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Galvatron1701
16-07-2008, 23:06
Hi all

I've been thinking about this for a long time now, but it occurs to me that the Black Library writers are somewhat lazy.

I don't mean they sit about all day moaning about being tired, in fact I mean with regards to their writing, particularly the use of description in their novels, or should that be lack of a use of description?

Allow me to explain. I first noticed this with the Guant's Ghosts novels. While they were a terrific read, descriptions of vehicles were lacking. Chimeras and Leman Russ tanks were very under-described, while other imperial vehicles which do not have models were given very basic descriptions.

I noticed this again in 'The Killing Ground', where 3 Capitol Imperialis tanks crop up. Now, I have no idea what one of these tanks is meant to look like. I'm sure I could find out easily by searching Google or this hallowed forum, but I should not have to. They should be described well enough for me to picture.

Now, I realise that these books are set in the 40k world, and these objects have models and art-work, and so I really should know what a Leman Russ looks like, but the thought occured to me; "what if I wasn't into 40k?- what if I were a normal chap boarding a plane without a book, and so I grabbed this one out of conveniance?" I wouldn't know what these things were.

I realise that the above scenario is highly unlikely, but even so, just because the objects have models does not, in my opinion, give an excuse for lazy descriptive writing, especially when rare things like the Capitol Imperialis turn up.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on the issue? Am I being too pedantic over this? (A terrible character flaw I have!)

Col. Tartleton
16-07-2008, 23:12
No, your right. Its a low class of epic fiction. Don't expect much and you'll get what you wished for. Gaunts Ghosts however is supposed to be among the best writing, and as an infantry regiment, vehicles aren't a big issue. Maybe if it was about an armored regiment it'd go into depth but it isn't.

BL is like reading a Clive Cussler novel. They're good if you ignore how basic the plots are and how every book is the same mystery. Its like scooby doo. Same basic plot and maybe a small twist at the end. This isn't Pulitzer prize winners, its just some cheap background fiction. Abnett is good, but he writes comic books. Not a bad thing, but even he is going to be a poor describer of things. Hes used to having pictures to guide the reader. As is he does well. He's probably the best the BL have, and I wish to god they could get some other decent authors. God willing a great one.

Veloxnex
16-07-2008, 23:17
Definetly not literature, in any shape. One of the Last Chancers books has "massive" 14 times in one page. Hate Gav thorpe, anything from books to rules, yuck!

That said i do find them great fun fluff fillers for some light reading

neXus6
16-07-2008, 23:19
Personally I can't stand Gaunts Ghosts these days, or Abbnet in general. I liked them when I was a young teen but now I've not bought or read the last 3.

The Cain books are just so much better. More character depth and more detail all the way...sure still not on a par with "real" books, but for BL books easily the best in my opinion.

I suppose also atleast partly there has to be an element of accessability. I know it is a generalisation but if you take books from the kids, young adults and "normal" sections of a bookshop you will see vast differences in quality and style and BL books have to be accessable to the 12 year olds, just as much as the 40+s.

To be honest as long as it is fairly well written, with Sandy Mitchell currently setting the standard in my opinion, I'm happy to turn off 2/3s of my brain and blitz through a BL book as long as I've got some real books kicking about to read aswell. :D


Definetly not literature, in any shape. One of the Last Chancers books has "massive" 14 times in one page. Hate Gav thorpe, anything from books to rules, yuck!

good thing - He's left the company to go freelance....
bad thing - He's doing it to "spend more time focusing on his BL Writing"...I'm sorry but I'm not sure if he's left enough time in his life to focus on it enough to make it good. :p

The last chancers books weren't exactly brilliant...but nothing compared to the horrorshow he did that was the "End of Storm of Chaos Royal Rumble." :eek: :D

Galvatron1701
16-07-2008, 23:22
oh absolutely, once I start one I can't put it down. I just read 'The Killing Ground' in 2 days! Since White Dwarf no longer prints fluff, this is the only place to get my dose.

I have to admit, it never occured to me that these were 'low class'. I udnerstand that they're not works of art or literature, but I would have expected the authors and editors etc to be a bit more professional. I noticed in the already mentioned books many mistakes relating to font size, and capital letters being dotted around.

thechosenone
16-07-2008, 23:28
I feel about BL writing the same way i do about the scores of DnD books thrown out there. If released in enough volumn by sheer weight of numbers and chance some will be good. Most... not so much. For every Storm of Iron, Genevieve, Nightbringer and Let the galaxy burn, there are ten Necromancer, Rogue trader and Eldar Prophecy.

RazielZian
17-07-2008, 00:18
Please remember the authors have their hands tied as to what they can actually write, they have to follow a strict time line and cannot play too much with famous characters (well mostly).

This leads to writers who are unable to give their full to a story, I've taen my hand to writing before, and let me tell you, its like a flood and at teh same time a dripping tap... you really don't want limits being forced upon you... it will show in your writing.

And while I know of authors outside of BL who do excelent work, the guys working for BL do a pretty good job with what they have been given.

Ultimately.. if you think you can do better, then stop whining here, grab your laptop and DO better... then send a copy to BL and let them be the judge.

