Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Happiness Patrol

False Gods: The Betrayer (IV)

An Imperial cruiser in the Warp (copyright The First Magelord)
Welcome, citizens, to the truth.

You can learn a lot from visiting a bar.

The dilapidated Retreat aboard the Vengeful Spirit is no exception. It is not simply the obvious knowledge one can acquire: how to create alcohol under trying circumstances, how to sharp someone at merci merci, how to deface images of Imperial victory and somehow avoid getting shot. Everywhere the drunken narcissists that call themselves artists gather, one can see the galaxy in miniature, observing its minutiae secure in the knowledge that your subjects are too intoxicated and too self-regarding to notice your surveillance.

If we grant this premise, then, what do we learn from Ignace Karkasy's conversation with Wenduin? That a man who will steal gold, compose treasonous verse, drink himself into brief comas, and screw seemingly any woman with a pretty face and poor judgement will be disgusted by someone who seeks to improve their social standing.

Such a strange phrase, is it not? "Social standing"? As though we are all in our separate groups, standing apart, some standing above us, and others below.  The former are to be bitched about - witness Karkasy's grumbling over the sudden arrival of Petronella Vivar - the latter are to be dismissed at best and hated and worst. Which, of course, is exactly what those who employ the phrase envision.

(For this system to truly work there must always be someone for even the lowliest members of society to hold in contempt.  How fortunate the Imperium is to have its mutants and its alien foes.  Even the most downtrodden hab-worker can take comfort in the fact that at least his skin isn't green.)

The idea of a stratified society is a simple and obvious one, of course, but the divisions themselves are only part of the prescription.  In order for a deeply divided culture to even maintain the illusion of stability, there must be inculcated in the population a profound fear of falling beneath one's station, and a deep suspicion of attempts to rise from it.

In truth, the Emperor was somewhat limited in his choices for creating his new model society.  Any civilisation that sees the distance between themselves and the Astartes, the Astartes and the Primarchs, and the Primarchs and the Emperor, are already primed to the idea that there are certain types of people who will always stand above others (you might think the Astartes too rare a sight for the average citizen for them to make this impression, but too many worlds required forcible compliance for this to have been the case: word gets around).  Yes, this is a genetic difference and nothing else, but even leaving aside the ease with which men can convince themselves a difference in fortune stems from superior biology, the martial nature of the Imperium made the veneration of the military in general an unavoidable result. A more general dividing of the populace was then likewise inevitable.

But inevitable is some distance from desirable.  There is no way to insist upon the rightness of a stratified society without also insisting every citizen should be satisfied with their lot. The greatest lie mankind ever told itself is that there is no rank or role across the breadth of human experience so humble that there is nobody who should not consider themselves lucky to fill it.  Under this system of enforced contentment, dissatisfaction is not merely unwelcome. It is treasonous.

And the stroke of genius here, the replication method by which this virus of an idea propagates itself, is that the more power one has to reinforce this structure, the more one finds the whole system of benefit.  How often must a planetary governor subject themselves to scrutiny by Imperial officials, compared to the frequency with which hive-workers find their areas swept for signs of mutants, psykers and malcontents?  It is a great deal easier to believe that accepting the vagaries of fate when it requires your opulent dinners are interrupted just once a decade by scowling guests, and when you can convince yourselves that the greatest threat to society is those without power gaining a taste of it, however, small, rather than those with power hungering for and stealing more.

Meanwhile, those who it is insisted are to be most closely monitored for signs of disaffection find themselves all the more disaffected by the monitoring.  Around and around. A spiral of treacherous misery.

It has been said more than once that the horrors of Chaos are humanity's punishment, the universe at large responding to our miserable and greedy nature.  Not just in the most obvious manner, in that our own thoughts and impulses bleed into the Immaterium and give birth to monsters, but in a moral sense also.  The Warp is the fears of those who stand highest made manifest: with access to an unsanctioned psyker or an old, blasphemous tome, even the most downtrodden can seize power and wreak ruin. For all that the manner of this rebellion is unconscionable, for all that those who sign up often end up regretting it no less than their victims, it is difficult not to feel sympathy for those who simply took the less familiar of two impossible positions.  If you remove every other route to the levers of power, it becomes hard to blame those who choose to take a short cut.

Eruptions from below are inevitable, and they are made so by those who sit atop the pile. Our stated policies for keeping the masses free from the taint of Chaos are exactly the policies that make Chaos seem more attractive. As always, we are our own worst enemies.

Speaking of which, Horus is about to board his Stormbird.  The Battle of for the Glory of Terra is about to begin.


What Was

You've mentioned before finding it hard to get a handle on what the Warp is and how it works. Are things becoming any clearer for you? And what does it suggest that it was the Emperor who apparently explained how to utilise it to the Astartes in the first place?

Well, I always assumed it was the Emperor who explained it all.  It's a bit of a paradox, though.  He insists he knows what it's about and that everything's fine, but he's missing from battle so he can study it.  Has he been overtaken by one of the Warp monsters?

Maybe. He's not behaving anything like Jubal, though.

How do you know? He could be crazy as hell back on Terra.

You think the "Warp study" story is just a smokescreen?

Possibly. He might be locked up like they used to do with mad people.

Is the Warp starting to click?

Maybe. Is it basically a wormhole?

Kind of.  Though usually in fiction those tend to have set entrances and exits. And they tend to be faster.

How do you know how fast they're going?

It says it takes weeks or months to get from one system to another.

But that could just be down to the huge distances we're talking about.  Speed is relative.

