I know, I know; I’m late with my review of the “all new” White Dwarf. It’s late enough that I’m pondering whether I should even bother doing my page-by-page review (overview?) of October’s White Dwarf issue, seeing as how it hit the shelves–with a firm street date, no less–about three weeks ago.
But that’s not what this post on my blog is about today.
If you live in Calgary, you’ll know that this was a BIG weekend for Calgary’s Games Workshop enthusiasts–heck, if you live anywhere in Alberta, you’re probably aware of this weekend’s significance (hint: it’s not because it was Canadian Thanksgiving). This weekend was the Black Library Expo, and was being hosted by the Chestermere Public Library. The Black Library authors that came to Calgary were:
– Dan Abnett
– Graham McNeill
– Aaron Dembski-Bowden
– James Swallow
– Gav Thorpe
– Chris Wraight
– Nik Vincent
(To save you the quick trip on Google Maps, Chestermere is a suburb of Calgary–I hesitate to use the term “bedroom community,” thrown around Calgary regarding Chestermere as I’m not sure if that’s a pejorative term or not. Chestermere is separated from Alberta’s most populous city by about seven minutes of highway. Right; geography lesson done.)
The Expo was exciting to say the least, and Convention standards were all present: vendor tables, gaming tables, autograph booths, Question and Answer panels and cosplayers!
For me, last weekend was triply big: first, as I’m a long-time reader of Games Workshop novels (my first being Inquisitor, back in the early-ish nineties); second, Imaginary Wars was intrinsically involved with the Black Library Expo (the store helped not just promote the event and provide a place people could buy tickets from, I was also involved with setting up a Warhammer 40,000 weekend-long tournament being held at the Expo–the thinking being that an appearance by eight Black Library authors should be no mere book signing!); Imaginary Wars was also a vendor at the Expo (that’s thirdly exciting…if you’re keeping count).
To understate it all, the Black Library Expo weekend made my life a very busy one since late summer…and all the way up until this past Wednesday, just after Thanksgiving because:
ALL THE GUEST AUTHORS CAME TO MY STORE ON THE MONDAY MORNING TO VISIT WITH FANS AND SIGN BOOKS!
You read that right! After all the organising, late nights working on the tournament, scrambling for stock and juggling the store’s needs with the Expo’s needs along with my familial needs to get through the Expo weekend, I then had to be prepared for a book-signing event in the store!
It was a very hectic holiday Monday morning filled with me doing all kinds of running around before 8:00am to ensure things would go as smoothly as they could; and things got no less hectic once all the authors had arrived. But after the first hour, my stress levels had subsided and I was working more on getting my books (and books for the store) signed.
I took no pictures or videos (apart from the two group shots)…which is kinda’ too bad; but I had a fantastic time chatting with all the writers; the highlights and things I learned over the weekend and at my store’s book signing:
-Dan Abnett knows the Emperor’s name….and that knowledge keeps him awake at night.
-Aaron Demski-Bowden is seven months behind schedule with his next book.
-Matt Ward doesn’t deserve all the flak he gets.
-James Swallow has written some of my favourite books (which I didn’t fully realise until the book signing at my store–otherwise I would have asked him to autograph the store’s copy of Flight of the Eisenstein dedicated to me and bought it afterwards…but at least my copy of Faith and Fire got that treatment!).
-Graham McNeill has played tons of role-playing games…and Warhammer Fantasy isn’t his favourite one right now.
-to some British author-like people, “jet lag” carries a lot of double meaning. Sadly, I walked in on the conversation in the green room (or what have you) three-quarters-way into that conversation, so I have no inkling what exactly it means.
-Aaron Demski-Bowden checks the spine of books to see if they’ve been read when asked to sign them–and he’s not afraid to expose the piece-of-turd people who are just getting a book signed just to sell on eBay.
-Dan Abnett is working on two projects that are extremely secret–the second one even more secret than the first–and both are extremely cool and exciting (for the record, this was all he would say in one of his panel sessions, so I’ll just have to take his word for it that these 40k novel projects are as cool as he says they are).
-Every time you get up to leave a panel that Graham McNeill is sitting on (even if it IS to get back to your retailer’s booth!), he will notice you getting up to leave.
-The author’s foreword in The Emperor’s Gift hardcover novel will not be present in the regular paperback.
-Warp Talons don’t have grenades….much to the chagrin of certain toque-wearing authors.
-I have it on good authority that Matt Ward is a super villain.
-It’s fun eating dinner with the McNeill family; good conversation and fun with kids at the dinner table abound!
-Maternity Leave in the United Kingdom is nine months.
-If you want to be ahead of the curve and like something (that deserves it) before it became cool amongst the mainstream, you should get reading The New Deadwardians as soon as you can!
-Aaron Demski-Bowden will buy any amount of board games his wife asks him to with no more than a deep sigh of resignation.
–Gav Thorpe is insanely nice! (I think my favourite thing he said as we talked is that–and I’m paraphrasing here–in tournaments, the ‘Best General’ award could just as likely be called the ‘Best Dice Rolling’ award…leaving me sorely tempted to run with that idea in a future tournament!); and I’ll say it again: Gav Thorpe is insanely nice.
Despite how completely awesome the Expo weekend was, it was also a little disappointing for me: it’s always better for business if I stay at my booth at conventions…meaning that me following that truism meant I was able to see very little of the Q&A panels–and certainly didn’t get much of a chance to talk to the authors (being a little more focused on helping those that were stopping by my table).
Heck, I even suffered from some of that on the Monday they all came to my store (I was also preoccupied chasing Dan Abnett down to sign all the comics the store has in stock that he wrote…and I even missed some!)–not that I’m complaining; I’m just pulling back the curtain a little to show how sometimes being “in” on cool things means you also miss out on those very cool things you’re involved with.
Still, whereas I didn’t get a chance to talk with many of the Black Library folks at the Expo (at least not on Saturday; on Sunday I saw a lot more: the Q&A panels were conducted in the main hall alongside the signing booth and the tournament,enabling more people to partake in the panels); I did get to go for dinner with the main Expo organiser, the Black Library guests and all their significant others/ families. That was an exceptional evening!
But my petty quibbles aside, I felt privileged to have been able to attend the Expo and help out in what ways I could to make the weekend the success it was.
The director at the Chestermere Library that organised the whole Expo, Gemma, did an exceptional job pulling everything together (at times in the face of extreme adversity), and all that hard work was made evident by how smoothly the weekend ran. Gemma was also blessed with exceptional help: Lange & Darren helped out by moderating all the panels for the weekend (as well as being regular go-to guys at the Expo’s disposal); and Nathan and Teri (of Conquest Calgary fame) ran the tournament and also helped show some of the authors around town. There was also a bevy of Library staff helping out to ensure the weekend was a success (and big thanks to Lin for helping me run the Imaginary Wars table–and allowing me to step out a few times and take in the Expo…albeit fleetingly).
The Expo weekend ended up feeling like an awesome house party: everyone (and I mean everyone: the volunteers, the attendees, the authors and even the library directors!) was walking around the Expo hall with big smiles on their faces all weekend long…and that was only repeated on the morning that the guys from Black Library came by my store.
Heck, four days later, and I’m still coasting on some remaining fan-boy endorphins!
And so, my review of the White Dwarf must remain unfinished a while longer…