Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

Your Void Stalker Qs

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “These aren’t all of the Void Stalker Questions.” Well, I don’t care. But I did it, damn you. I freaking answered most of the freaking things. Time is a factor, you know.

I’ll try to get to the others at a later date.

  • Jonathan Ward asked: “What’s the part of it you’ve most enjoyed writing so far?” Good question, guy. Probably the evacuation of Tsagualsa, when it comes under attack by the Primogenitor Chapters.
  • Alec McQuay asked: “What does the Void Stalker wear under his armour?” I’m not sure. Also, the Void Stalker is a she.
  • Chris Buck asked: “Will the relationship between Septimus and Octavia go on?” Yes. The conclusion may or may not be a happy one, depending on your point of view.
  • Jonathon Ward (what, again?) asked: “Does Talos stop at any point and say ‘I’ve been a bit of a dick, haven’t I?'” Sort of. The novel is primarily about Talos realising his view of the Legion is a little theatrical and melodramatic, viewed through rose-tinted lenses to save his own sanity. The narrative spine is about how he comes to terms with it, and what he decides to do about it. Remember, the only actual non-biased information we have abou the Eighth Legion is their Index Astartes article, and it’s very clear on what the Legion is really like, now and in the past.
  • David Michael Defries asked: “If Talos is the Soul Hunter and Huron Blackheart is the Blood Reaver, who is the Void Stalker and what is his favourite colour?” I’m not telling you who she is. But it’s probably black.
  • Dale Jordan Parratt asked: “Will any further details from the Horus Heresy emerge?” Yeah. Well, quite a bit about the Scouring, and a little bit about the Heresy. Sevatar gets a few mentions and quotes, with several characters referencing his fate. That’s a touch of foreshadowing for him in the Horus Heresy.
  • Sam Spiteri asked: “Any news regarding the aftermath of the Atramentar??” Firstly, I’m not sure both of those question marks are totally necessary. Oh, and… yes. I’ve mentioned before that they’re getting their own spinoff, Terminator Nights, where they chase girls and solve crimes. Or chase crimes and solve girls. I’m not sure which one I’ll go with.
  • Alex “Buddy” Holly asked: “Is Void Stalker the conclusion or a continuation? These premonitions have me worried.” It’s the conclusion. Remember, the Night Haunter’s prophecies were mostly about how he died. Night Lord visions aren’t cool or hopeful things to have, when it comes to the crunch.
  • Lianne O’Sullivan asked: “What was your inspiration for the pieces of dialogue written in Nostraman?” Words that sound dangerous when you whisper them. Vaguely Italian-sounding wordplay that’s reminiscent of mafia captains threatening each other. I have a lexicon of Nostraman, so I know certain words, and I know how to pluralize certain phrases, etc. It has grammar rules, but since there’s hardly any Nostraman spoken, there aren’t many yet. I think the lexicon is likely to go in the omnibus.
  • Tom Williams asks: “Are we going to see lots of dead squishy space elves?” Maybe. And an equal number of dead space humans, too.
  • Joe Scrim Till Deth asks: “will the series of night lords books go on as long as the ultramarines??? If so will the night lords reunite there entire legion by the end of it cause from what i have read they seem to be a very broken up legion!!?” Man, that’s a grotesque amount of punctuation. I think I hate you. Firstly, it might go on after a break, but this is the end of the trilogy for the near future, at least. And no, no one Night Lord would ever be able to unite the Legion. That’s just now how Chaos Marines work, as every edition of the Chaos Space Marine Codex has highlighted. Even the Legions that are still relatively ‘together’ through a time-mutable eternity of infighting and war within a realm of pure Hell are still warbands, led by individual champions and warlords, coming together largely for raiding and Black Crusades.
  • Nikki Loftus asks: “Can I hug Cyrion?” You can, but be careful. You don’t know where he’s been.
