The Black Library Weekender is mere hours away. So close in fact that me, Katie, and Shakes are flying over tomorrow for the traditional “Having dinner with Liz and John French on the night before an event” ritual. We were also thinking of taking up the McNeills on Graham’s offer of crashing at theirs, but Shakes has started a recent habit of getting up at 5:00am, so we’re trying to spread that delightfulness around as little as possible.
I love the Weekender. I love the atmosphere, I love the fast and loose feeling the authors get to have that disguises all the organisation the staff have put in,
Last year’s Weekender featured the Fifty Shades of Geek fellows (who can be found on their homepage, as well as Facebook, and Twitter) showing up wearing T-shirts with quotes from my novels running down the front, and I was so humbled and embarrassed, I dealt with this magnanimous gesture by hinting that I never wanted them to do anything like it again. Make note, people: try not to be such an uncharitable cunt when similar moments roll around in your lives. At one point, I actually fled from three of them in the T-shirts, in case a couple of the other authors thought I’d arranged it to make myself look special.
Here they are, saved for posterity. Tim (far left) recently joined our 40K campaign, The Thracian Caul, which I’ll have more details on soon. It’s undergoing sweeping changes based on me and John (French) trying to give it some more unity and purpose, rather than getting distracted and all momentum failing as they so often do with these things. It’s looking good; I’d be interested in your opinions when we start showing some of the datasheets, and stuff. Nikki (in the middle) looks half-asleep. I don’t know why.
Also of note, you may have seen this slice of lushness on various forums, but here’s David Sondered (from Studio Colrouphobia) ‘s freaking killer version of Konrad Curze. You might also remember his Talos, from a little while ago?
One of the things I love most about it is that he’s captured the primarch’s fundamental unhealthiness, which is something a lot of the more, uh, ‘badass’ artwork can ignore. For me, this is one of those images that becomes definitive the moment I see it, much like when I saw the cover of Aurelian, and made unstoppable sex noises for three days straight every time someone asked me about it.
David’s also one of the guys I’m musing over asking about doing some personal commissions in the near future, some based on my TOR character, some for a private project, and some for our games group. I mean, seriously. Just look at this. With the fact Jon Sullivan’s artwork doesn’t feature on the future Night Lords omnibus, I wish I’d discovered David earlier and pimped him, hardcore, to Black Library.
Last of all, I’ve had a bunch of requests for info on my Star Wars: The Old Republic character. I can’t be bothered to go into all the details (and I admit I’ve barely touched the game in about 3 months because of work, so most of my guild has forgotten me), but suffice to say, here he is:
Sometimes, just sometimes, the Candy Goblins will get caught in their own rattle-clanking machinery, and their saccharine corpses become yet another ingredient in the deliciousness they produce. And other times, I have no idea what happens, because just look at this fucker.
This is a jelly bean. I’m not even kidding. I can’t bring myself to throw it away.
Initial scientific analysis suggests that it would be unwise to eat this thing.
The main evidence is that it’s as hard as a golf ball and the colour of ass cancer, but I’m still waiting to hear back from the lab.
The Black Library Weekender is mere days away.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m “not a big events guy”. At GDUK, you’ll usually find me taking longer breaks than the other authors, or signing for less time, and going to spy on people’s armies instead. I like doing panels with Graham of the McNeill Clan, and John of the French bloodline (and anyone from Forge World who will sit next to me for more than three minutes with me lavishing kisses upon them), but BL’s brand new events overseer (who is called Claudia, and is lovely, by the way) was very thoughtful in arranging a slightly less hectic schedule for me than last year’s Weekender. I barely survived last year’s one. And this year, I may not have a surprise midnight kiss with a burly male prison guard to boost my morale.
So while I’ll miss the Everyone Sit In A Room With Aaron event (which was humblingly full, last year), I’ll be less frantic and rushed with 800 panels and stuff, so I won’t constantly be saying “Uh, fuck off, I have to go to a thing now” if you happen to stop me in the hallway or the bar.
You can find a schedule thingy here: http://www.blacklibrary.com/Events/weekender-2013.html.
Also of note, I think my Mum and Stepdad are showing up to collect Shakes on the Saturday morning/afternoon, so if you want to see what I’d look like if I was a couple of decades older (and female) then I’ve got you covered.
I should (should…) have finished The Talon of Horus by the weekend, as well. If you ask me about it at the event, and all I do is hang my head and weep soulfully, then you’ll know just how well that intention worked out in the end. As with every book I write, I hate it and I’m sure everyone will hate it, too. We’ll see if time plays it out that way. It’s the story of the warriors who form the Black Legion first coming together to seek the lost First Captain Abaddon, and ends with Abaddon’s inevitable return to confront the clones of Horus – the first thing of note in the Black Legion/Sons of Horus’s famous post-Terra history.
Which all obviously leads into the second novel being about the Black Legion’s first few years of struggle.
I’m a little worried about a storm of 1-star reviews (“Abaddon doesn’t show up until really late!”) just because he’s on the cover, but whatever. If I wasn’t second-guessing myself and rewriting every line three times in a state of awkward discomfort, it wouldn’t be me. I’d be, y’know, someone brave instead.
