Armchair Quarterbacking the Dragon Awards

A picture of the Dragon Award, done in half-tone.

John ScalziIt’s now been a couple of days since The Last Emperox won the Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction novel, and thus, as we can see from this File 770 post and thread, there has been some commentary on how I and my book won this particular award (and how some other winners might have won theirs). This is of course in the grand tradition of nerds overthinking award wins, and what they mean in the larger scheme of things.

Personally, I don’t think the reason I and the book won is particularly complicated. It’s like this:

a) The Last Emperox is the critically-lauded, best-selling final book of a critically-lauded, best-selling, award-winning trilogy of books;

b) Written by a well-known contemporary science fiction author, who has won a fair number of awards in his career;

c) Who has been nominated for Dragon Awards before, including for the first book of the trilogy that The Last Emperox concludes;

d) And who also happened this year to be the Literary Guest of Honor for the convention that gives out the award, which almost certainly helped to boost his visibility amongst the voters for that prize.

Note that none of these things, individually or in combination, assure a win, particularly in a year in which the other finalists in the category include authors whose books have been best sellers, finalists or winners of Hugos, Nebulas and Bookers, or have been optioned for television or film. Nor should they assure a win! After the win has been accomplished, however, they certainly help with the armchair quarterbacking.

There are alternate theories of this win of mine, as there would be, because people are like that. But I suspect, as in most award scenarios, Occam’s Razor is likely to apply. In this case: Popular book by popular author wins popular award. Seems pretty straightforward.

(I am aware that there are some people who are fervent in the belief, against all obvious evidence to the contrary, that I am not a popular author or have popular books, and therefore any time I win a popular award there are dark and sinister social and/or corporate forces at work on my behalf. As awesome as that would be — who doesn’t want to have dark and sinister social and/or corporate forces working on their behalf? — it’s a very silly belief, and not one worth treating with any sort of seriousness.)

As I’m reasonably sure that the combination of factors I outlined above contributed significantly to my win, and also, I’m delighted to have won (I like to win awards! It’s fun!), I’m going to simply be happy with my win, and thank those who voted for me. Otherwise, I’ll let others feel how they feel about it, and theorize however they like about how it happened and what it means. I wish them joy in that. Everyone needs a hobby.

And in the meantime, I look forward to getting the nifty Dragon Award trophy and putting it up on my shelf. I’ll let you all know when it arrives.

— JS

36 Comments on “Armchair Quarterbacking the Dragon Awards”

  1. (Mallet prevention statement: The following is a parody meant to mock the Scalzi deniers.)

    There seems to be an opportunity to write up the story of the secret plane full of black-clad operatives that flies around the country “persuading” convention goers to vote for you.

    Why don’t you come clean and acknowledge the dark forces at play here?


  2. I mean, if I had access to a corps of black-clad operatives, and with all love to the Dragon Awards here, I would not be tasking them with the winning of a genre prize.

  3. Excellent point, John, and I think it behooves us your loyal claque to engage groupthink mode and determine a worthwhile task for your corps of black-clad operatives. I have three to throw against the wall:

    1. Hijack the nation’s supply of Pumpkin Spice flavoring before it enters the retail network;
    2. Rappel down the side of Mount Rushmore with airbrushes to add real-life color to the overly-plain stone monuments; or
    3. Abduct and apply mind-control protocols to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to ensure that THIS year a worthy Best Picture wins.

  4. You must provide photographic proof of the awards arrival, by putting on your awards shelf behind your desk (make sure to ruin the existing feng shui, though.)

    Ideally, with a Smudge for scale.

  5. Reading that file770 article was a trip. In particular the quote from Declan Finn talking about Atwood, whom he apparently only knows about because she “at least has a TV show”. This from a guy who claims (I assume in all seriousness) “I am fairly hooked into the book community”. Just, no.

  6. …unless your black-clad operatives are, in fact, as a Filer suggests, lemurs.

    That would change everything.

  7. Congratulations! The Emperox trilogy has been fascinating from start to finish, and I’m glad that you get to add a dragon to your shelf.

