Awards Awards Awards

1. BSFA Awards

For anyone who didn’t see the note buried in the comments of the shortlist post, Hal Duncan has withdrawn his essay “Ethics and Enthusiasm” from consideration for the Non-Fiction Award.

With that in mind, now, admittedly I don’t think it has a hope in hell of winning, but then I didn’t think it had a hope in hell of making the shortlist, so on the off-chance that it does… I think it would be criminal for my exploration of modes of critique to be accorded more status and attention than the exploration of issues of representation and diversity carried out by Deepa D, especially when those issues are precisely born of a disparity of status and attention. It would, I feel, be validating the very situation that requires redress if the BSFA Awards were to valorise abstractions that bear only a passing relevance to the field over a commentary that bears directly on its practical, political realities, not least because of the disparities of privilege at play here. It’s awesome to have people take note of what I say from my platform, but in this case I’m going to use that platform to say, there are other voices you should be listening to first.
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So, with the utmost gratitude to those who put it there, and more than a little reticence because of course I’d fucking love a BSFA Award for non-fiction, I’d like to respectfully withdraw “Ethics and Enthusiasm” from the running, and leave the contest to those works which bear directly on the field.

The Guardian has noted the shortlists here — “After Booker snub, Adam Roberts in running for SF honour” — with a soundbite from me, in which I say I think it’s hard to pick a front-runner in the Best Novel category. All four books have been well received: Yellow Blue Tibia seems to have a critical mass of momentum behind it, Ark is a consecutive nomination for a previous winner of the Award, Lavinia is considered by many to be a masterwork by a multi Hugo- and Nebula-winner, and The City & The City has tremendous word-of-mouth. If you put a gun to my head I’d probably pick Mieville as the winner (I think it may be his year for a Hugo, too), but I wouldn’t want to put a lot of money on it. Nader Elhefnawy also has some thoughts on the shortlists here, and there’s an io9 post here.

2. Hugo Awards

Speaking of Hugo Awards, nominations are now open, until 13th March. Cheryl Morgan has a guest post at the Feminist SF Blog about “Hugo voting on the cheap” — which sadly means how to become an informed voter without having to buy a lot of books, rather than actual cheap voting memberships — with lots of recommendations for potential nominees. Joe Sherry has posted a draft of his Hugo ballot. I think this is a good idea, and will probably follow suit later this week.

3. The David Gemmell Legend Award

Nic Clarke reviews last year’s inaugural Legend Award shortlist for Strange Horizons. Part one of the review can be found here:

What do they mean by “in the spirit of David Gemmell”? According to the same web page, what they are looking for is something that grabs the reader immediately, with pace (“you know, books that you’re STILL reading at three in the morning!”), characters to root for, and convincing world-building. Stories, in other words, that take hold and won’t let go until the final page—the reason we all started reading fantasy in the first place.

Quality of prose goes unmentioned, but I’m afraid it won’t in this review; writing that makes me want to stab my own eyes out tends to interfere with my desire to still be reading at three in the morning. I’m fussy like that.

Part two is here, and there’s a related post by Mark Charan Newton here:

This, it seems, is one of the only actual comparisons of the fantasy titles that were shortlisted. I made noises at the time that no one was talking about the content of the books, and so here we go at last.

I must admit to finding it bizarre that any award can have a shortlist where titles are barely compared to each other. How can you call a book the “best” without such an analysis? Getting as many people to vote online seems a spurious way to go about this, when clearly no one could have read so many titles.

I’m not being grouchy here – please don’t misunderstand.

This is where my arguments lie: we bitch and moan about why we – the fantasy genre – are not taken seriously. But when we’re not going to compare and contrast, and dig into the content of some of the big fantasy titles of the year, how can the fantasy genre expect to better itself year on year? How can it expect to gain more respect? (If you don’t care for respect, then I guess that’s the end to my argument.) But we all know that we posses rather self-conscious moments, we fantasy readers, if we’re honest.

4. The William L. Crawford Award

Press release at Locus Online:

Jedediah Berry has been named the winner of the 2010 William L. Crawford Award for first novel The Manual of Detection. The Award, presented annually at The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is for a new fantasy writer whose first book appeared the previous year. This year’s conference will be March 17-21, 2010 in Orlando FL.

The award committee shortlisted Deborah Biancotti’s collection A Book of Endings, Kari Sperring’s novel Living with Ghosts, and Ali Shaw’s novel The Girl With Glass Feet, and wanted to commend two other authors whose works were ineligible this year but were highly regarded: Robert V.S. Redick, whose The Red Wolf Conspiracy appeared in 2008 and whose The Ruling Sea appears in 2010, and Michal Ajvaz, whose The Other City originally appeared in Czech in 1993 but was first translated into English by Gerald Turner in 2009.

A good winner, and a strong shortlist, I reckon.

Tracking

The David Gemmell Legend Award:

The DGLA will be presented for the very first time in 2009 for the best Fantasy novel of 2008. The award will be given to a work written in the ‘spirit’ of the late, great David Gemmell, a true Master of Heroic Fantasy.

