HalloWarhammer: Horror in the World of Warhammer 40k

So as most know I’m a huge fan of Games Workshop’s fictional world.  One of the best aspects of this world is it can essentially house every kind of genre imaginable.  There are Ciaphas Cain comedies, Ultramarine traditional war stories, Last Chancers underdog guerilla stories, and even a few romances thrown in for good measure.

One genre that really lends itself to the world of daemons, monsters, and heroes is horror.  The Warhammer world has its fair share of horror stories (if you go into Fantasy Battles that’s even more true what with vampires, zombies, and Hammer Horror atmosphere everywhere) but I thought I’d share a couple of my favorites!

Old Soldiers Never Die (Sandy Mitchell) – Ciaphas Cain and his Valhallan 597th end up on the planet of Lentonia to assist in the quashing of a recent rebellion.  During their time there a host of plague zombies arise and the put-upon commissar is forced to deal with a near spot-on Romero zombie uprising and a chaos cult.  Even driving his command vehicle through the streets running them down.  It’s a great little story and a perfect Halloween zombie fix for fans of 40k and the hero of the imperium.  For even more Ciaphas Cain zombie fun also check out Dead in the Water, a great audio drama about Cain on his own Apocalypse Now adventure.

Waiting Death (Steve Lyons) – The galaxy’s quintessential tough-guy Colonel “Iron Hand” Straken and his Catachans are stationed on Borealis Four.  During a long march his unit stumbles across a mysterious village where the regiment comes under siege by shadowy monsters who appear from nowhere, assault the wily jungle fighters, and vanish again.  The description of the monsters is horrific and the tension voiced marvelously by Toby Longworth causes a wonderfully suspenseful narrative.  It has a bit of a twist to it and the final monster is downright frightening.  Not really “gothic” horror as such but its reminiscent of 80s action horror.

Alone (Joe Parrino) – This is the one that inspired me to write this article.  Raven Guard Librarian Ithkos Jevel is lost on his own in an abandoned imperial ship.  As he attempts to contact his battle brothers he is accosted by a presence who mocks him over the vox.  The voice acting by Gareth Armstrong, Robin Bowerman, and Jonathan Keeble is amazing.  Especially the eerie, shrill voice of the mocking daemonic presence that continuously torments Ithkos during his journey down the dark corridors, often imitating the voice of one of Ithkos’ fallen comrades.  Especially the evil reading of the line “You walk in dark places!”  The imagery provided in the audio drama is equally frightening.  The lifeless eyes of statuary truly has the feel of an Exorcist or Omen film.  One scene in particular stays with me as true horror.  One of the statues of saints comes to life and assaults Ithkos.  The statue described as moving in a horrific, spider-like manner reminds me of something out of Silent Hill.  This audio drama more than any of the others makes me realize just how effective horror radio shows must have been during the heyday of the serial radio program.  If you’re looking for something thematic to paint or build your armies this season it doesn’t get much better than this!

Book Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost)

Like everyone else on the internet I love Felicia Day.  If you don’t know who she is stop what you’re doing right now, find some of her work, and then you will love her too.  She is the perfect combination of charming, awkward, clever, adorable, classy, and vulgar to make for an absolutely unique personality.  More than anything, you always get the impression she is being completely genuine.

Earlier this year she released her memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) and, even though I don’t usually read “celebrity” books I knew it would be a must buy.

The most pleasing aspect of the book is Felicia’s writing style.  If you’ve ever heard her audio commentary on The Guild DVDs, watched her play video games badly with her equally hilarious brother Ryon, or seen The Flog on her Geek and Sundry YouTube Channel, you should be familiar with her style.  She speaks very quickly, almost breathlessly as ideas, words, and concepts just flood over you too fast to comprehend.  Then when you do absorb them you wonder how anyone could possibly express themselves that quickly…  I’m not naive enough to think the book was written as a stream of consciousness,  but while reading it you can picture Felicia in her pastel Flog set telling you these stories and even imagine the cutaways and edits for her parentheticals and asides.  The writing style is without a doubt in her voice and has her unique hammers-in-a-typewriter cadence in the best way.  It’s like having a conversation with her.

