Wrap-up of the 2019 Dragon Reviews

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The Dragon Awards are pretty much impossible to review before the vote because of the short time between the announcement of the finalists and the end of the voting period. However, I don’t want to neglect them in any way, so this year I’ve gone on to review the 2019 fiction winners. For a look at the whole list of finalists, see my blog on it here.

First, here are the winners again:
Best SF Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky, Brad R. Torgersen (Baen)
Best Fantasy Novel: House of Assassins, Larry Correia (Baen)
Best Young Adult Novel: Bloodwitch, Susan Dennard (Tor Teen)
Best Military SFF Novel: Uncompromising Honor by David Weber (Baen)
Best Alternate History Novel: Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling (Ace)
Best Horror Novel: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (Crooked Lane)

As usual in my analysis, here the diversity count of the finalists:
Best SF Novel: 2 women, 5 men, 2 LGBTQ, 2 Jewish (Note: James S.A. Corey is 2 men)
Best Fantasy Novel: 3 women, 3 men, 1 LGBTQ, 2 Jewish, 1 Hispanic
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: 4 women, 3 men, 1 Jewish
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: 2 women, 6 men, 1 Hispanic
Best Alternate History Novel: 2 women, 4 men, 2 Jewish
Best Horror Novel: 2 women, 5 men, 1 Jewish.

Apologies if I missed anybody or mixed anybody up; it’s sometimes hard to tell about diversity from online biographies. There are other names in the list that look Jewish, for example, but I couldn’t confirm. The gender issue is complicated by the number of cowriters among the finalists, all men, as it turns out. Comparing on the numbers, the gender count works out to be 15/41 (37%) women and on the books 15/37 (41%). The minority count includes 3/41 (7%) LGBTQ, 8/41 (20%) Jewish and 2/41 (5%) Hispanic. I know there’s an argument about whether European Spanish/Portuguese should be considered Hispanic—this category in the US generally counts Latino writers, who are typically mixed race—but I’ve just noted the names here as Hispanic, as I’m not sure how they identify.

So, the ~40% gender count on female-written books isn’t bad, considering that the categories separate SF and fantasy and include a military SF category that you’d expect might skew the results. The LGBTQ count turns out very low compared to say, the Hugo Awards, but it’s actually sitting fairly close to the 4.5% self-identified US demographic. Like most of the awards this year, the count for Jewish writers is much higher than their US demographic of 2%. Other than this, the diversity count really sucks. I’ve had to really stretch for the Hispanic names, as Corriea and Cordova are both likely of European extraction, and there aren’t any apparent black, Arab, Asian, Native American, trans or non-binary writers in this list at all. It’s clear that white writers were strongly preferred by the voting population, leaning to men, especially in the winners (4/6 or 67%). This isn’t unexpected for a popular award; the Hugos, for example, also leaned heavily (75%) to white winners this year, only to women instead of men.

Because of the way the categories are set up, there’s more diversity in the subject matter and type of work in this award than some others, with science fiction getting equal standing against fantasy, and military SF, alternate history, young adult and horror each getting their own categories. There was more diversity in publishers in the Dragons than in some other awards I’ve looked at, too. Tor had the highest count of finalists 5/37 (14%), with Orbit and Baen coming in next, both at 3/37 (8%). Two of the finalists were self-published (5%). On the other hand, all three of the Baen publications came in as winners.

I notice there’s been discussion online about the “legitimacy” of the Dragon Awards, questions about how they are administered and suggestions they’re a vehicle for the Sad/Rabid Puppies faction of the SFF community. Although Vox Day and the Rabid Pups made a good showing in the first year (and actually brought greater diversity), at this point I don’t see any indication this group has any real control of the awards. The award administrators encourage campaigning and voting by avid fan groups, so organization by particular groups to try and vote their candidate in isn’t against the rules. The results strongly suggest a different audience is voting on this than the Hugos, Nebulas and World Fantasy Award, but given the nature of the convention and the categories of fiction, I think that’s pretty much to be expected. The Dragon Award does seem to be suffering from the widespread tendency of the awards voting populations to nominate the same names every year. James S.A. Corey, Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, David Weber, Kacey Ezell and S.M. Stirling were also finalists in 2018. James S.A. Corey, Becky Chambers, Larry Corriea and Mark Wandrey were also finalists in 2017.

