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.
The whole “I haven’t heard of this person, therefore they must not be worth knowing about” line of argument that Declan Finn uses is one of the most frustrating and narrow-minded ways to approach genre awards.
And Mike, you’re right that the Auroras are fan-run and voted. I think that Fonda Lee might be suggesting that they’re not “major”? Though I’d disagree with that assessment.
Olav Rokne: There are a lot of people in this field, and whenever I’m tempted to react to praise for a new name, “I’ve never heard of them,” I’ve learned to tell myself, “Well, you have now.”
Thanks for confirming that the Auroras are fan-run. Maybe your inference about “major” is the reason.
Just a click.
I wouldn’t exactly call the Dragons “major” either. But maybe it’s simply that she’d heard of them, and hadn’t heard of the Auroras when she was first nominated. Which gets back to the whole not known=not worth knowing thing.
Another interpretation might be that since the Auroras are regional (focusing on Canada), they’re parochial rather than major.
I was at the Auroras banquet when Fonda Lee won for novel. Though I don’t think she actually attended, I recall the speech she sent being quite gracious.
Olav Rokne notes The whole “I haven’t heard of this person, therefore they must not be worth knowing about” line of argument that Declan Finn uses is one of the most frustrating and narrow-minded ways to approach genre awards.
The only area of the Awards were I was at a loss was the MilSF category. I either didn’t recognise the writers or had read the writer and really wouldn’t vote for them for even a not coveted swamp cabbage award. So I didn’t vote. Same for the gaming categories as I’m not a gamer.
Otherwise it was a ballot of generally great books so I had to decide which one to nominate. But I was comfortable with my choices.
Xtifr says I wouldn’t exactly call the Dragons “major” either. But maybe it’s simply that she’d heard of them, and hadn’t heard of the Auroras when she was first nominated. Which gets back to the whole not known=not worth knowing thing.
The prime Award is the Hugo. I’d place the Nebulas, Locus Awards, Other and BSFA next. Mythopoetic for fantasy as well. Astounding too. Dragon? Errrr, no.
I dnfed the only Marko Klloos I tried, but it wasn’t his fault — I just wasn’t in the mood at the time. He seemed to be a competent writer, and I keep meaning to go back and try more. And, in fact, I have now purchased the audio of this one to give it a try. If I get around to it in the near future, I’ll report back. It’s narrated by Luke Daniels, which is a good sign that somebody was actually interested in a quality product.
Declan Finn is a real potty mouth.
I have to admit that I’m loving the angst as these folks discover that the “hordes” that “support them in email” aren’t actually as horde-like as they thought. And of course, we’re getting the usual “it’s all a conspiracy” nonsense. Like, how many people do they think are employed by Tor? 😀
That said, I’m still not impressed by the Dragons. The eligibility period is probably the worst problem–there isn’t time to read works published towards the end of eligibility before the nominations open. And it’s simply too much work to figure out whether a work is eligible when you have to look up the actual publication day! Which probably punishes works published near the beginning of the eligibility period too. That’s the main reason I haven’t bothered to participate.
The utter lack of transparency in their process doesn’t impress me either. But at least now we can probably throw out the conspiracy theories about puppies in control of the award secretly manipulating the results to favor the puppies.
I’m also a bit intrigued by the part where Finn says that most of “his” folks hate JDA. I mean, I entirely sympathize, but I have to wonder if it’s actually because JDA spends most of his life in the “failure mode of clever”, as it is with me, or is it simply because they’re racist?
I put together an eligibility worksheet for the Dragon Awards last year, and it is a real pain in the neck.
One good thing came from all this. I was thinking “I can”t possibly read enough to vote even in one category as long as the libraries are closed”, and then I checked. My local library has re-opened! Albeit with a reduced capacity for patrons.
Also, I wonder if Dragon Con will give an idea on whether the number of nominators has gone up or down this year. I’d guess probably up, but I have no evidence at all.
The “who are these people?” reaction really bugs me, too. Try to be aware of your field. There is no shame in being unaware of many respected current writers. It happens. Before I started swimming around the waters of File 770, I was unaware of many upcoming writers. My bad. Easy enough to fix. Improve my reading life? What a concept.
