THE DAVID GEMMELL AWARDS FOR FANTASY2009-2018

I thought it was a good idea to make some of the various images I post in my monthly news updates more accessible by gathering them together in one place.

 

David Gemmel Awardsl

The purpose of this gallery is to preserve images from the ten years of the Gemmell Awards' existence.  By way of background, here's an extract from the introduction I wrote for Legends: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell, edited by Ian Whates (NewCon Press, 2013), one of three volumes that helped financially support the awards.

When David Gemmell died on 28th July 2006, aged 57, friends and colleagues wanted to find a way to honour his life and work. The consensus was to create an award in Gemmell’s name.

Apart from commemorating a widely admired author, we felt there was a need for a proper award for fantasy. By which I mean what might be called “pure” fantasy - the kind Gemmell wrote - that, at least here in the UK, seemed unregarded. Science fiction, horror, crime and other genres have their prizes, we reasoned, so why not fantasy?

We had a false start. Perhaps we were too many cooks, with too many diverse ideas about what we wanted to do and how to do it.  In any event the project went into abeyance for a while.

The impasse was broken by the writer and Gemmell protégé Deborah Miller. Rather than endless discussion and urging other people to do something, she argued, we had to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. More than anything else, Deborah’s drive and determination was what made the dream a reality.

Deborah Miller
Deborah Miller

A core committee was formed, with Deborah as Award Administrator. Gareth Wilson, who has a good claim on being David Gemmell’s Number One Fan, came aboard as our Webmaster. Mike “Sparks” Rennie, who’s provided the Tech/Logistics for numerous conventions, agreed to do the same for us; and Christine Harrison brought her fiscal expertise to the role of Treasurer. My wife, Anne Nicholls, took on editorship of the award ceremony programme book, and I had the honour of being offered the position of Chair, which after a brief period of trepidation and false modesty, I accepted.

We wanted to create an award recognising the best fantasy novel of any given year. What else could we call it but the Legend Award, after Gemmell’s first, most celebrated novel?

There were three options: 1) have a jury decide; 2) have the public determine a shortlist and a jury settle the final outcome; 3) have a completely open vote with no jury.

Every juried award, particularly in a specialist area like fantasy, has the perennial problem of finding suitable judges. We considered a number of ways to resolve this problem, including the possibility of having a judging panel drawn from a pool of fantasy readers. But the massive amount of reading involved - our first longlist ran to over ninety titles - and the fact that we couldn’t reimburse people for their time and effort, made that a big ask.

Adopting the second option - part public vote, part jury - would boil the longlist down to a manageable number, but didn’t solve the practical difficulty of finding suitable judges.

In arriving at the decision to adopt a totally open vote we weren’t being critical of awards that choose the juried route. We’ve no doubt that their verdicts are reached honourably. But apart from the practicable considerations involved in mustering juries we have what might be called a philosophical objection to that way of doing things. Frankly, the idea of a small group handing down pronouncements about what deserves an award and what doesn’t strikes us as almost elitist, and against the spirit of our times. In an age when masses of ordinary people use technology to topple despotic regimes and change government policies, surely they can be trusted to vote for a book award.

When our committee has to confront difficult decisions we have a simple rule of thumb - “What would Dave have wanted?” Knowing the importance he placed on readers, we’re sure Gemmell would have favoured as democratic a system as possible when it came to an award bearing his name. So we put our faith in the wisdom of crowds.

We attracted some criticism for having a public vote. In the same way that we would have been criticised if we’d gone with a jury. One objection was that readers would band together to vote for their favourite author.  But unless people are being strong-armed into voting in some unimaginable way, then presumably they really do favour the writer they’re voting for, whether in unison with others or not. If some kind of partiality should creep in - although it’s difficult to think how it might - our contention is that a sufficiently large pool of voters dilutes it to the point of insignificance.

This is how the process works. A longlist is compiled from titles submitted by publishers, and the public are welcome to suggest additional titles they think worthy and eligible. The longlist is voted on and the five titles with the most votes forms the shortlist. A second round of votes determines the winner.  We have robust systems in place to prevent multiple voting.

We didn’t know what to expect in our first year. In the event, the Legend Award garnered many thousands of votes from 75 countries.

Simultaneous with working out how, we were looking for where. After investigating numerous venues, we decided on The Magic Circle headquarters in London’s Euston. To say the place has character would be an understatement, and we loved its eccentricity and intimacy from the minute we stepped over the threshold.

With the how and where sorted, we turned our minds to what. We wanted something special as a trophy. Simon Fearnhamm of the Raven Armoury volunteered the perfect solution - a half-sized replica of Snaga, the awesome axe wielded by Gemmell’s illustrious hero Druss. Simon’s Snaga is a truly beautiful hand-crafted artefact. With a price tag of approximately £3000 when made to commission, we believe it to be the most valuable trophy on offer in the fantasy/sf fields.

With the permission and support of Dave’s widow Stella and the Gemmell family, and the backing of the publishing and speculative fiction communities, our first presentation took place at The Magic Circle on 19th June 2009. We were particularly pleased that Dave’s daughter Kate and son Luke were able to join us for the ceremony. We began with a spirited reading from Legend by James Barclay, yet another of Dave’s friends. James’ opening recitations from Gemmell’s works, and his conduct of an auction of fantasy memorabilia that precedes the presentation, became invaluable staples of our ceremonies.

Other “Friends of the Awards” as we like to think of them - people not actually on the committee but who have proved unstinting in helping the process run smoothly - include, among others, Deborah Miller’s daughter Tiffany Lau, Mark Yon, Nick Summit, Elaine Clarke, Anna Kennedy, Rachel Oakes and, again keeping it in the family, our daughter Marianne Fifer.

The first winner of the Legend Award defied expectations - Andrzej Sapkowski’s Blood of Elves, a novel translated from Polish. The four runners-up each received a “baby Snaga” by way of compensation, a practice we continued until our stockpile ran out.

Buoyed by the success of our initial ceremony, we decided to add two new categories in 2010. The Morningstar Award honours the best debut novel, something we thought especially important as David Gemmell was noted for the help and encouragement he gave to many aspiring writers. The Ravenheart Award was designed to recognise the best fantasy cover art, an aspect of the genre we felt deserved acknowledgement. We were now officially The David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy.

That year the Morningstar went to Pierre Pevel for The Cardinal’s Blades and the Ravenheart to Didier Graffet for the cover of Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. The Legend was again a surprise but richly deserved. It went to Graham McNeill for Empire.

2010 was also notable in that we welcomed SFX, the UK’s number one sf and fantasy magazine, as our media partner.

2011 saw the Morningstar awarded to Darius Hinks for Warrior Priest, the Ravenheart to Olof Erla Einarsdottir for the cover of Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts, and the Legend to Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings.

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear  took the Legend Award in 2012; Helen Lowe’s The Heir of Night the Morningstar, and Raymond Swanland the Ravenheart for his cover for William King’s Blood of Aenarion.

One of the things that’s delighted us about the awards is their international flavour, with prizes going to authors and artists from France, Iceland,Poland and the US as well as the UK. Proof, if it was needed, that the literary expression of the fantastic knows no borders.

This year has seen a tragedy, and great sadness for everyone involved with the awards. On 6th May Deborah Miller passed away. She was 50 years old.