As far as literary quality of the work goes, my reviews noted the same kind of wide variation I’ve seen in other awards systems. These novels are popular favorites, fairly straightforward, and only Little Darlings has the kind of strong subtext that I’d consider “literary” writing, though Black Chamber might be satire. The repetition of names from year to year suggests the voting population tends to vote for their favorite author, and maybe not for the particular book that’s up for an award. The short time between announcement of the finalists and the final vote likely encourages this, as there’s not really enough time to read and evaluate all the candidates.

Should writers be ready to present a pedigree?

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Recently I mentioned a friend whose literary agent told her major US publishers are no longer interested in books about black characters written by white writers. Is this a paradigm shift in the marketplace—publishers backing off prior requests for diversity of characters because of concerns about authenticity and cultural appropriation (i.e. members of a dominant culture taking cultural elements from an oppressed minority to use in their work)? It could be a market trend toward segregation by ethnic heritage.

So, assuming we’re headed in that direction, how are we going to define it? In the larger culture, there’s been a movement toward more strict definitions of ethnic heritage because of questions about affirmative action benefits. Recent examples include Nkechi Diallo (a.k.a. Rachel Dolezal) who is accused of falsifying African American heritage and Elizabeth Warren, accused of fabricating Native American heritage. The discussion about Warren’s status is especially interesting. She recently released DNA results that indicated native heritage somewhere along the line, but this was met by jeers that one ancestor didn’t entitle her to call herself Native American—that she had to show tribal membership in order to be a “true” Native American.

Jewishness is tricky, too. Because of benefits available to Jews, there are requirements for documentation. DNA testing can identify Jewish markers, but an mitochondrial DNA test is necessary to identify the required matrilineal connection. This is important in Israel, but hardly ever mentioned in the US. People with matrilineal Jewish heritage in the US may know it—but maybe not, as their names may not be traditionally Jewish—while people with traditionally Jewish names may not have the required matrilineal DNA. Confused yet?

Less tricky, the Jim Crow “ one drop” rule means that anyone with any African American heritage at all is considered black in the US. This makes it very easy DNA-wise to be recognized as African American. Many “white” folks who have run their DNA recently have found they actually qualify as non-white under this rule. Sure, there may be squabbles about black culture and not being black enough, but that’s beside the point. A rule is a rule. Right?

So, how are publishers going to sort this out? Do they take the word of writers about their ethnic heritage, or is greater documentation going to be eventually required? If my DNA shows I had an African ancestor somewhere along the line, can I claim that heritage for special consideration from publishers? What if I have a Jewish gene? What if my name is of Latin origin? Or does the fact I look mainly white mean I’m out in the cold?

Several times I’ve hosted arguments in the comments section about whether Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt qualify as Hispanic and/or minority. Should we also have a conversation about Rebecca Roanhorse, who claims Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and African American heritage? The African American part is easy because of Jim Crow, but is she really a tribal member? A “true” Native American? And should she be writing about Navajo culture and not her own? Or is that cultural appropriation?

Should I start work on documenting a racial heritage pedigree? I don’t want to be left out of the “own voices” paradigm shift. Ah, what to do…

2017 Dragon Award Winners

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The Dragon Awards were presented at DragonCon in Atlanta this afternoon. Presenters included Jerry Pournelle, Kevin Anderson, Jim Vince, Larry Correia, Mercedes Misty Knight, Eric Flint, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Gil Gerard. Congratulations to all the winners!

