Author Interview – Paul S. Kemp

The last monday of January welcomes an interview with another new author to join Black Library this past year, so give him a warm welcome people! Paul Kemp is quite a prolific writer for the Forgotten Ralms setting and has also worked in Star Wars Expanded Universe as well over the years.

Paul started off for Black Library with a short story for the Age of Legend anthology that is set within the Time of Legends meta-series for Warhammer Fantasy. A Small Victory has received a lot of praise so far and if the interview with him below is any indication, we can expect a lot more stuff from him this year. One of his recent works is also the novel Deceived, featuring the Sith Lord Darth Malgus who also features in Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware’s recently-launched MMO. Looking at that cover, Malgus inspires shivers and goosebumps aplenty.

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Horus Heresy: Horus Rising by Dan Abnett (A Review)

Today, we bring to you another book review, this one by a reader who was completely new to the Warhammer 40,000 setting and whose first point of introduction to the setting was the first novel of the Horus Heresy series. It is quite an interesting review and I hope you all enjoy it.

Warning: Here be spoilers.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get in medias res. No, we need another disclaimer. I am not a 40K expert. More than once while reading this book, I was rushing off to ask one of my more knowledgeable friends “But what does X mean?” “What is a Y?” and “Can Space Marines have sex?” Ah, scratch that last one, the answer is obvious in the book (and for, the record, it’s ‘No.’). But, still, even I know how this will end. Horus falls to Chaos, so do half his brothers, there’s a huge war, lots of characters you like die, and in the end the Emperor Shoots the Dog – Horus – and becomes a human vegetable. It’s kind of like watching the Star Wars prequels. We all know Anakin becomes Darth Vader. The point is how it happens.

Well, very differently. Horus is not Anakin. Chaos is not Palpatine (it’s a lot more gross ^^). The book takes a very interesting approach to the basic plot of tragedy. For it to be a tragedy you need to be invested in the main character – but knowing what the reader knows, she’ll be reluctant to do so. Generally speaking, emotional investment in the characters and the story is difficult. The Imperium of Man is so far from our world, from our way of thinking that you struggle to sympathize. It doesn’t help that the beginning opens with a) a huge deception and b) a very distanced and ‘epic’ tolkienesque approach to story telling. “I was there the day Horus killed the Emperor.” “Wtf?”

Eventually, it’s cleared up that this was a different Emperor and you find out that the book is told in two distinct voices, one that is History speaking through the work of documentarist Mersadie Oliton, and one that is History happening, through the limited 3rd person POV of Garviel Loken, a legion Captain of the Luna Wolves, and rememberancers Oliton, Karkasy and Keeler. To be honest, the history book sequences aren’t that good. Abnett strives for a tone similar to the Silmarillion but it simply doesn’t work that well. But the other sequences are far better. The use of the rememberancers as storytellers is inspired: their job is to be there and witness, to show the people of Terra what is happening in the Great Crusade, and probably where their tax money is going to. Since they are all artists, not reporters, their approach to their job is very different since it is quite whimsical, eclectic and – in case of Karkasy – sarcastic. Like the reader, they are professional witnesses, but they do not just observe, they comment, they judge, they interpret. And, like the reader, they are not socialised in the militaristic culture of the Astartes, seeing it all with detachment and maybe even disdain.

Karkasy walking through the demolished capital of 63-19 is one of the more memorable sequences. A major problem of science fiction told at this scale is how to make foreign cultures memorable. How to present them as something relatable but at the same time fundamentally different from the standard, and to do so in a couple of pages or minutes of screen time. Here it works impressively. The same is done again with the Interex, which is more exotic and therefore more superficial, but still interesting.

For a story told about a character’s fall to darkness, the author made an interesting decision on how to go about it. The newly-established Imperium of Man is a very alien environment for the 21st century reader. It is violently imperialistic, autocratic, fundamentalist. Its soldiers are not human, but something different, of enormous size, physically enhanced, biologically different, and mentally conditioned.

