Sunday, 1 August 2021

Trailing Corposant – I READ THE HORUS HERESY

If there is one thing I would like people to understand about the Horus Heresy series it’s this; there is an extended scene in which one of the main characters is anally violated with a 'Pear of Anguish', by his children, and he's into it.

 That's not really representative of the series or meaningfully informative, I just really had to get it off my chest.


Yes, the legends are true, I have indeed read or listened to the audiobook of EVERY SINGLE Horus Heresy book which has been published as of this date.

Yes, even the Primarchs series.

Two years ago I did a post about every book I had read to that point. I don't want to just go over the same gags and the same analysis again.

My original plan was to go through the books from beginning to end, writing about what came to mind as I thought of them and anything I had been able to glean from them.

That is still somewhat the plan but thinking about the first book brought to mind the deep structure of the series and that brought other things to mind and so on, so I ended up writing a longish essay just about this one book.

Don't worry, I am not going to do this for every book in the series, nevertheless, this is going to have to be a sequence of posts rather than just one long one.



1 Horus Rising - Dan Abnett

 I re-listened to this one more recently. Its pretty good. I’m still not sure it would make a blind bit of sense to anyone who didn’t know anything about 40K.

 People; we meet the ‘main cast’. Loken, the Mournival, sneaky Erebus, the Iterator Kiril Sindermann, who might turn out to be the first Inquisitor, and the Remembrancer, Keeler, who may one day be the first Imperial Saint.

 We sort-of meet Horus. Abnetts way of capturing a superbeing is to pull a kind of multi-camera Rashomon thing where everyone gets fragments of interactions and we have to infer from these what is on the Primarchs mind. This remains the best way of writing about them as the series goes on but is gradually set aside.

 Loken encounters a demon but Horus tells him not to worry its just a warp-based predatory information hazard.

 Our merry Xenocidal and occasionally Genocidal crusade fleet meets the anti-Chaos multi-species Star Trek Interex people who are chill and who know exactly what Chaos is.

 The Imperial people definitely do not know and Horus, whatever level of knowledge we might assume him to have, clearly doesn’t know nearly enough.

 No-one trusts anyone else but just as the Interex are about to explain to Loken, maybe the only Luna Wolf who would directly meaningfully understand what they are on about, what chaos is; sneaky Erebus does a war crime, stealing a super-chaos sword, and murdering breaks out.


Minor Things;

 Are the Kinebranch aliens chilling with the Interex the Jokero? The Demiurge?



Big Patterns


Conflicts Across Time

The Emperor and the Chaos Gods are both reading the future and trying to make their preferred version the one that happens.

 The Chaos Gods, and, increasingly, the Emperor, are also present in the deep Warp, meaning they exist somewhat outside of time. This means their influence can cascade back in time and arrange events so their preferred state of being exists.

 They are also both trying to trick and deceive each other about what they are going to do and about which futures are likely. 


Multi-Conscious Beings

Relatively minor non-god characters can ‘divide their minds’ and commit themselves to plans which they themselves do not directly consciously know. This gets confirmed in the most recently published book; ‘Alpharius: Head of the Hydra’.

God-level entities can be assumed to have multiple layers or divided sections of selfhood, all prosecuting plans and desires which themselves have feints, multiple fallbacks, etc. They are all trying to fool or provoke each other into over-reaching and making themselves vulnerable.


Defeat Inside Victory, Victory Inside Defeat

A pretty common tactic for both the Emperor and the Chaos Gods is to, at the point of your opponents greatest commitment to victory in a high-intensity struggle, use that moment of distraction to hide away some strand of fate or consequence which will give you a big strategic benefit later on.



The Binding of Isaac

So, why did the Emperor set up his sons to fail? Why did he send them off into the Galaxy with the instruction of “get worlds get worlds get worlds”, without telling them about Chaos, without telling them exactly what they were and in fact, leaving the more psycho ones fully in charge of their legions?

Probably, the Primarchs, and to a lesser extent, the Astartes, are poisoned traps. Irresistible bait for Chaos.

E-Money knows he made them out of Chaos Juice he got from the Big 4, probably after promising them he would make mortal part-demon stable supersoldiers lead by bound-demonic bioweapons and use them to burn the Galaxy.

Of course he was lying to them and they were lying to him and he knew that they knew that he knew that etc etc etc.

The combination of the Imperial Truth dulling the power of Chaos, with more and more worlds being taken all the time, plus E-Money on Terra getting close to accessing the Webway, means Chaos must be under some kind of actual threat. The speed of the thing means the Gods have limited time to act.

E-Money knows they will try to take back their children and he is hoping that by seeming to limit their window of opportunity on them he can get them to *fuck it up*.

Which, to be fair, they nearly, and in a handful of cases, actually, do.

But even if the Chaos Gods do succeed in taking back their children, its likely that they will still be poisonous to their interests in some way. Likely E-Money intends to use the Primarchs to poison the Chaos Gods with humanity, not turning them good, but splintering and limiting their power through their obsession with controlling these Demon-Child Primarchs and via the effect of the Primarchs personalities on the Gods themselves.