The shortlist:

ABERCROMBIE, Joe – Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz/Pyr)
MARILLIER, Juliet – Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor UK)
SANDERSON, Brandon – The Hero of Ages (Tor US)
SAPKOWSKI, Andrzej – Blood of Elves (Gollancz)
WEEKS, Brent – The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

The winner:

Andrezj Sapkowski wins the Gemmell for Blood of Elves.

The stats:

Some stats: 10,963 votes overall, from 71 countries… Winning book, Sapkowski’s ‘Blood of Elves’ polled 2,309 VALIDATED votes

The ceremony, one:

The event got underway with fantasy author (and friend of the late David Gemmell) James Barclay coming out on stage and booming out Druss’ speech to the men before the battle at Dros Delnoch in Legend in an impressive and theatrical manner. Deborah J. Miller and Stan Nicholls were the main comperes for the evening and did a sterling job. Stan’s wife came out to give an excellent tribute to David Gemmell, and then Mr. Barclay returned for the charity auction. Seeing people having to sit on their hands for fear of spending too much money was quite amusing, with the signed, mint-condition first edition of Legend (which went for £500) being the highlight of the evening. The featured charity, Médecins Sans Frontières, raised quite a lot of money on the night, which was great.

The ceremony, two:

Mark and I had the great pleasure of helping out at last night’s David Gemmell Legend Awards. It was an amazing evening and it was lovely seeing fans, publishers, authors, agents and the press turn out for the inaugural event.

The winner of the overall prize was Andrzej Sapkowski – author Blood of Elves. Personally I’ve not read it – yet – but I am sure I will get around to it!

Below are some snaps we took whilst at the event, helping out and fangeeking.

Reaction:

This makes me rather happy, as out of the finalists, his Geralt novel, Blood of the Elves, is the only one that I liked without reservations. Nice timing on learning about this, as I received my copy of his second series, the Hussite Wars trilogy-opening Narrenturm, yesterday afternoon. While it’ll have to be a while before I review it (I have another Spanish-language book I’m reading and reviewing, as well as me being in the midst of translating a recent interview with that second author), I do plan on reading it this weekend and early next week.

But still, it’s good to know that this work of “heroic” fantasy was chosen to be the winner. I guess the millions in Europe and the thousands in the Anglo-American sphere have spoken, huh?

The Guardian:

“Our winning author is already a huge star in Europe and winning the award will hopefully ensure new readers experience his work in the excellent English translation from Gollancz,” said Deborah J Miller, award administrator and author of the Last Clansman and Swarmthief series. “Genre fantasy is often dismissed as being simply gung-ho or macho, as people outside genre circles tend to imagine it’s all about epic battles, weapons and warriors – in fact, it is all of those things and so much more. Contemporary fantasy fiction is about far more than escape to other realities. Freed of the constraints and preconceptions of other kinds of fiction, it holds up a mirror to reflect on this world and time through the prism of vivid characters and enthralling drama that engage the imagination like no other genre.”

Damien G Walter:

I would be the first to agree that there are many examples of contemporary fantasy that hold up a mirror to our world. Unfortunately the Gemmell shortlist are not among them. Thats not a condemnation of the books. They are good, exciting ‘F’antasy of the epic and heroic kind. I like Joe Abercrombie’s series particularly for its slightly knowing attitude to its subject matter and sense of humour. But these are not books of great reflection on the world as it is. And they are definitely not books to win over non-genre readers to the cause, as they will tend to confirm rather than dispell most of the prejudcies those readers hold.

Sam Jordison:

But even SF fans have it easy compared to followers of fantasy. These are the people Red Dwarf fans sneer at for being nerdy. They are the zit-ridden little brothers of the SF geeks, whose even-less-healthy obsessions include trolls, giving Anglo-Saxon names to phallic weapons, and maidens with magical powers.
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But this list also shows some of fantasy’s strengths. The presence of Abercrombie and his witty send-up of the genre proves it might not be as po-faced as many suppose. Meanwhile, its international composition (with one New Zealander, one Brit, two Americans and one Pole) gives some idea of fantasy’s cross-cultural appeal – as does the fact that the impressive 10,963 people who voted on the shortlist did so from 74 different countries.

Mark Charan Newton:

So where is the wider analysis of the Gemmell Award books? Why hasn’t anyone cranked-open these bad boys (and girls – we are gender neutral here!) to open up a wider discussion on the merits of the books against each other, a real show-down to get people talking about what’s in the books, rather than talking about the people holding them?

I love reading fantasy fiction and all that it can offer, from the fast entertainment to the deep reflection, the challenging content. That sensawonder. But I think we can get caught up in the aesthetics of fantasy as a genre, rather than the content of the individual books. We’re asked to celebrate all that’s good about fantasy – and I’m totally for that – and I think the forums and blogs celebrate the genre well. The community throngs.

But how can we persuade those who look down upon us to treat fantasy literature with more respect if we’re not respectfully discussing these great books in detail ourselves?