One of the complaints the Sad/Rabid Puppies have advanced is that the Hugo Awards have been serving only high-profile, progressive or literary authors and leaving out others, including the writers of old fashioned romantic spec fiction. Examples of pioneer writers in this romantic sub-genre include Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. You know what I mean—the story generally involves heroic deeds and often has fantasy elements. These days the tradition includes mil-fic and space opera. With the advance of women into spec fiction, romance (the amorous kind) has become a strong contender, too. Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs both fall into this romantic tradition.

Because the Hugo is a highly promotional award and produces stars, competition has gotten fiercer for placement on the ballot. In looking at the system for getting there, the Locus list, for example, will not review self-published works. Because it is highly predictive of the Hugo nominees, this can be a big disservice to self-published authors and pretty much ensures none of them will end up on the ballot, regardless of the quality of their work. That means that not only have they been forced out of traditional publishing, but they lose that possibility of promotion. Natalie Luhrs, in a recent analysis of the Locus list, also noted concerns about the diversity of the results and the nature of repeat appearances. The Puppies, if you recall, have charged that the publishing houses have undue influence on the awards process, and went on to demonstrate how easy it was to game the awards.

It remains to be seen if the advent of a new “fan” award will make any difference in this arena. The Dragon Awards is off and running, and the approach looks like it might reduce some of the drawbacks of the Hugo system. They’re soliciting a broad base of fan nominations, and they’re open to all comers. They’re bound to run into trouble of some kind, but the effort looks pretty interesting regardless.