Black Library Live 2012

As most of the fandom knows, two weekends back was Black Library Live, which is (so far, at least until November hits) Black Library’s premier event of the year where their authors, editors, and the fans of course all come together for a weekend at Warhammer World, Nottingham. It would be a big understatement for me to say that I was very excited to be attending it, my first Black Library event ever.

Note: Games Day Los Angeles 2008 and Games Day UK 2011 don’t really count.

My expectations of the event were met and surpassed pretty much every single hour of the event itself and all the fun that was had on Friday/Saturday evenings and on Sunday itself.

Day 1

Upon landing in London on Friday afternoon, I met up with Liliedhe (who had traveled all the way from Austria) at St. Pancras International station and we set out from there for Nottingham aboard the East Midlands Train. The EMT is like the coziest, most comfortable and relaxing train service ever. Period. We chatted about random BL stuff, mostly discussing some of our favourite authors, books and what not. The 2 hours to Nottingham passed quite quickly and we were soon in the home-town of Games Workshop.

Since I was going to be bunking with the fabulous MisterEd at the Travelodge and he wasn’t going to be arriving till late in the evening, I stashed my stuff at Liliedhe’s hotel (the Holiday Inn) and we then made our way towards Warhammer World where the Bolthole crew was going to be gathering for the evening.

I should also point out at this time that Liliedhe gave me her spare copy of Aaron Dembski Bowden‘s limited edition Horus Heresy novella Aurelian, the gold one mind you. That’s score one for yours truly out of this event.

Aurelian Gold, thanks Liliedhe!

Reaching Warhammer World was convolutedly simple since the lady at the hotel reception gave us roundabout instructions to get there from the hotel but we made it all the same. Even bumped into Editor-extraordinaire Laurie Goulding just outside the GW HQ as he was leaving. Greetings and handshakes were exchanged and we were informed that Bugman’s was a riot before he left. Or something along those lines, I forget.

Being the first time for either of us, we went through the entrance to Warhammer World to get inside and promptly ran into some familiar and some not-so familiar faces at the gaming tables. Narrativium and Raziel were playing their Black Legion Chaos Marines and Gallack Bears Space Marines against each other on one of the tables while Schaferwhat and Maugan Ra were playing their Space Marines and Imperial Guard against each other on another table. Major Rawne and Xisor were also in attendance and it was great to finally put their faces to the forum names.

Always fun.

Watching a 40k game after like nearly three years was so exciting, I can’t even begin to tell you. Quite silly, but I do feel proud of remembering the fact that Assault Marines get three attacks on the charge which I hope helped Raz in his game. Another thing that I can’t remember for the life of me.

We chatted for a bit with these fine fellows and also met Ballistichimp who told us that the rest of the (currently) assembled gang was waiting in Bugman’s, the entrance to which was across the hall. We passed the fantastic cover art posters that the Black Library crew was putting in the gaming hall in preparation for the event and my, they looked stunning. The posters that is!

So we stepped through into Bugman’s and lo behold, we were met by no less than William King (Gotrek & Felix, Ragnar, Tyrion & Teclis) himself, Josh Reynolds (Knight of the Blazing Sun), Sarah/Pyroriffic (The Gildar Rift, Valkia), as well as the fabulous couple of Jeff Preston and Kay Preston alongwith the infamously not-a-girl, Squiggle. Once again, greetings were exchanged, hands were shaken and, true to form, Sarah was the giver of warm welcomes as always.

For some reason, shaking hands with Mr. King is like shaking hands with a legend. Quite surreal for me really since his Grey Hunter was my first ever 40k read AND purchase AND is what got me hooked into the world of Games Workshop to begin with. That he is such a relaxed, easy-going person is just gravy.

This was going to be a fun, fun night.

And it all started really well of course when Jeff handed me my copy of Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale Omnibus, a collection I’ve been after in print form for a couple months now. Quite a hefty tome, certainly compares favourably to the Black Library omnibuses.

The hefty Erevis Cale Omnibus. So wanna read this!

Lot of people trickled in one by one or in twos as the evening progressed, and it was great to meet with Erunanion, Razhbad, MalkyDel and the others, as well as Bod and Editor Premier Christian Dunn, whom I have met before at Games Day UK 2011. Quite fun reminiscing about things and sharing in the excitement about the event the next day.

I’m leaving a lot unsaid here but suffice to say that I had a ton of fun that night. All the Boltholers who were in attendance are a really great bunch and are great company. Meeting everyone was definitely a highlight.

