Monday, December 24, 2012
Today's blog (ha...like they're every day...) comes from Jonathan Green. Enjoy.
ARE THE HERO
Mine was The
Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It was 1982 and I was ten years old
at the time. Here was a book in which I – the
reader – was the hero. I got to choose the course of the adventure,
deciding which paths to take, which traps to risk, and which monsters
to fight. I had never seen or read anything like it before –
and so began a life-long love affair with Fighting
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain inspired me like no other book
ever has. It’s why I’m doing what I doing now, and I know others
have also been inspired to follow a career in genre writing because
of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks – New York
Times bestselling author Graham McNeill for one.
this year I wrote a piece about the history of Fighting
Fantasy for SFX magazine. But the more I
researched the story behind the creation of the world’s premier
gamebook series, the more story I realised there was still to tell.
To do the subject justice I needed to write a book –and so the idea
that was to become YOU ARE THE HERO
ARE THE HERO will tell the story of
Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, from the early days of Games Workshop
right up to the present day and beyond. I have already interviewed
the creators of the Fighting Fantasy series – Steve Jackson and Ian
Livingstone – who are both keen to have their story told. In fact,
Steve Jackson once said to me, "You are the perfect person to
write this book."
only will YOU ARE THE HERO
tell the amazing story of how Fighting Fantasy gamebooks changed the
world, it will also cover everything from spin-off novels and puzzle
books, to foreign editions, board games and video games. It will even
delve into such areas as the gamebooks that never were, the myths and
legends surrounding the series, and how Ian Livingstone’s newest
gamebook – Blood of the Zombies
– almost never happened.
But I can’t do
this without your support. Check out the YOU ARE
THE HERO Kickstarter page today and the
unique rewards available to those people who back the project and
pledge your support today.
can find the YOU ARE THE HERO
Kickstarter page here:
will find the YOU ARE THE HERO
Facebook page here:
Friday, August 10, 2012
Yesterday, as you might
know from our various Facebook pages, blogs and Twitter feeds, was
one of our regular Horus Heresy days. Me, Dan, Aaron, Gav and Jim
gathered with Nick and Laurie to discuss future projects, thrash out
timelines, throw ideas around and generally plan out what we want to
do with the story and characters to come. It's a great day for all of
us, as the stuff that comes out of that witch's brew of creativity is
so damn inspiring that you just have to get it down on paper as soon
as possible. The new Heresy books we have in the pipeline (and, no,
I'm afraid I can't tell you what they're about yet...) are so cool I
just want them right now. Largely because I want to read them and in
two cases, write them.
But that's not what
made my day.
When we broke for
lunch, we headed to Bugman's for burgers and chips, sitting on one of
the long tables in the centre of the bar. We sat and we nattered
about movies, comics, and things in the meeting we hadn't quite
finished. Dan told a good story about meeting Kevin Bacon and James
Purefoy in a lift in San Diego, and spread some good old Hollywood
gossip. Lunch arrived (except for Aaron's) and we tucked in.
Seated at a table
behind us was a family of three; mum, dad and son. At one point I saw
the son talking to Gav and figured that he'd recognised Herr Thorpe
(which he had). It turned out this lad was named Charlie, and he was
a huge Ultramarines fan, so he and I had a chat for a while, talking
about the books, his completed 2nd and 4th
Company armies and so on. It's always an ego-boost when a reader
comes up and tells you that they like your books, that's a
no-brainer. We got a picture taken and Charlie went off with a big
smile on his face. All good.
But that's now what
made my day either.
Ten minutes later,
Charlie's mum came back into Bugman's with a freshly-purchased copy
of the Ultramarines Omnibus II and asked me to sign it. I did and
then she told me that Charlie had a brother called Max, who they had
sadly lost to cancer, and that their trips to Nottingham had largely
involved coming to Warhammer World and the Queen's Medical
Centre. Now Charlie doesn't find reading easy, but he loved the
Ultramarines books and since picking them up, he's become a voracious
And that's what made my
I write because I love
to write, tell stories and spin yarns that entertain and make people
think. I hope my books linger in the mind after they've been
finished, but if they don't, that's not a problem so long as the
reader was entertained for a while. If my book does that, then colour
me happy. If not, I'll try harder next time. But it's a great feeling
to know that you've made an impression on someone while they've been
going through what must have been a terrible time. Being able to
inspire someone to read books is made of win, and it's something that
puts a whole new perspective on
telling stories about toy soldiers...