Mer
17-07-2008, 00:34
personally (and i know most ppl disagree) i love abnetts work. ive read all his work, fantasy and 40k. i find that he is BL best writer (with a few expetions).
im a bit baised cause his stuff piggybacked me in the game, but i still feel that he sets a standard of writing that can outmatch most other serious authors out there. (im going to get flammed for that, i know it;) )

but i greatly enjoy all the author BL authors bar CS Goto (i read it anyway though):rolleyes:

MajorWesJanson
17-07-2008, 00:52
Detailed descriptions of vehicles is always nice to have, but really not necessary in novels. The point of novels is to tell a story, not to act as guides to the Arsenal of the Imperium. We have Imperial Armor books for that. All that is really important is that the book give enough to understand what role it plays. Honour Guard is a good example. Destroyer Tank Hunters are just referred to as low and blocky, they tend to hide and ambush enemy vehicles, and they shoot a massive beam of energy when they fire. From just that description, it's not easy to match it to the one in IA1. Same with the Baneblade. It's big, huge, dangerous. Over 300 tons, with at least one heavy bolter, a driver hatch, and a main gun. Not much to go by, but the important representation is how dangerous it is. Men fall back, the previously advancing tanks are destroyed or scattered, and it takes a rocket to the front without even flinching.

We really don't need to know what a vehicle looks like (while it is nice). What is important is that the description lets you know how the vehicle fits into the story. The Capitol Imperialis is used as a headquarters, and has landing pads on it. It's a setting, and we know enough to matter. The action takes place inside it, so we get details of the interior, like engineering and the Generals office.

neXus6
17-07-2008, 01:44
Mer you shouldn't worry so much you are actually probably in the majority when it comes to Dan Abnett, and I will say the Eisenhorn books are great and he is easily in my top 3 or 4 BL authors, but eventually I realised how much the Gaunt books really were a tad silly and he tends to be unable to write a proper ending. :p

I have noticed as I've got older I've required more from the books, when I first started reading BL books I loved Bill Kings Space Wolf book :eek:, then I moved on to Gaunt's Ghosts and loved them, but when I hit my late teens moving onto now being in my twenties the more...well thought out...books attract me, the likes of those witten by Sandy Mitchell and Graham McNeil.

I think the description is why I like Execution Hour and Battle For The Abyss so much, these are pretty much the only 2 books that properly focus on space battles, and as such need to be very very detailed or it just doesn't make sense, of course I'm a bit bias cause I love proper slow dance of death style ship to ship battles, be they on sea or in space. :D

Captain Micha
17-07-2008, 01:52
Given that Gw pretty much holds guns up to an author's head and tells him what he can and can't write I'd say they do well with what they are given. (Which isn't exactly the best written over all story arc to begin with)

neXus6
17-07-2008, 01:55
I don't think that's the case at all, if someone had been holding a gun to C S Goto's head maybe some of his books would have been readable. :p

Captain Micha
17-07-2008, 02:03
Why did you say that things name *hiss* (Presents my 4th edtion D&D book as I would a holy symbol to drive C.S away)

I think for some authors they watch more closely than others. Thq apparently watched him like a hawk while he did the DOW books.

PotatoLegs
17-07-2008, 02:07
They're not lazy, they're just not very good authors

Psycho_Laughs
17-07-2008, 02:49
They're not lazy, they're just not very good authors

quoted for truth! :D

for the guy that was saying he likes space operas... have you read the honor harriongton series by david weber? not pulitzer worthy, but a good fun read, with good inteligent plots.

Bookwrak
17-07-2008, 03:05
Does anyone else have any thoughts on the issue? Am I being too pedantic over this? (A terrible character flaw I have!)
Yes, you seem to be mistaking good writing practices for bad. A novel is not a volume of IA, and giving a detailed spec sheet every time something new shows up completly kills the narrative flow. If the writer is so inclined, that's what a glossary at the end is for.

Templar Ben
17-07-2008, 03:39
I think a lot of it is also the audience. They could spend a chapter describing the plastisteel bulkhead on that cruiser but the target market just wants to read about people killed with chainsaws.

TheOverlord
17-07-2008, 08:15
I've read Gaunt's Ghost first book, and truth be told I was pretty much not inclined to go any further after the first book. I won't even touch the second one. I don't think so much that they are lazy, more like they just don't know what to write about (possible exceptions are Snady Mitchell and the guy who wrote the Grey Knight series). Dan Abnett tends towards the absurd with his writing (taking a dreadnought with a lasgun, wtf?) and he tries oh so very hard to be epic, but it's not really working out.

Sandy Mitchell is very tongue in cheek, which I enjoy. It's a light read, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. Grey Knight is also nice, as unlike many BL books it has a good flow and only reveals what needs to be revealed in it's appropriate chapter. I find Dan Abnett loves to jump chapters willy-nilly in an attempt to explain some kind of grand drama, but really all it does is leave me confuzzled until I realized he was jumping flashbacks. His flow is terrible, as bad as the Ultramarines novels, but if truth be told the Ultras at least have a pretty good story, and it's not quite so over the top.

Art Is Resistance
17-07-2008, 08:32
I need to start by saying that I'm very much a Dan Abnett apologist...!

Dan's writing does exactly what it says on the tin - they're tie-in novels to a game. If you take a look at his work outside of 40k he does 'Epic' SF very well - his run on Durham Red shows this! Yes, the GG novels tend to lean towards the 'formulaic', but, given the subject matter what do you expect? Even with that in mind, he's miles in front of RA Salvatore (the supposedly best D&D novel writer yechhhhh)!

