Friday, December 23, 2011

Xmas (only the names have been changed)

Or, to be fair, forgotten.

Ah, Christmas (or whatever you want to call this time of year). You've been a long time coming. I knew this year was going to be busy, but... you know. It's been REALLY busy. It's put the 'complete and utter dick' into really, RI-COMPLETE-AND-UTTER-DICK-ULOUSLY busy. Gah.

It's been so busy, I'm not even going to start this blog post with the requisite, "Sorry it's been ages since I last posted but blah deadlines blah blah lazy asshat blah blah..." I'm mean, I'm not going to even. It's so long since my last proper blog post, my last proper blog post is a dot to me (though I liked Will Wright's comment on the last mini post to the effect that it was good when I ran silent, because that meant I was furiously a-writing of stuff).

I've finished Know No Fear, so that's the main thing. There'll be more on that in future posts, but my new Horus Heresy novel (about the Battle of Calth, Word Bearers twatting Ultramarines, in case you were wondering) is done and finally dusted, much to the breathless relief of an increasingly panicking BL editorial staff. It was a monster to wrangle into words-in-the-correct-order form, but that's little excuse, as getting words in the order write is what I'm supposed to be able to do for a living. On the plus side, the actually in-house reaction to the book (ie: un-adjectivable projectile excitement) marginally outweighed the panic over the tardy delivery. I particularly enjoyed Laurie's Facebooked response where he said he had to get up and go for a little walk in the middle because he was getting too worked up.

KNF was just the busy-as-feth icing on a busy year-long cake of alternating busy and busier layers. With ganache. This time a year ago, I knew I was embarking on a year of foolhardy busy-ness, but - gosh! - I went and done it anyway. New Mutants. Resurrection Man. Doctor Who. Sinister Dexter. Grey Area. The Annihilators. Heroes AND Villains For Hire. Wonder Woman. Soldier Zero. Embedded. Salvation's Reach. Lois Lane. Other stuff. Now Christmas, the incentive carrot on the end of my schedule stick, finally hoves into view like a very, very, VERY late 155 bus home, and I'm jolly glad to see it. Take me home, Christmas bus, so that I can have a long lie down and make a premature New Year's Resolution not to be so stupid again next year.

I was oblivious of the busy-ness dangers that 2011 would hold. Now I am blivious. Fully blivious. So 2012 is going to be a bit more selective in terms of work and events. Don't fret: on January 1st, I will still be starting on the long awaited new Inquisitor trilogy ("The Bequin Trilogy" aka Eisenhorn vs Ravenor aka "Pariah"). I'm going to have to turn down a few things I would otherwise love to do in 2012, but them's the breaks. I don't want to feel quite so Know No Big Hand From The Little Hand again.

Anyway, let's talk about some of the things I never got the chance to blog about during the year. I went to a lot of places, and met some lovely people, and then lost the bits of paper I wrote their names down on. And I have the audacity to lecture on the importance of notebooks. Honestly. So I can't, for example, thank by name the two girls in Greenwich Village who brought me a home-made plush Inquisitorial rosette (now on my desk). Or the guy in the same place who made me (nay, wrought me!) a chainmail bracelet (also on my desk). I'm still very grateful , but I wish I could have printed your names here.

I can namecheck Dave Ploss for being such a great guy in Chicago, and I can thank Matthew Churchill for the lovely Christmas pressie (with my new Egon, I can do all the symmetrical book stacking I like). I can also mention Brian McGackin, who gave me a dedicated copy of his book Broetry at the New York Comic Con. I'd met Brian the year before, and signed some stuff for him, so this was his thank-you. Broetry is brilliant - poetry for guys, often in the form of parodies of famous verse. The William Carlos Williams riff on the cover is worth buying it for alone. Broetry funny, but it's also touching, and it's also real poetry. Get it here. Now.

Some places I visited this year went by so fast.

Hey, Seattle! Why you go by so fast? (Also, what was I doing there? When will I be able to tell people about it?)

Then I was in New York-- Oh. Hang on. My daughter's just given me a mini Snickers (or, "Marathon" as I still call them). Mmmnnh.

Anyway, I was in New York, and this is a photo of the full moon over New York, a photo that, I feel, doesn't do much justice to either the full moon or New York.

This does, but it's just flash-reflection-off-the-hotel-window over New York. So what have we learned? Less successful photography = more successful image.

Here's a guy at the New York Con dressed as a Ghost. Very cool. Did I lose the bit of paper with his name on? Of course I did. Of course I did.

Here's the crew from my Warhammer pirate novel Fell Cargo, all hand modeled. Very very cool. Did I lose etc? Of course I etc.

I DO however remember the name Jake Moore. I think. I think he was the guy I met at the opening of No Man's Land, the new indie gaming shop in Maidstone (a very nice place to go and game or paint, so get yourself over there). We were chatting about music to work to (I can't work to anything with significant lyrics, so it's a lot of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp for me), I recommended the fab soundtrack to the movie Monsters, which has been one of my mainstays this year. He recommended Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron: Legacy. Thank you, Jake (if that really was your name). Most of Know No Fear should be read with Daft Punk's sound track to Tron: Legacy pumping in the background, 'cause that's how it was written.

I'm beginning to realise that this post might take some time. So take a pew.

You see what I did, there?

Here's another photo taken on the same trip Nik and I took to that same tiny old church on that same tiny bit of the windswept White Cliffs near Dover. Is that strange green blob hovering over the graveyard the return of lens flare, direct from New York? Of course. Of course it is.

Or is it something more spooky?

No, it's lens flare.

Or IS it?

No, it is.

Or IS it?

Anyway, we're now in Lille, for the comic festival. Everyone wave to Boo Cook!

I finally moved offices this year (because, you know, I didn't feel I was quite cramming things in to capacity). I now have a great new workspace, with daylight and a view. The above is a sad, view-from-the-desk farewell to my workspace of the last ten years, taken a few minutes before I started to pack it away.

