Tuesday, 21 December 2010

An impromptu chat with Aaron Dembski Bowden and a Q&A with Chris Wraight

So as you can see if you look a little further down the page I was deeply disappointed with Prospero Burns. One poster on B&C shared a lot of my thoughts such as a major lack of Wolfage and so it was being discussed. Aaron Dembski Bowden was kind enough to share his thoughts on my observations.

His main observation on the book was this

I mean, for a lot of people, the Space Wolves needed a book like Prospero Burns. It gives the Legion credence. It makes them look, well, a bit more grown up. They needed something that wasn't about a Wolf Lord teenager and his ale-drinking Viking buddies who like the ladies and sure do love a good wild boar feast. I respect that people will have different opinions, but comparing the language quality and storytelling of Prospero Burns and the old Space Wolf novels actually sort of alarms me. Give 100 sci-fi fans a copy of both Prospero Burns and, say, Ragnar's Claw or Space Wolf, and I suspect you'll find a significant percentage consider PB as an excellent novel, and the old Ragnar stuff to be a little, uh... well... simple, perhaps, and almost definitely targeted at a younger age bracket. That's not to say that one is right and one is wrong, but they were written with different audiences in mind, when the publisher itself was in a very different situation.

And its certainly a valid one, The Horus Heresy is a New York Times topping series selling over a million copies. The Black Library has moved on from a time when it was written specifically to entertain gamers however his comment still doesn't absolve of what I think the real problem is with this book, the pace.
As time goes on and more people finish the book I have realised that if you liked Legion you will love this book. If like me Legion was only remembered for the revelations and the spoilers rather than the plot line then you probably won't enjoy Prospero Burns.

I was also lucky enough for Aaron to answer another question I had asked along with Chris Wraight author of the up and coming Space Marines Battles book Battle of the Fang.

As regular readers of the blog know I am an avid Science Fiction reader and author that 40k books and the books of David Webber (if you haven't read it read Mutineers Moon best Sci Fi book ever IMHO) there is a massive collection of Star Wars EU books.

I knew from reading interviews with some of the Star Wars authors that there are times when specific things have to happen and they have no say on it. I am sure I read that when it came time to kill off Anakin Solo in the Vong war that the author vehemently argued against it but was still ordered to by the publishing company and I have always assumed that Black Library were the same. At the beginning of the book they lay down a plot and key things that have to happen so my question was thus 'There is a slight spoiler to First Heretic in here'

Q - I've always wanted to know with all Black Library authors how much the stories main details are already decide? Because there is no way that an author can just include such a massive spoiler such as The Ultramarines absorbing the missing legions without Black Library's say so.

A- ADB - Practically no details are already decided, unless it's a famous battle, or something. (In regards to the First Heretic revelation) Well, you probably shouldn't believe that, dude. The characters in the novels are just making guesses, or hinting at an unknowable truth. It's possibly true, sure, but as it stands right now, GW won't reveal the truth about those Legions; all hints in the Horus Heresy series are just possibilities. Black Library never tell us to do anything. That's not really how they work. They check facts, and where the Horus Heresy is concerned, we have regular (long) meetings to discuss the series with Games Workshop's Head of Intellectual Property.

A - CW Hi Simo. Not much to add to ADB's post further up, really. As he says, there's a lot of freedom there. BotF had a couple of restrictions which gave me a few headaches, mostly involving numbers and timing (like the siege lasting 40 days, etc.), but in terms of characters and the unfolding of the action, we get a fairly free hand.

The complete interview can be found here

I certainly didn't expect authors to have that sort of free reign which can certainly be construed as a double edged sword. Yes they have the freedom to tell the story as they wish but they also have the freedom to balls up significant events the biggest one in my mind is Nikea. It seems to me that we have gone from a ban on Sorcery to a ban on Psykers. How is the Imperium of Man surviving without Psykers and when did the decision get revoked? Hopefully questions that will be answered later.

In all I would like to thank these two authors for addressing these points and I look forward to seeing the next Night Haunters book from Aaron and Battle of the Fang from Chris.


  1. Nice work Mick. This gives a great insight into the workings at the Black Library.

    As an aside, as much as I enjoy BL books from a fluff point of view I feel they never really live up to the greats of sci-fi writing such as Vonnegut, Dick and Wells. They paint the Horus Heresy as a father against son Greek tragedy but it's all a little bit two dimensional (and I speak as someone who has enjoyed the HH series)

  2. I think what they're saying is that conjecture between characters in the HH novels shouldn't be regarded as canon.

    If the narrator states that Nikea was a ban on sorcerers then fine, we have a problem Houston. But if a character says it then it is coloured by their POV and is only their opinion.

    It's not a big jump for someone upset by the ban on sorcery to describe it vehemently as practically being a ban on being a psyker. Especially when you consider how many psykers are mentioned elsewhere in the book...

    Thanks for sharing these comments by the way. Interesting to hear that ADB thinks the books are more grown up than the Space Wolf novels for instance. That wasn't my experience of First Heretic. That book was aimed at teenagers for sure.

  3. One of my favourite aspects of the series is the idea of the unreliable narrator. What probably was a ban on scorcary is seen by the1K Sons as a ban on all psykers.

    Would it be wrong of me to say that The First Heretic is probably my favourite so far? Ah well, I guess I'm still a teenager at heart.

  4. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed The First Heretic. Argel Tal's story is a good one, although I kept thinking of him as Large Late or Large and Tall.

    When I say teenager I am referring to the vocabulary, structure and the thinly developed characters and plots. I still don't think we've reached the point when the HH series is great SciFi in its own right.

    It still relies on the popularity of the universe a little too much.

    But, in many ways, this is beside the point. It's all we've got and it's certainly not bad.

  5. I should have read your comment first ClawsandFists. This is bang on. The now ret-conned Space Marine. That was both a good warhammer novel and excellent SciFi. We need more of that please.


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