Are Classics Re-readable?
As part of my “Top 25 Series To Read In 2013” reading challenge, I’ve read a fair amount of books this year that can be considered to be classics of science fiction and fantasy, in all their different forms. There is a certain charm to all these novels that has persisted long after they were first published. Whether we talk about Frank Herbert’s space operatic political intrigue epic Dune or Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s true-to-style epic fantasy Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I’ve had a lot of fun with these novels.
And that is my question: are they re-readable? I’ve read Dune and Dragons of Autumn Twilight several times since when I first read them in 2001. I think they are rereadable, but I’m not completely sure. Is the question answerable in part with regard to whether the book is good or not? We shall see.
Best of the Best Part 1
Twitter has been buzzing lately with “best of the year so far” and “most anticipated lists”. Looks like everybody and their fictional cat is on the bandwagon. So I thought I’d do one too, a “best of the half-year” list that is. I mean why not, I’ve read so much good stuff this year that it all deserves recognition anyway. I already do a top-of-the-month list anyway, as you can see on the Reading Awards page, so this should be good fun either way.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Recognition at the Finish Line
Last night, the Black Library Open Submissions Window for the spring ended and I am happy to say that I managed to submit all five of my planned short stories. I ended up dropping Project Long Hunt in the end because while the plot idea was something I would have dearly liked doing, the synopsis and sample didn’t quite come together into anything properly coherent even though it had what the editors generally, at first glance, require us new writers to do: bolter-action. Ah well, it is going to be on the backburner till next time.
These last three months have been one of the greatest learning experiences ever and I am quite grateful to a number of people who have contributed to this.
The most important of these people is Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyroriffic who, after the official Black Library forums closed down ages ago, started the Bolthole for people like me who love the twin GW universes and can endlessly debate them and have an interest in creatively contributing to them. If I had not found the Bolthole when I did, life would indeed have been quite dull and I would be struggling along with totally half-assed submissions.
Next up would be Narrativium, another fellow Boltholer and moderator, whose experience and feedback has been very, very valuable to me, for he pointed out plot-holes and details and other things that I generally missed mentioning in my pitches or did not even consider. I dare say that he knows all my pitches nearly as well as I do, since I pestered him repeatedly for critiques 🙂
Then there is everyone else who, at one point or another, helped me with more feedback across the whole line-up of my pitches, including Project Salvation. Big shout-out to Tyrant, Colonel Mustard, BaneofKings, LordLucan, Pipitan, CommanderShadow, Malcador, Raziel, Phalanx and all the others who helped me and contributed their various insights to my pitches so that in the end I had 5 top-quality submissions. (EDIT: I forgot Paul!!!! You are awesome too dude)
I owe all these guys a lot for all their help. You guys rock!
All in all, my five submissions covered three separate Space Marine chapters, none of which have figured at all in the limelight of GW/BL/FW published material, barring one.
The Angels of Retribution got two short stories dedicated to them this time, both very different in terms of settings and entirely different cast of characters. As my own chapter, that I would love to get ‘identified’ with, I sincerely hope that at least one of these is definitely picked up. I am really proud of the Sons of Corax.
The Invictors, who I have portrayed as Ultramarine successors, got one short story dedicated to them which, in my opinion, is absolutely pure blood-and-guts 40k mixed with what I sort of in-my-brain call ‘homage grimdark’. If this one gets published, you will be the first ones to find out what that means.
The Executioners got two short stories dedicated to them for this window, both very different pieces but ultimately connected with the prologue and aftermath of a single event. Set in completely different times and with different characters, I had a ton of fun coming up with the ideas for these two, and a big thanks to one of my Bolthole friends who gave me the idea for the first of these.
To continue with what I talked about in my recent post ‘What’s in a name?‘ I had a discussion via email with the awesome Phalanx, one of Bolthole’s resident story-wizzes. The topic was the name I had chosen for the chapter formerly known as Sons of Corax.
It seems that there is a theory related to the name which ties the chapter, having nothing more than the name itself and a really really short blurb in the 3rd Edition Assassin’s codex, with a legion quite dissimilar to the Raven Guard.
The new name for the chapter is Angels of Retribution. And there are wild, very much IMO, theories out there in fandom that they are a Dark Angels successor chapter. The reasoning is that their name fits the convention for other First Legion successors, such as the Angels of Absolution, Angels of Redemption and the Angels of Vengeance. The unfounded theory has proven a little popular among dark angel fans with fanfic and player armies assembled that way.
