Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Here Beginneth The Lessons

Horus Rising: The Deceived (III)

Captain Garviel Loken (copyright Games Workshop)
 Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

As one considers the technological marvels and enlightened philosophies of the Great Crusade, it is hard not to dwell upon how far Man has fallen.  Our means and our ends are so petty and inadequate compared to those that have gone before.  Not for nothing to so many whisper fearfully that this is the "Dark Millennium". There can scarce be a man or woman across the range of this galaxy who wouldn't find their lives easier had they be born whilst the Emperor Himself still walked from world to world.

Except, of course, for the Ecclesiarchy.

Consider the task of the Imperial Preacher.  Consider the mindset.  Walk forward, proclaim the divinity of the Emperor, burn alive those who shake their heads.  Repeat until you are dead or everyone else is.  The encroaching darkness which seeps into every thought of every man and woman on every Imperial world does nothing but strengthen the Ecclesiarchy's self-justification.  Every setback is proof the galaxy needs the Emperor more than ever.  Every angry denial means the redoubling of effort is still more important.  In the final analysis, there is no conflict between declaring the Emperor a God, and mercilessly butchering those who refuse to praise him.

Such coherence escaped the Ecclesiarchy's ancient forefathers, the Iterators. For them the central tenet of the truth was not that the Emperor was god, but that the concept of gods itself was ludicrous. Science and, more importantly, logic was judged the fundamental bedrock of existence.  A pretty idea, no doubt, but the Iterators betrayed it utterly when they used it as the justification for war.

Logic, in the end, simply wasn't enough.  Logic cannot exist in a vacuum; it is of use only when one wishes to extrapolate from one's fundamental principles to create a coherent whole.  All to often, those bedrock ideas are unreachable by logic; one cannot use a tool to tear itself apart.  If I believe blue to be the most pleasing of all colours, it is logical that I paint my crawler blue. If my hab-neighbour feels just as strongly regarding the superiority of red, then he too is logical to paint his crawler red.

If we share the crawler, however, logic can only tell us that neither of us can be completely happy with the paint-job that ultimately results.  The idea that the best course of action is to murder my neighbour and steal the crawler lies not in logic, but in something else.

This is the great tragedy of the Great Crusade, the rot that would ultimately eat its conquests away almost entirely.  "We do not think we are right, we know we are right" was Kyril Sindermann's guiding principle. It was a statement of overwhelming hubris.  With this as a foundation, the newly-forged Imperium could never stand.  We can spend all the hours we wish pouring over the myriad ways in which the Horus Heresy might have been avoided, but to do so is to miss the point.  Horus' fall to Chaos was never inevitable, right up to the moment he ordered the virus bombs deployed.  But something was always going to happen.  Something was going to be born from the idea that if a man simply thought hard enough he could not err.

More to the point, there was never any way to avoid tragedy when one's unbreakable rule is that there can be no divinity because the Emperor has said so.  This tragic combination of logic and hubris, of rejection of religion but unquestioning devotion to a single man, would tear apart the galaxy one way or another.  The specific form of this disaster we can blame upon Horus.  The fact that such a disaster was inevitable we can lay at the feet of the Emperor himself.


What Was

How does the arrival of a new type of Astartes and the (briefly mentioned) idea of Old Night fit in to your conception of the novel's back-story?

Well, I still haven't gotten my head around who the Luna Wolves are, yet.  I'm choosing to believe they're a battalion of werewolves.

So what would that make the Imperial Fists?

Who? I don't know.

But you got Luna Wolves = werewolves just from the name.  What does "Imperial Fists" suggest?

Crowns with fists?  How would I know?

I'm imagining a fiddler crab with a sceptre in its teeny claw. "Obey me, puny vertebrates,or it's the claw for you! K-KLACK!"

Someone should draw that for us.

Are these Imperial Fists the personal guards of the real Emperor, then?  Old Night is presumably when humanity split, and some went off to try and find a new home, or something.  I don't know.  When do we get to the easy questions?

What Is

What do you think it says about the Imperium that they chose to send poets to cover their crusade, rather than journalists?

Is that really that different?  They're both telling stories.  One is just through the medium of poetry.  We've already had war poets.

