What The Dragon Awards Will Never Be

The Dragon Award nominees came out August 3 and voting continues until September 1 — the deadline having been extended by two days after author withdrawals were permitted (although the award’s own webpage has yet to be updated.)

Larry Correia’s latest appeal to voters includes the line:

Unlike certain other awards, the Dragon actively encourages authors to ask their fans to turn out.

My first thought was I saw what you did there, then I realized he also had illuminated the essence of the award – it’s a tribal competition.

Previous to the announcement of the nominees nobody will have read more than a small fraction of the 51 novel finalists (never mind all the comic books and graphic novels). There’s not enough time for a voter to read the dozens of books they hadn’t already seen. (Well, my fellow fans Don D’Ammassa and Marty Massoglia could, but not the rest of us.) And I’ll leave aside the question of whether people will pay for access to all these books.

In short, this is just a raw get-out-the-vote scenario. Nobody is expected to have an informed opinion about which nominees are the best, only an opinion about who they want to give an award to. Unlike certain other awards.

46 thoughts on “What The Dragon Awards Will Never Be

  1. It also means, unfortunately, that it’s basically a cheat.

    Oh well. If that’s what they want, more power to ’em, I suppose.

  2. Very very small comment.

    You said: “And I’ll leave aside the question of whether people will pay for access to all these books.”

    This is actually not quite such a big hurdle as it may seem. I discovered the other day that several of the books are available for free through Kindle Unlimited — and at least one is flat-out free for purchase right now.

  3. Contrarius: This is actually not quite such a big hurdle as it may seem. I discovered the other day that several of the books are available for free through Kindle Unlimited — and at least one is flat-out free for purchase right now.

    That’s true for those who have already subscribed. When I checked the other day Kindle Unlimited costs $9.95/mo.

  4. @Mike —

    “That’s true for those who have already subscribed. When I checked the other day Kindle Unlimited costs $9.95/mo.”

    That’s correct. But it’s one $10 charge measured against the money you would have spent on multiple books, so it’s a good deal as long as you use it. There is no limit on the number of books you can download per month — they merely make you start returning them once you get up to 10, so you can have a never-ending rotation of 10 books at a time.

  5. Money aside, there are 51 novel finalists. Most voters have probably never heard of most of them, so if they actually intended a thoughtful vote, they would have about a month to read them all. I am a (fairly) prolific reader. But 51 novels in a month? I don’t think I could. I had trouble managing 16 Nebula nominees year before last.

  6. @Michaele —

    “I am a (fairly) prolific reader. But 51 novels in a month? I don’t think I could. I had trouble managing 16 Nebula nominees year before last.”

    Yeah, it’s pretty clear that nobody expects anybody to actually read all the nominated works. I read 100 books a year or more — but that still means it would take me several months to get through that 51, even if I read nothing else during that time.

  7. OGH is right: it’s simply a contest to see who can personally turn out the most fans. If that’s the case, LC will win easily.

    If the DragonCon organisers think these Awards will garner media attention, they’re quite wrong. I’ve got Dragon Con as a search item in Apple News and there’s just three stories about the Awards, two in the Verge and one in Bleeding Cool This week. In contrast, there’s lot of stories about comply there, which performer is there (Shatner got a lot of press) and a look at the forthcoming Labyrinth With Brian Henson.

    It’s the very old problem of too much noise, too little signal. There’s nothing save a minor tempest in a tea cup to interest mainstream media to these Awards.

  8. @Cat: I think your autocorrect didn’t like “cosplay”?

    But yeah. It is strictly an ego-boo participation prize. Collect the most boxtops sycophants and win a trophy!

    I’m not much for cults of personality, and that’s what this is.

    I can read a novel a day if I “have” to, which means even at that blazing speed, there’s no way to get through 51 novels (and read the comics, play the games, see movies and TV) in a month. If I gave up absolutely everything else in life, like being on the internet, communicating with friends, cooking, shopping, feeding the cats, talking to the husband, and a lot of sleep, maaaaybe I could make it. But why would I do something that stupid?

    DC should be embarrassed to be associated with this — but considering how little attention it draws both within the con and outside, I guess it won’t damage their reputation much.

    I’d like to humbly suggest to OGH that this stupid thing NOT be covered if it takes place again next year. Maybe announce when nominations start/end, when voting starts/ends, and that’s IT. Most of the uninvolved press attention they get is from File 770.

