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Poll Results | Survey Results | About the Voting | About the Results

Survey results
Not surprisingly, winners of the World Fantasy Awards, which are determined by judges rather than by popular vote, have been read by fewer voters than other recent awards winners, or the random sample of famous/classic works also queried. It is notable that so few books, or stories, have been read by a majority of voters. I was surprised by the low percentages for John Crowley's and Marion Zimmer Bradley's books, which I'd thought enduring favorites, compared with Frankenstein, which I'd thought of mainly academic interest these days. And why hasn't everyone read Replay, which was just reprinted last year?

No one indicated having read all 22 books. One person claimed 21 (the exception being Plan B) and he was the one who voted 'no award' for best 1998 novella. One person had read 20, two 19, two 18, four 17. The minimum, excepting voters who didn't check the 'have you read?' boxes at all, was 2 (five voters). Two voters indicated having read all 20 works of short fiction, but not the 21 book voter, who's one of five who've read only 19; eight others checked 18. Eight voters clicked all the 'have you read?' short fiction 'no' (those eight indicated having read from 2 to 10 of the books). Eighteen voters didn't click the short fiction items one way or the other.

Poll: 1998 categories
Total votes in the 1998 categories both in the first online poll covering novels, and the second online poll covering 1998 short fiction categories, were quite small compared to those in the magazine polls. That's because the number of ballots was fewer, about 200 each time compared to over 500 in last year's magazine poll, and because the online ballots allowed only one vote per category, while the magazine poll allows five votes in every category, just as the second online poll allowed in the all-time categories.

Though the numbers were relatively small, most of the wins were decisive in the sense that the leaders in each category emerged early, as ballots were tabulated beginning the first or second week of each polling period, and held their leads until the end of the voting. (The suspense in updating the totals every couple of days was in wondering which and how many stories would accumulate the minimum number of votes to be listed in the final results -- 3% of the ballots voting in each category.)

Both polls were to a degree experiments to see what kind of results an online poll would get; more specifically, how closely the results would agree, or to what extent they would disagree, with the results of the parallel poll in Locus magazine. Part of that answer is already evident; the rest awaits completion of the magazine results.

All-time categories
As far as I know, no all-time short fiction poll has been conducted since 1971, when Analog hosted a readers' poll not long after the SFWA membership voted on the contents of its Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthologies. (There was a British Fantasy Society poll in 1979, but that was limited to fantasy and horror stories. The results of these polls are given in one or both of Mike Ashley's The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Lists (Cornerstone Library, 1979) and Maxim Jakubowski and Malcolm Edwards' The SF Book of Lists (Berkley, 1983). If anyone knows of other such polls -- please let me know!) The 1971 Analog poll gathered 108 votes -- one less than our 109. Of the 20 stories in the 1971 results, only 2 failed to appear in our results -- Arthur C. Clarke's ''Rescue Party'', and Murray Leinster's ''First Contact''. (Leinster's story got 2 votes, below our cut-off; Clarke's didn't get any.)

Asimov's ''Nightfall'' is famous as being the story that has always been voted the all-time best (it won SFWA's poll too) -- until now. Daniel Keyes' ''Flowers for Algernon'' earned a decisive victory, not just over Asimov's story as a novelette, but gaining more votes and more points than any single story in the entire poll.

The all-time short story category was a virtual tie between two Harlan Ellison stories and Clarke's perennial favorite ''The Star'' -- with another Ellison story in fourth place. This was one category where the lead changed back and forth as ballots accumulated.

The results of the all-time short fiction writer category are interesting for how they contrast with the results of the other categories. Ask, who's your favorite short fiction writer?, and many voters offer up names other than the authors of the particular stories they nominate as all-time best. Obviously, some writers have a sufficiently large body of popular work that they have become favorites of many readers even if they don't have one or a handful of stand-out stories. Theodore Sturgeon, for example, tied for 6th place in the voting for all-time short fiction writer, but placed only 13th when the ranking depended on votes for particular story collections, and lower than that, 22nd place, when the ranking depended on votes for particular stories.

There is one recent version of an all-time short fiction poll, and that's the Internet Top 100 Story List, compiled along the same lines as the famous list of Internet Top 100 SF books. (I had seen it before, but forgot about when I set up this poll; perhaps just as well, so that voters weren't influenced by its ranking.) The Internet Top 100 lists are compiled differently than a typical poll. Each voter can vote (via email to the compiler) for any number of stories, and rates each story on a quality scale of 1 to 10. The ranking of the final list is based on cumulative diffused averages of all the votes to date for each story (which means, roughly, that the most recent votes are scaled down, so that a new story rated 10 by a couple voters doesn't immediately rise to the top of the list). It's an interesting ranking, and most of its top rated stories appear in our results too.

All-time anthology and collection
I didn't have any lists of suggestions posted for these categories, and the voting wasn't restricted to works before 1990. For the anthology results, votes for series of books were combined with votes for particular volumes in those series (except where voters cited separate volumes themselves, as for The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Starlight). In the anthology category total votes dropped off rapidly after the top 2, or the top 5, titles. Series anthologies dominate the list; there are only a small number of stand-alone volumes that have stood out in readers' memories, mostly large survey volumes that capture particular eras or themes of science fiction: Before the Golden Age; Mirrorshades; The Ascent of Wonder. Harlan Ellison's two volumes, of course, are exceptional in many ways: their editorial personality makes them readers' favorites even if only a handful of stories from either volume were nominated in the short fiction categories.

The all-time collection category had the lowest voting totals of any category. Most of the books on the list fall into one of three groups: collections of linked stories that have the fame and endurance of novels, including three of the top four, The Martian Chronicles, The Past Through Tomorrow, and I, Robot, as well as Kirinyaga lower down; career retrospective collections, including Ellison's 3rd place book, and the books by Davidson, Card, Silverberg, Tiptree, Cordwainer Smith, Bester, Kornbluth, Leiber, and Sturgeon; or collections that mark a peak in the short fiction careers of their writers: the books by Le Guin, Wolfe, Varley, Delany, Willis, Gibson, Zelazny, Lafferty. Who is the highest placing all-time short fiction writer without a collection on this list? Arthur C. Clarke!

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