Best Science Fiction Novel
Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Iron Dragoons by Richard Fox

Best Alternate History Novel
Fallout: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove

Best Apocalyptic Novel
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Best Horror Novel
The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Best Comic Book
The Dresden Files: Dog Men by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Diego Galindo

Best Graphic Novel
Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card by Jim Butcher, Carlos Gomez

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Stranger Things, Netflix

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by Nintendo

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
Pokemon GO by Niantic

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk by Avalon Hill

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon by Wizards of the Coast

Dragon Award Ballot

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I’m running a little behind on this, but here are the fiction finalists for the Dragon Award 2017, announced last week. Clearly this award runs on a different system than the usual SFF literary awards. For example, only Chambers, Liu and Jemisin also appear on the Hugo ballot, and only Jemisin appeared on the Nebula ballot.

Vox Day’s recommendations are marked in boldface. There’s already been a bit of a squabble, as Scalzi and Littlewood tried to withdraw but were refused by the awards committee.

Quick analysis: Gender diversity took a clear hit, with 46 of 58 being men (~80%). However, 5 of the works were co-authored by two men, which pushes up the count a little. Apparently 17 of 58 are racial minorities (~30%), and Hispanic/Portuguese/Native American scored much better here than on the Hugo or Nebula ballot with 7 of 58 (~10%). Apologies if I missed anyone.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL (1 woman, 7 men, 1 Asian)
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
Death’s End by Cixin Liu
Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli
Rise by Brian Guthrie
Space Tripping by Patrick Edwards
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier

BEST FANTASY NOVEL (INCLUDING PARANORMAL) (2 women, 6 men, 1 Asian, 1 Native American, 3 Hispanic/Portuguese, 1 Jewish)
A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Beast Master by Shayne Silvers
Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo
The Hearthstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta
Wings of Justice by Michael-Scott Earle

BEST YOUNG ADULT / MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL (3 women, 4 men)
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Firebrand by A.J. Hartley
It’s All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett
Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

BEST MILITARY SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY NOVEL (1 woman, 9 men, 2 Hispanic/Portuguese)
Allies and Enemies: Exiles by Amy J. Murphy
Caine’s Mutiny by Charles E. Gannon
Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark Wandrey
Invasion: Resistance by J.F. Holmes
Iron Dragoons by Richard Fox
Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Starship Liberator by B.V. Larson and David Van Dyke
The Span of Empire by Eric Flint and David Carrico

BEST ALTERNATE HISTORY NOVEL (2 women, 6 men, 1 Asian)
1636: The Ottoman Onslaught by Eric Flint
A Change in Crime by D.R. Perry
Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli
Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
Fallout: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler

BEST APOCALYPTIC NOVEL (1 woman, 7 men, 1 black, 1 Arab, 3 Jewish)
A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys
American War by Omar El Akkad
Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Seventh Age: Dawn by Rick Heinz
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
ZK: Falling by J.F. Holmes

BEST HORROR NOVEL (2 women, 7 men, 1 black, 1 Hispanic/Portuguese)
A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau
Blood of Invidia by Tom Tinney and Morgen Batten
Donn’s Hill by Caryn Larrinaga
Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn
Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells
The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

Whiteness vs. Minorities in the SFF Community

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royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779
So, I’d guess the previous blog will be interesting reading for those in the SFF community who are calling for increasing diversity. This will also probably be interesting news for editors and publishers who thought they were supplying it.

The invisibility of certain groups who thought they were actually a minority also explains a lot about certain relations in the SFF community. One example of this is Vox Day, of course, who clearly identifies as Native American. As a minority, why doesn’t he receive affirmative action benefits from the SFF community? Answer: Because Native Americans don’t really count toward diversity. Day also extensively publishes and promotes Chinese writers. Sorry, those writers are all invisible, too. In fact, Day is widely criticized for being white-supremacist, racist and anti-diversity instead. Another example is Larry Corriea, who seems to think he belongs to a minority group, but instead doesn’t qualify as Hispanic because he’s from a European heritage and not Latino.

