Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

Spear of the Emperor! (Totes on sale)

Hello and stuff.

So, in case you fancied getting the new novel several months in advance – the Limited Edition of Spear of the Emperor is on sale today, riiiight here on Black Library.com and also riiiight here on Games Workshop.com.

Go buy it. Or maybe don’t? I, Aaron, a mere human man, will not judge you either way.

Here’s a look at what’s in it:

60040181675_SpearoftheEmperorLtdEdRoyalHB01.jpg

Even though I’m usually cautious of Limited Editions, I have to admit… that’s a lot of stuff.

The full list of what’s in the Ltd. Ed. is as follows:

  • The novel (because of course).
  • An additional short story: ‘The First Primaris’.
  • An additional Afterword/outro.
  • A 16-page Index Astartes book, with some ace Jes Goodwin-approved artwork that shows the making of a Space Marine in new and sexy detail.
  • A transfer sheet that, as you can see, has the symbol of the Adeptus Vaelarii on it, as well as bunch of Spear icons, natch.
  • A Chapter Tactics rules card.
  • 3 art prints of some major characters.
  • A pin badge.
  • A purity seal / bookmark.
  • A metal coin that is weirdly and awesomely heavy.
60040181675_SpearoftheEmperorLtdEdRoyalHB04.jpg

Watch in awe as this becomes worth more than any of my novels on eBay in the coming years!

60040181675_SpearoftheEmperorLtdEdRoyalHB06.jpg

Brêac — Anuradha — Amadeus

If you’re curious about the author’s introduction to the novel, I posted that the other day, and it should hopefully enlighten y’all a bit about the process and the themes going on. For added kicks, here’s a Rapid Fire interview I did with Track of Words for the release today.

And the novel’s introduction the other day

And once more, for those at the back, here’s the link to buy it.

November 24, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Spear of the Emperor – The Intro

dhwt-qhvmaeahzd.jpg

As you may or may not know, the limited edition of my new novel Spear of the Emperor is out for pre-order very soon. Like, imminently.

I’ve posted the blurb before, but in case all of this is news to you, here’s what the story is about:

20257944_1540629279332291_5427959928647239037_n.jpg

After beseeching the pantheon of marketing demigods, they said it was cool for me to post this. So here, for your skull-nourishment and to appease the capering goblins of curiosity, is the Preface from the novel.

I hope you find it interesting.

PREFACE

This isn’t the book I planned to write. It’s probably not the book you’re expecting to read, either.

If you don’t usually care for an author’s awkward ramblings, feel free to skip ahead to the story. I won’t hold it against you. (Hey, I’ll probably never even know!) But if you’re interested in the context that helped this novel come into existence, then stay a while and I’ll get you up to speed.

I went into the synopsis phase of Spear of the Emperor with the intention of writing a traditional look at a Space Marine Chapter, with a Space Marine protagonist typical of his Chapter’s culture. I like to read those kinds of novels, with those kinds of protagonists, and I enjoy writing them from time to time, too. It’s a tradition for a good reason: those character tropes make a good foundation for exploring the various complexities within Space Marine existence. In the same vein, I also intended to explore an essentially unknown corner of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, rather than focus on the big-name, big-selling Chapters that everyone’s already familiar with.

The Emperor’s Spears were nothing but a striking, slightly unusual colour scheme, so they were safe ground no matter which direction I took them in.

On a more personal note, I was also coming off a run of novels focusing on extremely well-known characters and vastly important historical events (The Talon of Horus; The Master of Mankind; Black Legion…) so I wanted something more personal and grounded. Something on a much smaller scale than any of those other novels, each of which was a deep look into the guts of the setting, through the eyes of very well-informed characters.

So far, so good.

Several weeks into the first draft, Alan Bligh, one of my closest friends, died after a short confrontation with cancer. For a while I could barely write anything at all, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has ever lost a close friend or loved one. When I managed to start getting words onto a screen again, I was disillusioned with what I’d planned. I started straying far and wide from my synopsis, feeling the pull of a new direction.