To feel that what we do
can have a positive influence of
people makes all the effort worthwhile.
it tells me is that books matter,
stories matter. They
make people laugh, cry, gnash their teeth, shake their fists in anger
or fall in love with the characters. Stories provoke emotions in
people and everyone who uses their creativity as a medium of
expressing their inner self wants to feel that their work has had
that effect. It's humbling, its a boost to the self-esteem and its a
reminder that a good book of any kind can mean something really
special to the reader.
Charlie and his mum made my day, so thanks for that.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
After a lengthy (lengthy...) look through your entries for the Warhammer drinks menu, there's a few there that should be made into drinks and a few that definitely shouldn't.
I laughed, I groaned and I quietly notified a few psychiatric authorities, but at the end of a considered panel of judging, I opted for these entries to win. If one of them is you, drop me a line through the contact page on this website with your address, and I'll get a book posted out to you as soon as I can. Well done, all of the winners.
Cohen warhound 20/20 (a cheap, foul tasting fruity brew created
by heretical mechanicus xenobiologists, true Imperial drinkers
wouldn't touch it with someone else's, but its become extremely
popular amongst the type of idle juves that gather on hab-park
benches to commit petty crime and hurl incomprehensible insults at
passers by whilst wearing the strange and heretical hoody/trackie
combination popular amongst down hive scum)
love this blend of real world and the fictional...
MacGregor Aquila sunrise (awful I know)
This wins for being the first to make this terrible pun.
Smith Ferrus Beerus - lager without a head
For making me laugh the loudest.
Dowdell Blessed Degreasing Agent #14 - WARNING may be harmful if
ingested by those with less than 40% augmetic replacement. Do not
operate heavy machinery for one chronosegment after ingestion.
Overconsumption may produce logic errors and impious meme-processes -
please imbibe responsibly.
It's going to appear in Lords of Mars!
McQuay Squat Stout/II Legion Special/XI Legion and Lime -
*REMOVED FROM SALE* *MANUFACTURER'S RECALL. ANYONE CAUGHT DRINKING,
TALKING ABOUT REFERRING TO OR KNOWING ABOUT THESE THREE DRINKS THAT
NEVER, EVER HAPPENED WILL BE KILLED, BY IMPERIAL EDICT. INCLUDING THE
PERson updating our FaceBook status about it. Oh... FU-
The relevant authorities have been notified. Stay by your front door,
So there you have it. Thanks to everyone for joining in, and stay tuned for more book giveaways in the near future (I believe my copies of Bones of the Yopasi are inbound from the States...).
Cheers, and well done again to the winners.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
forward elements of the capering host were drawing near, and coils
of hallucinogenic fogs writhed between the legs of the riotous
assembly. It moved with a life of its own, eager to explore its
creators' bodies and taste their sweat, their breath and their dirt.
The screams that reached to the skies were delirious and joyous,
agonised and ecstatic, a braying wall of sound that echoed from the
sides of the valley like the raving of a million madman.
priests spun and leapt throughout the dancing horde, their hooked
chains and envenomed blades whipping and stabbing with gleeful
abandon to cause pain and excruciation. Where their poisoned tips
pierced an artery, the grateful victim would be seized by mad
choreomaniacal fits. Roaring observers aped their lethal convulsions
and the dancing mania spread ever wider, becoming more and more
elaborate until the original victim's madly-pumping heart emptied
their body and a new dance began elsewhere.
psychogenic hysteria gripped the thousands of men and women, who
screamed and laughed and cried like mourners or celebrants. They
fought, they fornicated; moving to the rapid, pulsing beat of a
driving imperative that none among the Iron Warriors could know. They
carried towering banners, streaming gonfalons and serrated pennants
ablaze with imagery that was at once obscene and alluring, repugnant
recognised none of the heraldry, feeling a gut-deep revulsion at the
graceful sweeps of the symbols worked into the textured banners. A
meld of curves and voluptuous arcs penetrated by hard lines with
barbed arrowheads atop their length. Nor were all the members of the
host equal; kings and queens and princes were feted in all their
finery; silks and steel, velvet and leather. Their crowns were bone,
their orbs the skulls of willing sacrifices, and the sceptres the
woven finger bones of the handless handmaidens attending them.
just as there were the gaudy courts of royal madness, so too were
there regicides by the dozen as pretenders tore them down and took
their bloodied crowns for themselves.
degenerate as the dancing host's behaviour was, it was nothing
compared to the physical malformations wrought on the flesh of its
number. Some disfigurements appeared to be congenital, others the
work of swords or maces in ritualised combat, but the vast majority
appeared to have been engineered by scalpels, bone saws and genetic
with anatomies reversed by horrific surgery capered on their hands,
with legs sutured to their shoulders and faces in their bellies.
