Baen Wins Big at the 2019 Dragon Awards

Tens of thousands of science fiction and fantasy fans gathered at this year’s Dragon Con in Atlanta, which offered its participants a variety of events and attractions. One of these was the fourth iteration of the Dragon Awards, representing science fiction and fantasy across a range of media — the victors being decided with the aid of a free online poll.

2019 Dragon Awards

Repeat winners were a definite theme this year. The award for Best Fantasy Novel went to House of Assassins by Larry Correia, marking Correia’s third victory in this category: he also won in 2016 for Son of the Black Sword and 2017 for Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge, the latter co-written by John Ringo. Another writer earning their third Dragon Award was David Weber, whose book Uncompromising Honor won in the Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel category; Weber had previously won the same award in 2016 and 2018 for Hell’s Foundations Quiver and the collaborative novel A Call to Vengeance respectively. One of Weber’s co-writers on A Call to Vengeance, Timothy Zahn, was also among this year’s winners, as his Star Wars novel Thrawn: Alliances was named Best Media Tie-In.

But there were also a few first-timers this year. S. M. Stirling, who has been a runner-up twice in the past, won Best Alternate History Novel for Black Chamber. Total newcomers to the Dragons include Brad R. Torgersen, whose A Star-Wheeled Sky won Best Science Fiction novel; Susan Dennard, who took Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel for Bloodwitch; and Melanie Golding, whose debut novel Little Darlings won in the Best Horror category.

The ballot for this year’s Dragon Awards has taken a general swing towards the larger publishers. Of the twelve books represented in the headline categories of Best Fantasy Novel and Best Science Fiction Novel, most were published under labels — Tor, Harper Voyager, Crown, Orbit, Gollancz, Del Rey — that are, in turn, owned by Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette, four of the “big five” publishing corporations; the only exceptions were published by Baen and Solaris, two smaller companies that are nonetheless powerhouse brands within SF/F. This is in stark contrast to the previous year: in 2018 the two categories were overwhelmed with books from smaller companies like Tamori Publications, Angry Robot, Crazy Ace Publishing, Norilana Books, Vesuvian Books and Argento Publishing, while the “big five” companies had just three finalists between them. The move towards major publishers is not occurring across the board — the Best Horror Novel category leans heavily towards independent books this year, for one — but it is a noticeable trend.

Charles Gannon hosts the 2019 Dragon Awards
Charles Gannon hosts the 2019 Dragon Awards

That said, the clear winner in terms of publishing companies this year was not one of the “big five”, but Baen Books. Three of the seven winning novels — Correia’s House of Assassins, Torgersen’s A Star-Wheeled Sky and Weber’s Uncompromising Honor — were published by Baen. On top of this, two of the other winning authors belong to the Baen stable, the publisher having handled Timothy Zahn’s Cobra and Blackcollar series and a number of novels written or co-written by S. M. Stirling, including his Domination of the Draka series.


The Dragon Awards actively encourage authors to campaign for votes, something that has been a boon to independent authors. Previous years’ ballots showed the influence of numerous lobbying groups, from independent writers’ groups to political factions voting for authors on ideological grounds. As the Dragon Awards’ voting base grew in size, the impact of such co-ordinated efforts faded, with one significant exception: Chris Kennedy Publishing, an independent company that manages multiple imprints including Seventh Seal Press, Theogony Books, New Mythology Press and Anticipation Press.

Founder Chris Kennedy campaigned for votes back in July and four of the publisher’s books made the final ballot: The Replicant War, by Kennedy himself; The World Asunder, by Kacey Ezell; Sons of the Lion, by Jason Cordova; and A Pale Dawn, by Kennedy in collaboration with Mark Wandrey. The publisher managed a similar performance in 2018, when Chris Kennedy’s campaigns helped to get five of the company’s books on the ballot. Smaller outlets may be having a harder time finding positions at the Dragon Awards, but Kennedy and his authors are fighting valiantly against this trend. However, none of them were among this year’s winners.

In the sequential art categories, the nostalgic X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by writer-artist Ed Piskor was named Best Graphic Novel, while Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples won the prize for Best Comic Book after having been a runner-up in this category for each of the Dragons’ previous years. Avengers: Endgame was the unsurprising victor in Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie, marking the third time in a row that this award has gone to a superhero film. The television category was won by Good Omens, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett — each of whom had won a Dragon Award in the event’s inaugural year.Jean Grey surrounded by her teammates, one half of her is in her original costume, one half of her is the Phoenix

Aside from western adventure Red Dead Redemption 2, which won Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game, the gaming categories were dominated by familiar franchises. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite took the award in the mobile game category, the second time in a row that this prize has gone to a Harry Potter title. The award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game went to Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set, a revised version of the game that won the same award back in 2016. Finally, Betrayal Legacy won in the board game category, scoring another victory for the franchise that also includes 2017 winner Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk.

Missing in action: could Vengeful and Circe be among the true fan favourites?

