Page Views and the Dragon Award

There is a common impression that there has been a change in character of the Dragon Awards this year. I though I might use the Wikipedia page view metric (see here) to see if I could quantify it it in a different way.

An immediate obstacle with using the page view figure is that the distribution is very Zipf like. That makes averages very misleading because the odd Steven King or Margaret Atwood creates a big change in the mean score. To overcome that issue and also to show the authors who don’t have Wikipedia pages, I’ve grouped the data in bins that get proportionately bigger. The first bin is 0 to 10 (basically people who don’t have a Wikipedia page) then 10 to 50, then 50 to 100, then 100 to 500 etc. up to 100,000 or more which is basically Steven King.

One major caveat. The page view numbers are as they are in September 2020 in all cases. So figures for past years reflect those counts for the authors now and not as they were in the year of the award.

This is the table for book categories (I haven’t gather the data for people in the comic book categories).

Group20162017201820192020Total
< 104262453444227
≥ 101113
≥ 502215
≥ 1005488631
≥ 5002136
≥ 1,00012109141560
≥ 5,0003144214
≥ 10,0006943527
≥ 50,0002114
> 100,00011
Winners and Finalists (book categories)

Obviously, there are many ways you can group this data but I think it shows some sensible groupings.

Group20162017201820192020Total
< 10111238
≥ 5011
≥ 100112
≥ 50022
≥ 1,0003322212
≥ 5,00013116
≥ 10,0004217
≥ 50,000112
> 100,00011
Winners (book categories)

These tables don’t suggest any substantial changes to the Dragon Awards. There are ups and downs but the overall character seems to be similar: a mix of big names (e.g. in 2016, Terry Pratchett and Brandon Sanderson) down to names that are famous within their Amazon niches (e.g. Nick Cole).

However, if we look at just the ‘headline’ categories defined by the broad genres Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (I thought I should include Horror) we see a different story.

Group20162017201820192020Total
< 1071212233
≥ 10112
≥ 501214
≥ 10022318
≥ 50022
≥ 100056261029
≥ 500011327
≥ 100002332515
≥ 50000112
> 10000011
Winners and Finalists in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

In these three categories, the authors are (by the page view metric) more notable in 2020 than in previous years.

What about gender? The Dragon Awards have been very male dominated both in absolute terms and even more so in comparison to contemporary awards. Using the page metric groups, a shift becomes more clear.

Group20162017201820192020Total
< 103543217
≥ 100
≥ 5011
≥ 1002133211
≥ 50022
≥ 1,00023361024
≥ 5,00021227
≥ 10,00032117
≥ 5,000011
> 100,0000
Authors using she/her pronouns book categories

The substantial increase is with women authors in the 1000 to 5000 range. The difference in gender balance becomes clearer in aggregate across the years.

GroupHe/himShe/HerTotal% he% she
< 1077179482%18%
≥ 1033100%0%
≥ 5041580%20%
≥1 0020113165%35%
≥ 50042667%33%
≥ 1,00036246060%40%
≥ 5,000771450%50%
≥ 10,0002072774%26%
≥ 50,00031475%25%
> 100,00011100%0%
Total1757024571%29%
Gender split 2016-2020 book categories

The gender balance increases with grouping size until the 5,000 group and then declines. Interestingly, with three each, the 50-50 split in that group also exists for winners.

So, yes the Dragons are changing but only in places. Down ballot, finalists still tend to be less notable and more male in a way that’s not very different from 2016.

3 thoughts on “Page Views and the Dragon Award

  1. The Puppies nominated prominent and popular authors each year of the Dragons. They just concentrated on nominating those authors who they approved of/decided were suitably conservative/non-SJW enough, whether those authors had expressed any Puppy sympathy or not — Brandon Sanderson, Harry Turtledove, Jim Butcher, even James S.A. Corey, even though the two authors who make up that pseudonym are probably off the Puppy range. (There was a bit of Mormon favoritism, which does not mean that Morman SFF authors are actually conservative or even centrist libertarian.) Plus they did focus on the bigger names they did have, such as Larry C. and John C. Wright.