Vat-grown cherub-grubs led packs of wild, spine-backed creatures,
like the bastard by-blows of loathsome centipedes and giant
scorpions. Women cavorted naked with scented oils slathering their
bared breasts. Many of these women were gifted with breasts beyond
the number decreed by nature, and these violet-hued individuals were
attended by howling slaves and weeping devotees.
the heaving, spasming march of the decadent host, some were content
to dance, some to debase, others to violate, yet more to scream their
throats bloody as they drove their bodies to lunatic extremes of
excess. They howled with the hybrid monsters and the most desperate
for sensation set themselves ablaze and laughed as the flames
took his helmet from the mag-lock on his thigh as the rapturous mass
of degenerates drew near and the acrid tang of perfumes began to
saw some strange things on Isstvan, but this is...' began Forrix,
snapping his helm into the gorget seals as vocabulary failed him. No
mere words could give name or reason to this behaviour, no codes of
honour could reconcile this madness with the militaristic perfection
and arrogant swagger the Emperor's Children had once possessed.
has happened to you, my brother?' wondered Perturabo, his face
betraying no hint of the terrible anger that must surely be raging
within his heart.
are the legion warriors?' asked Falk.
scanned the heaving mass of frenetic humanity as they spilled over
the outermost earthworks; cavorting through razorwire-edged killing
grounds, across spiked ditches and past iron-faced gun emplacements.
What would take months of bloody siege to break through was overcome
in moments by the vanguard of the Emperor's Children.
some unheard signal, the host fell utterly silent, halting in its
maddened march a stone's throw from the Iron Warriors. Clouds of
kicked up dust mingled with the twitching curtain of narcotic smoke
issuing from hidden censers. After so cacophonous a din, the silence
felt impossibly loud, and Forrix scanned the sweating, breathless
host for some sign of what was coming next.
sign came as the lunatics abased themselves on the sand, prostrating
themselves as supplicant savages before burning flora. Soltarn Vull
Bronn dropped to one knee, placing his palm on the earth.
up, damn you,' snapped Forrix. 'Iron Warriors bend the knee to
Bronn ignored him and cocked his head to one side, as though
listening to a voice only he could hear.
here,' said Bronn. 'The Phoenician. He's coming.'
looked up as the flesh host before him parted, pushing themselves
back with their bellies scraping the sand to make a wide corridor
between them. Through the swirls of pink and mauve clouds, Forrix
could see the outline of something huge and swaying approaching.
Vague silhouettes of power-armoured warriors marched alongside it,
their forms granting some hope that the III Legion had not abandoned
all pretence of being a fighting force.
warriors in the shimmering purple of the Emperor's Children emerged
from the smoke, and their appearance drew a gasp of shock from the
assembled Iron Warriors. Slashes of vivid pigment were spattered over
their armour, the myriad contrasting hues and clashing colours
offending the eye with their garish disregard for the legion's
heraldry. Jagged spikes jutted from pauldrons and their helmets were
byzantine winged affairs, with amplification hoods and intensifiers
worked into the visors.
carried a banner of stiff pink that Forrix could tell was fashioned
from human skin, its texture and stench all too familiar to him. A
runic form was emblazoned at its heart, the recurring motif he had
seen worked in various forms upon the armour and flesh of the
maddened horde, but distilled into its purest form. Borne by legion
warriors, the symbol offended Forrix less than it had before, and he
found himself drawn towards its beguiling curves and graceful loops.
touched him, and he threw off whatever glamours were worked into its
had that come from? A word of ancient usage that was meaningless in
this age of reason and technological certitude. Whatever toxin burned
in the censers was a powerful psychotropic indeed if it could drag
such an archaic term from the mind of an Iron Warrior.
the mortals before them, these warriors parted to form an honour
guard, and behind them came a screaming, wailing mass of legionaries
whose weapons were unlike anything Forrix had ever seen in a battle
barge's armoury. Like oversized axes they were fitted with all manner
of amplification devices, tonal distorters and artefacts whose
function Forrix could not even begin to guess.
bass notes of raw kinetic force throbbed in their long necks, and
Forrix wondered if such weapons might be employed in the reduction of
a fortress wall. These warriors went without helms, and their faces
were a horror of distended jaws with eternally screaming mouths and
gaping wounds in the skull where their ears had been surgically
adapted to collect and render sound into its purest elements.
then the primarch of the Emperor's Children stood revealed, his
entrance as dramatic and sudden and shocking as he had no doubt
a vast palanquin of living beings fused, sewn and warped together,
the Phoenician emerged from the sentient clouds of fumes. A squad of
warriors in Cataphractii armour bore this flesh palanquin on the vast
shoulder guards of their armour, the spikes and sharpened edges of
their pauldrons drawing blood and screams of pleasure in equal
frost-white hair spilled from beneath a helm of dazzling silver, and
his entire body was wrapped in a cloak of shocking purple and golden
feathers. Motion rippled beneath the cloak, like a metamorphic larva
on the verge of hatching into the most beautiful creature imaginable.
