Dragon Awards 2020

The mercurial Dragon Award website has been updated (at some point) and now announces that “Nominations will soon open for the 2020 Dragon Awards!” [archive link] This should be unremarkable because the nomination phase is supposed to open in November each year but for the 2018/19 period the nomination process was a bit broken [see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/dragon-award-nominations-are-open-sort-of/ ] This year the ‘rules’ appear to have already been updated [archive link]

Speaking of nominations, I had forgotten this quite direct statement about the nomination process when the whole thing began:

File 770 April 15 2016
“Dave Cody, Senior Director and Co-Chairman of Dragon Con answered —
We’re going to employ various tools to combat ballot box stuffing when the actual voting starts.
Also, for nominations, it won’t be possible to slate or overload the nominations for each category. We’re going to use experts in the various disciplines to create the final nomination lists after examining all the nominations.”


I hadn’t remembered that Dave Cody had been this direct and open about how the nomination process works — mainly because since then explanations have been at best vague.

PR material has used the phrase “The best and most popular of the nominated properties were elevated to the ballot.” However, the rules have always said (and still say) “The most popular Entries, as determined by number of nomination submissions during the Nomination Period, will be featured on the Website…” [my emphasis] I guess this can be true so long as the nominee with the most votes always gets shortlisted. The rule doesn’t say how many of the ‘most popular’ are listed nor does it say only the most popular are listed.

16 thoughts on “Dragon Awards 2020

  1. “Also, for nominations, it won’t be possible to slate or overload the nominations for each category. We’re going to use experts in the various disciplines to create the final nomination lists after examining all the nominations.”

    Oh wow, so now it’s a jury judging committee deciding nominations (and winners,) pretending to be a popular vote award. The “jury” will determine who is nominated, while again basing it somewhat on the votes (and then the award organizers will decide which of the jury’s recommendations to keep.) This change is clearly an attempt to mitigate the fact that previously the rules said the award organizers determined who was nominated and won, using the voting as inspiration. After all, now there’s a whole committee deciding it, which is essentially the same thing as the award organizers doing it, but, you know, they’re “experts,” so it appears broader. Remember when we talked about that they were concerned with the appearance of the award as legitimate and would make efforts to keep up that appearance? This is part of the process, though it’s a dragging our heels at each step sort of process.

    And the jurors may be experts and they may not all be right leaning. After all, Cat Rambo and some other authors, in hopes of making the Dragons a less rigged, developed award, were willing to present at the ceremony and so on. They will seek out people to be on the jury who are not right wingers specifically and claim them to be election moderators. But it’s still a rigged process and may explain why this year they threw things to puppy favorites in the categories the puppies care about.

    This will certainly be a very effective way to boot any of the self-pub KU contingent who the right-leaning contingents find not friendly enough and invaders on their turf. They just dismiss their fans who voted as “ballot stuffers” — voter fraud fraud techniques. For at least the big names who the Puppies like, this is a good way to keep a grip on nominations.

    But, having a jury and one that can’t be entirely right-wing cheerleaders also does expose the process to more pressures. If the Red Panda Faction and others keep up the efforts to get out the vote, particularly with DragonCon members, and to scrutinize the award process, that’s going to make the jurors mostly less willing to ignore the votes and turn away from big bestsellers who aren’t also right-wing anti-equalists. It will pressure the nominations to reflect the actual diversity in the market — and in votes. It shines a bigger lens on the whole thing, more than when it was just one or two people running the awards deciding.

    So the Dragon Awards are developing, seeking respectability while holding on to rigging rules, and, maybe thanks to the teasing of Cam and others on their slapdash approach, letting go of the lets be vague and late to keep voter turnout down method. It will be quite interesting to see what direction they head next year. Either this jury will be a stop-gap to keeping a right-wing hold on the awards (or at least some of them,) or it will be a crack in the dam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That comment is from 2016. It has supposedly been that way for the Dragon Awards from its inception, although since the awards process is intentionally opaque and the rules are a mess, it has always been a trash fire.

