People have started getting their First Edition copies of The Talon of Horus, and I’ve already been sent a couple of initial comments along with a surprising number of selfies for The Contest. And I was pretty damn happy to be sent some initial comments from first-day readers Lucien Eilam and Balthamal:
- “It’s all juice. A veritable Chekhov’s arsenal of foreshadowing. There’s barely a chapter you’ll be able to make it through without going “hang on, he did what to who?!” or similar. A lot of people are going to be starting Black Legion armies this year. I’d advise against [getting spoilers]. Like Legion, I think it’s a story that’s better if you get the surprises and revelations in the right order.”
- “Finished it. Want to crank my jaw off the floor and try to wrap my broken mind around it. In short this has been knocked so far out the park it’s gone intercontinental.”
And, with terrifying enthusiasm, this from Facebook:
That bodes well. And here are some pics of that bad boy getting unwrapped in the great wide world, on various people’s desks and carpets:
I’m saving the selfies for the actual contest, but some of them are absolutely adorable.
I think the most surprising aspect (on my end of things, at least) is how amazing it felt to actually see people with their copies. Outside of book signings (which are honestly too surreal and chaotic to really allow any focus) you rarely actually see people with your books in their hands. It was equal parts reassuring and weird, but mostly I’m glad everyone was so happy to get them, and commenting on the insane production values.
In other news, I said a while back that I had the internal artwork and the cover framed and on the wall of the Aaronorium, and they look awesome all up there together. This is indeed true. Behold the evidence:
It is an age of darkness. And also, of huge-ass black books that are easily hefty enough to use as weapons.
People will be getting their First Editions of The Talon of Horus this week/end, and that rocks on toast. I warned you I’d be asking for selfie evidence that the copies have reached their new homes, but that’s too boring. In conjunction with the demand for photographic evidence, it’s time to announce that little contest I was talking about a while back. You know the one I mean. The one with the unbelievably bad prizes, based on my excellent MS Paint cover artwork in the past.
So send me your selfies with the book, and the best three photos (or the three I choose at random if I’m feeling lazy) will win one of the fabulous prizes described in the following tweets:
I’m going to run a contest soon. The first prize will be an MS Paint picture of you and me being friends.
— Aaron Dembski-Bowden (@adembskibowden) July 1, 2014
The second prize in the upcoming contest will be an MS Paint picture of you and me trying to be friends, but ultimately unable to bond. — Aaron Dembski-Bowden (@adembskibowden) July 2, 2014
Third prize in the upcoming contest will be an MS Paint picture of you and me failing to be friends because I don’t have time for your shit.
— Aaron Dembski-Bowden (@adembskibowden) July 2, 2014
Oh, wow, right? Who can resist that? But wait, there’s more! I solemnly promise to not just draw you in carefully rendered artfulness, but also make the following guarantees:
- I guarantee to probably spell your name correctly.
- I guarantee to use at least two colours, and perhaps even as many as four.
- I guarantee that I won’t sell your image to the government and/or use it as target practice for my crossbow.
If these incredible prizes interest you, then you can upload your selfies to my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, or email them to email@example.com. The winner will be announced at some point in the near future.
Not that I have much free time at the moment, but there’s a little side project on the go that serves as another creative outlet for me and David Sondered of Studio Colruphobia. You may remember their artwork of Curze and Talos from a while back.
Here’s a glance at some concept art from our upcoming personal project.
It’s over. It’s done. The First Edition of The Talon of Horus has sold out, all 1,500 copies going in about four hours. To say that’s mega would be an understatement, even if you bolted words like “rad” and “killer” onto it, as well.
I hope everyone enjoys it. Please note that even if you think the story sucks, the First Edition makes for a glorious doorstop (it’s a chunky tome) as well as an effective leatherbound missile to launch at, say, cats that won’t fuck off out of the room. God, do I ever hate cats.
When you get your copies, send me back some selfies so I know an entire year of my life has reached you safely. There might even be (pointless and terrible) prizes for the best photos.
Some peeps and creeps had trouble with the traffic flooding Black Library’s website. Sorry to all concerned on that score – I know it sucks when the internet’s various cogs slip their gears. I once missed out on a signed copy of The Last Gunslinger for the same reason, and I kid you not that if I ever find the guy that got it instead of me, I’ll shiv him in the kidneys. And then I’ll eat the kidneys. And then I’ll make a Vine of me eating the kidneys, and post it to his Facebook wall so all of his friends know that justice is juicy and tastes oh-so sweet.
