I gathered the Wikipedia pages of all the authors in my great big Hugo spreadsheet and used my page view gathering tool to add a page view figure to every author with an English Wikipedia page on that sheet. Most of the authors on this list of Hugo Finalists for Novel, Novella, Novelette and Short Story have a Wikipedia page but all the caveats about this data apply. A good example of the issues is Frank Herbert, whose page views have increased because of interest around the new film version of Dune. That doesn’t make the page views utterly flawed as a figure, we just need to be clear that they are a measure of current levels of attention and that currency can change dramatically for individuals.
The other more numerical issue is the distribution. Authors that are currently getting a lot of Wiki-attention do so at a scale orders of magnitude greater than those that aren’t. That can make graphing the data tricky and it also does bad things to measures of central tendency aka averages.
This time I want to look at trends over time. I’m plotting the Hugo Award year against an aggregated value of the authors who were finalists in story categories. To cope with the spread of values I’m using a logarithmic scale for the vertical axis.
The median is less impacted by the smallest and largest values in each year. Also, in this case I’m treating authors without Wikipedia pages as missing data rather than zero. The most famous authors don’t really influence the graph unless they were finalists with a whole bunch of really famous people. I think 1964 (currently) is the peak year because of a combo of Heinlein, Anderson, Vonnegut, Norton, and Rice-Burroughs. The outliers that year are Frank Herbert (because of the Dune movie) and Clifford D. Simak (a decent number of page views just low for that year), plus Rick Raphael who gets treated as missing data because he doesn’t have an English Wikipedia page.
Arguably, there is a visible late 1990’s/early 2000 dip that has been anecdotally claimed in discussion about the Hugo Awards. Whether that is an actual feature of those finalists or whether they just fall in that spot between too long ago to be notable now but not far back enough to be revisited as classics remains an open question.
Intentionally, the graph ignores two important groups: the authors who are really, really notable currently (in terms of Wikipedia page views) and the authors who aren’t. I’ll deal with the first group by looking at the maximum values per year.
I think that is very much a nothing-to-see-here sort of graph. Note that I’ve changed the maximum and minimum points on the vertical axis to fit the data in. Generally, the really high values are consistently high.
The minimum value starts very noisy and then gets more stable. Remember that those authors without Wikipedia pages are counted as missing rather than zero, so don’t impact the values on this graph. I think the most recent years would look a bit noisier if we counted the missing authors as zero instead because the most recent years naturally have more early career writers who haven’t got Wikipedia pages yet.
Lastly, here is the first graph again of the median value but this time only showing the value for the winners.
That looks like it’s trending down a bit but note that this value will be more influenced by the shorter fiction finalists.