Helsreach

Awesome book cover.

Awesome book cover for an equally awesome story.

Let us start with a touch of honesty. I am bitterly jealous of Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

I confess that the only of his previous works I had read was The First Heretic. And though a fine read, I found a point or two to which I raised question. But after reading this piece, I am reminded of why I wish to be more than an aspiring writer. As I finished the last page, I knew that my novel submission (which involved Helsreach) to the Black Library in July had tanked. I wish I had read this book first before writing the submission.

As if that wasn’t enough, I read the ‘About the Author’ section and learned that the proper way to spell fiancée in the feminine form involves an extra -e at the end. This is significant because in the Xaphan story I sent in yesterday, I used the wrong form. It was like being kicked when you were down, learning that not only is your past writing not good enough, what you just submitted also has mistakes.

Helsreach is the tale of the defence of Hive Helsreach during the Third War for Armageddon. Grimaldus, recently appointed Reclusiarch of the Black Templars, is left to defend Helsreach while High-Marshal Helbrecht takes to the battle in space. Grimaldus has resigned himself to die defending the Hive. And given the size of the Ork invasion, every page seems increasingly likely to confirm this grim prophecy.

Despite my envy for Dembski-Bowden, the fact is that this tale is flawless. I was hesitant to read Helsreach because my last experience with a Space Marines Battle Novel was long and unending. But this one was difficult to put down. From the aspects of the siege, to the character interactions. From the action to the themes of hopelessness and duty.

And best of all was that Dembski-Bowden took a gamble and told portions of the story not only from Reclusiarch Grimaldus’ perspective but also from inside his head. This is rare. Many a would be author have tried and failed to get inside a Space Marine’s mind. What are their thoughts? How are they different from humans?

Helsreach is a cleanly written and well told tale, but at the same time has these lasting, haunting elements within the story that make it hard to put down. Hard to ignore. They are not unlike The Last Chancers or The Founding, the two books I return to read again and again. To say I would do the same with Helsreach would not be a genuine claim until it happens. But something about this story will remain with me, bugging me. Telling me that there is something more here and that I should reread it.

Time will tell.

Thorpe? In my Neighborhood?

The dude himself.

The dude himself.

It’s more likely than you think.

So a little birdie on the Black Library Twitter feed mentioned that one Gavin Thorpe will be near Washington D.C. for the NOVA Open. Whether or not this has anything to do with the earthquake we got remains to be seen, but the amazing stories he writes do tend to shake things up. Thorpe is the writer of Shadow King, Path of the Seer and one of my favorites, The Last Chancers.

Here is the flier.

I would love to walk into the convention, find him and over eagerly shove my battered and over-read copy of The Last Chancers omnibus into his hands for him to sign. But sadly (or fortunately if you’re Thorpe), time and finances are a bit tight for me to afford the $35 entry ticket.

But for those of you who can and want to make it, reserve your ticket at the NOVA Open and enjoy the conventions painting and gaming. The convention starts tomorrow and goes all weekend, and is taking place at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, just off of the Ronald Reagan National Airport metro stop.

In the Beginning…

Chain swords cure everything.

Chain swords cure everything.

Started a new blog. I considered using Rots Your Brain for my writings as well, but I defined the scope of that as being for movies and television. To change its focus would be undesirable given its focus for mainstream appeal. Warhammer 40k isn’t mainstream, at least not yet… the attention that Space Marine is getting could really begin to change all that. Still, I hope the attention doesn’t go to the creator’s heads. It’s the hardcore fan base who will always be loyal, long after the more fickle fans have gotten over whatever caused the surge in popularity in the first place.

Anyway, I started this blog to keep my writing flowing. Many of the other Boltholers do the same, Pyro, Narry, Shadowhawk. But I need a spot where I can vent to myself the musings of the day, random thoughts and reactions to developing events within and about the 40k universe.

Recently, the submissions window closed after I had pitched three short stories and a novel submission. Of them, I’d say two of the short stories are decent. The last short story was surprisingly intensive, and I honestly have doubts that I could fit the full context of the story in less than 8,000 words. But then again, I think about what The Dark Knight was like or Memento, and recognize that there is a lot of story going on there as well (I am also biased as a huge Christopher Nolan fan). Then again, so did Spider Man 3. Still, I would venture to say that it is better to have too much story than too little, because no one would want to read a snooze fest.

Almost immediately after the contest ended, I went on a reading binge. I read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and posted a comparison of it against Gav Thorpe’s The Last Chancers. I completed reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe (not to be confused with William).  I slayed Zombieslayer by Nathan Long and am working my way through Nemesis by James Swallow. I’m trying to mix up my fiction with non-fiction, and also mix some more classic reading on top of that. Part of me is trying to avoid becoming an easily satisfied reader, when simply finishing a book automatically makes it worth reading in my opinion. That’s not always the case. Not every book is amazing, and adding another notch to my book shelf is nothing to be proud of.

My hero.

My hero. ❤

But reading the classics like Robinson Crusoe and A Clockwork Orange has the benefit of allowing me to identify and craft stronger themes into my work. It’s… easy to get lost and simply write what some call “warnography”, when the writing is produced simply to satisfy a person’s craving for action. An excellent story should do that and much more. Still, I suppose as long as the reader is entertained, the job is done.

Who inspires me? In the Black Library crew, my favorite authors are Nathan Long, Gav Thorpe and C.L. Werner. What’s amusing is that these three have veered more towards the Warhammer Fantasy than the 40k universe, but Nathan Long’s plot crafting skills are second to none. CL Werner’s enthusiasm for Robert Howard draws me to him every time. And Gav Thorpe’s story telling… The Last Chancers remains my favorite work in the Black Library despite how old it is. Outside of the Black Library, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky influence what I want to see. George Orwell, William H. Keith Jr and Robert Howard the other works.

I like to think that reading non-fiction can improve your fiction. When you understand the functions of political-economic structures, I feel you can construct more elaborate worlds within the 40k universe. Dan Abnett does so beautifully when he devises the structure of a hive-city’s political scene. It’s a talent that makes the world more complete, more realistic than the predictable black and white, evil vs good concepts that have little more to offer than the physical struggle against the other half.

Besides, it’s not like there’s any side I would call “good” in the 40k universe. To quote Darth Helmet, “So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good… is dumb. “