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Author Gender Distribution by Award

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This project demonstrates that SFF books by or about cis women are less likely to win awards than books by or about cis men. Trans and nonbinary authors win in vanishingly small numbers, and trans or nonbinary protagonists are extremely rare. Overall, there were more award-winning books written by cis men about cis men than there were books by women about anybody. While there have been recent gains in terms of diversity in awarded books, this is likely part of a cycle of gains and pushback that has repeated itself throughout the history of SFF awards. SFF awards have a problem when it comes to gender: they privilege cis men and the cis male experience over that of cis women and trans and nonbinary individuals.


I am [personal profile] justira and I am the lead editor on this project. I collaborated on it with [personal profile] renay (Data Monkey & Culture Consultant) and [personal profile] owlmoose (Reality Checker), whose help was invaluable. We would also like to thank Kate Elliot, Niall Harrison, and Paul Weimer, who helped us in some cases where we were unsure about protagonist gender. Finally, we'd like to thank Nicola Griffith for her support of this project and for starting the conversation about this.

I've been wanting to look at gender breakdowns in SFF awards for a while, and then Nicola Griffith did her post about gender and awards, and it showed exactly what I was afraid of. But I wanted more — I wanted all the major SFF awards, for the life of each award. This post represents over 100 hours of work by me and over 130 hours total spent researching awards, authors, and books.

This post is limited to considerations of protagonist and author gender. While race and sexuality might be other interesting measures, information on these is less likely to be publicly available, and so fell outside the scope of this particular project. All our data is public; readers are encouraged to build on this project and create their own metrics.

This post is also available on tumblr. We also have a twitter hashtag: #SFprizedata.

This post has a corrections comment thread where we will make note of all corrections and edits to the post. Before commenting, please check the corrections thread to see if your point has been addressed.

When commenting, please follow the Lady Business Comment Policy.


This project is specifically about award winners: about which books and authors are celebrated and recognized by the community. A full study of all SFF published, broken down by author and protagonist gender, would be valuable but far beyond our scope. Our goal was to examine which authors/books won awards.

The general focus of this project is "books that win awards" not "awards for SFF novels". Breakdowns by award are offered in Appendix B, but the overall approach of this project focuses on the winners, not the awards.

If a book won multiple awards, it was counted as many times as it won. So if a book won three awards, it was counted three times.(1)

All of our data is publicly available for perusal and correction.

Award Selection

We put together a list of awards based on our knowledge of the SFF community. Once an award was chosen for inclusion on the list, it stayed no matter what results we were getting from it, and indeed there were some awards that surprised us. Some awards are long established, like the Hugos, while others are very new, like Goodreads. We chose awards based on name recognition, prestige, and effect on book/author visibility. For example, the Goodreads awards may be seen as relatively minor, but have a strong effect on winners' visibility on Goodreads and being added to to-read lists.

Timeframes included the life of each award, though we devote some special analysis for the period of 2000-2015.

We excluded retrospective awards.

Genres and Categories

The scope of this project is award-winning speculative fiction novels written in or translated to English. Categories for shorter works, graphic novels, or nonfiction works were excluded. Works that were not prose novels or a series of prose novels were also excluded when they won general categories. Short story collections were not included(2).

The focus of this project is on SFF specifically, not horror. While general SFFH awards with horror winners were accepted, categories/awards specifically for horror were excluded.

Age Groups

The project scope covers general and YA awards/categories. It does not cover age groups below YA. Some YA awards did have occasional middle grade winners. The Mythopoeic Award has a Children's category, but as most of the winners were marketed as YA, we included it.

List of Awards/Categories

The final list of awards and categories is as follows:

  1. Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book [2006 - 2015]

