io9 Reports on the Dragon Awards. Misses the Point

Sad Puppies Rabid Puppies Dragon Con

Gawker Media-owned science fiction blog io9 weighed in on Dragon Con's announcement of the finalists for their inaugural Dragon Awards. As anyone who's been following the controversy over the Hugo Awards will have come to expect, io9 completely missed the point.

You don't really need to look any further than the headline "DragonCon Releases (Mostly) Puppy-Free Nominations For First Dragon Awards" to know that what follows contains more than your recommended daily allowance of bullshit.

Exhibit A - the report's opening paragraph:
A lot of people in the scifi/fantasy fiction community are still hurting after two seasons of Hugo Awards drama, but another competition is trying to bridge the divide.
Right off the bat we see the narrative template io9 is straining to force the Dragon Awards into with all the success of a camel threading a needle. Translation form the CHORF: "We're royally butthurt that anyone had the gall to expose our dictatorial control over the Hugos. Maybe the Dragons can help salvage some of our relevance."
The Verge called the nomination list a “bit of a compromise between various factions within fandom,” with nominees ranging from the popular to the obscure, with even some self-published works. Part of this is attributed to the fact that you don’t need a membership in any organization to vote for the Dragon Awards—they’re free and open to the public.
It also could be because it doesn’t look like either Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies released Dragon Awards-specific slates.
Cognitive dissonance on parade!

We're three paragraphs in, and io9's narrative has already lost any semblance of coherence.
  • First they exclaim, "Yay! Dragon Con (mostly) kept those dirty puppies out!"
  • Though they quickly walk it back to a “bit of a compromise between various factions within fandom...” 
  • And point out that the Dragons are a populist award with no entry fee
  • Right before mentioning offhand that neither SP nor RP ran Dragon Award slates
  • Without noticing the obvious connection between the last two points!

If one bought the dominant media narrative as regurgitated by Entertainment Weekly and Wired, one might pause to ask, if the Puppies' real unstated motive isn't exposing the small clique that's been forcing their ideology-driven, parochial tastes on the Hugos, but rather stamping out Diversity in SFF, why didn't they release slates for an SFF award that's bound to be at least an order of magnitude bigger?

This is gonna sound crazy, especially if you ignore the testimony of your own lying eyes, but what if the Puppies actually did want to expose the bias in the Hugos, and they didn't issue Dragon Award slates because the Dragons already reflect the unfettered will of SF fandom at large?

To be precise, the Sad and Rabid Puppies have diverging goals. The former want to save the Hugos by opening up voting to as many fans as possible (which the Dragons have already achieved). The latter have judged the Hugos irredeemable and want to see them self-destruct.

Not that io9 cares, because even though their headline only mentions a "puppy-free" Dragon ballot, the claim is predicated on a false equivalence between Sads and Rabids.
The 2016 Rabid Puppies slate has dominated this year’s list of [Hugo] nominees...
In comparison, a couple of Castalia House books were nominated for Dragon Awards this year, but the presence is nowhere near the onslaught that’s overtaken the Hugo Awards two years in a row. 
Note how io9 also reduces "Rabid Puppies" to "Castalia House books". That's a brazen bait-and-switch since the RP slate didn't exclusively feature books published by Castalia House.

Setting the record straight
Let me get this straight, io9. You're calling the final Dragon ballot "(mostly) Puppy-free" because only a couple of Castalia House books made the list?

You sure?

OK. Here's where I demolish your little narrative.

First, let's dispense with io9's BS metric. Instead of "Book published by Castalia House", how about we use "Work or author appearing on the Sad Puppies 4 reading list and/or Rabid Puppies 2 slate"?

Because that's--what's the word?--accurate.

There are fifteen Dragon Award categories with a total of 95 entries combined. Larry Correia has the full list.

For a true apples-to-apples comparison, we can ignore the last three Dragon Award categories, because the Hugos don't give awards to games. (The SP and RP lists included video games in the Best Dramatic Presentation--Long Form category, and some of RP's picks made the final Dragon ballot; so right there, io9's story falls apart.)

Complicating matters further, the Hugos and the Dragons have different eligibility periods (anything first published anytime in 2015 is eligible for this year's Hugos, whereas Dragon eligibility runs from 7/1/2015 to 6/30/2016).

This means that some Hugo-eligible works weren't eligible for a Dragon and vice-versa. However, since io9 is counting CTR-ALT-Revolt! by Castalia House author Nick Cole, which wasn't eligible for a Hugo this year, I'll use their own logic to include books by authors publicly known to be associated with SP/RP.

Finally, Changeling's Island by Dave Freer and The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin were both nominated twice, so I'm only counting each of them once.

Applying these filters leaves us with 76 possible Sad and Rabid Puppies nominees on the final Dragon ballot.

By the numbers

So how did the Puppies fare? Are the Dragon Awards, as io9 would have us believe, (mostly) Puppy-free?

First of all, the total number of Rabid Puppies-affiliated finalists amounted to somewhat more than "a couple of Castalia House books". Out of 76 possible places on the ballot, RP works and authors took eight.

1. Agent of the Imperium
2. Somewhither
3. The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass
4. The Sandman: Overture
5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
6. The Martian (film)

1. Brian Niemeier
2. Nick Cole

So far we've caught io9 indulging in a bit of understatement. But eight out of 76 could reasonably be described as (mostly) Puppy-free.

Now let's see how Sad Puppies, which io9 ignored, performed.

Out of 76 possible entries, 27 works and authors appearing on the Sad Puppies 4 reading list made the final Dragon ballot.

