The Great and Powerful Aquila

So, Warhammer.

War!

Oh come on, you knew it was going to happen eventually. I’m honestly surprised a full week of blogging (how weird was that, by the way) went by without a mention of Games Workshop’s two mighty properties. Fortunately, today saw the realise of not one but two videos teasing at upcoming products that have me very excited, so this seems like the good time to bring up my fanboy-ness.

(Also, here are the links to the two videos:

So, if what I just said went straight over your head, I apologise – the Warhammer nerd is one of those more… distinct categories of nerd, along with Magic: The Gathering nerds and LARP nerds. Just roll with it, and go along to your local bookshop and buy a copy of The Founding or The Legend of Sigmar  or anything else with the Black Library warhammer symbol on its spine.

I was brought into the Warhammer fold by a friend in my first year of university. Lacking reading material (that I hadn’t read before), he leant me Dan Abnett’s The Founding omnibus, the first three novels of his Gaunt’s Ghost series. Two days later, I gave it back, and was given Senor Abnett’s Eisenhorn omnibus. About thirty-six hours later, I gave it back, and demanded more. The rest, as they say, is history.

Later that week, I think, I first entered Games Workshop Canterbury and split the purchase of the 4th Edition starter box with another friend. Though I spent a prolific amount of money on the hobby (a seriously stupid amount, really), I was never that into the tabletop game. I enjoyed playing it, but I loved painting, though I never put in the time to really become as good as I would like to be. But what I really, really loved, was the fiction.

Warhammer 40,000 is one of the most rich, interesting, best-realised worlds I’ve ever entered. With a stable of talented writers, the standard of which is only going up, the Black Library team have crafted a living universe filled with pain and misery and gunfire.

I’m often asked, mostly by my girlfriend, what I see in it.

Partly, there is the bolter-porn aspect – the same thing that pulls us towards action films, that fist-pumping, “Yeah! Take that!” feeling that harks back to the stands of the Collosseum. I’ll freely admit I enjoy reading the tales of destruction, violence and war that masters of the craft like Dan Abnett, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, (Bernard Cornwell, since gory battles are not restricted to the pages of genre fiction), Graham McNeill, and their colleagues produce. Maybe that says something about me, maybe that says something about society; I’m not going to get philosophical about it.

But more than that, I enjoy reading the experiences of the characters going through the grim dark battles of the far future. I enjoy reading stories of courage and fortitude and frailty pitted against utter horror and evil. Men – and women, though the ratio is… actually, about what you’d expect for military fiction – taking a stand against that which would destroy for the sake of destroying.

But even more than that, I love reading stories in which even the good guys are villains. The Imperium, the vast, cumbersome empire of humanity which rules the galaxy in the 40K setting, is every bit as callous and destructive as the enemies it fights. It’s very foundations are based on hypocrisy and lies, and that is what draws me into the world. This is no Federation, a shiny beacon of hope and compassion. This the dark underbelly of humanity given rule over the galaxy; not through malevolence, but because that is what it takes to survive in such a universe.

I could go on, and probably will in the future. I’ve been trying to get through the doors of Black Library Towers since 2009, but no joy yet. But I shan’t be stopping, because I have tales I want to tell in their world. Many others are trying to do the same, and I wish each and every one of us aspirants the very best of luck. The standard of fiction Black Library is putting out has gone up and up and up, and I can’t wait until I match up to it.

If you haven’t understood any of this, I really, really encourage you to read something. Pick up Necropolis, pick up The First Heretic, or Heldenhammer, or Storm of Iron, or Shadow King, the Sabbat Worlds anthology, Gotrek and Felix. There are worlds of grim darkness, thunderous gunfire, and clashing blades wielded by champions of good and evil. You owe it to yourself to try it.

 

Current readers of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, make yourself known. What would you recommend?