Dragon*Con (as it was initially styled) arose out of the world of role-playing games. In the 1980s a Georgia gamer and aspiring editor, Ed Kramer had been running an online bulletin board (BBS) called the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players (DAGR) and named after his Dragon Computer. Club members Ed Kramer, David Cody, John Bunnell, Robert Dennis, Mike Helba, and Pat Henry used the 1986 Worldcon in Atlanta to promote their forthcoming 1987 convention in Atlanta. By the start of the 1990s Dragon*Con had allied with the Origins gaming convention and was hosting several thousand attendees.
By the millennium, Dragon*Con was 20 thousand+ pop-culture convention with multiple programming tracks spreading into films, TV franchises, books and games and a significant event in its home of Atlanta.
While Dragon*Con’s reputation was growing, Ed Kramer’s reputation took a sharply negative turn. In August 2000, Kramer was arrested for the molestation of three teenagers which followed a previous arrested in 1997 where the charges had been dropped. Kramer’s arrest was simply the start of a long saga that would continue until 2013 when he finally plead guilty to the charges. In between times was a series of cancelled court dates, in-home detention, breach of bail conditions, imprisonment, injury and a lengthy campaign. Kramer had presented his situation to people in his personal and professional circles as a miscarriage of justice, blaming the delays on the court system. Multiple high profile people within science fiction were pulled into a campaign against a perceived injustice against Kramer including Harlan Ellison, Anne McCaffery and former SFWA President Robert Sawyer. Surrounding Kramer was a cloud of misinformation fuelled by critics of Kramer and Kramer himself. However, Kramer’s repeated breach of bail conditions and eventual confession revealed that he was very far from the innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice that he had portrayed himself as.
As discussed in chapter 25, Vox Day had attempted to use the Kramer case as a way to create negative publicity about the SFWA in 2014. Day had not focused on the misguided defence of Kramer by sci-fi luminaries but rather that Kramer had (like Day) been a member of the SFWA but that the SFWA had not expelled him (unlike Day). Unfortunately for Day, Kramer’s membership had lapsed by this point. However, at Day’s Castalia House Blog, the 2015 series on child abuse issues in science fiction communities spent more time on famous authors such as Anne McCaffery who had fallen for Kramer’s claims that he was being mistreated by the court system.
Dragon*Con itself attempted to maintain some distance from Kramer during the years between his arrest and eventual conviction. However, during that time Kramer remained as a part-owner of the convention. Only in 2013 did the convention find a legal means of separating themselves as a business from Kramer, buying him out. At around the same time, the convention dropped the asterisk from its name.
As a for-profit entity with a fixed location, Dragon Con continued to expand with multiple events held within the event including film festivals, e-sports competitions, concerts, as well as more conventional activities such as panels and talks. Among those events were award ceremonies. Dragon Con had hosted numerous awards over the years including the “Wizard Fan Awards” for comics and the ongoing Julie Awards.
During the events of the so-called Puppy Kerfuffle of 2015, Dragon Con became a key point of comparison with Worldcon for supporters of the Sad Puppies. For example, a guest post at Mad Genius Club in April 2015 compared the relative size of Worldcon with commercial pop-culture conventions:
“Worldcon is dying of old age, and failing to recruit younger fen. They’re going, instead, to places they find more congenial — Dragon Con, Gen Con, SDCC Comic Con, NY Comic Con, Salt Lake Comic Con, all sorts of other places. I have my own opinions about why this is happening — mostly about exclusive behaviors exhibited by the longterm fans when the Wrong Kind of People show up, or have differing political opinions.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2015/04/21/to-my-friends-who-are-going-to-vote-no-award-at-the-hugos-this-year/
Many key figures in the Puppy campaigns regarded Dragon Con as part of the natural territory for their followers.
“If we call ourselves a religion, we can even accuse people of being racist when they pick on us. No, it’s not right, and of course, that will bother us, but it’s common usage, and it will make us seem even MORE normal. “What do you mean I can’t have the week off to drive to Dragon con? It’s part of my religion. Are you some kind of racist?””https://madgeniusclub.com/2014/05/09/a-modest-proposal-a-blast-from-the-past-post-from-may-2012/ 
The convention itself had a very broad and diverse set of attendees but there was a belief among many of the Sad Puppy supporters that the convention was a sympathetic place for them or at the very least not actively hostile. Larry Correia had been a convert to the excitement of the con from early in his professional writing career, describing it in 2011 as:
“DragonCon is like Mardi Gras for nerds… So it is Nerdi Gras, only bigger and more awesome. There isn’t anything else quite like DragonCon. Cram 45,000 official guests into 4 hotels in downtown Atlanta. That’s official purchased a ticket types. I don’t know how many thousand others just showed up and crashed the party. I’m guessing a lot.”https://monsterhunternation.com/2011/09/07/dragoncon-was-awesome/
With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.
