Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The David Gemmell Legend Award

It’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to dig out long frock and war-paint and head out to sparkle – and where better to exhibit such bravery than the David Gemmell Legend Award, hosted at the headquarters of The Magic Circle last Friday evening.

It was a beautifully structured event, slotted neatly together on every level of pre-preparation - and flawlessly timed on the evening itself. Fronted by the tirelessness of Debbie Miller, the experience of Stan Nicholls and the shameless in-your-face wit of James Barclay, the presentation still retained a slightly self-conscious sincerity that a larger, more established event would have lost. It was both touching and memorable; its humour completely honest.

Surrounded by the magic – and I mean the word – of the venue, the Award offered everything to touch our memories of David. Baby Snagas were offered to all five nominees – but they paled (oh did they!) beside the Raven Armouries interpretation of the Real Thing. I’ve waited twenty years to get my hands on Druss’ hardware – and apparently not in vain. It would have been against the idealistic tone of the Award to have tucked it under my frock and raced out the door with it… and, besides, I think they might have noticed…

The event was smaller than I’d guessed – but it showed a flawless ability to visualise and a genuine flair for bringing separate elements together to make it a huge success. From the gorgeous invites to the perfect canapés, from the sparkling eveningwear to the shining weapons, from the auction to the Award – it was all about the true heart of Heroic Fantasy. More than anything, it reminds us why we love the genre, why we read and/or write it, and why it holds a special place in our hearts.

Edmund Burke said, ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing’ – a quote used by David Gemmell in ‘Legend’ and recited by James Barclay at the opening of the Award presentation. Courage and triumph are ultimately intensely personal – however, the chance to stand and thank someone else is just as important as achieving your own.

More so.

Congratulations to Andrzej Sapkowski for ‘Blood of the Elves’, winner of the first David Gemmell Legend Award. May there be many more novels from his pen, and many more Award ceremonies as heartfelt and sincere as that one.

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Friday, 5 June 2009

Footage from the Forbidden Planet

You know that saying - put your money where your mouth is?

This blog has contained wa-ay too much ranting about the industry embracing new forms of media and communication - and, frankly, not enough of me shutting up and getting on with it.

It seems that - with a little judicious prodding - the Forbidden Planet rocket can fly with the times.

China Miéville reading from The City & The City

The Truth about the Wasabi Peas - starring Alex Bell, Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod

Mark Charan Newton talking about Nights of Villjamur

The first two of these were shot by the wonderful @NeilCFord; the last one teaches me that I really need to learn some proper interview techniques... :)

Look out for more of these to come!

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Wednesday, 3 June 2009

David Eddings - and Dreaming Big

This is a cheeky repost from John de Nardo’s recent Mind Meld over on SF Signal. It’s here because I’ve had a sentence from it actually quoted by two of my twitter friends today – and (rather more seriously) in the light of the tragic loss of David Eddings – a man who wrote fantasy because he was a ‘pessimist’.

Q: Why do you think there is an imbalance towards a negative futuristic outlook? How did we get here and how has this affected the genre? Can you give some examples of positive/upbeat ideas in your genre?

Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I find little negative about the genre. It can be mundane, certainly, but negative? That’s another thing entirely.

The SFFEthics mission statement wording runs, ‘We aim to leave cynicism and negativity at the door, and concentrate on what makes us smile, what entertains us…’ Accentuating the positive doesn’t need to imply that we’re surrounded by the wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

I have a very singular job – arguably, the only one of its kind. Standing for the largest specialist geek/cult/sf retailer in the world, everything I am is about celebrating the genre. Not just the literature – the ideas and creativity contained within – but the people who write it, read it and critique it. With every signing comes a celebration of that author’s work and of their fanbase – I’ve stopped counting the people who’ve driven miles to meet someone, who bring treasured first editions, who – quite literally – cry as they’re overcome by the presence of a writer who’s changed their life.

Isn’t that what we’re celebrating?

What’s positive about the genre? Everything. In the current financial climate, sales of genre literature are rising; people need escapism, new vistas and visions. And it’s not only books – it’s comics, RPGs, computer games. Our reality becomes bleaker – give us the fantastical. Give us other worlds; give us creatures of imagination that lurk beneath the surface of our own.

Popular culture doesn’t challenge us – soap operas serve only to grind it in our faces. At its height, it offers us – what? – a vicarious dream of potential celebrity, even as the media exults in tearing that celebrity down. This is what we have to aim for? I think we can do better.

Completely randomly, on the table by my elbow I have:

  • Andy Remic’s Biohell
  • David Devereux’s Hunter’s Moon
  • David Moody’s Hater
  • Liam Sharp’s God Killers
  • Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur
  • Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind
  • Tony Ballantyne’s Twisted Metal

Some I’ve read, some await that long, claustrophobic commute – and there’s an image to iconise the point. The science fiction, fantasy, horror genre takes us out of ourselves; opens our eyes and minds to a wider picture.

To achieve, one has to dream. To dream, one has to read. And the genre we read enables us, if we wish to, to dream big.

That, in itself, is a cause for celebration.

David Eddings dreamed big – the ‘Belgariad’ was a cornerstone of the fantasy genre. Thank you to Liz and Michael for the quote… but I’m sure he would have said it better.

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