Through several rewrites, the narrator went from a generic Spear officer in the middle of his culture to a human thrall, utterly on the outside of it. Finally, it clicked. Finally, I had the voice that felt right for the new story being told.

Crucially, it also finally matched more with the tone of Imperium Nihilus, which Alan himself once described as ‘Picking up the pieces of the Imperium after all the bombs have gone off.’

Using human supporting characters to highlight the differences between humanity and the indoctrinated, transhuman inhumanity of Space Marines is nothing new; I’ve even done it myself several times and I really enjoy both reading and writing about the contrasts it brings. With Spear of the Emperor, I went all-in with it. Anuradha went from a supporting character to the narrator: the ultimate outsider-looking-in. And with that shift, the story turned a little darker again. Everything became just that little bit more vulnerable.

Explaining the Spears in detail was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t want to quantify them, I wanted to show how it might look and feel to see a transhuman existence through a human lens. Focusing on the impossible weariness forced on them by the burdens that they alone can carry. Their refusal to back down, and their curious mix of civilisation and barbarism. They don’t fight for glory but for survival. They stand against the unending tide of night because someone has to do it; because they’re the last ones left who can still fight. Their brother-Chapters in the Adeptus Vaelarii are either dead or punishingly diminished. The duty and burden of defiance is theirs until the last Spear falls.

The largest appeal was the idea of a character who wasn’t always sure what they were looking at when they were confronted with the mysteries and horrors of a story. Someone who wasn’t immune to fear or distant from human emotion.

What is it like to live among Space Marines? What does it feel like to serve them, and live on the edge of a culture you will never be truly part of? How would serving such masters change you and your perceptions? What do their customs and rituals look like from the outside? How does it feel, to see them move and fight and so utterly annihilate their enemies with inhuman brutality? And what is required of you, to live up to their expectations?

The flip side of that coin is the heretical half of the equation. What would it mean, to meet the Adeptus Astartes’ dark reflections, the Traitor Marines? What would it be like, when you’re not clad in ceramite and holding a bolter—you’re just a man or a woman standing in front of a monstrous creature that has lived in the warp / a mythological underworld for uncounted years?

Anuradha offered a great chance at seeing all of this from an entirely human perspective, and a less formal voice for the text. She hasn’t been through hypno-indoctrination like a loyalist Space Marine; she isn’t an angelic weapon that struggles to understand the people of the empire she was born to defend. Similarly, she isn’t motivated by bitterness and hatred; burdened by the magnified emotional array of Traitor Marines, either.

Anuradha is at the mercy of her masters, drawn into the wars they make her fight. Like all slaves (or indentured servants, if you will…) she has very little agency over the direction of her life, but she can choose how she reacts to the twists and turns of circumstance. Narratively, that was a challenge, but one that defined the tone of the story. She has agency, but it’s personal and grounded. She doesn’t decide the fate of wars. She chronicles them.

She’s just a human—albeit valuable to her masters and highly trained—in a difficult situation. The story isn’t about her, not really, as you’ll see. But she’s perfectly placed to tell it.

Like many high-status Chapter thralls, Anuradha is extremely knowledgeable in several specific areas. Unlike most of my previous protagonists, she’s also not equipped with a Space Marine’s angelic, psycho-indoctrinated detachment to process it. She’s just a human like you, me, and everyone else.

For those story elements, I ended up being fortunate enough to get a huge range of first-hand accounts from soldiers, firefighters, police officers, doctors… And more than once I thought back to conversations I’d had years ago, when I was lucky enough to talk to a man that had served in WWII as a deck gunner on HMS Belfast; and to another that had been in a Japanese POW camp and who’d undergone privation and torture. I wanted to jump as deeply as I could into the psychology and headspaces of people who’d done these things.

On several occasions I kept backing out of writing the book, considering redoing it in a more traditional way; playing it more to type with a Space Marine protagonist doing Space Marine things, totally informed about the setting and his surroundings. In the end it was my friend, the author John French, who stopped me redrafting it all from scratch yet again:

‘Are you trying to be popular or are you trying to realise a vision? To quote the man you dedicated it to, “You need to have the courage of your convictions and not be infirm of purpose”.’

