Thanks to Doris for pointing out that David Weber had responded to the recent change in the Dragon Award categories. As with all things Dragon Awards, there are implied facts about the awards that are hard to establish. Weber speaks as if he has inside knowledge about the decision but cites no sources or places where more information can be found.
The tone is one of attempting to calm people down while accepting that the decision should be reversed with regard to the military science fiction category:
“I think it’s important for the people who are upset to understand that so far as I can tell, there is no malign intent involved in this decision. Like a lot of you, I intend to advocate to get it changed, to get our category restored to the awards, but angst and outrage are not the way to go about that.”https://www.facebook.com/david.weber.5621/posts/pfbid0Ck68ytn6wqJxJdwKoRYKPf7CEjEBMQG23zCHo917xPTmxBLpobtU5E8L1LqfbyNCl
We then get into some history (of sorts):
“One, frankly, was the perception by a significant portion of fandom that existing awards — like the Hugo and the Nebula — had been politicized. That they were no longer voted on the merits of the work itself but because the work in question had checked off the proper boxes. DragonCon’s answer to that perception was to create a family of awards which were clearly voted upon by ALL fandom, not by a subset of it which might be agenda driven.”ibid
OK but the people he is addressing now have the same impression about the Dragon Awards. I don’t think they are right this time either but if anything they have more cause with the Dragon Awards as there is no solid information on how the awards are actually run. There’s not even an official name attached to the awards as the person running it. I’ve assumed it was Dave Cody and Bill Fawcett (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/08/11/debarkle-chapter-55-the-dragon-award-begins/ ) but who knows!
“At the same time, DragonCon recognized that the award CEREMONY itself would not be a cost effective exercise on the convention’s part. And, finally, the decision to eliminate the award for military science-fiction/fantasy was made, according to DragonCon, because this was the “least-nominated, least-voted” category, so if something was going to be pruned, it made sense to prune the award which had had the least support.”ibid
According to DragonCon? Where? Weber is quoting somebody or something but the phrase “least-nominated, least-voted” isn’t on the award change announcement. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place. However, what we do now get is a plausible explanation of the issue: the ceremony.
The Dragon Award Ceremony has been a part of the DragonCon program since 2016, with virtual versions for the pandemic. It’s always been a small affair and has had a slot crowded against all the other things going on at the con. Unlike the Hugos or Nebulas, it is not a tent-pole event of the whole convention. There in lies part of the structural problem I, among others, have been pointing out about the Dragons since their conception. Aside from the name, there’s not much of a relationship between the award and the convention.
“DragonCon’s answer to the acrimonious argument about merit versus ideologically correct was to say “If you think that a work deserves recognition, this is a place where YOU can nominate it and YOU can vote for it, and the SOLE CRITERION for the award will be the number of votes it receives from ALL OF FANDOM, not a smaller, select group with which you may or may not agree.” Think about that. Without condemning existing, older awards or telling people who were upset with those older awards processes to shut up and sit down, DragonCon offered a venue in which those on either side of that debate would find an open, transparent, even-handed, open-to-all forum in which to advocate for the works THEY loved.”ibid
LOL. As far as I’m aware, this paragraph is a piece of fiction and the idea that the Dragons are in any way open and transparent is laughable. This is a diversion though, the meat of the argument lies elsewhere:
“Third, before people get bent out of shape over the “cost-effective” metric, think about it for a moment. DragonCon is huge, yet I would be surprised if more than 350 people have turned up for any of the Dragon Award presentation ceremonies. Those people who have turned out have been hugely supportive and very interested in and involved with the process, but they represent a fairly teeny subset of con’s total attendance. For that matter, the literary portion of DragonCon is only one of its multifaceted sides, and whether we want to admit it or not, the “literary” attendees clearly represent an absolute minority of total attendance. So even though the convention would be paying for the space the awards ceremony uses whether the ceremony used it or not, even though all of the audiovisual equipment would already be there, they are still diverting staff who might have been doing something else to managing it, and that same space could be programmed for a different function that might very well attract significantly more attendees. Given the fact that DragonCon has to pay the bills, that is neither a minor nor an unreasonable consideration.”ibid
Now, this makes a lot of sense. Even so, it’s not like the changes announced are going to free up many resources. The ceremony will be shorter but not vastly shorter. Maybe it helps make the ceremony fit into a neater block of time?
