Not a Rhetorical Question

I suck at answering questions: it’s true. The answers I give are passable but it’s the timing that is all out. Take for instance the ‘Ask the Authors’ section on The Black Library Bolthole. As forums go The Black Library Bolthole is a hell of a nice place to hang out – and it’s in good company with places like Heresy Online and Warseer. The Bolthole holds a particular draw for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is the only one of the major Warhammer forums whose focus is solely on Black Library fiction so I’m a little biased. The second reason is because the head honcho over at the Black Library Bolthole is my friend and BL author Sarah Cawkwell – and she’s always nice to hang out with. Sarah and I share pages in the recently released The Best of Hammer and Bolter Volume 1 in which stories by both of us can be found. We have also both worked on the same novel series. My Space Marine Battles novel Legion of the Damned follows Sarah’s wonderful The Gildar Rift. You can check it out here – and I recommend you do so.

I digress. The Black Library Bolthole has a section in which readers can ask Black Library authors questions about their work and I have been terrible at keeping up to date with this. In a reaffirmation of my commitment, I’ve decided to place answers to questions both in the ‘Ask the Author’ section where the questions are posted and also here on the blog. That way I feel I will regularly return to the questions as a feature and not be such a schmuck and leave them for months and months. Anyway – I’m up to a question from a Boltholer called Richter: which is a great name, by the way.

“Dear Rob Sanders,

I too recently finished Legion of the Damned, and am impressed. You have a very economical narrative going, and I really like how you leave - purposely - gaps so the reader's mind can fill the blanks and make up their own minds. It's a strong technique, employed by such writers as George R.R. Martin of Song of Ice and Fire fame, and something I always enjoyed about his writing elsewhere, too.

I also enjoyed the way you portrayed the Excoriators. A chapter haunted by their own blood curse, a chapter who do things that are at least questionable for Astartes (they allow their serfs way too much power over themselves, for one), and their attitude, especially towards Kersh, make them a little hard to like at first, but they do grow on you a lot. I flinched every time one of them died in the end. And that's a lot of flinching.

And Kersh. Boy, Kersh. That poor guy takes in every bit as bad as Garviel Loken, if not even worse. And manages his own breed of badassery. The "request". I laughed.

I also have a question, of course. You already answered something I indeed had been wondering, if I somehow missed a short story - but no. I actually prefer it that way. As I said, I like books that allow for select blank spaces.

My question:
So much left unanswered. Who built the throne? Why did nobody notice? What WERE the ecclesiarchs talking about in their conspiracy meeting? Will we ever learn?
I also have a [spoiler=Conspiracy theory:]The monument that called the Cholercaust and the Red Comet was built with the censure and sanction of the ecclesiarchs. they wanted the cholercaust there, and wanted to lute Astartes there so they'd stop it, to then claim that Umberto II's bones did the miracle.[/spoiler]. Pretty far fetched, but there you go.

Well, that's it. Keep it up. I really hope to see more of the Excoriators. I'll probably try and build me one for Deathwatch, on the off chance I'll get to play him.



Hi Richter,

Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading Legion of the Damned. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. In respect to your observation about ‘filling in the blanks’, I do agree that it is important not to do everything for the reader. I think that the reader feels smothered and patronised if they are told how to feel or what things mean at every opportunity. It shows a lack of trust and is kind of insulting to the reader. So I agree with you – best to involve them by making their responses a planned and integral part of the storytelling. I must admit that I haven’t read any George R.R. Martin but I’ll check him out. On your recommendation I think I’ll like his narrative style. And thanks for the comparison.

In respect to Kersh’s likability, I think that there are some characters that the writer makes it very easy to like. I wanted people to work at it with Kersh. He was going to go through so much that I didn’t think that straightforward likability (because he’s kind or a nice guy) would sustain the reader. Regardless of how they found him, I wanted readers to want him to succeed. Sometimes it is more interesting if a main character is not instantly likeable.

As for the Spoiler, I can answer that without ruining it for anyone else. I wanted to set up conflict between different Imperial factions. In the book there is a clear dichotomy between the Ecclesiarchy and their belief that the Emperor is a God and the Excoriators Space Marines who regard him as far more than human but not a god to be worshipped. The Ecclesiarchy are trying their best to manipulate the Excoriators and the circumstances to their best advantage and, as a result, wield increasing power for themselves. The ‘throne’ as you term it was secretly constructed in a location where no-one would see it. Again – I won’t ruin it for others but if you check out its examination by the Excoriators again, you’ll see why that was. I won’t comment on your ‘conspiracy’ theory. As you’ve correctly observed, I like to leave certain elements open to interpretation to involve the reader. If I’ve involved you by inviting an interpretation and coming up with a theory then I certainly don’t want to spoil your fun by filling in those gaps.

Hey, and good luck with the Deathwatch. If you do get around to painting an Excoriator I’d love to see a picture of it. Feel free to pop one up in the ‘Ask the Authors’ section. Thanks once again for reading Legion of the Damned.



My 'Ask the Author' page on the Black Library Bolthole can be found either here or down on the side bar. Feel free to ask me a question.

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