If your response to seeing names you don’t recognize on an awards ballet is anger and shaking your fist and name calling… That looks more Ike willful ignorance wrapped in a whine.
More concisely: “Aaaaaaaaa!”
Funny how the Dragons aren’t the shining example of how awards should work anymore.
I’m going to cross-stitch this phrase onto a pillow and point at it every time I hear anyone using their own ignorance to slag the work of others.
Sometimes the jokes write themselves.
Also, I’m familiar with all of these writers, and I don’t consider myself intelligent, discerning, informed or erudite. So, where’s Finn been at?
Even ignoring the gratuitous and unwarranted “opportunistic parasite” insult – –
Handmaid’s Tale won the Clarke Award THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO – and Atwood has been up for the Booker Prize at least twice.
Finn claims to know the book world – and yet has heard of Margaret Atwood from television????
He’s not fit to sharpen her pencils.
Brown Robin says Also, I’m familiar with all of these writers, and I don’t consider myself intelligent, discerning, informed or erudite. So, where’s Finn been at?
First, don’t sell yourself short please. You are no doubt all of those things in your own way.
Second, Finn’s thinking that the Dragons belong only to that small community of writers and more importantly voters that he knows personally. Except that the Dragon admin apparently doesn’t think that way as they’ll send out a ballot to anyone who registers. And even some, like me, who never did but had a pleasant email conversation with them back in the beginning.
Re “Who are these people?” — lists of good books I haven’t heard of are chances to become one of today’s lucky ten thousand: https://xkcd.com/1053/
It’s easy not to listen to new bands, or read new books, or try new foods, but that sort of inertia isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a point pf pride.
I’m not making a huge effort to read recently published books; I am making an effort to not let all my reading be re-reading, and to read some books and short stories by authors I haven’t read before.
Could someone please tell me what among the nominees was deemed “lesbian vampire stories”? (Asking for a friend. A friend that is me. I am that friend, and I would like to read these lesbian vampire stories.)
I decided they were talking about Gideon. Which isn’t actually a lesbian vampire story, but that’s about as close as I’d expect puppies to get to girl cooties, ya know?
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 as Yogi Berra famously said, “If the people don’t wanna come out to the ballpark, ain’t nobody gonna stop ’em”.
@Kyra: Misunderstanding of Gideon the Ninth?
The esteemed Mr. Langford has summed it up for many.
For such a piously pious Catholic, Declan sure uses a lot of curse words. I don’t think any of the Popes I’m familiar with would approve of that. I KNOW none of the priests I’ve ever known would approve. His Twitter rant is going to take a whole bunch of Hail Marys, Our Fathers, rosaries, and Acts of Contrition. And maybe his mom washing his mouth out with soap.
I was amused at a Puppy tweeting “What we need is fans.”
Soooooo close to a realization there regarding their performance in awards. Particularly an award which anyone with an email address can vote on.
@Xtifr: it is also possible that the original Puppy-favoring admin(s) were replaced this year by someone(s) else. And that someone(s) may have counted all the votes.
Also the (minimal) publicity by the local library district may have brought in people who have no idea about fan feuds, they just voted for what they liked.
@Laura: that’s such an about-face that the Puppies should have whiplash.
(Hi, all. Mostly over at Camestros’. We and the credentials are same as always.)
Maybe he was talking about Gideon? (Although that’s not even accurate; not that he would know, obviously.)
Re. Lesbian Vampires: Yeah, I figured that was just a misunderstanding of Gideon the Ninth as well.
She won the Booker prize twice, 2000 and 2019. She’s also won the Order of Canada (second highest prize they have, after the Order of Merit), the Order of the Companions of Honour, and a huge list of other international honors and awards. She’s been given honorary degrees by Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Dartmouth, and about a dozen other universities across the globe.
Even if she were just an “opportunistic parasite”, you’d have to admire the amount of parasitic skill it took to amass as many accolades as she has! 😀
I know I’ve seen something pointed out to me as lesbian vampire fiction, but I decided long ago that Octavia Butler’s Fledgling was a wonderful book, but also the end of my need to read vampire books unless Butler herself deigns to return and write more.
So, I can only say, probably not Gideon the Ninth, but maybe, and beyond that, I have nothing useful to say.
