In my latest interview with ex-Black Library editor Laurie Goulding we talked about what happened when Black Library was merged into the wider Publications department in Games Workshop, and how it eventually came back out the other side. If you’ve read the first part of this interview then I’m sure you’ll agree that it was a fascinating insight, but I hope you’ll also agree that despite some challenging times Black Library seems to be moving from strength to strength once more.
I promised when I posted the first part that there would be a second one, and here it is – it’s taken me much longer to get this ready than I expected, so apologies to anyone who’s been waiting patiently for it! As well as talking about the changes taking place within Black Library, that we covered in the first part, we also discussed a whole host of other topics – from our shared enjoyment of the Ciaphas Cain books, to Laurie’s thoughts on what’s coming next in the Horus Heresy series. That’s what I’ve included here – I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
One of the most interesting topics we talked about was what the implications were for Black Library of moving back out of Publications and becoming its own entity once again. I’ve split this up into two main sections: tie-ins and editorial oversight, followed by the rest of the topics we discussed – some familiar names, Advent, and of course the Horus Heresy.
LG: A big part of what I experienced Black Library embracing over the years I was there was tie-in fiction. Now I’m not talking just about ‘These are novels set in the game universe of Warhammer’ or whatever, but stories that actually, directly aimed to support games releases and miniatures. One of the things I really liked about the merge with the Studio was that we got to see all the upcoming toys! I mean, I’m a huge Warhammer nerd. We all were! When you get to see new models or hear about new games months in advance, maybe even years in some cases, it’s hard not to lose your cool, composed exterior a little.
A good example of linked tie-ins are the Deathwatch: Ignition short stories, that were released over a long period of time before the board game Deathwatch: Overkill came out. I’m really proud of those, the authors all did a great job at fleshing those characters out. We knew about the game more than a year before it was released, so we had time to commission these stories in advance and put them out right up to the release of the game, which was some fantastic marketing. You build up these characters, give them backstory and flavour, so the fans’ first experience of them isn’t in the boxed game where they make their ‘debut’, but in these quick reads where they might not even be interacting with one another at all. I loved the notion that Chaplain Cassius had assembled this crack team of Space Marines, some of whom had never met before the start of the game narrative, and yet each of them is an absolute badass in his own right.
After Black Library left Publications, I mentioned earlier [see part one of the interview] that some of my colleagues remained as editors in the Studio and they continued to edit fiction alongside the gaming content. It would have been crazy to lose all that skill and expertise, and there were several products already in process when we moved on. This includes books like The Red Path and Medusan Wings, while there was an interesting crossover with things like Legacy of Russ, and actually, now that I think about it, Legends of the Dark Millennium: Genestealer Cults. That was a particularly disappointing loss for me – I’d been working with Peter Fehervari really closely in the planning and early commissioning stages, but then I found out I wouldn’t get to take it to the finish line! Gutted! The novel was originally called something like The Cult of the Infinite Spiral, but alongside Ian St. Martin’s Deathwatch (which was problematic as there’s another book, by Steve Parker, called Deathwatch!) they were given Codex titles to really tie them all into the release alongside the gaming stuff. The Age of Sigmar content up to then was very much along the same lines; it was considered all part of the same package, the game books and fiction, which is a great message for customers who want to easily see what everything’s all about, and what it relates to. But I really preferred the original title. Haha! Never mind. The story is still excellent, though, and I got to work with Peter again on the prequel short Casts a Hungry Shadow, once he was finished with his novel for the Studio. He’s a great guy to bounce ideas off, he always does loads of research and gets really excited by the collaboration.
There was other stuff too. People often asked me and Gav Thorpe if The Thirteenth Wolf was a tie-in product for Burning of Prospero. Of course, yes! But also, absolutely not, no! Ha, that’s not too helpful a statement from me, is it? What I mean is, Gav and I wanted to work together on a Horus Heresy audio drama, which we knew would be released at the same sort of time as the new boxed game, so we decided to revisit some of the old, old notes from when Dan and Graham were writing their novels about the same battle. Gav was one of my go-to audio writers, he’s done so much of it and I think he’s got a real feel for the medium, a real flair for seeing those sound design opportunities. I had all this great first draft material from Simon Grant and Phil Kelly in the Studio about the missions and background for the game as it was being designed, and we hit upon the idea of the Portal Maze, this old Prospero location from the collectible card game. I said “Hey Gav, imagine if this was like Stargate or some kind of labyrinth chase” and Alan Bligh also pitched in a great idea that it was the Space Wolves making the whole thing unstable and messing with time and space because they had absolutely no understanding of how it all worked. I think it’s a great story, one of Gav’s best. I love that we get to see some of those characters from way back, and they finally get the ending they deserved, kind of closing the continuity loop.
