The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of February saw a few hundred Warhammer fans descend upon the Nottingham Belfry for the sixth annual Horus Heresy Weekender event, except in 2018 the mould was broken with the addition of Necromunda. While you could look at this as the first step towards a future Forge World Weekender, covering all of the different games created and supported by Forge World, this year’s event it was officially labelled the Horus Heresy and Necromunda Weekender. It’s a bit of a mouthful – doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue – but there you go.
As always, Black Library were in attendance with a range of guests to support their Horus Heresy fiction line, and also to talk about upcoming Necromunda releases. As you might expect, that was the main draw for me at this event – I do like the miniatures and the games, but my main interest is always the fiction, so I focused my attention for the most part on that side of things over the weekend. Unlike the Black Library Weekender I’m not going to do quite such a comprehensive write up looking at individual seminars, but I do want to talk a little bit about the event overall, and relay some interesting Black Library-related information I picked up while I was there.
Books to buy
In case you don’t want to trawl through the whole article, I’ll talk about all the Black Library stuff first, beginning with the pre-release or exclusive books that were available to buy. Mostly these were Horus Heresy titles, as you’d expect, although all of the Necromunda print on demand books were also available (on the website they’re now only available in digital form) along with a few paperback editions and omnibuses that haven’t hit shelves yet.
Looking back to 2017’s Heresy Weekender and the scarcity of new stuff available there, I think you’ll agree that this year we had a pretty good selection of things to spend money on!
Wolfsbane by Guy Haley
Book 49 in the Horus Heresy series…can you believe we’re up to 49?! Guy gave a reading from this in one of the seminars, focusing on a different section to his reading at the BL Weekender in November, with fewer opportunities for excellent Space Wolf voices but more of a feel for what the overall book is going to be like. I’ll get this read and reviewed as soon as I can, but it’s sounding like a really interesting exploration of a slightly different side to the Vlka Fenryka than we’ve seen before. It’s due out in May, with the synopsis available on the BL website.
Sons of the Emperor
An event- and Warhammer World-only hardback anthology of Primarchs short stories, featuring eight new stories from John French, Aaron Demsbki-Bowden, Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe, Guy Haley, LJ Goulding, Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett. It might prove a little contentious, being an exclusive product and also not getting a Limited Edition release to match the novels…although I think it’s a safe assumption that these stories will get general releases at some point. Whether that’s as standalone tales or in an anthology (this exact one, or something different) remains to be seen. I’m going to be reading and reviewing each of these stories; in fact I’ve already made a start with the first four stories – The Passing of Angels, The Abyssal Edge, Mercy of the Dragon and Shadow of the Past – so keep an eye out for those.
Blackshields: The Red Fief by Josh Reynolds
The second Blackshields audio drama, after The False War, once again featuring Endryd Haar and his band of unhappy Space Marines. Whereas the first instalment was pulled directly from one of the Forge World black books and detailed part of the Xana Incursion, this one looks to be stepping away from established lore into new territory. In his seminar on this story Josh talked about how the idea is for this and future Blackshields audio dramas to see Haar and co. taking on various missions on behalf of Malcador…sort of…and how he’s looked at named (but not explained) events from the black books for inspiration. Lots to look forward to here! Also due out in May, and up on the BL site.
Jaghatai Khan: Warhawk of Chogoris by Chris Wraight
The latest Limited Edition Primarchs novel was available to buy, ahead of its March release date. You can read the synopsis online already; Chris gave a reading from the book, with a section showing the Khan returning to Chogoris from Terra, and watching as two of his sons spar…which in a clever, roundabout way addressed the question of how the Khan and his Chogorian sons see the Terran recruits, and how the two are mingling. It was a nice link to Brotherhood of the Storm and Scars, and suggested – as you might expect – that Chris has done another fine job with this one.
The Horus Heresy hardback journal
Not a novel this time, but a rather nice A5 hardback journal, complete with embossed cover similar to the LE Talon of Horus and a cool Horus Heresy timeline running across the bottom of the pages. If you manage to get a copy of this, make sure you go through all of the timeline entries…there are a couple of surprises in there. If I remember right it was £13, which puts this on a par with the price point of Moleskine and other high-end notebooks. It’s maybe not quite at that overall standard, but it’s pretty nice.