  2. Arthur C. Clarke Award [1987 - 2015]

  3. Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction [1995 - 2014]
    • Best Fantasy Novel
    • Best Science Fiction Novel
    • Best YA Novel
  4. British Fantasy Awards [1972 - 2014]
    • August Derleth Award for Best Novel
  5. British Science Fiction Association Awards [1969 - 2014]
    • Best Novel
  6. Cybils Award (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) [2006 - 2014]
    • Fantasy & Science Fiction
    • Speculative Fiction
  7. David Gemmell Legend Awards [2009 - 2015]
    • Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel
    • Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer
  8. Ditmar Awards (Australian SF Award) [1969 - 2015]
    • Best Novel
    • Australian Fiction
    • Australian Long Fiction
    • Australian Long SF or Fantasy
    • Australian Novel Or Anthology
    • Australian Novel
    • Australian SF
    • Long Australian SF or Fantasy
    • Long Fiction
    • Long Fiction Or Collection
  9. Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction [1992 - 2015]
    • Hal Clement Award for Young Adult
  10. Goodreads Reader's Choice Awards [2009 - 2014]
    • Best Fantasy Novel
    • Best Paranormal Fantasy
    • Best Science Fiction Novel
    • Best Young Adult Fantasy
    • Best Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy
  11. Hugo Awards [1953 - 2015]
    • Best Novel
  12. James Tiptree, Jr. Award [1991 - 2015]

  13. John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel [1973 - 2015]

  14. The Kitschies [2009 - 2014]
    • Golden Tentacle (best debut novel)
    • Red Tentacle (best novel)
  15. Locus Award [1971 - 2015]
    • Best Fantasy Novel
    • Best First Novel
    • Best Novel
    • Best Science Fiction Novel
    • Best Young Adult Book
  16. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award [1971 - 2015]
    • Adult Literature
    • Children's Literature
  17. Nebula Awards [1966 - 2015]
    • Best Novel
  18. Philip K. Dick Award [1982- 2014]

  19. World Fantasy Awards [1975 - 2015]
    • Best Novel

Determining Gender

Gender for authors and protagonists was divided into five categories:
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Mixed
  • Trans or Nonbinary
  • Not Sure
Author gender was determined from publicly available information online such as Wikipedia articles or author pages.

Protagonist gender was determined by researching each book using Wikipedia, Goodreads, and various publicly available reviews both professional and casual. In some cases where gender could not be easily determined from this research, we asked a pool of individuals to see if anyone had read the book and could tell us about the protagonist(s).

If after all of the above we still could not determine a gender with certainty, the Not Sure category was used. We ended up with 4 or 0.5% entries in Not Sure.

Protagonists were in most case identified as the point of view characters or narrators. In some cases, when stories clearly centered on one individual but were told by others or by multiple narrators, we had to make judgement calls on whose story it was. For example, we determined that American Gods was Shadow's story, and placed it in the Cis Man category. Similarly, Seeker by Jack McDevitt is narrated by a woman, but is about a man, like the Sherlock Holmes stories are narrated by Watson.

All protagonists of a given gender went into their respective category regardless of age. So "Cis Woman" covers cis women, cis girls, etc. If there were multiple authors/protagonists but they were all of one gender, they went into that gender's category. If there were authors/protagonists fitting more than one category — be it Cis Man, Cis Woman, or Trans or Nonbinary — then the Mixed category was used. Only one differing gender was necessary to qualify for the Mixed category.

For protagonist genders, our gender categories held regardless of species. For humans, animals, robots, cyborgs, or AIs who are identified as a particular gender in the narrative, that gender is used. For aliens or mechanical beings with gender systems that differ from our own, Trans or Nonbinary was used if all protagonists were of that type, or Mixed if they were featured alongside cis individuals.

Publication Date

Since some awards are given for the same year as the work's publication (e.g. the Kitschies) while other awards are given the following year (e.g. the 2015 Hugo awards were given to 2014 works), we felt publication date was a more consistent measure for timelining purposes. Therefore, publication date, rather than year of award, is used in matters of chronology.

For awards given to series as a whole, we use the publication date of the last entry published before the award was given. Some works were first serialized, then published as novels. If the award was given to the serialization, we use the year the final installment was published. For works in translation, we use the English-language publication date.(3)

Results and Analysis

All results and analysis are on the scope of analyzed award winners only. We will clearly mark when we are talking about trends or contexts outside the scope of these award-winning books. In total we analyzed 19 awards and 751 award-winners. All data and figures include books that were counted multiple times for multiple awards.

Figure 1(4)

The most prominent and dismaying conclusion is that there were more books written by cis men about cis men alone (294) than there were books by cis women about anybody (267). Overall, books by or about cis women were less likely to win awards than books by or about cis men. As is shown in Figure 2, 63.9% of award-winning books were by cis men, and only 35.6% by cis women. Cis men, then, won at nearly twice the rate of cis women. There was, to the best of our knowledge, only one trans or nonbinary winning author. Similarly, cis male protagonists made up nearly half of the pool at 46.5%, with cis female protagonists making up only just over a quarter at 26.2% (Figure 3). The Mixed category also conceals a fair amount of cis male domination in mixed-gender protagonist groups, which were often majority or overwhelmingly cis male.

