Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

My Dream 40K Series

I want to write a really tedious novel series about a new Space Marine Chapter being founded, with all the difficult red tape that’d come with it. They’d be called something rad, like the Angels Numinous, or the Blood Eagles, or the Painful Dolphins (or whatever).

The first few novels would be about finding a worthy world to recruit from, and the initiates taken to begin training; deals sworn with Navigator Houses on Holy Terra to get the pilots they need; the veterans of other Chapters helping out to train and lead the recruits; the secret oaths Techmarines have to swear in order to get trained on Mars before returning to their Chapter; and the difficulties of training regulated Marine battle-psykers for a proper Librarium. Then it would go into their first crusade, and the harrowing attrition rate as they’re thrown into the maw of a subsector lost to open rebellion.

The main antagonist would be a pen-pushing office clerk high-up in the Adeptus Terra, who thwarts the new Chapter’s rise because he doesn’t like their colour scheme. He ultimately wins, when the Marine Lord of the Blood Eagles (or Painful Dolphins, remember) gets a memo on his data-slate ordering the immediate disbanding of his Chapter, despite the fact he’s in the middle of a war.

The second trilogy would cover the remaining members of the Chapter reacclimatising to Imperial life in various manufactories and offices, essentially working in 40K-style call centres. One of them might have a gambling problem, or something. Either way, it’d be super-deep.

Roll credits.

I eagerly await my Nebula Award, thanks.

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 33 Comments

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

40K on the BBC

So, as many of us know, 40K got a spot on the BBC News website for its 25th Anniversary.

This kind of thing has happened before, and we (the hobby “we”, not the royal We) rarely do well out of it. The dual negative natures of the hobby’s obsessive and geeky overtones are amped up to 11, while (to trot out the old trope) football fans are allowed to spend hundreds of pounds every year on match tickets, kits, and to spend hours and hours watching games with various degrees of obsession, and to play fantasy football, which is (to trot out a second trope) “just D&D for jocks”.

I’ve never reeeeeeaaaaaally agreed with the traditional hobby defences mentioned above, mostly because they feel so very, very defensive and the hobby isn’t something I really get ashamed about – not since I turned 24 or so. But I can understand the usual reactions. It’s annoying and false that we’re always painted up like clownish, unpalatable cunts – except, of course, the many among our diverse and multinational breed who are indeed already clownish, unpalatable cunts. But they exist in every community, culture, subculture and fandom. So… whatever.

Anyway, this time, the BBC treated us pretty nicely, and a lot of that comes down to who they interviewed, and how he handled it.

Here’s the video link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17344366. Definitely worth watching.

And here’s the main article (also with the video) on the main site (complete with slightly inflammatory, but adorable title): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17274186.

Andrew Ruddick – the guy being interviewed and speaking for the hobby – brought us across in a really nice and realistic light, essentially an avatar for most of the people I know in the hobby: Just guys and girls who happen to like Warhammer. I wanted to track him down just to say thanks for his presentation of 40K’s real face, which required some incredible detective skills that would’ve made Sherlock Holmes shit his jeans in awe.

As soon as I did that, I found his Twitter page.

And as soon as I found that, I found this:

…he already follows me.

(I tend to forget Twitter. Out of the cosmic clash of forums and Facebook, Twitter is the one I tend to interact least on, and have the least followers (or likers/whatever-on-Site-X-ers), though I’m making a concerted effort to lock it down and get on board.


Thanks, Andrew. I owe you a drink. If you see me (no doubt in my natural state of standing around somewhere in a beanie hat and looking faintly confused) feel free to hit me up for a round at the closest bar.

March 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 15 Comments

Post-Heresy Meeting, Pre-Baby. Plus, The Lord Inquisitor.

So, anyway, I’m back home.

On the banal side of life, that means sending half the internal components of my new desktop computer back to the lab, for a judicious application of Please Fix This Shit, Thanks. There’s baby furniture to build. There’s a new carpet to prepare for. There’s the knowledge I now have that – after visiting my friend John’s agonisingly middle-class suburban home (plus his wife, Liz; plus their baby, Henry) – that I’ve now actually become my parents, at the start of their parenting career. I’m starting to do the things they did, and have friends in similar situations to theirs back then. I have to do things like, f’rex, assemble nursery furniture, and hanging out with my friends no longer involves shivering in their shitty apartments on the stabby-stabby side of town.

