By David Pomerico, Executive Editor – Harper Voyager
So…a long, long time ago, this happened at New York Comic Con, and I meant to do a write-up, but things got nuts, and…
Anyway, on Thursday afternoon at New York Comic Con (2015, if you’re wondering), I somehow convinced six authors to combine two things I love: Fantasy books and fantasy sports. Combining ideas that I had brainstormed years ago with colleagues at Del Rey (Kaitlin Heller, who co-founded “Cage Match” on Suvudu, and David Yoo, who brainstormed with me the feasibility of a Fantasy fantasy league), the concept was pretty simple:
Four authors would draft a dream team questing party…and two other authors would mock their choices.
Each author would have to pick at least one of each:
A magic user/sorcerer/witch
And a Wild Card (so, basically, anyone)
With those parameters in mind—and really not much other criteria—we were ready to draft!
The teams were being picked by four fantasy authors, in this order:
Bradley Beaulieu (whose name I unfortunately mangled even after practicing it in front of him in the hall—sorry, Brad!): Author of the TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI, as well as the Lays of Anuskaya series.
Sarah Beth Durst: Middle grade, YA, and adult author of many books, including THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM. Has a new adult fantasy series with Harper Voyager in Fall 2016, starting with THE QUEEN OF BLOOD.
Zac Brewer: New York Times bestselling author (under the pseudonym Heather Brewer) of the Slayer Chronicles, the Vladimir Tod books, and his most recent, THE CEMETARY BOYS.
Eleanor Herman: New York Times bestselling author of SEX WITH KINGS and SEX WITH QUEENS, and LEGACY OF KINGS: BLOOD OF GODS AND ROYALS, the first book in a YA series about Alexander the Great.
Starting things off, Bradley chose his magic user: The Lady, from Glen Cook’s Black Company books, setting the tone for a draft that was going to not simply be chock full of “who you expect.”
Sarah followed with her cleric, picking Sephrenia from David Edding’s Elenium and Tamuli series.
Zac, with the third pick, chose his magic user, Raistlin from the Dragonlance series (to much applause), and Eleanor ended the first round with her warrior, Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING.
To be fair: there was commentary during the picks (including particular interest in killing ten-year-olds and poop—don’t ask), but here the analysis really started to shine—like the golden skin of Raistlin, who seemed to be the consensus “best pick” that round.
What followed was a snake format—so that meant Eleanor picked first in the second round, Bradley in the third round, and so on.
It was a fairly smooth process (despite none of the panelists having ever drafted in fantasy sports before), but we did hit a snag early in the second round when Zac picked his cleric:
Immediately the question was: is Voldemort technically a cleric (the best kind of cleric)? When polling the judges, Sam was swayed by Zac’s arguments, but to say that Naomi was not would be a bit of an understatement.
Cult leader? Dark Lord? Went to wizard school?
There was definitely controversy. So we asked the fans…and by a fairly large margin, the audience decided to let it stand.
Meaning Zac now had two of the most evil magic users on his team, in Raistlin and Voldemort (I didn’t think of it at the time, but I do wonder if he could have just switched the two, since Raistlin was—at least for a moment—a god. Oh, well).
Ultimately, the rounds ended up looking like this:
Brad was going for an all-ego team; Sarah for balance/multi-taskers; Zac wanted to put together an all-evil team; and Eleanor for balance as well.
With that in mind, this is how their teams looked:
Which meant Naomi and Sam had some tough choices.
I’ll admit here that part of the problem was one of criteria: what necessarily made the best team? Was it ability to work with each other? If so, Zac’s crew was definitely out, and Bradley’s team probably wasn’t going to work. Was it power? Then maybe Sarah or Eleanor had the advantage, although Zac’s team was very strong.
Or was it simply the ability to beat up another’s team?
In the end, the judges had mixed feelings, but tended towards Sarah and Eleanor’s team. And when the audience was asked, it was clear that Eleanor’s first pick in the fourth round, Hermione Granger, carried an awful lot of weight.
By round of applause (the most accurate barometer of popular opinion), Eleanor’s team was acclaimed the best!
(The winner hoisting a victory cup; picture courtesy of Siena Koncsol)
But what do you think? Which author do you think drafted the best overall fantasy team? Again, the criteria is vague, but the stakes are very real.*
Check out the poll at the bottom, and make sure to make your voice heard in the comments.
And hopefully we’ll be able to have the same fun again next year!