Along with Broetry and my new office, there are a few other things I've really appreciated this year. The patience of Black Library editors, for a start. The latest thriller ("Truth") from Peter Temple. The first issue of the new Brian Azzarello Wonder Woman. The brilliant low budget British SF movie Monsters (soundtrack mentioned above), which I adored. Really adored. The thriller The Town. Good job, that Mr Affleck. The sublime music of Laura Marling (like this, for example). The album I, A Moon by North Sea Radio Orchestra. The charming fun of Warehouse 13. The ridiculously good pop (in the pure sense of the word) of Nicola Robert's solo album. Yes, that Nicola Roberts. The redhead from Girls Aloud. Okay, shut up. It's good. The sudden friendliness of my (sadly now only) cat. Chuck, for having Yvonne Strahovski in it. Aoenid Thiel (you'll find out why in the spring). Anna Calvi. Downton (which will no doubt return in 2013 renamed Downturn Abbey). Kent Barbers on Gabriel's Hill. Having a real fire. Luther (who is TV cop like a boss). Vicki, my bastard silly New Mini (also known as being able to drive again after my adventures in Epilepsy). The brilliant Scott and Bailey, and also Suranne Jones of the same parish for being the TARDIS too. Richard Dugher painting my shit up good. Seeing Jerusalem in the West End with Lils (the most awesome theatrical sauce ever). The limitless patience and support of Nik.

And next year? Well, the aforementioned Pariah. New New Mutants. More Gilead from me and Nik. And The New Deadwardians from me and Ian Culbard (coming from Vertigo). Just for starters...

Back to New York. Here's me and DC senior editor Eddie Berganza looking sweet in a bank vault-turned-restaurant. This private dining room was actually INSIDE the safe.

Then Todd Nauck tried to eat us.

And here's the gang: (from left) me, Brad Walker, Eddie, Fiona Meng, Andy Lanning, Todd, Tony Bedard, DC's Larry Ganem, Francis Manapul and... the girl who's name I am ashamed to admit I forgot because I lost the bit of paper...

Now, I don't like to delegate (I have people to do that for me), but it's time to get YOU involved. Yes, YOU. You there, with the mince pie crumbs in your beard/cleavage (delete as applicable - or not). It's time for my end of the year competition.

What's the prize, Dan? Good question, imaginary narrator. The prize is my Games Day 2011 goodie bag.

Dan's 2011 Games Day Goodie Bag, earlier.

When you go to Games Day, you get a goodie bag. Well, the prize is mine. The one I was given this year, with my name badge and parking permit and everything else in it. Including my miniatures, a tee-shirt, my (unsullied) digestive biscuits and polo mints! This isn't just A goodie bag, it's MY goodie bag. I will send it to the competition winner to do with as he or she sees fit.

To make it's actually, you know, WORTH something, I'll throw in a signed book, and the following:

It might not look like much, but I found it when I was moving offices. It's the actual, original sketched map (with notes on the reverse) made by me, in my fair hand, of Vervunhive. I used this when I was writing Necropolis and the map in the book was based on it. Little bit of awesome Gaunt's Ghosts history for you to own and keep on owning.

So what's the competition? Well, when I sign books, I like to have a stock phrase or two that works for the book in question, like "The Emperor Protects" or "Remember Tanith" for the Gaunt books, or "Repent, heretic" for Inquisitor novels, or "Blood For The Blood God" for Darkblade. My new book Embedded came out from Angry Robot this year. The winner of the comp will be the person who comes up with the best 'signing tag phrase' for use in Embedded.

You've got until the end of January. My decision will be final. Post your entries here on the comments section, AND email them (with your name and postal address) to the email AS WELL. If I don't have an email with a name and address, I won't award the prize, no matter how good the entry. You can submit as many entries as you like. Thinking caps on, honorary clones.

Before I go off to play with my Christmas Drashig (like you do), I'll leave you with this:

At the last Horus Heresy planning meeting, us High Lords of Terra realised we were referring to future and forthcoming books in the series by odd, euphemistic nicknames and placeholders. I thought you'd enjoy the list (and they are all, genuinely, going to be HH books... probably... just not with these names):

The Motorway into Bristol.
Twatted By A Bloodthirster.
[rude word I really can't write here on a public blog] Attack.
Hammer In The Face.
Bastards Of Evil.
Fungus And Poo.
Traitor To The Traitors.
Wobbly Rum Baba In A Big Pond Of Chaos.
Khorne Worshipping Asshats.
Big Crystal B*ner.

Make of them what you will. Happy Christmas, have fun with the competition, and may 2012 see you, like me, a LOT less ridiculously busy than the head tosser in a crap salad factory.

Peace and love!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

No Man's Land

Yes, I know it's been a very, very long time since I updated the blog. Forgive me, but I've been a little busy with "Know No Fear", the story of the Battle of Calth. You'll get to read it in the spring.

This is just to say that a new gaming shop is opening in my home town of Maidstone, and, since I know Justin, the owner, I said I'd pop in for a couple of hours on opening day, Saturday 10th December. I hope to see lots of you there. I'm sure I can be persuaded to sign a book or two between 1-3pm.

As an enticement, there will be a raffle, and I'll be drawing the winning tickets. Various games will be running, there's a painting area, and a roleplay room.

Sunday 11th there will be a Talisman participation game, and chaos in the old world, so it all sounds like a great big heap of fun.

No Man's Land is at unit 3, the Corn Exchange (Market Buildings). For those not familiar, the Market Buildings run between High Street and Earl Street.

Look forward to seeing you all.

Oh, and just for good measure, here's an anticipatory 'ho ho ho'.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Due to a technical error...

