Writer(s)Games Workshop, trollslayer.net
- From trollslayer.net (William King’s old official site).
- Uploaded in 2001.
- Note :
- This post has only parts that have something to do with Gotrek & Felix, not necessarily all the interview.
- Gotrek & Felix are the longest standing characters currently in the Black Library range having been around since the first line of Games Workshop novels back in the 1980s, they appeared in the short story anthologies ‘Wolf Riders‘ and ‘Ignorant Armies‘, in stories in White Dwarf and in the Undead army book, anywhere else I’ve forgotten?
- They appeared in the old Imperial Army book (i.e. Warhammer Armies : The Empire) too and in Red Thirst – all of the short stories from the anthologies have since been reprinted in Trollslayer. (my note: not all from the Armies Books)
- What ever gave you the idea to write stories about a Dwarf Slayer?
- Originally I ran a WFRP campaign (which was how I got into Warhammer in the first place). Slayers were very popular character types with my players and I really, really liked the idea of them so I just ran with it.
- And how did Felix come about?
- When I wrote the earliest version of Geheimnisnacht, Gotrek died but I wanted somebody to survive and tell his tale to the world (if you look closely in the story you can actually tell where Gotrek gets it). Of course, then I thought-wait a minute, what am I doing, there is a series in these two so Gotrek survived in the rewrite. By the end of that first story, Felix had become a character in his own right. They both just took on a life of their own after that.
- What do you think makes the two of them work dramatically?
- Originally it was the old chalk and cheese thing. You know, the contrast between a demented suicidal and very hard dwarf and a fairly nerdy intellectual human poet. Over the years, Felix has got a fair bit tougher and more cynical so it has become more of a case that he provides the brains and Gotrek provides the brawn. Between the two of them, they make about one fairly competent hero, most of the time.
- Increasingly we’ve seen a range of supporting characters, more Slayers, Ulrica, Max, Malakai and so on. For you as the writer, what have they brought to their adventures?
- Complications! Its getting difficult to keep track of them all. Seriously, this extension of the supporting cast just sort of happened. I had no idea that any of them were going to last as long as they have when they first appeared. They just showed up and hung around, doing their thing and eating all the chocolate biscuits. Soon though they are going to start dying off or wandering away on their own. The process begins in Vampireslayer. They do all allow me to explore various aspects of the Warhammer world. Max in particular is a chance to take a look at what it must be like to be a wizard.
- Unsurprisingly, as it’s a series that revolves around a Dwarf’s death-wish there’s been a strong element of doom and tragedy in the series, but you’ve also managed to bring a rich vein of humor in as well. How do you feel the two mesh together?
- I am not really sure. It works for me but then I am the author. I guess its down to how the readers react. A fair number seem to like it. However one or two don’t even spot that there is an element of humor. One review I read actually thought Grey Seer Thanquol, Lurk and the assorted Skaven were completely serious characters. I think as the series progresses its getting grimmer. Beastslayer is certainly a very dark book, and Vampireslayer more so. I may try and lighten up a little on the next one.
- And how do you steer clear of ‘comedy Dwarf syndrome’ where the comic antics begins to undermine the integrity of the characters?
- I try to split the two off, sometimes even into separate books. Skavenslayer was mostly done for fun, in a pretty sick way. Daemonslayer was a fairly serious heroic fantasy story. With characters I always try and play it straight when I am inside their heads. When writing from their point of view I try to take them as seriously as they take themselves. Every character is the hero of the story at least inside his own head. Of course, this simply adds to the joke when you’re dealing with the Skaven. Its the contrast between their enormous sense of self importance and their actual incompetence I find funny.
- Who’s the real hero of the series, Gotrek or Felix?
- If I had to pick one I would say Felix. He is the one who has to overcome all of his fears since he actually wants to stay alive. Many times he doesn’t even want to be there. Even when Gotrek is afraid, which he often is but won’t ever admit, he is moving towards his goal.
- Has there been anytime in your life you wished you could have been Gotrek and messily decapitate the person in front of you?
- I think most of us have at some time. I think that’s part of Gotrek’s appeal. If someone gives him lip, he nuts them. In real life, we don’t get to do that (and stay out of prison anyway) .
- Have you ever based a character in your work on someone in real life?
- I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.
- We couldn’t help noticing that you set Beastslayer in the besieged Praag, a city with a spookily similar name as your own current residence of Prague in the Czech Republic. So, did you burn anywhere local?