So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website. Details were more forthcoming a few days later:
“ATLANTA – April 4, 2016 – Dragon Con, Atlanta’s internationally known pop culture, fantasy, sci-fi and gaming convention, announced the introduction of the Dragon Awards, a program of fan-chosen awards to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy literature, comics, gaming and filmed entertainment.https://web.archive.org/web/20160409041241/http://awards.dragoncon.org/2016/04/04/official-press-release/
The introduction of the Dragon Awards is part of the convention’s 30th Anniversary celebration.
Dragon Award winners will be selected by all fans – not just Dragon Con members or attendees – in an open nomination and final voting system. To accommodate as many creative genres as possible, awards will be given in each of 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming and tabletop gaming. Winners will be announced at the 30th Anniversary Dragon Con convention, which will be held September 2 to September 5, 2016 in Atlanta.”
The award categories divided the field by subgenres and different modes, reflecting many of the convention’s own programming tracks. The literary categories were all for novel-length works with no short fiction categories. The announced categories were:
- Best science fiction novel
- Best fantasy novel (including paranormal)
- Best young adult/middle grade novel
- Best military science fiction or fantasy novel
- Best alternate history novel
- Best apocalyptic novel [in subsequent years replaced by Best Media Tie In]
- Best horror novel
- Best comic book
- Best graphic novel
- Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet
- Best science fiction or fantasy movie
- Best science fiction or fantasy PC / console game
- Best science fiction or fantasy mobile game
- Best science fiction or fantasy board game
- Best science fiction or fantasy miniatures / collectable card / role-playing game
The announcement did not draw any direct parallels with the Hugo Awards and the timing of the new award was connected to the convention’s 30 year anniversary. The lack of short fiction categories and the style of the other categories meant that the Dragon Awards were not intended to be directly compared with the Hugo Awards. In addition, the Dragon Awards had an eligibility period that would extend into the current year (i.e. for the first year, books published part way into 2016) meaning that not set of books eligible for the Dragons and the Hugos Awards were not exactly the same each year. Nonetheless, in the context of the events of 2015, the announcement drew comparisons with the beleaguered Hugos.
At Mad Genius Club, Sad Puppies 4 leader Kate Paulk described them as “Another Way To Help End Puppy-Related Sadness”, and stated:
“Even more interesting, the Dragon Awards are a complete people’s choice award. Anyone can sign up and vote, and it costs nothing. I’m really looking forward to comparing what comes out of the Hugo process and what comes out of the Dragon process – particularly in terms of numbers of voters and the like (hopefully the Dragon folks will be nice and give us that information tohttps://madgeniusclub.com/2016/04/07/another-way-to-help-end-puppy-related-sadness/
play… ahem… run statistical analysis with.”
The Puppy-sympathetic Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance also saw the potential for the Dragon Awards to displace the Hugo Awards as the premier genre award:
“The Dragon Awards is already being talked about as a much-needed successor to the erstwhile industry pinnacle Hugo Awards, which have fallen into politicized controversy and disarray over the past few years.https://conservativelibertarianfictionalliance.com/2016/04/08/dragon-con-announces-fan-driven-dragon-awards/
Read the official press release here, visit, nominate, and vote. With 60,000 Dragon Con members, The Dragon Awards has the potential to become SFF’s most important recognition.”
Quite how these awards would operate was less clear. With a purely online voting system with no barriers to entry, the potential for the awards to be spammed was a potential weakness. At File 770 one of Dragon Con’s founding members Senior Director and Co-Chairman David Cody explained that the nomination stage would be partly curated and that the details of the process would not be fully transparent to prevent outside parties from gaming the system.
“We’re going to employ various tools to combat ballot box stuffing when the actual voting starts.http://file770.com/dragon-awards-updates/
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.
Yes, I am being deliberately vague so that those trying to game the system won’t know what exactly we are doing to combat any shenanigans.”
Vox Day was not worried that he might be excluded by this process. Echoing again Donald Trump’s campaign slogan in a post entitled “Making SF awards great again”, Day stated:
“Yes, indeed, I think the Hugo Awards might have just taken a few hits over the last decade or two. In any event, I’m sure the science fiction fandom community is every bit as delighted about people taking their advice and setting up a new and alternative award as they were about people taking John Scalzi’s advice to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards.https://web.archive.org/web/20160410122732/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/04/what-totally-unexpected-action.html
I am registered to vote in the Dragon Awards and I would encourage you to do so as well. I’ll post my recommendations here the week after the Hugo shortlist is announced, in the event that any of you might happen to be curious about them.”
