Photography…

…Videography, photo editing, video editing, graphic design, layout, audio recording, mixing, music production, composition, voice acting, research, data science, editing, writing, social media management, IT… something or other, promotion?

It feels like there is more.

These are all things I’ve started learning, in some way or fashion, in the last few years. (Well, the research, writing, and editing I mostly had down.)

There’s a lot that goes into the production of even a little website and/or blog and/or YouTube channel like this one. And I like it, don’t get me wrong; I’m learning new things daily, and trying on making everything a little bit better than the last time.

Case in point: today’s project was developing a logo for the Appendix W episodes of the Podcast, or for using if we separate that from the main channel.

Not bad, doesn’t use any copyrighted material. Just enough to look like something at a distance, if you see it on the phone.

Now I need to do that for the other episode series, with a reasonably consistent trade dress. I kinda like that purple bar at the top. It matches with the old machine generate swatch I use for the podcast.

Next up is a landing page for the site based on some photographs taken last year.

(Hence the title for this post.)

I’m just barely getting started with digital photography, and editing, and all that goes with it, but I want this page to be more visually appealing. Perhaps something like this to arrive to:

Welcome to the Implausi.blog! Thanks for visiting.

E018 – Appendix W03 – The Game of Rat and Dragon

Introduction:

In episode 18 of the Implausipod we return to Appendix W with a little known but pivotal short story for both science fiction generally and Warhammer 40000 specifically, and the creation of the Warp, and the daemons that dwell within: Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” from 1955.

Read along here:
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29614/29614-h/29614-h.htm

Implausipod E0018 – Appendix W E03 – The Game of Rat and Dragon

Transcript:

“Out in that nothingness, he could sense the hollow, aching horror of space itself, and could feel the terrible anxiety which his mind encountered whenever it met the faintest trace of inert dust. Here, there was nothing to fight, nothing to challenge the mind, to tear the living soul out of a body with its roots dripping in effluvium as tangible as blood.”

This is The Game of Rat and Dragon. Learn all about it in our first visit to the Instrumentality of Mankind, as we return to the Appendix W in this week’s episode of The Implausible.

Welcome to The Implausipod, a podcast about the intersection of art, technology, and popular culture. I’m your host, Dr. Implausible. And it’s been a little while since we talked about Appendix W, so perhaps a quick refresher is in order. It’s been about a year since we last posted on Starship Troopers, and well, things took a little bit of an interesting turn there for a bit.

But the Appendix W is one of the major threads of this podcast. We’re going to include it here for now, though at some point in the future, we may have to spin off Appendix W to become its own thing. We’re going to talk a little bit more about the future of Appendix W at the end of this episode. But for those new to the podcast or unfamiliar with the concept, Appendix W is a look at the science fiction history and influences that went into the development of the Warhammer 40, 000 universe published by Games Workshop.

I’m calling it Appendix W as it mirrors the Appendix N that was originally published in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and showed the influences that went into the development of that game. And while both games share some overlapping elements in their influences, there’s some radical differences that led to the development of the Grimdark.

And it’s that Grimdark that I want to touch on at the start of this episode. Because more than anything else, it’s the defining adjective for the Warhammer 40,000 universe. It was a tagline in the original publication of Rogue Trader: “In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there’s no hope, no peace, no forgiveness, only war.”

And it’s kind of stuck, that portmanteau of those first two words, grim and dark, is what’s been used to describe the aesthetic of the Warhammer 40, 000 universe. And it’s managed to sneak out a little bit and enter the larger popular culture being used to describe things like George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones or Song of Ice and Fire.

But what is the Grimdark really, especially when it comes to Warhammer 40, 000? It’s a nightmare gothic future where humanity has decayed and fallen, still living with high technology that they no longer realize how to build and maintain. Humanity is a fallen race living in the shadow of their ancestors.

Humanity is maintained by a ruthless bureaucracy, a massive army, and endless brutality. And it’s this brutality that defines the Warhammer 40, 000 universe. It’s not a pleasant place, and there are no good guys. Whatever side you might think you’re on, there is no good side. 

Warhammer 40, 000 was originally developed by Games Workshop in the mid to late 80s and it drew inspiration from some of their other products. The rules were written primarily by Rick Priestley and assisted by other artists and writers in the Games Workshop studio, and it drew inspiration from a game called Laserburn, which was a sci fi ruleset, as well as their Warhammer Fantasy Battles world and ruleset, which just recently had its 40th anniversary.

