Zing! New post!
Apologies that today's Zing! is a little late, but I've been busy, and travelling, so forgive me for missing a blog-week (which is like a dog year). I went to Baltimore, like you do, to attend Games Day, and a jolly good event it was too: endless signings, a very convivial seminar run by me, Mike Lee and Vince Rospond, and an interview on Warhammer 40K Radio ("Goin' awl the way back! Hit after hit!").
Baltimore was, as ever, very lovely and sunny, and I can particularly recommend their aquarium and their Barnes and Noble. I stayed at Fells Point, the Georgetown-esque, old part of the city, which is extravagantly picturesque, and capable of delivering the finest crab cakes known to human beings. I stayed at the 'Admiral Fell Inn'. That's a joke all by itself.
I feel a large number of thanks are required at this point: to Jervis and the Games Workshop crew from Nottingham for being cheerful companions in the limbo that is Heathrow; to Vince and his family (hello all!) for running the show and being wonderful company during the entire trip; to Mike Lee, my partner in crime on Darkblade and a seriously fine novelist, for being great company both at the stand and at the bar, even though I may have made him cry like a pretty little girl; to the queues of people, who make the job worthwhile; to Venus, my taxi driver, for getting so hopelessly lost on the way to Glen Burnie; to customs official Jessica Jester for stamping my passport and having the best name of the trip; to Bert Smith of GW USA for duty above and beyond the call, chauffeuring me around and surviving nearly three hours of heavy traffic on the way back to Baltimore (as we were following the traffic, generally lost, through Anacostia, Bert remarked, "So how did you get Dan Abnett shot?" "Well, it's a funny story..."). Thanks Bert, I really owe you, and I appreciate you taking the time. The biggest thanks of all have to go to Jeff Barlow, an officer of the close protection service of the Pentagon Police. He was the reason I had Bert drive me out of Baltimore and down the 495. Jeff is a fan of my work, and e-mailed me when he heard that I was going to be in Maryland for Games Day. As a member of the Pentagon Police (the Pentagon is like the Vatican, it is sovereign soil and requires its own dedicated police force. The FBI aren't allowed in, so the Pentagon Police force has to run the place in terms of security and also those annoying little matters like prostitution, drug-trafficking and murder. With a population in excess of 30,000 the Pentagon is a small city, complete with its own shops and restaurants), Jeff wondered if I'd like a tour.
I considered his offer for about... ooh... a micro-second, and said, 'yes'. Jeff, an ex-paratrooper and marine, six foot four in his cop-style uniform, packing a Glock and a night-stick, met me and Bert in one of the gigantic parking lots and gave us a fascinating three hour tour of the building. If I was to recount all the cool stuff and stories that Jeff told me, this blog would run and run, and you wouldn't believe half of it. To sum up, we had a great time. I got to visit Ground Zero Cafe, stand in the doorway of the Secretary of Defence's office, behold the entrance to the National Military Command Centre (Jeff told me that even if I had both keys, the cipher key, and the correct palm and retina print, I still wouldn't be allowed inside because I'm not an American citizen. He said that, at the end of the hallway, there were a couple of guys sitting behind a desk, and if a visitor hadn't identified himself by the time he reached the desk, they had two buttons to push. One was the alarm, and he wasn't allowed to tell me what the other one did). Soberingly, I got to stand at the exact point where the airliner hit on 9/11. Jeff explained that, for a number of reasons, it could have been so much worse, more awful than any of us can imagine.
He told us lots of cool stories, some of which, I'm sure, will blend into Gaunt in the next few years. The one I'll share with you (I have a sneaking suspicion that in other stories he told us rather more than he should have done... how many floors below ground does the Pentagon have?) is the story of the special purple drinking fountain. When the Pentagon was built in 1942, it was equipped with several hundred drinking fountains, all of them of the classic, 1940s ceramic style. They were all blue. Except, that is, for the one in the Air Force Command Centre. This particular drinking fountain was purple. No one knows why... a bad batch? a mis-order? someone's idea of a joke? The truth will never be known, but the point is that it began to acquire a certain mythical status. The preeminent Air Force officers of the day swore by the purple drinking fountain, and claimed it had almost mystical properties. After a while, all the branches of the armed forces trekked through the labyrinths of the Pentagon to drink at the fountain. It was like a holy grail. When the Air Force area was refurbished some time ago, they couldn't bring themselves to rip out the purple fountain. It now resides in a glass display case at the entrance to the Air Force area, a testament to the interface between military logic and personal superstition.
Oh, and official tour guides in the Pentagon walk backwards without looking where they're going. I've no idea how they do this. Training, I suppose. I saw several of them at work and marvelled at their skills. I also enjoyed it every time Jeff opened a door, stood back, and said, "Excuse me, General," to someone walking past.
Now that's how you spend a Friday in anyone's money. Jeff, thank you, and please send your address to me soon so I can mail you a bunch of stuff.
Since we're on a 'thank you' riff, I'd like to say thank you to Geoff Johns for the various lovely remarks he made on internet sites about me and Andy. I'd also like to thank Chris Roberson, author of "The Dragon's Nine Sons", which I feel should be on everybody's reading shelf. Not only has Chris said the most vindicating things about my work on the Games Workshop franchise, he also took the time to praise "Guardians of the Galaxy", the Marvel title that Andy and I are writing. I would urge you to track down and read his blog.
And now, the Q and A:
Al - Titanicus is a Sabbat Worlds story set at the same time as the Ghost books.
Blue Raven - The next cycle of Ghosts books will be entitled, "The Victory". Make of that what you will. Titanicus is a stand alone, unless people like it so much that they demand a sequel (see Double Eagle).
Bert - "Thorn Wishes Talon" will be available in the forthcoming Ravenor omnibus.
OK, let's be clear about this. The top ten films of all time are as follows:
1) Singing in the Rain
3) Some Like it Hot
4) This is Spinal Tap
5) A Matter of Life and Death
6) The Empire Strikes Back
7) A Canterbury Tale
8) One Million Years BC
9) Ferris Bueller's Day Off
10) The Magnificent Seven
This list is definitive. It absolutely is. There is no way on Earth that any of these films can be wrested from the pantheon of the top ten films. Or is there? I invite comment... but ONLY from people who have actually watched all of these films (twice). If you haven't, shut the f**k up.
Matthew Churchill - Chaos never sleeps. It really doesn't, but, sometimes, it naps.
PS And if anyone's really interested, I'll use my next blog to defend and critique my ten choices. But, you know I'm right.