This week sees the release of Lorgar – Bearer of the Word. Although released under the banner of the Horus Heresy series, the Primarchs books are an opportunity to delve into a pivotal and characterful moment in that Primarch’s life at any point in time. The novel allowed me to look at some interesting themes, in particular another Father-Son relationship in Lorgar and Kor Phaeron, and ideas around organised religion and faith. Being an atheist and secularist it was a welcome challenge to portray characters of faith with an even hand, and not simply use it as a vehicle for a humanist tract.Choosing Lorgar
When Black Library approached me to write a book for the Primarchs series they asked if I had a particular interest in any titular character. The editors assumed, as have many fans, that I might like to continue working with Lion El’Jonson or Corax, as I have covered them in some detail in the Heresy-proper.
I took the opposite view, that it was an opportunity to play with a different Primarch, and just as importantly to let other writers have a go with the Lion and the leader of the Raven Guard. One of the great features of a multi-author series is seeing the way different authors tackle the same characters. There is a core of the character in all of them, but subtle differences of interpretation and writer peccadilloes reveal a deeper, more complex character I think. I compare it to the likes of Superman or Captain America. There is a centre around which the character is based that does not change, but how that is expressed and how they interact with different stories can be revealed by a variety of authors.
So, having turned down the Lion and Corax (though watch this space…) I was offered some other choices. It’s quite early in the series so most of the Primarchs were available, though a few had been baggsied for future projects. Unfortunately, Sanguinius was listed with those already spoken for, as I would love to write more around the Angel of Baal. Among those BL were keen for me to consider was Horus, which was very tempting. Not only is he The Man, and a great subject, there is an obvious commercial benefit to penning a novel with his name on it.
But I bottled it.
I thought about it, and of how much was already written about Horus and what was planned; that it would be a lot of research and cross-references and all that palaver to make sure it all gelled together. I enjoyed writing the Horus cameo in Angels of Caliban but the thought of a whole novel was daunting.
As when I picked on the Raven Guard for my first foray into the Horus Heresy, I looked for someone with a blanker page to fill. Not that Lorgar hasn’t had plenty of words written about him, especially the very fine stories from Aaron Dembski-Bowden. On top of that, there is copious amounts of Word Bearers lore throughout Anthony Reynolds’ 40K series. But the story I had in mind, the origins of Lorgar, were hardly touched on at all. And that gave me creative space.He’s Not the Messiah…
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Primarchs series can be set anywhere along a broad spectrum of events, from the Great Crusade and potentially into the Scouring after the Siege of Terra. In cahoots with (former) series editor Laurie Goulding I pitched a story that took everything right back to its roots, to the world of Colchis where Lorgar was found and raised by the fanatical priest Kor Phaeron. This was the origin of the Word Bearer and, by extension, the very start of the seeds of the Horus Heresy itself. If the approach proves popular hopefully it will open up the possibilities of other novels yet to come.
To link the events of the book with those of the wider HH series Laurie suggested that I framed the main narrative with some chapters set later, and between us we highlighted a few choice occasions that would tie back to the known story of Lorgar – from the Purge, through his humbling by the Emperor at Monarchia up to his Legion’s rededication to the Imperial Truth (and in secret, his return the Old Faith).
The main inspirations were obvious – Exodus, the story of Jesus, a certain touch of Martin Luther and the Reformation. But I wanted to go beyond just a Judeo-Christian messiah figure, and delved into other Messianic stories, both religious and fictional. So there are obvious nods to Paul Atreides from the Dune series, as well as some episodes from the life of the Buddha, classical Western mythology like the labours of Herakles and the story of Prometheus, nods to Zarathustra (known as ‘the Word made flesh’…) and others beside.…he’s a Very Naughty Boy
So despite trying to avoid a direct Exodus / New Testament story, I heavily drew on sword and sandals biblical epics like Ben Hur and Barrabas for a lot of the atmosphere, as well as a healthy dose of Mad Max post-Apocalypse and similar.
Getting Colchis feeling right was as much of a job as the portrayal of Kor Phaeron and Lorgar. I needed to create a world steeped in lore, corrupt and stagnated, and for that I actually looked to Pyramids by Terry Pratchett, and no small amount of Small Godstoo. There’s quite a bit of Brutha went into Lorgar, and the city states of Colchis have more than a passing resemblance to the kingdom of Djelibeybi.
Creating the culture in line with what had been written before, in particular couching the Covenant and religion of Colchis in more detailed terms, led to the exploration of temporal and spiritual power. It was one of the themes that first came to my attention years ago from research I conducted when writing the first Codex: Sisters of Battle for Warhammer 40,000. It’s been a go-to theme ever since. Along with the stasis versus change undercurrent that runs throughout 40K, it’s a rich seam to mine.
And in building the terrible edifice of the Covenant, and considering the tyrannical nature of Kor Phaeron, I might have ended up creating such a sympathetic character in the revolutionary Lorgar that it seemed too much of a stretch to his role as an arch heretic. This is where the framing device came in, slowly revealing a side to the Primarch that isn’t so obvious to those around him. What is revealed is certainly not the mind of an average man…
It’s a novel I greatly enjoyed writing, with a very different feel to the Horus Heresy, though it is directly related to those events. Like a lot of these stories, looking back I could quite easily have written a trilogy about these characters and explored the setting even more. For now, the one novel will suffice and hopefully readers will be both satisfied and inspired by what is within.
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word is now available to purchase as a shiny limited edition, over at Black Library.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, you can find all my previously published Authors notes, here. And if you want to take a better look at the Limited Edition, you can see a video of me taking my first look at it here.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve enjoyed my Author’s Notes for Lorgar!
**To make sure you don’t miss out on any blog posts, you can keep up-to-date with everything Gav by signing up to my monthly newsletter. As a bonus, every other month I randomly pick a newsletter subscriber to receive a free signed copy of one of my books.**
View the full article