... there are revised times for Games Workshop store signings at Bluewater and Thurrock Lakeside today. I will be at BLUEWATER in the morning from 11 til 1pm, and at THURROCK LAKESIDE in the afternoon from 3 til 5. I look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Event update

Reports on the New York ComicCon (with pics) plus that competition I was talking about - all coming soon.

For now, details of the most pressing signings:

This Saturday (29th), I'll be at Games Workshop Lakeside from 11 - 1, and then Games Workshop Bluewater from 3 - 5 for some serious Salvation's Reach and other BL goodies signing action. Official details here.

The following weekend (November 5/6), I'll be a guest at the Lille Comic Festival along with some very illustrious company. See you there!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Games Day Bulletin - plus New York news!

The day began with some nice, informal seminar-type-things, where we sat and chatted with the first folks to fill the available seats. Good fun, with a very engaged and enthusiastic response. Here you see one of my groups trying to figure out how I made the guy in the front row vanish without leaving my chair.

Behold, the assembled writist might of Black Library and friends! Across the back row from left: Chris Wraight, Ben Cawkwell, Graham McNeill, Bill King, some clone dude, Jim Swallow and Neil Roberts. Front row from left: Sandy Mitchell, Sarah Cawkwell, and a child version of Jim Swallow sent back from the future to save humanity. Or something (actually, it's Small Son. Hi, Small Son!).

And here are some other friendly and familiar faces being enthusiastic! And daemonic!

Just wanted to publically thank GW staffers Claudia Cole and Jenny Northeast who, with Chris Bone, so brilliantly steered, managed and otherwise looked after me and my queue all day long. Thank you so much!

So tell me, Mr Abnett. how does it feel to be the older, less-hip version of Aaron Dembski-Bowden? Well, having stolen his shades, I can tell you... it feels like this:

I'll be back soon with a special competition - won't that be fun?

In the meantime, I just wanted to remind folks in the USA, espescially New York, that I'll be attending the New York ComicCon this week, and also doing a special signing at games Workshop in Greenwich village. To bring the details up to date, let me recap:

Games Workshop Greenwich Village is where you will be able to find me and Jim Swallow next Saturday afternoon (the 15th) between 1 and 3.

As for the New York Comic Con itself, I'll be signing at the DC booth with Andy on Friday between 1 and 2, and Saturday between 11 and 12. Then we'll be signing at the Marvel booth (#654) on Sunday between 2 and 3, and then participating in the X-Men: Regenesis panel in room 1A10 between 3.30and 4.30. You will also be able to find Andy and me during the Con in Artist Alley, where we will be sharing a table with the estimable Mr Todd Nauck and running a flamable dwarf juggling workshop (one of these facts is, yet again, a lie - can you spot which?). I'm told our table number is M20, and that still seems to be the case at time of going to press.

See you there!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Signings... incoming!

Just interrupting your Games Day 2011 bulletin-viewing pleasure today to bring you a public information announcement about upcoming signings:

Most immediately upon us is this Saturday's event, which involves me being at Games Workshop Maidstone between 12 and 2. This is my local store, and I'm always happy to visit. Official details can be found here, along with advance notice of the next few events.

One of which will be... Games Workshop Greenwich Village (that's New York, folks! You know, the concrete jungle where dreams are made?) where you will be able to find me and Jim Swallow next Saturday afternoon (the 15th) between 1 and 3.

I'll be in New York for the New York Comic Con. There will probably be more things to announce with regards to this, but for now I can say that I'll be signing at the DC booth with Andy on Friday between 1 and 2, and Saturday between 11 and 12. You will also be able to find Andy and me during the Con in Artist Alley, where we will be sharing a table with the estimable Mr Todd Nauck and doing ice sculpture performances (one of these facts is a lie, can you spot which?). I'm told our table number is M20, but these things change. You know how they change. They are willful and mercurial.

Hope to see you somewhere very soon!

Monday, October 03, 2011

You can't get the staff

For the second quick Games Day 2011 bulletin, I'm posting some pics of the Black Library crew members who worked tirelessly during the day to keep things running smoothly. The BL stand was a particularly fun place this year, divided into corners of activity. First up, Mr Laurie Goulding in Pitch Corner:

Though it sounds like something off Countdown, Pitch Corner was an inspired opportunity for people to come and try story ideas out. There were pencils and write-up sheets, and Laurie with his open ears and open-er mind. Ideas went up on the wall with contact details. Who knows if any will be good enough for BL to come a-knocking? Well, Laurie does. It must have been quite a gruelling day for Mr G, because the corner was very busy indeed. Here we see him early on, striking an action pose just as the enormity of what he has undertaken starts to sink in. Either that, or this is the moment I hit him with my idea, 'The House At Pitch Corner'.

Two thumbs up from the lovely Rachel Docherty, here accompanied by the equally lovely Mrs ADB, who has brought thumbs of her own. You see how I went for the "two thumbs up" newsreel commentary-style link there, rather than the more obvious "in the red corner", right? I'm not here to objectify. Anyway... Raye-Raye's job was to run a painting corner where people could ALSO listen to audio books (through the uber-cool new Black Library MP3 players - I have a Prospero Burns MP3 player! I'm living in the freakin' future!). The super-text of this corner of the stand was to demonstrate the fact that audio books are the BL treat you can enjoy between paper books without ruining your other activities, such as figure painting. Listen to a chapter while you paint a chapter. You see what I did there?

Master of Hammer and Bolter and all-round High Lord Christian Dunn takes ceremonial command of his post in the - yes, that's right, Hammer and Bolter corner. You could come and chat to him about BL's awesome on-line mag. More significantly, he had cake. He had twelve of them, actually, one for each month of H&B's existence so far, each one decorated with a cover print! In the grim darkness of the far future, there is CAKE!

Unjustly not represented here by pict, but equally deserving of praise, was Caroline Pritchard-Law, who was running the audio corner, and also BL staffers George, Nick, Rik, Chris, Lindsey, Eddie, Graeme... well, look, it's quite clear I am going to forget someone on this without-whom list, and then it'll be all awkward and tense and embarrassing next time I'm up at BL Towers, so BL was there, okay? BL. All of it. All of them. And they were great. Fething great. Take a bow, BL staffers!

