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Concept of Morality in Horus Rising: The seeds of heresy are sown Quentin Davis University of Tampere School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies Degree Programme in English Language, Literature and Translation BA Thesis September 2015

Concept of Morality in Horus Rising: The seeds of Heresy are sown

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  1. 1. Concept of Morality in Horus Rising: The seeds of heresy are sown Quentin Davis University of Tampere School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies Degree Programme in English Language, Literature and Translation BA Thesis September 2015
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Introduction......................................................................................................................................1 2. Background: Warhammer 40,000....................................................................................................2 3. The Grotesque..................................................................................................................................5 3.1. Positive Grotesque...............................................................................................................5 3.2. Incongruence and Disharmony............................................................................................7 4. Superstition ....................................................................................................................................10 5. Concept of the Ego.........................................................................................................................12 6. New Historicist Reading of Horus Rising......................................................................................14 7. Conclusion .....................................................................................................................................19 Works Cited .......................................................................................................................................21 Appendix............................................................................................................................................22
  3. 3. 1 1. Introduction In this BA thesis I will explore the concept of morality in Horus Rising: The seeds of heresy are sown by Dan Abnett. I selected this particular novel because it is the first of many novels in the Horus Heresy series, based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. It provides the reader with an overview of the turning point of the Great Crusade, which would eventually lead to the Horus Heresy. Furthermore, it provides a detailed insight into the nature of the Imperium of Man in the 31st millennium. There are many instances of questionable morality in the text. Each of the features that will be analysed in this thesis affects our perception of morality and forces us to re-evaluate our understanding of the concept. It is important to explore the concept of morality in Horus Rising, as it gives us an alternate reading of the text. Moreover, the comparisons made between events in the text and real life examples are intended to enable the reader to apply the arguments raised in this thesis to current topical events, thereby encouraging them to re-evaluate their understanding of morality. It is unlikely that there has been previous academic research on this text, let alone on the thesis topic question; this enables an expansive interpretation of the text, providing numerous, varied readings of Horus Rising. However, for the purposes of this thesis, only the concept of morality will be analysed. The objective of this thesis is to generate a completely new reading of the text and generate a constructive breakdown of Horus Rising into the four interpretations of morality that will be the basis of this thesis: the grotesque, superstition, the concept of the ego and a New Historicist reading of Horus Rising.
  4. 4. 2 2. Background: Warhammer 40,000 The following background details are included for the readers benefit as the starting point of my analysis. They can be accessed at the Lexicanum, the online encyclopaedia for the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Each paragraph ends in a reference to the respective web page. Warhammer 40,000, or 40K for short, is originally a tabletop miniature wargame, created by Games Workshop in 1987. The game world of the Warhammer universe is based on the Milky Way Galaxy. The science-fantasy setting has easily recognisable features of the Gothic. There are various key features of historical eras intertwined in the universe most notably, World Wars, Imperial Rome and The Spanish Inquisition. There are seven different races in the galaxy, none of which are inherently good. The humans are the dominant force in the universe. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Warhammer_40,000) Amongst the vanguard of the imperial forces are the Adeptus Astartes, also known as Space Marines, who operate as mobile strike forces, used to carry out the most dangerous and highly sensitive missions. The events in Horus Rising take place during the Great Crusade. The Great Crusade (beginning c. M30 and continuing for around two hundred years) was a brief age of rebuilding and reunification following the complete regression of mankind during the Age of Strife. It was a time when the Emperor still lived in the conventional sense and led his race in person. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/The_Great_Crusade) Garviel Loken (see Appendix) was the Captain of the 10th company of the Luna Wolves Space Marine Legion during the latter half of the Great Crusade. After distinguishing himself in battle, he was inducted into the Mournival, the advisory council to the Warmaster Horus, and from this position was a first-hand witness to the series of events that would result in Horus damnation and the beginning of the Horus Heresy. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Garviel_Loken) Horus (also named Lupercal) was one of the twenty Primarchs created by the Emperor in the earliest days of the Imperium, just after the end of the Age of Strife. Like the other Primarchs,
