2020 Dragon Award Ballot (for reals this time)

Of the many, many awards named after Dragons there is also the DragonCon Dragon Awards and their 2020 ballot has been announced as scheduled in the first full week of August (discounting the first full week of August as a practice week).

The ballot is…interesting. https://www.dragoncon.org/awards/2020-dragon-award-ballot/

It’s a very Septembery ballot, or at least that’s my impression so far looking at a couple of categories (i.e. lots of books from September last year). It also looks to have a lot more overlap with other awards than previous years. The category that looks most like previous iterations of the Dragons is Best Military Science Fiction/Fantasy. In the headline Best SF category there are a lot of books from Tor, which in itself is unsurprising because Tor publishes a lot of SF books but is notable in the whole Dragons/Puppy/Tor-v-Baen context of the Dragons in their initial year (2016).

Looking at gender, of the 14 finalists in the Best SF and Best Fantasy categories, I count 9 women and 5 men (no non-binary authors that I’m aware of). For comparison, in 2019 the count for those categories was 12 authors (James S Corey being two people) split 5 women to 7 men (or 5 to 6 if we count Corey as 1 meta-person). This is accords with a general trend in the Dragon Awards away from being a heavily male dominated award.[1]

More analysis to come. I’m still tabulating and looking for reactions.

ETA: The interesting new player in the ballot is Aethon Books which has two works in MilSF. Aethon is an independent set-up by Rhett C Bruno and Steve Beaulieu [https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aethonbooks/aethon-books-the-launch-of-a-sci-fi-and-fantasy-pu ]. Readers here will remember Rhett C Bruno from the 2019 Nebulas https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/nebula-shorts-rhett-c-bruno-interview-for-the-end-of-the-world/

[1] Gender based on pronouns in Goodreads and Wikipedia bios.


88 responses to “2020 Dragon Award Ballot (for reals this time)”

  1. This feels very much like someone at the Dragon Awards decided to try and do a face turn away from the puppies’ cause, and just aligned their awards with the same people who were winning the other awards, plus a few famous names/books that might not have been awarded elsewhere but are still in the same vein (Dead Astronauts, Ninth House).

    Not that the awards process is real but lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It looks to me as though either the awards were taken away from the previous administrator, or they were told in no uncertain terms that they needed to straighten up and fly right. I note that their good buddy Stirling’s 2019 Alt Hist novel is not on the ballot.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Not really. Silver Empire were pitching for nominations but don’t seem to have got any. Larry C was telling people to vote but had stated he didn’t want another nomination (his Monster Hunter collab with S Hoyt was eligible I think).


  2. I notice there’s a pretty big overlap with the Goodreads Awards. Look at Goodreads’ fantasy category:


    All but two of the Dragon fantasy contenders are there, and one of the exceptions (Dead Astronauts) won’t be eligible til this year’s Goodreads Awards. Ten Thousand Doors of January is there, too (the Dragons have it as SF)

    I’ve said before that, if the Dragons truly represented popular taste, they’d look like the Goodreads Awards. Seems like we’re finally seeing that happen.

    Liked by 9 people

  3. Oh wow, fascinating. Haven’t had time to go over it all yet in detail, but it looks like some speculations we were floating turn out to have gone the other direction. I had thought that with the effect of the pandemic, the DragonCon admins might not be really focused on pressuring the Dragon Awards to get themselves more legitimate and well known nominations in their selections as opposed to all the other issues they have to deal with right now. Turns out that was clearly incorrect and that the DragonCon admins may have read the awards the riot act after some of the odd Puppy-centered selections in some categories last year. So yes, clearly the actual votes are being taken more into consideration, at least at the nomination level.

    From those nominations and winners last year, it seemed like there had been a concerted Puppy effort to counter the self-pub groups who came in and pressed enough votes to force the awards admin to give them some nominations. While it was impossible to have the clubhouse the Puppies managed in year one of the awards, they did seem to be trying to tilt it back in some categories towards the bigger Puppies or well known authors they approve of as sufficiently conservative or conservative-ish, such as Turtledove, Sanderson and Stirling. From that result, I speculated that the rapid pressuring towards becoming a legitimate award we’d seen had slowed for the Dragons and it might be a longer period before that process really had an effect. Now I have to revise that speculation back to it heading towards legitimacy already at year five.

