I introduced Anvindr Godrichsson and his pack of Space Wolves in the short story In Hrondir’s Tomb three years ago, in Black Library’s emagazine Hammer and Bolter. As part of Black Library’s annual Summer of Reading campaign, where they release a new piece of fiction every weekday, that story has now been re-released as a standalone ebook. If you didn’t buy it in the original issue of H&B, or in the H&B Year Two e-compilation, or in the print Best of Hammer & Bolter volume 2… well, here’s another chance.
As part of the same campaign Anvindr and his pack return, some years later, in Hollow Beginnings. If the previous story hinted where I’ve been going with these characters, then this one outright states it. The title’s a bit of a giveaway.
I like writing Anvindr. As a Space Wolf he sees himself and his pack as legendary warriors engaged in a mythic battle, and being a Space Marine he’s pretty much right. But there are many ways to fight a war, especially a war for the survival of humanity, and Anvindr experiences a constant unease when dealing with branches of the Imperium with less honourable tactics than the Wolves. It’s the tension between his loyalty to the Emperor and his dislike of some of the Emperor’s other servants that makes him fun to write.
Speaking of which, I’ve been quiet for a while on here, and will probably be quiet for a while longer. We’ve had the Beginnings, now someone needs to finish the Rest Of.
New standalone eshort version of In Hrondir’s Tomb can be bought for £2.49 here.
Follow up eshort Hollow Beginnings can be bought for £2.49 here.
I’m very, very excited to be able to say that my first Warhammer 40,000 novel is out today as an ebook premiere: Iron Guard. You can see the cover on the right, complete with my name in a delightfully big, bold font, and buy the book directly from Black Library here.
I approached Black Library about the possibility of writing a full length novel after finishing edits on my short story Sanctified, and was asked to pitch something for their Imperial Guard line, war stories about the human forces of the Imperium in the 41st century.
After knocking proposals and outlines back and forth between myself and the editors, we eventually settled on the Mordian Iron Guard as my protagonists. Although the Mordians are well established in the 40k universe, the specific regiment and individual characters are all original, and I was given great leeway to fill in any gaps in Mordian culture.
As the book only came out this morning I won’t talk about the plot beyond saying that it takes a relatively green Mordian recruit from the sunless world of Mordian to a deserted mining world, where he discovers first hand the full horrors waiting out in the 40k universe, ready to prey on unwary humans.
Having read through the book very recently while proofing, I’m very pleased with how Iron Guard turned out, and look forward to hearing from readers.
Iron Guard is available as an ebook for £6.50 from Black Library, right here.
Hammer and Bolter #20, the latest issue of Black Library’s monthly fiction e-magazine, is out now, and contains my story In Hrondir’s Tomb.You can buy it from the Black Library site here, for the wonderfully low price of £2.50.
Hrondir is my second published Warhammer 40,000 story, although the third written after [REDACTED], which will hopefully be coming to a release schedule near you at some point soonish. (OK, strictly speaking [REDACTED] is a [REDACTED] but you get what I mean. Or maybe not.)
I’ve previously played around the periphery of the 40K universe, with a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus in Sanctified (still available as an ebook here, folks) and the [REDACTED] in [REDACTED], but In Hrondir’s Tomb is my first go at writing for the big stars of the Imperium, the Space Marines.
Not just any Space Marines, either, but Space Wolves, one of the more popular and unique chapters who had already starred in a long-running novel series of their own, and recently been given a new spin by Dan Abnett in the New York Times bestselling Prospero Burns.
So, no pressure there, then.
The story introduces Anvindr Godrichsson and his pack, Grey Hunters of the Fourth Company. They’re on the world of Beltrasse to fight the Tau, but find something entirely different deep beneath the ground of Beltrasse, in the tomb of Hrondir.
I wrote the story at the end of last summer. The attic where I used to write was in the process of being redecorated to become my daughter’s bedroom, and I wrote a lot in the evenings, sat with the laptop on the bare wooden floor. Occasionally, Georgina would be around to ‘help’, as the accompanying photo shows.
In spite of such challenges, it was a fun story to research and write, and while being an entirely self-contained story it sets up characters who could be revisited later. Fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of the 40k timeline may spot a name that appears in the existing background, and have an inkling where this might be going… but that would involve a whole load more redactions, so let’s not think about it right now.
I enjoyed putting a pack of Space Wolves in a situation different to the battlefields and savage wildernesses they’re most comfortable with. I hope people enjoy the results.
I slipped the cover up on to the blog when it was released, and various online listings included me in the list of authors way back, but I decided I wasn’t going to bother talking about this until closer to publication, partially because there’s nothing duller than someone hyping their own stuff for months in advance, and partially because it was a bit of a long story.
Well, I guess the time for that long story is now.
It started one week last summer. I was having a fairly bad week, and I spent part of a dull weekday afternoon browsing through the cheap bins in WH Smith. Now, I love nothing more than wading through stacks of cheap paperbacks, as the bulging shelves of our house will attest.
Amongst those cardboard trays of cheap books I found a fat paperback Omnibus, The Vampire Genevieve by Jack Yeovil.
And that took me back, way back, to reading an extract from the first book in that Omnibus, Drachenfels, in White Dwarf way back in 1989, when it was one of the first three full-length novels to be published based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 worlds.
