It’s true, I’ve been conspicuous by my absence of late on the blog.
The reason for it, specifically, is the Salamanders short story I’m still writing for the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology.
Incidentally, this book is something of two firsts for me (if that actually makes sense…) as it’ll be the first time my name as author has appeared on an anthology (very proud of that fact I am too) and the first time that my name has appeared on a novel twice (as editor and author). Crazy, but cool. It’s genuinely quite humbling to share a byline with such talented guys like Graham McNeill, Steve Parker and Chris Roberson. My hat is off to you both.
Still digressing, this is going to be something of packed anthology. It’s looking like a hefty 320-416 pages depending on typesetting and the final word count, and there are a LOT of different Chapters covered, too (some which haven’t had literary treatment before). It’s a pretty eclectic mix with Traitors appearing alongside Loyalists. And I must also mentioned the cover. A chap called Hardy Fowler illustrated this. He’s a new cover artist for the Black Library. I’m sure everyone will have their opinions on this, but I absolutely love it. So dynamic and just screaming WAR! at the top of it’s voice.
So, back on track and back to the short story I’ve been slaving over…
Fires of War has taken up a lot of my time as I tune, fine tune and then tune some more (hopefully to perfection). It has certainly been a challenge for me as well as being a pretty meaty tale, too. I reckon, once it is done, it’ll weigh in at around 20,000 words. Lots of Salamander action for all Space Marine fans there then.
I’m nearing the final hurdle now, with about 2,000 words to go (I think – it’s never easy to be that sure about these things). Cheekily, I’ve name checked a couple of folks in the story (well, their Salamander alter-egos anyway) – Brother Argos and Librarian Pyriel, you know who you are.
Contrary to some reports I read, this story won’t be set on Nocturne or even Prometheus. I actually want to save that for the novel that comes after (now called Salamander - as in singular – by the way. To digress again, I wanted to call the novel Fire Born but this was poo-pooed as it didn’t have the same cache and name recognition as Salamanders. In the end, I capitulated on the condition that we dropped the ’s’ making it plural, so that it at least didn’t sound like a codex. I figured Salamander - although there are a fair few in the book, one of them is the main protagonist, so it kind of fits – had slightly more gravitas). The tale does contain some scenes, by way of a memory dream, of Nocturne and a few places/landmarks I’ve devised as part of the world building necessary to visualise and realise the Salamanders’ homeworld. Incidentally, this conceptualisation was helped immeasurably by scouring what crumbs of background I could about this death world and through Vulkan’s Forge, which is an excellent site run and devised by a distinguished gentleman called David Johnston (again, hope I got the name right, David – I don’t know because you never post a comment… hint ).
By way of a sneak preview, Fires of War takes place on an Imperial World called Stratos, which consists of a series of loft-cities (floating cities, buoyed up on huge plasma-fuelled, gravitic engines) suspended on a roiling oceanic maelstrom. The planet is blighted by an internecine cult uprising that the native Imperial Guard stationed on the world, the Stratosan Aircorps, are woefully ill-equipped to deal with (as the cultists are getting help from an outside source…). Essentially, the Salamanders respond to their astropathic distress call and make landfall on the planet intending to cleanse and burn the cultists out of their urban occupation in short order. Sadly, all does not go according to plan and what seems like a very simple mission, through a series of misfortunes, turns into a nightmare for the Salamanders.
In this tale their courage and sense of humanity is tested to the absolute limit. They’ll face some very hard moral decisions and their tenacious refusal to never give up and always fight on to the bitter end will be sorely pressed to breaking point. I don’t want to go into too much detail here as I probably won’t do it justice, and will just go and spoil it for all you readers.
Suffice it to say that the story introduces several major and minor players that will appear in the novel, not least of which the two rival sergeants Dak’ir and Tsu’gan – these two have very differing ideas about how the campaign against the cultists should be fought and offer a little insight into how the hierarchical structure of the Sanctuary Cities on Nocturne operates (thanks to David for that term – it’s perfect). And before you ask, no they are not all the same, nor are the cultures/peoples on the planet. But again, more of that in the novel proper. Perhaps most intriguing (well, it was for me to write them anyway) is the appearance of what will become a recurring nemesis of the Salamanders. Something I guarantee has not been seen before.
I have deliberately written this tale so that it does not have to be read to appreciate and enjoy the novel, but it will add texture and a little background to reward those who have read it.
Anywho, that’s enough for now – I have a short story to finish!