Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering

On the 14th of August, we headed to Waterstones Kensington to hobnob with some more author types. 

fantasy faction

The basement was packed with people (who were there willingly, I assure you), waiting to see some of the biggest names in modern fantasy – Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Myke Cole and Mark Lawrence. To my shame, I have only read novels written by two of the four authors, but after that night, I intend on changing that sad fact.

Photo credit: Apparently not Mark Lawrence

The event kicked off with Marc Aplin asking the authors to introduce one another. Despite being a gathering for grim people who read grim fantasy stories, the evening was extremely light-hearted. Brett introduced Cole as his ‘best friend for 23 years‘, and Abercrombie introduced Brett by telling us the story of them meeting some years beforehand, which was the ‘beginning of a beautiful friendship across the pond‘ (and resulted in the worst hangover he had ever had). Cole declared that he couldn’t recommend Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy and Prince of Fools enough, whereas Lawrence had only met Abercrombie five minutes beforehand, and had never read his books. The horror. ‘But of course,’ he said, ‘Joe Abercrombie needs no introduction.’ Nicely done, Lawrence.

Marc Aplin also needs no introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway. He is, of course, the driving force behind Fantasy Faction. Without his hard work and dedication, as well as that of the people around him, Grim Gathering would not have been possible. Aplin deserves every bit of praise he gets (and he’s also a pretty nice guy too).

Once the introductions were over, Aplin began asking the authors some questions, which were largely centred around the grimdark genre. It was a fascinating experience, being able to listen to the authors, and really appreciate their personalities. Abercrombie, with his enviable wit and surprisingly (if you’ve read his books) jolly personality; Lawrence with his deadpan humour and Roose Bolton-like voice; Brett with his clear intelligence and confidence; and Cole with his motivational speaking and no-nonsense attitude. They all seemed like brilliant people, with a clear passion for their writing,

I feel like I learned a lot from this event. Every answer was interesting and seemed well-thought-out. We love this dark fantasy genre because, as Abercrombie so rightly put it, ‘grisly is fashionable right now.’ And, according to Cole, society expects progress, and such literature is simply a reflection of the audience’s expectations. But how dark is too dark? Lawrence never thinks about boundaries or offending people when he’s writing, and, according to Brett, ‘every reader bring their own baggage to the book’, so there’s no way of not stepping on someone’s toes.

Many good pieces of advice were given, but I have a few favourites:

Brett: ‘Never kill a dog.’
Cole: ‘Do what scares you.’
Lawrence: ‘Just start writing.’
Abercrombie: ‘If you want to be struck by lightning, you’ve got to go out in the storm. Run around naked in the rain.’

Oh and my absolute favourite quote was another by Cole: ‘The sea doesn’t care about you.’ I absolutely love that, even though it terrifies me.

The answers to all of the questions were interesting and enlightening, giving us the rare opportunity to truly see the men behind the words. Once the far too short Q&A session was over, orderly British queues were made in order for us to get our books signed. I was going to bring all of my Abercrombie books, but I changed my mind at the last minute, and only brought three, to go with two of Lawrence’s. Even so, I was swaying under the pile, with just my eyes visible over the top.

Clutching my pile for dear life, I eventually made my way up to the front. It was Abercrombie first, who put some delightful quotes along with his signature (‘Freeze, see if I care a shit’), then on to Lawrence, who, after a careful prod, recognised me from when I interviewed him a couple of months ago. Yay! I think my most awkward experience was when I thrust out my hand to Marc Aplin, demanding he recognise me from our few exchanges on Facebook (cringe). Oh, and dropping a book on an American girl, who, thankfully, was more concerned about the safety of my book than the bruise forming on her arm.

After all this excitement, we were too tired to go to the pub, but I heard they descended upon the Kensington Arms. I for one had a fantastic evening, and am extremely grateful to everyone who was involved in organising the event. Until next time!


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