EDIT: For those of you asking when the standard hardback is out, the answer is “the 19th of September, I think” and a link to go here for info.
Thanks to the Black Library folks that lurked in the office today, dealing with the chaos, but on the slightly smug note of somehow managing to bring my publisher’s website to grinding halt once more (see also: Aurelian), please forgive me this small moment of Ozymandias-style childishness.
So this little darling gets released into the wild today, which makes today one of the scariest days in my life. Just when you think you’re used to your job, something like this comes along and throws you right back to the uneasy, eye-twitching madness that lurks on the border between hope and horror.
I’ve had three very specific questions about the First Edition, and about the story in general, which I’ll take a crack at answering now.
1. “What’s it about?”
Good question. The Talon of Horus is the first of the Black Legion Series, and these are the characters that will – at Abaddon’s side – become the founders and ruling warlords of the Black Legion. It’s told from the point of view of Iskandar Khayon, the one Thousand Son in Ahriman’s cabal that tried to stop the Rubric. The first novel is set during the Legion Wars inside the Eye of Terror, when the Imperium has largely forgotten the Traitors, and as the Sons of Horus stand on the edge of extinction. Khayon and several warriors from various Legions come together to travel across the Eye of Terror for reasons I’m not telling you right now, and as you may well imagine, they cross paths with Abaddon in a place I’m also not telling you about yet.
Anything else would be spoilers, so… shush.
2. “If this is about Abaddon’s rise to power, why does he look like that on the cover?”
The narration is set in the Dark Millennium, at two minutes to midnight, so Abaddon does look like that when Khayon is telling his story. But seriously, it’s because he’s one of the major characters in a globally recognised IP and that’s just how marketing works. Plus, it makes for a breathtaking cover to start the series.
What, you wanted me to send that cover back? That’s funny. You’re a funny person.
3. “What’s in it?”
- The Author’s Note is only in the First Edition and it’s what you’d imagine: several pages of informal stuff about the process of writing this insane novel, and the chaos (little c) involved in this part of the lore. It was a crazy book to research, for really reals.
- The Talon of Horus is, um, the book. Because of course.
- There are four pieces of internal artwork - Paul Dainton’s interpretations of the main characters – all of which I actually have framed for my games room because I loved them so much. True story. You may recall me talking about artists’ interpretations of my characters before (in Point #3 of this post right here). These pieces pushed all the right buttons.
- Extinction, Chosen of Chaos, and The Wonderworker are all short stories added to the First Edition.
- Extinction was first published in a Games Day Anthology a few years ago, and was a slice of fiction showing how the Sons of Horus took their beatings in the Legion Wars – after the Horus Heresy but long before the First Black Crusade. It’s not part of the series, but it’s a related story and I thought it was a nice touch that they included that little curiosity.
- Chosen of Chaos was first published as an eShort in Black Library’s advent calendar last year. It’s a flash forward for the series, showing Khayon, Abaddon, and several of the other characters a few centuries later. You’re safe, though. No spoilers involved.
- The Wonderworker is where things get both more and less traditional. It’s set between The Talon of Horus and before the next novel, which will be called The Black Legion. It’s traditional in that sense: it’s a short story that bridges the gap between the first and second books. It’s a little less traditional in the fact it’s a special reward for the guys and girls that grab the First Edition – as far as I know, it won’t ever be printed again. With that in mind – much like when I wrote Aurelian – I wanted something interesting and worth the effort to get hold of, but nothing vital to the series’ narrative. If you miss it, you’re not going to be in the dark about anything. If you get hold of it, you’ll get a look at some of the fallout after the first book, an early glance at some new characters coming in the second novel, and see another step in the Black Legion’s ascension. It’s more of the story if you want more of it. No more, no less.
So, there you go.
If you want to pluck one of these lovely leatherbound beauties from the shelf, here’s the link. It goes live at 1pm GMT.
+ + + Thought for the Day: Imagine a movie trailer that begins with the words: “In a world of ninjas…” + + +
Well, that happened.
