2014 Nebula Prediction: Indicators #1 and #2

By looking at previously Nebula winners and their award history, it was easy to come up with some strong indicators. Of the past 13 years (back until 2000), 11 out of 13 winners had previously been nominated for a Nebula. This makes sense; to be competitive for this award, voters need to know who you are. Previous nominations mean direct exposure to the voting pool, and thus voters are more likely to know those authors, to have read their books, and to vote for them.

Likewise, being previously nominated for a Hugo is a strong predictor, with 10 out of 13 winners having at least one previous Hugo nomination. It’s not as strong, but then why should the Nebula voters listen to the Hugo voters?

Interestingly, prior nominations was more reliable than the broader category of “prior wins.” This may have something to do with the number of different Nebula and Hugo categories.

That’s a strong correlation, and it actually is even stronger than that. Some of the people that snuck wins without many prior nominations were huge names: Neil Gaiman for American Gods in 2003 and Michael Chabon for Yiddish Policeman’s Union in 2008. Gaiman was incredibly well known for his comic Sandman, and did have a Nebula nominee for some of his film work. Chabon had previously won the Pulitzer Prize, and was a widely acclaimed author from the field of literary fiction. Their winning books got huge marketing pushes, and were some of the most widely buzzed about texts of that year. Don’t worry: later indicators are going to take that fame and buzz into account.

But we’re looking at only prior nomination history in Indicators #1 and #2. In fact, Chabon is the only author in the past 13 years to win without at least one prior Hugo or Nebula nomination.

What are statistics, though, without some outliers?

The lesson: you better be somewhat known if you want to win the Nebula. The safest route is to have already been nominated for a Nebula (winning doesn’t actually mean as much, although that will factor in Indicators #3 and #4). Second best is to be nominated for a Hugo. Failing that, win a Pulitzer.

So, to put this in mathematical terms:
Indicator #1: Has previously been nominated for a Nebula.
(84.6%)
Indicator #2: Has previously been nominated for a Hugo.
(76.9%)

Those numbers aren’t as good as they look, because every year multiple authors have prior nominations, so they have to split up that 84.6% or 76.9%. However, let’s look at this year’s nominees:
Indicators1-2
N. Wins stands for prior Nebula wins, N. Nominations for prior Nebula Nominations, H. Wins for prior Hugo wins, and H. Noms for prior Hugo nominations.

The analysis is pretty easy here. Our prior Nebula nominees–Gaiman, Fowler, Griffith, Nagata, and Samatar–come out ahead of the newbies Gannon, Leckie, and Wecker. Fowler and Gaiman look particularly impressive considering their number of wins and nominations.

The Hugo nominees make the difference between our well-known and emerging authors even more apparent. Only Gaiman, Fowler, and Griffith have previously been nominated for the Hugo.

A safe bet, then, based solely on these two indicators, would be that either Gaiman, Fowler, or Griffith would win. So, from Indicators #1 and #1 alone, those three pull out into the lead.

From a methodology standpoint, I convert the overall chances (that 84.6% versus 15.4% number), and then distribute that over the various nominees. Our Nebula prediction table comes out like this:

Chances to Win Based Solely on Indicator #1: Previously Nominated for Nebula
Fowler: 16.9%
Gaiman: 16.9%
Gannon: 5.2%
Griffith: 16.9%
Leckie: 5.2%
Nagata: 16.9%
Samatar: 16.9%
Wecker: 5.2%

Those odds are considerably different than the “drawing out of a hat” odds of a flat 12.5% each. Hugo odds are similar, but even better for the winners, with Fowler, Gaiman, and Griffith having a robust 25.6% each, and the rest ringing in with a paltry 4.6%.

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