The Dragon Awards, associated with massive multi-media con DragonCon, are in their second year. Unlike the Nebulas, which limit voting to SFWA members, and the Hugos, which limit voting to WorldCon members, the Dragon Awards open voting to anyone interested. There are definite limitations to this approach, but given that the Nebulas and the Hugos already exist, it makes sense to take such a markedly different approach to voting.
It especially makes sense given that one of the rejoinders to criticism of the insularity of the Hugos—despite the fact that they are effectively open to anyone willing to pay $40—was “go create your own award.” Disgruntled Hugos voters were happy to see just that happen. So have we come to a happy conclusion to the political fights over the Hugos? No.
[Update: The Dragon Awards website now says that registration to vote is open through midnight Eastern time on Friday, September 1st and voting will be open through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, September 2nd.]
A handful of authors, led by John Scalzi, sought to withdraw from the final ballot (you can find the original final ballot here. Their reasoning? They didn’t want to get involved in political fights with people trying to promote themselves. To put a find point on it, this is bullshit. One, the absurdity of that argument is apparent if you know anything at all about John Scalzi. He pioneered openly campaigning for the Hugos (giving us the Hugo packet in the process, for which he should be commended). And pretty much his entire shtick is being an ass to anyone who disagrees with him politically. Two, it is a fuck you to the fans who nominated them. Three, it is transparently about hamstringing the Dragon Awards. All awards are popularity contests; the Dragon Awards are just a really big popularity contest. Influence shifts from other authors and other publishing insiders to not just power reader fans but more casual fans. So authors who have a lot of influence in the narrow circles of traditionally published speculative fiction but who don’t sell in huge numbers have an incentive to avoid this competition and to harm its influence. They also risk the award highlighting that indy books are beginning to rival traditionally published books in sales.
The complaint about political maneuvering rings hollow. One, because this is transparently political maneuvering of their own. Two, because if the Dragon Awards is successful in growing, the politics inevitably gets buried under the votes of a mass market that couldn’t begin to care.
The Dragon Awards let two of the authors withdraw, failing their gom jabbar test. (After starting the entire thing, John Scalzi was “convinced” to keep his name on the ballot. No one ever said the man couldn’t play politics.)
But enough of the bullshit! Authors playing politics can fuck off, I’m here for the books. And there were some damn fine books published this past year (the Dragon Awards use a summer to summer year, not a calendar year). Unfortunately, the Dragon Awards don’t lend themselves to reading every finalist. There are too many categories and too short a voting window (as reading preferences go, I greatly prefer the Hugos lumping everything together, but that is a historical relic ill-suited for the current market). I haven’t read many finalists, but I have read some great books that made the final ballot. Some quick thoughts (and links to full reviews) on those books is below.
You can find the final, final ballot here.
The deadline to register to vote is “Sunday, August 28” (I don’t know whether that really means Sunday, August 27 or Monday, August 28) and the deadline to vote is Tuesday, August 29 – one week from today! [See above]
Best Science Fiction Novel
Remembrance of Earth’s Past is my favorite science fiction series ever. Death’s End might be the best book in the trilogy. It is everything hard science fiction should be: overflowing with ideas, ruminating seriously on the human condition, filled with a sense of wonder. It isn’t a challenging book in terms of the prose or the plot, but rather a challenging book in terms of the ideas and the implications that it asks you to wrestle with. Half a year later I’m still wrestling with them.
Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel
Steeplejack was so good that I was shocked that Hartley was able to up his game with Firebrand. I wouldn’t mind traditional publishing’s attempts at wrestling with political issues if they could do it with the nuance and thought that Hartley shows here. Which isn’t to say that Firebrand isn’t a hell of an adventure. It is also superversive in a way that YA really ought to be, but so rarely is as it works through its Hunger Games-imitators hangover.
Best Alternate History Novel
I just got the sequel to Breath of Earth in the mail. It is the first in a series, but it is Cato’s third book and her best of the three. It shares earthquake-related magic with The Fifth Season, but that is all it shares. Cato gives us an entertaining and more than interesting look at a very different San Francisco.
Best Apocalyptic Novel
Humphreys gives me exactly what I have been looking for—a zombie book that takes the mnore prosaic challenges of survival after the apocalypse seriously. I just finished A Place Outside the Wild last night, but I’ve been raving over it for a week now. Any book that can compete with a full eclipse is a hell of a book. A full review will follow in the next few weeks.
Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
I loved pretty much everything about Stranger Things. This is nostalgia done right, subtly alluding to everything from the font of 1980s Stephen King novels to the show Eerie, Indiana. It also more than stands on its own legs as a story, and the performances by the child-actors are very strong across the board.
Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
This is the only category I can come close to covering definitively (I’ve seen everything except Arrival). Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy are ok. I very much enjoyed Rogue One when I first saw it, but I have very little interest in revisiting it. Passengers is excellent, and Wonder Woman is one of my top-five all-time superhero movies. But Logan is my all-time favorite superhero movies and a great movie period. It was an easy choice, in the end.