Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

“First Claw in my inbox? Let’s see thi– OH, FUCK A DUCK.”

ADBs First Claw by Augustus bRaassI won’t ruin this with too many words. Besides, there are 300,000 words about these guys already out there.

This is the first time I’ve seen them and had a genuinely gut-punchy emotional reaction. Not just “This person gets it” or “This really captures them perfectly” – or even “They look better here than in my head”, the last of which is true with surprising frequency. Not even “I love that my characters meant so much to someone”, which is about as perfect a feeling as an author can get.

In this case, I mean an actual wrenching internal lurch that made me feel – just for a moment – the same way so many people feel when they tell me they miss First Claw. It was the first time that seeing them again actually made me miss them, too.


TALOS TWO 5_zpsim2mbgnx





MERCUTIAN2015-02-25 22.42.35_zpsywpupjnz


2015-02-26 14.16.22_zpsxcvbxogd



Here’s Augustus’ thread if you want to see more of his work.

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 27 Comments

First Claw (on the tabletop)

I get a lot of images (and often the models themselves, as gifts) of First Claw conversions. It’s always flattering, always awesome, and always a surprise. I keep every single one for my office (and soon, for the Aaronorium).

But… Jesus Christ. Here’s the newest one. Just look at these guys.

Freaking killer.

First Claw, by Dimitris Kiourtsoglou.

First Claw, by Dimitris Kiourtsoglou.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 15 Comments

Prince of Crows Review & New Talos Artwork

Oh, man, just when I was thinking I’d have to kill someone with my replica Gears of War Lancer in order to actually have something to  post this week, this bad boy drops into my lap.

Ladies and gentlemen: Talos on the bridge of the Echo of Damnation, circa the beginning of Void Stalker, when he’s… ah, ‘communing’ with Ruven.

It’s by David Sondered (whom many of y’all will know from his Colrouphobia blog and his Deviantart site), and was commissioned by Ash Timms.



What, exactly, am I supposed to say to this? It’s fucking breathtaking. You can see that. What is there for me to say except “SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII—–” which is more or less what I said when I first saw it?

C’est incredible. 

And in much less thrilling news, to answer some of the endless questions I’ve been getting about ‘Prince of Crows’ in Shadows of Treachery, here’s a review up at the lovely Civilian Reader:

“Prince of Crows” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Night Lords! During the Horus Heresy! Written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden! There was really very little chance I wasn’t going to thoroughly enjoy this story, and thankfully the author does not disappoint.

“Prince of Crows” is set shortly after his previous Heresy short story – Lion el Johnson has just beaten Curze in single combat, inflicting horrific wounds on his brother, leaving the Night Haunter stuck in the apothecarium on board a Night Lords’ ship, their doctors and specialists at a loss for how to fix their Primarch. As their Primarch slowly (oh-so slowly) recovers from his wounds, the power/leadership vacuum leads the remaining members of the Kyroptera (the Night Lords’ leadership council) to squabble over the Legion’s next moves. Sevatar, the insouciant First Captain, puts his foot down and basically appoints himself head of the Legion until Curze recovers, dealing with dissent in a very… final manner. He’s condescending and infuriating towards his fellow captains, as well as his Primarch, which makes him very fun to read about and one of the most engaging characters in the whole series. He spouts plenty of quips throughout the story that made me chuckle. Despite the fact that he is an absolute sociopath – Dembski-Bowden actually uses the character’s inability to relate to others very well, creating an almost-outside-observer perspective.

As the traitor Legion least wedded to Horus’s cause, Sevatar isn’t remotely concerned about voicing his dissent and distaste for the Warmaster’s plans and the overall rebellion to begin with. The Night Lords will do what is necessary, and no more.

“Do I look like I care what the Warmaster wants of me?” Sevatar’s skullish faceplate stared with its red eye-lenses. “We never cared what the Emperor wanted of us. Why should we waste our lives out here in the back end of the galaxy, dancing to the Warmaster’s tune? … He has leashed us for three years. I am done with obedience. To the abyss with Horus and his arrogant whims. He is no better than the Emperor.”

The story also contains some more background on Konrad Curze, through his memories of his arrival and bloody rise to power on Nostramo. Sevatar is, however, absolutely the central focus of the story, and the author really pulls out all the stops for the story finale, which has some almost Avengers-esque action, and a brilliant (if also potentially stupid) gambit from our protagonist – all of which builds to a ferocious, awe-inspiring climax. And then a bit of a cliff-hanging end, which suggests there should be more to come.

