The 2016 Dragon Awards or Participation Trophies for Puppies

I posted a lot about the 2016 Hugos, Nebulas and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, so it’s only fair I do the 2016 Dragon Awards, the winners of which were announced at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, as well. I also covered the Dragon Award nominees (along with the 2016 Retro Hugo winners) here.

Anyway, the full list of the 2016 Dragon Award winners may be found here at File 770, since the official Dragon Award website is slow to update. There’s some good discussion and analysis in the comments, too.

As you can see, it’s a mix of generally popular works, particularly in the comics, film, TV and games categories, and the sort of thing puppies like with some overlap between the two.

Let’s start with the generally popular works: Ms. Marvel and The Sandman: Overture in comics/graphic novels, The Martian and Game of Thrones in film and TV as well as the winners in the four gaming categories are all massively popular (the games have to be popular, if I’ve heard of them, since gaming is so not my thing) and have thousands, if not millions of fans. You’ll also note a lot of overlap here with past and presen Hugo winners in the respective category (except for the games, since the Hugos don’t have a category for that). And since DragonCon is primarily a media convention, it’s no surprise that the categories most likely to appeal to DragonCon attendees went to highly popular works.

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik wins in the alternate history category, beating out both Harry Turtledove and Eric Flint, who are popular with the Baen and the puppy crowd. Coincidentally, this is also the only one of my choices (I registered and voted, though I left the gaming categories blank, since I have no idea how to evaluate them) to win.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Sir Terry Pratchett in the YA category is another generally popular winner. Plus, The Shepherd’s Crown was Sir Terry’s final novel, which might well have given him an extra boost, because this is the last chance to give an award to a beloved author.

Let’s go on to things that puppies like, but that also have a broader fanbase beyond the two overlapping puppy cliques. It just occurs to me that Sir Terry Pratchett might fit into this category, since the sad puppies seem to like him a lot (“Terry Pratchett never won a Hugo” was one of their rallying cries in 2015), though the rabids generally dislike him for his pro-euthanasia stance. But Sir Terry and his books were beloved all across the spectrum, so the puppies can’t really claim his win for themselves. Never mind that Sir Terry beat a prominent sad puppy writer in the YA category.

Another author puppies like, David Weber wins in the military SFF category for Hell’s Foundations Quiver, which is apparently part of his Safehold series. Now David Weber is a conservative writer, but he’s not a puppy. He also is massively popular and his strongest competition in the military SFF category, John Scalzi, withdrew The End of All Things from consideration. So once again, this is neither an unexpected nor an undeserved win, even though personally I voted for Django Wexler.

In the fantasy category, Son of the Black Sword by sad puppy founder Larry Correia wins, beating among others Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Now this is clearly a win for the puppies, but Correia also has a big fanbase that extends beyond the puppy groups. I’m a bit surprised that he beat Jim Butcher, whose overall fanbase is bigger and who also is popular among the puppy crowd. But then, Larry Correia is an avid self-promoter and campaigned heavily for the Dragon Awards and Jim Butcher didn’t.

Now we come to the three categories where the winners can only be explained by heavy puppy voting. Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole wins in the post-apocalyptic category, beating N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and S.M. Stirling among others. For those who’ve forgotten, Nick Cole was the author who loudly cried censorship, when Harper Collins declined to publish Ctrl Alt Revolt! because of offensive content, which promptly turned him into a cause celebre among the puppies and the US rightwing in general. Now Nick Cole is far from the most obscure authors on the Dragon Awards shortlist – before he went full puppy, he had some success with the Apocalypse Weird series and also had a book published by Harper Collins, the prequel to his Dragon Award winning novel. Nonetheless, he is clearly a puppy pick and indeed was pushed heavily by Vox Day.

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier won in the horror category, beating Cherie Priest, Christina Henry and Paul Tremblay among others. Brian Niemeier is an unapologetic puppy and was also promoted by Vox Day over fellow puppy Declan Finn who was also nominated in the horror category. Niemeier also heavily campaigned for the Dragon Awards. In one of my Hugo posts, I go a bit more into the problems with the horror category of the Dragon Awards and the fact that the puppies don’t much care for the horror genre in general. I’m also not sure if the regular Dragon Con crowd is much into horror, though I doubt it. My own vote was for Chapelwood by Cherie Priest BTW.

