James at Big Dumb Object wasn’t impressed by the record-setting number of Hugo nominating ballots cast in 2012.
…a thousand ballots for what is supposed to be the premier Science Fiction awards really doesn’t seem like very much to me.
Why get excited that voter participation has increased by more than one-third since 2009 when the total is still insignificant?
James would like to see current information technology used to measure story popularity:
It feels a bit stone-age when you have music sites like Hype Machine or We Are Hunted compiling a real time barometer of music tastes. We should be able to track which stories were the most read, we should be able to analyse every thought on those stories, we should be able to craft that into a coarse grained voting system, we should be able to extrude the real wisdom of the crowds.
If it’s possible, why not? Everyone would like to know.
I have nothing to add to the main point of James’ post — it was his passing thought about the number of Hugo voters that set me to thinking. I wondered if James might be wrong about a thousand Hugo voters being an insignificant fraction of the literary marketplace.
Of course 1,000 is a less-than-trivial number in proportion to the audiences for sf on TV or in film, seen by hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people. No one disputes their audiences are magnitudes greater than the corps of voters which picks the winners of the Hugo Award’s Best Dramatic Long- and Short-Form categories.
But that’s not what James wants to measure. He’s interested in the response to stories – text, in print or digital form.
Checking online I saw a lot of inconclusive discussion about the average print run of a novel (and that leaves aside the even more impenetrable universe of e-book statistics.) Pros blogging about the writing business typically said print books had press runs of 5,000-10,000 copies (unless they were expected to be bestsellers).
As for prozines, when I last checked, the circulation of Analog was less than 30,000.
I can’t say how many tens of thousands of different people make up the marketplace for written sf, but the figures I’m seeing suggest to me that 1,000 Hugo voters is a statistically meaningful sample of the audience for literary sf.