Which, y’know, is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Visiting your friends should involve liking their wives, thinking their babies are beautiful, and central fucking heating. It shouldn’t involve prayers to a variety of pantheons that the shitheads on the corner will choose not to disembowel you with kitchen knives, or tazer you in the spine because they totally got a stun-gun on eBay.

A net gain, there.

I missed most of the last Horus Heresy meeting, which is fine as I didn’t have that many questions anyway, and out of all the team, I’m probably the one who least enjoys discussing his in-progress stuff. I see the value everyone gets out of the chats, and how it can change stuff from, say, a detail here or there, to the entire course of a book. I mean, we’ve surely spent 6 hours or more at meetings discussing Fear to Tread in the last couple of years. I’ve known the storyline of that novel, and been around for the chats and feedback about it, since before The First Heretic was released. But I prefer to work in a little more isolation.

That said, Graham changed the entire focus of Betrayer with a single sentence last time, so… y’know, whatever. My point is this: I hate talking about planned or in-progress stuff, and prefer to retreat into my isolation chamber until the book’s done. I did have a suggestion for Betrayer’s subheader, which went down pretty well. That was about it.

The Emperor’s Gift is finished, at 102,000 words. I picked up my proof copy of Void Stalker (which, to my surprise, was also on sale at the SFX Weekender). It’s cute how it’s 15% chunkier than Soul Hunter. Work-wise, fuck it, I’m taking a couple of weeks off to get ready for Fuchsia’s arrival.

I didn’t actually do much at the SFX Weekender itself. Graham (McNeill) is a master at interacting with fans, selling himself without being creepy, and just hanging out at the booth all day, chatting, laughing, etc. Me? Not so much. I am so, so, so very notoriously bad at that even at the very best times, especially when it’s busy, like it was at SFX. That was magnified by the fact I was in the chalet most of the weekend, finishing The Emperor’s Gift, so I was a bit of an invisible presence all ’round.

I surfaced long enough to be on a panel discussing space opera, alongside (among others) Dan Abnett, Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds. There was another guest added at the final minute, which meant I surrendered my chair to sit on the end, looking like a fucking idiot. My bad.

As a massive fan of Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton, that was a pretty amazing moment for me. Another step closer to being able to say “I’ve arrived” at some arbitrary point in the future.

I’m pretty terrible with photos, and didn’t take any of interesting stuff that people would actually want to see. I tend to forget other people read this thing, and end up taking photos just for, well, me.

Like this one:

I screwed this one up because I was laughing. One of my traditions when I’m over for a Heresy meeting or a Nottingham signing is to go through the Citadel Miniatures Hall of Old Stuff, and just see what’s been added. Anyway, just as I was taking this one, I heard someone over by the door say in that fake-quiet library voice: “That’s Aaron Dembski-Bowden…” which made me smile and glance away the same second I took the photo. It was supposed to be of the huge Khorne symbol ruin, but as you can see, I moved. So now it’s now a photo of… some guy’s wings, and some lens flare.

I visited Forge World, through their public office and into the secret bowels of Stuff You’re Really Not Allowed To Talk About. Stuff that’ll be about in the next 6-12 months, etc. While all of that was awesome (and probably my favourite abuse of GW clout) best of all, I found this motherfucking thing:

Which, as you can see, is rad.

“Dude,” I said to Ead, Forge World’s customer services manager. “Dude, get a photo of me with the storm bolter.”

Worth it. Totally worth it.

Anyway, I returned home to Katie who is now, if possible, even more swollen with the Dembski-Bowden heir. As a general rule, I tend to avoid any conventions or signings where she can’t make it as well, as her not being there only adds to my discomfort about the whole “surrounded by too many people” deal, and I feel shitty leaving her home while I go out and do cool stuff. Especially cool stuff like messing about with life-size storm bolters.

