Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Void Stalker Reviews

I just remembered (after being told by someone, so “remembered” is sort of the wrong word) that Void Stalker is released in eBook in the next few days. Or even now, depending on whether you believe the liars, mongrels and charming souls on my beloved Facebook page.

I think the dead tree version is only about a month away, too. This all kinda crept up on me.

"Dear Diary. Today I killed many, many nice people and skinned them and ate bits of them and then told Uzas he was a cunt. It was the best day ever."

Here are 2 very detailed – but spoiler-free – reviews, for anyone who gives a fuck:

1. The Founding Fields:  “For its amazing story, fascinating and engaging characters, visceral battle scenes and endings that will have any fan of the Sons of Curze cheering in midnight clad, I give Void Stalker a score of 11/10, this is a story that breaks the mould and deserves a score that breaks the scoring rank.”

2. Civilian Reader: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Dembski-Bowden blows all tie-in fiction conceptions out of the water. Fifteen years ago, Dan Abnett reinvented WH40k fiction with his Gaunt’s Ghosts novels. With the Night Lords series (and also The First Heretic), Aaron DB has perfected it. He’s easily among my top five favourite authors. He is a genius at writing nuanced, complex characters. I will read anything he writes. Very highly recommended, Void Stalker is a masterful conclusion to a superb series.”

Woah. I mean… woah.

Y’know, the problem with seeing stuff like that is I always think “Oh, man. How the fuck do I beat that?”

No pressure, right?

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 57 Comments

Questions Answered

Way, way too many questions to do them all, guys. Sorry about that. I’ll try to hit the more relevant ones.

I cut and pasted the questions directly, to save myself some time:

  • “What have you found hardest about writing for the Grey Knights?”

Two things: one practical, one creative.

The practical difficulty was simply that the Grey Knight codex dropped while The Emperor’s Gift was already underway, and the changes in the lore meant that a lot of what I’d written was suddenly invalidated. Some bits needed rewriting, some bits needed scrapping. That’s contributed pretty massively to me missing this deadline, actually – which is weird, as for once the reason isn’t just me fucking around and writing slowly.

The creative difficulty is a pretty easy answer, too. It comes down to the fact that every single one of the Grey Knights is psychic. You already have the fact none of the Adeptus Astartes interact with humans (or with each other) in “normal” ways. Now you have their absolute bleeding edge elite warriors – the very limits of what you can do to a human body – and have to deal with the fact they’re also psychic.

The characters in The Emperor’s Gift are bonded closer than a Space Marine squad from any other Chapter could ever be. They speak psychically as often as with their voices, and they can sense each other’s emotions and thoughts as easily as you or I can read someone’s expression. Each of them is ferociously psychic on his own, but they excel when they channel their powers through their Justicar.

  • “What’s the news about you doing a 2-parters about Abaddons rising as new Warmaster? And will Void Stalker be the definite ending to the Night Lords series or is there some potential to sequals?”

There’s no news on the Abaddon series, because even if I knew I was doing it, it’s waaaayyyyyy too early to announce it. It might happen, it might not. I look at my notes from time to time, then feel guilty at my sliding deadlines, and try to get back to the serious business of finishing my current projects. If I ever did it (in my notes it’s called “The Abaddon Thing” or “Rise of the Warmaster”), then it’d probably be a long series, not a duology, anymore.

As for Void Stalker, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the Night Lords Series, but it’s very definitely an end to that particular era.

  • “Putting the existing lore aside, which references (especially historical) did you look up? For the Night Lords you referred to the Mafia, in this case the Grey Knights may have something in common with the Knightly orders of the Medieval age. Was it difficult to make them distinct from the Black Templars, even if they have something in common (heraldry etc) ?”

The Grey Knights are so distinct that it’s almost impossible to make them like anyone or anything else. They’re humanity stretched to its absolute limit, with a more sacred and secret duty than any other living beings in the galaxy. From reading a lot of Dark Ages and Middle Ages jazz through the years (much of which was for RPG work), I’ve got a pretty solid grip on the ins and outs of knightly life. There’s not a lot of it that applies to the Gee Kays, but they definitely have a knightly atmosphere around them, especially on Titan, in their fortress-monastery.

  • “Like the cover art more there than when I first saw it. Looking forward to TEG!”

Me too. And, me too.

  • “What will you bring to the table writing Grey Knights that is different from the previous Grey Knights novels with Justicar Alaric?”

That’s actually dead difficult to answer. I’m not sure. I mean… a different writing style, I guess. I write differently to Ben Counter. It’ll be my approach to characterisation and description,  and TEG focuses on a newly-inducted Grey Knight, trying to find his place after being placed in a very honourable squad with a long and noble history.

