Posts Tagged ‘Space Marines’

audio-the-glorious-tombSharp-sighted Black Templars fans might have spotted The Glorious Tomb on the Black Library Website. This audio drama is part of the Echoes of War week, where BL release a new Space Marines audio every day.

I rarely get to listen to the audio dramas before they come out, and so yesterday evening was the first time I had heard The Glorious Tomb. Audios provoke even more worry concerning their merits than books or stories do, working as I am at a couple of removes from the final result. I’ve not been disappointed by one yet, I’m relieved to say, and The Glorious Tomb I thought particularly special. Appropriately, I listened to it while painting a Space Marine for my own nascent Black Templars crusade. He’ll be finished tonight. I’ll post a picture up tomorrow.

As several people have now commented, I am doing a lot of Black Templars material. I’m sort of their official remembrancer for the time being, to borrow a Horus Heresy concept. The stories are all connected to one another, featuring either my main characters Brusc and Adelard or High Marshal Helbrecht. Together the stories and future novel will tell the story of Brusc and Adelard’s lives, culminating at Armageddon where they intersect with that of Helbrecht. The stories are being written and released thematically, but as they increase in number you will be able to form a chronology to the characters’ adventures.

Here’s a review of The Glorious Tomb on Tracks of War. On the same site, you’ll also find one for my Heresy-era audio, Hunter’s Moon.


If you’ve been over to the Games Workshop or the Black Library sites today you’ll have seen that I’ve two new books coming out next weekend! Both of them detail the fate of the the Imperial Valedan system, whose five worlds are caught between the closing jaws of two Tyranid hivefleets.

Valedor centres on the system’s eponymous prime world. All of Valedan was once inhabited by Eldar. Too close to the heart of the Eldar star empire for the inhabitants to survive Slaanesh’s birth, too far for the worlds to be drawn into the Eye of Terror, it is in Eldar parlance a “True Star”, a place left deserted. Usurped by human colonists millennia ago, now man has been scoured from the planet. The Eldar return, fearing the chance melding of the hive fleets could spell doom for the entire galaxy. So great is this threat, that a gathering of Eldar kindreds occurs which has not been seen since the Fall…

The Last Days of Ector is a prequel novella set in the lead-up to the Tyranid invasion. Ector is a sub-arctic hive world whose twenty cities are lucky enough to each be overseen by a single Space Marine. Can these noble Crimson Castellans save at least a portion of the doomed population?

The books tie in with the latest Apocalypse Battlezone book, called, unsurprisingly perhaps, ValedorThere’s some tasty new models out with it too.

If you want to know more about Valedor, pick up White Dwarf, as there’s an interview in there with me about it (I’m not sure if it’s next week or this week), where I talk about how I tackle writing from an alien perspective. There’ll also be a short interview on similar topics up on the BL website next week. I had an absolute blast writing both these books, and if you’d like to know more about them please feel free to ask questions in the comments thread.

Yesterday I posted a calendar of the coming year. It was quite woefully wrong, a consequence of working on my own and never speaking to anyone. Chief among its errors was mention of a couple of short stories that will appear in Hammer and Bolter. They won’t, as the ezine is now defunct, a fact that was revealed at the Black Library Weekender. In its stead, new stories will be available every Monday, to buy individually. My stories, very loosely connected to Skarsnik and Baneblade, will be two of those. When, I dunno, although if I were a betting man I’d say around the time of the books’ releases.

Here’s an updated version of the calendar.


My first story for Interzone will be published in issue 243 (not 244).


I’ll be at Black Library Live in Nottingham on 3rd March, then the day after at The Scifi Weekender in Pwllheli.


I am going to be at Salute with BL, on 20th April in London.

Out this month is the Mark of Calth anthology, in which is my second Horus Heresy story, “The Shards of Erebus”, and this opens the collection. Cool, eh? I was wrong about the date originally as I got it from Amazon. Lesson for the future, always check the BL website first…  Mark of Calth will first be released as a BL/GW exclusive.


Baneblade, my first published novel for The Black Library (and the first one I wrote), is out on 7th May.