Its not a bad thing but I am not a fan of the theory either. While there may have been a proper naming convention in place other than ‘oh these names look really cool for these guys’ that hardly should restrict me from picking it as the name for my Raven Guard successors. I considered a lot of names during the renaming process. Some of the ones that really jumped out were –
- Absolvers – The idea behind using the name that the chapter seeks to help Corax on his quest for redemption and forgiveness for his experiments with the legion’s gene-seed post-Istvaan.
- Avengers – The chapter is an active hunter of all the Betrayers of Istvaan. These are the Night Lords, the Alpha Legion, the Word Bearers and the Iron Warriors.
- Crusaders – The chapter has continued the purpose of the Great Crusade, much like the Black Templars have and actively hunts down Traitor Marines.
- Angels of Retribution – This somehow just fit all the above themes I wanted to get across. Plus, alone among the four names I shortlisted, it really resonated with him. It was a name I could definitely get behind. Not to mention the nice imagery you get when you read that name, particularly in conjunction with the Space Marines’ informal name – Angels of Death. Expect an updated chapter post soon!
As I have said before, names are very important to me when I am writing something.
An old writing project of mine, sparse details to be found here, spawned a madness that resulted in me inventing hundreds of names for dozens of factions. Everything from characters to planets, factions to organizations, weapons to starships and so on. I was quite prolific for that. Sadly the project never really saw much development beyond two large Excel files and about 140 pages in a regular copybook (that’s what us Indians call it). I still have all those files and the terrible amount of research I had to do to come up with names of starships and uniform designs and military rankings and what not.
Then there is the Angels of Retribution I am submitting to BL next month.
Also, the new project I have started. This one is about Space Marines of the Invictors chapter and Daemons. I’ve made more progress on this pitch in one day then I did on the Sons of Corax/Angels of Retribution in two months of focused efforts. My synopsis and summary are done pending review once the sample (currently at 435 words) is complete. And then the rounds of critiques and all.
I really like this pitch. At the moment it is tentatively titled Temptations although the story so far has nothing do with temptations. It was originally conceived as a marines versus Slaaneshi daemons short. I might even develop it into a novel, although that would be a lot of effort which I may not have the time for. Initial response to the story is that it reads better as a novel. I am hoping I can keep it down to a short and still keep it chock full of action and description and conflict.
Oh and the Invictors will be an Ultramarine successor. Although they have little to no contact with smurfies 🙂
What’s in a name?
This is a question that has been bothering me for the last week quite a bit. Mostly in relation to what the chapter name Sons of Corax really means. Ages ago on warseer when someone was posting their own DIY chapter they had some sort of similar name for a different legion successor. One of the posters said it was quite presumptuous of the chapter to name itself after the primarch, somehow indicating that the particular chapter was more favored by the primarch.
Is that necessarily true?
We already have the Sons of Guilliman, Sons of Dorn, Hammers of Dorn, Angels Sanguine, Disciples of Caliban, Heralds of Ultramar, Emperor’s XYZ, Imperial ABC, Knights of the Raven, other Sons of PQR etc etc. What are the significances of these names? The Heralds of Ultramar aren’t even based anywhere in Ultramar! The Sons of Orar aren’t even Orar’s sons in the sense that the Sons of Guilliman are literally sons of Guilliman! Did Dorn ever really carry a thunderhammer (how does the Fist of Dorn fit in here when the Imperial Fists are the ones using it)? Or the Emperor’s XYZ (loyalist) chapters who have been created after the Emperor ascended the Golden Throne and isn’t even aware of them? Are the Imperial ABC chapters really favoured by the Imperium?
Where does the favoritism being and where does it end? Is there really a question of these chapters being favored as indicated by the names of these chapters?
Two other aspects of the question are A, what is the power of these names and B, what is the real significance of these names? Let’s take it one by one.
A, The Power of Names – Fiction is quite literally littered with references and cases to/of the idea that names have power. These are reminiscent of some of the oldest religions on our planet. Knowing the name of a daemon gives you power over him is a concept particularly emphasised in both Warhammer worlds and in 40K we have the new background stating that the names of Grey Knights are parts of the true names of daemons! It is all the same as knowing the true identity of a spy, which allows you to exert power over him/her.