      Until the Dragon Awards have rules that aren’t cribbed from a sweepstakes contest and a transparent process, they will be mostly useless.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s worse when you think about the Rabid Puppy influence on the awards. Vox Day was clear about his intent to influence the 2017 awards, as was JDA and sure enough the impact was visible and undeniable.
        If the awards were just a most-votes horserace then the Dragon Award organisers can hold up the hands and say ‘what could we do? They got lots of votes’ But that’s not the case. Vox attempted to game the nomination process AND THEY LET HIM even though they had reserved the power to prevent somebody from doing exactly what he did! Again, I guess we already knew that but I’d literally forgotten that Dave Cody described the process overtly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, seriously? I thought we had a new development, from the rules update mention. So that means that the jury of “experts” has been trash from the beginning then. And it also does explain the results of this year.

        But at least you got them to get a jump on 2020 on the website. That’s progress. 🙂


    2. Sorry – my post was a bit misleading in the juxtaposition. Dave Cody’s remarks were from 2016. It’s *always* been a juried nomination process — which we sort-of-maybe-knew but which was unclear.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a practical matter, I think it does make more sense for a jury to select the short list and then voters to pick from that list. Having a nomination phase that allows the public to make suggestions to the jury makes sense, but, given the ease with which people can mount campaigns, the jury wouldn’t be obliged to put any of those suggestions on the finalist list.

    In theory, I think this is likely to produce better awards that the method the Hugo awards uses–even with EPH. In practice, it all hinges on the quality of the jury. Ideally, the jury should be reviewers who read and review at least 50 novels a year (or pick a plausible number). For short fiction, maybe 500 works a year. Otherwise, they aren’t going to have a broad enough background to do the job properly.

    Making nominations from a very large field of candidates is a really hard problem.


    1. Yes and/or the ‘strong admin’ approach which allows for vetting of horse-race style nominations also makes sense. Either way you get a field of candidates.

      What doesn’t make sense is letting people think that’s NOT what you are doing or being coy about it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Juried awards can be great but there are RULES for how you run an ethical juried award and it requires open transparency about the jury and how it operates. A juried award is the exact opposite of what the Puppies want the Dragon Awards to be, and they still influence the award organizers, so I don’t see that happening. But your system could work for another, different award.

        The problem the Pups have is that an actual, popular vote award is not going to give them the results they want, especially if a lot of the vote comes from the members of DragonCon. The only way that it’s worked for them is to have the awards rigged with a brief nod towards the votes that may have been cast.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. I clearly remember this being discussed at the time. It was not clear whether ‘experts’ here means experts on the field, which would make it in effect a semi-juried award, or experts on voting systems. In a situation where attempted ballot-stuffing is taking place, the most popular nominee is not necessarily the one that gets most votes, and having a panel assessing the votes to decide to what extent they actually represent popular feeling seems a fair thing to do.

    That the organisers were not just mechanically following the votes was always obvious, because there were different numbers of finalists in different categories.

    It might be better if they had actual rules they could apply, but this could be hard to manage, given that the difference between disruptive single-issue campaigns and perfectly normal fan-club activities is not well-defined. Slates in the style of SP3 and RP2 are clearly cheating, but they are not possible anyway in a single-vote first-past-the-post system.

    This would not work in the Hugos, because Worldcon has a strong tradition of democracy, but in a different milieu where dictatorship is not frowned on, it does not seem unfair.

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  4. As for VD’s impact on the 2017 results, just what was the extent of it? That his campaign had an impact was not objectionable in itself; that’s what is meant to happen, as these are clearly advertised as awards you should campaign for. The question is whether he used some kind of trick to get more nominations than his actual level of support would justify. Do we have any evidence that he did? (Classic Puppy-style slating, as noted above, would not work.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Castalia had 4 nominees, so not a sweep but significant promotion. They had 0 winners.
      The Rabid slate (including non-Castalia works) had 8 nominees.

      No evidence of any tricks, although there’s no data to get evidence from or about other than nominees.

      The question then is, if campaigns are legit (and the Dragons have said they are) what does this panel of experts do?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “In a situation where attempted ballot-stuffing is taking place, the most popular nominee is not necessarily the one that gets most votes, and having a panel assessing the votes to decide to what extent they actually represent popular feeling seems a fair thing to do.”

