SP4 Book Families

Another stray observation from SP4 Best Novel data partly inspired by an odd claim at Mad Genius that ‘weak correlations’ in Hugo2015 nomination data was evidence of secret-slate/cabals/whatever (um, nope it is what you’d expect).

I looked at which books had nominators in common and how many nominators in common they had. I then tabulated those books with more than 2 in common and drew a pretty picture.


I also included a couple of lonesome but popular nominees: Seveneves and Honor at Stake.

There are two distinct families. The more popular one is centered around Jim Butcher’s Aeronauts Windlass and the less popular one around Uprooted/The Fifth Season/Ancillary Mercy. The Sp4 data is has probably fewer connections between books as many people nominating just nominate a single book unlike a Hugo ballot were nominating 5 is encouraged.

23 thoughts on “SP4 Book Families

  1. Yeah, you’ve found that there’s two different groups posting on the site: File770 regulars and SP4. They have completely different taste in books with no overlap. Hard SF and urban fantasy is floating around on its own island…

    I’d say this explains a fair bit of the Puppies. Fandom is now very large and fractured, large numbers of people are self-publishing or writing for small presses, and the Hugo voting pool isn’t representative of the sub-factions. For example, there’s a vast sea of fan fiction, indie and self-published material, some of which is quite good (e.g. The Martian). For example, I’ve now seen a Hugo recommendation list from the online ‘rationalist’ community – mostly fan fiction, nothing I’ve seen discussed by Filers/the Puppies except Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter book.

    Hopefully, long-term, the Puppies will lead to some of these fans actively participating in the awards. Unfortunately, my suspicion is that the Hugos will end up as the ‘Booker Prize’ for literary SF, and the pulp, techie and quirky material will go elsewhere.


    1. In Best Novel there is a big spread of stuff nominated to the extent that the most recommended stuff (e.g. Jim Butcher) still only has a small proportion of the total number of recommendations.
      However this is the kind of thing we can expect to see and I don’t think it will erase fandom or the Hugos. People will still look for the stuff that really stands out and places/groups/sources that collate and filter and coalesce recommendations only become more important in a world with that kind of diversity.

      On the groups doing the recommendation – yes I noticed names I know from distinct blogs but I wanted to see how things panned out without paying attention to whether it was somebody from a ‘Puppy’ site or a ‘Filer’ 🙂
      I did think I’d see more crossover for Seveneves but I didn’t. Likewise for Declan Finn’s book i.e. I assumed his fans would have at least some crossover with the more obviously ‘puppy’ books – perhaps it is tactical voting.

      The gender disparity between the authors in the top beige group and the bottom greenish group is interesting as well.

      I’m still not sure what SP4 will achieve but it is interesting data.


  2. I was surprised by Declan Finn actually. From what I read on Amazon, Honor at Stake is pulp and has a theological component so I’d expect it to appeal to the Sad Puppies.

    Seveneves isn’t a Sad Puppy or an anti-Puppy book. It’s physics-based SF and neither faction is promoting that kind of story.

    I can see the gender disparity without doing the calculations. I doubt they’re being deliberately sexist. My suspicion is that – for whatever reason – there are more male pulp thriller writers and most of what the SPs are promoting is pulp action novels. SF is a setting as well as a genre, and there’s been loads written about gender disparities in mainstream romance, crime, YA, thriller, etc. I would expect sub-genres of SF to reflect that wider market.

    Definitely interesting data. I love your visualisations – very cool.


  3. Very cool visualization. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite that balkanised, I have to say. Declan Finn out on his lonesome is quite surprising as well – he must have plenty of single-issue voters, and perhaps JCW has a similar effect, but with some limited crossover.


    1. I wonder whether urban fantasy readers are a completely different readership and this is why urban fantasy and paranormal romance is supposedly overlooked by SF&F awards…


      1. Take detective fiction or romance fiction – in both genres there is a big market for novels that are gery conventional. Nothing wrong with that but it makes it hard for any given novel to stand out. An exceptional novel will do something new.