The Crash is out on 25th June. My second original novel for Solaris, it’s about a colony expedition that goes horribly wrong. Published this same month is The Best of Hammer and Bolter II, included therein is my story, “The Rite of Holos”, originally published in Hammer and Bolter 24, and a direct prequel to The Death of Integrity.


Skarsnik is out, my second BL book. This hits the shelves on 19th July.


My third novel for The Black Library/Games Workshop is released 3rd September. Space Marines galore, Genestealers, and a twist.


I’ll be at the Black Library Weekender II.

As I said yesterday, there’s a few more appearances I’ll be making for BL, but they’re yet to be finalised. Other than that, I better sort some more work out, or I’ll be on the street…

Hello. I’ve some good news – I managed to sell a short story to famed magazine Interzone. I think I first submitted a story to them back in 1993 or so, and have tried five or six times since, so this is a big deal for me. I’ve had a few shorts published before, by Hub Magazine, and in the Dark Spires anthology, and you know, seeing as I’ve got three books out and another four on the way, I think I can just about get away with calling myself a writer. But getting a short into Interzone means I’ll hold my head that little higher. Being published by them brings a kind of legitimacy to an author that’s hard to gain elsewhere. They carry stories by all manner of very talented writers after all, and have helped launch the careers of many big name authors. I feel like I have a foot in the door of the big boys’ club now.

The story, “iRobot”, will be out soon-ish – I’ll let you know when as soon as I know myself.

I’ve another short out sooner – “The Rite of Holos”, the first piece of Black Library work I’ve written to get published. Concerning Space Marines of the Blood Drinkers chapter, it’s a kind of sneaky prequel to something I can’t really talk about yet. You can read “The Rite of Holos” in September’s issue of Hammer and Bolter, which is on sale very soon.

If you fancy it, there’s some of my unpublished and previously published short stories available for free at the top of this page on the drop down menu under  “Fiction -> Short Stories”, and a couple of Richards & Klein shorts under “Fiction -> Richards & Klein”. More can be bought as ebooks (“ereads” maybe? They’re too short to be “ebooks”) at the Robot Trading Company for a modest sum.

To celebrate the acceptance of “iRobot”, here’s a piece I wrote for Death Ray‘s “Deep Thought” section way back in 2008 on short stories (I’ve actually being saving it for just such an eventuality as this). Originally published in DR 16, where we started publishing a short story every issue ourselves, in it I talk about short stories, why they’re important, and why they’re not as popular as they might be, plus there are comments from many writers/anthologists/short story publishers on the same topic. Some of it’s a little out of date, some details regarding publication etc have changed (I deleted a segment on Jim Baen’s Universe, as that closed in 2010, and Hub, as far as I can tell, hasn’t had a new issue since last year), but it’s mostly still relevant.

Incidentally, the short stories were quite popular in Death Ray, but the comment I most often heard was, “I don’t read them, but I’m glad that they’re there.” A telling attitude in light of the discussion below.

The long and the short of it

Short stories used to be the whole of the genre, but all that changed. Guy Haley wonders why big is so good in our current age…

We live in an era of bloated books. A non-fan that wanders into the SF section of a book shop could be forgiven for thinking that the genre is sold by the kilo. As brilliant as some of these tomes are, others exhibit the worst excesses of airport potboilers, their size a response to the demand for more words per currency unit.

But it was not always so. “Short stories in magazines used to be very nearly the whole of the SF genre,” says professional fan Dave Langford. “One important early critical book, James Blish’s The Issue At Hand, is mainly about shorts and novellas. Now there’s an odd market gap between ever-longer novels in the bookshops and ever-shorter flash fiction for dwindling attention spans on the web.”

Anthologies, too, used to be a mainstay of the book industry, but not any more. Why shorts do not to sell is puzzling. Fantastical writing has always been used by writers to present outlandish or controversial concepts, and the rabbit-punch delivery of shorts adds a wallop of extra power. Many writers excel at short fiction. Author and ex-New Worlds editor Michael Moorcock tells us: “It does seem to me that some writers, especially those exploring something other than character, do best in the form but write at novel length often because it’s harder to make a living from short fiction. I can think of a number of SF writers who did their most impressive work in short stories, including Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, J.G. Ballard and M. John Harrison.”

