Dragon Awards Reverse Decision: Littlewood Withdraws, But Scalzi Stays

Dragon Con, has informed Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi they now have the option to withdraw from the Dragon Awards, after initially informing them that they would not be allowed to. However, Scalzi surprisingly has decided to leave his book on the ballot.

Littlewood tweeted —

Littlewood’s book has now been removed from the 2017 Dragon Awards nominee list.

John Scalzi told his Twitter followers —

And the statement he gave to The Verge’s Andrew Lipkin says —

After I contacted the Dragon Award administrators regarding my intention to withdraw, the administrators got back to me and asked if I would consider staying on the ballot. They were hearing the community’s feedback and criticism and were acting on it. Their decision to honor Ms. Littlewood’s request to withdraw is a first example of what I see as their willingness to listen and learn, and is an action I applaud. To honor that action, and in sincere appreciation of the readers and fans who placed me on the Dragon Awards finalist list, I have agreed to remain on the ballot this year. I encourage everyone to vote for their own favorite works on the Dragon Awards finalist list.

And at the Dragon Awards website, they have posted their justification for both the original refusal and the subsequent change in policy, A New Day and a Fresh Perspective, which says in part —

Alison Littlewood, the author of The Hidden People, was nominated for a Dragon Award, which asks ordinary fans what they like to watch, read, and play. It’s a fan’s choice award, plain and simple. And it ought to be a good thing.

Though she clearly has a fan base of her own, Ms. Littlewood’s book was also included on a “slate” proposed by an individual/group she didn’t want to be associated with. She worried that she couldn’t trust the nomination was fairly won. And so, she asked if her book could be pulled from the ballot.

It put us in a jam. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them. In seven categories for literature, there were 53 different novels that represented the broad spectrum of fandom and there was something for everybody. It made an excellent reading list for fans everywhere.

So we told her no.

And then, over the last couple of days, we got an earful from our fans and others. We’ve reconsidered and changed our mind. This is what’s happening next.

We will remove Ms. Littlewood’s book from the 2017 Dragon Awards ballot and re-issue ballots to those people who voted for her book. We believe that fans who voted for The Hidden People should have a second chance to vote for a favorite horror work. No new title will be added to the ballot.

We are extending all voting for this year’s Dragon Awards by two days, to midnight on Sept. 1st, so that everybody who wants a chance to vote will have a chance. Register for a ballot at awards.dragoncon.org.

After this year’s awards, which will be conferred on Sunday, Sept. 3, we’re going to take a hard look at the way we do things at the Dragon Awards. It will still be the “fan’s choice” award, with fans nominating the works and fans voting on the winners. But, we also need to do a better job of listening to the authors and creators of these works. One of the things we will look at is how best to give them a chance to opt off a ballot before its finalized.

John Scalzi has also written an explanatory post at Whatever, Update on the Dragon Awards and Me, part of which is in a Q&A format addressing hypothetical reader questions like these —

I still have issues with the Dragon Awards.

That’s fair. They’re new and still figuring this out, which is not an excuse but is an explanation. In my discussions with the folks running them, my sense is that they really do want to make the awards something that is viable and useful (and fun) for fans of the genre. They have a lot of work to do (this is, I suspect, in the nature of awards in general). Hopefully they’ll get there. As I noted, some of the steps they’re taking now indicate to me they want to get it right. Your mileage may vary. In the meantime, with this as with anything, you’re perfectly within your rights to have issues and criticism. Fire away.

So are you going to the awards ceremony now?

Nope, I’m still counter-scheduled in Washington DC that weekend.

[Thanks to Andrew Liptak, David Langford, and Cat Rambo for the story.]

51 thoughts on “Dragon Awards Reverse Decision: Littlewood Withdraws, But Scalzi Stays

  1. While I was updating this post I was wondering how many comments there would be scooping my update. You rock, GiantPanda!

  2. This whole saga has been an endless stream of /popcorn moments.

    Who knows, maybe they will eventually manage to produce an award worth paying attention to? Perhaps if they actually promote it next year during the nomination phase they’ll get a bit closer.

  3. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them.

    These are just simple readers. These are people of the fan. The common fen of the New Weird.

  4. I note that they’ve said nothing about changing the process in order to stop the freeping of the award by the use of multiple e-mail addresses. Until they do that, I don’t see how the award is going to be able to achieve any credibility.