        One of the other things I’ve noticed is many people, at Vox Popoli and at other right leaning blogs discussing SF, saying how much they like Anime and Manga. Yet so far the Puppy campaigns have not pushed any Japanese work. Why not? I suspect a similar issue applies. The stuff that is exceptional is not the stuff they want to see and the stuff that 8sn’t exceptional is too hard to choose between.


      2. I think it’s time commitment, certainly for Vox Popoli. Vox Day himself is alt-right, which is anything *but* conservative, and – from observation – he has a bunch of computer programmer readers who I wouldn’t see as your typical conservative either.

        I’ve had a lot of time this last year, have read LOADS of short stories (far more than I reviewed on my blog) and I’m struggling to fill an entire ballot. My taste is different from the Filers and the Sad Puppies, and I – therefore – don’t have a ready hivemind to find recommendations.

        Vox Popoli readers will be the same. Love Japanese anime and manga, want to participate, but don’t have the time to filter the dreck. It’s a problem because – as the fandom expands, fragments and mainstreams – the only people with time to filter the dreck are people whose life is fiction. They’re not typical of readers in general and that affects what gets nominated. Literary fiction is the same. Did anyone outside of other writers want to read Will Self’s Umbrella? Yep, it was experimental, but it was also unreadable.


      3. Larry Correia is primarily an UF writer, albeit of the more high-octane sort. Even though his book this year isn’t UF his fans should be happy with the genre.


      4. Eh. I read a lot of urban fantasy and some PNR. I’d argue that some of it is excellent by almost any standard. . However, it’s largely series work that starts well and gets to excellence later, at a point where it is almost impossible for a new reader to jump in and appreciate as standalone novels.

        I’ve noticed a fair amount of squeeing on File 770 when a new Ilona Andrews story is published, which goes nicely with my opinion that UF/PNR readers are not in a separate cul de sac of SF.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Or a way of acknowledging series work – Cheryl’s point is apt that an ongoing series of books can become great cumulatively. The issue with a Best Series award is how to tap into that great stuff if you haven’t invested your time in the rest. One of the great things about the Hugos is the sharing aspect – stuff gets nominated that you then read – which s hard to do with a series.
        Perhaps a packet inclusion that has:
        1. an exemplar book from the series
        2. an outline of the ongoing story and plot points etc that would allow people to jump in who haven’t read it?


      6. I was musing about Best Series recently. I feel you need at least a year to get into and appreciate several series, so some sort of pattern where nominations occur one year and confirmation votes happen the next is required. That probably prevents it being a proper Hugo, but something Campbell-like is possible.


      7. I think that is a good idea. Also being a notahugo solves cross-eligibility issues. Also a series nominated year-X is voted on X+1 but isn’t eligible to be nominated again until X+3 (say) so you aren’t just getting the same series over and over.


      8. I prefer Camestros’ suggestion of having an outline and plot points, or just a ‘greatest hits’ (rather like the ‘Last time on series X…’ at the beginning of TV series). Having to read every book in an ongoing series is a huge time commitment for one award category. That’s especially the case if the books improve as the series progresses. You can’t read book one and decide it’s not for you, you have to read to book three (or similar).


      9. If this year’s Hugo packet contained e.g. Ancillary and the submission started with “previously on….” I don’t think anyone would blink.
        I think the tricky problem for the recent attempts at a series Hugo was defining series v sub series etc.


  4. I think between Finn and Brian Niemeier, it’s gonna be really interesting to see if SP4 winds up a primarily publicity stunt for these various low-level selfpub sorts.


    1. I’m reading Honor at Stake and it is not good but I can think of worst things than a weird signal boost for self-pub/small press Hugo faction.
      Rather like the way minor fringe parties in Australia all club together to ensure at least one of them gets a senate seat.
      But the scope for “worst things” is quite large…


  5. Thank you for that interesting graph! I would expect nominations for SP books to be more highly correlated than normal Hugo nomination even before curation into a slate, simply because the Puppies started for the purpose of getting Correia and Torgersen Hugos, so you’re by definition drawing in people who liked their writing.

    It is interesting to see the two groups with no overlap, and the way the overlaps work within groups. Correlations seem pretty common in both.


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