The same can be said for Sandy Mitchell's Cain books - they're essentially Flashman in space - nothing wrong with that!

If you pick up a 40k tie-in, you don't go expecting 'literature' (I have such a hard time with that phrase) - it's like going into McDonald's and expecting A' La Carte food!

SylverClaw
17-07-2008, 09:10
I think this is partly a cultural problem, as some people have said.

Take a look at the instructions BL post up for their writing contests occasionally Ė it even specifically says in there not to describe things in detail. Itís a style that BL have clearly chosen for their books, which the authors are shoe-horned into following. It makes sense, because we all know the details, but I canít help feeling that if they took the reigns off a bit weíd see some really special stuff from some authors.

That said the authors arenít blameless. Abnett has gotten lazy and rattles out book after book that are getting to get a little familiar now. But we all know that.

I think part of the problem here is that BL has no idea who is audience is, beyond being gamers. I suspect that the majority of BL readers are twenties onwards (probably higher than that even), rather than the pimply explosion-loving teens that often seem to write for. Iíd like to see more mature plots, characters and hell, even a bit of bad language thrown in there (seriously, stop the sci-fi word replacement!). Heck, even a bit of romance to spice the grim future up would be nice.

More depth, I suppose Iím asking for.

Chiron
17-07-2008, 09:41
BL fictions fits the definition of pulp fiction perfectly

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulp_magazine

starlight
17-07-2008, 10:06
I think this is partly a cultural problem, as some people have said.

Take a look at the instructions BL post up for their writing contests occasionally Ė it even specifically says in there not to describe things in detail. Itís a style that BL have clearly chosen for their books, which the authors are shoe-horned into following. It makes sense, because we all know the details, but I canít help feeling that if they took the reigns off a bit weíd see some really special stuff from some authors.

<snip>

I think part of the problem here is that BL has no idea who is audience is, beyond being gamers. I suspect that the majority of BL readers are twenties onwards (probably higher than that even), rather than the pimply explosion-loving teens that often seem to write for. Iíd like to see more mature plots, characters and hell, even a bit of bad language thrown in there (seriously, stop the sci-fi word replacement!). Heck, even a bit of romance to spice the grim future up would be nice.

More depth, I suppose Iím asking for.

Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. :(

Either *we* (the audience) know the details - implying they know their audience...or they don't know their audience, in which case they can't assume we know the details.

It is both safer and more professional to work as if the latter is at least partially true and provide details, rather than leaving out things that *everyone knows*. Sadly we know which road GW/BL has chosen.:(

firestorm40k
17-07-2008, 10:06
I think that the issue is not the authors being lazy, rather the company themselves setting out increasingly formulaic structures and demands upon them.

Take the Horus Heresy series as an example: the first two books (notably written by two of BL's strongest writers) were excellent. I stopped reading after the first section of 'Fulgrim' however, as I realised they were starting to stick to a set structure:

- Marine legion fights Łber-hard Alien race, but defeats them
- at the same time there is tension between 'traditionalists' in the Legion and those loyal to lodges/Horus
- Primarch wrestles with loyalty to Emperor, while manipulated by tainted Marine from other legion/possessed artefact
- Heresy revealed, loyalists clash with followers of Horus
- rinse, repeat, fade.

I too find that there is a lack of description, and more tellingly, insight in to the thought processes that have lead to notable traitors turning against the Emperor. I was happy enough that it was left reasonably open to interpretation on the case of Horus, but it's all so pat, clichťd and lacking in any kind of daring.

Although I've got 'Descent of Angels' and 'Legion', I can't bring myself to read them - I've not even finshed 'Fulgrim', and I started that nearly a year ago.

If the BL started to take a few more risks, try to be more original in the story telling it would be cool.

But, at the end of the day, BL is a wing of GW, whose business is to sell, sell, sell miniatures; so in those constraints, BL's remit is to make people buy more miniatures (e.g. 'omg the Night Lords rule in that book, I must spend £300 on a Night Lords army for 40k!!!').

RobC
17-07-2008, 10:20
Sorry to be so blunt about this, but the initial post completely misses the point.

BL novels are high-action pulp sci-fi/fantasy. Some authors are given more leeway in what they can write about and how they write it (especially Dan Abnett), but in general they are asked to stick to a certain style of writing. Going into detail about how tanks work, or the structure of society, just doesn't fit into this style.

Criticise BL all you want for adopting this template (I'm one of those who'd prefer to see something more like the early Jack Yeovil / Brian Craig novels), but don't have a go at them for something that's clearly intentional and, in this instance, entirely understandable.

Master Stark
17-07-2008, 10:54
They're not lazy, they're just not very good authors

Definately part of the problem.

Having just finished the Ultramarines Omnibus, I found Graham Mcneil often gave many of the characters (from entirely different worlds) the same mannerisms. The phrase "Damn, but..." was particularly glaring in this regard.

The Black Library rulings on what to include and what not to are also part of the problem. War-porn can only carry a novel so far. You need something that makes you suspend your disbelief, and care about the characters and their problems. I always groan when I read about Marines rolling and diving. The mechanics of their armour obviously make this nearly impossible. You need decisions for the characters to make that are more weighty than 'should I follow the codex astartes or not'?

