OK I forgot about the Dragon Awards

…I hope the Red Panda Fraction forgives me! I intended to vote but the deadline zipped by and before you know it, it’s the last day of July already!

So how are things looking for the Dragon Awards? Last year, after the normal shambolic start, the Dragons took some steps to better promote themselves including new blog content with interviews with past finalists and a program with libraries to promote the selected books. The winners and nominees skewed the most mainstream they ever have been for the Dragons, except for the MilSF and Alternate History categories which were closer to the kind of works the Dragons usually pick.

This year? Overall, less shambolic in announcing the opening and closing of the nomination phase on time. The annual ‘we forgot to update the rules, so the link does work’ https://application.dragoncon.net/dragon_awards_terms_conditions.php competition has though, managed to surpass all previous years in being delayed. As everybody who nominates has to agree to the rules, I think a pedant can claim that all the nominations are invalid or maybe that all nominations ARE valid? In reality, the official rules never made much sense and shed little light on how the Dragon Awards actually run.

After John Scalzi winning a Dragon Award last year, many former Puppies were very cross. The pandemic and the absence of an in-person DragonCon were blamed for the mainstream turn in the Dragons, as well as right-leaning fans being poorly organized. Since then there has been a more concerted effort to get people in the puppyspehere to participate. This was mainly led by Declan Finn who so very, very much wants a Dragon Award that if I could I’d steal one and give it to him — this is a bad psychological trait I have and it’s why I end up feeding seagulls. The not-quite-moribund Superversive site also tried to do an award recommendation page. There was some nominal promotion of the awards by Larry Correia but he likewise seems to have forgotten to promote them just before the closing date (too busy moaning about Mark Zuckerberg and Mike Glyer — or Mike Zuckerberg and Mark Glyer as I originally typed).

Our musteloidean allies once again maintained a handy-dandy Google sheet of eligible works https://bit.ly/3x6Zchm which was both a worthy effort but also demonstrates the extra effort needed to work out eligibility for the Dragon Awards. Red Panda remains the most coordinated effort to get people involved in the Dragons and it is nice to see that an open, non-partisan effort is what has staying power.

That doesn’t mean the culture war stuff has gone entirely. Declan Finn over on the alt-Facebook platform MeWe did try to spur Monster Hunter fans into action by citing not only “File 770” as a vague enemy but also the added menace of Red Panda:

That generated 12 likes and 5 comments, so I don’t think he managed to inspire an angry horde or Dragon nominators. Quite how Red Panda Fraction’s activity is “ballot stuffing” is anybody’s guess.

Where does that leave things?

I think there’s more attention being paid this year than last year but there are no focused efforts. The Baen’s Bar controversy at the beginning of the year and subsequent disinvitation of Toni Weisskopf as a Guest of Honour for this year’s Worldcon also may have inspired some fans of Baen to renew their attention towards the Dragons. However, without a coordinated and focused effort by major names (e.g. Larry Correia or Vox Day) the impact of that attention at the nomination stage is likely to be nebulous.

Of course, my (unproven) working assumption is that votes at the nomination stage are treated as suggestions by the award admins and that they make the final picks but really, who knows? As I think Greg Hullender pointed out, the least effort approach on the Dragon Award admins part is that they go with what gets the most nominations.

We’ll find out what go nominated soon enough :).

About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists

I’m behind on all sorts of regular topics but I want to keep an eye on the Dragon Awards because I always have. It’s a thing. Last year, the awards did a mainstream pivot and also improved some aspects of the website including more articles. The awards themselves collaborated with the Fulton County Library System to encourage readers. Will that direction continue?

One reason it might not is the January 2021 kerfuffle over the boogaloo-like content at Baen’s Bar and the subsequent disinvintation of Baen chief editor and publisher Toni Weiskopff as Guest of Honour at this years Worldcon. Baen (and specifically Eric Flint) have had an undefined relationship with the Dragons and also many Baen fans saw the Dragons when they started in 2016 as an antidote to the supposedly Baen unfriendly Hugo Awards.

What has happened since? There was an uptick in Dragon Award chatter in January and February. Superversive SF produced a crowd-sourced list of books http://www.superversivesf.com/?p=1755 which notes those books that are Dragon Award eligible. Declan Finn, as always, has been promoting his suggestions for the Dragon Awards but in a few more places (eg on some sites on MeWe). What there isn’t is much of a focused campaign from others I can see since. This may all pick up again in June or early July. (or it might not matter if the organisers mainly pick the finalists, which may or may not be the case)

The Dragon Award website is more up to date than it is usually. Some of the existing inconsistencies are still there (e.g. qualifying books as ‘at least 70,000 words’ versus ‘about 70,000 words’ but as nobody is checking and there’s no appeal it sort of doesn’t matter) and once again the link to the ‘rules’ (that you have to agree to when you nominate) doesn’t take you to the rules (an older version is here https://web.archive.org/web/20191013213140/https://application.dragoncon.net/dragon_awards_terms_conditions.php )

In short, we will see.