Yeah, because they were already in a war.  No-one said "Oi, Siegfried; head on over to that trench line and capture its violent horror through verse".

But you've got people who volunteer to enter battles and chronicle them.  I've read enough fiction to know that.  Like musicians who follow knights to compose songs about them.

When you say "read enough fiction", do you mean "watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail"?

No, and shut up.  Journalism is a pretty new field compared to, you know, killing people en masse; the people who usually chronicled military conquests were generally less interested in being objective (to the extent  journalists are truly objective now).

How well do you think Kyril Sindermann does in justifying the actions of the Great Crusade, either to his pupils, or to Garviel Loken?

Is he justifying anything?  He spends more time telling Garviel doubts are healthy.  The bits where he is trying to justify himself go horribly wrong.  It's just so obviously self-contradictory.  You can't say people who think they're right shouldn't push it on others, but if you know you're right, that's different.

As an agnostic, how much sympathy do you have for the idea that a dedication to secularism and science is something that should be proselytised as fiercely as possible?

I don't think it's at all a good idea to start tearing people's belief systems away from them. What are they left with? How will that lead to a stable society? Offering people what you consider enlightenment would be OK, I guess.

But how do you draw the line between enlightening others and pushing your views on them?

You teach those who want to be taught.

Is it more fun hanging out with the Astartes, or the remembrancers?

I'm not sure either is better. You need them both. That human perspective is vital, particularly since it looks like Garviel is going to need to explore his human side.  I think the remembrancers are going to be important there.  So I guess I don't mind who we're with as long as it keeps changing. You know, up to a limit.  I don't want this going all Martinesque, with a new character every ten minutes, all of whom die.

Do you subscribe to Ignace Karkasy's theory that a culture's worthiness to survive is directly proportional to the quality of its booze?

No. Well, not really.  It's too down to individual tastes, isn't it?  We're never going to agree on good booze quality.

What?  What about champagne?  Created for us by that proud martial race; the French?

Yeah, but hampagne is fucking horrible.

...A point well made.  Maybe we should limit the scope of the question: what booze could we point to if we wanted to justify Britain's survival?

God, I don't know.  Cider, maybe, but that's hardly to everyone's tastes, is it?  Mead?

We should credit that one to the mighty Vikings, really. What about ale?

The Germans do better beer.

If you like lager, maybe, but-

And what about the Chinese.  Do they even drink anything?

Not that I know of.  Maybe that's why they developed as a culture so quickly.  Or maybe they were just off their tits on opium the whole time.

This is becoming awkwardly racist.
And what about the Mongols?  They spent all their time quaffing fermented yak's milk, and they had the greatest contiguous empire in human history.  Though maybe they were just so sick of getting pissed on sour milk they were invading every pub they could find in Christendom.

Yeah, this really isn't helping.

At least we haven't had a pop at the Americans.  Every alcoholic drink they make is awful.

What about California wine?

OK, the wine is great.  But when are California going to invade anyone?  How does one weaponise a surfboard?

Schwarzenegger looked like he was happy to have a pop at someone. 

Fair point.

What Will Be

Now that you've learnt the fleet is engaged in bringing what they see as enlightened atheism to the masses, have you changed your mind on where you see this going?

Well, they say it's atheism, but given they keep talking about the Emperor and Horus like they're gods, it's not clear what difference that makes.  They even say things like "Oh, the Emperor" and "By Terra".  That's just substituting new words in for "Oh God!".  They're still spreading a religious message; they're just pretending not to.  It's all still "You have to believe in the Emperor".  Kindermann even tells Loken that he should do things just because the Emperor tells him.

You mentioned in our discussion of chapter 1 that you thought trouble would end up brewing between Garviel and Abaddon.  How's that theory shaping up?

If this was a fantasy novel (Fliss' usual genre of choice), I'd say it was shaping up perfectly. Kindermann has told Loken questioning orders is a good thing, so it's obviously being set up for him to question too much.  Possibly with Oliton's help, who may or may not teach him how to love.

I thought chapter 2 made it clear that the Astartes don't have that kind of drive.

Yeah, but if he's exploring his human side, who knows?  Maybe that's why the remembrancers are in the story; they're going to help Garviel work out how to be human.

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