You probably know Kai Lim’s work. You probably love it, too. He’s done a storm of brutal and brilliant stuff lately, and although he does a lot of work for several IPs and licenses (as well as his own stuff), his 40K stuff is just flawless. It’s easily among the best art that GW has ever seen.
I gushed about Kai Lim in my recent Top Five Moments of My Career (So Far…) when I was mentioning the stunning cover to Armageddon. I caught sight of this yesterday, about three minutes after it was posted on his Facebook page, but sneakily sat on it in silence while hoping to think up something eloquent to say rather than reply immediately.
Unfortunately, no such wise and illustrious words of gratitude have occurred to me, so fuck it. I’m posting it anyway. Apparently our intrepid artist just read the Night Lords Trilogy. Here’s what the man himself had to say on the matter:
“A piece of fan art after finally getting round to reading Aaron Dembski Bowden’s Night Lords Trilogy. I wanted to write a note to him, but I figured painting one would be a nicer way to express my appreciation for his amazing story.”
Holy shit. I’m feeling some weird combination of honoured, flattered, and stunned. I mean, just look at that. What the freaky-deaky am I supposed to say? That it looks great? That it captures the mood of the characters perfectly? You can already see that. It’s bloody awesome.
Thank you so much, dude. It’s breathtaking.
We drove down to Dublin for our third wedding anniversary, which included a trip to Dublin Zoo with the increasingly loud heir. There were animals and stuff. It was pretty killer.
Behold the photos downloaded from my Dropbox, and the rich, compelling narrative that they tell.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, the new teaser trailer for The Lord Inquisitor went live the other day. Just in case you’ve not magically not seen it on Kotaku, or any 40K forum, or the LordI page, or my Twitter/Facebook feed, then here we go.
It’s almost at a quarter of a million views in only two days, which is somewhere between “How interesting” and “OH FUCK ME THE PRESSURE”.
Shakes calls it “Daddy’s Movie” (sorry, Erasmus…) and I’m ashamed to say that a whole 9 of the views on YouTube out of the 250,000 are him rewatching it. I hope you can forgive me for this grievous inflation of viewing figures.
Here he is, watching the trailer.
“IT’S A ROBOT,” he announces, which I guess is kinda close to the truth. And then, gasp! A twist! “Where’s the robot going?”
Please note that at 0:50 seconds into the teaser trailer, he manages to guess the plot of the final movie.
EDIT: Someone posted this on my Facebook page, confirming Shakes’s suspicions:
It’s real. It’s actually real. And it’s looking bloody lovely too, though you’ll have to excuse the weird light glare as this was under my painting lamp.
For a zoomed-in look, you can press your face against the screen so the pixels squoosh over your eyeballs – that way the raw data bypasses your tongue, kidney stones, and bile ducts, to filter directly into the brain. Or maybe you could print the picture out and liquefy the paper as a key ingredient in some new and exciting energy drink.
You can do what you like, okay? I don’t care. That’s the point, here. I’m not your boss. I won’t judge you.
“Book I of the Black Legion Series.”
And so it begins. Series. Not “trilogy”. Series.
OH GOD THE PRESSURE.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t be happier. It’s flawless, and I’m immensely grateful to everyone at BL who worked at the finish line to make it come out looking like this. I think the artwork just went on sale, by the way.
I’ll just head off one particular question now: “Why is it The Talon of Horus? Didn’t it used to be Abaddon: Talon of Horus“?
Nope. It was always The Talon of Horus. Look back at the 800 times I’ve mentioned it on Facebook, Twitter, any forum ever, and indeed this blog, and you’ll see that it’s always been The Talon of Horus. There’s a conflicting image on Amazon that has a mock-up of a cover, but that was an error. Amazon just took an age to update it (it still shows as A:TToH in a few places, but is mostly corrected on the various national Amazon sites). I’ve said on a few forums and on my blog that the Amazon piccy was a flub, but it’s worth reiterating because I’m sure a few people won’t have caught any of those mentions. In most places it is – and always was – The Talon of Horus.
This thrilling update was brought to you by the letters A, D, and B.
For the record, as gratifying as it will be for various folks to run to Amazon and pre-order it from everyone’s favourite tax-avoiding mega-company, I’ll just note that the more zealous and hardcore among you might want to wait until August, when there’ll be a fairly lush announcement regarding the novel. An announcement that, sadly, I’m not allowed to say a word about just yet. I asked! I swear! But the messianic overlords that stand astride BL Towers poured boiling oil down upon my hopes, using words like “marketing” and “when the time is right” and “in accordance with the prophecy”.
