Monday, July 11, 2022

Stories told by Monsters - Part 6. Conclusion

The following is the final entry in a 13-part article series. Click here for an overview and a table of contents with links to the various parts.


Josh Reynolds’ works for Warhammer 40.000 are intricately structured works of fiction and have shown to be fertile ground for an analysis through the lens of narrative therapy. In all three novels, concepts and practices of narrative therapy can be observed, from a postmodernist way of knowing to the value of questioning dominant narratives, and the characters and their stories can be used to explain and discuss various topics regarding this particular way of understanding therapeutic work and the human condition. It will be interesting to see whether and how the discussed themes will be continued in the planned third part of Reynolds’ Fabius Bile-trilogy or in a potential sequel to Lukas the Trickster.

Warhammer 40.000 has become something of a cultural phenomenon and has sparked a surprisingly versatile range of narrative fiction. *Warhammer 40.000-*fiction is being written between strict oversight over the IP by Games Workshop, the individual window through which every author accesses the IP and the different styles the authors bring to the table. The universe, its fictional rules and the stories created for it could serve as the basis for a wide range of scientific studies, from psychological over political to philosophical discussions and analysis.

An especially interesting political topic for analysis could be Warhammer 40.000 relationship with fascism. Can 40k rightfully be considered a satire of authoritarian fascism (which early Editions show clear signs of), and if so, how does it succeed and where does it fail? Do the universe and its stories actually glorify and perpetuate fascist narratives? The themes of propaganda and control exerted through authoritarian regimes in 40k could very well warrant its own analysis, as Warhammer 40.000 offers various examples for oppression and propaganda from secular and religious regimes.

On the philosophical side, the various explorations of trans-humanism and the questions of what makes humans human, specifically the question of what parts of personality and emotional landscape can be taken away to still remain human, especially to be found in the *Night Lords-*trilogy of Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Soul Hunter, 2010; Blood Reaver, 2011; Void Stalker, 2012), could be examined and viewed against various philosophical back-drops.

There are also various opportunities to bring psychological lenses to bear on *40k-*fiction: from the statements on emotion that can be gleaned from the emotions that feed the Chaos Gods, the development of personality as exemplified by the Primarchs to the different ways the Emperor exemplifies harmful ways of parenting. There are also various details in the novels that could serve as basis for psychological and literary analysis of specific characters and their development throughout time; for example, Horus’ four-headed council, the Mournival (Horus Rising, 2006), is assembled in such a way as to include the four personality types from the four temperament theory: the sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic character (Merenda, 1987). The developments and changes to this council could be viewed against the changes in Horus’ personality throughout the *Horus Heresy-*novels. A theoretical piece on the psychology of an immortal, for example set against the back-drop of existential psychology, could potentially shed light on the character of the Emperor and in turn on the value and meaning of death for human personality.


I'm grateful to the community of Warhammer 40.000-fans for being a welcoming and friendly place for fellow aficionados of the grim darkness of the far future. Being able to share my interest with this community and reading the thoughts of other fans on forums and on Twitter has enriched my experience with 40k to a great degree. The people behind, and sites like also deserve praise for making the Warhammer 40.000-universe and its literature that much more accessible.

I would like to thank my friend Jakob for proof-reading this piece, offering the perspective of someone naive to the Warhammer 40.000-setting approaching this analysis and stoking the fires of my enthusiasm for this project.

I would also like to thank my wife Rebecca for her continuous support, and also for loving me for being how I am.

Special thanks go out to the authors of Black Library that write the wonderful stories about this most awful future, especially to Josh Reynolds for writing the beautifully weird corner of Warhammer 40.000 that Fabius and Lukas inhabit. I'd also like to thank Aaron Dembski-Bowden for his continuing willingness to engage with the community, whose comments gave valuable and quotable insight and provided context for the discussion of 40k’s postmodern approach to lore and truth.

Visit the References for all the sources that were used and quoted in the articles.

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