Myke Cole arrived with an entourage. His posse dispersed, and moved the book-pyramid tables and replaced them with rows of folding chairs; the Cole Gang, it turned out, were the event organisers. The Fantasy Faction crew prepared the Waterstones basement for the Grimdark Gathering, and I couldn’t wait for it to start.
I considered introducing myself to Myke—he’s a successful fantasy author, after all, and that makes him a god, obviously—but my forwardness, in this case, would be weird. Of the four authors to attend the book signing, he’s the only one whose holy writ I’ve not read. Curiously, I shared this particular three-out-of-four combination with three other fantasy enthusiasts. Our impromptu discussion group compared who’s read who. A girl had read Myke Cole, but not Joe Abercrombie. Someone else had read only Peter V Brett, and my friend, who had invited me to attend the event, had not read Mark Lawrence, or Myke Cole. This sets up my first faux pas…
Myke can totally beat me up, I thought, but the strong-armed, barrel-chested author had a friendly demeanour, and he even helped with the folding chairs—loudly narrating his kind actions as he performed them. He’s a people’s person, evidenced by the fact that he approached our group to introduce himself. We shook hands. Now, I had intended to say something charming like, “Pleased to meet you, Myke. I look forward to reading one of your books.” Instead, I said, “We’ve all been too embarrassed to come over to chat to you”—I gestured to my new-found friends, falsely implicating all of them—”because you’re the only author that we’ve not read.” What the fuck!? Please don’t beat me up. Myke, to his credit, was nonplussed, and gracefully made an exit. My fellow fantasy-lovers were kind enough not to vocalise the pity in their eyes.
By the time Peter V Brett entered the basement, most people were seated. He stood to the side, speaking with an organiser, but he was relatively isolated. Fortune favours the brave… Dragging my friend with me, I introduced myself to another god. “Thanks for the retweet this morning,” I prayed to him. This supplication was an improvement to my earlier blasphemy, and it seemed to have pleased the god, for we continued to converse for several minutes. I congratulated him on his recently completed first draft of The Skull Throne, and he spoke enthusiastically about the book. He seemed pleased with the US cover for the upcoming novel—I got to see it later in the evening, and yes, it kicks ass. I asked him a question that I had prepared for the Q&A, in case I didn’t get to ask it. “In your bio it said that your first book manuscript was ‘tragically’ lost and that your fourth manuscript (The Warded Man) was the first one that you sold. What about manuscript two and three? What were their working titles? And can we ever hope to see them ‘leak’ on the internet?” Peter laughed. I think it was a good question. The first manuscript still exists, he informed me, it’s just not that good. The other books… Well, he had written a trilogy that was more of a traditional fantasy with elves and so forth. And no, those books will never see the light of day, for fear of tarnishing his brand. “It’s not that I’m not proud of those books,” he said. “They got me to where I am today.” I never got the working titles out of him… Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence had arrived; my godly discourse was ended.
The event itself was a pleasure, and well attended—the basement was packed. Thanks is due to Marc Aplin and the Fantasy Faction elves who organised and hosted the evening. The theme was the darkness of modern fantasy, and for such a grim topic, the evening was pleasantly light-hearted. It started with Marc’s request that the authors introduce each other. This was no problem for Peter who had to introduce Myke, his long-time friend. Myke is a massive fan of Mark’s work and his introduction came naturally. Joe had had a piss-up with Peter and Myke, some time ago in New York, and his introduction focused on booze and vomiting, with a quick mention that Peter also writes books and shit. Mark had drawn the short straw, having only met Joe five minutes before. He had also not read any of his books… He did a fine job, however, by admitting all this. “But of course, Joe Abercrombie needs no introduction!” he concluded, to thunderous applause and laughter.
It was fascinating listening to the authors. Their personalities are unique and quite complimentary. Peter V Brett is thoughtful, confident, and well-spoken. Myke Cole is a philosophical motivational speaker with a shotgun. He’s a veteran—thank you for your service, sir— and still works for a police department and the Coast Guard while being a god in his “spare” time. Mark Lawrence is soft-spoken, and commands a great deal of wit. Joe Abercrombie is the loud-mouth, but in a good way. He’s charming, charismatic, and naturally funny. Good best man material.
After the discussion and Q&A, which seemed to pass too quickly, queues were formed and the book signing began. I was fortunate to be in the front. I clutched my newly acquired copy of Joe’s Half a King, determined to get it signed by all the authors. Judging by their reactions, it is a little weird to get an author to sign someone else’s book—fair enough!—but they were good sports.
While Mark signed the book, I remarked that I have read his first novel, but that I have still to get to the follow-up. His shark-like eyes stared me down, and he said, “Make sure that you do that.” The deadpan delivery was flawless, and considering what this man is capable of doing to a dog in print, I’m inclined to do as he says…
Joe signed his own book and addressed it to me. I told him that Glokta is an inspiration for my own protagonist in the book that I’m trying to write. “Are you enjoying the writing?” he asks, politely. For the next couple of minutes I rambled on about me, and he indulged me. Very kind.
“Hi, I’m the guy who insulted you earlier,” I said to Myke. He informed me that he had not been insulted at all. I forgot to apologise. He signed the book, “I sure wish I was more like that Myke Cole guy—Joe Abercrombie.” Legend.
Peter wrote, “Glad you got a cool author to sign this.” This pleases me. He showed me the US cover for The Skull Throne, and I thanked him for the earlier conversation.
Afterwards, we frequented the Kensington Arms, a “pub” that confused me, to be frank. We waited for the gods to join us, but we were tired and left. Weak mortals… On the way to the Underground, two of the gods passed us by, and with the familiarity of close friends, my buddy said, “Were were you!? We’ve been waiting, and now we’ve got to go.” In hindsight, that could be considered quite a dick-ish thing to say, but I think they received it in good humour. They replied that they’ve just finished scribbling for the masses, as if they owed us an explanation… We bid them a good night and made our way home.
It was an all-round pleasant evening, with a scattering of cringe-worthy moments. As for the gods… they are men, and cool ones at that.
Please visit the authors’ websites. They do write fantastic books.
Lastly, thanks to Kensington Waterstones, who generously offered their venue at the last minute.