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Warhammer 40k's Biggest News Yet!

The Emperor Protects!

By Ashley McGeePublished about a year ago 16 min read
Depiction of the Ultramarines Honor Guard in the Games Workshop franchise, Warhammer 40k.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

"War, so simple a word, yet so complex and devastating for the horror it reeks upon those who simply were trying to live out their exsitence as best they could."

--Luetin09, Octarius War Part 2

You're going to think I'm tardy to the party on this, but trust me, I'm not. I had my eyes on this from minute one, and honestly now that I've had a chance to listen to a couple of other hot takes on this subject before throwing my two cents in, I'm glad I waited.

I just got my annual Christmas gift card to Half Price Books. I made my foray to said bookstore in search of Warhammer novels--any Warhammer novels--only to be told that thanks to the announcement of the biggest breakthrough in the grimmest of GrimDark franchises, Warhammer novels are flying off the shelves. I sadly walked out with none, and so must be content with my current collection.

Good on you, fanbase. Good on you.

In the wake of the awful news that Henry Cavill will not be returning to either The Witcher or Superman, we received this bombshell.

Henry Cavill's Instagram post the day the Warhammer 40k project was announced.

You heard it from the gamer geek god himself! Warhammer 40k is coming to Amazon!

But hold on a minute there, Nerd, I hear you say. A new fantasy series spin-off is born on Amazon every 30 seconds (or something), and other networks are adapting fresh sci-fi and fantasy franchises every season. What makes this one any different from any of the others? The Rings Of Power, the Marvel cinematic universe, what could the advent of the Warhammer universe do for our viewing pleasure as a whole when our viewing pleasure is so overwhelmingly saturated?

To that I say this: Warhammer is different! And you're going to love it.

Or, you're going to hate it.

Really, there are only two types of people in the world.

There might feel like there are barriers to entry into the sometimes unfathomably deep, wide, and chaotic worlds of Warhammer, time and expense being just two of them. But fortunately, the Black Library (mostly in an effort to sell minis) has a huge back log of works for us to dive into provided they aren't out of print or extremely hard to get. Lookin at you, Fulgrim!

So what is Warhammer, what are the significances of the two universe, and why in the world should you care?

In the words of Majorkill, let's get into it!

What Is Warhammer?

Spoilers To the Lore Ahead.

Warhammer Fantasy

If you're just joining us--and admittedly a lot of these new aspirants are--the Warhammer franchise is divided into two universes, Warhammer 40k (about which we are chiefly interested) and Warhammer: Age Of Sigmar. Age of Sigmar is a newer, retconn-ier version of Warhammer Fantasy. Warhammer Fantasy is much older universe of the franchise that was never really followed up with. As far as lore is concerned, there are a lot places to start, but if you're new to everything, I recommend the Time Of Legends novels, particularly the ombnibuses for Nagash, Malekith, and Sigmar--if you can find them. I think they're out of print. The Black Library cares not for your paltry supply and demand. It will make some of the more fun aspects of Fantasy lore easier to digest when you know where each of these villains came from, and you're going to need it before moving on to the End Times, seguaying into Age Of Sigmar. End Times was a bit stupid, so manage expectations. I still don't really know anyone who is okay with how Games Workshop handled the switch to Age Of Sigmar. I played a few aspects of it, particularly a deck builder for mobile called Champions (I think). I listened to quite a bit of the Lore, but I couldn't get behind it. Some of my favorite characters were retconned or already dead.

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Personally, I'm excited to continue collecting the Malus Darkblade series, if for no better reason than I have it and you don't because this thing has gone out of print at least one time already. They're back with spiffy new dark covers, but I love this version.

Though I'm not entirely sure if this is true, it would seem that the franchise takes it's name from the weapon that the Barbarian turned emperor, Sigmar Unberogen, the Heldenhammer ("Hammer Of The Goblins" in old Reikspiel), otherwise known as the Warhammer. Sigmar would later take the Heldenhammer as his last name when he ascends beyond ordinary humanity in his war to reclaim the human lands from the Greenskins.

If you're dying for some Warhammer Fantasy, check out Total War: Warhammer. They are up to number 3, I think, now. If you're at all familiar with the legendary figures of Warhammer Fantasy, number two will leave you shook.

