Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Black Library Weekender 2014: So... How do I live this down?

I attended the Black Library Weekender this past weekend. It’s a splendid event at which writers and readers gather for three days in a hotel to talk and to share the books produced by the publisher to tie-in with the Warhammer, Warhammer 40K and Horus Heresy games and the Forge World models that go with them.

Yes, it’s a hobby thing, and yes, the vast majority of the players, collectors and readers are men in their teens and twenties, and yes, I’m a middle-aged woman.

The husband is well-known to this crowd. His work for the Black Library is popular. He’s won accolades for his novels stories and comics, including New York Times bestseller listings. I began writing for the Black Library fifteen years ago. I’ve co-written a couple of novels with the husband, and I’ve contributed some short stories, including two that appear in the latest anthology launched at the weekender. That’s why I was present.

I’ve attended every GamesDay UK since 1999 and many of the other big events since the inception of the Black Library. When I’m not promoting my own work I attend events with the husband. I’ve had relationships with some of the people in the office for fifteen years, and with some of the fans for just as long. We’re all one big, happy family. I’m referred to, affectionately I hope, as Mrs Dan or Ma’am.

A Jackanory moment as a contestant pitched his story.
I couldn't possibly sit cross-legged in that frock!
OK, on reflection those stripy tights are a touch terrifying.
(Stephen Mark Taylor took today's pics, so thanks Stephen)
I was kept pretty busy over the weekend, sitting on panels, signing books, taking part in entertainments, eating smart dinners with the premium ticket holders and drinking in the bar. It was all rather splendid.

Twitter is a wonderful thing. It’s the most immediate of the social networking tools and it can be a lot of fun. Like other social networks and like the internet in general, it also offers people an opportunity to say things to the World that they might not say in a room full of people. Sometimes that means that an individual gets to read something about herself that comes as a surprise, that shows her how she projects herself into the World in a way that is totally at odds with how she feels about herself. Sometimes that person is me.

Of course I know that I can be opinionated; I don’t just read my blog I write it, after all. I know that I can be firm in my views and that I’m pretty smart. I think of myself as inclusive, though, as kind, accepting and approachable. I know I’m a serious person, and honest to goodness I don’t have a whole lot of smalltalk, but I like people and I’m honest.

Some of the readers at the Black Library Weekender live-tweeted during the event. How cool is that? I dipped in and out of Twitter to see what was being said. Some of it was serious, reporting panels and conversations. Some of it was funny, reporting the jokes and laughs we were all having. And some of it was this:

Of all the authors present, @N_VincentAbnett is probably the most terrifying to approach. In a good way...please don't hunt me down.

First of all, let me just say that I’m not remotely offended by this. I’m totally aware that this comment was meant to be lighthearted, and I take it in the spirit it was intended. I’m not sure how I could possibly be terrifying in a good way.

I wonder what this is about.
And they think I'm terrifying!
Have they met the husband?

I suppose in this particular mostly young and definitely malecentric environment it could simply be that I’m both older than most of the gamers and a woman. It could be that these guys who love to play with toy soldiers don’t want to be reminded of their mums or big sisters while they’re doing it or talking about it. I don’t blame them for that... I don’t blame them for anything.

Here’s the thing, though. I can’t change how I look (not much anyway, not any more), I can’t change my gender (OK, technically I could, but I’m all girl), and it’d be a bit of struggle to change who I am. The best I can manage is to simply reassure you all that I don’t feel terrifying. I feel like you. I feel enthusiastic. I want to meet and talk to the people who read the stories and engage with the mythos of the universes that I have the pleasure of writing in. It is my pleasure. You guys are my lifeblood when it comes to having ideas and finding the enthusiasm to put my arse in my chair and write them down.

I’ll say again what I’ve said before, The point of the writer is the reader. Without you, I wouldn’t get to do what I love to do. You guys mean the World to me. You never have to think twice about approaching me. You employ me, and you should always remember that.

Now I’m going to go away and practise not being terrifying. I wonder what that looks like.


  1. If you work out how not to be terrifying, let me know.

    My default (potentially from years of legal practice) is allegedly unnerving.

  2. never terrifying...intense...sure...but also smart, and I know your I talked your ear off on Saturday evening...thanks for making the weekend fun and enjoyable for me

  3. When I've had the chance pleasure to talk with you Nik (Ma'am) you have been so bright, lovely and charming. I find talking with you so easy and natural that it always leaves me feeling 'nice' inside. Dan on the other hand always makes me feel 'nervous' and that scares me more as I'm of a very outgoing and confident nature and feeling nervous is quite terrifying in its own way. You are a beautiful person and I feel quite lucky to have made your aquiantance on a number of occasions and hopefully many more in the future.

    Until then Ma'am.

  4. Hey Ma'am!

    I didn't get to have a chat with you, but I particularly enjoyed it when you put Dan in his place on the panel. Hilarious. You are the BL celebrity couple.

    I wanted to ask you if you consider Tona Criid and Beta Bequin as BL feminist icons? You spoke very passionately about Tona at the BL weekender and it got me thinking about Beta. Maybe too big for a reply, maybe a post? (hint, hint). Maybe expand it to literature in general and the movies? However, you may have already done a post on this.



    P.S. Anymore Sabbat Crusade insurgency stories? The one you did a few years ago was awesome.
    P.P.S. I need you to sign my copy of Fiefdom! Maybe next year.

  5. Just a BIG Thank You (& Dan) for signing Tona for me :)
    She is up and gives me that look that says do the right thing and dont Gakking Fethup!
    Was great to chat with you however briefly, would loved to have chatted longer but I expect so does everyone else :)
    Looking forward to say 'Hi' at the next event - hopefully the Horus Heresy Weekender in Feb, if you can make it.
    Looking forward to readinbg your contributions to the Sabbat Crusade, especially after your reading onj Friday. I enjoyed 'Cell' in the last anthology
    PS I got a shot of the pic of you and Dan with the Bolter on my Facebook page - hope that's ok. Its a great picture :)

  6. Approaching folks at conventions is terrifying in a good way. When you get to the front of a queue and say hi they are just people. But right the way up there they are not just people. They are artists you respect enough to queue up to see, they are the people you are willing to pay to get an autograph from, they are the people who you really want to understand how much their work moves you, but know it will sound sappish and fawning and plain silly if you try to actually describe it. You are terrified they will think you are some kind of stalker, or fanatic, or just weird. So your throat closes up, you panic and you take a second to remember they are just a person. That they are a person seems so amazing, as until that moment they were a fictional concept who only exists in theory. That, when you meet them, they are kind, considerate, funny and charming is a very strange surprise.

    Sorry, but you are the voice of the book and the blog. If you turn out to exist in the real world, it takes us a moment to catch up with reality and adapt.