Chiron
17-07-2008, 12:13
Oh and I've just given a 40k newbie the Deamonifuge graphic novel, what astonishes him (bar the plot...) is the random use of bold words at random throughout the text, something that does seem to be fairly prevalent throughout 40k comics

insaniak
17-07-2008, 12:45
It is both safer and more professional to work as if the latter is at least partially true and provide details, rather than leaving out things that *everyone knows*.

That really depends on what sort of book you're trying to write.

I've read plenty of sci fi where the author doesn't bother describing ships, or equipment, or in some cases characters, to any huge degree... and it hasn't been a problem, because the story is about what the characters are doing.

On the other hand, I've read books that would have been a good read if they didn't keep getting sidetracked with pages on pages describing how everything works. I don't need to know that this ship is 347 and a half meters long, was built out of recycled matchboxes using a process designed by a genetically modifed echidna in the Omigod Nebula Shipyards, and was baptised with a bottle of 1937 eau'd'toilette by the Right Honerable John Smith, who coincidentally designed the ship's Doublespeak Reactors, which work like this...

Just get on with the story.

SylverClaw
17-07-2008, 13:03
Just get on with the story.

Youíre right but wrong for the same reason.

When your story is paper-thin just getting on with it isnít all that much fun.

I donít think graphic details of every nut and bolt are needed but a little colour never hurts. The fact that that ship is 347 metres long isnít useless detail if it helps convey somethingÖ I think BL authors are very guilty of not putting their characterís feelings into the pages. If you are following a character to whom the length of the ship is important or interesting then knowing that helps you get into his head and empathise.

For example, when your key character is a space marine I donít think there is anything wrong with lovingly describing his bolter. Thatís his holy weapon for doing the Emperorís work Ė he really like it. Equally, if your chief character is a guard with that same bolter-obsessed marine then you wouldnít describe the bolter, but might go into great detail about how huge and awe-inspiring the marine himself is.

Master Starkís point is an excellent one. The worst thing about all these books is that the characters, and thus everything they see and do, is so samey.

The books need to be told from different angles to keep them fresh. Just because they are told from third person doesnít mean you can wash the pages clean of emotion.

narrativium
17-07-2008, 13:17
I used to read a lot of Star Trek novels. I can't remember any of them describing what the Enterprise looked like. I've read a lot of Doctor Who stories as well, and to some extent the TARDIS gets more attention, chiefly because the POV character isn't familiar with it. The characters in BL novels tend to be familiar with their equipment.

Templar Ben
17-07-2008, 13:31
That really depends on what sort of book you're trying to write.

I've read plenty of sci fi where the author doesn't bother describing ships, or equipment, or in some cases characters, to any huge degree... and it hasn't been a problem, because the story is about what the characters are doing.

On the other hand, I've read books that would have been a good read if they didn't keep getting sidetracked with pages on pages describing how everything works. I don't need to know that this ship is 347 and a half meters long, was built out of recycled matchboxes using a process designed by a genetically modifed echidna in the Omigod Nebula Shipyards, and was baptised with a bottle of 1937 eau'd'toilette by the Right Honerable John Smith, who coincidentally designed the ship's Doublespeak Reactors, which work like this...

Just get on with the story.

That is how Star Wars did so well. Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is one example. They didn't describe what the Kessel Run was. They didn't describe who Jabba was or how big the bounty was. They wanted to get in and just gave enough details for you to know what the characters were like.

Sikkukkut
17-07-2008, 13:40
That is how Star Wars did so well. Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is one example. They didn't describe what the Kessel Run was. They didn't describe who Jabba was or how big the bounty was. They wanted to get in and just gave enough details for you to know what the characters were like.

Exactly. A deft, telling little detail to create a vivid impression of a person/thing/place trumps pages-long plodding description of that person/thing/place almost every time. You may or may not feel that a particular author's descriptions have worked, but I'm not convinced that brief descriptions are an ipso facto proof of a lazy author. As someone pointed out earlier, it's a story, not a catalogue.

Promethius
17-07-2008, 13:56
They're not lazy, they're just not very good authors

The words 'nail' and 'head' spring to mind. BL books are good at what they do: mindless pulp sci-fi warp0rn. Abnett, their champion author, writes comic books. It's no wonder that his characters, even after 13-odd GG novels, are entirely two dimensional and act in exactly the way that you would expect a comic book hero to act. I think that if you put your mind on autocruise for the book then you can enjoy yourself, just keep your expectations low and try to ignore the way that every space marine says 'aye' rather than 'yes'. It also helps if you don't expect an edited book to have proper punctuation or to have been read thoroughly before being printed (Hint to BL: spell checkers aren't fool proof. You should probably read that book before sending it to the printers so that you don't discover that 'weal' has been spellchecked to 'wheel'). ;)

I would like to stick up for Gav Thorpe, who often gets bashed on these forums for reasons I'm slightly confused about (I suspect there is lingering distaste for a perceived unbalanced army book in the past). In terms of BL fiction (mindless as it is) the Last Chancer novels stick out to me as some of the best, and in terms of expanding the background (probably the main reason the BL exists) it's hard to think of a more ground-breaking novel than Angels of Darkness. Seriously, that book changed the way everyone thought of the DAs, and actually made me interested in them.

insaniak
17-07-2008, 22:16
Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is one example. They didn't describe what the Kessel Run was. They didn't describe who Jabba was or how big the bounty was.