All of this is a long-winded and self-indulgent way of saying that I loved and hated writing this book. It wasn’t harder than any of the others, but it certainly felt different. I can’t even imagine what you’ll think of it.

I don’t use Alan’s death as a banner or an excuse for any changes I made. If you like the novel, that’s great, and if you don’t, that’s on me—not on the circumstances surrounding the book. Whatever the truth, I hope you enjoy this look at the benighted half of Mankind’s empire.

Welcome to Elara’s Veil, domain of the Emperor’s Spears.

Skovakarah uhl zarûn.

November 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

League of Legends: ‘From the Ashes’ and ‘Ryze: The Burning Lands’

So, uh, I may have dipped my quill in some League of Legends-coloured ink.

FtA

My short story ‘From the Ashes‘ is about a Freljordian tribesman called Kegan Rodhe, who in time will become… a certain fiery fellow you may be aware of, by the name of Brand. It was awesome to write some characters outside of ceramite armour and carrying bolters, for a nice change of tone and pace.

I also recently co-wrote the comic Ryze: The Burning Lands with Ant Reynolds (of the Word Bearers Trilogy fame). Ant is now at LoL HQ over there in the New World. I’m given to understand Ant is also still irritatingly good-looking, but let’s not hold that against him.

(But seriously, just look at the handsome fucker. So annoying.)

In a move that will shock nobody, Ryze: The Burning Lands is about (gasp!) the Rune Mage, Ryze.

TBL

Both of these projects were an absolute dream to work on, not least because I got to brainstorm with Laurie again, as well as meeting some ace people at Riot Games, who I won’t namedrop here for fear of embarrassing them. (But really, their names were Ariel Lawrence and Ellie Pyle, and they lovely and blessedly generous with their ideas.)

If you’re into LoL, I hope these new tales scratch some of your itches. If you’re a stranger to it, I hope you dig this look into Runeterra.

July 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Spear of the Emperor – Cover Art

I’ll spare you the words and move right on to what matters – the stunning cover by Marc Lee:

DhwT-QHVMAEAhzd.jpg

marc-lee-soe-2.jpg

Check out his Artstation, it’s well worth it. Clicky-click!

 

 

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The Shittiest Anniversary

ds

It’s the 26th May, so it’s been a year today since Alan Bligh died. A year since I wrote my post about it, literally in the hour after we all heard the news. At Alan’s funeral, when Phil Kelly mentioned he’d read that post, I found myself apologising for it because it was unedited emotion and, I felt, not a great obituary for all Alan did and all he deserved. I said in the post itself that better remembrances would come, and indeed they did, most notably from John.

Alan’s funeral was absolutely one of the worst days I’ve ever been through. I got no measurable comfort from it at all, no closure, and if I’m being honest, it laid the wounds open instead of starting the healing process. That surprised me, and I withdrew a little after it. I didn’t even go to the memorial event that John and co. organised, because the entire thing just felt saturated in uncomfortable misery. I made transparent excuses that my friends all saw through at once, and stopped replying to them when they wouldn’t leave it alone. Fuck them, right?

Not going to the memorial was a mistake, and it was selfish, though I didn’t realise either of those things at the time. I’d not considered that other people might not have wanted to go either, but that they were going to support each other. I ran a cost/benefit analysis that started and stopped with me. Something John said later would put it in perspective: “Yes, but I wanted you there.”

In a way, this is typical of Alan. The fucker abandons this earthly realm ahead of the rest of us and still finds a way to teach me a lesson about perspective and living inside my own head. I guarantee you that would make him smirk, entirely pleased with himself.

I won’t bore you too deeply with all my feelings, not least because I feel exactly the same as I did a year ago. I tear up when I watch his old interviews or read his old emails. I message him with questions I know he’ll never answer. I occasionally update him on stuff, even if he’ll never read the email/text/message/whatever. Sometimes that feels self-indulgent and silly. Sometimes it’s sort of funny. Imagine if he did answer. Bloody hell. That’s pretty scary.