And I really do hope we get some more Night Lords Heresy fiction, and especially stories written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. No author has done a better job of fleshing out and realising any of the original Legions than this author, and that he’s done it with two traitor Legions (the Night Lords and Word Bearers) that could so easily have just been caricatures of Chaotic madness and excess… It’s pure genius.

I was a little confused by the inclusion of one character who was, as far as I’m aware, wholly new and sticks out a bit like a sore thumb: Alastor Rushel, the Raven? Who is he, and where did he come from? I have no memory of reading about him in any other Heresy fiction. Anybody else know? His presence offers up a whole host of questions, some of which could form the basis of really interesting fiction in the future.

The writing is superb, the characterisation the best in the book. The pacing is fluid, and the story expertly executed. A brilliant chapter to close this anthology.”

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 17 Comments

Art Attack! Bow Chicka Bow Wow

As you may have heard from the most reputable news sources, it was my birthday yesterday. Out of the blue, someone sent me this beautiful son of a… ahem, the sunless world:

I think we can all guess who that is.

As presents from nowhere come, that’s a hell of a lovely thing to wake up to. I get sent quite a lot of art – often with “Please don’t post this as it’s not finished” warnings, as well as First Claw conversion images, but I think this might be my fave. The selfish reason of it being a birthday present may indeed be making me biased, but my answer to that is Bite Me, followed by Please Eat My Balls.

On a similar note, I was recently watching a bunch of Traitor Legion tribute videos on YouTube, and although it should’ve been obvious, I was still surprised to see my influence painted all over the Night Lords ones. It made me miss First Claw, not only because if I’d kept them in the game they’d have been a license to print money (teehee!), but because I loved those guys, heart and soul, and I think I’ll always miss them.  Sometimes I muse over adding them as a Chosen Squad to my Chaos Marine army, but even by my standards, that’s a whole spire of self-indulgent bullshit.

But I digress. Let’s discuss art, as I’m in the mood to do so.

A lot of WoW players get their characters artworked up at some point. I’m usually too embarrassed, as despite most of my WoW, uh, “career” spent playing undead, I’ve played a lot of trolls (their faux Rastafarian-ness makes me cringe with some pale shade of residual white guilt) and blood elves (who are the victims of endless “gay” / “girl” / “losers play elves to feel cool” jokes because they’re less muscled, hunched and hideous than the other Horde races). But getting your character inked – or at least, inked well – is usually a cause for “Oh, hell yes!” moments in an RP guild.

Also, often a cause for “These aren’t tears of jealousy, there’s just some hatred in my eye” moments.

Katie recently commissioned some artwork of her paladin, along with another guildie’s paladin, as the two characters are very close – with a sisterhood kinda deal going on. As a late Christmas present, I actually begged Neil Roberts (of Eldar Path and Horus Heresy Series cover fame) to do both of Katie’s main characters, as well as Ron Spencer (of Werewolf: the Apocalypse and WoW: TGC fame). Those are all in mid-scribble, so either me or Katie will show them when they roll in. Patience, grasshopper. Professional artists are busy people; they also suffer from the ire of Deadline Gods.

But I thought some of you might this interesting in the meantime. I’m sort of in love with it – not only does it look lush, it also captures them both to perfection.

Here’s the final piece of the two girls, with the usual “click to make it bigger” addendum:




August 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 20 Comments

First Claw Concept Sketches

Oh, look. Some concept sketches.

Mercutian. He will most definitely fuck you up with all that Dakka.

Variel, the new guy. The doctor will see you now.

Uzas. When life gives you lemons, BLOOD FOR THE MOTHERFUCKING BLOOD GOD.

Cyrion. "So. How are you?"

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 24 Comments

First Claw, by Shane Cook

Shane Cook just finished the painting of First Claw, and I figured that maybe some of you ladies and gents might want to see it.

I really want to be glib about this. I really, honestly do. I just can’t. It’s so completely awesome that I’ve got nothing to say except that it rocks my world.

The detail on this really has to be seen to be believed. Zoom in, and take your time. Blood Reaver is about to be released, so the guys aren’t going anywhere for a while. Void Stalker is another year away.

I should add (with an alarmed glare) that Blood Reaver right now seems to be one of the best-reviewed Black Library books on the blogosphere, in the history of ever. So no pressure for the third one on the trilogy, then.





Anyway, let’s do this.

40Ks most badass cowards.

Here’s the thumbnail for actual zoomings. And you really have to zoom into this, because the attention to detail up close and personal is insane:


You’ll notice, from left to right, that this is set after ‘The Core’. You can tell by their distinctive features:

Variel the Flayer, with Red Corsair helms; a lot of flayed skin; and a bionic leg.

Xarl, with his Executioner chainblade; the most trophies; and his Legion crest helm.