    Other authors who were very much not Puppy-approved also appeared on the ballots as finalists even in the first year of the Dragons. Clearly other voters did vote and the awards admin did sort of take their votes into consideration so again there would be the appearance of a legitimate, varied popular vote for the awards. So when I look at them, I look at the combo of Puppy authors, big or small, and Puppy-approved authors versus non-Puppy approved who have what they consider SJW material/politics. And then the self-pub authors who weren’t directly connected with the Puppies I counted separately as the self-pub block, whether they are big selling self-pub authors or not. (Mostly they are big selling self-pub authors which is why they were able to mobilize voting blocks of fans enough to get the award admin to give them finalist slots.)

    And I look at what shifts from year to year and in what categories, which represents, as we know, not only the voting but the amount of pressure placed on the admin from various vectors to count the vote accurately or not accurately. That’s the interesting sociological aspect of the awards for me — how it’s moving towards not simply popularity, which it had as a focus/raison d’etre from the beginning, but towards legitimacy and the wider, more diverse range of popular authors.

    So one axis is popularity because the awards are supposed to be a popular online vote which anyone can do for free, with little oversight to ballot-stuffing and authors are allowed to mobilize their fanbases to block-vote. Under these circumstances, nobody who isn’t at least at the category leader level should be getting a finalist slot because they should not be able to get enough votes compared to other well known authors. Nobody much outside Puppy/Beale circles knows who Brian Niemeier is, so his getting a finalist slot means a deliberate Puppy block campaign and the admin pumping the slot. So definitely looking at how many of those authors are there is one bit of data.

    But the other axis is who the popular authors are who get finalist slots and in what categories. If there are more finalists who would set the Puppy’s hair on fire and who are more diverse, that indicates that more non-Puppy voters are coming in for the awards and the awards are moving towards legitimacy as a popular vote award. It means all the votes are being counted and less the Puppies being the controlling block voters and pressuring the admin for the awards. When the non-Puppy self-pub block came into the nominations, that also indicated less Puppy influence in controlling voting blocks for the award and led to a question of whether an organized group could keep control of the awards and which ones and for how long. When Brad not only got a nomination but won, only last year, that indicated Puppy voting blocks still had control and power with the award admin. When Puppy or Puppy-liked authors disappeared from the YA/MG award category pretty quickly, that indicated that it was no longer a real focus of the Puppies and so forth.

    This year, there was no Puppy or Puppy-approved finalist in the SF category, one of the most important to the Puppies. And one of their least favorite authors, Scalzi, avatar of hated Tor Books as far as they’re concerned, won. Scalzi wasn’t the most widely popular author in the category — Atwood technically is. But all of the nominees had hit sufficient popular sales/attention status, so their measure of popularity wasn’t the issue. In Fantasy, only Brent Weeks could have possibly been Puppy-approved and that’s not a lock. In Military SF, another important category to the Puppies, the nominees were less popular and less known names, including some from the self-pub/small press group and a Puppy author won. So that’s a category where there is still an influence going on or at least where the admin feels comfortable having one going on. Horror has actually been a mixed area of interest for Puppies — not as much concerted effort past the first couple of years. And the winner was Ursula — not Puppy-approved. That’s a shift over time that doesn’t just involve gender designations.

    The down ticket categories of comics, movie/t.v. and games are ones where Puppies voted but never really had control. Those categories would have been the ones to first attract more non-Puppy voters from the first year on, as media awards always garner more interest than written fiction because written fiction has smaller audiences. And there wasn’t much reason that the award admin had to throw any of those categories to the Puppies or who they approved of. So those categories can add a little data, but past the first year when the Puppies mostly ran the board or so aren’t that interesting. It’s what happens in the written fiction categories, the ones the Puppies designed for themselves, that makes a more data-readable progression, I feel. And there it’s less popularity past the first two years, barring an oddity or two, than it is who the authors and their nominated works are in terms of Puppy politics/views. Because the Puppies helped design the awards to be theirs and to be the major influence that directed them through the admin. That was never going to last, but when and how fast it was not going to last was the interesting part. That made last year, when they had a bit of a rally, kind of interesting. But this year, it was very much not a continuation of that, very much a progression to a wide spectrum, big name, popular award, which means votes have a bigger impact (towards legitimacy) than they did before. And that will, of course, also lead to an increase in women authors being nominated and winning.

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    1. As I recall it, Brian Niemeier only got an award because his book was shoved into Horror rather than SF. Which I consider one of the more obvious manipulations.

      Liked by 3 people

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