As I understand it, a baseline human boy is taken, implanted with enhanced organs and cybernetics, conditioned, hypnotized, maybe brainwashed. This sounds revolting and abhorrent for us and in the beginning; we get exactly what we expect. A world is brutally conquered, and when Loken shows… humanity or maybe just compassion, his Warmaster pops in and executes the enemy leader with ruthless aplomb and a sarcastic quip. When the rememberancer meets Loken, her first impression of him is his inhumanity, his mixture of beauty and grotesque exaggeration of human traits. We learn that he cannot feel fear, and when he puts her down for saying something that – we must assume – went against his conditioning, the word she thinks is that he is brutal. Only then, when the reader is reminded of all his preconceived notions, do we look beneath the surface. Loken is inducted into the Warmaster’s inner circle, and we are introduced to the iterators: the propaganda and reeducation ‘teachers’ who bring conquered worlds in line. And we see them debate, discuss, doubt. We see the questions asked that we have been asking from the start and they are answered. It isn’t that all of the answers are what we agree to. But we see the questions exist. We learn the Emperor has been giving up power on account of a civilian administration and catching flak for it. On Terra herself.

This isn’t yet the Imperium of 40K. And Horus has not yet become the setting’s fusion of Lucifer and Kain. In fact, after his rather unflattering introduction, we learn a lot more about him. And about Loken. We see Horus comfort a distraught soldier, we see him be kind, gentle. We see him politically savvy, and later as a son who was loved by his father and dearly loves him (and misses him) in return. In these moments, it is irrelevant he is three meters tall and that his father is an immortal with godlike powers. Suddenly, there is the humanity, both in him and in Loken that we have been missing – and taught not to expect. And the knowledge of the fall rears its head and we ask how this can happen, when we understand it is not a foregone conclusion.

Horus certainly has flaws. He has quite an ego for one. He struggles with his role, with the enormous responsibility, with the weight of his choices. In the end, he argues against slavish adherence to dogma and for a more responsible approach. And, when in the last chapter, he fights what seems to be a last stand against overwhelming odds – the author echoes our feelings, by stepping back and saying how much History has become skewed and distorted by the knowledge of what happens next. How the horrible end makes everyone forget the noble beginning, thus echoing the reader’s own preconceptions from the start. In the end, you are sorry. Sorry for this brilliant, complex individual who will be remembered only as a monster. I did not read the other books yet, and so far, I feel that Horus is the setting’s Old Yeller. The brave, courageous creature that through no fault of his own becomes infected with a terrible ‘disease’ and has to be put down by the one who loved him most. And this sadness colors my perception of the book more than anything else.

Author Interview – Josh Reynolds

Mondays, mondays, mondays. Always the same, yet so exciting, at least over here on the Bloghole. Just like all the mondays before, we have a new author interview for you folks, this week’s guest of honour being Josh Reynolds. Josh is one of Black Library’s most recent authors, having joined just last year and already moving on to some truly great things as you will find out in the interview below.

Josh is quite the prolific writer and works on both fiction and non-fiction, within any genre or style that he fancies. He started off for Black Library through the monthly Hammer & Bolter eZine and has a full-length novel set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting coming out in March, with another just-as-exciting-if-not-more novel coming out next year in January. In the meantime, I’m sure he will be delighting us with more great fantasy tales in the Old World.

Shadowhawk: You are one of the recent additions to the line-up of authors writing for Black Library. How did it come about?

Josh: Luck and happenstance. I was scrounging around for submission opportunities and ran across BL’s guidelines. I figured it was worth a shot, so I knocked out a novel pitch that day and submitted it. The editors liked it and the rest you know.

I sound like I’m making light of it, but to me at the time it was just one more pitch in a weekly volley.  I was surprised as anything when they got back to me.

Shadowhawk: What is the Warhammer Fantasy setting like compared to some of the other settings you have worked in? What would you say is the charm of the Old World?

