As the wedding looms I've been rather side-tracked with anything other than writing, my own life taking more precedence than my characters, thankfully. However in between some roundabout rambling I’ve managed to join the Black Library Bolthole forums and have attempted to join their *gulp* fan fiction collective and contribute in some way. Initially I realise that this was because I felt like joining a support forum for ‘People who submit to Black Library and then can’t quit.
Before all of this I should admit that I am a vehement loving stickler for canon, to the degree that I tutt like a schoolboys unforgiving mother when something breaches it. The Bolthole can be a real breaker of the canon in some regards, other times it can be very much the equal stickler as I am. Personally, canon adherence can force me to refuse to continue a story if it is so dangerously divergent from the norm. Lord of the Night by Simon Spurrier I had to halt when the Night Lord became slightly too emotional, early Ragnar books fell equally into this trap. The Inquisition War books I dodged too after the protagonist met Mr Emperor in his own chambers. It put me off.
No people...just no.
No people...just no.
Thus prejudiced I was surprised by some of the posts on the BLBHF. Whilst there was some dallying (50 Shades of Grey Knight) I did notice some decent pockets of fiction, the problem is that forgetting the non-canonical nature of the stories is hard to do. Often the title will make me discount the vast majority of the forums archives as just dabbling in the subject. Ideally it would be a focussed source of collaborative wisdom.
Regardless, any and all feedback would be massively helpful. Not to besmirch my test readers (Sorry Ben!) but the overall response has been somewhat muted, as if ‘meh’.
I needed to find the crux of the problem and so I’ve dedicated some time (at least three months of monthly competition submissions) to ascertain a greater focus and possibly be ‘noticed’ by someone. Thus; I submitted in the ‘Read in a Rush’ subforum, a 1000 or less word submission request about a single pre-defined subject matter. Just to see what happened.
‘White’ was the first I tried. Voting finished and I came in 4/8! Regardless; feedback! ‘Turning’ was the second, voting still to come.
Feedback for me! Hussah!
‘This one jumped out at me, partly because I’m a sucker for everything Imperial, but most of all because it is a really grim and dark take on something which is supposed to be, by comparison, rather shiny and good about the Imperium – the stout defenders of Cadia. I have lived with the notion that Cadians are all one big happy family, united as one in their devotion to keep Chaos at bay. Your story shatters this idea, letting me see how naïve I’ve been. Then again, perhaps you’re bending the lore a little too much, seeing as whiteshields aren’t only (to the best of my knowledge) orphans and children of guardsmen. As far as I know, all Cadians start out in the whiteshield corps, until they’ve proven themselves. Perhaps your story concerns a regiment made up entirely of guard offspring - though on a planet such as Cadia, wouldn’t the majority of the children be just that? And I don’t know what you’re getting at with their eyes being white – though I’ll admit it’s cool.
Anyway, all of that is secondary, seeing as your story is poignant and VERY well written. The language of the speaker is beautiful in its foul, down-trodden, Cadia-cockney way, with slang and words I could never hope to master. It’s consistent throughout your story and sets the mood well. It’s a grim tale of bitterness and darkness that you tell, forever staining the reputation of the Cadians in my eyes, where before I saw them as perfect. And that is why you get my first vote.
Oh, and great use of the theme “white”, too.’
‘I really liked this story. I think we both went for bitter in-universe monologues, and yours really delivered. I thought it was an interesting tact you went with on the psychology of the whiteshields. In particular, the section about the narrator tracking his soldier mother, and learning that the sergeants thought her pregnancy had weakened her. That felt real, and it was a sad note; a little tragedy which is often lost amidst the grim horror of 40K, and its sheer hugeness. The dreadnought scene was quite powerful too.’
‘Liked: Smashing narrative 'voice'. Original tale.
Not so keen on: Hmm... I'll get back to you on this one.’
So, all in all. A useful foray. I don’t think that my latest submission ‘Turning’ quite matches ‘White’ personally, maybe people will enjoy it.