Finally, Mr Goulding again, looking very happy with BL promotions maestro Andy Smillie. Why are they looking so happy, you ask? Could it have anything to do with where they're standing?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ghosts of Games Day!

Can it be that Games Day 2011 was a whole week ago already? On the plus side, that means it's only fifty-one weeks until the next one. And I say that as a good thing.

Anyhoo, I always like to do a little post-match blog of events like Games Day, but due to the fact that deadlines are baying outside my office window like giant, baying deadline-y things, I'm going to break it down into a few bulletins this time.

First up today - where would a Games Day be without Ghosts reporting for duty? Let's take a look at some of the Tanith Finest I managed to snap this year...

Nice cape-work, sir, and I like your body armour.

In almost any 'Best Tanith Costume' competition, Connor McElligot here's gonna win by dint of his boyish cheek, and his dad's frightening attention to uniform detail. The AWESOME long las prop helps, too, because it's AWESOME. Also, did I mention it was AWESOME? Is it wrong to covet the possessions of a minor? Is it REALLY?

Do these guys want to live forever? Presenting two members of my very own answer to the 501st. Synchronised present and salute. Full fething marks!

Now, with added Commissar! This was at the seminar, first thing. Picture it - you're talking to a group of readers, and the meeting is attended by one of your fictional creations, and one of his fictional men...

The Emperor protects. The Emperor also makes those guys in the background think "crap on a stick, I wish I'd dressed up like a Tanith Ghost..." Well, that's what next year's for, fellahs!

Friday, September 30, 2011

No Con Do

A word of apology - Nik and I won't be at Fantasy Con in Brighton tomorrow after all. She fell down stairs and fethed up her ankle. Don't worry, she's okay, but it's put paid to the trip.

Sorry to anyone we may have inconvenienced as a result.

On the plus side, news of London, Bluewater, Lakeside and Greenwich Village signings soon!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's like a vlog-athon!

Here is the latest vlog. This one is about Gaunt's Ghosts and "Salvation's Reach". Huzzah!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More VLOGS... as promised

Adelie's doing a stirling job cutting the hours of film she recorded of me blathering on.
So, here are the first two again, just in case:

And here is today's upload:

More as they're posted.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

VLOGS! As promised!

Here's me answering some questions, courtesy of Adelie. Yes, I be vlogging.

The first one's on the Battle of Calth.

And so's the second one.

More to come. She couldn't shut me up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where the hell am I?

Good question, because I haven't blogged much of late. My apologies for that - I've had a bad attack of Being Very Busy. Which is no excuse, I know.

This post doesn't really remedy that problem, though I do intend to publish a nice Q&A video blog soon (watch this space). But I did want to mention that my Doctor Who novel (the Christmas Doctor Who novel!) The Silent Stars Go By is out pretty much no, as is the new Gaunt's Ghosts book, Salvation's Reach. So, you know what to do. Oh, and the paperback edition of the Sabbat Worlds Anthology is out too. Oh, and the trade paperback collection of my Judge Dredd-verse series Insurrection (with art by the astonishing Colin McNeil).

Me, I'm currently hard at work on Know No Fear, the story of the Battle of Calth, for the Horus Heresy series. Comics-wise, I'm busy with New Mutants, Villains For Hire, Annihilators: Earthfall (Annihilators vs Avengers!), and - of course - Resurrection Man, reborn as part of DC's New 52. Resurrection Man #1 is out this week!

Anyway, to try to make up for my lack of bloggage, I'm making myself available in person. You can come and find me, you really can, at any or all of the following events:

On the evening of Thursday 22nd of September, Mr Lanning and I will be at Forbidden Planet in London, signing the new hardback collection of Legion Lost (and anything else you'd care to have us sign (like the first issue of Resurrection Man?). Details here.

Two days later, Nik and I will be at Games Day UK. Can't wait for that - it's the biggest GW day of the year. Hope to see you and your copy of Salvation's Reach :) Details for those that need them here.

A week later (October 1st), all being well, I'll be attending the FantasyCon 2011, though just for the Saturday. FantasyCon is in Brighton and looks like it's going to be packed to the rafters with fabulous people to meet and listen to. Details here. I think they've roped me into some panels. Looks like fun.

A week after that, I'll be signing at my hometown GW store, Games Workshop Maidstone. Details to follow.

In mid-October, Andy and I will be attending Comic Con in New York, which is an awesome event by anyone's standards. We will also be hitting the Lille Comic Festival as guests at the start of November.

On the 12th of November, I'll be at the Fortean Times UnCon in London, and then on the 26th, I'll be signing at Waterstones in Plymouth.

So, that's where the hell I'm going to be... for starters, because I'll get more details up when I know them, and there are other signings planned. A busy winter.

See you somewhere soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Salvation Reached and other Exciting Stuff

Look! Look what arrived in the post the other day!

Yup, that's my first advance comp of the new Gaunt novel that is, which is due out very soon. God, I'm proud of this book, and if it doesn't delight Gaunt's Ghosts readers out there, I'll sulk, or eat my hat, or... what the funt... both. There's a LOT of character stuff in it, plus the usual shooty death kill in space, plus ACTUAL shooty death kill IN SPACE (ship to ship action). Out soon. I said that, right?

Also out around about now is this:

Legion Lost is a hardback collection of a Legion of Superheroes run Andy and I did a while back, collected for the first time. It features the first major US work of artist and genius Olivier Coipel. I'm delighted to report that not only has this series inspired the name of the new Legion book being released this September as part of DC's new universe, it also got into the New York Times Best sellers list. Go us!

