This was ably conducted/performed by Stan Nicholls and his wife Anne, Deborah Miller and James Barclay - who opened proceedings with a rousing perfomance of Druss's call to arms, and later ran the charity auction with great humour and also creditable briskness. That raised over £1100 for Medecin Sans Frontieres by the way, a cause close to David Gemmell's heart. Stan and Anne were close friends of David (as indeed were Deborah and James)and so their explanations of the award's founding as well as their reflections on David Gemmell's work and life made this a very personal event. Not in any mawkish fashion, but in blending affection and respect.
Actually that combination of affection and respect characterised the entire evening and the assembled company. We all - writers, publishers, readers, commentators - were united in our enjoyment of fantasy fiction and also in our conviction that it is a genre deserving of serious consideration and respect, as a commercial and as a literary genre. There could have been no better visual reflection of that than seeing everyone dressed up to the code of black tie/evening dress with the greatest of pleasure. (There were even dress kilts!)
The whole event ran very smoothly, even when the very occasional shuffling of paper prompted either Stan or James to offer an (unnecessary) apology that this event is still a work in progress, what with it being the first year. Well, I wouldn't even have mentioned that if it weren't for a comment by Alain Nevant of Bragelonne, the event's main sponsor and France's premier SF&F publisher. He remarked that life is a work in progress, and that making progress is what life is all about! It struck me then how apt that is as an observation on so much of fantasy fiction.
Alain also remarked on the family feel of the evening (David's children Kate and Luke actually opened the final gold envelope). He observed that one of things about family is being stronger together. Well, the number of people who've taken part in this first award make up a clan to be reckoned with. Over the two rounds of voting, 10,963 individual votes were cast, from 74 countries (including soldiers on active service and oil rig workers - who I know from personal conversations find the escapism in fantasy wholly desirable and valuable).
I see two significant things from these numbers. Firstly, it validates an award made on a popular vote. This question of votes vs juries is a complex one and I'm not about to debate it here beyond saying there are advantanges and disadvantages to both approaches. For a popular vote, there have to be enough votes to make it worthwhile. I'd say the Gemmell is off to a fabulous start there!
Secondly, it shows that the readership instinctively understood what was meant by 'in the spirit of David Gemmell's work' as the remit for the award. That was borne out by the shortlist: Joe Abercrombie - Last Argument of Kings; Juliet Marillier - Heir to Sevenwaters; Brandon Sanderson - The Hero of Ages; Andrej Sapkowski - Blood of Elves; Brent Weeks - The Way of Shadows.
A truly international line-up, including one woman, one debut author, one established author new in English translation - and all books, despite their differences, reflecting the best aspects of the fantasy genre. And in case you haven't already heard, first among equals was judged to be Andrez Sapkowski's Blood of Elves. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!
So, if you're not already involved, click through to the official award site. We're all already looking forward to next year!