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Enough of Istvaan

4539 Views 38 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  forkmaster
Last week I was sitting in a meeting* of all the Horus Heresy authors as they discussed the over arching storyline for HH and what new stories they could give us.

Christian Dunn, Laurie Goulding, Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley were sitting in their thrones at the head of the table. The rest of the authors sat along both sides of the table.

Laurie Goulding was the first to speak.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am glad we could all get together, in spite of our busy schedules, to discuss the future of the Horus Heresy series. We have some exciting ideas to discuss with you all. We would like start by congratulating Nick Kyme for his stellar new novel, Scorched Earth.

This is the blurb we're putting on the website, 'Nearly a quarter of a million loyal Space Marines lost their lives on Isstvan V – the Dropsite Massacre lasted only a few hours, and yet the Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders were slaughtered by those they had once called kin.'

I think you'll all agree, this is exciting stuff and exactly what we need to be making more of"

Nick smiles and moves in closer to the table with his hands clasped together.
"Laurie is right", he said, looking into the eyes of the surrounding authors, "And now I have the unpleasant task of reprimanding several of you. David Annandale, Graham McNeill, Dan Abnett, you are all great writers, but you have failed us. You have failed us greatly and it is at this meeting that we will discuss how to move ahead in our new direction".

The room became thick with hesitation and confusion. Dan, with a look of total vexation, was the first to speak, "I don't understand. How have we failed? Our stories were loved by our readers, they sold well and we think we did a great job progressing the story line".

Nick Kyme bit hard on his lip, glaring at Dan with a murderous rage. It was at that moment that Laurie put his hand on Nick's shoulder in order to calm him.

"Progressing the story line? Hah. You speak as though you are doing something noble and yet it is right here that you have failed." mocked Laurie. "You all failed because your novels failed to include Istvaan in any way. You let your childish desires move the plot on too far. For whom do you work? This is Games Workshop, we do not progress plot lines. Why do you think the 40k series is perpetually stuck in M41.999? We do many things, but progressing a story arch is NOT ONE OF THEM!"

Stunned, Dan fell back into his chair.

Nick looked around and drank from a mug of tea before continuing, "We have already covered Istvaan from the perspective of the Emperors Children, the Raven Guard, the Salamanders, the Iron Hands and also in multiple short novellas. We have dozens of stories telling the exact same story from different perspectives and we have no desire to stop now, not when there are so many more opportunities open to us.

We may have covered most of the legions, but what about their support staff? We could have dozens of stories featuring members of the human support staff. Imagine a story about a chef in one of the nameless companies and how he views the battle. We could even take things in an abstract way and show the battle from the perspective of a rock or a bullet. Imagine how exciting that would be! We already published a story about the history of a knife. How about a story talking about a bullets journey through Istvaan and all that it saw. We certainly haven't discussed the death of Ferras Manus enough. We could publish at least 5 or 6 more stories about Ferrus dying but from a multitude of angles.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, we plan to set the next 35 Horus Heresy stories in and around the events of Istvaan. Lets face it, we don't have much material to work with. We have Istvaan, Calth and then it's straight on to the siege of Terra."

It was at that point that Graham McNeill stood up, and with a slight waiver in his voice pleaded, "We are authors. Creative writers. We will make up the material. We will create the stories which fill the gaps between Istvaan, Calth and Terra. I don't understand why we have to make endless stories about a battle which has been written about to the point of tedium. Do any of our readers want to read about Istvaan any more? Surely the events which took place there have been described in enough detail."

Graham fell back suddenly from the force of Nick's violent kick to the head.

"NO! You wretched scribe. You putrid scrivener of prose. NO! The readers are not tired of Istvaan. They call out for more. They don't want to see the story progress to Terra because they are scared. They are scared that the stories will reach a climax and they will no longer be able to shower us with their money as they buy our overpriced hardback novels. Do you want them to cry? DO YOU?!

And once we've finished with Istvaan, we have such sights to show you in Calth. Imagine, hundred of short stories about the tunnel warfare on that radioactive planet! With Istvaan and Calth alone we could keep the series going for another 34 years. It will be beautiful."

Christian Dunn slowly stood to his feet, glanced around the room with a smile and said, "So, do we all understand? We are not to progress the story in any way and are to release endless stories about how depressed the legions feel about Istvaan. Dan, Graham, David, I hope to see some more appropriate stories from you all. Perhaps a story from the perspective of a Iron Warriors soldier watching that battle from the walls. That will be exciting, wont it?"

The meeting adjourned and the writers left in a stunned silence.

*Note: I have never sat in a meeting of the Horus Heresy authors.