Finn and Niemeier and their pals likely won’t believe it, but I wouldn’t have bothered to even look at the Dragons nominee list if Mike hadn’t posted it here. It’s a pleasant surprise to see so many good books on it, even if in unlikely categories for some of them.
sticks hand high in air
I know! I know the answer!
Lesbian vampire story: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez.
OK, it is not nominated for the Dragon awards (won the Lambda award back in the day), but it is in fact a bona fide lesbian vampire story. A Black lesbian vampire story to boot.
I gathered from the excerpt I read of “Gideon” that it was necromancers, which are entirely different, and possibly not at all what Kyra wants.
But then I actually bothered to read the opening chapter a while back, which makes me vastly more informed.
Oh boy! I’m part of a death cult! Does this mean I can cast death curses? Do I have to wear all black? (wait, I already do wear all black).
Rose Embolism: Oh boy! I’m part of a death cult! Does this mean I can cast death curses?
I know, I know, I AM EXCITE. When do I get to start killing people, and which methods am I allowed to use? 😈
Oh, I’ve known I was in an evil death cult for a long time. I read comic books. I listen to rock and roll. And jazz. I have been known to dance. And have even (leans forward and whispers) played pool!
No more evidence needed, right? 😀
Rose, JJ et al: I guess Gideon the Ninth being on the ballot isn’t doing anyone any favours in not looking like the Dragon Award has been hijacked by death-cultists…
Re. Declan’s claims not to have heard of most of the authors: I’m not very good at reading books while they are still awards-eligible, but I have nonetheless heard of all of the authors in the SF and Fantasy categories, and half of the novels, despite only having read one of the fourteen. Eight of those authors have been nominated for Nebulas! And that’s just looking at novels, and at one major SF award. They’re hardly obscure.
Or, to take another point of comparison: every single author nominated for SF or fantasy this year has a wikipedia page. In the previous four years of the award, six of the SF nominees, and ten of the fantasy nominees, don’t have a wikipedia page for either the work or the author.
This is, by any objective measure, a much more widely known group of finalists than in previous years (certainly in the two categories where I know anything), and the fact that Declan Finn doesn’t recognise their names says more about him than it does about the nominees.
The fact that the same authors Finn is calling unknown are “TITANS of the genre” whom Fonda Lee is excited to be included amongst says it all.
And because I’m bizarrely fascinated by Mr. Niemeier’s claims that previous years of the Dragon Award were “were pretty much what you’d expect from a readers’ choice award with a broad voter base” whereas this year’s are… not that… I thought I would take a look at the “Best SF” nominees from the five years the award has been running.
TL;DR: in fact this years nominees match up better with other widely voted on awards (Goodreads Choice and Locus) than previous years
All the information to follow comes from ISFDB:
I looked at five major SF awards (Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, BSFA, and Locus), and the Goodreads Choice Award, as well as making a note how many other awards the ISFDB recorded each work as having been nominated for. Unsurprisingly, the Locus (20/34) and Goodreads (16/34) awards matched up best with the Dragons, partly because they each publish long lists of finalists (Goodreads have the top 20; Locus finalists lists can be even longer); partly because they have multiple categories in which a work might be eligible (e.g. Best SF, Best Fantasy*, Best Debut Novel, Best YA).
It is perhaps a little more surprising, given the Dragon Awards’ origins, that eight of the 34 nominees in Best SF have been shortlisted for the Hugo, and a further 7 made the longlist – a better match than with the Nebulas (5 nominees), Clarkes (2 nominees), or BSFA (2 finalists; 3 longlist). In fact, if you exclude The Last Emperox and Network Effect, both published this spring and thus not yet eligible for any other awards, fully one quarter of Dragon noms are also Hugo noms, and nearly one half have been on the Hugo longlist. Indeed, the 2017 Dragon list (which Mr. Niemeier specifically names as one where “Death Cult witches” failed to hijack the award, so let’s take that as a benchmark of what he thinks the Dragon Awards “should” look like) contains 3 Hugo nominated works. That’s the year in which the Dragons best match the Hugos!** (It is, of course, entirely a coincidence that it was also the year in which Mr. Niemeier himself was nominated.)
