Back in September I wrote a report about this year’s Dragon Awards, where I compared their voting turnout to that of the Goodreads Choice Awards:
The Dragon Awards present themselves as being “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience”, and while they have grown in both credibility and scale since their introduction, it is still debatable as to how well they are living up to that aim. Unlike the Hugo Awards, the Dragons do not issue detailed voting breakdowns, making it impossible to tell how many people have participated in each category. The rough overall vote-counts released by the administration — 4000 in 2016, 8000 in 2017, 11,000 in 2018 — indicate that the Dragons have attracted a voting base that is larger than that of the Hugos, but still far smaller than that of the Goodreads Choice Awards, where individual books can garner tens of thousands of votes.
Despite being likewise open to the public and conducted through an online poll, the Goodreads Choice Awards contrast significantly with the Dragon Awards. For example, this year’s winners in the Goodreads science fiction and fantasy categories were Vengeful by V. E. Schwab and Circe by Madeline Miller, neither of which made the Dragon ballot, while many past Dragon winners failed to even make the shortlist at the Goodreads awards. If the full Goodreads voting base began taking part in the Dragons, the results of the latter award would be substantially different — which raises the question of which of the two is doing the better job of representing the broader fandom.
(As a minor addition to the above, Dragon Con has since issued a press release stating that “more than 10,000 fans” took part in the 2019 Dragon Awards. So, it looks as though participation has plateaued at the 10,000-11,000 mark).
My report received a response from former Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli, who replied in a blog post entitled (ahem) “That’s Amo-REEEEEEEEEEE”. At least, I think Richard’s replying to me — he avoids linking to the post he’s talking about and makes some statements which, if meant in reference to me, are weirdly inaccurate. But most of his response tallies up with the arguments I made, so I’ll assume it’s my report he’s responding to.
In his reply, Richard makes two main points. One is that the Goodreads awards are susceptible to people cheating by voting multiple times. This is true, but the same can be said of the Dragon Awards — no online poll is going to be 100% airtight.
His other point is as follows:
Yes, they [the Goodreads Awards] do have more voters, dear, they also vote on every genre out there, not just Sci-Fi/Fantasy. And lets add in all the non-fiction categories too. So yeah, they have more voters because they have a much larger pool to draw from.
How many of those tens of thousands voted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy? I’m betting the answer is not 100%. I’ll be surprised if its even 10%. Most of those voters are there for Romance and other higher drawing genres.
Here, Richard is overlooking the fact that the Goodreads Choice Awards (unlike the Dragons) provide voting breakdowns for each category. We have no need to speculate on how many people voted in SF/F and how many voted in non-SF/F categories like romance, because we can see the figures for ourselves. So, let’s look at the fantasy category of the 2018 Goodreads Awards:
As you can see, the category received a total of 312,918 votes, 78,733 of which went to the winning book, Madeline Miller’s Circe. Now, before I go on, I should add a caveat to those numbers. The Goodreads Awards are conducted over three rounds, and what we’re seeing here is a combined total from across each round. Meaning that, if we want a rough idea of how many people took part, we’ll need to divide the totals by three.
However, even if we do so, we’re still left with upwards of 100,000 accounts — in comparison to the 10,000-odd people who took part in the Dragons. Unless you seriously want to argue that 90% of the Goodreads voters are sock puppets, and that the Dragons have somehow managed to avoid this plague of cheating, then there really isn’t any room to dispute that the Goodreads Awards’ fantasy category is getting substantially more voters than the Dragon Awards.
As for the other SF/F categories at the 2018 Goodreads Awards, well, YA fantasy got 308,745 votes, science fiction got 218,823 votes, graphic novel got 198,185 votes and horror got 150,176 votes. So, less than the fantasy category, but still considerably more than the Dragons.
“The truth is,” concludes Richard, “the Dragons are the number one award in SF/F, both in prestige and in voter participation.” This statement, alas, simply does not tally up with the data, which indicates that the Goodreads Choice Awards’ fantasy category has about ten times the voter participation of the Dragons. Ironically, Richard states elsewhere in his post that “It’s a common trait among the ‘woke’, their ‘truth’ has zero fucks to give about the facts.” Hmmm.
I originally planned to post this response a while ago, but I decided it’d be more interesting to wait until this year’s Goodreads Awards were over so I could do a side-by-side comparison between them and the Dragons (I should mention that the two awards have different eligibility periods; some of the 2019 Dragon finalists were eligible at Goodreads this year, others last year).
First, here are this year’s Dragon Award-winning books and their respective performances at the Goodreads Awards:
- Best Young Adult Novel: Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard — a Goodreads runner-up.
- Best Media Tie-In Novel: Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn — was a runner-up at Goodreads last year.
- Best Fantasy Novel: House of Assassins by Larry Correia — not a contender at Goodreads (although Correia’s previous Dragon winner was a runner-up at the 2016 Goodreads Awards)
- Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen — not a contender at Goodreads.
- Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Uncompromising Honor by David Weber — not a contender at Goodreads
- Best Alternate History Novel: Black Chamber by S. M. Stirling — not a contender at Goodreads.
- Best Horror Novel: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding — not a contender at Goodreads (too bad, as it was my personal write-in choice…)
- Best Graphic Novel: X-Men: Grand Design: Second Genesis by Ed Piskor — not a contender at Goodreads.
And here are this year’s winners in the Goodreads Choice Award SF/F categories:
- Science Fiction: Recursion by Blake Crouch — not a contender at the Dragon Awards.
- Young Adult Fantasy: The Wicked King by Holly Black — not a contender at the Dragon Awards.
- Fantasy: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo — not eligible for the Dragons until next year (and none of the eligible runners-up were Dragon contenders this year)
- Horror: The Institute by Stephen King — not eligible for the Dragons until next year (and again, none of the eligible runners-up were Dragon contenders this year… although I notice that the #3 novel, The Girl in Red by Christina Henry, is a spiritual successor to her 2016 Dragon finalist Alice)
- Graphic Novel: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks — not eligible for the Dragons until next year (Monstress was a runner-up at both awards this year — albeit not for the same volume)
There have, in the past, been overlaps between the two awards. Artemis by Andy Weir, Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi have each won both a Dragon and a Goodreads Choice Award. But this year, any overlap is almost negligible.
I’ll let you decide exactly what to make of this comparison — but it is clear that these two popular choice awards are honouring two very different sets of books.