Fulgrim waited until his Phoenix Guard halted before throwing open
his cloak to reveal his sculpturally perfect body. His elegantly
curved pectorals, rolling deltoids and ridged abdominals were bare of
armour and gleamed with fragrant oils. His limbs writhed and fresh
tattoos of coiling serpents; tattoos that even now began to fade as
his superhuman biology undid the damage to his epidermis.
stepped towards the living platform as Fulgrim descended on a ramp of
shields held out by his warriors. Forrix saw a warrior in perfect
balance, who understood his body and its articulation to the highest
degree. His every step was carefully placed, giving the lie to his
Fulgrim,' said Perturabo, 'Welcome.'
emerged from the hellstorm of explosions and scything fragments,
searching for handholds beside him. They followed his example,
knowing that where Kroeger led, the blood of the enemy was sure to
flow. Fire and noise burst around him as he climbed higher and
grenade dumpers ejected their payloads in tumbling cascades, but the
enemy was running low on explosive ordnance and there were too few to
do any real harm. Shrapnel whickered through the ranks of the Iron
Warriors, but encased within layers of ceramite warplate, only a
handful were blooded.
climbed next to him, his burnished armour pitted with small arms
impacts, and his helmet scored with heat burns. He had his bolter in
one hand and loosed a short burst of fire. A scream, and a body torn
up by mass-reactives fell from the wall.
blood to me,' grunted Vannuk.
bolter was still mag-locked to his thigh, and would likely stay there
until he'd reached the rampart above.
cares about first
blood?' said Kroeger. 'So long as there's blood.'
paused to take aim at another target, but Kroeger felt the wall
beneath him tremble with substrate activity and punched his fist into
a crack in the wall. He spread the fingers of his gauntlet to support
his weight and swung out to grip a handhold over to his left as the
wall ripped open in a leering slice, like the maw of a bottom-feeding
ambush predator. Vannuk barely had time to scream before he was
swallowed. Oozing tendrils of liquid rock webbed the gap in an
instant, drawing the seams of the wall closed again.
was all Kroeger had to say on Vannuk's demise, and pushed himself
climbed with random leaps and surging effort, evading spikes of
glistening rock and hails of gunfire with a mix of skill and luck. A
turret slid down the wall in flames where he had been climbing only a
moment before. The mangled wreckage trailed its cybernetic crewman on
ropes of cabling before slamming into the rock below. Its armoured
panels tore open like wet paper as it exploded. Flames belched, and
corkscrewing contrails ripped in all directions as its shell hopper
shell burst hit the wall next to him, and Kroeger flinched as the
impact caused his visor to darken momentarily. He looked up to see a
long line of frightened faces looking down at him and grinned. They
feared him and they were right to.
is coming for you!' he yelled at them. 'This iron without will soon
be iron within!'
blasts of fire beat on his armour, a mixture of lasfire and solid
rounds. The shots spanked from his pauldrons, but didn't penetrate.
Kroeger reached down and freed his bolter from his thigh. He swung
the weapon to bear and squeezed off a three round burst of shells.
man's head simply vanished, the impact trauma enough to tear his
skull from his spine. Another soldier exploded from the chest up as
Kroeger's round detected enough mass to trigger the warhead's
detonation. The third man fell back screaming, his face torn up by
bone shrapnel from the dead men beside him. It was wasteful to expend
mass-reactives on mortals, but the sheer mess it made of their
fragile bodies was too satisfying to ignore. Clamping his bolter back
to his thigh, Kroeger hauled himself up, hand over hand, grinning
beneath his iron visor as he saw the chewed up battlements within
reach. The wall's integral defences were dead here, and now there was
nothing to stop him.