1. Ancillary Mercy
2. Somewhither
3. Aurora
4. Raising Caine
5. The Fifth Season
6. Son of the Black Sword
7. The Shepherd’s Crown
8. The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass
9. Hell’s Foundations Quiver
10. 1636: The Cardinal Virtues
11. The Desert and the Blade
12. Honor at Stake
13. Saga
14. The Expanse
15. Jessica Jones
16. Daredevil
17. Doctor Who
18. The Flash
19. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens
20. Crimson Peak
21. Ant-Man
22. The Martian (film)

1. Brian Niemeier
2. Dave Freer
3. Brandon Sanderson
4. Andy Weir
5. Naomi Novik

That's more than 1/3 of their maximum possible nominations. Even unfairly comparing SP's numbers to the absolute maximum of 95 nominees, they still snag over 1/4 of the available noms.

But that's not all! io9's title says "Puppies" without qualification, so we get to add RP entries not appearing on SP's list that also got Dragon noms.
  1. Agent of the Imperium by Mark Miller
  2. The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
  3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain by Hideo Kojima
  4. CTRL-ALT-Revolt! by Nick Cole
This gives us a grand total of 31 Puppy-related Dragon Award nominees, or about 40% of the absolute maximum nominations they could have received!

Granted, that's not a majority. But neither does it justify the description "(mostly) Puppy-free". A pet shop where 40% of the space allowed to mammals is devoted to actual puppies would be exposing itself to false advertising suits by billing itself as "(mostly) Puppy-free".

io9 has clearly missed the real story here. You want to know what the Dragon Awards could rightly be described as mostly free of?

CHORF-approved Dragon nominees
1. Ancillary Mercy by Anne Leckie
2. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
3. The End of All Things by John Scalzi

4. League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

If you said "books favored by CHORFs", you'd be right. These are the only four books I could find on the Dragon ballot that been vocally championed by the World Con clique. Furthermore, three of those books and/or author--the only exception is Scalzi--also appeared on the Sad Puppies 4 list, which tells you why io9 had to sweep SP under the rug in the first place.

The final analysis - total number of exclusively CHORF-sanctioned works on the Dragon ballot: 1.

Oh, wait. Then this happened:
Author John Scalzi, who was very vocal against Sad and Rapid Puppies both years, confirmed this week that he’s declining his Dragon Awards nomination for The End of All Things
In light of these developments, I'd like to suggest a better title to io9: "The Dragon Awards: 100% CHORF-Free".

And oh yeah, my book Souldancer is nominated for Best Horror Novel.

It is both lachrymose and afflicted with hydrophobia. Buy your Kindle copy for 50% off (or download free for KU) now!

Also free: voting for Souldancer in the Dragon Awards.



  1. Prayer request for another friend of mine--
    Her story is here:

  2. Another fine article demolishing their flimsy arguments. I'm glad we agree on more than we disagree Brian, I'd hate to be in your sights.

    1. Thanks. Iv'e found you to be quite formidable during our rare disputes.

  3. Can't say I'm surprised to see this sort of thing from a Gawker owned company. When are they being auctioned off again?

    1. Larry had the best comment about the io9 writer: "Hulk Hogan should totally fire her."

  4. Thanks for the straight skinny. Voted as soon as the ballot came out!

    1. I consider it a public service. Thanks for voting!

  5. Thanks for the straight skinny. Voted as soon as the ballot came out!

  6. Well written. unlike the IO9 and Verge and other shit articles.

  7. First time poster. I will just say that not one single time in my life have I bought a book because it was a "Hugo" award winner. It may have won a"Hugo" but the reasons I personally will buy is a) an author I like and collect b) it is published by Baen, and sometimes Tor and c) authors I like or follow comment on them. With C carrying the most weight if they are not already authors I collect.

    1. Welcome, and thanks for sharing. Knowing what makes readers pull the trigger on a book purchase is really useful for us authors.

      By the way, you're not alone. My Campbell nomination only resulted in a small sales blip. My Dragon nomination, on the other hand... ;)

  8. Brian: I thought Sad Puppies were anti-Ancillary Mercy and the like.

    Am I wrong?

    1. Ancillary Mercy is on the official SP4 reading list. Go check it out at the OP link above.

      For the record, Sad Puppies doesn't want to silence authors that most of us probably disagree with. That's the CHORFs' thing. We just want a level playing field to compete on. Look what happened when the Dragons gave us one :)

    2. Puppies just tally the votes. If the majority voted for it, they put it on the list.

  9. In a word, yes. SP4, as conducted by Kate, was very purely run as an open nomination/voting operation, and some folks from the other side of the fence came along and nominated works favored by the Hugo in-crowd, and those garnered enough votes to be on the list. So in effect they attacked the puppies by becoming puppies themselves. :-)

    1. Exactly. That's why Leckie, Jemisin, Novik, and Scalzi deserve congratulations for their Dragon noms. Their fans spoke and were heard. What a novel concept!

  10. Don't forget to factor in Larry Correia and possibly others on the Dragon Awards list that specifically requested NOT to be put on a Hugo nomination list, and if by some perverse act of pasta managed to get nominated, would refuse the nomination.

    So, the prior SP numbers who want no more part of the Hugo BS would raise the "Puppy" numbers even higher.

    1. Kate actually left Larry on the SP4 list, despite his request to the contrary. There are probably others I missed, but math is hard, so I'm sticking with what I've got :)

  11. As I understand it, Kate left every author who was nominated on the list, as to do otherwise would be an insult to the author's fans.

  12. That is what makes the current state of the Hugo's so sad gang. I started reading SF/F when I was 10 or so (1968). I spent the 70's catching up on Hugo award NOMINEES when I could find them in used book stores, libraries, or being rereleased. Because it did mean something in the 60's and 70's. Now, it means works to actively avoid.

    1. Thanks for the perspective. The Dragons are poised to take up the Hugos' fallen banner and carry it better than World Con did.