It’s not just SF. “Ghost stories are notoriously difficult to sustain over novel length. After a short  while the reader naturally thinks, ‘Hang on, we’ve had page after page of suspense, when are we gonna see this ghost/monster/alien then?’,” says author John Whitbourn. “And, once you’ve ‘seen’ it, how many more times can you bear seeing it before familiarity breeds contempt?”

Fantasy once thrived on shorts too; that genre’s name might conjure up the image of the 12-book cycle now, but think on Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. Where would Conan be without short stories?

Shorts allow writers to explore new ideas. They inspire other writers. Shorts are the sparks of the genre that set off big fires. A writer can make you think several times with a book of shorts, and some ideas simply don’t have enough juice in them for a novel. Can you imagine Ellison’s “I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream”, or Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” supporting 350 pages? Indeed, look at Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”, much undermined by its novel length incarnation. The short is the home of the clever concept, the killer twist.

Writing shorts is also vital to a writer’s development, their length instilling discipline. “Short stories are where many of us learned our basic skills: plot, character, a beginning and an end,” says Robin Hobb.

Michael Moorcock again: “I learned to write by doing 1,500 word shorts for the likes of Tarzan Adventures, then 3,000 worders for New Worlds, then 12,000 and 15,000 novellas for Science Fantasy and the like… My first published novel Stormbringer was put together in four, 15,000 word parts, which could not have been published in anything but a fantasy/SF magazine.”

Not for nothing does Peter Crowther, editor at PS publishing and Postscripts magazine, call short stories “the lifeblood of the fantastical genre.” He goes further. “I still hear from people who begin their writing career with a full-length book, which is like saying you’re going to learn to be a carpenter, but instead of kicking off with a wooden teapot-stand for your mum you build a 20-room, three-storey clapboard house with turrets and pillared front porches. Ridiculous!”

They make good TV and movies, says Hobb, and Whitbourn might have a point when he says, “Short stories are ideally fitted to our time-poor era. Yet paradoxically, the trend is to tendon-threatening 500+ page books.”

With all this going for them, what in the name of the Cthulhu happened? You can blame the war.

Short fiction once supported a burgeoning industry. In the 19th century, rising literacy fuelled the growth of Penny Dreadful crime magazines in the UK and Dime Novels in the US, which were mainly concerned with the still wild Wild West. These were supplanted by pulp magazines in the early 20th century. Pulps were mass entertainment, and they covered everything. Printed cheaply on low-grade “pulp” paper (hence the name), hundreds of titles came out every month – they were so plentiful, unsold stock was used as ballast in ships. But paper shortages in the ’40s forced many pulps to close, never to reopen, although a few hung on until the 1960s. The end of the war also saw fierce competition from TV, later gaming, then the ‘net. Ironically, the final decline of printed short stories coincides with the rise of “geek culture” brought about by electronic media.

Author Stephen Hunt, editor of, is not optimistic about the form’s future. “[Shorts] are about as relevant to the current state of SF as a flying tentacled robot abducting a screaming bikini model from a lawn party (ah, that was real cover art). Our kids are the future, and they’re more interested in Twittering and playing EverQuest than the next silly asses’ attempt to resurrect Amazing Stories – however much old gits like me would have it otherwise. They’ll always be the small press of course, but they’re the last thudding breaths of a triceratops choking on asteroid dust, and deep down we all know it.”

I don’t entirely agree with him, and contrary to what Whitbourn says, lack of time is likely to make people want bigger books, rather than shorter tales. In frantic lives, people like predictable escapism, a continuum of comfort. Series of novels give you cliffhangers, the possibility to find out what happens next; shorts don’t.

I suspect the majority of the reading public are unaware of the glories of the short. We’re herd-like creatures. People read chocking great paperbacks because it is what everyone else is doing. And people used to read short stories in pulp mags, to an extent, because that’s what everyone else used to do. We are far more ruled by custom than we think, and custom is only fashion with longevity.