I think it involves a little more interaction with humans (the squad spends much of its time with an Inquisitor and her warband), and there’s probably different types of interaction between the squadmates themselves, and their enemies. It’s my take on the Grey Knights, really. I want to show a very deep slice of what it’s like to live as one of them.

  • “Did you get headaches writing for Grey Knights?”

Sort of. It’s written in the first person, like Eisenhorn and… a bajillion other novels… which was a new experience, but it’s not been any harder than writing in the third person. I’ve been writing as slow as I usually do. It’s just different, rather than worse.

  • “We are coming up on 6 years since the first Horus Heresy book was published, I know the series is very popular, but being in the know, any idea how much longer it will stretch out before they get to the end?”

I mention that at about 24:25 minutes in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6xxJMo5tl04.

  • “How did recent fluff regarding the Grey Knights exterminating Daemons on their home-turf ( inside the warp) and Draigo making the Dark Gods cry like pristine Japanese schoolgirls with his Chuck Norrisian round-kick, affect your work and do you agree with the changes?Also, don’t you think that making the Grey Knights unbeatable kinda makes them ridiculous ?”

Uh.

It affected my work “a lot”, in that I had to trash a lot of it. That hurt, but it comes with the territory. I wasn’t even annoyed, just pretty demoralised for a while. It also meant that instead of writing a duology, I decided to do just the one novel, and move on to another project. Some of the rewrites happened because of me making it one story instead of two, but most came about because a lot of the lore simply changed underfoot. You shouldn’t take that as me ragging on the new design philosophy for the Grey Knights, as it’s nothing so blunt and simple. Stuff changes all the time – you can’t be a baby about it, it’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to working within an established IP.

As to the “unbeatable” thing, I don’t think it makes them ridiculous, but I can’t speak objectively, really. I can say that (on a personal level) their new incorruptibility diminishes a lot of what I liked about them. It changes a lot of what I found noble about them into something else. There’s a world of difference between “No Grey Knight has ever fallen to Chaos because of their constant effort and absolute purity” and “Grey Knights simply can’t fall to Chaos because of what they are, so they’re free to use the weapons of the enemy if they wish.” I’m not saying one is better than the other. Both are interesting takes on the elite order. They’re just very different in theme, atmosphere and characterisation.

  • “Do you have much freedom to play around with the established canon or does the Ordo Black Librarius keep a close eye on such things?”
I never really get in any canon trouble. Also: http://aarondembskibowden.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/second-article-loose-canon/
  • “Your Dark Angel short story “Savage Weapons” was epic in the latest HH anthology. Have you considered writing a “contemporary” Dark Angel novel/short story, set in the 41st Millennium – or are the Dark Angels given over to Gav Thorpe?And Merry Christimas!”
Many thanks. Dead proud of that story. I’d love to write a Dark Angels novel or series, but time is a factor, and I have almost none of it. If I was going to write about a loyalist Chapter, I’d be likely to choose either:
- The Blood Angels or one of their Successors.
- The Dark Angels or one of their Successors.
- A Chapter that Forge World has done a lot of work with, like the Red Scorpions.
- Create my own Unforgiven Chapter.
Merry Christmas to you, too. Ya wee scamp.
  • “Are they planning to do an audio version of this book? And did the cyber mastiff really make it into the cast list?”

I think so. But the amount of psychic speech involved makes my head hurt to think of how they’ll do it.

And yes, he did.

  • “You’ve written short stories for the Flesh Tearers and Crimson Fists, would you ever consider writing more with them (single novel or series)?”

Sort of. I wanted to write for the Flesh Tearers a while ago, but it was refused first because it’d be too close to the Blood Angels series that Jim was doing. That was also when I was very new, and the word “No” featured more often than it does now. More recently, I know a friend of mine is hoping to get more involved with them, so I’d not pitch for them out of respect for him.

As for the Crimson Fists, I have a lot of love for those guys. They’d be in the Top Ten choices for a loyalist Chapter I’d write about, but I’m still (jokingly) bitter my 14-page pitch for a Crimson Fist trilogy was vetoed when Rynn’s World was already being written in secret.