The Dragon Awards present themselves as being “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience”, and while they have grown in both credibility and scale since their introduction, it is still debatable as to how well they are living up to that aim. Unlike the Hugo Awards, the Dragons do not issue detailed voting breakdowns, making it impossible to tell how many people have participated in each category. The rough overall vote-counts released by the administration — 4000 in 2016, 8000 in 2017, 11,000 in 2018 — indicate that the Dragons have attracted a voting base that is larger than that of the Hugos, but still far smaller than that of the Goodreads Choice Awards, where individual books can garner tens of thousands of votes.

Despite being likewise open to the public and conducted through an online poll, the Goodreads Choice Awards contrast significantly with the Dragon Awards. For example, this year’s winners in the Goodreads science fiction and fantasy categories were Vengeful by V. E. Schwab and Circe by Madeline Miller, neither of which made the Dragon ballot, while many past Dragon winners failed to even make the shortlist at the Goodreads awards. If the full Goodreads voting base began taking part in the Dragons, the results of the latter award would be substantially different — which raises the question of which of the two is doing the better job of representing the broader fandom.

But, of course, it would be undeniably dull if all awards went to the same books. With its general emphasis on action and derring-do, the Baen line is often overlooked by more literary-minded awards but maintains a strong fanbase. With the variety of SF/F awards awarded every year, there is more than enough room for the Baen fans to be catered to.

Dragon Awards 2019: Winners and Runners-Up

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • Winner: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
  • Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
  • Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • Winner: House of Assassins by Larry Correia
  • Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Winner: Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Armageddon Girls by Aaron Michael Ritchey
  • 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

  • Winner: Uncompromising Honor by David Weber
  • A Pale Dawn by Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey
  • Order of the Centurion by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
  • Marine by Joshua Dalzelle
  • Sons of the Lion by Jason Cordova
  • The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Best Alternate History Novel

  • Winner: Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling
  • Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Iron Codex by David Mack
  • The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell
  • Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Winner: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn
  • Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove, Nancy Holder
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher
  • Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray
  • The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy
  • The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack

Best Horror Novel

  • Winner: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
  • Cardinal Black by Robert McCammon
  • 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

  • Winner: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
  • 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
  • The Batman Who Laughs by Scott Snyder, Mark Simpson

Best Graphic Novel

  • Winner: X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor
  • 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

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Winner: Good Omens, Amazon Prime
  • Game of Thrones, HBO
  • Lucifer, Netflix
  • The Orville, Fox
  • The Umbrella Academy, Netflix
  • Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Winner: Avengers: Endgame by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Alita: Battle Angel by Robert Rodriguez
  • Aquaman by James Wan
  • Captain Marvel by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home by Jon Watts
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

  • Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games
  • Apex Legends by Electronic Arts
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odysssey by Ubisoft
  • Life is Strange 2 by Dontnod Entertainment
  • Outer Wilds by Mobius Digital
  • World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth by Blizzard

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

  • Winner: Harry Potter: Wizards Unite by Niantic, WB Games San Francisco
  • Cyber Hunter by NetEase
  • Elder Scrolls: Blades by Bethesda Softworks
  • Grimvalor by Direlight
  • Reigns: Game of Thrones by Nerial
  • Sega Heroes: Puzzle RPG Quest by SEGA

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

  • Winner: Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill Games
  • Architects of the West Kingdom by Garphill Games
  • Cryptid by Osprey Games
  • Everdell by Starling Games (II)
  • Nemesis by Awaken Realms
  • Root by Leder Games

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

  • Winner: Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set by Chaosium Inc.
  • Fallout: Wasteland Warfare by Modiphius Entertainment
  • Keyforge: Call of the Archons by Fantasy Flight Games
  • Magic: The Gathering Ravnica Allegiance by Wizards of the Coast
  • Magic: The Gathering War of The Spark by Wizards of the Coast
  • Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team by Games Workshop
Doris V. Sutherland

Doris V. Sutherland

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

2 thoughts on “Baen Wins Big at the 2019 Dragon Awards

  1. Just as a FYI: Kacey Ezell and Chris Kennedy have also been or soon will be published by Baen. Kacey edited (along with Larry Corriea) and wrote a short story in an anthology called "Noir Fatale" for Baen. Chris Kennedy is collaborating with David Weber for an upcoming novel for Baen.

  2. In the absence of data on voting, the attendance at the awards and the attendance at award related panels is the only available measure of the popularity of these books and authors with Dragon Con members. The award ceremony has yet to fill even a section of the large ballroom allotted every year, and award nominated authors’ events are consistently below 100 in a convention with 80k in attendance. The capture of the SF/F lit tracks by right wing fans attracts more RW SFF fans to the con – but even with this organizing base, their panels do not draw big crowds w/out people like Brandon Sanderson or Jim Butcher there. Meanwhile, Dragon Con regular and ballroom-filler Sherrilyn Kenyon has yet to be nominated.

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