Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

Betrayer Cover

So my Facebook page is at 1,998 Likes, and I said once it hit 2,000 I’d post the artwork and prologue for Betrayer – as well as some cool other stuff going on.

Unfortunately, none of that stuff is ready, as rather than “This will hit 2,000 Likes in a few weeks”, it became “Let’s all click Like now”.

Yes. I understand this is my fault for trusting you assholes.

But I figure I can at least give you this.


So very beautiful.

My God… it’s full of stars.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 29 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

The Butcher’s Nails – Art & Voice Direction Suggestions

It looks like the artwork for The Butcher’s Nails, my Horus Heresy audio drama, is splashing out everywhere now to glorious acclaim.

If you’ve not seen it, here it is:

It’s loosely based on John Blanche’s original Angron sketch, which is right here:

And the art for The Primarchs, next year’s anthology, was also shown at Games Day and is now doing the rounds…

Horus (who looks like my friend Ben Cawkwell) and Fulgrim

Jaghatai Khan, Lorgar Aurelian, and Rogal Dorn

Sanguinius, Mortarion, Magnus the Red and Angron

And here we see Neil’s gone back to a more Blanchey-ish (less ‘most-muscled primarch’)  Angron. Sometimes I love the Blanche depiction, sometimes it just makes me think of Dhalsim.


But back to The Butcher’s Nails for a minute. I didn’t have much say in that artwork, which is always frustrating for an author, but it’s occasionally a mundane evil of the trade. I did manage to have the Butcher’s Nails implanted on his head, which is why he’s got those stylish cyber-dreadlocks. In my writing, I base the Nails on the later artwork of Angron (and/or his bodyguard – whomever that might be) in the Heresy, and the man himself as a Daemon Prince, when he’s got that sci-fi mane of awesome cabling going on.

Oh my, yes.

Handsome fellow, that Angron.

It’s a weird moment to realise you’re writing a character one way, and the art gang are depicting him another. With nothing but love for John Blanche, I wasn’t really writing an Angron based on his sketch, and I still don’t really see him that way. My imagination was more fueled by the other style of artwork, admittedly, as well as by my own reading of the text. But Trust Your Art Director. He knows what sells. And d’you know what? Public reaction to the Butcher’s Nails cover has been immense, and hugely positive. This strongly indicates that I don’t know shit.

I plan to have a lot more say in my next HH cover, since The First Heretic was me and Neil coordinating all the way, and it rocks on toast. It’s not about forcing an artist to depict your vision, it’s about giving an artist enough info that he or she can interpret it their own way. And as for TBN, I have no complaints. It kicks maximum booty.

May I also add that I love the Lorgar shot in The Primarchs? That’s fucking rad.

May I just add, furthermore, that I may just be squeezing into that anthology? And would it be with a novella about Konrad Curze? Yes, yes it might be.


On the topic of The Butcher’s Nails, I added some voiceover direction suggestions to the end of the document. I have no idea if the guys making it will stick to them, but it’s an interesting (ish…) slice into life behind the scenes of a Horus Heresy audio drama.

ANGRON – Ron Pearlman / Hellboy.

LORGAR – Dr. Manhattan.

KHARN – vox-altered almost all the time, similar to Throne of Lies.

CAPTAIN LOTARA SARRIN – Mid-30s, energetic English female. A moronic tabloid would describe her as “posh but saucy”, when they really mean “she speaks like Nigella Lawson”.

IVAR TOBEN – British WWII officer.

VOXMASTER KEJIC (and any other officers) – British WWII officer.

SERVITORS – Just like in Throne of Lies, as they rocked.

ELDAR REAVER CAPTAIN – a rasping whisper, disgusted to even be talking to humans, and with abrasive background noise, like the transmissions in Event Horizon. Also, when he says “mon-keigh”, can it be “mon-kee” and not “monk-eye” like in the DoW games? Otherwise it no longer makes sense and misses the point of why it’s funny.

ARGEL TAL – He speaks in two voices at the same time: one like a normal Space Marine, one lower, daemonic, and eerily resonant.

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 29 Comments

Aurelian Cover Art

Finally. Been waiting months to show this.

This went out in the BL newsletter today, and has already spread across the various 40K forums. While my favourite Heresy cover is still Legion, this one slides neatly into the #2 spot.

"Don't leave me, Soundwave."

I… I don’t think that Avatar is going to make it home to his kids.

There were several deleted streams of dialogue, where Lorgar talks smack to this guy. Ultimately, I went with this totally true and honest extract:

Lorgar did a little dance. “Where you going in such a hurry, Chuckles? I broke your legs with my megahammer. You’re going nowhere.” 