Warhammer 40k

In the Warhammer 40k universe, mankind has expanded itself to the far reaches of the galaxy thanks to technological enhancements made during what is known as the Golden Age/Dark Age of Technology. Sadly for us, the Men Of Iron (AI) went to war with our far-flung descendants, forcing us into the Age of Strife. Out of the ashes of The Age of Strife arose a god-like being who would unify the human race and spread this unification throughout the galaxy, assimilating those that could be brought under his tyrannical rule/holy protection and annihilating any non-human entities (xenos) or any human entity that opposed him. This being was known only as the Emperor of Mankind. The Emperor had 12 sons called Primarchs, created from his own gene seed and the powers of chaos (who dwell in the Immaterium, also called the Warp). These Primarchs became the legendary leaders of the original 20 or so legions of the space marines, known as the Adeptus Astartes. Eventually, one Primarch stood above his brothers and was proclaimed the Warmaster by the Emperor. Identified by the forces of chaos as the one best suited to lead them to victory over the Emperor, the forces of chaos corrupted the Warmaster, leading to the Horus Heresy.

Games Workshop recently did an an entire relaunch of the Horus Heresy campaign and codex material. Taste it here.

(Horus Lupercal, the "reason we can't have nice things".)

The current lore of Warhammer 40k exists in the 41st millenium, 10,000 years after the Horus Heresy and the elevation of the Emperor to the God Emperor of Mankind. Mine is of course a very, very, very watered down version of the Empire of Man lore (one I certainly would have appreciated when I was first getting into Warhammer). For much more in-depth lore, and for more about the other factions, I can recommend both the amazing YouTubers Majorkill and Luetin09 as our go-to for Warhammer lore.

Majorkill is very NSFW. Madoka Mori, my co-worker Taylor, and I probably comprise the statistical 1.5 "gal" interested in Majorkill videos (isn't true, but it is funny that I only know three girls interested in Warhammer 40k). Luetin09 is the Histocrat of Warhammer 40k lore (or the Histocrat is the Luetin09 of Mesopotamian history--it really is a toss up). If you're looking for severely in-depth lore, Luetin09 is the one. If you would like a much more light-hearted explanation of the lore with a lot more involvement in the community, highly recommend Majorkill.

Wherever you get your lore from, nothing can compare to just delving into the Black Library and dousing your brain in pure Warp energy. Good starting places for Warhammer 40k are the Eisenhorn novels, the novels of Ciaphus Cain, or the Horus Heresy. The Horus Heresy is really long and as light reading, not sustainable to binging. If Dan Abnett wrote it, it's going to be good, so even though starting with the Horus Heresy feels easy thanks to his writing, it probably isn't the greatest for new comers. It glosses over or assumes the reader has a lot more experience with the lore than they might actually have. I love reading the Horus Heresy, but I use Luetin09 as back fill for the stuff that gets left out. I wish I had started with something a little more...manageable. I'm in a good place but I felt like I had to do a lot of extra research to get here.

Though the lore is fun and entertaining, the hobby itself is totally immersive and engaging. You buy your models, get your paint, produce spectacular armies, and then pit them against your neighbors at your local clubs and stores for honor, for glory, and snacks maybe!

Folks that are new to the franchise can find it overwhelming at first, especially those who are also new to table top gaming in general.

But what brought you here in the first place? What made you decide to embark on the Warhammer journey? For myself, I was divorcing and needed an escape, and I needed something a helluva lot worse than what I was experiencing to break the cycle of grief and despair. How does my suffering compare to those suffering under the yoke of ceaseless war?

Whatever your circumstances and your time of life, we bid you welcome and let me be the first to praise and apologize for what is about to happen to you.

You Kept Saying "GrimDark". Like What Even Is GrimDark?

We used to refer to fiction in which we were invited to identify with the villain as anti-hero fiction. We loved Breaking Bad because Walter White was just an average guy turning into an above average drug dealer. We delighted in the menace that preceded him through each episode like a vengeful miasma. The Sopranos had us rooting mafia bosses, cold blooded murderers. Gregory House was at once the worst human being alive and the best doctor in the country, the true depth of his character ironized by how little he actually hates others compared to how much he hates himself. Rick Sanchez is nearly the same character, sociopathological and painfully aware of his shortcomings and failures.