Josh: That it has none? Charm, I mean. It’s a nasty, brutish place where the doomsday clock is always five seconds to midnight and the wolf is at the door of the world. That’s a pretty far cry from most other modern fantasy settings out there, which is why I like it, I suppose. Too, I’m a big fan of Karl Edward Wagner, Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock and their respective settings, which are all similar sort of places.

Also, it was an easier setting to set a book in for someone who has a limited and out of date knowledge of the established lore. The meta-story of Warhammer Fantasy hasn’t changed much when you compare it to how the 40k universe has evolved in the past few years. There’s less to catch up on, and frankly, I’m lazy.

Shadowhawk: You have had three short stories published through the Hammer & Bolter eZine, one of which is also in the Age of Legend anthology. What can you tell us about them?

Josh: Well, lessee…The First Duty (from H&B issue 6) is a prequel to Knight of the Blazing Sun. It features the protagonist, Hector Goetz, in his first outing as fully-fledged knight of the Order of the Blazing Sun – the repercussions of which reverberate through the novel. I was asked to write it as a lead-in to the book, and a section of it appears in the book, albeit altered a bit. Really, I was just trying to hit the beats and tropes of a good Warhammer story with it. I was testing my muscles, so to speak.

The Gods Demand (H&B issue 11 and Age of Legend) was a funny one, because it was actually completely different initially. The basic plot was the same, but the story was much less bleak. Unfortunately, about a week after I’d written it and sent it in, I ran across the Beastman army book and saw that there was a three or four page bit of text that described the fall of Hergig in detail. Not having read this previously, I, of course, wrote something completely different. So, I had to re-write The Gods Demand and in a hurry.  Other than that, I will say that I’d love to write Gorthor again…I picture him as a sort of beastman equivalent to Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn – the last true king of a degenerate and devolving people.

And finally, Dead Calm, which has a vampire pirate (vam-pirate) in it, as well as a cod-Italian necromancer and a variety of sea-beasties. Because I didn’t realize that anyone remembered Fell Cargo. Anyway, this story is tangentially tied in to Knight of the Blazing Sun. The protagonist, Erkhart Dubnitz, Knight of Manann, boisterous bruiser and Brian Blessed impersonator, is a secondary character in the book, and editor Christian Dunn liked him so much, he suggested that I write a story or two about him. So I did.

Shadowhawk: Knight of the Blazing Sun comes out in next month and is your first full novel for Black Library. What attracted you to the Knightly Orders?

Josh: Honestly, it was the fact that they hadn’t really been written about, barring the Reiksguard and the Knights of the White Wolf. I figured going for a group that (a) hadn’t been touched and (b) had miniatures available was a good bet as far as attracting an editor’s interest. Also, (c) is (or was) a playable class in the Warhammer MMORPG meaning there might be a good many folks who’d impulse buy the book, should it be published. That sounds a bit mercenary, but I like to play the strong odds when I submit a pitch.

As far as what attracted me to the Order of the Blazing Sun itself, well, mainly that they weren’t Sigmar-worshippers, oddly enough. I wanted to explore how a group acting under a more-Moderate? Pragmatic?-doctrine might approach the Long War with Chaos. Too, there’s been almost nothing written about them save the basic ‘went to the Crusades, found a goddess, brought her home’ bit, so I figured I’d be free to get creative with the Order’s quirks and ethos.

Also, I’m a fan of big ol’ crazy-ass helmets.

Shadowhawk: It was announced recently that you are working on a Time of Legends trilogy featuring Neferata, queen of the Lahmian Vampires and also the progenitor of the lords of the other bloodlines as well. How did that come about?

Josh: I was offered the gig and I took it. Beyond that, I have no idea why they decided I was the dude to tackle it. But I’m glad they did…I got student loans to pay off.

Shadowhawk: Any more Warhammer short stories planned for Hammer & Bolter this year?

Josh: One at the moment…Stromfels’ Teeth is a follow-up to “Dead Calm”, featuring Erkhart Dubnitz fighting shark-monsters and shark-cultists during a shark-holiday. Also, there are sharks.