    I say, leave it to the Puppies. Let them have their shiny awards to reassure their threatened self-esteem. They need a safe space, and if they wanna waste time they could spend writing and living to gin up their pals into a voting frenzy, eh.

  9. Lurkertype notes can read a novel a day if I “have” to, which means even at that blazing speed, there’s no way to get through 51 novels (and read the comics, play the games, see movies and TV) in a month. If I gave up absolutely everything else in life, like being on the internet, communicating with friends, cooking, shopping, feeding the cats, talking to the husband, and a lot of sleep, maaaaybe I could make it. But why would I do something that stupid?

    Our local bookstore, the one you’re making a nice list for their sff section, has at least two author events a week. I rarely go to think, I think Valente was the last one, as they take minimum of two hours. That’s two hours I could be doing work, listening to the Red Sox and so forth.

    I read six to eight novels a month and there’s no way that I’d be able to sort out the faery silver from the actual silver here.

  10. 51 novels is probably about 5 million words–give or take. That’s pretty close to the 5.5 million words of short fiction I review per year for Rocket Stack Rank.

    So it would be like reading the entire annual contents of Analog, Apex, Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Interzone, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Tor.com (both short stories and novellas) and Uncanny plus twelve anthologies all in a single month.

  11. My first thought was I saw what you did there, then I realized he also had illuminated the essence of the award – it’s a tribal competition.

    If the Dragon Awards are just a fanbase-mobilization contest, there’s a place for that in SF/F fandom. The People’s Choice Awards have been running for 42 years on the same premise. Let Larry Correia and all the other popular writers who care about winning that duke it out.

    That isn’t a process likely to result in choices of ambitious literary or artistic merit, but so what? The Hugos and Nebulas can scratch that itch.

  12. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a vote for what you want, don’t read everything award. But in that case, I would think the dragons would compare themselves to a similar award, good reads choice. Same philosophy, also free to vote, with the difference that they provide voting statistics. As a voter, my question would be why vote for the Dragons instead of/ in addition to goodreads. Yes, it only takes two minutes, but I don’t fill out every online poll I come across, only a few that seem intresting. Dragon award needs to provide people with some reason to vote, something to get excited about.

  13. @Greg: I’d say that’s a bit strong, because IME a novel doesn’t require the reader to learn a new slice-of-universe, character set, etc. every few thousand words. That doesn’t mean it’s not a ridiculously difficult task in the time available — I don’t think I’ve read at anything near that rate since I was in a small-town, not-very-difficult boarding school — just that it’s not quite as much of a task as you suggest.

    One of the interesting statistics I expect DC will never provide is the number of categories a typical ballot votes on. I’m still undecided about voting at all, but I’m certainly not going to vote in categories that I have no palate (or stomach) for — I’d have to read-to-redline too many things I wouldn’t normally touch with gloves and tongs.

  14. Per Camestros’ excellent article recently, different awards fill different niches, have different aims, are run differently. Some are held in high regard, others not so much.

    The awards that have garnered prestige have done so by consistently picking excellent works over a span of years (the Oscars, the Grammys, the Man Booker).

    The Dragon awards are only in their second year. That’s not anywhere long enough for prestige to accrue.

    None of the prestigious awards are publicly voted (feel free to correct me with examples). The Oscars are voted by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Grammys are voted by members of National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Man Booker is selected by a small panel of judges. It matters little if the voters are few (five for the Man Booker) or many (~5000 for the Oscars) as long as they are collectivly able to recognize excellence.

    The Dragon awards are voted by anyone who has a valid email address.

    Prestigious awards have measures in place to ensure that the voting process is conducted with integrity.

    If you have more than one valid email address, why how will the Dragon award administrators know if you’ve voted more than once?

    It’s obvious that the Dragons are a popular award. It’s equally obvious to me that in its current form, it’ll never be a prestigious award. If writers want to mobilise their fans to vote so they can win a Dragon, they are free to do so. But why bother? Personally, I’d rather have no award than to win one this way. But I guess there are others who don’t care how they win or what they win, so long as they win.

  15. @Soon Lee: But I guess there are others who don’t care how they win or what they win, so long as they win.

    You don’t have to guess – it’s been amply demonstrated!

