Data, Lovely Data

Many of you will remember Nicola Griffith’s investigations into who gets to win literary awards, and who they have to write about to get one. The most interesting thing to come out of Nicola’s work is that not only are men more likely to win awards, but women are more likely to win if they write books about men than if they write books about women.

As with all such things, more data is always welcome, and the folks at Ladybusiness have been busily studying SF&F awards. Their data is now available, and it pretty much backs up what Nicola found. I haven’t had time to look into it in detail, but here are a few highlights.

More books by men about men have won awards than all books by women that have won awards.

Books by women about men winning awards are roughly twice as common as books by men about women winning awards.

In terms of the gender of the author, the three worst-performing awards (in descending order) are The British Fantasy Award, The David Gemmell Award (which is UK-based) and the British Science Fiction Association Award.

Nicola’s observations about the data can be found here. I’m going to be interviewing her next week. It will be mainly about Hild, which is out in paperback in the UK this week, but the subject of awards may well come up.

Update: By the way, I see that the Ladybusiness folks got themselves into a bit of a mess through not knowing who is trans (even fairly prominently out trans people). They’ve made a few corrections. What they can’t do is make corrections where people are not out, so their data may well still be wrong. There are also issues with the way they have presented the data which appear to exclude trans women from the general category of women.

2 thoughts on “Data, Lovely Data

  1. The UK of course is skewed by the records of the publishers: if they don’t publish women (and their record is terrible) then it’s hard for voters to nominate them. The book shops then double down because getting hold of books by women pretty much means Amazon and imports.

    1. There are all sorts of reasons why the results for particular awards are skewed. I could probably come up with half a dozen for the UK. I’m also interested to know why UK publishers are so bad when Australians (with a much smaller market) are not.

      Ultimately, though, what I want is for the people with bad records to do better. Reasons why they did badly in the past are interesting solely as a means of understanding how to do better (and should not be an excuse for not doing better).

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