I feel a little guilty about anyone who makes the main characters, though. First Claw aren’t equipped to be great on the tabletop, but at least they’re pretty easy to model. The ‘main character squad’ equivalent in The Talon of Horus (and going forward through the series) is the Ezekarion, and they’re not going to be easy to model. They’re also not actually tabletop legal, and would cost about 3,000 points if they were. So I apologise in advance.
The Tale of Five Heretics is, as you can see, massively delayed. I’ve accidentally started a Minotaurs army, and the maddest thing is that – for once – I’m actually painting them. And it’s fun. I’m enjoying it. This is progress on an unprecedented scale for me, given that I’m the guy that recently fielded 1,000 points of unpainted Chaos Marines, and still claim victory with 4,000 points of unpainted High Elves in my teens. The good news is that from mid-November onwards, I have a lot more free time again. I’ll have a proper update around then, hopefully with my first 3-man Sky Hunter Squad in the bag. I went from hating those models to absolutely adoring them in the space of about a week, and now I can’t get enough of them.
In other news, here are some of the fruits of my Facebook wall and various inboxes.
Is it inboxes? Inboxii. Inbeexes.
Whatever. You may recognise Defreee’s freaking killer representation of these fine, polite young men:
Before I go, did I tell you a few of us are gearing up to play some Deathwatch in January? Hopefully a long-running campaign, and we’re looking to make it more than just a series of shooty-death-kill scenes. I’ll have more info soon, but right now the line-up runs a little like this:
- Varianus Noster, Praesarius of the Ultramarines 5th Company. [Devastator]
- Jorran, Battle-Brother of the Imperial Fists 5th Company. [Tactical]
- Droitus Mallory, Battle-Brother of the Lamenters. [Assault]
- Deiphobus Lorec, Intendant of the Minotaurs. [Apothecary]
Given my shameless love of Apothecaries, it’ll be no surprise that I’m playing Dio. It was hard resisting Devastator, Tactical, and Librarian (because of heavy bolter, awesome bolter, and psychic powers, respectively) but nothing beats a narthecium.
Some interesting tensions between the Chapters, too. Hope it works out.
And lastly, you can see Katie thinking about whether to join in or not, over at her blog right here. It’s a conundrum. She likes her D&D gnome, and Space Marines… aren’t D&D gnomes.
In recent months, as The Talon of Horus rolls ever onward, I’ve spilled a wealth of words on Ezekyle Abaddon and the Black Legion over emails and hastily-chucked notes to various other authors and IP-tastic souls in the dark conclave of Those Who Contribute to 40K.
This is a difficult book, not only because of the wealth of lore (much of which subtly shifts from edition to edition, meaning you need to choose what to focus on and run with that), but also because of the 40K comedy memes that do the rounds, just like in any fandom. Abaddon, however, gets hit hardest by a barrage of misunderstandings, and lore that remained fairly vague in the past. I hope you’ll forgive me for focusing on the positive and the reality behind the curtain, but I already spend long enough worrying about, and discussing, the negative perceptions. I can’t bring myself to commit several hours hashing them all up again here and now. Besides, they’re already out there. What I can offer today is something a little fresher. From the source, so to speak.
Over the course of all these exchanges with various people (who thankfully took the time to lay out a bajillion words and share their insights with me), a lot of the back and forth discussions revolved around just what it means to be Warmaster of Chaos. Everyone mostly said the same thing in different words, which matched my plans down the line, and that was a pleasant slice of reassurance, let me tell you. I’m sitting on tens of thousands of words from various people about Abaddon, the Eye of Terror, and Chaos Marines in general, as well as practically every word printed about the Black Legion since Rick Priestley and co. first said “Hang on a minute, I’ve got an idea…”
In short, this project has been an absolute dream to research. The more people you talk to, the more perspective and insight you get, and this has been freaking killer. I’ve learned a lot about stuff I already thought I had a brilliant angle on. I’ve had some of my best lore discussions over all of this madness. The really bizarre thing is that all these discussions have made Heresy meetings look like the easiest and smoothest thing in the world. No, really. I can’t overstate the number of times I’ve almost called Dan, Gav or Graham in shrieking tears, demanding they fly over and hold me in their arms until the scary times go away.
Okay, maybe not. But there’s an image for you, nevertheless. The reality is that I wanted to call Alan Merrett – GW’s IP overlord – but he’s really scary and would never hug me.
As an interesting extract, here’s something from one of the longer back-and-forth barrages, which managed to stand out as so painfully inspiring that I had to go make a cup of tea and sit down in the garden to recover, like the weakling Englishman I am.
Note:- Of course, because it’s Ireland, it was raining, so I came back inside almost immediately. Me – and my cup of tea – calmed down in the living room while Shakes watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but let’s just move on and stop slaying my quintessentially English reaction.
So, here. These aren’t my words – they’re from The Archive to End All Archives. The crowning jewel of said archive, as it happens. It aligns with the general consensus on Abaddon, but how it was phrased just resonated with me like nothing else quite had before.
Hope you find it as intriguing and inspiring as I do.
“Horus was weak. Horus was a fool.”
