Possibly because of the records that have been legitimately broken, there have been a few minor misconceptions recently that a number of other events associated with the 2015 Hugo Awards process are unprecedented. One of these has to do with recommendation lists.
By merely examining a single category (best novel) on the NESFA Recommendation list from 2001 (which promoted candidates for the 2002 Hugos), a few myths are easily dispelled:
Has any single individual’s list ever recommended a list of candidates which eventually filled the final ballot? In other words, has anyone ever seen his promoted favorites fill the final slate?
Yes, at least once in 2001 (again, for 2002’s Awards) alone: George Flynn’s.
His recommendation list was the only public list of all NESFA lists to push every eventual nominee as well as the winner:
There were six candidates that year, and Flynn recommended 10, which was by no means the largest recommendation list (nor the smallest – most people recommended between 2-6 books). In fact, the largest that year was Sam Gentile, who, despite recommending a whopping 23 novels, only saw any of his picks on a mere 66% of the final ballot. Not only did, he did not recommend either The Curse of Chalion or Passage for a Hugo, but he did not find them to be in the top 20 of that year.
Has anyone ever promoted only enough nominees to fill a slate? In other words, if there were six final candidates, did anyone ever put forth a recommendation of only six candidates – no more and no fewer?
2001 again: Jim Mann put forth a six candidate promotion, only enough to fill the final ballot. This was successful in naming three finalists, 50% of the final slate, including the eventual winner. (The Curse of Chalion, Cosmonaut Keep, American Gods.)
Incidentally, 2001 also answers if anyone has ever recommended 5 candidates and only five candidates before: yes: Vincent J. Docherty promoted a slate of five, with his Cosmonaut Keep and Perdido Street Station promos garnering enough supporters to send them into the finals.
I have no idea if 2001/2002 was a precedent-setting year for the above acceptable practices, but it is clear that there was not only nothing prohibiting this utilization of recommendations, but that it was openly celebrated and completely uncontroversial. NESFA has done a very admirable job of making their members’ histories of recommendation lists public and available. Considering how quickly and easily their data was used by me to set the record straight on a few minor issues that have been a part of the current 2015 discussion, I encourage you to take a look at the information for yourself.