Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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Aaron Dembski-Bowden is not Graham McNeil.

ADB is a writer for the Black Library. He also has a blog. He is known to be fairly responsive to fan inquiries on the Internets. He has actually given his thanks to /tg/ in print as "the elegan/tg/entlemen", in the Night Lords omnibus acknowledgements page. He's known for fleshing out and moralising 40ks villains, particularly Chaos.

Outside the Black Library, Aaron has also worked on Hunter: The Vigil, wrote a short story for League of Legends From the Ashes and penned the short pieces of fiction, Dude, Where's my Land Speeder? and "What it's like". He's well-liked by Daemonhunter lore masters, due to his effort in at least making the new Grey Knights lore more palatable (given the rage-inducing material he had to work with). Where there were once just Mary Sues after the Glory Days of 3rd Ed., now there is at least a semblance of deeper character to the 5th Ed. Grey Knights, outside the idiocy written by a certain Spiritual Liege. He even ties them back into threads left from Ravenor, so that the influence of Saint Abnett can cleanse them. In fact, he's pretty good at making all factions awesome but imperfect. See, for example, his portrayal of Angron: while Angron is indeed a dreaded unstoppable killing machine, he's also a pitiful character who blames others for his problems. ABD also wrote the greatest speech in the entirety of GW published works for Angron in Betrayer making him at once a figure of pity, a sad portrayal of a man whose lost his will to continue and a righteous badass on the search for revenge.

He has also committed himself to rehabilitating the reputation of Abaddon the Despoiler, with all the controversy that implies. He's certainly not above ripping into old Failbaddon either, as evidenced in the Night Lords trilogy where Talos has nothing but open contempt for him, point blank outlining all the reasons the Despoiler and his Legion suck, to his face. This is particularly noteworthy when contrasted with Talos' genuine respect for Huron Blackheart's power, authority, and achievements, even while planning on backstabbing the Corsairs.

tl;dr: A younger, sexier verson of Dan Abnett with a bigger dick and a smaller word count (though not by much). Member of the Bald Brotherhood of Awesome 40K Writers.

He also wrote arguably the best speech in the 40k setting in Grimaldus's rallying cries to the people of Helsreach. Go check it out, seriously, it’ll give you goosebumps.


Lest you think we're going soft, though, we should point out that he has received some pretty harsh criticism, particularly for his portrayal of the Emperor as a raging torrent of incompetence and jackassery the likes of which Earth had not seen since Mussolini made his last public appearance upside down at a petrol station. Then AGAIN, this view isn't exactly unheard of; while it's been acknowledged that Emps might've been a bit of a dick in some aspects, and the idea of the Emperor as a completely flawless human being can read like something clung to heavily by Imperial propaganda, some of these portrayals Big E are from the point of view of Traitor Legions, who already have a... less-than-positive view of the guy.

Some have even accused him of turning the Horus Heresy books into a public therapy session for his daddy issues, which, to be fair, is comparable to C.S. Goto using his books as a public therapy session for his depression and not having the chops to be a Hollywood screenwriter. He also has a major issue with making the characters he likes look perfect while shitting on other groups: see his Grey Knights book especially, which just becomes a Space Wolves wank, and The First Heretic, which is often considered utterly fantastic outside of the two pages his beloved Night Lords show up and snark all over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Oh, and let's not forget a chapter serf of the Mentors being armed with a shotgun with an underbarrel grenade launcher rocking three Vortex Grenades. You know, the kind of of weapon Cato Sicarius himself was issued only one of during the second battle of Damnos where the honour of the Ultramarines chapter was supposedly at stake?

More and more, he seems to be getting his way at Black Library, especially in the Horus Heresy series, and some well-loved fluff is being rewritten after a very long time going unchanged. Many point at Master of Mankind, the book specifically about Big E, which no one at BL was smart enough to realize they shouldn't assign to the guy constantly criticized for how he writes that character. There is also the matter of the Blood Ravens, whom in older lore were heavily implied to be missing loyalist offshoots of the Thousand Sons. ADB apparently tried to jettison this theory by having the "missing" Thousand Sons from the Horus Heresy reappear in one of his novels. A later index would retcon them to be Ravens afflicted by flesh-change, but the 'damage' was already done: Some neckbeards just don't like it when you fuck around with the bread and butter, and who are we to blame them? As indicated in the sections below, his approach to writing more female and non-white characters into the setting has also caught some inevitable flak.

He also said in one interview he had wanted to add female Custodians and kill off Lorgar "like a dog", and the only reason he didn't was because of direct intervention from his superiors. In another one, ADB admitted he adds aforementioned female/minorities characters in his works just to trigger the haters. Yeah.

Insofar as one can actually speak for a large, completely anonymous community, /tg/ appears to have mostly turned against old Aaron as of late, and even in a best-case scenario opinions will still be mixed. That said, "as of late" are the keywords; some of the hate is just as likely to be aggravated newer posters as it is some of the older guard changing their mind, or some mixture thereof; ADB still has his fans, of course, but mentioning him is much more likely to generate skub. Well lets face it he writes Big E like he were a Chaos God of Shakespearean rage.

Common Themes[edit]

Through his novels you can notice a handful of common themes, listed below:

  • He likes Chaotic Neutral(ish) characters.
    • He is hence great at writing Robert E. Howard-styled characters (how is it that he hasn't written any Conan pastiche?).
  • He enjoys writing in first-point-of-view, although he can work in third-point-of-view.
  • He mostly portrays Space Marines in his novels, although he has a few works with non-SM as well.
  • If there is a ship at one of his stories, expect him to make the ship be controlled by a young woman. He says he tries to balance the testosterone with female mortal characters, which naturally draws the usual accusations of diversity quotas, waifu-shilling and the like.
  • He tends to write events through the protagonist's perception, and thus has to spend lots of time telling people not to take the opinions of said protagonist (for example, anything said by or about the Emperor in MoM) at face value.
    • Considering the average neckbeard's tendency to erect anything written as holy unalterable canon, it is a necessary reminder. Unfortunately ADB seems to have forgotten this himself, as he treats his own writing as holy, unalterably canon that nothing else can ever contradict or oppose.
  • He seems to have spearheaded breaking the classic image of the Emperor, turning him from a grimdark, space-fascist Sigmar into an emotionless Lex Luthor - this is still the approximation of "good" in 30k and 40k, mind.
  • He considers the 40k franchise fated to be ultimately won by Chaos. Despite all the anti-Chaos stuff in 40k. (It would be funny seeing him getting charged to write some stuff about Age of Sigmar.) Seriously, though, with the Necrons, the Tyranids, and all that anti-psyker and anti-Warp tech everyone else has, Chaos needs a boost to have a real chance.
  • He is quickly approaching Dan Abnett's record of number of beloved characters murdered. Seriously. Reading his books, especially the Horus Heresy ones, is like watching him rip your heart out and chew on it while he coos: "Was it good for you too?"