  5. 5. 3 Horus was sucked from Terra by the Gods of Chaos (see Primarch Project for further information) and was placed on a far-away world in an attempt to prevent the coming of the Age of the Imperium. Despite being the favoured son of the Emperor, he was eventually corrupted by Chaos and initiated the Horus Heresy against the very Imperium he helped build. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Horus) The Mournival was the advisory council of four captains of the Luna Wolves Legion, the authority of its members second only to Horus himself within the legion. Even so, it carried no official weight, was considered to be outside the official command structure and was a position purely internal to the legion. At the end of the Great Crusade, it was composed of Ezekyle Abaddon, Little Horus Aximand, Tarik Torgaddon and Garviel Loken. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Mournival) Imperial Iterators were public speakers, and masters of manipulating crowds and altering public opinion. The Emperor appointed them to spread the Imperial Truth (also known as empirical truth in the novel) among his people, for example, the rejection of the religions and petty squabbling which had brought about the Age of Strife. They were most prevalent among the fleets of the Great Crusade, where they would not only lecture and rally the Imperial troops and Astartes legions, but also educate the vanquished human civilisations on the values and virtues of the Imperium. Warmaster Horus admired the Iterators work, so much that he asked them to also tutor his Captains and Legionaries; Horus believed that, once the Great Crusade was completed, there would be an end to war and the Astartes would need to find a peacetime vocation. The most famous iterator of the Great Crusade was Primary Iterator Kyril Sindermann, who served aboard Horuss flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, at the head of the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Iterator) The Remembrancer Order was a group of poets, journalists, imagists and writers that were sent to accompany the Imperial forces during the later years of the Great Crusade, once the Emperor had returned to Terra. The remembrancers were tasked by the Emperor to record, for posterity,
  6. 6. 4 mankinds greatest triumph, the Great Crusade. However, they were generally disliked by both the regular troops and the Astartes. (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Remembrancer#fn_1) Horus Rising forms the first part of a narrative trilogy which describes the events of Horus fall to Chaos. The events in the novel explain how the build up to the greatest tragedy in human history took place. The Emperor of Mankind has conquered the galaxy in what is known as the Great Crusade, in the 31st millennium. At the peak of the Great Crusade, the Emperor retires from the frontlines in order to demilitarise the government of the empire. This fact, coupled with the resentment amongst the Primarchs regarding the promotion of Horus to Warmaster, planted the seeds of heresy in their minds. The authoritarian nature of the Warhammer universe provides the perfect environment to analyse the concept of morality. For the purpose of this thesis, morality will be defined as a set of principles that discern between the perception of right and wrong or good and bad behaviour. The issues raised within the text are loyalty, honour, duty and sacrifice, each of which are required to contribute to the nascent Empire of Man. However, dissidence creeps into the picture when the Emperor retires from the Crusade in favour of forming a civilian government. Subsequently, jealousy and disregard formulate between the legions after the selection of a new Warmaster from the Luna Wolves, one of the Emperors twenty legions of genetically enhanced warriors. Arguably, the moment the Emperor abandons the Great Crusade, the tide of the universe turns. The Primarchs become disheartened at the prospect of the Emperor abandoning them for his secret project on Terra, leaving mere mortals to rule over them. I will now begin my analysis of the novel.
  7. 7. 5 3. The Grotesque The reason the grotesque affects morality is because it alters what is natural and correct with unnaturalness and blends elements that do not fit together (Perttula 2011, 35). This makes such occurrences distasteful to the reader. In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, we are dealing with issues of technological advancement and bioethics, which cause wariness, disgust, revulsion and a fear of maltreatment of others. 3.1. Positive Grotesque The reaction of the vanquished foe on the planet Sarosel, to name one example, fits in with Bakhtins notion of the carnivalistic. This concept is the combination of the grotesque with the joyful and comical (Perttula 2011, 24). In the novel, compliance is a strange, obtuse event which was clearly a point of joy for all of the inhabitants of Sarosel. After compliance, the citizens held a great carnival of celebration (Abnett 2006, 172). The citizens of Sarosel are part of the folk culture of laughter (Perttula 2011, 24) because they wore hats as broad across as my span (Abnett 2006, 172) and because Loken is bemused by the obscurity of the event: I do not know how they balanced them, or suffered their weight, but day and night they danced along the inner streets of the main city, these garish forms weaving and bobbing and circling, as if carried along on a slow flood, quite obscuring the human figures beneath (Abnett 2006, 172). It is evident that compliance, on the planet Sarosel, is a positive and festive event. There had been no hostility shown towards the invading Astartes and therefore, no bloodshed. The implementation of compliance on the planet of Sarosel is an adequate representation of the folk culture of laughter (Perttula 2011, 24), associated with Bakhtins theory of the carnivalistic. In terms of morality, one could argue that seeing as the citizens of Sarosel were so genuinely joyous at their subsequent subjugation, the Astartes, in conquering the planet, did a great service to
