Genrefication and Dragon Awards

Over at Mad Genius Club, some folks are celebrating the genre stratification at DragonCon for their Dragon Awards.  Rather than Best at some length category, they have split categories into Best Science Fiction, Best Fantasy or Paranormal, Best YA/Middle Grade, Best Mil-SF or Mil-Fantasy(!?), Best Alternative History, Best Apocalyptic, Best Horror, and with further breakdown along similar lines for film and gaming.

This strikes me as a terrible idea.  These categories reinforce the notion that a story can be only one of these things.  Where would Philip Jose Farmer’s Maker of Universes fall on this?  Is Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth Fantasy, Science Fiction, Alternative History or Apocalyptic?  Why break out Horror into its own category, and where would something like Matthew D. Ryan’s ‘Vampire-hunting in Drisdak’-style Drasmyr books end up?

No, no, no, no!  This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:

  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

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9 responses to “Genrefication and Dragon Awards

  1. I’d go with categories that are exclusive rather than inclusive.

    Best Novel that isn’t set in Manhattan.
    Best Novel that doesn’t have a character who is a middle-aged college teacher.
    Best Novel that doesn’t have an environmental message.

  2. One of the things I like about the Hugo Awards categories is that they force you to compare (and read) works from across the various genres and subgenres of speculative fiction.

    And having spent the past year trying to categorize and tag books for review posts, it’s much harder than it looks. Genres are rules of thumb created to help the mind organize books in relation to each other. As such, they’re highly imperfect, they overlap in all sorts of ways, they leave “gaps,” and they’re constantly changing as the underlying books change.

    • Splitting off SF and Fantasy from one another and then FURTHER splitting off Mil-SF, Horror and YA seems so antithetical to how spec fic used to be – there you had fantastical science fiction that may have explored militaristic, apocalyptic or horror themes and were appropriate for a YA audience. What bothers me are those who are asking for further sundering of categories so they can have things that will basically end up looking like “Best Shannara Knock-off”.

      I mean, good on Dragon Con for opening up the Dragon Awards to everyone, and it’s cool that they’re trying to include more gaming categories, but I don’t think splitting things up the way they have (particularly splitting off SF and Mil-SF into separate categories!?) is a good idea.

  3. This is a really, really good point that honestly never occurred to me until now.

    I think you may be getting too worked up, though. Say you have a genre-bender. All right then. All that means to me is that you can, potentially, be up for more awards.

    And the separation is helpful for people who are perhaps looking for specific things in their fiction.

    • In a way, that will lead to more problems for this award, when something ends up sweeping ALL categories because it qualifies across the board.

      My objection is that a similar separation had devastating effect on the industry and the quality of mainstream SFF being written and the Dragon Awards enshrine that separation. Not a problem on its own, unless folks are serious about making the Dragon Awards THE award of mainstream SFF community and they keep the narrow categories.

    • Also, I think I’d be less worked up if there weren’t people saying “We should break them down further!” and “Military Science Fiction is distinct enough from regular science fiction to justify being in its own category.” I’m just trying to play Laocoon here.

  4. I think the award based on genre is perfectly acceptable. I mean, YA writers are gearing their work toward a totally different audience. Generally speaking, the brain chemistry, level of general understanding, and areas of interest are very different from the YA audience to adults. I know that some adults read YA, but it’s called Young Adult fiction for a reason.

    And these are fan awards. For the fans, voted on by fans. Give the fans what they want. Nobody should be protecting the literature from the fans. It’s like democracy for book awards. Please don’t fight democracy.

    • I’m not fighting democracy. It’s cool that it exists, it’s cool that it has open voting, and it’s really cool that a lot of folks I know got awards this first time around. I just don’t like the focus on breaking things down into such narrow subgenres – that’s not fighting democracy.

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