    No, it’s really not because that’s then not a popular vote. It’s a judged vote. A popular vote award does not defend against ballot stuffing, especially an online popular vote. You can set up security measures to make sure that people can only vote once for a popular vote award to stop ballot stuffing, at least partially, but the Dragons have never had any interest in doing so. Nor does it make logical sense to say that it’s an award that people can campaign for, but ballot stuffing and slates from that campaigning are a problem that has to be “assessed” by a group of unknown and unregulated judges.

    It’s a popular vote award — whoever shows up gets to decide what is popular. The people with the most votes are the most popular for that election. The Puppies showed up the first year, most others did not. Plus the organizers openly said they favored the views of the Puppies and that they would decide who was nominated and won. Consequently, Puppies and Puppy approved authors swept the nominations and winners the first year. They were the popular vote and they were decided to be the popular vote by the award organizers who actually judge the award. You can’t say that we’re going to have an open popular vote but then we’re not going to tally it by the popular vote but instead by a bunch of judges. That’s not a legitimate award process. It’s a pretend election that is really a biased jury prize.

    Which, you know, they were pretty open about that they were going to make it a rigged, pretend election. So it’s been pretty fascinating to watch what they do when the awards started attracting other popular voters — more of DragonCon’s regular attendees, the self-publishing fans, etc. And to watch the award organizers — the real judges — desperately trying to get authors the Puppies attacked to accept their nominations in the second and third years of the award because those authors are prominent and bestselling SFF authors who would give the Dragons more respectability while still not being a real election.

    The Dragons are facing what happens when an illusion slowly starts to become by pressure to keep the illusion going, a real thing. But as long as it pretends to be a popular vote election but actually decides who wins by the award organizers and possibly unknown others as judges, then it remains an illusion. The issue is how long they can try to do both and keep control of the awards going. Right now the Dragons are Pinochio pretending to be a real boy, but with the potential to become a real boy. And there’s no consistency to how they run things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a good chance that the mainstream trad-pub nominees this year where picked by the award runners IMHO. I really suspect that’s whythe Ian Mcewan book was there. The flipside of that is some indie works were shut out as a consequence.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well yeah, because it creates the image of respectability and importance for the Dragons. That’s why they begged N.K. Jemisin, the last person who would ever want anything to do with the Puppy-covered Dragons, to not withdraw her nomination — told her that she wasn’t allowed to do it till Scalzi said he wouldn’t withdraw his if they stopped being assholes and let authors withdraw if they want. After the first year, when they got mocked, they needed to show that they were actually awarding popular fiction and not simply a conservative toy and Puppy club. It is possible they got a lot of votes for Jemisin that required a nomination, but it is also equally possible, given Puppy voting slates, that they just picked her to show that the Dragons were “fair.”

        But they’ve also been dragging their heels about actually having it be a legitimate, popular vote award. They don’t publicize it much and certainly up until recently not much to DragonCon, they were slow and disorganized to have people vote in it, etc. But when there’s pressure to show that the illusion is not simply going to be a sham illusion — that it is really a popular vote award — then they have to broaden the popular fiction considered. It is clear that they do use the votes as guidelines — or the self-pubs would have never gotten nominations — but how they make final decisions, we have no idea.

        Until they A) stop having the award organizers pick the authors (sweepstakes rules,) and B) replace the original and current award organizers who have openly expressed their intent to rig the awards in favor of conservative politics (rather than popularity in fiction,) then the awards will remain Pinocchio, illegitimate, neither a popular vote award nor a proper juried award. Each year there is more pressure on the Dragons to become a real boy. It’s just a betting pool on how long it takes or if DragonCon gets bored and decides to scrap the whole thing (less likely every year they go on.)

        That they have the website up and running in time for their actual planned voting period this year is a change in response to pressure about that point. So it’s an example of how changes culturally develop. Given that they threw the Puppies red meat this year, quite interested to see what they do with nominees next year. And if they do actually update and change any of the basic rules — that will be a big development.

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