Deborah had first been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and went into remission several times. The condition surfaced again early in 2013, and she fought it with her usual resolve, but treatment proved ineffective. She passed peacefully, with her husband, Bill, at her side on 13th May.

Deborah faced her illness with courage and good humour. It’s a testament to her resolve that, despite her illness, she found the strength to do so much for the Gemmell Awards.

David Gemmell Awards Committee and helpers 2009
The committee and helpers on stage at The Magic Circle during the first award ceremony in 2009.

The Magic Circle

We couldn't have wished for a better venue than London's Magic Circle, where the awards were held for their first five years.  It's an extraordinary building, and these photos give a taste of it.

The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle 

The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle


Here's a breakdown of the awards ceremonies by year.

Year One: 19th June 2009; The Magic Circle, London.

David Gemmell Awards
2009 programme book

In our first year there was just one category, the Legend Award for best fantasy novel, as decided by an open vote.

Snaga, the Legend Award trophy
Snaga, the Legend Award trophy


A “baby Snaga”

The nominations and winner for 2009 were:

Joe Abercrombie for Last Argument of Kings
Juliet Marillier for Heir to Sevenwaters
Brandon Sanderson for The Hero of Ages
Brent Weeks for The Way of Shadows
Winner: Andrzej Sapkowski for Blood of Elves

Blood Of Elves

Some photos from the event:

Stan Nicholls and Deborah Miller
Deborah Miller and Stan Nicholls presenting

Anne Nicholls
Anne Nicholls presenting

James Barclay reading from David Gemmell's Legend
James Barclay reading from David Gemmell's Legend

David Gemmell's daughter, Kate, and son, Luke
David Gemmell's daughter, Kate, and son, Luke presenting

Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie accepting his baby Snaga

James Barclay
James Barclay conducting the charity auction

Gemmell Awards
l-r: Simon Fearnhamm, me, Deborah Miller, Luke Gemmell, Jo Fletcher

Juliet E McKenna and Robert Holdstock
Juliet E McKenna and Robert Holdstock

Simon Fearnhamm and Stan Nicholls
Simon Fearnhamm (Raven Armoury) and me with the Swords of Night and Day

Deborah Miller and Stan Nicholls
Deborah and me with the Swords of Night and Day


Kate, Jo Fletcher, Luke

Danie Ware,  Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards
Danie Ware with Snaga; Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards

Stan Nicholls with Elaine Clarke and Anna Kennedy
With nieces, and stewards for the evening, Elaine Clarke and Anna Kennedy


With a gift basket from Gollancz

All the above photos were taken by Peter Coleborn.

Shortly after the event,  Andrzej Sapkowski, who couldn't attend, sent us these photos from his home in Poland:

Andrzej Sapkowski

Andrzej Sapkowski

Andrzej Sapkowski' Gemmell Award

In the awards' second year we introduced two additional categories – the Morningstar Award for best debut and the Ravenheart Award for best cover art. Here are the trophies we used at that point. (The Ravenheart was changed in 2014, the Morningstar in 2015. More on that later.)

The David Gemmell Morningstar Award  The David Gemmell Ravenheart Award

We made the announcement about the new categories in a panel at the SFX Weekender, held at Camber Sands in February 2010. Apologies for the quality of these photos, which isn't great.

Gemmell Awards committee, SFX Weekender, held at Camber Sands February 2010

l to r: Richard Morgan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Joe Abercrombie, me, Deborah Miller, SFX Editor-in-Chief Dave Bradley.

Gemmell Awards committee, SFX Weekender, held at Camber Sands February 2010

Gemmell Awards committee, SFX Weekender, held at Camber Sands February 2010

Gemmell Awards committee, SFX Weekender, held at Camber Sands February 2010

 

We were also invited to discuss the Gemmells on a panel about genre awards at Odyssey, 2010's Eastercon, held at Heathrow.


l-r: Anne Nicholls, Juliet McKenna, me, Arthur C Clarke Award's Tom Hunter, Deborah.

Year Two: 18h June 2010; The Magic Circle, London.

Gemmell Awards 2010 programme book
2010 programme book

The nominations and winners for 2010 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Joe Abercrombie for Best Served Cold
Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for The Gathering Storm
Pierre Pevel for The Cardinal's Blades
Brandon Sanderson for Warbreaker
Winner: Graham McNeill for Empire

Empire by Graham McNeill

 

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Jesse Bullington for The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grosshart
Stephen Deas for The Adamantne Palace
Amanda Downum for The Drowning City
Ken Scholes for Lamentation
Winner: Pierre Pevel for The Cardinal's Blades

Pierre Pevel - The Cardinal's Blades

 

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Jackie Morris for The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Larry Rostant for Fire by Kristin Cashore
Jon Sullivan for The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel
Jon Sullivan for Empire by Graham McNeill
Winner:Didier Graffet, Dave Senior and Laura Brett for Best Served Cold
by Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold

Graham McNeill
Graham McNeill

Pierre Pevel
Pierre Pevel

The Ravenheart winners
The Ravenheart winners

Joe Abercrombie and James Barclay
Joe Abercrombie and James Barclay

Deborah Miller & Mark Yon
Deborah Miller & Mark Yon

Aex Davis, Graham McNeill, Nick Kyme
Alex Davis, Graham McNeill, Nick Kyme

Anne Nicholls
Anne Nicholls

Graham with Snaga
Graham with Snaga

Drinks in the Devant room
Drinks in the Devant room

Year Three: 17h June 2011; The Magic Circle, London.

Gemmell Awards 2011 programme book
2011 programme book

The nominations and winners for 2011 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)*

Peter V Brett for The Desert Spear
Markus Heitz for War of the Dwarves
Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for Towers of Midnight
Pierre Pevel for The Alchemist in the Shadows
Brent Weeks for The Black Prism
Winner: Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings
(* There were six shortlisted titles as two were tied.)

The Way Of Kings

 

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Blake Charlton for Spellwright
NK Jemisin for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Alex Pehov for Shadow Prowler
Mary Victoria for Tymon's Flight
Winner: Darius Hinks for Warrior Priest

Warrior Priest

 

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Todd Lockwood for The Ragged Man by Tom Lloyd
Cliff Nielson for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
Jon Sullivan for Shadow King by Gav Thorpe
Frank Victoria for Tymon's Flight by Mary Victoria
Winner: Olof Erla Einarsdottir for Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts


Preparing for the ceremony

Anne Sudworth and Anne Nicholls
Guest presenter Anne Sudworth and Anne Nicholls preparing

Juliet McKenna and Rachel Oakes
Guest presenter Juliet McKenna and helper Rachel Oakes getting ready


Rehearsing


The audience begins to arrive

Anne & Stan Nicholls presenting at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Anne & Stan Nicholls presenting

James Barclay reads from David Gemmell's Shield of Thunder at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
James Barclay reads from David Gemmell's Shield of Thunder

Ravenheart guest presenter Anne Sudworth with Anne Nicholls at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Ravenheart guest presenter Anne Sudworth with Anne Nicholls

Olof Erla Einarsdottir's Ravenheart acceptance speech at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Olof Erla Einarsdottir's Ravenheart acceptance speech

Olof Erla Einarsdottir, Anne Nicholls and a baby Snaga at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Olof Erla Einarsdottir, Anne Nicholls and a baby Snaga