  8. 8. 6 them. The Astartes enforced their version of empirical truth on the planet and thereby, uniting them as part of humanity under the protection of the Emperor of Mankind. Therefore, one could argue that the bloodless conquest of a planet is a good thing. A real life comparison, reflecting Bakhtins view of the carnivalistic grotesque can be drawn from the public executions of various countries (namely Britain) during the 18th and early19th centuries. These morbid executions were often described as a carnivalesque spectacle which became festive outings for the regular public. Hanging days often created a carnival-like atmosphere that drew huge crowds (Miethe and Lu 2005, 39). Such public hangings that were designed for both retributive and deterrence purposes (Miethe and Lu 2005, 39) often had only a limited effect in terms of striking fear in the public and deterring them from committing crimes. In contrast, the attitude of Saul Tarvitz, whilst fighting the megarachnid on the planet Murder, illustrates the introverted, individual and dark (Perttula 2011, 24) aspect of the grotesque. This aspect of the grotesque differs from the positive grotesque, in the sense that it is an expression of an individualistic world outlook (Perttula 2011, 24), concerned with the dark side of the human mind (Perttula 2011, 24). Saul Tarvitzs opinion of the megarachnid, a true rival, of considerable strength and fortitude. Only against such a rival can our prowess be properly measured (Abnett 2006, 207), is based less on his duty to serve the Imperial agenda, but more so a striving to satisfy his individual desire to hone his martial prowess against a worthy foe. Saul Tarvitz appears to be involved in combat for his own personal gain, as opposed to his obligation to fight for the Emperor of Mankind. The twisted old equerry, Maloghurst, fits Bakhtins concept of the carnivalistic grotesque (Perttula 2011, 24). Maloghursts physical appearance, [h]is back bulged with a kyphotic misalignment and waddings of synthetic skin-gel covered gashes upon his throat and the left side of his head (Abnett 2006, 122), is both comical and tragic (Perttula 2011, 24). Maloghursts poor physical condition allows him to gain status amongst his peers and to live up to his derogatory nickname, Maloghurst the Twisted (Abnett 2006, 125). Maloghurst is viewed as an astute
  9. 9. 7 character. Maloghursts talents for intrigue and intelligence ideally served him in that role, and had long since earned him the title twisted (Abnett 2006, 125). Maloghursts request to retain his title, My body is broken, but my mind is not. I would take offence if the name was to be dropped (Abnett 2006, 125), reinforces Bakhtins view that laughter and terror never truly override each other in the carnivalistic and the terrible grotesque (Perttula 2011, 24). 3.2. Incongruence and Disharmony The vivid literary descriptions of grotesque elements in the text affect meaning and enhance our perception of the depravity of the warring factions in Horus Rising. The Emperors comments on Lokens appearance, You are some imposter, some evil daemon- and You are an imposter. Made like a giant, malformed and ugly (Abnett 2006, 38), do not create a positive image of Loken. In some respects, this description reinforces the perception of the Astartes as draconian oppressors, as opposed to the mighty defenders of humanity that they are commonly perceived to be. Furthermore, we have to consider the purpose behind the creation of these super warriors. A prospective Astartes had to be sturdy, fit, genetically receptive, and ripe for enhancement. A chassis of meat and bone upon which a warrior could be built (Abnett 2006, 56). In general, people fear advanced technology, such as cyborgs and robots. The idea of genetic enhancement is a sensitive topic in current politics and such a concept does not appeal to most people. The basis of this fear lies in the concept of grotesque incongruence. Grotesque incongruence entails the blending of elements that do not normally belong together, the dismantling of elements that are supposed to be inseparable from each other or even just excess of any sort; as is the case with the Astartes. This is part of the concept of norm-breaking corporeality, in the sense that generally any kind of excess, mental as well as physical, is characteristic of the grotesque (Perttula 2011, 28). Grotesque incongruence includes elements that are no longer normal and can arouse negative feelings in the reader, such as distress or anxiety.
  10. 10. 8 Grotesque incongruence is made up of three categories. The first category, the norm- breaking combination of human and animal or human and an inanimate, distinct physical object (Perttula 2011, 36), can be somewhat exhibited using the example of the megarachnid found on the planet Murder. Although these creatures are not a combination of human mixed with animal or technology, they are in fact, the perfect combination of beast and technology. In many respects, therefore, they can still be viewed as the archetypal grotesque manifestation in the text, as they are the combination of heterogeneous, disparate elements that do not belong together which has been persevered as the defining structural feature of the grotesque throughout history (Perttula 2011, 35): Even after hed slain a fair number of them, Saul Tarvitz was still unable to say with any certainty where the biology of the megarachnid stopped and their technology