Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My short stories #1: Salvation

As I mentioned in my last post, the autumn of 1996 found me writing both an entire book (albeit a very brief one) and a short story. The story in question was ‘Salvation’, which appeared in Issue #1 of the Black Library’s now defunct ‘Inferno!’ anthology magazine.

During the period 1994 to 1997 I had written various pieces of colour text for six different Games Workshop projects, from ‘Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves’ through to ‘Epic 40,000’. The type of colour text that appears in Games Workshop projects is best described as very short snippets of fiction designed to highlight features of a particular army. It often throws you into the middle of the action, implying that you are dipping your toe into a bigger story. There isn’t much in the way of either plot or character development but it is rich in atmosphere, adding colour to what would otherwise possibly be a rather dry rulebook.

Despite having cut my teeth as a short fiction writer on GW’s Army books and Codices, I still consider ‘Salvation’ my first proper short story. It came about while I was working as a freelance writer and living in Nottingham, the city where Games Workshop has its headquarters. Whilst visiting GW to talk about other projects I ended up in an impromptu meeting with Andy Jones, who was the company’s special projects guy (as far as I can recall). He was formulating a plan for what was to become ‘Carnage!’ magazine and I was hoping to write something for it.

To cut a long story short, as it were, the magazine ended up being called ‘Inferno!’ and I wrote the Warhammer 40,000 short story that appeared in Issue #1. ‘Salvation’ finally saw print in 1997. It is a classic, straightforward tale of heroism and sacrifice, featuring the stalwart Space Marines, genetically-engineered superhuman champions of the Imperium, facing off against the utterly alien menace of the Tyranids, extra-galactic monsters who utilise bio-weapons in their war to consume every living thing in their path. And it proved to be rather popular.
The editors of ‘Inferno!’ let me know, from time to time, that people still talked about ‘Salvation’ years after its initial publication. It has been reprinted twice in two different anthologies – ‘Into the Maelstrom’ (1999) and ‘Let the Galaxy Burn’ (2006) – and off the back of it I ended up creating Torben Badenov and his mercenary band for a Warhammer short story that appeared in a preview issue of ‘Inferno!’ given away with White Dwarf magazine.

And it was only just the beginning...


Blogger J P Barnett said...

Hi Jon,

As a very newly published gamebook writer myself, I have used the path of the short gamebook story (approx 25..50 sections) to try and increase my exposure for the future to help sales of future major gamebooks.

It can be a risky venture (the short story) in that you can cause harm to your major release if you write a "dud" and my success has been mixed (my biggest mistake was falling for the trap of having a "To be continued..." element within the short story, which has bitten me with some negative reviews. Hopefully it doesn't hurt the sales of my major work (which is a full adventure)

When I haven't fallen for that trap, though, the reviews have been positive, and I'm making a point to make sure all my future short stories are complete adventures.

One question I have for you, though, (and this may show my ignorance of your historical work...I apologise in advance) is have you ever considered starting up your own gamebook series in your own "created world" with your own gamebook rules (i.e. Departing from the already created world of Fighting Fantasy etc).


February 8, 2008 at 2:57 AM  
Blogger Jon Green said...

Hi J P

Congratulations on becoming a published gamebook writer. What's your book called and who's the publsiher? I take it from your post that you have possibly created your own world and rules as well. If so, double congrats.

I'm not sure if my post slightly misled you, as my short stories are nothing to do with interactive fiction; they're are just conventional short stories (although the one I'm writing at the moment seems to be turning into a novella, but we'll see what happens in the edit).

I have indeed thought about creating my own gamebook series with its own set of rules. In fact, it was just such a proposal that saw me write to Puffin in the first place and led to me writing FF. Since then I've pitched a couple of other ideas, but they've not been taken up.

The trouble, as far as I see it, is that the gamebook market is a relatively small one. Too many series in a similar vein simply appeal to the same market share, who then spread their money more thinly amongst the relevant publishers. With the exponential growth of the computer game over the last 20 years, again much of the market share that would have played gamebooks now play computer games on their consoles instead. So, gone are the days of 'Deathtrap Dungeon' appearing in the adult bestseller lists. Unfortunately.

February 8, 2008 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger J P Barnett said...

Hi again Jon,

The story is called "Invitation to a Feast."

The publisher is Ark House Press.

I have created my own world and rules for this gamebook series. (Thanks for the encouragement on that!)

The rules are somewhat different to what you would normally expect in a gamebook (in that the main focus is on escaping rather than combat) but, in the context of the story, it makes sense (The main character is a rabbit who is trying to escape from animals such as wolves, foxes etc)

The rules are quite simple compared to Fighting Fantasy but I deliberately make this the case as the ideal age for my series is probably 9-10, (although I officially regard it as a book for 8-12 year olds).

I think one way of generating renewed interest in the gamebook genre in this modern age lies in the gamebook mechanics. We have to add something unique that has hardly been used before. I'm working on such an idea in one of the stories I am writing at the moment. Hopefully it will turn out alright.

If you haven't seen them already, my books can be seen at

On another matter, how has your latest FF release gone as far as feedback and sales are concerned (Werewolf), I am interested to see how that book, in particular, goes in the modern day market place especially because it is the first truly 'brand new' title that has popped up in FF for some time.

I figure if I can manage to achieve any five figure sales number (worldwide) for my first book I would be extremely happy with that and be encouraged for future books (I'll still write them even if I don't achieve that, though). Maybe my target is totally unrealistic, I don't know.

P.S. (I don't regard 'Eye of the Dragon' as truly 'brand new' as I understand it was the extension of a shorter book that had already been released before in a format of some sorts).

February 11, 2008 at 11:09 PM  

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