    We also weren’t sure, given the pandemic chaos and the efforts of the Dragon Awards to make it difficult for people to vote/nominate, whether there would be sufficient non-Puppy voters to pressure the admin to have more varied nominations and get more DragonCon member engagement. The Red Panda faction were discouraged, especially with last year. But we can see that their efforts — which helped get DragonCon to publicize the awards a bit more to convention attendees — have been cumulatively paying off here in year five.

    One speculation, which seems to be borne out, is that with non-conservative, name authors being more willing to participate in the Dragons ceremony as presenters, etc., like Cat Rambo, that the main SFF authors were coming around to seeing the Dragons as a viable if not yet legitimate award. And with the authors this year having accepted their nominations here presumably, that is a continuing trend that has not reversed. There are more non-Puppy contingent voters and there are more non-Puppy/Puppy-loved authors willing to participate — this pressures the Dragons towards having a legitimate system. It may be that, with the pandemic greatly messing up launch schedules and limiting promotional opportunities, authors are eager to at least get in some awards. The Dragons have survived five years, which gives it a bit more weight than year one. Some authors, like Jemisin, may never accept nominations, given the original Puppy attacks, but other authors who weren’t a part of it likely will enthusiastically participate, especially as it’s an official award of big old DragonCon. And that participation of the wider spectrum of fans and the popular authors of the moment means the Puppies have largely lost control of even those categories they cared most about. Brad gamed it just under the wire essentially.

    To become a legitimate award, it was clearly going to be essential that the Puppy-sympathizing admin be replaced first off, and then of course that they get rid of the sweepstakes rules where they choose the winners and noms with the votes just being a consultation. So does anyone know if that admin was replaced or resigned (which might explain some of the mess of how the awards were being run this year)?

    Liked by 4 people

    • It certainly seemed like whoever was putting together those interviews for the blog was part of the old Puppy-friendly admin. Wonder when we’ll see the third part of that.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Sanderson not beeing on the ballot is not so suprising, writting the 4th Stormlight Archivebook has dominated the Dragon Awardperiod. I wouldn’t be suprised if he gets back in another year. (Full disclosure I like his writtings and don’t see him as a problem on a ballot)
      On the accepting there are 2 points about it: 1) How much abuse has a writer get to live with as pay for the nomination?
      2) And is it worth somethink? Worth comes from prestige of the award and of the other nominee. Ideally a writer should look at the other and say: “Wow, this are some great works!”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read precisely one nominee in any of the prose categories (Gideon the Ninth). In the only two categories I’m even remotely qualified to have an opinion on (best SF, best fantasy), all but two of the nominees (book, author or both) are well known and well-regarded within the genre—I would have been unsurprised to see any of them as Hugo or Nebula finalists.

    The two exceptions are Margaret Atwood (currently occupying the Ian McEwan chair For Slumming Literateurs) and Brent Weeks (who I have literally never heard of prior to clicking on the link this afternoon).

    Occam’s Razor leads me to speculate that the High Elders of DragonCon may have selected the finalists by way of counting all the votes and selecting the books with the most.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Brent Weeks is just the sort of popular, best seller fantasy writer I’d expect to see if the Dragon Awards were everything that they aspire to be.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Brent Weeks is someone to read for fans of Sanderson I would say.
      I am disagreeing with the comparising between Atwood and McEwan. Atwood seems to me more popular (the Testament is a continuation of The Handmaidens Tale) and much more apeal to a fan than McEwan.


      • I like Margaret Atwood a lot more than McEwan as well, but both of the are the sort of names you’d expect to find on the Booker shortlist (and Margaret Atwood won last year, together with Bernadine Evaristo) and not on the Dragon Award ballot.


  5. Apparently time in quarantine made the Dragons healthier. Their nominations process is still a shambles but (in SF/fantasy prose and movie/TV categories at least — the only ones I know enough about) they finally seem to be converging onto actual popular tastes.

    Once they figure out that whole nominating deal, and publicity that doesn’t depend on Cam and the Red Pandas, they might have something there.

    And Wombat’s in Horror!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Perusing the press release Doris linked to, I see they got some publicity from the local library system, so at least the Atlanta-area public who have library cards learned about it. That would help explain there being so many nominations for stuff people have actually read.

    Just think what they could do with real worldwide (or even US-wide) publicity!

    Jury’s still out on how shambolic the ceremony might be, but perhaps someone competent has taken over that too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wuh-oh, here comes the backlash:

    Liked by 5 people

    • Those twitter threads are … interesting. Finn, Lamplighter and others are commiserating over how there’s too few people reading and talking about their books. It goes along the vein of “We should do book discussions!” “yeah, I tried, but noone was interested – they just wanted to talk about _their own_ books”. And so on.