Morningstar guest presenter Juliet McKenna and winner Darius Hinks with his trophy at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Morningstar guest presenter Juliet McKenna and winner Darius Hinks with his trophy

James Barclay conducts the auction at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
James Barclay conducts the auction

Graham McNeill
2010 winner Graham McNeill prepares to present 2011's Legend Awardat the 2011 Gemmell Awards

2011 Gemmell Awards. Gollancz's Simon Spanton accepts the Legend Award on behalf of Brandon Sanderson
Gollancz's Simon Spanton accepts the Legend Award on behalf of Brandon Sanderson

 

2011 Gemmell Awards. Simon Fearnhamm of Raven Armoury with the full-size Snaga he created
Simon Fearnhamm of Raven Armoury with the full-size Snaga he created


The trophies

Les Edwards, Dominic Harman and Chris Baker at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Artists Les Edwards, Dominic Harman and Chris Baker

James Barclay, Mark Yon and Marcus Gipps of Gollancz at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
James Barclay, Mark Yon and Marcus Gipps of Gollancz

Juliet McKenna, Sarah Pinborough and Jan Edwards at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Juliet McKenna, Sarah Pinborough and Jan Edwards

Jo Fletcher and Stephen Jones at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Jo Fletcher and Stephen Jones

Chris Baker and Ian Whates at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Chris Baker and Ian Whates (with Tommy Cooper muscling in)

Anne Nicholls and Anna Kennedy at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Anne Nicholls and Anna Kennedy

Stephen Jones, Sarah Pinborough, Kim Newman, Les Edwards at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Stephen Jones, Sarah Pinborough, Kim Newman, Les Edwards

Graham McNeill and Darius Hinks at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Graham McNeill and Darius Hinks

Nick Cirkovic, Anne Sudworth and the Swords of Night and Day at the 2011 Gemmell Awards
Nick Cirkovic, Anne Sudworth and the Swords of Night and Day

The above photographs by Nick Cirkovic, Peter Coleborn and Stan Nicholls.

Year Four: 15th June 2012; The Magic Circle, London

Gemmell Awards 2012 programme book
2012 programme book

The nominations and winners for 2012 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Joe Abercrombie for The Heroes
Kristen Britain for Black Veil
William King for Blood of Aenarion
Brandon Sanderson for Alloy of Law
Winner: Patrick Rothfuss for The Wise Man’s Fear

Patrick Rothfuss -The Wise Man’s Fear

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Elspeth Cooper for Songs of the Earth
Douglas Hulick for Among Thieves
Mark Lawrence for Prnce of Thorns
Peter Orullian for The Unremembered
Winner: Helen Lowe for The Heir Of Night

Helen Lowe -The Heir Of Night

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Aaron Briggs for Journey By Night by Kim Falconer
Didier Graffet, Dave Senior & Laura Brett for
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
Larry Rstant for Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
Frank Victoria for Oracle's Fire by Mary Victoria
Winner: Raymond Swanland for Blood Of Aenarion by William King

Blood Of Aenarion - William King

An invitation. We were still at the point where the name hadn't quite transformed to The David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy.


Deborah Miller and Stan Nicholls presenting at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Deborah Miller and Stan Nicholls presenting
Deborah Miller and Stan Nicholls presenting at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

Anne Nicholls reads an extract from David Gemmell's Waylander at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Anne Nicholls reads an extract from David Gemmell's Waylander

Chris Morgan conducts the auction at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Chris Morgan conducts the auction as Deborah Miller peeps from the wings
Chris Morgan conducts the auction at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

Chris Baker presents the Ravenheart Award at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Chris Baker presents the Ravenheart Award
Chris Baker presents the Ravenheart Award at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Chris Baker presents the Ravenheart Award at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

Deborah Miller presents the Morningstar Award to Helen Lowe at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Deborah Miller presents the Morningstar Award to Helen Lowe
Deborah Miller presents the Morningstar Award to Helen Lowe at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Deborah Miller presents the Morningstar Award to Helen Lowe at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

Amanda Foubister and Stephen Jones at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Amanda Foubister and Stephen Jones announce that the following year's awards will be staged at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, of which they were the principal organisers.

The David Gemmell 2012 Legend Award presentation
The Legend Award presentation
The David Gemmell 2012 Legend Award presentation
The David Gemmell 2012 Legend Award presentation
The David Gemmell 2012 Legend Award presentation

Gemmell Awards 2012 The post-ceremony get-together
The post-ceremony get-together
Gemmell Awards 2012 The post-ceremony get-together

Dominic Harman and Anne Sudworth at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Dominic Harman and Anne Sudworth

Ian Whates and Author Ian Graham at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Ian Whates and Author Ian Graham

Michael and Sarah Ash at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Michael and Sarah Ash

Les and Val Edwards at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Les and Val Edwards

Marie O'Reagan & Paul Kane at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Marie O'Reagan & Paul Kane

Lou & Joe Abercrombie at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Lou & Joe Abercrombie

Stan and Anne Nicholls at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Stan and Anne Nicholls

Juliet McKenna at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Juliet McKenna

Sarah Pinborough at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Sarah Pinborough (+ unknown)

Michela D'Orlando at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Michela D'Orlando

Kim Newman at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Kim Newman

Chris Baker, Rachel Oakes, Anna Calderwood at the 2012 Gemmell Awards
Chris Baker, Rachel Oakes, Anna Calderwood

Stan Nicholls, Rachel Oakes, Anne Nicholls, Anna Calderwood  at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

Stan Nicholls, Rachel Oakes, Anne Nicholls, Anna Calderwood

Photographs in above section by Sandy Auden, Jonathan Green, Stephen Jones, Orbit, Sarah Pinborough, SFX magazine, Tor and Ian Whates.

Year Five: 31st October 2013; World Fantasy Convention, Brighton.


2013 programme book

2013 was an eventful year for us, and not always for good reasons.  This is from that year's programme book:

Debbie Miller, RIP

Deborah Miller presents the Morningstar Award to Helen Lowe at the 2012 Gemmell Awards

 

Debbie Miller, author, friend and a mainstay of the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, passed away peacefully in her sleep on 7th May 2013 after a long and spirited fight with cancer.  She first came to prominence as Miller Lau, author of the Talisker books.  Like Debs herself, Talisker was a feisty Scot.

She was a great admirer of Dave Gemmell, having spent time with him at various conventions and at the writing course he offered at Fenn Farm.  Having valued his support and inspiration, after his untimely death she was one of the driving forces behind the Gemmell Awards.  She wanted other authors to know they weren't just shouting from the bottom of a well.

Debs is sadly missed by family and friends.

On a more positive note, 2013 was the first year when we didn't use The Magic Circle as our venue, having accepted an invitation to stage the awards ceremony at the prestigious World Fantasy Convention in Brighton.

