Wayne MacLaurin's 2000 Fat Fantasy Awards
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the most glamorous night in Fantasy. That night when authors, publishers and readers gather together under the crisp spring moon to witness the presentation of the most sought-after accolade, the renown Fat Fantasy Award -- an award that recognizes all that is great about our beloved genre.
OK, OK... I'll admit that some might consider a Hugo or World Fantasy Award more impressive. I'll even concede that, with this being only the third year of its existence, the Fat Fantasy award may be a bit short on renown. And since I don't actually hand out cool statuettes or cash awards, it could be argued that the glamour may be a bit lacking. But I'll guarantee that it's a crisp spring moon outside (-20 degrees Celsius when I last checked, and the moon shining brightly)!
The Fat Fantasy awards started two years ago when some of the SF Site staff were giving me a hard time about some of the fantasy I read and my, apparently unnatural, willingness to read almost anything if it: a) was fantasy, b) had a decent cover, and c) was really, really thick. When somebody made the joke that I should hand out awards for the fattest book, I just smiled and the Fat Fantasy Awards were born. The first two years (Fat Fantasy Awards: 1998 and Fat Fantasy Awards: 1999) really weren't awards; they were just my personal favourites from the year.
This year is different....
Best Series Probably Never Seen Outside of the UK [Yet!]
The Monarchies of God - Paul Kearney
I am deeply indebted to my good friend, and SF Site staffer, Neil Walsh, who pestered me about this series until I broke down and ordered it from Amazon.co.uk. Four of the five books in the series are already out and are still in print. The fifth, Ships From The West is being published this spring.
Monarchies of God is a wonderful blend of renaissance politics (complete with holy wars, sailing expeditions and barbarian invasions) and elements of sorcery and magic. The writing is superb, incredibly fast paced, with exceptionally well-developed characters and interwoven plots. At grave risk to my personal well-being (I have two young kids... the risk should be self-evident), I read all four books back-to-back over the course of a week, after they arrived from their overseas voyage.
The SF Site reviewed The Iron Wars (book three) and The Second Empire (book four) in previous issues and The Second Empire made our Top 10 List this year. As Neil says, " It's well worth the effort of tracking down these books."
[Editor's note: Since Wayne wrote this piece, we have learned that Paul Kearney has sold Monarchies of God to Berkeley Books in the US, so this terrific fantasy series should be more readily available to American readers in the near future.]
Best Duology (or Least-Shelf-Bending Fantasy Series)
Sarantine Mosaic - Guy Gavriel Kay
Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors together provide one of the best examples of how great an effect background research can have on a truly excellent story. Guy Gavriel Kay has got to be one of the hardest working authors in the business when it comes to researching his material. The elements of this series that are really background, setting and feel, all work incredibly well and provide an immensely rich backdrop against which the story is told. Even more impressive is that the main characters are "ordinary" in comparison to the stalwart heroes, adventurers and powerful mages of most fantasy. The "hero" of the tale is a mosaicist! (As in, he makes pretty pictures on walls and ceilings with little bits of coloured glass -- not the kind of guy who pops into your mind when you think of a typical swashbuckling fantasy hero.)
Fantasy Series with the Most Character Deaths and it isn't Even Half Done Yet
A Song of Fire and Ice - George R.R. Martin
When I interviewed George R.R. Martin a few months ago, I tried giving him a hard time about the body count amongst his main characters. He would have none of it, and only pointed out that war has a tendency to get people killed.
It's that sort of gritty realism that makes the first three volumes (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords) of George's six volume epic so captivating to read. But there's also a good piece of advice here: Don't get too attached to a particular character; absolutely anyone could buy it before the end of the chapter.
With each book, the praise for this series grows. It's an incredibly complex and grand tale that keeps the reader guessing at what might be next and where it might go. A perpetual favourite of the SF Site readers, the coming books of this series will no doubt find their way to these awards in future years.
Fantasy Series with the Best Chance of Damaging My Book Shelves
Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen - Steven Erikson
What can I say? From the moment Gardens of the Moon hit our radar, it and this series has been at the top of the "you must read this" pile. It's an ambitious 10-book series that blew in from Britain and just keeps gaining in popularity. Deadhouse Gates made our Top 10 List this year and I expect the next one will be even higher on the list when it appears.
Fattest Standalone Novel (which Really is a Series)
Ash: A Secret History - Mary Gentle
Again, it's hard to add much to the heaps of praise that have been given to this book. In the UK, it was published as a big beautiful hardcover (simultaneously published as a big beautiful trade paperback) and was also distributed in Canada; in the US, it was published as four mass market paperbacks with cool covers (A Secret History, Carthage Ascendant, The Wild Machines and Lost Burgundy) -- also distributed in Canada. Either way it's a riveting read that effortlessly weaves fantasy and history into a mystery novel of speculative physics.
The Fat Fantasy Award for Including Both Pirates AND Dragons in the Same Series
Liveship Traders - Robin Hobb
2000 treated us to Ship of Destiny, the final volume in Robin Hobb's latest epic. Robin Hobb continues to amaze me with how well she can tell a tale. Liveship Traders (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) is a fun-to-read series, but at the same time it's richly textured and full of detail.
The Farseer Trilogy and Liveship Traders make two bullseyes in a row for Robin Hobb. I'm betting her next shot will also be right on target.
Fattest Series that Everybody but Me Seems to Read
Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan
I did buy Winters Heart. But, I haven't read it yet. Actually, I've only read the first in what is probably the most popular series currently being published. It never really caught my fancy. But, the ever increasing sales would lead me to guess that more than a few fantasy readers disagree with me. So... take a chance if you haven't. At nine volumes and still going strong, it definitely meets the "Fat Fantasy" basic requirements. (Maybe it's just the Daryl K. Sweet covers where everybody looks furry...)
The best of the rest!!
Alright, so I ran out of clever names to use for awards. But, here are a few more examples of great fantasy books that came out this year and deserve a mention.
Tom Arden's The Orokon series (The Harlequin's Dance, The King and Queen of Swords and Sultan of the Moon and Stars) continues to draw praise and bend the shelves. The fourth book, Sisterhood of the Blue Storm was released in November 2000 and the final book, Empress of the Endless Dream is due in November 2001.
Elizabeth Haydon continues to win fans with her latest book, Prophecy, a follow-up to the much acclaimed Rhapsody.
Dave Duncan's tales of the King's Blades (including The Gilded Chain) was concluded (?) in Sky of Swords.
Soldiers Live continues Glen Cook's The Chronicles of the Black Company. It's one of my personal favourite series and I haven't missed yet by recommending this series.
Noonshade by James Barclay is the sequel to Dawnthief and reaffirms that Barclay is an author to watch.
Or, Stuff I'm looking forward to in 2001...
2001 looks like it will be a great year for Fat Fantasy. Both Tom Arden and Paul Kearney have the final installments of their series coming out. J.V. Jones should be releasing A Fortress of Grey Ice (sequel to A Cavern of Black Ice). There are new books from Raymond Feist, Sean Russell and John Marco as well as hundreds of other lovely thick tomes to paw and flip through! All in all, it ought to be a fine year.
There you have it: the 2000 Fat Fantasy Awards. I hope you'll find something here that you haven't read yet and be encouraged to track it down. See you all next year.
So many books, so little time!
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