I lose track of how many times that sort of thing happened. We editors could see what was being worked on in the Studio, and see the new models and artwork. I had it even more so in Forge World, and just spotted opportunities wherever I could for the authors to make links to it in their work. Because, remember, no one outside of Games Workshop had that kind of universal visibility on stuff that was coming down the development pipe, not even the authors, generally, so I felt like I had to keep an eye out for anything that could help join up different stories, locations, characters, whatever. In that respect, EVERYTHING was a tie-in in some way, and that’s just so cool. That level of oversight was a real benefit. It added a lot of value.
LG: I do find it funny that ‘oversight’ has two almost opposite definitions. One is that act of overseeing, keeping your distance to look at the whole picture and advise accordingly… and the other is when something really obvious gets forgotten, left behind or disregarded! I always get a horrible pit in my stomach whenever I realise that I’ve forgotten something, when I try so hard to be diligent and careful in my planning. “Don’t forget your passport, Laurie, don’t forget your passport – oh no, I forgot my bloody keys!” Ugh.
Editorial oversight is something that’s been talked about a lot over the years using the Horus Heresy as an example – as a writer or an editor, when you’re collaborating with other people and you lose oversight on a more general level, you can end up inadvertently clashing with, repeating, or otherwise interfering with stuff that’s going to be done elsewhere. Getting everyone sharing ideas and talking to each other is one way to eliminate that as much as possible. Simply, that ease of communication. It’s key, always. Get people in a room, around a table. Talk, talk, talk. Hell, get the artists in there too, and anyone else who can add to the process! It’s one of those things that I think any creative industry needs in its foundations, in its culture, to make collaboration more intuitive and standard for everyone. When doors start to close and visibility is lost, I start to panic.
So something that really gave me the fear when Black Library left Publications was the thought that we might lose that visibility we had had completely. But the great thing was, we had forged these close relationships with people still in the Studio, and we could call on them to help us figure stuff out, and vice versa. Phil Kelly, Andy Clark, guys I’d sort of known for years but now consider friends outside of work – it was nothing at all to make a phone call, grab a coffee in Bugman’s and find a solution that not only fixed any possible problem but also added like three more layers of coolness to it! I think one of the best guys I’ve ever met for that is James Hewitt, who of course went on to work in Forge World. I was so jealous! He gets to tinker with Blood Bowl and more recently Adeptus Titanicus, while I could only watch like a nerdy kid all over again! But he and I always had regular chats, just to sit down and see what we were each working on, what the crossovers were, what the problems could be. It comes naturally when you have close working relationships, so in many ways that was the great victory of Publications, even though it didn’t last as a department. It definitely, absolutely helped Black Library and the Studio get connected at a personal level, and try to overcome the problems that these monolithic one-size-fits-all production procedures can create. I hope that I’ll still be calling on those guys’ professional expertise in years to come, regardless of where each of us might end up working.
Whether I’m writing or editing or just helping someone else out with something, I know you can lose sight of the fact that everyone has their own area of expertise, and even wildly conflicting opinions at times. But you have to kind of ‘default to trust’ rather than try to get your own way, or be spiteful in excluding people because of the things they have said, or the positions they take. These people are where they are because they are experts, and everyone is working in the same creative universe, playing with the same toys, wanting everything to be as good as it possibly can be. I can’t imagine that people didn’t roll their eyes when George Lucas came in and started chatting nonsense about midichlorians in some Star Wars planning meeting somewhere, ha! But you have to respect the man’s vision, even if some of the details were patchy. He got where he was because he was great at what he did.