Let’s look at some of the Asian writers who are currently seen as evidence of diversity in the SFF community. Here’s the list of notable Asian-American writers from Wikipedia: Ted Chiang, Wesley Chu, Georgina Kamsika, Ken Liu, Marjorie Liu, Malinda Lo, Marie Lu, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Cindy Pon, Vandana Singh, Alyssa Wong, Laurence Yep, Charles Yu and Kat Zhang. I suppose we can also add Rajnar Vajra and Hugo winners Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang to this list. Sorry, these people are now all “white” and no longer evidence of diversity in a SFF publication. This also means that magazines like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed that seem to specialize in Arab and Asian SFF aren’t supplying real diversity.

Actually, the SFF community was called on this a while back by Cecily Kane and Weston Allen in a study published by Fireside Magazine. Kane and Allen found that out of 2,039 short stories published in 2015 by 63 industry magazines, only 38 were by black authors. Kane and Weston cited only Terraform Magazine as representing real diversity in the SFF community.

Congrats to the Dragon Award Winners!

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The first annual Dragon Awards were presented Sunday night at DragonCon. Some of the usual suspects won in this case, including Martin’s ”Game of Thrones”, Weir’s ”The Martian”, Gaiman’s ”The Sandman” and Novik’s ”League of Dragons.”

It looks like this venue will be quite a bit more friendly to popular fiction than the Hugo or Nebula Awards. For one thing, a self-published novel won in the Best Horror genre. Also, Castalia House did well here with wins for John C. Wright and Nick Cole. Sad Puppy stalwart Larry Correia also won with Son of the Black Sword.

In other analysis, white men apparently turned out to vote their taste, as novel winners were 7 men/1 woman. Ethnic diversity was also low; out of 8 winners, only Correia is a minority writer.

Many congrats to the winners!

Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright (Castalia House)

Best Fantasy Novel
Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia (Baen)

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett (Harper)

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Hell’s Foundations Quiver, David Weber (Tor)

Best Alternate History Novel
League of Dragons, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Best Apocalyptic Novel
Ctrl Alt Revolt!, Nick Cole (Castalia House)

Best Horror Novel
Souldancer, Brian Niemeier (Self-published)

Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel

Best Graphic Novel
The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Game of Thrones

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
The Martian

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th Edition) by Chaosium Inc.

Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction
” The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, Jan & Mar 2015)

Finalists for the Dragon Awards

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paper-and-pencil
While I’m looking at awards, here’s the new kid of the block. The Dragon Awards seems aimed to award fan favorites, and they’ve encouraged campaigning and fan initiatives in the nomination process. Although I understand the list below hasn’t been officially announced, it is out and about. So, we can have a look at the results and see 1) who’s popular and 2) who has a fan base that stepped up to nominate.

Clearly white men turned out to vote their taste on this one. Out of the forty-six nominees in the main fiction categories below, there are 12 women. That’s about 4 men for every woman that made the list of finalists. Of the forty-six, 4 were racial minorities (that I could identify). These include Larry Correia (Hispanic), N.K. Jemisin (African American) and R.R. Virdi (Asian). Jemisin is a finalist in two categories. Presumably this reflects the interests of attendees at DragonCon.

Interestingly, I’m seeing some different names in this list. If you normally watch just the Nebula Awards, the Locus Awards and the Hugo Awards, you get the idea that there is only a small group of people who are representing excellence in SF and fantasy fiction writing. However, looking at this group, you get the idea that these awards are only showing one side of the picture.

1. Best Science Fiction Novel (5 men/1 woman – 0 racial minorities)

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

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal) (6 men/1 woman – 3 racial minorities)

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
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel (4 men/4 women – 0 racial minorities)

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
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 (6 men/1 woman – 0 racial minorities)

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
Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber
The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
Wrath of an Angry God: A Military Space Opera by Gibson Michaels

5. Best Alternate History Novel (6 men/1 woman – 0 racial minorities)

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
League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

6. Best Apocalyptic Novel (4 men/2 women – 1 racial minority

Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole
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 (4 men/2 women – 0 racial minorities)

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
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

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