It was in the second or third edition by the time 40k was published. As part of this crossover, we can see the inclusion of traditional Tolkien- esque fantasy races like elves and dwarves and orcs, all placed in a space faring format, different, but recognizable. 

There were other fantasy elements included as well, particularly the role of chaos, and we’re going to see a lot more of that in our next episode when we look at the Eternal Warrior. But for right now, the idea of chaos and the warp was manifest in some early science fiction writings, or ones that kind of crossed the barrier between fantasy and science fiction. In the Warhammer 40, 000 universe, Chaos and The Warp are pretty much inseparable, but they don’t completely overlap.

So we’re going to focus on The Warp in this episode and get to Chaos in the next one. And we’re focusing on these two episodes because they work as a pair, as well as something came up in the real world which required some background explanation in order to provide that foundation. We might as well get to it right now.

And in addition to that, there’s currently nothing in production for both these media properties. So they fall outside the domain of the current and ongoing SAG- AFTRA strike. We can discuss them freely. Even though they’re both highly influential, there’s currently nothing under development for either of them to my knowledge either.

But before I go too far off on a tangent, what exactly is the Warp? Well, in terms of Warhammer 40, 000, it’s one of the defining characteristics of the Warhammer 40k universe. It’s the space between the stars, the background behind the scenes of the galaxy. But in true 40k fashion, it’s not a nice place, which is understating it.

It’s a sanity twisting realm inhabited by terrible monstrous entities, where time flows differently, where reality itself can be bent and twisted. And of course, as a space, it can be conquered, but at a terrible cost. During past more enlightened ages of humanity, humans spread across the galaxy and the Imperium of Man along with it.

And now, in the 41st millennium that is, humans in the Imperium of Man can find themselves cut off from the rest of the Empire for years or centuries by vast storms that occur across the warp. So the warp is a vast non-space where time is a little wibbly wobbly, and because of that humanity can travel faster than life and was able to colonize the galaxy.

For humanity, it isn’t easy. It requires some element of psychic power in order to traverse across the warp, and the warp is not without its inhabitants either. In Warhammer 40, 000, these include the daemons and some other entities as well, and in the works of Cordwainer Smith, these include the Dragons.

But the dragons aren’t really dragons at all. It’s just how we perceive them. They’re creatures that we found that manifest out of the dust, like in that opening quote. And when humanity first encountered them, it didn’t go too well for us. But ever the resourceful creatures, we found a way. 

The Game of Rat and Dragon was first published in 1955 in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, a collection of short stories that was how most science fiction got published at the time.

It was written in 1954 by Cordwainer Smith, and it was influential. It was nominated for Best Short Story at the Hugo Awards in 1956, though it lost to Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star. Other nominees that year included James Blish, and Ray Bradbury, and Theodore Sturgeon. So, you know, you’re judged by the company that you keep.

Cordwainer Smith was the pen name of Paul Linnebarger, who was born in 1913, and was named Lin ba lo by his godfather, Sun Yat Sen, who Linnebarger’s father was an advisor to. He received his PhD in political science from John Hopkins University before becoming faculty at Duke for a number of years during World War II, he served with the United States Army, but because he had an advanced degree, he was a second lieutenant that was working in psychological warfare and military intelligence.

Well, the advanced degree and those other factors, too.) He coordinated intelligence operations with China and was a confidant of Chiang Kai Shek. And a lot of his work post war was also in the intelligence community, so he kept his professional life and fiction writing separate, and the connection between the two wasn’t known until he passed away at the young age of 53 in 1966.

Most of his fiction appeared in short stories written during the course of his career, though he did begin writing at a very early age. His first published work was in 1928 that he wrote while he was in high school. And many of those stories took place in what we might now call a cinematic universe or shared universe.

In this case, the universe of the Instrumentality of Mankind. Now, I think we’re going to need to take a deeper look at the Instrumentality in some future episodes. So, I’ll let you listen for the Mr. Socko reference in that one, but for now, we’ll just give you some brief details about the Instrumentality.

The Instrumentality can be the connective thread that occurs across all of Cordwainer Smith’s future history novels. He’s detailing a period sometime between 6, 000 and 20, 000 years in the future, and as such, the novels are loosely collected, describing the background of the setting, which becomes more and more apparent throughout the course of the short stories and the one novel.

In these stories, humanity are the survivors of a nuclear holocaust that took place on Earth. There’s advanced technology, robots, bioengineered people, and of course, faster than light travel, the planoforming, the technology that’s described in detail in The Game of Rat and Dragon. But without further ado, let’s get into the text.

