What are the nominees like?
- Group 1: Stuff nominated elsewhere or pretty darn famous. In this group I’d include John Scalzi’s book, The Obelisk Gate, Babylon’s Ashes. I’d also include Walkaway by Cory Doctorow here and the Rick Riodarn book also.
- Group 2: Stuff you might think would get nominated based on the general promotion. In this bucket I’d include Baen things or Larry Correia associated things. Larry didn’t promote a slate or specific books for the Dragons but he has devoted fans and has consistently promoted the awards. Books like Witchy Eye, Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo (obviously), Chuck Gannon’s book, and Eric Flint’s books I’d put in this category.
- Group 3: The books I don’t recognise. That’s not a very useful category and there are few awards were there isn’t some book I’ve never heard of. My ignorance is not in itself an evaluation of the quality or popularity of a work. Mark in the comments has pointed to Inkshares ( https://www.inkshares.com/ ) as an arena that may explain some of the nominees.
- Group 4: Scrappy-doo nominated (not neccesarily by authors I’d call Scrappy-Doos). Declan Finn, Jon Del Arroz obviously and books they promoted.
- Group 5: Castalia House Rabids
- Group 6: Other stuff, including various kinds of slate-hostages, books which cross categories and I can’t decide where they should go etc.
At Mad Genius, they have described the awards as:
“No secret cabals in shadowy rooms filled with clove cigarette smoke and cheap bottles of Merlot dictating the future of the awards, oh no.”
Which is ironic given that there is zero information on numbers and the rules make it quite legitimate for the people running the awards to add or remove books as they see fit. Note, that is NOT a claim of wrong doing but just pointing out that the Dragon Awards don’t really claim to be based purely on an expurgated popular vote.
The question is what kind of shenanigans may have occurred if any.
- Legitimate shenanigans would include the organisers adding popular works to the nominees to ensure a varied mix. This seems to be within the rules which gives the organisers carte-blanche to do what they need to do and within the aims of the award which says they intend to celebrate the best. Having said that, I think people might not be very happy if that occurred.
- Illegitimate shenanigans would include ballot stuffing. As has been pointed out, all that is required to vote is an email address. A person with two email addresses can easily nominate and vote twice. A click farm (e.g. see this piece) can generate many nominations so long as somebody was willing to pay.
Did ballot stuffing occur? There is no way to tell. Given Vox Day is willing to praise the murder of children just for being left-wing, I don’t see that he would have any obvious self-imposed moral restrictions on ballot stuffing – it wouldn’t even be in the top 10 of lists of shitty things he has done. However, that doesn’t mean he did hire a click farm – it may be his minions were sufficient to get his books nominated.
Were there legitimate shenanigans? Among the organic nominees (i.e. the ones I didn’t see any campiagns for) there is a mix of Group 1 and Group 2 and Group 3 works. I guess that is what a shenanigan-free list might look like.
Having said that I’d have thought a book like Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars book Thrawn would appear in a generically popular ballot (Declan Finn also listed it as a book we might see). The list doesn’t look like an obvious popularity contest. Yes, ‘bestseller’ lists should be taken with a pinch of salt but I still would have thought there would be more crossover with lists like these https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-science-fiction-fantasy-books-april-2017/
The main evidence of legitimate shenanigans is staring everybody in the face. The number of nominees per category is variable (as it was last year). The official list is here http://awards.dragoncon.org/2017-ballot/ and counting up gives these figures for the novels:
- Best Science Fiction Novel – 8 finalists (5 organic)
- Best Fantasy Novel – 7 finalists (6 organic)
- Best Young Adult – 7 finalists (4 organic)
- Best Military Science Fiction – 8 finalists (2 organic)
- Best Alternate History Novel – 8 finalists (5 organic)
- Best Apocalyptic Novel – 7 finalists (4 organic)
- Best Horror Novel – 8 finalists (5 organic)
- [“organic” here means it wasn’t on my projection list]
There is no published rule for the number of finalists and clearly SOMEBODY decides how many finalists they list per category. That by itself gives the organisers an arbitary power over the list. Looking at last year as well, I assume they are using some cut-off for a minimum number of nominations to get included. I suspect they might add a notable book in some cases as well to round out the list in a category based on votes in other categories- for example The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville in Alt-History.