Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

I’m Still Alive, Post-Canada (Mega Photo Update)

So here’s a photo of me touching Chris Wraight’s balls:

No, really. My knuckles bumped his balls. We had a Moment.

I was in Canada for a while, with a bunch of the other Black Library authors. Here’s Dan, Nik, Jim, Chris, me, Gav and Graham. Gemma, who actually organised the event, isn’t here for some reason. But many thanks to her for playing hostess with aplomb. As I’ve said before, I don’t travel well, but this was a pretty magnificent week away.

I had my usual pre-event (and indeed, during-event) discomfort that nothing short of growing a backbone will ever stop, but no one died. I consider that a net gain for humanity. I also got to meet the Chestermere town mayor dressed as a Sister of Battle (no, really) and ate Vietnamese food for the first time ever, which was life-changingly good. (Thanks, Nathan and his Lilliputian bride, Theresa.)

As always, I took no decent photos. You may recall my trip to Chicago? Yeah, where this pic from the Lego store was the only photo that made it back with me:

My photos from Canada are similarly useless and/or meaningless to anyone who isn’t me.

Here’s one of the Rockies that’s actually real and not fake:

This is a real place. I was actually there, and actually took this photo.

And here’s one at Banff, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life:

And as you can see, I used it to be mean to Houston, for beating the Suns in the 1993 playoffs. No, I won’t get over it. No, you shut up.

Also, Katie and Jim Swallow jazzed up my Chaos Raptors by introducing this… this Disco Madness or whatever:

And for some reason, I have this photo of me in a restaurant:

And (true story) that was taken by a Marines Errant player by the name of Jason, whose Chapter I killed off in Blood Reaver. 

He was very forgiving.

There was also this guy:

…who looked crazy-similar to my friend Nik. So much so, that I made him stand there while I texted Nik this very photo. “STAY THERE, MAN. OH MY FUCK, YOU LOOK JUST LIKE MY FRIEND NIK. HE HAS TO SEE THIS SHIT.”

My friends Nik and Rob (who I have, on occasion, been known to call my brothers in the most exquisite moments of bromance) came over to see me, Katie and Alexander while we were at my mum’s place for one night, pre-Canada:

…and as you can see, I was totally justified in my claims of clonehood. That guy looked just like Nik, man. I kept staring at The Clone for the rest of the day, which I hope he didn’t notice, as in a strictly legal sense, I was probably stalking him.

Also, here’s one of Rob and Alexander:

I’m pretty shit at taking photos, but the two ones above really touched me. They were great moments – but then, I cry at the end of How to Train Your Dragon, so I’m not really an emotionally stable human being. My word simply cannot be trusted.

For some reason, totally out of order, there’s also one I took on my last jog:

…which I stopped, breathless and disgusted, to take. Rural Ireland is a very rainy place, and it pulls shit like this on the countryside lanes all the time. It’s like it has a gentle grudge against the people that live here. Sometimes there are trees in the road, because Ireland just thought that would jazz the place up a bit. Sometimes the diesel freezes in your car, putting you at very real risk of death unless your father-in-law has a pimpingly huge 4×4 to get groceries. It’s the sort of place that resents human intrusion, and isn’t shy to let it show.

I ran through that puddle a moment later, and it was almost Geneva Conventions-breakingly cold. As I did it, I thought of all the soldiers who read my work, and all the cross-country training they do. I’d like to say I had a moment of unselfish perspective and realised my problems weren’t all that great after all, but that would be a lie. My feet were wet, cold, and fuck you because that was bad enough.

But I have no idea why that photo is there, completely out of order.

While we were gone, Alexander was playing at my mum’s house for the week. Every day, she’d update her Facebook with pictures and a blog of what he’d been up to that day, and some absolutely beautiful shots came out of it.

Here’s a couple with his great-granddad:

I want to get the second one blown up and framed for the hallway wall.

And, perhaps most importantly, Mum was good enough to start grooming my replacement. She says he was updating his blog, but I’m intensely sucky at that, so this casts his entire lineage into question.

Also, it’s finally, finally done. Betrayer went to the wire, being just as late as The First Heretic, Blood Reaver, and The Emperor’s Gift. Let it never be said that I’m not consistent, even if it’s consistency in the very worst ways.

But since none of you care about any of that, here’s a new infrequent feature that I’m sure to forget about. Desktop Watch! What I’m working on right now:

The Underworld War is my Gal Vorbak story in the Mark of Calth anthology, detailing the ins and outs of daemonic possession, and the Word Bearers left to die on Calth, hoping for reinforcements that aren’t coming.

The Lord Inquisitor, quite obviously, is WIP document for The Lord Inquisitor. I’ll restate for the bajillionth time: me and Erasmus are redoing the whole story, and the voice actor in the proof of concept trailer is long, long gone.

