Monday, January 24, 2011

In the post bag

Please keep going with the fascinating and often surprising casting suggestions. I just wanted to pop in for a moment and share some correspondence wherein people bring up various interesting points.

First of all, this, which came directly to the site here:

"So after a semester's when-I-could-snatch-the-time grinding through
the Ravenor omnibus, I've finally plowed through the thing. Love it,
course. That's pry a given. Do people bother emailing you to tell you
you suck? But--and forgive me if you hear this one on a weekly basis,
cause I wouldn't be surprised--I was one hundred percent firework
display birthday breakfast in bed gratified at the couple of nods to
non-straight behaviour in the books. I think it amounted to a grand total of two
or three casual mentions across all three novels, depending on how you
interpret some of Thonius' comments, but it's hard to express how much
even that affected me. It takes an awful lot of balls to mention
anything remotely non-straight in the, uh, slightly Asperger's context
of mass market science fiction, specially when it's t'do with male
characters, and even the simple head-nod of having Kys ask if a mark
is hetero and the mention of a pair of young men on a roof together in
Basteen was deeply meaningful for me.

"Warhammer's hardly tryina be gender lit, of course, and I'm real glad
that's the case. It's probably for the best that sex and sexuality are
mostly absent from its storytelling. But it does ache a little
sometimes, being even a sidelines participant in a great creative work
like 40K and feeling unacknowledged to the point of deliberate
alienation. In a conceit that already feels at times laughably
over-the-top and unconcerned with anything remotely relevant to real
human experience, it can be a vague but real detractor from suspension
of disbelief and love of franchise. But even pawing oilily through
Eisenhorn back in high school, I felt like it was the wild variety and
complexity of the Abnettverse that really glowed in a sea of samey
space marines. Without Eisenhorn and Ravenor, 40K would probably
always have stayed an indifferent fantasy universe lurking in the back
of my head. "That one where they made up that cool word for psychics
and wire dead godmen to chairs," probably. It's the reality you've
managed to instill in the components of the setting, the sense of
place and purpose and individuality in the face of the teeming
faceless billions and the ONLY WAR, that have drawn me in and kept me
there. I'm not concerned with complex ideas, social messages,
progress, all that dead air. I just love the knowledge that an author
and a publisher were brave enough to say, "Yeah. This is a world we're
crafting here. And you and yours, well, you're part of it, too."

"So yeah. I felt like some kind of an acknowledgment was in order, on
the slim chance nobody'd ever said it before. Thanks, Mista D. If a
vote's ever called, I'll be sure to put you down as one of the good
guys. "

Over at this link, you can find a review of Prospero Burns that touches on something I take quite a lot of time pondering. When you're working up and developing a strand of 40K culture - such as the pseudo "Viking" lives of the Fenrisians - is there a danger that in making it sound convincing to English-speaking readers (by the use of researched Scandanavian and Icelandic words), you end up with something corny and far too on the nose for readers from those parts of the world? This is a positive and encouraging view of such efforts.

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who came out to see me at GW Lakeside and GW Bluewater this weekend, and direct you to this opportunity to win a signed copy of Prospero Burns.


GDMNW said...

I think your postie is considerably more creative than mine!

I feel a fair amount of resonance with the point about complexity. I was worried about Prospero Burns. I'd heard that the Space Wolves were barely mentioned and that there was a serious dearth of action and KSons smashing.

What garbage! The book rocks. It's moody militaristic and complex compared to the usual 40k fare.

Your apparent aversion to the usual frag'em-bolter'em-charge'em-stab'em recipe that seems to plague Space Marines is appreciated.

What you did with the dreadnoughts. Lovely.

Fanny said...

Thanks again for linking to us. =) I completely understand that it's not always easy to incorporate words from a foreign language, but I think you managed just fine. However I couldn't stop wondering how much thought there was behind the choice of names/words, if there were hidden meanings to find... :P By the way, if you're ever doubting your choice of Scandinavian words/names and want to have a second opinion from a native, feel free to send me a message. (I'm always brutally honest!)