Also out now and recommended (by me at least, but then, I would, wouldn't I?) is the first trade compilation of Heroes For Hire:

Many worlds away from the cosmic craziness prevailing in our other books, Andy and I get down to street level in H4H for some old-school vigilante superhero fun. I like this series a lot, and other people seem to like it too. Are you for hire. hero?

Can I also remind US readers that the 2000AD series I did with Richard Elson - Kingdom - is now available in the States in handy trade form? Richard's a great artist, so that's reason enough to buy it, but it also rocks in a post-apocalyptic way. Get whet with Kingdom: The Promised Land.... and click here for the promo.

Finally, would you like to know what the opening of Propsero Burns looks like in Maltese? You would? Well, thanks to Mark-Anthony Fenech, you can!

Mark says:

"I am translating the first chapter of Prospero Burns into Maltese for my MA thesis. It's a joy to translate :) Of all the 40K books I chose, this will be the most challenging by far, but the translation is going on well. I had to make certain changes: for instance "The cutting of threads" can't be literally translated, so I tweaked it to "Taħsad l-għeruq" (The reaping of roots).

Death had them surrounded.
It had come to cut threads, and today, it wore four faces.
A burning death for those too hurt or too afraid to flee the settlement as the firestorm swept through it. A freezing death for those who ran away up the scarp to escape the murder-make: even in spring, the wind came in off the ice flats with a death-edge that sucked an exposed man’s life-heat out through his lungs, and rotted his hands and feet into black twigs, and left him as a stiff, stone-hard bundle covered in rime.
For others, a drowning death, if they attempted to flee across the blue-ice around the spit. Spring’s touch was already working the sea ice loose against the shore, like a tooth in a gum. The ice would no longer take a man’s weight, not reliably. If the ice broke under you, down you went: fast and straight if you plunged through, slow and screaming if an ice plate tipped and slid you in. Either way, the water was oil black, and so cold it would freeze the thoughts in your brain before your lungs were even empty.
For the rest, for those who had remained to fight, a bloody death, the death of the murder-make. This was the death that knocked you down hard onto the ice with an axe or a maul, so you felt nothing except the cold burn of the ice, and the hot burn of your own blood, and the pain-scream of your crippling wound. This was the death that stood over you and knocked you again, and again, and as many times as necessary until you would not rise again, or until you were so disfigured that death could no longer bear to look at you, and moved off in disgust to find another soul to knock.

Any of those four faces would cut your thread as soon as look at you. And those were the faces the Balt were wearing.


"Il-mewt kienet daret magħhom dawra mejt.

Kienet ġiet biex taħsad l-għeruq, u llum kienet xhieda ta’ erbgħa uċuħ.

Mewta ta’ ħruq għal dawk wisq midruba jew wisq beżgħana biex jaħarbu l-villaġġ hekk kif it-tempesta tan-nar kinset kull ma sabet. Mewta ta’ kesħa kbira għal dawk li ħarbu lejn l-għaram lil hinn mill-Qatla. Anke fir-rebbiegħa, ir-riħ kien jiġi minn fuq l-uċuħ tas-silġ b’xafra li kienet terdgħa s-sħana ta’ bniedem espost minn ġol-pulmun, u timmufalu jdejh u ssaqajh, iġġibhomlu bħal zkuk suwed, u tħallih bħala gozz iebes ġebla miksi kisja silġ.

Għall-oħrajn, mewt permezz t’għarqa, li kieku ppruvaw jaħarbu tul is-silġ kaħlani madwar il-peniżola. Ir-rebbiegħa kienet diġa qed tħoll is-silġa tal-baħar, tħaddmu u tagħġnu bil-mod max-xatt, bħal sinna fil-ħanek. Is-silġ ma jkunx jiflaħ il-piż ta’ xi ħadd fuqu. Jekk tkun fuq is-silġ u jċedi bik, l-isfel kont tinżel: dritt u ħesrem jekk kont taqa mal-ewwel, bil-mod u tgħajjat u tnewwaħ jekk xi biċċa silġa kienet tirbula u kont tiżżerżaq. Jiġri x’jiġri, l-ilma kien iswed żift, u tant kiesaħ, li ħsibijietek jinġazzaw saħansitra qabel mal-pulmun ikun żvojta min-nifs.

Għall-bqija, għal dawk li jkunu baqgħu lura biex jiġġieldu, mewta mdemmija, il-mewt tal-Qatla. Din kienet il-mewta li kienet issabtek għal tulek fuq is-silġ b’mannara jew mazza, għalhekk ma kont tħoss xejn ħlief il-ħarqa kiesħa tas-silġ, u l-ħarqa sħuna ta’ demmek stess, and l-uġigħ mwerżaq tal-ferita tiegħek. Din kienet il-mewt li kienet toqgħod fuqek u terġa ssabtek, u terġa, għal kemm il-darba hemm bżonn sakemm ma tqumx aktar, jew sakemm tant tkun sfigurat li l-mewt ma tkunx tiflaħ tħares lejn il-bixra tiegħek, u mqalla, kienet tfittex lil xi ħadd ieħor biex ittih tisbita.

Kull wieħed minn dawn l-uċuħ kien jaħsdulek għeruqek hekk kif jilmħuk. U dawn kienu l-uċuħ li l-Balt kien jixhdu."

See? Now you know. Thanks, Mark! That's a little bit awesome.

Ice, Ice Baby!

I'm posting this picture to explain why I haven't been blogging as much as usual of late (sorry 'bout that). I've been busy with this little project. A few advance notices have appeared on Amazon and similar sites, but I thought it was time I blogged an official word here as well. It's due out for Christmas - it's a Christmassy kinda story, as you can tell by the, uh, Ice Warriors - so it's on a helluva tight turn around. But it's also a helluva big honour to write this year's major hardback (last year's Christmas book was by Mr Moorcock, if you recall). I'm loving every minute of it, and I think it's going to be a cracker.

