The Unpredictable 2018 Dragon Awards Ballot

A lot of things are absent from the Dragon Awards ballot that I expected to see there.

Some of them I don’t miss. Some of them I do.

Best Novel Hugo Finalists:  None of the 2018 Best Novel Hugo finalists made the ballot in any of the Dragon Awards’ seven novel categories. Update: As pointed out in comments, the 2018 Dragon Award eligibility period ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. Only two of the Hugo finalists were released in that window of time, Provenance and The Stone Sky.

Did someone decline, and that’s why there’s no overlap? Not that I’ve found out so far.

Last year there was an issue whether some authors who wanted to withdraw would be allowed to do so, and in the end N.K. Jemisin withdrew, while John Scalzi changed his mind and left his book on the ballot.

I reached out to as many of the 2018 Best Novel Hugo finalists as I could to ask this question. Mur Lafferty (Six Wakes), Ann Leckie (Provenance), and John Scalzi (The Collapsing Empire) answered – and none of the three declined a Dragon Award nomination. (I also queried Jemisin’s agent, and hope to get an answer later.)

As a whole, the Hugo finalists seem like strong prospects to show up on a popularly-chosen award ballot because they have high numbers of Goodreads ratings – a lot of people have read these books.

Best Novel – total Goodreads ratings in parentheses (ineligible books lined out)

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor) (19,217)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit) (5,485)
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit) (6,907)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris) (3,167)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit) (6,220)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit) (22,285)

Slate Nominees: Also missing are nearly all the items recommended by the “Happy Frogs” and by Vox Day.

In May the “Happy Frogs OFFICIAL 2018 Dragon Awards Nominating Slate” was posted by Jon Del Arroz. Of their recommendations in 15 categories, only 2 items made the Dragon Awards ballot.

Their pick for Best Science Fiction Novel, Robert Kroese’s Dream Of The Iron Dragon, made it, although moved to the Best Alternate History category.

And their pick for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game, Middle Earth: Shadow Of War, is a finalist. However, that game has been a successful contender for other game awards, so the slate’s support may not have anything to do with the outcome.

In July, Vox Day posted his recommendations for the 2018 Dragon Awards, many of them published by Castalia House, and of the 15 things on his list just these 3 items made the ballot, none of them published by him. And the TV and movie entries that made the ballot already had widespread support.

Best Media Tie-In Novel   
Before the Storm (World of Warcraft)
Christie Golden

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series, TV or Internet
Stranger Things
Netflix

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
Incredibles 2
Brad Bird

Even for those who think the 2018 ballot is much better without most of the slate nominees, it surprises me that somebody with Vox Day’s track record of drumming up Hugo votes would have a problem repeating that success with an award where you don’t have to pay to vote. If that is, in fact, the case. (I’ve asked Vox Day for his reaction to the ballot.)

2018 Dragon Awards Finalists – How Many Goodreads Ratings? The 2018 Dragon Awards ballot’s seven novel categories contain the now-familiar range of bestsellers and little-known books (e.g., a nominee with only 8 Goodreads ratings).

Here is the number of Goodreads ratings for every Dragon Awards finalist (number in parentheses).

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • It Takes Death to Reach a Star by Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones (41)
  • Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey (13,834)
  • The Mutineer’s Daughter by Chris Kennedy and Thomas A. Mays (31)
  • Win by Vera Nazarian (1,385)
  • Sins of Her Father by Mike Kupari (65)
  • Artemis by Andy Weir (90,847)

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • Shoot the Messenger by Pippa DaCosta (874)
  • War Hammer by Shayne Silvers (973)
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (52,931)
  • The Land: Predators by Aleron Kong  (3,320)
  • The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston (115)
  • A Tempered Warrior by Jon R. Osborne (8)

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Cold Bath Street by A.J. Hartley (44)
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (47,737)
  • When Tinker Met Bell by Alethea Kontis (145)
  • Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne  (1,142)
  • Warcross by Marie Lu (37,703)
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (32,834)

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • Communications Failure by Joe Zieja (226)
  • Points of Impact by Marko Kloos (3,300)
  • Ghost Marines: Integration by Jonathan P. Brazee (125)
  • Price of Freedom by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle (243)
  • Legend by Christopher Woods (74)
  • A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope (1,003)

Best Alternate History Novel

  • Dark State by Charles Stross (888)
  • The Sea Peoples by S.M. Stirling (447)
  • Witchy Winter by D.J. Butler (27)
  • Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah A. Hoyt (66)
  • Dream of the Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese (142)
  • Minds of Men by Kacey Ezell (33)

Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray (5,045)
  • Before the Storm by Christie Golden (1,346)
  • Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson (5,333)
  • Fear Itself by James Swallow (123)
  • Legacy of Onyx by Matt Forbeck (117)
  • Desperate Hours by David Mack (1,177)

Best Horror Novel

  • Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch (42)
  • Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (10,276)
  • A Time to Run by Mark Wandrey (16)
  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (3,935)
  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King (33,575)
  • Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry (343)

Other Views: Camestros Felapton analyzes how his own predictions broke down in “Dragon Award Finalists: A Preemptive ‘No Award’ for Rabid Puppies?”

