Young Adult Fiction and the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Part 4

For one brief moment in 2009, YA fiction looked poised to break into the Hugo and Nebula mainstream. Gaiman and Le Guin won the Hugo and Nebula respectively, and Scalzi and Doctorow rounded out the slate with more YA novels. And then . . .

Silence. The data we’ve looked at over the past several days shows that YA novels aren’t really making any inroads into the Hugo or Nebula awards. For the most part, these books are completely ignored when award season comes around. Of all the books nominated for the Hugo and Nebula from 2001-2014, only 6% of Hugo nominees were YA, and only 2% of Nebula nominees were YA.

Sometimes these studies reveal patterns we might not have been aware of. Given that a number of YA novels have won the Hugo and Nebula—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Graveyard Book, and Powers—you’d expect plenty of YA books to be on the slate. The opposite appears to be true: those three winners were exceptions, and don’t indicate competitiveness on the part of other YA novels.

Of course, data-mining does not provide either context or meaning for statistical trends. What we can conclude, at this point, is that YA novels are not in the mix for either the Hugo or the Nebula award. When YA novels pop up, they usually do so because the authors of those novels are already well-known. Barring a repeat of the overwhelming popularity of the Harry Potter books, it seems nearly impossible for an author known only as a YA author to get nominated for a Hugo or Nebula.

How problematic is this? Should YA novels be on the Hugo and Nebula slates? Can the Hugo or Nebula cover both adult fiction and young adult fiction? Has the introduction of the Andre Norton award taken care of this problem? Should the Hugo Award consider adding a “Best YA novel” to their (bursting) list of awards? Currently, we have categories like “Best Fancast” and “Best Graphic Story”; a “YA Hugo” seems as justified as either of those categories. These are all interesting and important questions, and I don’t have any solid answers for you.

What does all this mean for Chaos Horizon? Well, it means that I should be very careful when predicting YA novels to make a Hugo or Nebula slate. While not an impossibility, these are a rarity, and will likely need some other major factor (overwhelming popularity, author’s pre-existing reputation) to be viable candidates. Chaos Horizon has been trying—with varying degrees of success—to build its predictions on solid data. Data is always changing, and if the members of either the SFWA or the WorldCon want to see more YA novels on their slates, all they have to do is vote them on.

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking a look at any potential 2015 candidates. Any questions about this Report? Any big surprises?

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  1. hugo hates kids | - April 11, 2016

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