- I do this all the time! The Czech Republic has a great advantage for me as a fantasy writer in that a lot of it looks like it comes straight out of Warhammer. The description of Nuln in Skavenslayer actually is based on the area around Prague Castle. I confess also that I have based certain alehouses on Prague pubs. In Beastslayer though I did not have Prague in mind. The city is far too beautiful to be the Praag in the book.
- Trolls, Dragons, Daemons… ever thought you might have peaked too early in the size of Gotrek’s foes, or are there still some rungs left on the beastie ladder before you reach ‘Godslayer’?
- Answers on a postcard to… I don’t know- I wasn’t really thinking about this when I named the books. Licheslayer might well be written someday and will almost certainly involve Nagash though I suspect that not even Gotrek could put paid to him.
- So how do you see the future of the series, will Gotrek have to travel increasingly further afield to find more exotic races to slay? A sort of Whicker’s World but with a big axe and spiky hair?
- Can’t quite picture Gotrek in a blazer, glasses and old school tie. I confess that I originally considered doing one story set in each of the Army Book settings but that would have meant three Elfslayers and a Lizardmanslayer so I dropped the idea. I would like them to reach Ulthuan one day simply because it would be such torture for Gotrek, and maybe Naggaroth-which would mean real torture for them both. The Land of the Dead is a pretty attractive tourist destination too.
- The vast majority of Slayers have a pretty limited life expectancy. How much longer do you think Gotrek can keep slaying?
- Well, the stories are introduced with quotations from Felix’s memoirs which presumably are written after Gotrek has met his well-deserved doom. The real answer is, of course, for as long as Games Workshop wants to publish the books, and as long as I find them interesting to write.
- Gotrek & Felix are possibly the most drawn specific individuals (outside of a comic book) short of the Emperor himself, with the covers of the recent Gotrek & Felix series by Jon Gravato and then Adrian Smith and before that interior art by Mark Gibbons in the Dwarf army book, John Sibbick in Ignorant Armies, Paul Bonner in Wolf Riders and Kev Walker in Red Thirst. Have any of the images of Gotrek ever really captured him to your mind?
- I like John Gravato’s Daemonslayer cover but I have to say my personal favorite interpretation of Gotrek is Adrian Smith’s cover for Beastslayer. By the way, did you know I was the model for Adrian’s famous picture of Horus. Yes, I was the Warmaster. Bwah-hah-hah-hah!
- Whispers in the webway say you were interested in getting your hands on a copy of the new Inquisitor game, what’s caught your interest there?
- A friend brought it back from the UK and showed it to me. I think that it is quite simply the most beautiful looking game that Workshop has ever done. The internal art is really inspiring and for me, really catches the feel of the 40K universe. Plus I confess I like the game.
- More generally, you’ve written the tales of a Dwarf Slayer pitted against the hordes of Chaos and a Space Wolf recruit undergoing his first missions, are there any other areas of the Warhammer worlds that you’d like to explore?
- If I could actually think of a storyline I would like to bring Kharne back someday. I am tempted to write a Gotrek/Kharne team-up but you probably wouldn’t let me. More specifically I’d like to do something set on the Daemon Worlds at some point. Ragnar may get there someday. And I have a certain nostalgic fondness for Titans since Codex Titanicus was the first thing I ever worked on in the Design Studio.
- You also wrote an account of the battle between the Emperor and Horus at the height of the Horus Heresy which appeared in White Dwarf and then in the second Realm of Chaos volume : The Lost & the Damned. With the gradual cataloguing of the histories of the First Founding Legions in White Dwarf’s Index Astartes there’s been increased interest in the events of the Great Heresy and its aftermath. What do you think about the possibility of ‘historical’ 40K fiction?
- Strangely enough, I was just thinking that something set in the Horus Heresy might be interesting. I did once mumble something about a 1000 Sons character who was a survivor of the Heresy and who had managed to live on into the modern Imperium. He was going to be hated by both the Imperium and Chaos. AJ nixed this one.
- And what other non-GW work have you done recently?
- My implant won’t let me do that. Oh OK- I admit it, I occasionally take out a novel called Swordmaster and write a few chapters of it. It features a sort of samurai elf seeking vengeance on the evil empire who killed his family, his nation and his god. Maybe one day I will actually finish it.