      The killer quote for me was: “What we need is fans.”

      I feel like a bad person for thinking that they get really close to an epiphany there.

      Liked by 11 people

      • It’s truly remarkable to watch various Puppies edge right up to self-awareness… and then bounce off, hard, like they hit some kind of force field.

        Liked by 4 people

    • Love this comment from PulpArchivist:

      I expect this was a reverse Sad Puppies. Not necessarily from an orchestrated push, but because no one’s showing up to convention stuff online. The numbers were probably suppressed by Corona-chan, so a small group of like-minded people with bad taste had a disparate effect.

      I agree it was reverse Sad Puppies. Because they forgot to show up and have their disproportionate effect.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’m still laughing hilariously about “What we need is fans”. 😀

        I mean, you can’t come up with a better summary of the 2015 and 2016 Hugo No Awards — and they came up with it themselves.

        Liked by 8 people

    • No kidding. We went to a Superversive panel a few years back and there were only 20 people that came in and out.

      Liked by 2 people

    • So apparently Brian Niemeier and Declan Finn had a falling out over religion and his own side no ore likes JDA than anybody else. Looks like trouble in puppyland.

      J. Jagi Lamplighter also continues to be the most level-headed of the bunch.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I suspect Finn’s resentful of those two for being, in their own small way, more successful than him. Niemeier won a Dragon and, in doing so, robbed Finn of his only chance of winning one. JDA has found a happy home in some Comicsgate splinter group or another. Finn, meanwhile… well, the phrase “always the bridesmaid” comes to mind.

        It’s clear that he’s had his heart set on winning a Dragon Award. Anyone who checked the award’s hashtag during the nomination period would have seen him campaigning tooth and nail, and there was a time in 2017 when he even flat-out told everyone he’d win (in reality he lost to Victor LaValle and never made the ballot again):


        So his current implosion seems to come from the realisation that his days in the Atlanta sun have been over for three years now. His only hope of boosting his profile is by improving his craft and attracting fans, like some sort of pleb.

        Liked by 4 people

      • Yup, that’s the one. More specifically the Sads swatted him on the nose while the Rabids et al defended him. This included his own publisher making the following attempt at, er, defence:

        “My wife and I had to explain to him why certain scenes in the earlier drafts of his books didn’t work… and he just wasn’t getting it. He really and truly doesn’t understand this stuff.”


        Liked by 3 people

      • Seems also maybe the person most focused on craft as well although at the Superversive panel, they tried to think of a way to rewrite The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas to save the child, missing the point of the story entirely.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Well, hell. I guess these people have never heard of that grand old phrase, “My karma ran over my dogma”?

      They wanted publicity about and greater participation in the Dragons, and apparently they got their wish. What’s that other grand old phrase? Be careful what you wish for?

      Maybe they need to get together and start their own brand of right-wing SF awards on Declan Finn’s and/or Kit Sun Cheah’s websites. But it would have to be a hand-picked juried award, because clearly, letting the uneducated, unwashed masses actually read and vote on things isn’t cutting it. 😃

      Liked by 3 people

      • There were a couple of attempts along those lines, fro JDA’s and Richard P’s private awards to somet kind of superversive award called Planetary Award or something like that. However, none of them managed to achieve even the limited clout of the Dragons.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, Kit Sun Cheah comes closest to a revelation about the Puppy position, and it boils down to a Kindergarten-level understanding of how contests work. Yes, you do need to participate in order to have an effect, well done!

      None of them seem willing to examine, in light of the finalists this year, that perhaps *they* are the minority position. They edge right up to understanding – you say this wasn’t orchestrated, so it was just fans voting for their favourite books huh? What you need is fans who read and vote for your work to have an impact? Just, come on guys, you’re right there. You led yourselves to the water, I’m begging you, just have a sip!