Update 08/07/2018: Noted books released before the Dragon Awards eligibility period.

30 thoughts on “The Unpredictable 2018 Dragon Awards Ballot

  1. That the Scalzi isn’t on it, isn’t a suprise.
    The book was a finalist last year, so it shouldn’t be in the running this year re Dragons.

    The ratings are interesting, don’t hate any of the frontrunners on that.

  2. The Dragon Awards had a starting cut-off date of July 1, 2017. Of the six Hugo Award nominees for Best Novel, only two, the Leckie and the Jemisin novels, were eligible.

  3. Hmm. I think they’d have a much better ballot if they adopted a rule that any nominee must have at least 3,000 Goodreads ratings.

    It’s funny that the whole thing started out as an award touting that it’s for what’s POPULAR with the masses, but… half the nominees are barely known at all. Which points to it being easy to game hasn’t changed.

  4. Looking at Librarything (which has a different demographic to Goodreads) here are the number of people who have the book in their library. This is typically a pretty strong really owns it in some form or other measure.

    Best Science Fiction Novel
    It Takes Death to Reach a Star by Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones (2)
    Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey (237)
    The Mutineer’s Daughter by Chris Kennedy and Thomas A. Mays (-)
    Win by Vera Nazarian (7)
    Sins of Her Father by Mike Kupari (4)
    Artemis by Andy Weir (1485)

    Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
    Shoot the Messenger by Pippa DaCosta (5)
    War Hammer by Shayne Silvers (6)
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (478)
    The Land: Predators by Aleron Kong (7)
    The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston (9)
    A Tempered Warrior by Jon R. Osborne (-)

    Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
    Cold Bath Street by A.J. Hartley (2)
    A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (309)
    When Tinker Met Bell by Alethea Kontis (6)
    Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne (68)
    Warcross by Marie Lu (599)
    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (723)

    Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
    Communications Failure by Joe Zieja (-)
    Points of Impact by Marko Kloos (30)
    Ghost Marines: Integration by Jonathan P. Brazee (-)
    Price of Freedom by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle (1)
    Legend by Christopher Woods (-)
    A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope (50)

    Best Alternate History Novel
    Dark State by Charles Stross (67)
    The Sea Peoples by S.M. Stirling (36)
    Witchy Winter by D.J. Butler (4)
    Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah A. Hoyt (7)
    Dream of the Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese (3)
    Minds of Men by Kacey Ezell (-)

    Best Media Tie-In Novel
    Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray (143)
    Before the Storm by Christie Golden (9)
    Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson (151)
    Fear Itself by James Swallow (7)
    Legacy of Onyx by Matt Forbeck (8)
    Desperate Hours by David Mack (33)

    Best Horror Novel
    Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch (-)
    Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (376)
    A Time to Run by Mark Wandrey (-)
    The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (130)
    Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King (884)
    Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry (33)

    It isn’t just that the nominations here do not reflect the Hugos, they also don’t reflect any other award. And that isn’t really me saying that they do not reflect my tastes, it is that I am not sure whose tastes they do reflect. It is a curate’s egg of a nomination list. Without any ideas of number of nominations and votes it is hard to say if it is just a very dedicated core of supporters pushing some of the less known authors on to the list. They are authors I don’t know about so I don’t know how much ‘get out the vote’ organising goes on either.

  5. Pingback: The 2018 Dragon Award Nominees and the Rise of the Kindle Unlimited Writing Factories | Cora Buhlert

  6. It looks to me like a split in the type of voter. There’s your more “ordinary” voter, either an attendee or a general fan, who is voting for fairly mainstream books, and then there’s the (ahem) “special purpose” voter who is brought in by a publicity campaign to vote for their favourite author. There’s only one or two of the former in each category, which implies that they’ve not yet managed to enthuse their own attendees to vote in any great numbers.
    It’s interesting that the puppy/post-puppy campaigns now can’t outvote the fans of the enthusiastic self-publicists. Cleary outrage marketing has a hard ceiling that is lower than what genuine self-promoters can achieve.

  7. I like alt history a lot (but usually concentrate on alt-military history). The nominees in this category will cause me to buy more books for my pile of unread books.

    Dream of the Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese – is something that I missed and it looks very interesting. I’m going to pick this up.

    Did not enjoy the first book in Stross series so I’m uninterested in the sequel. I might try the first book again, but I was 100+ pages in and pretty bored.

    I have the first one by Butler (Witchy Eye) which I’ve not had the chance to read yet.

