Andy Jamieson

Sometime Geek Overlord, bi-monthly Dungeon Master, part-time care worker, reigning Husband of the Year, & full-time daddy. Also, proficient proverbial juggler.

Dec 092018
 

Nathan O’ Hagan is at the forefront of a an exciting new generation of British writers. His debut novel, The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place, is an incendiary piece of work, a vital novel of our times, described by the Liverpool Sound & Vision as capturing “a mood, a real sense of anger that perhaps has not been seen in such forceful, descriptive writing since the days when Holden Caulfield snatched J.D. Salinger into the world of rebellion and profanity forever.” His second book, Out of the City, cemented his burgeoning reputation as an author on the rise, and now his latest book, Everything Falls Apart: A Collection of Short Stories, is just out, and is equally impressive. He is also the co-founder (along with fellow acclaimed author, Wayne Leeming)  of publishing house, Obliterati Press.

Please enjoy.

Andrew Jamieson, Editor-in-Chief, Geekzine UK

 

Nathan O’ Hagan

Andrew Jamieson: Your new book, Everything Falls Apart: A Collection of Short Stories, is out now. Is there a theme to the collection?

Nathan O’ Hagan: I think the term ‘mixed bag’ could have been coined for this collection. They’re a pretty disparate bunch, linked only by the idea of people living somewhat on the edge, and frequently losing their shit in fairly spectacular fashion. I didn’t start out with a clear intention to write a collection of stories, if I had done, maybe they would have been more thematically linked. It was more a case of having a bunch of short stories sitting around, and not really being bothered to submit them separately, so why not put them together and self publish?

 

AJ: You’ve been a busy man over the last few years, founding the publishing house, Obliterati Press, as well as pursuing your own writing. What was the inspiration to start your own publishers?

NOH: Publishing house is probably an overly grandiose description of what we are, we’re probably more of a publishing potting shed at the moment. Something that started off as a bit of a joke the first time I met Wayne (M.W. Leeming, who I met when we were doing a panel event in Leeds with Armley Press) just kind of picked up its own momentum, within a few months a joke during a chat over a curry turned into, ‘well, why not?’ and then ‘how’? Wayne was able to build a nice little website, and I was able to find a couple of very talented but unpublished authors whose work we could start by putting out. There’s no shortage of publishers, both indie and mainstream, but the fact that within my own vague, extended network of associates, there were at least two great, unpublished authors. So how many more must there be out there? That was reason enough to do it.

AJ: It seems like a massive undertaking to start up your own publishing company. What have you learnt along the way?

NOH: What incredibly hard work it is! It’s been an almost vertical learning curve, and we’re constantly learning things, either from things we get right, or things we make a balls-up of. I think, so far, we’ve got more things right than wrong.

AJ: What are you most proud of with Obliterati Press?

NOH: Definitely being able to publish work of incredible quality, and to have given the authors the chance to get their work read. Richard Rippon and David Olner, for example, are both hugely talented authors, but the chances are, if I hadn’t approached them, their novels may never have seen the light of day, and that would have been terrible. We still wish we could break through more in terms of sales, and we are still working on ways to do that, but to have at least got them out there for now, we’re very proud of that.

AJ: Has becoming a publisher had any impact on how you approach your own written work?

NOH: Definitely. It’s made me much better at editing my own work (although I still believe it’s near impossible to do that well). Having to be a bit more task-orientated with Obliterati, rather than being my usual skittish self, reacting to tasks the way a cat reacts to a cucumber, has helped me be a bit more focused when it comes to my own writing, rather than pontificating for hours at a time. That’s not to say that I don’t pontificate for hours at a time, I just do it slightly less

 

Nathan’s first novel, the highly acclaimed The World is [Not] A Cold Dead Place, from 2015.

AJ: What are the future plans for yourself as a writer, and also for Obliterati Press?

NOH: Having just put Everything Falls Apart out, I’m hoping to sit back and watch the royalties flood in, but in reality I’ll probably be looking at the sales figures and screaming at my computer screen about how nobody’s buying it. I’ve just finished another draft of the sequel to my first novel, and Wayne is doing some editing for me. I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels four and five which I hope to get to preliminary work on at some point soon(ish). As for the press, we’re hoping to put a couple of ideas into practice soon. We’ve just set up a copy editing/proofreading service, and in the new year we’re hoping to start a podcast, focusing on unpublished authors. And we’ve also got our next book, an absolutely brilliant novel, The Weighing Of The Heart by Paul Tudor Owen coming out, probably around late March time.

AJ: How do you feel about the state of the British publishing industry at present? 

NOH: Like a lot of people, I do get very frustrated by how risk averse and homogenous the industry has become. Sometimes the big publishing houses still put out some genuinely superb work, but look at the bestsellers list, and you’ll mostly see ghostwritten celeb memoirs, fiction from the same few authors, and any publishing industry that can put out a book by a YouTuber telling you how to make sandwiches is clearly doing something wrong. A lot of this is responding to what the public want of course, but that just makes it even more depressing.

AJ: What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

NOH: I’m currently re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which is as brutal and brilliant as I remember it, as well as The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende. I also recently finished The Cut by George Pelecanos, and From A Low And Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan, which was magnificent and highly recommended.

AJ: And what ‘hidden gem’ book do you always recommend to people? 

NOH: Ooh, great question! So many! Obviously all the Obliterati Press books, as well as my own. But, while it may not be exactly hidden, having won a Pulitzer, I’m always amazed how few people I talk to have even heard of A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, let alone read it. It’s probably the funniest novel ever written, and one of those I always try and foist onto people.

 

Thank you to Nathan for his time, and his answers. Everything Falls Apart is out now and available from here, or selected bookstores.

Please visit the Obliterati Press website to learn more about this exciting publisher and their authors.

 

Geekzine editor Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Nov 222018
 

Some of the released art for Blackstone Fortress by artist Paul Dainton is incredible.

The new Games Workshop boardgame, Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress is the third in the current series of Warhammer Quest boardgames, that started with Silver Tower back in 2016 (sadly now unavailable from GW themselves), and continued with Shadows Over Hammerhal in 2017 (with the original Warhammer Quest released back in 1995). Out this weekend, Blackstone Fortress marks a departure as it is set within the Warhammer 40k universe of the far future, as opposed to the Age of Sigmar fantasy setting of the previous two sets. Games Workshop has indicated that the game will be supported with expansions over the forthcoming years.

The entire contents of Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress

First teased back in August at the NOVA Open Preview Seminars, Games Workshop have stepped up promotion of the game steadily throughout November, with a series of excellent posts on the Warhammer Community website, now handily gathered in one place (all essential reading). The feature-length play-through video ‘How to Play’ that Warhammer TV released, hosted by Becca Scott, gave us geeks a good indication of what to expect from this rather fabulous looking new game. There are some recognisable game mechanics carried over from the other two WQ games, with each character’s four Activation dice used to implement movement & attacks, etc. There is also a pool of Destiny dice, used for extra activations or other such narrative quirks. There is a d20 – the ‘Blackstone’ dice, for more character specific RPG developments. There are action dice, reminiscent of the dice in Imperial Assault, for carrying out combat. Compared to the Age of Sigmar WQ games, there is far more emphasis on a narrative backbone to Blackstone Fortress. There are nine named characters:

The heroes of Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress

Janus Draik, a Rogue Trader

Espen Locarno, Imperial Navigator

Taddeus the Purifier, Ministorum Priest

Pious Vorne, Missionary Zealot

Amallyn Shadowguide, Asuryani Ranger

Dahyak Grekh, Kroot Tracker

UR-025, Imperial Robot

Rein and Raus, the Ratling twins

Like Kill Team: Rogue Trader before it, there seems to be a clear effort by the design team to push and expand the Warhammer 40k background into hitherto unseen areas. For longtime fans, this is great to see, as the 40k setting holds so much potential for narrative/roleplay gaming beyond tabletop wargaming. The heroes each have a ship, which they can dock at the Precipice space station between expeditions to trade any loot recovered from their adventures within the Blackstone Fortress, and upgrade their characters.

The hostiles of Blackstone Fortress.

The hero miniatures are stunningly crafted, as are the hostiles. There are renegade Imperial guardsmen, beastmen, Rogue Psykers, Chaos Space Marines, renegade mechanicus cultists, Ur-Ghuls (nightmarish monsters carried over from the Drukhari/Dark Eldar range), and Spindle Drones, indigenous machines to the fortress itself. Like Silver Tower, the miniatures in Blackstone Fortress have been created specially for the game. And like Silver Tower, the miniatures give a good indication of what is to come next from GW; when Silver Tower came out, we saw the rejuvenation of the Tzeentch range with Tzaangors and Kairic Acolytes. In Blackstone Fortress, we can see a heavy lean towards Chaos forces. The rumour mill abounds that 2019 will see major releases for the Chaos ranges in both 40k and Age of Sigmar. From the Blackstone Fortress set it is not hard to conclude that we will see new Chaos Space Marines, a traitor guardsmen range, a renegade mechanicus range, but also a Rogue Trader faction range and perhaps even a revamping of the Aeldari and Kroot ranges, perhaps more.

As per Blackstone Fortress itself, the game comes with five booklets; Background, Rules, Combat, Precipice (bringing RPG elements to the game aboard a space station between expeditions), and Datasheets (to use the models in 40k). I’ve seen some opinions on various forums extolling the pros and cons of having so many separate booklets, but initially it appeals to me, although how useful they will be in the heat of the game remains to be seen. Maybe one rulebook with indentations for each section might have been more player-friendly but perhaps more costly to produce.

The Hidden Vault envelope that is intended to be opened once the game has been completed.

Unlike Silver Tower and Shadows Over Hammerhal, Blackstone Fortress appears to not be played out over a set ‘Quest’ map. There are three sets of cards that power the gameplay; Discovery, Encounter and Exploration, and through the turning of these, the game progresses, with combat and challenges. The hex map tiles are laid out for combat, and characters have the opportunity to fight through the hostile hordes inhabiting the fortress to discover clues that will lead them deeper within the mysterious space station. If the characters discover 4 clues this leads them to a Stronghold. There are a sequence of these strongholds to overcome, leading to a hidden vault, represented by a sealed envelope provided in the box; now, depending who you believe, each envelope contains an exclusive something-or-other that furthers the plot, and will vary between box sets. I suspect we will get a preview of a forthcoming expansion to Blackstone Fortress (GW have promised that the game will be supported for years to come), or an exclusive mission or similar. Whether or not us happy punters have the discipline to NOT open that Hidden Vault envelope before completing the initial game is another matter.

The three card decks used within the game.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Blackstone Fortress is released just before the Vigilus Weekender kicks off (Saturday 24th to Sunday 25th November at Warhammer World). The most recent two 40k box sets, Tooth and Claw, and Wake the Dead, released this autumn, are set on Vigilus, as was the Kill Team starter set, released back in the summer. Games Workshop are teasing more developments in the ongoing story of the beleaguered hive world of Vigilus, to be revealed in seminars over the weekend. If we don’t see the reveal of a Primarch and/or a new box set and/or faction range I will be very surprised.

Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress is up for pre-order now, from Games Workshop themselves, and slightly cheaper from various hobby shops and third-party online retailers. Over on Warhammer Community they state that the game is set for release on Friday 23rd November, or ‘Blackstone Friday’.

And check out the slick Blackstone Fortress website, for a thorough introduction to the game.

All photos taken from the Games Workshop and Warhammer Community website.

Geekzine editor Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

 

Nov 202018
 

Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, circa late 1970s, were pioneers in bringing Dungeons & Dragons to the UK and Europe.

The creators of the Fighting Fantasy series of books, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, are two titans of the fantasy roleplaying industry. Prior to the breakout success of the FF books, they set up and established Game Workshop as the UK’s premier hobby shop, publishing the magazine White Dwarf (which is still going strong today) and were pioneers in being responsible for bringing the RPG Dungeons & Dragons to Europe. Following the success of Fighting Fantasy, both men became involved in the videogames industry and to this day are renowned and respected figures in the gaming business and community. I met them as part of my hosting duties at this summer’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, and they were kind enough to allow my inner fanboy to pepper them with questions for a Geekzine interview. This has been months in the making, so please enjoy.

Andy Jamieson, Geekzine Editor-in-chief

November 2018

Andy Jamieson: Ian, why do you think the Fighting Fantasy books have remained as popular as they have?

Ian Livingstone: A Fighting Fantasy book is one in which you, the reader, are the hero. They’re branching narratives with a game system attached. They allow readers to make their own choices and decisions. Linear books are a passive experience whereas Fighting Fantasy is an interactive experience which gives control to the reader. Choice is empowering and speaks to today’s video game generation. We are delighted that they are relevant to a new generation.

AJ: Steve, how did the original idea for the Fighting Fantasy concept come around, and what inspired the choose-you-own-adventure system?

Steve Jackson: Originally this was supposed to be a ‘how-to-do-it’ manual. But when we got to explaining, it was much more interesting to make it an interactive explanation.

The first Fighting Fantasy book, released in 1982.

AJ: Ian and Steve, out of all the Fighting Fantasy books that you have written, which ones stand out as the titles you are most proud of, and why? 

IL: It has to be The Warlock of Firetop Mountain because it was our first book and I remember going into WH Smith several times a week just to see it on the shelves! My personal favourites are Forest of Doom, Deathtrap Dungeon and City of Thieves.

SJ: Warlock will always be a special one as it was the first in the series. Then I’d say the Sorcery series. That was an epic project and I was so relieved when I’d finished Crown of Kings. And Creature of Havoc.

AJ: Ian, how was it having Charlie Higson write a Fighting Fantasy book set in Allansia? Did you set him any no-go areas? Are there plans for him to write any more? 

IL: It was great having Charlie write Gates of Death as he brought a new dimension to the narrative style, and also attention to the series with his celebrity status and following. We pretty much gave him free reign in our universe, the only caveat being not to mess with legendary characters and creatures. It would be a pleasure to work with him again on another book.

AJ: Steve, aside from Charlie Higson’s Fighting Fantasy novel, are there any future plans for other authors to write original books for the series? 

SJ: Charlie’s book seems to have done well. So it’s something we’d consider.

AJ: Ian, how was it returning to the Fighting Fantasy series last year, with The Port of Peril? Had anything changed in the way you approached the design of a Fighting Fantasy adventure?  

IL: I used the same writing mechanics as I did in the 1980s – creating a manual flowchart as I wrote the adventure, allocating paragraph numbers on the fly from a list of 1-400, and making the all-important map. But writing it gave me a dilemma. Was I writing it for 10-year-olds or for 40-year-olds masquerading as 10-year-olds? In the end, I did what I always did – I wrote it for myself, hopefully appealing to fans young and old.

AJ: Steve, at the Edinburgh book festival event with Ian and Charlie Higson, you discussed that you were working on a new Fighting Fantasy book. What can you reveal at this early stage? Will it, for example, be set in Allansia?

SJ:  Top secret I’m afraid!

AJ: Ian, with you and Steve being the founders of Games Workshop, has the continued success of Warhammer Fantasy/Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40k surprised you? Do you have much continued involvement with the company? 

Issue 1 of White Dwarf from summer 1977

IL: Steve and I are no longer involved in Games Workshop but watch its ongoing success from the sidelines with a great sense of pride. Who would have thought that the company we started in a pokey flat in Shepherds Bush in 1975 would turn into a hugely successful multi-national?

AJ: Steve, since your early days with Ian as pioneers in making roleplaying games popular in the Uk and Europe, do you still have as much passion for the games now as you did then? 

SJ: The games I mainly play these days are German Board Games and Apps. I haven’t quite got the concentration I used to have to read 100-page rulebooks!

AJ: Ian, as a long time Dungeons and Dragons fan, what are your thoughts on the successful 5th edition? And do either of you still play? 

IL: By all accounts the 5th edition is brilliant. But we no longer play D&D. We regularly play board games in a group which has been together since the 1980s.

AJ: Steve, has the recent upsurge in popularity in roleplaying/ board games surprised you?

SJ: Yes, indeed. The Japanese version of the AFF Rulebook has sold almost 2,000 copies in the first couple of months! I can’t believe it – after 35 years! 

AJ: Ian, what plans do you and Steve have for the Fighting Fantasy series going forward? 

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, for the Nintendo Switch. (Goblin Scourge edition out now!)

IL: There are going to be more digital adaptations of Fighting Fantasy. Tin Man Games and Nomad games have launched some fantastic games over the years, most recently The Warlock of Firetop Mountain on Switch and Fighting Fantasy Legends on mobile, and there are plans for more. I’m currently working on ideas for a new Fighting Fantasy book and hope to begin writing soon. And the 40th anniversary will be upon us before we know it. Steve and I always planned to write another adventure inside Firetop Mountain for the 40th anniversary, so we better get started on that soon too!

AJ: Steve, what roleplaying / board / video games are you currently a fan of?

SJ: Our Games Night group plays 4-6-player games like Dominion and Splendor. And I often play 2-player games – Jaipur and Morels are current favourites.

AJ: Ian and Steve, aside from Fighting Fantasy, what projects do you have lined up? 

Steve and Ian at a book signing last year.

IL: I’m writing two non-fiction books at the moment. The Dice Men is a history of the first crazy ten years of Games Workshop (1975-1985) which I’m writing with Steve and Jamie Thomson. The second is a yet untitled book about the history of board games through the ages which I’m writing with James Wallis. I’m also very much involved in the video games industry. I currently sit on the board of eight video games companies – Sumo-Digital, Midoki, Flavourworks, The Secret Police, Bossa Studios, Mediatonic, Fusebox, PlayMob and Antstream. Whilst I endeavour to give them sound business advice, it’s the involvement in their game designs that gets me most excited. It’s the creative process that I enjoy the most.

SJ: The new book is still some way off and is taking most of my time!

 

 

Many thanks to Ian and Steve for their time, their photos, and their answers. Charlie Higson’s Fighting Fantasy book, The Gates of Death, is out now, and is worth all your pennies. To see the current range of Fighting Fantasy titles available from Scholastic, visit their website. If you’re looking for the vintage titles still out of print, try eBay and Amazon, and your local charity shops.

And please check out the official Fighting Fantasy website.

Aug 272018
 

Fighting Fantasy at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2018

The first Fighting Fantasy book, released in 1982.

Last year marked the 35th anniversary of the release of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the very first of the Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own-adventure books. Since their worldwide bestselling heyday in the early to mid-1980s (20 million copies sold and counting), this classic series of books have been in and out of print, to varying degrees of success. Scholastic books are the latest publisher to tackle the series, in an attempt to bring Fighting Fantasy to a new generation of fans.

The two events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 12th August were testament to the fact that Scholastic might just have succeeded in bringing Fighting Fantasy and its creators, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, to a new audience.

I first read a FF book when I was 8 or 9 (Caverns of the Snow Witch; I still love it) and read them relentlessly for the next five or six years. They were a massive influence on me, infusing me with a love of fantasy and gaming, and definitely in terms of inspiring me to try creative writing (still trying 30 years on, to mixed results).

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are the masterminds behind the Fighting Fantasy series, a project that was born out of their love for roleplaying games (aka RPGs), Dungeons and Dragons in particular, and their desire to try and translate those gaming mechanics to a younger audience. Prior to Fighting Fantasy, they had founded Games Workshop, steering it from its origins as a stockist and distributor of boardgames and RPGs (including being the original distributors of Dungeons & Dragons in Europe) to the worldwide Warhammer phenomenon of today; Games Workshop recently recorded their most successful year of trading yet.

The two events on Sunday were all about bringing Fighting Fantasy to a new generation. The programme notes for the afternoon event, Fighting Fantasy with Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone (sold out weeks ahead of the festival opening), which I introduced, promised an “interactive audio experience in which you become the hero.” Steve and Ian had created an audio adventure, operated from Steve’s laptop, and designed in the solid tradition of the FF books. Steve had also brought along some large toy dice for audience participation. After Ian had done a short slideshow detailing the history of Fighting Fantasy, Steve asked for volunteers from the audience – one to be the ‘hero’, and one volunteer each to roll the hero dice and the creatures dice.

Ian Livingstone gives a short slideshow history lesson on all things Fighting Fantasy.

Some suitably atmospheric audio chapters were played out, with Steve moving things along and prompting the encounters, and Ian on creature duty. The young volunteers – Daniel, Calum and Ruaridh – were full of enthusiasm, and there were lots of improvised moments of japes and mischief, which were handled in good nature by Steve and Ian, especially when the chapter order in the audio adventure became a little muddled. As I discussed with Steve after the event, these kind of technical hiccups only add to the good atmosphere. There was a tight time slot for audience questions towards the end of the event (always sure to keep seasoned book fest hosts like myself on our toes), and there was no shortage of hands up from the audience, with a good mixture of questions from veteran geeks from the first days of FF, to the inquisitive minds of the new generation of fans. Ian commented later that it particularly pleased him to see such a good, healthy mix of old and new fans alike.

The signing queue in the Children’s Bookshop at the festival lasted approximately an hour, and again was a lively mix of veteran FF fans with pile of vintage books, and younger fans taking their first steps into the Fighting Fantasy series, clutching the shiny new additions published by Scholastic.

After the event there was opportunity for me to talk freely with Steve and Ian, and it was interesting to get their perspective on the rise in popularity of boardgames and RPGs, such as the notable successes of Dungeons & Dragons, and the continued high grade quality output from Games Workshop.

Later that day, Steve and Ian were part of an event along with Charlie Higson, titled Charlie Higson with Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone: Fighting Fantasy.

The evening event, where Charlie Higson joined Steve and Ian to discuss Fighting Fantasy, and the new additions to the series.

Higson has written The Gates of Death, a brand new entry into the Fighting Fantasy series, set in Allansia, like the bulk of Jackson/Livingstone fantasy set FF books. The event took place in the Sparkes Theatre on nearby George Street, and was chaired by illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones. This event was more discussion led than the earlier one, with the three authors and their host quizzing each other on the long history of Fighting Fantasy, and the addition of new titles to the series; last year Livingstone penned The Port of Peril, whilst this summer has seen Higson’s entry released to some acclaim, alongside reissues of some of the classic FF titles.

Ian opened the event with a variation of the slideshow that began the afternoon’s event. Higson discussed how he came to write a Fighting Fantasy book, and the design process of the books was explained (the diagrams from the authors own sketchbooks were something to behold, looking more like complex scientific formula than fantastical adventures!). Like the earlier event, the audience here was a good split of young and old (and I recognised a fair few faces from that event in attendance here too).

Figjting Fantasy for a new generation: The Gates of Death by Charlie Higson, and The Port of Peril by Ian Livingstone.

There was a good amount of questions asked at the end, and some fascinating bits of trivia came to light through the authors’ answers; Higson explained that Jackson and Livingstone had allowed him to write an Allansia-set adventure, meaning that aside from themselves, he was the first author to write an adventure set in that realm; Steve Jackson is working on a new FF book, but was tight-lipped on the details, other than it is expected next year; Charlie Higson gave his view on why and how Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings became a worldwide bestseller in the 1970s, with the development in printing techniques allowing for all three books to be released as one volume, which until 1972 had not been possible; Ian Livingstone revealed that one of the driving reasons behind the creation of the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k universes was that Games Workshop went from being the sole distributors of Dungeons and Dragons to being one of many distributors, and that there was a desire to create settings that were unique to the company.

It was ultimately a day of celebration of all things Fighting Fantasy, and it was a pleasure and honour to have been involved in some small way. The Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the Children’s Programme Director, Janet Smyth, are to be praised for their vision in getting these events co-ordinated. On the evidence of these two events, the continued success of Fighting Fantasy seems in a healthy position.

 

The Gates of Death by Charlie Higson is out now. The Port of Peril by Ian Livingstone is also out now, as are a number of other Fighting Fantasy titles, all published by Scholastic.

Tom Morgan-Jones’ first picture book is out now, called The Red Dread, published by Barrington Stoke.

Geekzine editor Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Feb 242018
 

Scottish author Robbie MacNiven is one of the rising stars of Games Workshop’s publishing arm, the Black Library, gradually making a name for himself over the last few years as a great writer of Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar fiction. Geekzine editor Andy Jamieson cited Robbie’s excellent space marine novel, Carcharodons: Red Tithe in his best books of last year. A sequel, Carcharodons: Outer Dark is released in hardback March this year. Robbie took time out of his hectic schedule to tackle a Geekzine interview. 

 

Andy Jamieson: Your new Space Marine novel, Outer Dark, is released very soon. What can you reveal about it?

Robbie MacNiven: It’s the direct sequel to Red Tithe, set a decade after the first book (and 115-ish years before the events of the Gathering Storm). We’re back with Bail Sharr and the 3rd Company as they go up against an enemy that cares not one jot for their infamous brutality – the tyranids. There are also several sub-plots relating to the Inquisition and the Chapter’s famously veiled origins that I rather expect fans will enjoy…

 

Robbie’s new novel, Carcharodons: Outer Dark, released March 24th.

AJ: The Carcharodons space marines are quite a niche chapter in Warhammer 40k – how did Red Tithe come about? Was it something you pitched to BL or vice versa?

RM: I’d always been intrigued by what little lore there was on them, so when I first started writing for Black Library I asked if there was any chance I could try and expand on it with a novel and some short stories. They were a little reticent at first (understandably – brand new author plus niche Space Marine Chapter isn’t necessarily a great combo), but they could tell I was hyped to give them a go, so they green-lit it. I sure am grateful they did!

 

AJ: With a second Carcharodons book due out, do you have further plans for them beyond that?

RM: Definitely, we’ll have to see how Outer Dark goes first, but I’d love to do a third book, and have plenty of ideas to take them further!

 

AJ: You also have a Necromunda short story out now, called Once a Stimm Queen. What can you share about that, and have you been playing Necromunda Underhive for research? 

RM: Not much beyond the fact that it involves Eschers, Goliaths, and an Enforcer sting gone horribly wrong. I’ve always been fascinated by the Necromunda setting, so I was really glad when they asked me if I wanted to write for it. Sadly I’ve been too busy to give the tabletop game a shot, but I’m hoping to find the time for it at some point, and I can’t wait for the Enforcers to get a new release!

 

Robbie’s new Necromunda short story, available as an eShort.

AJ: What hobby projects do you have on the go at the moment? (A Carcharodons strike force, perhaps?!)

RM: I wish! As I said, with the amount of writing I’m doing at the moment (a novel, another novel’s edits, a novella’s edits, three short stories and a University PhD…) I’ve not had time to dedicate to The Hobby for a while. That being said, I’m desperate to start a Maggotkin army for Age of Sigmar (I’m a long-time Chaos player in Fantasy).

 

AJ: Aside from your work for the Black Library, what other plans do you have?

RM: At some point I’m hoping to pursue my own sci-fi setting with a major publisher. I’ve also got an urban fantasy novel about werewolves (it’s grim and gritty, I promise) that I’m going to get around to touting eventually!

 

AJ: What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

RM: I don’t think I could pick a single moment, but if I were to make a disorganized list it’d go something like;

  • Discovering that I’d been hired by Black Library.
  • Writing my first 40k short story (Deathwatch 4: Redblade).
  • Getting to write parts of a story from the perspective of Ragnar Blackmane (in Legacy of Russ).
  • Being approached for representation by my current literary agent.
  • Being asked to write the novelisation of Dawn of War 3.

 

AJ: What was the last good book that you read?

RM: Warmaster by Dan Abnett. I was worried it might be hard to get into given it’d been years since I last read a book in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. I needn’t have worried. I was like old times all over again, Dan delivers on every level, and then some.

 

AJ: What is the best writing advice you’ve been given? And what advice do you give out to other writers just starting out?

RM: The best advice I’ve been given is the same advice I’d give out – you’ve got to keep reading, and keep writing. It sounds basic, but it’s true. The only way to succeed at writing is to hone your craft and keep getting up after rejections knock you down. It took me a full decade of trying before Black Library took me onboard. The only thing limiting you is how much time you’re able and willing to dedicate.

 

Thank you to Robbie for his excellent answers. You can follow him on twitter @RobbieMacNiven, and check out his blog too.

Geekzine editor Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

 

 

Feb 242018
 

The Best of the Black Library

The eagerly awaited new Dan Abnett Eisenhorn novel.

Games Workshop’s publishing arm, the Black Library, celebrates its twentieth year of business this year. Saturday 24th February sees the Black Library releases Magos, the latest Inquisitor Eisenhorn novel by best-selling author Dan Abnett. Games Workshops and Warhammer stores across the UK and worldwide will be hosting special events to commemorate all things Black Library, with some limited edition releases.

We here at the Geekzine are big fans of Games Workshop and the Black Library, so our editor Andy Jamieson thought it proper to mark the occasion with a list of some of the best books (in no particular order and by no means comprehensive) to come off the Black Library’s prolific production line.

 

The Eisenhorn Trilogy by Dan Abnett (2001/02) A seminal trilogy of books – Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus – and some of Abnett’s best work. These tales of the charismatic Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, and his varying assortment of companions, explored parts of the 4ok universe previously ignored, and raised the bar in terms of the quality benchmark that would go on to be a staple of the Black Library’s output. Abnett’s latest book, Magos, sees him revisit his old friend, Eisenhorn, and also collects together all the short stories about the adventurous inquisitor.

Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill (2002) … in which the traitor space marines of the Iron Warriors Legion lay siege to a seemingly innocuous Imperial planet. A novel in which the bad guys are the driving force, and nothing the Imperial forces do seems to make a difference. Warhammer 40k action has rarely been depicted as well as it is here, equal parts thrilling and bleak.

Gav Thorpe’s seminal Dark Angels novel.

Fell Cargo by Dan Abnett (2006) Piratical fantasy in the Warhammer Old World, as Captain Luka Silvaro reclaims his ship and sets off on a deadly journey. Swashbuckling action and adventure that tapped into the Pirates of the Caribbean popularity and arguably surpassed the antics of Depp and co.

Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe (2003) One of the most important novels about space marines that the Black Library has ever released. What Gav Thorpe has forgotten about the Dark Angels marines is more than most mortal minds could begin to comprehend. This book used the mystery of the chapter’s background to excellent effect, essentially redefining the whole identity of the infamous First Legion. Thorpe would continue the plot strands set up in this book in his also excellent trilogy, The Legacy of Caliban.

Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders (2011) is a thrilling, twisting-turning adventure across the 40k universe as Inquisitor Czevak steals the titular atlas, putting him in harm’s way of the dreaded Eldar Harlequins and also Ahriman, arch-sorcerer of the Thousand Sons traitor space marines. Full of wonderful characterisation and inventive plotting.

Carcharodons: Red Tithe by Robbie MacNiven (2017) Taking an obscure space marine chapter such as the Carcharodons (once upon a time known as the Space Sharks!) and forging them into a memorably vivid assortment of veteran warriors is no easy task. Author MacNiven proves he has skill, talent and imagination of the highest calibre, delivering easily one of the most impressive space marine novels, up there with the best of Abnett, McNeill, Thorpe and Swallow. Red Tithe made the Geekzine’s best books list of 2017. An eagerly awaited sequel, Outer Dark, is released this year.

A classic of the Warhammer Fantasy range.

The Enemy Within by Richard Lee Byers (2007) Taking as inspiration an old campaign book from Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Byers crafted a desperate tale of a compromised hero, going undercover in a chaos cult in a bid to win his freedom from a malicious witch hunter. Taking the best bits of the RPG and fusing them with great characters, this is one of the defining works of the Warhammer Fantasy range.

Broken Honour by Robert Earl (2007) … is a brutal siege warfare novel, as the city of Hergig holds back a horde of bloodthirsty beastmen. Mercenary Captain Eriksson is a grizzled sword for hire who inadvertently leads the forces of Hergig through a brutal siege. A superb fantasy war novel, with epic battles and plenty of intrigue in supply.

A Murder in Marienburg by David Bishop (2007) A superb city-based novel, as ex-soldier Kurt Scnell is promoted to a captain of the watch, in one of the more wretched parts of the city-port of Marienburg, a bustling trading hub on the fringes of the Old World’s empire. Written by 2000AD regular Bishop, he infuses the Warhammer Fantasy setting with a hardboiled noir vibe. With added Skaven to boot. Achieved some notable success, enough to earn a sequel, A Massacre in Marienburg.

Brothers of the Snake by Dan Abnett (2007) One of Abnett’s best 40k books features the little known space marine chapter of the Iron Snakes. Following Sergeant Priad and his Damocles squad, the seven different inter-linked stories see Priad and his men face down Dark Eldar, Orks and foes of the more insidious kind. One of two novels recently voted for by fans for a re-release this year.

Fulgrim by Graham McNeill (2007) The fifth book in the ongoing Horus Heresy series is a sweeping, ambitious epic, charting the rise and fall of the Emperor’s Children space marine legion, as they descend from one of the Emperor of Mankind’s most loyal band of warriors to arch traitors of the very worst. Some of McNeill’s finest work, capturing the tragic fall of these once-heroic warriors in engrossing detail.

A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill (2010) That man McNeill was at it again for another excellent Horus Heresy novel, and one of the best-selling of the series. Similar to Fulgrim, the author charts the rise and fall of another cursed space marine legion, this time the psychically charged Thousand Sons, led by their charismatic primarch, Magnus the Red. It’s a fascinating novel and, twinned with Abnett’s Prospero Burns, examines the complicated rivalry between the Thousand Sons and the Space Wolves. The Thousand Sons are unfortunate victims of their own ambition, and the book culminates in the invasion of their home world by the Space Wolves.

Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow (2007) The fourth book in the Horus heresy series, as James Swallow captures the descent of the Death Guard Legion into treachery, told through the eyes of Captain Nathaniel Garro, a staunch loyalist, who leads a ragtag group of survivors in escape, taking word of Horus’ betrayal to Holy Terra. A thrilling instalment, and Swallow would later pen a series of Garro short stories, gathered together and expanded upon in a single volume (see below).

Legion by Dan Abnett, one of his finest Horus Heresy novels.

Legion by Dan Abnett (2008) Taking one of the more mysterious space marine legions (the Alpha Legion), and using that inherent mystery to weave an absorbing tale of espionage and clandestine plans-within-plans, Abnett produced one of his most innovative books. Quite unlike anything else in the series, capturing a heightened, atmospheric tale of a legion of cold, calculating warriors. Abnett introduced here the Cabal, a coalition of alien forces intent on preventing the success of the Chaos gods and their plans for domination. The Cabal’s foremost agent, John Grammaticus, an altered human, seeks to carry out the coalition’s agenda and he adds a fascinating angle to the story. Abnett also dropped a twist-bomb in his revelation about the Alpha Legion’s primarch, Alpharius. Abnett would go on to explore the Cabal’s influence in his impressive Horus Heresy novels, Know No Fear, and The Unremembered Empire, as well as a number of related short stories.

Garro by James Swallow (2017) Gathering together all of Nathaniel Garro’s tales in one volume and expanding upon them, author Swallow has created a character driven sequence of stories that are varied as they are thrilling, ranging from out-and-out action yarns, to covert intrigue in the shadowy corners of the Imperium. Reviewed here by our editor Andy Jamieson.

Notable mentions: there are so many other talented authors currently plying their trade for the Black Library, that this above list of titles is by no means definitive, and is by extension meant only to give an indication of some of the standout releases according to the tastes of the Geekzine team. Over the course of twenty years, many authors have plied their trade for the Black Library. The likes of William King, Nathan Long, David Guymer, Andy Hoare, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Guy Haley, David Annandale, Andy Smillie, Nick Horth, Laurie Golding, CL Werner, Andy Clark and Nick Kyme, amongst many others, have produced, and are continuing to produce, a great range of exciting stories set within the Warhammer 40k universe and the Warhammer Age of Sigmar Mortal Realms.

 

Geekzine editor Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.