For now, enjoy its terrible and lovely beauty. Or don’t. That’s fine, too. Like I said, I’m not your boss. And if I was your boss, you can bet I’d tell you to stop screwing around with plastic spacemen and focus on business things, like money and dollars and perhaps even Canadian dollars too, which are apparently a real thing.
Also, if you’re interested, check out this podcast interview I did with Fifty Shades of Geek only last night, which might just be worth your time. If it’s not up right away, check back in a few hours. There’s a fair bit about current/upcoming projects, many spoilers about past novels, and incredibly features only 2* swear words.
* — I think it’s only 2. I can’t actually remember.
Sit ye down, weary traveller, and I shall tell ye a tale.
Back in the hallowed histories of the era we now call 2007, I used to play the original Dawn of War on my shitty little laptop. This was a laptop that strained manfully to run the opening cinematic, and turned the in-game graphics into something resembling blobs of angry Play-Doh marching into noble battle with slightly different coloured blobs of Play-Doh. To give you a better idea of its technological might, I once tried to play World of WarCraft on it, and its reaction to that otherwise undemanding game was to turn blue, shit itself, and die screaming in my trembling hands.
But that was later. Let’s go back to 2007, and the event forever cemented in my mind as United in Hatred.
I like co-op games, which is no big secret, nor is it particularly interesting. In the case of Dawn of War, it was usually me and my friend Barney against various AI enemies in carefully arranged scenarios that essentially ended up as “How long can we hold out against X number of orks?” in some pointlessly awesome last stand. I usually played White Scars. He usually played Ultramarines.
Barney had a certain coldness to him when he played Dawn of War. Once, when I was desperately in need of reinforcements, this conversation took place over the in-game chatbox.
[Aaron]: I need reinforcements, dude.
[Barney]: Stand your ground.
[Aaron]: No, for real, though. I’m going to lose my base.
[Barney]: Hold in the name of the Emperor.
He was like this, sometimes. He still is. The alarming focus. The merciless refusal to give ground. Incidentally, the more astute among you will realise that this is indeed the same Barney I mentioned in the dedication of Betrayer:
One day, Barney suggested something new. Something bold. He suggested we play Dawn of War with his friend Greg, who I barely knew. I had mixed feelings about this. Some of those feelings were very childish and territorial. All of them, in fact. What a wondrously petty creature I am.
But we did it. The White Scars and the Ultramarines went to war alongside Craftworld Biel-Tan, standing against an unending tide of orks from various clans.
Here’s a screenshot of the White Scars and the Ultramarines on that sacred, wonderful day.
The battle played out with a strange, almost haunting sense of slowness. Very few orks attacked us. Those that did were slaughtered with laughable ease, popping open under massed bolter fire like teased, squeezed boils between a teenager’s fingertips. Where a boil might rupture with a spillage of thick, warm pus, the orks burst open with alien blood and broken dreams. It was a super deep narrative.
Barney and I did what we always did, which is to say we stuffed as many squads as possible into drop pods while defending every bridge into our territory with dug-in artillery. We built up our bases into unassailable fortresses, ready to repel any assault.
This approach, variously called “turtling” and “cowardice”, seemed to bore Greg. He gathered the forces of Craftworld Biel-Tan and proceeded to march north through the ruined city, ready to annihilate any orks that he found. Those of you with a grasp of eldar lore will no doubt be shivering in delight, thinking “Greg’s awesome. Not like those pussy Space Marines. Greg unleashed the motherfucking Swordwind.”
Greg did just that. Unfortunately, the game was bugged and the reason we’d endured almost no assaults on our pristine, perfect fortress-monasteries was because the enemy AI wasn’t spawning any units apart from gretchin, who were largely standing around and building shitty little gun towers between long bouts of sticking their green fingers up their noses.