    Got tired of the Stirling Emberverse series after it became Japan-centric. I loved the first 9 or so books in that series.

    Uncharted is an interesting premise, but I have not really cared for Sarah Hoyt’s writing in the past. I’m sure I’ll end up getting it in a Baen bundle and may end up reading it in this lifetime. This is not a priority.

    Minds of Men was totally out of left field for me. But the premise of the book seems interesting. I’ll probably buy it.

  8. I still maintain that these are the glory days for SF/F. Authors have fewer barriers to publishing. Readers have fewer filters to keep them from finding authors and/or sub-genres that scratch their individual itches.

    The result is that there will be many more good choices that individual readers might never have encountered previously.

    Not knowing/hearing about a book might mean that the book isn’t really that good. It might mean that it is pretty specific to a sub-genre that doesn’t really appeal to a specific reader. Or it might mean that the specific reader just hasn’t heard about that specific book.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too. – Job:A Comedy of Justice

  9. I voted just now. I recommend everyone do so, if only to support mainstream works vs. unpopular ones that clearly seem to have been gamed into the list. People will be less likely to do it in the future if it fails them. And there’s something satisfying about seeing the Dragons turn into something other than the Puppy Paradise that was originally envisioned. 🙂

    Anyone can sign up. http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php

    We could have the discussion again about whether the votes mean anything when it’s easy to create and vote with multiple accounts. I’ll just point out that Survey Monkey is treating this like a survey (not a poll), and they do these on line all the time. Given that they don’t insist on an exact count, they could do things as simple as discard all votes from any IP address that had duplicates. (There are much more sophisticated ways to do this, of course.) The point is, if you just want to make the best estimate of who the winner would have been, absent cheating, but you don’t need an exact tabulation, there are lots of techniques at your disposal.

    Is there a chance that voting here is meaningless? Sure, but I don’t think it’s a big chance. Survey Monkey wouldn’t be party to outright fraud, since they have a reputation to defend. And the list of nominees would be different if there had been outright fraud up to this point. What it looks like is any list with a mix of organic and slated nominees where the slates weren’t powerful enough to sweep the categories.

  10. Oddly enough, I was emailed a ballot without registering (I registered for last year’s ballot).

    This seems troubling.

  11. @dann I still maintain that these are the glory days for SF/F. Authors have fewer barriers to publishing. Readers have fewer filters to keep them from finding authors and/or sub-genres that scratch their individual itches.

    Yes to the first part. An emphatic no to the second part. It can be very /very/ hard to find really good stuff now (assuming we’re talking about non trad pubbed stuff). It not all that easy to find a diamond when it’s buried in manure and that’s exactly the situation the Kindle has presented us with.

    Lord knows, I love my Kindle, but it and Amazon have a lot to answer for when it comes to literature.

  12. @Greg Hullender
    I got four e-mails asking me to vote for the Dragons, while Lurkertype reported elsewhere that she had problems voting.

    But yeah, I agree that everybody should vote, because otherwise the Dragons will remain the “Who can drum up the most support?” award.

    @dann @rochrist
    The ease of publishing has been a boon to writers of any genre. But I also agree that discoverability is a real problem, particularly for self-published and small press books. Amazon’s bestseller and popularity lists are close to useless, especially since many genre charts are full of books that don’t actually belong there, and their recommendations seem to be actively getting worse. BookBub and similar newsletter focus mainly on discounted books, though there is some quality control. Initiatives like the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off or my Speculative Fiction Showcase and Indie Crime Scene sites help, but it’s still difficult.

  13. @rochrist

    I feel fortunate that my experiences with works that are not traditionally published or are published via small/indy presses has been pretty good. Everyone once in a while I hit a squeaker, but I’m willing to deal with that as the price of admission.

    My good/bad ratio drops off a bit as I start wandering towards the big 5 publishers. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s there.

    As Cora suggests, it helps to use a filter or two instead of just picking something up. SPFBO has been a good filter. Goodreads helps for me even if there aren’t a ton of reviews.

    In any case, I’d rather have writers out there earning a living without the additional barriers to entry. The barriers didn’t prevent the existence of bargin bins of marginal books. Having fewer barriers hasn’t changed things all that much, IMHO.

    Regards,
    Dann
    “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” – Frank Zappa

  14. A year back, The National Fantasy Fan (N3F.org), newsletter of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, published a monthly list of novels published in the prior month. You can see an example at http://n3f.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/TNFF201712.pdf, page 10. In constructing those lists, I applied the N3F Speculative Fiction Award definition of novel, namely over 100,000 words, and limited myself to novels without “adult content” appearing on Smashwords.com. I did include novels in foreign languages (some of the Russian covers are stunningly good). That was still a thousand novels on one site.