OMG, I didn't just make the 'Christmas cracker' joke in public, did I?

Anyway - Amy, Rory, Matt Smith's Doctor and some Ice Warriors. Did I mention the Ice Warriors? I got chills, baby! Chills!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Salvation's Reach - an exclusive extract!

Because you demanded it, and I was crazy enough to promise it....

Here's an exclusive chunk of the next Gaunt's Ghosts novel, out this Autumn. I hope it entertains. Pausing just long enough to remind you that I'm appearing at
Alt-Fiction in Derby this coming weekend (details in the previous post), I'll leave you to get on with Salvation's Reach....

At midnight, local time, a new star woke in the skies above Anzimar. The city’s population was hurrying to attend the day’s Sabbat Libera Nos service, which had been held in the temples of the Beati every midnight since the Crusade began, in the hope of vouchsafing a brighter tomorrow. Some of the hundreds of thousands of citizens bustling from their homes, or even their beds, or suspending their labour, at that time may have turned their eyes skywards, for since the very origin of the species, mankind has entertained the notion that some ineffable source of providence may look down upon us. The upward glances were vain, involuntary wishes to glimpse the face of salvation.
No one saw the star light up. The smog that night was as thick as rockcrete.

Ship bells rang. At high anchor at the edge of the mesopause, the Imperial Tempest Class frigate Highness Ser Armaduke lit its plasma engines. The drives ignited with a pulsing fibrilation, and then calmed into a less intense, steady glow.
Below the ship lay the troposphere and the stratosphere. The shadow of the terminator lay heavily across Menazoid Sigma, and the smog atmospherics were so dense there were no visible light concentrations from the night-side hives. Part of the world was in sunlight. The fetid clouds, brown and cream, looked like infected brain tissue.
Small ships buzzed around the Armaduke, like flies around a carcass. Fleet tenders nestled in close to its flanks. Launches, lighters, cargo boats and shuttles zipped in and out. The Armaduke’s hatches were all wide open, like the beaks of impatient hatchlings. Entire sections of the frigate’s densely armoured hull plate had been peeled back or retracted to permit access. The old ship, ancient and weathered, looked undignified, like a grandam mamzel caught with her skirts hoisted.
Above the ship lay the exosphere. The vacuum was like a clear but imperfect crystal, a window onto the hard blackness of out-system space and the distant glimmer of tiny, malicious stars.
The Highness Ser Armaduke was an old ship. It was an artifact of considerable size. All ships of the fleet are large. The Armaduke measured a kilometre and a half from prow to stern, and a third of that dimension abeam across the fins. Its realspace displacement was six point two megatonnes, and it carried thirty-two thousand four hundred and eleven lives, including the entire Tanith First and its regimental retinue. It was like a slice cut from a hive, formed into a spear-head shape, and mounted on engines.
It was built for close war. Its hull armour was pitted and scorched, and triple-thickness along the flanks and the prow. The prow cone was rutted with deep scars and healed damage. The Armaduke was of a dogged breed of Imperial ship that liked to get in tight with its foe, and was prepared to get hurt while it hurt and killed an enemy.
To Ibram Gaunt, closing towards it about one of the last inbound launches, the ship had the character of a pit-fighter, or a fighting dog. Its scar-tissue was proud and deliberate.
Like the ritual marks of a bloody-pacted soldier, he reflected.
The plasma engines pulsed again. Hold doors began to seal, and cantilevered armour sections extended back into position. Gaunt’s craft was one of the last to enter the central landing bay before the main space doors shut. The swarm of small ships dispersed, either into the Armaduke to share its voyage, or away to planetside or the nearest orbital fortress. Formations of Fury and Faustus Class attack craft had been circling the ship at a radius of five hundred kilometres to provide protection while she was exposed and vulnerable. Now they formed up to provide escort. Buoy lights blinked. Lines detached. Fleet tenders disengaged and rolled lazily away, like spent suitors or weary concubines. The Armaduke began to move.
Initial acceleration was painfully slow, even at maximum plasma power. It was as though an attempt was being made to slide a building - a basilica, a temple hall - by getting an army of slaves to push it. The ship protested. Its hull plates groaned. Its decks settled and creaked. Its superstructure twitched under the application of vast motive power.
The other ships at high anchor unhooded their lamps to salute the departing ship. Some were true giants of the fleet, grand cruisers and battleships six or seven kilometres long. Their vast shadows fell across the Armaduke as it accelerated along the line of anchorage. To them, it was a battered old relic, an orphan of the fleet they would most likely never see again.
The Fury flight dropped in around the ship in escort formation. The plasma drives grew brighter, their flare reflecting off the noctilucent clouds below, creating a shimmering airglow. Mesospheric ionisation caused bowsprite lightning to dance and flicker along the Armaduke’s crenelated topside until the advancing ship passed into the exosphere and the wash of the magnetosphere’s currents swept the lightshow away.
Stepping out of the launch into the excursion hold as the ship ran out, Gaunt sampled the odour of the vessel’s atmosphere. Every ship had its own flavour. He’d traveled on enough of them to know that. Hundreds or sometimes thousands of years of recirculation and atmospheric processing had allowed things to accumulate in a ship’s lungs. Some smelled oddly sweet, others metallic, others rancid. You always got used to it. A ten or twelve week haul on a shiftship could get you used to anything. The Armaduke smelled of scorched fat, like grease in a kitchen’s chimney.
He would get used to that. You could get used to the smell, the chemical tang of the recycled water, the oddly bland taste of shipboard food. You got used to the constant background grumble of the drives, to the odd noises from a vast superstructure constantly in tension. Once the drives were lit, the hull flexed; once the Gellar Field was up and the ship had translated into the Warp, the hull locked tight, like a well-muscled arm pumped and tensed. You got used to the acceleration sickness, the pervading cold, the odd, slippery displacement where the artificial gravity fields fluctuated and settled.
Once translation had been achieved, you got used to the ports being shuttered. You got used to ignoring whatever was outside. You got used to the baleful screams of the Empyrean, the sounds of hail on the hull, or burning firestorms, or typhoon winds, of fingernails scratching at the port shutters. You got used to the whispers, the shudders and rattles, the inexplicable periods of half-power lighting, the distant subterranean banging, the dreams, the footsteps in empty corridors, the sense that you were plunging further and further into your own subconscious and burning up your sanity to fuel the trip.
The one thing you never got used to was the scale. At high orbit, even with the vast extent of a planet close by for contrast, a starship seemed big. But as the planet dropped away to stern, first the size of an office globe, then a ball, until even the local star was just a fleck of light no bigger than any other star, the embrace of the void became total. The void was endless and eternal, and the few suns no bigger than grains of salt. Alone in the bewildering emptiness, a starship was dwarfed, diminished until it was just a fragile metal casket alone in the monstrous prospect of night.
The Armaduke was accelerating so robustly now, the fighter escort was struggling to match it. Course was locked for the system’s mandeville point, where the warp engines would be started up to make an incision in the the interstitial fabric of space. The Warp awaited them.
The crew and control spaces of a starship tended to be kept separate from the areas used for transported material and passengers, even on a military operation. The transporters and those they were transporting needed very little contact during a voyage.
But the Armaduke was still twenty-six minutes from the translation point when Gaunt presented himself at the shipmaster’s quarters. He did not come alone.
“No entry at this time,” said the midshipman manning the valve hatch. He had six armsmen with him, all with combat shotweapons for shipboard use.
Gaunt showed the midshipman his documentation, documentation that clearly showed he was the commanding officer of the troop units under conveyance.
“That’s all very well,” said the midshipman, displaying that unerring knack of Navy types to avoid using Guard rank formalities, “but the shipmaster is preparing for commitment to translation. He can’t be interrupted. Perhaps in a week or so, he might find some time to–”
“Perhaps he’s done it a thousand times before,” said Gaunt’s companion, stepping out of the bulkhead shadows, “and doesn’t need to do more than authorize the bridge crew to execute. Perhaps he ought to bear in mind that his ship is a vital component of this action and not just a means of transportation. Perhaps you should open this hatch.”
The midshipman went pale.
“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice as small as a shiftship in the open void.

