The Hugo and Nebula Awards and Repeat Nominees, Part 2

In Part 1 of this report, we discussed how the Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novel are heavily weighted towards writers who have previously been nominated for those awards, to the tune of 65% for the Hugo and 50% for the Nebula. While those numbers are interesting—and perhaps eye-opening—they don’t tell us how centralized these awards are. Is this a bunch of different writers receiving 2 nominations each, or few select writers receiving 6, 7, or more nominations?

Today, we’ll look at how frequently the most popular writers were nominated in the 2001-2014 time period for the Hugo and Nebula award. The methodology here is simple: I took the lists of the Hugo and Nebula Best Novel nominees form 2001-2014 and counted the number of awards each received. Here are the results.

Hugo Awards: From 2001-2014, 37 unique authors (counting Jordan/Sanderson for Wheel of Time as one author) were nominated for a total of 72 Hugo Award Best novel slots. 24 of those authors received only one nomination, and the 13 other authors shared the remaining 48 nominations. Here’s the list of the “repeaters”:

Table 1: Number of Nominations for Best Novel Hugo Award for Repeat Nominees, 2001-2014

Repeater Hugo Noms

This list would have been even more pronounced if Neil Gaiman hadn’t turned down two Hugo nominations, one for Anasazi Boys and one for The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Even without that, there is still a very definite centralization in the Hugo Award for Best Novel. The top 7 candidates (Stross, Mieville, Sawyer, Bujold, Grant, Scalzi, and Wilson, all of whom have at least 4 nominations in the past 14 years) racked up an impressive 33 nominations (out of 72 total), for 45.8% of the Hugo award slate. The rest of the SFF publishing world received 39 nominations, for 54.2% of the slate.

Nebula Awards: The Nebula is rather more balanced. In the 2001-2014 period, 61 unique authors were nominated for a total of 87 Best Nebula novel slots. 46 authors received only one nomination each, with the remaining 15 “repeaters” sharing 41 nominations. Here’s the list:

Table 2: Number of Nominations for Best Novel Nebula Award for Repeat Nominees, 2001-2014

Repeater Nebula noms

With the exception of Jack McDevitt’s world-crushing domination of the Nebula nominations, that’s a pretty evenly distributed list: a fair amount of authors getting 2 or 3 nominations, but no one (but McDevitt) getting 4 or 5 nominations. The top 5 “repeater nominees” (McDevitt, Bujold, Hopkinson, Jemisin, and Mieville, each of whom at least 3 nominations) managed 21 nominations between them, accounting for 24.1% of the total nominations. That number is a little misleading since McDevitt alone accounted for 10% of 2001-2014 field. As a side note, I have no idea why McDevitt has done so well in the Nebulas. In any statistical analysis of the Nebulas, his domination distorts the numbers, and certainly makes the Chaos Horizon predictions more difficult. If anyone has insight into his success, please share.

So, in conclusion: the Hugo is heavily centralized around a small number of repeat nominees. The Nebula, with the exception of Jack McDevitt, is spread out over a much greater number of authors, and demonstrates only mild centralization.

In the next part of this report, we’ll look at what impact repeat nominations have on the chances of actually winning the Hugo or Nebula for Best novel.


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2 responses to “The Hugo and Nebula Awards and Repeat Nominees, Part 2”

  1. Jo Walton says :

    If you’re looking at this for future nomination probability, it might be useful for repeat nominations to consider how many novels the author has written in the period. So Willis was nominated twice, and only published two novels — a 100% record on nominations. Pratchett on the other hand was also nominated twice but published a total of 24 novels in the relevant period. I think knowing this really makes a difference.

    (When I looked at the Hugos from 1953-2000 on I found that contrary to popular opinion fans didn’t blindly nominate favourite authors regardless of quality of specific books.)

    • chaoshorizon says :

      Excellent point. One wonders what the nominations would look like if Willis published a novel every year . . .

      More seriously, though, you’re pointing out the limitations of a statistical analysis. The raw numbers presented here on Chaos Horizon simply point out patterns that exist in the process, and they don’t tell us whether those patterns or good or bad, or what causes those patterns. We need a deeper level of analysis to really grasp these patterns, and that’s going to take a while, and definitely more voices than just my own. I’ve been trying to figure out the best balance for these Chaos Horizon posts—I don’t want to overload readers with too much statistical information, but I also don’t want to oversimplify a complex award. My hope is that we can identify some basic patterns and then discuss them in more detail over the coming months.

      Stross is a fascinating example of what you’re talking about: he’s published basically a novel a year between 2001-2014. The Hugo voters have only nominated him for his SF novels, and have not given him nominations for his Urban Fantasy (The Laundry Files) novels. I completely agree that the voters are don’t “blindly nominate” their favorite authors, but rather employ a complex mix of genre, the novel’s individual quality, and other factors. I’ll put together a chart of how many novels each of these nominated authors have published after their first nomination, and what percentage of those have garnered nominations. That should help clarify this issue.

      And for those of us who are obsessive completionists—I wouldn’t run a stat site if I wasn’t, would I?—here’s a link to Jo Walton’s excellent analysis of the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000. There’s a lot of great information there, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

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