A Superversive eligibility list

I’ve not seen anybody try to do this on the right-hand lane of fandom for awhile. L Jagi Lamplighter is compiling a great big list of 2020 SFF works on the Superversive blog. Sensibly she is keeping it low-tech. People put suggestions in the comments and then periodically she’ll update the list on the blog. The intent is to help people find books but also provide some suggestions for the Dragon Award.

Anyway, for anybody looking to do any Dragon Award number crunching, it might be of interest: http://www.superversivesf.com/?p=1755

Debarkle: Draft outline

Coming this month (and probably for most of the year) is “Debarkle”, a history of the Puppy Kerfuffle of 2015, the events that preceded it, the political context and how it presaged events in US politics that followed it.

What follows is the draft section and chapter order. Naturally, what will actually happen is something different from this but this is the outline I’m working to.

Roughly it is in chronological order but with various chapters flashing forward or flashing backwards to keep themes together. External politics events are also a key part of this story, some of which will get their own chapters but in other cases they will be referenced in more fannish chapters to give context and establish time periods. Sadly, a lot of those external political events are violent ones but they are ones relevant to the times and also the discussions and the political atmosphere.

There are some special recurring chapters:

  • Dramatis Personae: these chapters look at backstories to some recurring names or groups in the story. I’ve tried to keep these to a minimum but if I find that I’m writing longer paragraphs about the background to given person, I may split that off into an extra one of these. Generally, they’ll cover the ‘story so far’ up to that point. So, John Scalzi and Vox Day (and maybe the Nielsen Hayden’s) get early chapters before the opening act of this http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html. So these chapters don’t all end up in section 1, many people will appear in the main narrative before they get one of these chapters but with a briefer introduction.
  • Meanwhile: these chapters cover things away from the main Puppy story but which, again, would otherwise become long intruding paragraphs of context. An obvious example is RaceFail 2009, which involved no puppies but did involve notable people in fandom. Likewise, a discussion of the 2015 Hugo awards can’t avoid discussion of RequiresHate and the Mixon report. You can skip these if you want to stick to the main plot. Part 6, covering 2020, is all Meanwhile.
  • Some book reviews: With the Hugosauriad I was pleased with how the two chapters looking at If You Were a Dinosaur My Love and the right-wing reaction to it worked out. The Debarkle is about many things but one of those things is stories. Currently these reviews will include Monster Hunter International, Redshirts, Ancillary Justice and the Broken Earth Trilogy, as well as some selected shorter fiction.

Speaking of the Hugosauriad, because that project contains chapters on Rachel Swirsky’s story and on Chuck Tingle, neither will get their own chapter in Debarkle. Obviously, both will get discussed but the longer coverage is in the Hugosauriad.

Currently, the plan is 6 sections.

  1. Beginnings 1880 to 2010. All the background and setting the scene.
  2. 2011 to 2014. This covers the SFWA conflicts and the first two Sad Puppy campaigns but also looks at Gamergate.
  3. 2015. This section is the most chronological and most chapters cover events in a given month up to the smoky skies of Sasquan. “Phew!” we all say in August, “Looks like we defeated fascism for good this time!” and Donald Trump enters stage right.
  4. 2016-2017. Two parallel stories – the political story with the alt-right and Donald Trump and also the story of how the Puppy campaigns fizzled out. SP4, the non-event of SP5, the Dragon Awards and how Larry finally gets his participation prize.
  5. 2018-2019. Follows the political story with some delves back into fandom. Specifically this is the politics of Sad and Rabid versions of the right in the age of Trump. The crappiest gate aka ‘Comicsgate’ will get a look in, as will the 2019 Nebulas, as ‘compare and contrast’ with the Puppy campaigns.
  6. Meanwhile 2020: Aside from an initial dive into the RWA’s meltdown, this section looks at the hell year in terms of the perspectives of the Puppy Protagonists. Dominating it are three major elements of the year, Qanon (particularly with Vox Day), Covid (Sarah Hoyt) and ‘Stop the Steal’ (Larry Correia but also Day and Hoyt).

Section 3 (i.e. the actual plot) is likely to blow-out. Three sections of aftermath may look like a lot but as the main thesis of the project is that the themes and cognitive style of the “crazy” behaviour of the US right in 2020 were already overt and apparent in 2015, just at a different scale and context. Note, the thesis isn’t that the Puppies caused later events (they are all minor bit players in bigger story, if that) but rather that the same underlying cultures and attitudes on the right that erupted as the Puppies in fandom, later erupted at a bigger scale (and at greater human cost) in US politics. Sections won’t be of equal length.