Aside from Dragon Con Senior Director David Cody, it was not clear who was leading the Dragon Awards. However, in an interview at 2016 Worldcon, Baen author/editor Eric Flint and author/editor Bill Fawcett presented themselves as people with inside knowledge of how the Dragon Awards would operate.
Eric Flint had been a critic of the Sad Puppies during 2015 but not without his own criticism of the Hugo Awards and was in many ways sympathetic to some of the negative critiques of the Hugos. Flint’s association with the award and the existence of sub-genre awards such as the Military Science Fiction & Fantasy category, pointed to the Dragon Awards likely to be more sympathetic towards a Baen audience.
Bill Fawcett had a long career in both games and books, as well as a long association with Dragon Con. That association had seen him get embroiled in the ill-advised defence of Ed Kramer when many sci-fi luminaries believed Kramer’s claims that he was a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Fawcett’s broad career in multiple roles within science fiction & fantasy, including writing, editing and game design, made him a natural addition to Dragon Con’s award advocates.
One person’s initial reaction to the Dragon Award’s announcement was notably missing. Larry Correia appeared to have nothing to say about the new award. Correia’s uncharacteristic silence on the matter was broken in July when he explained why he had avoided talking about the new awards.
“This weekend I was at LibertyCon, and I ran into one of the organizers of the Dragon Awards. He said that he was kind of surprised that he hadn’t seen me talk about them online much. I told him that was because of Sad Puppies, I’m a controversial figure, there are just too many bitter harpies and poo flingers from fandom’s inbred pustulent under-choad who automatically flip out about anything I do, so I didn’t want to rock the boat for them.https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/07/12/wrongfans-unite-only-a-week-left-to-nominate-for-the-dragon-awards/
But his response? Screw that. This award is for ALL FANS. And you have fans. So GO BUG THEM! We want so many people voting in this thing that no little clique or faction can sway it. The more fans involved, the better.”
Correia didn’t name the organizer who he had spoken to but Correia’s endorsement of the award was likely to bring in many more voters. Indeed, when fans raised issues around how the Dragon Award website worked, both Bill Fawcett and David Cody appeared in the comments of the post to help Correia’s fans vote.
By the time Correia had posted, the finalists for the 2016 Dragon Awards had already been announced. The nomination phase had not been a smooth ride as Doris Sutherland explained at Women Write About Comics:
“The Dragon Awards were announced back in April, and since then have suffered from definite teething problems. The eligibility period for nominations underwent a last-minute change; after this came a delay in the announcement of the finalists, which were supposed to have been made public on 2 August. But then, it is perhaps to be expected for a new awards initiative to have a rocky road in its first year.”https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2016/08/nominees-revealed-for-first-dragon-awards/
The finalists were a mixed bag of works from across the field but included authors such as John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin as well as Larry Correia, Marko Kloos, Eric Flint and Dave Freer. Vox Day was not a finalist but the Castalia House published novel Somewither by John C Wright was. Baen had seven works as finalists and Tor had five (including a Tor Teen book). Smaller publishers were represented as well. The book club/podcast Sword & Laser had run its own book publishing contest in 2015 using the publishing platform Inkshares. That contest had led to multiple finalists in the Dragon Awards as well.
Sad Puppies 4 appeared to have had some impact on the awards as well. In the Horror category, both Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake and Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer were finalists. The two writers had been emboldened by their Sad Puppy 4 campaigns to encourage their fans to vote in the Dragons.
The resulting set of finalists looked a lot like what Puppy-inspired critics of the Hugo Awards had claimed was lacking from the Hugo Awards. There was a greater number of Baen authors, as well as authors from smaller publishes and self-published authors.
The critique of the Hugo Awards not representing independent or self-published writers was incoherent for the awards overall given that there were whole categories devoted to fan-produced works. However, the unspoken part of the critique was that it was applied to Best Novel. The Dragon Awards having seven novel categories with multiple finalists was indeed far more capable of representing more categories of novels and more approaches to publishing.
However, if the Dragon Award finalists were more diverse by publisher, they were less diverse in other ways. Of the 44 novels that were finalists, only 10 were by women.
We’ll return to the outcome of the 2016 Dragon Awards in a later chapter. In the meantime, we need to return to the wider world of politics where 2016 was proving to be a busy year.