Even so, at Games Workshop my enthusiasm sometimes veered towards the stuff that’s not the huge, well known battle zones and events that everybody supposedly knows about, because you can guarantee that somebody’s going to come back to that from another department and add more to it or take it in a new direction, at some point later on. So I’d ask myself, why not just play safe and do something else? Although I know my expertise and value in Black Library was in managing those huge, wobbly piles of continuity, after a few years I felt myself starting to look for less collaborative routes, so I could just go and play in my own little corner with the projects I was commissioning or writing. Aaron Dembski-Bowden has often said the same. But it’s lazy! He and I both know that’s the lazy man’s approach, and collaborative writing is so much more fun to read, in a setting like Warhammer. It always comes back to ‘make it both/and, not either/or’ – another lesson I feel I learned from my time at Games Workshop, from these great guys like Alan Merrett and [former CEO] Mark Wells.
I’m like any other fan, I just want everything to be squared away and make sense, and feel like one and the same setting. And I’m always happy to sit and talk about toy soldiers over a coffee with anyone who will listen! Haha!
ToW: We talked about a few authors who we haven’t seen much from recently, and whether there’s any chance we might see some more from them. I started off by asking about a couple of fan favourites – Steve Parker and Sandy Mitchell.
LG: Well I personally haven’t heard from Steve Parker for a while, but I think Nick Kyme has spoken to him a fair bit in the last couple of years. I met Steve for the first time shortly after I started at Black Library, and he was so intense, such a presence in the room! But such a friendly chap, and really passionate about a lot of stuff going on in the world.
I do know that Sandy Mitchell has often talked about how he’d love to write more Ciaphas Cain stuff [I think EVERYONE would love him to write more of that!]. He’s such an intelligent writer, and his cheeky little grin comes through in every little gag within the narrative. I can just picture it every time I read something by him! The planet names, for example: there’s one planet where the name translates as without an arse [Nusquam Fundamentibus, in The Last Ditch], and another where the name translates as brass monkeys [Simia Orichalcae, in Caves of Ice]! How did nobody at Black Library check these names?! Ha! He’s so great. But it’s not the typical Warhammer style, and I think what’s so remarkable is that in spite of that, it’s still so successful and so well received by readers. I would love to see more Ciaphas Cain, and I know Lindsey Priestley has always enjoyed working editorially with Sandy. There have certainly been conversations about it over the last few years, and people always asked us at events, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
ToW: I had recently read The Red Path by Chris Dows, which reminded me just how much I’d enjoyed Anthony Reynolds’ Kharn: Eater of Worlds. I asked Laurie if there was any chance we might see the follow-up to that, covering Skalathrax…
Warning: there’s a bit of a SPOILER for Know No Fear coming up…
LG: Ant was actually one of my first authors. The first non-Horus Heresy book I read from Black Library was Dark Apostle, and the first thing I ever worked on as an editor was his short story Torment. That was dark as hell, and he carried on in that vein with all the stuff he did for me over the years – all his Horus Heresy short stories, his novella The Purge, which is SO dark, it’s like the darkest-dark story! He did Dark Heart for the Mark of Calth anthology, with the idea that off-camera at the end of Know No Fear, after Kor Phaeron’s had his heart torn out there’s this tug of war for his corpse…it’s horrible! The description is so grim. Dark, dark, dark. And there’s a heart in it too, so it’s a good title, eh? Yes!
To my mind, Anthony Reynolds as an author has developed his craft so much in the last few years, and I was really excited after he did the audio drama Chosen of Khorne. I said to him “You know what, I absolutely loved your take on Khârn the Betrayer, you HAVE to do Skalathrax! I want you to write that as a book.”
Space Marine Battles: Skalathrax was something he and I talked about, but due to various things, not least him moving to the USA (where I’m now working with him!) a couple of years ago, he didn’t think he would be able to do it justice in the time we had. Instead we settled on an idea that helped set up some new background for Khârn in the Studio stuff, in the digital Codex and so on. It would be the prelude to the battle of Skalathrax, so it became Khârn: Eater of Worlds. My hope was always that Ant would return to write Skalathrax itself, which is a very, very cool story. I think Ant is absolutely the right person to write it and I think he very much wants to write it, although you could probably just interview him about that! I don’t know, he might hate the idea…!
I have been pestering him pretty much non-stop for about a year and half, asking “Dude, when are you going to write the rest of my book?! I want to buy it and read it! You have to finish the story!” Maybe now I’m here, breathing down his neck, I can help Black Library persuade him to pick up Khârn again. I would LOVE to see that book happen.