Shadowhawk: Given the chance, which faction, character or event would you like to write about for Warhammer 40,000?

Josh: Offhand, I’d love to write something with the Celestial Lions space marine chapter…heroic, if naive, idealists who cross the wrong Inquisitor and pay for it with the very legacy of their chapter. That’s pathos that is. Box office gold.

Shadowhawk: Your body of work outside of Black Library is immense: nearly a hundred short stories, six novels and a score of non-fiction titles. How do you manage it all?

Josh: I’m a workaholic and I have excellent time-management skills. Also, I’m a relatively quick writer, which comes in handy, what with deadlines and such.

Shadowhawk: How would you introduce readers of Black Library fiction to your other work?

Josh: Well, I write a lot of different stuff so there’s bound to be something the hypothetical reader would enjoy…if you like steampunk and/or Robocop, there’s the Mr. Brass stories. If you like steampunk, but NOT Robocop, but you do like Aztecs and/or alternate histories and detectives, there’s the “Strange Affairs…” stories. If you’re a fan of occult detectives, I’ve got a slew of stories featuring Charles St. Cyprian, Royal Occultist and his snarky sidekick Ebe Gallowglass. Like Sherlock Holmes pastiches? I’ve written a few of those. Public domain pulp characters? I got you covered. Lovecraftian fiction? Done a fair bit of that too. Really, if you like genre fiction of any stripe, I’ve got something you’ll like.

In fact, if anyone reading this has their interest perked by any of the things mentioned above, they can send me a request via the Bolthole and I’ll shoot them a PDF sampler of some of those stories, free of charge.

How’s that for an introduction?

Shadowhawk: What is the writing process like for you?

Josh: It’s a bit like building a piece of machinery, honestly. It’s not a very creative process…I tend to write out an outline and then I write chunks of that outline (usually whatever bit interests me the day in question), occasionally stopping to see how it all fits together and whether I need to trim or extend anything. I work eight hours a day at the computer and then another three to four with a notepad. I also tend to work on two or three things at once, so on any given day I’ll work on a book for four hours or two thousand words, whichever comes first, and then I’ll switch over to a short story or a book review or even another book for the next four hours.

In the evenings, I’ll sit with a notepad and scratch out notes on edits I need to make or draft out scenes to write the next day or I’ll plot out the next few chapters, just to double-check that the outline is still holding its shape.

After I’m finished with a given bit of work, I’ll let it sit for a day or three, and then I’ll go back and tear it apart over the course of a day, making any changes that I think need to be made at the time. And then off it goes to wherever it’s going and I move on to the next thing.

It’s all a bit mechanical and boring, really.

Shadowhawk: Any particular music you listen to while you write or is it a case of no distractions at all?

Josh: I mostly just hit ‘play all’ and ‘shuffle’. My musical tastes are eclectic, so I get a nice random selection. I often listen to podcasts as well, or pop in a DVD. I like noise when I work. Occasionally I’ll make up a soundtrack of sorts that I listen to regularly while I’m working on a particular project…Neferata, for instance, is being written mainly to Brownbird’s new album, Salt for Salt and Murder-by-Death’s Red of Tooth and Claw.

Shadowhawk: You write both Fantasy and Science-Fiction alike. Any particular preference for either?

Josh: Nope! I writes what I wants, when I wants. I will say that, more often than not, I tend to blend the two, usually inadvertently. I use whatever tropes, clichés or genre signifiers I need to tell the particular story I’ve got in mind.

Shadowhawk: What are you looking forwards to the most for 2012 in terms of your own work?

Josh: Well, there’s the usual flock of short stories – around seven or eight at the moment – that are due to appear in print sometime this year. Then there’s the Mack Bolan novel I wrote for Gold Eagle that should be appearing later this year. What I really look forward to, I suppose, is getting more work! I’ve got a number of submissions-in-progress that I’m quite excited about, short stories and novels both.

