Two science-fiction authors say they’re being used as proxies in a fandom culture war

Last week, the Atlanta-based convention Dragon Con released its ballot of nominees for its second-ever Dragon Awards, a wide-ranging list of novels, comics, and games designed to be “a true reflection” of fan-favorite stories published in the last year. Now, two nominees, Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi, have said they’re withdrawing their names for consideration, over concerns that they’re being used as puppets in a larger fandom culture war.

This year’s nominees have been widely split between enormously popular authors such as N.K. Jemisin, James S.A. Corey, Scalzi, and some lesser-known authors propelled onto the ballot by blocs of voters looking to score victories for their “side” in the culture wars.

Unlike the Hugos and Nebulas, the other major speculative fiction awards, the Dragon Awards are open to popular vote. Anyone on the internet can provide a nomination and then vote for finalists. That’s led to concerns that the results will be gamed by the political factions within science fiction and fantasy fandom, because it’s happened before. Scalzi has been pointedly outspoken about progressive issues in science fiction fandom and writing, and has been frequently been attacked and trolled by conservative and alt-right members of the community over his views. One particular faction of these fans calls itself Rabid Puppies, and has worked to game another award, the Hugo Award, by stacking the nominees with their own set of works.

When Dragon Con announced this year’s nominee ballot last week, Littlewood found that she’d earned a nomination for her horror novel The Hidden People. However, she wrote to the organizers and asked to be withdrawn after she learned that it was “selected by a voting bloc who are attempting, for reasons of their own, to influence the awards outcome.” A couple of days later, Scalzi, who earned a nomination for his space opera novel The Collapsing Empire, also announced his intention to withdraw his nomination. “Some other finalists are trying to use the book and me as a prop,” he wrote, “to advance a manufactured ‘us vs. them’ vote-pumping narrative based on ideology or whatever.

Littlewood says she was informed that she wouldn’t be allowed to withdraw her nomination. Pat Henry, the convention’s president and founder, wrote to her and said he was refusing to remove her name from the ballot, and that…

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