N.K. Jemisin Withdraws from Dragon Awards

N.K. Jemisin has announced she is “Withdrawing from the Dragon Awards”.

Last year, as a 2016 nominee in the Best Fantasy Novel category she says, “I took at face value the DA administrators’ insistence that they were trying to create a fair, open, ‘people’s choice’ award process, I just chalked the problems up to growing pains, took it as an honor, and moved on.” There are a couple of major reasons she has decided against participating in 2017.

…Suffice it to say that the Dragon Awards voting process no longer seems fair or transparent to me, in actual practice.

And then I heard about author Alison Littlewood’s request to withdraw from the awards, and the awards admins’ refusal to honor this request. Important: as of this morning, they’ve changed their minds about this policy and are now removing Ms. Littlewood’s book from the ballot. That’s great. It sounds like this change is enough to assuage John Scalzi’s concerns about the award; that’s also great. I have nothing but respect for other people’s decisions re this whole matter.

It ain’t working for me, though. Let me break this all the way down.

There’s a nasty tendency on the part of some organizations to try and use tokens — most often women and people of color — as ornamentation and flak shielding. It’s a way of saying, “Hey! Look! We’re diverse. We’re fair. [Person X’s presence] proves it!” when in fact the fairness may be an unearned veneer and the diversity a reluctant afterthought. There’s a name for this process when it occurs in corporate settings under certain circumstances. And I’ve become more sensitive to being used this way myself because it’s been happening a lot more, lately. This is the kind of thing that happens when people who don’t understand social justice concepts — or who have contempt for them — attempt to deploy them anyway for appearances’ sake. It’s not always malicious, but it’s noticeable, and it’s never a good look. And those of us who get put into the ornament/flak shield position don’t actually like being used this way, see? I don’t, anyway.

So when it became clear that the opacity of the voting process was intentional — in effect, when I realized there was no way to know if my book’s presence on the list was legitimately earned through individual, freely-chosen votes by a representative sampling of DragonCon members (or SFFdom as a whole) — a gentle ping of flak warning went off in my mind. But when DragonCon initially refused to accept Ms. Littlewood’s request for withdrawal for the reasons stated here, those gentle pings escalated to full-on DANGER WILL ROBINSON alarm bells. It’s good that they’ve changed their minds about letting authors off the list, and I think they meant well… but at this point those alarm bells cannot be un-rung.

So. I had a pleasant phone call this morning from a spokesperson for the Dragon Awards who discussed the process with me, and let me know that they’re planning to fix some of its problems and do a better job in the future. He assured me that the votes which put The Obelisk Gate on the ballot were legitimate — and I was glad to hear that, seriously. Thank you, to all of you who voted for me. However… I still choose to withdraw. I will be happy to participate in the Dragon Awards at a future date, if I am so honored — after the process has been substantially improved. I very sincerely wish them luck in working on this, and will look forward to positive results.

[Thanks to Matt Y and JJ for the story.]

31 thoughts on “N.K. Jemisin Withdraws from Dragon Awards

  1. I can see a no way forward for the Dragons to be fair unless they completely revamp both nomination and voting processes. Since they slam Awards like the Hugo in their FAQ about the Dragons, it’s unlikely that’ll happen.

    Transparency is sorely lacking here. I can’t even say if the Dragon admin is one person or is just the Board doing it. Either way, it’s an inept undertaking.

  2. Even though the Dragon Awards reversed the decision communicated by Pat Henry’s letter, they won’t be able to get away from the statements made in that letter, which were condescending in many places, outright lies and falsehoods in others, and in general demonstrated an ideological bent that is almost certain to make the awards a farce for the foreseeable future.

  3. It will certainly be interesting to see whether they eventually manage to match the standards authors are used to from other awards.

  4. A local alternative paper now defunct had a readers survey of the ‘Best of’ every spring. I never bothered voting in as they allowed each email address to vote up to twenty five times.

    Sometime after that it chandelier hands and he admitted to me that simply tossed winner that didn’t suit their advertising needs, i.e. A certain coffee shop would take out a full page ad if they won that category.

    I my gut tells that the Dragons will end more often than that with the same process, i.e. I’d be surprised if Scalzi wins because he can’t be there to accept that Award.

  5. Aaron says to me, No one was there last year to aacept their awards. Almost no one attended the ceremony at all.

    Not surprised as it’s a media con with it being geared towards everything but the written word. The present model isn’t likely to change as its high profitable model.

  6. Cat, autocorrect mangled your post. I assume it CHANGED hands…? (although a chandelier made of hands would be… interesting. Indeed, here in 4742, it’s all the rage….)

  7. Cat Eldridge: Not surprised as it’s a media con with it being geared towards everything but the written word.

    But do you know what well-run awards programs do? They have a PR person who works with all the Finalists, trying to persuade as many of them as possible to attend the awards, or at the very least to designate a representative who will be there on the finalist’s behalf.