If you’d like to follow along, the full text is available through Project Gutenberg. I’ll make a link available in the show notes,. And you can treat this as your spoiler warning. Here we go. 

In the story, we follow the tale of our protagonist, Underhill, who is a pinlighter, which has a specialized role on the starships.

They’re the ones who help the starships cross interstellar space safely. Think of them like a psychic gunner. The four pinlighters that we’re introduced to are all telepathic, to some degree. It’s a tough job, though. Two months of recovery is required for every half an hour of work, and mandatory retirement is enforced after ten years.

But, as they say, work’s work. The pinlighters are given a military rank, even though their specialized talents kind of set them apart from the rest of the organization. As we meet Underhill, he’s getting ready for the next space flight by donning a Pinset, a helmet that vastly amplifies his telepathic abilities, allowing him to see the range of the solar system.

If you’re thinking Professor X with Cerebro, then you’re not far off. It presents that image of the solar system to him in a kind of a non space, kind of a precursor to virtual reality or augmented reality that we think of now. But again, this was written in 1954. With the enhanced abilities, you can see this whole solar system, but there’s no danger there, as the bright light of the stars keep the dragons at bay.

They mostly inhabit the Up-and-Out, the dark space between the stars, where the light is too dim to shine. They weren’t really dragons, but the telepaths could sense them, and that’s what they were collectively named. Quote: “Dragons. That was what people called them. To ordinary people, there was nothing, nothing except the shiver of planetforming and the hammer blow of sudden death, or the dark spastic note of lunacy descending into their minds.

Dot dot dot. Beasts more clever than beasts. Demons more tangible than demons. Hungry vortices of aliveness and hate compounded by unknown means out of the thin tenuous matter between the stars.” End quote. 

The dragons preyed on humanity as it tried to spread amongst the stars to leave the solar system behind. They didn’t catch every ship, but enough, and as time went on, more and more dragons pursued ships trying to leave the solar system. 

When a dragon attack did occur, it would either kill everybody on board or leave those touched by it insane. Almost like the Reavers from Firefly and Serenity. Like I said, there’s deep echoes of this text throughout sci fi in the 70 years since its publication.

But through luck or happy accident, humanity was able to discover that all it took was light, super intense light, to turn the dragons back into the immaterial dust that it was formed out of. And once this was figured out, a set of technologies and practices was put into place to allow humanity to once again safely travel between the stars. But it didn’t last long, and the dragons got quicker and faster. 

So humanity had to turn to their companions to help them through, and thus were introduced to the Partners. Cordwainer Smith strings us along for a couple pages until it’s revealed that the Partners are indeed cats, that the telepaths are able to connect to psychically.

I’m not sure if this is the first appearance of psychic cats in science fiction, but if not, it’s very close to it, and that’s the long association of cats joining us in space begins. The cats, the Partners, have much faster reaction times than humans, as I’m sure we’re all aware, and they see the entities not as dragons, but as Rats, as creatures to be chased down and hunted, and so they’re exceedingly good at their job.

The cats are loaded into capsules that are launched outside the ship, and they maintain a… Psychic contact with the telepaths inside, and from there, they hunt the Dragons, directing the pins that are sent by the telepaths, the photonuclear bombs that light up space and destroy any Dragons that get too close.

From there, we’re introduced to the telepaths that are working on this particular mission, a team of four of them per ship. Underhill, our protagonist, Woodley, who’s close to retirement at the age of 26. Father Moontree, an older man who started his career late, and West, a young girl who was recruited at a young age because of her psychic abilities.

We’re also introduced to two of the partners, Lady May and Captain Wow. The other two Partners remain unnamed, though present. From there they get ready to protect the ship, drawing lots to see who their partners will be. Underhill’s partner is Lady May. They’ve worked together before. They have a bit of a history.

Once they’re ready, they let the ship captain know. The captain is a Scanner, introduced by Smith in his previous short story, Scanners Live in Vain, which was his introductory work. When that one was released, everyone thought he was already an accomplished author, writing under a pseudonym, but as we say, Cordwainer Smith had a bit of a gift for the art form early on.

We’ll return to those Scanners when we look at the Instrumentality as a full series in a future episode. And then they planoform, which is when the ship shifts into hyperspace or warp speed or however we might call it nowadays. The ship has to make a number of short hops shifting in and out of real space in this hyperspace.