Top mention of the evening however certainly goes to Andy Smillie however, one of Black Library’s staffers and also one of their latest authors, having written the long-ish short story Beneath the Flesh, which deals with the Flesh Tearers, one of the various Blood Angels successor chapters. It has been serialised in issues 15 and 16 of the Hammer & Bolter monthly e-zine and is also available separately as an eBook. Anyways, he gets the top mention because he shared a couple pointers on how to approach writing about a space marine chapter and his tips have definitely been quite helpful for me. I’m starting to look at the Angels of Retribution and the Invictors in a new light (possibly) and will definitely be keeping his tips in mind for some of my submissions this year.

By the time I retired to my hotel room (after collecting my stuff from Lilliedhe’s place, getting my event ticket from Razhbad and recoordinating with MisterEd), I was totally out of it. As my friends on the island would say, I was knackered. Long flight, long day, exhausting (but fun) evening and possibly too much excitement. I hit the sofa-bed as soon as I could and within minutes it was lights out for me.

Day 2

The day-of came too early for me and I almost didn’t wanna get out of the bed. But get out I had to because, as I had been informed the day before, the queues to get in were going to be long and I didn’t want to miss out on some great pre-release stuff either. Plus I had no desire to miss out on some in-queue conversations.

So me and MisterEd set out bright and early for breakfast at the nearby pub but found out that it opened late on weekends. Bummer. No breakfast then. We met up with a couple more guys who were headed towards GW HQ and they were kind enough to lead us there. I don’t remember much of the conversation we had on the way except that I was fairly quiet throughout. Most of the conversation wasn’t of interest to me anyway.

We reached the site-of easily enough and met up with a bunch of Boltholers who were already queued. Now, here’s the thing: people in Britian are quite averse to breaking queues. However, I’m Indian, with everything that entails. Except for the mostly crappy accent you listen to in Hollywood movies. So while Ed and the other two guys went to the back of the queue, I cut in and joined up with Jeff, Schafer, Rawne and the others. The in-queue conversation wasn’t too exciting but it helped pass the half hour till the gates opened.

And once the gates inevitably opened, it was a fairly quick race to get the badges and the special limited edition chapbook, and then on to the BL sales area to pick up some hot stuff I have had my eyes on for a while.

Luthor Huss was actually bought on the sunday when I stumbled across it at Warhammer World. The Primarchs was a “replacement buy” at the event.

And this of course:

Obviously, this is the event chapbook!

Having read Age of Legend, The Primarchs and the chapbook as of writing this post, my early thoughts on the first two are that they are both awesome, while for the chapbook, its more of a mixed reaction. Reaper is definitely the better story but the other one is quite thought-provoking in its own way. After all, it does feature a master haemonculus of the Dark Eldar!

Anyways, I also picked up tickets for the “Black Library Audio” and “Hammer & Bolter Presents New Talent” seminars. They were both solid choices and while I do kinda regret not having gone for the “Writing for Black Library” seminar, which also needed a ticket, I did quite enjoy the “Space Marines” seminar.

Once the purchases had been made, it was off to Bugman’s to get some quick breakfast before the event proper started. I love a full english breakfast. Wish I could have it here but sadly, no such thing. At least nothing that is affordable for me at any rate.

The dreamy-looking Mr. MalkyDel.

Space Marines

Quite an interesting panel. Lots of interesting discussions courtesy Sarah, Gav Thorpe, Rob Sanders and Andy Smillie. Like I said, I do have some lingering regrets at having picked this seminar over the alternative but I think that combined with Andy’s tips from the day before, this was a solid choice and it has most assuredly helped me to figure out how to write Space Marines properly. My writing with regards these seven foot killing machines is pretty much what we get at face value and lacks a fair bit of nuance (read: all of it) so hopefully, I can apply the lessons learned from this panel to my submissions.

Once the seminar was done, I used the in-between time to score some short chatting time with Gav and Rob, as well as getting the four worthies to sign some of the books I had brought in to get signed. Yes, I skipped the proper signing queues AND timings. Again. What can I say, the opportunity presented itself!

Warhammer

Another great seminar, particularly since I have a mind to try my hand at some fantasy submissions this year. Well, probably just the one since I’m nowhere near as versed in fantasy lore as I am with 40k lore, but still, good stuff. Just as informative as the previous seminar. Perhaps more so since this one gave me and everyone else in the room the opportunity to hear Bill King himself.

