There now follow a few apologies.
I apologise for the fact that many people have been saying “where the blinking flip is Blood Pact?” Also, I apologise that the promised follow-up YouTube interviews with me have yet to materialise. Oh, and that I haven’t blogged in a dog’s age. And also, that I went to Canada and never thanked the Canadians.
There’s really no excuse for any of this, but here’s one anyway.
I’ve been busy. I have been busier, by quite a margin, than I ever anticipated being in this particular part of 2009. I have been really fething busy. I’m not complaining, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but - oh my god! - it hasn’t left any time for the basics, like blogging, or keeping up with Facebook, or doing informal YouTube interviews, or speaking to other members of the household, or remembering to wash. Oh, and apparently Michael Jackson died. Who knew?
I can’t promise that this is me getting back on track, but a blog here, and Facebook there and maybe, in the next week or so, a few interview-casts, and we might be up to speed.
For the time being.
Blood Pact is done, and I’m really pleased with it. It’s nothing like Only In Death, but that’s the point. If Only In Death is a big climactic last stand, then Blood Pact is a far more valedictory event. With added tight, crunching, blood-soaked action. It’s much more like an espionage novel, The Khorne Identity, if you will. It’s very character-driven, and, if you’re a long time Ghost reader, I think you’ll get a kick out of seeing favourite characters in unfamiliar or unusual roles.
Now, Canada. Thank you, Canada. Thank you for having me. It was brief, but it was great. It was a total blast. I met a large number of very nice people, who seemed genuinely pleased to meet me and talk to me. I signed a lot of books. It was a three-Sharpie Games Day. I think that says it all. And you’ve got to love a country that brews great beer, serves humus and crudities at a Games Day, and uses as an ad-line for its national carrier “ninety-five percent of fatalities on Canada’s roads are caused by moose: aren’t you glad you’re flying?” Thank you, Canada. I look forward to coming back. I hope my next Games Day trip is as enjoyable. (Germany, in August... They’re not going to have any trouble with the ‘great beer’ part at least, are they?).
Just a thought: I wonder if there are any statistics for the percentage of air-crash fatalities in Canada that are caused by moose. I mean, you’d want diagrams, wouldn’t you?
So, now, as the temperature pushes into the thirties, the cats are flaked out like discarded draught-excluders wishing their fur coats were un-zippable, and Roddick and Federer fight it out to the bitter end, I’m girding my loins for the next big project. Yes, folks, it’s Prospero Burns (Mongomery’s less-well known brother).
Stop me if you’ve heard this, but, originally, I was going to tackle the Thousand Sons side of the deal, and Graham was going to handle the Space Wolves. The reason for this - and I really do understand that the following revelation is such a heretical statement that Eisenhorn might have to come and shoot me through the lungs - is that I don’t really like Space Wolves.
All right. Stop yelling. Stop it. Stop. I KNOW, okay? I know. Let me explain. I think the Space Wolves are great. They are a great, vivid, visceral element of 40K, great to play, great to collect. But for use in fiction they are, to me, too on the nose. They too obviously resemble the source of their inspiration. Think of it this way: I could write a novel about a chapter of space marines, who originated on a tough, unforgiving world of high plains and grassy savannahs. The chief way of life was as drovers, driving the million-animal herds of gigantic, and often very dangerous, grox across continents. This work bred men who were tough, weather-beaten and wily, relentless, dogmatic, reflective, but mercurially fast. They evolved quick wits and cunning, and quick reflexes, but they could also sit in the saddle for days, biding their time. They were almost empathically connected to their loyal steeds. They knew how to chase, hunt, defend the herd, bring down a big bull. And the very toughest and most promising of these drovers were selected by the mysterious warriors, who lived in their isolated fort on the isolated mountain, to be inducted into their ancient order of space marines.
Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? Sounds like a decent basis for a chapter, right?
Now what if I said the chapter was called the Six Shooters? And that their armour design included chaps, a bandana and a ten gallon hat? Oh, and spurs? And they were famous for their trademark ‘two-bolt-gun’ holsters?
You see what I mean?
The inspiration is fine. The Thousand Sons are Aztecs. The Blood Angels are goth vampires. The Imperial Fists are Romans. The White Scars are a mongol horde. The Iron Hands are robots. The Ultramarines (and, hell yeah, the Iron Snakes) are Greeks. The fact is that all of them have taken the point of inspiration and run with it. They’ve put the background idea through some kind of creative filter to make it both richer and less obvious. But the Space Wolves are exactly what they appear to be, with no filter and no remove, which makes them giant fun on the gaming table, and a giant pain in the arse in a novel.
So anyway... I finally suggested to Graham that I should take the Space Wolves, because it would force me to find a way into them. I’ve already seen the work he’s doing on the Sons, and, oh my god, it’s mouth-watering. His book, which will be called A Thousands Sons (one of those instances where the legion name is so good, you don’t need to invent a better book title), is going to be packed with great ideas. We’re knocking stuff back and forth, and a momentum is building. For my part, I’m filling my workspace with all things Norse and Viking, and Icelandic and barbarian. You wouldn’t believe the sources I’m going to. I want the Space Wolves to be ABSOLUTELY the Space Wolves all of you out there love, AND YET something you’re not expecting; something that’s gone through a filter; something that makes you all go “Christ in a longboat! I have never thought of them like that!”
Tomorrow, I may buy a bearded axe. If not tomorrow, then sometime this week. I kid you not. Sometimes, physically handling a key prop is the best way to unlock an idea. And I’ve already checked that the Rochester Armoury (that fine institution that, long time readers may remember, sold me a pilum on Good Friday), has something Danish and two-handed in my size.
More on the subject of axes and space vikings in coming weeks, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m writing a David Tennant, Dr Who adventure for BBC Audio (all kinds of fun!), and the War Of Kings cosmic event for Marvel is getting serious praise. Other than that, it’s very warm and very quiet. I think the Hussar may have evaporated in the heat or taken to apporting in the cupboard under the stairs, where it’s dark and cool.
Oh, Federer just won. Longest men’s singles final in Wimbledubblybum history: fact.
Finally, some recommendations. The new album from White Denim is simply brilliant. The true crime book The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston is fascinating and unbearably gripping, and I recommend it to anyone who’s ever enjoyed anything with Hannibal Lector in it. The film Role Models, while in no way perfect, really REALLY tickled my funny bone. I guess that says a lot about my adolescent mind-set, though it also says a lot about my nerd-hood too. Role Models is surprisingly warm and celebratory of the concept of larping.
Forty years ago this month, America put a man on the moon. I remember it, though it didn’t seem a big deal at the time (I was four, after all). It was such a big deal. If you haven’t already been moved or inspired by the anniversary documentaries or books or articles, then go and buy a book like Moon Shot or A Man On The Moon, and stun yourself silly with details that are funny, strange, unexpected, intrepid and often insane. Remind yourself what it actually meant. For example, NASA didn’t think to fit an outside door handle on the hatch of the lunar module. If Buzz Aldrin had pulled the hatch shut behind him when he bounced down to follow Armstrong onto the surface, they wouldn’t have been able to get back in... at all... and history would have commemorated an altogether different, and more harrowing, story.
Buzz Aldrin was called Buzz because his little sisters, when they were kids, couldn’t pronounce the word ‘brother’. They said ‘buzzer’. “To infinity and beyond!” is a wonderful aspiration. “To infinity and then back home again alive!” is rather more rational.