Though it’s a memoir, she does an excellent job of making the book profoundly personal, without making it a gossipy tell-all.  She never dishes or trashes anyone.  Even when it’s clear some of the vaguely referenced parties would deserve it.  She keeps stories of her personal life classy, sharing only the bits that advance her narrative.  The only person she ever is really hard on is herself, and as she seems to be an OCD perfectionist (something I can relate to a little bit…just a little) I can understand that.  In one of her best anecdotes she relates how she struggled to get an “A” in one of her college math classes, studying all night, killing herself to keep her 4.0, even against the professor’s advice.  When she maintained her 4.0 and got the “A” she craved she actually found later that it wasn’t really worth anything.  All the stress and trouble it caused didn’t equate to anything real once the course was over.  It’s something that those of us who obsess can truly relate to, as we find out the things we worried about and lost our minds over really didn’t matter too much after all in retrospect.

Copy of The Guild graphic novel signed by the cast!
Copy of The Guild graphic novel signed by the cast!

Much of the middle section of the book is about her creation of The Guild which was fascinating as it’s how I, and a number of others, first found her.  This section was eye opening as it shows the ups and downs of a creative person creating with no budget, but it also shows what can be accomplished if you try hard enough and have the right support group and even how something you love and created can be utterly all-consuming.

Felicia described herself as an absolute workaholic. A habit that she describes as helping her create the brilliant Guild but ultimately self destructive if left unchecked.

My only complaint, if you can call it that, is actually that I wanted the book to actually be longer.  She tells wonderful stories of her home school life; multiple classes of violin, singing, and performance; her move to Hollywood and the awful acting sessions and auditions.  But I would’ve liked to hear what it was like to succeed, to get the part on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or to later become Charlie on Supernatural.  I’m not sure if those are well-known stories I just haven’t come across yet, but her perspective on those successes would have been interesting to hear.

By far the most moving sections are the last two.  Even though I’m not a “constantly online” person I did notice a period where Felicia seemed to withdraw some from her shows, at least the Geek and Sundry ones I watched, and the book explains why.  Having had friends with severe depression and had minor bouts myself this section was by far the most powerful.  Hearing how someone with similar compulsions was able to shake off the negative and focus on the positive was profound.  The last narrative section deals with the GamerGate nonsense (and yes I’m calling their “movement” nonsense…) from late last year and earlier this year.  I actually remember reading the post she references in book and it’s interesting to see the fallout from that, and how sometimes just having an opinion when you’re a public personality (even when only “situationally famous” as she calls herself) can have major effects on your life.

If you are a fan of Felicia Day, Geek and Sundry, internet culture, or creativity in general You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is a terrific read.  Felicia lets you inside her unique and creative mind for 260 pages and gives you greater appreciation for what can be done if you never give up and fully embrace your weird.  Once you do you’ll find a wonderful world full of more people who appreciate it than you ever imagined.

Felicia Day’s Website

The Geek & Sundry page

Geek and Sundry’s YouTube Page

The Guild Home Page

Complete Review: Aliens and Predators Intro

Throughout my pre-adolescent and teenage years there were two film franchises that dominated my creative sensibilities: the Alien films and the Predator films.
These two IPs fueled a my art work, story-telling, and designing for years and even sparked my interest in warrior culture, comic books, and the sci-fi genre as a whole.
They were some of the first novels I bought for myself, and I wore the VHS taped-off-of-HBO versions of some of the movies out with repeated plays on summer vacations.

The years have not always been kind to these two venerable series as the films got reboots, sequels, spinoffs, and tie-ins that are of varying quality.  What hasn’t changed is my interest and love for the lore of both and some of the iterations of the franchises represent my favorites of their perspective media; from movies, to books, to comics, to video games.

The idea of a full retrospective has been floating around with me for a while but it seemed too big to do.  I’ve recently gone back to watch nearly every film in the movie franchise of both and the time felt right.  A long, complete review of all the movies in both the Alien and Predator franchise, including their various crossovers and tie-ins.  It’ll get years of opinions on two of my favorite series on paper for the first time and will be both gratifying and cathartic!

For the next ten weeks or so it’ll be all Aliens and all Predators all the time, covering the series from their most divine moments to their most ridiculous.

To start off here’s a nice taste of things to come:

King’s On Writing: Writing Is Work

Writing is work
Photo from: http://www.auwrites.org

Stephen King knows how hard it is to be a professional writer. I’m sure some of you also relate because you are published or at least have stayed up until 3 a.m. to write a good paper that was due next morning. And it wasn’t easy either.