  • “You seem to like finding the empathetic, likable element to the traditional 40K “bad guys,” even as their evil is undeniable. With the Grey Knights being about as “good guys” as they get, how are you looking to give us an emotional hook into them? Are you going to do the revere and dirty them up a bit, or do you have somethin more devious in mind?”
In a lot of ways, the Grey Knights are less human than, say, Talos and First Claw, or even Grimaldus. Those guys were human children, taken and brainwashed, fueled by either duty, hatred or both as they waged war down the centuries. Grey Knights are beyond even that. They know nothing at all of human life. They remember none of it. They spend their entire lives seeing things that would drive humans insane, and can never share their secrets.
I think the most interesting angle with them is just how different and angelic they are. Like that moment when the little girl asks Grimaldus of the Black Templars if he’s a hero, and he has no idea what to say. He has no context to judge what she means, and no capacity to see the world from her perspective. He has honour badges on his armour, and a history of glory in warfare, but a simple question like that means almost nothing to him. Can he save those people? Would a hero, by their standards, do that? All he wanted to do was die in glory. To the Adeptus Astartes, that was the definition of heroism. To the human refugees looking to him as a saviour… not so much.
Grey Knights operate on that austere, inhuman level all the time. Humans are a complete mystery to them. I think that’s what’s interesting about them.
Y’know, plus all the daemon-killing.
  • “Will you finish it on time?”
Nope! In fact, it’s already late.
  • “So with Void Stalker in the bag and The Emperor’s Gift being all shiny with it’s cover art, are there any other Astartes Chapters or Legions that you’d like to write about?”
Whatever’s likeliest to get Forge World to make models of it, in the spirit of ultimate collusion and sexy teamwork.
  • “As a writer do you find it challenging at times to keep in tune with the IP, of all the authors for BL/GW you seem in my opinion to be one of the few authors who ‘gets’ 40k. I know that is of course subjective but from my perspective if we look at the IP say from the ‘gaming’ point of view, reading Codices or White Dwarf there appears to be an angle which is, make the army we have just released utterly awesome-skyrim+9-to-the-max even if it goes against current lore or seems completley out of character based on existing lore. Do you just try and avoid or ignore work that has an air of marketting to the teenage demograph, or do you try and incorporate the new lore and make it work within the context of existing BL work.”
Look for the mature angle in everything. Look for what you can make into compelling, convincing fiction. I don’t write novels for kids, and I get more than my fair share of editorial feedback that says “Take this out…” and “Tone that down…”.
The most recent example was when Octavia, the Echo of Damnation’s Navigator, was symbiotically linked to the warship’s machine-spirit while they flew through the void. And the soul of the machine was so galvanised and thrilled to be hunting through the warp and destroying enemy vessels, that its primal pleasure at fulfilling its raison d’etre was starting to bleed through the link into her mind. She usually had the strength to control the machine-spirit, but she was exhausted and wounded, and her body responded in a primal and human way, as raw pleasure coursed through her mind and beyond. I knew that it wouldn’t go through editing, so I changed it.
I edited it down like crazy, and it was still cut, even when it was just a final sentence about her trying to fly the ship and ignore a distractingly pleasant ache between her legs.
So, in short, anything relatively adult along those terms will be axed anyway.
I’m always sort of awkward when I have to sign something for someone younger than 16 or whatever, though. It’s not about trying to write for adults or kids; it’s just a matter of writing what feels right and not dumbing anything down.
A lot of adults like the movie Blade, right? To me, it’s one of the worst things humanity has ever done, and childishly shallow beyond belief. One man’s paradise is another man’s poison.
  • “Although there are a number of reasons I say this (im sure you have heard the rage before) the one that set me off was the Grey Knight Dreadknight, which on a personal level I feel looks like a giant baby carrier, something my local GW Manager will not let me say out loud in his shop (I hate those Deomcracies of one). But the justification for the model and concept was ‘wouldnt it be great for Astartes to go toe to toe with a Demon, when all previous lore, and I think a fairly central theme to 40k is the idea that humanity isnt going toe to toe with anyone, everything prior to this model is the one guy, normally with a massive hammer holding out against impossible odds against things bigger, meaner and probably way better in bed that he has ever been.”

About going toe-to-toe… That’s true, sure. Going toe-to-toe against helpless odds is where the pathos is, I guess. I wouldn’t dispute that, but I don’t think it means the Dreadknight has no place at all. It’s just a new dynamic. It’s not any one person’s place to say whether something is Absolutely Right or Absolutely Wrong for the setting. 40K is all about shades of grey, and a billion possibilities.

Personally, the Dreadknight is one of the aspects of the Grey Knight changes that I’m not putting in the novel. It’s not that I think the concept sucks, or anything. It’s purely a matter that (like you, but less… angry) it diverges from what I like about that particular aspect of 40K. As writers, we’re all free to put in and take out what we like and dislike about the setting, by focusing on what we enjoy.

For me, when it comes to fighting daemons in 40K, it’s a seminal and quintessential deal of the whole license. It’s the lone man with a broken sword, fighting through his wounds against a creature twenty times his size. It’s that cold, cold moment when he looks up… and up… and up… and realises he’s absolutely fucked. He’s going to die. But he has faith, and he has a hammer, and he’s the only one left to hold the line. Being equal to the daemons isn’t something that interests me, but I can see why a Grey Knight would invent the Dreadknight. I just prefer the Warhammer: Mark of Chaos trailer-style daemon fight, or Inquisitor Rex standing against the towering form of An’ggrath, or Gandalf against the Balrog.

