Episode 130: 40K a Grimdark Satire
In this episode, we talk about the origins of the 40K universe and discuss it as a work of satire. Although it has changed over the last 30 years, it’s roots are in the “grimdark” universe that was first created in the 80s. We also discuss how some can miss the point of 40k as satire. We also review the new Warhammer Plus and whether it is worth your money.
The Warhammer 40K Universe officially kicked off in 1987 with the publication of the first edition of 40k. It was called Rogue Trader, subtitled Warhammer 40K. Written mostly by Rick Priestly, it set up the universe we have all come to know and love of 40K, including the Imperium, a nearly dead emperor on a throne, the Xenos races and warp travel. It borrowed heavily from fantasy, but was also a reflection of the culture of England in the 80s. It was a satirical look at the future; it was a unique sci-fi setting in that humanity had descended into a future dark ages, where technology was more akin to magic. But somewhere along the way as the editions rolled on, the satire seems to have been lost or buried. What to make of Warhammer 40K as it exists now?
Does 40K paint too rosy a picture of an authoritarian government? Are the ‘good guys’ fighting for a government that represses its people?
What is Satire?
Satire is criticism cloaked in humor, irony or exaggeration. It’s a way to poke fun at something. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s cultural, many times it’s both, and it often serves as a social commentary. It can be light-hearted and funny on one end, or dark, cynical, and serious on the other.
Rogue Trader era 40K
Product of its time, in this case 80s England. From this zeitgeist came Rogue Trader. It was originally a fantasy setting “in space” with Eldar, Orcs, humans, and dwarves as the major races. It draws from a VERY wide group of sources and is a melding of fantasy and sci fi elements.
But, it’s clearly satire, it takes a sci-fi universe and inverts it; it’s not Star Wars, it’s not Star Trek; humanity does not exist in a utopia. Technology has not saved us or evolved us. It’s a very nihilistic view of humanity; we don’t look heroic, we are all in it for ourselves, like the rogue traders. It’s not a universe where you try to change things, you only survive and try to thrive in your own way.
40k Third Edition
Rules reset, but also a lore reset as well. Became more serious and Grimdark.
Was 40K still a satire in the 3rd-5th editions? Did it become too “cool” or relatable? Did people take it too seriously?
40K 7th to 9th Editions
The storyline advances, the protagonists fight back against the forces of Chaos and Xenos threat, Marines (especially primaris) are “heroes.” The first batch lost some of the gothic overtones in favor of more generic action super soldiers.
Some of the more Grimdark story has been set aside to make protagonists out of different factions.
More recently, the Sisters have become back to their roots, and Ad Mech are even more weird and creepy. The elements of “grimdark” are still there, but they are creating models that are less overtly gothic.
The point was always “there are no good guys.”
Is 40K still a satire? If so, is it too easy to miss the point? Do we view heroes out of zealots now? Black Templars are an awesome chapter, but they are pretty awful when you think about them.
Some criticize 40k as a fascist power fantasy, the iconography and imagery have such strong overtones that if you take it seriously and you are easily offended, it seems insane. But these are like the same people who thought A modest proposal was being serious and were disgusted by the suggestion of eating children.
Some take the lore very seriously, the worst even start to relate to the lore.
Always remember; 40k is a satire. The universe is presents is not just being edgy for edgy sake; its a commentary on the worst parts of humanity rather than the best.
Review of Warhammer Plus
Logo Design: Isaac White Design
Music: The Right Direction by Shane Ivers – https://www.silvermansound.com