Alas, poor Harrogate

Friday Five: David Gemmell Legend Award Predictions

Red Country[Here's the deal, leave your predictions in the comments -  I'll send an Epic Fantasy Care Package to whomever gets the most right. I have no idea what'll be in it, but it'll be awesome. I'll ship globally, so... bring it on!]

[Updated: DGLA voting is now closed, but the shortlists are announced this weekend at Nine Worlds. Still time to take part in our competition!]

We still have a few days left to vote for the David Gemmell Legend Awards for the year's best epic fantasy, but I figured I go ahead and make my predictions now. The shortlists will be announced at Nine Worlds (early August) and the winners at World Fantasy (late October).

I'll be taking part in the newly-declared annual tradition of reviewing all the shortlisted titles on Pornokitsch, so, in a way, I feel I have a vested interested in the results of the voting... 

Which five books will make the Legend (Best Novel) shortlist? 

The five that I think will make it:

  • Joe Abercrombie - Red Country
  • Elisabeth Bear - Range of Ghosts
  • Robin Hobb - City of Dragons
  • Mark Lawrence - King of Thorns
  • Brent Weeks - The Blinding Knife

Four of those were easy for me to rattle off. For the fifth, I went to Goodreads and compared the reading numbers for Brooks, Hobbs, Erikson, Canavan and Weis & Hickman. Hobbs was the runaway winner (4,000 reviews - Canavan was in second with 2,000). I realise this is assuming a pretty tenuous correlation, but given it is a public vote, it probably isn't the worst metric.

From a purely selfish POV, since I've committed to reviewing all five, I'd like this shortlist - I've reviewed Abercrombie and Weeks already, but there's still plenty to say, so I'd like to revisit them. The Bear sounds like a great book and I've plenty to talk about with King of Thorns. The only one I'd be a little unhappy about is the Hobb, as I didn't like the first book in this series and wasn't ever going to read the sequel. Eh. Alas. #bloggerproblems

The-Killing-MoonIf I had to make a shortlist for the Legend (Best Novel) out of five books that aren't on the 'longlist' (e.g. weren't submitted for the award), what would it be?

Were I King of the World, I would choose:

  • Mary Gentle - Black Opera
  • N.K. Jemisin - The Killing Moon
  • Mark Charan Newton - The Broken Isles
  • Daniel Polansky - Tomorrow, the Killing
  • Sam Sykes - The Skybound Sea

I'm not super sure that I can make a case for Black Opera as "epic fantasy". Maybe K.J. Parker's Sharps instead? Or China Miéville's Railsea? Granted, what I like about these books is that they're trying new and interesting stuff with the genre.

Is this "in the legacy of David Gemmell"? I would argue...well, yes, actually. I don't enjoy certain aspects of Gemmell's books, but, at the time, Legend did new, challenging and very interesting things in epic fantasy. So I take my hat off to the man and, in that vein, I rationalise my selections as being in the spirit of Gemmell, if not the style.

This is actually making me sad to think about it. Moving swiftly onwards... 

Which five books will make the Morningstar (Best Debut) shortlist? 

Again, the five that I think will make it, not the five I would necessary choose for myself. As there are only 9 to choose from, let's have Goodreads pick it for me:

  • Saladin Ahmed - Throne of the Crescent Moon (2,582)
  • Jay Kristoff - Stormdancer (2,561)
  • Miles Cameron - The Red Knight (624)
  • Max Gladstone - Three Parts Dead (549)
  • John Fultz - Seven Princes (253)
Missed the cut:
  • Gaie Sebold - Babylon Steel (177)
  • Jo Spurrier - Winter Be My Shield (109)
  • John Gwynne - Malice (103)
  • Aidan Harte - Irenicon (25)

Hmm. I'm going to intervene a bit and say Sebold makes it and Fultz doesn't. There's not a huge difference between them, and, at least in my part of the bubble, Sebold's book is well-liked, and Fultz's... uh... yeah. Final 5: Ahmed, Kristoff, Cameron, Gladstone, Sebold.

That would make a fun list for reviewing. I've read Ahmed, Kristoff, Cameron and Sebold's books, and have plenty to say about all four. I haven't read Gladstone's, but hear good things. (I've also read Fultz, Gwynne and Harte, so, actually, I've got a pretty good running start for this category. Wooo.)

blinding knifeWhich 5 covers will make the Ravenheart (Best Cover) shortlist?

Again, the five that I think will make it, not the five I would necessary choose for myself.

Oh boy. Well, if you haven't seen the field, please take a moment to acquaint yourself with the contenders. Here's a Pinterest board set up by Fantasy Faction.

I just... well... golly. Let me try to phrase this with some sort of discretion: They're all a bit same-y, aren't they?

There's a commercial reality to publishing - the covers need to sell books. One way (the accepted way) of doing that is to make sure that that the covers meet the audience's (assumed) expectations of what the cover is supposed to look like. As we drill down into just epic fantasy, that set of (assumed) audience expectations is going to be pretty well-established. Anyway, what's therefore (thought to be) best for the book might not be what's best for, say, my own sense of aesthetic appreciation. So, basically: holy cow, that's a lot of swords and dragons. 

Anyway, which five covers are making it? I'm going to be a bit pessimistic about this. All things being even (and, honestly, I think they are), lazy voters (that is to say, the majority of voters) will continue to vote for the names they recognise and the authors they like (e.g. exactly as they will for the other categories). (It doesn't help that the covers aren't readily accessible from the DGLA Ravenheart ballot, meaning that voters are required to do their own research.)

Not all the Legend/Morningstar options are up for the Ravenheart, but if we combine our two lists a Ravenheart shortlist of Abercrombie, Ahmed, Weeks, Kristoff, Bear seems entirely plausible.

Which 5 covers should make the Ravenheart (Best Cover) shortlist? 

I can't pick five, but, all the above snarking aside, there are actually three that stood out for me:

  • Anthony Huso's Black Bottle (cool cityscape, neat type)
  • Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead (awesome background and not a white dude!)
  • Markus Heitz' The Fate of the Dwarves (a surprisingly evocative portrait, go figure)

This is actually a little unfair on Abercrombie's Red Country, which is a perfectly fine cover, neither better nor worse than any of the previous ones in the series. However, it just doesn't leap out from the shelf like it used to back in the First Law days - probably because so many others are now nicking the style.

Which 5 covers would make me really upset if they made the Ravenheart (Best Cover) shortlist?

Bova ThingWatch, these will be the five finalists:

  • Ben Bova's Orion and King Arthur (because... this may be the worst cover I've ever seen)
  • A.J. Dalton's Empire of the Saviours (because... wow)
  • Duncan Lay's The Bridge of Swords (it is... a big sword, a really, really, big sword. I'm guessing the brief was "big sword") 
  • L.E. Modessit's Princeps (I just can't figure it out. There's a gender-ambiguous, dead-eyed person on a furry rock? plaintively warding off a a crowd of moaning peasants and/or zombies? while a horse leaps over their head? Bonus points for having the protagonist brandishing a dinner roll, but Les Mis + Dawn of the Dead + Something With Flying Horses + I Just Don't Know.)
  • Malenie Rawn's Touchstone (because it looks like a still from Eurovision)

So, that's my bit. What are your picks? Who will be on this year's Legend, Morningstar and Ravenheart lists? Make your choices below.

Maybe I'll even scrounge up a prize for whomever gets the most right out of 15... 

(Also, don't forget to vote! Don't forget the cardinal rule of popular awards: if you don't vote, you can't complain about the results!)