Horus Heresy Novellas
I was doing my usual forum bounces recently, when I should’ve been working, and came across a bit of a gem on Heresy-Online. Now, this’ll either be fairly interesting to the unwashed masses that waste their time here, or be completely boring (for which I apologise, yo). But it’s about my publisher’s limited edition novella range, and specifically the Horus Heresy titles.
Specifically, someone (who we shall name “bobss”, for t’was his name) had a wealth of objections to the process:
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“I think that we are ignoring the main issue, to be honest. My, and many others, frustration dosen’t come from the prices. £30, realistically, isn’t alot of money. It’s the limited number of copies that I dislike. I feel that it’s denying fans fluff, or canon, especially about the Horus Heresy, as these novella’s seem to be linked to characters, events or themes within the regular series.
Nick Kyme shall be writing a novella centered around the Salamanders, probably Post-Isstvan V. How many Salamanders fans and most importantly: Players, are there out there?
ADB, one of Black Libraries most popular authors, especially amongst the ”newer” readers. He is writing a novella that centers around -arguably- the most important event within the Horus Heresy (Or Great Crusade to be picky). And yet this wealth of information shall be confined to 1000 people? Sure, it shall be shared upon the internet with reviews, but that’s like me ordering you to read a review of Horus Rising without buying it. It’s ludicrous.
I’d happily pay £40 for a novella, in time. If they were not limited edition, especially if it was something I’d really like. But Black Library, I feel are playing the fanbase for money. I don’t like it, and sure, who is actually going to give four fith’s of a fuck what some whining member on a 40k discussion site says? Certainly not the folks in Nottingham. But it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Black Library has even fell into Games Workshop’s recent money-making schemes.”
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I thought that was pretty interesting in regards to just how massively it opposed my own perspective on the whole deal. But, I mean, I saw his point. I just had another angle, and one that I’m posting here because I’m sure I’ll end up posting it across X number of forums before and after my novella comes out. So here it is, for curiosity’s sake, and future Cut ‘n Paste expedience:
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“For the sake of argument, look at it from my point of view. Just for kicks.
Your publisher asks you to write a Horus Heresy novella. You’re immediately caught between a rock and a hard place. Here’s what goes through your mind:
1. You need to write something that isn’t essential to the main story arc, because it will be available to so few people. Your editor says, as a guideline, that he prefers that it’s not something front and centre to the whole series.
2. But then there’s the matter of its value to the fans. This costs £30. It’s getting specialist (and expensive) artwork, it’s certainly not cheap to print, and it’s extremely limited edition. This needs to be about something awesome enough for people to actually want, so it can’t be about something completely tangential. It has to be something new, unseen, and it needs to add to the Horus Heresy series as a useful, genuine contribution. It has to, or it’s pointless. If it’s not a genuinely insightful contribution, no one will want it, and worse, you’ll be churning it out “just because”. And that’s a venomous way to work, let alone treat readers.
3. Then there’s the aspect of its value to you as an author and a 40k fan. What does it mean to you, personally? It’s perhaps the only chance you’ll get to do something this cool; you have to sign every copy yourself; and it’s such a neat little slice of high quality career coolness that you really, really want it to be good.
4. Then there’s the practical concern. 30,000 words isn’t a short story, and it’s not a novel. A novella is its own beast, and if you shorten a novel or stretch a short story, you’re going to be screwed. It needs to be its own self-contained narrative, and many tales from that era don’t lend themselves to such a weird length.
5. So what do you choose? Nick chose the Salamanders knowing that, at some point in the series, the Salamanders and Vulkan are probably going to get a novel. It’s simple figures: for every complaint that the series has lost steam or is acting like some moronic, staggering cash cow, there are 800 counterpoints saying “But they have to cover Legion X and Faction Y before the end.” It seems likely that everyone will get a slice of the pie at some point, so where Nick’s concerned, he isn’t choosing to make the only Salamanders HH content incredibly limited edition – he’s just writing one story about them, reliably sure that there’ll be much more word count devoted to the Salamanders in time, and it’ll be about their major HH moments. No one is being cheated of vital content. This is just one story.
Where I’m concerned, it took a long time for me to settle on just what to do. I went through several plots about the Mechanicum, the Legio Cybernetica, a Sons of Horus Techmarine, etc. and while they were all good (and while they all got the right oohs and aahs from editorial), it never felt an awesome enough storyline to include in the Horus Heresy, in this format. It could’ve been a short story in an HH anthology; to me, that felt like it was falling short of its potential.
So I decided to act on one of the three main questions I’ve been asked since The First Heretic was released. “What did Lorgar see in the Eye of Terror?”
And I dig the idea of it. It’s a special question, and it deserves a special format, more than a short story. I don’t regard it as essential the way you implied – if it was essential, I’d have put it in The First Heretic. It’s certainly interesting, but it has to be, or you’re ripping people off (see Point 2) and working for the sake of it (see Point 3). So I thought a lot about this one. In a bajillion reviews, feedback conversations at signings, and forum comments, I’ve seen practically no mention of it as something “missing” from the novel. Some people have asked what Lorgar saw, but never in the sense that they felt cheated by not knowing. What he saw isn’t vital: we have an idea what he saw, from what Argel Tal witnesses, and we know the end result after he emerges. It’s already implied, inferred, hinted, etc. and a little bit is already shown.
In all seriousness, dude, I do care. You asked who cares about people’s complaints and opinions on stuff like this? Well, I do. I come to these forums as a fan, but I pick up that kind of opinion as an author and a contributor to the setting we all love. I don’t sit here gleefully rubbing my hands together at the thought you’re not a fan of this format, and I wish there was something I could say to sweeten the deal for you, but we’ve all got our perspectives to fly by. I’m really psyched about getting to write something like this. I wanted it to be something special, but not vital to the overall storyline, and this feels 100% right.
I hope my explanation at least gets across why I chose what I chose, and reassures you a little that no one will miss anything vital if they don’t grab a limited edition novella.”