Yes, we have been at it again. Kevin and Cheryl, ably assisted by John DeNardo of SF Signal, have recorded another podcast full of discussion of questions about the Hugo Awards. If you have difficulty listening to the podcast here you can access it via the Salon Futura iTunes feed, or download it directly using this link.
This time we have some extensive show notes for you. Those of you who like statistics, the numbers are all below the cut.
First of all, we promised you some pie charts indicating the nationality of the voters. Here they are:
Now here are some numbers. First of all, how many nominating ballots were received?
We see that while the overall increase in participation is a healthy 26%, that average masks significant differences between categories. The huge jump in interest for Related Work is perhaps due to the fact that podcasts are now eligible. Graphic Story is clearly picking up interest since its introduction. Interest in the Fan Artist category pretty much static.
Note that by no means all voters participate in all categories. It is possible (but unlikely) that the group of people who nominated in the Artist category are an entirely separate group of people to those who nominated in the Fanzine category. Because of this it is a mistake to think of “the Hugo voters” as a single, monolithic group with the same passions and biases.
It is easier to see which categories have a healthy level of interest if you express the numbers as a percentage of total ballots.
Novel is by far the most popular category, with Short Story and BDP Long putting in good showings. Fan Artist is clearly the least popular.
Our next chart shows the total number of nominations received in each category. Remember that each voter can nominate up to 5 works/people in each category. On average voters list between 2 and 3 works in each category.
A rather more interesting table is the number of unique nominations. That is, the total number of different works/people named in each category.
Interestingly, Short Story has the largest number of unique nominations in every year. Editor: Long and Semiprozine have the fewest, though the charges that there are only a handful of works actually eligible for the Semiprozine category (made during the recent debate over the elimination of the category) are clearly false.
If we divide unique nominations by total nominations we get a metric that we might call the level of Uniqueness in the category. A category with a high degree of Uniqueness has a very large number of different works/people being nominated. As we shall see, this is not necessarily a good thing, because it makes it harder for consensus to form around any individual nominee.
Short Story and Graphic Story have the highest degree of Uniqueness. Consequently a candidate work in this category will probably need relatively few nominations to reach the ballot. The voters have great difficultly in agreeing which works are the best.
In contrast Semiprozine and BDP Long have the least level of Uniqueness. Here the voters have a great deal of agreement as to which are the best works.
Essentially what we are looking at here are differently shaped distributions of nominations. That for Short Story is very broad and flat, while that for BDP Long is very narrow and tall. You can see that from the minimum and maximum number of nominations achieved by the works that made the ballot.
If we divide the Minimum Nominations on Ballot by the number of Nominating Ballots we get the Threshold level which shows the level of support the final qualifying work received.
This is where the now notorious 5% rule comes in. A work much have at least 5% of the electorate supporting it to be allowed on the ballot. As we can see, Short Story is always very close to the mark. This year only 4 stories achieved that 5%.
It is worth pointing out that this rule has been in place since before Kevin started attending Worldcon (1984). There has not been a sudden conspiracy to discriminate against short story writers and unfairly deny them a place on the ballot.
Given the way fandom works, people are now expecting catastrophe. What happens if next year there are only 2 short stories on the ballot? Well to start with the WSFS Constitution mandates that at least 3 works must appear on the ballot, regardless of how much support they get. Also the data seems to suggest that the level of Uniqueness in Short Story is actually reducing. Had it been increasing with increasing numbers of voters there would have been cause to worry, but as it is decreasing it looks like this year was an aberration, not a sign of a developing trend.
Our final chart shows the Maximum Nominations divided by Nominating Ballots, which gives us a measure of the Peak Concentration in the category. This highlights those categories where it appears there is very little competition because certain works/people have the support of a very large portion of the electorate.
In 2009 Wall-E had the highest number of nominations in the BDP Long category. It went on the receive more than twice the number of first-preference votes than the next most popular work, though it did not achieve an outright win.
Our thanks to the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Hugo Award Administrators for producing such detailed statistics. We hope that future Worldcons will follow suit.