The Avatar didn’t answer. It started crawling, bleeding this stuff like souls and fire and magic shit like that.

Lorgar laughed. He laughed like a winner. “This is why I don’t have tabletop rules, man. Because I’m H to the Ardcore.”

The Avatar still didn’t answer. It was in pain, and its life totally sucked, and everything else was on fire, too. The Avatar was sad about that, because all that stuff on fire was his house or his base or whatever.

Lorgar caught up with the crawling fellow, and pressed a boot into the creature’s spine.

“Where’s my money, man? Why you gotta make me do this? Why you gotta make it into a thing?”

“Dude…” said the incarnated essence of an alien god of war. “I just need a few more days.”

“You’ve had plenty of days. You’ve had all kinds of days. Now I’m totally going to kill you, guy.”

Lorgar raised his megahammer, and totally killed the guy.

“Screw this place,” he said afterwards. “I’m going to go kill half of the Imperium for a laugh.”

He looked at the Avatar’s corpse as it dissolved into ash, like in Dawn of War.

“Later, dater.”

August 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 37 Comments

Age of Darkness Trailer

Go see, go see.


I think Graham wins this one. He gives sweet blurb, does McNeill.

For those who wish to know and may not recognise every face, the order is: Rob Sanders; John French; Dan Abnett; Gav Thorpe; Graham McNeill; Chris Wraight; Me; Nick Kyme; and Jim Swallow.

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 9 Comments

I’m not, like, the world’s greatest team player. In group meetings, even if it’s something I feel passionately about, I’ll be pretty quiet the whole time, taking it all in and waiting until I’ve had some time to boil the ideas into bubbles, before replying properly (and at foolish length) at a later date.

However, certain current and future projects require – or rather, they’re rewarded by – a significant degree of back and forth between me and Dan, given the potential for treading on toes, or zigging instead of zagging. Obviously, I can’t say much (and if you jump to conclusions, they’ll almost certainly be wrong, I promise), but I thought it might be interesting to show what I spent a good two hours of my day doing.

I also need a shave, apparently.

Unlike Dan, I angle my camera to hide the devastating mess of my office.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 28 Comments

Horus Heresy Novellas

I was doing my usual forum bounces recently, when I should’ve been working, and came across a bit of a gem on Heresy-Online. Now, this’ll either be fairly interesting to the unwashed masses that waste their time here, or be completely boring (for which I apologise, yo). But it’s about my publisher’s limited edition novella range, and specifically the Horus Heresy titles.

Specifically, someone (who we shall name “bobss”, for t’was his name) had a wealth of objections to the process:

—   —   —

“I think that we are ignoring the main issue, to be honest. My, and many others, frustration dosen’t come from the prices. £30, realistically, isn’t alot of money. It’s the limited number of copies that I dislike. I feel that it’s denying fans fluff, or canon, especially about the Horus Heresy, as these novella’s seem to be linked to characters, events or themes within the regular series.

Nick Kyme shall be writing a novella centered around the Salamanders, probably Post-Isstvan V. How many Salamanders fans and most importantly: Players, are there out there?

ADB, one of Black Libraries most popular authors, especially amongst the ”newer” readers. He is writing a novella that centers around -arguably- the most important event within the Horus Heresy (Or Great Crusade to be picky). And yet this wealth of information shall be confined to 1000 people? Sure, it shall be shared upon the internet with reviews, but that’s like me ordering you to read a review of Horus Rising without buying it. It’s ludicrous.

I’d happily pay £40 for a novella, in time. If they were not limited edition, especially if it was something I’d really like. But Black Library, I feel are playing the fanbase for money. I don’t like it, and sure, who is actually going to give four fith’s of a fuck what some whining member on a 40k discussion site says? Certainly not the folks in Nottingham. But it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Black Library has even fell into Games Workshop’s recent money-making schemes.”

—   —   —

I thought that was pretty interesting in regards to just how massively it opposed my own perspective on the whole deal. But, I mean, I saw his point. I just had another angle, and one that I’m posting here because I’m sure I’ll end up posting it across X number of forums before and after my novella comes out. So here it is, for curiosity’s sake, and future Cut ‘n Paste expedience:

—   —   —

“For the sake of argument, look at it from my point of view. Just for kicks.

Your publisher asks you to write a Horus Heresy novella. You’re immediately caught between a rock and a hard place. Here’s what goes through your mind:

1. You need to write something that isn’t essential to the main story arc, because it will be available to so few people. Your editor says, as a guideline, that he prefers that it’s not something front and centre to the whole series.

