It pleased me then to see that the Guardian Books Blog has sat up and taken notice, in a post called Fantasy fiction: the battle for meaning continues...
The post touches on the Gemmell award and the debate surrounding it:
As the recent announcement of the David Gemmell Legend award, and the less-than-positive response it engendered shows, contemporary fantasy is seeking to do more than just entertain the masses. While the Gemmell award highlights fantasy novels at their most commercial and generic, and has been accused of doing little more than rewarding publishers for their marketing strategy, contemporary fantasy is becoming more experimental, diverse and exciting.Interesting to see the author of the piece refer to the books 'highlighted' by the award as being 'commercial and generic.' I think that's too much of a generalisation, as you can hardly call Abercrombie's Best Served Cold generic, but it's an indication that the author agrees that the award focuses on books that are high in populararity but perhaps not necessarily quality.
The main thrust of the article though is to argue that - despite the increasing popularity of the genre and the commercial opportunities it offers - it's important to look beyond mass-market entertainment and keep the innovative, experimental elements of the genre firmly in sight:
JRR Tolkien referred to fantasy writing as mythopoeia, the creation of myth for the modern era. The best of it achieves exactly that, and deserves to be rewarded whether it be a multimillion-selling novel or a short story published in a fanzine. But as fantasy becomes more heavily commodified, it is more important still that we keep sight of what the genre can achieve beyond mass entertainment.I couldn't agree more. And the fact that it's a mainstream book blog saying this only makes it all the sweeter.