Today at the Academy where I am employed as the careers and guidance Tutor we had a visit organised by the English department from Dan Abnett who is probably most famous in certain wargaming circles for the huge number of Science Fiction novels he's written for the Warhammer 40,000 universe ...Gaunts Ghosts etc. Now I must confess I am not the greatest fan of the Warhammer franchise as the wargaming side is in my opinion a complete rip off with the ridiculously high prices for miniatures, but I may just pick up one of Dan's novels as his talk on being a writer was absolutely superb and enthraling, and our students were very well behaved as he captivated them with his stories relating to his writing exploits, not just for Warhammer, but also the comic 2000AD (2000th copy published yesterday) Marvel, Torchwood and the Dr Who radio series.
Cover art by Cliff Robinson from the 2000th edition of 2000AD
Dans military novels for Warhammer have been based on researching the experiences of soldiers from History. The experience of the crews of his invented giant war machines are based on WW2 submarine crews, and veterans who read his novels and comic strips believe he has served in the forces as his depiction of camaraderie and military life is so convincing. His belief being that the human experience and condition doesn't change even if the weaponry and universe does.
He has been lucky enough to visit the private weapons collection of the British Army on a couple of occasions and has had the chance to feel the weight of weaponry and understand how different weapon systems are used (he has handled Napoleons dueling pistols while there!). Dan is also able to contact serving soldiers and airmen around the world who have entered into correspondence with him enabling him to enquire about aspects of service life.This attention to detail provides greater 'realism' in his science fiction writing.
Apparently a Canadian Leopard Tank crew in Afghanistan were pinned down for a day in a hull down position and to offset the boredom of not moving in a closed down tank for 24 hours the commander read his copy of a Dan Abnett Warhammer novel breaking the paperback into 4 sections and passing it on to the other crew members as he read it. They gave Dan the tanks flag as a thank you!
It was very interesting hearing how a comic strip is produced and how his Warhammer 40,000 novels have developed a more fleshed out fictional universe. The characters, vocalbury and geography he's created have now influenced the rules and the game. After making Dan a cup of tea at break time I asked if he wargamed at all and he doesn't apart from visiting the Maidstone Warhammer shop to play the occasional game to help with his writing.