The Talon of Horus is the synopsis for, uh, a novel with the working title of The Talon of Horus. It’s the first in my (hopefully long-running) Sons of Horus / Black Legion series. But we’ll see. It’s just in the first tentative stages right now, and I’m a changeable creature.

So now you’re up to date.

Leave me alone.

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Questions and Answers

Annnnd back from the Horus Heresy meeting. Which means: back at work on Betrayer, Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th Edition, and The Lord Inquisitor.

With all the filming I’ve been doing of Alexander lately, I think I should probably make good on my claim to finally “Do a video Q&A, like Dan always does.”

If it fails due to time or club-fisted editing (and remember, this’ll just be me in my office, so don’t expect miracles), I’ll just answer stuff in a long post like I’ve done in the past. But if it works, it should be worthwhile.

So, ask questions.

Go wild.

We’ll see if this works.

May 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 129 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

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

Noo Yoik Photos

Y’know, while I was in New York a few weeks back, someone actually said “Youz guys” to us in a raw Brooklyn accent. True story.

Perhaps a boring story – for you, at least – but I had such a weird moment of disembodiment that I burst out laughing. That, I thought, is how American people talk in films. How rare. 

Anyway, here are some photos, just to get the ball rolling. New York was an immense trip, and there are dozens and dozens of pics, but most of them won’t really be interesting to anyone except me (and the others who were there, natch). So excuse me for chopping them up and only showing a couple.

I’m trying to spare you, here.

Look, we're big fans of the show, okay? Leave us alone. I'm sure you've done lame stuff, too.

Andy and Vince, running the Book Expo booth.

Andy demolishes the hot wings, while I suck my burned bottom lip, like the pussy I am.

Anyone who accuses me of not signing Aurelian's 3,000 cover pages myself is going to get a punch in the teeth.

Jesus, that hat is even more rad in silhouette.

June 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 8 Comments

Interviews, Updates, Shamans (Shamen?)

I just got asked the coolest interview question: “What line was the most difficult or most emotional to write in any of your novels?”

Now, to answer that, I need to do a Blood Reaver spoiler, so stop reading here if you’re worried about that sort of thing. Go make some tea, or something. Join the army. It’s all the same to me, just go away. This entry isn’t for your kind.

In real life news, this weekend and the coming week sees me close my Lorgar novella, (still hesitantly working-titled Crusade’s End) and submit it to the editorial Powers That Be. It’s bloody weird, and I have no idea if it’ll go down well, or require a full rewrite, but I’m happy with it. I’m also achingly close to the halfway point of my Grey Knights novel, which is looking to be the closest I’ve come to a deadline in several years. It feels good to be back on track, in a way that mere words can’t quite encapsulate. I’ve got more time now, I don’t automatically work for 10 hours on weekend days as well, and things are looking on the up and up in regards to future careerness.

The wedding creeps closer, but we’re pretty much on top of everything now; it’s all booked and ready.

In stupider news, I’ve embarked on the process of levelling an Orc Shaman in WoW, which is an alt that’ll last all of three minutes, just like everything I do when I’m not playing my Rogue. My Rogue changes his race depending on my mood, of course. He’s a Blood Elf right now. Most of his life has been spent as an Undead. Before that, he was a Troll.

My Shaman looks like a right goober in the heirloom gear I’ve given him, though.

Those shoulderpads. I mean, really.

I call him The Barbarous Clown, which strikes me as a pretty pimp name for a novel. Maybe it could be about finding the humour in really mean activities. I’d totally read that.

I have no idea just why I’m showing you that orc, of course. In recent months, I’ve barely logged into WoW. “Having more time” doesn’t always equate to “having lots of time”, if you get me. And I’ll probably delete him as soon as I start whining that all his spells are useless compared to my Rogue’s abilities. That’s what I do. That’s how I roll. Just ask my guild.

—   —   —

Black Library Live has come and gone, and it brought an ever-increasing slice of unreality into my existence. I still can’t quite get a hold on the notion of being sat at a desk, with pens, and people standing in a line to talk to me. I… I mean… I don’t know what I mean. But distill it down to its core points – the absolute fundamental deal – and it makes no sense to me. It’s too bizarre to even be flattering. It’s just frightening, if anything.

I mean, what should I say? What if they ask me a clever question? What if they see me picking my nose? I’m contractually bound not to run away.

I can't believe none of these people had anything better to do.

Also, I don’t let my closest friends and family members take photos of me. I hate being on camera. So “Aaron! Can I get a photo with you?” is literally one of the most knife-in-the-eye painful sentences anyone can say to me. And loads of people were saying it. They kept saying it all the time. I wanted to tell them to get lost and go find someone famous instead. After all, I’m trying to eat dinner, here. Get a photo of Katie. She’s hotter than me.