Black Library always try to add something new in the telling of these supposedly ‘known’ events in the Warhammer background, these stories that everybody knows, if they’ve read the Codex or they’ve read Visions of Heresy or whatever. We always tried to add something more. I try to do this myself with my Scythes of the Emperor stuff as well, and Ant had some amazing long-term ideas for Khârn after Eater of Worlds. Khârn is like my second favourite character in the IP, after Angron himself! Strangely Ant had very little interest in Angron, which I found really odd. He loved Khârn but couldn’t get excited about the primarch, but he liked Lorgar to begin with… but we don’t hold that against him.
ToW: I remember finishing Eater of Worlds and just thinking ‘Hold on, this is half a book!’ It was amazing, but only half a book…
LG: It is a real cliff-hanger. I love it, but I want more! I’ve read it about five times. It’s self-contained inasmuch as it feels like you’re on the verge of something big, but it kind of demands a sequel, and then to be collected into an omnibus or something. [Ooh…now that sounds good!] So much killing in one book! Something I find difficult to read is just endless descriptions of fighting, though – how ironic is it that my favourite characters are Khârn and Angron, and I don’t like the endless descriptions of fighting?! For me, describing your favourite character bashing thirty people’s heads in is so tedious compared to describing the fear that somebody else feels when they SEE your favourite character bashing thirty people’s heads in.
That’s why Chosen of Khorne appeals to me so much, the fact that it echoed After Desh’ea where Khârn himself descended into the catacombs of the ship and was confronted by this animalistic primarch Angron in the shadows. All of the themes were there in Chosen of Khorne, yet in a completely different context, where somebody else has to go and find Khârn. He is not this rampaging beast, in fact he’s incredibly calm and collected, except when you see from his point of view he’s just imagining killing everybody all of the time. I thought that was a neat little conceit, and in Eater of Worlds it’s the same where he seems very calm but has these outbursts of rage. Sometimes when Khârn‘s been portrayed in fiction elsewhere have really suffered from him just being ‘Kill! Maim! Burn!’ when there’s so much more potential in this amazing character. Aaron was all over that in Betrayer too, of course.
Advent and stories coming up
ToW: At the time we spoke, the 2016 Advent Calendar was still fresh in my mind. It seemed to me that most (if not all) of the Advent stories were really leading into what’s coming next, so I asked Laurie if that was a deliberate decision to say ‘Read these and you’ll get an idea of what’s coming up soon…’
LG: Although Black Library didn’t have much to do with 2015’s Call of Chaos Advent releases, what we’d been doing previous years – trying to build each time, year on year – was really get a sense of a theme or a building of excitement. So in 2016 we started work in May to make sure we got it sorted in time. Our desk editor Amy was adamant that we couldn’t leave it until the last minute – never again, haha! I had five Horus Heresy stories lined up, and three audios, but we said that every single story of the twenty-four had to either be a continuation of a popular storyline, or had to tease something else that’s coming soon.
So, for example, The Embrace of Pain by Ian St. Martin, the Lucius the Eternal audio drama, introduces the idea of getting inside Lucius’ head in 40k a bit more towards the end of this timeline, and realising that he’s constantly grappling with the voices of these individuals he’s subsumed or possessed up to this point. Of course, Ian has written a novel about him too [Lucius: The Eternal Blade] which is going to be coming out at some point in 2017, so the audio was the tease for what’s coming next. Equally there was David Guymer’s The Calculus of Battle audio, and David’s already said that he’s writing a novel about Kardan Stronos and the Iron Hands [Eye of Medusa].
[WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR CORAX COMING UP]
As for the Horus Heresy stories, a lot of them lead into or out of other novels and other stories, while other stuff is just generally building the momentum of the series towards the inevitable finale. Everything is spiralling towards the final stages now.
One of the plot threads in Corax, in the Weregeld novella, was Marcus Valerius being sent off to Beta-Garmon basically to die. Gav and I felt that he needed to finish that particular story arc, and I really wanted to see Toby Longworth come back to play Marcus Valerius again in audio, so we totally had to do that. And Dan writing about Oll Persson…in fact, Dan writing anything Horus Heresy is awesome, Dan writing Horus Heresy audio is doubly awesome, Dan-writing-Oll-Persson-in-a-Horus-Heresy-audio is just the ultimate win! And then he threw in loads of Dark Age of Technology references, which is always pure gold. I loved it.
