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Further to my previous theory...

...some of you may be aware of my thesis that authors born between 1942 and 1951 (inclusive) have won a surprisingly large number of Hugo and Nebula awards. I have done a bit more number-crunching on this question.

We know the age profile of Hugo and Nebula award winners; we know how many works written in each year have won awards; so we can calculate how many awards for works written in each year should go, on average, to the age cohort of those born between 1942 and 1951, if they won awards at the same average rate as authors born in all years, and compare that with the actual numbers of awards won for works written in each year by authors born between 1942 and 1951. The results are startling:

(I should clarify that the years tabulated are the year of publication of the award-winning work, and that I tally each joint win separately - so the joint win by Mr and Mrs Robinson of the 1978 Hugo and 1977 Nebula for "Stardance" counts for four awards in 1977, the year of publication.)

There have been four years when the 1942-51 cohort managed a clean sweep of all Hugos and Nebulas for works published in that year:

Gardner Dozois (b. 1947) Nebula, Best Short Story, "The Peacemaker"
Octavia E. Butler (b. 1947) Hugo, Best Short Story, "Speech Sounds "
David Brin (b. 1950) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novel, Startide Rising
Greg Bear (b. 1951) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novelette, "Blood Music"; Nebula, Best Novella, "Hardfought"
Timothy Zahn (b. 1951) Hugo, Best Novella, "Cascade Point"

John Varley (b. 1947) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novella, "Press Enter "
Octavia E. Butler (b. 1947) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novelette, "Bloodchild"
Gardner Dozois (b. 1947) Nebula, Best Short Story, "Morning Child"
William Gibson (b. 1948) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novel, Neuromancer
David Brin (b. 1950) Hugo, Best Short Story, "The Crystal Spheres"

C.J. Cherryh (b. 1942) Hugo, Best Novel, Cyteen
Michael D. Resnick (b. 1942) Hugo, Best Short Story, "Kirinyaga"
Connie Willis (b. 1945) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novella, "The Last of the Winnebagos"
George Alec Effinger (b. 1947) Hugo & Nebula, Best Novelette, "Schrödinger's Kitten"
James Morrow (b. 1947) Nebula, Best Short Story "Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge"
Lois McMaster Bujold (b. 1949) Nebula, Best Novel Falling Free

Vernor Vinge (b. 1944) joint Hugo, Best Novel, A Fire Upon the Deep
Connie Willis (b. 1945) joint Hugo and Nebula, Best Novel, Doomsday Book; Hugo & Nebula, Best Short Story, "Even the Queen"
Janet Kagan (b. 1945) Hugo, Best Novelette, "The Nutcracker Coup"
James Morrow (b. 1947) Nebula, Best Novella, "City of Truth"
Lucius Shepard (b. 1947) Hugo, Best Novella, "Barnacle Bill the Spacer"
Pamela Sargent (b. 1948) Nebula, Best Novelette, "Danny Goes to Mars"

That's probably not going to happen again. They did not win any awards for works published in 2000, for the first time since 1973. Since then, however, they have won another 13, whereas if they won at the average rate of all authors, they would have garnered only another 6.83.

In summary: authors born between 1942 and 1951 have won almost twice as many Hugos and Nebulas as might be expected, comparing them with all Hugo and Nebula winners.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 27th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
Have you speculated as to why?
Sep. 27th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
You can make some interesting assumptions though....

- look at the age demographic of SFWA members; is that "baby boom" decade a peak?

- when most of these guys started writing (early 60s-early 80s) you had various TV and movie-fuelled booms in SF. So they go from being the Young Turks in the 60s-80s to being the Establishment in the 90s and 00s....

Sep. 27th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
Have you taken the birth rate into account? ie. What % of people born in a particular year are Hugo winners?
Sep. 27th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
Good point, they are (or at least the second half of them are) the Baby Boomer generation - there's probably loads of them, both in absolute terms and in relative ones - there's a bigger population in that age-range than previous decades (and probably some later ones!) and the percentage of people becoming writers, and becoming SF writers, and becoming good sf writers was probably higher. You've got them writing for a more college-educated population, with higher disposable income, more exposure to SF from the mass media... ;)
Sep. 27th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)
Many of the sources I've seen consider the Baby Boom to have two groupings, an early group from 1943-1954 and a late group from 1954-1964.

The start, middle, and end are all flexible, but this data seems to point squarely at early baby boomers.
Sep. 29th, 2006 08:59 am (UTC)
Right, I've found some Baby Boom statistics.

