Do you think Wh40k is a satire?

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Do you think Wh40k is a satire?

Postby Therion » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:04 am

Last edited by Therion on Fri Jun 12, 2020 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Do you think Wh40k is a satire?

Postby Fenris » Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:05 pm

Meh,not really.It'stoo serious in too many ways to be a satire.

If i was to call it anything i'd say a deconstruction of the "bright future" sci-fi ("..Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war..") but even that is stretching it
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Re: Do you think Wh40k is a satire?

Postby Xisor » Fri Mar 16, 2018 2:22 pm

In some respects: absolutely. It's straight-faced, but in no way have I got the hint that they're presenting anything other than "this is not good".

It's more obvious in some places, and in other places it's explored more as a fairly realistic horror than a satire - a satirical idea followed by a more elaborate "what if" answered at great length (see Matt Farrer's works - less satire, more plausible SF dystopias).

Plenty of the novels are relatively insightless on this front - telling 'mere' human stories against a specific backdrop, but even then I'mnot sure they detract from 40k's satirical underpinnings as much as they look at a different aspect. (Like the Path of the Dark Eldar- one might quantifiably argue that the whole economy of Games Workshop's 40k rests on Space Marines, and that they are definitively "what 40k is", but I doubt that's a compelling argument outside the boardroom. PotDE then shows a wholly different twist compared to every other 40k story.)

But at it's barest bones: absolutely.

Look at ADB, Si Spurrier's and FW's Night Lords. It's all decked in flayed skin and torture and vindication and revenge against an unfair system, but *none* of the stories are about that on anything more than a superficial level. The hearts that drive them are tortured souls, people who self-sabotage time and again, people who're trapped in (and yet perpetuate) ridiculous systems. And who almost without exception lack any hint of self-awareness about it. They see everyone else as deluded or diluted fools, but they themselves have the wry, nihilistic twinkle in their inner eye - they personally see true where all the other sheeple just mosey along.

They're sentimental, but also horribly afflicted by a crushing system. Their rage and vindication isn't cosmic, or profound, at least no more than the angst of a 'woe is me' teen. (Though, I'll grant - satirising that in the context of hulking superwarriors is a brave and dangerous game. The layer of satire might well be viewed as a Poe, wherein people would look at it and say: "no, that's a good illustration and exploration of an idea; torture and mass-murder is actually a viable solution!". But that's a general danger of fiction. Indeed, any satire.)


Schaef's routinely been trumpeting other views, like targets of satire being a necessity, and there being a difference between satire and mere humour/lampooning.

I'm sympathetic to those arguments. Indeed, given GW's entry into the FTSE 250 (?), it might be argued that the pulp, punk, satirical edge isn't just lost, but that it's sold out.

In that respect, I could view 40k as a farce, rather than satire. Highly tragic, highly melodramatic, but ultimately the story is hinged on almost comic timing. But I still think there's comic edges to that; ones that expose Games Workshop on a way that's wholly unlike most companies - an almost explicit Achilles heel.

In that respect, it's even foreseeable that it's dancing the line over which it may categorically abandon any claim to satire - almost like the Lego Movie. (Everything is awesome, the earworm brought to you by President Business who emphasises uniqueness and individuality and anti-corporate-bollocks, whilst peddling mass produced corporate bollocks... it worked by strange virtues, but it's an intriguing tangle!)
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Re: Do you think Wh40k is a satire?

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:10 pm

"Satire needs a clarity in purpose and target lest it be mistaken for and contribute to that which it intends to criticise"

Which isn't to say it isn't satire without said clarity, but it isn't good satire and then there is the trade off for being problematic. Ironic racism, taking things to logical extremes to highlight inherent ridiculousness, that sort of thing requires the audience to buy into the flaws because confirmation bias and partisanship and all sorts of psychological quirks people have means that people can read things straight. "Build a wall" is a ridiculous notion for policy if you know how borders function, it is also good for T-shirts, slogans and chanting when building a populist movement.

The thing with 40k in this context is that it isn't one set thing. It is a huge body of work. Early stuff was much more satirical in many respects, the fascist nature of the Imperium isn't an endorsement it is meant to be a grimdark setting without heroes and it was fed by the counterculture of 80s Britain in many respects. Over the years the business of selling miniatures to support war games have left the focus move away from the things that can best carry commentary on contemporary British politics and seeking audiences that that isn't for.

Which is sort of an issue, in that what satire exists is no longer contemporary, the target and the purpose of it is lost to the passage of time. All cultural products of their time are lumbered with the cultural problems of their time, 40k was first published in 1987, 1988 in the UK Section 28 was the government picking sides against homosexuals. So the context between material and audience changes with time (Forward thinking on the female space marine front would've stopped a lot of internet nastiness today, but can we blame them for not doing so when they had the chance to do it without a dreaded "retcon"?).

The Comedian Paul F. Tompkins has a great argument about political correctness and comedy in that you can't be indignant at people being offended at your jokes because ultimately it is an audience that decides if something is funny or not and as a comedian you should be making things people find funny rather than arguing when people stop.

Ultimately I think the issue isn't whether 40k has satirical elements or things in it that were put in with satirical intent but what you're doing with the "satire". Covering your army in Nazi iconography and saying "that's satire" really needs you to have a point to justify. Doing fan fiction about genetic purity and being against mutants needs to be done in a way where you aren't writing in support of racism.

But if you were going to take the philosophical choice between freedom and security that is at the forefront of discussions in western democracies with civil rights and terrorism/crime then the entire purpose of the Imperium of Mankind in 40k is that freedom lost that argument and you can do cool satire in that way easily I reckon if you were of the mind to and had something to say in that regard.

I don't think GW or even BL is going to be pushing that hard but the setting totally fits for it (because for all the it is outdated and we're no longer in the 80s the political classes trying to budge us into authoritarianism is timeless)
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