We talk to
who wrote the screenplay for the new made-for-DVD
Warhammer 40,000 movie Ultramarines as well as several tie-in novels for
this popular science fantasy wargame franchise . . .
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the plot for
Ultramarines? About who “stars” in it, etc.
A: The movie is about a squad of Ultramarines, led by a
veteran captain called Severus, who are sent on a desperate but mysterious
mission to a remote planet and find that things there are not all as they
seem. It’s a trial by fire story, with some great Ultramarine heroes, and
some Imperial Fists too!
Q: Would you say the movie is accessible to newbies
who don’t know the first thing about Warhammer 40, 000? Or is it for fans
A: If you’re a fan, then I think it’s tailor made for
you, with plenty of action featuring the iconic Space marines, the
greatest heroes of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. They’re the
great, armoured post-human defenders of the Imperium of man, who have to
face down unbelievable monsters. We’ve tried to be faithful to the
fundamental ‘fluff‘ of the universe, but I’ve also written it so that, if
you’ve never encountered Warhammer 40,000 before, you won’t be lost.
You’ll understand the basics of what’s going on and you’ll great a great
taste of the flavour of this SF universe!
Q: Speaking of which, were you a fan of Warhammer 40,
000 before you wrote any of the tie-in books or the movie?
A: Yes, I was. I hadn’t played it much, but I was an
RPGer back in the day, mainly D&D, Traveller and Call of Cthulhu, and I
knew about Games Workshop and its very distinctive game universes through
magazines like White Dwarf.
Q: What is the trickiest thing about writing
something in a fictional universe created by someone else?
A: Sticking to the rules! Not just the actual rules, but
the flavour and character of the thing. You need to understand what the
fans and readers feel about a universe, and try and capture that. And a
novel needs different things in it to a game or a comic, it operates on a
different level, so you have to be smart about it. It means talking to
fans, listening to them.
Q: What do you have to say to allegations that
so-called “tie-in” books aren’t “real books”?
A: I think it’s a shame there’s a stigma like that. It’s
an odd snobbery. I never feel I’m chunking out some second rate work to
earn a pay check so I can write ‘proper‘ novels. “Tie-in” fiction has a
vast, ready made audience, eager for top quality books and very quick to
show their displeasure if you get it wrong. And quite right too. If you
think tie-in fiction is second rate and somewhat lacking, ten you’re
making a pretty big judgement call about the readers too, aren’t you?
Q: What are you working on right now?
My next Warhammer 40,000 novel, the next in the
Gaunt’s Ghost series, which is called Salvation’s Reach,
plus an original SF novel for Angry Robot Books called Embedded.
I’m also working on a Thor meets Iron Man mini series and an ongoing
series called Heroes For Hire, both for Marvel.
Q: Who are your favourite writers? What are you
reading right now? Any novels (besides your own of course) you’d like to
see made into a movie?
A: Faves? Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance, HP Lovecraft, Frank
Herbert, Tim Powers, Greg Bear, Kelly Link, Ian M Banks . . . do you mean
just genre? Right now, I’m reading a thriller called White Dog by
the great Australian crime writer Peter Temple, and Kaaron Warren’s
awesome Slights. I still think there’s a definitive version of
Dune waiting to be
done on screen.
Ultramarines is the first movie to be produced by
screenwriter Dan Abnett. Dan Abnett is a novelist and award-winning comic
book writer who has written over thirty-five novels. His novels Horus
Rising and Legion (both for the Black Library) and his
Border Princes (for the BBC) were all bestsellers. Dan Abnett’s novel
Triumff (2009), for Angry Robot was nominated for the British Fantasy
Society Award for Best Novel. As a writer of comics, he has worked on
everything from the Mr Men to the X-Men, and been published by all of the
industry’s major companies (DC, Marvel, 2000AD). He created the cult
series Sinister Dexter for 2000 AD, and is part of the team celebrated for
reviving Marvel’s cosmic superheroes.