Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is the David Gemmell Legend Award doing any good to the fantasy literature at the moment?

I reflected for a long time before making the yesterday’s post, but in the end went for it only to give this new post a starting point. There were a couple of discussions back in 2010, if I am not mistaken, that questioned the importance of the David Gemmell Legend Award for the fantasy genre. 3 years from then and looking over this year’s long lists it seems that nothing changed and nothing good came out of those talks.

The idea of an award dedicated entirely to the fantasy genre gives immense joy and when David Gemmell Legend Award came into existence thrilled me. And with mission statement such as “raise public awareness of the fantasy genre”, “celebrate the history and cultural importance of fantasy literature”, “appreciate and reward excellence in the field” and “commemorate the legacy of David Gemmell and his contribution to the fantasy genre” I believed that only the best of things could have come out of this. 5 years later I am not entirely sure that it would happen.

Let’s consider the 2013 long lists. There are only 9 publishers on the long lists and all are major ones. Nothing wrong with their presence here, but are these the only imprints “raising the awareness of the fantasy genre”? How about the small publishing houses and the amazing job they are doing in actually celebrating the history and cultural importance of fantasy literature? What struck me as even odder is the absence of any title published by The Black Library. After winning the Legend Award for Best Novel in 2010 through Graham McNeill’s “Empire”, the Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer through Darius Hinks“Warrior Priest” and the Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art through Raymond Swanland’s cover of “Blood of Aenarion” by William King it seems that Black Library stopped releasing suitable works for David Gemmell Legend Award.

What I loved at David Gemmell Legend Award even from its beginnings was that it considered all the fantasy works published in English. It was wonderful to see Andrezj Sapkowski winning the award in 2009 for “Blood of Elves” and Pierre Pevel recognized as Best Newcomer the following year for “The Cardinal’s Blades”. It is excellent to see all the Australian fantasy present on the long or short lists of the awards. But it saddens me to see so many great titles left outside the lists of the David Gemmell Legend Award because it is a sign of failing another of its mission statements, that of “appreciating and rewarding excellence in the field”. How can it not fail when Margo Lanagan’s “The Brides of Rollrock Island”, Lisa Hannett & Angel Slatter’s “Midnight and Moonshine”, Mike Carey, Linda Carey and Louise Carey’s “The Steel Seraglio” (released in the UK this year under the title “The City of Silk and Steel”), Daniel Rabuzzi’s “The Indigo Pheasant”, K.J. Parker’s “Sharps”, Tim Lebbon’s “The Heretic Land”, Graham Joyce’s “Some Kind of Fairy Tale”, N.K. Jemisin’s “The Killing Moon” and “The Shadowed Sun”, Howard Andrew Jones“The Bones of the Old Ones”, Brom’s “Krampus, the Yule Lord” or Jeff Salyards“Scourge of the Betrayer”, just to name the 2012 favorites of mine that should have been at least on the long lists in my opinion, and the popular writers and titles like Robin Hobb’s “City of Dragons”, G. Willow Wilson’s “Alif the Unseen”, Mark Lawrence’s “King of Thorns”, Michael J. Sullivan’s “Percepliquis”, Bradley Beaulieu’s “The Straits of Galahesh”, Paul S. Kemp’s “The Hammer and the Blade”, Anne Lyle’s “The Alchemy of Souls” or Rachel Hartman’s “Seraphina” are nowhere to be found.

Of course, I am subjective in my choice, but that is a luxury the David Gemmell Legend Award doesn’t afford. When you want to promote, bring awareness and reward the excellence of the fantasy literature a long list of titles from a handful of publishers would not bring you any closer to your objectives. It is my opinion that it will actually lead you further away from them. As long as the David Gemmell Legend Award will fail to notice an important part of the books published around the fantasy literature I am afraid I will have no interest in following the events surrounding it. I didn’t’ reach this conclusion and do not make this statement with resentment, it is only with the disappointment in seeing such a promising, full of potential award failing heavily.


RobB said...

"What struck me as even odder is the absence of any title published by The Black Library."

From my understanding, this is because Black Library (or any of the other publishers whose books are absent) did not submit any titles for consideration for the awards.

Jon Tallis said...

The long list, as far as I was aware, was simply what any publisher could be bothered to send in. If Black Library or whoever aren't there, I reckon it's cos they didn't send anything in.

I wouldn't worry anyway - as this is a publically voted award, it is usually the author with the most organised fanbase that wins. As good a criteria as anything other, some might argue, but certainly nothing to suggest that this award should be taken seriously by anyone except a corporate marketing department low on genuine ideas.

Adam Whitehead said...

There's nothing corporate in the Gemmell Awards. They are organised and run by a bunch of authors, friends of the late David Gemmell, who raise funds by themselves. One of the chief organisers has also recently passed away. The awards have also moved this year from their traditional June slot all the way back to November, and the change seems to have caught the publishers by surprise, with them not submitting work. I find it improbable that Voyager and Black Library would voluntarily not submit work when they have done in the past and even won.

From the look of it, this year's organisation is in disarry, understandably, due to Deborah Miller's sad passing. Hopefully the organiers sort something out and get those missing publishers on board.

Abhinav Jain said...

If Black Library hasn't sent in anything, then surely that's even more cause for concern? They themselves went through a major reorganisation in Dec/Jan and since then their marketing has been sporadic at best. They are looking internally and are not engaging with the industry all that much. One of the biggest proofs of this? I don't know of a single reviewer who has gotten any ARCs for the Feb'2013 releases and on.

Mihai A. said...

It is my belief that in order to make such an award strong and meaningful it needs more than just titles that are submitted for consideration. In this case, with only 9 major publishers on the long lists it misses a very big part of what was published within the genre. I completely understand that David Gemmell Legend Award is made on voluntary basis and recently was confronted with Deborah Miller's sad passing, but it needs a bit more effort to sustain it and make it better. This way, it ends up exactly as Jon said, an award that is not taken seriously by anyone except a corporate marketing department low on genuine ideas. This is certainly not the way to bring awareness to the fantasy literature, on the contrary it puts this wonderful genre in a bad light. Maybe after the putting their organisation back in order David Gemmell Award would make something worthwhile for fantasy.

John said...

MILES CAMERON - The Red Knight (Gollancz) is listed in 'The Legend Award' longlist but is missing from the actual voting page - http://www.gemmellaward.com/page/the-legend-award


Mihai A. said...

John, I am not sure about it but I see the title on the voting list.

Mark Lawrence said...

King of Thorns & likely some of the other books you mentioned are now on the list - Voyager decided to enter them a week late to give everyone else a chance :)

And last year Prince of Thorns was on the long list but not the voting page, so I know how Miles feels!

Mihai A. said...

It is good to hear that, Mark! I guess it is better late than never. Good luck! :)