    And then the well-run awards program publicizes the hell out of itself, so that when the awards are given, it is in front of a big room full of fans (theoretically the ones who nominated the Finalists, but it’s hard for a multiple-voting sock puppet to make an appearance as more than one person, now isn’t it?).

    When Aaron says no one was there, he’s not just talking about the finalists — he’s talking about the non-existent audience. Photos of the ceremony indicate that about a dozen people were there, and DragonCon had to designate someone to stand in for almost all of the recipients.

    One of the winners didn’t even find out they were a finalist until after the “ceremony”, when they started getting a bunch of congratulations on Twitter for winning.

    The fact that DragonCon is primarily a media con is irrelevant. Half of the award categories were for media works, rather than novels. The fact that DragonCon didn’t even care enough to try to make the awards ceremony into something meaningful speaks volumes.

  8. The Dragon Awards are completely discredited at this point. That said, it takes some guts to decline a nomination and stick to it, so I totally respect Jemisin’s decision, even though I understand Scalzi’s reasoning for staying on the ballot. Everyone has to make his or her own choice, obviously. I remember when Marko Kloos declined his Hugo nomination because he was slated by the Rabid Puppies. He writes some terrific military SF, I can’t detect a hint of his political views in any of his books, but turning it down must have been tough. Good for him, good for Jemisin.

  9. I was gonna vote for her. Sigh. But I still totally agree with her stance.

    Proof that there’s no SJW cabal: nobody here has found any list of “recommended” votes, as opposed to the Pups and Scrappys, who have blatherated endlessly on how you should vote.

    I mean, we’re the wretched hive of SJW scum and villainy, we’re supposed to get the cabal memos! I’ve got my credential purring right next to me here at the computer and all.

    Not that I’ve gotten a ballot yet. Maybe I missed the Thursday batch and have to wait till Monday. Maybe they know I’m one of those SJWs (I used ONLY this name and address) and have made an executive decision not to let me vote.

    People who have voted (if any): did you get an email with a link to the ballot?

    @Cat: Our local real newspaper does that. Back in the 80’s of course, you had to fill out paper slips and submit them. However, there weren’t any limits as to how many forms you could write and send in, so businesses were free to get customers and employees to write tons of forms. It was more effort than multiple emails, but it could be done. The ratings do seem to be pretty accurate — if something is “Best Of”, it’s at least in the top 3 in town. Their BBQ joint ratings are spot on, at least.

    Pretty sure there’s been chandelier hands in some horror movie.

  10. Soon Lee on August 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm said:

    I for one welcome our SJW Overlords (with hands)!

    Maybe that video was the secret communication of orders we’ve been waiting for…

  11. It’s not quite a chandelier of hands, but Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast has a number of arm sconces (briefly visible in the first seconds of this clip). (I strongly recommend this film; it doesn’t subvert the story like more recent versions, but it is beautifully shot and has stunning effects (e.g. the aforementioned) done for almost nothing.)

  12. @lurkertype

    I’ve missed Monday and Thursday’s batches. Has someone besmirched me as an evil “justice warrior”? Or are they really that overwhelmed?

  13. Both email addresses I have registered got their ballot links in the first batch that went out. Last year, it took them a couple of weeks to actually post the final ballot online on their website or even put out an announcement. I figured this year that first people to find out who was on the ballot would be the people registered, and I was right.

  14. A Dragon Award withdrawal is going to carry more respect and prestige than a Dragon Award at this rate. Publishers are going to start putting ‘Withdrawn From The Dragon Awards!’ on the covers of new editions of their books.

  15. A Dragon Award withdrawal is going to carry more respect and prestige than a Dragon Award at this rate. Publishers are going to start putting ‘Withdrawn From The Dragon Awards!’ on the covers of new editions of their books.

    And they could be awarded with a slightly different bulk-produced glass paperweight bought off of the internet!

  16. @Darren —

    And they could be awarded with a slightly different bulk-produced glass paperweight bought off of the internet!

    I believe those bulk-produced glass paperweights are available on the producers’ website in several different colors, IIRC. Green or blue for withdrawers, perhaps?

  17. Since they say they are going to take a hard look at the process, my guess is that they will discontinue them rather than run them with any integrity. It’s really an embarrassment to the con.

  18. @Laura: mine arrived at 1:06am EDT (my zone and DC’s) Friday (2017 08 11 0506Z — no, I don’t know if that’s the official format, but it’s logical). Possibly the person writing the release and administrator disagree on when the day turns over?

    @Rebecca H: whence this optimism? With the attitude they’ve shown, I figure there will be a whitewash and it will stagger on for years; as I noted in another thread, it’s so low-profile it can’t possibly affect such a huge convention.

  19. @Darren

    Oh! Give the withdrawers the blue version and call them the ice dragons!!

  20. Pingback: 2017 Dragon Con Awards Nominees | File 770

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