Yesterday the 2020 Dragon Awards ballot dropped, pleasantly surprising many by being loaded with genuinely popular books. (As Cora Buhlert put it, “The 2020 Dragon Award Finalists Go Full Tilt Towards Mainstream Respectability”). But not everyone is pleased.
Tommy Lasorda famously said, “There are three kinds of people in this world: people who make it happen, people who watch what happens, and people who wonder what happened.” And this year, some of the Dragon Awards’ most vocal supporters find themselves in the third category.
Declan Finn, a Sad Puppies devotee whose passion went unappreciated by the movement’s leaders, considers the 2020 Dragon Ballot to be another outcome of people not listening to him.
You know, I am fairly hooked into the book community. If I don’t read every book, I at least hear about a lot of them. Even if I take one look and decide I don’t want to read it, I at least check it out.
Then I saw the 2020 Dragon Award ballot and wondered who the fuck any of these people were. Seriously, what sort of shit show is this?
Sure, I’ve heard of a few. Margaret Atwood at least has a TV show. She’s an opportunistic parasite, but people have at least heard of her (though I haven’t heard of that book. I guess she came out with another). I’ve heard of Scalzi–don’t like him, but I can at least pick his name out of a phone book. Chuck Wendigo? The same.
But so many of these names are just … Who? What? Huh?
I’ve been assured by some people (randoms online, mostly) that these are Hugo authors. I guess I’ll take their word on it… but usually, I’ve at least HEARD about those authors. These folks? Nah.
… If only someone could have warned about this.
If only someone could have tried to lead discussions, hold conversations on what books came out. That way, we could have narrowed it down to a few.
WAIT! I know! I DID. I FUCKING WANTED PEOPLE TO DISCUSS BOOKS FOR THE DRAGONS. WHAT DID EVERYONE THINK I WAS DOING IN 2018 AND 2019? COMPILING EVERY ELIGIBLE BOOK BECAUSE IT WAS FUN? I DID IT FOR MY HEALTH? THAT WAS EXTRA WORK I DIDN’T NEED TO DO.
…It was especially fun this year when I had an author see that “I was talking about the Dragon again,” therefore, she asked if “I could put her book on the list.” IE: She didn’t even read the blog post to see what I was talking about. It was assumed I enjoyed killing myself so I could market their book for free.
No one wanted to play. That’s fine. I’m used to it.
But everyone can all stop bitching about it. They either didn’t vote, or didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want to invest even thirty minutes into presenting a selection of choices, or having a conversation.
Now this years ballot sucks….
Brian Niemeier in “The Dragon Sleeps” doesn’t think the reason is that they neglected Declan’s advice. After ranting about John Scalzi’s nomination, Niemeier says the pandemic is the reason that the award he’s spent years boosting, where EVERYONE can vote for FREE, has in 2020 generated a ballot bereft of work by him and his friends:
From the author of The Handmaid’s Tale to lesbian vampire stories to a writer so deranged even Disney fired him, this year’s Dragon ballot reads like the canon of Death Cult humiliation scripture….
Of course, the Death Cult witches lie constantly in the manner of their father below. Thus their previous attempt to take over the Dragons in 2017.
That attempt failed, and the Dragons continued to be a direct democratic process as intended. Each subsequent years’ winners were pretty much what you’d expect from a readers’ choice award with a broad voter base. Baen and the bigger indies came to dominate, with cameos from the more mainstream Pop Cult fare like Corey Doctorow and The Expanse.
I and the other cultural commentators who predicted this course of events based our forecasts on the key difference between the Dragons and the other literary awards. Anyone can vote in the former, while the latter lock voting rights behind a paywall or professional organization membership.
Put simply, the Death Cult can monopolize the Hugos because World Con’s voter base is quite small, relatively speaking. The number of CHORFs isn’t growing. In fact, they’re rapidly graying. It stands to reason that an award with an open, large, and growing voter base would be immune to manipulation by an insular Cult.
And for three years, that reasoning held true. But as is its wont, 2020 threw the con scene a curve ball: Corona-chan.
Niemeier tries to spin that the pandemic has caused these aberrant results because people won’t be able to attend an in-person Dragon Con this year. (Never mind that Brian is always telling readers one of the Dragon’s virtues is that you don’t have to buy a con membership to vote.)
…There’s your explanation for what happened with the Dragons. The virus shut down the con, normal people tuned out, and the small but relentless Cult faction took advantage of the drastically reduced voter base to pack the ballot.
Then, the following Twitter conversation was devoted to asking “What happened?”
In contrast, Larry Correia, inventor of Sad Puppies, hailed the 2020 ballot: “Fantastic! There are a bunch of really good authors nominated this year.”
And Brad R. Torgersen, who ran the last Sad Puppies slate, found the pandemic didn’t stop his friends from getting nominated: “Nice to see some friends getting some well-deserved recognition on the Dragons final ballot. Even though there is no DragonCon being held in Atlanta due to Covid-19 panic, the Dragons roar onward. Good luck to Nick and Jason, Marko, Dave, and Chris!”
As for the nominees, they’re delighted as you’d expect. John Scalzi says in “The Last Emperox a Finalist for the 2020 Dragon Awards” at Whatever.
It’s a field where I would be happy with any one of these writers/titles winning, so that’s really the best of all possible worlds. And it’s nice to see The Last Emperox getting some early recognition, award-wise. That would be lovely to have continue.
Fonda Lee is especially happy:
(She’s been up for a Nebula and won a World Fantasy Award (2018), neither of which, it’s true, would you call “fan awards,” however, she’s won three Aurora Awards, which I thought are run by fans; I’ll have to defer to her knowledge on that score.)
Meanwhile, even experienced sff news reporters like Ansible’s David Langford are still coming to grips with the Dragon Awards’ turnaround. He told Camestros Felapton:
I am of course utterly stupended. But this is a condition that comes easily to me.
You and me both, Dave. And count on you to know the best word for it.