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Lucas Adorn

Inspiring Sci-fi Books

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What kind of sci-fi (or perhaps even fantasy) books/authors have you read that was an inspiration to you with regards to the 40k setting?

And I'm not looking for Black Library titles here, in fact anything but, as they are obvious choices.

So far I haven't read much sci-fi myself outside BL, but I'm chewing my way through DUNE at the moment.

-L

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While neither sci-fi nor fantasy, I'd recommend any collection of stories by Lovecraft. Granted, it won't be a 1 to 1 translation, but for atmospheric inspiration for Dark Heresy, you really can't go wrong there. Heck, even the various writers of the DH books like to tip their hat to his work (or the works derived from his works etc).

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Yes of course. I shouldn't be so limiting. Any kind of book, fiction or non-fiction, that inpired you with regards to the 40k setting or writing a campaign in it.

I just finished a book about spies and counter-spies which was an inpiration for the Dark Heresy Campaign I'm currently writing.

And Lovecraft does qualify. Which of the tales are your favorites?

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Clive Barker can be a bit of a chore sometimes, but if you're in need of some truly weird mutants (Cabal) and cult-machinations beyond the scope of just a bunch of blokes in robes (The Damnation Game) its inspirational. Course, if you carbon copy some it into your games while maintaining a straight face, people will think you're both sick and probably need to be locked away for the safety of the public. lengua.gif

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Richard Morgan for some good sci-fi, might give you some interesting Techpriest or Assassin characters, and Jeff Summers(electric Church, Digital Plague, Eternal Prison) does provide me with ideas for Scum types as well as some serious Heretek stuff like the Iron men and Simulcra.

 

The Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko are a good laugh to read for modern horror/dark comedy as well.

 

And any Terry Pratchett should provide you with ample characters for a hive.

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 The Scifi masterworks series currently being sold in British bookstores (at least) is pretty decent in this regard. Obvious ones such as "The Forever War", "The Last and First Men", "I am Legend" and a whole pile of Philip K **** ones, amongst others which are even more 'precise' in terms of excellent input for the DH setting. Those'd be the likes of "Gateway", "The Stars My Destination" and so forth.

Lots of really good stuff out there. If you're in a "Dune" mood (which is a rather striking novel, but I feel it looses impact if you read it having read much 40k first; they're very 'grand' and very 'weird-as-normal' in a sense) then the Isaac Asimov stuff will probably be right up your street too. I've heard "Foundation" is excellent, but I've only read a couple of shorts and "Robots and Empire" (which was also very interesting, albeit a bit disconnected since I hadn't read the earlier stories).

Overall, any 'classic' or 'good' sci-fi will probably be what you're looking for. And, in my experience, even 'crap' SF books typically still have very interesting and stimulating ideas in them, badly written or not! It's difficult to *completely* write off a book in my experience. But, as said, start off with some of the stuff above and you might find yourself thoroughly enjoying it!

HPL-P.S. My favourites in the HP Lovecraft field is singularly "At The Mountains of Madness". It's a magnificent story which perhaps feeds more towards the Rogue Trader feel rather than the DH one. Other 'greats' include the classic "Call of Cthulhu" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", with lesser greats such as "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and the rest. Altogether, it's difficult to go completely wrong. As cheap anthologies go, I recall Anthology 1 and 3 of the older paperbacks being the best quality, with 1 being my favourite (entitled "At the Mountains of Madness").

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Cyberpunk got the right attitude. Neromancer, Mona Lisa overdriver., etc by William Gibson  is a good place to start. They got an hysteric grimdark cynical edge to the worldview and stoytelling. They provide excellent inspiration to hives etc. Cool stunts and stuff is pulled of by competent people and the plots are awesome.

The cyberpunk techlevel would be deemed tech heresy in some aspects but, hey you can't get everything.

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For a little atmosphere, I would suggest the following short stories by George R.R. Martin

"Star Lady" gives a good expression what the world could be like for those making out a living in the red light and amusement districts near a space port. Both on a "regular" world or a hive.

"The way of Cross and Dragon" gives an idea how a heresy could work (althoug one should not adapt the picture of the Inquisition given their ;) )

Finally, "Sand Kings" is not only an entertaining story but gives a nice idea what a collector of live xenos could be like... and what problems he could have to face if not carefull with his "collection".

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 I might've mentioned it on here before, but Cordwainer Smith's "Instrumentality" / "The Rediscovery of Man" series seems to have had a lot of influence on 40k, directly or indirectly. We've got: dangerous faster than light travel populated by monstrous creatures, a secretive order of cyborgs willing to kill to protect their position in society, wide use of partially lobotomized cyber-slaves, an underclass of genetically impure humanoids, and finally the Instrumentality itself, a ruthless omnipresent organization that protects mankind's interests at all costs. 

The stories set just after the second dark age are particularly interesting and 40k ish, they might make good inspiration for how a world that has lost contact with the Imperium might look. 

 

 

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E.E "Doc: Smith - Lensman/Galactic Patrol series. It's a little rough in spots but it is a defining early work of Space Opera. It was also a huge influence on Babylon 5. Another precursor to space marines with genetically enhanced guys in heavy armor with big axes(in support to the psykers).

David Drake - Hammer's Slammers series - a fun bunch of books about a high tech mercenary armored company. It can be read as an IG company whose commander eventually raises to the level of a planetary governor.

Keith Laumer - Bolo seris - Fun AI tanks killing everything.

John Steakley - Armor -  man in power armor fighting bugs - Also another precursor to space marines.

Walter M. Miller, Jr. - A Canticle for Leibowitz - post apocalyptic Earth - can be read as the begginings of the Cult Mechanicus.

Richard Matheson, Auther C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Orson Scott Card, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, etc.