As always, suggestions, comments etc are welcome but it will also end up being whatever gets written at the time!

  • Intro: Jan 6 2021
  • Part 1: Beginnings 1880 to 2010
    A short history of the Hugo Awards 1953 to 2000
    Dramatis Personae 1: John Scalzi
    Dramatis Personae 2: Theodore Beale
    Tor, Baen and Amazon 1990 -2011
    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 1965 to 2010
    March 1, 2005: Electrolyte
    Dramatis Personae 3: Larry Correia
    2007: Monster Hunter International
    Meanwhile: Barack Obama
    Meanwhile: Racefail 2009
    2010 Hugos and the SFWA
  • Part 2: 2011 to 2014
    2011: Larry Goes to Worldcon
    2012-13: The Day-Scalzi Feud
    Meanwhile: Mitt Romney
    2013 “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo”
    2013: Redshirts
    Dramatis Personae 4: N.K.Jemisin
    2013: Trouble at the SFWA
    Dramatis Personae 5: Sarah Hoyt and the Mad Geniuses
    Opera Vita Aeterna
    2014: Sad Puppies 2
    2014: Ancillary Justice
    2014: Vox Gets the Boot
    Dramatis Personae 6: John C wright and the Evil League of Evil
    Dramatis Personae 7: George R R Martin
    2014: The Hugos go to London
    Meanwhile: Requires Hate
    Meanwhile: GamerGate
    Dramatis Personae 8: Brad Torgersen
  • Part 3: 2015
    January: Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!
    February: Rabid Puppies 2015
    March: Warnings
    April Part 1: TSHTF
    April Part 2: Hugos Hit the News
    Dramatis Personae 9: Mike Glyer and File 770
    May: Planning Ahead
    E Pluribus Hugo
    June Part 1: The Tor Boycott
    Totaled
    June Part 2: The Human Toll
    July: Crescendo
    August: Sasquan
    September-December: Taking Stock
    Meanwhile: Donald Trump
  • Part 4: Fall of the Puppies 2016-2017
    The Broken Earth Trilogy
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 1: Sad Puppies 4
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 2: Rabid Puppies
    Meanwhile: The Rise of the Alt Right
    Dramatis Personae 10: Jon Del Arroz
    Enter the Dragon
    Quarter 2: Reactions
    Meanwhile: GOP goes Trump
    August: Midamericon
    September: Dragon Awards 2016
    Meanwhile: Me Too
    Meanwhile: President Donald Trump
    The Sad Demise of SP5
    Rabid Puppies 2017
    Worldcon 75 – Finland
  • Part 5: The Trump Years 2018-2019
    Overview
    Comicsgate
    Meanwhile: Qanon
    Changing fortunes at the Dragon Awards
    Meanwhile: Black Lives Matter
    Gender at the Hugo Awards
    Meanwhile: 20booksto50 and the Nebulas
    Dramatis Personae: Mixed Fortunes
    The Hugos and the Campbell Legacy
  • Part 6: Meanwhile 2020
    Trouble in Romance
    Covid 19
    Black Lives Matter
    US Presidential Election
    “Stop the Steal”
  • Conclusion: Reality and the Imagination

Bonus! Here is a Rabid version of the cover art.

Dragon Awards 2021

Usually my Dragon Award coverage is about how nobody knows what is going on because the website is broken and/or contradictory. Currently that’s not the case. Nominations opened on time last November and that’s what the site says and the links work. Well, most of the links work. To nominate you have to agree to the rules but the link to the rules just takes you back to main page. You can read the 2020 rules here https://web.archive.org/web/20200414172023/http://application.dragoncon.net/dragon_awards_terms_conditions.php

We also have our first Dragon Award list of the year, from who else but Declan Finn! Unfortunately Declan is somewhat disenchanted with the whole business of asking people to discuss the Dragons:

“But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.”

http://www.declanfinn.com/2021/01/emerging-dragons.html

I can see how that might be annoying. Imagine people using award discussions just as a means to self-promote! What kind of person would do that? It must be terrible for Declan to have to endure that.

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.

Authors: which ones get looked up?

A perennial question around award nominees is just how significant are the authors being honoured. It’s a tricky question, particularly as there is no good data about book sales. Amazon ranks are mysterious and Goodreads data may be a reflection of particular community.

I’m currently taking a few baby steps into web scraping data and I was playing with Wikipedia. Every Wikipedia article has a corresponding information page with some basic metadata about the article. For example here is the info page for the article on the writer Zen Cho https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zen_Cho&action=info On that page is a field called “Page views in the past 30 days” that gives the figure stated. As a first attempt at automating some data collection, it’s a relatively easy piece of data to get.