Nothing about our attraction to the anti-hero has changed in the last 40 years. And when I say attraction, I don't just mean just sexual attraction. I could write a book on why we we romanticize the anti-hero. The hero of our story is more human, more tragic, more haunting if they are flawed, or make life-altering mistakes, or get people killed. We grieve alongside them. We love to humanize the villain. We seek the spark of humanity in Rick Sanchez, in Colonel Miles Quaritch, and in Walter White because without warning, this individual we are fundamentally disgusted by becomes a window into our own nature. They are redeemed for just a moment. They enrich a story like nothing else. The anti-hero character--the hero we don't love, and the villain we don't hate, who has existed long before we ever heard of Walter White or Gregory House, or Rick Sanchez--is a vital part of the GrimDark genre.

"GrimDark" is a sub-genre of sci-fi and fantasy (like sword-and-sorcery or urban fantasy). The term was actually coined from the opening lines of the Warhammer 40k universe.

"In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war."

The contemporary GrimDark sub genre's atmospheric tone, thematic subject matter, and the anti-hero trope are all part of the Warhammer 40k universe, a universe that has existed longer than most of us have been alive. However, this universe in turn has been deeply influenced by the founders of sword-and-sorcery. Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, George R. R. Martin, Glen Cook, and Gene Wolfe are arguably the birth fathers of the genre. Despite the long pedigree, the term itself as a sub genre has taken root in the five or six years in independently published fantasy fiction and is now exemplified by the works of Joe Abercrombie, Jonathan French, Peter McClean, Mark Lawrence, Dyrk Ashton, Wade Garrett, Anna Smith Sparks, Michael R. Fletcher, and Scott-freakin'-Oden.

In the grim darkness of the far future, humans are little more than lumps of flesh required to perform labor, flesh which can be altered at the whim of any faction. Humans are weaponized and even mechanized. Their minds are not even safe from their own Emperor, and if the Emperor cannot find a use for the psychically inclined--called psykers--then the forces of chaos will.

The worlds brought into Imperial compliance are not sparkling bastions of safety, security, cleanliness, and progressivism. The forge worlds, hive cities, compliant systems, and members of leadership are a decadent, overcrowded, underfunded, starving, polluted wastelands. Humans not born into the Navitas Nobilite, to the noble houses on Holy Terra, or not chosen to receive the gene seed of the Astartes are little more than slaves. Their options for existence are slim, and they have little if any control over their lives at all. According to Luetin09 in his video, The Octarius War Part 2:

"If you want to find the grim [darkness], it's not in the battles of glory among the stars; it's in the claustrophobic decay of hive cities."

The tech priests, devoted to the Omnisiah, the faction Adeptus Mechanicus, Warhammer 40k website,

You may be asking yourself at this point, if you're still here at 2,215 words, why in the Sam Hill you'd want anything to do with this franchise. In the long-run, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If GrimDark is characterized by a distinct lack of satisfactory resolution, and there is no happy ending, what is there to do? Flashes of brilliance ignite the spark of hope for a short time, but even then it's hardly enough to stem the tide of darkness pouring over the edges of the known universe. Villains we thought brought down rise from the ashes of their deaths more terrifying than before. Men of valor are cut down in their prime.

However, these flashes keep characters charging forward into one hopeless battle after another, pursuing a peace that is never promised or delivered. It is through the valiant and commendable efforts of men like Garviel Loken, Saul Tarvitz, Hyperion, and the honorable Nathanial Garro that hopes once thought lost were rekindled. The grim darkness of the Imperium of man can't be felt among the stars, but rather down in the rotting dystopian horror of the human experience. The most phenomenal acts of heroism can't be seen from a strafing dropship. They are the legendary efforts of common men, guardsmen, Astartes, and more. These are the stories worth the telling, and worth the listening.

So What Do We Want From The Warhammer 40k Show?