What about the popularity contest, though? That is, after all, what the Dragons are meant to be. Well, this year five of the six nominees (still not counting Wells or Scalzi) were in the top 20 in at least one Goodreads Choice category, and all six were a finalist in at least one Locus category – including one winner in each award. By contrast, in 2017, three of the eight nominees were Goodreads Choice finalists, and four of eight were Locus finalists. Even if Wells and Scalzi strike out on all of the major awards next year, this years finalists were still more popular among general readers in the Goodreads poll, and among SFF readers in the Locus Poll. (In 2017, there were no Goodreads winners but two Locus winners in the Dragons).
(As for the other years, 2016 saw 2 Goodreads and 3 Locus nods; 2018 saw 2 of each; and 2019 saw four of each.)
An alternative measure of popularity (or at least popular awareness) is whether or not one has a Wikipedia article. In 2020, all of the authors nominated have articles, and three of the books have individual entries. Compare 2016 (5 and 3 out of 6); 2017 (5 and 4 out of 8); 2018 (3 and 2 out of 6); and 2019 (6 and 3 out of 6). We find that, far from this year being the year of “who’s that?” it was 2018, where half of the authors still don’t even have articles two years on. (In fact, 2018 was even worse than that, because two of those novels had two authors, neither of whom have a Wikipedia article.)
2017 is an interesting year in one respect: while three of the works nominated made it onto both the Locus and the Goodreads list (and all three of those also made it onto the Hugo shortlist), four of the remaining works don’t seem to have been nominated in any other SFF award, out of only nine such works in the history of the Dragons. That is, fully half of the nominees were only nominated for the Dragons, compared to 1/4 of the nominees in the award’s history.
Yes, this is the Best SF Dragon category that we are looking at, but genre classification can be fuzzy: just this year, Ten Thousand Doors of January and Gideon the Ninth both won the World Fantasy Award, and Ten Thousand Doors was also under Fantasy in the Goodreads poll (but Gideon was SF for the purposes of Goodreads).
** At least, unless either Network Effect or The Last Emperox are nominated next year. In that cast, 2020 and 2017 would both have 3 Hugo nominees on their shortlist, but 2020 would also have a longlisted work, Newitz’s The Future is Another Time
One of those unheard of authors will be having her book adapted into a television series https://www.tor.com/2020/08/13/fonda-lee-jade-city-peacock-adaption-tv/
Feeling a bit death culty today. Gonna eat my death lozenges and do some deceasement exercises. Then time for a necrosis nap followed by a brisk quietus before tea.
Off the top of my head, Leigh Bardugo and Silvia Moreno-Garcia are getting TV adaptations as well, Jeff VanderMeer has had a movie based on one of his books, Tamsyn Muir is on the NYT bestseller list RIGHT NOW …
I admit I don’t know most of the names on the alt-hist list; I’m still interested in alt-hist, but maybe it has sheared off into its own alcove (as MilSF did a long time ago)? But I know all the names on the SF and Fantasy lists, and some of the YA; I wonder what he’s been following that gives him the delusion that he’s following everything without knowing those names.
I hadn’t realized that any of the Puppies had descended to claiming non-Pups were outright Satanists; I thought they were still trying to hang the pedophile rap on anyone who didn’t march to their beat. Maybe that’s so 2018.
I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with if the con happens next year but the awards are still not to their liking?
@OlavRokne, re “major”: also my reaction — going by national populations, the limit disqualifies something like 90% of authors.
@Xtifr: +1 on timing — I didn’t vote even in the categories I might have, because there was no way to read the several pieces I’d missed in the time available. I didn’t read far enough to see Finn’s claim that his peeps mostly hate JDA; I’m reminded of Illuminatus-the-~card-game, in which there are several opposed pairs of alignments but Fanatic is the opponent of Fanatic.
(later) to be fair, IIUC Atwood won some of those awards for borderline-genre (or less), while slagging the field in general (although I read she’s walked that back and/or claimed everyone was misreading her remarks). The mundane prizes like the Booker might not be noticed by someone … excessively devoted to genre … but even such a person should have noticed the comments.
(still later, but not 1789): ya got trouble!
@Joe: you’re putting facts in the way of a good rant; I’m waiting for the Puppy comments calling you Fake News.