It sums up Abaddon. Horus allowed himself to be used by Chaos – Horus is the Chaos Powers’ dupe to get back at the Emperor. Abaddon will never let this happen. He will never allow himself to be a Pawn of Chaos. Simply surviving without choosing one as a patron is a massive achievement. Never succumbing to the temptation of becoming a daemon prince is a second. Seriously, Abaddon is so driven he’d rather battle and scrape and bite and claw his way up to achieve his goals on his own terms than achieve immortality and virtually limitless power, because the alternative is to open the slightest chink in his independence that the Chaos Gods will exploit.
If Horus was the vessel that all of the Gods poured their power into (right up until they abandoned him at the end), then Abbadon has become the vessel that the gods want to have for themselves but haven’t been able to claim. They’ve all offered him a chance to be their regent, to rule in their name, and he has turned them all down, playing them off each other. He is the New Emperor in a way that Horus never was or would have been. Abaddon has, through sheer force of will and dominance, made himself more than a pawn, he has made himself kingmaker. If he were to choose one god to serve, if he dedicated the Black Legion to a single power in his name, that God would crush his rivals almost to the point of victory.
Because Chaos can never win against itself, of course, and Abaddon has seen the truth of this. He knows that Chaos is a process, a state, not a goal, and the moment anyone surrenders to the journey and forgets the destination is the moment their worldly ambitions are forgotten and their spirit becomes simply a part of the Chaos Powers. Abaddon is utterly relentless in his pursuit of what he wants – whatever that may actually be. Revenge on the Emperor? Too petty. Vengeance for Horus? Too sentimental. Power? Yes. What kind of power? Mortal power. He could have all the immortal power he can handle if he but asks for it, but that is not what drives him. He sees the Primarchs disappear, fade, die or simply not care anymore and he understands that only a man can really rule other men. Abaddon doesn’t want to destroy the Imperium, he wants to succeed where Horus failed. He wants to be Emperor and have Mankind bow beneath his rule.
His rule, not the rule of the Chaos gods.
Abaddon has not failed because he is wilful or incompetent. He has mustered the greatest armies since the Heresy and unleashed them upon the material universe. He has amassed power and influence within the Eye of Terror greater than any primarch. He has done this through feat of arms and personality, but the one thing he can never truly do, because it is anathema to Chaos, is truly unite the ruinous powers. They can only come together in dominance, not subservience. Whenever Abaddon has been on the brink of victory his backers break ranks, seeking to gain some last-minute short-term advantage.
Ultimately, a win for Abaddon is a loss for Chaos. If he becomes Emperor he has everything he desires and they can hold nothing over him. And so they continue to dangle the carrot, continue to be his patrons, giving him daemonic power and servants, ordering their mortal representatives to debase themselves and serve his will, all in the hope of snatching the final victory of Abaddon for themselves.
It is the Office Politics of Hell. Literally… One of the beliefs surrounding Satan in many Christian theologies is that his defiance of God was his refusal to bow to Man when they were created. In refusing to submit to the rule of mortals, Abaddon carries this analogy perfectly – the Legiones Astartes were created by a god and were never meant to be corralled and curtailed by purely mortal ambitions. As Angels they have a higher purpose – and once had a higher regard in the eyes of their creator, who shunned them.
Quite how much of this Abaddon realises when Horus fails and how much he learns over the next ten thousand years (or three days, depending on warp time) is narratively elastic…
Bearing in mind the warp/ real interface, being the bearer of the Mark of Chaos Ascendant is not just having a shiny star of Chaos imprinted in one’s forehead. It is, when the Chaos gods are bestowing their blessing/ energy, to be the centre of a blazing star, to be surrounded by a coil of ever-replenshing Chaos energy, heralded by choirs of daemons of all powers, suffused with the essence of the four great Chaos Gods. To each worshipper and follower he appears different (much like the Emperor…). He is a schemer, a warrior, a self-centred iconoclast and a survivor.
But there are the times, after the effort, the glory, of being the conduit of so much power, when he teeters on the precipice of doubt, madness and physical corruption. He stands between mortals and immortals, his ambitions far beyond the understanding of the first, yet incomprehensibly alien to the second; constantly he is failed by the inherent weaknesses of both.
His enemies circle, material and immaterial, sensing potential weakness. His allies start to disappear. For a while the Chaos Powers are disinterested, choosing to split, becoming self-serving once more, raising up their champions, sometimes alone, sometimes together, hoping that these mortals will rival Abaddon. Yet they never do.
And he wonders if it is vanity. He wonders if he is deserving. He wonders if what he wants is possible.
And then the Powers come back, trying once more to win him to their cause, taunting, threatening, cajoling and coercing Abaddon to become theirs and theirs alone. And he listens, and he wonders. And always, from somewhere deep in his soul, from the darkest yet strongest place in his mind, the answer comes back, hesitant but growing louder with every beat of his twin hearts.
Yes, one day it will all be yours.
And he starts the struggle again. The Long War continues.
July 5th marked mine and Katie’s 2-year anniversary, and I thought – in lieu of actual content and updates about writing – this might interest one or two of you. With apologies for sound quality at the venue, and blah blah blah.