      Liked by 4 people

      • My favourite is that whole thing about Tor Books getting all it’s employees to vote is back. Now I don’t know how many people work directly for Tor but Macmillan Publishing in the US has ~450 [https://www.dnb.com/business-directory/company-profiles.macmillan_publishing_group_llc.fe82c7f4e793ab499e4bc34612b61079.html] Tor would be a small fraction of that. Tens of people not hundreds, maybe less. It’s not a lot of sway in terms of a popular vote even if there was any credibility to the idea of them all voting the same way under company orders.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, Tor laid off some of its lead people before the pandemic even got started. Their staff isn’t entirely filled with good will towards their bosses right now. It’s a recession that’s getting worse, a pandemic that’s caused shutdowns while the Repubs do nothing, and a massive disruption of the distribution network. I don’t think the Dragons are even on their radar, at least as opposed to the Hugos, Nebulas and Locus Awards.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You have to appreciate the consistency, at least. Also whenever there are multiple Tor books in a given category that would drastically affect how many Tor employees voted for each one, since in the Dragons one person* can only nominate one book in each category. So they’re either admitting that the nominating and voting for the Dragons is beyond broken, they misunderstand how large a company Tor actually is, or they’re saying the Dragons are a tiny award capable of being manipulated by a group of people who may not even number into triple digits. Or some mix of all three.

        *email address

        Liked by 2 people

    • I finally clicked on some of those links.

      And I learned that Gideon the Ninth is a “darling” of the “literary” set.

      Liked by 1 person

        • The “ironic” thing is that Gt9 seems like a much better fit for a “populist” award like the Dragons than the Hugos. I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, but it took me a while to get on its wavelength precisely because I went in expecting something more “literary”—something with more of a Book of the New Sun vibe.

          If the story of a foul-mouthed disaffected goth girl getting over imposter syndrome while learning how to kick ass and take names isn’t populist, I don’t know what is!

          Liked by 5 people

      • I thought that was pretty funny too. I have a hard time imagining that a “literary snob” would even touch a book with that fantastic Tommy Arnold coverart of skull-faced, sunglass-wearing, short-flame-red-haired, blood-splattered Gideon with a 10 foot pole plus gloves and mask.

        Also dismissing Ten Thousand Doors because it sounds like a romance. Well, I’ll grant that it isn’t science fiction and it does have a little romance, but it’s not “Romance Primary” either. (Not that I’d have any problem with a book that was capital-R Romance with speculative elements anyway.)

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Yup, that’s the one. More specifically the Sads swatted him on the nose while the Rabids st al defended him. This included his own publisher making the following attempt at, er, defence:

    “My wife and I had to explain to him why certain scenes in the earlier drafts of his books didn’t work… and he just wasn’t getting it. He really and truly doesn’t understand this stuff.”



  9. This is actually a much more interesting ballot, than I exspected.
    Science Fiction and Fantasy are completly mainstream I think. (Jade War is the only finalist I draw a blank on so an invitation to tell me how good it is 🙂 )
    Best Media Tie-In has a book that I liked quite a bit (The Picardprequel was if 1) you like Star Trek and 2) don’t mind Tie-in definitly somethink to check out) And the only on that I can’t place (is it Star Wars?) is from a familar name.
    Horror has Wombat and Claire North.
    Funny that I like Series more than Movie(meh a bit), since in the Hugos I liked Long Form much more than shortform this year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s getting better. This is from the comments section of Niemeier’s post:

      Durandel: “People of Good Will have two choices: a) bar these people from good society / institutions / countries in order to rest or b) allow them to stay but accept being ever vigilant and never resting against these cretins.”
      Niemeier: “If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that there is no valid reason not to choose a). We shouldn’t have to live like this.”

      So, to recap…

      2015: Niemeier wins a Drargon.
      2016: Niemeier a runner-up.
      2017-9: Niemeier fails to make the ballot.
      2020: Niemeier reduced to calling for actual Dragon finalists to be deported.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s a very odd worldview. I get how some of the small-town Republicans get to imagine that they are actually the majority but Brian N believes in a very specific ideology in which the Catholic Church essentially rules the world in a paternalistic authoritarianism that enforces traditional virtue, forgives student loans and promotes anime-culture and JRPG video games. He and his followers really can’t imagine that’s what most people think.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Ah, excellent news on the library publicity in Atlanta to help move the legitimacy train along. That means DragonCon sent out something and the library and likely some other places then spread word of the Dragons’ existence. And that is largely due to the efforts of the Red Panda Faction to center the awards back towards the convention itself and its members, pressuring DragonCon to pay more attention, etc. Y’all should get yourselves a celebratory cake. Because once you had more DragonCon members voting or at least paying attention, that would be putting the Puppies out, because they are the polar opposite of most of the population of DragonCon. (I.e. no, RPF, they have no idea of what the Zoomers and younger Millenials are like.)