The first ork base fell. Undefended, it burned and exploded beneath the eldar attack. Greg said:
[Greg]: that’s one
…which, again, was true. I can’t overstate the military force he’d taken north to achieve this curbstomping triumph over the defenceless orks. I don’t just mean Fire Prism tanks, either. He had an Avatar of Kaela Mensha Khaine striding around up there – a literal incarnation of the eldar God of War made out of lava and murder and really sharp knives – waving a magic sword made out of fire. As I watched him sweep through the defenceless ork settlements, I couldn’t help but wonder at how many innocent orklings and grot-babies he was culling to feed the the soulfires of this bloodthirsty war god.
At this point, my pettiness began to bubble up again. I scrolled with all the tender care of a sneering, snivelling armchair general, mousing over Greg’s empty, undefended eldar base. I remember, very clearly, running my thumb across my lips, and I remember a moment later that I said “Hmmmmm” in a way that lasted almost ten full seconds.
I clicked back to my base.
I checked what squads I had in orbit, ready to land via drop pod.
I narrowed my eyes and said “Hmmmmm” again.
Fantasies of the purest dickery swirled hot and cold through the squidgy grey slush behind my eyes. Would I do this? Could I do this? Is this who I was? Had I been alive for a quarter of a century only to evolve into this?
My cursor was over the QUIT TEAM icon when, completely out of the blue, the following message pinged into existence:
Barney has left the team.
And I knew. We’d had no communication at all, but I knew.
Aaron has left the team.
Barney wishes to join your team. Accept?
I’ll never forget the absolutely unparalleled skullfucking slaughterfest that followed. No war movie has ever quite matched it. No battle scene in any book. Sometimes people will come up to me at signings and say how they loved the battle scenes in Helsreach or whatever, and I’ll look them right in the eye as I reply. “Thanks,” I’ll say. But really I’m thinking “You don’t even know what battle is. You weren’t there that day. You didn’t see what we did to Greg.”
Drop pods rained from the sky like the fire-iron tears of weeping metal gods. The White Scars and the Ultramarines committed to planetary assault in the same moment, in the same location. I remember every thunderclap of the pods striking the earth. I remember the animation as Space Marine squads spawned from the opened pods, right in the heart of the eldar base. I remember – with a clarity no hangover can ever steal – the way all those squads shouted “SPACE MARINES ATTACK!” one after the other, over and over. It was like a prayer. A shouty, angry prayer.
Eldar buildings cracked, crumbled, detonated. Land Raiders and Predators began to rumble in from the east and west as our battle tanks pulled up a few seconds after the first wave of orbital deep strikers. Lascannons flashed across the screen in their blue-white retina-aching resonance. The poor Bonesingers responsible for eldar base construction ran for cover, only to be cut down by merciless torrents of bolter fire. The orks had escaped Imperial rage on account of an AI bug. The eldar would not be so fortunate.
And then… this.
[Greg]: hang on guys
Not even a full-stop. Not even, as our American friends would say, a period. Just that one request, delivered as the eldar army was in the north, doubtless seeing the horizon light up with their burning homes in the south. And that’s when I felt myself infected with the tendrils of true dickery. As if this humiliating betrayal wasn’t enough, I actually answered in-character. Barney’s cold-hearted immersion ran through me. I became more than a traitor. I became a fuckhead.
[Aaron]: The alien speaks our language, Brother-Captain.
[Barney]: Then we shall deliver unto him the Emperor’s message.
I’m ashamed to admit that by this point I was laughing so hard I was having trouble seeing clearly, let alone breathing. The possibility of actual asphyxiation through wheezing, painful, gut-clenching laughter was a very real threat. It was all I could do to focus through the tears of mad laughter to click on new eldar buildings to destroy.
Craftworld Biel-Tan brought its army back south, but by then it was far too late. The eldar Avatar led its warriors into the craters where its base had been, only to be confronted by two fully-deployed and dug-in Space Marine armies. We took minor casualties… and wiped the eldar from the face of the planet, like excrement from a power-armoured boot.
I remember two specific things before it hurt too much to continue. The first was the Avatar itself, down on its hands and knees and turning to ash, one hand reaching up in futility to an uncaring sky. The Space Marines surrounding it had already turned their bolters away, firing elsewhere, bored with the death animation of an alien god.
And the second, as you might imagine, was this:
Greg has left the game.
I won’t lie to you, dear readers. Greg and I haven’t talked much since then.
United in hatred, brothers and sisters.
Remember this tale, for in such moments are the truest friendships forged… and the darkest enemies made.