BEATS FOREVER SILVER: Guest-Post by Sarah Cawkwell

Today’s guest-post is courtesy of the irrepressible Sarah Cawkwell, fellow Black Library author, bon vivant and Mistress of the One Thousand Deadly Strikes. You can visit Sarah’s site HERE, and pick up copies of her novels–The Gildar Rift and Valkia the BloodyHERE. I encourage you to do both.

Today, Sarah’ll be giving us a look at a certain argent-armoured Chapter of post-human killing machines, via Kipling. 

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Questions, Questions…
Rudyard Kipling and Warhammer 40,000 seem very far removed from one another, but I can (alright, tenuously) link them together directly via my secondary school science teacher, Mr. Mitchell.

On the first day of science at secondary school, Mr. Mitchell (whose initials were ‘DWM’ – he told us it stood for ‘Damp, Wet and Miserable’) shared this Silver_Skulls_Fightingextract of a poem of Kipling’s with us.

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

‘What you do,’ said Damp, Wet and Miserable, is you take those six things and you apply them to any subject. You question what and why and when and how and where and who… and you can generally come up with a conclusion. So I’m going to take his long-ago advice and I’m going to apply it to the world of Warhammer.

As those of you who have read any of my 40k fiction know, my chapter of choice has been the Ultramarines successor chapter, the Silver Skulls. There’s been a few lively discussions on the Black Library Bolthole forum recently, and a lot of questions asked at the recent Black Library Weekender – so at Josh’s invitation, I thought I could take a little look at them through the eyes of Kipling.

WHAT ARE THEY?

Well, apart from obviously being Space Marines, the Silver Skulls are a much understated chapter who had appeared occasionally in a various codex or two. They seemed interesting… which led to the next step.

WHY DID YOU PICK THEM?

Silver_Skulls_Marine (1)They sort of picked me. The reason the Silver Skulls got into my clutches was because a group of fanfiction writers on the now defunct Black Library forum decided to run a little chapter-creation project. They had a shortlist of a few and the Silver Skulls ended up as the one they ran with. I was invited into the group dealing with them and created a few characters and bits of background of my own, initially geared towards a greater collective.

The more I did with them, the more I liked them and their superstitious nature (already something mentioned in existing canon). So I started writing a few little stories for them, particularly based around the character I had created initially as a support role. I expanded on one of them and it was fortunate enough to catch the eye of one of the Black Library editors when it was submitted for their consideration.

WHEN DID THEY MAKE THEIR FIRST APPEARANCE?

The first Silver Skulls story that saw the light of publishing day was Primary Instinct, a tale that appeared in both the first issue of Hammer & Bolter and then in dead-tree form in the anthology Victories of the Space Marines. Sergeant Gileas Ur’ten, in command of a squad of assault marines touched down on a jungle world where they encountered a hostile xenos life form unlike anything they had encountered. It all got a bit bloody. Then they made it home in time for tea and medals.

The erstwhile Sergeant and his squad showed up again in the back-to-back short stories Action and Consequence and Cause and Effect which also featured in Hammer & Bolter and in the story The Pact, we follow the exploits of the Talriktug, the chapter’s first company champions as they are forced to make a temporary alliance that sits well with nobody.

And of course the Silver Skulls fought against Huron Blackheart in The Gildar Rift, under the command of Captain Daerys Arrun, an arrogant veteran who prefers to do things his own way rather than follow the advice of the company Prognosticator.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF THEM?

I have a Word document with all the so-far named Silver Skulls, their current whereabouts and state of health (and current complement of limbs).

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

In the hands of my editor, in the form of a novel…

SSkullWHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SILVER SKULLS?

Gileas is and always will be my ‘baby’. He’s one of the characters who I can get completely behind when I’m writing for him. Correlan, the Techmarine from The Gildar Rift is another personal favourite and I’ve really gotten fond of Siege Captain Rasheke Daviks as well over the course of writing… oh, yes. That book that’s in the hands of the editor.

The Silver Skulls have proven to be a fun chapter to write about. I had the joy of creating a little background information for the Star Dragons as well when I wrote Accursed Eternity, but for me, my heart is beating forever silver…

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