In another abuse of power, I also asked if Graham would send me the Word.doc of his novel Priests of Mars when he’s finished with it, because I didn’t want to wait until it hit the shelves. Better than that, he’s sending me it chapter by chapter, which is awesome to the power of killer. Out of Black Library’s entire 2012 line-up, that’s the one I’ve been keenest about for ages and ages, so getting hold of it is a bit of a personal coup. It’s also got the very best cover. No, really, just look at this fucking thing. To say I’m “jealous” implies a mortal, human limit to my envy. I assure you, no such limit exists. My jealousy is a seething, eternal thing – a matter of primal instinct usurping all sentience and drowning all higher function. Love it to bits.

Returning home after 5 days away also means I had an inbox rammed full of jazz in desperate need of some attention. A lot of it was asking Fuchsia’s due date, which is – depending which doctor or midwife you believe, Feb 20th, Feb 26th, or March 2nd. We tend to err on the side of 26th-2nd, but obviously she’ll come when she’s ready, so we’re not holding our breath. If she does hit her target date, she’ll actually arrive when our friend Barney is over for the week, which would be surreal and awesome.

And now, you may have heard of this:

http://www.thelordinquisitor.com/. And this: https://www.facebook.com/The.Lord.Inquisitor.

And maybe seen this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7glPda2Lcc.

I’ve seen those things, too. Hey, we’ve got a lot in common, right? Let’s do lunch.

When I got back from the HH meeting and the SFX con, I had about eight million messages and forum comments that said “ARE YOU WRITING THE LORD INQUISITOR?!”

I’ve been following the project for a long time, and I’ve commented in various forums about how I was variously amazed at the detail, thought it was beautiful, and was mean enough to say I hated (I think I actually said “not a fan of”) the voice-acting and the script. But for a proof of concept trailer, that shit is far beyond killer.

A while ago, the Lordi (teehee) overseer Erasmus Brosdau (which is surely the most 40K name ever) got the green light from GW’s legal dept. and put out an open call for people to help out and make the thing happen as a 40-minute movie. That’s sort of when I came on board. I asked what they were looking for, and how the process had gone with GW. Nothing major. It quickly turned into something a bit majorer, which isn’t a word, but I’m going to pretend it is as I quite like it.

So, to answer your question(s): Yes, kind of. I’m not writing the movie all by myself. It’s a collaborative effort, and I’m just one little gear in the machine – I didn’t jump in and demand to run the show, or any shit like that. Obviously, everything’s in early development right now, so no spoilers. Suffice to say that I’m on the team, and absolutely freaking thrilled about that fact. I may make a billion suggestions and they all get ignored. I might write the whole script and we end up using a single scene. That’s just how this jazz works; I don’t want people thinking I just moved in to rule someone else’s show. This is still Erasmus’ brainchild, I’m just on the team.


We’re clear.

Excuse me now, while I go try to remember what the fuck free time feels like.

I have a feeling it’ll feel like making furniture, tidying my office, and playing The Old Republic.

P.S. I’m not saying Craig Charles was high during his DJ set at the SFX Weekender, but I will say that guy needed to sniff a whole lot, and kept wiping his nose on his sleeve every three seconds.

I’m just saying.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 19 Comments


Since Forge World released the Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought, I’ve been extremely well aware that one of them is absolutely going to be a major, major character in my next Horus Heresy novel, Betrayer. I was originally tempted to try and get him on the cover, but in the end I wimped out and went with something reliable (and, I’ll add, absolutely brutal in the final showing).

I also want one or two of them for my slow-growing Chaos Marine army because, hey, Forge World is totally cheap, right? And it’s not like I have a baby on the way in 4 weeks, is it?

Anyway, on a break from work just now, I saw this on B&C’s Post Your Dreadnought thread, by GuitaRasmus:

Now, using an age-old style of hobby craftsmanship that we call “copying”, I’m going to try and do that wickedly cool Skaven wrecking ball on my future Contemptor.

Of course, seeing rad stuff like this just makes me despise the people who have armies looking that good, but whatever. Let’s all be friends.

No bitz sites had any spare bits, but a couple of people on my Facebook page (go click Like, ta) have already offered a helping hand on that score.

