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Updating the 2016 Awards Meta-List

I’m back from vacation—always important to leave the internet behind for a while. When am I actually going to do my reading? I had a grand old time touring New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon.

Quite a bit happened in the last few months. Chaos Horizon will spend this week catching up, and then make my 2016 Hugo prediction once the Hugo voting closes at the end of July. I’ll also have my too-early 2017 Hugo and Nebula lists up soon. Beware!

A lot of other SFF nominations and awards have been handed out in the past few weeks. These are good indication of who will win the eventual Hugo—every award nomination raises visibility, and the awards that using votes are often good predictors of who will win the Hugo. Lastly, the full range of SFF awards gives us a better sense of what the “major” books of the year than the Hugo or Nebula alone. Since each award is idiosyncratic, a book that emerges across all 14 is doing something right.

Here’s the top of the list, and the full list is linked here. Total number of nominations is on the far left.

5 The Fifth Season Jemisin, N.K.
5 Uprooted Novik, Naomi
4 Europe at Midnight Hutchinson, Dave
4 Seveneves Stephenson, Neal
3 Ancillary Mercy Leckie, Anne
2 The House of Shattered Wings Bodard, Aliette de
2 Apex Naam, Ramez
2 A Borrowed Man Wolfe, Gene
2 Luna: New Moon McDonald, Ian
2 The Thing Itself Roberts, Adam
2 The Book of Phoenix Okorafor, Nnedi
2 The Water Knife Bacigalupi, Paolo
2 Aurora Robinson, Kim Stanley

No dominant book this year. At the top of the list are the Hugo nominees, with Europe at Midnight swapped out for the Jim Butcher novel. Butcher has no nominations other than his Hugo, and since The Cinder Spires is a fantasy novel, it was certainly more likely for these awards than his urban fantasy Dresden series.

On to the top contenders:

Since we last checked, Uprooted picked up wins in the Nebula, Locus Fantasy, as well as two more nominations in the British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. She’s now beaten Jemisin head to head in two voted awards (the Locus Fantasy and Nebula). While neither of those perfectly mirror the Hugo voting audience, I place a lot of stock in those past wins heading into the Hugo.

While Jemisin has 5 nominations, she has zero wins so far. The other Hugo nominees have all managed at least one: Seveneves in the libertarian Prometheus (not a good indicator of future Hugo success), Ancillary Mercy in the Locus SF, and Uprooted in the Nebula and Locus Fantasy.

Hutchinson does well in the British awards (Clarke, BSFA, Kistchies) and poorly in the American ones (only managing a Campbell). This shows, to me at least, a divide between European and American SF readerships. Since the Hugos are in Finland next year, we will see a very different set of Hugo nominees? I don’t think Hutchinson has a novel out in 2016,  but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Otherwise, no other books are really emerging as “consensus” books that the Hugos missed. All the awards have nominated, and about have half have given their awards. Aurora did more poorly than I would have expected given Robinson’s reputation. Same with The Water Knife; I expected Bacigalupi’s follow-up to The Windup Girl to garner more attention. Maybe 5 years is too long between novels? Who knows.

Interestingly, of the 7 Nebula nominees, 4 (Schoen, Wilde, Gannon, and Ken Liu) didn’t receive any other nominations in the 14 awards I track. A big surprise for me was Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, which had 5 nominations last year (Hugo winner, Nebula, Locus SF, Prometheus, Campbell), and got 0 this year.

Anything else useful to be learned from the list this year?

 

Checking in with the 2016 Awards Meta-List

For this Meta-List, I track 15 of the biggest SFF awards. Since each award has its own methodologies, biases, and blind spots, this gives us more of a 10,000 foot view of the field, to see if there are any consensus books emerging.

As of early May we have nominees for 10 of the 15 awards. I track the following awards: Clarke, British Fantasy, British SF, Campbell, Compton Crook, Gemmell, Hugo, Kitschies, Locus SF, Locus Fantasy, Nebula, Dick, Prometheus, Tiptree, World Fantasy. I ignore the first novel awards.

Here’s the current results:

4 nominations: The Fifth Season, Jemisin, N.K.
3 nominations: Europe at Midnight, Hutchinson, Dave
3 nominations: Ancillary Mercy, Leckie, Anne
3 nominations: Uprooted, Novik, Naomi
3 nominations: Seveneves, Stephenson, Neal
2 nominations: The House of Shattered Wings, Bodard, Aliette de
2 nominations: Apex, Naam, Ramez
2 nominations: A Borrowed Man, Wolfe, Gene

Everyone else has 1.

As you can see, the top of that list correlates very well to the Hugo awards. Dave Hutchinson is very well-liked by the British based awards and largely ignored by American awards. With nominations in the Hugos, Nebulas, Kitschies, and Locus Fantasy, Jemisin is leading the way this year. Does this make her a favorite for the Nebulas this weekend? Or is she so neck and neck with Leckie and Novik that we don’t learn anything form this list?

No book has really broken out of the pack, like when Ancillary Justice took a huge lead a few years ago. I think we’ll have a close season with different books winning the different awards.