began. They were the most seamless things, a perfect fusion of artifice and organism. They did not wear their armour or carry their weapons. Their armour was an integument bonded to their arthropod shells, and they possessed weapons as naturally as a man might own fingers or a mouth (Abnett 2006, 207). The megarachnid are certainly creatures of nightmares and one cannot help but suspect that they were created for war. It is not specified where these creatures came from or why they are present, but it is possible that their sole purpose is to reap destruction upon any living thing they meet. The fact that they have weapons and armour does not indicate that they have ever been peaceful creatures. Ironically, the megarachnid can be seen as a parallel of the Empire of Man. They are both technologically advanced and strive to eradicate everything that does not belong to their own species. The brutal single-mindedness of the megarachnid in their unrelenting goal to eradicate all sentient life on Murder draws a close comparison to the Empires inexorable drive to wage war in the galaxy. In terms of morality, the reader should ponder whether the actions of the Empire are any better than the seemingly mindless destruction caused by the megarachnid. The second feature of grotesque incongruence includes collisions in genre, such as between the realistic and the fantastic which serve to illustrate how the essence of grotesque is not harmony, but disharmony. Different levels of presentation repel each other and deform each
  11. 11. 9 other, and the reader may not know how exactly to react (Perttula 2011, 36). The mixed sentiments of atheism (as an aspect of the realistic) and spiritualism (as the realisation of the fantastic) in the dialogue between Loken and his dying foe, highlight the conflict in their respective ideologies and creates an atmosphere of disharmony, not only between the characters but also within the reader of the text: Bless me... the man whispered. I cant. Please, say a prayer and commend me to the gods. I cant. There are no gods. Please... the otherworld will shun me if I die without a prayer. Im sorry, Loken said. Youre dying. Thats all there is. Help me... the man gasped. Of course, Loken said. He drew his combat blade, the standard-issue short, stabbing sword, and activated the power cell. The grey blade glowed with force. Loken cut down and sharply back up again in the mercy stroke, and gently set the mans detached head on the ground (Abnett 2006, 163). In terms of morality, this excerpt could be difficult for a reader to comprehend. Loken clearly has some sense of pity as he stops to console the wounded man. However, his words do not correspond with normal, human, empathetic disposition. We are troubled by the fact that Loken refuses to bless his enemy. He would bring the man peace of mind by granting him this final wish. However, instead of consoling the insurgent, he imposes his own truth on the poor soul and dispatches him according to his own ideology. We are left wondering why Loken had to remain so adamant in his views and not concede to the vanquished foe in his final moments of life. In refusing to bless the man, Loken did not diverge from his own strict moral convictions, therefore, one could argue that he forfeited a significant portion of his humanity. The third feature of grotesque incongruence, is the incongruence between content and form, what is portrayed and how it is presented, the subject and its representation, or story and discourse (Perttula 2011, 36). In lay terms, it is the depiction of a dramatic event using an inappropriate register, not commonly associated with the specific context in which it is used. Ekaddons reaction after detonating the elderly mans ribcage in the Emperors tower and thereby committing regicide, is highly inappropriate judging by the gravity of his actions. Ive never killed an
  12. 12. 10 emperor before, he laughed (Abnett 2006, 41). Loken had made special provisions for the Emperor to surrender with dignity. I request you surrender to me, sir (Abnett 2006, 39). However, Ekaddon gave no thought to the dignity of his foe and instead revelled in his act of slaughter. This is in stark contrast with Lokens accommodating actions in this instance. Even within the Legion, therefore, there appears to be variation between the Astartes in terms of their moral disposition towards the enemy. To sum up, the concept of the grotesque can be split into two distinctive, contrasting features in relation to morality. The first feature, the positive grotesque, focuses on the positive aspects of subjugation by the Astartes and the joy felt at being conquered. The second feature of the grotesque, incongruence and disharmony, explores how the paradoxes in belief systems strain our logic and causes an inherent sense of futility in the reader. 4. Superstition Superstition will be defined in this thesis as the excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural, which affects morality both in real life and in the text. The issue with religion or superstition is that it creates in the believer a certainty that I am right; you are wrong (Tolle 2005, 69), which is detrimental to society when it is applied to the extent that it perpetuates separation and conflict between human beings (Tolle 2005, 125). In reality, we can see this happening with the current conflicts in the Middle East, fuelled by religious differences, just as conflicts have done for centuries in human history. Such fundamental differences can be found throughout the fictional universe portrayed in Horus Rising. The ethos of the groups mentioned by Eckhart Tolle, popular writer and public speaker, via the attitude of I am right; you are wrong (Tolle 2005, 69), is exemplified by Lokens comments to a subordinate officer: Superstition. We know this world has temples and fanes. They are dark-age in their beliefs. Bringing light to that ignorance is part of why were here (Abnett 2006, 155).