The nominations and winners for 2013 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Joe Abercrombie for Red Country
Jay Kristoff for Stormdancer
Mark Lawrence for King of Thorns
Helen Lowe for The Gathering of the Lost
Winner: Brent Weeks for The Blinding Knife

Brent Weeks - The Blinding Knife

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Saladin Ahmed for Throne of the Crescent Moon
Miles Cameron for The Red Knight
Aidan Harte for Irenicon
Jay Kristoff for Stormdancer
Winner: John Gwynne for Malice

John Gwynne - Malice

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Dominic Harman for Legend of Shadow by Michael J Ward
Clint Langley for Besieged by Rowenna Cory Daniells
Silas Manhood for The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks
Colin Thomas and Neil Lang for Stormdancer
Winner: Didier Graffet and Dave Senior for Red Country
by Joe Abecrombie

Red Country by Joe Abecrombie


The audence take their seats

James Barclay recites a scene from David Gemmell's Legend at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
James Barclay recites a scene from David Gemmell's Legend
James Barclay recites a scene from David Gemmell's Legend at the 2013 Gemmell Awards   James Barclay recites a scene from David Gemmell's Legend at the 2013 Gemmell Awards

Anne & Stan Nicholls introduce, and remember Deborah Miller  at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Anne & Stan Nicholls introduce, and remember Deborah Miller
Anne & Stan Nicholls introduce, and remember Deborah Miller  at the 2013 Gemmell Awards

James Barclay conducts the auction  at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
James Barclay conducts the auction
James Barclay conducts the auction  at the 2013 Gemmell Awards

Ian Whates of NewCon Press announces the Legends anthology  at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Ian Whates of NewCon Press announces the Legends anthology
Ian Whates of NewCon Press announces the Legends anthology at the 2013 Gemmell Awards

Freda Warrington presents the Ravenheart Award to Didier Graffet at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Freda Warrington presents the Ravenheart Award to Didier Graffet

Michael Marshall Smith presents the Morningstar Award to John Gwynne at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Michael Marshall Smith presents the Morningstar Award to John Gwynne

Stella Gemmell presents the Legend Award at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Stella Gemmell presents the Legend Award
Stella Gemmell presents the Legend Award

A representative for Brent Weeks accepts the Legend Award at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
A representative for Brent Weeks accepts

Post ceremony drinks:

John Gwynne and family at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
John Gwynne and family

Michael and Sarah Ash at the 2013 Gemmell Awards
Michael and Sarah Ash with the auction item they secured

THE LEGENDS ANTHOLOGY

2013 saw the publication of the first Legends anthology, from NewCon Press, which helped financially support the awards.  In a much appreciated show of support, all the contributors donated their stories for free.

The contents:

Introduction - Stan Nicholls
Or So Legend Has It - James Barclay
A Blade to the Heart - Gaie Sebold
Return to Arden Falls - Ian Whates
The Drake Lords of Kyla - Storm Constantine
A Tower of Arkrondurl
- Tanith Lee
Who Walks With Death - Jonathan Green
Skipping Town - Joe Abercrombie
Land of the Eagle - Juliet E McKenna
All Hail to the Oak - Anne Nicholls
Swords and Circle - Adrian Tchaikovsky
Fairyland - Jan Siegel
Mountain Tea - Sandra Unerman
The League of Resolve - Stan Nicholls

The book was launched straight after the awards ceremony, with editor Ian Whates, Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay, Jonathan Green, Tanith Lee, Juliet E McKenna, Jan Siegel, Adrian Tchaikowsky, cover artist Dominic Harman, Anne and myself present.  Here are some photos from the signing:

Year Six: 13th June 2014; The Magic Circle, London


2014 programme book

Back to The Magic Circle, and a new Ravenheart trophy, designed and made by the very talented Lee Blair.  Showing David Gemmell's first and most popular character, Druss the Axeman, atop the battlements of Dros Delnoch, we now had a trophy as unique as the Legend Award Snaga.


This is the “pewter” version. A full colour variant was later introduced:


Stella Gemmell commented, “I like the bust a lot. It's full of character, and I know Dave would love it too.”

David Gemmell's daughter, Kate, and Lee Blair at the 2014 Gemmell Awards
David Gemmell's daughter, Kate, and Lee Blair

The nominations and winners for 2013 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Peter V Brett for The Daylight War
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson for A Memory of Light
Scott Lynch for The Republic of Thieves
Adrian Tchaikovsky for War Master's Gate
Winner: Mark Lawrence for Emperor Of Thorns

Mark Lawrence Emperor Of Thorns

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Mark T Barnes for The Garden of Stones
David Guymer for Headtaker
Antoine Rouaud for The Path of Anger
Luke Scull for The Grim Company
Winner:Brian McClellan for Promise Of Blood

Brian McClellan Promise Of Blood

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Benjamin Carre for The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Cheol Joo Lee for Skarsnik by Guy Haley
Gene Mollica and Michael Frost for Promise of Blood
by Brian McClellan
Rhett Podersoo for She Who Waits by Daniel Polansky
Winner: Jason Chan for Emperor of Thornsby Mark Lawrence*

*Cover as above in Legend Award list.

Guest presenters Dave Bradley, John Gwynne and Les Edwards at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Guest presenters Dave Bradley, John Gwynne and Les Edwards

Traditional reading from David Gemmell's work  by James Barclay at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Traditional reading from David Gemmell's work by James Barclay

Stan and Anne Nicholls introducing at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Stan and Anne Nicholls introducing
Stan and Anne Nicholls introducing at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy


The trophies

James Barclay conducting the auction at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
James Barclay conducting the auction

Ian Whates announcing the forthcoming publication of Legends 2  at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Ian Whates announcing the forthcoming publication of Legends 2. (More about this below.)

Les Edwards presenting the Ravenheart Award at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Les Edwards presenting the Ravenheart Award
Les Edwards presenting the Ravenheart Award at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy

Ravenheart accepted by representative of Jason Chan at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Ravenheart accepted by representative of Jason Chan

Morningstar Award presented by previous year's winner John Gwynne at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Morningstar Award presented by previous year's winner John Gwynne
Morningstar Award presented by previous year's winner John Gwynne at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy

John Gwynne and Brian McClellan at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
With representative of winner Brian McClellan

SFX magazine editor Dave Bradley presents the Legend Award at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
SFX magazine editor Dave Bradley presents the Legend Award
SFX magazine editor Dave Bradley presents the Legend Award at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy

Adrian Tchaikovsky in audience at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Shortlisted author Adrian Tchaikovsky in audience


 Mark Lawrence's Legend Award was accepted by his agent Ian Drury, shown here (centre) with the other winners.

Presenters, winners and representative at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Presenters with winners and representative

After the ceremony …

Stella Gemmell
Stella Gemmell

James Brogden and Adrian Tchaikovsky
James Brogden and Adrian Tchaikovsky

Nicola Sinclair, Sara Mulryan, Emily Fay-Lunn
Nicola Sinclair, Sara Mulryan, Emily Fay-Lunn

Michela D'Orlando and Fran Lacuata
Michela D'Orlando and Fran Lacuata

Dave Bradley, Ian Whates, Helen Sansum
Dave Bradley, Ian Whates, Helen Sansum

Theresa Derwin and Raven Dane
Theresa Derwin and Raven Dane

Pauline & Chris Morgan, Jan Edwards
Pauline & Chris Morgan, Jan Edwards

John Gwynne and family
John Gwynne and family

Jo Fletcher and husband Ian Drury
Jo Fletcher and husband Ian Drury

John Gilbert
John Gilbert

Paul Kane and Marie O'Reagan
Paul Kane and Marie O'Reagan

Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones

Marianne Fifer
Our daughter, Marianne Fifer, collecting the signatures of authors and artists on a “lawn sign”

Photographs in this section by Peter Coleborn, John & Caroline Gwynne, Ian Whates and me.