Here’s the whole spreadsheet, with links to every award I track.

The 2016 SFF Awards Meta-List

Time to check in with my annual SFF Award Meta-List, where I keep track of 14 different Science Fiction and Fantasy awards. I track the nominees and the winners, and then add those all up to see which book was the most popular on the awards circuit. I find this a great measure of whether or not there is a “consensus” book of the year. That happened just a few years ago with Ancillary Justice: it had 8 nominations going into the Hugos and Nebulas, and thus was a pretty obvious Hugo/Nebula winner.

There are a lot of SFF awards. I’ve chosen ones that are “best novel” awards. Some are restricted by genre (either Fantasy or SF), some by format (the Philip K. Dick is paperback only). Some are juried; some are membership votes; the Gemmell is an open internet vote. By combining all of these, I think we get a very broad view of the field. One note: I don’t include awards that are “First Novels” only, as I feel that is too restrictive. This includes awards like the Crawford or the Locus First Novel category.

Not every year produces a consensus book. On last year’s list, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem; led with 5 nominations. It won only once, but that was the Hugo. The eventual Nebula winner, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, tied for second with 4 total noms and that one Nebula win. So even in a year where no one reached a huge number, the list was still fairly predictive.

In 2016, 4 different awards have already announced their nominees: the Philip K. Dick, the British Science Fiction Association Awards (BSFA), the Kitschies, and the Nebulas. Not a lot so far, but has anyone emerged as an early leader? Here’s the list of everyone who has gotten more than one nomination:

Europe at Midnight, Dave Hutchinson (2 nominations, Kitschies, BSFA)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (2 nominations, Nebulas, Kistschies)

Hutchinson’s Europe series has been very well-received across the pond, but it hasn’t had much impact over here in the US. Since both the BSFA and the Kitschies are British awards, I think this is Hutchinson’s moment in the sun at the top of this list. Jemisin seems to be doing slightly better than Uprooted so far. Possible predictor for the Nebula? Probably too early to use this list for much.

Here’s the whole list on Google Docs. I’ll update it as more nominations come out. So far, 21 different novels have received nominations, meaning this might be a very scattered year.

Nebula Nominees Out: Some Initial Data

The SFWA announced this year’s Nebula Best Novel Nominees yesterday. As I predicted, they mirrored the SFWA Recommended Reading list exactly. We did get 7 nominees, which means there was a tie somewhere. Here’s the list:

Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)
Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)

Congrats to all the nominees. Now we can turn our attention to predicting the winner. Winning a Nebula is very different than getting nominated; a small group of passionate fans can drive a nomination, but to win you need to build a broader coalition. Voting takes place between March 1st and March 30th according to the SFWA website:

From March 1, 2016, to March 30, 2016, 11:59pm PDT, SFWA’s Active and  Lifetime Active members may vote on the final ballot for the 2015 Nebula Awards (presented in 2016), the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

That’s not a lot of time to read 6 books, so I think popularity measures are a good place to start. If lots of SFWA voters have already read a book, it stands to reason more people could vote for it. Let’s take a glance at popularity as measured by Goodreads and Amazon # of rankings:

Table #1: Popularity of Nebula Best Novel Nominees by # of Rankings at Amazon and Goodreads

Amazon Goodreads
Uprooted 969 30,650
Grace of Kings 164 2,541
Ancillary Mercy 163 7,425
The Fifth Season 78 3,829
Updraft 58 605
Barsk 35 145
Raising Caine 24 130

I don’t pay too much attention to fine differences but more order of magnitude (10x) issues. It’s clear that Uprooted is far more popular than any other of the Nebula nominees this year. Barsk, which led the SFWA Recommended Reading List and thus has a kind of fronturunner status right now, hasn’t had much expsoure yet. The book came out in December, and I think the question we face is whether Schoen can pick up enough SFWA readers by the end of March to be competitive with Novik. We’ll have to see how the next month goes.

As a final note, you can see in this chart how differently Amazon and Goodreads track books. Grace of Kings does well on Amazon but poorly on Goodreads, for instance. Amazon and Goodreads track different audiences, and neither of those audiences may be particularly well synced with SFWA voters. In fact, I’ve not found a good correlation between these popularity measures and who wins the Nebula. So you can’t simply say Uprooted is popular and Barsk is not; it matters whether or not you’re popular with the SFWA voting audience.

Over at the Heart of Europe, Nicholas Whyte tracks some slightly different data but equally interesting data (Goodreads owners, Library Thing). Check his post out here.