Rather to my surprise, it doesn't come near resolving the issue. The birth peak in the post-war US Baby Boom is actually from 1952 onwards, so does not include the 1942-51 cohort. Indeed, sf writers from the peak Baby Boom years are very notably under-represented among the winners.
Oct. 3rd, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
The Golden Age of sf is 12
/speculation on

Hugos aren't voted by writers, they're voted by fans. The baby-boomers probably voted for writers who were new, fresh, and exciting when they were 12. That means writers a little older than they were, say, by 10 years.

/speculation off

Jack Tingle
Sep. 29th, 2006 08:59 am (UTC)
Right, I've found some Baby Boom statistics.

Rather to my surprise, it doesn't come near resolving the issue. The birth peak in the post-war US Baby Boom is actually from 1952 onwards, so does not include the 1942-51 cohort. Indeed, sf writers from the peak Baby Boom years are very notably under-represented among the winners.
Sep. 27th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
How did you calculate "expected wins"?

I can think of four ways, each of which changes the meaning of the results.

My four possible ways are:
(% of nominees in [1942-1951]) * (number of awards in given year)
(% of eligible authors in [1942-1951]) * (number of awards in given year)
(% of US Workforce in [1942-1951]) * (number of awards in given year)
(% of World Workforce in [1942-1951] * (number of awards in given year)

Do any of those match your method, or am I missing something?
Sep. 27th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)

For any given year, there is an age cohort into which the authors born between 1942 and 1951 fall - so for 1983, that age cohort is those between ages 32 and 41.

I already have the data of how many awards have been won by authors of different ages. So I know that 16 have been won by 32-year-olds, 10 by 33-year-olds, and so on up to 15 won by 41-year-olds for a total of 138, 37.5% of all awards to authors aged between 32 and 41 at the time of publication.

8 awards were given to works published in 1983, so the expected number of awards to the 1942-51 cohort is 8 * 0.375 = 3 exactly.

The actual number of awards won by authors in that age range for work published in that year, as noted above, is all eight.
Sep. 28th, 2006 01:07 am (UTC)
I don't know how you'd collect the data, but I wonder about correlating this with voter age: it seems likely to me that eg mean Hugo voter age has increased over time. Do folks vote for books written by people in their age-range?

Sep. 28th, 2006 09:29 am (UTC)
Crumbs, collecting that information would be rather tricky!
Sep. 28th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC)
Could this anomaly be explained by having one or more outliers in this age group skewing their combined ration enough to stand out? I'm thinking here of Connie Willis, who has won rather more awards than your average Hugo or Nebula award winner.

Martin Wisse
Sep. 28th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
No. I've looked at it fairly carefully, and the outliers don't even account for half of the difference; and anyway, the 1942-51 cohort are not especially over-represented among those who have won the most awards - heavy winners include Poul Anderson (1926-2001), Fritz Leiber (1910-1992), Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-), Harlan Ellison (1934-) and Roger Zelazny (1937-1995).
Sep. 28th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
Looking at these dead authors and thinking of John M. Ford (who died this week), I suddenly find myself wondering what the expected lifespan of an SF author is.
Sep. 29th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
88 awards have gone to 32 authors who have died; their average age was 68. However, authors who die younger are (of course) disproportionately represented among the sample - Jack Williamson, Arthur C Clarke, Philip Jose Farmer, Frederik Pohl, Jack Vance, Carol Emshwiller, Brian Aldiss, Katherine MacLean, and Anne McCaffrey are all over 80 and still alive, therefore cannot be taken into account in that calculation!
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
Do you see the same trend in nominations or just in winners?

Oliver Morton
Oct. 11th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Nominations?
Loved your Mars book, by the way. I bought it in Vienna airport in 2002, lost it later that trip at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, and had to get another copy.

I haven't tried running the same tests on the nomination lists. It will take a lot longer - not all authors' birthdates are easy to find (it took me years, but I am confident I do now have every Hugo and Nebula winner's birth year), and the number of nominations varied much more widely over time than the number of actual awards made.

Having said which, I would be very surprised if there is much difference bteween the two sets of figures - another factor which discourages me from making the test!
May. 16th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC)
It would be interesting to know what the short fiction was published in.

I am thinking this is the heyday of the big 3 Analog, Asimov's and F&SF plus Omni so it was pretty easy to read most of the short fiction published in a year and for their readership who had grown up on these names to reach a consensus for nominations and then votes.

Since then the rise of new short fiction markets has scattered the consensus.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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