took hold of a coiled length of protruding rebar and hauled himself
up, rolling over the broken-toothed remains of the wall. Shell
fragments were embedded in the stone, and even as he dropped to the
rampart, he had his bolter unclamped again and was searching for
two Iron Warriors came over the wall with him; Vortrax and Ushtor
from the patterns on their helms and shoulder guards. Kroeger saw an
Imperial Fists warrior turn towards them, a captain by the look of
him. His face registered surprise, and he shouted a warning to
another two Fists squatting in the midst of a company strength of
helmet?' hissed Kroeger, aiming and firing in one fluid motion.
captain went down, but Kroeger was irritated to see that his shot had
merely grazed him. The other Imperial Fists rose to his defence,
moving apart and firing at their attackers. The mortal soldiers
loosed panicked shots at random.
fell back against the ruined wall, his breastplate hammered by
concentrated bolter fire. Spasming detonations and a crack of mashed
bones told Kroeger the mass-reactives had pulped him inside his
traded shots with the Fists, but these warriors were too cool under
fire to be caught out by such undisciplined salvoes. Kroeger took his
time and pulled his gun hard into his shoulder. He sighed on the
leftmost of the Imperial Fists and put two carefully placed shots
though his helm. The warrior dropped instantly, the back of his head
a hollowed out shell of dripping brain matter and scorched bone.
the mortal soldiers had turned their attention to the fighting on the
ramparts, two Iron Warriors gained the wall. Bolter fire hammered the
mortal soldiers, ripping arms from shoulders, torsos from legs like
bodies caught in the flailing blades of a threshing machine. Their
screams were pitiful, and Kroeger took little satisfaction in their
Fists were the true prize here.
fallen captain rose with a bared sword that blazed with a razor-edged
golden light as he leapt towards the two Iron Warriors. First one,
then the second died, carved up with powerful strokes aimed at the
weakest points of their armour. The captain kicked them from the wall
and turned to face Kroeger.
at me and die, traitors!' he yelled, his face a mask of blood from
where Kroeger's shot had torn a finger-deep furrow in his skull.
Kroeger shook his head and and shot him twice in the chest. Beside
him, Ushtor collapsed, his armour blown outwards by the force of
shell detonations. Kroeger ignored the dying warrior's grunts of pain
and loped towards the Imperial Fist who'd killed him.
warrior without a helm. Did Dorn's weakling sons want
their heads blown off?
Fist backed away, ejecting his bolter's magazine and slamming home a
to run, little man,' said Kroeger.
not running,' answered the Imperial Fist. 'I'm waiting.'
himself, Kroeger's curiosity was aroused. 'Waiting for what?'
them,' said the Fist.
impacts spun Kroger around, and he felt the pain of lacerating tears
and holes punched in his side. He dropped to one knee, seeing at
least two dozen Imperial Fists charging towards him. They fired from
the hip, but suffered no loss in accuracy. Two more shells struck him
before he could scramble to cover; one in the shoulder, one in the
centre of his chest. Warning icons flashed to life on his visor, and
he coughed a wad of blood through the vox-grille of his barbican
fought to get off a last volley, but his arm hung uselessly at his
side and his bolter lay in pieces before him. He hadn't even realised
he'd lost the weapon. He looked over the edge of the wall, seeing
only a handful Iron Warriors clambering towards the rampart. Hundreds
of mortal soldiers opposed them with explosives and massed fire.
There would be no help from that quarter for now.
demeaning to be kept out of a fortress by such dross.
stared down at the dark blood pooling in front of him, its bright
gleam and iron tang curiously pleasant even as it leaked from his
cold shadow fell across the bloodied ramparts, and a roaring blast of
jet-hot air blasted downwards from screaming retros. Kroeger's
spilled blood boiled in the heat and mortals screamed as their
uniforms erupted in flames. The Imperial Fist with whom he'd traded
words fell as the ammunition in his bolter exploded and transformed
his wrists into charred stumps of flesh and nubs of fused bone.
fell from the sky, vast and iron, monstrous and cold.
landed in the heart of the citadel with the booming clang of a
funeral bell; the Olympian master of battle, a demigod in burnished
warplate, a hammer-wielding avatar of thunder.
the Lord of Iron.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
A few weeks ago, I went to Alt.Fiction
in Leicester, and a week or so ago, I went to Salute in picturesque
London village. Both were quite different, as one's a literary
festival (which isn't as high-falutin as it sounds) the other's a
wargaming convention. Alt.Ficion has been one of my favourite
conventions since I started going three years ago. It's a gathering
place for everyone who loves genre fiction of every stripe, SF,
Horror or Fantasy, no matter whether it's in books, comics, artwork,
tv, films or video games. There's something for everyone.