I'm sure it is. Take it when you're on heroin and you might not even notice.

What Is

This is another chapter in which Abaddon seems increasingly divorced from his depiction in Horus Rising. What's going on with him?

I don't know about that scene. Would Horus really kick him out for killing a remembrancer?

I don't see it.  They've been comrades for centuries.

But maybe if it was in cold blood,

I'm sure Abaddon could get out of it. Remember how furious Horus was when Erebus mentioned Temba's shit-talking.  Abaddon just says the same thing about Karkasy, and boom. Instant homicide forgiveness.

No-one seemed to have these temper explosions last book. Is this something Erebus is doing?

I assume so with Horus.  I'm less sure about Abaddon. But then it's not clear how much the First Captain and the First Chaplain hang out.

Could Loken really have stopped Abaddon, given how strong he is? Or did Abaddon manage to bring himself up short?

I dunno. It's hard to tell how much stronger Abaddon is than Loken unless they actually fight for real. Imagine that!

Is the passing of the medal some kind of signal? Are they gearing up for a coup?

Interesting. No comment.

So is the lodge something the word bearers set up? Have they done this with other Legions?  Created an organisation that's loyal to each other above their own commanders?  Vipus wouldn't go against Loken, though, would he?

Surely not. I know you don't think Aximand would have a problem with that, though. What about Torgaddon?

Torgaddon is definitely someone you want on your team - I'd imagine both sides would try and persuade him. He seemed more willing to listen to the interex than Abaddon and Aximand. Though the Lodge have blackmail material on him? "Here is a picture of you having sex with a scuttlebutt".

What? First of all, you cannot have sex with a scuttle's butt.  There is no part of a scuttle with which you can interact sexually or otherwise. Second -

I thought they were robots, like on Red Dwarf.

Those are skutters.

And people would want to have sex with them.


You know. Sex with robots.  It's like sex with machines.

Who wants to have sex with machines?

Weirdos.  Google it.  There's a website. You know there's a website.

You said last time Loken couldn't know Erebus stole the Anathame, or he would certainly have told Horus.  So now we know Loken knows, why do you think he's keeping his mouth shut?

He doesn't know. He just suspects.

Strongly, though, surely. It doesn't have to hold up in court or anything.  Why not tell Horus?

Maybe he's trying to find the sword himself.

We haven't seen any evidence of him doing that. Or any other damn thing.

True, but with all this jumping around of the narrative, it might crop up later.  

Fair point.

What I don't get is why Erebus stole it in the first place.  Everyone else thinks it's just a joke.

Presumably he knows something the rest of the fleet doesn't.

Does he even know how to use it?  Did it come with instructions? I can't imagine you just say "Go kill Dave" and it does the job for you.  Is he working with the Kinebrach?

Maybe. Or maybe he captured and tortured one.

Either way, this is a lot of trouble for something that might not even work.

Is it a problem that by the 311th century women are still wearing corsets and requiring chaperones?

Well, there's certainly a lot of indications that this culture has reached backwards in time. But corsets aren't a problem, any more than ballgowns.  I mean, I like a good ballgown.

I guess I was wondering specifically about corsets because they seem to be so unpleasant to wear.

Depends how you put them on.

I guess.  I'm not qualified to comment.

If she wants to wear one, more power to her. Regarding chaperones; I don't see it.  For all you know, it's a unisex thing in the future.

You think if House Vivar had sent a man he'd be fretting about chaperones?

Maybe. He'd see them as bodyguards, but maybe.  It's possible Petronella is just flattering herself. "Oh, me all alone with the mighty Primarch, how shocking."

Why is Karkasy turning down a sure thing? With a redhead, no less?

With an hourglass figure, don't forget that. It's clearly oh-so-important.  I'm still disappointed we didn't learn she's great in bed from the robots she's been shagging. He's obviously worried about Euphrati's state of mind, dropping those leaflets.  What's the punishment for spreading your faith around?

I don't know, actually, but she's in the middle of a military operation.  She might find herself shot.

For giving out leaflets?  Or does it count as treason?

Kind of. Treason is what nationalists have instead of heresy.  But from what we know about Karkasy it seems strange he wouldn't be going for it.

Well, it's a reputation thing, isn't it?  I mean, imagine you're the most obnoxious guy on Earth.

Ha!  "If".

And all you want to do is screw around.  How would you have any female friends at all?  Or write poetry anyone cares about?  It must at least a front.

I guess. Though it's not like being a mysoginist dicklizard entirely rules out a successful artistic career. I won't sign your letter, Dave Sim!

I'm glad to see the writer believes redheads should make it into the future, though. Somehow we managed to avoid all getting wiped out.  Mind you, what would you do without us?

Brunettes, I would think.

What Will Be

The Lectitio Divininatus seems to be gathering speed.  Where do you see this going?

Well, given they have an iterator and a remembrancer on their side-

An iterator? Really?

Surely Sindermann is at least leaning in that direction, isn't he?  He's certainly looking up old religions.  And Emperor worship would be the logical way to go.  But they've got someone who can take pictures, someone who can write-

Who is it can write?

Whoever's put the leaflets together.

I suppose, though that seems like a fairly low bar for literary flair.
I still think Erebus is involved with the cult somehow.  If he can make a lodge, he can make a cult.

To what purpose?

Well, Horus might feel compelled to wipe them out if he hears about it.  Abaddon and Aximand certainly would.  That could spark something off.  Or perhaps when someone gets killed with the cursed sword they can be used as convenient patsies.

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