Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

The Great Crusade – Short Fiction Contest

For the record, I’m judging a pre-Heresy short fiction contest soon, which I’m (bizarrely…) really looking forward to. It’s for The Great Crusade forum, which I literally cannot endorse enough when it comes to those pesky 30K needs.

Obviously, I’m not allowed to know who submitted what, or I’d just choose the sexiest person as the winner. Truly, it’s a curse to be so insufferably shallow.

But if you’re interested, the details can be found in a Sticky post, right here: http://z15.invisionfree.com/The_Great_Crusade/index.php?showforum=2

In other news, I’m finishing Blood Reaver this weekend; test-readings have been very positive; and Brett Duckley asked me to tell you all that a) You’re swine, and b) He’s almost finished answering all your inquiries and will post soon. (There were fucking loads, guys. Jeez.)

I’ve been getting a bajillion emails in recent months asking about how to model Talos and First Claw, especially relating to whether their gear changes in Blood Reaver. (Yes, some of it does.) The answer “However the hell you like; please leave me alone” isn’t working any more, so to that end, I’m working on commissioning an artist to cook up something a little more definitive.

For now, I leave you with something I made just for you:


December 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Recent (Night Lords Series) Questions

Just a quick update on my lunch break to answer some questions that winged their way to my eyes and ears recently, mostly regarding the Night Lords series. These are an amalgamation of jazz from various recent signings (Games Day, as well as Dublin and Belfast), my forum inboxes, my Facebook inbox, and junk from the forum spread that I can’t resist visiting.

Spoilers kept to a minimum – or at the very least, no stronger than those in ‘The Core’.


  • “Who are the new characters in Blood Reaver?”

Blood Reaver features a few new major and minor players in the series. These are (in no particular order): Lucoryphus of the Bleeding Eyes, Variel the Flayer, Nonus, and Hound. Some of those you’ll know from their teasers in ‘The Core’, others you’ll have to guess.


  • “Is Blood Reaver about Uzas, the way Soul Hunter was about Talos?”

Naw. Here’s the thing.

The Blood Reaver is one of the many titles used by Huron Blackheart, probably because his name is a bit silly and he’s shy about it. Blood Reaver (the novel, not the guy) still features Talos as the primary protagonist, but he’s slowly changing from his desperately lost passivity in Soul Hunter. This is where he starts to realise that just surviving might not be enough in the Long War. With everything degenerating around the crew of the Covenant of Blood, perhaps it’s time to fight back or just accept defeat. Even though he has no desire for leadership, others in the Legion look to him for guidance, and it’s much harder to claim “Guys, I’m not Malcharion’s heir, honestly” when he’s actually carrying the war-sage’s bolter.

Time to nut up or shut up, you know?

Beyond that, the others in First Claw do show up a little more. Uzas, Xarl, Cyrion and Mercutian get a lot more screen time, as does Variel (obviously, because in Blood Reaver we see how he joins First Claw in the first place).


  • “I read on Forum X that one of First Claw dies in Blood Reaver.”

No, cupcake. You read that in one of the middle chapters, I accidentally killed one of them while indulging in a side-plot, and subsequently rewrote the entire chapter because it was stupid and irrelevant. (You’re starting to see why this novel is late, right?) I’d never give a spoiler that a character actually died – that would be ball-achingly lame.

That said, it’s war. Soldiers die in war. That’s what makes it a war, and not a particularly immersive game of Lazer Tag.


  • “What is the Exalted? A Daemon Prince? A Possessed? A Chaos Lord close to Spawnhood?”

This gets explored a little more in Blood Reaver, actually.

Seriously, as much as I cleave to the background as described in the codices, you’ve got to realise that the game’s rules don’t always represent the lore all that well. Chaos doesn’t just touch people and say “You’re X, you’re Y, you’re Z.” It’s Chaos. It’s chaotic. Chaos would infuse its victi– uh, its followers with whatever the hell it wanted. Most Chaos Gifts wouldn’t fit neatly into the army lists in the back of a codex, like.