How about book scores? Those are even less predictive of the Nebula; Annihilation won last year with a very low average ranking on Amazon and Goodreads. Still, here’s the data:

Table #2: Popularity of Nebula Best Novel Nominees by Rating at Amazon and Goodreads

Amazon Goodreads
Barsk 4.9 3.91
Raising Caine 4.8 4.17
Updraft 4.7 3.71
The Fifth Season 4.7 4.34
Uprooted 4.5 4.18
Ancillary Mercy 4.3 4.25
Grace of Kings 3.9 3.76

Talk about inconsistent! We’ve got a huge 1 star difference for Barsk and Updraft. Goodreads and Amazon have different suggested scales, so that accounts for some of the difference. What I’d take from this chart is that reader struggled with Grace of Kings, generally liked The Fifth Season, Uprooted, and Ancillary Mercy, and that we don’t have enough rankings on Barsk, Raising Caine, and Updraft to say anything sensible. Like I noted, though, I don’t think these scores have any bearing on the Nebula.

Let’s look at prior Nebula and Hugo history. If you’ve won before, doesn’t that mean you have the fanbase to win again?

Nebula Noms Nebula Wins Hugo Noms Hugo Wins
Liu (Grace of Kings) 8 1 4 3
Jemisin (The Fifth Season) 4 0 2 0
Schoen (Barsk) 3 0 1 0
Gannon (Raising Caine) 2 0 0 0
Leckie (Ancillary Mercy) 2 1 2 1
Wilde (Updraft) 0 0 0 0
Novik (Uprooted) 0 0 1 0

That’s a lot of prior nominations for Ken Liu. Is he due for another win? It might work the other way—he’s lost 7 Nebulas in a row after his win for “The Paper Menagerie” back in 2012 (that story also won the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award). Do Liu’s fans only have the ability to get nominations but not wins? How about Jemisin (4 losses / 0 wins) or Schoen (3 losses / 0 wins)? Due for a win or just not popular enough with the SFWA voters? Could someone totally fresh to the Nebulas (Novik/Wilde) sneak in? Or will people go with our only prior Best Novel winner with Leckie?

Some other factors to consider: by my reckoning, only Barsk and Uprooted are stand-alone stories, complete in one volume. The other books are part of a series. It’s hard to jump into the middle of a series if you’re unfamiliar with the earlier books, so that’s a strike against Gannon and Leckie. First books in a series do fine in the Nebulas (see Leckie’s win 2 years ago), but there’s also some danger of such a book not feeling “complete.”

In some ways, Wilde’s nomination is a key one. It’s the first time we’ve seen a novel receive both a Nebula Nomination and an Andre Norton nomination (the SFWA YA category). I don’t know what that means for Wilde’s chances in either, but it may signal a loosening of the SFWAs attitude towards YA fiction in the Best Novel category. That could have major implications moving forward.

I’m going to let the Nebula dust settle for a couple weeks before I come back and try to predict the winner of this award.

2016 Nebula Prediction 2.0

Time to finalize my 2016 Nebula Best Novel prediction.

This year, it’s the most boring and conservative prediction I’ve ever come up with. To catch those of you up who aren’t familiar with the prior discussions on Chaos Horizon: the SFWA made their Recommended Reading list available this year. After close analysis, it appears that this Recommended Reading list is closely (to the tune of 80%) aligned with the final Nebula nominations. Since Chaos Horizon tries to be a data-driven site, using past Nebula and Hugo patterns for its future predictions, we’re not going to find any better data than that.

As such, my prediction needs to mirror the top of the SFWA recommended reading list. Like I said, that’s boring and safe, but it is what it is. Here’s the Top 10 from the SFWA Recommended Reading list, as of 2/18/16:

35
Barsk: The Elephants’ G… Schoen, Lawrence M. Tor Books Dec-15
33 Raising Caine Gannon, Charles E. Baen Jul-15
29 Updraft Wilde, Fran Tor Books Sep-15
24 Uprooted Novik, Naomi Del Rey May-15
22 The Grace of Kings Liu, Ken Saga Press Apr-15
21 Ancillary Mercy Leckie, Ann Orbit Oct-15
19 The Fifth Season Jemisin, N. K. Orbit Aug-15
18 Beasts of Tabat Rambo, Cat WordFire Press Apr-15
18 Karen Memory Bear, Elizabeth Tor Books Feb-15
18
The Traitor Baru Cormorant Dickinson, Seth Tor Books Sep-15

There’s no reason to expect that the Nebula Best Novel nominations will look any different from the top of this list. We may see one novel from lower down like The Fifth Season jump up into the top six; that has happened in the past. The Fifth Season is particularly compelling due to Jemisin’s three prior Best Novel Nebula nominations. I place a lot of stock in former nominations. But who would she replace? Leckie, who won two years ago and whose Ancillary series is one of the most critically acclaimed works of the decade? Ken Liu, who has 7 prior Nebula nominations for his short fiction? Uprooted, one of the most read and talked about fantasy novels of the year? Wilde, Gannon, and Schoen, all of whom have a large vote lead? I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jemisin make it, but I’d be suprirsed to see anyone else leap up.