“Fourth, DragonCon got fewer nominations and fewer total votes in this category than in the others.”ibid
I would love to see these numbers or even just see where Weber was getting this information from.
Meanwhile, Larry Correia is also reacting defensively to the wingnuts cross about the change. That is interesting because Correia has often talked about the Dragons as if he has a personal connection with those running it. He didn’t react to the announced change and I didn’t see a general reaction in Baen arenas to the change. I can’t access Baen’s Bar anymore so I don’t know if there was any chatter there but it is interesting to me that the negative reaction has been from a section of the right-wing sci-fi community that are more outsiders than the inner circle of Baen.
“Man, I sure am glad I went through all that effort and put up with years and years of bullshit and abuse, mostly alone, and then only with a tiny handful of us, all so that years later the masses on my side after being given amazing opportunities could immediately cry doom and spread black pills and defeat without ever doing a fucking thing themselves the instant something seems to go sideways.”https://www.facebook.com/larry.correia/posts/pfbid02QXCQxMkETyXixdnXq9yQHngnsNFvjRpeHrdcKSNK63Bdtja71u6Q6AqKqCqqPMPLl
This, I would suggest, is very unfair to Declan Finn. He may be incoherently right-wing and a shameless self-promoter and have a very poor understanding of Italian airport security but he is not somebody who has never done “a fucking thing themselves” regarding the Dragon Awards. Nobody, and I mean this in all seriousness, has been more consistent in encouraging people to vote in the Dragons than Declan Finn. True, mainly that has been him encouraging people to vote for him, without much success but he has every year been putting up eligibility lists and raising the issue in multiple places on online. Quixotically perhaps, but he’s definitely been doing it.
“I’m pretty fucking annoying by the people who are nominally supposed to be on my side crying about how this is just like the Hugos, only I’m the dude who started all of that, and I’m calling bullshit on this black pilled doom nonsense.ibid
It is a straight up popularity contest with zero barrier to entry.
It actively encourages authors to tell their fan bases to go vote.
We did for a while, then our side got LAZY.
We had huge turn out for a while, then guys like me with huge fan bases got tired of winning over and over (4x for me) so we asked our fans to spread the love and vote for other deserving authors… and the numbers plummeted.”
Rhetoric aside, this almost works as a broader description of Sad Puppies as well. Correia really does have a big fan base and that fan base will turn out for him loyally and dependably. However, this really is a Correia-specific phenomenon. Other authors have big sets of fans (Weber has a whole quasi-Navy of them) but really only Correia has a fanbase that will reliably brigade a poll. When Correia directs his energy to an award he has demonstrated that he can exert some influence on it but even he sees that continually winning the Dragon Awards is no good for the reputation of the awards and hence diminishes the victories that he gets. Correia (and Baen) don’t want to keep defeating a bunch of self-published Kindle Unlimited authors, they want to occasionally beat big famous best-selling authors. Put another way, Correia wants to win awards that John Scalzi wins, not awards that Brian Nieimeimer wins.
“If you can motivate a few hundred fans to nominate you, you’ll probably get nominated. If you can motivate a few thousand fans to vote for you, you’ll probably win. If you can’t motivate fans to do either, why do you expect to win something that’s a literal POPULARITY contest?”ibid
I don’t know if Correia is just pulling numbers from thin air or has some inside knowledge here, but those magnitudes fit with my guesstimate of what you’d need.
Here’s Correia’s penultimate conclusion:
“Seriously, it ain’t that big. What you indy Mil-SF guys should do, rather than being butt hurt, is pick a fucking champion, and crush the regular Sci-fi big tent genre award. There you go. I keep hearing all the indy guys talk about how huge their sales are, awesome. Then get your shit together and crush your enemies.”ibid
“Pick a champion” – well yes, that would work. Pick a contender for a bunch of categories and concentrate the wingnut vote on those contenders, thus amplifying your vote rather than splitting it. You could call it a “slate”. You could give the whole campaign a cute name after some animal. Upset kittens? Dolorous Bunnies? But here’s the thing. Unlike the Hugo Awards, you’d have no idea whether your votes would just get chucked away. As Dave Cody stated back in 2016:
“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.”https://file770.com/dragon-awards-updates/
Did they ever set up this panel of experts? Who knows! But the Dragon Awards have stated that they can do this. A Dragon version of Sad Puppies might work but only if the shadowy organisers of the Dragons LET it work and if they did that…would legit authors agree to play along or would they withdraw? Who knows.