That said, I can shed some light on this. Vandred (the VIII Legion 10th Captain)  is a lesser consciousness in the creature that is now The Exalted. Cyrion knows this – he comments on it in Soul Hunter. So the Exalted is something like a Daemon Prince in that he’s been, uh, promoted like they have. But with his ascension came possession, like one of the weaker “battlefield” Possessed. In short, he’s either a Daemon Prince that doesn’t fight the way most others do, or he’s a really, really powerful Possessed. Both are true. Or neither. I don’t care, leave me alone.


  • “Why do you always say ‘Astartes’ in your novels?”

Because I hate the way “Space Marines” sounds.

They’re post-humans. They’re technically a different subspecies, vaguely similar to the way a mule is different from a horse or a donkey, but has bits of both. They’re Homo Astartes (stop laughing, you at the back), not Homo Sapiens.

“Space Marines” connotes something very lame, very generic, to me. “Astartes” doesn’t.


  • “Why does Talos dream about the Eldar? / Will the Eldar prophecies feature in the third novel?”


I’ve been open and up front since the beginning on this one. The trilogy has a very distinct focus, split by both physical and the mental considerations. Mentally, the storyline is about facing up to responsibility in the face of temptation, vengeance, corruption, loneliness – or some combination of all four. All of the characters face that to some degree; it’s intrinsic to the whole deal. But physically, the narrative is about getting back to the Eye of Terror alive, albeit in a roundabout way, after the Legion wears out its welcome in Imperial space.

The third novel, probably called Void Stalker, is about the final stretch on the road home. At the end of Soul Hunter (and throughout Blood Reaver) Talos suffers increasingly violent premonitions about the Eldar. If you’d not already guessed they’d be fighting the Eldar at some point, then frankly, I suck at my job. But whatever.

The Night Lords have their sanctuary in sight by the end of the series. But what orbits the Eye of Terror? What colossal, half-ruined remnant of a fallen empire might just be in the way of them reaching home?

Exactly. Craftworld Ulthwe.


  • “If Talos is the Soul Hunter, Huron is the Blood Reaver, who’s the Void Stalker?”

Your mum.

I’m not telling you, stop asking. Just wait a year and a half.


  • “Why do the Night Lords eat other Astartes’ gene-seed?”

For a few reasons, and none of them are nice.

Firstly, it’s the threat of cannibalistic desecration. When you’re fighting other Astartes (an enemy that can’t feel fear) the best you can do is let them know that if they lose, you’re going to do some absolutely horrible things to their dead bodies. It might buy you a second’s distraction.

Secondly, it’s not an idle threat. It’s a vicious way of ensuring that your enemy knows his death will never serve his Chapter. Think about it this way: Astartes aren’t just warriors, they’re also incubators for progenoid glands – they carry the “seed” necessary to make the next generation, just in a sterile and sexless way compared to humans. By threatening to eat to eat an Astartes’ progenoid organs, you’re removing a massive piece of his legacy in the Chapter, as well as harming the Chapter’s future. You don’t just kill the warrior, you deny the creation of any others that would’ve followed in an unbroken genetic line.

Thirdly, Talos was an Apothecary. When he makes the threat, it’s something that shows the absolute depths of his hatred for the Imperium – and, by that virtue, everything that he once was.

And lastly, because of this: http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Creation_of_a_Space_Marine#Omophagea



October 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Night Lords Ruminations

I got mail today asking about the Night Lords story in Fear the Alien, regarding why “it’s so weird”. That’s a quote, like. Hence the quotation marks.

Allow me to explain.

The story, called ‘The Core’, was sort of part-experiment, part-risk, part-gimmick. It was a gimmick in the sense that it links to another story in the anthology, and it was a gimmick in the sense that it’s set after Blood Reaver, meaning it has spoilers for what happens in the next Night Lords novel. Apparently, and I’m quoting, “This is a bit too weird.”

I’m not going to argue that point. It is pretty weird. I also wanted to try to write a short story tied into another story’s plot (which was a struggle, actually) and I wanted to do a story that – for once – wasn’t clever or twisty, and was just a solid A to B situation, showing familiar characters and basically helping people get to know them a little better. But what matters here are the spoilers, so let’s deal with those.