But the biggest “There is no way this would have won without puppy interference” moment of the 2016 Dragon Awards is Somewhither by John C. Wright winning in the best science fiction novel category, beating Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and Raising Caine by Charles Gannon among others. Now John C. Wright is – to put it mildly – an acquired taste and he was up against three very popular and multiple award winning and nominated SF authors, a tie-in novel to a popular RPG and a popular indie novel that caught the eye of a publisher. Even if one considers that the Dragon Awards seem to be aimed at populist and action-packed SFF, Raising Caine or Agent of the Imperium still fit the bill much better than Somewhither, which – going by previous experience with Wright’s work – is neither action-packed nor populist and probably also very preachy. Somewhither also doesn’t sound very SFnal, going by the blurb. But Vox Day and Wright himself heavily pushed Somewhither and their minions voted.

Unlike the Hugos, the Dragon Awards don’t release voting and nomination statistics, so it’s impossible to say how many voters and nominators there were. I suspect that number is pretty small, going by the many little known and downright obscure works to make the ballot. Never mind that the various puppy fractions were the only ones who heavily promoted the award – whereas Dragon Con barely promoted it at all.

Unlike with the Hugo or the Nebula or the Arthur C. Clarke Awards, media coverage of the Dragon Award winners is slight so far.

At The Verge, Andrew Liptak offers an overview of the Dragon Award winners and also points out that the results point at a heavy puppy influence, though without detailed statistics, one cannot say how heavy.

At The Beat, Kyle Pinion briefly discusses the Dragon Awards, but only the winners in the comic, graphic novel, film and TV series categories.

ETA: There’s also a bit about the award on the Dragon Con website itself.

ETA II: Someone at File 770 dug up this brief report about the Dragon Awards at the French SFF site El Bakin. El Bakin also reported about last year’s puppy drama here.

ETA III: There is also a discussion on Reddit about the Dragon Awards, which basically boils down to “Who are most of these people and how did they win?”

So let’s see what the puppies have to say:

John C. Wright is very happy about his Dragon Award win and then descends into the usual garble-grable about the Hugos, secret cabals, Morlocks and Damien Walter (who hasn’t commented on the Dragon Awards at all). He also gets the Hugos and the Nebulas mixed up, since Alfred Bester won the first ever Hugo Award for best novel for The Demolished Man, while Frank Herbert won the first ever Nebula Award for best novel for Dune. Coincidentally, even Wright himself feels that Somewhither was misclassified as science fiction and expected that Charles Gannon would win.

Larry Correia is also very happy that he won a Dragon Award and responds with a surprisingly gracious post. He even makes the sensible suggestion to have separate categories for epic and urban fantasy and maybe even paranormal romance. No namecalling or gloating about how the Hugos will be destroyed either. Maybe Correia was just really desperate to win an award and now he finally has one, he’s satisfied.

Brian Niemeier is also very happy that he won a Dragon Award. He’s also a lot less gracious about it than Larry Correia and launches into a lengthy gloating diatribe about how the Dragon Award is the true voice of Dragon Con’s 60000 attendees and of SFF fans everywhere, how he totally knew he would win and how the Hugos and WorldCon are dead. I suspect he believes it, too.

Declan Finn didn’t win a Dragon Award, but acted as acceptor for Brian Niemeier, John C. Wright and Nick Cole. He’s also gloating about how the Hugos are totally destroyed.

Dave Freer also didn’t win a Dragon Award, but is still happy, because he thinks it’s an honour to lose to Terry Pratchett and Larry Correia. That’s also the most gracious thing he says, then he goes into how WorldCon and the Hugos are cliquish and elitist, complete with a made-up parable about evil Muslims disrupting a Bavarian beer festival, which never happened outside the fevered imaginations of the AfD (Oktoberfest has not been banned, beer and grilled pork are sold and Muslims happily go there, though they mostly refrain from the beer and the pork). There a crack against Mary Robinette Kowal, too, as someone who writes about social justice (ahem, actually she writes historical fantasy) and doesn’t sell. Oh yes, and the Dragon Awards honoured popular and good authors from across the political spectrum (which is why the winners in the fiction categories are a bunch of US rightwingers, Terry Pratchett and Naomi Novik).