For the past few years, the event's
been held at the Quad in Derby, which was a great venue, full of
nooks and crannies, odd turns and secluded cubbyholes where writers,
fans, artists and the like mingled to chat and just generally hang
out. This year's venue was the Phoenix Centre in Leicester, which was
a smart venue with a good bar (always important) but I felt it lacked
something of the character of the Quad. Still, that didn't affect the
quality of the event. The first year I was there, I didn't have a lot
to do, but the previous year, I was all over the place on podcasts,
panels, workshops and barside conversations. This year I was on two
panels and had the Sunday to be a fan, going to panels to actually
hear the other panelists – something I didn't get the chance to do
last year (apart from going to eat the noisiest pie in Dan Abnett and
Alistair Reynold's final panel of the day). On the whole, I prefer
being busy at these things, as I think if you have writers, artists,
editors, agents and their ilk at such events, you need to work them
This year's lineup of guests was
particularly strong, and I was lucky enough to get this year's Guest
of Honour, Ken MacLeod (a fellow Skye man, no less) to sign my copy
of Intrusion, though I did make a bit of a hash of it all, as I'd
followed him into what turned out to be a small room with a very
intense looking workshop going on. I got the signature, but didn't
feel I could get into a long chat with all the very earnest folk
who'd come to take part in the workshop looking on...
Black Library was well represented,
with this year's other Guest of Honour being none other than Mr James
Swallow, he of Blood Angels, Horus Heresy and Sisters of Battle fame.
Hanging onto his coattails was myself and the lovely Sarah Cawkwell,
whose record of blushing in my company continued unabated (though I
forget what I said that made her blush). I'd managed to get roped
into two panels this year, and the first was Dragon's Pen.
This involved me, Conrad Williams and
Paul Kane pitching our novels to an esteemed panel of Dragons, and
doing it badly to highlight the common mistakes folk make. I'd dug
out an old novel synopsis from years back that had never gotten any
further and decided I'd reacquaint myself with it before pitching it
like an idiot. I figured, I'd pitch like I normally do, and that
would probably have enough blunders in it that I'd be okay. But as I
re-read the synopsis on the train, I found that I actually really
liked the story. So when I came to pitching, I made some glaring
errors like saying my mum was a big fan (and therefore the rest of
the world ought to be), that I'd previously published it as fanfic
and the internet liked it, that I wasn't willing to change anything,
that it was formatted to my
tastes, not what the agent/publisher's website wanted. Oh, and I held
back the ending just in case they stole my idea. I disagreed with the
panel's assessments of the story (whatever they were) and generally
made an ass of myself, which was entirely the aim of the panel and
got the idea across of how NOT to pitch to agents and publishers.
Conrad's pitch for a 70s themed pack of sleuth, medallion-men
vampires called Dracularseholes, will live with me for many years to
come, and Paul's pitch of a story set around a convention where the
world outside turns into zombies seemed entirely prescient... A great
panel, with lots of laughs, and lots of good pointers from us on how
not to do it, and from the panel on the things you really ought to
do. Everything I did above, do the opposite and you'll be fine.
Jobs Killed SF
panel was a great one. I was on it with Charles Christian, Jim
Swallow, Tony Ballantyne and Kim Lakin Smith. The notion being that
SF was in decline because all the gadgets and technology that are the
staples of this fiction is already within (or will soon be) our
grasp. This was a spirited debate, with lots of good points raised by
the panel and the audience. What made me laugh about this one, was
that I was on a panel last year called 'Has SF Conquered Mainstream?'
so I'm not sure what happened in the intervening year to cause the
genre to be dying! In any case, the broad consensus seemed to be
that, no, the genre wasn't dying at all, but had diversified into
many sub-categories that SF as a single genre almost wasn't an
appropriate 'label' anymore. Every genre that makes up that broad
church is thriving, so despite Steve Jobs giving us all we wanted,
even before we knew we wanted it, there's always new horizons to look
to, as technology and imagination are always on the grow.
with my panels done, I went to actually listen to some other
panelists speak. Genre tv was discussed at length, as was adapting
your work into other media, and though I missed the 'Diversity in the
Genre' panel (which Sarah was press-ganged into at the last minute)
I'm told it was a cracker. And as we sank we well deserved pint at
the end of the day, Graham Joyce landed at our table like a freight
train to persuade us to come to FantasyCon in Brighton, which would
be great, but given it's the week after UK Games Day and the week
before I whisk the family off to Canada for the BL Book Expo in
Chestermere Public Library, I don't think I'll be able to swing it.