At the time I’d not bought the book – I remember it was hugely expensive for my 13-year old’s pocket-money budget, certainly compared to most of the kids books I’d been reading – but the extract had stayed with me, the description of the necromancer Drachenfels in his castle.
I had gone through a White Dwarf/Warhammer/Games Workshop phase as a teen, so I was not unfamiliar with the Warhammer Fantasy setting in general, and had a lingering fondness for both that and its far-future counterpart, Warhammer 40,000. I’d gone halves with a friend on the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, and I remember him having the amazing painting of the Emperor from that book on his wall, an image which has stuck with me for two decades since.
In spite of really enjoying the background, painting Space Marines (badly) and so forth, I was never much of a wargamer, not really having the disciplined mindset required for such things – I distinctly remember a friend looking at my Space Marines laid out over an old Metroplex toy and pointing out that I didn’t really wargame, I just played with my marines, which stung at the time but was totally true – but I always really, really liked the worldbuilding of those universes.
Anyway, with those fond memories, the fact that I was in the mood for some pulpy reading, and the fact that I knew Yeovil was a pseudonym for Kim Newman and therefore a pretty good guarantee that the book would be worth reading, how could I not throw down a quid to buy a fat book like that?
It was fairly obvious within pages of starting Drachenfels that not only was this the sort of book I like to read, it was also the kind of book I would love to write.
So I went to have a look at the website of the publisher, the Black Library, and read a few extracts from more recent books. Now, as a jobbing hack I had of course been aware of BL and their output for a while, but I’d never dug deep. Now I did, and I liked what I read.
As no doubt many long term BL readers are thinking at this point, Drachenfels was a very early example of Warhammer-related fiction, and the line and the lore has changed a lot since then, through a couple of publishing false-starts before the hugely successful Black Library took off. Indeed it has, but I found that a lot of what I liked about the early book was present and correct in more recent publications, that these were action-based pulp fantasy and SF stories without most of the elements of those genres that I disliked.
There was also a contest running to get a story into a forthcoming book called Fear the Alien. I’d missed most of the contest and there was only a week or two ’til the deadline, but the initial stage of the contest only required a short synopsis and a short prose extract, so it wasn’t a colossal slab of work to get done in the time, providing I could think of an idea.
It was Warhammer 40,000 (40K from here) rather than Warhammer Fantasy (WHF), so even Drachenfels wasn’t helpful research and I had a lot of catching up to do.
But it sounded like a fun challenge. I threw myself into it, coming up with a basic premise that I constantly needed to correct against every bit of lore that I bumped into as I read up on the range, scoured various online reference works and generally tried to get myself up to speed with a complex, ever-changing fictional universe that I’d not thought about much since I was fourteen. I read the official site, wikis, FAQs, forum posts, as well as bits of relevant books in the series.
I enjoyed it. A lot. Writing can be slow, boring work, while this was fast and furious, a bit sleep depriving and hairy. Good fun.
I got my entry in on time, and waited.
A couple of weeks later, I got a very nice email back from editor Christian Dunn saying I was through to the next stage of the contest, and could I write up my story in full over the next month?
Of course, I said yes, that would be no problem.
I was editing a short story book myself (Secret Histories, still available to buy here), in the last few weeks of my full-time job and preparing to relocate from London to Exeter but goddammit this was a contest and I wanted to win it.
It was around this time, incidentally, that I discovered that as a previously published author I could have just contacted BL via email without going through the contest at all, a detail that had totally slipped me by in my excitement at the whole contest business. But by this stage it was a bit late to bring that up, I knew from a couple of forum posts that I wasn’t the only entrant who had been published before, and yes, I was really enjoying the whole contest aspect of the process with rounds to go through and so forth.
I mention this because I know that fan writers sometimes consider previously published authors to be unfair competition. To a certain extent this is fair enough, and it’s why a lot of these contests (e.g. the recent Pratchett-related novel contest) exclude previously published authors. On the other hand, if you want to be a published writer then guess what, you’ll be competing with published writers to get published. That’s the nature of the business. Unless you’ve reached that blessed stage where publishers come knocking on your door, elbowing each other out of the way to get your next project, it’s a constant hustle for the next job. Opportunities need to be seized, whether you’ve been published before or not.
Anyway, I submitted the full story, left my job, moved house (and city!), finished some other writing gigs, and then moved on to the next stage, which involved notes from Christian and the rest of the editorial team. I worked through those, re-submitted the story, and had another bit of a wait before getting confirmation that yes, the story had been accepted for Fear the Alien.
A flurry of paperwork later, and I was a fully signed-up Black Library author, albeit with one short story to my name.
I’m very pleased with the story, I really enjoyed working on it, and I hope the vast BL fanbase enjoy it too. This post is, more than anything, for their benefit – having seen on the blogs and forum threads the passion with which they bring to the books, the games and the hobby as a whole, I thought it would be worth explaining, as a newbie BL author, my history with these universes and how I came to end up writing in it.
From my childhood, reading about Drachenfels in White Dwarf, to adulthood, on the verge of being published in the vast line of books that those three advertised books eventually created. And all it took was twenty one years.
So there you go.
Fear the Alien is published in September 2010 by Black Library.