  13. 13. 11 Furthermore, with this belief in mind, Loken orders his men to destroy the shrine dedicated to the chaos daemon, Samus. Theyve been deceived, Loken said. Thats why were here. Destroy this, he instructed and turned away (Abnett 2006, 164). Lokens dedication to empirical truth, the belief that the true purpose of mankind is to bear the torch of truth aloft and shine it and that the Empire of Man is duty bound to share its forensic, unforgiving, liberating understanding with the dimmest reaches of the cosmos (Abnett 2006, 60), has given him the moral authority to infringe on others beliefs, thereby perpetuating the separation and conflict between human beings that Eckhart Tolle warned of. For example, the Emperor highlights the contradiction in Lokens actions in his reply to truth being amoral, with in serving your fine truth, invader, you make yourself immoral (Abnett 2006, 39). This justifies the claim that Imperial Truth is considered more important than human life (Tolle 2005, 70). The macabre can be defined as a type of superstition it is an attitude towards death that plays a central role in Horus Rising. For instance, the creation of an empire would typically be met with resistance. However, the Astartes are built for war and this fact is well understood. Whilst scrutinising the text, it became evident that the Astartes are sometimes blas towards death Durellens dead. So is Martius, Lucius announced casually (Abnett 2006, 211). In other instances, the concept of death causes distress amongst the warriors. There have been deaths today. Six brothers of Brakespur squad, including Udon. Another barely clinging to life. And Hellebore... Hellebore has vanished, and I fear they are dead too (Abnett 2006, 186). Aside from the initial horror at the prospect of one of the Astartes killing their own men, a concept which is unheard of amongst the ranks of the Adeptus Astartes, Astartes do not fight Astartes. Astartes do not kill their own. It is against all the rules of nature and man. It is counter to the very gene-code the Emperor fused into us when he wrought us (Abnett 2006, 186), there is also the effect of superstition on the Astartes perception of death. When a warrior falls in battle under conventional circumstances, his brothers understand that it is just a consequence of warfare. In contrast, the distress caused by the deaths at the hands of one of their own Astartes, Jubal, is believed to be
  14. 14. 12 caused by a supernatural influence, Samus. No mistake. I saw him do it. He was a madman. He was possessed. And He was possessed. He claimed he was Samus (Abnett 2006, 186). Lokens fears are based mostly on his ignorance regarding the suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of his men. An Astartes draws his weapon and kills his own, whilst claiming to be a daemon from hell? Rationalise that, sir (Abnett 2006, 187). Loken has been bred to live using logic and science and yet he is faced with the possibility of daemonic possession, which challenges the absoluteness of the empirical truth he so fervently believes in. To sum up, superstition in Horus Rising is a realisation of Eckhart Tolle's warning of a clash of collectives, highlighting the fact that morals are principally dependent on belief systems. The unwavering adherence to the belief systems of both parties in the conflicts analysed in this section cause nothing more than friction, conflict and death. 5. Concept of the Ego The concept of the ego plays a large role in The Horus Heresy. Eckhart Tolle holds the view that the ego is part of a collective, and this is how it shall be defined in this thesis. There are many instances throughout the text where characters are offended or displeased. It is their reactions in these circumstances which highlight the strong egos of the Astartes. For example, whilst being questioned by Mersadie Oliton, Loken airs his offence at the fact that the Warmaster is not referred to by his official title. He is Warmaster Horus. Youre a remembrancer. Remember that (Abnett 2006, 44). Loken is offended not so much because the reference itself bothers him, but because a member of a lower, subordinate class, a remembrancer, dared to refer to his leader as anything other than by his formal title. Moreover, Loken is no longer concerned with his personal ego, but is now obsessed with the collective mind of his brothers in arms. A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies (Tolle 2005, 125).
  15. 15. 13 The collective purpose of the Astartes is to wage war without question and to fight and die at the whim of their commanders. During Expedition 63, the Astartes met an enemy with an almost identical ethos as themselves and therefore, just as Tolle predicts sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity (Tolle 2005, 125). Furthermore, Tolles claim that the members of collectives will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action (Tolle 2005, 125), is evidently supported by Lokens reaction And so, Loken would sigh, we made war upon our brethren, so lost in ignorance (Abnett 2006, 44). The outcome of this analysis raises the question, would it not be better to take no action whatsoever than to engage in conflict with other collectives and therefore, harm both parties involved? We can see from the aforementioned example that neither of the collectives involved in the conflict came out of it any better than before it started. In fact, the informal discourse between Loken and the iterator Sindermann, after his briefing with the other iterators, raises multiple arguments that question the morality of the Empire they fight for. The first and most important issue, is why the Astartes could not leave their enemy alone. The false Emperor stated that if our philosophies are so much at odds, you could have passed us by and left us to our lives, unviolated. Yet you did not. Why? (Abnett 2006, 39). The fleet found Terra or planet Sixty-Three Nineteen by chance and could have easily ignored it. Instead, the Astartes had to force their truth onto the inhabitants of the planet. One cannot help but wonder how such a course of action could be justified. The final issue raised in Loken and Sindermanns conversation, is the concept of empirical truth. The empire scours the galaxy preaching their truth and bringing worlds into compliance with their views. The Emperors statement and Mersadie Olitons reiteration of the fact Could we not have just left them alone? (Abnett 2006, 44), highlight the clear lack of moral conscience in the Empires doctrine. Loken shows some humanity by admitting to Sindermann that this question has been plaguing his mind ever since the interview with Mersadie Oliton in his private arming