following weekend was Salute, which was held in the Excel Centre in
London. I travelled down to the event with Christian Dunn, and we had
a great old natter about genre tv and writing Choose Your Own
Adventure books – where I revealed that I'd written two of them in
my schooldays in my English jotters. I still have Fortress of the
Desert Lord, which is a lovely reminder of the fact I always wanted
to write and why I'm not a multi-millionaire architect...
was a very different beast from Alt.Fiction, as I was there purely to
chat and sign books. I wasn't sure what to expect about Salute, as
the last time I'd been to this event, it was to run demo games of
Inquisitor. Not a short span of time. But it was a great event, and
barring an hour when I managed to grab some lunch (£5.90 for a small
coke and a sandwich!) and see a great many ex-GW staffers working at
the event, I signed for the entire time I was there and got to spend
some quality one on one time with the readers. It's why I like events
like this, I get the chance to spend time talking with the people who
actually buy the books. At Games Day, it's a rush, a non-stop pell
mell of folk, and as much as I try to spend a good bit of time with
everyone who comes to see me, I don't like the idea of folk spending
their entire day in a queue, when there's better thing to go and see
and do! It's one of things I keep getting told at events...speed
it up, but I reckon the person
last in the queue deserves at least as much time to chat as the
person at the front. Anyway, I talked to loads of folk, signed loads
of books, and had a great time there before threading my way through
London to get back on the train to Nottingham.
if I spoke to you at either event, thank you so much for coming
along, and I hope you enjoyed it all as much as I did. If I didn't,
then I'll hopefully see you at one of the upcoming signings. I'm in the
Dublin branch of Games Workshop with Dan Abnett and Aaron Dembski Bowden on the 26th
of May. I think we're going to be there from 12 noon, but I'll post
something closer to the time just to be sure.
got to get back to Angel Exterminatus. I hope to hand the halfway
finished manuscript in to the editors today.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Right, tomorrow morning I'm off to
Alt.Fiction, one of the best events of the year, as it's chock full
of lots of people I'd happily sit down with to share a beer, natter
and talk about stories, SF, Fantasy and Horror. This year, the event's being held this weekend in Leicester, in the Phoenix Digital Arts Centre. It's a great melting
pot of authors, artists, editors and the like and is one of the
friendliest, most involving cons around. There's some great stuff on
throughout the day, more than enough to whet the appetite of fans of
any genre fiction or games (as interactive media has a strong
presence this year) so if you're anywhere near Phoenix Square in
Leicester this weekend (14th/15th April) be sure to come by and have
I'll be there from around 11:00 in the
morning, but as well as just hanging out, going to panels and talking
to folk (and trying to get my new copy of Ken MacLeod's Intrusion
signed, I'll also be on a couple of panels. On Staurday at 12 noon in
Screen 1, I'll be taking part in the Dragon's Pen event, where we
show you how NOT to
pitch. I'm not sure yet what I'll be doing for this, but knowing me,
I'll probably just pitch the way I normally would and that'll show
you all the horrible pitfalls to avoid. Fellow Pitchers will be
Conrad Williams and MD Lachlan, and the Mighty Dragons facing us will
be...John Jarrold, Steve Tribe and (ulp) Ramsey Campbell. Scary
stuff... I'm betting that after this, I'll have a lot more sympathy
for the folk facing Duncan Bannatyne and his cohorts.
also in Screen 1, I'll be taking part in the SF Panel discussion with
Tony Ballantyne, James Swallow, Charles Christian and Anne C. Perry.
This promises to be a lively discussion as well, and we'll be looking
at, amongst other things, where SF has to go now that Steve Jobs and
Apple have made the Star Trek communicators and 40K's dataslates a
You can find the full programme, together with all the great guests coming along on the Alt.Fiction website.
come along, it'll be a great weekend of writing, talking, signing and
Monday, April 09, 2012
Beginnings are important.
Here's a verbatim snippet of text from Tubb03's Blog that
encapsulates it perfectly, it's a Grade 07/08 Blog that shows that
even pretty young kids know it:
“The beginning is
the time the catch and keep your readers. A beginning of a story is
very important, if you don’t get you readers eye at the beginning
they are not going to read the rest of your story, even if the middle
of the story or the end of the story is really good they will never
Out of the mouths of
babes and innocents, eh?
