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.


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.
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?

12 thoughts on “Tracking

  1. Am I the only person willing to express unease about the voting figures?

    10,000 people? That in itself is considerably larger than some of the largest on-line responses to any other activity in the field.

    71 countries? Which 71 countries? Knowing what we do of the sf and fantasy market, which very definitely clusters in quite specific places…

    I want to see the break down of these figures. Are they going to be available?

  2. Hmm.

    The 11,000 number is huge. The Westeros forum does have over 12,000 registered members so those kinds of numbers aren’t completely beyond the pale. They do, however, suggest an incredible response rate.

    The 71 countries claim is interesting. The book has been released in Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Czech, Spanish and English at various points since 1994. But unless the awards had a good deal of penetration in the non-English blogosphere then I’m guessing that those 7 countries mostly represent english-language fans working abroad.

    Some kind of breakdown would be nice. If the Gemmell organisers are getting that much of a response then I suspect their data would be sociologically invaluable.

    It’s a bit of a surprising choice, I thought Abercrombie would walk it but then as much as the fantasy blogosphere is alien to me, I suspect the real feelings of fantasy fans in the real world would be doubly so.

  3. I’ve just had a google for material on internet surveys. Their success seems to depend on whether they are targeted at an internet savvy community–which I think we can assume this was. The highest response rate is around 80% (or in this case, around 9600). This is around 90%.

  4. Let’s see: 10,963 votes overall, but the winning book polled only 2,309 VALIDATED votes.

    With a shortlist of only 5 books, that suggests an awful lot of unvalidated votes.

    So what counts as a valid vote? How are they checked?

    And with 71 countries represented, you have to ask how many of these books were available in all, or even a majority, of those countries? So what were people voting for?

  5. Yeah, it’s no “marblecake, also the game” but such a large vote from so many countries when the verification was by IP address does make me wonder whether there was some IP address faking going on – I don’t know if you could vote several times from different Tor nodes, for example. I don’t know enough about IP spoofing to know how easy it would be to change your IP address.

    Do the Locus Awards ever release their voting figures? That would be an interesting comparison, since they are a fairly well-promoted popular vote award.

  6. As I understand it the 11,000 were long and shortlist votes combined (there were two rounds of voting), so one would have thought there were no more than 6 or 7,000 separate people voting even assuming nothing fishy (what, me?) since most would have voted in both rounds.

    I don’t know the details and I’d be interested to find out, but I imagine that many of those 71 countries only contributed a few votes, and those from folks reading in English (some soldiers on tour voted, for example). I imagine the majority will have come from the big fantasy markets – the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, maybe Russia, but I’m really only guessing. Sapkowski’s victory seems to suggest (and only suggest, mind) that a lot of the votes came from outside the UK and US since he’s long been a huge author all across Europe but much less so, as yet, in English translation. How the award came to involve a lot of non-English speakers I’m not sure, since I don’t know how it was marketed. Though Bragelonne were clearly closely involved with the award and promoted it in France. Though it wouldn’t necessarily take more than someone mentioning it on a Russian-speaking noticeboard, say, before the award was pulling in Russian votes. It isn’t hard to vote.

    Not sure what the comment on response rates is about – the poll was open to anyone anywhere, not just members of Westeros…

  7. Not sure what the comment on response rates is about – the poll was open to anyone anywhere, not just members of Westeros

    Then I misunderstood what was written here. Your point about the combined votes is helpful, since 6,000 seems a hell of a lot more likely.

  8. I’m baffled by the bafflement over the 71 countries and the assumption by some that these votes must come from native English speakers abroad. I can only speak for Belgium but it’s not that uncommon to read books (especially genre books) in English here. Most bookstores have a few shelves of imported, untranslated English fiction, many times even with a dedicated genre section. Almost all of these books are bought by locals who learned English in high school and prefer the original works to translations. When you also take into account online bookstores and translations, 71 countries really doesn’t seem that remarkable.

  9. Sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest that it was only open to Westeros members. I was simply using the size of Westeros as a benchmark for how many people might have voted. If Westeros can pull in 13,000 members then it doesn’t seem ridiculous to suppose that the Gemmell might have dragged in similar numbers.

  10. Hi peeps – yes, I am ‘vanity searching’ on the Award as my brain is still slightly too fried to do much work today!

    Thanks for the comments – yes Joe is right, the 10,000+ number represents the votes from BOTH the Longlist and Shortlist combined. Sapkowski garnered 2,309 votes during the Shortlist section of the vote (would have to go and check the number for the Longlist). We used as much up-to-date tech as possible and availible at the present time – votes were logged by IP address and cookie – duplicate votes were destroyed and discounted. After the polls closed, a professional statistican viewed our data and produced various charts showing peaks of voting etc – which were examined very closely. To whit – everything that is possible to do to ensure a fair vote WAS done. Sure, there’s always going to be someone who takes a perverse delight in screwing things up – but to not try at all just allows such people to triumph…

    We had a great night – remembered and great man and celebrated terrific writing. We’d like to think the genre will benefit from our energy and passion… our nominated charity certainly did! Maybe we’ll see you there for the next one?!

    All best
    (a still-tired) Debbie

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