There’s this thing Google have put together which is really addictive. It’s called Ngrams. Essentially, when you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books. You can set various parametres of time, which types/language of books are searched and so on. The graphic results are very cool.
For example, instances of the words horse (blue), bicycle (red), car (green) and motorcycle (yellow), between 1800 and 2008, in English:
(click for larger images)
Pretty cool, huh. So naturally I started searching all kinds of comparisons. Regular readers here will know I’m fascinated with religious mythology, so I did a search on instances of Christian (blue), Muslim (red), Jew (green), Hindu (yellow) and Buddhist (blue), again from 1800 to 2008 in English. Look at the massive decline in Christianity’s dominance over the written word in that time.
On that front, what about instances of heaven (blue) and hell (red):
Hell holding steady while heaven sees a steep decline. This amuses me.
All right, enough of this nonsense, let’s get onto the serious stuff. Between 1800 and 2008, let’s look at instances of fantasy (blue), science fiction (red) and horror (green):
Sci-fi doesn’t register until around 1950, fantasy has a slow growth right through, really peaking in the last thirty or forty years and horror saw a steady decline until a resurgence around 1980. I imagine that’s largely down to the pulp horror revival of the 80s and the emergence of superstars in the genre like Stephen King and James Herbert.
So the natural progression from there is to see which is really the most popular when it comes to the big three supernaturals. Here we have vampire (blue), werewolf (red) and zombie (green):
Relatively even, though vampires clearly more popular, till around the early 80s, then the vamps went nuts. Anne Rice, Lost Boys and the like are clearly marked there.
But that was an easy one – of course the vampire is the most popular, as it is the coolest. Though I predict the werewolf has yet to really see its heyday. But now let’s sort out once and for all the ongoing rivalry that all SF fans get heated about. I should start by saying that I’m a big fan of both. But what says Ngrams in the great Star Wars (blue) vs Star Trek (red), in English since 1960:
Man, I could play with this thing all day.