Blood Reaver will have some pretty massive and story-changing revelations. Soul Hunter set First Claw and co. up, and in true, classic second-act style, everything is going to go to Hell in Blood Reaver. The opening trilogy is essentially about the Night Lords doing all they can to get back to the Eye of Terror, and survive well enough to make existence, and vengeance, worthwhile. Soul Hunter showed that they were in pretty dire straits where that was concerned. In Blood Reaver, everything gets worse. They have to fight harder, take a long look at just how corrupt they may or may not be, consider the Legion’s future, and weigh up the merits of betraying before they are betrayed.

Add to that, the fact that it’s based around the Fall of Vilamus – when the Red Corsairs and Night Lords lay siege to the fortress-monastery of the Marines Errant – and you can probably guess that things are going to get a bit nasty.

Now, seeing as I knew all of this beforehand, I was careful with the stuff I showed in ‘The Core’. The “spoilers” that were “too weird” in the Fear the Alien story are all basically things I would (and will) say when it comes time to discuss the novel, anyway. Reading ‘The Core’ will show some pretty significant changes have occurred, but none of the major revelations from Blood Reaver are spoiled. I’m not that mental.

Incidentally, ‘The Core’ won’t be in any future Night Lord anthology. It was a very fun gimmick, but I’d rather the anthology stories answered the really tricky questions, like the kind of training Talos went through (as in ‘Shadow Knight’); what happened to Secondus; or how Talos stole the Blade of Angels. In short, the really inspired stuff. For the rumoured Favourite Recipes of the Space Marines, I’m thinking of doing something that I get a lot of mail about – like the aforementioned Blade of Angels scenario.

I have the Blood Reaver cover, by the way. It’s even better than Soul Hunter.

Oh, yes.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

Let’s Talk About Abaddon

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. 

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 85 Comments

Photos from the 40K Campaign Weekend

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 1

The Alpha Legion’s unpainted Maulerfiend gets ready to absolutely destroy several more tanks, and make its way onto the Christmas list of every Chaos player in the campaign.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 2

A rather nice aerial view – with infinite thanks to GW Dublin for painting my board and all the scenery.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 3

Alan’s Adeptus Mechanicus out for their own goals, hiding behind a rather snazzy Aegis Defence Line in matching colours. Note the Baneblade sponsons/turrets on the  Land Raider’s hull, which are sick-awesome.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 4

Ross’s Grey Knights (oh, how I loathed fighting them) moving in support of Emma’s unpainted Eldar.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 5

John’s Night Lords and Cultists swarm forward. Not Pictured: Them dying mere minutes later.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 6

I learned a lot in this game. Here’s the one and only shot of my unpainted force: my Lord and Raptor Squad. Firstly, I learned that lightning claws don’t do shit against Terminator armour. Secondly, I learned that I hate playing Grey Knights. Thirdly, I learned that I felt really bad killing Ross’s Brother-Captain with two meltagun shots. Fourthly, I learned that I felt even worse when his Terminators came back the next turn and killed this unit so hard that even their kids felt the fall of the daemonhammers.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 7

Jon’s Imperial Guard preacher makes the rather foolish mistake of charging a Mechanicus Magos who has a chainsaw for a face.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 8

A very brave, very doomed lone Cultist preaches of Khorne’s glory to a passing phalanx of Grey Knight Terminators.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 9

While Chaos and the Eldar spazzed it out downfield, the Imperials actually go for the objective, trying to stop the Mechanicus from reactivating Greymantle’s planetary defence array. Thus, was the Mechanicus denied their shot to win the 4-way battle in a storm of orbital bombardment.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 10

Katie’s Shadow Wolves (purple) and Jon’s Imperial Guard hang out at the back with some unpainted Eldar.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 11

Alan Bligh, no doubt measuring how much pain that Dreadknight and Katie’s Assault Marines are about to hand-deliver to his front line.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 13

Another aerial shot. My fave.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 14

Katie’s Assault Marines bring down hammer-based pain to various Mechanicus leader-types.