He was one of my closest friends (one of the 2-3 people I spoke to the most, overall), and instead of the numb scab I expected by this point, there’s more of an amputated stump, which stings when you put pressure on it. Occasionally you’ll try to turn on a light or go for a walk, and you’ll realise it’s not happening because, hey, shit, you don’t have an arm or a leg there any more. Alan not being around feels like that. Whenever I think about him, it still takes that treacherous half-second to process Oh, yeah, he’s actually dead. It’s surreal. And it sucks. But there it is.

Several of his friends are in a Facebook chat thread that originated in the week Alan died, and it’s still active. Although it’s become a general conversation thread now (and, let’s be honest, mostly talking about GW and various games), we also occasionally do recollections and impressions of things Alan used to say. The man was eminently quotable. Creative geniuses usually are.

On that note, his deadpan and sarcastic Alan-isms are endlessly useful as a parent. I’ve lost count of the times Shakes (now 6) has been banging on about something for the 80th time that day, and I’ve said “No, do go on, sir. Please.” in Alan’s exact tone, exactly the way Alan said it to me countless times when I was complaining about something.

I figure this is going to be an anniversary that his friends, and the people that loved his work, will mark for the rest of their lives. So here’s the first of them. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Y’know, Alan was always weird about his age. I asked him a few times how old he was, and every time he’d do his little chuckle (once he even nodded sagely like I’d asked a mountaintop guru The Right Question), and say “Older than you, my dear boy. Older than you.”

I’m going to cut this short. Sort of crying now.

I dedicated Spear of the Emperor to him. John wanted screenshots of all the novels and rulebooks dedicated to Alan over the last year, and here’s mine right from the Word.doc.

33119641_10160502042895486_6824178308599513088_n

If you’re one of the many thousands of people whose lives were enriched by Alan’s work, and the passion he brought to the page, today’s a day to throw some dice in his honour.

Unsurprisingly, I have an Alan-ism about rolling dice, too. He tried not to jinx a dice roll by saying someone needed “anything but 1.” Instead, he’d say “You need anything but the smallest number.”

Weird, what sticks with you, when someone is gone.

May 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

My Deathwatch Comic!

To break my blogging silence, I bring you…

Ahem. Excuse me, I’m a little bit excited:

warhammer_40k_deathwatch_1_CoverA-675x1024

This is so cool that I may explode.

Suffice to say, my Deathwatch miniseries started this week, and if you’re curious, you can grab it here and/or read a longer preview here.

Preview!

It’s about a 5-man Kill-Team on a routine ur-ghul hunt… when something goes wrong because, well, of course it does.

Apart from the fact this was insanely fun to write, and that getting the copies in the post the other day was one of my more gleeful little career highlights, I’m especially looking forward to showing them to Dan Abnett this weekend and being all “Look, Uncle Dan, are you proud of me?”

And he’ll likely nod sagely, indulgently, pat me on the head and send me on my way. It’ll be a rich, fun adventure, no doubt.

There are loads of variant covers, and I think one of the not-yet-released ones was the one done by my good pal and webcomic co-creator, David Sondered. Behold, Sergeant Agathon, the Kill-Team’s leader:

619081._SX1280_QL80_TTD_

On that note, have you read our webcomic, The Road to Jove? (We’re very proud of it, and he constantly tells me I’m shit at reminding people it exists…)

Anyway, before I vanish back into deadline hell, please enjoy a quick look at the Kill-Team:

IMG_3273

IMG_3275

Tedious Fact: Rurik War-Song was originally going to be called Metzar War-Song, in homage to Chris Metzen, but I was a bit worried it was too on the nose so I edited it at the last minute. Y’know, like a coward.