Black Library Live 2018 tickets
Not a book at all, but cool nonetheless – I picked up my ticket for Black Library Live 2018, which is taking place at Warhammer World on the 16th June this year. There wasn’t a Live event in 2017, but 2016’s event was great fun and, after the blazing success of the BL Weekender, I’ve got high hopes for this year’s event. It’s only £15, so if Nottingham isn’t too far away for you then I would definitely recommend checking it out. I’m not sure exactly when tickets are due to go on general sale, but it’s soon.
There wasn’t a huge amount of information available about upcoming Black Library releases – mostly just hints rather than anything confirmed. I did attend a seminar about upcoming Necromunda releases, so keep an eye out for a section below on the details from that. In terms of the Horus Heresy, about the best we got was a couple of cover reveals which have subsequently appeared online with a few more details. Here’s a quick look:
Vulkan: Lord of Drakes by David Annandale
Book nine in the Primarchs series, this one sees David Annandale tackle the lord of the Salamanders. From what I can gather it’s going to tackle Vulkan figuring out how to bring the Terran and Nocturnean halves of his legion together, which sounds interesting.
Born of Flame by Nick Kyme
Another Salamanders book – just check out that cover! I’ve got to say, I think Neil Roberts manages to absolutely nail these guys every time he tackles them. In terms of the book itself, this collects together the novellas Promethean Sun and Scorched Earth, along with the (short) novel Sons of the Forge and a couple of short stories. I imagine one of those will be Artefacts but I’m not sure what the other will be. Let me know if I’ve missed something obvious!
I’ve got a bit more detail about this, as I was in a seminar with Nick Kyme and Josh Reynolds in which Nick talked really quite frankly about what’s coming up from Black Library in terms of Necromunda, and what might happen in future. I’m working from notes and memory here so please bear in mind that I’m paraphrasing, and might not have everything quite as it was discussed…but I’ve done my best.
[I should point out, one of the highlights of the event was listening to Josh tell a story about grave robbing and wild pigs, while we waited for Nick to arrive…if you ever meet Josh, ask him to tell you the story! It’s worth it…]
The impression I got was that Black Library is ramping up its work on Necromunda as a setting, with an overall plan to embrace Necromunda as it offers a unique opportunity to tell stories that can’t usually be told in the 40k setting. There isn’t yet a novel in the works, but Nick’s talking to Josh Reynolds about a possibly writing one…so watch this space.
What is confirmed is a series of six short stories, starting to be released at the end of February, that dig into some of the setting. Here are the titles, authors and a little bit of info about each one:
- Emp-rah’s Eye by Guy Haley: a Ratskin brave on a vision quest.
- Dirty Dealings by Rachel Harrison: Enforcers vs Gangers in a classic heist story.
- Once a Stimm Queen by Robbie MacNiven: Eschers and Enforcers in a sting operation that goes wrong.
- Scar-Crossed by Nick Kyme: a Romeo and Juliet parody with a Goliath/Escher forbidden love story, complete with lots of intentionally cheesy references.
- Burned by Darius Hinks: a story about characters who’ve come back from the dead, having been wronged and seeking revenge.
- Death’s Head by Josh Reynolds: a Goliaths story, about how a juve gets inducted into his gang. Features Lothar Hex (remember him from the old Necromunda Sourcebook?).
So those are the upcoming short stories – lots to look forward to there. Both Nick and Josh gave readings from their stories, which both sounded great fun!
On top of those short stories there’s a novella coming later in the year by Mike Brooks, called Wanted Dead (as opposed to the usual Wanted Dead or Alive). No specific details as yet, other than that it’s about Goliaths and Eschers again – the focus at the moment is on these two gangs as Forge World is (or presumably was, as these stories were being commissioned and written) still working on the other gangs. Black Library obviously doesn’t want to accidentally end up contradicting anything Forge World does.