TLDR: Jesus Christ am I bored of them retelling the story of Istvaan from every possible angle. If they're not retelling it directly, they are constantly referencing it and describing it in small flashbacks. Am I alone in this or would anyone else like to see the story arch progress a little further?
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And I'm saying these complaints only because I care for the series and hope they will get back on track. :)
Exactly why I also care.

Now, I know that it's fiction and as such it also doesn't need to follow certain laws of reality, but another big issue I am finding is what I call the 'escalation issue'.

Remember back to Horus Rising when Ignace Karkasy is looking across the city and watches the enormous Titan standing in the distance? I got this wonderful feeling of scale and power. This one giant could end whole armies. Also, with the heavy use of 'normal' people, it gave a wonderful contrast to the space marines and made them seem that much more impressive.

Now, skip forward to Vengeful Spirit and we have a clear example of the 'escalation issue'.
Slowly, through the series progression the battles have needed to out do the battles of the previous books right until the point where we no longer have a couple of Titans fighting, but we now have 20 or 30 fighting. These epic war machines which supposedly take decades to manufacture are being thrown around and destroyed in a single battle. In my mind they lose their stature when they are discarded in such a nonchalant way.

In some of the space battles we see multitudes of battlecruisers explode. These are ships which have crews in the tens of thousands and take generations (I would assume 50+ years) to construct.
And yet in the next novel the legions are back with another expendable fleet.
Horus had already culled a large number of his forces in Istvaan and then in Vengeful Spirit he's suffering enormous casualties. At the current rate of attrition, by the time they get to Terra, they'll have a single squad of 20 Legionaries trying to knock down the walls of the Imperial Palace.

I no longer feel connected or concerned about the battles won and lost by the legions when I know that in the next novel they will have magically acquired battleships, tanks, titans and soldiers from nowhere to easily replace their losses and throw back into the maelstrom.

I enjoyed Vengeful Spirit. It didn't end how I wanted it to and it wasn't the best book in the series, but it at least reminded us about the Sons of Horus. Damnation of Pythos was rather uninteresting for me, but that's mainly because I dislike the Iron Hands (who seem to get a lot of book time at the moment)

I personally loved the jokes about the White Scars, essentially acknowledging that GW has, in the past decades, given them next to zero back history or character. Admittedly it wasn't a fantastic book, but hell, there are not other White Scars novels to compare it to. I'd like to see more from them.

But no, they weren't at Istvaan or Calth, so we'll probably never hear from them again.
I'd just like to see them push the story forwards a little and address the issue of military attrition the Rebels must be facing. We hear a lot about the shattered Loyalist forces and how they're struggling to fight on effectively, but since we've seen numerous Rebel defeats, we've not even seen a hint that it may be affecting them. It would be nice to see them address the issue of dwindling manpower.

We've been getting a lot of compilations recently and while some of them are really fun (I'm looking at you Sevatar) others are utterly painful to get through. I forget the name of the short story, but it was about the Alpha Legion and was written in the style of a technical report. It mimicked the style of a really dull report so perfectly that it was too tedious to finish.

I know it's very easy to say, "Just don't read them", but I, like many of you, have become very invested in the characters and the story. It feels very much like they hit a hurdle in the story arch back in 2014 and they don't really know where to go next. So now they just put together lots of anthologies and the odd novel which doesn't really progress anything.

Look at 2013! Betrayer, Vulkan Lives, Scars, Unremembered Empire and the anthologies of Imperial Truth and Mark of Calth. I really enjoyed all of those books.

Now look at 2014. Vengeful Spirit and Damnation of Pythos being the only full novels. I've already given my opinion of those. Sedition's Gate, Legacies of Betrayal Death and Defiance...well, there were a few short stories I liked from each, but anthologies just don't compare with a nice meaty novel. It's like going to a restaurant and only being able to order canapés when all you really want is a nice big steak.

I hope they find some focus soon.
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This is partly due to the differences between the 30k and 40k Imperium. During the time of the great crusade the Imperium had access to greater resources and were less technophobic than they are in 41st millenium. In the present, your right in that it does take a very long time to produce things like titans and starships, but thats because they no longer have access to the manufacturing capabilities they did prior to the Heresy (when the majority of that infrastructure was destroyed.)
But I'm actually getting this information from the HH novels. Sadly, I can't point you in the direction of actual quotes since after reading every story up to this year's releases they have all merged into a big mess in my head. But in one or two of the earlier novels they do mention that it takes decades to manufacture a titan. In fact, in the short story which preceded Vengeful Spirit they discuss how the Knights were passed down through generations and required almost forgotten technical knowledge. You could argue that this doesn't mean that they can't churn out a new Knight over a weekend, but it seems to me that it does.