2. But then there’s the matter of its value to the fans. This costs £30. It’s getting specialist (and expensive) artwork, it’s certainly not cheap to print, and it’s extremely limited edition. This needs to be about something awesome enough for people to actually want, so it can’t be about something completely tangential. It has to be something new, unseen, and it needs to add to the Horus Heresy series as a useful, genuine contribution. It has to, or it’s pointless. If it’s not a genuinely insightful contribution, no one will want it, and worse, you’ll be churning it out “just because”. And that’s a venomous way to work, let alone treat readers.

3. Then there’s the aspect of its value to you as an author and a 40k fan. What does it mean to you, personally? It’s perhaps the only chance you’ll get to do something this cool; you have to sign every copy yourself; and it’s such a neat little slice of high quality career coolness that you really, really want it to be good.

4. Then there’s the practical concern. 30,000 words isn’t a short story, and it’s not a novel. A novella is its own beast, and if you shorten a novel or stretch a short story, you’re going to be screwed. It needs to be its own self-contained narrative, and many tales from that era don’t lend themselves to such a weird length.

5. So what do you choose? Nick chose the Salamanders knowing that, at some point in the series, the Salamanders and Vulkan are probably going to get a novel. It’s simple figures: for every complaint that the series has lost steam or is acting like some moronic, staggering cash cow, there are 800 counterpoints saying “But they have to cover Legion X and Faction Y before the end.” It seems likely that everyone will get a slice of the pie at some point, so where Nick’s concerned, he isn’t choosing to make the only Salamanders HH content incredibly limited edition – he’s just writing one story about them, reliably sure that there’ll be much more word count devoted to the Salamanders in time, and it’ll be about their major HH moments. No one is being cheated of vital content. This is just one story.

Where I’m concerned, it took a long time for me to settle on just what to do. I went through several plots about the Mechanicum, the Legio Cybernetica, a Sons of Horus Techmarine, etc. and while they were all good (and while they all got the right oohs and aahs from editorial), it never felt an awesome enough storyline to include in the Horus Heresy, in this format. It could’ve been a short story in an HH anthology; to me, that felt like it was falling short of its potential.

So I decided to act on one of the three main questions I’ve been asked since The First Heretic was released. “What did Lorgar see in the Eye of Terror?”

And I dig the idea of it. It’s a special question, and it deserves a special format, more than a short story. I don’t regard it as essential the way you implied – if it was essential, I’d have put it in The First Heretic. It’s certainly interesting, but it has to be, or you’re ripping people off (see Point 2) and working for the sake of it (see Point 3). So I thought a lot about this one. In a bajillion reviews, feedback conversations at signings, and forum comments, I’ve seen practically no mention of it as something “missing” from the novel. Some people have asked what Lorgar saw, but never in the sense that they felt cheated by not knowing. What he saw isn’t vital: we have an idea what he saw, from what Argel Tal witnesses, and we know the end result after he emerges. It’s already implied, inferred, hinted, etc. and a little bit is already shown.

In all seriousness, dude, I do care. You asked who cares about people’s complaints and opinions on stuff like this? Well, I do. I come to these forums as a fan, but I pick up that kind of opinion as an author and a contributor to the setting we all love. I don’t sit here gleefully rubbing my hands together at the thought you’re not a fan of this format, and I wish there was something I could say to sweeten the deal for you, but we’ve all got our perspectives to fly by. I’m really psyched about getting to write something like this. I wanted it to be something special, but not vital to the overall storyline, and this feels 100% right.

I hope my explanation at least gets across why I chose what I chose, and reassures you a little that no one will miss anything vital if they don’t grab a limited edition novella.”

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 23 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

HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I’m a New York Times Bestseller.


I was going to do a really cool post. I was going to be all casual and say “Hi, I’m a New York Times Bestseller, and you’re probably not. Anyway, here’s more reasons I hate Star Trek.”

And I’m sure it would’ve been my usual slice of dickishness with a little humour peeking through the cracks, and we’d all have chuckled, slapped each other on the backs and said “Oh, that Aaron, he’s quite a joker.”

That was my plan.

At this stage, I’m still not entirely convinced it’s for real. Let’s just say if there’s an error in the list and I get kicked off it, I won’t exactly have a heart attack. I’m half-expecting it to happen.

I found out last night (from Facebook, of all places). The problem was that my source was Christian Dunn, my publisher’s short fiction editor. Christian is – and I’m being fair, here – a meanie. This had all the hallmarks of a classic Dunnish Prank(tm), and rather than feel any joy over the deal, I vowed to stab him in the intestines instead. I decided to wait for the actual list to see if it was for real.

I woke up late this morning, because I’d been up until 5:30am trying to catch up on Blood Reaver and my Age of Darkness short story, which are both (surprise!) almost ludicrously late.  I did the first thing that I do everyday. I checked my email.