Why else do Inquisitors in 40k operate in subterfuge, particular examples being Eisenhorn and Ravenor. They don’t think twice about falsifying identities.
In Frank Herbert’s Dune series, the name Muad’Dib is a name of power, a killing name that the Fremen soldiers can use to literally kill their enemies with the aid of their sonic weapons.
Perhaps the Alpha Legion, at least pre-Heresy, exemplified this best of all. All Alpha Legionnaires are Alpharius when questioned in the book Legion. The identity of the primarch is hidden from anyone not of the Twentieth Legion and there is even a bigger secret being kept here.
What is the power of a name in Warhammer 40,000 in your opinion?
B, The Real Significance of Names – If names have power, then they also have a significance, a deeper meaning perhaps.
What does the name Blood Angels mean for that chapter? The chapter often has angelic names for its battle-brothers. The space marines were/are the Emperor’s Angels of Death. Sanguinius was raised in the Baalite tribe ‘Blood’. Post-heresy the Blood Angels and their successors have been cursed with a vampiric heritage and the Red Thirst.
Ultramarines, is it significant only in that Guilliman’s space marines come from Ultramar, or is the significance related to the colour of their name or is it a clever pun on both?
Space Wolves, are they really wolves in space because they have larger canines than is the norm among other marines, or is it a reference to Leman Russ’ upbringing, or is it related to the Wulfen curse, or is it another clever twist on all of them?
Alpha Legion, the last legion to be formed and yet designated in an old dead (in-universe) language as the first. Alpharius, the last primarch to be found yet his name has one (of course there are multiple meanings) meaning of the first. His twin’s name, Omegon, in that same dead language is the last letter of the alphabet.
Among the Raven Guard, a lot of their captains are named after birds, just as Corax is. And they are plays on similar words. Korvydae of the Tenth, Kayvaan Shrike of the Third, Corvane Valar of the Fifth. Go to wikipedia and do a search for the word Corax and see the results that come up.
Perhaps the most telling and important from an in-universe aspect is Horus, primarch of the most accomplished legion during the Heresy, the Warmaster of the Imperium, the Emperor’s most favored son, foremost among all the primarchs. And the one who plunged the entire galaxy into never-ending war. Horus, in egyptian mythology, is one of the oldest and most significant gods. What came to be known during the Heresy as the Eye of Horus, and was previously the Eye of Terra, is an ancient egyptian symbol for protection, royal power and good health. What Horus the primarch did during the Heresy is known to everyone.
Where does this all end?
All of this is something that I’ve been thinking about in this last week. I was quite surprised when I found out that the Corvus Mellori is a species of the crow/raven family Corvidae about two weeks back. The protagonist of my short story is Valerius Mellor. I had accidentally come up with a name that tied my character to the primarch and legion his chapter is descended from. And yes, it was quite unintentional.
All this comes down to the collective fact that Black Library does not want its writers, particularly ones who are aiming to get published through them the first time (established writers might be getting some leeway), to invent new chapters. I can see where they are coming from because there is such a large number of canon chapters we known nothing about. Some of them exist as nothing but names, they have no livery, heraldry, home or any kind of backstory.
This put me in a real bind because even though Sons of Corax was a stopgap measure to name the Raven Guard successor, I have become quite attached to it. And now I have to change it. Mostly because using my own chapter name is quite a bit of risk and could potentially work against my pitch for the upcoming submissions window. And I really want to not have any negative points against the pitch, especially ones that are easily controllable by me.
So I am now changing the name of the chapter. I have a short list of 4 chapters from Lexicanum’s list of canon chapters. I am very undecided at the moment because each of them represent some aspect of the backstory I have created for the Sons of Corax and I am reluctant to just abandon any of it. I tried to roll for these 4 names (about 50 times mind you to get a nice average) but I was still unhappy.
You see, the name of the chapter matters a lot. It ties it to the primarch, to the original legion. The Sons of Corax have a rich history of having collaborated with the Raven Guard over the years and they have kept some legion practices alive in their original form. They are also quite close to Corax in a spiritual way from what I have envisioned. And the name should reflect the traditions they have inherited from the legion, even though they are Third Founding, and an aspect(s) of the primarch that they think is the most appropriate for the direction they want to go in.
