Or looking for the existence of Time Lord, Elves and other entities in the Hugo Award winners (spoiler: there aren’t any)
Four claims have been made about how the Hugo awards have supposedly changed in recent years.
- They have become more leftwing.
- They have become more literary.
- They have become more cliquish.
- They have become less relevant (because of the above).
In the On Petunias and Whales series of posts, I looked at the first claim and found only weak evidence of a statistical bias in recent years. As this claim is also a claim about historical trends it would be good to examine it over a long period of years. Unfortunately any hope of decent data is unlikely – the past really is another country when it comes to politics, views and stances on issues and even the issues themselves are different. The best we could hope for is either self-identification data which will be highly misleading or modern perceptions.
The literary dimensions is an interesting one and I have an idea for a metric that will measure something unusual in that regard…but I’m not ready to reveal that yet.
Relevance? There is almost certainly a whole heap of things going on there, as the traditional book publishing industry adjusts to not only a revolution in how books are made, bought and sold but also adjusts to a world in which multiple forms of entertainment are growing quickly and competing for time, head space and cultural relevance.
The relevance argument is two-fold: firstly that the Hugo awards have supposedly alienated people because of points 1,2, & 3 and secondly that the Hugos aren’t relevant to a world of video-games, web-surfing, social-media, effect-laden SF/F movies and new kinds of TV shows available in new forms of delivery. The second point is an interesting one but which I’ll leave aside for the moment. The first is clearly true of the Puppy supporters (they clearly do feel genuinely alienated from the awards) but is not well supported by evidence for people in general.
But, I’ll put ‘relevance’ aside for the moment also.
Cliquish? Now that is interesting. I don’t have answers for that but I’ve got a starting point.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have compiled a spreadsheet of nominees for the best novel category of the Hugo awards. The data was taken from the Wikipedia page on the category which was sourced from this Hugo page.
I added to this data the year of Birth for each nominee. For dual nominees (e.g. Niven and Pournelle) I included a line for each. For composite people (i.e. two people writing as a single invented person with one name) I just picked the age of the first person I found. Generally the year of birth data was taken from the associated Wikipedia page.