  16. The Dragons are prettier than the People’s Choice Award, I’ll say.

    But the PCA used to only do one phone number, one vote, back when you couldn’t get a new phone number in 5 minutes. I don’t think they even allow all their awards to be voted on by the internet; they contact a representative section of the People. And they’re their own thing, not hanging vestigially off something that doesn’t know they exist. Someone invested their own money and time to create and promote them. Okay, it was Proctor and Gamble, but they do get advertising for their products out of it. THEIR products, not any other company’s.

    So if Puppies want a shiny participation trophy, and someone in cahoots with them is willing to pony up the dough, whatevs. Just don’t say they’re prestigious. The Balrog Awards, which JOKINGLY called themselves “the coveted Balrog awards” actually had more legit popular and quality winners. Check the list!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balrog_Award

    And of course Goodreads has a much wider swath of the public AND releases numbers AND the admins don’t have absolute power to mess with the vote.

  17. How to put this without insulting anyone?

    Let me try this way: I’ve had some encounters recently with authors whose writing is not up to the standards I’ve normally come to expect from “competent” science fiction.
    But that’s ok, because their audience is largely incapable of recognizing a difference between good writing and not so good writing.
    There is, by my observations, a large amount of growth in what one might call “non-intellectual” SF readers. Little to no advanced education (the kind that would have given them at least minimal instruction on critical reading, a veneer of a history of literature.
    Here’s another way of looking at it: till fairly recently, SF readers were, at the very least, aware that there are different kinds of wine, that there is detail to be learned about those wines that informs selection, a culture built up around comparing and contrasting them, of matching them to foods, and a huge inventory of related information one can delve into – soils, climates, aging, bottling, temperatures, etc.
    But now we’re developing a vast audience whose only exposure is that wine comes in a box that offers a cheap buzz.
    These are the readers who think a “people’s choice” award (for anything) is a good thing.

  18. Steve Davidson says But now we’re developing a vast audience whose only exposure is that wine comes in a box that offers a cheap buzz.
    These are the readers who think a “people’s choice” award (for anything) is a good thing.

    I’m not buying your argument. Most wine drinkers I know have a knowledge base about wines that rarely extends beyond knowing if they prefer red or white and a smattering of knowledge about where the wine came from. And I think you’re giving the average sff far too much credit as well.

    Certainly they know what authors they prefer, what series they keep of with such as the Star Wars novels, they certainly would not know what File 770 is and they’re highly unlikely to become involved in the DC Awards unless they’re on a mailing list that talks about them.

    And both the now defunct Borders and now the still here Books-A-Million which took over the zborders space stack a lot of milsf (including damn near every Baen book still in stock), Star Wars and Trek universe novels. That’s what sells to the typical sff reader here in the greater Portland area.

    Revel in being well read, smart and engaged sff community members as it’s not that common.

  19. If the Dragon Awards are just a fanbase-mobilization contest, there’s a place for that in SF/F fandom.

    I thought that was the goal for the Puppies with the Hugos; open everything up as wide as possible and campaign the hell out of it with your fans. If so, congrats! They made it happen. Which is why any qualms they have with it being treated as such are, frankly, bunk.

    It isn’t a good award because it has a flawed nomination and voting system. Putting fifty entries in a first past the post competition is a laughably primitive approach, and allowing for unfettered, unreviewed voting negates credibility even further. You might as well just toss the name into a big hat and pull a winner.

    And that is exactly why they are getting no publicity or air time. It’s basically an informal fan poll that someone is willing to provide complementary merch for the author hustling the hardest. That’s why no body cares. An award run without integrity is an award that ends up with no integrity.

  20. I see little wrong in being a popular award with fan-mobilisation – the Goodreads awards operate in that way and I find their results quite interesting. The proviso is that a popular award is different to a juried or more restricted electorate, and the one not being the other isn’t a very useful or valid complaint.

    The specific issue with the Dragon Award is that a) external elements have claimed it’s something it’s not and b) internally they’ve not done anything to counter that and in some cases have fed it while c) administrating it in a sloppy and haphazard way that’s actively alienated some potential supporters and d) left it with results that aren’t currently credible.

    But everyone here knows all this anyway. My vague hope is that they’re listening to sense from someone about how to fix their problems, although tbh I think two years of grave mistakes have left it DOA, at least in its current form.

  21. There is, by my observations, a large amount of growth in what one might call “non-intellectual” SF readers. Little to no advanced education (the kind that would have given them at least minimal instruction on critical reading, a veneer of a history of literature.

    So–Blue collar spec fic?