  5. The problem is that the culture of DragonCon is a massive media properties driven party. Last year the Con drew just a shade under ieighty thousand

    So adding this to their already existing Awards was a mistake. They thought it’d manage itself but forgot about the puppies. I think for the puppies it was a sign that they’d made it and that the evil SJWers had been at long last

    Remember they don’t have promote DragonCon as both paper and digital media do that for them. It even gets a write up in our local paper! If anything, they’ve become popular.

  6. I’m with JJ. They keep talking around the peripheral issues and ignoring the elephantine stuffed ballot box in the room.

  7. Well, they do say:
    After this year’s awards, which will be conferred on Sunday, Sept. 3, we’re going to take a hard look at the way we do things at the Dragon Awards.

    Hopefully that will include more than just offering authors and creators a way off the ballot.

  8. Arrgh.

    1) I can completely see where Alison Littlewood is coming from – no way I’d want to be associated with the ambulatory whatever, either. It is a shame for her as she appears to have a good profile and significant fanbase, so she probably made it without his “help”.
    2) As for John Scalzi – hmm. Staying in is going to lead to more puppies vs reality stuff, but if he was in or out that’d happen anyway, and the puppies can no longer yap that they scared him off. He probably got on organically, so maybe why not stay?
    3) NK Jemisin – I was going to vote for her, very sad she declined as it’s a strong book and she got on the ballot organically.

    Bad actor is VD, as per usual.

    I’ll believe they want to make the awards better once they do something about ballot stuffing. I suspect next year will be make or break – no one will want this sort of drama swirling about, so if they get hijacked again, maybe a dead dragon.

    Though all the above is probably way too inside baseball for the average Dragoncon attendee, who probably doesn’t know about the awards.

  9. DragonCon is big enough for letting only paying members (for this year and previous) vote. Not sure why it is open for everyone.

  10. Letting authors off the ballot (or presumably asking their permission first) is a significant step. It doesn’t solve the structural issues but it does give the Dragons an incentive to deal with those issues.

    For legitimacy, the Dragons need big popular books on their list of nominees. Even the likes of Brian Niemeier needs bigger names on the list because otherwise his award becomes “guy whose book was better than Declan Finn’s”. If authors can pull out then that gives everybody more incentive to behave nicely.

  11. @Hampus – I assume that’s to differentiate it from “elite” awards where you have to be qualified in some way (whether a professional writer, a member of an organization, or etc.). A reaction to GRRM’s claim that the Hugos is owned by Fans, not fans (I seem to recall that “F” vs. “f” is how you differentiate WSFS fen from fandom at large). Another dig at the Hugos.

  12. From the Verge article:”Henry also says Dragon Con won’t release the raw voting figures for this year’s convention, in an effort to prevent vote-packing.”

    Conclusion: the voter numbers are so small, a small bloc can screw with the outcome. It is also consistent with their assertion that as more people vote, the influence of e.g. “justice warriors” will be diluted to irrelevance. That’s not going to happen so long as the Dragons are so poorly promoted that even Dragoncon members remain ignorant of its existence. That’s not going to happen unless they find a way to prevent ballot stuffing.

    These are issues well-known to anybody who has ever had any interaction with online voting be they awards or polls. It’s like the Dragon award organisers are trying to tick every item on the list of “how not to run online polls”. Remember Boaty Mcboatface?

    We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them.

    Good intentions need to be coupled with sound organisational practices. Otherwise the Dragon can look forward to more years of being thought of as a joke awards.

  13. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them.

    This is very interestingly similar to Puppy claims that the works on the Dragon Awards ballot are all really, reeeeeealllly popular — which is just eye-rollingly stupid, because everyone can see that some of them are anything but. The whole magic thinking, “if we keep saying they are all really popular, people will eventually come to believe it” strategy just beggars belief.

  14. Pingback: The Dragon Awards Reconsider | Camestros Felapton

  15. “created by flans” would be good.

    But then we’d get the Sad Quiches, vs the Savory Tarts, and it would all go around again. And don’t get me started on the Coinies…

    (Today I learnt a new definition of flan, does it show?)

  16. Having given then grief for the original decision I’m happy to see they’ve reversed it, although it’s regrettable it had to come to this in the first place.

    However, as others have noted this was only the most immediate and visible issue – their fundamental problem of having an award so vulnerable to Boaty McBoatface tactics still stands. It’s interesting that they’ve been able to say enough privately to Scalzi to convince him that they’re on a path, but they need to engage publicly with the great mass of fans they’re convinced are waiting round the corner to help them out of their hole.