Dukeleto said...

what a great email.
The differing sexuality of characters in the Inquisition books is just one of the many ways they are rounded out, so much more completely than 40K characters usually are.
I have a friend who IS Karl Thonius, btw, the funny thing is, I'd read the books before I met him, and he immediately reminded me of someone, didn't realise who until I re-read the trilogy. The other funny thing, is that as time goes by, he seems to be MORE like Thonius! I can only hope (spoiler alert) that he doesn't end up suffering from demonic possession!

Big said...

Duke- Matty Churchill is Karl Thonius .
My understanding of it is Vlka is a mix of folk and Wolf in the northen and eastern languages of europe ie Volk meaning folk Vlk meaning Wolf or some such so Vlka Fenryka means Wolves of Fenris or Folk of Fenris. this is of the top of my head i have not researched this because i am ignorant and i beleive everyone in the world should speak

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dan! You always do a wonderful job, but i really missed the Ghosts - some words about them? Maybe some snippets?

sredni vashtar said...

People email me to tell me I suck all the time. Most of them call themselves "clients." The freaks.

But yeah, certainly one of the things that puts Dan's work above, ah, shall we say others in comparable genre, is the way his human characters and settings are, in fact, human. They suspend disbelief in a way so much sf (sadly) doesn't by virtue of that "simple" difference.

(And it ain't simple to do--the very fact that they seem, to a reader, like minor details in a work that's "about" action and awesome shooty-death-kill &c. proves my point. They're not, but you don't notice them because they're actually underpinning everything else).

D.T. said...

I completely agree with the review of "Prospero...". I'm a fan of the sagas and epics myself, so I was really astounished at how you managed to re-capture their spirit. Kennings, circular composition, all the subtle references... It was simply amazing. You, sir, are a master skjald.

Boom said...

Just finished Prospero Burns. Great read! It was especially wonderful for me since this time last year I was just starting a semester abroad in Stockholm. So much Swedish/Scandinavian is dripping out of that book. Really does the culture from which the Aett is drawn from credit. Great Job once again Dan!

Ravenkeeper said...

well you've hinted at same sex relations in some of your other books too.
that lady inquisitor in Gaunts Ghost that implies that Gaunt might have Milo around for more personal reasons, but don't seem quit put off about the possibility.
There's also been nods towards same sex couple in Sandy Mitchells Commisar Cain books.

So it's not THAT unheard of in WH40K litterature.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the nuanced view of human relations in Dan's books is definately a selling point for me too.

I have been on 40k forums where certain individuals have reacted with almost apocalyptic fury at any suggestion that there are, for example any gay people in the entire 40k galaxy or that there are any black space marines. (They're OK with the Salamanders because they're not "really black" apparently.)

I find this kind of nonsense pretty distasteful, and Dan's sympathetic and subtle characterisation, where it involves topics like homosexuality is a nice contrast to such a one dimensional view of the Imperium. The Imperium's not exactly a nice place, but I suspect they have bigger things to worry about...


sredni vashtar said...

Anonymous: haha, seriously? Where are these forums full of 40K-obsessed racist homophobes, I want to play with their brains

Dukeleto said...

Sredni you read my mind :-D

to be fair tho, the Imperium is an incredibly savage and intolerant place, generally. While there are very civilised and enlightened places like Gudrun, etc. the average Imperial civilisation is likely to be ALMOST as ignorant, racist and xenophobic as the American heartland :-p

Fanny said...

Dukeleto, you are probably right. But by then perhaps the ignorant target other qualities than gender, sexual preferences and skin color. How do you feel about discrimination against those of small stature? Or those that have crooked teeth?:P

No seriously, my view is that in the grim future mankind is probably too busy trying to exterminate all those of different faith (or has non human dna!) to care about old fashioned racism and homophobia...

Dukeleto said...