Did I mention I’m a workaholic?

Shadowhawk: Anything else happening this year you are absolutely stoked for?

Josh: Stoked? No. Enthused? Possibly.

Shadowhawk: Any plans to attend either Black Library Live 2012 or the Black Library Weekender in November?

Josh: I plan to attend both of them, actually. I mean, I wasn’t invited or anything, but I’ll be there.

In the back.

Watching you.

Seriously though, yeah, I’ll be at both of them.

Shadowhawk: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Josh: Did you know that crows are great mimics? You can teach them to cuss. Just…all inadvertent, like.

Also, don’t cuss near an open window.

 ********

Hope you enjoyed that interview. You can find more on Joshua Reynolds through his blog, Hunting Monsters, where you can also find a complete list of all his work. It is a rather long list so beware!

His short story Stromfel’s Teeth, in Hammer & Bolter #17 will be out next month in January, with Knight of the Blazing Sun coming out the month after in March. The latter is also currently available for preorders through the Black Library site here.

Next we will have another new entrant to the ranks of Black Library authors, Paul S. Kemp. You may recognise his name from his numerous Forgotten Realms and Star Wars novels among other things.

Author Interview – Andy Hoare

Its a Monday today and that means that we have a brand-new interview for your reading pleasure. This week it is Andy Hoare taking a stroll through these parts and talking about his old and new work alike.

Andy has worked on several codexes and armybooks for the Games Workshop Design Studio, particularly Witchhunters, Tau, Imperial Guard, Dark Angels, Orcs and Goblins, Lustria, Lizardmen and also the latest main rulebook editions of both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 as well. Andy’s credit also includes work on several expansion liness with Apocalypse, Storm of Chaos, Eye of Terror and the Thirteenth Black Crusade among others.

With Black Library, his credits include the three Rogue Trader novels and The Hunt for Voldorius as well as a few short stories. He has also worked extensively with Fantasy Flight Games, working for their various role-playing game franchises licensed through Games Workshop, Rogue Trader, Dark Heresy, Deathwatch and more. One of his latest books is Deathwatch: First Founding which details the direct successors of the loyalist legions at the end of the Horus Heresy.

So let’s see what revelations Andy has for us about his career.

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Catechism of Hate by Gav Thorpe (A Review)

As most of you know, Black Library’s latest Limited Edition novella, Catechism of Hate, was released less than a week ago and sold out in the first few minutes. To celebrate the launch of the novella and also the milestone for Gav Thorpe, for whom this is his second such novella, the Bloghole brings to you a review of Catechism of Hate, thanks to one of our members, MalkyDel.

Without further ado, here is the review. We hope you enjoy!

“What is it to be a Space Marine?”

This is the first line of the Catechism of Hate, not the novella but the battle-prayer written by its protagonist, Brother-Chaplain Cassius, after the First Tyrannic War. It is that conflict which looms over the entirety of Catechism of Hate as a story and it is also a pertinent question to put to its protagonists.

Catechism of Hate is the latest limited edition novella that I’ve had the luck to acquire and the first one I’ve decided to review. As ever the presentation is stunning; Jon Sullivan’s cover art conveys the relentless savage nature of war against the tyranids and brims with the fiery wrath which Cassius brings down upon them. It’s beautifully crafted (as all the other Space Marine Battle series art has been) and the included poster shows it off in even more detail. Unlike other limited edition novellas and unlike the other SMB novels, the tactical maps are located on the inside cover of the book, this at first threw me, but it became oddly appealing as I read on and it almost seemed as though the narrative itself were emerging from amidst the battle-plan.

The actual hardback is white and blue, not as iconic as the salamander hide of Promethean Sun or the heretical scrawlings of Aurelian but effective in its own simple way. Had it been blue and gold however I feel as though I’d have been put in mind of the Codex Astartes itself which would have been great.