Of course, custom is created by innumerable small choices, and a good part of the pulp mags’ demise, and thus the short form, can be planted at the feet of people who like to read short stories. It goes like this: In any one special interest group, there is a vocal minority. Over time, this elite sets what is “right” in the group, and this begins to restrict the subject’s appeal to the elite that defines it. If you have a declining market anyway, companies – and let us not forget, all these things are supposed to make money – tend to concentrate on this elite, as they appear to be a sure-fire revenue stream. This can be deadly as the elite naturally dwindles and is not easily replenished. It happened to comics in the early 1990s, although they recovered. It happened to roleplaying games in the late ’80s. I think it happened to short SF too. Modern SF shorts can be challenging, full of experimental imagery, weird cross-genre fusions and political point-making. The reasons for their lack of popularity are the same as why Eastenders has a bigger audience than one-off dramas screened on BBC3 and 4. Caught up by the artistic aspirations of the New Wave, the “SF elite”, I think, focused this corner of the genre on telling stories that attempted to be “significant”, so much so sometimes it feels as if adventure and entertainment have been left behind. SF has its snobs, as much as anything else. Much of what I read seems self-consciously worthy, or self-consciously weird to the point of pretension. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with this, and such a focus does produce great stories, but they do have limited appeal.

Anyway, that’s by the by. There are numerous other factors in play that mean pulp magazines are not part of our cultural outlook any more. But, and this is a big but, contrary to what some might say, short fiction is still being published, some writers still make money from it (though it is debatable if publishers do), and happily short fiction looks to be undergoing a digital renaissance. A handful of print mags still exist, but on the web podcasts, blogs, and ezines can be found that serve up a pleasing mix of story, albeit often in a wild, unimproved form. However, there are a number of professional e-publications – Jim Baen’s Universe and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show among them. Mass media might have fragmented popular culture by presenting so much choice, but there are still markets in some of those fragments, and the ultimate mass medium, the internet, allows short story writers to reach out to these markets.

“I think electronic publication is the future and the salvation of the short story,” writer and editor Mike Resnick says, “I can’t tell you which e-publications will live and which won’t, but I can tell you that some of the highest-paying short fiction markets today are all e-zines, and that as quickly as one folds you can look for three or four to take its place.”

The story of the short is a long one, and it isn’t over yet.

Good Places to Read Short Fiction

Regular sites, books and zines where the short lives on in carefully protected environments. Click on the headers for links.


The UK’s best known short story magazine, Interzone has been running for 26 years and has helped start the careers of many British SF writers. It is bi-monthly. TTA, Interzone’s publishers, also put out Black Static and Crimewave, horror and crime magazines respectively.

The Mammoth Book of…

Death Ray worships at the short-story altar of Constable & Robinson publishing, who publish several massive tomes of SF, horror and fantasy every year. Editor Gardner Dozois does a particularly fine job of scouring the world for good tales in one of the SF variant. Each has 30 of the best stories in its particular genre, more or less, and is a bargain at £9.99.

Asimov’s Science Fiction

One of a number of fiction magazines that used celebrity names as a marketing hook, Asimov’s has been running since 1977 and is one of the most well-respected SF magazines in the world. This US mag is currently published by Dell magazines. Asimov’s publishes 10 issues a year.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact

The longest running SF magazine in the world, the US Analog began life as a pulp way back in 1930 under the name Astounding Stories. It flourished under the editorship of John W. Campbell, who discovered many important writers and moulded many more. It is he who is credited with making pulp SF think about the actual future, how its science might work, rather than simply using it as a backdrop for adventure tales. Several name changes on, Analog, which carries articles on popular science too, continues to flourish. It is now also owned by Dell publishing.

Escape Pod

The best SF short story podcast on the web, Escape Pod presents mostly pre-published stories by well-known authors. It has two sister sites, Pseudopod and Pod Castle that deal with horror and fantasy. All three podcasts are weekly and free, though a discretionary donation is politely requested. Escape Pod includes wide-ranging discursive introductions, and even the occasional piece of SF themed music.