 

THE SECOND LEGENDS ANTHOLOGY

Although announced during 2014's awards ceremony in June, Legends 2 was actually published three months later and launched at that year's Fantasycon.

The contents:

1. Introduction – Stan Nicholls
2. The Blessed and the Cursed – Gav Thorpe
3. A Rescue – Mark Lawrence
4. The Lowest Place – Edward Cox
5. The Giant’s Lady – Rowena Cory Daniels
6. An Oath Given – John Gwynne
7. The Singer – Stella Gemmell
8. Sandrunners – Anthony Ryan
9. Smokestack Lightning – Gavin Smith
10.Oak – Lou Morgan
11.An Owl in Moonlight – Freda Warrington
12.Heaven of Animals – John Hornor Jacobs
13.The Iron Wolves: Retribution – Andy Remic

Year Seven: 8th August 2015; Nine Worlds Geekfest, Heathrow, London

We were on the move again in 2015, having accepted an invitation to stage the awards at a relatively new, and as it turned out short-lived, multi-stream convention.

We finally managed to introduce a new Morningstar trophy in that year, again a splendid creation by Lee Blair:

David Gemmell Rantasy Awards 2015 Morningstar trophy

Gemmell Awards 2015 programme book
2015 programme book

Nominations and winners for 2015 were:

Legend Award  (Best novel)

Joe Abercrombie for Half a King
John Gwynne for Valour
Mark Lawrence for Prince of Fools
Brent Weeks for The Broken Eye
Winner: Brandon Sanderson for Words of Radiance

Brandon Sanderson - Words of Radiance

Morningstar Award  (Best debut)

Sebastien de Castell for Traitor's Blade
Kameron Hurley for The Mirror Empire
Ben Peek for The Godless
Angus Watson for Age of Iron
Winner: Brian Staveley for The Emperor's Blades

Brian Staveley The Emperor's Blades

Ravenheart Award  (Best cover art)

Laura Brett for The Slow Regard of Silent Things
by Patrick Rothfuss
Mike Bryan for Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Jason Chan for Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Jackie Morris for Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Winner: Sam Green for Words Of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson*

*Cover above in the Legend Award listing.

Stan and Anne Nicholls presenting at the 2015 Gemmell Awards
Presenting

The 2015 Gemmell Awards trophies
The trophies

Stan Nicholls, Anne Nicholls and Juliet E. McKenna
Juliet E. McKenna steps up to undertake a reading from David Gemmell's work
Juliet E. McKenna with Anne Nicholls at the 2015 Gemmell Awards

Gaie Sebold presents the Ravenheart Award at the 2015 Gemmell Awards
Gaie Sebold presents the Ravenheart Award
Gaie Sebold presents the Ravenheart Award at the 2015 Gemmell Awards

Gollancz's Simon Spanton accepts the 2015 Ravenheart on behalf of Sam Green
Gollancz's Simon Spanton accepts the Ravenheart on behalf of Sam Green

Adrian Tchaikovsky presents the 2014 David Gemmell Morningstar Award
Adrian Tchaikovsky presents the Morningstar Award

Bella Pagan accepts the 2014 David Gemmell Morningstar Award from Adrian Tchaikovsky on behalf of Brian Staveley
Bella Pagan accepts on behalf of Brian Staveley
Bella Pagan accepts the 2014 David Gemmell Morningstar Award from Adrian Tchaikovsky on behalf of Brian Staveley

SFX magazine editor Richard Edwards presents the 2014 David Gemmell Legend Award
SFX magazine editor Richard Edwards presents the Legend Award
SFX magazine editor Richard Edwards presents the 2014 David Gemmell Legend Award

Simon Spanton
Simon Spanton accepts for Brandon Sanderson

Post-ceremony, Ian Whates hosted a signing for Legends 2:

Ian Whates, with Stan Nicholls, hosts a signing for Legends 2 at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards

Ian Whates hosts a signing for Legends 2 at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards

From the post-ceremony party:

Author Sebastien De Castell with members of the Gwynne family at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards
Author Sebastien De Castell with members of the Gwynne family

Ian Drury and Jo Fletcher at the 2014 David Gemmell Awards
Ian Drury and Jo Fletcher

Photos in this section by Sandy Auden, John & Caroline Gwynne and Rachel Oakes.

Year Eight: 24th September 2016; Fantasycon, Scarborough

The David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy 2016 programme book
2016 programme book

In 2016 we were happy to accept an invitation from the Fantasycon committee, led by Alex Davis, to present the awards at their convention, held in the northern seaside resort of Scarborough.

Grand Hotel Scarborough 2016
Convention site the Grand Hotel

Nominations and winners for 2016 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Miles Cameron for The Dread Wyrm
Larry Correla for Son of the Black Sword
David Guymer for Gotrek & Felix: Slayer
John Gwynne for Ruin
Winner: Mark Lawrence for The Liar's Key

Mark Lawrence The Liar's Key

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Stephen Aryan for Battlemage
Seth Dickinson for The Traitor
Francesca Haig for The Fire Sermon
Lucy Hounsom for Starborn
Sabaa Tahir for An Ember in the ashes
Winner: Peter Newman for The Vagrant

There were six finalists as two titles tied.

Peter Newman The Vagrant

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Kerem Beyit for The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron
Larry Elmore & Carol Russo Design for Son of the Black Sword
by Larry Correia
Raymond Swanland for Archaon: Lord of Chaos by Rob Sanders
Paul Young for Ruin by John Gwynne
Winner: Jason Chan for The Liar's Keyby Mark Lawrence

Cover below Legend Award listing above.


The audience assembles

Phil Lunt reads from David Gemmell's Legend at the 2016 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Phil Lunt reads from David Gemmell's Legend

Anne and Stan Nicholls MC-ing at the 2016 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
Anne and Stan Nicholls MC-ing
Anne Nicholls MC-ing at the 2016 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy

NewCon Press' Ian Whates updates the audience about progress on Legends 3 at the 2016 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy
NewCon Press' Ian Whates updates the audience about progress on Legends 3

Andy Remic presenting the 2016 David Gemmell Ravenheart Award.
Andy Remic about to present the Ravenheart Award.

Before he handed over the trophy Andy had the audience in stitches reading from letters he wrote to David Gemmell, and the replies he received.

2016 David Gemmell Ravenheart Award

Scott Lynch presents the 2016 David Gemmell Morningstar Award
Scott Lynch presents the Morningstar Award

2016 David Gemmell Morningstar Award. Peter Newman's acceptance speech
Peter Newman's acceptance speech
2016 David Gemmell Morningstar Award. Peter Newman's acceptance speech

Francis Hardinge presents the 2016 David Gemmell Legend Award
Francis Hardinge presents the Legend Award

HarperCollins editor Natasha Bardon accepts both the 2016 David Gemmell Ravenheart and Legend Awards on behalf of their winners
HarperCollins editor Natasha Bardon accepts both the Ravenheart and Legend Awards on behalf of their winners


A tussle for the trophy

Disaster was narrowly averted during the Legend Award presentation. Simon Farnhamm and the Raven Armoury crew were held up in traffic with the Snaga trophy on board. Forunately they arrived just as the presentation was ending.

