Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent talk about their spin-off from 2000 AD 's Kingdom stories
Like the Nicci French of sci-fi and fantasy, Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent have written several books together including Gilead’s Blood for Warhammer and Tomb Raider: The Ten Thousand Immortals . Now the real-life couple have penned their first spin-off novel for Tharg in the shape of Fiefdom , which takes place in the post-apocalyptic world of Abnett and artist Richard Elson’s 2000 AD series, Kingdom .
How did you come to write Kingdom together?
Nik: Writing together is a very organic process for us. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and we live and work together. Few couples can claim to spend, literally 24 hours together seven days a week. We also work together more, probably, than people realise. The plotting is about sitting together talking and making notes. The writing is about handing off to one another, reading each other’s work and talking a lot. When one of us is tired of writing the other picks up the strands; when one of us loves what the other is doing it kind of buoys the process along when it comes to things like names, themes and ideas... In the end, it’s impossible to know who came up with what.
Is collaborating on a novel a very different process to scripting a comic with another writer?
Nik: Dan doesn’t, strictly speaking, co-script. Dan writes comic scripts and always has. When, for example, he collaborated with Andy Lanning on comics, once the planning was done, he was always the writer, doing all the scripting. With other comic collaborations over the years, he’s tended to alternate issues or episodes with another writer. When he and I write together, it’s rather different, because I’m also a writer, contributing to the script. The point is to make the work seamless. I think it’s pretty hard to see where one of us breaks off and the other takes over. We each have our strengths. I tend to do more research and more final edits and he tends to do more action sequences. That wasn’t necessarily the case for this novel, however.
Dan: This was much more of a case of us both working on the same manuscript. I think prose manuscripts are robust, and can stand having two people work at them at the same time, revising, tracking changes and adding stuff. A comic script is rather more fragile and needs the singular approach. A novel is a big thing. It takes weeks or months of work and represents a large body of words. The very nature of the honing, revising and re-drafting required for a novel really lends itself to close collaboration.
Does Fiefdom stand alone, or is it better to read Kingdom before starting the book?
Nik: Fiefdom is an entirely self-contained narrative. There is no requirement to read the comic books to understand the novel, or to read the novel to appreciate the comic books. The two are independent one of the other. Having said that, fans of the comic book will see their favourite characters revisited in the novel, and will recognise the Aux and their language in the book. They are most definitely companion pieces. If you love Kingdom , you will certainly have sympathy with Fiefdom .
There’s loads of fun pop culture references in Kingdom with characters like genetically modified dog soldier Gene the Hackman. Are you continuing with those little in-jokes in Fiefdom ?
Nik: N ames are important. Kingdom is spare and lyrical and has only a few key Aux characters. Fiefdom , because it is long-form fiction, has many more characters. We definitely wanted to keep some cultural references in the naming conventions but we decided to shift from movies stars to literature and art. The novel is set in Europe, after all. The names all have significance, and because we both studied English at university and because I also studied Fine Art there were a lot of built in references to draw on with Ezra Pound, for example. Pound was not only a poet, his name also connotes " pound", meaning to beat or pummel, and "pound", as in a place where dogs are caged. If you look a little deeper at Ezra Pound’s personal history, you will find that he was also a fascist sympathiser during the Second World War and an anti-Semite. This ties neatly to the location of the novel, since it’s set in Berlin. Pound was arrested for treason in 1945. Of course, it’s not necessary to know any of that to enjoy the book, but these details added a frisson for us, as writers, and might add a dimension for some readers. The same is true for many, if not all of the names we used.
There seems to be some common ground with Game Of Thrones with "The Time Of Ice" and the threat of insectoid adversaries Them respectively bringing to mind the whole "Winter is Coming" and the White Walkers. Was that intentional?
Nik: Honestly, we hadn’t seen or read Game Of Thrones when we were writing the novel, although we’ve since picked up the DVDs and are avid viewers. Perhaps it’s just a zeitgeist thing. Landscapes are very important, and the landscape that Richard Elson built in Kingdom was a key component to the comic. Fiefdom had to be different. Them had been dormant for a period of time at the beginning of Fiefdom, and we chose the weather as the key indicator of that.
Dan: It was also fascinating to think about what a mini-Ice Age of some sort might look and feel and sound and smell like. It tied in so readily with our idea of setting the novel in the northern hemisphere that it was an easy decision to make. It is post-apocalyptic. It is also a tough, demanding landscape. It is a reason to live below ground, which was something we always wanted to do with this novel, and it is a reason for fiefdoms rather than a larger cohesive community. It just worked for us.
Fiefdom is out now from Abaddon.