TV Tropes, was there ever a a better website for losing yourself in? You start at 9:00 in the morning reading up about your favourite movie and the next time you glance at the clock it’s 11:00 at night and you realise you’ve been absent mindedly been chewing on your own arm for sustenance while reading about Brian Blessed.
(Sorry. BRIAN BLESSED!!)
For quite some time one of my (and my friends’) favourite TV Tropes pages has been the one about Warhammer 40k, which does a fantastic job of explaining exactly what the setting is all about, all the time being side-achingly hilarious. So I went to check up on it the other day…
What was so great about the old page was that it was hilarious, accurate and subtle. A number of ridiculously insane things were discussed in an even, meaured, calm tone, sort of like Stephen Fry lecturing you on the complete works of Stan Deyo. Now it’s like a raving lunatic (or for that matter Stan Deyo) running up and screaming in your face about the complete works of Stan Deyo. It’s informative, sure, but nowhere near as enjoyable.
Or maybe it’s like the difference between a glass of well aged scotch by the fireplace in a well stocked library versus a vodka UDL by the toilets in a high octane nightclub.
Now I tried accessing the history of the page to try and recover my preferred version of the text, but the wiki software used by TV Tropes is strange and confusing to me. So rather than engage in further faffing about I decided to use my extraordinarily powerful memory to try and reconstruct it. So, here it goes, the classic version of TV Tropes’ Warhammer 40k page…
(Well, the important bit anyway)
Thirty-eight thousand years in the future, the mighty Imperium of Man has expanded across the galaxy… to discover that the galaxy is a Hell that would make Hieronymous Bosch crap himself in terror, and it has a Hell. From without, the Imperium is besieged by innumerable hordes of alien monsters from the farthest abysses of space, soulless death-machines and nightmare daemons (as well as nightmare death-machines and soulless daemons, and the occasional nightmare daemon in a soulless death machine); from within, treachery, heresy, plain ignorance and the festering infectious taint that is Chaos threaten to rip it into uncountable pieces.
Warhammer 40,000 is not a happy place. Rather than just being Darker and Edgier, it soaks itself in light-absorbing paint, straps on a jetpack and hurls itself over the edge, screaming IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF FAR FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WARRRRRRGH! The Imperium of Man is a totalitarian, oppressive, stark, and downright sucky place to live where, for far too many people, living isn’t something to do till you die, but something to suffer through till something comes around and kills you in an unbelievably horrible way, while torturing your soul and melting down your body for biomass – and it’s quite probably something on your own side. The Messiah has been locked up on life support for the past ten millennia, laid low by his most beloved son, and an incomprehensibly vast Church Militant commits hourly atrocities in his name.
The problem is, as bad as the Imperium is, they’re not quite as bad as many of the other factions. Death is about the best you can hope for against the vast majority of the other major players in the battlefields of the 41st Millennium. The basic premise of 40k, insofar as it can be summed up, is that of an eternal, impossibly vast conflict between a number of absurdly powerful genocidal, xenocidal, and (in one case) omnicidal factions, with every single weapon, ideology and creative piece of nastiness imaginable turned up to eleven. The 40k universe is a spectacularly brutal playground of tropes and horrible things taken to their absolute extreme, and in some cases, beyond. Entire planets with populations of billions are lost due to rounding errors in tax returns. Orders a million strong of capricious, fanatical, genetically engineered Super Soldier Knights Templar serve as the Imperium’s special forces, while the trillions of soldiers in its regular armies take disregard for human life to new and interesting extremes. A futuristic space Inquisition ruthlessly hunts down anyone with even a hint of the taint of the heretic, the mutant, or the alien, and is backed up by legions of psychic daemonhunting elite super-soldiers and fanatical pyromaniac power-armoured battle nuns. The standard-issue sidearm of a Space Marine is a fully automatic armour-piercing rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The Astronomican, a navigation aid has the souls of thousands of psychic humans sacrificed to it every day, dying to feed the machine. The faster than light travel used by most factions carries with it a good chance of being eaten by daemons. The ancient and mysterious manipulator-race contrive wars that see billions dead so that small handfuls of their own may survive, while their depraved cousins literally cannot endure the agony of a life not spent torturing numberless innocents to death in ingeniously horrific ways. There are several vast Bug Swarms trying to eat every organic thing in the galaxy, light-years-wide holes in reality through which countless daemons and corrupted daemon-powered super-soldiers periodically attempt to destroy the universe, and an entire civilization of undying omnicidal maniacs serving their star-god masters’ desire to exterminate all living creatures, down to the last bacterium. There’s a genetically-engineered survivor warrior species infesting every corner of the galaxy and cheerfully trying to kill everything (including each other if nothing better presents itself) because it’s literally hard-wired into their genetic code to do so and because it’s fun. The closest thing to the “good guys” you can find in this setting is a tiny alien empire sandwiched between all the other factions – and they may or may not have a thing for forcing new subjects into their empire through orbital bombardment and concentration camps, but at least they’ll offer you admittance into their club. Everywhere there are chainsaw swords, BFG’s, armored gloves that crush tanks, mountain-sized daemonic walking battle cathedrals, tanks the size of city blocks and warships that level continents, if not simply obliterating all life on an entire planet just to be sure. And sometimes even that doesn’t work. There is no time for peace, no respite, no forgiveness; there is only war.
There. that’s much better!
(The version of the Warhammer 40,000 text above is of course licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. In other words it came from TV Tropes and you can do what you like with it as long as you let everyone else do the same.)