I look so much wiser than I actually am.

I completely forgot to take home my NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AARON DEMBSKI-BOWDEN poster.

Mea culpa. I wanted that. I’m almost, almost upset enough to do a frowny face. That’s how ghastly I feel about the loss.

My instinct is to say the highlights of the weekend were the Secret Meeting in HQ, and the slow-motion diving hug between me and Handsome Ben. While they both rated highly – and were both certainly easier than sitting in a room full of people for a terrifying Q&A seminar (they… they kept looking at me…) – I think the best parts were probably kicking back with John at the end of it all, doing that “Annnnnnnd relax” sighing after a mental weekend, and the breakfast with Andy and Jade on the following morning.

Uh, for clarity: John is John French, one of GW’s loremasters. We always hook up for beer each time I fly over to my publisher, and in a twist that I found pretty amusing, despite several conversations lasting many hours, I only found out his actual job this time ’round. Previously, I’d assumed he was an accountant or something. Andy is Andy Smillie, a gigantic beefy Scotsman and my seminar enforcer. Not sure if he wants his actual job mentioned online, so we’ll just say he “works at my publisher”. Jade is his fiancee. We all went out for pancakes at breakfast, in an event that I sincerely hope becomes a ritual.

More importantly (oh, so much more importantly), Andy is the unwilling victim of image crimes on 4chan, where they post his photo on /tg/:

What a handsome devil.

I didn’t get to see Mark Newton. I did get to see Trevor Larkin.

At one point, I ate a cow’s cheeks. Or maybe it was just one cheek? I’m not really sure. It was the first time I’d ever eaten some of a livestock animal’s face.

Man, this is getting long, and I have work to do. I also have more interviews to do, because I was foolish and saved them all up to do at once.

This was not wise.

Anyway, about the cool interview question I mentioned before. Here it is, snipped for spoilers:


Continue reading

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 16 Comments

Black Library Live 2011 Timetable

You wouldn’t believe the week I’ve just had.

Anyway, I found this. Apparently, it’s next weekend in Nottingham, and I have to go to it. It’s not too late to break my leg in a freak tractor accident, though. You never know.

I tried to get out of the Q&A and the second signing - but no dice.

The best part is when it mentions me getting up to do stuff before 10am. Classic comedy.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 17 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

Brett Duckley, Agent to the Stars

The First Heretic hits the halfway mark this week. There’s still a chance it’ll be the length of Horus Rising rather than Fulgrim.

I didn’t really notice the chapter headings much in the previous Heresy books, but conversely, it’s one of the things I’m having the most fun playing about with. I like the teasing snippets of what’s to come, which isn’t as clever as some decent foreshadowing, but is still just a little bit haunting if you nail it right. I can show the first six chapters, but I think it gets into spoiler territory if I go into the seventh and beyond. (I’m on the eleventh at the moment.) With that in mind:

—   —   —

The Perfect City / False Angels / Day of Judgement

Serrated Sun / Devastation / Aurelian

Blood Demands Blood / Sigillite / The Master of Mankind

A Legion Kneels / If Ultramar Burns / Grey

Voice of the Emperor / New Eyes / The Soul’s Fuel

The Old Ways / Never Human / End this World

—   —   —

Now, onto business. There’s been a few  developments rattling around behind the scenes of The Aaron Show since I last crossed paths with a human being that wasn’t my fiancee. The fact is, I’m tired of dealing with you. I’m a professional now, and it’s time to act like one. I’m doing what Marketing wants. I’m focusing on hitting deadlines instead of hitting readers in the solar plexuses (plexus…es? Plexi? Plexiius…) with construction hammers, and I’m taking classes to learn how to smile without blood smeared all over my lips.

To that end, I’ve hired an agent.

An agent is useful for many things, such as telling my editor Nick: “Uh, it’s almost finished, just need one more week”, or replying to the many beautiful women that send me photos of themselves in their underwear. I’d do those things myself, but frankly, I’m enslaved to do a job, and it’s time to get it done.

So for the rest of this entry, the questions that people won’t shut the fuck up about will be answered by my agent, Brett Duckley, from Duckley & Pondsworth Literary Services.

“Hi, kids.”
  • Aaron said he’d never do a Night Lords novel in the Horus Heresy. What’s the deal with that?

Ha, yeah, he’s a joker. Listen, babe. Wait… are you a girl? Whatever. Listen, babe. I see where you’re coming from. I really do. But you have to understand, when my client said he’d never do a Night Lords book, he was really, really drunk. And high, too. He walked in the wrong circles for a while, y’know? He was hanging out with these Red India– uh, Native American shaman guys, and he was rocked off his balls on this weird whiskey made from buffalo milk, as well as some really brutal peyote.