You’ll notice Gandalf doesn’t try to kill the Balrog. He shouts “You shall not pass.” He’s holding the line, not trying to carve his name in its heart. They’re both 40K-style actions, it’s just that one resonates with me more.

  • “What is ‘The Emperor’s Gift’?Did you collaborate with the artist on the cover art?How good is ‘heretically good’?”

1. It’s a nod to a line in the Grey Knight codex. “A Grey Knight’s psychic presence is anathema to creatures of the warp, utterly unpalatable to a Daemon’s dark appetites and thus entirely immune to corruption. Such was the Emperor’s gift to the first Grey Knights; a legacy renewed in each new generation of Battle-Brothers.”

Incidentally, sometimes the capitalisations in 40K confuse the hell out of me.

2. I did, but much less than usual. I sent a few notes, that was about it.

3. No idea, dude. You’d have to ask Dan.

  • “Is this a story arc likely to turn into a series?
    Are we going to see many (if any) characters appearing from other established books (yours or other authors) or codexes?”

1. …depends on reader feedback, I guess. It’s not my plan, but there’s a lot of scope for it. Spin-offs, especially.

2. Yeah, but not many. The first book originally had zero “famous” characters like that, but with the story evolving as it did (and becoming one book instead of two) there are now a few famous types nosing about here and there. Which is weird, as it wasn’t the original intent. None of them are main characters.

  • “I second the question about Abaddon ! A rise of the warmaster dualogy would be great ! By the way, when does prince of crows take place ? Will it feature the dark angels and the Lion again also and the tsagualsa battles between night lords and dark angels or will it be about another event / time ?”

The Prince of Crows takes place at the end of the Thramas Crusade, when the Night Lords have literally just lost to the Dark Angels. The Dark Angels aren’t in it much; it’s mostly about the Night Lords dealing with the fallout, and a lot of Curze’s introspection about where he’s at in life.

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Void Stalker: Prologue

As requested by a bunch of people (when I offered on Wednesday), here’s the prologue to Void Stalker.

As you may have guessed from Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver, things aren’t going First Claw’s way. Behold, the beginning of the inevitable conclusion, and please remember that this is a first draft – essentially unchecked – and it may never appear in the final novel in this form.

It probably will, though. I’ll just catch any typos and sentences I’m not keen on before then.

PROLOGUE

- RAIN -

THE PROPHET AND THE murderess stood on the battlements of the dead citadel, weapons in their hands. Rain slashed in a miserable flood, thick enough to obscure vision, hissing against the stone even as it ran from the mouths of leering gargoyles to drain down the castle’s sides. Above the rain, the only audible sounds came from the two figures: one human, standing in broken armour that thrummed with static crackles; the other, an alien maiden in ancient and contoured war plate, weathered by an eternity of scarring.

‘This is where your Legion died, isn’t it?’ Her voice was modulated by the helm she wore, emerging from the death-mask’s open mouth with a curious sibilance that almost melted into the rain. ‘We call this world Shithr Vejruhk. What is it in your serpent’s tongue? Tsagualsa, yes? Answer me this, prophet. Why would you come back here?’

The prophet didn’t answer. He spat acidic blood onto the dark stone floor, and drew in another ragged breath. The sword in his hands was a cleaved ruin, its shattered blade severed halfway along its length. He didn’t know where his bolter was, and a smile crept across his split lips as he felt an instinctive tug of guilt. It was surely a sin to lose such a Legion relic.

‘Talos,’ the maiden smiled as she spoke, he could hear it in her voice. Her amusement was remarkable if only for the absence of mockery and malice. ‘Do not be ashamed, human. Everyone dies.’

The prophet sank to one knee, blood leaking from the cracks in his armour. His attempt at speech left his lips as a grunt of pain. The only thing he could smell was the chemical reek of his own injuries.

The maiden came closer, even daring to rest the scythe-bladed tip of her spear on the wounded warrior’s shoulder guard.

‘I speak only the truth, prophet. There’s no shame in this moment. You have done well to even make it this far.’

Talos spat blood again, and hissed two words.

‘Valas Morovai.’

The murderess tilted her head as she looked down at him. Her helm’s crest of black and red hair was dreadlocked by the rain, plastered to her death mask. She looked like a woman sinking into water, shrieking silently as she drowned.

‘Many of your bitter whisperings remain occluded to me,’ she said. ‘You speak… “First Claw”, yes?Her unnatural accent struggled with the words. ‘They were your brothers? You call out to the dead, in the hopes they will yet save you. How strange.’

The blade fell from his grip, too heavy to hold any longer. He stared at it lying on the black stone, bathed in the downpour, shining silver and gold as clean as the day he’d stolen it.

Slowly, he lifted his head, facing his executioner. Rain showered the blood from his face, salty on his lips, stinging his eyes. He wondered if she was still smiling behind the mask.