So, here’s my prediction. These are in the order of who I think is most likely to get nominated, not who I think is most likely to win. Also, I predict who I think will get nominations, not who should get nominations. I’ll grind through my winning prediction after we get the nominees:

1. Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, Lawrence Schoen: The absolute surprise of the SFWA Recommended Reading list, this SF novel about a post-human future came out at the very end of the year, too late too make any of the “year’s best lists.” Schoen does have 3 prior Nebula nominations (0 wins) in the Novella category over the past three years, so that familiarity helped him roar up the list. The Nebula has a history of helping push ignored novels in the past, and this seems to be another example of that. It’s still lightly read, at least according to Amazon and Goodreads; a Nebula nomiation would bring it a lot of attention. If Barsk gets nominated, that will also give us some great data about how much a Nebula nomination impacts the Hugos.

2. Raising Caine, Charles Gannon: Gannon has become a favorite of the Nebulas (the new McDevitt?), with two prior Best Novel nominations for this same series. Raising Caine mixes it up, giving us a contact/strange planet story. It’s length (almost 800 pages) and place in a series (#3) would normally be strikes against getting a Nebula nom, but with such a high placement on the SFWA list, Gannon seems like a safe bet again.

3. Updraft, Fran Wilde: Wilde’s book hovers (I couldn’t resist the bad pun) in the territory between YA and Adult, and may grab a Norton (the Nebula’s YA category) nomination this year as well. If it does, this might signal a shift for the Nebulas, with a willingness to nominate more YA books not by Neil Gaiman. Wilde would be new to the Nebulas, having 0 prior nominations.

4. Uprooted, Naomi Novik: Novik has almost every metric going for her: good sales, good placement on year-end lists, strong fan response. She has no Nebula history (0 nominations), although she did a grab a Hugo best novel nomination back in 2007 for Temeraire. Novik was at the top of the SFWA Recommended Reading list when it debuted, but she hasn’t picked up much steam sense. Still, I think this is a safe bet and a strong contender to win the Nebula.

5. Grace of Kings, Ken Liu: Liu has been a recent Nebula darling : 7 short fiction nominations since 2012. This is his first novel, and since the Nebula audience is already very familiar with his short fiction from prior nominations, that brings a lot of eyeballs to the text. In Chaos Horizon predictions, eyeballs = possible voters. Ken also scored a Best Novel nomination last year for translating Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem.

6. Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie: Leckie is coming off of two straight Nebula nominations for this series, including her win for Ancillary Justice in 2014. I don’t expect anything to change this year; the final volume was well-received as a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. Could there be a little Leckie fatigue though: after so many awards over the past 2 years, could Nebula voters want to nominate someone else?

7. The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin: Jemisin has three prior best novel Nebula noms in 2011, 2012, and 2013, which is every year she’s been eligible for the novel category (she’s published 5 novels, but some years she published more than one novel). If anyone can outperform their place on the list, I think it’s Jemisin.

At this point, let me break from the SFWA list and include some possible strong competitors from lower down:

8. Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear: Bear seems like a possible contender with her unique setting and decent placement on the SFWA list. In the negative column, she has 0 total Nebula nominations ever, and Karen Memory doesn’t perform particularly well in popularity metrics. The 19th century steampunk setting might be a challenge for some voters as well.

9. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson has been a perennial Nebula favorite (12 total nominations, 3 wins, including Best Novel wins for 2312 in 2013 and Red Mars back in 1994). Even though he’s tied #15 on the SFWA list, this is a kind of Hard SF novel that appeals to the SF wing of the Nebulas; that group has always had enough votes to put 1-2 books on every Nebula ballot in recent years. If anyone dramatically outperforms their SFWA list placement, it could be Robinson.

10. The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi: If Aurora doesn’t make it, this book is the other logical choice for a SF novel from a recent winner. Bacigalupi roared to huge Nebula and Hugo success with The Windup Girl back in 2010, and this is his first proper “adult” SF novel since then. 5 years is an eternity in these awards—has his popularity cooled off?

Everyone else seems unlikely. Cixin Liu got a nomination last year, but The Dark Forest is way down the list at #15. Maybe a book like The Traitor Baru Cormorant or The House of Shattered Wings has some buzz I’m not seeing, so those might be possibilities. Cat Rambo could grab support for Beasts of Tabat, but her position as SFWA President would seem to be a significant conflict of interest in taking a nomination. Laura Anne Gilman did get a Nebula Best Novel nomination back in 2010, so Silver on the Road is a possibility. The Nebulas have only ever nominated Stephenson once, back in 1994, so I don’t see Seveneves as having any real chance. It’s probably best never to count McDevitt completely out, but Thunderbird didn’t do well on the list this year.

There’s also an outside possibility that the SFWA Recommended Reading list won’t be predictive this year. Maybe making it public changed the dynamic so much that it’s no longer accurate. We won’t know that until the noms come out, though.

The fun thing about predicting is that we’ll know the answers soon. Nebula nominations should be announced shortly. Then it’s on to the Hugos: controversy ahoy!

Even More SFWA Recommended Reading List Analysis

In a great find on the last Chaos Horizon SFWA thread, one of the commenters noted that you can access earlier years of the SFWA Recommended Reading list by changing the URL. Data goes back to 2011, which gives us three additional years to analyze. Previously, I’d been relying only on the 2014 data to see a correlation between this list and the eventual Nebula nominees.