As for Oll Persson, he has a destiny. Some people think they know what it is…but out of everything I’ve seen online and people asking me questions at events, nobody has yet correctly guessed the full extent of his journey. There’s all the stuff from the really old background, Ollanius the Pious and so on, and yeah that’s all in there…but what’s he ACTUALLY doing? You realise that the Horus Heresy story, more than any other part of Warhammer fiction, is the biggest group effort. It’s far bigger than it was ever intended to be, and managing that was almost a full-time job for me in itself.
And the Blood Bowl stuff! I’m so happy that we’ve got Blood Bowl fiction again. That was one of the things when they asked me a few years ago, “Do you have any ideas for new ranges?” I was like “Obviously I want us to do Necromunda and Blood Bowl stories!” But it took quite a few years for anything to be commissioned, because the games weren’t in print anymore. What a difference now, eh?
ToW: Who do I need to bribe to get Josh Reynolds commissioned to write more Blood Bowl?
LG: It would be crazy not to get Josh to write more Blood Bowl! His sense of humour; for anyone who’s not met him at an event or read his posts online, he’s the most entertainingly irreverent guy you could possibly imagine, and that’s exactly the right tone for Blood Bowl. Also for Lukas the Trickster – I couldn’t believe that 40k could have that level of…well, not silliness, but just that sense of humour about it. And yet still feel like 40k! It’s the same with Fabius Bile, in Primogenitor. Certain characters just lend themselves to that sort of thing – you wouldn’t write Abaddon with that sense of humour, or write Commander Dante quipping one liners, but for Lukas it makes sense and fits perfectly. It’s all about what’s appropriate for the IP, and that’s what Black Library is all about – it just has to be appropriate to what’s happening.
ToW: I really enjoyed Laurie’s short story The Aegidan Oath, which ties into the work he’s doing with the Scythes of the Emperor and his Space Marine Battles novel. If you haven’t read the short, I’d definitely recommend checking it out – if you have, this might help provide a little extra context…
[WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR PHAROS COMING UP]
LG: So, Slaughter at Giant’s Coffin was just going to be called Giant’s Coffin at first, actually, and I was originally commissioned to write it as a novella. This was when the Flesh Tearers stuff came out and Andy Smillie and I were each commissioned to write a Horus Heresy short story and a 40k short story that fitted together with our respective novellas, so we could release a shiny edition Space Marine Battles book with two extra stories all tied into one product. I think Andy’s was either Virtues of the Sons or Sins of the Father, I can’t recall now. With Giant’s Coffin, my Horus Heresy story was originally called The Dark Between the Stars but became The Heart of the Pharos, and the 40k story was originally called The Warden of the Pharos, but became The Aegidan Oath because I couldn’t have …of the Pharos twice!
The idea was conceived and written way back then. People are saying ‘Oh, the Space Marine captain on the front cover of Slaughter at Giant’s Coffin, his helmet looks really weird, like a skull mask, and that makes no sense because he’s not a Chaplain!’ Just wait until you’ve read the short story, because that’s Barabas Dantioch’s mask that he’s wearing. In 40k, the Chapter Master of the Scythes of the Emperor wears that mask – that’s his ceremonial mask of office, he is the Warden of the Pharos. Everyone who’s ever held the post of Warden of the Pharos has worn that mask, right back to mad old Chapter Master Oberdeii himself, after Dantioch’s death and cremation. Sorry – spoiler alert if anyone STILL hasn’t read Pharos by Guy Haley!
And just for additional fanboy enjoyment, remember that we knew about upcoming Studio stuff really far in advance. I tried to fit in subtle teasers for Guilliman’s return to 40k in a few places in my Scythes stuff, over the last couple of years – they are an Ultramarines Successor after all. I reckon anyone who has an eye for that sort of thing could figure out a lot more of the little hints I put in, in various ways! Characters names, the order in which they die, places and so on. There’s a number on someone’s armour in a piece of artwork which is relevant, too. The alien whispers in The Heart of the Pharos are a translation in an eastern European language of a HUGE spoiler. Also, actually, the prayers in High Gothic spoken during Mortarion’s Heart are a direct message to the listener. But I’ll say no more.
