We talk to Dan Abnett who wrote the screenplay for the new made-for-DVD Warhammer 40,000 movie Ultramarines as well as several tie-in novels for this popular science fantasy wargame franchise . . .

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the plot for Ultramarines? About who “stars” in it, etc.

A: The movie is about a squad of Ultramarines, led by a veteran captain called Severus, who are sent on a desperate but mysterious mission to a remote planet and find that things there are not all as they seem. It’s a trial by fire story, with some great Ultramarine heroes, and some Imperial Fists too!

Q: Would you say the movie is accessible to newbies who don’t know the first thing about Warhammer 40, 000? Or is it for fans only?

A: If you’re a fan, then I think it’s tailor made for you, with plenty of action featuring the iconic Space marines, the greatest heroes of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. They’re the great, armoured post-human defenders of the Imperium of man, who have to face down unbelievable monsters. We’ve tried to be faithful to the fundamental ‘fluff‘ of the universe, but I’ve also written it so that, if you’ve never encountered Warhammer 40,000 before, you won’t be lost. You’ll understand the basics of what’s going on and you’ll great a great taste of the flavour of this SF universe!

Q: Speaking of which, were you a fan of Warhammer 40, 000 before you wrote any of the tie-in books or the movie?

A: Yes, I was. I hadn’t played it much, but I was an RPGer back in the day, mainly D&D, Traveller and Call of Cthulhu, and I knew about Games Workshop and its very distinctive game universes through magazines like White Dwarf.

Q: What is the trickiest thing about writing something in a fictional universe created by someone else?

A: Sticking to the rules! Not just the actual rules, but the flavour and character of the thing. You need to understand what the fans and readers feel about a universe, and try and capture that. And a novel needs different things in it to a game or a comic, it operates on a different level, so you have to be smart about it. It means talking to fans, listening to them.

Q: What do you have to say to allegations that so-called “tie-in” books aren’t “real books”?

A: I think it’s a shame there’s a stigma like that. It’s an odd snobbery. I never feel I’m chunking out some second rate work to earn a pay check so I can write ‘proper‘ novels. “Tie-in” fiction has a vast, ready made audience, eager for top quality books and very quick to show their displeasure if you get it wrong. And quite right too. If you think tie-in fiction is second rate and somewhat lacking, ten you’re making a pretty big judgement call about the readers too, aren’t you?

Q: What are you working on right now?

My next Warhammer 40,000 novel, the next in the Gaunt’s Ghost series, which is called Salvation’s Reach, plus an original SF novel for Angry Robot Books called Embedded. I’m also working on a Thor meets Iron Man mini series and an ongoing series called Heroes For Hire, both for Marvel.

Q: Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now? Any novels (besides your own of course) you’d like to see made into a movie?

A: Faves? Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance, HP Lovecraft, Frank Herbert, Tim Powers, Greg Bear, Kelly Link, Ian M Banks . . . do you mean just genre? Right now, I’m reading a thriller called White Dog by the great Australian crime writer Peter Temple, and Kaaron Warren’s awesome Slights. I still think there’s a definitive version of Dune waiting to be done on screen.


Ultramarines is the first movie to be produced by screenwriter Dan Abnett. Dan Abnett is a novelist and award-winning comic book writer who has written over thirty-five novels. His novels Horus Rising and Legion (both for the Black Library) and his Torchwood novel Border Princes (for the BBC) were all bestsellers. Dan Abnett’s novel Triumff (2009), for Angry Robot was nominated for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel. As a writer of comics, he has worked on everything from the Mr Men to the X-Men, and been published by all of the industry’s major companies (DC, Marvel, 2000AD). He created the cult series Sinister Dexter for 2000 AD, and is part of the team celebrated for reviving Marvel’s cosmic superheroes.



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