You can check out the lists by going to this page and changing the year. I’m most interested in whether or not there’s a correlation between the recommendations and the eventual nominees/winners of the Best Novel category, so let’s take a look at the Top 10. Eventual Nebula winners are in red; eventual Nebula nominees are in green. I also included the number of recommendations for each book. Remember, the Nebula nominates 6 works unless there are ties, and then it can nominate more (it nominated 8 in 2014, for instance).

Table #1: The Top 10 From the SFWA Recommended Reading List, 2014-2011

Historical SFWA Data.png

You can always click to make that chart bigger, but I think the colors tell the story. That’s a lot of green at the top of the chart and a lot of red at the very top.

3/4 times, the top vote getter from the Recommended List went on to win the Nebula. Schoen must be dancing right now for Barsk, which topped the 2015 list with 35 votes (Gannon did get 33, and Wilde 29, so Schoen shouldn’t start celebrating yet). The only exception to this rule was Kim Stanley Robinson in 2012. Maybe KSR, who had 11 prior Nebula nominations and 2 prior wins, was just so much better known to the voting audience than his fellow nominees, although that’s just speculation. That KSR win from the #4 spot does stand out as a real outlier to the other years.

The Top 6 recommended works got nominated 19/24 times, for a staggering 79.1% nomination rate. If you’re predicting the Nebulas, are you going to find any better correlation than this? Just pick the top 6, and bask in your 80% success rate. Even in the worst year of the past 4, you’d have gotten 67% right. For the record, 80% is better than Chaos Horizon has ever done, or I ever really hope to do. :(. Maybe the SFWA is trying to put Chaos Horizon out of business.

We’ve got one anomaly in 2012 that I can’t account for. Mary Robinson Kowal’s Glamour in Glass was nominated for a Nebula that year, and yet it appears nowhere (not even 1 vote!) on the 2012 Recommended Reading list. Before you start sharpening your Nebula conspiracy knives, I wonder if Kowal, who was SFWA Vice-President, asked to not appear on this list? This is also the year of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, and, according to him, he turned down a Nebula nomination that year because he was SFWA President. Check this thread, and search for “Redshirts” in the comments. Note that Redshirts doesn’t show up on the 2012 recommendations either. I find it hard to believe Scalzi and Kowal garnered enough support in 2012 to grab nominations without receiving a single recommendation on this list, but what do I know?

Other than the Kowal oddity, all the eventual Nebula nominees have all come from the Top 8 of the Recommended Reading list. There doesn’t see to be much rhyme or reason why works in the #7 or #8 spot overperform their position. We do have a number of SF novels that got elevated (McDevitt, Liu, Mieville), but we also have Caitlin Kiernan’s horror/weird novel The Drowning Girl beating out Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy novel Range of Ghosts. We may only be talking a couple votes when we get to these spots, so it’s probably best not to take too much stock in them. I guess if there’s a toss up between a SF novel and a F or Horror novel, go with the SF if you’re predicting.

Other items of interest: we’ve seen a sharp increase of votes over the past two years, almost doubling the numbers in 2014 and 2015 from 2013, 2012, and 2011. Has the intesnse scrutiny on the Nebula and Hugos kicked the SFWA voters into gear? Are more people aware of this list, and its possible impact on the Nebulas?

Anything else we can learn from this list? For those of you interested in short fiction, you can change the year to access past data for the Short Story, Novelette, and Novella categories. Happy analyzing!

Final 2015 SFWA Recommended Reading List

Nebula voting closed yesterday, and we should get the Nebula nominees sometime soon (around a week or so).

This year, Nebula prediction has been great simplified because the SFWA has included a “Recommended Reading List” for their categories. This list has, in the past, been highly predictive of the Nebulas, to the point that this data overshadows all other predictive data we might find. While we might not have the 6 Nebula nominees = the Top 6 from the recommended list, I’d expect the top 3 or 4 from the list to make it for sure, and then have the final nominees drawn somewhere from recommended items #5-#10.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the list, so let’s check in on the final 2015 numbers:

Table 1: Number of Recommendations on the SFWA 2015 Best Novel Recommended Reading List

SFWA Feb 15 2016 Data

Gannon and Schoen have shot up this list like rockets, going from nowhere in November to dominating by the end. Those 34 and 33 numbers are so impressive it’s hard to imagine them not getting Nebula nominations at this point. Overall, there were 728 total recommendations; that has to represent a substantial amount of the final Nebula nomination vote. Gannon and Schoen will raise some eyebrows if they get nominations; these SF books certainly got less press, acclaim, and online discussion than other SF books like Sevenves or Aurora. The Nebula is quirky like this, often favoring smaller authors over the big names. If they get nominated, I think the question is whether or not one of those books can win. Will Gannon follow the McDevitt route—get nominated enough and eventually you’ll win? Will Barsk grab a ton of new readers and take the Nebula? I think there’s a definite advantage to being fresh in your voters’ minds.