  16. 16. 14 chamber. If we encounter a person, a society in this cosmos that disagrees with us, but is sound in itself, what right do we have to destroy it? (Abnett 2006, 64). The Astartes could have let the citizens of Sixty-Three Nineteen live their lives in peace, as they had been doing so before the arrival of the expedition. It is difficult to morally justify the conquest of Sixty-Three Nineteen, especially as the only argument for bringing them to compliance is a spurious argument: Mankind has a great, empirical truth to convey, a message to bring, for the good of all. Sometimes that message is spurned and denied, as here. Then, and only then, thank the stars that we own the might to enforce it. We are mighty because we are right, Garviel (Abnett 2006, 65). Sindermanns words give no indication of what exactly is the empirical truth that the Empire is supposed to convey. Similarly, he does not give any explanation as to why their message is for the good of all or why they should enforce that message. At this point in the novel, the reader is posed with the question, is this so called empirical truth truly justification enough to threaten, attack, dominate and ultimately subjugate all species and cultures in the known galaxy? To sum up, it is made evident in this section that the concept of a collective ego is destructive by its very nature. The Astartes' constant need for conflict and enemies reflects the ego-motivated actions of collective egos which Eckhart Tolle warned of. The need to impose their "empirical truth" on unwilling, civilised societies is a physical manifestation of the Imperium's egotistical agenda. 6. New Historicist Reading of Horus Rising For the purposes of this thesis, I will use Peter Barrys definition of New Historicism as a method based on the parallel reading of literary and non-literary texts, usually of the same historical period (Barry 2002, 172). The M Lai Massacre, in terms of morality, is an appropriate New Historical non-literary text to compare to Horus Rising, due to its complicated nature and relevance to the
  17. 17. 15 issues raised in this thesis. The massacre brought to the light the moral question; to what extent are military personnel responsible for their actions under orders? The idea of New Historicism as being resolutely anti-establishment, always implicitly on the side of liberal ideals of personal freedom and accepting and celebrating all forms of difference and deviance (Barry 2002, 175), could not be more apt in regard to criticising governments, both fictional and factual. For example, we are able to apply such theory to the following moral question, why are the Astartes not encouraged to think for themselves? To name one example, Sindermann advises Loken not to think for himself but to act simply as ordered, as he is seen as merely a weapon of war to be deployed by his superiors: You are a weapon Garviel, an example of the finest instrument of destruction mankind has ever wrought. There must be no place inside you for doubt or question. Youre right. Weapons should not think, they should only allow themselves to be employed, for the decision to use them is not theirs to make (Abnett 2006, 645). This raises a moral dilemma. If the Astartes are the finest instruments of the Imperial war machine, given the power to decide between life and death on the battlefields at the vanguard of the Empires galactic conquests, why then are they not allowed to have even the slightest say in where and when they will be deployed to fight and potentially die for the Empire that covets them as their most prestigious weapon of war? This restriction on their freedom of action is specifically stated in the fifth and final tenet of the Imperial Creed, which reads It is the duty of the faithful to unquestionably obey the authority of the Imperial government and their superiors, who speak in the Emperors name (http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Imperial_Cult). Astartes are bound by Imperial law to follow orders without question. A contemporary readership is likely to feel that it cannot be moral for someone to be employed to obliterate worlds at a whim, without the right to question the reasoning behind their actions. In comparison, in a non-literary context, in modern Western armies the right to question your superiors is not usually acceptable. In this sense, one could argue that it is not surprising that the authoritarian regime in Horus Rising does not accept insubordination in its military. Then again,