“I hate that,” said Larkin. He froze and refused to continue walking until the ship lights returned to their original brilliance. There was an underdeck tremor. A distant exhalation.
“Worst part of any trip,” he added. The lights came back up, a frosty glare in the low deck companionway. He started walking again.
“The worst?” asked Domor.
“Yeah,” said Larkin. “Apart from getting there.”
“All true,” said Domor.
They had reached the armoured hatchway of a hold space originally designed as a magazine for explosive ordnance. Rawne and Brostin were waiting for them.
“I want a badge like that,” said Larkin.
“Well, you can’t have one,” said Brostin. “It’s only for the kings.”
“The kings can actually kiss my arse,” said Larkin.
Domor looked at Rawne.
“This could continue all day, major,” he said.
“And it still wouldn’t become amusing,” Rawne agreed.
“Gaunt wants us to see him,” said Domor. “Is that all right?”
“Yes,” said Rawne. “Provided you’re who you say you are.”
Larkin winked at Rawne.
“Come on, Eli, these’d be pretty shit disguises, wouldn’t they?”
“What are you suggesting?” asked Domor, a smile forming. “We forced our own faces to change shape?”
“I’ve seen more fethed up things,” said Rawne.
“Nobody here is surprised,” said Larkin.
Rawne nodded to Brostin. The big man banged on the door, and then opened the outer hatch.
“Coming in, two visitors,” said Rawne over his microbead.
“Read that.”
A peephole slot in the inner door opened, and Rawne stood where the viewer could see his face.
The inner hatch opened. Rawne took Domor and Larkin through.
“Got anything he could use as a weapon?” asked Rawne.
“My fething rapier wit?” suggested Larkin.
Mabbon Etogaur was sitting on a folding bunk in one corner of the dank magazine compartment. The walls, deck and ceiling were reinforced ceramite, and the slot hatch for the loader mechanism had been welded shut. The prisoner was reading a trancemissionary pamphlet, one of a stack on his mattress. His right wrist was cuffed to a chain that was bolted to a floor pin.
Varl was sitting on a stool in the opposite corner, his las rifle across his knees. Cant was standing in another corner, nibbling at the quick of his thumbnail.
Larkin and Domor came in and approached the Etogaur.
He looked up.
“I don’t know you,” he said.
“No, but I had you in my crosshairs once,” said Larkin.
“Why didn’t you take the shot?” asked Mabbon.
“And miss a touching moment like this?”
“That’s Domor, that’s Larkin,” said Rawne, pointing.
“Don’t tell him our fething names!” Larkin hissed. “He might do all sorts of fethed-up magic shit with them!”
“I won’t,” said Mabbon.
“He won’t,” Rawne agreed.
“He can’t,” said Varl.
“Why not?” asked Larkin.
“Because how else would I be the punchline for another of Varl’s jokes?” asked Cant wearily.
Larkin snorted.
“He won’t because he’s cooperating,” said Rawne, ignoring the others.
“And if I did,” said Mabbon, “Rawne would gut me.”
“He does do that,” Larkin nodded.
“What did you need from me?” asked Mabbon.
“A consult,” said Domor. He had a sheaf of rolled papers under his arm, and a dataslate in his hand.
“Go on,” said Mabbon.
Larkin took the pamphlet out of Mabbon’s hand and glanced at it.
“Good read?” he asked.
“I enjoy the subject matter,” said Mabbon.
“A doctrine of conversion to the Imperial Creed?” asked Larkin.
“Fantasy,” replied Mabbon.
“He’d be a fething funny man if he didn’t scare the shit out of me,” Larkin said to Rawne.
“We’re leading the insertion effort,” said Domor. “There’s training to be done, planning. We want to use transit time to get as ready as possible.”
“Are you combat engineering?” asked Mabbon.
“Yes,” said Domor. “Larks... Larkin, he’s marksman squad.”
“I saw the lanyard.”
“We want to go over the deck plans and schematics you’ve supplied so far. It may mean several hours work over a period of days.”
“I’ll try to build time into my schedule.”
“Some of the plans are vague,” said Larkin.
“So are some of my memories. It’s all from memory.”
“If you go through them a few times,” said Rawne, “maybe you can firm things up.”
The Etogaur nodded.
“If you go through them so many times you’re sick of them, maybe we’ll actually do this right,” Rawne added.
“I’ve no problem with that,” said Mabbon. “I offered this to you. I want it to happen.”
Domor showed him the dataslate.
“We want to talk about this too,” he said. “This firing mechanism. We need to mock some up for practice purposes. You say this is fairly standard?”
“It’s representative of the sort of firing mechanisms and trigger systems you’re going to find,” said Mabbon, studying the slate image.
“It’s just mechanical,” said Larkin.
“It has to be. They can’t risk anything more... more complicated. They can’t risk using anything that might interfere with, or be interfered with by, the devices under development at the target location. It’s delicate. Any conflict in arcane processes or conjurations could be disastrous.”
“So just mechanical?” said Larkin.
“Complex and very delicate. Very sensitive. But, yes. Just mechanical.”
Larkin took the slate back.
“It looks very... It looks very much like the sort of thing we use,” he said. “It looks pretty standard.”
“It’s the sort of trigger mech I would rig,” Domor said.
“Of course,” said Mabbon. “Tried and tested Guard practice. This is the sort of thing I taught them how to do. And I learned it the same place you did.”
Larkin looked at Domor. There was distaste on his face.
“Go get the folding table,” Rawne said to Varl. “Let’s look over these plans.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Alt.Fiction 2011