Updraft now seems like a very safe bet, having picked up an impressive 19 recommendations from November. This may show up in both the Norton (the Nebula YA category) and the Best Novel category. Could Schoen and Gannon split the SF vote, opening the way for a Wilde win?

I had Uprooted by Naomi Novik pegged as an early Nebula favorite, but I’m surprised at how few votes it’s picked up since November, with only 4. Maybe everyone who was going to read Uprooted had read it by then, while authors like Schoen and Wilde were attracting new readers. That can’t be good for Novik’s chances.

Ken Liu has a number of past Nebula nominations, and should be a strong contender for his first Best Novel nomination. Leckie has great Nebula history, with a win 2 years ago and a nomination last year. Jemisin has 3 prior Best Novel nominations. I expect the three of them to fight it out for two spots. It may be that Leckie is the odd-author out: she’s gotten so much acclaim and so many awards for this series already that voters may want to give a different writer a chance.

Cat Rambo is the current President of the SFWA, and I can’t see her accepting a nomination even if she gets the votes. Karen Memory was an interesting possibility, but it’s only picked up 2 votes in the past 3 months. Where’s the enthusiasm for Bear?

I don’t see any good chance for writers lower down on the list to jump upward. The House of Shattered Wings got a BSFA nomination, so maybe that gives Aliette de Bodard some momentum. The Traitor Baru Cormorant got good buzz a few months ago, and 18 is a solid vote total. I just don’t know who those books would leapfrog to get up into the top 6.

I’ll update my Nebula prediction tomorrow. We look like we’re in for an interesting year; not many people have read Barsk yet, and Schoen/Gannon/Wilde nominations would give the Nebulas a very unique feel in 2016.

BSFA Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel has been announced:

Dave Hutchinson: Europe at Midnight, Solaris
Chris Beckett: Mother of Eden, Corvus
Aliette de Bodard: The House of Shattered Wings, Gollancz
Ian McDonald: Luna: New Moon, Gollancz
Justina Robson: Glorious Angels, Gollancz

As you’d expect, the BSFA has a much more British/European flavor than the Hugos or Nebulas. It’s an interesting list. Hutchinson has emerged as a major author of the near-European future with this “Fractured Europe” series. Ian McDonald is a favorite of the BSFAs, with 3 prior Best Novel wins and 13 total nominations/5 wins. Bodard’s post-apocalyptic Paris fallen angel novel seems the oddest fit on the list, as its more urban fantasy than SF. She did grab another nomination in the short fiction category:

Aliette de Bodard: “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”. Clarkesworld 100
Paul Cornell: “The Witches of Lychford”, Tor.com
Jeff Noon: “No Rez”, Interzone 260
Nnedi Okorafor, “Binti”, Tor.com
Gareth L. Powell: “Ride the Blue Horse”, Matter

The big surprise here is that Ann Leckie is missing for Ancillary Mercy. Leckie is coming off back to back wins in the BSFA for Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. Some of the smaller awards work this way: the voting body decides one author has gotten enough recognition so they move on to something else. I wouldn’t read too much into the Leckie snub.

For those interested, here’s the BSFA’s description of their voting process:

What are the BSFA Awards? The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.

Lastly, I can now start my 2016 Award Meta-List, since we have these nominations and the PKD nominations. No overlap yet, so everyone sits tied at 1 nomination. The Kitschies might be up next, then the Nebulas. I’d be surprised to see any of the BSFA nominees show in the Nebulas or Hugos, but stranger things have happened.

2016 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The 2016 SFF awards season kicks off with the announcement of the nominees for the PKD award:

EDGE OF DARK by Brenda Cooper (Pyr)
AFTER THE SAUCERS LANDED by Douglas Lain (Night Shade Books)
(R)EVOLUTION by PJ Manney (47North)
APEX by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot Books)
WINDSWEPT by Adam Rakunas (Angry Robot Books)
ARCHANGEL by Marguerite Reed (Arche Press)

The PKD is a somewhat odd award and not very predictive of the Hugos or Nebulas. From their website:

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. 

Most major SF novels get hardback releases these days so the paperback only rule really cuts down the group of potential nominees. Because of that, the PKD does shine a nice spotlight on some of the more ignored books of the year. The winner was announced in early April last year, and was Meg Ellison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.

This is a juried award, voted on by a small group (this year the current judges are Eric James Fullilove, James C. Glass, David Higgins, Lisa Mason (chair), and Jack Skillingstead). You wouldn’t expect the tastes of a small group to necessarily reflect the tastes of the SFWA or of the WorldCon voters. In fact, if you look at the list of past winners over at SFADB, you’ll see that the PKD winner has only ever won the Hugo or Nebula once, way back in 1985 when William Gibson’s Neuromancer won everything. I wouldn’t expect this year to break the trend.

Still, an interesting list nonetheless. I’ll start put together the official “2016 Awards Meta-List” once a few more award nominees are announced.

SFWA 2015 Nebula Recommended Reading List: Analyis and Prediction

In a somewhat surprising move, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) decided to make their annual “Nebula Recommended Reading List” available to the public. I say this is surprising because the Nebulas have historically been a closed shop. They don’t share voting numbers with the public, only the list of nominees and winners. Here’s the Press Release, and a link to the list pages themselves.