Fanny, you mean like Squats?? It's official GW policy to discriminate against them ;-)

What targets the ignorant choose for their discrimination probably depends on the relative security of the world they live on. Most humans, even in a war-torn galaxy, live their entire lives without seeing an Ork, let alone any serious manifestations of Chaos. They will probably be content to identify and fear more prosaic everyday "deviants"

I'm reminded of one of the later Nemesis the Warlock stories, the Empire of Termite, under new leadership, decides that an unceasing (and unsuccessful) war of extermination against ALL extra-terrestrials is wasteful and prohibitively expensive, but as their entire culture is based on xenophobia, they need a new target for state-sanctioned loathing and persecution. The ministers discuss lefties and gingers, but decide there are to many of these, and so eventually settle on "frecks" (freckled people)


Anonymous said...

Great email posted up there; very eloquent. To me, the Ravenor team don't behave like souless thugs, pious cut-outs or dull cannon fodder but believable people, that can attract the reader (Kys in my case) and demonstrate imagination and feelings that one can relate to. Eg. the planet metaphor game that Nayl, Kara & Zael play or the comic situation in Harlon's cabin when Zael asks about the pics over Harlon's bunk.

Quiet moments that convey vulnerability seem rare in 40k literature. Slower scenes usually appear as slabby paragraphs of debate and strategic meetings, emphasising the militaristic tone. But when such a conceptually rich universe is coupled with decent character depth, humour and flaws, we get classics such as Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Titanicus, Gaunts Ghosts and Double Eagle.

Dan is, as far as I have read the 40k franchise, the don.


Flekkzo said...

Hearing that the Nordic connections on the Dan Abnett Space Wolves books are done well just makes me more certain that I am going to read them in the future. My only general advice is to use older names/words that sound more old west or east gothic than anything modern (sans Icelandic) and go for older spellings. Like Warg instead of Varg (wolf) or maybe even go for Ulv.

I am at least planning on naming all my drop pods names like that :)

Fanny said...

though ulv is the older word for wolf, varg (or rather vargr) isn't actually too bad either. While ulv was the true name of the wolf the word 'vargr', meaning 'evildoer', 'killer' was often used instead of 'ulv' since by calling out the true name one might provoke the wolf to actually appear!

Fanny said...

And oh, Dukeleto! Never meeting any real aliens or witches usually don't keep people from fearing them... :P Of course there would probably be other, 'regular' types of discrimination as well, I still think it wouldn't be on such a large scale that for example there wouldn't be any black space marines, or queer imperial guards, etc etc. On a smaller scale yes, larger scale I'd say no...

Dukeleto said...

Fanny - if by the larger scale, you mean as a matter of Imperial policy, I'd say you're right, altho the Initial definition of a planetary population as human or NOT is probably rather erratic and arbitrary. See the status of the various abhuman races across the various 40K editions!

Another point to consider is the racial and cultural uniformity of many populations, like the Jantine, Vitrians, Volpone, etc. There must be some kind of enforced immigration control on these worlds, or after 38,000 years everyone would look Brazilian.

Dukeleto said...

Oh, and also, the Olamic Quitude - human, or not?

Fanny said...

Of course! However, there are at least 15000 points of differential that clearly show that the Imperials are just non-human imposters, right? :P

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read a 40k book that spins the Imperium on its head and tells the story of freedom fighters, good folk fighting the good fight for independence, not the usual bunch of Chaos mongrels

The 40k universe is slanted in a very facist way

I can hear cries of 'Heresy' already


CHris K

Derina said...

Sorry, but I just could not get my head around Prospero Burns.

Ravenkeeper said...

Just a quick heads up to Fanny and flekkzo.
while old, Ulv is still very much in use as it's the danish word for wolf. think it's also used norway and sweden, but I can't be sure.

Fanny said...

In Norway it's still called 'ulv', yeah. In Sweden it's highly old fashioned and is only used in certain dialects, 'varg' is the "correct" term (though everyone understands 'ulv' as well!). =)

sredni vashtar said...

Anonymous: that scenario occasionally crops up as a subplot in BL fiction, but in the end it's not what 40k is "about" on a mass-market scale.

CanolliCrusader said...

Hey Dan, finished Prospero Burns, LOVED IT! Quick the wolves still have a part to play in the Horus Heresy??? Or are they essentially to far from terra/out of commission for now?

