The David Gemmell Awards are among the most respected awards in fantasy fiction, and their longlists alone could fuel a good-sized TBR pile for several years straight. This year the Gemmell Awards will be hosted by my sort-of-home convention Edge-Lit, in Derby, on 15th July. The longlists are open to public vote, as of today, and will be so until 31st March.
Last year, Heir to the North was nominated to the longlist of the Legend Award by some extremely generous and lovely people. That was brilliant. 🙂
This year, The High King’s Vengeance is on the Legend longlist, alongside my fellow Grimbold authors Joanne Hall (The Summer Goddess) and Joel Cornah (The Sky Slayer). But not only that – my cover artist, Jorge Luis Torres (whose portfolios you can find here and here) is on the longlist for the Ravenheart Award too.
Your votes may, or may not, make a difference – but if you enjoyed any of the longlisted books last year (mine in particular but yes, other choices are available) then please go vote.
What a weekend that was. Seriously, never has a convention felt both more and less like a holiday than this one. And I say that as a good thing, looking back at it now after all the dust has settled and we’ve shaken the sand out of our shoes and beaten off the seagulls with very long sticks. (And apologies for the belated write-up – it’s been a long month already!)
Low points? Okay, there were a few; let’s get them out of the way now so we can focus on the good stuff. The Grand Hotel was grand in name and decor, but like so many old galleons, there were leaks below the waterline, ghosts in the closet, seagulls in the bathroom… It didn’t affect me, for the most part – the room Joel Cornah and I shared had a glorious sea view and was serendipitously directly opposite our dealer’s table on the first floor balcony. It was basic, and the window onto the balcony had last closed properly in 1945, but there was a kettle, and hot water in the morning, and it was somewhere to sit and breathe for 10 minutes any time I needed to give myself a break. At conventions, that’s the most important thing.
The food? I’ve had worse at many Tesco cafes, though the scrambled eggs did stretch the definition of edible and they certainly made the homeward journey windy. The word basic will be rolled out more than twice in this post. Customer service in the bar was hopelessly slow.
The package – the convention as a whole – was excellent. I’ve always wanted to sweep down that sort of staircase with an entourage. I panelled with brilliant authors and editors. I busted the karaoke with a rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero that the audience won’t soon forget. I said hi to Joe Hill and Scott Lynch, and talked with Elizabeth Bear. I made tentative SFSF plans. For half an hour I abused my PLH to serve wine from behind the cocktail bar. James Bennett proposed marriage¹. I finally met the wonderful Stan Nicholls, and nearly made off with Pete Newman’s freshly-won Gemmell Award before he could flee with it back to the Grand. The lovely folks at Unsung Stories
And as a co-frontperson (with Joanne Hall and Joel) for the Grimbold Books stall, we defied the dispersed layouts to strike fear into the wallets of everybody at the con. 🙂
Oh, and there was the small matter of a book launch, or three. The Summer Goddess (Joanne Hall), The Book of Angels (AJ Dalton), and my own The High King’s Vengeance all got officially launched on the Friday evening in a frenzy of wine and badges. A successful little party it was, and thank you to all who came!
And last, but definitely not least, there were the British Fantasy Awards. You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t win – Zen Cho took Best Newcomer, and deservedly so to be honest – but I’m still incredibly honoured to have been shortlisted alongside such a talented fire-team of authors. That makes Zen Cho the honorary Heir to the North, I reckon.
Next up in the tour diary – Derby Writers’ Day on October 15th, and Bristolcon on October 29th. Hope to see some of you at either of those!
¹Dear reader, what can I say? I had to decline – I’m not sure Rach would have been very understanding…
Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I seem to be going the right way about it. Here’s a couple of links to pieces I’ve done in the last couple of weeks.
First up, a video interview for the SciFiFantasyNetwork, filmed at Fantasycon 2015 and hosted by the urbane and wordcrafty Joel Cornah. Please ignore the fact that I am overdue a haircut. The noise in the background is quite possibly people queuing up for the Brandon Sanderson signing.
I guess there’s a serious amount of ego and hubris involved in using the word “triumph” in the title of this blog post, and I’m usually a little more modest than that, but at the same time everybody’s got the right to blow their own trumpet once in a while and if this ain’t the time then I’ve no idea when will be, so Triumph in Nottingham it is, because Triumph in Nottingham it was!