Uzas, with his gladius and chainaxe; his flesh cloak; and his bloody palm-print faceplate.

Talos, with the Blade of Angels; the skull helm with his name rune; Malcharion’s double-barreled bolter; and prophecies scratched into his armour.

Cyrion, with his bionic arm; “stabby-class” bolter; and lightning bolt tears on his faceplate.

Mercutian, with his master-crafted heavy bolter; and his stylised horned helm.

***   ***   ***

And what was the first thing Katie said when she saw this? “Will he draw my WarCraft characters?”

I… could ask, I guess.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 28 Comments

First Claw – Composition Sketches

A while ago, I started talking to an artist about getting a piece of work done for First Claw, showing them in all their treacherous, grimy glory. There were three reasons for this, and the most obvious was because I get asked a helluva lot just how to model First Claw for people to use them in their Chaos armies. I’d just point out that being asked such a thing is literally one of the most flattering things ever, and it felt churlish to barely be able to respond at all, beyond “However you like, dude. Their armour marks and distinguishing features are covered in the novels, but feel free to go nuts.”

I’ve seen a fair bit of First Claw art already (and a lot of First Claw miniatures), but I still get asked how they look, so it’s obviously something that people want to know in painstaking detail. Good writing (and I flatter myself by saying that, but I mostly mean it in general, as a rule of prose) gives you rich impressions, key hints, vital details and distinguishing characteristics, but it doesn’t hold your hand through 15 pages of description about one guy’s armour. An image is worth a thousand words on that score. It’s a significant and important distinction between the two mediums. Good art shows you inside someone’s imagination. Good writing gives you enough of a framework to instantly imagine something yourself.

That could be a post in itself, so I’ll save it for later.

The other two reasons I wanted this done were infinitely more selfish, which is much more in-character for a hatred-fueled hermit like me. Firstly, it’s cool. Secondly, it’s awesome inspiration for when you’re writing.

I chose to beg Shane Cook for this project because I’d seen several of his primarchs posted on Heresy-Online, and some of his other work on Bolter & Chainsword. I found him too late for it to directly inspire my descriptions of Corax, Curze or Lorgar (all of which are my fave pieces he’s done), but they looked so much like the images in my head that I felt something click. His grittiness was exactly right for Chaos Astartes, and so the begging began.

He’s working on First Claw, but out of nowhere – out of the random firings of an artist’s synapses – came a test sketch of Talos, unhelmed. That’s the bad boy you can see above. When people ask me if their representation of Character X is close to my imagination, the answer is invariably “Naw.” And that’s the point. I don’t really want to always see a word-perfect thing given life from my head, I think it’s often more interesting for writers to see how other people perceive those characters in their own heads. It’s a more honest and fascinating deal when you see another person’s perception of your work.

But that said, this Talos comes very close. He differs in a lot of ways (in my head, f’rex, Talos is quite handsome, but in the pale, remote, cold way Michaelangelo’s David is handsome), but the coldness, the feel of him, made me feel like I was looking at someone very familiar. I loved it immediately, especially since it was such a surprise. I think Shane did it for kicks.

Anyway, to the heart of the matter. Here’s the early composition sketch for First Claw. It’s set after Blood Reaver and ‘The Core’ in Fear the Alien, so don’t sweat it if you’ve only read Soul Hunter and struggle to recognise them. They go through a lot in Blood Reaver. Oh, boy, do they ever.

Obviously, this is the roughest of rough sketches, purely as a compositional piece and to nail the core armour details, but I think it’s obvious the final piece will be absolutely killer. Talos will be changing a bit (Shane’s already working on new poses to match the others) and his armour is a little bulkier and less sleek than the rest in this, but it’s not hard to see that this is going to be something special.

Apologies if it screws up your screens. Click to see more detail.

No prizes for guessing who is who. It’s too easy.

You can find Shane’s stuff at http://slaine69.deviantart.com/.

I highly recommend his Curze, by the way: http://slaine69.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=24#/d2hcb0i. That should give you a hint of how the final piece here will look.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 45 Comments

Night Lords Covers

The best part was when they straight-up killed everyone, and I called it character development.

Oh, Jon Sullivan. Oh, Jonny-Jon, you beautiful human being – slash – cover artist. How my heart sings to see my favourite murderers rendered once more.

I think for the next in the series, Talos may need to get front and centre. Poor guy, the main character always hiding out like that behind Malek and Lucoryphus.

“I’m here, too.”

You sure are, Tal. You sure are. Now go skin some people alive and murder a few Blood Angels for a laugh. They have a new codex, man. It’ll be fun.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 15 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