A few photos from after the ceremony:

Stan Ncholls and Phil Lunt
Stan Ncholls and Phil Lunt

Anne Nicholls and Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Anne Nicholls and Jon Courtenay Grimwood


This item about the awards featured in the following month's edition of the leading American sf&f news/reviews magazine Locus:

Photos in this section by British Fantasy Society, Peter Coleborn, Andy Remic, Helen Sansum.

Year Nine: 15th July 2017; Edge-Lt 6, Derby

David Gemmell Awards 2017 programme book
2017 programme book

2017 saw the Gemmell Awards roadshow at another venue – Edge-Lit in Derby.

Nominations and winners for 2017 were:

Legend Award (Best debut)

John Gwynne for Wrath
Jay Kristoff for Nevernight
Mark Lawrence for The Wheel of Osheim
Brandon Sanderson for The Bands of Mourning
Winner: Gav Thorpe for Warbeast

Gav Thorpe Warbeast

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

Mark de Jager for Infernal
Christopher Husberg for Duskfall
Adrian Slby for Snakewood
Jon Skovron for Hope and Red
Winner: Megan E. O’Keefe for Steal the Sky

Megan E. O’Keefe Steal the Sky

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Jason Chan for Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
Same Green for The Bands of Mourning by
Brandon Sanderson
Kerby Rosanes for Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Paul Young for Wrath by John Gwynne
Winner: Alessandro Baldasseroni for Black Rift by Josh Reynolds

Black Rift Josh Reynolds

Guest presenters Tom Hunter, Joanne Harris and Samantha Shannon at the pre-ceremony run-through for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2017
Guest presenters Tom Hunter, Joanne Harris and Samantha Shannon at the pre-ceremony run-throug

Phil Lunt reads from David Gemmell's Ironhand's Daughter at the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2017
Phil Lunt reads from David Gemmell's Ironhand's Daughter
Phil Lunt reads from David Gemmell's Ironhand's Daughter at the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2017

Anne and Stan Nicholls presenting at the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2017
A welcome from Anne and Stan Nicholls

Phil Lunt and Alex Davis conduct the auction at the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2017
Phil Lunt and Alex Davis conduct the auction

Arthur C Clarke Award Chair Tom Hunter presents the 2017 David Gemmell Ravenheart Award
Arthur C Clarke Award Chair Tom Hunter presents the Ravenheart Award

Rachel Harrison of Black Library accepts the 2017 Ravenheart trophy for Alessandro Baldasseroni
Rachel Harrison of Black Library accepts the Ravenheart trophy for Alessandro Baldasseroni
Rachel Harrison of Black Library accepts the 2017 Ravenheart trophy for Alessandro Baldasseroni

Samantha Shannon presents the 2017 David Gemmell Morningstar Award
Samantha Shannon presents the Morningstar Award
Samantha Shannon presents the 2017 David Gemmell Morningstar Award

Matt Dovey of Angry Robot accepts the 2017 Morningstar for Megan E O’Keefe
Matt Dovey of Angry Robot accepts the Morningstar for Megan E O’Keefe
Matt Dovey of Angry Robot accepts the 2017 Morningstar for Megan E O’Keefe

Joanne Harris presents the 2017 Legend Award
Joanne Harris presents the Legend Award
Joanne Harris presents the 2017 Legend Award

Winner Gav Thorpe accepts the 2017 David Gemmell Legend Award from Joanne Harris
Winner Gav Thorpe accepts

Photos in this section by Sandy Auden and Caroline Gwynne.

 Year Ten: 14th July 2018; Edge-Lit 7, Derby

The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy 2018 programme book
2018 programme book

We were back at Edge-Lit in Derby for the final Gemmell Awards presentation.

 

Nominations and winners for 2018 were:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Miles Cameron for The Fall of Dragons
Mark Lawrence for Red Sister
Steve McHugh for Scorched Shadows
Brandon Sanderson for Oathbringer
Winner: Robin Hobb for Assassin’s Fate

Robin Hobb Assassin’s Fate

Morningstar Award (Best debut)

RJ Barker for Age of Assassins
Melissa Caruso for The Tethered Mage
Ed McDonald for Blackwing
Anna Smith Spark for The Court f Broken Knives
Winner: Nicholas Eames for Kings of the Wyld

Nicholas Eames Kings of the Wyld

Ravenheart Award (Best cover art)

Kerem Beyit for The Fall of Dragons by Miles Cameron
Seth Green for Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Jackie Morris & Stephen Raw for Assassin's Fate
by Robin Hobb
Kerby Rosanes for Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
Winner: Richard Anderson for Kings of the Wyld
by Nicholas Eames

Cover above at end of Morningstar Award listing.

 

Prior to the ceremony I undertook an on-stage interview with historical novelist
Conn Iggulden, who has cited Gemmell as a big influence on his writing, and we got to talk about that.  Unfortunately I have no photos of that interview, but here's a stock shot of Iggulden:

Conn Iggulden

That was followed by a panel entitled The Life and Legacy of David Gemmell:


l-r: me, Andy Remic, Anna Smith Spark, Gav Thorpe

Venue: The Quad -

Phil Lunt
The ceremony opened with a reading from Legend by Phil Lunt


A welcome from Anne and Stan
Stan and Anne Nicholls


The Ravenheart Award was presented by Anna Stephens

RJ Barker
The trophy was accepted on behalf of Richard Anderson by RJ Barker
The 2018 David Gemmell Ravenheart Award was presented by Anna Stephens to RJ Barker, who accepted the award on behalf of Richard Anderson, the 2018 award winner

Following the auction, presented by Phil Lunt and Alex Davis, the result of the Morningstar Award was announced. Having never actually presented a trophy myself, I thought it was time to take on this task myself.

Stan Nicholls

Nazia Khutan, of Orbit Books, accepted the 2018 David Gemmell Morningstar Award on behalf of  Nicholas Eames. Presented by Stan Nicholls.
Nazia Khutan, of Orbit Books, accepted on behalf of Nicholas Eames

As Andy Remic's reminiscences about his correspondence and subsequent meetings with David Gemmell had gone down so well at the 2016 ceremony at Fantasycon, we invited him back for an extended reprise:

Gav Thorpe
The Legend Award was presented by the previous year's winner, Gav Thorpe

Naturally we didn't expect Robin Hobb to travel from her home in the USA on the possibility of winning. But due to a last-minute hitch, her UK publisher failed to make available a representative to accept on her behalf, the only time that happened in the history of the awards. The trophy finally made its way to her and in due course she issued a message thanking all who voted.


Gav Thorpe and Anne Nicholls with Robin Hobbs' 2018 David Gemmell Legend Award Snaga
Gav Thorpe and Anne Nicholls with Robin Hobbs' Snaga

The third and final volume in Legends series of anthologies from NewCon Press was published in May 2019.

The contents:

Introduction by Stan Nicholls
Blood Debt –
Gail Z. Martin
A God’s Mercy –
Richard Webb
Berserker Captain –
Neal Asher
The Price of Passage
– Keris McDonald
Summoner
– Danie Ware
Pelicos the Brave and the Princess of Kalakhadze
– Steven Poore
The Timekeeper’s Tarot –
Den Patrick
Her Grail –
Ben North
Piercing the Mist –
Shona Kinsella
Chosen of the Slain –
K.T. Davies
The Dying Land –
Nick Watkinson
A Hero of Her People –
Anna Smith Spark
All Deaths Well Intention’d –
RJ Barker
By Any Other Name –
Justina Robson

I think it's appropriate to put my introduction to Legends 3 here, in a slightly shortened form, as it contains a fairly detailed account of the awards and, more importantly, credits all involved.