Actually, they do all of those things in the Han Solo Trilogy... ;)

Xisor
17-07-2008, 23:58
I wouldn't say lazy. It's a choice of focus. I'm certainly sure that Dan can do very good 'scene setting work', but I've still not seen anything...vivid from him. He can, however, plot a book very nicely such that you race right through them (look at Horus Rising and Legion).

On the polar opposite, I'd say you'd have Matt Farrer, one of BLP's better authors (insofar as I enjoy reading his work alot more than the remainder). Some of his writing is absolutely awesome, but writing an action-packed 40k-romp I'm rushing to get through is still something I've not seen with his name on it (though I've not yet read Blind or his short in Planetkill). I'd rate Farrer much higher than Abnett, but then Abnett's provided me with so much more to read, and certainly isn't an awful writer.

Similarly, Gav Thorpe seems to be one of BLP's better writers again, insofar as his depiction of the Adeptus Astartes in Angels of Darkness is only matched by that in Ben Counter's Grey Knights (or the staple classics, Storm of Iron and Lord of the Night). Every other lengthy depiction of a loyalist marine has almost always been more than slightly 'too human'.

In that regard I'd summarise quickly: They're not lazy, but they do make compromises. Abnett's works, to me, lack an underpinning substance, Farrer's lacks that action-packed plotting and so forth. No-one's yet got it perfect. Also, I don't think any one person is suitably disposed to enjoy [i]all of BLP's novels without major complaint somewhere. Not just out of human pernicketiness, but that the novels themselves vary wildly in style, objective and merit.

If you could have a Farrer-Abnett combined effort, I'm sure I'd die happy.

Cherrystone
18-07-2008, 00:13
Iíd like to see more mature plots, characters and hell, even a bit of bad language thrown in there (seriously, stop the sci-fi word replacement!). Heck, even a bit of romance to spice the grim future up would be nice.


Check out the earlier (late 80s-early 90s) books for some and occasionally all of the above.

catbarf
18-07-2008, 00:16
Reading BL books has shown me what I need to do to improve my writing, to the point where I'm actually writing a short story of my own.

They're not terrible, and I can enjoy them while at the same time identifying their weaknesses and using it to improve my own writing.

Caiphas Cain
18-07-2008, 00:38
The Cain and Eisenhorn books kick a**.

catbarf
18-07-2008, 01:10
The Cain and Eisenhorn books kick a**.

It's funny though to see the *ahem* parallels between the Cain novels and the Flashman series.

starlight
18-07-2008, 01:32
I challenge thee! :evilgrin:

http://warseer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=153255

Those who wish to try to up the ante at The Black Library are welcome to join me.:)

SylverClaw
18-07-2008, 06:02
It's funny though to see the *ahem* parallels between the Cain novels and the Flashman series.

The author makes no secret of that. It says as much in the front of the ominbus.

Which is no problem, as it got me on to Flashman too!

Master Stark
18-07-2008, 09:14
I think it's important to remember, like catbarf says, that the BL books aren't terrible. I think the authors are displayed in a poor light, given that involving plots and characters deep enough to have concerns and problems that might relate to us as readers are definately frowned upon by the powers that be. More guns and aliens, please.


That is how Star Wars did so well. Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is one example.

What a brilliant example!

What is the Kessel run?

What is a parsec?

Who cares? We know that makes it pretty fast, and we've got more pressing concerns.

sliganian
18-07-2008, 14:12
Having actually written something in the foggy past for Black Library, all I will say is this:

The editors wield far more power over what goes in or stays out than folks probably realize. An author can be as creative or powerful as they want in their drafts, but if the word comes down "Yeah, take that bit out, change this character entirely" etc., well, you get what you get.

Yes, the Authors do share a large portion of the blame. But a good editor can turn a story from mediocre to brilliant or (sadly) from brilliant to a steaming pile of linked cliches.

x-esiv-4c
18-07-2008, 14:16
You could always read some Lovecraft instead. :)

lanrak
18-07-2008, 19:58
If you want an enjoyable read.
Look for the name 'Terry Pratchett.'
Utterly briliant IMO.

Templar Ben
18-07-2008, 22:58
Actually, they do all of those things in the Han Solo Trilogy... ;)

Exactly. It was central to that story at the time. Details that are not important as glossed over. We didn't know about the Bothan spies except for a throw away line in the RotJ. Later they expanded upon it with the Bothans using it as proof that they gave more in the war and other suggesting that they were in on it because the information was inaccurate ("fully armed and operational battle station" comes to mind).

Now they could have really gotten into that, or the Quarren/Mon Calamari split, or the mating rituals of the Cerean but since those were all brought up later they were addressed when appropriate.

insaniak
18-07-2008, 23:26
What is the Kessel run?

It's the Hyperspace route to Kessel, which runs through an area of space populated with a big mess of black holes.



What is a parsec?

It's a unit of measurement used in astronomy: 30 trillion kilometres, or about 3.3 light years.

I believe that it was used in the Star Wars script because it sounded cool and spacey... without poor George realising that it was a measure of distance, and not time...

So the writer of the Han Solo Trilogy came up with a nifty idea where the Kessel run could be travelled in a shorter distance by a more skilled pilot, who was able to nip in closer to the various gravitic disturbances than other, less skilled pilots or less capable ships...

