Well, it has definitely been a year.
It’s been easily my most productive writing year to date, at least in terms of how much stuff came out. A mighty FOUR novels in total (granted one of them was written a couple of years ago and the release was held back), which is a number I’m going to struggle to beat in future, even though one of them was about 200,000 words. Let’s have a quick reminder:
May: Huron Blackheart – Master of the Maelstrom A Warhammer 40,000 Character Series novel, featuring the master of the Red Corsairs and his attempts to keep power within his own ranks after Verngar the Apostate rocks up having captured Guilliman’s very own flagship.
July: The Godbreaker The final novel in The God-King Chronicles, my epic fantasy trilogy. It builds on the themes in the earlier novels of cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of difference and diversity, as well as the ideas that the “truth” (especially of divinity) is far less important than what humans believe to be true, and therefore what they do.
August: Warboss My second Warhammer 40,000 Ork novel, this one featuring a different cast of characters to Brutal Kunnin, and following what happens when an Ork Warboss dies and his subordinates (and one particularly deluded grot) race to replace him. Warboss had a mega-edition release and as such is not yet available in other formats (although there was still one copy on the shelves at Warhammer World last time I was in there).
October: Renegades – Harrowmaster A Warhammer 40,000 novel about the Alpha Legion, catching up with them in the “present” timeline and following Solomon Akurra as he tries to rally his fellows against the Imperium’s Indomitus Crusade.
I also had Slate Run, a new Sorena Varlon short story for Warhammer Crime which came out in Sanction & Sin; as well as Packin’ Heat, a short story featuring Snaggi Littletoof from Warboss, which came out as part of the Advent releases. Council of Truth, my Horus Heresy short story about the Alpha Legion, got another release, this time as part of the Heirs of the Emperor anthology (the closest Black Library have yet come to what I am sure is their ultimate goal: the cuboid book), and Where Dere’s Da Warp Dere’s A Way, Ufthak Blackhawk’s very first adventure, showed up in the Only War anthology.
Conventions-wise, I went to EasterCon and FantasyCon, both of which were held at the Radisson Park Inn at Heathrow, a venue I shall never be returning to again (they stiffed me on parking at FantasyCon, and it’s just not a good venue for a convention in any case). Otherwise I had an excellent time at both, and it was great to see people again. I was especially proud that The Black Coast was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, which is an honour I could barely have conceived of merely a few years ago. As it was, that was won by She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, and I can’t say I begrudge them the win, since it’s an excellent novel.
In terms of my reading, it’s been a very enjoyable year. I was lucky enough to get Advance Reading Copies of A Strange And Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows, St Death’s Daughter by CSE Cooney, and Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans, all of which are marvellous, queer, inventive, and generally wonderful. The same goes for The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri, although this is Tasha, so “wonderful” is counterbalanced by “gutwrenching”. For Games Workshop, a fair bit of my reading has been for research rather than enjoyment in and of itself, but I absolutely must give praise to Aaron Demski-Bowden’s Echoes of Eternity, the penultimate novel in the Siege of Terra (although not the penultimate book, since we know that Dan Abnett’s The End and The Death is going to be at least two volumes…), and a strong contender for best novel in the entire Horus Heresy series. That’s an impressive feat, given a) how many books there are in it, b) that it’s “simply” telling the next part of a battle that’s already been raging for five books, and c) its intended to set up the final part. For Aaron to have managed to get such a brilliant, visceral novel out through those limitations is a true testament to his ability.
Other media-wise, Andor on Disney+ has to be the stand-out series I watched this year: it’s an utterly brilliant spy drama about creeping fascism and what it takes to start a revolution, and it is so damn tense for so much of it, with some spectacular performances. It just so happens to be set in the Star Wars universe, but to be honest that’s just context and flavour: the main story could happen in any number of different settings, and it’s the story that grabs you. The fact that some of the characters are already known to Star Wars fans is largely a bonus.
The other strong contender is the Korean fantasy drama Alchemy of Souls on Netflix, which combines breathtaking special effects with multi-layered plotting, excellent character work (even though I don’t understand Korean and am relying on subtitles, so the nuances of delivery are lost on me) and a masterful blending of drama with humour to make a show that can have you laughing one moment and feeling deep empathy for the characters in the next.
It also seems fair to give shout-outs to The Owl House and Amphibia, two Disney+ animated series. TOH is ongoing, although Disney are doing their best to strangle it by making the third ‘season’ three extended specials rather than giving it a full run, and generally burying it as much as possible (could this be because it features many prominent queer characters? I think you’d win money betting that way!). Amphibia concluded earlier this year, and I watched it all in one go over the summer (with a brief break when I had to wait for the last half-dozen episodes to show up on Disney+). Both of them are excellent fun (and feel strongly influenced by Matt Groenig’s stuff in terms of the subversive humour, cutting, etc) and really drive home how far animation for kids has come since I was one in the 80s…
I also managed to get two gigs in with my band this year as well: when the pandemic reached us in March 2020 I said “I’d like to get one more gig in before I turn 40”, and I squeaked in under the line with six days to go in January 2022. We didn’t play another until November, but it was an excellent night (although also the warmest I’ve been since we played a Tourette’s charity gig at The Old Vic in Derby many years ago; and yes, I include the 40-degree day this summer in that assessment).
So, looking to the future! What is coming out from me next year?
…I can’t tell you.
The problem with writing for Games Workshop is that you have to sit on information about your forthcoming releases for so long, because that’s how their business model works (in contrast to traditional publishing, where releases are made public a long time in advance). However, as it stands I have no trad-pubbed releases coming in 2023 (and at this point I don’t think that’s going to change), and I can’t tell you about forthcoming Games Workshop stuff. I have written two more novels for them, to date, but as to what they’re about and when they’re being released, I’m afraid I can say nothing (in terms of when they’re being released, even I don’t know that: I find that out at about the same time as everyone else).
With regards to what I’m working on at the moment, I have a pitch for my next “own” novel in with Orbit, and a pitch for another piece of work in with Black Library, while in the meantime I’m working on a third thing. Fingers crossed they come through!
In conclusion: thanks to everyone who’s supported me this year, and I wish you the very best for 2023. Hopefully there will be less war, less virus, and everything will cost a bit less…