Well, first off, we want Henry Cavill. I think it goes without saying that he is going to have a lot of control over this series--and well he should! Majorkill might be a sexist a**hat, but he brought up a good point about the Witcher series. Cavill wasn't just leaving The Witcher because he wanted to play Superman, though that was part of it. It is well known and well understood that the writers for The Witcher were taking the show in an unprecedented direction, and Cavill was doing everything in his power to prevent it and stay in his contract. But eventually he just couldn't stomach it. I would have done the same in his place. I say unprecedented and not undesired because the accepted canon of the books, written by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the games were being ignored in favor of a new characterization, which wider audiences seemed to enjoy. Arguments have been made that suggest this was done so the show could appeal to a wider audience and be...well...a little more PC. We want the writers, regardless of sexual orientation or identification, to stick to the source material

The Navis Nobilite, the Navigators, Warhammer40k all right reserved and credit to the artists.

Another excellent point Majorkill made in his video last week is that if we try to start with the Heresy, we're going to lose people immediately. It is not easy to digest, as I mentioned earlier. There's a lot of lore you have to have gotten previously. That isn't to say my first thought was, "They'll probably start with the Heresy." Now that we've all had that thought, let's shunt it away and do something else. Majorkill suggested Eisenhorn and Ciaphus Cain to start. I don't disagree. We should absolutely start on the ground. And we should not start with the Astartes. Everything comes back around to the Astartes. What about the Navigators, psykers, the tech priests, the Astra Militarum, the Inquisitors? Let's start small, as Majorkill said. We can build up to the larger world. We can get the Astartes. We just have to build up to it, and that's something the Heresy lore doesn't do.

Artwork from the Black Library. Nathaniel Garro by Neil Roberts, cover art for Weapon Of Fate, part of the Horus Heresy.

What do I want from the series (they seemed to ask)? I want a crackin' good time! I want action, suspense, horror, putrescence, but also grandeur and character! The most meaningful aspects of Warhammer 40k is not the constant battle between the holy might of the Emperor and Chaos, but the people that serve the Emperor. We need boots on the ground with the men and women and xenos and everything in between. I'd love to see an inquisition plotline leading to a wide and insidious plot arc of corruption that could put the empire itself at risk. We don't have to stick to the characters of the Black Library. We could have all new ones. As long as the codices and the lore are preserved, characters can come and go.

Whatever they come up with, even if it's not great, I'm sure it will be good enough to watch casually, but judging by the marginal success of Rings Of Power, we may have to make due with milktoast. I hope Cavill doesn't allow that.

Wrap It Up Already, Gosh

At 3,000 words of Warhammer fun, it's clear fans are eager to chat you up about the franchise. You all have unfortunately been subjected to my ranting due to lack of interest in my home life and among my friends. I'm alone in this, but not for long! Warhammer 40k is coming to the main stream and it's the coming of the God Emperor of Mankind that we've all been waiting for! They can't get started fast enough!

The Emperor's symbol, the Aquila, Warhammer40k all right reserved by Games Workshop

Want to get in on the fun yourself? The Black Library will soon be taking open submissions for short stories of no more than 10,000 words. Content will take place in the current phase of the Imperium and should be comprised of plot involving the successor chapters. You can learn all about it here!

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About the Creator

Ashley McGee

Austin, TX | GrimDark, Fantasy, Horror, Western, and nonfiction | Amazon affiliate and Vocal Ambassador | Tips and hearts appreciated! | Want to see more from me? Consider dropping me a pledge! | RIP Jason David Frank!

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  • Samuel Wright3 months ago

    Warhammer Fantasy looks interesting, I would like to learn more about it.

  • Madoka Moriabout a year ago

    Great article! I laughed when I saw my name — haha, my nerd rep preceeds me even here. My recommendation for the best entry point novels for newbies and which property Cavill should adapt for the TV is the same: Eisenhorn. All the way. As a novel series I think it's one of the few to be able to stand on its own two feet and be enjoyable to someone who has no idea what a games workshop even is. I recommend it to my normie friends on the strength of it being good science fiction, as opposed to a good warhammer novel. The way I pitch it also has bearing here: "it's basically James Bond in a weird far future dystopia where demons are real and interstallar travel works like in Event Horizon." Considering Henry is one of the top fan picks for the ACTUAL James Bond, this just makes sense to me! Also by doing a non-space marine story they can save their CGI budget a bit, hopefully, and invest it in production design. Very excited whatever they happen to do. Netflix and DC's loss is our nerdy gain!

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