Here’s my formula for success:



…equals Fucking Awesome.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 13 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 ?”


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: https://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

An Interview!

With thanks as always to Laurie and Josh at Shroud Film for tidying my idiocy as much as humanly possible.


November 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 25 Comments

An Argument between me and Dan Abnett


They found the file and have posted it online.

My legal department is mobilising as I type these words. The term “savage, savage lawsuit, dude” has been used in the presence of the correct hand gestures – and blood sacrifices to gods both old and new.


P.S. Can you call me later today, after about 1pm? Ta.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 26 Comments

Adepticon 2010

Chicago – and the Adepticon experience within it – doesn’t translate well into a retelling. That’s why I’ve struggled so much to write this update.

People ask me if we went to see the bright lights of the big city, and the answer is no.

People ask me if we took loads of photos, and the answer is no.

People ask me if we brought back loads of souvenirs from the States, and again, the answer is no.

With disbelief straining their faces, people ask if  we even left the hotel, and the answer to that is “Yeah, of course, but not that much.”

For me, Adepticon in Chicago was something of a landmark moment, and one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. The con itself eclipsed my preconceptions by a huge degree, with some serious crowds taking up the entire mass of the huge-ass hotel. I can see why so many gamers in the States flock there; it’s a nexus of tabletop carnage over 3 official days (and 1.5 unofficial ones), and the atmosphere was absolutely unrivaled. You’ve got conference room after conference room reserved for different games, packed with tables, and the aura is a clashing mix of laughter, clattering dice and cheap beer. I admit, before I went, I was expecting a humble little boredom storm in the ass end of nowhere, but it was absolutely fucking killer.

If I’m lucky enough to get invited again, I’m taking an army with me, so I can get some late night games in. Gaming at 2am in a decent hotel, beer in hand and sneer in place, is the only stylish way to destroy one’s enemies.

I’d planned to try and hang out with Hank and Bill, the Adepticon overseers, but that didn’t pan out – I spent my time either signing things, drinking things, or talking to people about things. I did get a cracking story from Hank about Graham McNeill getting wasted with them when he came over last time. I could tell it was the truth, because he mentioned the words Graham and Drinking in the same sentence. Only people that know him would make such an intuitive connection, cutting right to the core of his highlandish character.

Let’s break the weekend down into quantifiable parts:

  • Uncle Vince

Black Library’s American uberlord is Vince Rospond – a man I was greatly afeared of meeting. Is “afeared” actually a word? I thought it was, and I just used it there to be funny, but the auto spellcheck thing is red-lining it and calling me a retard. No matter. Let’s press on.

Vince wasn’t the slick, pony-tailed badass biker that I was expecting. (Which is good, because I already have Jim Swallow in my life for that. The quota is filled, the threshold is reached.)

In fact, I think in one of the interviews I did, I called him The World’s Nicest Maths Teacher, which sounds like an insult in the glories of hindsight, but wasn’t meant to be. Something that always defies the stereotype in the States is that once you’re past Immigration, everyone is always really, really nice, rather than the impolite Jesus-junkies you expect them to be from watching the news.

Vince exemplified this Transatlantic benevolence. Three minutes into meeting him, I wanted him to adopt me as some kind of hopeless, wayward nephew. In this family-morphing scenario, I’d know him as Uncle Vince, and whenever I was in trouble, I’d go to my Uncle Vince and he’d be nice and American at me, making it all better. I recall vaguely imagining this, while he talked professional for a while.

Over the course of the weekend, he variously put up with me a) needing naps; b) calling people cunts as I signed their books; c) drinking my bodyweight in coffee every hour; and d) asking about my American sales figures every sixteen seconds. (Very good, by the way. Go team.)

He was also one of those guys who has a story for every occasion, and as I’m the avataric embodiment of a socially-stunted hermit loathing everyone else in the world, I found that quite endearing.

Suffice to say, me and Katie left the States actually missing Vince, which was a good sign that his international niceness worked. I remain unadopted on the nephew scale, though. This displeases me immensely.