Andrew Nelson said...

Dan, getting back to your call for casting ideas. It's all very well coming up with a list of favourite actors for First and Only, but we should remember that they have to be convincing dramatic actors who SOUND RIGHT. For example, putting a comedic actor in a serious role (e.g. Hugh Laurie as Gaunt) isn't going to be believable and the movie would never get made - or at best there wouldn't be a sequel. Likewise, casting Billy Connolly as Corbec wouldn't work because of the physicality of the role. To that end, the Tanith would probably have to not only sound like Scots (or possibly also parochial English because of the limited number of well known Scottish actors), but also would have to be young enough to be cast in several films. The Verghastites should also sound similar amongst themselves. The thick, almost gutteral accent could be Eastern European, which would make it easier to cast a wide variety of well known and popular actors from the USA, UK and Europe to play the roles. Again, if the films ever got far enough, the Belladon could sound like Americans.

That said, I looked through the suggestions and liked quite a few of them. Some of my picks are:

Gaunt: Paul Bettany or Daniel Craig. Both have the physicality and acting skills for the authoritarian role.

Rawne: James Purfoy. He can play a real vicious character as a counterpoint to Gaunt.

Feygor: Sean Pertwee. A mischevious streak would be essential here.

Caffran: Karl Urban, although possibly too tall. He might also be a good Raglon.

Meryn: Rufus Sewell. Another guy who's good at playing malicious/devious types.

Mkoll: I like the suggestion of Viggo Mortenson. Mkoll is the quiet, brooding type who could almost kill you by looking at you.

Mkvenner: Luke Goss. This is a VERY physical role, and you can't teach an amateur to be that good a fighter, whilst Goss has already proved he can do it.

Beltayn: Ewan MacGregor. He doesn't seem to age very much, and quite a good complement to Gaunt, part cheeky, part serious. Alternatively he could play Varl or Domor with similar attributes.

Larkin: Danny Webb. He played a suitably unhinged character in Alien 3, and is actually about the right age.

Milo: Don't laugh until you consider this choice. Milo has to be young, but not too young that he won't grow up in subsequent movies. Daniel Radcliffe may fit the bill. He has also proved his dramatic acting chops in the First World War film about the son of Rudyard Kipling and on stage.

Gutes: Brendan Gleeson is a possibility. Older, and able to play the damaged type. Actually not sure if Gutes is in First and Only, but it is an idea for later.

Colonel Flense: Needs to be the archetype upper class English evil bastard. Jeremy Northam is a possibility.

Jeremy Irons came to mind as General Dravere, or even Uncle Dercius for similar reasons as above.

Commissar General Oktar: Needs to be older and distinguished for one movie, so you could take your pick. My personal choice would be Sean Connery, but that's just an idea.

Agent Fereyd: He can be a non-brit, because of his unknown origin, so virtually anyone who can act convincingly as a slightly obsessive type. I was thinking maybe Russell Crowe.

There are so many others that I haven't included, because I thought about them too late (e.g. Dougray Scott,Kevin McKidd), or maybe they fit characters later (e.g. Matthew Macfadyen/Joseph Fiennes as Ban Daur).

I'll keep thinking about it.

Andrew Nelson said...

Another thought for the casting...

Colm Corbec: Liam Neeson. He's the right age range, right build, appropriate accent (if in doubt see Rob Roy), has the right screen presence and also is able to keep up with the physical requirements. Corbec himself has trouble keeping up towards the end.


timkenyon said...


I think the Wolves still have some stories before the Siege of Terra. There is the legend that became 'The Lion and the Wolf' which would indicate that the Wolves and the Dark Angels still have some miles in them yet.

Andrew Nelson said...

I can't believe I didn't think of this one earlier...
Varl: Gerard Butler. He's Scottish, has the right physique, is in the right age range. Importantly he can believably play the rough joker type well (e.g. Rocknrolla). I reckon he'd be quite convincing.

Fanny said...

I agree, Gerard Butler would be a good choice! :D

Nips13 said...