I’m not even kidding. He tried to fucking scalp me with a tomahawk axe he found in his car. “Stay cool,'” I told him. “It’s me, man. It’s Brett. I’m just a duck.”

So let’s just say that he came back to Earth and changed his mind. We’ll leave it at that. His next Horus Heresy book will probably be a Night Lords book, set in the Age of Darkness period – the several years after the Dropsite Massacres and before the Siege of Terra.

He likes the name The Shadow Crusade (or The Silent Crusade), but doubts Marketing will, because they never like his names. He wanted Soul Hunter to be called In Midnight Clad.

And no, he doesn’t think that’s gay. Shut the hell up.

  • Does he still want to write a new Grey Knights series?

Obviously, I can neither confirm nor deny whether it’s happening at this stage, but let’s just say that my client – according to the man himself – is “reasonably certain” he can nail this one down, and that if he did get a shot at “the Grey fucking Knights, man” then he’d be writing it “like, I don’t know, next year maybe”.

  • Will Book X have Character Y in it, from author Z’s book?

I like you, kid. So this one’s for free: That question? That question you asked right there? My client finds that literally the most bastardly annoying question in the world. If you want to finish this interview with your balls attached to your body, you should probably stop asking it. Different writers have different interpretations of the 40K setting. Just… just get over it. We can still be friends.

  • What short stories does he have out this year?

Too many. This is killing his novel flow, for real.

  1. ‘At Gaius Point’ is in Legends of the Space Marines, and is about the Flesh Tearers.
  2. ‘The Core’ is in Fear the Alien, and features First Claw, from Soul Hunter.
  3. Throne of Lies is his audiobook, also featuring First Claw.
  4. ‘Regicide’ is his story for the Sabbat Worlds Anthology, which is almost finished.
  5. ‘Savage Weapons’ is his story for the Horus Heresy anthology, Age of Darkness.
  6. His story for the working-titled ‘Favourite Recipes of the Space Marines’ may or may not have a working title itself, and that title may or may not be ‘Despoiler’.
  7. …and a secret one, too.
  • I emailed him to ask if Loken was alive, but he never answered.

Jesus feathery Christ, boy. Let’s clear this up, shall we? My client is tired of being messaged on Facebook about this. He’s tired of the emails. He’s sick of the private messages on Warseer, Bolter & Chainsword, and Heresy Online. Mostly, he needs to stay the fuck off those forums, because they take up too much time and he needs to be writing instead of image-searching for Black Templar conversions. Lazy bastard. But whatever. Let’s wrap this bad boy up once and for all.

Loken is alive. Dan Abnett has said so himself, in terms as plain as my client’s first girlfriend. Stop asking. Just… just stop asking. If you keep asking, my client will be forced to choke some people, and really, no one needs that. No one wants to die by his hands. He’s a man of peace now. He’s done killing.

For the record, at his first Horus Heresy meeting, my client argued that it looked too much like Loken had died in Galaxy in Flames, and it wasn’t written vaguely enough for a convincing return. Ol’ Loken’s story looked finished. But this goes above one little opinion. Loken was always intended to survive, which is why Dan says on his videos and at numerous signings that “Loken is alive” and “Loken was always intended to survive”. So stop asking me. I mean… Aaron. Stop asking Aaron. Yes.

  • Aaron’s cat is called Loken. Are you suuuuuuure you’re not being vague and playing a trick on us?

What are you, a masochist? Look at me. I’m a duck. Just looking at a duck makes people happy. Why aren’t you happy? Why do you keep asking these mentalist questions? Aaron’s cat is alive, and so is Garviel Loken, the Horus Heresy character. Now stop going on about it.

  • How will Loken return?

Shut the hell up. That’s how.

  • What mandatory public appearances will Aaron be making in the near future?

As few as possible. He leaves his house three times a day. Firstly, for an hour, to drive Katie to work. Secondly, for half an hour, to beat up his punchbag. Thirdly, to pick Katie up from the playgroup/school/child-building where she looks after stunted Irish goblins.

Apart from those necessary adventures, he’ll be in Chicago at the end of the month for Adepticon, and maybe in Belfast/Dublin at the GW stores, if Marketing can talk him into it. But they probably can’t. He wants to beat up his punchbag and play D&D with his friends instead.

  • What advice can he give a new writer?

My client feels that needs an entire post to itself, and will likely be done next week, now that these annoying questions are done with.


Brett Duckley – Duckley & Pondsworth Literary Services.

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 34 Comments