Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 is known for being a grimdark tabletop miniatures game. But its fiction imprint, called Black Library, goes a bit deeper to tell the story of one of the darkest, most violent universes in pop culture today. Now the UK-based hobby games company is launching a line of young adult fiction, one that promises stories that “are perfect for bookworms aged 8-12 who want to read about heroes, aliens and monsters.”
Some fans are understandably confused.
Called Warhammer Adventures, the YA series is kicking off in 2019 with two lines: one set in Games Workshop’s popular science fiction universe and the other set its fantasy universe.
The lore surrounding the Warhammer 40,000 line, however, seems particularly watered down. How precisely do you explain planet-wide chemical weapon strikes, religiously enforced xenophobia and the intricacies of warp-induced demonic possession to an eight-year-old?
You do a lot of editing.
Here’s an example of the preamble from Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe, which is sitting on my nightstand right now. It tells a story from the history of the Dark Angels chapter of the Space Marines:
It is the 41st millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.
Here’s the description of that same universe from the Warhammer Adventures website:
Life in the 41st Millennium is hard. Ruled by the Emperor of Mankind from his Golden Throne on Terra, humans have spread across the galaxy, inhabiting millions of planets. They have achieved so much, from space travel to robotics, and yet billions live in fear. The universe seems a dangerous place, teeming with alien horrors and dark powers. But it is also a place bristling with adventure and wonder, where battles are won and heroes are forged.
It’s missing a little something, wouldn’t you say?
- Zelia, the daughter of galactic explorer Elise Lor, is one of the Warhammer 40,000 universe’s newest protagonists. She’s only 12. Games Workshop
- Talen is the son of an Imperial Guard Officer. He’s only 13 and recently ran away from home to avoid being conscripted. Games Workshop
- Mekki is a Martian tinker, able to communicate with “the machine-spirits that dwell inside computers and cogitators.” He’s only 11. Games Workshop
- In the line of Fantasy-themed Warhammer novels, Games Workshop is introducing 14-year-old Elio the healer... Games Workshop
- ... 12-year-old Hysh, a skilled tinker in her own right. It’s said that she’s built her own airship. Games Workshop
- Finally there’s 15-year-old Kiri, who was raised in a slave camp. Games Workshop
The announcement, which came yesterday from one of Games Workshop’s official Facebook pages, has been shared more than 1,600 times. Some of the commenters are ruthless, but Games Workshop is holding its own.
“Can’t wait to see how Warhammer Adventures will introduce Slaanesh and the Dark Eldar to its young readers,” quipped one commenter, calling out some of the more abhorrent creatures from the 40K canon.
“Tentatively,” said a representative from Games Workshop. “And with great tact.”
For every hater in that thread, however, there’s at least one fan who’s genuinely excited about the prospect of sharing their hobby with their children.
“Really excited about this!” said one father. “My almost 10-year-old daughter loves to look at my models and always asks about the books but they are not something I would let her read yet. These are perfect. [...] Thank you for this, anything to get her interested in something other than pretty princesses and mind numbingly annoying cartoons on the television AND bring me and her even closer is a big win in my book.”
One big takeaway from the Warhammer Adventures line is how inclusive it appears to be. For a property that has been very male and very white for a very, very long time, seeing women and people of color front-and-center on the covers of these books is remarkable. It’s a breath of fresh air to a hobby — and a community — that very badly needs it.
The first books in the Warhammer Adventures line will be out in 2019. You can sign up for the email list at the official website.