Originally Posted by Garviel loken.
I disagree that any novel is a filler. This is the authors chance to truly flesh out the heresy. I have never understood the mindset of rushing a story we know the ending to. Nothing wrong in my opinion with fleshing out all the legions.
I have always been a strong opponent of the Let's See Everything!
/We Have To See Everything!
argument. I think it ignores certain narrative features that each constitute to a good old fashioned 'good story.'
For example, you believe the plethora of novels in the Horus Heresy has provided Black Library's team of authors with the chance to ‘flesh out’ the titular event. Meanwhile, I believe this multitude of novels has bloated the series. Both 'flesh out' and 'bloated' refer to the same thing – expansion, addition etc. However, the connotations of these terms are much, much different. Obviously, 'flesh out' suggests encasing the bare bones or bare details of something in blood and flesh and richness and essentially more details. It is adding ‘body’ in effect, adding ‘improvement’ you could say. On the contrary, I use the word 'bloated' because it illustrates expansion beyond natural or safe limits, leading to degradation and a number of negative impacts on the series’ quality such as sluggishness.
'Sluggishness' is the key word here – it’s all about pacing. Pacing is a very important narrative feature that has been making and breaking stories for thousands of years. It influences how we judge a story, regardless of its medium. Pacing is not the smell of bread as it comes out of the oven, it's one of the fundamental ingredients of the dough. Show All The Things!
style storytelling effects pacing by increasing the distance between important events with clutter (i.e. non-priorities – which I will discuss later.)
I believe pacing is especially important in the Horus Heresy. To be clear before I begin, I fully understand that this galactic war lasted several years, but this is not necessarily an opportunity for clutter to exist or to defend the existence of clutter. Neither does knowing the outcome of the series justify protracting its publication with events of progressively lesser importance. This is because pacing and time are different. The Horus Heresy has always been portrayed as a handful of major events contributing to the Imperium of Man being left incredibly vulnerable to traitor conquest. Let’s not forget Horus’ trap gave him and his forces a colossal advantage in the war. It was a Purge, a Trap and a Spear Thrust in that order. Purge the Traitor Legions of problematic loyalists, trap and annihilate a massive portion of the enemy's fighting strength and finally march on Terra to kill the enemy's figurehead and conquer their homebase for an absolute victory. It's lightning-fast warfare on an epic galactic scale. Just look at Horus Rising
, where the Luna Wolves' preference to go for the throat is referenced for goodness sake. It’s clear foreshadowing of events to come.
However, I do understand there were other important events occurring in and around this time such as the battles of Calth, Prospero, Signus Prime and the schism in the Imperium Secundus for example, but I argue these exist to highlight a galaxy-wide war and to enrich the Horus Heresy’s lore without drawing excessive attention, time and effort (books don’t write themselves) from Horus’ spearthrust to Terra. Subsequent events have been added to the Age of Darkness, such as Fulgrim’s and Angron’s ascensions to daemonhood, for example. As these two are major players during the Siege of Terra and given how these events were comfortably covered in a single novel each, I have no particular issue with them. It is when I see the fate of a primarch who is certainly not a major player in the post-Isstvan Horus Heresy climate such as Vulkan receiving a trilogy of full-length novels and countless supplementary material that I have a problem. To put it very, very bluntly and to save time, the worth and relevance of this storyline in comparison to the ‘main storyline’ (which I INSIST exists – and will discuss later as well) is quite simply not worth their existence or the space they take up in the series.
I have seen people argue against my reasoning by claiming Horus did not sail straight to Terra after the Dropsite Massacre, but needed to consolidate a number of worlds. I agree, however, we are not writing fictional history here, we are writing a story. It took time for Agamemnon to amass the armies of Greece, sail to Troy and lay siege to Troy, but that does not mean we should have the ‘hype’ (and I will discuss ‘hype’ in greater detail below) dried out by a reams and reams of stories about smaller players with less importance during the muster or voyage to Troy. Granted, the Horus Heresy has a much larger cast of characters than Homer’s compiled works or David Gemmell’s Troy Trilogy or whatever we’re comparing, but these things scale up nevertheless. Adding a ton of content with questionable importance degrades events already set up or events to come in my opinion.