My friend John (who you’ll know as the ball-achingly talented and urbane gentleman John French) once told me that his wedding day was the best day of his life, and that it went by so fast that he could remember almost none of it.
As usual, John and I agree on pretty much everything ever.
As some of you know, I recently went to Phoenix.
As fewer of you know (but those who do possess this lore are among my very favourite humans), I’m something of a Phoenix Suns fan.
As many more of you will know, I take literally the shittiest photos of anyone in the world. On an incredible week-long trip to New York, the only photo I actually took was a weird pit of LEGO heads in the NYC store, which looked like something from a kid’s vision of Dante’s Inferno. In fact, here’s that bad boy right now, for the glittery fulfilment of your facial seeing-balls:
So my editor Laurie and I went to PHX on a stupid, last-minute whim, to go to the 20th Anniversary Babylon 5 reunion at PHX Comic-Con. This was a prohibitively expensive whim, and I’m sure I’ll come to regret it around tax season, but it also represented the first time I’ve left my house by choice rather than because I had to, in about 10 years. I think Katie recognised that (and maybe wanted a week to have all kinds of affairs) so she encouraged me to do it.
In Phoenix, it was (and I say this with great consideration, as someone who lived in Bangladesh for almost 4 years; has visited Egpyt; and had meningitis in Thailand) Human Rights-breachingly hot. We weren’t in a city. We were in the middle of a desert – there just happened to be a city around us.
Anyway, here are the photos. Despite meeting the B5 cast members; being served at every meal by uncomfortably nubile and embarrassingly luscious Arizonan nymphettes; and spending three full days around a billion people dressed up in various outfits, my photos are of… pretty much fuck all.
And then, lastly, this:
I get asked about writing advice all the time, and all the time I refuse to give it because there are others out there doing it better, with far more qualifications in that regard.
But I’ll tell you a story. A story I don’t like thinking about, and don’t often tell.
First, go watch this. It’s a trailer for a movie called Captain Harlock: Space Pirate.
Go on, watch it. I’ll be right here waiting.
I hope you watched it. Now here’s my story.
In 2012, I was a guest of dubious honour at the SFX Weekender. Anyone who knows me well also knows that any time I’m in public it’s automatically the worst day of my life because of that very reason, but even for the barely contained flesh-host of anxieties that the world calls Aaron Dembski-Bowden, that was a particularly tough convention. It lasted several days. There were thousands of people. I had a deadline. People kept recognising me while I was walking to the bar, or taking a piss, or trying to think.
I know, I know – First World problems / it’s such a hard life, etc. I’m not complaining; I’m not saying my life is terrible. My life is awesome. I’m just giving context.
I’m a very private person, held together by white lies and black thread, and I was already in a state of acute discomfort when it came time to sit on a Space Opera discussion panel with three of the best and most famous writers in the science-fiction genre. I was one of five authors asked to be on the panel – and while I’m kinda used to Dan Abnett now (we harass each other over Skype and email often enough), sitting with him on a panel with Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton was nothing short of skull-fuckingly terrifying. I can recall being this scared only two other times: my driving test, and the Black Library Weekender 2012 quiz show, when everyone cheered at the announcement of my name.
At the SFX Weekender, the panel I was already dreading started off with one of the other authors inviting another writerly friend into the group. Which meant there wasn’t enough room at the table. Which meant the last person in line one was left slightly in the shadows, off the edge of the table. This, of course, was me. I could’ve solved it with two seconds of “Can you shuffle up a little?” but I was concentrating hard on trying to look like a normal human being, and not a poor copy of one that was having trouble breathing. I pulsed telepathically to Dan, telling him to notice that I looked like some kind of shadowy loser, and move everyone along on my behalf, but Dan was too busy being effortlessly cool.
Here’s a picture of the scene itself, that I can scarcely bring myself to look at.
I remember practically nothing of what I said, and I don’t really care. What should’ve been one of the coolest moments of my career was an anxiety-blighted nightmare, and getting to meet two of sci-fi’s best and brightest writers (whose work I’d been reading and loving for years) turned into an hour-long war not to get up and go back to my room to hide in the current Word.doc, shielded by my headphones.
I do remember, much to my torment, opening with a pointlessly defiant defence of “why I’m writing tie-in fiction”, citing how the money was so good, as if: a) I’ve ever done this for the fucking money, or b) Any of the people at this table gave a shit about that, or c) Anyone had mentioned it in the first place. I quite literally opened with a knee-jerk lie about myself, nothing to do with the topic, because I felt so defensive. Representing yourself poorly is often a side-effect of serious anxiety issues, and of course, in a beautifully dark cycle, people’s opinions of you are one of the things you get most anxious about. But I don’t want to go into my headspace too much. It’s not hugely relevant.
After the panel ended, Dan got up, smiled and said something that I no longer remember, then swanned away Dannishly to his Next Thing. I had a Next Thing as well, but I could barely move. Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, and the others grouped together, talking on the other end of the table – and why wouldn’t they? They were friends and colleagues, after all. I could’ve gone over to them and insinuated myself in their circle, but I was too shaken, and too self-conscious. Their circle also reminded me unpleasantly of when I’d been in India as a kid, and seen a pack of vultures surrounding a dead dog. You couldn’t see any of the birds’ faces, just black shoulders and black wings, as they picked at what remained of the carcass in their midst. As an idiot kid amazed at how dense this flock of creatures was, I picked up a rock and threw it at the locked wall of vultures. It wasn’t much of a rock, and it bounced harmlessly off one of the birds’ wings, apparently unnoticed. But it was like a rugby scrum: there was no way in or out of it.
