Monday 19 March 2012

My short stories #1: Salvation

Here's one from the archives (a.k.a. my old blog Unnatural History) presented here to mark Black Library's 15th birthday this week...

As I mentioned in my last post, the autumn of 1996 found me writing both an entire book (albeit a very brief one) and a short story. The story in question was ‘Salvation’, which appeared in Issue #1 of the Black Library’s now defunct ‘Inferno!’ anthology magazine.

During the period 1994 to 1997 I had written various pieces of colour text for six different Games Workshop projects, from ‘Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves’ through to ‘Epic 40,000’. The type of colour text that appears in Games Workshop projects is best described as very short snippets of fiction designed to highlight features of a particular army. It often throws you into the middle of the action, implying that you are dipping your toe into a bigger story. There isn’t much in the way of either plot or character development but it is rich in atmosphere, adding colour to what would otherwise possibly be a rather dry rulebook.

Despite having cut my teeth as a short fiction writer on GW’s Army books and Codices, I still consider ‘Salvation’ my first proper short story. It came about while I was working as a freelance writer and living in Nottingham, the city where Games Workshop has its headquarters. Whilst visiting GW to talk about other projects I ended up in an impromptu meeting with Andy Jones, who was the company’s special projects guy (as far as I can recall). He was formulating a plan for what was to become ‘Carnage!’ magazine and I was hoping to write something for it.

To cut a long story short, as it were, the magazine ended up being called ‘Inferno!’ and I wrote the Warhammer 40,000 short story that appeared in Issue #1. ‘Salvation’ finally saw print in 1997. It is a classic, straightforward tale of heroism and sacrifice, featuring the stalwart Space Marines, genetically-engineered superhuman champions of the Imperium, facing off against the utterly alien menace of the Tyranids, extra-galactic monsters who utilise bio-weapons in their war to consume every living thing in their path. And it proved to be rather popular.
The editors of ‘Inferno!’ let me know, from time to time, that people still talked about ‘Salvation’ years after its initial publication. It has been reprinted twice in two different anthologies – ‘Into the Maelstrom’ (1999) and ‘Let the Galaxy Burn’ (2006) – and off the back of it I ended up creating Torben Badenov and his mercenary band for a Warhammer short story that appeared in a preview issue of ‘Inferno!’ given away with White Dwarf magazine.

And it was only just the beginning...

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