  22. However, the novels come in categories, namely

    Best Science Fiction Novel
    Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
    Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
    Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
    Best Alternate History Novel
    Best Apocalyptic Novel
    Best Horror Novel

    with 7 or 8 novels per category, so reading the entries for one category is a bit less challenging than reading all the novels. Let us say I know a decent number of people who are fond of fantasy, or horror, or MilSF, or Middle School novels but would be happy not to read the other three other categories.

    Some readers will occasionally recall much rational discussion about categories for shorter works and how many were needed. Here there are no categories for shorter works. For works of different lengths there is at least an unambiguous sort by word count.

    With topics, division is no longer unambiguous. A constructive critique might be to ask yourself if there are any SF topics that were omitted. I thought of two, though they might overlap, in which I have approximately no interest in voting, namely Best Romance SF novel and Best SF Erotic novel.

    With respect to time, there are also all the other categories. Studying a half-dozen games in a month is a heroic feat, all by itself. Watching.a half dozen seasons of TV shows is also challenging.

  23. Darren Garrison:
    So–Blue collar spec fic?

    Is this pointed at Brad R. Torgersen? Isn’t he using “Blue Collar Speculative Fiction” as his website tagline?

  24. There is, by my observations, a large amount of growth in what one might call “non-intellectual” SF readers. Little to no advanced education (the kind that would have given them at least minimal instruction on critical reading, a veneer of a history of literature.

    So–Blue collar spec fic?

    I’m having trouble articulating my gut-level rejection of this pairing.

  25. August: I’m having trouble articulating my gut-level rejection of this pairing.

    It only makes sense if you are aware that Torgersen, during the last couple of years, has railed long and hard about the supposed “intellectual elite” who are ruining science fiction with their “Pink and Poofy SF”. He has marketed his work and his blog as “Blue Collar Spec Fic” in an attempt to appeal to the portion of the population which believes that education is a bad thing, that universities are a bastion of liberal brainwashing, and that it’s only the people whose education and experience are from the School of Hard Knocks who are contributing constructively to society.

    Of course, these are all fallacies, but — as we’ve seen with the 2016 election — there is certainly a significant portion of society which is willing to buy into that tripe.

  26. JJ notes Of course, these are all fallacies, but — as we’ve seen with the 2016 election — there is certainly a significant portion of society which is willing to buy into that tripe.

    And the US Marine Corps commander, without using his name, directly and forcefully contradicted his Commander in Chief on the matter of who’s the enemy within the USA. Joint Chiefs of Staff also had a similar statement. And of course this does raise the not delicate question of if these statements are an act of disobeying the Office of the President…

  27. How are the Hugos not a people’s choice award? The only qualifications for Hugo voting are (a) knowing they exist, and (b) ponying up $50 or so. I voted, and I have nothing to do with the SF profession. I made no attempt to read everything. I just voted for the works I knew and liked. I also don’t consider my tastes to be literary or highbrow. I read SF for entertainment.

    The Dragon Awards will find their footing, or they won’t. SF already has tens of awards of various sorts anyway, so one more or less isn’t going to matter unless they make it matter.

  28. Mike Glyer: My first thought was I saw what you did there, then I realized he also had illuminated the essence of the award – it’s a tribal competition.

    As I pointed out in a previous thread, the fact that the Terms and Conditions are boilerplate T&C for a sweepstakes contest, rather than for an awards program, pretty clearly indicates the the mentality of the awards’ creator(s).

    It’s not about recognizing fantastic SFF works, it’s about fans competing against each other to see who can gin up the most votes for their favorite author/work.

  29. Cat Eldridge–Disagreement is not the same as disobedience. I don’t know what a high-ranking officer would do if ordered “do not disagree with me publicly on matters of fact,” but I am fairly sure that the Marine Corps commander and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have the options of resigning those positions and putting in for retirement. The oath they took was to defend the constitution of the United States, not to serve the president’s political agenda: “do not publicly contradict me” might be a lawful order, but has he even thought to give it?

  30. @VIcki Rosenzweig: I have some memory that there have been cases in which “lawful order” was not restricted to “everything that doesn’t order breaking a law”, but I don’t know whether they extended far enough to cover such a case. If they didn’t, I think Clinton would have been able to order some senior officers to stop dissing(*) him, but he may have had the sense not to give such an order. Unfortunately for Trump, he can’t just dissolve the military the way he dissolved his industrial-advisors council.