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Lucas Adorn said:

Yes of course. I shouldn't be so limiting. Any kind of book, fiction or non-fiction, that inpired you with regards to the 40k setting or writing a campaign in it.

I just finished a book about spies and counter-spies which was an inpiration for the Dark Heresy Campaign I'm currently writing.

And Lovecraft does qualify. Which of the tales are your favorites?

IMO the best Dark Heresy-ish Lovecraft stories are The Case ofCharles Dexter Ward and The Dunwich Horror, as they both involve (mostly) humans meddleing in things man was not meant to meddle in, rather than the protagonist stumbling upon an Elder Horror essentially by chance. 

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I'd like to add two more writers to the excellent ones metioned above.
First of all - Neal Stephenson's books. 'Snow Crash' is the most typical (albait very post-modern) sci-fi with a cyberpunkish feel. Lots of great characters and the plot involves hm.. heresy. 'Anathem' is great if you want a shrine world portrayal, a world where intelligent monks are a power of sort (can't say more not to spoil anything). But his masterwork is 'The Baroque Cycle' - set in historical times, dozens of great characters like Newton, who dabbles in alchemy etc. and also has this feel of the epoch, which can be a great help for games set in courts, among scientists etc.

Another writer is Dan Simmons. His classic sci-fi cycle Hyperion/Endymion is a bit different world than that in WH40K, but still you can get great ideas out of it for xenos/tech-heresy adventures. The same with fantastic Ilium and Olympos - time and space manipulation, strange xenos specios - it's all there. But his 'The Terror' is a great horror story, set in the icy arctic wastes. If you want to see how killing cold (like on Mara in 'Dead Stars') could be portrayed - that's the book.

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Granted, these are fantasy not sci-fi, but if you want the grim, gritty feel of the underside of a dying city, many of the short-stories in the Thieves' World anthologies are dead on.

Oh, and I'd like to second the recommendation of the Hammer's Slammers and Bolos series'.  gui%C3%B1o.gif

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Lovecraft: The Music of Eric Zann. I love the way so much of the actual horror,

monsters and such takes place off camera or on the periphery of the narration.

 

Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. Fantasy, but for political intrigue, backstabbing,

venom and malice it's one of the best.

 

1984. The callous bureaucracy crushing people for power using an imaginary figurehead

would make a great way for some world's leaders to behave, paying lip service to the

Emperor as just a way to keep power. Proving it could be more interesting.

 

 

 

 

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I have read Song of Ice and Fire and they are some of the best fantasy books I have read. Character portraying and the political intrigue is superb.

There are many good suggestions, some of which I have read or been looking to read (Asimov, Lovecraft, Le Carre among others), and I'm glad to have it confirmed that it is time worth spending.

I've also heard alot of praise for China Mieville and he is also on my long list of authors to be read.

 

-L

 

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@Werefish: there's no shame in that. Though the books may be very commercial, it is as you say a source of inspiration for conundrums, enigmas and investigation scenarios. And the Dark Heresy books are filled with hints and snippets of stories that promise something bigger or darker. Symbolism is important in such stories and can be a great way to introduce subtle clues to the players.

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Friend of the Dork said:

Starship troopers.. I mean where you do you think space marines are from? And no, not the movie version.

While I agree that the book is magnitudes better than the movie, I'd recommend the movie nonetheless, because it does a tremendously good job of portraying the wretched life in the Imperial Guard.

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for my ten pennies worth...

iain.m.banks [probably my favorite sci-fi author] - Consider Phlebas; The Player of Games; Use of Weapons; The State of the Art; Against a Dark Background; Feersum Endjinn; Excession; Inversions; Look to Windward; The Algebraist; Matter; Transition...

Michael Marshall Smith – Spares
 

Peter F. Hamilton - The Night's Dawn Trilogy

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ok i'm going to pitch my suggestions in and then run for cover, a few of you may question my sanity afterwards - and all of my players will probably agree.

Anything by Tom Clancy but in particular the Jack Ryan series - though for DH executive orders is quite good for a planet being re-builtafter a change of leadership, and Rainbow 6 (the book not the game) is good for showing how a series of small unconnected events can quickly spiral into something far more deadly. A special note should go to the first book i the series called Without Remorse, a fantastic source of ideas for mysterious killings in the underhive.

and the really out-there suggestion - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - brilliant for ideas on how to look at things completely sideways, and offers a little light relief.

just my thoughts, though i will second Dune and Lovecraft

Surak

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Skie said:

Another writer is Dan Simmons. His classic sci-fi cycle Hyperion/Endymion is a bit different world than that in WH40K, but still you can get great ideas out of it for xenos/tech-heresy adventures. The same with fantastic Ilium and Olympos - time and space manipulation, strange xenos specios - it's all there. But his 'The Terror' is a great horror story, set in the icy arctic wastes. If you want to see how killing cold (like on Mara in 'Dead Stars') could be portrayed - that's the book.

 

I love the Hyperion Cantos (thats what teh 4 book series is called gui%C3%B1o.gif ) and i've used the Church of the Shrike as the inspiration for a very very cool Heretech/Daemon cult for my last game, and it worked great, though none of my players got the reference to the shrike or the cruisiform since htey'd never read the books.

 

Dune, Forever War, Starship Troopers, all great, and Lovecraft as well, but for me, the biggest inspiration for my current game is Dead Girls/Boys/Things by Richard Calder, if you've read it, i want to be your friend, if you've never heard of it, i'm not suprised. Its pretty bizare, and hard to follow, but has a lot of really good material to use, if your willing to play with it.

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While at Dan Simmons be sure to pick up Song of Kali. Wonderfull fantasy/horror in modern setting. Being set up in Kalkutta one could easily use the plot in some crazy Hive World daemon-hunt.

 

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