Perhaps all of this is a little too much for just one short story that may not even get picked up. But I think that that is where the difference lies. The difference between a writer who is aiming for quality and one who is just doing it because he/she wants to do it. I am not the best writer out there by any means. And the quality of the fanfic I regularly see on the good old Bolthole reminds me of that everyday and pushes me to perfect my own work that much more.
Its all about the effort you want to put in. And I believe that the more you can show that in the pitch, the better your (and my) chances of getting that foot in the door.
I have had three great critiques on my sample. They all attacked it in very different ways. Some did it from a background perspective. Some based on their own ideas on how things work in-universe. Some based on the technical aspects of the writing process. Some based on just pure logic from their own experiences. Combined, their review has resulted in quite a few changes to the sample in ways I had ignored because I wasn’t aware of the significance. Much thanks to Phalanx, Raziel and Narry for their help on this. Particularly Narry for his help with the names. And all the other Boltholers who helped in the entire process as well.
New and Fun
So, lots of good stuff coming out of cyberspace today. Especially lots of good news from the universe of Warhammer 40,000.
The Black Library today reached 20,000 likes on its Facebook page. As a reward, they have given us something very very exciting to go crazy over! Head over there to check it out. Its an awesome preview of star-author Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s upcoming limited edition novella about Lorgar.
And its April now so don’t forget to pick up your copies of the Fall of Damnos [Ultramarines Second Captain under Sicarius and Tigurius against Necrons], the Victories of the Space Marines anthology, the Garro: Legion of One audio drama [seriously, the audio extract alone is worth every cent], or Knights of Bretonnia. The reviews for the first two books have been great and Nick Kyme is especially being praised for his work with the Necrons, including a refreshing take on how the Lords and their minions interact.
Games Workshop has launched the Grey Knights today! Strike Squads, Interceptor Squads, Purifier Squads, Paladins, Nemesis Dreadknights, Grand Master Draigo all await to begin a holy crusade against the filthy and gibbering Daemons of Chaos.
Welcome to the Sons of Corax Blog. The Sons of Corax are a successor chapter of the Raven Guard chapter, formerly the XIXth Legiones Astartes. Stay tuned for more information about the chapter as I add more information to my pet chapter.
A little about me, as it relates to the hobby – I was in the hobby for about all of two years from late 2007 to late 2009. In this time I collected quite a few armies – Ultramarines, followed by my own space marine chapter I called the Shadowblades, followed by some dabbling in an Eldar Jetbike army and some Daemons for 40k. I don’t play the game anymore but I am still in it as far as rules theorizing and fluff discussions go. I can be found almost any day, any time of the day, on the warseer 40k forums where I post under the highly unimaginative name of shadowhawk2008. I sometimes dabble in the Black Library forums or the rules development forum or the warhammer fantasy background forums too on warseer but not much. I am much more at home discussing the 40k universe and the good and the bad of it.
I’ve attempted to write short stories and novels over the past eight or nine years but nothing has gone far enough in its development. Concerning 40k my first true attempt was an ambitious trilogy dealing with the proper ‘End of Times’ when the Emperor is resurrected (a billion theories on that one!), the missing primarchs return, the dead/injured ones are whole again and the Imperium has its final battle against Chaos. My aforementioned pet chapter the Shadowblades were going to be a special presence in that. But then I realized that the way I was writing the story was solidifying too many mysteries of the 40k universe, in particular the missing 2 space marine legions, and the whole project was completely over ambitious.
Well then I hit upon the idea of the Mantis Warriors space marines chapter finally ending their penance crusade at the end of the 41st millenium and being a normal chapter. Then I got thinking that I should probably write some shorts first and see where it goes. One of my key ideas in the End of Times trilogy had involved a new founding of the astartes and I was going to feature ten new chapters there. So I started with this idea to come up with some chapters I could use in my shorts. One thing spawned another and another and so on and in the end I finally hit upon the Sons of Corax and their battles in the grimdark universe of Warhammer 40,000.
I’ve been working on the Sons of Corax for about 5-6 months now, mostly developing their background so it can help inform my first true short story. And this short will be submitted to the Black Library for their open submissions in May’11. If it doesn’t get the greenlight then I’ll take it to the next level and develop it into a proper novel and try again next year. I have ideas aplenty in my brain and on paper to last a lifetime so that’s not a problem.
Stay around for some more info on the short story and the background for the Sons of Corax.