    (*) I’m remembering active officers disparaging him as a draft-dodger, but this is an ancient recollection, possibly at the same level of accuracy as claims that servicemen returning from Vietnam were spat on.

  31. How are the Hugos not a people’s choice award?

    They are, but one of the major claims of the Pups is that the Hugos are exclusionary because they required a “poll tax” (i.e. you must be an attending or supporting member of that year’s Worldcon to vote), and therefore the Dragon Awards are the “voice of the people” because anyone can vote for free.

    It is a bullshit line, of course, just like everything else the Pups said about the Hugos, but the Dragon Awards organizers seem to have bought into that rhetoric.

  32. @Darren: snerk.

    @August: I dunno, Jim’s in the new “Twin Peaks”, which all the right-wingers hate for being weird and experimental and fulla sex and cussing. Although he is playing a doofus mobster.

    @George Phillies: The Puppies and their offshoots, however, always encourage people to vote in categories they DON’T read or know anything about. Heck, they don’t expect you to read any of it, just vote for their fellow travelers in all categories. So they’re not even doing the minimum good faith that you suggest.

    ETA: I started to post this last night, but right then the SJW credentials needed food, and right after, “The Stone Sky” finally downloaded and I had better things to do.

    @Chip: Clinton had a legit scholarship to be in England; Trump’s daddy found him a pet doctor to lie about his health, and then Trump called his days in the 70’s going to clubs and sleeping around “his Vietnam”. Yeah. The officers aren’t real happy with the actual draft-dodger.

  33. General McChrystal for fired for publicly criticizing Obama officials and his government’s Afghan policy. But with Trump, you can’t use precedent for anything, it’s all different

  34. @lurkertype: I have no knowledge who polled worse when; I just remember (to the extent I remember anything these days) there being more outspoken, direct criticism of Clinton than there has so far been of Trump. (Notice “direct”; I’m excluding (e.g.) the reaction to Trump’s ordering transsexuals out of the military.)

  35. Depends on whom you ask. Lots of transsexual people don’t like the term transgender, arguing “it doesn’t mean anything.” Lots of transgender people don’t like the term transsexual, arguing it’s offensive (but never explaining quite why or when that change happened). There are a lot of very strong feelings on both sides of this argument.

    Safest is to just say “trans people” and leave it at that.

  36. Fair point, Greg, but as a side note, there is an explanation; transsexual is associated strictly with gender dysphoria and those who wish gender confirmation surgery. In some places it’s even mostly used only for post-op. This has been used to dismiss some as “not really trans” for not fitting the narrower definition. WHen it comes to the general debate over terms, I’d rather use the one that by definition includes more of the NB and trans people rather than excluding people. (I will of course change this when referring to a specific person if they have the their preference, both for transsexuals who like that word and for NBs who feel non-binary is not trans at all.)

    Sometimes it’s also regional; transsexual is more common in the UK IIRC.

    Trans really is best, but I’d like to note that all of the press on that particular topic that used a longer term at all used the broader definition, and there was a good reason besides that it was the one Trump used. The broader group was all under threat.

  37. Transsexual is often felt to put too much emphasis on the “sexual” and not the “gender”. You can be an asexual transgender person. And using that term in the 50’s-80’s? 90’s? was the only way trans* could get any medical treatment. It’s too closely tied to surgery, medicalization, the bad old days of non-cis-straightness being regarded as a mental disorder, the binary concept of gender, the confusion between crossdressing and gender identity, and cis-folk’s conception of the state of being (i.e. all about what’s in your pants) for most trans* people to be comfortable with it any more.

    The Kids Today are much more into thinking of themselves as their gender identity, regardless of whether they have innies or outies or both or neither down there. Transgender also includes the genderqueer, gender fluid, dual gender, third gender people. It’s much more inclusive.

  38. He, just two weeks ago, I got the explanation that as a homosexual is a person that has sex with people of the same sex, a transsexual is someone that has sex with transpeople… :/

    As Greg says, I side step the issue with saying transpeople or transpersons. And wait for the definitions to stabilize over regions.

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  40. There is, by my observations, a large amount of growth in what one might call “non-intellectual” SF readers. Little to no advanced education (the kind that would have given them at least minimal instruction on critical reading, a veneer of a history of literature.

    Wow that is the snob nose in the air attitude the elite had about ALL Science Fiction when I started reading 60 years ago, We have come full circle

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