There was nothing confrontational or exclusionary about the authors’ huddle, but that was how I felt just seeing it. I saw the vultures again, which put a shitty capstone on an already shitty morning.
I remember, very clearly, wanting someone to come up to me and start a fight. If they did that, then I could hurt them and it wouldn’t be my fault, since I’d not started it. I wanted something else to be damaged for once, instead of myself. I wanted externalisation. Expression. Blunt and stupid as it was.
In a moment that ranks as one of the Top Ten things I’m most grateful for in my entire life, my friend Mark (better known to the world as author Mark C. Newton) came up to me and smiled.
“That went well,” he said.
Reality returned with those words. Back to trying to fake a real person’s facial expressions; back to smiling and hoping it didn’t look false. Everyday normality. I said something I don’t remember, and headed away to the Next Thing (which, as I recall, was some signing).
Now, the rest of the Weekender was nowhere near as bad as that experience, and I crossed paths with the various characters in this pointless drama later, in much less idiotic ways. That’s not my point. I try to use my memory of that discussion panel every time I feel myself on the edge of knee-jerk elitism with anything. The sheer irrational emotion of the moment, in how defensive I felt in the presence of established, famous authors. The teeth-clenchingly fervent defence of my work when it wasn’t even being challenged. I think back to that insecurity when I’d otherwise say “This sucks” and move on.
I think about how angry and worried I was, so instinctively certain my heroes were looking down at me and what I did. Whether they were or not is irrelevant – it’s my reaction and thought process that was so unhealthy, so boxed-in.
Which brings me back to Captain Harlock: Space Pirate.
I watched that trailer last night, and my thoughts went like this:
“An anime thing? Ugh. Jesus, this narration is agonisingly cheesy. Oh my God, more Final Fantasy-style girl-boys with shit hair. Christ, this is every cliche’ ever, condensed into a single trailer. That spaceship looks hilarious. Who’d fucking build that? Their uniforms look like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
My elitism kicked in with brutal force, as it often does with everyone who likes anything, when they instinctively confuse “What I like” with “What’s objectively good”. This trailer didn’t look like ‘serious’ sci-fi, therefore the movie would be shit. The characters were Final Fantasytastic, so they were stupid. And so on. You see it everywhere, most often with movie reviews, but anywhere there’s an opinion, you’ll find that kind of bias. “It’s not my thing, therefore here are the reasons why it’s terrible.”
Except… I don’t need all my sci-fi and fantasy to be serious, or to be presented in a certain tone. I love The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. How to Train Your Dragon is one of my favourite films. Christ, I love Babylon 5, but I can never bring myself to argue when someone points out all its bad points. The fucking thing was a triumph for me in spite of a bajillion flaws. I like Star Wars. I like family films. Yet I hated this trailer because Ha-ha, it looks silly and Japanese and a skull spaceship and lol anime amirite.
I caught myself doing it, and rewatched the trailer. Now, I have no idea what Captain Harlock is beyond this trailer, but on a second watching, my thoughts were like this:
“This looks… cute. That ship is so fucking melodramatic, but I dig it. It suits the setting. That fat guy with the goggles looks like he’ll be awesome. The battle scenes look cool as shit. Who’s that green girl? That looks like a difficult love story. I love that shit. The art direction on this is pretty damn unique. Those deep-sea diver guys look all kinds of rad. The captain has an alien bird-thing! I love animal companions in sci-fi and fantasy, they’re one of my fave things ever. I’m all over that. Damn, that guy hugging the hologram – his wife must be dead or something. These space battles look fucking killer. Oh shit, that green girl is, like, dissolving or something. I bet she becomes human.”
Like I said, I have no idea what this movie is about, other than it’s apparently based on an older cartoon. But beyond my knee-jerk bias, this has a huge chunk of the stuff I love in a good story. Fucking spaceships at war. Massive baroque-looking warships and huge boarding actions. Themes and concepts I try to put in most of my own writing, and the same ideas and ideals that are in the stuff I love to read. There’s an animal companion (of a dark kind…) in The Talon of Horus. There’s a complicated love story somewhere in everything I write, and the one(s) in The Talon of Horus are loud and proud, much like the Chief and Cortana in Halo – it doesn’t need to be traditional love, it’s more a matter of loyalty and affection, above and beyond the call. And I’ve always said that if I ever get to write a novel about the Space Wolves, fuck you, the main character will be best pals with a Fenrisian Blackmane wolf, and I don’t care what anyone says. Warriors and loyal beasts = rad.
