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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 06:32 AM Thread Starter
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Default The "alien" nature of Space Marines.

When writing from non-space marine perspectives (particularly from an Imperial Guardsman's perspective) I think they get the space marine writing pretty well. They are not your average soldier. They are essentially fanatical warrior monks that seek the destruction of anything that threatens humanity. They are cold, aloof, and generally indifferent to the great majority of human desires. And that's great, in my opinion.

Things get a little murkier when they have to add character to them. When you're writing from the perspective of a space marine to another space marine they get more...human. They're gruff and and grizzled sometimes, but it starts to feel more like they're a special ops team and not a post-human construct.

Is that a failing of the author or the requirement of the reader to emphasize with the characters?

I think it's a little bit of both. A few authors forget how different a space marine's thinking and abilities are. The latter is not an issue unique to space marines. We're human and live our lives through the eyes of a human. We write and read with this lens and it shows...

What do you guys think?

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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 06:40 AM
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I do know what you mean, at times I can almost forget that space marines in stories aren't human, but occasionally they make a SM character who is suitibly devoid of empathy and basically portrayed in the way I think space marines should be, never with the protagonists though.

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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 07:18 AM
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You could view it as a choice between realism and good story telling. Having emotionless characters is great from a fluff point of view but it won't be the most interesting thing would it?
Space Marines should be very cold to everyone outside their squad/ Chapter and fanatic in a different way to the Sisters - 'We do this is in the Emporers Name' rather than channeling this to survive getting shot from boltguns or whatever they do.

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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 08:31 AM
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I agree, most Space Marine protagonists we see don't really feel like they should. Most often they're as you say, grizzled warriors, often especially heroic but who seem essentially human. Uriel Ventris and Pasanius for example.

To my mind Space Marines should be far more alien. Lets think for a moment what they really are. They're taken as children who are inured to a life of hardship or death, at an age when boys are starting to think they're invincible. They are then made invincible.

They're forcibly subjected to a battery of physical, ritualistic surgeries and tests accompanied by indoctrination and brainwashing, spiritual, mental and chemical. They are taught to hate the enemies of man with a violent fervor and stepped in 10,000 years of their chapter's history, rituals and beliefs.

They are largely removed from human feelings of pain and mortality. Their pre- Space Marines memories are hazy or removed. They can never have children. They've lost what it is to be human.

They are then exposed to decades or centuries of constant warfare of a scale yet to be seen in our history, in service of a cruel and uncaring regime. They are expected to ruthlessly put down civilian uprisings and alien invasions alike.

Look at the kinds of PTSD's our soldiers suffer from and amp that up to a scale and type of conflict we've never approached. Add to that rigorous chemical treatments and mental brainwashing and indoctrination and an insular warrior culture.

All of those experiences and conditioning are not going to produce someone we can relate to. They will not just be 'larger, stronger humans'. They are post-human. To date no author has properly captured that yet, though i'm unsure if they could or should. A truly accurately portrayed Space Marine would be an unlikeable and unrelateable protagonist.

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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 09:24 AM
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I thought Loken was portrayed well, can't remember which of the 3 books it was in, but where he is talking to Ignace Karkasy, he seems almost child like in his understanding of what a warrior is (I think its the content of the conversation, don't got the book to hand), Karkasy and Loken debate over whether a weapon thinks, or just kills...but i think this portrayed a post human well, how he understood his job, but Karkasy was trying to teach him to be something more. Very cool, but i get what you mean, a true marine would appear to us mere mortals as right bast*rd, but that's what they gotta be to purge mankind's enemies.


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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 12:00 PM
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A truly accurately portrayed Space Marine would be an unlikeable and unrelateable protagonist.
So basically the Iron Hands.

In all seriousness, BL would never make them like that. Who would want to read about someone they don't like and can't even slightly relate to? It'd be as much fun as reading a dictionary.

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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 12:28 PM
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This is the portrayal of a lot of marines squadies (especially loyalists). Its one of the reasons I liked the idea that chaos space marines are not by definition all evil, rather they are marines that have their humanity back, so they have their own ambitions and desires

But characters that are in books are captains, they have to retain some level of autonomy and humanity to have imagination, to think outside the box to be able to be "heroic" otherwise they'd end up as mindless robots, just doing the same thing every time, by the book, which would be dull, like the er what they called oh yeah the ultrasmurfs all the time

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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 12:42 PM
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I think AD-B has achieved the most accurate portrayal of the Astartes, particually in Void Stalker and Helsreach, and to a lesser extent The First Heretic with Argel Tal and Cyrene.

But I do agree that most novels fail to portray the Astartes as they technically should be, its something I notice time and time again when reading BL novels.

Also, I am not sure if you'll agree, but you may get a better response in the BL subforum.



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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 12:44 PM
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A great example of how Graham McNeil used this to his advantage though, is basically have Honsou call the Ultrasmurfs predictable and boring, always referring to the codex, and then have the UM recognize this and think outside the box to beat him. Smart.


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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 08-09-12, 01:06 PM
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You mean despite the Codex stating that the Codex is meant to be built on and got around at all times, and not relied on as the be-all end-all? Or did he really expect that should the Primarch still be alive and fight according to his Codex, by using those self-same tactics that got around the Codex when he wasn't present? I really don't think Graham McNeil "gets" 40K.

ADB's Astartes are among the best IMHO - In the Emperor's Gift, he was all "WTFIdonteven..." when he's being flirted with, and even "friendly" behaviour from a comrade like the Mordian Sniper he was more "get off, before I kill you".

Take this for example; an Astartes attempts to shoot someone who's allied, but injured, but slowing down an evac. Another ally steps up and blocks view for the shot. In todays world, no-one would take the shot even after the situation had stopped. The Astartes would likely just pull the blocking ally out the way and then shoot the injured.

To be honest, though, a lot of novels come from the ones who have a strong sense of human loyalty - the Space Wolves from their relatively old acceptance into the development program, the Grey Knights who know that the secret to survival is humanity, Imperial and Crimson Fists, Ultramarines and Salamanders, who have a lot of human interaction.

Consider their alien attitudes coming from the Iron Hands/Sons of Medusa, or the Red Scorpions who have little faith in allies, and rely purely on themselves, as well as having no human presence in their lives whatsoever - they are accepted into the Chapter's development program from birth, after surviving a night naked immediately after birth. The only other chapter like that is the Grey Knights - but they have a lot of interaction alongside other human forces - albeit warped thanks to their ability to request Exterminatus and their Martian allies.



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