A vague Dragon Award stat and a big pile of speculation

Any port in a storm and any number in a statistical dessert. There is a media release from Dragon Con about this year’s ballot. It has a numerical nugget in it:

“In 2018, more than 10,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners, selected from 94 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming, and tabletop gaming.”

https://www.dragoncon.org/mediarelations/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019-Dragon-Awards-Ballot.pdf

It’s a media release, so it’s easy to nit-pick (e.g. the award very much is NOT the full range of ‘fiction’ — they obviously dropped a qualifier there). Also, there can be a specific issue when such numbers announced to confuse what is being counted i.e. the number of votes versus the number of voters. However, the wording implies that this is the unique number of voters. I think we can also safely assume that the number is less than 10,500.

Is that plausible? Yes, very much so. It’s roughly a 100 votes per finalist and it is very plausible that on average a finalist could marshal that many fans to vote. I estimated that in 2016 Vox Day had somewhere between 160-180 Hugo voters in the final ballot ( see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/estimating-rabid-puppy-numbers/ ) and the Dragon Awards are far easier to vote in. Of course some finalists won’t have bothered and there will be substantial fan-overlap between some finalists but also some nominees will bring a lot more folks to the party. That’s also assuming the figure does not include any cheating via pay-for-votes services (either because finalists didn’t cheat or because such votes were identified and discounted). Altogether, I think that magnitude is a good basis for other estimates.

What else can we infer? Well, it is safe to assume that the number of people nominating is a lot less. Based on other awards, I think we can assume a factor of 2 i.e. 2 final votes for every nominating vote. That would be a hefty 5 thousand+ people nominating. Very hard to tell how those nominating votes would spread across categories and nominees though.

What I imagine is that most people who choose to nominate do so because of a specific call to action i.e. somebody they follow saying that they should vote. I think this is a safe assumption because the promotion otherwise is very thin. However, of the works a single voter might nominate only one is likely to be in direct response to that call to action i.e. Author X says ‘nominate me’ a fan thinks ‘sure, why not’ nominates Author X’s book and then nominate bits and bobs of other stuff. The odd thing is that those calls to action are more likely to be from authors who appear in down-ballot categories (with a couple of exceptions) and the bits-and-bobs more likely to be in the higher profile categories.

But another way, you might need 1000+ nominations to be a finalist for Best Fantasy Novel but much less for the other categories. I think that is on a balance a positive feature of the Dragon Awards. A category like Best MilSF brings in a lot of fans of Author X, Y or Z who then vote more organically elsewhere. It would be interesting to see what would happen if there was a Best Paranormal Romance category.

Any other stray observations? Only that the odd wording about the nomination process is used in the press release:

“The ballot was selected in an open nomination process. Using the dedicated Dragon Awards website, fans were invited to nominate one (and only one) of their favorite properties in any or all the award categories. Nominations ran from early April until July19. The best and most popular of the nominated properties were elevated to the ballot.”

The “best and most popular” appears to be a very deliberate term and implies two categories of finalists.

Observant eyes will have also spotted that the nomination process is stated as running from “early April”. According to the website, nominations are supposed to start from November of the previous year. In reality, the process was much messier for 2019:

Did nominations submitted before April count? Who knows.

More Dragon Stats

I’m still playing with my great-big-spreadsheet of Dragon Award finalists. I think yesterday’s data shows conclusively that 2019 is different in the character of the finalists but I want to dig deeper into that.

The change in character raises the question of change in voters. There’s roughly three possibilities, more, less or the same:

  • Maybe more people nominated this year, boosting an organic vote that reduced the impact of more factional votes.
  • Maybe fewer people nominated this year, but mainly in the former of fewer factional voters reducing their overall impact.
  • Maybe about the same numbers of people nominated but there was a shift in who voted and how they voted.

I don’t mean ‘factional voters’ in a pejorative sense, I just need a name for people voting because of a specific call-to-action kind of request from an author or author group they liked.

A fourth possibility is very few people vote every year and the choices have substantial input from admins i.e. the choices are curated. We know from previous years that there’s some sensible curation going on with the categories works appear in (e.g. ‘The Fifth Season’ and ‘Changeling Island’ appearing in two categories in 2016 or in other years works that authors had boosted for one category appearing in another).

Without data there is no way to tell. Some pertinent facts are:

  • Promotion of the awards remains weak. ‘Dragon Award’ has SEO problem. I just did a search on “Dragon Award” on Google for the past week and the top hits were Cora’s blog, File 770 and here, which (no offence to any of those august organs) suggests the announcement didn’t get the wider coverage it needs.
  • Boosting of the awards this year was much lower. I saw fewer people asking for nominations from fans. Really hard to quantify but I thought there was noticeably less interest. Not sure why.
  • On the plus side, Larry Correia has consistently promoted the awards, so there’s no reason to assume that fewer of his wider circle of fans nominated works this year.
  • Red Panda Fraction’s eligibility sheet made it a lot easier for people to find works and nominate.
  • On the “huh?” side of things Larry Correia is a finalist although he asked his fans not to nominate him. And Ian McEwan is a finalist, which just seems odd.

But for the sake of argument let us assume that the wider pool of Larry Correia/Baen voters was the same and that there was at least some extra voters because of Red Panda’s activities. Notably the proportion of Baen works nominated went *down* so the impact of Baen voters was reduced which, putting it altogether, implies the total vote went up. Maybe. Without numbers this remains guesswork.

So here is a graph. There are more graphs below the fold along with explanations but as they take up a lot of space I’m hiding the rest from casual view.

Graphs ahoy!

Dragon Award by Gender

With this year’s finalists announced, we now have a hefty data set of who gets nominated for the Dragon Awards. I haven’t been counting the game of movie categories but I have been including all the story categories including comics and graphic novels. I’m still looking at publishers but that’s going to take some more work in terms of defining who is what.

I’ve done a binary classification (M v F) of gender of authors based on name or profile pronoun. I don’t think there are any non-binary authors who have been finalists as yet. More generally, apologies to any author I’ve misclassified.

Year AllNovelsCounts
  M F M F M F
2016 56 15 35 11 35 11
2017 69 19 47 12 41 12
2018 58 16 38 12 31 12
2019 45 23 30 18 26 18
  • “All” includes all novel categories, comics and graphic novels
  • “Novels” is novel categories only
  • “Counts” is novels but instead of the sum of authors by gender it is the count of novels with an author of a given gender

That “counts” column sounds odd but it’s there because there are a lot of dual authored books nominated and most of those are two male authors (outside of comics, I think there is only one exception). With the counts column a book with two male authors gets counted once and a book with a male & female author would be counted once for each column (so twice in total).

So first the bad news. Using the ‘counts’ data that’s 133 out of 186 for men or 72% and that’s using the measure with the least discrepancy. Judge against a 50/50 chance of male v female then it’s a wholly unlikely occurrence.

The good news is that 2019 is quite different from previous years. Here is the ‘counts’ data as percentages:

Year M F
2016 76% 24%
2017 77% 23%
2018 72% 28%
2019 59% 41%
Total 72% 28%

A 60-40 split still isn’t great representation but other literary awards have had worse. It’s also a change for the better and a fairly dramatic one based on past data. Here it is graphically:

As a change in the kind of works being nominated, there is a quantifiable change in the nature of the Dragon Award finalists this year. Obviously the question is why?

An interesting Dragon Award reaction

On Facebook (sorry don’t have a link, this is sort of second hand) Brad Torgersen is quite rightly pleased with his Dragon Award nomination. It’s a good year to be a finalist precisely because the finalist are more substantial than previous years. He also thanked a group of fellow finalists and posted a picture of the books from the ballot.

I assume we can add Brad’s name to that list. Not a Puppy slate but interesting to see how the ballot looks from that in-group perspective.

Dragon Award 2019 Nominations

Sneaky dragons posted while I was sleeping… A day late but here they are. Very mainstream with no indies in the two headline categories. I haven’t totalled the numbers re: gender but it looks like more women than previously. I’m not seeing LMBNP’s Scorpion’s Fury by CH Gideon (aka Craig Martelle) which I thought was the most probable nominee from them. Not seeing John Ringo, Chuck Gannon or Eric Flint from Baen only bigger guns.

Given the much lower levels of campaigning I guess the results make sense but I stll would have expected to see more indie works in the down ballot categories. Only MilSF looks like previous years of the Dragon Awards in terms of the types of authors nominated.

A more organic vote or a bid for respectability? I’m not seeing a break-out group this year (like Inkshares was previously). Is it me or is it a lot British in places? Chris Kennedy’s indie group got three four finalists, which is the only strong showing for a non-trad group.

Best Science Fiction Novel – I’ve added publishers (first publisher I see on Amazon, so might be misleading in some cases). Europe at Dawn is an interesting nominee – it’s a series that I’ve seen a fair bit of critical acclaim but not much promotion.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine – Tor
A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen – Baen
Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson – Solaris
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers -Hodder & Stoughton
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson – Orbit
Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey – Hachette

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal) – Same as above. ‘Deep Roots’ is possibly the least famous of the list.
Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys – Tor
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett – Crown
House of Assassins by Larry Correia – Baen
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – Gollancz
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – Del Rey
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie – Orbit

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel – Not really familiar with any of these.
Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
Armageddon Girls by Aaron Michael Ritchey
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard
Imposters by Scott Westerfeld
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
The King’s Regret by Philip Ligon
The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel – Phew! At last a category that looks like the Dragon Awards!
A Pale Dawn by Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey <- Kennedy
Order of the Centurion by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
Marine by Joshua Dalzelle
Sons of the Lion by Jason Cordova <- Kennedy
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Uncompromising Honor by David Weber

Best Alternate History Novel – OK, this is the category which is so mainstream it is weird. By which I mean, this is a down ballot, more obscure category. Ian McEwan? I’d be surprised to see McEwan be a Hugo finalist never mind a Dragon Award finalist
Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling – Ace
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan – Random House
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – Tor
The Iron Codex by David Mack – Tor
The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell – Theogony Books, the only indie? <- Kennedy
Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar – Tachyon

Best Media Tie-In Novel
Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove, Nancy Holder – Firefly tie-in
Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher – Stranger Things tie-in
Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray – Star Wars tie-in
The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy – LitRPG? Is this a tie-in? <- Kennedy
The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack – Star Trek Discovery tie in
Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn – Star Wars tie-in

Best Horror Novel Not a genre I’m across.
Cardinal Black by Robert McCammon
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Riddance by Shelley Jackson
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Zombie Airman by David Guenther
100 Fathoms Below by Steven L. Kent, Nicholas Kaufmann

Best Comic Book
Batman by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel
Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart
Mister Miracle by Tom King, Tony Daniel
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man by Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
The Batman Who Laughs by Scott Snyder, Mark Simpson

Best Graphic Novel
Berlin by Jason Lutes
Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka
I Am Young by M. Dean
Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series Nothing odd here.
Game of Thrones, HBO
Good Omens, Amazon Prime
Lucifer, Netflix
The Orville, Fox
The Umbrella Academy, Netflix
Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie – All superhero flicks.
Alita: Battle Angel by Robert Rodriguez
Aquaman by James Wan
Avengers: Endgame by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Captain Marvel by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Spider-Man: Far From Home by Jon Watts – Only just eligible
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

I’m skipping the game categories.

Announcing the Dragon Award Awards 2019

The Dragon Award Awards are an annual award to celebrate existence in the field of writing posts about awards named after dragons. The finalists are selected by typing “Dragon Award” blog into Google and seeing what the first eight entries are. The winner is arbitrarily selected from the finalists.

The finalists this year are:

And the winner is…“Scouts Cymru” for actually having some relevant connection to dragons. Congratulations to everybody and our partner Google who made this award possible by returning search results.

I felt sure I would win this year having rigged the rules deliberately in my favour and also appointing myself judge but with a strong field and a surprise entry from the Welsh contingent, I was out played.