And it’s during that journey that they encounter the dragons, when it’s most risky for the crew and passengers, and it’s during the second hop that the ship is attacked by something terrible in the darkness. West and her partner Captain Wow have at it first, but they’re unable to score a direct hit. So Lady May swings around from the other side of the ship and is able to finally take it out, but not before it lashes out and strikes at Underhill.

The entirety of the combat has taken milliseconds and the psychics are barely able to get their thoughts out. Lady May was able to direct the photonuclear bombs at the enemy across the distance of a hundred thousand miles, but even then, for a fraction of a millisecond, it struck Underhill, and even that was enough to nearly permanently disable him.

He spends the rest of the flight in stasis as the other pin lighters take over for defense of the ship, and when they arrive at the system that was their target, he is sent into retirement. And he spends a long period of recovery in the hospital, where his chief concern is not the passengers, not the crew, nor the other pin lighters, but only his love, Lady May, and scene.

So the story of the game of Rat and Dragon isn’t long. Maybe over 5500 words, a dozen pages, but within that contains seeds for a massive amount of things we saw in science fiction in general, and Warhammer 40, 000 more specifically. As is our want and as we’ve done in previous episodes, I’d like to run through what some of those elements are right now.

Among those elements include the technology, as we saw with our Starship Troopers episode, as well as those setting elements that were directly or indirectly adapted for the Warhammer 40, 000 universe, and then the key elements and influences for science fiction in general. 

Despite the short length of the story, we did see the introduction of some new technologies, like the pin sets, the telepathic amplification units that allow the telepaths to see the distance of the solar system, and also the pin lighting, the Quote, “ultra vivid miniature photonuclear bombs” that the Partners were able to deploy against the Dragons, generating intense light that vaporized them from existence.

And then lastly is the planoforming, warp travel, hyperspace. There’s other science fiction stories that were talking about similar things, notably Foundation. Foundation was being published around contemporaneously with Cordwainer Smith’s first two short stories. Scanners Live in Vain came out in 1950 and…

Game of Rat and Dragon came out in 55. So they’re around the same time as this serial publication, the development of the universe now, obviously Asimov was a giant even in the early 50s within the science fiction community and Cordwainer Smith was a young and relatively unknown author, but still, the impact that the stories had were outsized.

Now, when we shift over to Warhammer 40, 000, we can directly see some of those influences. The development of the warp, and warp travel, and the daemons that existed within it. And so many of those elements that are now taken as canon within the Warhammer 40, 000 universe are coming directly from 

The Game of Rat and Dragon and the other stories about the Instrumentality of Mankind, the tech, the photon bombs, and that did show up within Warhammer 40, 000 as it was a combat game.

There was more of a focus on that rather than some of the more background elements that we’d see within the instrumental instrumentality stories as a whole and. Within the instrumentality, there was much more influence on Warhammer 40k, even though they were only briefly mentioned or hinted at here.

One of those is the Scanners, people who have had their sensory inputs severed so that they could withstand what’s called the Great Pain of Space. These can be seen in the Astropaths of the Imperium. Others can include the social organization of the Instrumentality itself, reflected in the Lords of Terra.

And the Abhumans, the half-human, half man hybrids that have been bioengineered as part of the Imperium. And finally, that idea of Deep Time. The Instrumentality stories take place over thousands and thousands of years, from 6, 000 years in the future to 14, 000 years in the future. And finally, the idea of the story taking place in the 41st millennium itself may have been drawn from a Cordwainer Smith story.

As Gautham Shenoy notes in their blog post from 2018, there was a misprint on a copy of Space Lords, published by Pyramid Books in 1965, which collected the instrumentality stories that said: “Take a trip 40, 000 years into the future to the weird and wonderful universe of Cordwainer Smith.” End quote. So, yeah, the 41st millennium may have been based on a misprint.

I mean, the Instrumentality stories took place 14, 000 years in the future, not 40, 000, but uh, 40, 000 sounds kinda catchy, doesn’t it? I wonder if it’ll take off. Clearly there was an influence. And we see much of that influence in other sci fi series. that would follow, like Dune. Frank Herbert’s serialization began eight years after the publication of Game of Rat and Dragon.

Thirteen years after the publication of Cordwainer Smith’s first story, and we know it did have an influence. We see a lot of those same elements like the warp travel, space empire, and specialists being needed for the empire to function in space. But we’ll have to go into some of those direct connections when we look at Dune in a future episode.