In sections 19-24, King discusses his earliest work – think editor of The Village Vomit, not Carrie. As he talks about his first jobs, stories, and articles, there’s an important message here: Writing is hard work. It takes dedication, persistence, and passion. In order to succeed, you need these things and support from those around you.

Here are some other highlights:

  • After The Village Vomit debacle, King’s school guidance counselor hooked him up with a paying writing job as a sports writer. While reading, I remembered guidance counselors. What happened to them? I had one in high school who I spoke to once when I was in trouble, and she didn’t guide me to do anything. Do they actually do anything now? King’s counselor did exactly what he was supposed to do; he kept him from causing more trouble and fueled his creativity. He got him a job, encouraged King’s passion, and provided guidance. Other than family, this may have been King’s earliest support system.
  • Do you have an editor? If so, you’ve had your writing ripped to shreds. It’s what we do when we have to. Every professional writer has an editor who makes them a better writer. Journalism and English majors can tell who the exact professor was. And as a writer, you take it. I’ve been in both places, and they’re both hard. The best thing to do is learn from it and not take it personally. It’s not personal, it’s the process. If you don’t want an editor, then start a blog, but if you write professionally, remember to handle criticism well and hone your skills.
  • You may have to work a day job or crap job. King’s first real-paying job was dyeing cloth at a mill. His schedule was long and tedious, and anyone who has had to work while going to school gets it. It’s hard work, but it makes you strong and you appreciate the good jobs that come your way. I could relate most to this because I worked full time, went to college full time, and had a family to support. Looking back, I have no idea how I did it, and I hope I never have to be that exhausted again. However, it was worth every minute. I’ve learned so much, and a good work ethic isn’t something you can buy – it’s a natural ability.
  • And it’s that natural work ethic the drew King to his long-time wife Tabitha (aside from her gorgeous legs and “raucous laugh”). This is where the support system comes in. Every artist, whether a writer, painter, musician, designer, needs support. They need to be loved and have someone to love. Sometimes you need a push, and only that person can provide it. For example, many King fans know Tabitha rescued pages from Carrie from the trash and pushed him to finish it. Every artist needs someone to believe in their work.

We’d love to hear about your writing experiences, including those naggy editors and good guidance counselors, in the comments below!

Sources of Inspiration: Black Library Audio

Black Library Audio Books and Audio Dramas

During my high school years I became fascinated with early 20th Century culture to such an extent that I used to check out from our local library recordings of 1920s radio broadcasts and shows.  I loved the genre and it feels like something that has become lost as we’ve become a more screen-based society.

When I heard that Black Library produced audio dramas and audio books it immediately piqued my interest and I tried one.

The first one I bought was Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe as it was the most prominently displayed on the website at the time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d listened to audio books before where it is merely an author or a celebrity reading the text.  In some cases, as with some Star Wars books the reading was accompanied by sound effects as well.  In the case of the Black Library audio books and dramas it is far more like the radio shows I found as a teenager.  They are acted rather than read, the sound effects are integral and take place during the performance as though you were listening to a film rather than watching it.


Since then I’ve obtained all of the audio dramas that sounded the least bit interesting and I’ve never heard a bad one.  There have been one or two where the plot took a turn that made me less of a fan of it, but none have been poorly made, badly written, or subpar in performance or production.  As last time I’ll list some of my favorites and/or favorite aspects of them, again in no particular order:

Chosen of Khorne by Anthony Reynolds: This one had such an impact I spent weeks drawing a picture related to it.  Chris Fairbanks’ performance as Kharn is incredible, the story is tight, and the production is excellent.  I’m a staunch 40K loyalist and even I loved this traitors’ story!

Trials of Azrael by CZ Dunn: As a Dark Angels fan I have a lot of options for audio dramas but this one has remained my favorite.  While it has a few plot questions, the resolution and acting is so good I can ignore them and just enjoy it.  Plus Dark Angels story + Chris Fairbanks as Kharn + Pandorax campaign make it extra appealing.

The Garro series by James Swallow: One of the best series and follows on from the Horus Heresy novels (Flight of the Eisenstein to be specific).  Garro, former battle captain of the Death Guard now servant of Malcador the Sigillite has a number of excellent stories and some of the best-produced dramas I’ve experienced.  Toby Longworth if by far my favorite voice talent in the Black Library audio drama pool and his Garro is tight, grizzled, and fiercely passionate about his cause, even when it runs counter to his masters’ goals.  By all means listen to them in order but Sword of Truth remains my favorite.