[/nerdy exposition]



But yeah, the point is that it was glossed over in the movie because it wasn't important at the time. It was explained in the Han Solo Trilogy because it was a key part of the story at that point. The explanation was necessary to the plot... but didn't include any more explanation than was actually necessary. The Millenium Falcon was described only briefly, there were no scientific treatises on the mechanics of black holes... we were just told: Here be black holes... stay away! Don't go near there!

Art Is Resistance
19-07-2008, 09:26
I think what we're arguing more than whether the authors are lazy or not, is the question more along the lines of:

Do we want 40k novels to be 'Hard' SF or Space Opera? If you want countless pages of technical specs, with descriptions for every nut and bolt - go Hard SF (the only author I can get through on that side is Iain M Banks) - 40k goes for the Space Opera route - they're the novel equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer film - all bang, with very little exposition!

FISTOFIRON
19-07-2008, 23:06
BL is fine for what it is, light fiction detailing the background of a game. It's pulp through and through.

The level of detail the OP pines for is best left to WD articles or rulebook entries. If you actually had that in the novels, they'd be ponderous tomes that'd be unreadable.

You know what a Land Raider is, the author can just say they jumped in the side hatch of the Land Raider. He doesn't have to describe the color of the buttons, or the sequence you punch to open it up. This isn't DH Laurence, it's the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war.

starlight
19-07-2008, 23:08
The difference is that in a movie you can *show* things that need to be described in a book. The big question is *how much* needs describing.:D

Solasun
20-07-2008, 02:11
People suggesting that they can just say they "hitched a ride in a Land Raider" are going a bit extreme.

The first part works, but suggesting that I, as a writer, can simply say LAND RAIDER at the first introduction of a text and have everyone know it is stretching the laws of writing.

The name - Land Raider - needs some adjectives. Otherwise it becomes too closed in, remember... Black Library isn't only sold in Games Workshop, my first BL book was from Waterstones, before I even started modelling. If that book had spewed technobabble (which Land Raider is) all over the place, I'd have screamed and thrown the book down.

Mr.terminatorbob
20-07-2008, 03:41
Sorry, but what is "Flash man"? Is it the Esinhorn series? Any explanitions please?

Ward.
20-07-2008, 04:23
I've heard that one for the reasons for brief descriptions is so that future changes can be made to individual things that exist outside the story.

Also, imagine having to read the description for a landraider every time one turned up while trying to read a whole series.

Sikkukkut
20-07-2008, 04:41
Sorry, but what is "Flash man"? Is it the Esinhorn series? Any explanitions please?

If you're asking about who I think you're asking about, Flashman is a character who shows up as the villain in an old book called "Tom Brown's Schooldays". He was a schoolmate of the titular character, a vain, snotty, cowardly, bullying, arrogant bastard. A writer named George McDonald Fraser subsequently took the Flashman character and wrote a series of "historical" novels about him after he finished his schooling and ended up as an officer in the British Army, still just as much of a cad as his original author portrayed him.

The Flashman books were an overt influence on the Caiaphas Cain novels, which the author admits are a 40Kverse homage to him.


Also, imagine having to read the description for a landraider every time one turned up while trying to read a whole series.

A problem that comics have. Since every comic you publish is going to be someone, somewhere's introduction to the series, regular comic readers have to get very good at skipping over the once-per-issue asides of "fortunately my superpowers, which I got from xyz, allow me to do abc, although I must be careful of my one weakness which is zyx!". That or relinquish their sanity :skull:

Brother Siccarius
20-07-2008, 05:59
Oh and I've just given a 40k newbie the Deamonifuge graphic novel, what astonishes him (bar the plot...) is the random use of bold words at random throughout the text, something that does seem to be fairly prevalent throughout 40k comics
I've noticed that it's a bit more natural in Abnett's Black Templar comics. Though I've also noticed that the use of bolded words is always slightly off in comics, even non-40k ones.

That is how Star Wars did so well. Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is one example. They didn't describe what the Kessel Run was. They didn't describe who Jabba was or how big the bounty was. They wanted to get in and just gave enough details for you to know what the characters were like.
Quite so, I appreciate when the author allows me to use my brain and picture it myself a bit. I honestly have no idea exactly what a "Chellon" (from the Gaunt's Ghosts series) looks like in Dan Abnettes mind, but I get a pretty good mental picture from the way they are talked about.

just keep your expectations low and try to ignore the way that every space marine says 'aye' rather than 'yes'.
I find it really odd that you'd have a problem with this. I live around a lot of real marines, and all of them say "Ooh-rah" instead of "yes". Personally I find it more odd than saying "Aye".

It also helps if you don't expect an edited book to have proper punctuation or to have been read thoroughly before being printed (Hint to BL: spell checkers aren't fool proof. You should probably read that book before sending it to the printers so that you don't discover that 'weal' has been spellchecked to 'wheel'). ;)


Every book has some mistakes in it. I've even picked up bibles that had spelling errors in them. 40k novels as a whole don't have any more mistakes than any other.


Actually, they do all of those things in the Han Solo Trilogy... ;)

I believe they were talking about the movie, besides, the novels are generally regarded as some un-endorsed fan novels rather than approved fact, which generally ticked a lot of fanboys off when the prequels came out.

