Winners Announced for Inaugural Dragon Awards – Or Should that be Puppy Awards?

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Dragon AwardThe inaugural Dragon Awards have taken place at DragonCon, with fifteen works of science fiction and fantasy across the fields of literature, comics, film, television, and gaming being honored with fiery-red trophies.

The Dragon Awards claim to offer “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience,” while a report from The Verge states that the results “highlight the populist side of science fiction and fantasy.” However, a closer look reveals that the winners reflect a rather more specific side.

Since they were first announced earlier this year, the Dragon Awards caught the eyes of the Sad and Rabid Puppies campaigns, which were initiated to influence the works chosen for Worldcon’s Hugo Awards. The Dragon Awards’ voting process is conducted through a simple online poll open to anyone with an e-mail address, and the rules state that it is acceptable for authors to campaign for votes; all in all, the new awards were the perfect fit for the strategies used by the Puppy campaigns.

Four of the seven novel categories were won by pro-Puppy authors. Son of the Black Sword, by Sad Puppies founder Larry Correia, was named Best Fantasy Novel; John C. Wright’s Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm took the prize for Best Science Fiction Novel; Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer won the Best Horror Novel award; and Nick Cole’s Ctrl Alt Revolt! went away with the trophy for Best Apocalyptic Novel.

Son of the Black SwordMost of these authors made specific attempts to rally Puppy supporters in their directions. Correia made multiple blog posts encouraging his “wrongfan” readers to vote, Wright stated that “your votes that were unwelcome at the World Con are most welcome at Dragon Con,” and Niemeier gave his book away for free so as to attract voters.

Outside of Puppy circles, the award for Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel went to Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber, Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons was named Best Alternate History Novel, and the late Terry Pratchett won a posthumous award for Best Young Adult or Middle Grade Novel thanks to his book The Shepherd’s Crown.

It is worth noting that a few of the novels not written by pro-Puppy authors still enjoyed support from the Puppy campaigns. During the voting period, Rabid Puppies founder Vox Day posted a list of his personal picks, which, in terms of the novel categories, almost exactly tally up with the eventual winners; the only difference is that his Best Young Adult choice was Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer rather than the Pratchett book. In the case of Naomi Novik, Day was forced to begrudgingly admit that she is a good writer even while labeling her an “SJW-lite.”

One result of this campaigning is that novels with which the Sad Puppies were generally unfamiliar appear to have been at a disadvantage.

SouldancerThis is most evident in the category for horror fiction, a genre in which the Puppies have previously shown little interest. The winning novel, Souldancer, currently has just eight reviews on Amazon and three on Goodreads; any award handed to it clearly does not reflect “the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience” or “the populist side of science fiction and fantasy.” It would seem that Souldancer succeeded in beating out more popular horror nominees, such as Christina Henry’s Alice, merely because its author is pro-Puppy.

Outside of the novel categories, Sad Puppy influence is harder to discern.

The comic and moving image awards went to works that have also been honoured at the Hugos in recent years: Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson and her artistic team, was named Best Comic Book; Neil Gaiman and J. H. Williams III’s The Sandman: Overture took Best Graphic Novel; the title of Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series went to Game of Thrones; and The Martian was voted Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie.

Fallout ShelterFinally, unlike the Hugos, the Dragon Awards recognize gaming. Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout franchise won big, with Fallout 4 winning in the PC/Console Game category and Fallout Shelter taking the Mobile Game prize. In the tabletop gaming categories, Pandemic: Legacy was the choice for Board Game while the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game got the prize in the (frankly rather cluttered) category of Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures/Collectible Card/Role Playing Game.

Will future iterations of the Dragon Awards remain dominated by the Sad Puppies circle, or will the awards will attract a broader voting base? If the latter, we are left with the question of whether the Dragons will continue to honor self-published and niche authors or begin to lean more towards juggernauts such as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, and Neil Gaiman.

Only time will tell. For now, the Women Write About Comics crew intend to review all fifteen of the Dragon Award winners, so watch this space.

 

2016 Dragon Awards: Winners and Nominees

1. Best Science Fiction Novel

Winner: Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright

Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau

Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon

 

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Winner: Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams

Blood Hound by James Osiris Baldwin

Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Grave Measures by R.R. Virdi

 

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Winner: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

Trix and the Faerie Queen by Alethea Kontis

Updraft by Fran Wilde

 

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Winner: Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber

Allies and Enemies: Fallen by Amy J. Murphy

Blood in the Water by Taylor Anderson

Chains of Command by Marko Kloos

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

The Price of Valor by Django Wexler

Wrath of an Angry God: A Military Space Opera by Gibson Michaels

 

5. Best Alternate History Novel

Winner: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

1635: A Parcel of Rogues by Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis

1636: The Cardinal Virtues by Eric Flint & Walter H. Hunt

Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry

Germanica by Robert Conroy

 

6. Best Apocalyptic Novel

Winner: Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole

Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine

Dark Age by Felix O. Hartmann

The Desert and the Blade by S.M. Stirling

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

A Time to Die by Mark Wandrey

 

7. Best Horror Novel

Winner: Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Alice by Christina Henry

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Honor at Stake by Declan Finn

An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel

 

8. Best Comic Book

Winner: Ms. Marvel – Marvel

Astro City – Vertigo

Saga – Image

Civil War II – Marvel

Daredevil – Marvel

DC Universe: Rebirth – DC

Providence – Avatar

 

9. Best Graphic Novel

Winner: The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III

Chicago by Glenn Head

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

March: Book Two by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia

Virgil by Steve Orlando and J.D. Faith

 

10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Winner: Game of Thrones – HBO

Daredevil – Netflix

Doctor Who – BBC

The Expanse – Syfy

The Flash – CW

Jessica Jones – Netflix

Outlander – Starz

 

11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Winner: The Martian, dir. Ridley Scott

Ant-Man, dir. Peyton Reed

Captain America: Civil War, dir. Joe and Anthony Russo

Crimson Peak, dir. Guillermo del Toro

Deadpool, dir. Tim Miller

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, dir. J.J. Abrams

 

12. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks

Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios

Metal Gear Solid V by Konami Digital Entertainment

Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment

Undertale by Toby Fox

XCOM 2 by 2k Games

 

13. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Winner: Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks

Hyper Burner by Patrick Cook

PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist by Outerminds Inc.