Free UK-based e-zine that publishes reviews and one short story every week, delivered to your inbox in a handy PDF. Hub showcases work from new writers. Like Escape Pod, Hub asks for donations.

Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Established by the writer of Ender’s Game, this e-zine features a new story set in the Ender universe each issue. It comes out roughly quarterly.

This feature, written for SFX 213, is a primer for Black Library’s best-selling Horus Heresy series, and includes some nice quotes from two of its authors, Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill.

Heretical Texts

Intricately detailed universes are not the sole province of lone authors. They can also come from games.

After 30 years in business, Games Workshop’s toy soldiers are now a part of many people’s childhood; the motifs of its Warhammer 40,000 (or “40K”) have imprinted themselves upon the public conscience, not least in the shape of those multi-coloured guardians of humanity, the Space Marines.

The worlds of GW began as disparate scraps, concepts dreamt up or borrowed in isolation to provide backstory to a model or rule. But by the cumulative efforts of many creative minds over many years, these elements have grown together into something vibrant. Publisher The Black Library was set up to explore these rich worlds in novel form, it was only a matter of time before they turned their attention to the Horus Heresy, one of 40K’s most important events.

“The weight of responsibility is huge,” says Dan Abnett, one of the series authors. “This is the mythology of the 40K Universe (although Horus Heresy is set 10,000 years earlier, so we refer to it as ‘30K’). It’s been mentioned in background text for more than two decades, sometimes in quite contradictory ways. We’ve got to make sense of the facts and weave a story that doesn’t disappoint anyone. The rules are very different to mainstream 40K novels, there’s a lot more to invent, and the scale is bigger: these are galaxy-changing events, not ‘just’ big space wars. Plus, it’s a team effort. Authors, who are solitary beasts by nature, have to work with other authors. It’s great fun, but you have to leave your ego at the door and come to the table in collaboration mode.”

With several of the books entering The New York Times bestseller list, the series’ appeal has reached far beyond the gaming fraternity. Author Graham McNeill maintains this is an SF epic the equal of anything. “The Heresy novels are exciting, chock full of interesting characters, high stakes and a plot that offers as many inventive twists and turns as any other series out there. In fact, when you think you know it back to front, that’s when you’re more likely to get surprised.”

Senior range editor Nick Kyme sums it up. “The worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have a certain rigour and identity that our fans clearly love. In worlds that are so utterly bleak, the heroes shine that much more brightly, their deeds are more heroic, the conflicts greater and tragedies more cutting. There’s depth to them, a gravitas brought about by a weight of imagination and creativity over thirty years. The Horus Heresy is the seminal event that sets up what comes after it in the Warhammer 40,000 ‘now’. That has resonance.”

In fact, it’s all that and more. It’s nigh on impossible to get across the complexity of a universe like Warhammer 40,000 here. It truly is one of the richest collaborative worlds out there – Star Trek and Star Wars are frankly simplistic in comparison. And the Horus Heresy is its greatest story.

“Imagine a science fiction Paradise Lost,” says Abnett. “It’s a HUGE scale, epic story of the fight to control a massive empire. It’s set in a gothic universe that’s brilliantly realised. And despite the fact that there’s a large amount of thunking action going on, it’s pretty clever stuff with great characters and ideas. You don’t have to be a fan or player of Warhammer 40,000 to get into it.”

Future Imperfect

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

In the 41st Millennium mankind stands upon the brink of utter destruction.

In these dying days, the human Imperium is beset by aliens, but the greatest threat is that of Chaos. A second universe of energy exists alongside our own. Travel and communication through this “warp” allows interstellar civilisation, but it is not empty. The warp’s energy is moulded by the emotions of sentient beings, aggregating into four powerful consciousnesses – the Chaos Gods.

The Imperium’s Emperor is a psyker of godlike power, but he is near death, his shattered body trapped in stasis for 10,000 years. His multitudinous servants try to interpret his will as best they can, but without his direct guidance, mankind is doomed.