This list is gathers the various SFWA members’ (i.e. Nebula voters) recommendations as to the best of the year. They also included the number of recommendations for each work. They even threw in the data from 2014! All of this is stunning because it gives us an enormous amount of information to predict the Nebulas. In fact, this is the best data I’ve ever had at Chaos Horizon!

To use this information to predict the upcoming Nebulas, I’ll need to look to see whether the 2014 recommendations were correlated to the eventual Nebula nominees and winners. Sneak preview: they are, to the tune of 84% accuracy! Winning was a little dicier, with only 50% accuracy from the Suggested Reading, although the two other winners placed #2 on their respective Suggested Reading list. Why the SFWA would want to give so much information away is beyond me.

Once we know the correlation, I can make a common Chaos Horizon assumption (i.e. in the absence of better data, what happened last year is likely to happen again next year), and use that 2014 correlation to predict what will happen in 2015. I’m not claiming that this list is causal; I’ll discuss some possibilities below. What I will claim is that if the 2014 list predicted the Nebulas with 84% accuracy, you better take that into account for 2015!

So, let’s dig in. I’m interested in the Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story categories. The SFWA also gives a movie/TV award named the Bradbury and a Young Adult award named the Norton; those seem to work a little differently, so analyze them on your own.

What I’m going to do is see what correlation exists between the Top 6 works from the “Suggested Reading List” and the Nebula nominees. Simple language: do the works show up on both lists?

Table 1: Correlation Between Top 6 (and Ties) of the 2014 Nebula Suggested Reading List and the Eventual 2014 Nebula Nominees

Novel: 4 out of 6, 67.7%
Novella: 6 out of 6, 100%
Novelette: 5 out of 6, 83.3%
Short Story: 6 out of 7, 85.7%

Total: 21/25, 84%

If Chaos Horizon ever manages to be 84% accurate, I’m packing it in. Those are staggering correlation numbers. With only a few exceptions here and there, the top 6 works from the 2014 Suggested Reading List were the eventual Nebula nominees. Will the same happen in 2015? I wouldn’t bet against it.

In novel, our outlier with only 2/3 accuracy, the Top 3 books from the Top 10 list got nominated, and the lowest nominees were two books tied for #7. Here’s the 2015 Suggested Reading List, Novel category; the number at the start of the column is the number of recommendations.

32 Annihilation VanderMeer, Jeff FSG 2 / 2014 (nominee, winner)
23 Trial By Fire Gannon, Charles Baen 8 / 2014 (nominee)
22 The Goblin Emperor Addison, Katherine Tor 4 / 2014 (nominee)
19 Afterparty Gregory, Daryl Tor 4 / 2014
17 My Real Children Walton, Jo Tor 5 / 2014
16 Ancillary Sword Leckie, Ann Orbit 10 / 2014 (nominee)
15 Coming Home McDevitt, Jack Ace 11 / 2014 (nominee)
15 The Three-Body Problem Liu, Cixin Tor Books 11 / 2014 (nominee)
9 Lagoon Okorafor, Nnedi Hodder & Stou… 4 / 2014
8 American Craftsmen Doyle, Tom Tor 5 / 2014

Gregory got a Novella nomination for We Are All Completely Fine; perhaps people didn’t want to nominate him twice. I can’t account for why Walton didn’t make it, but the difference 15 and 17 votes is pretty small. The McDevitt and Liu also came out in November and maybe didn’t have enough time to pick up votes on this list.

Let’s not get too overwhelmed. Perhaps 2014 was an odd year, and there are normally greater differences? We’re also talking about some pretty fine numerical differences in categories like Short Story, where the difference between being in the Top 6 and outside that is 1 vote.

Nonetheless, based on 1 year of data, using the Suggested Reading List to predict the Nebulas seems very viable. It even seems to work to predict the winner: Annihilation easily won the Suggested Reading list and went on to the win the Nebula.

There are a couple explanations I can think of as to why these lists are so correlated:

1. The Suggested Reading list is Causal: Under this theory, you’d claim that the Suggested Reading List exerts such a gravitational force on the Nebulas that it essentially forms the final nominations, i.e. it works like a slate. Once you get the ball rolling on these recommendations, more people read those works, which leads to more recommendations, which leads to more votes, etc. While the suggested list isn’t 100% accurate, 84% is pretty substantial . This analysis would seemingly open the door to manipulation: i.e. if someone could logroll a specific author up into the Top 3 or 4, would they receive a nomination? I don’t know.

2. The Suggested Reading List Operates as an Accurate Poll: Perhaps we shouldn’t think of the list as causal, but more from a polling perspective. There were 372 total votes on the 2014 Novel list. Let’s say your average recommender recommended 3 books; that’s mostly a number I pulled out of the air, but does sync up with how many books the average Hugo voter nominates. I’m sure some people recommended 1, some people recommended 5 or 6. The average has got to be somewhere in the middle. Using an average of 3, that would mean around 124 people participated in building the Suggested Reading List. Is that substantial snapshot of who actually nominates? The SFWA says they have 1800 members, but how many vote in the Nebula nomination stage? Half? A quarter?