There was a really interesting conversation in one of the seminars around what else we the fans might like to see in Necromunda stories, as well as what the authors might like to write about. There seems to be a clear desire for more Kal Jerico, with a suggestion that he might come back as a Don of one of the gangs…which would be cool. On the bounty hunter theme, Nick mentioned the possibility of doing an anthology of short stories, each about a different bounty hunter. Also very cool!
It sounds like comics and graphic novels are more the remit of Titan Comics than Black Library these days, but that BL might look into Necromunda audio dramas for something a bit different to prose stories. The 2018 Advent Calendar is being planned already (sounds like a lot of work goes into these series) with the intention of including some Necromunda short audios. The idea behind these short stories and audios is to allow Black Library to get a sense of what readers/listeners want, which can then inform further releases.
It sounds like we’re unlikely to see huge numbers of Necromunda books any time soon, but that Black Library might do a couple of series – maybe one ongoing arc and then a few standalone novels. The benefit of Necromunda stories is that there’s scope for so much variety, and types of stories that might not work in other settings. These different kinds of stories allow BL to try and reach different types of readers – people who might not want full-on military fiction might prefer something more personal, looking into specifics of a hive world for example.
Although, one of my favourite suggestions was that it might be cool to see a mass battle story on Necromunda – a huge gang war involving hundreds of fighters in multiple gangs, Gangs of New York-style. There was lots of interest within the room for that!
Whatever we do see in future, I know I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that we’ll see some Necromunda stories come through the Open Submissions Window as well. Interestingly, I briefly spoke to Nick about this and it sounds like there has been a lot of interest, with (if I remember correctly) something like 600 or 700 entries already! I feel for submissions editor Lottie going through all of those entries!
The Siege of Terra
The final seminar saw Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe and Guy Haley discuss the Siege of Terra and answer questions about how Black Library is planning on finishing up the series overall. Once again I’m working from notes and memory, so please don’t take anything here as absolute gospel (I might easily have misremembered or got it wrong) but here are some of the highlights I picked out from what was discussed.
Firstly, as you might expect there were no massive reveals or spoilers – Black Library have been quite clear for a while now that they’re working hard on getting to the end of the Heresy series, including the first two Siege of Terra-focused author meetings, but it’s all still a way off yet. That being said, it was mentioned that there are probably going to be over sixty books by the time the series finished, and that the penultimate book before the Siege will cover the fall of the Death Guard. The books covering the Siege itself are going to be dealing with what’s taking place on and around Terra – the events going on elsewhere are more likely to be covered in other types of stories, so maybe short stories and audio dramas.
It certainly sounds like there’s going to be plenty to cover in just the Siege, and there was a suggestion that there might be a mini-series within the wider Heresy just for the Siege of Terra. Whether that involves different branding etc. remains to be seen, but it could be cool. In the planning sessions so far Black Library have put together not just a ‘dead list’ but also a ‘could kill list’ looking at characters whose fates are yet undecided. What that means is that there’s going to be plenty more than just the big story beats we already know about during the Siege – the authors are keen to write cool new stories featuring events that are just as exciting to the readers as the big plot points we’re already aware of.
A few little details emerged as to what’s being written about, including a mention that Guy is writing a Titan-focused novel, which will include sections from the perspective of the Imperial Army as well. Nick revealed that one of the events that will be shown which wasn’t previously known about would be a duel between the Khan and Fulgrim, which – interestingly – was referenced as being in the sixth Siege of Terra book (which implies, what…at least seven?). Lastly, Gav talked a little about the book he’s writing mentioning that it will include Iron Warriors, Malcador, Valdor and the Custodes, and follows on from The Master of Mankind in looking at the survivors of the Webway War. It might also include some of the human Alpha Legion operatives seen in Praetorian of Dorn.
It’s no surprise that further details were thin on the ground, including anything concrete about numbers (apart from that reference to book six) or release schedule. Nick did confirm that there will be less than six months between Siege of Terra books, with the idea being that there shouldn’t be too long a wait between books, but equally BL don’t want to rush either so that everyone has time to read each book before the next one comes out. As for what might come after the Siege, there was further not-quite-confirmation of the idea that the Heresy might become a setting in its own right, while there are plans to release an updated Visions of Heresy to cover the final version of the story. A Heresy encyclopedia was suggested by an audience member, but it sounds like that might be an incredibly complex undertaking…so don’t hold your breath.