Figure 2
Figure 3

The numbers for cis female authors closely matches the oft-cited magical one third: as soon as women make up one third of a population, the perception becomes that there is gender parity, and more than one third is seen as a majority.Another interesting trend with respect to the numbers of cis women is the phenomenon of waves of progress and pushback (Fig 4).

Figure 4

Here we see clearly progress in terms of including cis women, followed by sharp increases in the numbers of cis men. For example, 1996 followed by 1997, 2003 followed by 2004, and 2011 followed by 2012. Sometimes the pushback takes an extra year or two to occur, but gains by cis women are always punctuated by sharply increased percentages for cis men. We are likely in the middle of such a cycle right now, with 2013 and 2014 being majority cis female years, and unless this problem of pushback is actively acknowledged and addressed, there will likely be another year soon that is strongly majority cis male.

This yearly data also shows another trend, which is the overwhelmingly cis male history of SFF awards (Figure 5). When taken as percentages, the trend shows a heavily cis male dominated history. The flip side of that is that diversity in both authors (Figure 5) and protagonists (Figure 6) increased over time and as more awards were added.(5)

Figure 5

Figure 6

It's also interesting to ask who writes which genders. Figure 7 shows that only about 10% of books by cis men are about cis women, while cis women write cis men at about twice that rate. In general, cis men write more narrowly and cis women write more widely. This is likely related to the idea that women are expected to sympathize with male protagonists but men are not expected to sympathize with female protagonists. No books by cis men were about trans or nonbinary protagonists, although some aliens and AIs snuck into the Mixed category. The numbers for women are better, but are skewed by Ancillary Justice, which makes up 6 of the 11 entries in that category.

Figure 7(6)

This data can also be visualized as a pie chart showing a slice for each author and protagonist gender combination (Figure 8).

Figure 8

This again shows the preponderance of books by and about cis men, coming in at 39.1% of all books. By contrast, books by and about cis women totaled only 18.6%, less than half of those by and about cis men.

All of these numbers refer to general-audience and YA books combined. If we separate the two out, we get a starker picture of the adult SFF award world (Figures 9 and 10):

Figure 9
Figure 10

If we compare general and YA (Figure 11), we get a disheartening picture: cis women are pushed to YA, and out of the more prestigious general category. This is not to say that YA literature is in any way inferior, but in terms of cultural prestige, adult literature is more highly regarded, and it is where cis women are less likely to be rewarded. In a positive sense, this means YA is a sort of safe haven for cis women in SFF, as well as cis female protagonists. However, no books about or by trans or nonbinary individuals won in the YA category. Further information on YA and general results is available in Appendix A. Ana previously wrote about gender and YA for [community profile] ladybusiness.

Figure 11

Similarly, cis women are less likely to win the more prestigious awards (Figure 12).

Figure 12

The most prestigious awards, like the Hugos, the Nebulas, and the Philip. K. Dick award, all lean significantly towards cis men. These same awards are less likely to feature cis female protagonists (Figure 13).

Figure 13

While we did look at juried vs popular awards, the results were very close (available in Appendix A). This may be due to our definitions of "Popular" and "Juried". For example, we counted the Hugos and Nebulas as popular.

There did appear to also be a tendency on the part of British awards to be more cis male-dominated.

Further charts are available in Appendix A. Individual award data is available in Appendix B.


SFF Awards have a problem. Despite some gains towards diversity in recent years, books by and about cis men still dominate nearly all the major awards. The gains in recent years have been encouraging, but they're offset by long histories of privileging cis men and their writing over cis women and trans and nonbinary individuals. Most of the longest-running awards have heavily male-dominated histories. Let us be clear that this is not because cis men produce superior work. Despite their difficulty in getting published and publicized, cis women and trans and nonbinary individuals have been putting out quality work for as long as they've been getting published. But the SFF field by and large prefers to recognize and award books by and about cis men.

The Puppies claim that the Hugos are being taken over by liberal interests. But taken against the history of the Hugos and other awards as a whole, this is merely a correction of long-standing imbalances. As stated in the Results and Analysis section, we are likely in the middle of another cycle of pushback, and unless we spread awareness of this issue, we are likely to see another heavily cis male year soon.