So, if you want any advice about writing, it all comes back to that old adage of “Read, read, read” and “Watch, watch, watch”. I’m not advocating changing your tastes. I’m not advocating liking stuff that sucks. I’m advocating trying something new and seeing how it goes, because elitism may be a toasty and comforting blanket to wrap around yourself, but it’s also a sign of insecurity. After a while, it starts to stunt your growth. Read outside your favourite genre. Do the same with movies. Look for the universal appeal in things you wouldn’t usually consider. The best science-fiction and fantasy is the best because it’s about people and creatures in believable, nuanced situations, and we see their actions and reactions as believable in context. If it could happen anywhere, not just in space or Krynn or Middle-Earth, or wherever, then it’s got a good foundation.
Don’t let yourself be comforted by your own secret fear and jaded anger. I promise you, it’s not a pleasant way to be. I almost pissed all over what looks like a fun fairy tale in space (that Alexander’s sure to love, and that I’d have loved as a kid) out of knee-jerk elitism. Because 40K is so super-serious. Because I’m so worthy and above anime, or whatever.
And now I can’t wait for this film.
On the other hand, maybe just ignore my stupid over-analysing. Katie watched the Captain Harlock trailer, too. This was her reply:
“Emo Sky Pirates. Sold.”
A video I made for distant friends and family, showing a bunch of photos and footage of Shakes in his first year on this wonderful world we call Terra.
It’s my first ever attempt to edit a video together (which is polite-talk for “Amateur as fuck”) and it took me about 4 hours to do. As Alex’s photos are still spread across 800 computers belonging to several people, there are a lot of family members and events that didn’t make it into this, but I did my best with the photos I had in easy reach.
I tried to thread a narrative through it, with photos on the verses and video on the choruses, telling a little tale and speeding up as it goes along.
Excuse the black bars early on from my phone being vertical. I was young and reckless. Looks best in 1080p and full-screen, natch.
Well, because you asked so nicely (and as a reward for 5,000 Likes on Facebook), here’s the cover for The Talon of Horus.
Don’t say I never give you anything.
The Traitors (consisting of Eddie, Alan and Ead) have hobbied and lobbied about 16,000,000 times harder than me and John on the Loyalist side, meaning that in the absence of any Blue Team information, here’s a feature-length cavalcade of good juju from the Red Team.
Me and John have got to get into gear, or the Space Wolves and Blood Angels are going to have a pretty poor showing. Part of my problem is that I’m not all that keen on my test Wolves, and I keep wanting to use all their names in a Heresy novel instead of as army background. But mostly, it’s just that Eddie’s upset me because my Marines look shit. I’ll have to man up.
Here’s this update’s Contents List:
- Eddie’s Fallen Angels – including background text: “Caliban’s Wrath”.
- Alan’s Alpha Legion.
- Ead’s Iron Warriors – including background text: “Rakharyz Tactical Squad” and “Zhukar the Unyielding”.
First up, everyone’s favourite disgustingly talented asshole: Eddie Eccles of the First Legion, with his vile Fallen Angels that I’m not jealous of at all, and that don’t make me cry.
— — —
“It’s been a pretty busy month of Dark Angels hobby.
After furious hours of painting, twenty Knight-Legionaries and a Contemptor Dreadnought are complete and ready to kick ass and chew gum (and in the 31st millennium, shipping tithes and warp-storm interference has lead to an acute shortage of Legion approved gum).
“While writing this, I’m not yet sure if the rest of the Heretical Five (that’s a rare Enid Blyton novel BTW) will have finished their pledges. My suspicion is that some of them may not have had such a productive hobby month as myself. Unlike them of course, I do not have the disadvantage of adoring children or a social life. As always, loved ones have proven a huge obstacle to productivity (unless they can be trained to assemble plastic kits and basecoat.)
I have to remember though, with this challenge, the hobby is only half the battle (the other half is knowledge as all good G.I.Joe fans know). I also have to come up with some awesome-cool background for my army, that goes beyond my usual fallback story of “Here are some Space Marines – fuck em up!”.
While in the hobby or gaming sphere, I feel i can hold my my own with the best of them, my writing credentials don’t hold up to much scrutiny (GCSE grade B!). I am, after all, in the company of a New York Times bestselling author, one of BL’s up’n coming stars, the man behind the quite excellent Horus Heresy Betrayal and Ead, who can also write words good.
Still, I will strive to do what I can. My hope is, that through spending considerable time amongst talented authors, some of their skill will have leached into me via osmosis. Much like pig-farmers inevitably smell of manure, and most nuclear scientists are slightly radioactive and sterile. It is, I grant you, a bit of a long shot.
You can read my background below, or you could just skip straight ahead and read Aaron’s much better background (which is kind of like a free HH novelette if you think about it (a novelette is created when a novel and a novella love each other very much))
So what’s next for the First Legion?
I’ve always wanted a Land Raider.
In the many Marine armies I have collected over the years, none of them have had a Land Raider and it’s high time that was rectified.”
“I’m a big fan of the new Dark Angel 40k fighter with the mini-chapel on its back, and I wanted something similar for the Raider. I kind of see the Dark Angel tanks being extensions of their Order monastery-castles back on Caliban, so that’s what I built: a rolling fortress-church with the firepower of half a company.
(I know you can’t actually put the guns that it has on a Land Raider, but so what? you’re not the boss of me, I can do what I like.)