    Also, they seem to still be convinced of their ludicrous claim that there was a “justice warrior” slate equivalent to the VD et al slates. Jim Hines screencapped the following (now deleted) tweet from the official DC twitter account repeating the claim.

    https://twitter.com/jimchines/status/895709752696512513

  17. @JJ

    Eh. Much as I enjoy thinking the worst of Finn – he’s earned it – that’s a pretty common phrase.

    @Mark

    Ah. Slate accusation confirmed, then. Wonder what the evidence is?

  18. Too little too late; yesterday’s statement full of condescension, lies, and Pupspeak stands.

    Also, the one email one vote and no publicity still makes it a farce. Restrict it to the DC membership of 80 K and you’d still get a wide swath of fandom, plus no ballot stuffing. It would truly be a fannish award then, with no blocs taking over.

    @Darren: Morons? 🙂

  19. They’ve ceded it almost entirely to Rabids and Scrappys, looks like. Other than Larry asking VOTE FOR MEEEEEE as usual (which started the whole problem).

  20. @Chris S.:

    3) NK Jemisin – I was going to vote for her, very sad she declined as it’s a strong book and she got on the ballot organically.

    I haven’t had the stomach to find the Puppy slate; was she not one of the nominations they put up to make their expected victory look real?

    @JJ:

    The whole magic thinking, “if we keep saying they are all really popular, people will eventually come to believe it” strategy just beggars belief.

    Why? The Big Lie worked for the Donald….

  21. This still leaves the burning question … has Pat Henry learned the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect’?!

  22. That email to Littlewood was unimpressive to say the least. What the award needs is a named administrator with credibility and reformed, open procedures.

  23. maybe something, maybe not, but I find it interesting that the DC people informed Nora Jemison that her work arrived on the ballot organically (eg, not due to slating).

    Now this is interesting, first, because with the Hugos, such info would not have been transmitted and, also, in light of Scalzi’s decision to remain on the ballot.

    I wonder what insider info they shared with him? Possibly that he has a good chance of winning? and wouldn’t that put the pups off of their new favorite award?

    Look, with a “secret” award, there a possibility that all kinds of things go on behind the scenes, so I’m not suggesting that Scalzi might be doing anything improper (not at all) – but if the Dragon awards really, genuinely wanted to divorce themselves from the puppy BS, I can hardly think of a better way for them to do it than insuring that items not voted on by the blocs win this year.

    Perhaps they “encouraged” him to remain on board in so many words in furtherance of their agenda.

    (Dragon con is also about attracting attendees through the appeal of headliners. Scalzi is a headliner author. Would look great on the marquee – special science fiction guest and winner of the 2nd annual Dragon Award for best novel – John Scalzi – no?)

    Yeah, I’m out on a limb, but you know, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t following you!

  24. I’m not sure how they would be able to tell whether or not something was slated given the lose way in which voting is done.

  25. I wonder what insider info they shared with him? Possibly that he has a good chance of winning?

    If Scalzi received insider information of that nature, don’t you think he would reveal it? Otherwise he would be a party to some pretty unethical behavior.

  26. I would have thought so too, but Nora said they told her she wasn’t on the ballot through bloc voting; could have just been a white lie to try and get her to stay…

  27. Assuming Jemisin talked to someone who hasn’t swallowed the whole Justice Warrior Slate thing, I imagine they knew who had (what they perceived to be) legitimate nominations the same way we do: They cross-referenced the slates available on the internet with the ballot itself.

    I feel pretty sad for people who aren’t Puppies and got what should have been a cool thing, nominated for an award, and instead it has baggage because they were on a slate. I hope it doesn’t hurt their careers.

  28. I took it that she didn’t actually know if she had been on Teddy’s slate or not. She wasn’t, was she?

  29. Laura on August 11, 2017 at 4:39 pm said:

    I took it that she didn’t actually know if she had been on Teddy’s slate or not. She wasn’t, was she?

    No, that would have broken Teddy’s mind.

  30. Dragon con is also about attracting attendees through the appeal of headliners. Scalzi is a headliner author. Would look great on the marquee – special science fiction guest and winner of the 2nd annual Dragon Award for best novel – John Scalzi – no?