I`ve been contemplating reading Eisenhorn again for ages esecially after reading the superb Prospero Burns.
Loved the Bear/Dred bit by the way.

Reading this has made me seriously want to start at the beginning of Gaunt again.Been a while so cant quite picture all of the first ghosts but i`ll stick a few down here,maybe add later once i get reading again.

Always liked the Scottish idea to go with Mkoll,MkVenner but thats probably because i`m a Scot anyway.

Gaunt: Stephen Moyer (Bill in Trueblood)Think he`d be perfect.Good age and is now what Gaunt looks like in my head.Perfect stare from under a peaked cap.

Corbec :Liam Neeson would be great,big man that you could see playing the likeable Colm.Could kick your arse too (watch Taken).Only concern is his age.Alternately Gerry Butler but i see him more as Kolea.

Milo:Really young to begin with so probably have to be a new face but if pushed Andrew Nelson might be onto something with Dan Radcliffe he is wee and babyfaced.

Rawne:James Purfoy would do for me.

Feygor:Paul Bettany can do a good sneaky evil fether.Could play Cuu though.

Larks:Older and a bit mad but hugely loyal and one of everyone's favorite characters.Robert Carlyle or Tim Roth would be good.

Bragg:His size gives me a problem but maybe Kev Mckidd,is pretty big and could be likeable.Him and Bobby Carlyle as the Larks Bragg pair?

Doc Dorden:Tough one for the fantastic Dorden,father of the Ghosts.Cant wait to see where Dan takes his story.The late Pete Postlethwaite would have been my choice,maybe John Hurt(not quite feeling it though).

Mkoll:Viggo Mortensen no other.

Mkvenner:sticking on Jason Statham but not sure about his acting.

Varl:Dominic Monaghan cheeky enough for Varl

Caff:tough one but Jamie Bell might do a good job.

Not Tanith but.

Hark:Brendan Gleeson suits how i see him,does a great grumpy.

Criid:Stuck on Natalie Portman great wee actress could handle an action roll.

Got to get Gary Oldman in somewhere and Christopher Lee as Slaydo would be cool,just what i picture him as.

Any ideas for Merrt or Brostin who im really stuck on.

Andrew said...

I disagree with everyone on the casting of Jason Statham in a Gaunt's Ghost role. I don't see him as anything unless he dropped 45 pounds of muscle. Then, perhaps a Varl or Srgt. Cluggan. Something like that. He can play Harlon Nayl, though.

Vincent Regan(Troy, 300) makes the perfect Mkoll to me.

IF we're casting a Ravenor film, I see the following:

Ravenor has got to have a deep, melliflous voice. Rupert Everett, maybe? He's good enough looking to play a standing Ravenor, too, although maybe a tad old now.

Brendan Gleeson/Robbie Coltrane/Jason Statham all fit as Harlon Nayl.

Emily Blunt as Patience Kys.

Idris Elba as Zeph Mathuin.

Carl Thonius is a mystery to me...

Big said...

Lightbringer = you havnt read about any of the gay characters yet in 40k? The Primarchs are not Black cause the Emperor aint...pretty simple really no conspiracy or rascism there, after that the recruiting process is what it is, IE the Dark Angels recruit from all over the place,some chapters recruit from their home planets and the cultures that live there. The warrior cultures their based on are pretty varied from Native American, to Mongolian but basically whatever impressed the authors at the time/Remember they are white , they are european, its where the game originated from so they where and are gonna write about what they know and love. Most of it is based on European history i for one am very proud of my history and the history of my peoples so i love reading about it in this fantasy/scifi setting.
As for the bigots ...their will always be idiots , one of the greatest gifts my country can give is freedom of speach, i know this as a fact people travel from all over the world en masse to settle in our country so someones doing something right! unfortunetly there will always be those idiots that abuse it ( being racist, sexist, Homophobic), and those idiots who try to control it ( using political correctness and other forms of control) .. so dont let it ruin your hobby or your reading or anyone else's.

Willm said...

