Sfadb.com status at its tenth anniversary

Pretty much every year I status my ongoing projects — in particular sfadb.com, and my personal and family history here on this blog — and think, this year for sure! And every year I do make some progress, but even after all these years — about a decade for both — I’m still not done. Still, I think I’m closing in. This past year I’ve had the added incentive of worry about health issues. I’ve dodged the bullet twice (in both cases because I had someone here at home to call 911 or take me to the hospital), but can’t expect to live forever.

Currently I realize that sfadb.com first went online just over ten years ago, on the 5th of July, 2012, though of course it superseded an earlier awards index I had compiled on the Locus Online site. Ironically, even as the developed/designer/site runner, I don’t remember what the homepage looked like when initially posted. There’s no way to look back an earlier versions of the homepage, at least not in WordPress.

So in fact the visible progress I’ve made on sfadb.com lately was to rearrange the homepage, and emphasize latest content, putting the “latest updates” front and center, with appropriate cover images. What was it originally? Probably something on the same order. Over time I added the the chronological sidebar of links, now headed “Timeline” (which I’ve now moved from the left side to the right side of the main block); and after a few years set up the standing rows of cover images representing the major winners from each year. Those rows migrated toward the top, as if to emphasize that the site was a standing resource, an index, not a news site exactly.

But now I’ve changed my mind, in part to return to adding commentary on each new set of finalists or winners, something no other source for awards news does. For a time, especially for nominees of the major awards like the Hugos and Nebulas, I took the time to generate elaborate statistics about each nominee’s past records, just as awards shows do obsessively, e.g. “This is Helen Mirren’s 5th nomination and 2nd win” and so on (I’m making this up). So I’ll resume doing that for the homepage updates, as you can see in the Prometheus and Clarke posts. As well as the simple courtesy of reminding readers who won *last* year…

In addition I’m closing in on the big missing piece of sfadb.com: the complete “rankings” of novels and short fiction, based on the accumulation of awards data, anthology data, and citation data. Currently three rankings have been posted, for the three short fiction categories, novella novelette and short story. I got some feedback/flack about those when posted last late year. So aside from framing the lists differently, so as not to imply any judgements about “best” or “most popular,” I’ve decided to split the lists by century, so that recent 21st century works are not ranked against established 20th century works. (I’ve gone back and forth about this.) Given that this split will also apply to SF novels, and to FH (fantasy/horror) novels, there will be a total of 10 ranked lists.

Just today, after running draft steps to generate one or another of the ten individually, I finished setting up steps to generate all ten semi-automatically, i.e. by running selected steps in Access without any manual resetting of category. Next, as in, tomorrow, will be to actually generate all 10 lists, with a set of menu links to jump back and forth among them.

And then return to contemplating the exactly scoring algorithm that generates the lists as they are. As much as I’ve tried to set up relatively ‘objective’ scoring algorithms, the lists currently posted are greatly biased toward older works, e.g. a 1938 novellas and a 1941 novelette in 1st place in those categories. (The short story is from 1990.) Have there really been no better novellas or novelettes written since 1941? Surely so, but how do I use the accumulated data from 20 years to detect what those might be?

And then, finally, while I’ve had drafts of all these lists done for years, the big pole in finishing the posted lists is writing a fair summary and background for each work, and I’ve done for the lists already posted, e.g. for short stories. For the shorter works, I’ve *reread* over the past year or two the top 20 items on each list. But that’s not practical for novels. Or is it? Given say 6 months? A problem for 21st century shorter works is that I haven’t kept on on short fiction much since I retired from my review column for Locus magazine, meaning I’ve read very few of them, even the awards winners. I can sit down and read the top ranking stories I haven’t already read, but it’s just one more thing to do before finishing the final 10 lists.

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