The novella itself is told in flashback, with Cassius using it to galvanise his warriors in another campaign against the Tyranids. This conceit put me in mind of Dilios telling the story of Thermopylae to the Spartans at Platea, in Frank Miller’s 300. It is a very effective narrative tool and we get to feel, and understand the reasons for, Cassius’s hate. As the Ultramarines ready for war against the orks assaulting Vortengard, a distress signal is received from Styxia, an agri-world threatened by the relentless encroachment of Tyranid splinter fleets post-Ichar IV. While Marneus Calgar and the other Ultramarines wish to forge on, it is Cassius who makes the argument for intervention – introducing us to a stalwart and resilient character who could easily be accused of arrogance. Despite his assurances that he will not sell Ultramar lives in vain, his decisions inspire doubt amongst his fellow Astartes.

This forms much of the heart of the novella; what does it mean to be a Space Marine? Is it enough to simply smite the enemy because they are hated? The Ultramarines bear much antipathy for the Tyranid menace and this is effectively summarised by Cassius when he rages that the aliens humbled them, the greatest of the Space Marine chapters, and almost destroyed them. Cassius tempers his hate with an appreciation of his circumstances and the loyalty of his men; when the time comes to strike and the strategy for victory becomes clear, each becomes fanatical in their loyalty.

The pace of the novella is easy and fluid, with interesting support characters  in the form of a Cadian Commander, two Titan Princeps and the other members of Cassius’ command, all aided by Gav’s able command of the setting. The tyranids are well-described; sinuous alien horrors brought to life and given a relentless character of their own. It’s always hard to judge tyranids, since they have no real potential for “Enemy POV” scenarios, but the horrific biology of these aliens is well-represented here, with the interactions between different tyranid genus-types shown to its fully intermeshed glory. Battle scenes flow well, especially when the Space Marines are properly unleashed. Reading the climax, where the Catechism of Hate is finally enunciated, filled me with an almost martial pride, an unstoppable yearning to read more, to roar alongside them.

Through no fault of the authors, my only real disappointment is that the novella doesn’t really add to the canon, outside of a clearer view of the battle of Styxia. This is the purpose of the SMB series, of course, to bring clarity to famous battles in the history of 40k, and this it does admirably. It should not suffer simply because, unlike the previous novellas, it does not tie in to another series (Iron Warrior for Ultramarines, Daenyathos for the Soul Drinkers, The Bloody-Handed for The Sundering, Promethean Sun & Aurelian for the Horus Heresy), and instead only represents a single battle. The novella still stands as an exemplary piece of writing on Gav’s part. It reminds me why, no matter the chapter, Gav Thorpe remains one of my favourite authors at the helm of Space Marines.

******

As a sort of bonus, there might be some other reviews in the pipeline for the future so make sure to keep checking back here!

Author Interview – Clint Lee Werner

Apologies for the late posting but things have been quite hectic in Shadowhawk-land. Suffice to say that I redeem myself by bringing a long-time fan-favourite author to the blog. If you all thought that all the previous interviews have been amazing then you are about to get a one-up on them. C L Werner, or rather Carandini as he is known on the Bolthole, has provided some rather meaty answers and his enthusiasm definitely shows through.

His name is synonymous with that of Grey Seer Thanquol, one of the most treacherous and fun-to-read skaven character ever, as well as his early Chaos Wastes novels which helped to define this realm in even more detail than before. Other may remember the Brunner and the Matthias Thulmann novels as well. He is also a regular in the Warhammer Heroes brand for Warhammer Fantasy and has also appeared a few times in the monthly Black Library e-zine, Hammer & Bolter.

With several short stories and novels under his belt, many of them part of series and trilogies, we are going to see just what makes him tick and where he gets his inspiration from.

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December Artwork Roundup

December was a spectacular month for Black Library artwork. We have had some truly amazing art being shown for future novels as well as the Advent Calendar “quiz” which saw speculation in the fandom ramping all the way to 11 and beyond.

So let’s take a peek into just what got released for December and what we can expect in the future.

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