That’s about as much as I can remember. It was great to see Black Library being really open and honest when discussing the Heresy – I can’t speak for anyone else, but I appreciated Nick coming straight out and saying that they wouldn’t be able to answer some questions for fear of risking spoilers. There was plenty of information to go on, even if not much of it was concrete. It sounds to me like an awful lot of work is going into these final books, so I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
The event overall
Aside from the Black Library content, it’s worth talking a little bit about the event overall. I’m a big advocate of the Weekender format, and all told I think I’ve been to all but one of the Weekenders in total, including the Black Library and Horus Heresy events. Last year’s Black Library Weekender was a fantastic event and a brilliant return to form, and I knew that would be a hard act to follow. With very little advance information about what was happening at this one – the guest list and schedule didn’t arrive until the week before the event – I was a little nervous going in, especially considering previous Heresy events’ lack of organisation.
Truth be told this year’s Weekender was fine – it wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t terrible either. In terms of Black Library’s involvement, it did feel quite separate from the rest of the event in places – Nick, John and Guy were all involved in wider seminars, but for the most part it felt like there were Forge World sessions and there were Black Library sessions. The smaller Black Library seminars didn’t have compères this time, but thankfully all of the guests were very confident and delivered really interesting sessions, while in the bigger seminars Nick did a sterling job of compèring and keeping everything moving really nicely.
As always, the Black Library staff on hand – Neil, Kelly, Charles and Rachel (I think I’ve got the names right, I’m sorry if not!) – were excellent, just as friendly and helpful as you’d imagine. As I mentioned above it was great to see a good selection of books available to buy, and the separate BL sales stand seemed to work really well – pretty much any time I walked past there seemed to be someone taking a look and usually buying something. Sadly a few of the BL guests either didn’t make it or couldn’t stay for long – Dan was only around for an hour on Friday, Aaron was ill so stayed in Ireland, and several of them could only stay for one of the days. That did mean that the Saturday evening in the bar didn’t have quite the buzz it often does, but that’s just one of those things I guess.
In terms of Forge World, as usual Tony Cottrell did the lion’s share of the compèring, complete with (slightly less annoying than) Clarkson-esque Dad jokes and concomitant minor controversies (don’t ask). To be fair Tony always does a pretty good job of keeping the seminars moving, and this year was no different. Organisationally, it was a good idea to once again open both registration and the sales stands early on Friday, although the multiple queues did end up incredibly busy and a bit confusing. As for Friday Night Necromunda…well that was just a bit of a let down, with just a handful of people gathered around a single table. It was certainly nothing like as fun as last year’s 40k-scale demo games of Adeptus Titanicus! To be honest I don’t understand why Forge World don’t just open up a few copies of Betrayal at Calth and Burning of Prospero and just build a bit of noise around people joining in and enjoying some simple Heresy gaming fun. I know those are GW games rather than FW, but it’s a FW-centered setting, and everyone in attendance is keen on the Heresy! Ah well.
I don’t really want to talk too much more about the rest of the event – the main seminar room was at its biggest, leaving the other rooms a touch cramped, and yet the new models seminar was still run twice. Weird. The Studio section was kinda cool, but the decision to hold off displaying new stuff until later on was odd, and left it feeling a bit deflated for much of Saturday. The new models when they did arrive were undoubtedly cool, though – especially the crocodog! Somehow sumpkroc doesn’t sound as cool as crocodog, right?
So overall I would say the event itself wasn’t bad, but just didn’t feel anything like as well planned and executed as the Black Library Weekender did. That being said, it was still a fun way to spend a weekend! From a pure Black Library perspective it was another good opportunity to spend a bit of time with the authors and hang out with fellow fans, and I enjoyed the inclusion of Necromunda alongside the Heresy. I’m really looking forward to Black Library Live now, and of course this year’s Weekender!