Remember that:
1. The galaxy is a very big place
2. We have not necessarily seen all of certain legions gathered together in one fleet during the Age of Darkness

Thats just it though, are they really dwindling in strength? Or, perhaps, are they allowing the weaker elements of their legions to be killed while other maters are attended to? (Like Horus gaining power like that of the Emperor, or Fulgrim ascending to a greater power, or Lorgar creating the ruinstorm and transforming Angron, or Mortarion trying to turn the Khan.)
Well lets look at The Emperor's Children. After the Istvaan purge their numbers are down to between 60,000 and 50,000 depending on source. Take into account the battles at the Perfect Fortress, the events of Betrayal and even losing battle cruisers filled with legionaries in the Damnation of Pythos we can assume that they have lost another 5-10k. That drops them to below half of their original 110,000. They will certainly have many further losses between now and Terra.
So while Fulgrim is now a daemon prince, he will soon be one without an army.

After the Thramas conflict the Night Lords are said to be only 10,000!

Sure, the writers can just pull a CREEEED! and say that they had another 100,000 hiding behind a tree or small moon, but that's just lazy.

So have I, but it hasn't stopped me from not picking up Vulkan Lives or The Damnation of Pythos.
Indeed, but is it wrong to want them to stop focusing on the past and move forwards?

Could this possibly be due to a change in focus from longer novels to shorter stories while the authors work on other things than just the Heresy series?
Now that is a lovely thought.

On a slightly different note, it will be interesting to see how the Blood Angels get from Macragge to Terra so quickly and why the Ultramarines take some much longer. I sense troubles ahead!
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Seriously, guys...


Are you sure you're a man? Not just a bearded woman?

Looks like I'll be needing to hit the edit button...
Granted, given GW's tendency to stretch story elements out quite extensively I don't think we should be surprised by the fact that nearly a decade later the story still isn't anywhere close to Terra (where arguably there could still be three to five novels written).

I could actually see more happening.

You could get probably get 2 good novels from each legion fighting on Terra, before bringing it together for a 2 or 3 novel finale (much in the same way as the initial trilogy)

11 legions took part in the battle for Terra. That's potentially 20+ novels about Terra alone.
You know, I'd actually be far more interested in this. Siege of Hive Gyptus, or the purge of Nordafrik. If they were well written and balanced (that means NOT having 8 novels about the Word Bearers and only 1 about the White Scars) it would be awesome.

While this is happening they could detail what's happening with the Ultramarines and why they're taking so long to arrive. I would suspect some massive daemonic incursion with over 9000 greater daemons.

So many potential battles in so many potentially interesting place.
But NOOOO...they want to write about underground caverns of a shitty dead planet or the Istvaan system where nothing lives and we already know what happens.

My point is, even if they moved to Terra, there is so much for them to pull from. Such a rich source of materials for great plotlines and many battles. Not just focusing on a dead planet with the same battle told over and over.

It would be awesome to see how the militia from each region fight. We'd get to see the troops of Albia fighting the Death Guard. How would some of these rebels feel about returning home? Lets not forget that many of the legionaries were born on Terra. Would they have a change of heart when they're ordered to destroy the hives they were born in?

I'm a strong supporter of including more human elements in the stories. When all you see are super humans, you lose focus. It was great when the rememberancers were still in it. They added a more human perspective rather than just a post human perspective on matters and (in my opinion) make the Legionaries look that much more impressive.

And then what? Horus is dead, the Emperor is crippled. Stop the HH series? Of course not! What happens in the immediate aftermath has only vaguely been hinted at. We know that Roboute Guilliman presents the Codex and it is only well received by half the legions. That in itself is a few novels. The rebuilding of the legions. How the Blood Angels cope now that *MEGA SPOILER* Sanguinius is dead.

In short, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't push the story along. There is more than enough material to make many more novels without having to drag out plotlines and locations to the point of tedium.
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The Death Guard was one of the legions that came to be nearly fully crewed from its new homeworld. Garro was one of the last terrans in the legion by the time of the heresy.
Fair enough. But you get my point.
After looking through the FW books quite a few times, I can say the Traitor Legions has lost all around 20,000 each after Isstvan V, so there are still a huge bunt left fighting. The Salamanders and Raven Guard are all spent, and there isn't much more to say about them other than rehashing old stories we already know. After Vulkan is returned to Nocturne, Nick Kyme should be done with them.
The problem with gauging legion sizes is that often GW/BL provide contradictory numbers.
We know that The Thousand Sons were reduced to 1,000 after Prospero.

