Tuesday 4 May 2010

E14 Interviews: Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett is this guy. More specifically, he’s a guy who’s managed to play around in virtually every big sci-fi franchise going – and get paid for it. He also created Sinister Dexter, which instantly makes him awesome in our book, okay? I could take the time to fill you in on virtually everything that he’s ever done, but this here comic does it much better than I ever could. Despite being so busy that he frequently has to have his brain parked across no less than four different fictional universes, he still managed to take time out for a chat with Emotionally Fourteen.

The number of both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels out there has exploded over recent years, and your name is now one that is most frequently associated with the franchise. How did you begin your involvement with Games Workshop?

I was approached in the late nineties when Black Library was first set up - they wanted to find creators who could handle their material - for comics, initially. I had been writing comics freelance for a decent time, and had recently done some work on Conan, so I had the sword and sorcery thing going on. We got talking, and it soon emerged I had a background in playing RPGs and knew a lot about their intellectual property (I had been a White Dwarf reader back in the day. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of my Inquisitor books are inspired by the old Traveller campaigns I used to run.). I wrote some comics for them, and seemed to "get it", so moved on to short fiction and then novels, which was something I'd wanted to do for a long time. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me.

How are the novels conceived?

These days each novel is a mutual agreement between Games Workshop and I - what I feel I can do best, what they'd particularly like to have - a new Horus Heresy book, the next Gaunt etc. I tend to lead the way with the Gaunt plot lines, while the Horus threads develop out of the regular planning meeting the “Architects of Heresy" (myself, Graham McNeill, Jim Swallow, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, etc.) have. Of course, I write novels for Angry Robot too - Triumff was the first - and they are all directed by my ideas and interests.

Warhammer 40,000's The Imperium of Man is a society that - whilst frequently projected as being "The Good Guys" of the franchise - is actually founded on fascism, totalitarianism and racial hatred. Do you find this an obstacle when making them the "heroes" of a story?

The 40K Imperium is totalitarian, but then its enemies are so dire. The aliens are unremittingly lethal, so the state of war is understandable; you have to inject humanity into the characters, creating people who are often at odds with their environment. Both Gaunt and Ravenor, for example, are humane characters in the grim darkness of 40K.

A third compilation of your Gaunt's Ghosts novels, entitled The Lost has just been released from Black Library. According to Wikipedia (The Bastion of All Reliable Knowledge) "The Gaunt's Ghosts series of books have been said to be inspired heavily by the Sharpe series of books written by Bernard Cornwell". Do you think this is a fair comparison?

The Sharpe comparison is a little simplistic, and probably was much more accurate way back at the start, when Gaunt's Ghosts was just a few short stories. I chose the Imperial Guard to write about because I wanted real humans to base stories around. They were real characters, rather than the oddly inhuman souls of the space marines. Sharpe was one of a number of templates about how that could be done, showing how compelling a story about an officer and his men could be. Cornwell's a great writer. I actually think his greatest work is his Dark Age stuff. Marvellous. Anyway, my choice to feature the Imperial Guard was also part of my attempt to humanise the totalitarian Imperium. I wanted to give the readers characters they could engage with in the midst of that overwhelmingly bleak and vast back-drop.

Do you play any Games Workshop games yourself at present, or do you try and separate yourself from it a little?

I don't have much time to play, because I'd get sucked in and never get anything written. But I have played every version of the Games Workshop games I've written about, often in demonstration games set up by the fine lads at the Maidstone store.

Are there any areas of Warhammer and/or 40K that you'd like to write about? Or how about another GW property? Blood Bowl? Necromunda? Um...Chainsaw Warrior?

I'd really like to do some more air combat stuff, and some spaceship/fleet action (Battlefleet Gothic), but that may happen in Gaunt.

If you had to recommend one of your books to a new reader, which would you recommend, and why?

If you want the basic, easy, exciting way in, start with First and Only, the first of the Gaunt's Ghosts series. It's actually now available as part of a lovely omnibus of the first three books called The Founding. If you're feeling slightly more adventurous, try the Eisenhorn omnibus, which is my inquisitor trilogy. This is much darker, set behind the lines of war, sort of 'hardboiled detective noir domestic 40K'. It's a bit of a cult favourite.

Do you have any favourite music to listen to whilst you write?

I always used to, then wasn't able to for years, especially stuff with lyrics. Last year, I was suddenly struck down with epilepsy, and I had to completely revise my work structure and life style. Suddenly, I liked music to work to again. At the moment: a lot of classic, atmospheric, soundtrack, a lot of Robert Fripp soundscapes and Brian Eno.

Can you tell us anything about the Ultramarines movie, or would you have to kill us afterwards?

Haha! I can't tell you much, but keep checking the Ultramarines site for news updates. Indeed, register there to get news sent to you.

So, what’s next in the pipeline for you?

Well, my Angry Robot book Triumff is out there on the stands, and jolly wonderful it is, too. Later this year there’s the Sabbat Worlds anthology (a collection of new stories by me and other Black Library luminaries set in the campaign area of the Gaunt books), and then the mighty Prospero Burns (at long last), my Space Wolf vs Thousand Sons Horus Heresy book that was delayed due to my illness last year. Plus there’s plenty of comic stuff out there, especially the massive cosmic event from Marvel called The Thanos Imperative, which starts very soon.

Do you do requests? The world needs a Space Hulk novel.

A Space Hulk novel would rock.

Certificate of Authenticity:

As the globe stands on the brink of World War II, Shanghai has fallen and deadly Japanese bombers target the infamous city of Nanking.

As panic breaks out and savage bombing raids devastate the city, veteran entrepreneur John Rabe, a German living the high life in the social whirl of Nanking, must make a agonizing choice: to flee or give sanctuary to the terrified population within the gates of his factory

When the Imperial Japanese Army discovers rich "Nazi" Rabe's selfless operation, they see it an act of high treason. As a wave of brutality is unleashed on Nanking, Rabe and his comrades find themselves in a race against time to fight for a safety zone to protect the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of this ultimate act of war. But as the bombings desist, a perilous siege begins.

City of War: The Story of John Rabe is the true-story account of a German businessman who saved more than 200,000 Chinese during the Nanjing massacre in 1937-38.

The film picked up over seven German Film Awards nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Tukur) and Best Supporting Actor (for Buscemi, one of the few times that a Lola nomination has been given to a non-German citizen).

It won for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Production Design. Lead actor Ulrich Tukur also won the 2009 Bavarian Film Awards for Best Actor. It was also the winner of the Audience Award at the 2009 German Film Festival.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got three copies of City of War: The Story of John Rabe on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail with your name and postal address to cityofwargiveaway@yahoo.co.uk. The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic interview with some very well thought-out questions. I think it just got even more awesome here at E14.