He was going to die here. Here, of all places. On his knees, atop the battlements of his Legion’s deserted fortress, the Night Lord started laughing.

Neither his laughter nor the storm above were loud enough to swallow the throaty sound of burning thrusters. A gunship – blue-hulled and blackly sinister – bellowed its way into view. As it rose above the battlements, rain sluiced from its avian hull in silver streams. Heavy bolter turrets aligned in a chorus of mechanical grinding, the sweetest music ever to grace the prophet’s ears. Talos was still laughing as the Thunderhawk hovered in place, riding its own heat haze, with the dim lighting of the cockpit revealing two figures within.

The alien maiden was already moving. She became a black blur, dancing through the rain in a velvet sprint. Detonations clawed at her heels as the gunship opened fire, shredding the stone at her feet in a hurricane of explosive rounds.

One moment she fled across the parapets, the next she simply ceased to exist, vanishing into shadow.

Talos didn’t rise to his feet, uncertain he’d manage it if he tried. He closed the only eye he had left. The other was a blind and bleeding orb of irritating pain, sending dull throbs back into his skull each time his two hearts beat. His bionic hand, shivering with joint glitches and flawed neural input damage, reached to activate the vox at his collar.

‘I will listen to you, next time.’

Above the overbearing whine of downward thrusters, a voice buzzed over the gunship’s external vox speakers. Distortion stole all trace of tone and inflection.

‘I felt like I owed you.’

‘I told you to leave. I ordered it.’

‘Master,’ the external vox speakers crackled back. ‘I…’

‘Go, damn you.’ When he next glanced at the gunship, he could see the two figures more clearly. They sat side by side, in the pilots’ thrones. ‘You are formally discharged from my service,’ he slurred the words as he voxed them, and started laughing again.

The gunship stayed aloft, engines giving out their horrendous whine, blasting hot air across the battlements. The rain steamed on the prophet’s armour as it evaporated.

The voice rasping over the vox was female this time. ‘Talos.’

‘Run. Run far from here, and all the death this world offers. Flee to the last city, and catch the next vessel off-world. The Imperium is coming. They will be your salvation. But remember what I said. If Variel escapes alive, he will come for the child one night, no matter where you run.’

‘He might never find us.’

Talos’s laughter finally faded, though he kept the smile. ‘Pray that he doesn’t.’

He drew in a knifing breath as he slumped with his back to the battlements, grunting at the stabs from his ruined lungs and shattered ribs. Grey drifted in from the edge of his vision, and he could no longer feel his fingers. One hand rested on his cracked breastplate, upon the ritually-broken Aquila, polished by the rain. The other rested on his fallen bolter, Malcharion’s weapon, on its side from where he’d dropped it in the earlier battle. With numb hands, the prophet reloaded the double-barrelled bolter, and took another slow pull of cold air into lungs that no longer wanted to breathe. His bleeding gums turned his teeth pink.

‘I’m going after her.’

‘Don’t be a fool.’

Talos let the rain drench his upturned face, no longer gracing the gunship with even a shred of attention. Strange, how a moment’s mercy let them believe they could talk to him like that. He hauled himself to his feet and started walking across the black stone battlements. In one hand he held a broken blade; in the other, an ancient bolter.

‘She killed my brothers,’ he said. ‘I’m going after her.’

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 42 Comments

Oh, no. This won’t do at all.

Void Stalker is almost 3/4 finished now. I made some huge cuts and changes, shuffling entire plot sections around, and realised that one of the scenes being cut now meant something important was missing.

I did a search to make sure I wasn’t just being paranoid, and sure enough, my amused fears were correct.

To those of you who’ve read Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver, this may be of interest.

I will rectify this at once, of course.

I also have pretty huge news to share, and the next Dear Fuchsia to post either tomorrow or Monday.

I’m working today and going to my brother-in-law’s 21st tonight, escorting my increasingly swollen bride, so the juicy blogging will have to wait a tiny bit longer.

And lastly, another reminder to follow my proper, betterer, more importanter Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/aarondembskibowden. The transfer from my current one is almost complete. Every reminder boosts numbers a bit more, but I think the changeover will be done by early next week.

Those who are about to rock, I salute you.

October 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 14 Comments

A Few Things…

Excuse the relative drought of decent bloggery. Between my deadlines, Katie’s ever-swelling bump, and a mix of various meetings, stag nights, friends visiting and general chaos, I’m trying to squeeze as much time into getting some actual work done as I can.

Just wanted to chuck up a couple of things.

Firstly, thanks for the responses to the first chapter of Dear Fuchsia. I’d not expected so many, and I’d been considering for a long time whether to make them public or not. The fact I was going to write them wasn’t in doubt, but I hesitated to assume anyone else might be interested in them. There’ll be more in the coming months, and I hope you’ll continue excusing the tone: they’re not written for everyone (in fact, they’re only really written for one person), so thanks a bunch for not complaining that they’re not funny or don’t mention my work, or whatever. I appreciate it  a lot. This is my blog – and as writers we’re told how blogs are a necessary marketing evil, even if I barely pay attention to it – but it’s mostly my journal, and a place to spill my thoughts.