But we’ll return to the Instrumentality at least a few more times, as the echoes in the warp ring deeply. For now, this has been episode 3 of Appendix W, episode 18 of the Implausopod. Join us next time, we’ll be returning to Appendix W shortly, but there’s some timing issues, we’ll see how long that takes, but stay tuned for an episode on Blood and Souls.

In the meantime, the Implausipod will continue as we investigate a unique occurrence within Las Vegas as this fear has made manifest in our reality, and a film interview outside of the SAG AFTRA strike, Postcards from Earth by Darren Aronofsky, a pseudo- documentary that is showing on the sphere. We’ll talk about this in upcoming episodes.

In the meantime, I’ve been your host, Dr. Implausible. The Implausipod is produced under a Creative Commons Sharealike 4.0 license. All production, including writing, recording, narration, mixing, and music, is done by yours truly, Dr. Implausible. Until next time, take care.

References and Links:

Smith, C. (1955, October). The Game of Rat and Dragon. Galaxy Science Fiction, 11(1), 126–146.

The Game of Rat and Dragon on Project Gutenberg:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29614/29614-h/29614-h.htm

The (re)discovery of Cordwainer Smith, the shaper of myths. (2018, September 29). FactorDaily. https://archive.factordaily.com/cordwainer-smith-myths/

Gioia, T. (2013, March 26). Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/03/remembering-cordwainer-smith-full-time-sci-fi-author-part-time-earthling/274344/

The (re)discovery of Cordwainer Smith, the shaper of myths. (2018, September 29). FactorDaily. https://archive.factordaily.com/cordwainer-smith-myths/

Gioia, T. (2013, March 26). Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/03/remembering-cordwainer-smith-full-time-sci-fi-author-part-time-earthling/274344/

Linebarger, P. M. A. (1993). The rediscovery of man: The complete short science fiction of Cordwainer Smith (1st ed.). NESFA Press.

Grimdark, Tone, (and Disney)

What’s happening to the Star Wars universe? I mean, yes, there are problems, and some of these are coming to the forefront, where the demand for increased throughput of the EFP (ie “content”) through the pipes of consumption exposes any flaws or imperfections in the infrastructure, and… to absolutely bury the metaphor… eventually the system buckles under the pressure and cracks…

Spewing stuff everywhere in full Technicolor with Dolby sound… ?

Anyhoo, this is an article on tone, mostly. Shades of grey and brown, apparently. Disney isn’t using the full color palette is what I’m getting at. But we’re starting at the end of the discussion, with burst pipes and a flooded basement. How did we get here?

It started with a re-watch of SW9:RotS on the streams a little while back. I was half interested, and hardly paying attention when the scene in the Emperor’s rejuvenation chamber came up… and it struck me.

The Grimdark.

The biomechanical rejuvenation chambers, the archaeotech, the fractured remains, the body horror.

These are not elements of a Star Wars movie.

They come from… elsewhere.

And I think this speaks to the recent disconnect [between the fans and the franchise].

As we’ve argued elsewhere on the Grimdark* , it is an essential feature of the Warhammer 40K universe.

(*check out podcast episode #… Whoops. Did I post that? One moment…)

And as we’ve argued at the outset of the Appendix W series, W40K was a hodge-podge of every science fiction trope from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, put in a blender, and with the mix pushed through the speakers turned up to 11. And early Star Wars (the original trilogy, plus some of the EU stuff available at the time, like the ongoing Marvel comic series and early novelizations) was definitely thrown in the blender like everything else.

Vader as an armored force-using, laser sword wielding transhuman cyborg super-soldier definitely counts as a proto-40K influence.

Of course, in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there’s a couple thousand like him working for the Imperium of man alone. In W40K, the dial that goes up to 11 increases exponentially. Darth Vader would be in for a very tough fight.

The other big influence that makes the Grimdark grim and/or dark is that fallen sense of technology. The “dying earth” subgenre of sci-fi, where the 20th century may be a distant memory. Often indistinguishable from fantasy, and drawing mostly from a couple strong influences like well, Vance’s Dying Earth and the Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer series**. And Herbert’s Dune, after a fashion. All of these are in the grimdark blender too.

** Did we post that up in the Appendix W either? No? Well then, shortly.

And while there is a pretty direct line between Dune and SW4:ANH, the grim dark filter hadn’t been built yet. So the appearance of the Grimdark in the SW universe in 2019 signified a rather significant shift in tone. And it’s appeared in the Mando-verse as well over on Disney+, notably in Season 3, with the Armorer and the mass jet pack fight.

