Atlanta’s Dragon Con was been hit by further disruptions from the ongoing pandemic: last year’s iteration was virtual; this year’s Dragon Con was physical, but operating at reduced capacity. One event unaffected by COVID-19, however, was the presentation of the annual Dragon Awards. Decided with the aid of an online poll open to the public, these were handed out on Sunday to honour another batch of novels, games, comics, and screen entertainment.
The year saw a number of repeat winners. T. Kingfisher (a pen-name of Ursula Vernon) won two awards: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking in the Young Adult/Middle Grade category, and The Hollow Places in the Horror Novel category. This marks the second year in a row that Vernon has won the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel, having previously earned the prize for her novel The Twisted Ones. Andy Weir won his second Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with Project Hail Mary. As with last year, Best Media Tie-In Novel went to a Firefly book, this time Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon. Gun Runner by Larry Correia and John D. Brown won in Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel, marking Correia’s fourth Dragon Award victory.
The remaining novel winners were Battle Ground, an instalment in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (Best Fantasy Novel), and Charles Gannon and Eric Flint’s collaboration 1637: No Peace Beyond the Line (Best Alternate History Novel).
In the comic categories, Jonathan Hickman and Mahmud Asrar’s run on X-Men won the prize honouring ongoing comics, while The Magicians: New Class by Lev Grossman, Lilah Sturges, and Pius Bak took the award for Best Graphic Novel. The Old Guard, adapted from the comic by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, won the film award. The Expanse, based on the novel series by James S. A. Corey, won in the television category.
For the third time, the award for mobile games went to a Harry Potter title, with Puzzles and Spells winning. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla won in the category for PC and console games. Dune: Imperium won in the board game category — possibly reflecting renewed interest in the Dune series surrounding the new film — while the award for miniatures, RPGs, and card games was claimed by Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soulbound.
Other awards, ones handled outside the public voting process of the Dragons, were presented at the same event. The Julie Award (named after comic editor Julie Schwartz), which has been around since 1998 and is decided by a panel of professionals, was presented to Chris Claremont, the writer best-known for his series-defining work on X-Men. The Hank Reinhardt Fandom Award was presented to Jeffrey Moore, who has volunteered in Dragon Con’s safety department for 25 years. The Mike Resnick Memorial Award, which honours unpublished short fiction by new writers, was won by Z. T. Bright for the story “The Measure of a Mother’s Love”. Christopher Henckel’s “Echoes of Gelise” came in second place, with stories by Lucas Carroll-Garrett, Shirley Song, and Torion Oey named as runners-up.
Behind the scenes
The Dragon Awards have a history of slip-ups: look no further than the incident in 2017, when Best Horror Novel winner Victor LaValle found himself credited as “Victoria LaValle” on an official document. The trend of oddities has continued into 2021, with Rebecca Roanhorse’s fantasy novel Black Sun finding its way into the Best Science Fiction category — a discrepancy that the author herself commented upon.
Another issue with the awards, one that has existed since their introduction, is their exceedingly tight time frame. As per usual, the finalists were announced just weeks before the awards were presented, leaving prospective voters very little time to familiarise themselves with even a fraction of the 43 novels, 12 comics, 7 films, 7 TV series, and 24 games; compare this to the Hugo Awards, where voters are typically given from April to August (or, in 2021, December) to read their way through a much smaller pile of publications. The official website tacitly acknowledges the limited time afforded to anyone hoping to read the ballot, encouraging them to simply read online synopses instead:
Don’t have enough time to check out each of our amazing nominees to make your decision and cast your vote? We’ve got you (well actually our wonderful partner, the Fulton County Library Systems does). Click here to view the descriptions and details of the 2021 nominees.
That said, the fact that the Dragon Awards have reached their sixth year shows that such matters are not deemed fatal flaws to the voting base. The Dragons have been around long enough to develop their own distinct flavour — their sometimes ramshackle workings, and the set of authors who have become regular winners, are all part of this.