Secondly, about Games Day UK, I was there – but only “sort of”. I had one of my oldest friend’s stag nights the evening before, and showed up very late in Birmingham on the Sunday. Since my arrival was a last-minute agreement anyway, I didn’t have a poster or a pre-arranged signing queue. I did sign on the sly for about an hour, but I spent most of the day walking around the Black Library quad, and saying “I did that…” while pointing at Katie’s tummy. Curiously enough, I signed more books that day just by walking around and people saying “Wait, aren’t you AD-B?” than I did for my first Games Day when I was sat at the table all afternoon.

Thirdly, I got sent two things I thought some folks might like to see.

The first is a picture of Argel Tal, drawn by Shane Cook, who did my First Claw art a while back. Do I need to say this is badass? I think it speaks for itself. Suffice to say, I love it lots.

I have a special, not-work-related commission in the wings for dear ol’ Shane. A bunch of us are setting up for a 40K campaign next year, and I’m thinking about getting him to draw the Chaos teams’ warlords in a similar piece to the First Claw sketch, as a nice touch for the Red Team players.

The second thing I thought might be worth mentioning is that the cover art for The Emperor’s Gift was on show at Games Day, in the form of a massive poster. A photo of it is now doing the rounds on various forums, natch. Here it is, just for kicks:

I like it a lot, though not with the unashamed love I have for most of my covers. Part of my reservations are simple enough: Jon Sullivan’s Night Lords covers (especially Void Stalker) are practically unbeatable, and Neil Roberts’ Heresy covers are super, super, super lush. When you have those two guys doing your covers, anyone else has a lot to live up to.

That said, it rocks on toast. It’s by Cheoljoo Lee, who does a lot of 40K artwork for various major deals (like Dawn of War II), and did the beautiful Salamanders series covers to boot. For the record, Hyperion isn’t a Justicar. The tilt plate on his shoulder is artistic license.

I was asked a lot on Sunday whether The Emperor’s Gift was going to lead into a series. The popular plan was for it to be a trilogy or a duology, and we’d see where it led on from there. Due to various reasons, the novel’s ending up longer than expected, and about way more than was planned in the first volume. I’m not sure where I stand on the score of doing more after it – I have a lot of love for the Grey Knights, but they changed drastically in their latest iteration of the codex, and a lot of what I’d planned ended up vanishing into the void with the old lore. It’s not a huge deal, but for now I’m keeping The Emperor’s Gift as a single (big…) novel, with a “we’ll see how it goes” feel for the future.

And on that note, I really need to go do some writing.

I also really need to add tags to my blog at some point. Searching this thing is a fucking nightmare.

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 12 Comments

Your Void Stalker Qs

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “These aren’t all of the Void Stalker Questions.” Well, I don’t care. But I did it, damn you. I freaking answered most of the freaking things. Time is a factor, you know.

I’ll try to get to the others at a later date.