Thracian Caul 'First Blood' Weekend - 15

The Painted and Unpainted alike wage war upon their plastic and resin brethren.

Last weekend saw the ‘First Blood’ phase of our Thracian Caul campaign, where about half the group gathered with 850pt. armies in a bid to get to grips with 6th Edition. I loved it lots. I wasn’t so big on 5th.

I’m mad-busy this week with my taxes; writing about the Black Templars; and building my games room in an old, outdoors farm building, so I can legitimately say “Gentlemen. To the Aaronorium.”

So please excuse the lack of any real content, or the narrative behind the campaign.

Army fluff (and army stuff) is incoming, but this isn’t a week for fucking around, so here’s a three-minute blog update to show that I’m not dead. Yet.

December 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Dear Fuchsia – Part II: The 20 Week Scan

Dear Fuchsia,

A couple of nights ago, I felt you move for the first time. I was in bed, reading Stardust for the second time. Katie couldn’t sleep because you were, in her words: “So wriggly.” I kinda hate exclamation marks as a general rule, but the ones that follow really do represent the level of zeal in the description; the next morning, she even did karate punches in time to describing what it felt like. “Ka-pow! Pow! Ka-pow!” 

Cut back to that night, about 3am. She asked “Do you want to feel?” and for the most bizarre moment, I really didn’t. Everything is starting to feel scarily like it’s all actually happening, rather than just something to think about as part of some nebulous future. Things are developing from “Katie is pregnant…” to “We’re going to have a baby and Jesus Christ the house needs decorating and shit we’re not ready and fuck I’m not earning enough for this madness oh God oh help should I get a real job oh fuck me where’re my car keys today…”

And there’s a difference, trust me. A really huge one.

I’d assumed feeling you first move wouldn’t be much of a big deal, to be honest. We’d seen you on the scan. We knew you were there. It was real enough (and funny enough) seeing Katie occasionally hold her tummy and look confused, or grunt slightly and say she felt something. But this week, in Week 20, you really decided to get into gear. When I felt the little push against my palm, the most genuinely painful grin spread hard across my face, in what was probably the most honest smile of my life. I think I said something like “Oh, fuck…” and started laughing, which is about my usual level of eloquence in moments of high emotion.

The day before that, we’d had the famous 20 Week Scan. Note the capital letters, there.

Let’s be honest, that looks like a mess. It’s hard to make out anything, and the parts you can make out are extremely – to use my phrase at the time – “very skeletonny”.

But we’ll come to that in a minute.

This ultrasound was one of the most tense moments of my entire life. I literally couldn’t force my muscles to relax. What if you had slitted eyes and prehensile claws? What if you were a reptilian dinosaur baby thing? And if you were, what did that say about a) my sperm, and b) Katie’s lovelife?

But there you were. The midwives kept pointing out a bunch of stuff I was too excited to take in, and managed not to roll their eyes when I kept saying “But that’s okay, right?”

Sometimes they were just talking to each other, and I’d totally interrupt. “But that’s okay, right?”

They checked for something to do with your skull, some bit at the front that’s important, or whatever. Your face, maybe? No, it wasn’t that. It’d make sense, though. Then there was something about your brain. Then different heart chambers, with coloured flashes to show blood flow. Then they mentioned you had your legs crossed, which was apparently “comfortable” and “Yes, don’t worry, it’s normal.” Then they checked your spine. Then the kidneys. Then some other stuff. Then even more other stuff. Not only do I not remember all of it, despite it being a few days ago, I didn’t even know all of it at the time since I was barely paying attention in my jaw-clenched panic. All I remember clearly is stroking Katie’s hair while she craned her neck to see the monitor; staring at the screen without really understanding how I’d reached this point of my life, and accompanying the entire half hour with a soundtrack of “But that’s okay, right? That’s normal, right? That’s good, right? But that’s okay, right?”