    At a rough guess, there were three or five thousand SF novels published last year. No one has read more than a modest fraction of them. It is then totally unsurprising that when different groups of readers assemble lists, the lists are completely different from each other.

  15. On twitter, it’s now easy to identify the Puppy-Dragon crew. They are all including variations on “Kindle Unlimited Stan” in their twitter by-lines.

  16. George Phillies: At a rough guess, there were three or five thousand SF novels published last year. No one has read more than a modest fraction of them. It is then totally unsurprising that when different groups of readers assemble lists, the lists are completely different from each other.

    You don’t need to explain why two lists are different. You should explain why you are satisfied that a bunch of books which received minimal attention from users of Goodreads — a neutral site for these purposes — became finalists for a popularly-voted award.

  17. @Rad Sonja

    On twitter, it’s now easy to identify the Puppy-Dragon crew. They are all including variations on “Kindle Unlimited Stan” in their twitter by-lines.

    Duh, I wasn’t talking about them. None of the puppies is even remotely prolific enough to be a Kindle Unlimited writing factory. I’m talking about individuals/groups who release one or more novel-length e-books per month, every month. But that’s the thing about puppies, they always project.

    Currently they’re baying at me on Twitter, unaware that I’ve muted them.

  18. @OGH

    You should explain why you are satisfied that a bunch of books which received minimal attention from users of Goodreads – a neutral site for these purposes – became finalists for a popularly-voted award.

    I’d like to know a bit more about the demographic differences (or similarities) between active Goodreads users and Dragon voters. The little bit of searching that I did about Goodreads users suggests that the group skews towards being female (at least by name appearances). A non-scientific and highly limited sample of the most recent reviews confirmed that reviewers skewed towards female with very few genre works being reviewed.

    I just don’t know if counting the number of Goodreads reviews is a useful metric in this context. (Actually reading those reviews is useful for knowing if a given reader will enjoy a given book, but that’s another discussion.)

    Regards,
    Dann
    TRC eht edisni deppart ma I !pleH

  19. Dann: I’d like to know a bit more about the demographic differences (or similarities) between active Goodreads users and Dragon voters.

    We’d like to know anything at all about Dragon Award voting. The awards administration is completely opaque. You might think you know something about how Goodreads “skews” but good luck making a comparison between two things for which you have no information about one.

  20. ….but good luck making a comparison between two things for which you have no information about one.

    I knew that as I responded. It’s something I use professionally on a regular basis.

    It also means that using Goodreads to point out potential flaws in the Dragon nominee list is also problematic, IMHO.

    Regards,
    Dann
    A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by. – John Wayne

  21. Dann: It’s only problematic in that it raises questions you apparently don’t want to see discussed.

  22. Mike,

    I thought I was engaging in that discussion by pointing out the limitations of the comparison(s) being made.

    Regards,
    Dann
    This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker

  23. Dann: It also means that using Goodreads to point out potential flaws in the Dragon nominee list is also problematic, IMHO.

    GoodReads members tend to be voracious readers with the geeky trait of wanting to track what they have read (as are users of LibraryThing). This makes those platforms excellent benchmarks for evaluating the relative general popularity of works.

    Dragon Awards nominations seem to be very much a “Family and Friends” thing — which means that at least some of the people nominating are likely not voracious readers, but are simply doing a favor for a friend or relative.

  24. @Dann

    I’d like to know a bit more about the demographic differences (or similarities) between active Goodreads users and Dragon voters. The little bit of searching that I did about Goodreads users suggests that the group skews towards being female (at least by name appearances). A non-scientific and highly limited sample of the most recent reviews confirmed that reviewers skewed towards female with very few genre works being reviewed.

    I just don’t know if counting the number of Goodreads reviews is a useful metric in this context. (Actually reading those reviews is useful for knowing if a given reader will enjoy a given book, but that’s another discussion.)

    The majority of all fiction readers in any genre are female. And since Goodreads and LibraryThing cater to voracious readers, it makes sense that their user base is majority female as well. And since Goodreads user nubers are so very high, they are a useful metric in determining books which have massive fanbases (e.g. The Vera Nazarian and Aleron Kong books) which we simply aren’t aware of.

    Meanwhile, we don’t know anything at all about the Dragon Awards nominators. We don’t know how many of them there are, how many people nominated/voted for which books, let alone what the gender breakdown is.

    Though going purely by what I’ve gleaned from various reports (Rad Sonja will be able to say more), the media and cosplay part of DragonCon skews young and female, while the literary and gaming skew older and male and more conservative. But since anybody can nominate and vote for the Dragons, even that doesn’t tell us anything about the nominators.

  25. @Cora Buhlert

    I agree. The new (to me) information about Dragoncon literary track participants aside, that was basically my point.

    Regards,
    Dann
    I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a stronger work ethic than Ray Charles. – Clint Eastwood

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