  • Jonathan Ward asked: “What’s the part of it you’ve most enjoyed writing so far?” Good question, guy. Probably the evacuation of Tsagualsa, when it comes under attack by the Primogenitor Chapters.
  • Alec McQuay asked: “What does the Void Stalker wear under his armour?” I’m not sure. Also, the Void Stalker is a she.
  • Chris Buck asked: “Will the relationship between Septimus and Octavia go on?” Yes. The conclusion may or may not be a happy one, depending on your point of view.
  • Jonathon Ward (what, again?) asked: “Does Talos stop at any point and say ‘I’ve been a bit of a dick, haven’t I?'” Sort of. The novel is primarily about Talos realising his view of the Legion is a little theatrical and melodramatic, viewed through rose-tinted lenses to save his own sanity. The narrative spine is about how he comes to terms with it, and what he decides to do about it. Remember, the only actual non-biased information we have abou the Eighth Legion is their Index Astartes article, and it’s very clear on what the Legion is really like, now and in the past.
  • David Michael Defries asked: “If Talos is the Soul Hunter and Huron Blackheart is the Blood Reaver, who is the Void Stalker and what is his favourite colour?” I’m not telling you who she is. But it’s probably black.
  • Dale Jordan Parratt asked: “Will any further details from the Horus Heresy emerge?” Yeah. Well, quite a bit about the Scouring, and a little bit about the Heresy. Sevatar gets a few mentions and quotes, with several characters referencing his fate. That’s a touch of foreshadowing for him in the Horus Heresy.
  • Sam Spiteri asked: “Any news regarding the aftermath of the Atramentar??” Firstly, I’m not sure both of those question marks are totally necessary. Oh, and… yes. I’ve mentioned before that they’re getting their own spinoff, Terminator Nights, where they chase girls and solve crimes. Or chase crimes and solve girls. I’m not sure which one I’ll go with.
  • Alex “Buddy” Holly asked: “Is Void Stalker the conclusion or a continuation? These premonitions have me worried.” It’s the conclusion. Remember, the Night Haunter’s prophecies were mostly about how he died. Night Lord visions aren’t cool or hopeful things to have, when it comes to the crunch.
  • Lianne O’Sullivan asked: “What was your inspiration for the pieces of dialogue written in Nostraman?” Words that sound dangerous when you whisper them. Vaguely Italian-sounding wordplay that’s reminiscent of mafia captains threatening each other. I have a lexicon of Nostraman, so I know certain words, and I know how to pluralize certain phrases, etc. It has grammar rules, but since there’s hardly any Nostraman spoken, there aren’t many yet. I think the lexicon is likely to go in the omnibus.
  • Tom Williams asks: “Are we going to see lots of dead squishy space elves?” Maybe. And an equal number of dead space humans, too.
  • Joe Scrim Till Deth asks: “will the series of night lords books go on as long as the ultramarines??? If so will the night lords reunite there entire legion by the end of it cause from what i have read they seem to be a very broken up legion!!?” Man, that’s a grotesque amount of punctuation. I think I hate you. Firstly, it might go on after a break, but this is the end of the trilogy for the near future, at least. And no, no one Night Lord would ever be able to unite the Legion. That’s just now how Chaos Marines work, as every edition of the Chaos Space Marine Codex has highlighted. Even the Legions that are still relatively ‘together’ through a time-mutable eternity of infighting and war within a realm of pure Hell are still warbands, led by individual champions and warlords, coming together largely for raiding and Black Crusades.
  • Nikki Loftus asks: “Can I hug Cyrion?” You can, but be careful. You don’t know where he’s been.
  • Joe Marsden asks: “Question for you sir: Did you ever consider real world criminal organisations (their cultures, codes etc) when thinking about the Night Lords? If so, which ones? And, last question; could any victory or achievement truly make the Night Lords of your novels ‘happy’ or fulfilled?” The Mafia. I’ve researched them pretty heavily in the past for writing projects, so I know quite a lot about them. And sure, some of the characters could be fulfilled. It depends on their drives and desires, really. Cyrion and Xarl are already fairly fulfilled – they just want to survive another day in a galaxy that hates them. Talos struggles, though. Part of that is because he knows he’s essentially hollow, an avatar of the Legion’s capacity for self-deceit. Despite being from Nostramo, he’s what the Night Lords were before all the Nostramans joined the ranks. And remember, he’s right to be unhappy about a lot of things: Curze annihilated their home planet to stop any more of them joining his Legion. That’s serious juju. That’s not the act of a primarch who thinks his Legion is a great bunch of guys.
  • Sergio Nunez Cabrera asks: “What happened to the head and body of big bad Conrad Kurze? will we see more of Cyrion´s taint? Will we see flashbacks of Talos as an scout -do even NLs take scouts?-? will we see more of Halasker, of Lucoryphus prior to joining the Raptor cult?” In order… No one knows; Yes; No; Not exactly; Maybe; No.
  • Stephen Forde asks: “Where did I leave my shoes?” That’s less random when you learn that I really do have a pair of his clogs at my house.
  • Scott Anderson asks: “Who was Alpharius the whole time? :D” but I won’t answer it because I hate smilies.
  • Dale Jordan Parratt asks: “Cyrion is my favourite without a doubt.” and is promptly informed that that’s not a question.
  • Kenneth Goddard asks: “Will we start to see the Night Lords start to recruit and replenish their numbers?” which makes me wonder if he’s read the end of Blood Reaver.