  18. 18. 16 this does not release the Imperium of Man from its moral accountability, just as contemporary armies are not exempted from theirs. The M Lai Massacre in the 1960s is a fitting analogy for Lokens dilemma. Some of the soldiers who took part in the massacre claimed that they were just following orders. Many were acquitted in their trials because of the Nuremberg defence which could be summarised by the phrase orders are orders, and thus reducing the accountability of soldiers following controversial orders. For example, the 1st platoon commander, 2LT William Calley, claimed during the massacre that his chief defense was that he was merely following orders (McCarty 2013). Sindermann is actively persuading Loken to have the same mentality as Calley and to clear his conscience of all responsibility. Alternatively, the retired American Brig. Gen. Ronald Holdaway further clarifies but you cant defend orders which, even if given, werent legal (McCarty 2013). In terms of morality, Lokens actions on Sixty-Three Nineteen are comparable with those of 2LT Calley during the M Lai massacre and some could argue that he should be held accountable accordingly and court marshalled for his actions on the planet. Similarly, the iterator Karkasy escaped his armed escort in order to view the conquered planet freely: He was alone, properly alone for the first time in over a year, and master of his own actions. It felt tremendously liberating (Abnett 2006, 93). Karkasy was not under arrest but merely a victim of strict Imperial security measures. He escaped his own escort, with the responsibility of acting as his personal bodyguard, because concerns for his safety were encroaching on his need for personal freedom. Such instances of freedom are restricted arduously by Imperial forces, even for its own members. Just as the remembrancer Keeler, tasked with documenting the exploits of the Imperium, is forbidden from taking pictures of the events she was charged with documenting. I said no records! Emont snapped, hurrying to her (Abnett 2006, 139). In addition, the Foucauldian statement that a panoptic State, however, maintains its surveillance not by physical force and intimidation, but by the power of its discursive practices (Barry 2002, 176), stands true on multiple levels in Horus Rising. First, the system of iterators is designed to preach their truth to the
  19. 19. 17 masses of conquered planets, thus bringing them in line with Imperial thought. Secondly, tutorials are scheduled with the Astartes, in order to further their understanding of Imperial doctrine and to improve their motivation to fight. Beyond their duties as iterators, senior counsellors like Sindermann were expected to conduct programmes of education for the Astartes (Abnett 2006, 62). Teaching the warriors Imperial doctrine acts as an insurance policy. If they face an enemy who can challenge their moral judgement, the Astartes will be enlightened enough to counter any logical argument against their cause. Thirdly, once a planet has been brought into full compliance, a governor of note is then selected to preside over the planet and ensure its servitude to the Empire. Another curious example of the parallel between fact and fiction is shown through the concept of the cyborg, a somewhat horrifying fusion of man and machine. The concept of a cyborg, whilst originally a mere fictional invention, is in fact increasingly becoming a reality in the modern world. There are several references to cybernetic humanoids in the novel, which are comparable to Donna Haraways description of cyborgs. A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction (Haraway 1991, 149). Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs - creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted (Haraway 1991, 149). Her intuition that cyborgs are hybrids of machine and organism and creatures simultaneously animal and machine is somewhat applicable to the Adepts of the Mechanicum (see Appendix), in Horus Rising. These cyborgs are comparable to modern day military engineers. The character of Regulus of the Adeptus Mechanicum, the sort of being who could command the invincible Titans into war (Abnett 2006, 114), is a fitting illustration of the connection between humanity physically fused machine. The man, if it were a man, lurked at the rail of the strategium deck, gazing out across the chasm of the bridge. He was a machine, it seemed, much more a machine than a man. Vague relics of flesh and muscle remained in the skeletal fabric of his mechanical body, a fabulously wrought armature of gold and steel (Abnett 2006, 114). The Adept Regulus is not only, a hybrid of machine and organism, being much more a machine than a man but he is also a functionary of the Imperial Army. In the New Historical sense, his very
  20. 20. 18 existence supports Haraways claim that he is a creature of fiction, as he has been included in the fictional text, Horus Rising. Furthermore, some could argue that mechanical augmentation is the future of mankind. As in many instances, machines possess superior abilities compared to mere humans. Arguably, the perception of superiority of machine over man appears to have materialised in contemporary military developments, such as is the case with the progression of the US military DARPA Warrior Web program (see Appendix). This programme echoes the thoughts of Haraway in the sense that, although the programme does not aim to create cyborgs per se, it does aim to improve the abilities of soldier on the battlefield using physical mechanical and technological augmentation (McNally 2014). This subsequent augmentation turns the fictional concept of cyborgs into creatures of social reality. The DARPA Warrior Web program is designed to improve soldiers performance, creating a kind of super soldier who has improved strength and endurance as a result of mechanical and technological enhancements to ones body. Perhaps, therefore, we are just a few steps away from creating fully integrated cyborgs. Some could argue that such a move could be an irreversible tipping point in the sense that humanity is sacrificed in favour of technology. To what extent could this ever be acceptable? To sum up, as the finest of the Empire's warriors, the Astartes should be encouraged to think and act independently. However, as the iterator Sindermann pointed out, this is actively discouraged amongst the Astartes, who instead focus their efforts on resolute obedience and loyalty to their mission and superiors. On a similar note, the increasing mechanisation of soldiers in the US Army by DARPA raises concerns that soldiers' humanity will be increasingly sacrificed for technological supremacy. Will human soldiers begin to strive for extensive cybernetic augmentation as fervently as the Adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus?
