I had the pleasure of attending the Black Library weekender on 18th-19th November. I don’t usually attend these kinds of things but I decided to brave it on my own this year and I was very glad that I did.
I wondered just how big such an event was going to be but as soon as I entered the hotel there was no missing that Black Library had essentially taken over the hotel. The foyer was essentially one big Black Library bookshop, full of pre-releases and special editions. I was fairly conservative in my spending; only getting five books to mainly fill some gaps in my Horus Heresy series collection.
The day was split in to a number of seminars with a quick opening address at the start of the first day. After the opening address I attended a discussion about the new Space Marine Conquests series. It is essentially a continuation of the Space Marine Battles Series but taking it to be up-to-date with ‘current’ events in the universe. On the panel were Phil Kelly, Guy Haley and Gav Thorpe, with Nick Kyme as the host. It was interesting to hear the summaries of their new novels; off the strength of Guy Haley’s talk I ended up buying the Devastation of Baal. They also talked about the difficulties of writing about space marines in general (i.e. limited emotional range) and the new primaris space marines and how they fit in with their ‘lesser’ brethren. All in all it was an excellent start to the day.
Next up was probably my favourite seminar of the whole weekend: Beyond the Scenes of Audio Dramas and Audio Books with Toby Longworth. Toby voices a lot of the Black Library audios, in particular he is the voice of Garro in the excellent audio dramas that James Swallow has written. The seminar covered the process of making an audio and Toby was an excellent speaker for it. He also covered the difficulties of coming in to Warhammer pretty much blind, as well as delving in to his general acting and voice career. It was a very enjoyable session and off the back of it I think I’ll purchase a few more audio dramas, particularly as I’m now back to the joy of commuting in London.
The next seminar was one of the reasons I bought my ticket, to hear Dan Abnett talk about his new Gaunt’s Ghosts novel: The Warmaster. Dan was surprising candid about his reasons for the long gap between novels, essentially saying he had fallen out of love with 40k and the Black Library. I had wondered why he hadn’t written much for them recently but it looks like he’s back again and has a lot of new novels and ideas coming up. With regards to the Warmaster, it sounds like an excellent new chapter in Gaunt’s Ghosts, getting to the heart of the Sabbat Worlds crusade for the first time. He also announced that the next in the series (the Anarch) is being written and should be with us in the near(ish) future. Also of interest was that Matthew Farrar is writing a novel that is almost a companion to the Warmaster, it being a Space Marines book focussing on the wider battle for Urdesh at the same time that the Warmaster is set.
Another reason for me buying my ticket was the next seminar: The Road to Terra (Horus Heresy) with Nick Kyme Hosting, Aaron Demski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, John French and Chris Wraight. As the title suggests, they discussed the path to finishing the epic series that is the Horus Heresy. There was a lot of good general chat about pivotal novels that each of the authors had written in the series so far, particularly Dan Abnett talking about Know no Fear (one of my favourite HH novels). John French mentioned a novel he was currently working on (the name escapes me) that will depict the traitors breaching the outer defences for the road to the Solar System as they frantically try and reach Terra before the Ultramarines counter-attack in overwhelming force: that is a novel I want to read! Coming back to the Siege of Terra, although they wouldn’t give away any final plans (if indeed they have any), they did suggest that the Siege will be a multi-novel event. I think that is a great move and I think anywhere between three and five novels is required to do it justice.
Next up I went a bit left-field and went to a seminar entitled: Boots on the Ground: Writing for the Astra Militarium with John D Hill and Chris Dows. I’ve read a few short stories by both authors but I’m not overly familiar with their work, however they produced an excellent discussion about how to write for the only truly human protagonists in the 40k universe. They both mentioned they preferred writing for Astra Militarium precisely because they are humans and their emotions and actions are significantly more relatable. I’ve found that with some Black Library fictions, it is a lot easier to read (for example) a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel then a blood-curdling novel based just on Space Marines, precisely because you can relate to and emphasise with the characters a lot better. I was particularly excited by Chris Dows’s mention of a real-time audio drama that will be ready soon, depicting a cobbled together Shadowsword tank-crew taking on Titans.
To finish the day, I decided to take the opportunity to get a few of my books signed by Dan Abnett. I brought along the first three novels of Gaunt’s Ghosts, all editions I had bought back in the late 90s / early 00s. After a very long queue I was pleased to meet the man himself and rather unwisely make him feel old when I said I’d read First and Only when I was 12. He’s a thoroughly nice man though and his patience with all fans was immense, signing as many books as people wanted and having pictures taken.
On to the second day I started with a seminar on Chris Wraight’s Inquisition series and specifically on the Vaults of Terra. Dan Abnett was the surprise guest at this and the seminar evolved in to an excellent discussion between the two on the nature of Terra itself. It was entertaining to hear the two of them talk at length about what Terra means and how it has evolved from the time of the Horus Heresy to the ‘current’ era of 40k. I haven’t read any of Chris Wraight’s inquisition books but off the back of this I will be purchasing them.
Torn between a number of options, I decided next to go to the seminar on writing about xenos. It was with Gav Thorpe and Andy Clarke, with C.L. Werner (wearing the best outfit of the weekend) joining in part way through. It was an interesting discussion with Gav talking about writing from an alien viewpoint from his numerous Eldar novels, Andy focussing on Orks and Werner with his unique take on Genestealers from his novel Cult of the Warmason.
I finished the weekender with Dan Abnett discussing his new Eisenhorn novel. Even ahead of Gaunt’s Ghosts, the Eisenhorn trilogy is my favourite set of Black Library novels and has resulted in Dan Abnett probably being my favourite author (Black Library or otherwise). I was excited to learn from the talk that a new Eisenhorn book is coming out early next year. Not only will it contain a new Eisenhorn full-length novel, it will also contain eight short stories. If there is one book I’m buying next year it is definitely this.
That was the end of my Black Library Weekender and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If I’d not had such a busy and tragic time recently (house move, bereavement, and family illnesses) then I would have been a lot more prepared, had more detailed notes and even taken some pictures. If they hold it again though I think I’ll go next year and I’d recommend that any Black Library fan does also.