Dragon Award Analysis – More Baseless Speculation

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.

 

 

 

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17 comments

  1. Matt Y

    Just from the googles it looks like Inkshares managed to get two authors onto the ballot last year with An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel and The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau. It brings up a discussion from 2016 with McDoniel ‘I have no way of knowing how many people will vote for this thing – the 2016 Hugo for Best Fantasy Novel had 2903 voters – but that required membership (money) and, shall we say, there were some other factors in play there. This contest could have WAY more. Or WAY less. No one knows! But if all 614 of you voted – that seems like it could move the needle. Vote for me. And THE LIFE ENGINEERED and AN UNATTRACTIVE VAMPIRE if you want to share the love with the rest of the Sword & Laser shelf.’

    Looks like the success of the two Inkshare authors inspired involvement from others this year, which I mean makes sense, they got on the ballot and the award specifically encourages folks to get their fans to vote so it’s a bit more promotion for authors who get published based on pre-orders. Makes sense for them to try and get on the ballot.

    Honestly to me it looks like only a couple of groups manipulating the low bar of entry for self-promotion, which is perfectly within the rules and even encourages it, while the more well known authors chosen are a mix of pup-adjacent, random hostages and authors specifically chosen for some to go ‘Nah nah, my book beat yours in something’.

    Of course as long as they don’t release nomination counts it’s all speculation.

    Like

  2. Mark

    I wonder if the numbers of finalists indicates where they’re getting ties and have to include both – which considering the number of categories with an extra entry would imply we’re looking at very low numbers of votes.

    Like

    • camestrosfelapton

      Seems like a lot of ties even for low numbers. I’d have thought that Finn and JDA could rustle up 50 votes at least and Vox surely could get a few hundred by fair means or foul. We know other people voted as well

      Like

  3. Contrarius

    I don’t quite understand why any legitimate outlet is even bothering to give these awards bandwidth. I mean, I myself made three nominations in the same category using three different emails just to verify that it could be done (I nominated Horton Hears a Who, The Cat in the Hat, and I Wish That I Had Duck Feet). I got nice confirmation notices and everything. So it’s obvious that the awards mean nothing aside from who is more willing to stuff those boxes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nina A

    Sarah Maas belongs in Category 1- she’s a major seller and hugely loved in that category. I can believe that people who actually read YA would vote for that.

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    • Cora

      Faith Hunter, too. Not quite as big as Sarah Maas, but a very popular urban fantasy author.

      Anyway, if one of the Wrights wins over Sarah J. Maas or Rick Riordan, that will confirm a lot of suspicions we already have regarding Dragon participation.

      Like

  5. Lurkertype

    If the administrators can add books wherever they want, that’s the very definition of a shadowy cabal. Who are they, and what are they adding and why? No one will ever know, since numbers are top secret.

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  6. JJ

    lurkertype, given that the awards were apparently not publicized in e-mails to the large DragonCon membership (and I think we can all guess why that might be), but only in e-mails to last year’s participants and on Puppy blog sites, I am convinced that the 3 most popular books in each category were added by DragonCon chairs to try to keep the award from being a total laughingstock.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew M

    ‘Any book is welcomed to participate in the awards unless it tells a story.’

    So, not appealing to the same constituency as the other Dragons? But judging by the rest of their site, I suspect they may not mean what they say here.

    Like

    • JJ

      Andrew M: I suspect they may not mean what they say here.

      That threw me for a loop for a moment, too — but I had a look around their profile, and they say that they live in India, so I’m guessing that English is not their first language, and that instead of “unless”, they meant “as long as”.

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