SFF awards have a long way to go to reach gender parity, even longer to go in terms of representing trans and nonbinary individuals. For a field that is supposed to celebrate explorations of science and society, SFF awards woefully underrepresent expressions of gender outside of cis norms, whether in authors or in protagonists.


Please recall that this post has a corrections comment thread where we will make note of all corrections and edits to the post. Before commenting, please check the corrections thread to see if your point has been addressed.

When commenting, please follow the Lady Business Comment Policy.

Appendix A: All Non-Award Specific Charts

Chart Type Combined (General+YA) General Young Adult
Award Winners by Year and Author Gender
Award Winners by Year and Author Gender (Percentages)
Award Winners by Year and Author Gender (Percentages - Truncated)(7)
Award Winners by Year and Protagonist Gender
Award Winners by Year and Protagonist Gender (Percentages)
Award Winners by Year and Protagonist Gender (Percentages - Truncated)(8)
Authors vs. Protagonists
Authors vs. Protagonists (Other)(9)
Who Writes Which Genders?
Who Writes Which Genders? (Percentages)
General vs. YA
Juried vs. Popular(10)
Author Gender Distribution by Award (Alphabetical)
Author Gender Distribution by Award (Sorted)
Protagonist Gender Distribution by Award (Alphabetical)
Protagonist Gender Distribution by Award (Sorted by Cis Man)
Protagonist Gender Distribution by Award (Sorted by Cis Woman)

Appendix B: Individual Awards

Award Name Author Gender Protagonist Gender Author vs. Protagonist Gender
Andre Norton
Arthur C. Clarke
British Fantasy
David Gemmell
Golden Duck
James Tiptree, Jr.
Philip K. Dick
World Fantasy


  1.  Two books swept the awards in their respective years and skewed the data for those years. They are Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (5 wins in 1973) and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (6 wins in 2013). Ancillary Justice also skewed the numbers for trans/nonbinary winners in so doing. (back to text)

  2.  The Tiptrees award short stories and collections in the same category as novels, and so more winners than usual were omitted from this award for not being prose novels. (back to text)

  3.  There are two books that won is multiple years due to publication editions. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente won in 2009 for the serialization and in 2011 for the novel edition. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith won in 1994 for the original publication and in 2000 for the American edition. (back to text)

  4.  There is a third category of authors, Mixed, missing from this graph due to scale. There were 4 books by mixed author teams, 3 about cis men and 1 about mixed protagonists. (back to text)

  5.  Figure 5 and Figure 6 begin with 1974 because prior to that year there were too few awards to compare with the later years with any degree of intellectual honesty. Non-truncated versions of Figures 5 and 5 are available in Appendix A. (back to text)

  6.  There is a third category of authors, Mixed, missing from this graph due to scale. There were 4 books by mixed author teams, 3 about cis men and 1 about mixed protagonists. (back to text)

  7.  Dates have been restricted to 1974-2015. See Note 4. (back to text)

  8.  Dates have been restricted to 1974-2015. See Note 4. (back to text)

  9.  The following categories have been combined into "Other": By Cis Man about Not Sure, By Cis Woman About Not Sure, By Mixed About Cis Man, By Mixed about Mixed. (back to text)

  10.  For the purposes of this chart:
    Popular: Andre Norton, BSFA, Ditmar, Gemmell, Goodreads, Hugo, Locus, Nebula
    Juried: Arthur C. Clarke, Aurealis, British Fantasy, Cybils, Golden Ducks, John W. Campbell, Kitschies, Mythopoeic, Philip K. Dick, James Tipree, Jr., World Fantasy (back to text)

Does this necessarily imply discrimination?

Date: 2016-01-08 05:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
From your charts I see that women write more about women and men right more about men, which is natural: write what you know and stuff. Is there evidence that there is actual discrimination going on? Maybe it’s just that there are more male SF writers than there are female ones, so a man is more likely to win an award as a result. Then the proper solution is not to put pressure on award bodies (who probably just pick what they honestly think are best works) but to encourage more women (of any variety), trans-men and others to write science fiction.

This actually brings me to another problem: what is the “fair” representation of protagonist genders? Is it proportional to the real-life population? Log-proportional? Just equal?



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