With the fabulous Bill King

As most people who are “in the know” know, Bill wrote a lot of the early and quite definitive histories for the High Elves back when he worked with the Games Workshop Design Studio, and his work has been used by several fantasy writers, no less than Gav for his excellent The Sundering trilogy. So it was a rare chance to hear Bill’s own thoughts first hand.

Still, hearing the panelists – Bill, Sarah, Gav, and Josh – go back and forth about their likes and dislikes, their thoughts on the state of the setting and what makes it unique (among other discussed topics) was quite interesting. As with all other things at the event so far, this one was quite informative as well.

Top mention to Josh for his awesome shorty-short answers to all the questions and comments directed his way.

Ben and Sarah. Two of the most awesome people EVER.

Not as informative as the other two seminars but definitely way, way more fun. Courtesy Andy Smillie, Christian Dunn and Gav, we got to listen to the extracts for Graham’s Eye of Vengeance audio drama featuring Scout-Sergeant Torias Telion of the Ultramarines and Aaron’s The Butcher’s Nails Horus Heresy audio drama featuring Angron and Kharn. And let me tell you now: they both rock like there is no tomorrow. Very surreal, very atmospheric stuff. I can’t wait to get my copies in the mail. We also got a really juicy extract from Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy novel Know No Fear. It was a really chilling extract that actually did give me goosebumps.

Note: In somewhat related news, as of today, Know No Fear is #21 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Herr Raziel.

The seminar mostly focused on the informational details of how the BL audios are produced and the editors’ musings on what the future holds for the abridged and unabridged Horus Heresy audiobooks. I haven’t listened to any audiobooks as yet so I can’t say how they compare to the print or digital prose versions of the novels but suffice to say, there are certainly interesting times ahead. Should the unabridged version win out amongst the fans, we can definitely expect more of the HH novels to be converted to the long audio format.

Another interesting revelation was that BL is producing hell of a lot more audio dramas in the fourth quarter (at least one every month as digital exclusives and CDs alike) and that they have kicked things off with a couple of short audio dramas that are a part of the Space Marine Battles range – Bloodspire by Christian Dunn, a Blood Angels story focusing on Captain Metraen (The Axonar Spirewar in Codex: Blood Angels) and Deathwolf by Andy Smillie, a Space Wolf story focusing on Wolf Lord Erik Morkai and his Great Company. Exciting stuff! I only hope I’m able to afford all these digital exclusives when the time comes. I hate missing out on new product!

After that it was time to take a break and get some lunch. I still had some leftover food from home so that was consumed sharp-ish. I spent rest of the time until the next seminar continuing with getting my chapbook signed by everyone and anyone I could. At least, the people I knew! It was Jeff’s idea originally and one that was plain fantastic. Definitely have lots of memories attached to the event because of this.

This is actually the inside of the cover!

And the other side:

Long title, short title.

As you can see, a hell of a lot of sigs there. Have a fair few of the Bolthole crew on there, as well as the editors and some of the authors as well. Getting the sigs was quite fun as it involved several back and forths across Bugman’s. It also took me the entire weekend to get done properly and completely, even though I still missed out on a few people. Stupid me.

Horus Heresy

Not as interesting a seminar as I’d hoped. Not that revelatory or informative either. But still, I overall enjoyed it. Wish there had been some good funk to it though. Its the Horus Heresy seminar! However, it was still good to know that White Scars stuff is in the works courtesy of the amazing Chris Wraight. Given how much I’ve enjoyed Battle of the Fang, I’m massively excited to see his take on the Khan’s sons during the Great Crusade. I believe this makes him one of the few authors who have written on a WIDE number of chapters/legions – Space Wolves, Thousand Sons, White Scars, Iron Hands. Quite impressive really.

Part of the very few pics I sneaked in. Great company deserves to be immortalised somehow!

Hammer & Bolter Presents New Talent

The most informal seminar yet, this was quite fun. Got to chatting with Josh Reynolds, John French, Sarah and Andy and hearing them all talk about breaking in with Black Library and life as a full-time AND part-time author. If nothing else, this was a very sobering seminar and still quite an encouraging one for someone like me, an aspiring writer.

It also turns out that Andy is working on some 40k White Scars stuff for the e-Zine and his teaser from Friday night regarding the story was very, very interesting. He is certainly going to be bringing in a really fresh take on the former legion!

