you are one of those writers or artists: in the immortal words of Neil Gaiman, I urge you to make good art.

Ad Astra!

2 thoughts on “Weekend Update (8/21/2015): Bad Statistics and Hugos Tonight!

  1. They’re also equivocating on nominations vs nominees. Delany is only counted once, but they’ve compared that against the total number of Hugo nominations despite him being nominated three times (1967, 1968, 1969).

    And another thing – Vocativ is an American site, and Americans usually count Hispanic people as minorities. But not in this context apparently, given the lack of Correia 2014 (and possibly 2015 if you count declined nominations)

    1. Correia is as Hispanic as I am.

      This gets into the part where I said that there is a big argument to be had around the definition of race. Correia has fully adopted the privileged position of passing for white. Just as three or four generations ago I would have been at a disadvantage ethnically because of all my Irish ancestors, but now I don’t get coded as non-white, neither does Correia.

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