Friday saw the inaugural David Gemmell Legend Award for fantasy being presented. The venue was the Magic Circle in London (minor fact: my great-grandfather worked for a time with Maskelyne & Devant, the two magicians who had a major formative role in the organisation) and there was a good turn-out (fantasy authors and particularly editors being vulnerable to the allure of free booze and canapes). Rumours that numbers were looking low until David Devereux promised to come along in a kilt, at which point they soared, cannot be substantiated at this time.
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 awards were then announced, with each author getting a miniature replica of Druss' war axe, Snaga, as modelled here by Mr. J. Abercrombie.
Joe was the only author in attendance, the other writers not being present due to the excuse of living on other landmasses (Australia, in Juliet Marillier's case).
The winning book was Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally published in Poland in 1994 but with the English translation only being published last year. This is the first book in his five-volume series of novels featuring the character of Geralt, the Witcher (also the hero of a recent bestselling computer roleplaying game), following on from two earlier short story collections, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.
Sapkowski's win may seem a little left-field (the favourites were Abercrombie and Brent Weeks for his Night Angel trilogy), but makes sense. Although new in English translation, his books have been published in Europe for almost twenty years, and in places like Spain, Germany, Russia and of course Poland he is mentioned in the same breath as authors such as George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan. I'd also wager that he is the biggest-selling author on the list by some margin, probably bigger than the others all put together. For a genre often completely dominated by discussions of English-language authors, seeing a European author win the first Gemmell Award was quite refreshing.
Joe took the news magnanimously, possibly because Sapkowski doesn't have a book coming out in English this year to compete with Best Served Cold at next year's awards :-)
Anyway, a good time was had by all and it was a great start to an even I suspect is going to get larger and more influential with each passing year. This year alone there were over ten thousand votes (or about fourteen times as many people who voted for the Hugo Awards last year).