Let’s say it’s half (which I think is way too high), and that you accept my 124 number. That means the Suggested Reading list is effectively polling (124/900) = 13.7% of the eventual nominators. That’s a solid N. Now, since this isn’t a random poll and I had to estimate voting pools size, etc., we can’t calculate things like margin of error with any accuracy. This is also a self-selected poll (i.e. people choose to participate), and, as such, the most passionate voters will be participating.

But it may seem—based on one year’s data—that these suggesters have their finger on the pulse of the Nebula voters. Perhaps the 15% (or 25%, or 35%, whatever the actual number is) just accurately reflects how these voters think.

3. The Number of Nominators is Small: This is another interpretation you could put on these numbers. We’ve never known how many votes it takes to get a Nebula nomination, but maybe the numbers of voters from the Suggested List is all that it takes (or close to it). If you go back to 2012 with the Hugos (well before recent controversies/slates set in), it only took between 72-36 votes to grab a Short Story Hugo nomination. If the Nebulas have half as many voters as the Hugo (again, we don’t know), the 17-11 votes indicated by the Suggested Reading list may have been in the ballpark of what it takes to grab a nom.

We don’t need to know fully understand how the list impacts the Nebulas. In fact, Chaos Horizon is more interested in predicting what will happen than explaining why things happen. The Suggested List is published, and that data goes into the black box of the Nebula nominators minds. Something happens in there, then the list of nominees pops out. If the data in consistently matches the data out to the tune of 84%, who cares what happens in the black box?

What It All Means: We don’t need to know fully understand how the list impacts the Nebulas. In fact, Chaos Horizon is more interested in predicting what will happen than explaining why things happen. The Suggested List is published, and that data goes into the black box of the Nebula nominators minds. Something happens in there, then the list of nominees pops out. If the data in consistently matches the data out to the tune of 84%, who cares what happens in the black box?

For Chaos Horizon, it means that to predict the Nebulas, I should use the Suggested Reading List because it has an 84% success rate. Even if that drops to 75%, it’s still stellar.

So, we could take the 2015 suggestions and predict the eventual Nebula nominees right now. If we check out the total numbers of votes this year, we’re already at 337—not quite the 372 of last year, so I’d still expect some changing, particularly for works that came out late in the year (the Gannon and McDevitt would be prime examples of works I’d expect to rise). Making the list public, which will bring more scrutiny, might also change the way people vote.

Here’s the current Top 10 for the Novel:

20 Uprooted Novik, Naomi Del Rey 5 / 2015
17 The Grace of Kings Liu, Ken Saga Press 4 / 2015
16 Karen Memory Bear, Elizabeth Tor Books 2 / 2015
13 The Traitor Baru Cormorant Dickinson, Seth Tor Books 9 / 2015
11 Ancillary Mercy Leckie, Ann Orbit 10 / 2015
10 Updraft Wilde, Fran Tor Books 9 / 2015
9 Beasts of Tabat Rambo, Cat WordFire Press 4 / 2015
9 Last First Snow Gladstone, Max Tor Books 7 / 2015
9 The Fifth Season Jemisin, N. K. Orbit 8 / 2015
8 Sorcerer to the Crown Cho, Zen Ace

Updraft has more votes over in the Norton as YA novel (11), so that might eventually show up in that category, not this one. Cat Rambo is the current President of the SFWA, so there might be some conflict of interest issues in accepting a Nebula nomination. Given Jemisin’s prior Nebula nominations in this category, I’d give her the edge over Gladstone in making it into the Top 6. So that would make my current prediction:

Uprooted, Naomi Novik
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin

I suspect either Gannon or McDevitt has a strong chance to creep up into the Top 6 once the fans of those authors begin suggesting their works. I’d kick Dickinson out first, because I think Leckie and Jemisin will rise based on past Nebula performance.  Gannon had 22 votes last years and only has 2 votes this year. Don’t count out Bacigalupi who is tied for 10th with 8 votes, or Robinson at 15 with 6 votes; both have strong recent Nebula history. Strangely, The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu doesn’t show up on the list at all.

Last year, Annihilation was the clear winner of the Suggested Reading list and then won the Nebula. I’m not willing to crown Uprooted yet because Novik is only 3 votes ahead of Liu, but I think she’s still the clear favorite to win at this point.

The SFWA has been updating the list constantly. I’ll keep my eye on it, and see what we can learn. There’s lots of other analysis that could be run with this data (gender breakdowns, genre breakdowns, ethnic/race breakdowns, etc.) that would tell us a great deal about the Nebulas.

If the list above is the eventual Nebula nominees, or even 5/6 of them, the SFWA is going to have seriously consider whether or not they want to release so much info so early.

So, what do you think? Does this list give away too much information? Should the SFWA take it down? Or should we just be happy we have such good data?

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