The David Gemmell Legend Awards have opened for voting. I'm delighted to say that this year looks like it will be a lot of fun: lots of popular (and/or serious) contenders for the 'best novel' award and utter bonkerness with the debut category. Scandal, politics and high fantasy - pretty much everything I want out of life.
One thing I really like about this year: we get criteria!
Following the model I've been wibbling on about, the subjective criteria:
Traditional, Heroic, Epic, or High Fantasy and/or in the spirit of David Gemmell’s own work.
This is further explained by the footnote:
Please note that we cannot accept nominations for: Horror, Slipstream, SF, Urban (‘real world’ i.e. Buffy or Twilight) or purely Historical (as opposed to well-researched Fantasy).
Which makes sense. Although the "spirit of David Gemmell", as discussed in the previous years, is a teeny bit woolly, the rest of this makes it clear: old school, secondary world epic fantasy. As noted, I'm all for tighter subjective criteria, and as one of the award's "judges" (we all are! It is a popular vote!) this gives me something to work with.
(This is, however, a little baffling when set against the claim on the homepage that the DGLA are the "literary fantasy equivalent of the Oscars". The latter part is just typical awards overclaim. But "literary fantasy"? Perhaps we're not using the word "literary" in the same way, but the criteria seems to be saying, quite explicitly, non-literary.)
And the objective criteria:
First publication, paperback, hardback or digital (no back-list or re-prints).
This is primarily interesting because of the inclusion of digital. I'll get to this in more detail in a later "Poking at Awards" post, but, by saying this, the DGLA essentially opening the door to self-published and digital-only titles. That said, the "How to nominate" page suggests that books need to come from publishers - so perhaps self-published titles aren't welcome after all. I'll back to this in a minute.
So what do this year's submissions look like? (I struggle with the use of the word "longlist" as the books on this list = the books sent to the award. Ditto "nomination" is a bit inaccurate, as the books on this list have been "nominated" by their own publishers.)
LEGEND (novel) is the big one with 41 different books. Publishers aren't noted, but a bit of research reveals that this year includes titles from 47 North, Gollancz, Del Rey, Headline, Hodder & Stoughton, Orbit, Firedance, Voyager, Ace/Roc, Black Library (intriguing: after a superb showing for the first few years, they didn't submit last year), Tor, Tor UK and HarperCollins Australia.
I'm probably missing a few (I couldn't spot Angry Robot or Solaris, for example?), but 13 is already an increase on last year's low of, I believe, 9. Although, despite the criteria noted above, I'm not seeing anything from self-published authors. So either self-published authors didn't notice/bother, or the process ("publisher submits") has trumped the criteria ("digital allowed").
Per usual, we're also looking at a lot of books that are mid- and late-series, including the presence of such stalwarts as Piers Anthony, Raymond Feist and LE Modesitt (twice). On the other end of the spectrum, the Gemmell allows for 'double entry' - debuts in the best novel category (see: Stormdancer last year. Or, better yet, don't), so all the Morningstar entries are here as well.
As a popular award, it is pretty easy to pick out some obvious contenders. Just a quick skim through the list reveals that this year is going to be fun, with /r/fantasy stalwarts like Michael Sullivan, Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, Peter Brett and Robin Hobb (twice) all battling for hearts, minds and votes. Plus previous finalists like Andrzej Sapkowski, Max Gladstone and Jay Kristoff and legends-of-the-last-generation-of-fantasy like Stephen Donaldson. This should be wonderfully messy.
(My own dream shortlist would definitely include Drakenfeld, She Who Waits and The Thousand Names. But I've not read many of the submissions this year.)
If I seem to be spending a disproportionate amount of time talking about the LEGEND award, it is because the other two categories are kind of a mess right now.
MORNINGSTAR (debut) currently has six entries. I'm not sure exactly how the voting is going to work for this, but I already feel bad for the one book that doesn't make the shortlist. I'm hoping the DGLA changes the rules to make the shortlist 3 books, not 5, but then, if they do that, two authors won't get to put "finalist" on their CV.
(Actually, The Palace Job seems to have been first published in 2012? If that's true, well, voila! There's your shortlist! *band plays*)
RAVENHEART (cover art). One year the DGLA will put up a list of images to go with the voting buttons. This is not that year. No comment until someone else does the hard work of putting these on Pinterest or something.
The voting takes place until 13 April, so get your "clicking the link" on and go express your opinion. It is a popular vote, and totally free - no convention or organisation membership required - so there's no excuse not to weigh in. (Unless that excuse is "I can't find the page". Hint: you have to go through the topnav, or use the direct links above.)
Incidentally, it looks like this year's voting period is brief. The shortlist voting will happen through the end of April, and then the winner will announced in June. I'm definitely going to review all 10 finalists, but, I can't see that happening in a two week window.
[WAIT: I can start on the Morningstar list now, can't I? That plus a bit of cherry-picking, and this might happen after all.]
[Why is that important? Call it "suspension of disbelief" - I like to pretend that the shortlist stage is when everyone takes part in a serious discussion around epic fantasy and the books and the criteria before they go ahead and vote for their favourite author.]
No other award really is half this fun.