ETA: The Mad Genius Club has also banned commenters for “being disrespectful” of the Dragon Awards, as Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reports. Camestros Felapton has more. Their blog, their rules, but I don’t think asking about the number of Dragon Award voters is disrespectful.

Vox Day is happy that two Castalia House titles won the Dragon Award, but doesn’t have much more to say, since he is too busy ranting about Hillary Clinton.

At a blog named The Liberty Zone, someone named Nicki is really happy about the Dragon Awards, because her favourite authors and books won (except for Declan Finn – apparently, she is a fan). She also declares, like some of the other puppies I linked to above, that the Dragon Award is a true fan award, voted on by real fans and that SJWs, CHORFs or whatever stupid acronym the puppies have come up with this week for anybody who is not them are clutching their pearls that outspoken puppies have won.

Uhm no, that’s not what I’m seeing at all. What I saw was a lot of people saying, “Well, it’s nice that the puppies finally have an award of their own. Maybe they will leave the Hugos alone now.” I also saw a lot of people saying, “Well, those books are totally not my thing, but good for those who like that sort of thing.”

This is also my view on the whole thing. Most of the winners and many of the nominees are not the sort of books I like. Which is okay, because there are plenty of awards that rarely honour the sort of books I like. For example, I rarely care about the winners of the David Gemmell Legend Award, the Prometheus Award and the German Book Prize either. Not every award has to reflect my personal tastes.

And if the puppies finally have found an award that honours the sort of books they like, then that’s a good thing. The puppies get to take home a pretty trophy (and it is pretty), their followers get a recommendation list of books they might like and the Hugos can go back to nominating and honouring the sort of works Hugo voters like. That’s a win-win for everybody.

Of course, the puppies are kidding themselves when they proclaim that the Dragon Awards are the true voice of fandom or even the true voice of Dragon Con’s sixty to eighty thousand attendees (I saw very different numbers). First of all, unless voting and nomination statistics are released, we don’t know how many votes there really were. I suspect that the number was not all that big, since the Dragon Awards were little promoted outside the puppy sphere and Dragon Con hardly promoted them at all. Never mind that I’m pretty sure that the “true voice of fandom” would not have voted for John C. Wright of all people, since his work appeals to a fairly small niche.

Will that eventually change and will the Dragon Awards become the populist SFF awards they were supposedly designed to be? I guess that depends on how things work out in the next few years. A few early off years are normal for new awards, just witness the second ever Hugo Award for best novel going to They’d Rather Be Right, a novel that’s completely forgotten except as the supposedly worst Hugo winner of all time. And I do think that a popular vote SFF award which distinguishes between different subgenres could be a valuable addition to the SFF awards world.

Will the Dragon Awards destroy the Hugos and the Nebulas? Sorry, but no fucking way. The Dragon Awards will no more destroy the Hugos than the Nebulas or the Locus Awards or the Arthur C. Clarke Award or the David Gemmell Legend Award or the Tiptree Award or the Bram Stoker Awards or the World Fantasy Awards or the Goodreads Choice Awards or the Prism Awards or the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards did. At best, they will become a valuable addition to the spectrum of SFF awards that offers a different focus. At worst, they will solidify into a niche award, a sort of participation trophy for puppies.

Finally, let’s not forget the other awards that were given out at Dragon Con, namely the Parsec Awards for SFF podcasts with what looks like a pretty good list of winners and the first ever Eugie Foster Memorial Award for best speculative short fiction (a category the Dragon Awards ignore completely), which was won by Catherynne M. Valente for “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild”.

Finally, here are some residual links about the 2016 Hugos and Retro Hugos:

At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron Pound takes a look at the short- and longlist for the 1941 Retro Hugos and point out that yes, Robert A. Heinlein can still win a Hugo or three in 2016.

At Rocknerd, David Gerrard tackles the most notable assertion from Brad Torgersen’s infamous Nutty Nuggets post, namely that in the past it used to be able to tell the content of an SFF book from the cover and points out that “No, it wasn’t”. He also offers some example of totally misses the point SFF cover art from the 1970s and 1980s.

ETA: At The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II has an extensive interview with 2016 Hugo winner N.K. Jemisin. Just ignore the comments who have puppy poo all over them.

Comments are closed, puppies celebrate and gloat elsewhere.

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  1. Pingback: The 2019 Dragon Award Finalists: Mainstream Respectability at Last? | Cora Buhlert

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