Sanctified research

So, at the end of summer 2009 I wrote my first Warhammer 40,000 short story, ‘Sanctified’, for the anthology ‘Fear the Alien’.

(You can read a bit about how that happened here.)

The one-line pitch was simple enough: Die Hard on an Imperial spaceship, with a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus fighting off Dark Eldar who are attempting to hijack the ship and spirit it off into the webway.

Oh, and the Adept has a morbid fear of all things alien, and has to overcome this crippling xenophobia to save the day. A nice simple character arc that fit the title of the book snugly.

(That’s a minor writing tip for anyone pitching to a collection or series, by the way – treat every aspect of the overarching project, even the title, as a ticklist to work through with your pitch, and try to get as many (if not all) of those boxes ticked in as thematically a cohesive way as possible.)

As I’d had limited contact with the universe of Warhammer 40,000 since dabbling in 40K as a teenager, I needed to do some catching up. Thankfully there are a lot of 40k resources online, and the official Black Library site contains lots of pdf extracts of books that can be downloaded for free, so I could get an overview from those.

However, there’s no substitute for actual in-depth reading of the source material. Here’s my stack of ‘Sanctified’ related stuff, as piled up in a flat I moved out of 18 months ago:

FtA research pile

Up top, ‘Mechanicum’, actually set 10,000 years earlier than 40k during the  Horus Heresy, is to my knowledge the only book BL have put out to date (or at least, still have in print) to focus on the Adeptus Mechanicus almost exclusively. So, although the 30K setting means that this is the Brotherhood at their peak rather than in their cranky, degraded 40K state, it was still a useful crash-course in what the organisation is all about.

The other three are all books that feature the Dark Eldar (including only one book in the Soul Drinkers Omnibus, the last one). Considering the tight deadline, I didn’t read all of them all the way through before submitting the story, but they were all useful in their own way.  In terms of the way I needed to treat them in my story, as a barely comprehensible, fast-moving threat, action sequences early in both ‘Brothers of the Snake’ and ‘Dark Disciple’ proved very handy.

Later sections of ‘Dark Disciple’ and the Soul Drinkers book (the name of which currently escapes me) feature the DE in more detail, expanding on how they act around each other and towards humans, which wasn’t really necessary for ‘Sanctified’ (where they never speak to the hero) but which was interesting background nonetheless.

Not pictured was the middle book in Dan Abnett’s ‘Ravenor’ trilogy, which I picked up for something like 50p of store credit at a second hand book place I used to frequent (last of the big spenders, me) in the exploratory, ‘do I actually want to do this?’ phase before starting serious thinking about my story.

That book convinced me there was a lot of fun to be had with 40K and that I should push full steam ahead, and I’ve since upgraded to a nice shiny new Omnibus of all three ‘Ravenor’ books, which is sitting in my ever-expanding stack of 40K research by my bed. It’s a very fun kind of research, even if the growing stacks of books do constitute a minor health and safety hazard that I occasionally kick over in the dark.

Mark

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March 23, 2011. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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