Oh yes – and in spite of what some people think, it’s not a mistake that Chapter Master Thrasius became Thracian in more recent Scythes stories. If you check the more recent versions of Orphans of the Kraken by Richard Williams, it’s been retconned there too, along with the name of his ship. That’s actually not a teaser for anything. That was an IP issue from years back, before I wrote anything for Black Library. Sorry to disappoint!
The Horus Heresy and the New York Times bestseller list
ToW: A good few of the earlier Horus Heresy books were New York Times bestsellers, but none have been since the move to hardback releases first. I asked Laurie whether that’s something that Black Library are concerned about…
LG: Well, I can’t speak for Black Library as I don’t work there anymore! But the whole thing was quite interesting to me, even when I was just doing BLTV videos and promos for the web. We had eight New York Times bestsellers on the Horus Heresy, almost a complete run – A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, Know No Fear, The Primarchs and Fear to Tread. At the time when that first happened, which started before I landed the editorial job, Black Library became very interested in what awards and industry recognition they could get in order to help promote the books, alongside BLTV. Graham McNeill won the David Gemmell Legend award for his Warhammer: Time of Legends novel Empire, and Raymond Swanland has a huge amount of well-deserved industry recognition too. David Guymer has been an awards finalist several times as well – I’ve had plenty of nights out with free champagne and nibbles thanks to that man’s writing skills, haha!
I was actually looking into this the other week, the whole New York Times thing. It’s by far the best known and most-often cited bestseller list in the English-language publishing industry, even though there is also the Wall Street Journal and we have the Sunday Times lists in the UK on top of them. But the numbers for the US book trade can easily overshadow even a number one bestseller in the UK. It’s just the number of potential buyers we’re talking about, here. It’s a whole other scale.
But what I found interesting is the weekly sales numbers. A number one New York Times bestselling novel only needs to sell something like 10,000 copies in a week, across the whole of the mainland USA. That’d be all it takes to hit the top spot! But…it’s the ‘in a week’ part that must get tricky. So, do you know what the most sold and most widely read Horus Heresy novel is? Of course, it’s Horus Rising, the very first book. But those total sales, whatever they are, are spread over more than ten years since its release. If we had them over ten WEEKS, that book would probably be a number one global bestseller for every single week, in every list.
There’s a dark side to this, of course. There are companies out there who will help a publisher to achieve bestseller status, for a huge fee. One tactic might be to print 12,000 copies, and then have employees of the company buy all the stock in individual transactions from multiple bookstores within a week. Bam! A number one New York Times bestseller. That’s when you realise that this system is literally just a sales rating, no guarantee of quality or anything like that. All it says is ‘This sells a lot of copies, for whatever reason’, and that’s something that must be really open to abuse. Somewhere along the line, any publisher has to think – do we want to focus our efforts, time and money on getting this book onto a bestseller list, or do we want to just use those same resources to make even more AWESOME books? I do believe, and you can Google this to see if I might be wrong because it’s all visible public knowledge, that Fear to Tread by James Swallow was actually the highest placed Horus Heresy book ever on the New York Times lists, at something like number thirteen for its week of release. That was the last Horus Heresy book to reach the list…and also the last mass market paperback novel before the switch to hardback collector’s edition previews. There’s your answer, I suppose. Black Library made the decision to make better books, in more formats.
I mean, sure – it was disappointing to see these newer Horus Heresy titles missing out on New York Times recognition, because interest in the series is pretty much the same as it was before, I think, even though some new readers have come along and some old readers have dropped away. At some point you just have to decide it’s not worth trying to chase what is ultimately only a prestige thing in the book trade. Nobody is going to buy Black Library books JUST because they say ‘New York Times bestseller’ on them, if they weren’t already of a mind to buy them. In my humble opinion, it’ll just be very unlikely to see another New York Times bestseller in the series. Although we do in fact still call it ‘The New York Times bestselling series’… and I would LOVE to be proven wrong. I’m throwing down the gauntlet to whoever takes over from me at Black Library! Make it happen!
Something I’ve also seen in various industry awards where the public can vote, is that bigger publishers get more votes. Why? Because they have more customers. So they win more awards. It’s a vicious cycle. Digital book sales are interesting though, Kindle and iBooks bestseller lists are becoming more widely respected than a lot of the publishing awards. Again, it does come down to sales or download numbers, but I’m very keen to see where this whole business goes in the next ten years. The Horus Heresy will be long done by then, but maybe I’ll write the next Fifty Shades of Whatever and pay some dodgy company to buy all the copies! Easy money.