With any luck Arrogance’s Redoubt will be painted ready for the next blog update.
If I get the time, I might even look at doing some Terminator’s by next month as well.
Aaron asked me to slow down a little, but I’m just going to carry on painting even more stuff to make him look bad.(sorry Aaron).
Until next time – Eddie.”
— — —
High Castellan Yvain paced the corridors of his ship. There was nothing else to do. Along the grand avenues of Caliban’s Wrath, his slow footfalls were heavy echoes in the reverential silence.
Three months since the 25th Knights Company of the Dark Angels had last seen battle. If you could call it a battle.
Even pacification was probably to strong a word. The extermination a lost colony of humanity, clinging to an inhospitable rock on the wrong side of nowhere. They had refused to be enlightened, so they had been destroyed. The human inhabitants of Al Baradad had fought bravely, and against most invader’s that might have been enough. But against the Emperor’s Angels, the outcome was never in doubt. They had died to a man. Would he have done differently? If the Lion had opted for war against this new Imperium rather than brotherhood. Would he not have fought and died for his home? for Caliban? he knew the answer, and it did not sit well with him.
Three months since that battle.
Not a bolt fired in anger or a foe to match blade against. The 312 Legionaries aboard Caliban’s Wrath kept busy as best they could: the training cages rang with the clash of black steel and distant echoes of the firing range could be heard across half the ship. Nothing outwardly had changed, but a dark foreboding had settled across the ship during it’s painstaking crawl back towards civilisation. 92 days of blindly stumbling through a turbulent warp until being spat out, time and again into the silent vastness of the void. Freak warp storms had made what should have been a simple trip back to Imperial space into a gruelling ordeal for the ships navigators.
But the journey back from Al Baradad had not been without incident.
While passing through the althorn cluster, the Wrath of Caliban has stumbled upon the crippled Ravenguard battleship Shadowfall. The Dark Angels had naturally offered aid to the stricken vessel. In response, the Ravenguard ship had fired up its warp drive and made an immediate jump. Why the crew of a Legion ship felt that such action was necessary was a serious cause for concern. A concern that several of his officers had voiced. He had no answers for them. Castellan Yvain had a horrible suspicion that not all was well in the Galaxy, but with the apparent inability of his astropaths to contact anyone who wasn’t standing on the same room as themselves, it didn’t look like he would have answers any time soon.
The vox buzzed into discordant activity.
The distorted voice of First Knight-Seargent Caradoc crackled to life in his ear.
Yvain reached a hand to his helmet-mounted receiver.
”I’m in the Librarium. It’s the Archivist. I think you need to get here right away.”
The Archivist was the longest serving member of the First Legion’s Librarian Corps. He was as old as anything could be in this new age, and his body was wearied as much by time as by the ethereal powers that had drained his vitality in exchange for the power of the warp. He seldom wore his armour out of battle, and instead adopted the simple robed attire of a scribe. His hair was long, a silvered main that framed a face as ancient as the rock of Caliban.
All of this, Yvain had seen before.
But the screaming. That was new.
The Archivist pulsed with power. Two Knight-Legionaries were doing their best to hold him, but waves of invisible force buffeted everything around him, it tore books from their shelves, and sent servo skulls clattering across the room.
His eyes were fire. Golden orbs of psychic power that bled pulsar light. His voice was a void cry of despair.
“He’s been like this for ten minutes”
Knight-Seargent Caradoc addressed the Castellan as he entered.
Yvain strode over to the struggling Librarian. Caradoc moved in beside him, a hand wandering to rest on the pommel of his sword.
“Brother, what is happening to you?”
The Archivist turned his head jerkily to regard the Castellan. Slowly, the thrashing stopped and the screaming died away. He held the Yvain’s gaze with eyes that faded slowly from a solar flare to oceanic green.
Then he spoke, and his words were a choir. None of the voices were his.
“Hear me, brother.
Our Imperium is undone.
The Lion will fall, the sword will shatter and we will be lost.
The carrion’s call will bring death to us on wings of bone.
Let all loyal sons of Caliban return to her, and we may yet save her soul, and with it, our own.”
The Archivist’s head slumped and silence reigned, broken only by the ragged breathing of the ancient Librarian.
Knight-Seargent Caradoc was the first to speak.
“What was that about?”
Yvain regarded the unconscious figure of the Archivist.
“I do not know brother, but I think we need to get back to Caliban. Right now.”
— — —
— — —
So, that’s Eddie’s immense contribution. He has a lot more on the go than that Land Raider, but that can wait until next time.
Next in line is Alan, with his Alpha Legion. He’s less of a talker than Eddie. Alan, like me, is knee-deep in the dead, fighting back the Deadline Beast. It makes him terse and, dare I say, more heroic. More authorly.
He also has the fine excuse of screwing his arm up recently, and being busy at work on the next book in the Horus Heresy range, following on from Betrayal.
— — —
And to round things off with yet more shamefully significant progress, the mighty Ead (he of Forge World’s Minotaurs fame). He’s been Iron Warrioring like a boss, using these bad boys in some official playtesting, as well as getting a bunch of shit-hot thematic background text done, too.
Ead and Eddie are plainly kicking all our arses to heck and back.