  21. 21. 19 7. Conclusion In conclusion, the concept of morality is a very wide and subjective one. It would be impossible to limit morality to one single definition which would stand true in all circumstances and situations. Despite this, however, it still a worthwhile pursuit to analyse literary works using alternative perspectives in order to create innovative readings of the texts and further our understanding of the core concepts in question. In this thesis, the concept of morality in Horus Rising, has become the analytical lens through which this particular fictional literary work has been scrutinised. Whilst morality is mostly subjective, the definition of morality used in this thesis as a set of principles which discerns between the perception of right and wrong or good and bad behaviour is an almost universally accepted interpretation of the term, and therefore it is a stable platform through which the text can be analysed. Elements of the grotesque help further our understanding of morality in Horus Rising, as the reader is encouraged to take a more analytical approach to the text. When combined, the three features of grotesque incongruence norm-breaking combinations, collisions in genre and incongruence between content and form all affect our reading of the text. For example, the actions of the Empire are compared with those of the megarachnid and criticised for sharing similar destructive aims. Similarly, the collision between Lokens dogmatic adherence to empirical truth and his dying foes plea to honour his spiritualistic beliefs, could cause a conflict within the reader. The situation in which this dialogue takes place creates the problem as to which interpretation of morality would be most appropriate in that specific situation. One could consider whether Loken should temporarily concede any of his empirical truth for the purposes of consoling a dying man? The concept of superstition plays a large role in this thesis. In Horus Rising, the largest cause of conflict in the text is based on the adherence to doctrine. The Astartes wage war on the galaxy in a bid to spread their Imperial Truth, whereas, the opposition on Sixty-Three Nineteen were fuelled to defend themselves due to their unflinching faith in their own superstitious beliefs. Arguably, if all
  22. 22. 20 ideologies were not adhered to so ardently in the text, there would be few conflicts in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Therefore, adherence to strong beliefs, whether they are based on superstition or the Astartes version of empirical truth, merely causes and prolongs conflict, suffering and death. The concept of the ego has an important role in Horus Rising. The Astartes are constantly vying for power amongst each other and especially between other Legions. The pride of the Astartes often clouds their judgement, either causing them to commit acts which are unnecessary, such as the slaughtering of enemies purely to rack up a tally of victims. Alternatively, they may be so blinded by their collective ego, as Loken is, that they fail to carry out their tasks in an ethical manner. The M Lai Massacre is an appropriate New Historical non-literary text to compare to Horus Rising. The aftermath of the massacre and subsequent legal proceedings raised issues of responsibility for soldiers actions during war. Such issues are not pondered on in the authoritarian Warhammer 40,000 universe, except by the remembrancer Mersadie Oliton. Her questioning of the Astartes principles caused Loken to question his own methods and beliefs, ultimately opening his mind to the flaws of the empirical truth he strives to impress on his enemies. Similarly, the progression of the DARPA Warrior Web program by the US military raises a moral question: how far should humanity push the boundaries of physical, technological augmentation? One could argue that the strive for human technological enhancement may lead to the creation of dehumanised, mechanical cyborgs which could irreversibly lead to the downfall of humanity as we know it and thus, the inevitable decline of human morals. The combination of the grotesque, superstition, the concept of the ego and a New Historicist reading of the text, all contribute to a unique and innovative exploration of the concept of morality in Horus Rising, one which also encourages the reader to re-evaluate their understanding of morality.
  23. 23. 21 Works Cited Abnett, Dan. 2006. Horus Rising: the seeds of Heresy are sown. Nottingham: Black Library. Barry, Peter. 2002. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Haraway, Donna. 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. [Internet] New York: Routledge, pp.149181. Available from http://www.egs.edu/faculty/donna- haraway/articles/donna-haraway-a-cyborg-manifesto/ [Accessed 28 September 2015] Lexicanum. Garviel Loken. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Garviel_Loken [Accessed 30 December 2014] Lexicanum. Horus. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Horus [Accessed 28 September 2015] Warhammer 40k wiki. Imperial Cult. http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Imperial_Cult [Accessed 16 January 2015] Lexicanum. Iterator. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Iterator [Accessed 28 September 2015] Lexicanum. Mournival. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Mournival [Accessed 28 September 2015] Lexicanum. Remembrancer. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Remembrancer#fn_1 [Accessed 28 September 2015] Lexicanum. The Great Crusade. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/The_Great_Crusade [Accessed 28 September 2015] Lexicanum. Warhammer 40,000. http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Warhammer_40,000 [Accessed 28 September 2015] McCarty, Mary. March 16, 2013. 45 years later, impact from My Lai case is still felt. [Internet] Ohio, Dayton Daily News. Available from http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/45-years-later- impact-from-my-lai-case-is-still-felt-1.212088 [Accessed 28 September 2015] McNally, David. 2014. DARPA's Warrior Web project may provide super-human enhancements. [Internet] RDECOM Public Affairs. Available from http://www.army.mil/article/125315/DARPA_s_Warrior_Web_project_may_provide_super_human _enhancements [Accessed 28 September 2015]
  24. 24. 22 Miethe, Terance D. and Hong Lu. 2005. Punishment: A Comparative Historical Perspective. [Internet] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from https://books.google.fi/books?id=o2ovr4ZzIXsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=punishment:+a+compar ative+historical+perspective&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_AL7VOH3B4qfygP9y4KABg&ved=0CB4Q6AE wAA#v=onepage&q=punishment%3A%20a%20comparative%20historical%20perspective&f=fals e [Accessed 28 September 2015] Perttula, Irma. 2011. The Grotesque: Concept and Characteristics in The Grotesque and the Unnatural. Eds. Markku Salmela and Jarkko Toikkanen. Amherst, New York: Cambria Press. Tolle, Eckhart. 2005. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. New York: Plume. Appendix 1. Portrait of Garviel Loken 2. Adept of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
  25. 25. 23 3. Planned DARPA exoskeleton