-  Most details of Dragon Con’s history taken from 2007 archive version of the convention’s own history page https://web.archive.org/web/20080420134835/http://www.dragoncon.org:80/history.php
-  The brand was called Dragon because it was made in Wales https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_32/64
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_E._Kramer#2000_arrest
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20111020064501/http://atlantajewish.com/content/2004/edkramer.html
-  At this point though, Sarah Hoyt herself had not actually attended Dragon Con https://accordingtohoyt.com/2016/09/19/dragoncon-aar-kacey-ezell/
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20160409062049/http://awards.dragoncon.org/2016/03/31/the-dragon-awards/
-  Presumably 30 years from when Dragon Con was first announced in 1986. The 30 year anniversary of the first actual con would have been 2017.
-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqB3nepAego
-  see https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/bill-fawcett/ and http://pernhome.com/aim/?p=125 and http://www.crescentblues.com/3_6issue/fawcett.shtml
-  for example see https://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/04/prweb519006.htm
-  for example https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/07/12/wrongfans-unite-only-a-week-left-to-nominate-for-the-dragon-awards/#comment-79310 and https://monsterhunternation.com/2016/07/12/wrongfans-unite-only-a-week-left-to-nominate-for-the-dragon-awards/#comment-79421
-  for the Fifth Season which appeared in two different categories
-  see https://www.inkshares.com/contests/the-sword-laser-collection-contest and http://swordandlaser.com/home/2015/4/15/get-published-with-sword-laser-on-inkshares
-  Arguably the proportion is 11 out of 46. N.K.Jemisin’s The Fifth Season appeared in two categories as did Dave Freer’s Changeling Island. Counting those works only once gives 10 out of 44 or about 23%.
2016 Dragon Award Finalists
- 1. Best Science Fiction Novel
- Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller
- Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
- Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
- The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau
- Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
- Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright
- 2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
- Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams
- Blood Hound by James Osiris Baldwin
- Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
- The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- Grave Measures by R.R. Virdi
- Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
- 3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
- Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
- Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
- The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley
- Trix and the Faerie Queen by Alethea Kontis
- Updraft by Fran Wilde
- 4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
- Allies and Enemies: Fallen by Amy J. Murphy
- Blood in the Water by Taylor Anderson
- Chains of Command by Marko Kloos
- The End of All Things by John Scalzi [withdrawn]
- Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber
- The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
- Wrath of an Angry God: A Military Space Opera by Gibson Michaels
- 5. Best Alternate History Novel
- 1635: A Parcel of Rogues by Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis
- 1636: The Cardinal Virtues by Eric Flint & Walter H. Hunt
- Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
- Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
- Germanica by Robert Conroy
- League of Dragons by Naomi Novik
- 6. Best Apocalyptic Novel
- Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
- Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole
- Dark Age by Felix O. Hartmann
- The Desert and the Blade by S.M. Stirling
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- A Time to Die by Mark Wandrey
- 7. Best Horror Novel
- Alice by Christina Henry
- Chapelwood by Cherie Priest
- Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
- Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
- An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
- Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
- 8. Best Comic Book
- Astro City – Vertigo
- Saga – Image
- Civil War II – Marvel
- Daredevil – Marvel
- DC Universe: Rebirth – DC
- Ms. Marvel – Marvel
- Providence – Avatar
- 9. Best Graphic Novel
- Chicago by Glenn Head
- Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
- March: Book Two by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
- Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
- The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III
- Virgil by Steve Orlando and J.D. Faith
- 10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
- Daredevil – Netflix
- Doctor Who – BBC
- The Expanse – Syfy
- The Flash – CW
- Game of Thrones – HBO
- Jessica Jones – Netflix
- Outlander – Starz
- 11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
- Ant-Man, dir. Peyton Reed
- Captain America: Civil War, dir. Joe and Anthony Russo
- Crimson Peak, dir. Guillermo del Toro
- Deadpool, dir. Tim Miller
- The Martian, dir. Ridley Scott
- Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, dir. J.J. Abrams
- 12. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
- Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios
- Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks
- Metal Gear Solid V by Konami Digital Entertainment
- Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment
- Undertale by Toby Fox
- XCOM 2 by 2k Games
- 13. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
- Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks
- Hyper Burner by Patrick Cook
- PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist by Outerminds Inc.
- Quaser One by Emre Taskin
- Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes by Electronic Arts
- 14. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
- Blood Rage by Cool Mini or Not
- Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil
- Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games
- Monopoly: CTHULHU by USAopoly
- Star Wars: Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games
- Talon by GMT Games
- 15. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
- Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th Edition) by Chaosium Inc.
- Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls by Flying Buffalo
- Magic the Gathering: Battle of Zendikar by Wizards of the Coast
- Magic the Gathering: Shadows over Innistrad by Wizards of the Coast
- Mousguard (2nd Edition) by David Petersen & Luke Crane
- Star Wars: Armada by Fantasy Flight Games