It was indeed all good, normal and/or okay. At one point, one of the midwives did scare me with some irritating wordplay. “If you look here, here’s the tail… bone,” she said, leaving just enough of a pause between the last two words to make my heart start beating like a bastard. “The tail?” I said, and for once didn’t add “But that’s okay, right?” because even though I’m not a doctor, even I knew that wouldn’t be a good thing.

But let’s go back to the scan photos.

The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes. During that time, we saw you clearly enough to install a whole new level of Oh Shit This Is Real to my previous plateau of terror. You opened and closed your mouth, like a real person. You kicked and wriggled and squirmed (Oh, fuck, did you ever kick and wriggle and squirm). You were… a baby. There. In Katie’s tummy and on the screen. The midwives showed us every inch of you, inside and out. Like I said, some parts were uncomfortably skeletonny.

At this point, when all the important midwifey scanning was done, Katie asked about your gender. Please note, she cited my impatience as the primary factor. “He wants to know,” she said, as if the hunger for knowledge was some kind of crime, rather than the motivating force behind humanity’s advancement throughout history. As if I was the bad guy.

The midwife moved the scanner. I watched the screen. The resolving image seemed almost suspiciously clear. I remember thinking, very clearly, “Well, that’s a vagina.” 

“It’s a female,” the midwife said.

My response was to say (in a vicious little whisper – and with a secret fist pump) “Yesssssssssssss.” I then added “That crazy fortune-teller was right.” Because, clearly, she was.

Then it came time to actually printing the photo.

The screen became a mess of blurs. Some of the blurs were kicking. Others were wriggling. Several seemed to be squirming.

The midwives rolled the scanner around a bit more. Up. Down. Left. Right. East. West. Port. Starboard. All ahead full. Raise shields. Lock S-foils in attack positions. At last, the blurs stopped moving, resolving into an image of what was clearly a Russian moon landing. Or something.

“Hmmmmmm,” one of the midwives said, with the kind of narrow-eyed musing you never want to see taking place on the face of a medical professional. “She’s rolled over.”

 “But that’s okay, right?” I asked by accident. My instincts wouldn’t quit. “I mean, that’s normal, right?”

They laughed, somewhat dutifully. I think they were bored of me by that point. The machine started making noises, and printed the photos shown above. The midwives pointed and nodded, saying things like “Her arm is in front of her face” and “Do you see?”

But I didn’t see. I didn’t see at all. After 30 minutes of looking at what was definitely a baby, I now had no idea what the hell was going on. I resisted the powerful, powerful urge to say “But that’s okay, right?” That sentence had served me well thus far, but I sensed we were reaching the end of its usefulness. Everything was obviously okay. These medical professionals weren’t agitated. I suspected if I kept asking the same question, there’d be a real danger of them starting the scan from scratch, checking to see if I’d actually passed down some previously unseen retardation.

Also, there’s a real danger of anthropomorphising here, but having you suddenly hide from a camera was ruthlessly typical behaviour for one of your shared bloodlines. The coincidence amused me.

Once we left the hospital, clutching the photos that Katie still insists make sense to her and that still mean absolutely nothing to me, I called my mum. That’s Nanny D to you.

“Mum,” I said. “We’re at the hospital.”

“Oh God, what’s happened?”

“…” I replied.

“Oh,” she clicked. “The scan. How did it go?”

“We just got out. It’s all fine. Everything’s fine – heart, lungs, spine, all that stuff.”


“And it’s a girl.”

At that point, she dissolved into tears and I wasn’t really sure what she was saying for another half a minute. The rest of the conversation, once Mum had calmed down a few minutes later, was about oil prices. Look, I never said real life was always romantic and wonderful. This isn’t a rom-com.

Hilariously, in the car on the way home, you started doing some kind of 20-Week Celebration Dance on Katie’s bladder. People often make funny faces when they’re trying not to pee themselves. I think it’s even funnier with redheads, perhaps because of the freckles, and perhaps because they’re so pale that when they go red from trying not to pee everywhere, they change colour with a speed and severity rarely seen outside cartoons.

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Life Tip #1: The most important speed is 88 miles an hour. Shout those numbers every time you reach it. Do not reach it in front of the police, or on icy roads.

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 27 Comments