Jedi152
21-07-2008, 08:42
The major problem is that BL authors have their hands tied.

GW don't see BL as a way of expanding the universes and making them exciting places, and exploring new avenues not covered by the TT game, they see it as a form of advertising for the TT game. We've had authors on here saying as much. They can't invent much stuff that's not represented in the game, and they have to include a decent amount of violence - "It's WARhammer, not INTRIGUEhammer".

In fact one author even mentioned that they may even have a fights : page ratio that they have to stick to, and this often ends up adding unnecessary violence which derails the book.

Also, BL major audience is considered to be pretty much the same as GW's, which is male teenagers who love violence and seeing/reading about Space Marines kicking alien heads in.

Dan Abnett has more leeway than all the other authors as he's considered 'the best' and his books often shift tons anyway.

Kenzaburo
21-07-2008, 10:43
First of all, let me say that it is of course possible to expect some good writing from a comic book author. Ever read some Neil Gaiman? I think he's pretty damn good at his job. :)

Second, what probably bugs me the most is, that a lot of the BL stuff doesn't feel warhammerish to me. For a year now I've been struggling to read through the Ultramarine Omnibus. Since we all know that 40k is Gothic SF, I wonder why nobody told the author or showed them some of the artwork we all know from our codizes and the BGB.
I never, not once, got the feeling that cities looked like those huge, gothic cathedral like buildings, that space marines were those giants among men, trained for killing for over decades. Also I absolutely support the statement, that fights are described in a weird way. Seriously, how is marine supposed to dive and roll? Armor and backpack should make such a move impossible. But that's a minor gripe compared to the whole not so grim and not so dark depicted future in BL books.
And I am aware of the different approach taken back in the 90s by Ian Watson, but the farting marines didn't match my idea of a gothic future, as well. Although the whole training aspect of the Imperial Fists was a tad more believable and the religious fanaticism displayed by them, too.

Cheers,
Kenza

RobC
21-07-2008, 11:10
For a year now I've been struggling to read through the Ultramarine Omnibus. Since we all know that 40k is Gothic SF, I wonder why nobody told the author or showed them some of the artwork we all know from our codizes and the BGB. Graham McNeill (the author of the Ultramarines books) used to be a games developer, so any difference between the game setting and the books would be intentional, most likely.

Kenzaburo
21-07-2008, 16:30
I know McNeill was a developer, he states that in the preface of the omnibus. But how does the differences being intentional seem better to you than just being mistakes? I think it is even sadder, that as a designer for the game (i.e. knowing the setting and it's general feel) he makes it seem like some random SF at times, fantasy with tech influences at others? Especially the marines don't have any kind of real depth, characterization or a marine feel to them. Ventris and Pasanius could just be some kind of elite cadian guys, who just happen to wear some superior armor.
As far as I got it, there's quite the difference between a guardsman and a space marine, not just in battle prowess but in behaviour, way of thinking and the way they react to their surroundings.
I'd think at least 50 years of training to be a marine alone would cause one to be all kinds of different to every other guy you encounter in the books. If the author can't think of a way to portray that, he shouldn't be writing about the SM point of view at all. It would be a lot better to choose the pov of a normal human then.
Same goes for the setting in general.

starlight
21-07-2008, 17:16
Part of the problem (I haven't read the book, so this is a general comment) is creating enough difference to set them apart, yet still have the audience identify with them. No one reading about Space Marines has any idea what it's like to be one (the author included), so it might be a stretch to create characters who are believable.

Admittedly there need to be *some* differences, but just how many and what sort is open to the author (and editor) to decide.

Hellebore
23-07-2008, 05:08
What I don't like is the 'exception to the exception to the exception' that BL stories most often represent (especially DAn Abnett's).

That is, the story centres around the one in a million character/planet/technology that would otherwise be almost entirely absent from 40k. For instance, Eisehorn hangs out on a planet where everyone has anti grav tech, despite the fact that Imperium can't use it very well and it was actually frowned upon after the heresy.

This makes sense in the context of stories in that it wouldn't be much fun to read about manufactorum Joe who spends every day pushing the same button like his father before him.

However it gets to a point where the characters don't even seem to BE what they are supposed to be. Commissars that Don't shoot people for insubordination, marines who are just like everyone else etc.

If you were a newb to the 40k universe and your entry was BL fiction you would come to one of two conclusions:

All marines are 'Nice Guys' who 'Help People', Commissars 'Aren't that Bad', and everyone and his uncle owns an antigrav vehicle.

OR

The BL books are a very biased sample set of the 40k universe.

However, most people don't think of the second one so you end up with people coming into the game with false expectations:

"What do you mean I can't have an army of landspeeders? Everyone had one in Eisenhorn. I CAN'T take down falcons with rocks!? But it was clearly written by Goto."

etc


Hellebore

starlight
23-07-2008, 06:49
The only Marines who are *nice* to Imperial subjects are the Salamanders, who still act in the role of benevolent rulers, but rulers nonetheless.


*rubs hands with glee at the opportunity to submit something to The Black Library* :D

Phunting
23-07-2008, 11:26
The author makes no secret of that. It says as much in the front of the ominbus.

Which is no problem, as it got me on to Flashman too!Yes, and I too discovered Flashman through Cain, and my life in infinitely better for it! The only problem is that I'm now unable to read Cain, because whilst they may be a 'homage' they're just so much worse written than Flashy.