You may have been aware that Heir to the North was launching officially at Fantasycon this year, with a proper slot in the programme and everything. If you didn’t know, then Grimbold Books’ incredible co-chief conspirator Sammy Smith made sure everybody did by the end of Saturday by also launching a very natty line in HTTN promotional t-shirts for us all to wear. Like the Fox Spirit Skulk at Edge-Lit, it turned the Grimbold posse into a brilliantly visible presence throughout the rest of Fantasycon. I reckon that helped pull in a few people for the launch itself, and it certainly made the table in the dealers’ room busier.
The launch itself – aside from mild-to-severe panic beforehand, kept pretty much under control with much appreciated help from Jo Thomas¹ – was an absolute blast. With launch music by The Fall (played through gritted teeth by Jo Hall²), I read from a fight scene in chapter five and answered questions, and then signed books for a crowd that included folks I’d never met before. That’s an incredible thing: I could happily get used to that.
The best part was that when the room emptied, the table in the dealers’ room suddenly got very busy as a result. Awesome stuff, and a day I’m not going to forget in a hurry, even if I’m having trouble remembering half of it even now (that ol’ flight or fight thing going on in the background…). But what was the rest of the convention like?
In contrast to last year’s FCon in York, where panel items happened down at the far end of long corridors, and you ran the risk of encountering a small boy on a pedal cart in the darkness, Nottingham’s De Vere Conference Venue was laid out with everything set in a square around the edges of the main Conference Theatre, in a sort of Roman villa arrangement. You could walk right around the square and see all the panel and reading rooms, the dealers’ room, and the two bars (one serving alcohol, the other intermittently not serving anything at all depending on which way the wind was blowing), and the little break-out spaces. And despite everything being closer together and the convention itself being a sell-out, it didn’t feel crowded.
That’s got a lot to do with the schedule itself. Richard Webb had done an ace job as event co-ordinator, and I could have gone to two fascinating panels in different rooms at every hour of the day, with readings and launches always competing for attention. I’m fairly sure everybody was in panels most of the time, which explains why the bar was never crammed full (well, that and the stupefying lack of food available at the venue).
As it was, I actually ended up seeing very little across the weekend, spending more time chatting and generally getting around. The Diversity in Genre was very well supported, and an hour well-spent – Laurel Sills, Naomi Foyle, Joanne Hall, Joel Cornah, Anna Smith-Spark, and Isabel Yap are all names worth following. A marketing panel moderated by Adele Wearing didn’t illuminate all the great secrets I had been hoping for but was useful nonetheless, and with my SFSF hat on I introduced myself to Gollancz’s Sophie Calder afterwards.
Last year, the disco on Saturday night was a stunning combination of book deals, bad dancing, and vodka. This year, with Sunday on my mind, I found myself trekking across Nottingham in search of a Sainsbury’s instead, and hid the packs of muffins and bottles of wine in the car rather than take them into the hotel to face the judgemental stares of the night staff. Friday night had been a different matter – karaoke courtesy of Abaddon Books: I wheeled out the big guns and swung the mic to the Cutting Crew. There’s video footage of Lee Harris (Desperado) and David Moore (Werewolves of London) which I would happily use as blackmail material if those performances weren’t so damned good. Curses, foiled again!
And talking of tour-de-force performances, the stand-out reading of the weekend was given by Anna Smith-Spark, from her agented but currently unsigned queer existential grimdark novel The Court of Broken Knives. In those shoes, with that subgenre, and a background in performance poetry to draw upon, a reading that climaxed with cries of “Death! Death! DEATH! DEATH!” was always going to be a damned hard act to follow. That book needs a home, and quick.
Brain bleach is needed to drive from my mind the conversation about BizarroCon in America early next month. Dude, watch that cattle-prod. I headed back to the Boo! Books table in the dealers’ room for more vodka-laced gummy bears after that one. Edward Cox recited his one-star Goodreads “review” (more like a bilious fart than a review). Marc Turner and Daniel Godfrey hung out at the bar; the Sinister Horror Company and Unsung Stories were great to chat to; Will MacMillan-Jones was indefatigable; the Redcloaks were stellar; there were so many people and I have so little memory…
And of course, there were the awards. Last year I live-tweeted them; this year I left that to the BFS team and just enjoyed the ceremony. Every single nominated author, artist and publisher was deserving of their success and recognition. The winners all deserved their wins. Especially, from my point of view, Juliet McKenna³ as part-recognition for her brilliant hard work on the VATMOSS quagmire (on top of a massive catalogue of fifteen novels and more stories besides), and the drop-kick ace Fox Spirit Books as Best Small Press.
Let’s do it all again, shall we? See you in Scarborough next year!