So, I put together a list of authors from my Hugo Award and Dragon Award lists, going back a few years (I think to 2013). Not all of them have Wikipedia pages, partly because they are early in their careers but also because Wikipedia does a poor job of representing authors who aren’t traditionally published. Putting the ‘not Wiki notable’ authors aside, that left me with 163 names. With a flash of an algorithm I had a spreadsheet of authors ranked by the current popularity of their Wikipedia page.

Obviously this is very changeable data. A new story, a tragedy, a scandal or a recent success might change the number of page views significantly from month to month. However, I think it’s fairly useful data nonetheless.

So what does the top 10 look like?

1Stephen King216,776
2Margaret Atwood75,427
3Brandon Sanderson72,265
4Terry Pratchett55,591
5Rick Riordan43,484
6N. K. Jemisin34,756
7Cixin Liu32,372
8Sarah J. Maas21,852
9Ian McEwan20,468
10Neal Stephenson20,058

The rest of the top 30 look like this:

11Robert Jordan19,169
12Ted Chiang17,635
13Owen King16,041
14Jim Butcher15,493
15James S. A. Corey15,109
16Stephen Chbosky14,490
17Leigh Bardugo13,787
18China Miéville13,580
19Andy Weir13,057
20Harry Turtledove11,452
21Cory Doctorow11,362
22Jeff VanderMeer11,243
23John Scalzi10,796
24Chuck Tingle10,763
25Ben Aaronovitch10,493
26Brent Weeks10,271
27Ken Liu9,003
28Tamsyn Muir9,002
29Alastair Reynolds8,951
30Kim Stanley Robinson8,879

There’s a big Zipf-like distribution going on with those numbers that decline quickly by rank. John Scalzi has Chuck Tingle levels of fame on this metric.

OK, so I know people want to know where some of our favourite antagonists are, so here are some of the notable names from the Debarkle years.

40Vox Day5,271
45Larry Correia4,455
60John Ringo2,878
81John C. Wright1,251
111Brad R. Torgersen560
123Sarah A. Hoyt407
140L. Jagi Lamplighter229
152Dave Freer102
153Lou Antonelli101
156Brian Niemeier81

Day probably gets a lot more views due to people looking him up because of his obnoxious politics. Larry Correia is in a respectable spot in the 40’s. He is just below Martha Wells who has 4,576 page views — which is essentially the same number given how these figures might change from day to day. John Ringo is just above Chuck Wendig and Rebecca Roanhorse (2,806 and 2,786). John C Wright is sandwiched between Tade Thompson and Sarah Gailey.

You can see the full list here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14uQsQNxKyPQtxybu4OxsFrdRRl_v-tdW0fN0oblgFw4/edit?usp=sharing

Let me know if you find any errors.

Some More Dragon Award Stats

I’ve done a very rough division of publishers into big, medium and small. Big is easy to define: the parent company is some sort of huge corporate entity doing hug corporate entity things. Medium? Well don’t ask me for a good definition but the sort-of-company-that-gets-bought-out by a huge corporate entity. Basically, I lumped in all sorts of publishers that had many significant properties and what looks like a corporate structure etc. “Small” is an even worse crime against taxonomy and is basically everybody else from Castalia House to LMBPN to self-published works.

Here’s how the awards split by publisher size, winner/finalist and gender (as marked by pronouns) for all printed categories (books and comics).

SizeStatushe/himshe/her
bigFinalist65.65%33.59%
Winner71.43%28.57%
big Total66.27%33.14%
mediumFinalist84.52%14.29%
Winner95.45%4.55%
medium Total86.79%12.26%
smallFinalist83.16%16.84%
Winner75.00%25.00%
small Total82.52%17.48%
Grand Total76.46%23.02%

On pronouns, I don’t think there is a finalist who uses pronouns other than he/him or she/her but I may be wrong. The totals don’t add up to 100% because there are a few finalist only listed as “various” which I didn’t include.

Generally, gender representation is more equitable with the bigger publishers and worse with the medium sized publishers.

The change in character of the award is mapped out in this table.

Yearbigmediumsmall
201650.67%24.00%25.33%
201723.33%38.89%37.78%
201842.47%27.40%30.14%
201949.25%22.39%28.36%
202063.01%24.66%12.33%
Grand Total44.71%28.04%27.25%
all finalists

Aside from 2017, the percentages for “medium” have been fairly stable. The growth in works from the big publishers has been at the expense of the small publishers/self-published works.

Here is how those percentages shift when just looking at the winners.

Yearbigmediumsmall
201669.23%7.69%23.08%
201756.25%37.50%6.25%
201850.00%50.00%
201950.00%37.50%12.50%
202041.67%33.33%25.00%
winners only