I think the biggest problem is probably GW's controls: the need to cut out all the sex (which in Flashy can be a fair amount) and add in big tank battles or something of the like to keep the kiddies happy. It takes an excellent concept and fairly trashes it.

Hellebore
23-07-2008, 11:31
Yep, cause ripping someone's guts out and causing them to die in agony is MUCH nicer than two people enjoying each other's bodies in a consenting manner. :rolleyes:

I HATE western society's stupid moral ********.

Hellebore

Altair
23-07-2008, 12:19
That really depends on what sort of book you're trying to write.

I've read plenty of sci fi where the author doesn't bother describing ships, or equipment, or in some cases characters, to any huge degree... and it hasn't been a problem, because the story is about what the characters are doing.

On the other hand, I've read books that would have been a good read if they didn't keep getting sidetracked with pages on pages describing how everything works. I don't need to know that this ship is 347 and a half meters long, was built out of recycled matchboxes using a process designed by a genetically modifed echidna in the Omigod Nebula Shipyards, and was baptised with a bottle of 1937 eau'd'toilette by the Right Honerable John Smith, who coincidentally designed the ship's Doublespeak Reactors, which work like this...

Just get on with the story.

Agreed, I have read many fantasy/ sci-fi books where the author concentrates more on the characters than trying to describe in annoying detail all that makes up the world...using your own imagination is much more enjoyable than THE WORLD LOOKS LIKE THIS, SO I DECREE IT! style.

Howevere I will admit BL novels are just pulp sci-fi. Some of it good (Guants Ghosts, Execution Hour, Space Wolf, Fifteen Hours being my favourites) but there is also absoulte crap, like CS Gottas work, the 3rd Ultramarines novel etc etc.

Phunting
23-07-2008, 22:50
Yep, cause ripping someone's guts out and causing them to die in agony is MUCH nicer than two people enjoying each other's bodies in a consenting manner. :rolleyes:

I HATE western society's stupid moral ********.

HelleboreNot that in Flashman it is always consenting...

Still, I know. Fulgrim was a perfect example of this, gore fine but heaven forefend that we do anything but vaguely hint at talk of sex.

"Just remember what the MPAA says: Horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as people don't say any naughty words!"- South Park

Jedi152
24-07-2008, 06:58
I seem to recall that Guardians of the Forest has at least one sex scene in, and apparently Curse of the Necrarch has some homosexual references, but i must have missed them.

It makes the book a more mature (if handled correctly), which can only be a good thing.

Jo Bennett
24-07-2008, 08:08
I'm surprised by the accusation of not enough detail about vehicles in Gaunt's Ghosts, there's quite a bit about the conquerors in Honour Guard, and about the enemy vehicles. Lots of stuff about gyroscopic stabilisers and the ability of the leman russ to turn on a sixpence.

StevenSavile
31-07-2008, 13:04
Jedi, the Necrarch references are subtle, and can be read whichever way you like - some guys will read it obvious that Bohme is in love with Metzger, both reach old age as essentially single men, show no interest in women, but have a deep bond between them... the line that would suggest it most obviously is near the end where Bohme is 'holding the . . . man he loved in his arms.' doesn't mean that love has to be homosexual, but equally doesn't mean it isn't.

Am I lazy? Nope. That one I won't hold my hands up to. There's plenty of other things going on. Of course some writers just aren't good enough in terms of professional standards, but the publishing house doesn't WANT the best, or want names to stand out. It wants to foster a loyalty so it offers fans the chance to write stories and gives novels to people how generally haven't learned their craft yet. It's great that they do, and terrible that they do as well...

Jedi152
31-07-2008, 13:17
Thanks Steve. I figured it was in an 'old comrades as close as brothers' sort of way. Which way did you intend them to be read?

Enjoyed the book incidentally. Perfectly how Necrarchs should be portrayed.

reds8n
31-07-2008, 22:54
I HATE western society's stupid moral ********.



.. as opposed to Saudi Arabia / China / etc right ? ...* scuttles off to P & R * :p ;)

... I don't think it's fair to call any of them "lazy" as such quicker and less ego bruising ways to make the same amount of money right ? Successful as some of them are you'll note none of them make a living just off of their BL products.

I'm sure that most of the authors give their best given time/money considerations. It's tempting to say that the editors/powers that be etc should be stricter/more fleixible/whatever, but given that we don't know what they do prevent/stop etc........

Given the rising sales of Bl stuff in the latest figures they must be doing something right........ right ?

@ Mr. saville ; nice to "see" you here again good sir :).... now get back to work !

@ Mr. jedi-- cheers for t'other day, I'll get back to you soon !

[/hijack]

StevenSavile
01-08-2008, 01:28
Jedi, I was absolutely and deliberately ambiguous :) heh...

That said, when I read through the edits one final time before it went to press I read that final line, and my brain went 'damn' because things I hadn't intended suddenly shifted in light of it and I have had a couple of readers tell me it was blindingly obvious to them... so I suspect you'll always read it the way you want to read it... but having read it cold, I am thinking there was at least a man-crush there, if not more, but it almost certainly wasn't reciprocated... so I think an unrequited love, of sorts. Man, how flim-fammy was that answer?

Red... aye aye sir!

Almost done with Stargate... back into the salt mines it is!