@Hampus Eckerman: [snortle]
Comic books….rock and roll….jazz….pool…
We’ve got to hang out some time soon.
A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by. – John Wayne
I did not find out I was even on the nomination list until my husband said “Hey, you’re up for a Dragon!” so whoever is in charge of Death Cult Communications is falling down on the job!
In previous years, I admittedly might have admittedly side-eyed the nomination, thinking “Uh, hmm, if these are the people who my work resonates with, what am I doing?” but this actually looks like a list I can join with a cheerful heart. Which I suppose is what all the complaining is about.
Well, there goes my theory that they actually asked people to accept their nominations this year. (Finalist list was suppose to be out earlier.)
Congratulations, Wombat! I loved The Twisted Ones!
@Chip: Ah, I wondered what I was doing wrong!
Brian Niemeier has been doing that from the outset — it’s his go-to interpretation for whatever phenomenon he disapproves. JDA (who wasn’t engaged at the start of Puppy history) also does a little of that, but in his own way JDA is more interested in seeing people join him in Heaven than enjoying the pleasure of shipping them off to Hell.
Congrats, @RedWombat! I have to tell you, The Twisted Ones is absolutely comfort reading for me. Horror fantasy is a much better place for my late-night brain to roll around in than That Awful Personal Interaction From Six Years Ago That Has Decided To Replay Itself On Any Unused Mental Circuit. So thank you for giving me a creepy escape from weasel-brain!
Re: Death cult – See, now, I thought the death cult was the people insisting on reopening schools and not making masks part of the dress code. But today I learned that masks and 6-foot separation is a pagan ritual that is part of Satan worship, so I guess the death cult was inside me all along!
@OGH: you have a stronger stomach than I do, to have been that aware of those maunderings. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that somebody was playing that particular line.
In any popularly selected award, I think it should be acceptable to have a broad range of finalists. Having N.K. Jemisin* and Christopher Nuttal* as two finalists in the same category should be seen as a sign of an inclusive and broadly reading range of nominators.
The list of finalists doesn’t have to be an “either/or” proposition.
*just picking two authors whose work I have enjoyed immensely from a proverbial hat
“Too often … we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy
“I haven’t heard of him/her..” is not much of a criterion. When one of my friends in the Washington Science Fiction Association told me about Tolkien, I had never heard of him. I dutifully went to the library and took out the books and read them. I was not dissapointed. However, looking at the little check out record glued in the book, I discovered that in their years on the shelf they had only been checked out three times. I checked them out again several more times over the ensuing years, and it seems I was the only person checking them out.
This was before the paperback edition. This was back when knowing his name made you a cultist, like the people who knew who Lovecraft was. Word of mouth was the only publcity that Tolkien and Lovecraft got back them. Its still a good way to get the opinion of someone whose opinion you value.
Money spent on publicity by publishers is still the dominant reality in getting a writer’s name well known. And that means the money will be spent on advertising the books which publishers buy, and they buy them because they like them. There is no such thing as good or bad taste. Taste is only an organized body of likings. A person who can enforce personal taste on the masses will always be a dominant force. These days that person is like to have had her/his taste derived from the tastes of professors of editing at colleges rather than the changing tastes of the readership.
(Henry Fielding may be a bigger influence in our field than John Scalzi.)
I therefore think the Dragon Awards are a really positive step. Just as the use of computer talleys from bookstores all across a chain (possibly the world) was a big step toward finding out what people were actually reading, rather than depending on the figures from sixteen bookstores in Manhattan (which only admitted to the list those publishers they considered ‘respectable.’) Its not a perfect system, but it serves to call attention to the books, and what people are actually enjoying.
And the big money publicity has a definite place in that spectrum. Publicity made people aware of Margaret Atwood: a writer who has stated that she has never read any science fiction, but who has written virtually nothing else in her career. Inventing science fiction in a vacuum is quite an achievement.
@Jon DeCles: “Margaret Atwood: a writer who has stated that she has never read any science fiction, but who has written virtually nothing else in her career.”
That’s funny. I remember when The Handmaiden’s Tale came out. I thought, “She writes fiction?” I knew her as a poet before she’d ever printed a word of SF.