Veil of Darkness by Nick Kyme: I’m not an Ultramarines fan nor am I a Cato Sicarius fan but this story is one of the best.  Very well acted (Sicarius has a youthful arrogance to his voice that matches the character perfectly) and with one of the best single-stories I’ve heard it has been in my car’s CD player a number of times since I first gave it a listen.

Caiphas Cain – Dead in the Water & Caiphas Cain – The Devil you Know by Sandy Mitchell: Toby Longworth strikes again turning in a tremendous performance both as the elder Cain narrating his adventures and the youthful Cain experiencing them (as well as all kinds of characters in between) mixed with the great production, Sandy Mitchell’s wry writing style comes off perfectly and provides an excellent complement to the written character.

The Sigillite by Chris Wraight: This one is actually two parallel stories, one told in flashback the other taking place as the same character discovers the importance of his previous actions.  Once again Longworth shines, this time as Malcador, giving him a voice full of power, age, weariness, fear, and awe.  It’s a remarkable story.

Censure by Nick Kyme: A Horus Heresy story about Sergeant Aeonid Thiel and his experiences on his return to destruction-ravaged Calth.  He faces not only the remnants of abandoned Word Bearers but the environment itself.  His penal legion companion and he have an almost Lethal Weapon level of interaction.

Deathwatch: Mission Purge by Gav Thorpe: A wonderful single-story of a Deathwatch inspection led by Captain Artemis himself on a rogue trader’s ship.  Of course everything goes wrong and the motley xenos hunters have to fight their way out of danger.  It has a very unique feel and one of the best climactic music stings I’ve ever heard…

The Glorious Tomb by Guy Haley: A surprisingly moving story from the perspective of a fatally wounded Black Templar kept alive to continue his fight for centuries from inside a dreadnought.  You hear his confusion over the passage of time, his distance from the outside world, his pain and mental anguish.  It extremely potent and very well performed…you guessed it Toby Longworth is back to give one of the most powerful performances I’ve heard to date.


  • Warmaster: An amazing soliloquy. The now fallen Horus justifies his actions to a silent audience.  If I had to do a reading for an acting class I’d choose this one.
  • Veritas Ferrum: a small story-driven by the main character of Durun Atticus as he navigates his strike cruiser Veritas Ferrum into the catastrophe as Isstvan V. The performances and productions shine again as wily tactics and loss of humanity take center stage.
  • The Eightfold Path: Chris Fairbanks as Kharn in the fighting pits. It’s Kharn narration for 13 minutes and as glorious as one would expect.  Worth it just for his rueful bloody laugh if nothing else.
  • With Baited Breath: A Raven Guard captain finds a dying guardsman and listens to his story. Great deeds…

There are countless others that have been spun repeatedly in my various CD players and queued into a playlist on my various devices.  If you’re a new 40k fan these stories are EXCELLENT for mood and storytelling; setting the tone for the Grim Dark in a way more accessible than some weird people may find the dense omnibuses or the numerous, long-running series.  For established fans they are a great way to hear well-known stories brought to terrific life with care and thoughtfulness.

Black Library Audio Link!

Sources of Inspiration: The Black Library

Sources of Inspiration

With a new year and the hope of my own creative wellspring finally pouring forth I thought I’d take the time to examine some of the sources for my creative inspiration.  This week I’m starting with a humbling catalogue of the Grim Dark (and world of fantasy) that is the Black Library.

Named after a library of esoteric and powerful knowledge, Games Workshop’s publishing wing is a remarkably diverse and impressive publishing enterprise.  From gothic sci fi, to rousing action, and from grim brutality, to raucous humor, the Black Library offers something for everyone, and indeed I was a fan of the stories prior to partaking in the table top game that spawned them, my first novel being the Assault on Black Reach which I purchased shortly after buying the starter set of the same name.

I find the worlds depicted by the Black Library authors to be deep and complete.  Everything has layers upon layers and builds atop decades of history already put into the stories and characters within.

Some of the authors are terrific, some are quite good and the same can be said for the quality of the stories they tell, but I can honestly say I’ve never read a bad one.  Merely some less impressive than others.  I thought I’d give a breakdown of some of my favorites, broken down by broad type and in no particular order of superlative.

Favorite Series

  • Horus Heresy by Various: Simply some of the best science fiction you’ll read anywhere. The series is vast and deep, providing a prequel view of some of the famed characters you may do battle with on the tabletop.  The first four novels are sequential and could have been printed on pure gold leaf they are so ostentatiously brilliant.  Want to know how the whole thing started?  Here’s how.  And if you don’t feel a pang of tragedy at Isstvan something is broken in your soul…
  • Caiphas Cain by Sandy Mitchell: Can the grim dark future be wry and funny? With a rakish and self-serving (at least according to him) hero like Commissar Cain you beter believe they can be.  Sandy Mitchell (aka Alex Stewart) created a hero both likable and slightly devious.  He’s altruistic and at the same time totally self-obsessed, told in the first person (with commentary footnotes from another reader, Inquisitor Amberley Vail) it’s marvelous at giving a personal obscured perspective on things.  The series takes him from his humble beginnings seeking a quiet posting away from danger to all over the galaxy fighting every kind of enemy on every front.  Each novel is different and each one spectacular.  If you need a laugh and great adventure, pour yourself a glass of someone else’s best Amasec and open a Caiphas Cain book.
  • Last Chancers by Gav Thorpe: Gav Thorpe is my personal favorite Black Library author and his take on the penal conscript legion of Colonel Schaeffer one of his best works. I read the whole thing at night during a week-long trip to Chicago and loved every bit of it.  The first novel is by far the best, but by the time you reach the third book’s rousing conclusion you really have a chance to look back and see how far these characters have come.

Favorite Short Stories/Novellas

  • Yarrick Chains of Golgotha by David Annandale: This novella/short story is simply stunning in its narrative. From the capture of the imposing Commissar Sebastian Yarrick by his arch nemesis to his exciting attempts at escape, this one has you hooked from the beginning.  When you get to the end and see just HOW dangerous his infamous and nefarious captor really is to him and the Imperium it’s hard not to start the book over and read it all the way through again.  I know I did.  Very few books can make me say, “Ohh…whoa” out loud like this one did at its conclusion.
  • Survivor by Steve Parker: The tale of a young boy surviving in the ruins after an ork invasion. It’s a great story with a sharp narrative, but the reveal of the boy’s identity makes it even more powerful.  A short read but one that definitely sticks with you.
  • Dark Vengeance by CZ Dunn: Some 40k players are all about the win. Others are all about the story.  I’m in the latter category and this story is a great example of the game brought to narrative.  Released to coincide with the 6th Edition starter set, Dark Vengeance tells the story of the characters and armies you get with that box.  Not only that but you get a relatively realistic portrayal of how a battle between these two armies can usually play out on the table; who lives, who dies, who’s valuable and who’s just a pawn.  A great place for beginners who are just getting into the game with the starter set!

Favorite One Offs/Unique

  • Fifteen Hours by Mitchel Scanlon: This one’s tagline got me: “Basic Training: Four Months. Planetary Transportation: Seven Weeks. Life Expectancy…Fifteen Hours.” I loved this book.  Not only is it 40k World War I style, but it’s also 40k told small.  Not great heroes or famous battles, just one of trillions of guardsmen and one of millions of battles.  The story doesn’t revolve around our heroes and neither do the events.  We merely see a vast war through their very small scope.  It’s All Quiet on the Western Front with orks and lasguns and simply a terrific read.
  • Deff Skwadron by Gordon Rennie & Paul Jeacock : A 40k comic about ork fighter pilots. It’s as good as it sounds.  Let’s face it orks are funny and brutal.  Their single minded desire to fight and kill is highly entertaining and this comic captures that mood both in a great set up and magnificent orky-art.  If you read no other 40k comic definitely check this one out.
  • Headtaker by David Guymer: It’s not ALL the grim dark! This fantasy story revolves around my favorite fantasy battles character.  With all the betrayal and backstabbing you’d expect from skaven…Queek Headtaker leads his armies, fighting against his allies as much as his foes…and showing everyone who really is the most clever rat in the under empire.

Next week I’ll tackle the audio drama/audio book arm of Black Library which is definitely worth its own separate study!

Black Library Website