Comments on the 2018 Dragon Award Winners

Dragon Con, a convention in Atlanta that is a curious mix between massive media con, inclusive cosplay con and conservative con for wargamers and military SF fans, took place this weekend.

Dragon Con is also the home of the Dragon Awards, the popular SFF awards that represent the tastes of real fans (TM) and will be so much better than the Hugos (according to certain folks, at any rate), once they get their act together at any rate. The Dragon Awards were first awarded in 2016 and in the three years since then, the results have been variable. You can see all my posts about the Dragon Awards here and my comments on this year’s shortlist here.

But before I talk about the 2018 Dragon Award winners, let’s take a look at some other awards given out at Dragon Con this year: The 2018 Eugie Foster Memorial Award goes to Fran Wilde for her short story “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand”, which was also nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award. The winners of the 2018 Julie Award and the 2018 Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award were announced as well.

ETA: Apparnetly, the winner of the 2018 Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF Readers’ Choice Award (now that’s a mouthful) was announced at DragonCon as well. The winner was a short story by Kacey Ezell, who was also nominated for a Dragon Award, but lost out.

The winners of the 2018 Dragon Awards were announced tonight (well, afternoon in Atlanta). The Red Panda Fraction was at the ceremony and livetweeted the winners. The official site hasn’t been updated yet, but you can find the winners at File 770 and at Camestros Felapton’s blog. There’s also a bit of discussion in the comments at both places.

Now the problem with the Dragon Awards in its first few years has always been the near total lack of nomination and voting controls which allowed fairly obscure books with dedicated fanbases to garner themselves a Dragon Award nomination via heavy campaigning. As a result, the Dragon Awards shortlist were a curious mix of broadly popular works and obscure titles with dedicated fanbases. In the first year, those obscure finalists were even able to win via dedicated campaigning and outright ballot stuffing, though in the second year the broadly popular finalists prevailed.

This year, the Dragon Award shortlist was a similar mix of broadly popular finalists with mass appeal and niche finalists with dedicated fan bases as before, though the various overlapping puppy groups and their offshoots, who had dominated the “Who the hell is this?” Dragon Award nominees during the first two years, were largely shut out this year, replaced by prolific indie authors and indie author collectives who rank high in the Amazon Kindle charts and are very little known outside the Kindle Unlimited eco-system. These writers and collectives are excellent self-promoters, so it’s no big surprise that they can get themselves nominated for an award that thrives on self-promotion. The question is, can they also win it?

As with the puppies before them, the answer is no. For while the Dragon Award nominations are still vulnerable to campaigning by him or her who can mobilise the most nominations, the winners usually are the sort of broadly popular works that the award was designed to honour.

So let’s take a look at the individual categories:

The 2018 Dragon Award for best science fiction novel goes to Artemis by Andy Weir. It’s not exactly a surprising choice, since Andy Weir is a very popular author, though I don’t get the appeal at all. My own vote was for Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best fantasy novel goes to Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, another choice that is hardly surprising, because Sanderson is a massively popular author. What is more, Brandon Sanderson was the only big name author nominated in this category, everyone else was more or less obscure. My own vote was for Pippa DaCosta, by the way, because I found the Stormlight Archive series, to which Oathbringer belongs, dull when I tried to read it for the Hugos earlier this year.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best young adult or middle grade novel goes to Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s a highly deserved win for a very good YA fantasy novel that got a lot of buzz this year and also happens to be both critically acclaimed and popular. Coincidentally, this book also got my vote and I fully expect to see it on the shortlist for the Andre Norton Award and the Lodestar/YA not-a-Hugo next year.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best military science fiction novel goes to A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope. Now I have to admit that I’ve never read David Weber (I have read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, because pretty much everybody has), because his books aren’t easy to find in Europe due to Baen’s well known distribution issues and I’ve never been interested enough to order one. And the whole ConCarolinas mess hasn’t exactly made me more likely to give him a try. Nonetheless, he is extremely popular and the winning novel is a prequel to his popular Honor Harrington series. Weber was also the biggest name in this category. I also think that David Weber has won a Dragon Award in this category before, though with another series and possibly another co-author (he did, in 2016 and for a solo work). For that matter, what’s up with three authors for a single novel anyway? Co-author teams are pretty common, but three authors for a book that’s not an anthology is really stretching it. My own vote in this category was for Joe Zieja, by the way, because he actually tries to do something interesting with the common tropes of the military SF subgenre.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best alternate history novel goes to Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah Hoyt (come to think of it, there are a whole lot of co-authored books among the Dragon nominees and winners). This is the closest thing to a puppy win in the 2018 Dragon Awards, because Sarah Hoyt was prominent in the sad puppy movement, before they faded away, their site taken over by Italian slot machine spam. Though I doubt that the puppies had much to do with this win, because Kevin J. Anderson is very popular, though once more I don’t get the appeal (actually, this sums up my reaction to many of the winners this year: Popular, but I don’t get the appeal). And besides, I don’t recall any of the still active puppy offshoots actively campaigning for this book, though I may be mistaken there. My own vote was for Witchy Winter by D.J. Butler, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best media tie-in novel, a new category introduced this year, goes to Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray. It’s a fine choice that also got my vote.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best horror novel goes to Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King. Once again, this isn’t exactly a surprising choice, because Stephen King’s name pretty much is synonymous with horror and besides, horror isn’t really the Dragon Awards’ forte. My own vote was for Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best comic book went to The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron and James Harren. No idea, if this is still the Jane Foster as Thor comic that had the usual suspects so outraged some time ago or already the Thor Odinson returns arc, but either way, it’s not an unreasonable choice. My own vote was for Saga, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best graphic novel goes to White Sands Volume 1 by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin and Julius M. Gopez. This one was a bit of a surprise to me, for while Brandon Sanderson is popular, he is popular for his novels and not for comics and graphic novels. But then, last year both graphic story categories went to Dresden Files tie-in comics, so the Dragon Awards have the tendency to award big name authors best known for prose fiction in the graphic categories. For awards tied to a big multi media con, the Dragon Awards’ comic choices are odd to say the least, which suggests that the vast majority of Dragon Con attendants are probably not voting for the Dragon Awards. My own vote was for Monstress, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best movie goes to Black Panther. It’s an excellent choice and besides, Black Panther was a huge, worldwide hit and is one of the highest grossing movies of all time. I also just chanced to rewatch Black Panther tonight, together with my Mom who hasn’t seen it yet, and was reminded yet again how very good the film is. And unlike the other big Marvel film of the year, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther largely stands alone and can even be enjoyed, if you’ve never seen a single Marvel movie. I can’t remember whether I voted for Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War in the end, since the decision was pretty much a coin toss.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best TV series goes to Game of Thrones. It’s another safe and unsurprising choice. Well, not so unsurprising after all, since my first thought was, “But Game of Thrones hasn’t aired in ages, so was it even eligible?” But it turns out that season 7 of Game of Thrones aired in July and August of 2017, inching just into the eligibility period for the 2018 Dragon Awards. My own vote was for Lucifer, by the way.

I can’t really comment on any of the winners in the four game categories, since I’m not a gamer. I didn’t vote in those categories either except in the best boardgame category where I voted for Azul, which – though not even remotely SFF – has just won Spiel des Jahres and was created by two game designers from Bremen. In the end, Azul lost out to a game called Red Dragon Inn 6: Villains. I’m sure they’ll survive – after all, they won Spiel des Jahres, which is the biggest award a boardgame can win.

In general, the 2018 Dragon Awards results are a continuation of the trend that we’ve been seeing these past two years, namely that fairly obscure works with niche appeal and engaged fanbases can get nominated for the Dragon Awards, but that they don’t win. So the Dragon Awards are on a good way towards fulfilling their stated purpose of awarding broadly popular works that are overlooked by other awards. Of course, it would help if they found a way to fix the multiple nomination problem (because it is possible to nominate several times for the Dragon Awards, provided you use a different e-mail address every time), so that there are more than just one or two finalists with name recognition per category. Another positive development is that the 2018 Dragon Awards are less of a white dude sausage fest than last year. This year, the winners in the fiction categories include three women and one or two (depending on how one of them self-identifies) writers of colour plus another winner of colour in the film category. It’s still a very male and very white award, but getting less so.

Of course, the Dragon Awards also tend to go to safe and a little dull choices. There also are several repeat winners (David Weber, Game of Thrones, Larry Correia, Magic: The Gathering) after only three years. But then, innovation is not what the Dragon Awards are supposed to be about and popular, safe and a little dull may be exactly what they want to be.

Comments are closed, because awards posts tend to attract trolls.

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