    Also, it’s quite clear that the authors have mostly decided to accept the Dragons now as an established fan award — even if the rules still make it an illegitimate one. Fonda Lee is an example of the type of authors who the Puppies hate and declared to be ruining the Hugos. (And yes, her Earth-like secondary world in which a Japanese/Chinese-like island nation with very specific magic wielded by organized crime gangs is navigating modernity, politics and global challenges in the after years of a WWII equivalent is well worth checking out.) And Fonda Lee tweeted her delight that she has been nominated for a Dragon, terming it her first major fan award nomination for Jade War, the second book in her series — the first book was nominated for the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award.

    Chuck Wendig, one of the big name straight white guy authors the Puppies dislike because he’s pro-civil rights, also celebrated his Dragon nom and being in good company with the other nominated authors. Wendig’s sf novel Wanderers is his biggest seller yet and has been optioned for television. Its main characters are a spunky 18 year old woman and a Black disease scientist and its antagonists are right wingers. So on the bright side for those Puppies who won Dragons early, the value of it has now increased as more legitimate looking, which will pull it along to becoming legitimately run. But with big name authors happy to encourage their fans to vote for them for the Dragons and to publicize their nominations and wins, the Puppies don’t have much longer with the awards. (Big names like Sanderson and Turtledove, whom the Puppies like but who are not affiliated with them, will however.)

    For the Puppy valued SF award, we’ve got two fantasy novels nominated — one futuristic fantasy novel about lesbian necromancers in space (Gideon the Ninth,) and a multiverse via magic book (The Ten Thousand Doors of January,) so yes, with eight nominations expanded, it is confusing what’s going on. Obviously more votes are actually being counted, but voters aren’t necessarily clear where to vote or the admins aren’t clear, who knows. Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale cultural impact is the opposite of Puppy-friendly of course and having the sequel get a nom is the sort of literary academic incursion they claimed was destroying the Hugos. Newitz’s novel is about women trying to edit the timeline to stop abusive men and women’s oppression. Martha Wells is part of the SJW supposed mafia they hate. Tade Thompson is black, British Nigerian and a renowned psychiatrist who was nominated for the Campbell and won the Clarke. His book is the third in his Afrofurism trilogy set in Nigeria — the horror, for Puppies.

    And then of course there is Scalzi, who despite being a white straight man left-leaning centrist, they detest because Beale hates him and tried to make Red Shirts the hill to die on in the Puppy battle. Scalzi was nominated for a Dragon for this same series in Year Two and, as we know, was going to pull his nomination because he was concerned that the process was not legitimate. Alison Littlewood who was nominated also wanted to withdraw. Jemisin, who decided to shrug accept a nomination the first year of the awards, also became concerned about the legitimacy of the voting and whether she was being used as a shield token and wanted to withdraw the second year. The Dragons tried to refuse all of them, gave in on Littlewood when Scalzi said he’d stay in and never had a hope of stopping Jemisin.

    So there’s been an occasional decidedly not-Puppy nom in the awards all the way through, like Leckie, etc. This year, though, it’s a shut out in SF. Fantasy, roughly the same, though they probably don’t have huge objections to bestseller Brent Weeks. In Military SFF and Alternate History, two categories that Puppies also care about, the self-pub authors are still managing to get some slots (which again, is not a bad thing, though they aren’t mainly the big name self-pub authors more people know.) Some of these authors are Puppy-adjacent/friendly and/or with Baen, but it’s not a major haul and includes Kloos, who famously gave up his Hugo slot because the Puppies had drafted him. YA was a category that the Puppies seemed to care not much about and it is also not their category this year. Horror they’ve been middling about and they don’t really have a showing there either, with Priest, North and Chbosky being the sort of writers they feel are causing problems. The dramatic awards, media tie-in fiction, comics, they were all never super focused on and this year those categories have plenty of the sort of stuff they don’t like as nominees.

    Of course, just not having the awards be a Puppy fest, because the Puppies can no longer mobilize voters to justify it, doesn’t make the Dragons a legitimate run set of awards yet. But with the ceremony likely online this year and authors being willing to promote their nominations and probably try to attend or send tape to an online ceremony, this means more attention might shine on the Dragons Awards than usual. And this again pressures the admins to have the votes count more in consultation and to move more towards a real voted award. It pressures DragonCon to pressure the admin about it. In any case, with a spread of nominations like these, who then wins the awards is less important as a data source of what’s going on than in previous years.

    Liked by 3 people

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: