The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes

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If you’ve been paying attention to the Dragon Awards, you’ll probably know that two of the finalists – John Scalzi and Alison Littlewood – asked for their novels to be withdrawn from the ballot.

More recently, Alison has posted the response she received from DragonCon president Pat Henry:

Good morning Ms. Littlewood,

 While I appreciate your sense of fair play, I must decline your request to remove The Hidden People from the Dragon Award Nominations.

We are aware of the rabid puppies and justice warriors efforts to effect the voting and we go through a number of steps to avoid ballot stuffing or other vote rigging behaviors.  While we didn’t start the Dragon Awards to foil these two groups, we believe that as we add voters, they will become irrelevant in the our awards.

We believe the “people’s choice” approach is a better way to recognize authors and their works.  The Dragon Awards ballot – which consists of works nominated by fans – is a broad representation of the best science fiction and fantasy literature available today.  With 53 novels listed, there is actually something for everybody on this ballot.

The original purpose of the Dragon Awards was not so much as awards but as a quality reading list.  The cost of reading current material has been rising steadily for years.  Library budgets are not adequate to have all, or even a decent collection of  the type of materials that Dragon Con fans enjoy.

Thank you for your interest in the Dragon Con Awards.  Please do not let Mr. [redacted] ruin for you, the positive reception of your work.

Pat Henry – President

This email gives us a peek into the sometimes clandestine workings of the Dragon Awards. Here are my main takeaways:

1: There is no way for an author to withdraw a nominated work.

2: Pat Henry acknowledges that two groups, namely “rabid puppies and justice warriors”, are making “efforts to effect the voting “. However, he believes that the influence of these two groups will dissipate as the voting base grows. This contradicts the assumptions made by many of the Dragon Awards’ more enthusiastic supporters: that the Dragons are already getting votes from 60,000+ convention attendees, and that any overlap with the tastes of the Sad/Rabid Puppies is purely coincidental.

3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.

Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.

For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.

Secondly, it throws a lot of the nastier conversation surrounding the Dragons into perspective. If your response to the Dragon Awards ballot is to champion the books that you are already familiar with, and ignore (or actively dismiss) the others without giving them a chance, then you are missing the point of the Dragon Awards.

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4 thoughts on “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”

  1. There are a lot of sff books published, far more than I can possibly get to. I’m under no obligation to privilege books shoved in my face by the antics of people manipulating the Dragon Awards nominations.

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    1. Which is fair enough – I’m referring to people in the Puppysphere who hail the Dragon Awards as the true voice of fandom, and then spit on vast chunks of the ballot.
      (In retrospect I should have made that clearer in the last line, my apologies.)

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      1. With respect, both named groups are made up of people who like what their peers in their collectives like to read. They are, in short, readers. How did they become the enemy of all of the rest of us? No no, spare the long agonizing tail (deliberate) of woe. TL:DR.

        Every person with an abiding interest in books and the genre has a list of favories that they’d be happy to nominate. I used to be in that category but as all above have written, their are just so many books these days. It’s too hard too expensive and I don’t have a problem with taking a recommendation from somebody who I know reads the kind of thing I enjoy.

        I’d be happier if we could simply accept that this is the case and forget about the hate and animus that seems to motivate some people to actively work to hate and despise one group because …..whatever.

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  2. I think the biggest takeaway – other than the fact that an award by an org that is supposed to be about celebrating authors &c are refusing to remove a work at the request of the creator – is the parity given to “the rabid puppies and justice warriors”.
    This is either someone out of touch with the reality of the situation, or someone who is apparently encouraging puppies.

    Liked by 1 person

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