    And gosh, they are still at it; I await the news that the microchip inserted under the guise of a vaccination for Covid-19 will ensure that in future all popular votes for SF awards will result in a 99.9% victory for some guy called Scalzi, despite the fact that nobody ever buys his books…

  8. Wait, I missed that plot point…the Dragon Awards were the ones the Puppies founded to break the SJW’s iron grip on the Hugos, and you, John Scalzi, who might actually be the the S in SJW, went and won one?


    Heh. Ahem.


  9. One of the things I like about you, Mr. Scalzi, is that you’re such a gracious nominee. Whether you win or lose, you always mention how fabulous the competition is, and how much you appreciate all the people who worked with you, and how grateful you are to the voters. And it all comes across as genuine because you are consistently generous in praise and congratulations for other works and other winners.
    Well done!

  10. Most of the categories had decent results. Still somewhat confused by what goes into the best Graphic Novel/Best Comic categories. Most of the Graphic Novels were monthly comics. I certainly did not expected a tie-in comic to win over the other competition, though.

  11. You totally have dark corporate forces working on your behalf but just totally in the open. I mean, that’s why you pay an agent, publicist, marketing team, etc.

  12. Don’t think I don’t see your plan there! Stealing the awards by writing books that people actually want to read is sheer evil, man! :D

  13. I’m ok with a conspiracy or whatever was alleged, as long as that means we get more Kiva Lagos.

  14. The discussions here and at File 770 lend considerable cheer to this otherwise grey & drizzly spring day! Nerds overthinking absolutely everything ever!!! is, in no particular order, a grand tradition; my personal raison d’être; somewhat of a tautology; and part of what makes Whatever so much fun to visit. Thank you, and again, congratulations on your win.

  15. You’ve mentioned your love of semicolons before; I just want to appreciate their use in this post. Oh, and congratulations!

  16. Now I’m healthier. You might think I’m feeling mentally healthier today from Scalzi’s sane, civilized, courteous essay. No, I mean I’m physically healthier, as laughter is the best medicine, from Dave and Gwangung. It’s queer how reading laughter makes me laugh too.

    Not to mention amusement from men in black and semicolons.

  17. I do think there’s kind of an interesting dynamic in that your online/social media presence is maybe a little divisive, but your actual books are extremely accessible and (in my perception) written to have a very broad and general appeal. Those people who are mostly focused on the online presence can’t seem to understand that voters who don’t actually know about any of that shit are just going to be reading a very commercial book of the sort that naturally does well in popular awards.

  18. congrats on your awards. how did you turn into jerry pournelle with the inherited aristocracy, which makes the series unreadable for me?

  19. I’ve long noted that you can believe any conspiracy theory, as long as you start by tossing Occam’s Razor in the trash.

  20. 2liberal wrote:

    “congrats on your awards. how did you turn into jerry pournelle with the inherited aristocracy, which makes the series unreadable for me?”

    I’d like to know that too. How does one become “jerry pournelle with the inherited aristocracy”? Do you become Pournelle first, then petition to join the aristocracy? Or the other way round?

  21. I thought you had to have three members in good standing of the aristocracy recommend you in order to get in. That’s how we do it on the west coast.

  22. There was a 1985 short story by Joe Lansdale “Bestsellers Guaranteed”. It was about the top secret super evil megaconspiracies that certain authors relied on to become bestselling authors.

    I thought it was a work of fiction. Surprise surprise. I’m CHORFing my dinner right now, I’m laughing so hard at my naivity.

  23. @msobel The story you’re looking for at least in part, is called Bestsellers Guaranteed, by Joe R. Lansdale.

    I highly recommend it!

  24. Yes, yes, you wrote a terrific and popular book and won a very big award … but over on EPBOT they linked us to the COSTUME PARADE!

  25. There seems to be a misconception in these comments that the Dragon Awards were established by the puppies. They were set up by DragonCon, which is very clearly on DragonCon’s side, and they are generally neutral in the genre turf wars. However, the puppies immediately tried to claim them as their rightful territory (similar to their claims of other awards as rightful territory.) The puppies have not successfully annexed this award as they had hoped.

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