So, with Priests of Mars
off with the Editors, I'm in the early stages of my next Heresy
novel, Angel Exterminatus, in the pleasing position of having all the
novel synopsises (do you know
how many times I typed that word...?) ahead of me till the end of the
year done. Since my last venture into Heresyland, I've been to
Arkham, the 41st
Millennium, the Age of Legends and the Old World, but now it's time
to get back to the treason of the Warmaster, and boy, am I looking
forward to this one. Last time, I dabbled in the fascinating, murky
waters around the main thrust of the Heresy with The Outcast Dead,
but now I'm getting back to playing with the Big Toys; Space Marine
Legions and the Primarchs. Angel Exterminatus is going to be a big
book for a number of reasons, and in a number of ways, most of which
I can't really elaborate on for fear of spoiling the surprise or
venturing into waters I haven't yet charted, since this book is still
in its Beginning Phase.
that's kind of the theme of this blog entry, new beginnings.
sometimes struggle with the beginnings of books. I know the plots,
the characters and the overarching themes/plots I want to cover, but
getting the right fit up front is so important to me that I often
spend the first few weeks on the opening two or three chapters, which
is a lot longer than I want
to spend there. But I'm a firm believer that if the foundations you
set up at the beginning of a book aren't right, then the rest of the
novel just won't stand up straight, you'll constantly be pulled askew
by the bad start you've made and won't be able to get back without
building it all up again from scratch (see, all those years at
university studying architecture and building surveying weren't
wasted!). I've scrapped beginning after beginning, rewritten,
rearranged and re-just-about-everything-else with quite a few of my
novels, because that nagging voice in my head keeps telling me that
something's not quite right.
That voice is almost never wrong. The other voices...? Well, time
Angel Exterminatus, I'm in that stage of a novel where I'm finding
the fit of it all, the right voice for the characters, the clothes
they're wearing and and the scenery they ought to be chewing in their
dialogue. I'm feeling my way around. I know this place, but it's been
a while since I visited, so I'm limbering up for a long haul. It's a
slow process, like going on a date with a whole lot of people at
once, some you know vaguely, some are new to you and some are
strangers who've just walked in after hearing that there's a free
buffet. And you have to impress them all. Like going on speed dating
and hoping to get everyone's number at the end of it all. It takes a
lot for everything to align at once, but when it does, as it has
now...then it's a great feeling to know, just know
with utter certainty, that it's working, that it's bloody right. That
this is how it ought
to be done.
first couple of chapters of Angel Exterminatus are set post-Isstvan V
and deal with the Iron Warriors prior to the arrival of the Emperor's
Children for a meeting between Perturabo and Fulgrim. It's taken a
while to get right, inventing new things to make sure that the Iron
Warriors and Emperor's Children feel like no other Legions, that they
have their own character and don't inadvertently end up as pantomime
villains – a common pitfall of portraying the Chaos Space Marines.
I want to ensure that the scenes, dialogue and vibe the reader gets
will lead them to the Iron Warriors or Emperor's Children even if I
took out all the specific names and unit types. It means striking a
balance between what people already know, what they want to see and
what I want to achieve with the book. Certainly these legions are
very close to my heart, and I know that a lot of people like them too
(the steady sales of Storm of Iron and Fulgrim tell me as much...).
And since it's a joint novel between them, I don't want one to
overshadow the other. At least until the end...
at that point now, with a through line that works in what was
established for the Legions back in the Index Astartes days and
what's come since. Over the years other people have written the Iron
Warriors and Emperor's Children, of course, but in my head, they're
still mine. Which is a patently ridiculous notion, given that they
exist in a shared universe, tie-in fiction realm, but still...they're
mine. Which is how you have to feel if you're going to write anything
with conviction and love and passion. If you don't write thinking
that this is the only way these guys can be portrayed,
then you're not invested enough. So I want to make sure they meet
everyone's expectations of the masters of siege warfare and decadent
excess (not least of all, again, mine...). To make them my own, I
wanted to invent new traditions, new colour schemes, new units, new
names and new....everything, all
of which needed to be introduced in a way that didn't feel like an
Index Astartes article or an excerpt from a Codex. All that white
heat of creation takes time and effort and imagination that combines
in a witches brew of sitting around looking like I'm not doing very
much at all, doodling with words and sounds on a notepad and scouring
my books/net for interesting resonances with the subject matter. All
of which is a long way of saying that the beginnings of a novel are
just about the most important part of a novel, so get it right...
There's always a but. There's always the danger that in that
obsessive quest for perfection you end up spending the lion's share
of the time you have to write the novel on the beginning. It's a trap
I've not often fallen into, thankfully, but it would be apt in this
case since the Emperor's Children are just about to turn up...
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Stef Kopinski's really outdone himself here with his cover for the Legend of Sigmar omnibus, don't you think?
Top job, Mr. Kopinski. Next pint's on me.
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