And man, I had a lot of email.

Seriously. Loads.

I usually wake up to a fair bunch of stuff (editors writing in CAPITAL LETTERS about missed deadlines; private messages from various forums, etc.), but this was insane. I clicked a few of the ones from various folks at my publisher.

But the things they were saying didn’t make sense to me. Madness. These were my colleagues, indeed, my friends. Rik Cooper, Mark Newton, Chris Wraight… I trusted them, yet they had embarked on this strange course of action, deciding to make no sense at all.

I started reading Facebook comments, and emails from other people. These were equally mystifying.

At this moment in time, I was listening to ‘Save it for Later’, by The Beat. I like that song.

Still confused, I took my glasses off.

This didn’t help at all, because I needed them to see the screen. Without them, I had to move closer.

Gripped by a sudden desire to stop pulling confused faces, I decided to check myself. On my quest, I found this:

Wait, I thought. I know that guy.

(Shouldn’t that be ‘Black Library’? Not ‘Games Workshop’? I didn’t know it went out like that. Whatever.)

Of course, since all novelists only ever write for money rather than the pleasure of creation, my mind immediately turned to the financial benefits. The cash! The clout! The… raw… power…

Why, I could even introduce myself like this: “Hi, I’m New York Times Bestselling Author Aaron Dembski-Bowden”, and it would actually be true. I mean, it would be really, really dickish, but it wouldn’t actually be a lie.

But then I remembered how I won’t see the royalties for ages.


Making the NYT Bestseller List has been one of my ambitions ever since I realised I was too stupid to be a paramedic.

Instead of doing something fuelled by hate, despite that’s what everyone always wants to see from me (and what comes naturally when discussing Star Trek), I’m just going to say Thanks. A sincere thanks to everyone who bought and dug The First Heretic.

10 months of my life went into that novel. The reviews and forum feedback have been incredible, overwhelming, and a host of other words that all really just mean “killer” and “rad”.

So I shall use this space to say something terminally lame instead. And that is this:

“Hey, Mum and Dad! Look at me!”

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 50 Comments

Horus Heresy Research…

IMPERIAL ROBOTS - The greatest band name ever.

Here’s a little look into Horus Heresy research. Recently, I received the wad of pages in the above pic, which is for The First Heretic, among other things. From this picture you’ll note two things: Firstly, that I’m holding lore that was officially released when I was 8 years old, which is pretty mental. (Seriously, it has a dreadnought called “Chuck”. This is wacky jazz.) Secondly, that I really need to shave my head, but am intensely lazy.

Anyway, the reason I have this info is because I asked for it.

I promised you e-whores a look into Horus Heresy emails, and here it is, cut and pasted. This is me, in email form:

—   —   —

Dear Editors and Those Other Guys on the HH Team,

Hi, I’m Aaron Dembski-Bowden. You might remember me from such moments as choking on my own awkward fanboyishness, or that time Alan Merrett looked at me like I was a babbling retard and asked if I knew the difference between Chaos Marines and Possessed Chaos Marines.

Good times. Perhaps the best times.

I’m here today to talk not about the failures of the past, but the glories of the future. In short, I have a question. Or a point to raise. Or… whatever. I have some words that require other words in reply.

I think we vaguely agreed to mention the Legio Cybernetica a little more, and that’s something I really want to do in The First Heretic, after Graham nailed it hardcore in A Thousand Hypocrites. That’s a noble intent, I’m sure you’d agree, but I have a problem with it. See, the last time the Legio Cybernetica was mentioned in published canon, my body was principally composed of sperm, and the fateful night resulting in my genesis was still a mistake yet to come.

More seriously, I’ve seen references here and there over 20 years of slavering fandom (most significantly in Adeptus Titanicus, which I once owned with a fat kid’s pride) but that was all a long time ago. A really long time ago, and I wasn’t revising the stuff with the foreknowledge that I’d need it for my career one day. I just thought robots were cool. I hope you can forgive my naivety, and that we can all still be friends.

In short, where can I get more stuff about the Imperium’s robotic jazz? I remember the old Cataphract (and Crusader, I think) robot models from when I was about 11 years old, but I can’t recall with 100% clarity if they later evolved into Knights or not. They sound like Knight classes to me. Incidentally, I remember the Cataphract robots because that’s when I learned what cataphract meant. That’s today’s Aaron Fact. Please enjoy it at your leisure.

Now let’s all take a moment to thank In Flames and Monster Magnet for being the greatest bands in the history of ever.

tl;dr — Alex, can you send me some photocopies of canonical Legio Cybernetica stuff? As much fun as making things up can be, I don’t want to directly contradict anything out of ignorance. Many thankies.


March 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 26 Comments