 
Wearing my journalist’s hat I first met David Gemmell in 1991, in the run-up to the publication of the first of his two novels about Alexander the Great, Lion of Macedon.  My friend Deborah Beale (now Mrs Tad Williams), who was Gemmell’s editor at the time, invited me to interview him, and assured me he’d make an ideal subject.  That was no lie.

I knew Gemmell’s name but confess that I hadn’t read any of his books, although he’d had eight or nine published at that point.  So I applied the due diligence all interviewers should carry out and set to reading them, starting with his 1984 debut, Legend.  I loved it.  It had a few flaws common to a maiden novel but they were nothing compared to its raw power and compelling narrative.

As I worked my way through his subsequent titles - The King Beyond the Gate, Waylander, Quest For Lost Heroes and the rest - I witnessed an author displaying increasing confidence and a powerful talent for storytelling.  His characters were a cut above most in the fantasy genre at that time - heroes and villains alike were neither all good or totally bad.  They were imperfect, like real people.  He put this down to the fact that in many cases his characters actually were drawn from real people, based on the thousands he interviewed as a reporter.  Gemmell also had an enviable skill in using minimum words to achieve maximum emotional impact, in a clean, accessible style.  This, too, he attributed to his years in journalism, which demands clarity and pace.

Stuffed with research I arrived at his Hastings home for the interview, which was scheduled to last for 90 minutes.  By the time I was poured into a taxi to catch the last train back, some seven hours later, we’d got through four packs of cigarettes (I was almost as dedicated a smoker as he was at that time), a bottle of brandy and a bottle of champagne (quite something for me as I drink so little I could officially be classed teetotal).

We spoke a great deal about his books and writing generally, as you’d expect, but the conversation ranged much wider than that.  I think one reason we got on, apart from our mutual association with journalism and authorship, and a passion for fantasy, was because we shared similar backgrounds.  We both grew up in humble circumstances in London - he West, me North - without benefit of a father; though that changed for Dave when his stepfather, Bill Woodford, the inspiration for Legend’s Druss the Axeman, came on the scene.  When my interview with Dave was published he liked it and was good enough to get in touch and say he thought I’d represented him well.  (A somewhat expanded version of the piece was subsequently included in my book Wordsmiths Of Wonder: Fifty Interviews With Writers Of The Fantastic; Orbit, 1993.)

Dave Gemmell was a poser.  That isn’t my word; he used it about himself.  He put something of that aspect of his personality into Rek, one of the principal characters in Legend, who despite being a bit of a show-off ended up doing what was right.  In a way, Dave couldn’t help making an impact physically, being very tall and fairly muscular; and he often dressed flamboyantly, sporting his trademark leather cowboy hat.  He was a big man with a personality to match.  Couple that with the fact that he was as much of a raconteur in person as he was on the page and you have a clue as to why his personal appearances and public talks were so entertaining.

But don’t run away with the wrong idea.  He had a sharp sense of humour,  and many of his anecdotes were self-depreciating.  One example that comes to mind was an occasion when he gave a talk to a packed bookshop.  The organisers had placed a trestle table on the stage, stacked high with his books.  He sauntered on, struck a pose, and made to lean casually with one hand on the table.  Which promptly collapsed, taking him with it.  Covered in books, he had the presence of mind to call out, “Can you hear me at the back?”

In early 1992 Dave agreed to having Legend turned into a graphic novel, and I was delighted, and a little taken aback, when he asked me to handle the adaptation.  The artwork was by Chris (Fangorn) Baker, who did a fantastic job, with lettering by comicbook veteran Elitta Fell, all of us under the editorship of John Jarrold.  The really nice thing about the project was that Dave gave us an almost entirely free hand.  Given how important the book was to him, that was very generous, and trusting, on his  part.  The graphic novel was published the following year.  By which time our team had embarked on a second graphic novel adaptation, of Gemmell’s Wolf In Shadow, which came out in 1994.

When we were touring to promote the Legend graphic novel, Dave did something for which I’ll be eternally grateful.  He introduced me to science fiction author Anne Gay, who later became my wife.  I was never entirely sure if that had been his plan all along.  I suspect it was, even if Dave was an unlikely Cupid.  So when we came to marry, in the Spring of 1997, it was only natural that I should ask him to be my best man.  He attended with his first wife, Val.

We decided that we’d like a couple of readings from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet during the ceremony and Dave, who knew and favoured the book himself, offered to do it.  Now, neither of us were really suit people – one of the great things about being a freelance is that you get to dress casually – and as we sat there in our ill-fitting outfits waiting for the future Anne Nicholls to arrive Dave began patting his unfamiliar pockets.  What he wasn’t keen on letting most people know - the poser again - was that he occasionally needed reading glasses, particularly on this occasion as the text from The Prophet was in quite a small typeface, and he’d forgotten to bring them.  When the time came for him to go to the lectern we feared disaster.  But he recited the passages, one quite long, from memory.  We thought that was really impressive.  He explained later that he’d always had a good memory and learned to discipline it further when working as a journalist .  I asked him if he’d acquired any other skills.  He said that in order to get through lengthy signing sessions he’d taught himself to be ambidextrous.  I told him I was amazed that he could breathe underwater.

I last spoke to Dave, on the phone, the day before we lost him.  He’d been in Alaska with his second wife, Stella, when he was taken ill.  Rushed back to the UK he was diagnosed with a serious heart problem (probably exacerbated, it has to be said, by nicotine addiction).  He underwent major surgery at London’s Wellington Hospital, coincidentally situated just a couple of streets away from where I was born and brought up.  Our final conversation took place when he was back home convalescing.  We spoke about mortality.  I remember telling him I was sure he’d still be telling stories when he was 90, that he’d outlive all of us.

David Gemmell died on the morning of 28th July 2006.  He was found sitting at his desk in his study.  The PC was on, and he’d been working on the final volume of his Troy trilogy.  He was 57 years old.

I won’t try to describe the effect his passing had on his family and friends, and indeed his many readers.  The sense of shock, of loss.  The unfairness of it.

When things settled down there was a general feeling that Dave’s life and work should be commemorated in some way.  I think one of the first people to articulate the idea of an award in his name was the author David Lee Stone.  Others supported the idea.

Dave acted as a mentor to a lot of people, and there are quite a few writers out there, not only in the fantasy genre, who are indebted to him for the help and breaks he gave them.  This wasn’t something he shouted about.  He saw giving aspiring writers a leg up as something  he could do and no need to boast about it.  He had a similar attitude to charity.  For example, I’d known him for years before I found out, quite by chance, that he’d been financially supporting a local women’s refuge.

One protégé was Deborah Miller (published as Miller Lau) who was especially keen to repay Dave’s kindness by honouring his name.  Deborah became the driving force behind establishing an award.  She charmed, cajoled, enticed and bulldozed a bunch of us into forming a committee and getting on with it.  I was made an offer which in all conscience I couldn’t refuse and accepted the role of Chair.  Deborah was so focused on the job that the awards might well have not happened without her single-minded determination.  Even so, it took over two years of discussion and organising to get the thing off the ground.  Finally, with the approval and support of Stella Gemmell, and Dave’s children, Kate and Luke, we got it into shape.