It was not always so. The Emperor once walked among men. In the 31st Millennium, a time when the wonders of the Dark Age of technology were millennia past, and humanity was deep in an age of barbarism, the Emperor revealed himself. From where he came, no one knows, although some say he was an ancient immortal and had been manipulating history for long ages. The Emperor resolved to save mankind, creating twenty superhuman sons from his own genetic material to aid him.

As these “Primarchs” grew, the powers of Chaos stole them away, scattering them across the galaxy. Thinking his sons lost, the Emperor proceeded with his plans. From the genetic templates of the Primarchs, he made legions of super soldiers, the Space Marines. With these he conquered Earth, and headed into the heavens on his Great Crusade.

As his armies advanced, The Emperor rediscovered the Primarchs one after another, and appointed them leaders of the legions. Returning to Earth, the Emperor left his most favoured son Horus to lead the reconquest of the galaxy.

Terrified of the Emperor, the Chaos gods set a conspiracy underway to seduce Horus. The Primarchs had not been untouched by Chaos during their childhood transit through the warp, and under Horus’ influence half of them renounced their oaths, turned on their brothers, and plunged the galaxy into civil war.

The Horus Heresy had begun.

Forbidden Knowledge

The novels of the Horus Heresy

Horus Rising (2006, Dan Abnett)

The seeds of heresy are sown

Horus is appointed “Warmaster”, and leads the Emperor’s armies to victory.

False Gods (2006, Graham McNeill)

The heresy takes root

Horus is wounded by a Chaos-tainted weapon. His fate is sealed.

Galaxy in Flames (2006, Ben Counter)

The heresy revealed

Horus, corrupted, becomes brutal, destroying the planet of Istvaan IV with virus bombs. The Luna Wolves, World Eaters and the Death Guard legions turn traitor, but loyalists within their ranks stage a desperate fight back.

Flight of the Eisenstein (2007, James Swallow)

The heresy unfolds

Captain Garro of the Death Guard witnesses Horus’ betrayal and flees in the frigate Eisenstein to warn the Emperor.

Fulgrim (2007, Graham McNeill)

Visions of treachery

Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor’s Children is perverted by Chaos. The book is also the first to detail the dropsite massacres of Istvaan V, a pivotal event in Warhammer 40,000 history.

Descent of Angels (2007, Michael Scanlon)

Loyalty and honour

The early life of the Primarch Lion El’Jonson is revealed as a future schism in his legion, the Dark Angels, is hinted at.

Legion (2008, Dan Abnett)

Secrets and lies

The twin Primarchs of the Alpha Legion, Alpharius-Omegon, join the Warmaster but their motivations are perhaps not what they seem.

Battle for the Abyss (2008, Ben Counter)

My brother, my enemy

The loyal Ultramarines attempt to stop the Word Bearers assaulting their homeworld of Ultramar.

Mechanicum (2008, Graham McNeill)

War comes to Mars

Horus tries to subvert the Techpriests of Mars to his cause.

Tales of Heresy (2009, edited by Lindsey Priestley and Nick Kyme)

A collection of short stories providing background to the Horus Heresy, the Great Crusade and The Imperium.

Fallen Angels (2009, Mike Lee)

Deceit and betrayal

As Lion El’Jonson tries to prevent Horus seizing control of an important world, the Dark Angels’ homeworld of Caliban is riven with strife.

A Thousand Sons  (2010, Graham McNeill)

All is dust…

Magnus, cyclopean Primarch of the Thousand Sons, has a thirst for arcane knowledge. Despite being forbidden him, Magnus uses magic to warn the Emperor of Horus’ perfidy, but only succeeds in enraging him…

Nemesis (2010, James Swallow)

War within the shadows

Treason in high places is revealed as super-assassins clash.

The First Heretic (2010, Aaron Dembski-Bowden)

Fall to Chaos

Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers, turns to Chaos when the Emperor rebukes him for worshipping him as a god.

Prospero Burns (2011, Dan Abnett)

The wolves unleashed

Much is revealed of how the Chaos plot came to be, leading up to and covering the destruction of the Thousand Sons’ homeworld by the Space Wolves legion.

Age of Darkness (2011, edited by Christian Done)

Short stories covering the seven years between the Istvaan V massacre and the campaign to seize Terra.