A timely reminder, now it's a little less than two weeks away, of the splendid Alt.Fiction weekend in Derby. This is the fifth year, and the guests of honour are myself and Alastair Reynolds. The event's packed to the rafters with famous names - authors, editors, agents, and other movers and shakers in the genre. Some will be moving, some will be shaking, and some will be doing both. For a taster, check out the main Alt.Fiction link here.

There's also a very full programme over the two days, with some great panels, discussions, interviews, workshops and readings, an overview of which you can get from the schedule here.

It should be a fantastic weekend, and I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible. If you're a Facebook, Twitter or blog person, make sure you come and introduce yourself in person.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paris in the meantime...

And so to Paris by Eurostar for Games Day France 2011.

Ah, Paris. We'll always have you.

Armed only with a stout pair of walking legs, I covered a fair bit of ground in the free time available before the event itself began. I was keen to get a few snaps that I could post here, because I have, I'm painfully aware, been somewhat twap in the blogatory department of late. We can lay the blame squarely at the door of Salvation's Reach (Gaunt #13), which I'm working very hard to finish. It's a corker, I'm telling you. A fething corker. As promised, I will post a taster extract soon.

So, in a hasty tea-break between the final bombshell chapters, here's a quick overview of the GD France weekend.

(nb: in common with the picture above, my blog regularly involves a significant quantity of professional cobblers)

Paris is, of course, full of very familiar sights.

I also encountered some fairly familiar faces.

On Saturday, due to the crowds of people trying to get into them, we skipped the Catacombs and headed straight for the Les Invalides and the army museum. A side note, but you'd have thought that the alleged day of the Rapture would have been the one time everybody would be trying to get out of the Catacombs. Alors.

Les Invalides is pretty spiffy. There's a whole Palace of Terra riff going on, both outside...

...and in.

Along with the museum - a fabulous collection of militaria - we visited Napoleon's Tomb. The sheer mind-futzing irony of being here in the company of a man who is known to all and sundry as "Boney" is not immediately evident from this photo, I grant you. Trust me on this. There was more irony going on than in the whole of President Reagan's autobiography.

Lots and lots of cool stuff in the museum, including plenty of things that were very 40K. Notes were made. Ideas fermented. The unnecessary and malevolent deaths of favourite characters were planned. Don't you just love the rampart guns in the first pic here?

Of course, when processing inspiration like this, you always have to think "is it canon"?

And you know what? It was.

Anyway, Games Day France. At the start of the day, the French GW staff got themselves suitably psyched up for the show with the Gallic equivalent of a hakka. Une, deux, t--WAAAAGGHHH!

Not to be outdone, the Black Librarians got pretty revved up and out of hand too.

I was pleased to see, however, that France was clearly expecting me.

There were some great costumes around: take a collective bow, the fair ladies of Atomic Bamboo.

There was also some less successful cosplay. Here, we attempt a rustic recreation of the painting American Gothic.

The place was certainly heaving all day. BL did good business. In fact, Forge World and BL got cleaned out like they'd been hit by locusts.

Back to Corbec. He won the costume prize, you know. A great effort.

Distracting him by mentioning which Ghosts were going to bite it in the next book, I managed to wrest his straight silver off him for a moment.

He didn't take too kindly to that.

I tried to post comments on and off through the afternoon whenever I could, until I started to put the 'a' into Twitter. Then it was time for a rest and breath of fresh air in the Parc Floral.

It was a weekend of contrasts. For example, a cape in the museum on Saturday, worthy of a God-Emperor...

...and a rather more functional but no less heroic one on Sunday.

Anyway, I had a splendid time. I want to thank everybody involved for making me so welcome, especially the staff of GW France, and BL's Boney, Lindsey, George, Anthony and Julien.

Tourists often complain they visit somewhere and all they come home with is a lousy tee-shirt. I bet this guy wishes he had.

Thanks for coming and queuing, folks! See you next year!

The Emperor protects!