It did get posted! Thanks, Dan. That email felt good to write, and I'm glad it made sense to other people, too.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Posted my casting choices to the last blog entry accidentally, so I'm repeating the two important ones.

Eisenhorn: Ian McShane. His voice has a note of dark mystery to it, and he can be both quiet and frighteningly authoritative. Imagine him chanting arcane rituals.

Second, Donnie Yen is MkVenner and I offer this scene from Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen as proof.

It seems like a straight-up Asian war drama until about the 2:05 mark, when things get transcendentally awesome. Donnie Yen is without doubt the cinema badass of the year.

Roderick H said...

On the subject of Donnie Yen, I think he was channeling Ven in that scene.

on the subject of Race in 40K, I have to fall back on the words of Terry Pratchett: 'Black and White get together to gang up on Green'. People are generally suspicious of everyone, but being warned about the mutant and the alien all the time, are likely to find common cause at a moment's notice with other humans. The limited gene pools and living conditions of Imperial Worlds are likely to change people's appearance over time anyway - The preponderance of white faces in 40k art could be blamed on the fact most of the Imperium's population lives in Hives, and is starved of sunlight, giving their Melanin levels serious trouble :)

Spadge said...

Hi Finished Prospero Burns the other night and yet again Dan you deliver another cracking book for us to read and ponder over . Ive been pondering over the fact that I think Kasper Hawser was inspired by Ibn Fadlan ? Was wondering if you can tell me if im right or wrong on this ? Keep up the good work Dan . You the Man !

Spadge .

Brad Cohen said...

I'd imagine attitudes to race and sexuality in the Imperium would vary massively from world to world. You can imagine a frontier world with a pre-imperial human population that was discovered and brought under Imperial rule by force having a strict racial/caste divide between the Imperial settlers and the 'filthy, idolatrous natives', whereas a cosmopolitan hive world located on a major interstellar trade route would be far more multicultural-I'd imagine a lot about an imperial world's culture would be determined by the frequency of interstellar trade and communication there. Also what would Ecclesiarchal teachings be on such matters? I'd imagine the Ecclesiarchy would preach brotherhood between all genetic humans, irrespective of race, so long as they worship the Emperor and death to mutants and xenos. As for sexuality, one could imagine the Imperium to be mildly biased toward heterosexuals due to the need for a high birthrate to man the armies, but perhaps many worlds might have a 'wives for duty and boyfriends for fun' attitude like the ancient greeks, whereas more feral or feudal worlds might have a less liberal attitude...The 40k universe and the Imperium can be so much more exciting and interesting then the monolithic, totalitarian edifice of stupidity it was originally portrayed as in TT40k fluff, the Eisenhorn and Gaunts Ghosts books chipped away at that and created a far more textured, shadowed far-future medieval, with space for feudal-style politics and diversity of cultures without stripping away the core of black-hearted megalomaniac SF carnage that drew us in. Space Marines shooting people in the face can be amazing fiction, when its done in an intelligent way like Messrs Abnett, McNeill, Dembski-Bowden etc have done with the Horus Heresy series...

AmbroseKalifornia said...

I've always seen the fascism in 40k as a terrible, necessary evil. Sure the Imperium is a unfeeling monster, driven by a soulless bureaucracy, and led by a corrupt and sinful degenerates.

But it is infinitely better than the alternative.

Imagine if the "Red Scare" of the 1950s or the more recent "Axis of Evil" wasn't just based on personal prejudices, misunderstanding, willful ignorance and intolerance.

Imagine if the "monsters under our bed" REALLY WERE MONSTERS. There is a real sense of danger, when someone starts seeing shades of grey in a universe where absolute evil, not just the cruel and selfish whims of humanity, exists.

This is not trading liberty for the illusion of security, this is a terrified family desperately hoping that their door will keep the wolves out.

All that being said, PEOPLE are still people. Just because the Space Marines are genetically desexualized doesn't mean that everyone else is. Some folks are different looking than others. Some boys like boys. To pretend otherwise is to deny the richly detailed universe of Warhammer:40,000 a critical element of what it is to be human.