  • James Nicolau asks: “Will Talos or any of 10th Company find Zso Sahaal and kick his ass for running off like a punkass?” Nope, because Sahaal resurfaces a decade or two after the series is set. I was careful about that. Really, with a Legion having done so much in ten thousand years, it’s unlikely Sahaal’s return would mean that much, and he’d (at best) be just one warlord among a Legion that didn’t like him very much. As much as some fans love him, they’re not looking at it from an in-universe perspective. All canonical Night Lords lore states that Sahaal’s viewpoint is incorrect. That means, well, that it’s incorrect. The subversive “But we were really betrayed” theme works great in BL’s annals a few years ago (and sells books like crazy, as fans love conspiracy theories, and villains who are wronged heroes out for revenge), but now we’re detailing all of those ancient eras more clearly, and according to the lore. This is part of the reason why, in the Night Lords series, he’s not as popular as some fans might have imagined, and why I avoided detailing too much about him. His story is done. He’s not as great as he said he was. He’s just as tarnished as Talos, Xarl, and all the other characters in the series.
  • Arwen Fenton asks: “If we pray hard enough to the Chaos Gods, will that ensure a second trilogy featuring our favourite cowardly badasses? What music (if any) do you listen to whilst writing for the Night Lords?” Part of my reluctance to continue it is that I’m planning a Chaos series about a different faction of humans and Chaos Marines. I’m taking everything I’ve learned from the Night Lords Trilogy, and applying it to that, as well as delving into new territory. As for music, I pretty much always listen to 90s British Rock (Wildhearts, Therapy?, etc. not Oasis and co.), Industrial, Darkwave, 80s Metal, and some dance. Repetitive things with no lyrics are surprisingly helpful sometimes.
  • Ragnar Karlsson, who works at Black Library, asks: “Is it going to be on time? ;)” Is it fuck.
  • Debi Marie Whitehouse asks: “It’s pretty obvious that Talos and the crew are currently single, but do they date and if so what kind of girls do they dig?!” That’s actually kind of an interesting question. They’d probably like really nice princess-types in secret, but they’d marry biker chicks. The problem is that they skin people when they get annoyed, so domestic violence on a Night Lords vessel would be slightly less amusing, and way more gross.
  • Joe Lyons asks: “How did you get the Night Lords so.. human? At least, as human as ancient genetically-forged giant killers can be, but unlike so many other astartes in writing, they are properly individual characters that I care about. Was it a conscious thing to move away from the norm?” It was, actually. Everyone has a different opinion on exactly how Marines act. For me, humanity – as a concept and an expected ideal of behaviour – covers a broad spectrum. The Night Lords were human; human children, at least. They’ve got human foundations to their psychological makeup, but a lot of their development was stunted, manipulated, or otherwise altered by nature and nurture. They’ve each got aspects of humanity, and their origins do show easily enough. Whereas I tend to write loyalist Marines are more “autistic from the outside” and focused, driven by duty, Chaos Marines are largely driven by emotion – and usually negative ones. That matters. It’s a powerful slice of characterisation, too.
  • Luke Temporal asks: “‎1. What kind of font will be used? 2. How thick will the paper be? 3. Will every page be numbered, or every other page?” 1. I write in Palatino Linotype, size 11. Everything else is barbarous. 2. I’m not involved in production. 3. Being in the family doesn’t spare me from hating you, man.
  • Sarah Cawkwell asks: “If Nicky gets to hug Cyrion, can I borrow Uzas to deal with my List!” You can borrow him, but please bring him back soon, as I need him to fight things. Also, he’ll be covered in blood and twitch all the time, so I’m not sure he’ll be much use around the house.
  • Sally Edwards asks: “Can you do a dictionary for Nostraman?” See above. Yeah, I’ve got one as a forever-open Word.doc on my second screen when I write, and I think it’ll be in the omnibus. Kalshiel, for example, is Nostraman for mating, but it implies mating ‘beneath your station’. As in, “Those kalshiel Bleeding Eyes.”
  • Greg Smith asks: “‎1. Do you actually have a full Nostraman vocab worked out or are you just making it up? 2. Is Talos going to remain in command throughout VS? 3. Are the Atramentar really dead?” 1. Yes I do, but yes, I also make up new things to add to it. 2. Sort of. There’s a leadership issue, related to the end of Blood Reaver. 3. No. That would be awful writing.
  • Dave Cox asks: “So. How are you?” Cyrion actually asks that in Void Stalker’s prologue.
  • Dave Young asks: “Can we still do our Xarl spin off book together?” You know it. Xarl: the Jihad Years will be a winner beyond anything else.
  • Wesley Weix: “How many times did you work on VS behind the Wifey’s back during the honeymoon? :p” Not many, actually. I did some of The Butcher’s Nails, and I read a lot of Steve Pressfield. I was mostly concerned with looking at Katie naked.
  • Jamie Watson asks: “1. whats the first thing you will buy with the royalties? 2. whats the weirdest thing you have been distracted by when writing it? 3. did you steal any ideas that you used in the book thus far?” 1. Probably flowers for Katie, since it’ll be Royalties Day. 2. Planning a wedding, getting married and going on honeymoon. 3. Nope, but I always want to use “OKAY, I’M RELOADED!” from Carlito’s Way, especially since the Lonely Island song.
In other news…
Goddamn, Neil. I owe you for that cover. It’s beautiful.

"I came all the way to the Eye of Terror and all I got was an Avatar puking on my boots."

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 35 Comments

Some of you might like to see this…

Today is a curious day. Whenever a day like this happens, there’s always a heady mix of overspilling excitement and the vertigo of a blank page. There’s also endless hitting of the Delete key, as you think to yourself “Actually, wait, it’ll be better if I start it like this instead…”

But I thought some of you might like to see this.

And so it begins.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 31 Comments

   

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