Now, I love the Blood Angels and I fell in love with their hasty and noble defence of Terra alongside the Imperial Fists and White Scars. It's testosterone-boiling stuff packed full of sacrifice, glory and unwinnable odds. It’s the fuel of a true man based on the examples of true men like Leonidas at Thermopylae and the garrison of the Alamo. When I first read the Horus Heresy story at 11 I was shocked to discover only three of the Emperor's Legions would defend Earth against almost the entirety of the Warmaster's might. There was a genuine sense of haste and palpable desperation. There was haste to reach and protect Terra despite the futility of it all; there was haste to reach and crush Terra’s defenders before reinforcements could arrive; there was haste to reach and relieve Terra to secure the survival of the Imperium. This is epic, it’s the stuff of legends, just with city-sized battleships and walking cathedral-artillery instead of Greek heroes fighting in sandals.
However, Black Library's style of 'fleshing out' the Horus Heresy, to use your terms, has created a situation where several loyalist primarchs and their Legions have already reached Terra since the Dropsite Massacre, and then have left as they see fit. This completely and utterly obliterates the atmosphere of desperation I described above and surgically removes any feelings of despair we should have for Terra and its defenders with Horus thundering down. A massive Christian army didn't arrive at Constantinople shortly before it fell only to leave as the Ottoman host approached to fight pirates. It's ridiculous. Look, I'm talking about the Siege of Terra, the Decisive Battle, and the Showdown here. A story’s quality should never hinge entirely on its climax, but it is a highly vital stage nevertheless. Was it honestly worth it? Was adding a small titbit to Corax’s story really, honestly worth this? We are all our own judges here.
Similarly the sheer amount of events since the Dropsite Massacre has gradually eroded the suspense that Isstvan V original generated. For example, at the end of The First Heretic
we are given a snapshot of the Word Bearers marching on Calth. This created anticipation and hype, and we were rewarded right on time with two fantastic books in the form of Know No Fear
. However, novels like Fulgrim
and The First Heretic
also created hype for Horus' march on his father's domain – Terra, the place where it all began, and the place where it all ends. Terra has deep meaning in the 30k/40k universes and setting the right mood for the peril it is in is paramount. The hype has dried up because its waters have been diverted towards cultivating storylines of questionable importance, and no amount of rereading can rehydrate it. Perhaps Horus’ host breaching the Sol System may resurrect these feelings of anticipation, but I believe it will be too little, too late. There have been too many novels and too many events, many of questionable importance yet again, between these two pivotal events. The taste of destruction and pain caused by the Dropsite Massacre should be still be strong on our lips as Horus docks at Mars, supported by the mayhem documented throughout the galaxy. But unlike those events the Dropsite Massacre opened the door to Terra. It removed a massive chunk of the loyalist's fighting strength in one savage trap. There may have been many miles, many worlds and many foes between Horus and Terra at that point, but actual resistance that was both significant in size and close in proximity was thin. It is the same for Napoleon after the Battle of Borodino on the march to Moscow. The anticipation for myself and many others has completely dried up. Once again let me ask you, was this worth it? Was this worth the 'fleshing out' we received instead?
These two examples of 'fleshing out' have severely backfired and in my opinion they have irreversibly harmed the overall quality and atmosphere of the story. I chose these as they're examples I strongly identify with, but there are many others explained by better posters than I with better posts on this forum.
is a plain bad method of storytelling in my opinion. As a narrative concept pacing is built on priorities. Essentially, to have constant and sustainable pacing a story must make a compromise between its content (i.e. stuff that happens) and the space it takes up (i.e. the time it takes for stuff to happen). Fundamentally speaking, events and characters of a greater importance should be optimised at the cost of other events and characters deemed less important (I’m not saying secondary characters should be planks of wood, but they are secondary characters for a reason where their importance to the story is concerned). Prioritising is a compromise for the greater good of the story. You can't show everything because it harms what you want to show most. It's perfectly possible to have a number of events playing out in the background and to be passed in reference, but to actually show them is exhaustive. For example, I wouldn't write a series on the Trojan War with Agamemnon massing his forces ready to sail to Troy with entire novels based around a slave having a love affair with his master's wife back in Greece now his master is absent, or of a slave rowing one of these ships who’s just made a pact with a God and ends up dying or having nothing to do with the Trojan War at all. Hypothetically speaking, having occasional updates on the Greek fleet’s progress across the Aegean does not justify this either. ‘It’s a long journey.’ Okay, so what?