ToW: Speaking of the end of the Horus Heresy – we’re going to pass the 50 mark, right?
LG: Heh, if they were to just reprint everything that’s already been published in other formats and the authors write the three remaining stories, that probably already takes us over fifty.
ToW: Three remaining stories, or three remaining books?
LG: Yeah, as Nick and I said at Black Library Live, three remaining storylines that will go into books. It’s not necessarily so self-contained as ‘This is this story in this book, and this is another story in this other book’. There’s some stuff that’s already been written and some stuff that’s going to be written. Sorry to be so vague. My non-disclosure agreements are still very much in place at Games Workshop, for future products!
ToW: I asked Laurie one final question…”Now that you’ve left Black Library, out of the stuff that’s coming up soon what are you most excited about?”
Be warned, there are SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t read Corax…
LG: Aside from the fact that we’re obviously heading for the Siege of Terra, with so many characters and plotlines that are just building towards that…one of the big ones everybody keeps asking about (because the way we’ve told it has been a little bit confusing for some people) is the idea of the Wolf Cull. In other words, Leman Russ suddenly appearing severely wounded at Yarant when Corax catches up with him, in the book Corax. It was a very deliberate part of the storytelling, because Gav and I decided that we needed to get Corax out of the Heresy, we needed his part to be resolved NOW because that’s the way that we wanted to proceed with Beta-Garmon, Marcus Valerius etc. However, a big part of where Corax goes is tied up with what happens to Leman Russ AFTER the Wolf Cull, as hinted in Chris Wraight’s novel Leman Russ: The Great Wolf.
By the way, ‘the Wolf Cull’ is merely a term that Tony Cottrell put on a Forge World presentation. Since then it’s become irrefutably inscribed on everyone’s minds – ‘That’s what it’s going to be called! That’s the name of the Black Library book!’ So I just smile politely and say nothing…
There’s the obvious question of what happened to Russ, and how he got so messed up, and loads of people are saying that he must have confronted Horus. That’d be a pretty safe bet, for my money. However, Horus being confronted by an angry Leman Russ and his Legion – that would probably need to happen a little bit later in order for it to make sense in Horus’ arc as the books build towards the Siege of Terra. We’ve seen the loyalist viewpoint, as in Corax’s and Russ’, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. That was deliberate, Gav and I were very keen to make sure we included that sense of ambiguity. The thing that I’m most excited about, the great thing about this story is that it’s like the Horus Heresy in a nutshell. We already know exactly what the outcome is, because Leman Russ gets messed up.
But do we ACTUALLY know what the outcome is? Because in Corax, Ezekyle Abaddon suddenly appears at Yarant and goes full-on trying to wipe out the wounded Space Wolves and Leman Russ. I hope that story would be something like Rogue One to A New Hope – the ending of this supposed ‘Wolf Cull’ could have that level of amazing, exciting, horrifying drama. All of the little concerns and arguments that fans are having about whether or not Leman Russ got a proper spin of the wheel at that point would suddenly be obliterated by the full telling of it! However, obviously he doesn’t kill Horus, and obviously his attempt fails, we know that from the background. The question of HOW he’s foiled and what exactly he MIGHT achieve, because we haven’t seen it from Horus’ point of view yet – that’s the thing that’s really exciting, and that’s what I’ve always loved about the Horus Heresy as a series. It’s going to be amazing, however it shakes out. I’m sure of that.”
ToW: That sounds brilliant! (Cue the sound of MANY Space Wolves fans beginning to salivate…)
Once again, I’d like to thank Laurie for taking the time to discuss all of this, and for continuing to be refreshingly honest. As with the first part of the interview, it’s great to hear Laurie’s thoughts on so many interesting topics, and get a bit of an insider’s viewpoint on things.
For me, I’ve got a real sense of positivity when looking ahead, whether it’s to the final stretch of the Horus Heresy, the future of 40k, or Black Library’s support for settings like Blood Bowl – and hopefully other settings in times to come. It feels like there have been some amazing releases recently, with loads more great looking titles in the pipeline – I really hope this continues!
If you’ve got any thoughts, feedback or questions off the back of either of these interview posts, feel free to let me know – you can get in touch via the comments on here, or via either Facebook or Twitter.