    Probably no. I know we like to think of authors like Scalzi as being a big deal, but for Dragon*Con, they are almost an afterthought. The last time I went to Dragon*Con, Robert Sawyer was there. He had a Q and A session in a tiny room tucked into a quiet basement. I attended a panel that had Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, and Timothy Zahn on it. The room was probably no more than a quarter full.

    On the other hand, lines to get signatures from or panels by even the most minor media celebrity were huge. Felicia Day, Colin Ferguson, the guys who played the Boondock Saints, and a host of other media stars were there and their events were packed. You could walk up to Sawyer or Lackey and get their signature for free. Every person who had spent even a minute on television charged for theirs. And so on.

    Authors are a sideshow at Dragon*Con, and are pretty much treated as such.

  31. Meredith: I feel pretty sad for people who aren’t Puppies and got what should have been a cool thing, nominated for an award, and instead it has baggage because they were on a slate. I hope it doesn’t hurt their careers.

    I felt the same way when it was the Hugo awards, and now it’s happening to the Dragon. Truly griefers spread grief wherever they go.

  32. Every person who had spent even a minute on television charged for theirs. And so on.

    While I hate the monetization-of-interaction many Big Media Cons have, charging for autographs is how those people justify coming out. Heck, for some, it’s their primary source of income. It is a strange place to be, to be famous enough that people will pay for your signature, but not famous enough for that fame to get you more acting jobs.

  33. While I hate the monetization-of-interaction many Big Media Cons have, charging for autographs is how those people justify coming out.

    I don’t begrudge anyone who is able to charge for their autograph any of the money they are able to make. The point was that at Dragon*Con media personalities can charge for their signatures, seemingly no matter how minor their connection to genre fiction may be, whereas authors – even some of the most popular and well-known authors in genre fiction – cannot.

  34. I imagine there’s some big authors who could. They don’t, usually because the fans who are there for them tended to already have bought books, which gives direct economic benefit to the writer as is. Also charging for a signature would seem petty. (Though I have heard of a couple who have done that…)

  35. @Marshall Ryan Maresca: It’s not that strange; autographs are for who you were, new jobs for being someone else. Someone who was a good fit for a role but not a master of their craft overall may find slim pickings once that role is done; it’s even worse if the role lasted long enough that people could assume that was who the actor was. (Would Shatner or Nimoy have had the continued careers they did if OST had actually managed a five-year voyage?)

    @Aaron: the authors probably get other value out of (even) DC — hanging out with friends, useful contacts, etc. — where an actor is unlikely to run into anyone ~useful. Me, I’d have more to say about the people who are willing to pay for a one-time character’s autograph.

  36. I found my Dragon ballot in my spam folder today, minus Jemisin and Littlewood.

    So check your spam list, it might be in there.

  37. Hmm, still no ballot after a week. Checked spam too. I received the initial confirmation email right away so I know I gave them the correct email. I guess I’ll try to contact them and/or re-register.

  38. the authors probably get other value out of (even) DC — hanging out with friends, useful contacts, etc. — where an actor is unlikely to run into anyone ~useful.

    Sure, but what I’m talking about is how important actors and authors are relative to one another to Dragon*Con. Looking at how they are treated, where their panels are held, how crowded their events are, and so on leads me to conclude that actors (and other media personalities) are fundamental to Dragon*Con’s existence while authors are a sideshow at best.

    The notion that Dragon*Con would pay anything but the most passing attention to the Dragon Awards in order to have a “big name” author like Scalzi agree to attend under the banner of “Dragon Award winner” is simply not supported by the available information. Dragon*Con probably doesn’t really care which authors come to their event, because those authors are not the main draw for most attendees.

  39. @Aaron: my complete remark was a response to your comment about actors being able to get money for autographs, while authors can’t; AFAICT this is universal. (There may be some smaller conventions where actors are expected to autograph for free, but AFAICT none where authors get paid.) The benefits to authors is a judgment issue (and subject to counter-judgment; I remember a forceful fan arguing against a possible extension of eligibility for a Powers novel on the grounds that Powers had snubbed Worldcon for DC that year.) I’ll accept your argument that authors of written fiction are a minor part of DC — I haven’t paid enough attention to DC to argue — but that’s hardly new; Foglio’s narration of one of the early Strekcons (IIRC, the one aka Riotcon) has a handful of authors kidnapping members to make them listen to the SF track. (Item 1: “The effect of SF on Star Trek.)

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