  • Joe Marsden asks: “Question for you sir: Did you ever consider real world criminal organisations (their cultures, codes etc) when thinking about the Night Lords? If so, which ones? And, last question; could any victory or achievement truly make the Night Lords of your novels ‘happy’ or fulfilled?” The Mafia. I’ve researched them pretty heavily in the past for writing projects, so I know quite a lot about them. And sure, some of the characters could be fulfilled. It depends on their drives and desires, really. Cyrion and Xarl are already fairly fulfilled – they just want to survive another day in a galaxy that hates them. Talos struggles, though. Part of that is because he knows he’s essentially hollow, an avatar of the Legion’s capacity for self-deceit. Despite being from Nostramo, he’s what the Night Lords were before all the Nostramans joined the ranks. And remember, he’s right to be unhappy about a lot of things: Curze annihilated their home planet to stop any more of them joining his Legion. That’s serious juju. That’s not the act of a primarch who thinks his Legion is a great bunch of guys.
  • Sergio Nunez Cabrera asks: “What happened to the head and body of big bad Conrad Kurze? will we see more of Cyrion´s taint? Will we see flashbacks of Talos as an scout -do even NLs take scouts?-? will we see more of Halasker, of Lucoryphus prior to joining the Raptor cult?” In order… No one knows; Yes; No; Not exactly; Maybe; No.
  • Stephen Forde asks: “Where did I leave my shoes?” That’s less random when you learn that I really do have a pair of his clogs at my house.
  • Scott Anderson asks: “Who was Alpharius the whole time? :D” but I won’t answer it because I hate smilies.
  • Dale Jordan Parratt asks: “Cyrion is my favourite without a doubt.” and is promptly informed that that’s not a question.
  • Kenneth Goddard asks: “Will we start to see the Night Lords start to recruit and replenish their numbers?” which makes me wonder if he’s read the end of Blood Reaver.
  • James Nicolau asks: “Will Talos or any of 10th Company find Zso Sahaal and kick his ass for running off like a punkass?” Nope, because Sahaal resurfaces a decade or two after the series is set. I was careful about that. Really, with a Legion having done so much in ten thousand years, it’s unlikely Sahaal’s return would mean that much, and he’d (at best) be just one warlord among a Legion that didn’t like him very much. As much as some fans love him, they’re not looking at it from an in-universe perspective. All canonical Night Lords lore states that Sahaal’s viewpoint is incorrect. That means, well, that it’s incorrect. The subversive “But we were really betrayed” theme works great in BL’s annals a few years ago (and sells books like crazy, as fans love conspiracy theories, and villains who are wronged heroes out for revenge), but now we’re detailing all of those ancient eras more clearly, and according to the lore. This is part of the reason why, in the Night Lords series, he’s not as popular as some fans might have imagined, and why I avoided detailing too much about him. His story is done. He’s not as great as he said he was. He’s just as tarnished as Talos, Xarl, and all the other characters in the series.
  • Arwen Fenton asks: “If we pray hard enough to the Chaos Gods, will that ensure a second trilogy featuring our favourite cowardly badasses? What music (if any) do you listen to whilst writing for the Night Lords?” Part of my reluctance to continue it is that I’m planning a Chaos series about a different faction of humans and Chaos Marines. I’m taking everything I’ve learned from the Night Lords Trilogy, and applying it to that, as well as delving into new territory. As for music, I pretty much always listen to 90s British Rock (Wildhearts, Therapy?, etc. not Oasis and co.), Industrial, Darkwave, 80s Metal, and some dance. Repetitive things with no lyrics are surprisingly helpful sometimes.
  • Ragnar Karlsson, who works at Black Library, asks: “Is it going to be on time? ;)” Is it fuck.
  • Debi Marie Whitehouse asks: “It’s pretty obvious that Talos and the crew are currently single, but do they date and if so what kind of girls do they dig?!” That’s actually kind of an interesting question. They’d probably like really nice princess-types in secret, but they’d marry biker chicks. The problem is that they skin people when they get annoyed, so domestic violence on a Night Lords vessel would be slightly less amusing, and way more gross.