  • Interview Stuff

I did two podcast interviews, one for The Gamer’s Lounge, and one for 40K Radio. Usually, I hate doing these things without any prep time, but I think they went okay. I’ll do linkies to them soon.

The thing I recall most was realising this was the very best time to pimp myself to the masses, and instead focusing on how great I think Dan Abnett is. I don’t regret that; it was time well spent.

The first  was with Gamer’s Lounge, and although I only knew Bill and Jay from email, I was fairly confident they were decent enough human beings not to make me look like a tool. It went well, though during my “Jesus, I didn’t get any sleep and I’m totally hungover” nap, the two infidels pounced on Katie in my absence. She did an interview herself, which I’m sure she’ll link to at some point soon. If she doesn’t, I will.

It was around this time that someone (Nathan, I think) managed to get Katie into Blood Bowl. Oh, hell yes.

  • Soul Hunter

Although we sold out of Helsreach in the first few hours (Fuck yes), the thing I ended up signing by a ratio of about 5-to-1 was Soul Hunter. And not new copies, either. For the first time, I was confronted by people who’d already read my work, and were bringing me the book to sign. I’ve said before that the reception for the book has bordered on the “unbelievably, insanely positive” and that bore true in real life, rather than simply remaining on the aetheric waves of the internet. It would’ve been more awesome had it not been so surreal.

The sheer number of people saying they’re converting armies based on the novel is humbling and hamster-crushingly rad, too. That’ll be easier with a few more distinct groups, which’ll show up in Blood Reaver.

I even got to cross paths with a few guys I’d talked to on various forums (mostly Bolter & Chainsword – hi Dan’s friend Josh), but the first and foremost has to be David, from Heresy Online. David is 7 feet tall, and has stories about being bayonetted by a friend; shot in the chest at an ATM; and throwing people out of windows into ponds. I was surprised he turned out to be my kind of person, because from that description, he sounds like a right twat.

We discussed the week’s important matters, such as the possibility of making a fitness video for the new century’s lazier breed of man: “For maximum ease with minimum results”. This, I knew, was time invested in the right way. To hell with acting as an ambassador for the Black Library. I had Vince and Katie for that. My focus was on higher, more spiritual matters, like how gay the Rainbow Warrior Space Marines are.

  • 40K Radio

We spent a significant portion of the weekend drunk (or hungover) with the guys from 40K Radio. Vince had pre-warned me that I’d be doing an interview with them, and it was probably the thing I was most worried about before we touched down in the States. I’ve been listening to the show for months, so I felt like I kinda knew how it was going to unfold, but I also knew how many thousands of people listened to it… so…

Funnily enough, the one guy from the show I was most confident about meeting, Scott, didn’t make it, because he’s just had a son. But I knew from hearing him talk on the show that he liked Soul Hunter, so I figured I was on pretty solid ground there. I was also dying to take the piss out of his “Tau-riffic” catchphrase. My God, man. Stop saying that, I beg you.

So when he didn’t show up, the word “…fuck” slid around behind my eyes more than a few times.

Spencer and Chipley showed, though. One of the things I knew from the show was that these two are doing the job I wanted to do: they’re paramedics. So that was neat. I stole some ideas off them (and Nathan too, who’s a nurse), regarding resuscitation. If we’re being absolutely honest, Spencer spent all of Saturday in bed, annihilated from Friday night’s 5:30am drink-fest. But he did drink more than most of us, so I went light on the pisstaking the next day.

I enjoyed doing the interview, though it was surreal as hell to be sat in front of them, rather than listening at my desk. Though, a side benefit to actually being a fan of the show meant I recognised Spencer’s voice in the hotel lobby, despite not knowing what he looked like.

I didn’t get to say bye to them – Katie and I spent most of Monday in a state of post-con collapse – which was a shame. But they mentioned maybe heading over to Games Day UK, which would be fucking awesome. Uncle Vince threatened to do it, too.

Which reminds me: I’ll pace myself at the Games Day after-party next time, rather than drink everything in 3 hours and try to keep up with that barbarian McNeill. Some wars cannot be won.

tl;dr — Thanks for letting us come over, Hank. Adepticon was fucking amazing.

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