Rakharyz Tactical Squad: The I Tactical squad of the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company, Rakharyz Tactical Squad has long been a keystone of Warsmith-General Mitras’s battlefield success, and the squad has stormed ramparts and breaches both human and xenos alike in their Crusade to reunite the scattered fiefs of humanity.
Traditionally, the sergeant of Rakharyz eschews the more esoteric weapons of the Iron Warriors in favour of the trusted bolter, and the high-capacity box and drum magazines used by the squad are something of a signature. Their method of war is to obliterate the foe beneath a merciless storm of accurate bolter fire and a punishing advance, and while every shot is made to count, it is not uncommon for the members of the squad to expend thousands of rounds in any given engagement. The squad habitually refuses a Rhino, operating constantly at or close to their full strength of twenty battle-brothers through greatly-expedited implantation and hypno-indoctrination procedures, and the apothecarion’s grafting of augmetic limbs to charred stumps and replacing ravaged nerves with micro-fibre cabling. They embody the IV Legion’s doctrine of unyielding advance and concentrated firepower, breaching strongpoints and redoubts with their dogged stubbornness and brutal volley fire. The unforgiving nature of their chosen role means that few engagements end without injury to the brothers of Rakharyz.
Their bloodiest undertaking was the destruction of the Nozhetarushi, the Technomancers; a human civilisation that unrepentantly made war against the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company and their Crusade fleet. Scattered across a handful of worlds, the Nozhetarushi utilised hideous and blasphemous technologies; machines guided by abhorrent intelligences that did not require symbiosis with man to operate. A long and brutal campaign ensued, and finally only a single world remained in the hands of the misguided Nozhetarushi. The Imperial Army cohorts of the 986th were scattered before the punishing firepower of the terrible sentiences that served as warriors, and with the line beginning to crumble, Rakharyz marched forward, bolters braced tight to shoulders. The massed fire of the Nozhetarushi flailed at them, casting Iron Warriors from their feet, yet Rakharyz took not a backward step; their fallen rose and took up their bolters in bloodied hands. As soon as they entered bolter range, a great volley rang out, many of the battle-brothers firing with a single hand due variously to the loss of their limbs, or the need to bear their wounded fellows. For over a kilometre of shattered ground, the squad advanced, firing a volley with each stride, their shells blasting apart the mechanical warriors that stood against them, until they stood even unto the heart of the last redoubt, the ruin of their foes smote upon the rubble about them in shards and rags both artificial and biological. Sergeant Zhestok himself, one arm torn from his body and his war-plate haning in shreds about him, planted the Aquila through the chest of the last lord of the Nozhetarushi, and declared the Technomancers destroyed. Eighteen members of the squad were rated unfit for combat following their assault into the breach, and it would be seven compliances before Rakharyz stood at full strength once more.
Zhukar the Unyielding: Brother Zhukhar stood alongside Centurion-Marshall Uborevich in the Emperor’s name, purging heinous agri-cults in the Nordafrik Conclaves and debased data-warlock tribes in the ravaged cities of the Francks, earning a reputation for unerring marksmanship, cold strategy and merciless humours.
When the Wars of Unification became the Great Crusade, the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company voyaged far from Terra and their Legion brothers alike, reclaiming world after world from the clutches of Old Night. They fought xenos predators and tainted petty-fiefdoms alike, and always did Zhukhar form the tip of the Iron Warrior’s spear, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tauromanch; matching his commander’s hammer blows with brutal firepower. Upon the benighted world of 15-986-22, the Iron Warriors stood against a nameless xeno-kind, strange creatures that took the forms of others to disguise their own, armed with beam weapons of an unknown design. The fighting was cruel and constant, and casualties were high, forcing the Iron Warriors to construct long chains of redoubts and fortifications to house their supplies and for their Apothecaries to minister to the wounded.
The largest of these was ringed with many-layered defences; bunkers and trenches in an impenetrable pattern, and it was here that Zhukhar’s command came under an attack in unprecedented strength. The xenos-breed seemingly ignored the defence lines, attacking directly into the central keep and seeking out wounded Space Marines with blasphemous vigour. Zhukhar ordered his brothers to withdraw, personally forming the rearguard and pacing steadily backwards. His rotor cannon burned red-hot with his ceaseless fire, and the alien beam-weapons inflicted terrible wounds upon him.
Zhukhar cared not and despite his torn flesh managed to overload the great antomantic arc-reactor that powered the keep, outnumbered hundreds of times over. The resulting blast engulfed the majority of the xenos force, and Uborevich the Tauromanch was able to isolate and destroy the remainder with ease. Zhukhar’s remains, blind and horribly rent, were recovered in the midst of the shattered keep and by some fluke chance life still burned in him.
The Contemptor-pattern dreadnought Ferrus Pertinax had recently been delivered to the CMLXXXVIth by the Mechanicum Forge-Barque that accompanied the fleet, and Zhukhar – already being called The Unyielding for his stubborn and uncaring defence – was entombed within it. The weapon he so often fielding in life was replaced with an early-pattern Kheres assault cannon, and restored, Zhukhar yet stands alongside his Centurion-Master in war undending.