God calls out for Abraham to sacrifice his only Son, and Abraham did fill his Son full of spiritual roofies and did sacrifice him, and knocked God the fuck out, and took His stuff.

Its possible that E-Dawg put Horus in position to fall precisely because he really liked him, trusted him, and thought that at the last moment he could bring him back, thereby making him a future super-weapon against Chaos.



What is the Horus Heresy a Story About?

A Father who abandons his sons?

The paradox of Sacrifice.

The actual binding of Isaac is a strange story. Though a lot of Bible stories are. God demands that Abraham be willing to sacrifice his own son, that he love and fear god so totally that he will not only murder a child whom we presume he is fond of, but in terms of the culture of the day, destroy his own future, his own continuity and the hope of everything he has lived for going on into the future.

And Abraham is willing to do this, and prepares and begins to do it.

Then God says “Ok, that’s enough.” The will to do it is sufficient. So long as you are willing, absolutely willing to do it, you don’t have to do it.

In the Horus Heresy is actively trying to destroy the Gods. To do this he steals their power and uses it to make sons. Whatever his plan with these sons, to conquer the Galaxy and install the imperial Truth, or some deeper more complex scheme, his final aim is not in doubt; destroy the Gods.

What the Emperor actually feels about his creations is hard to tell, but the most reasonable reading of the texts suggests that he genuinely likes at least some of them.

It’s also reasonable to say that he sends them all, the ones he likes and the rest, out into a dangerous situation, deliberately under-informed, with the full knowledge that something is probably going to go wrong, though he doesn’t know exactly how or when.

There they are, like bait dangling in a stream, false sacrifices.

He doesn’t intend to give them all up, or possibly even think he will have to.

Still, ultimately, he knows he will lose a few, and this is part of the design. They have been set up to fall, to be taken back by the Gods.

One strong reading of the Jesus story is about the end of sacrifice. A core tenant is that, as Jesus sacrificed himself, there don’t need to be any more sacrifices to God, neither animal or man, that period is done.

Jesus was another somewhat-mortalish creature composed of Godpower. In his case the Deity sent a part of themselves, perhaps knowing that he would suffer and be sacrificed, arguably as a point or bridge of understanding between God and Man.

The Heresy is something like an inversion of this. Again, the part-god sacrifice, but in this case Nietzschean man forms the part-God sacrifice as an act of trickery.

The result is Nightmare Stasis – the Kali Yuga forever, or at least 10,000 years. The Gods cannot consume reality as they desire, but man, all of man, suffers terribly


  1. ok is 40k actually like this or is this just False Machine churning, making fash-adjacent pulp into compelling theological esoterica

    1. the latter I'm afraid. this is exegesis far beyond the sourcebooks

  2. Ahh, that's too bad. For a moment, I was interested in 40k. Turns out I'm just still interested in False Machine.

  3. Much as I love the original fluff of the Horus Heresy (as presented in the 1E Slaves to Darkness supp for WH/40K) I've only managed to bring myself to read ONE of the novels ("Flight of the Eisenstein")...and that because I'm a big fan of the Death Guard and *their* particular fluff.

    It was...disappointing.

    Trying to draw deeper meanings, insight into the series (and parallels with myth and theology) makes it all a bit more interesting, but I've long had issues with the portrayal of the Primarchs as superhuman superhumans, and will probably continue to tap out so long as the writers continue to takes their subject matter O So Seriously.

    Still...I'll have to go back and read your synopses of the series in your original post.
    ; )

  4. Great rundown. 40K is almost unique in that you can actually use religious language in its context and not feel like you’re doing something profane or ridiculous, even if you are. The magnitude of the events, choices and bargains made by the central characters (of ancient history) and forced upon the common man (today) echo the paradigm presented by a real religion. It’s not about pulling the wool over your eyes, although that can happen. It’s about being obligated by the thing that matters most: to the sacrifices of those who’ve gone before that something good might live, that you might carry the torch in the face of an infinite wall of jaws and ichor. That you might shield others from the horror that lurks, manifest or forgotten. That you might renew what is and give birth to what is new.
    It’s about the tragic causalities of sacrifice when dealing with universal forces of hungering malevolence. It’s about how no one is exempt from the influences of such things; of internalizing the tyranny that surrounds you or giving into bitterness in the midst of cosmic imperfection.
    And it’s about how in the heart of all that you must walk the line. This might involve handling the flame of destruction that mars your very reality. That is one manifestation of the thing they call glory.

    These are rare things for a tabletop game; perhaps 40K has a monopoly of them.
    It’s something a lot of people just cannot grasp about 40K, people who do not have an understanding of the experience of the sacred: of the abiding, intractable tragedy that is part and parcel of it, of the inky blackness that the signal light swims in and is genuinely threatened by. Of the nature of beauty, of the actuality of existential unfairness, of the experience of transcendent value even in the face of the malevolent extermination of all human life. These things deepen and sacralize your experience of life once you have gathered the strength to acknowledge and withstand them. I recommend Steven Universe or My Little Pony to those who have not