The fans have spoken, Black Library have listened, and events are back on the calendar with the announcement of Black Library Live! 2016. Dedicated Black Library events, that is – since the last Black Library events in 2014 there have been a couple of Horus Heresy Weekenders run in conjunction with Forge World, and various events at Warhammer World, but nothing that’s been specifically focused on the fiction of the Warhammer universes. The other events have been fun, but it’s about time we got something dedicated to the work of Black Library.
It’s a few months away still, but I’ve been thinking about what’s going to be happening on the day. I’ve been to a number of Black Library events and the range of activities has varied – some have been brilliantly organised, with a great range of seminars and activities, and I’ve gone away really pleased, while I’ve left others feeling…less happy. Here’s a little bit about what I’m hoping for this time – it’s worth bearing in mind though that this is a single day event, not a Weekender, so it’s understood that there’s a limit to the activities available!
Seminars are generally fascinating – Black Library have a fantastic pool of authors who are consistently engaging and insightful, and it’s great to hear them talk. The key to a fantastic seminar though is to have a clear structure as well as a great panel of authors. A good structure involves ensuring that each seminar has clear themes, that the authors are prepared and know what they can and can’t talk about, and that the right authors are included. Nobody wants to see an author looking uncomfortable on stage because they’re not sure what they can contribute.
There also needs to be a well-prepared and organised compere who can keep things moving and make sure the seminar maintains momentum and doesn’t go too far off on a tangent. It’s a pretty tough job sometimes, but it’s so important – each seminar has a limited amount of time, and a good compere should be able to make every minute count.
The Horus Heresy is awesome, and sells really well – we get that. I’m hoping there’s going to be a range of seminars covering different topics though, and not just the Heresy – after all the Heresy gets its own dedicated event with the Horus Heresy Weekender. Black Library have already confirmed that The Beast Arises is going to appear in the seminars – book 12 should be out by then, I think – which is cool. Hopefully there will be seminars on other areas of 40k too, as well as Age of Sigmar. We like Warhammer too!
In the past there’s been a pretty wide range of seminar topics, including single-author sessions, ‘how to write xyz’, more general ‘writing for Black Library’, not to mention themed seminars on specific books, series or themes. We’ve only got the one day to play with, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a nice broad mixture of topics so that there will be something for everyone.
Fans like us attend this sort of event to learn about what’s going on, and to hear the authors talk in ways that we don’t often get the chance to experience. Back in 2014 at the Black Library Weekender event there was a seminar about the Warhammer End Times which opened with someone from Black Library telling us in no uncertain terms that we weren’t to ask about upcoming events in the series, followed by an embarrassing hour of the authors bravely dodging questions and trying everything to make sure they didn’t say something that they would come to regret.
This took place just as the End Times were kicking off in the Warhammer World, so there were some HUGE events coming up and the Black Library books were tying into Games Workshop’s headline releases. This obviously meant that information about what was to come next was in short supply, but seriously – what was the point in even holding those seminars? If there’s no information to provide, don’t hold a seminar!
That’s not what we want. Hopefully it was a one-off anyway, but let’s reiterate it – that’s not what we want. At all.
Instead, we want to hear authors being given a little slack and allowed to talk not just about what’s already been released, but about what they’ve been working on that’s not come out yet. We want to get fresh news, and hear about things that get us excited about upcoming releases. Don’t forget, the hype generated by this sort of event can have a genuinely positive effect if handled properly!
A handful of new/pre-release titles have already been announced, which is brilliant! Hopefully that’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. Not everyone’s going to agree, but as a keen event-goer I’m of the opinion that it’s a good thing to reward the fans who attend these events with things that they can’t get elsewhere. That means pre-releases as opposed to just new titles, and even the occasional event-specific title. Those can be pretty contentious, but it’s clear that the people who can make it to events generally appreciate being able to get their hands on something a bit special.
Neil Roberts, bless him, is a regular feature at these events, and deservedly so. There’s a clear demand from the fans for access to artists who work on Black Library novels, and guys like Neil who are prepared to give up their time to come and hang out at events are worth their weight in gold. It’s not just the chance to chat to the artists though, I think these events provide the opportunity to show us an insight into the creative process. Live demonstrations are a great way of getting a little more insight, as are art displays that go beyond the pieces themselves to show things like the commissioning process and the stages from conception to completion. Show us stuff like that, and give us the chance to get our sticky fingers on
Single-day events don’t offer quite the same opportunities as the Weekenders, but it would be cool if there was an activity or two available beyond the usual signings and seminars. Something like the chance to record a few lines of dialogue for a sample audio drama (which sort of happened once before, but didn’t seem to work out in the end), or even just an opportunity to put suggestions and requests forward for new series or concepts that we (the hardcore fans) would love to read about. It might not be feasible, but it would be fun if there was something a little bit different I think.
Lastly, and this might sound weird…but there’s something nice about going to an event like this and entering a raffle to win random prizes. If a raffle happens though, please, please don’t make it dependent on how much money gets spent! Not everyone has the disposable income to go crazy on buying books, so let’s make this equitable – give each person a raffle ticket just for attending the event. That way everyone has the same chance to win, and nobody can win multiple prizes. I’m pretty sure there will be some big smiles at the end of the day if that happens.
Anyway, those are a few ideas and thoughts that I’ve had. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the event (even if my wallet isn’t) and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s going to be a return to form!
Have you got any thoughts on the event? Any hopes, prayers, fears or ideas? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me a line!