Let me be clear, by ‘smaller storyline’ I don’t mean something outside of the Mournival, I mean something like the Dark Angels civil war which many fans agree could’ve been written about better in its own series without applying even more brakes to the HORUS HERESY series. Again, people can argue that the Dark Angels duology does contribute to the Horus Heresy, but I would once again argue the relationship between actual contribution and the time/space taken to deliver this. It is my belief that what I categorically class as a ‘smaller storyline’ has harmed and undermined the very core of the Horus Heresy series from a net perspective.
If you wanted to know more about the Emperor’s Legions this could've easily been covered in supplementary material, a Great Crusade series of novels, a 40k novel series pertaining to a specific Space Marine Chapter/Traitor Legion with plenty of retrospective content, or, to be perfectly honest, this could and to an extent has been handled within the Horus Heresy itself but without bloating the novel count. For example, Betrayer
gets to grips with the World Eaters Legion superbly well while advancing A) the Horus Heresy in several significant ways and B) advancing certain storylines from The First Heretic too. If Nick Kyme wants to pen a 30k trilogy on Vulkan and the Salamanders that's fantastic, but it ought to be done under a different domain name, because a Shattered Legion are not a priority and should not clutter the main storyline for reasons I have mentioned above (let alone have vastly more limelight than the Blood Angels, but that is a discussion for another day).
I have always firmly believed there IS a main storyline in the same way a Wars of the Roses series will focus on the pivotal kings, queens and factions of those events, with perhaps a few lower-born perspectives for contrast and creativity. What would be the point in writing entire books devoted to some peasant revolt that's planned out but never happens, or an assassination attempt that we retrospectively know will fail? Similarly, why write a novel about Julius Caesar’s time in Spain during Spartacus’ revolt? The likes of Spartacus, Crassus and Pompey are the main players here. Just because an important figure like Julius Caesar exists in the same timeframe doesn’t mean a cosy novel set in Roman Republican Spain would benefit the series at all. It wouldn’t. As I have stated and will continue to bleat, 'filler content' is highly harmful. Meanwhile, to suggest there isn't a main storyline in the Horus Heresy is to confirm my suspicions that the Horus Heresy series is no longer a series in a true sense, but a sandbox-like setting as 40k exists.
This is my opinion on your post and your post alone, Garviel loken. I have other problems with the Horus Heresy series, but they are not relevant to this post in particular, and more importantly they have been covered several times before in fantastic detail by other posters on this forum.
I understand this is a rather large post, but the Horus Heresy is a rather large and complex series as well, and frankly, what I perceive to be its problems are pretty complex as well. If anything, the fact members such as I and others in this thread are willing to type at such length about the Horus Heresy is testimony to our respect and (former) love for this series. I came here to write this because I called the Heresy a 'bad series' on Skype earlier to a friend. I didn't expect it, but it felt heart-breaking. I've known of the events of the Heresy since I first enjoyed 40k in the early 2000s, and read an incredible then-detailed summary of the war in 2005 when I was 11 that absolutely blew me away. Black Library's Horus Heresy series was a dream come true for myself and many others. I still love this IP, but sadly the Horus Heresy series is no longer by cup of tea.
I even wrestled with myself as to whether I should post this as I'm aware several Black Library authors visit this forum, and I feel my bleak outlook on the evolution of the series isn’t the most confidence-inspiring thing for them to read after their hard efforts. In the end I decided to write this because even if just one person could connect to my opinion, but couldn't put their feelings into words like I could, it would be worth it.