I’m afraid however that by this time, my energy reserves were dangerously low and I may have unceremoniously and embarrassingly zoned out for a few minutes. My apologies to the panelists. Jet lag is one hell of a pain in the ass.

Me and Razhbad, all-round great guy. Couldn’t have attended the event without his help. And big grats to him for getting engaged.

And that was the event itself. Once the seminars were done, they raffled off all the artwork posters that had been put up for the day. I would have participated but it turned out I needed to get special raffle tickets and that my event ticket wouldn’t suffice. Kinda bummed but eh. Still, it was quite fun to watch. Congrats to MalkyDel and Laurie Goulding on picking up the Fear To Tread and Path of the Renegade posters respectively. They both look damn awesome. The posters that is.

And after all of that, it was back to Bugman’s for the evening pleasures. Lots of time was spent chatting about everything from 40k, Warhammer, Games Workshop, Black Library and all the way to education, geo-politics, psychology, current events and what not. Various TV shows and movies and comics were also worked in. Quite glad to have found out that Bod also enjoyed the recent 3D release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We have different views on what made the movie great and enjoyable but in the end, we both still had fun watching it and that’s what matters. Everything else is just extraneous details.

I have seriously never had such an entertaining night as this one. Friday, you were totally outclassed man!

Part of what made the night really great was sitting down to chat about some of the above topics with Erunanion and his friend, Bod and his significant other, and Rawne. I think we went for nearly an hour and a half without anything GW/BL related come up even once. Kinda surprising considering where we were! And later, I got to chat with Rob Sanders himself (the nice gentleman and all-round great guy also bought me a drink) at the bar and we discussed some more non-GW/BL stuff. I sense a pattern here!

Keeping all that in mind, I think the weekend really showed me just how thoughtful and extremely knowledgeable a lot of these people, who I have only met on the internet so far, are. Served to broaden my horizons quite a bit. And its funny how the most unrelated comments and discussions can inspire ideas for stories set in 40k. Kinda weird actually but it is what it is.

Graham McNeill, one of the coolest people ever. And intimidating!

And I got to take some pics with some of the authors too so that was cool. I did miss a few of them regrettably and I totally skipped getting some pics with Christian, Laurie and Graeme and Nick, the editors. No real excuses other than being busy with people chatting about stuff all evening! This failing shall definitely be corrected at the next Black Library event I go to. Looking at attending Black Library Live next year but no plans as of yet so we shall see when the time comes around.

So that really was Day 2 of the trip. Lots of fun was had. The pesto pasta at the bar was quite excellent, seriously like the best pasta dish I have ever had. Excellent company (this bears repeating repeatedly). And great atmosphere too! When it was time to retire for the night, it was mostly inconvenient since no one really wanted the evening to end, even though most of us pretty knackered by then.

I should also mention at this point that the staff at Bugman’s also deserve a big thank you. They were running ragged throughout the day because something like 400 or so people had descended on the place for the day and were there for most of the day too, yet the staff kept calm and were nice and accommodating throughout. Thanks guys!

Day 3

The final day didn’t start off too good I have to say, for a variety of reasons.

For one, when MisterEd and I left the Travelodge, it was only drizzling but by the time we were like a kilometer out, it was pouring. Badly. We got drenched and ended up calling a taxi to pick us up and take us to Warhammer World. Damn rain, getting my new jacket all wet and stuff!

Second, we got there TOO early. The place wasn’t going to open up until 10am, a detail we had quite overlooked in our excitement to get there. So we waited in the shadow of the main door to Warhammer World for a fair bit of time, thankfully mostly out of the pouring rain but not out of the extreme chill. I think I was shivering now and then.

Gav Thorpe, writer of everything and anything. One of the chattiest authors for Black Library. His insights on the settings are amazing.

Thankfully, Ben and Sarah had arrived early as well and they offered us the warmth of their car while we all waited. To my extreme surprise, I was also informed by Ben about a slight nugget of fantasy info: why Skaven love warpstone so much. It is a detail best left forgotten but one that I can’t get out of my mind either. Thanks, Ben!

Once the place had opened up, we all made a beeline for Bugman’s where a fair amount of tea and coffee were consumed to help ward of the chill. It was just us and also Rawne and Raziel so the place was fairly quiet with the six of us. Thankfully, it wasn’t too quiet for too long since Jeff and Kay soon joined us, along with Narrativium, Schafer and Xisor as well. Consequently, we were all soon talking and discussing stuff from last night as well as chatting about tabletop 40k. Ben was mostly the lead for the conversation about the latter topic but it was all good fun regardless. Never really had a chance to chat to these guys about the game rules so yeah, good opportunity to fix that!

