I’m still right

Last week’s post about the fact that authors born between 1942 and 1951 was picked up pretty widely (John DeNardo, Andy Wheeler, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Niall Harrison) but the only place it really drew comment was ‘s post on “The Secret of the Over-Achieving Cohort”. Most of the comments on that post (which number well over a hundred in total) are dedicated to disproving Doug Muir’s over-hasty statement that “there are very few SF writers under 35 today, and basically none under 30”. There were, however, several directed to my argument, as follows:

1) This isn’t surprising – it’s just the baby boom generation.

Oddly, no. If WikiPedia is right, the peak birth rate for the post-second world war Baby Boom is well after 1951, among a cohort who have won fewer, rather than more, Hugos and Nebulas.

2) What happens when you shift your dates to 43-52 or 41-50 or 39-48 or whatever? Because this all seems very contrived and somewhat meaningless to me.

Since you asked, these are the figures of Hugo and Nebula awards won by year of birth from 1937 to 1956:

1937 11
1938 6
1939 6
1940 2
1941 2
1942 21
1943 10
1944 6
1945 24
1946 1
1947 18
1948 26
1949 9
1950 12
1951 18
1952 5
1953 4
1954 5
1955 8
1956 1

There are three earlier years with more than ten awards going to authors born that year – 1934 (Ellison/Brunner), 1926 (McCaffrey/Anderson) and 1920 (Asimov/Herbert/Vance). There is no year since with more than ten awards going to authors born in that year, and no author born since 1969 has won at all.

3) Could this anomaly be explained by having one or more outliers in this age group skewing their combined ratio 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.

Makes less difference than you might have thought. Connie Willis, with her 15 awards, was born in 1945; so, however, were 8 other award-winning authors, none of whom has won more than two (Michael Bishop, Edward Bryant, Jack Dann, Gordon Eklund, Eileen Gunn, Elizabeth Moon and Janet Kagan) and I reckon that flattens the curve. Only one of the other four authors with ten or more awards was born in my 1942-51 range (Joe Haldeman); the others were all born earlier (Poul Anderson, Ursula Le Guin, Harlan Ellison).

If any cohort’s statistics are inflated by a couple of outliers, it is in fact that of twenty years later: four authors born in the 1962-71 range have won ten Hugos and Nebulas, and two of those four (Kelly Link and Ted Chiang) have won four each. (By contrast, twenty years ago, the 1942-51 cohort had already won 62 Hugos and Nebulas between them!)

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