Quaser One by Emre Taskin

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes by Electronic Arts

 

14. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Winner: Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games

Blood Rage by Cool Mini or Not

Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil

Monopoly: CTHULHU by USAopoly

Star Wars: Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games

Talon by GMT Games

 

15. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Winner: Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th Edition) by Chaosium Inc.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls by Flying Buffalo

Magic the Gathering: Battle of Zendikar by Wizards of the Coast

Magic the Gathering: Shadows over Innistrad by Wizards of the Coast

Mouse Guard (2nd Edition) by David Petersen & Luke Crane

Star Wars: Armada by Fantasy Flight Games

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Horror historian, animation addict and tubular transdudette. Catch me on Twitter @dorvsutherland, or view my blog at dorisvsutherland.wordpress.com. If you like my writing enough to fling money my way, then please visit patreon.com/dorvsutherland.

6 Comments

  1. I don’t know how familiar with Dragon Con you are, but it’s like many cons in one – gaming, YA, sf, fantasy and comics are all separate tracks and are run by different people – so if people who attend those tracks were voting, it seems likely that the track composition and leadership might have something to do with it. Very few people I talked to at the con were even aware of the awards this year. I hope that people rally and organize to vote against the Puppies if they continue to have the award. I wonder if Con organizers will release the info on how many votes were even cast. I went to the SF lit track’s trivia game and it does seem as if that track in particular is dominated by older white dudes. Baen publishing was described as a “friend of the con.” Other tracks (like comics) are much more progressive, regularly including panels on gender, sexuality and race in comics, and with Afua Richardson, Amanda Conner and Kelly Sue DeConnick as regular guests.

  2. Scott Malcomson on

    “Something did not go my way. It must be a conspiracy.”
    – What Hugo Insiders Have Said to Mock Sad Puppies For the Last Several Years

    Another classic being: “Don’t Like How the Hugos Turned Out? Go Make Your Own Awards!”

    The only real difference between Dragons and Hugos, frankly, is that one of them has a poll tax.

    • I don’t mean to imply that there was a conspiracy. The impression I get is that the voting process simply had a low turnout, leading to a disproportionately high number of voters belonging to the same niche.

      I followed the Dragon Awards since they were first announced, and it seemed clear to me that most of the people excited about them were Puppies, with a few non-Puppy small press writers on the side. The results aren’t especially surprising to me.

  3. The new awards were patched together very last minute, with a minimum of publicity.
    There was a small amount of discussion online in general, and on the usual puppy sites, but I don’t think most people attending Dragon Con had any idea they even existed.
    Unfortunately, they were set up in an incredibly easy-to-game way, since all you needed to vote was a unique email.
    Which is to say that this year’s award only measures some number of votes cast by an unknowable number of actual voters.
    Perhaps next year they could link it to actual Dragon Com members, so that the name actually reflected something real.
    And maybe even tweak the categories a bit more, tie them into the programming somehow?
    Dragon com is so varied and wide-ranging, I’d like to see awards that better reflected that con’s strengths.

  4. Dragon Con announced it on their page when it was started (in April),more than a few people spread it about on social media,Dragon Con advertised it themselves on social media (and they have 142k followers on Facebook where Dragon Con advertised it multiple times) after putting it on the Dragon Con page and both Dragon Con media and Dragon Con itself announced the awards on twitter in April and dropped reminders when the ballot came out and when deadline was approaching. In addition to that it ranged across Locus Magazine,File 770,I09 and many other online sources. The announcement was written about in multiple languages across the world. In addition to that many authors including John Scalzi (and GRRM if I remember correctly) talked about it on social media. If there had been any more advertisement they would have needed to go to television advertisements or door to door with a marching band. In short there was more publicity than most of the awards see annually.

    As to the book complained about? It was in the top 100 free books on Amazon shortly after the final ballots were announced and the various authors nominated started pushing the fact they were nominated.

    • “As to the book complained about? It was in the top 100 free books on Amazon shortly after the final ballots were announced and the various authors nominated started pushing the fact they were nominated.”

      That would suggest that Souldancer’s downloads got a boost from people who had seen the list of Dragon nominees, were curious about them, and decided to download Niemeier’s book because it was free at the time. That tells us nothing as to how many people actually read and liked the thing. I notice that Souldancer is currently at #48,041 in the paid Kindle chart and #771,119 in physical books, so the number of copies it’s been shifting appears to have plummeted once Niemeier went back to charging for it.

      Plus, we’re still left with the near-total absence of word-of-mouth buzz. Where are all the bloggers eagerly reviewing it, or even acknowledging that they’ve read it? Where are all the forum discussions and podcasts?

      For the Dragon Awards to be everything they claim, then Souldancer would have to be one of the top few best-loved horror novels published from mid-2015 to mid-2016. It clearly isn’t.