In the cool-factor department, I am always outclassed, as Erunanion proves here. I really need to get a Bolthole T-shirt for next year!

Sometime later, most of the guys moved to the big hall in Warhammer World since a couple games were afoot. Ben was gaming his Imperial Guard against Schafer’s Space Marines while Jeff was gaming his Blood Ravens against Xisor’s Salamanders. Really excellent gaming on both side and these four really showed that the game is first and foremost to have fun and rules-lawyering is a bunch of crap. To watch a 40k TT game after so long is so rewarding. Really makes me miss my old gaming days. Sigh.

In between the games, me and Rawne also visited the museum upstairs, a place where various armies (pretty much every single mainline TT army) are displayed. I am also told that some of the displays are rotated and sometimes they are also themed, which is fantastic! Our visit mostly coincided with the current display featuring excellently painted armies from GW staff. Tons and tons of miniatures all over the place. There were also some snippets from some of the codices and stuff. Really cool stuff.

When we got back down to the gaming area, I also saw Sarah’s Silver Skulls army in one of the display cases. Painted mostly by Ben, it is a great looking army that also features Stormravens. Really, really good-looking minis and, as I am told, an army that has not lost a game yet thanks to Sarah’s Captaincy. Or is that Gileas? Not sure. All I know is that Gileas Ur’ten is still not captain.

After lunch, another serving of the excellent pesto pasta, I decided to do some work. This mostly involved catching up on my emails and social media. In just three days, I apparently had a huge backlog which is kinda weird. One of the better things about this backlog was that I won Scott Oden‘s Crossing the Streams contest, a contest that was held on the internet last month and was sponsored by several authors. As my winnings, I got to pick from among three of his novels and I have gone for Men of Bronze. It sounds really excellent. Hoping to get it in the mail soon!

Other than, I also got my first set of review copies from Pyr Books, thanks to the excellent Meghan at Prometheus Books. I now have digital copies of Ari Marmell‘s Thief’s Covenant, Tim AkersThe Horns of Ruin and K.V. Johansen‘s Blackdog. Its all really excellent stuff and the covers for all of them are top-notch. Can’t wait to dig in!

My iPad is now full of titles that I really, really want to read. Damn this eBook fascination!

Note: I really, really hate iTunes. That damn software makes it extremely frustrating to transfer my eBooks over to my iPad. Grrrrrrrrrr. I spent the better part of two hours trying to transfer a bunch of eBooks over. Not happy at all.

MisterEd, a prolific fellow reviewer.

The rest of the day was spent occassionally chatting with the other folks and also reading Age of Legend. I only managed to get through Sarah’s Bloodraven at Bugman’s (it closed at six) but the anthology is chock-full of some excellent warhammer stories. I can’t recommend it enough. Bloodraven, The Gods Demand and Aenarion in particular are really, really excellent stories.

In the end, it was another day well-spent in Nottingham and not in London as I was kinda thinking of originally. Definitely a million times better than the crappy Sunday I spent in Birmingham the day after Games Day! When it was time to leave, it was as if the weekend was ending too soon. I had a ton of fun with all my friends and definitely didn’t want to leave, but ah well. Hopefully soon!

Thanks to the excellent driving skills of Schafer, I was soon back at the Travelodge, ready to end the weekend by trying to get through more of Age of Legend, listening to some music and just chilling out in the hotel room. A weekend well-spent with some truly phenomenal folks.

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful time!

Posted on March 13, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Black Library Live was such a great event and I can’t believe I missed out. I didn’t know they would be selling copies of the Primarchs and Void Stalker there. Oh and all the Black Library peeps seem like great people!

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    • Yep, they had those on sale. Sadly, Valkia the Bloody and Wrath of Iron missed the mark by about a month! I really wanted to grab those :( Ah well, guess I gotta wait for the review copies now. But yeah, all the authors and editors are a real great bunch. Very sincere people and very approachable. Great company for an evening.

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  2. My driving skills were indeed excellent.

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    • I believe it was the first time I have had a car ride in the UK :P Not counting the trip from when I was in 10th grade, a trip I barely even remember.

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  3. Wish I could have gone to BL Live! Hoping I’ll be able to go next year! I can actually meet all you bunch of nutters….

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