Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

2011 Arthur C Clarke Award Statistics

with 9 comments

Very often I will discuss specific novels on the internet. Very often this discussion will turn to wider trends. What such discussion almost always lacks is any evidence base. If you think that fantasy is becoming more popular whilst science fiction is becoming less popular then you might have some joy with the Locus year in review issue which track headline figures like these. Unfortunately they don’t publish them online. For a whole host of other questions – Are female writers are less common than in the recent past? Is everything part of a series these days? Has science fiction retreated from space? Is it true that sex is rare but violence is endemic? – you are unlikely to find evidence anywhere.

This was at the back of my mind when I started reading submissions for the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award. The Clarke Award is for the best science fiction published in Britain and being a judge gives you a fairly comprehensive overview of British science fiction. Not entirely comprehensive – some novels will always slip through the cracks – but non-genre publishers actively submit their work and the judges deliberately seek out other eligible work so it covers a large percentage of the territory. This struck me as an opportunity to gather evidence. As I was reading, I started to make notes about the novels and I’ve now published these in five posts:

My methodology probably wouldn’t pass muster is a social research organisation. Some of my categories might be poorly worded or thought through. I may have missed things, I may have mis-recorded things. Nonetheless, I think (I certainly hope) that this is still useful evidence in the ongoing conversation about what science fiction is and what we want it to be.

This information only refers to books published in 2010 so it doesn’t tell us anything about trends. However, I hope that it will inspire some additional evidence gathering. For example, very basic information like number of books submitted by individual publishers should be easily available. Some of the information about the authors (nationality and sex) and the books (type and maybe length) shouldn’t be hard to find either. And then there is looking forward. I am a judge again this year and I will be keeping my notes again but there is no reason why this couldn’t be formalised.

I have found this process fascinating. Of course, I am primarily interested in the individual novels themselves; it has been a privilege to be a judge and I think we have a cracker of a shortlist. But I am also interested in the big picture and hopefully this makes that picture a little clearer.

Written by Martin

2 March 2011 at 15:41

Posted in awards, sf

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9 Responses

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  1. I was a little skeptical at first, but taken as a whole I think I agree that this is useful info. I know it must’ve taken awhile to compile, so thanks for doing that.


    Jeff VanderMeer

    2 March 2011 at 16:59

  2. Martin-

    Thanks for doing this! It’s been interesting to see how novels compare to short fiction. I’ve been tracking similar short fiction stats for the last 8 months or so–my latest post covers about 200 short stories. http://spiralgalaxyreviews.blogspot.com/2011/02/more-numbers-200-short-stories.html

    You can definitely see where novels are more complex: more likely to pass the Bechdel test, more likely to have complex relationships and a diverse cast.

    Karen Burnham

    2 March 2011 at 18:06

  3. […] of the Clarke Awards, a blog called Everything Nice has compiled a statistic evaluation of the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke award shortlist. Depressing bits include the fact that a full quarter of the shortlisted novels have no female […]

  4. […] Vector‘s reviews editor, over at his own blog, has been number-crunching this week from the Clarke Award eligible submissions list. He’s one of the judges this year, so his data isn’t just drawn from […]

  5. […] Check out this intro post with an explanation and links to the stats. […]

  6. […] vill också gärna puffa för den roliga statistiken som gjorts av alla romaner som anmälts till panelen som utser Arthur C Clarke-priset. Här finns tårtbitsdiagram över sådant som förekomst av sex och våld, författares bakgrund, […]

  7. […] I remembered that I love evidence. I could, in fact, test Sturgeon’s Revelation against the 54 novels submitted for the 2011 […]

  8. […] Sex And Violence – in which I analyse, er, violence and sex in British science fiction 10) 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award Statistics – in which I summarise my analysis of British science […]

    Three « Everything Is Nice

    27 October 2011 at 16:07

  9. […] Vector‘s reviews editor, over at his own blog, has been number-crunching this week from the Clarke Award eligible submissions list. He’s one of the judges this year, so his data isn’t just drawn from […]

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