Much like the emperor’s rejuvenation chamber in SW9:RotS, the overlap of the grimdark becomes readily apparent in Mando S3. Part of this is just the material there’s only so many ways to portray a massed group of faceless space knights, and the shift in focal point characters in SW from “space monk with laser sword” to “power armor space knight” will by necessity lead in certain ways. There’s just certain kinds of stories you can tell in that framework, and GW has managed to deliver an exterminatus to the concept with over 100 novels(?) in the 40K universe.

But I digress: when we see the jetpack assault by the massed Mandalorian army in S3E8, there has been no better cinematic visualization of an Adeptus Astartes assault company incursion. And Paz’s stand with the minigun (with it’s echoes of both Jesse “the Body” Ventura’s Blain in Predator (1987) and Jiang Wen’s Baze Malbus in the aforementioned Rogue One (2016)) could substitute for 35 years of a Terminator Astartes armed with an Assault Cannon facing off against innumerable foes. And that last image provides us a rather helpful clue.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of inception, when the SW universe made the Grimdark turn. While there are elements of it throughout the sequel trilogy, Rogue One (2016) feels like a reasonable candidate. It too marked a dramatic shift in visuals and tone, standing apart from the “mainline” Star Wars films the way that it does, and with the generally positive fan and critical reception it enjoyed as well. Rogue One was still recognizably Star Wars, though darker in tone and “more mature”, appealing to an older audience that had fond memories of the original (and perhaps even the prequel) trilogies, and appreciated the mature take. In a post-AGoT era for genre on the big screen, the expectations of a more mature audience were met by Rogue One‘s screen presence.

But this more mature audience isn’t necessarily the audience that the sequel trilogy was needing to court. Star Wars seems to be pointed at a mainline audience of “the eternal 12 year old”***, an archetypical audience that is seduced by tales of the hero’s journey and see themselves within it, as long as they have the merch to go with. And Disney loves getting new fans for their franchises.

***: I could be wrong; they could be as young as eight.

And this is where the tone comes back into the picture. Because the Grimdark is defined as a universe where everything sucks and there are no good guys. Star Wars is more famously a universe with a New Hope.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for darker tales within the Star Wars universe; there most definitely is. The challenge comes in crossing the streams, mixing the Duff with the Duff Dark and Duff Light. Bringing the grimdark aesthetic over from a one-off that was successful for a host of reasons (of which the aesthetic was only a small part) into the mainline film series risks turning off the fans that the mainline audience are geared toward, the ETYO that Disney craves. Star Wars is an umbrella brand, and not all components that contribute to the franchise need to be geared to every part. They recognize this with the merch (I’m sure there is some overlap between Grogu squishmallows, SW Lego builders, and Mando cosplayers, but y’know, different strokes rule the world).

So is this a problem? No, not really, not in the sense that we’re contributing to the “Problemitization of Everything”. And perhaps not in the sense of it’s connection to other ongoing issues. Just an observation, drawn from the images on screen, and the connections and linkages that exist. It’s part of a trend, perhaps, one that fits with some other things that are going on.

The shift in tone, may be a larger problem, long-term, for a multi-billion dollar corporation that is struggling with producing sustainable results while keeping the franchise afloat. But that’s a them problem, and possibly unrelated to this shift in tone.

But it might be, too. I feel like this bears looking out for over the coming years.


Credits:

  • Star Wars images copyright Disney 2019, 2023
  • Warhammer 40K images copyright Games Workshop 2023

Appendix ‘W’

“Appendix N” is a reference to list of books that were influential on the development of D&D, and included in a section in the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. A literal section in the book.

Since then, it’s become shorthand for the “influential works” in gaming, and other works, like Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics, has also included there list.

But not all games have this. One notable game – Warhammer 40,000 – lacks an explicit ‘Appendix N’, but there is an implicit one, one that exists in the cultural sand that of the time. Warhammer 40K wears it’s influences on it’s ceramite shoulderpads, and it only takes a little work to dig them out of the cultural strata of the time.

So this work, this “Appendix W”, is the documentation of the influences on the development of Warhammer 40K. A work of cultural anthropology that traces backs the prehistory of 40K through the cultural artifacts and media sources that influenced it’s backstory.

I’ll start with some posts made on TikTok about this back in January & February of 2021, and then finish off the list. If possible, we’ll see about a podcast and/or youtube channel about this too. But to start off with, given the impending film release, there’s one title that absolutely needs to be included: Dune.