  • Joe Lyons asks: “How did you get the Night Lords so.. human? At least, as human as ancient genetically-forged giant killers can be, but unlike so many other astartes in writing, they are properly individual characters that I care about. Was it a conscious thing to move away from the norm?” It was, actually. Everyone has a different opinion on exactly how Marines act. For me, humanity – as a concept and an expected ideal of behaviour – covers a broad spectrum. The Night Lords were human; human children, at least. They’ve got human foundations to their psychological makeup, but a lot of their development was stunted, manipulated, or otherwise altered by nature and nurture. They’ve each got aspects of humanity, and their origins do show easily enough. Whereas I tend to write loyalist Marines are more “autistic from the outside” and focused, driven by duty, Chaos Marines are largely driven by emotion – and usually negative ones. That matters. It’s a powerful slice of characterisation, too.
  • Luke Temporal asks: “‎1. What kind of font will be used? 2. How thick will the paper be? 3. Will every page be numbered, or every other page?” 1. I write in Palatino Linotype, size 11. Everything else is barbarous. 2. I’m not involved in production. 3. Being in the family doesn’t spare me from hating you, man.
  • Sarah Cawkwell asks: “If Nicky gets to hug Cyrion, can I borrow Uzas to deal with my List!” You can borrow him, but please bring him back soon, as I need him to fight things. Also, he’ll be covered in blood and twitch all the time, so I’m not sure he’ll be much use around the house.
  • Sally Edwards asks: “Can you do a dictionary for Nostraman?” See above. Yeah, I’ve got one as a forever-open Word.doc on my second screen when I write, and I think it’ll be in the omnibus. Kalshiel, for example, is Nostraman for mating, but it implies mating ‘beneath your station’. As in, “Those kalshiel Bleeding Eyes.”
  • Greg Smith asks: “‎1. Do you actually have a full Nostraman vocab worked out or are you just making it up? 2. Is Talos going to remain in command throughout VS? 3. Are the Atramentar really dead?” 1. Yes I do, but yes, I also make up new things to add to it. 2. Sort of. There’s a leadership issue, related to the end of Blood Reaver. 3. No. That would be awful writing.
  • Dave Cox asks: “So. How are you?” Cyrion actually asks that in Void Stalker’s prologue.
  • Dave Young asks: “Can we still do our Xarl spin off book together?” You know it. Xarl: the Jihad Years will be a winner beyond anything else.
  • Wesley Weix: “How many times did you work on VS behind the Wifey’s back during the honeymoon? :p” Not many, actually. I did some of The Butcher’s Nails, and I read a lot of Steve Pressfield. I was mostly concerned with looking at Katie naked.
  • Jamie Watson asks: “1. whats the first thing you will buy with the royalties? 2. whats the weirdest thing you have been distracted by when writing it? 3. did you steal any ideas that you used in the book thus far?” 1. Probably flowers for Katie, since it’ll be Royalties Day. 2. Planning a wedding, getting married and going on honeymoon. 3. Nope, but I always want to use “OKAY, I’M RELOADED!” from Carlito’s Way, especially since the Lonely Island song.
In other news…
Goddamn, Neil. I owe you for that cover. It’s beautiful.

"I came all the way to the Eye of Terror and all I got was an Avatar puking on my boots."

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 36 Comments

Shadow Knight

Shadow Knight, the prequel story to the Night Lords Trilogy, is in this month’s Hammer & Bolter.

Since this was limited edition when it was first released (500 copies, no less) and has since become one of the things I get asked about the most (“When will they re-release Shadow Knight?” “When will they re-release Shadow Knight?” “When will they re-release Shadow Knight?”) this may be good news for some of you.


August 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 7 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 Ruminations

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

Allow me to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, yes.

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

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