Adopting what became something of a mantra for us - “What would Dave have wanted?” - we decided that the recipient of our proposed award should be arrived at by an open vote.  We felt, as we were sure he would, that readers were a vital part of the process, and if they were good enough to buy books they were good enough to vote.  Once we’d got all the publishers to submit relevant titles (which we characterised as “in the spirit of David Gemmell”) and weeded out the ineligible science fiction, horror and even crime novels we’d been sent, we posted the longlist online for the first round of voting.  It ran to almost a hundred titles.

There have been very few attempts to game or otherwise nobble the awards.  But the most blatant was in that first year.  Someone used a program that generated over 100,000 votes for one particular author!  As if we wouldn’t notice.  Fortunately we had very robust security.  We were able to trace the origin of the bogus votes, which were of course removed, and block the source.  Genuine votes in that first year amounted to well over 30,000, which we regarded as a great start.

We had just one category that first year - the Legend Award for best heroic/epic fantasy.  Simon Fearnhamm of Raven Armoury, who had been another of Dave’s friends, very generously donated the specially made trophy, a beautifully fashioned scaled down reproduction of Snaga the Sender, Druss’s butterfly axe.  Generous indeed, as it was priced at around £3,000.  We believe it was one of the most valuable literary prize trophies in any genre.

That initial awards ceremony took place in the theatre of the Magic Circle’s HQ in  London on 18th June 2010, which proved an ideal venue.  The shortlist of contenders was very strong, consisting of Joe Abercrombie, Juliet Marillier, Brandon Sanderson, Andrzej Sapkowski and Brent Weeks.  Sapkowski emerged as the winner for his novel Blood of Elves.

We were keen to add more categories to the awards, and the following year we introduced another two.  The Morningstar Award honoured  debut fantasy novels, which we felt appropriate given Gemmell’s support for new writers.  The Ravenheart Award was for the best cover artwork/design, in acknowledgement of the importance of this aspect of a book’s presentation.  We were very fortunate in having the stunning Morningstar and Ravenheart trophies designed and made by artist Lee Blair.

We had many ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments with the awards over the years.  But none as sad and traumatic as the loss of Debbie Miller, who succumbed to breast cancer on 7th May 2013.  She fought the condition with great spirit and dignity, and all we achieved with the awards is dedicated to her memory.

The Magic Circle was our default home over the years, but we also had the privilege of staging our ceremony at the World Fantasy Convention (2013), Nine Worlds Geekfest (2015), Fantasycon (2016) and Edge-Lit (2017/2018).  We were grateful to the organisers of all those events for allowing us to be part of them.

I don’t want this to look like the end credits of a blockbuster movie, but the many people who contributed so much to the awards over the years, and made them possible, deserve credit.  Our Awards Administrators included Alex Davis (along with his Assistant Administrator Claire Thomas), Christine Harrison and Juliet McKenna.  The important role of IT/Website Manager was ably filled by Sky Campbell and Gareth Wilson.  Awards Ceremony Tech/Logistics was in the capable hands of Mike (‘Sparks’) Rennie, and the editorship and layout of the souvenir programme books was undertaken by Anne Nicholls.

We always opened our ceremonies with a reading from one of Gemmell’s novels - often Legend - and featured a popular fund-raising auction.  These two spots were performed with relish by James Barclay, Phil Lunt and Chris Morgan.  The ceremonies were recorded for posterity by Official Photographers Sandy Auden and Peter Coleborn.

Another tradition was having Guest Presenters hand out the trophies in each category.  In this respect we’re very grateful to Chris Baker, Les Edwards, Richard Edwards, John Gwynne, Frances Hardinge, Joanne Harris, Tom Hunter, Scott Lynch, Juliet McKenna, Andy Remic, Gaie Sebold, Samantha Shannon, Michael Marshall Smith, Anna Stephens, Anne Sudworth, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gav Thorpe and Freda Warrington.

Also deserving of thanks are the “Volunteers on the night”, who assisted in the smooth running of the ceremony, and various other folk who helped out in diverse ways - Jannie van den Boogaard, Nick Cirkovic, Liz de Jager, Mark de Jager, Dominic Harman (who also created the splendid Legends covers, of course), Derrick Lakin-Smith, Tiffany Lau (Deborah Miller’s daughter), Lauren McLean, Rachel Oakes, Pixie Peigh (and all the Redshirts) and Mark Yon.  Not forgetting our daughter and son-in-law, Marianne and Nick Fifer, and our nieces  Elaine Clarke and Anna Kennedy.  Thanks also to early sponsors Bragelonne, our media partner SFX magazine, and all the publishers that nominated titles, donated auction items and supported us in other ways.  Very special thanks go to Ian Whates (who was himself part of our ceremony on several occasions) for putting together this and the previous volumes of Legends which have been so helpful in financially supporting us. Naturally the same goes for all the writers who very generously contributed stories.  

Post credits sequence.

When a favourite writer leaves us, part of the sadness is in knowing there will be no further work from them.  That seemed to be the case with David Gemmell. Until three years ago, when his widow, Stella, came across an unpublished manuscript by him.  It’s perhaps not generally known that early in his career Dave had ambitions to be a crime writer.  He wrote at least two novels in that genre.  One, published under the pseudonym Ross Harding in 1993, was entitled White Knight, Black Swan.  It had a fairly small print-run, hardly any promotion and was more or less unremarked on at the time.  Long out of print, copies commanded very high prices.  White Knight, Black Swan was finally “properly” published, under his real name, last year.

But the other, unknown crime novel, Rhyming Rings, had never seen print.  No one’s quite sure why, or whether he even showed it to his then agent or submitted it to a publisher.  All that seems clear, from indications in the text, is that it was probably written in the late 1980’s.  In 2017 Gollancz published the book, as “by David Gemmell”.  Conn Iggulden supplied an introduction and I was honoured to be asked to write an afterword.  Although it isn’t a fantasy - it’s a thriller about a serial killer - it seems to have gone down well with the fans.

That made a nice footnote to a distinguished career.

Stan Nicholls
Chair
The David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy
2009-2018

Some photos of David Gemmell.

From a signing on 2nd March 1991, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware:

David Gemmell. From a signing on 2nd March 1991, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware.

David Gemmell. From a signing on 2nd March 1991, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware.

From a signing in 1999, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware

David Gemmell. From a signing in 1999, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware.

David Gemmell. From a signing in 1999, courtesy of Forbidden Planet/Danie Ware.

My obituary of David Gemmell from The Times,1st August 2006:

Stan Nicholls' obituary of David Gemmell from The Times,1st August 2006

A memorial service was held at St James's Church, Piccadilly on 30th October 2006.

Memorial service for David Gemmell. St James's Church, Piccadilly on 30th October 2006

Memorial service for David Gemmell. St James's Church, Piccadilly on 30th October 2006

Memorial service for David Gemmell. St James's Church, Piccadilly on 30th October 2006

Memorial service for David Gemmell. St James's Church, Piccadilly on 30th October 2006


 

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