The comic is drawn and coloured by Tazio Bettin and Kevin Enhart respectively, and they made it look bloody lovely.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

New Hobby Blog – Tales from the Aaronorium

Behold, my gaming group has a hobby blog now. Please enjoy my latest and hopefully not as-doomed-as-always attempts at getting my gaming life in order.

Or don’t enjoy it. Ignore it. It’s your destiny, you make the calls. I can respect that. Hey, I dig that about you.

Tales from the Aaronorium!

screen-shot-2017-12-20-at-14-12-13-e1513780507723

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reddit AMA on r/Warhammer

I think this elegant and handsome portrait of the artist speaks for itself.

1

Please enjoy this oh-so-easily sabotaged photo.

Don’t ask me questions here. Or on Facebook. Or on Twitter. Or over email. That’s, like, the opposite of the point. Do it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Warhammer/ when the time is right and the moon at the apex of the something-something retrograde.

I trust you, guys and gals. I trust you so hard right now.

See you Friday!

December 5, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

BLACK LEGION: ‘Forbidden Lore’ Interview

It’s interview season, among other things. This weekend has a biggie with the Independent Characters, who are always super-lovely. This was for their Forbidden Lore section, discussing BLACK LEGION and the themes of the series, as well as a few things about the nuts and bolts of life as a Chaos Marine.

Behold! 2017’s BLACK LEGION Forbidden Lore interview. It starts at 2hrs 49mins into the show. (Direct link for convenience.)

And if that rocked and/or rolled for you (and if you’ve not heard the preceding segment before), here’s 2014’s THE TALON OF HORUS Forbidden Lore interview. It starts at 1hr 35mins into the show. (Direct link for convenience.)

Please note, three years between novels of a series is unprofessional and insane and I apologise and OHGODSOSLOW.

Enjoy!

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Black Library Weekender 2017

Another BL Weekender done and dusted. I’ve already sent my thanks to the various staff that made it happen, but I wanted to add a thanks here to everyone who came – it was a good one, and I’d originally considered giving it a miss with how slow my release schedule is lately. Instead I bit the bullet and bounced along, and I’m glad I did.

And now I shall briefly surface from the word count mines. I BRING YOU PICS AND WHATEVER.

Here is me in C L Werner’s hat, just before the Writing About Antiheroes panel. My prediction was that I’d look like “a fucking toolbox” (this came true) and yet cowboy hats remain one of my absolute favourite items of clothing, and if I could wear one every day, I totally would. Even while on Skype to my editors. Even while sleeping. Even in the shower.

Sc8ggLp8

“I feel like a little girl in a big man’s hat.” — NYT-bestselling author Aaron Dembski-Bowden, circa 2017.

I’m sorry, just one more of me in the hat.

God, I loved that hat.

DO_p_J3XUAAwMkk

Here’s Lottie (who is lovely and babysat me, like, all weekend – promote that woman, please) taking the other photo.

I’m sorry I didn’t get any actual decent photos and that I have no thrilling release news, here.

Um…

What else…

Oh, look. Here’s a photo of me an hour after the Weekender finished. We went to our friends’ house for tea while we waited for our taxi (Hi Gayle, Hi Simon) and then I almost immediately fell asleep.

In a lifetime of unattractive photos, this one definitely earns a place high up in the pantheon.

23756306_10159478194305316_749941903_n

I also got loads of sweets. This part of the haul came from two chaps called Mark-Anthony and Marc, so maybe it’s just people with that name who want me to get Diabetes and die. Who knows? Certainly not me. I just work here, man.

IMG_1587

I had to leave this with John French because we couldn’t get anything else in our carry-on luggage. The fucker has strict orders to send it at once.

We’ll see how that goes.

There was also this, which was just so rad.

IMG_1586

Oh, and one last thing.

At one point Katie handed me a blank piece of paper, saying that a girl called Louise wanted me to write her a proposal for her boyfriend Gareth.

…no pressure.

This was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long while. Of course, I handled this momentous endeavour with subtlety, professionalism, and – dare I say – a poetic flair for the silken art of romance.

IMG_1588

They filmed his reaction, the next day!

 

 

November 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments