On Writing W40K Stories – Thoughts

So then.  To answer some questions I’ve had, let’s address this one.

Why are you writing stories in the W40K Universe?

I’ve been writing for a long time, but only dared dip my toe into the W40K universe for the first time in June 2009.  I had this idea of what I wanted to do, sat down at the computer and produced Life’s Blood. (One of these days I’m going to revisit it; because even in four months my style has changed).

I discovered that I really enjoyed writing it and was rather chuffed when people posted positive feedback about it.  It wasn’t until someway into it and some way down the comments thread that I made a realisation.

All these people, I thought, think I’m a bloke.

At first, I was faintly amused and not bothered by the fact, so I didn’t bother correcting anybody when they said ‘he’, or ‘his’, etc.  But as time wore on, I started to feel –  of the gamut of emotions out there – guilty.  Should I ‘fess up, I wondered?  Should I come clean about being of the female persuasion (excuse my use of the ‘f’ word)?  But then I started to worry.  What if, when this majority of males discovered I had the wrong pairing of chromosomes, they all stopped reading my stuff?

Irrational?  Yes, probably, but it was a very real anxiety.  In fact, it took convincing and some very kind encouragement from the very lovely Nick Kyme and the equally lovely Graham McNeill (the great deflowerer of virgin t-shirts) to go with my instincts.  In fact, Graham McNeill said, how do you know that I’M not a girl?  I didn’t, of course.  It was the best sentence ever, because it made me a) laugh and b) take the plunge and Come Out.

The guys in the writing thread I was currently with were all like ‘wow, really? That’s sort of cool’ and nothing changed.

Since then, I’ve produced so much W40K stuff.  It’s like the whole concept of not being shunned simply because I’m female has spurred me onwards.  It’s a universe I very much enjoy writing in.  I’m also now leaning towards prodding my toe into the slightly-less-murky waters of the Warhammer Fantasy universe as well, which is just plain greedy.

I was chatting to Chris Wraight at Games Day and we had a conversation (albeit brief, and with me looking over my shoulder for people wanting him to do what he was actually there to do – y’know, sign books and not be hogged by a wannabe writer) about the fact that the thing I really enjoy is the human element of the Space Marines.  Somewhere underneath those slabs of muscle, there’s a once-human trying to get out.  In the early Horus Heresy books, I utterly loved the moral struggles that Garviel Loken underwent.  I loved how easy it was to forget that they’re all man-mountain super-ultra mega killing machines…

(Distraction: one of my friends just logged onto MSN.  His screen name is Abaddon, which is of course very cool.  His avatar, however, is Beaker from the Muppet Show…which is less so.  My poor brain has great difficulty reconciling those two).

…I loved how easy it was to forget that they’re all man-mountain super-ultra mega killing machines.  I loved the interaction, loved the bonding of brotherhood…was just pulled into the togetherness of what it means to be a Marine.  Of what it means to be loyal unto death.  Of what it means to live your life according to an often questionable moral code.  I was hooked.  I love writing about these guys, I thought.

After ‘Life’s Blood’, I thought that was it.  I thought that was all I could come up with.  But then I got pulled into a writing group who were developing a lesser-known successor chapter of the Ultramarines – the Silver Skulls – and I was pulled in with the opportunity to pick up the Tenth Company and write for a bunch of scouts.  Not quite human, not quite Astartes…joy of joys.

Thus, along came Primary Instinct, a tale of brotherhood, blood, sweat and Really Scary Aliens which I found allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone of character pieces.  I discovered that I COULD write action scenes, and hey, they weren’t too bad, either.

And then, oh joy of joys, someone asked me if I would like to create a squad of Assault Marines from the Silver Skulls to take part in a group story, and Sergeant Gileas Urten, the character with whom I have connected the most was born.  He showed up first in On Swift Wings, and hasn’t left my head since.  Nearly everything I’ve written since features him in one form or other.

These were the two moments when I lost every second of my free time to an impulsive, fiery Silver Skulls Assault Marine.

Two of the rebels were dead before all five Marines had even landed. Gileas ran a third through with his chainsword, then powered the weapon up, spinning and whirling like a dervish through the rebels. He split skulls and dismembered wherever he went, completely and utterly engrossed in the deadly, destructive dance of death that he was so very, very good at.


Breathing heavily, Gileas reached up and unclasped his helmet, shaking out his sweat-dampened mane of thick, unruly, dark, shoulder-length hair. It was at moments like this, just after battle, with his hair dampened into black curls that clung to the tanned skin of his face, his eyes wild and bright with something far more primitive than simple battle-fury, that Gileas looked every bit the southern savage of legend. Even if he hadn’t been an Astartes, Gileas Urten would have been a giant bear of a man.

Gileas (Gil to his friends) has been a joy to write about.  I’m presently writing Childhood’s End which is a REAL exercise in W40K writing – because it barely features Space Marines or technology at all.  It’s all about Gileas’s legendary (amongst the Silver Skulls at least) journey from his home with the tribal people of Southern Varsavia all the way to the Fortress Monastery in the far north.  And it’s like writing  a piece of history.  I’m loving writing it.  I’m hoping people are enjoying reading it.

So I shall carry on with my W40K writing, Being Female be damned, and continue to hope that someone, somewhere is having a nice time reading these stories.

Well, this went on longer than I anticipated.  Someone let me start talking about Gileas again, didn’t they?


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