Warhammer 40,000’s First Flight Into Fiction

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

As I mentioned in my review of Let the Galaxy Burn, the Black Library uses short stories as a means of acquiring and cultivating new writing talent. In the pre-Black Library line of Games Workshop tie-in fiction, however, a different approach was used: rather than primarily acquiring new talent and cultivating it, the editors used their connections to convince established authors to write for the line. As a result Deathwing, the only short story collection from that era, is a very different beast from Let the Galaxy Burn; whereas the stories in the latter derive mainly from Inferno!, the Black Library’s testing ground for their budding talent, Deathwing is a collection of stories solicited from a range of writers who were already confident authors at the time.

As a result, the stories are more polished than those in Let the Galaxy Burn, and are also significantly more diverse; there’s only one story about Space Marines and one about the Imperial Guard, whereas Let the Galaxy Burn had dozens of stories about both groups because the Black Library uses them as training wheels for new authors before they’re allowed to get too creative. What’s more, Deathwing was published at a time when the Warhammer 40,000 setting was a bit more fluid and undefined than it is today, giving the writers far more freedom to take the franchise in strange new directions than their present counterparts have.

Continue reading “Warhammer 40,000’s First Flight Into Fiction”

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One Galaxy’s Burning Hatred For Humanity

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Once upon a time, between 1997 and 2004, the Black Library published a bimonthly magazine of short stories based on Games Workshop games, entitled Inferno! Indeed, the Black Library was originally created in order to produce Inferno! – it was only later that they started producing novels based on the work of Inferno! authors and reprinting the previous range of Games Workshop tie-in novels, starting down the road which would eventually make them the tie-in fiction juggernauts they are today. And in those early days of their slow and inexorable rise to power, the Black Library published three compilations of what they considered to be the best short fiction from Inferno! – well, the best short fiction which hadn’t been siphoned off to form the basis of novels, at any rate. These collections – Into the Maelstrom, Dark Imperium, and Words of Blood – are now out of print, but for the delight of readers everywhere Games Workshop have produced Let the Galaxy Burn, which collects all the stories from the earlier collections and also includes three brand new tales, The Fall of Malvolion and Playing Patience by Dan Abnett and The Tower by CS Goto.

For our delight, editors Marc Gascoigne and Christian Dunn have arranged the stories into seven themed sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so I may as well tackle the stories theme by theme.

Continue reading “One Galaxy’s Burning Hatred For Humanity”

The Reading Canary: Gotrek and Felix, The First Omnibus

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The Reading Canary: A Reminder

Series of novels – especially in fantasy and SF, but distressingly frequently on other genres as well – have a nasty tendency to turn sour partway through. The Reading Canary is your guide to precisely how far into a particular sequence you should read, and which side-passages you should explore, before the noxious gases become too much and you should turn back.

Gotrek and Felix: A Nod To the Elders

In an extremely interesting article on the influence of RPG tie-in fiction on genre fiction as a whole Howard A. Jones, editor of Black Gate, makes a point about the writers of tie-in fiction which I would argue is depressingly true of far too many fantasy authors in general these days:

The author doesn’t realize that the fire and forget spell list came from Vance, or that the elves and hobbits came from Tolkien or that thieves’ guilds came from Lankhmar because they’ve never read the source material … These games wouldn’t exist if Gygax and Arneson hadn’t loved the source material.

I suspect that the reason why tie-in fiction is so universally looked down on, aside from the issue that an awful lot of it is written hastily and published on the cheap in order to exploit a particular franchise, and the fact that the very existence of tie-in fiction in the first place suggests that the publishers view the core property as a franchise to be exploited, and the fact that you have people like R.A. Salvatore and Weis and Hickman cranking it out… Ahem. I suspect that one of the many reasons that people tend to look down on tie-in fiction is that it is frequently (although not always) a product of precisely the sort of ignorance of the source genre on the part of the author, and I can’t help wonder whether it fosters a similar ignorance on the part of readers.

Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Gotrek and Felix, The First Omnibus”