There's actually another thread about Legion sizes on this forum.

Taking the information there, The Death Guard purged roughly 31,000 at Istvaan, which would leave them with around 61,000. But this doesn't take into account how many pro-Horus Death Guard died fighting the loyalists. I think we can assume that it was several thousand. Potentially the DG could be lower than 50,000.

Emperor's Children are said to have lost 50,000 at Istvaan, leaving them with 60,000.

But of course, we're never given consistent figures and books contradict other books.
What we do know is that Alpha Legion has between 1 and a million legionaries. :grin:
Keep in mind that some of the figures the books give are casualties rather than outright losses. Then remember the technology available for the time, where the legions are capable of rapid acceleration in recruitment with significantly greater resources. (Remember that Luther had gotten the process down to a few years and that was only with the resources of Caliban.)
A fair comment indeed, and you're certainly right about the casualties. But my original point still stands.

Sure, lets say that the heretics go to a few planets and take the entire population and turn them into space marines in the space of 2 or 3 years. Now they all have marines coming out of their ass. They have a billion marines per legion.

Then lets say that they can build battle cruisers in the space of 2 months. Sure, they used to take decades to build, but now they have magic stuff and can poop them out without a thought. All those tanks they lost? No problem! They'll go to Tanks'R'Us and pick up some new ones. The logistics of moving that many tanks and men through the warp? Not a problem, the Heretics control the warp. You want 20 new Titans to replace the ones lost on Molech? Give me 5 minutes and I'll have you back to full strength.

Lets not also forget that although the Dark Angels have training and implantation down to 2 years, it doesn't mean that they can accept any kid. As far as I'm aware (unless I missed it in the novels) the percentage of people who can become an Astartes is still quite small.

My entire point was that this lowers the stakes. If every death suffered can easily be replaced by 20 new marines, who cares? Why would I care about the battles when they are utterly meaningless because death has no real impact (except for the loyalists)?
Oh, the Word Bearers just lost 90,000 troops. Ahhh no worries, they'll have them all back next week.

Even talking about the average non-enhanced soldier. The scale of these battles is beyond what we experienced in our history with thousands dying each day. After 6 months of fighting, the Soviet Union had lost over 4 million soldiers. Over 20 million over the space of 4 years. Now, with HH we're talking about war on a galactic level with millions dying in single battles.
The Soviet Union lost about 80% of all men aged 18-25. Hard to replace those soldiers. Eventually you're going to have a shortage of people to recruit from.
Imagine a HH battle! Millions are dying in the space of weeks. Yes, there are Hive worlds, but how many? How many are in a state of readiness and how many are still rebuilding after getting pwnd back when the Emperor was bringing them into the Imperium? It would be interesting to see concern from commanders on both sides of the conflict that they have lost all their veteran units and now have armies made up of kids.

It would also be interesting to see some propaganda involved in pacifying the serfs. We had a short story recently about a navigator on a heretic ship who (I wont spoil it) has a conflict of conscience about turning against the Emperor. There are surely more out there who would attempt to sabotage their ships. I find it weird that all the crews went along with the heresy without too much trouble. I expect there was some purging going on, but surely when daemons start popping up on your ship you're going to have second thoughts about whether this is really a good idea.
I also have no idea how Emperor's Children ships still operate. Hah. The Legion seems to have raped most of it's crew to death and the rest seem permanently doped up. Who's flying those things? :-D
How do they recruit new crew? They make planet fall and say, "Hey guys? Do you want to work on our starships? You'll get a great salary and benefits. We have a great dental plan. You'll get to see the stars. *cough*and we'll rape your face and eat you*cough*

Sure, it's fiction, but some reality needs to be kept, otherwise we may as well have Horus firing magical unicorns out of his eyes. I know I am a little tied up in logistics and I know I should just chill out, but I just really think that it's detrimental to have an endless supply of enemies. It just doesn't make sense.

Of course, you can wave the magic wand and say "But it's the future and technology happened" but for me it takes away from any suspense or concern over the fate of the battles.
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What can I say? I hate you for having a perfectly good response for each of my points. I take my hat off to you, my good Sir. Touché indeed.
The Emperors Children lost 20,000 during the virus-bombings. (HH: Betrayal, P. 109).

'quarter to a third were marked for death'
I'm quoting Rems who got his quote from one of the HH supplements (he doesn't say which)

Horus Heresy Book One states that they had 110,000 legionaries at the latter stages of the crusade.
One third of 110,000 is 36,300. So possibly it's that many. But hey, it could have been a quarter, so who knows?

What's 16,000 between friends, eh?
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