Wed
Mar 2 2011 2:04pm
Best of the Decade Data: Votes by Year & the Top 50 vs. Awards & Genre

For some, book releases tend not to be tied to a specific year. You remember the last time you read a good book more than you remember it’s actual year of publication. We saw this occur over and over in the Reader’s Poll. (To the point where Cryptonomicon probably would have made it to the top 10 if it hadn’t been pointed out early on that it was published before the millennium.)

Given that we had eleven years of releases that were eligible, this also made us curious as to how the glow of an exciting recent release affected the overall voting patterns. Did the votes tilt towards the shiny and new?

Relatedly, we were also curious if any particular genre came out ahead, and by how much, and also how the books voted as best in a popular vote would match up against books nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Download a PDF of the full above chart here.

At first glance, it appears that our memory best holds fiction from the past five years, but that conclusion isn’t so certain when you look at the top-ranking books from each year, the data of which is included below and in the full PDF of the above chart. In fact, aside from outliers like 2002 and 2009, votes seem to run somewhat evenly across the decade.

In regards to awards, at least one of the three top-ranking books in each year were nominated or won a Hugo, Nebula, or World Fantasy award. Except for 2007, which is puzzling when one considers how strong a showing The Name of the Wind made in the Reader’s Poll.

Download a PDF of the full above chart here.

  • Out of thirty books, number that were nominated for or won either a Nebula, Hugo, or World Fantasy Award: 15 (50%)
  • Years in which two of the top three were on any of the three major award ballots for that year: 6 of 10
  • Of thirty books, number that are science fiction: 7 (23%)
  • Of these, number that were nominated for or won a Hugo or Nebula: 5 (71%)
  • Of the four years in which the same book won both the Hugo and the Nebula, years in which that book was among the three with the most votes: 3
  • Years in which none of the top three were on either ballot: 1

In addition, here is how the top 50 titles fared awards-wise:

Download a PDF of the full above chart here.

Finally, here is how the top 50 broke down by genre and by series. The clear winner was epic fantasy, which one could logically expect from Tor.com. That also goes a long way towards explaining why so many of the top 50 books were part of larger series.

Download a PDF of the full combined chart here.

 

We’ve got a handy index of all data and appreciations here. Check back with us about this time tomorrow, as we look at the total votes by individual writers. Who are the top ten authors? Who are the most consistent? We’ll let you know!

8 comments
Tricia Irish
1. Tektonica
A minor quibble before I peruse the data.

I can't see it!!! Can you change the gray type color? Size? It's fuzzy too. I tried blowing it up bigger. I know I'm old, but I'm still not blind!

Thanks for all your hard work, btw. Lots of ways to massage data.
D. Sabados
2. quis60
For tomorrow's post, if a person voted for a series, does that count as one vote for the author or N votes for the author because he had N volumes of the series published that year?
Andrew Mason
3. AnotherAndrew
I feel some of the categories are being stretched a bit. What is here called 'Hard SF' seems to be just what I would call 'Science Fiction', as opposed to fantasy, alt-history etc.

Of course, the term 'Hard SF' is often a rather puzzling one. It seems to have two sets of connotations, 'science is central' and 'science is accurate'. I feel these are not only not the same, but actually pull in opposite directions; a story which presents a world which is different from ours because of some distinctive scientific feature (e.g time-travel) will make science central, but its science won't be accurate.

Anathem may be hard SF in the 'science is central' sense, but I'm fairly sure rhetors and incantors aren't possible in the real world. By contrast, Little Brother is probably hard SF in the 'science is accurate' sense, but science is not central in it (indeed it is so lacking in speculative features that some have questioned whether it is SF at all).

I'm also surprised by the classification of His Majesty's Dragon as epic fantasy. It seems to me to be definitely this-worldly fantasy. If you argue that it isn't, on the grounds that dragons don't exist, then other works, like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, might need to be reclassified.
Christopher Key
4. Artanian
So along the way I read 28 of the 50, another 7 are in my 'purchased, to be eventually read' pile. A bunch of the rest are on my 'wait for the books to go out of print and the rights revert to the author so an ebook can be priced sanely' list, and a handful I have no interest in whatsoever.

Not a bad list all in all I guess.
horsefeathers
5. horsefeathers
@ Another Andrew:

You said "Of course, the term 'Hard SF' is often a rather puzzling one. It seems to have two sets of connotations, 'science is central' and 'science is accurate'. I feel these are not only not the same, but actually pull in opposite directions; a story which presents a world which is different from ours because of some distinctive scientific feature (e.g time-travel) will make science central, but its science won't be accurate."

I'm not sure I can agree with you here. Just because the science is in a world different from ours does not mean that the science would therefore be inaccurate. It could be inaccurate of course but you seem to be saying that it must be inaccurate. That seems like too absolute a distinction.

In any case, labels are arbitrary and created for the benefit of description and if you have understood what they meant by their labels then those labels have performed their job whether they are the labels you would have used or not.
Heidi Byrd
6. sweetlilflower
I agree with Tek, it is very difficult to read all of the data. Could you please make it available as a pdf file, change the color, or increase the text size?

Thanks!
Irene Gallo
7. Irene
@1 and 6
Each graph is available as a PDF -- which is much easier to see. The text below each graph has a link to the download.
Andrew Mason
8. AnotherAndrew
horsefeathers@5:

Just because the science is in a world different from ours does not mean that the science would therefore be inaccurate. It could be inaccurate of course but you seem to be saying that it must be inaccurate. That seems like too absolute a distinction.

No, I'm not saying anything as definite as that. Of course there can be worlds that differ from our own because, say, they include planets that don't exist in our world, but where the science is accurate. But there are lots of stories about things like time-travel, faster-than-light communication, and so on, and those are often the stories in which the (imagined) science plays the largest role; and yet many people insist they can't be hard SF, because time-travel, faster-than-light communication, etc. aren't really possible.

In any case, labels are arbitrary and created for the benefit of description and if you have understood what they meant by their labels then those labels have performed their job whether they are the labels you would have used or not.

Well, in this case I know what they meant, because they gave a full explanation, and lots of examples. But frequently people use these contested terms without explanation, and if 'hard SF', which already had several meanings, is now acquiring a new one, that doesn't make for clarity of communication.

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