Fists of Beauty

by Arthur B

Arthur reviews Space Marine, a long-out-of print Warhammer 40,000 novel by Ian Watson.
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Unlike the Warhammer Fantasy world, the universe of Warhammer 40,000 has changed radically since its first inception, to the point where entire major intelligent species have been tossed into the memory hole because they no longer fit the atmosphere. There have been many casualties of this slow progression of the mileau from an anything-goes universe where anything that might happen in the pages of 2000 AD might be encountered to a more focused variety of grim far future darkness, and amongst these casaulties is Space Marine, Ian Watson's 1993 novel. Whereas most of the early Warhammer Fantasy tie-in novels remain in print - even dreck like the Konrad Saga - Space Marine has been allowed to vanish, the stated reason being that it happens to deal with large amounts of material which has been removed from the Warhammer 40,000 canon.

Except, I begin to wonder whether there isn't more to it than that. You see, it isn't just that Space Marine takes place in a universe which no longer quite resembles the official Warhammer 40,000 setting. Space Marine is also more than a little gay.
[...] the boy's green eyes gleamed with evident intelligence... and with fierce emnity... and with a kind of fascination, as he weighed the mask in his hand and stared at its former wearer, now revealed.

For Lexandro sported no scars whatever on his comely, olive-complexioned face - only a ruby ring through his slim right nostril. [...]

The scum kid seemed about to fit the mask to his own face so as to hide his savage features... or to become, for a few moments, the reflexion of Lexandro who lived such an unimaginable, foreign life.
The action of Space Marine begins on Necromunda, the population of which lives in enormous hive-cities. The aforementioned Lexandro is a teenage member of a gang of bored aristocratic youths who raid the lower reaches of the hive in order to screw around with the lower classes; we first meet them as they, at the behest of the gang leader, capture a member of a middle-class gang of engineer's kids and a member of a "scum" gang from the downtrodden masses of the underhive, and kill them in a particularly nasty way. During the fighting, Lexandro has the above confrontation with Biff, a member of the scum gang, and also encounters Yeremi, a member of the tech gang. Their meeting is also a mixture of mutual hatred and fascination.
[...] Lexandro pivoted - to spy a tech boy as tall as himself, blond, lightly scarred with some pious runes nicking one cheek. The tech's azure gaze raked Lexandro contemptuously, yet also somewhat longingly.

"We labour for you. We're your bulwark against the underscum. Yet you treat us all as playthings." The boy was putting on a high-hab accent that a rich brat could understand.

"Join us, then," invited Lexandro loftily. "Claw your way upward. Serve the lordly ones. Partake of pleasures. But meanwhile..."
By the end of the first chapter, some time has passed, and all three boys have chosen (for their own reasons) to volunteer to join a Planetary Defence Force raid against a rebel hive-city. And all three of them are plucked from the recruitment pool for a higher purpose - to join the Imperial Fist chapter of the Space Marines. They are tested by being stripped naked, given medical tests, and then - still naked - must answer the questions of the Space Marine recruiter to his satisfaction. Throughout this process Lexandro, for one, finds the Marine's "extraordinary physique" incredibly distracting.
How could any man be so huge and powerful in the flesh? How could he radiate such ruthless adamantine presence?

[...]

He had never stuttered before, neither during his humiliating initiation into the Lordly Phantasms, nor or on any subsequent hazardous escapade with them. [...] However, this was different. Goose bumps pocked his bare flesh. He felt genuine awe at this superhuman man, at once so puissant, so self-possessed, so monomaniac in his demeanour.
So, having been plucked from their sleepy planet-bound lives they are spirited away to the Imperial Fist headquarters, which is part monastery, part boot camp, and part Sadean torture palace. They are warned that if they commit serious misdeeds, or don't pass muster, then their brains will be wiped and they will be used as slave labour or in horrifying medical experiments. Minor infractions of military discipline are punished by the pain glove, normally before the infractor's assembled peers; the first major incident of the Necromundan trio's training is when Lexandro is subjected to precisely this punishment. He is stripped naked and placed in a skin-tight body glove that is bound to a surface so that he can't move around in it. The glove is designed to overload every single one of his nerves with pain; during his two minutes of punishment, Lexandro believes that Rogal Dorn, the founder of the Chapter, is speaking to him. Biff and Yeremi lift Lexandro out of the glove, and he prostrates himself before the statue of Dorn in the chapel. The instructor states that Lexandro's stoic endurance of this public scourging suggests that he has already been touched by Dorn, even before he (or any of the other cadets) have received the injections of Dorn's genetic material and the surgically-implanted organs that will transform them from raw recruits into superhuman Space Marines. It is later stated explicitly that one of the consequences of receiving Dorn's genetic material is a masochistic fascination with pain - it's specificially described as a "kink" - and sure enough Lexandro soon finds himself looking forward to punishment in the pain glove before his assembled Brothers.

Watson explains to us that another manner in which the Fists exercise their fascination with pain is in inflicting pain on each other; Lexandro witnesses two Brothers of the Chapter arranging a duel to first blood and then strolling hand-in-hand together to the meditation room to prepare themselves, and the second major incident of the training program involves the older cadets hazing the younger boys by waking them up in the middle of the night and making them run naked through a tunnel full of neuron-affecting fields designed to inflict pain. Lexandro, Yerami, and Biff are the only ones who make it through to the end, but crucially Biff and Yerami only make it because Lexandro helps them - not because he likes them necessarily, but because he knows it would make him look good to do so, and he wants their help in kicking the asses of the older recruits he expects to encounter at the end of the tunnel, who have promised to brand the buttocks of anyone who makes it through. In fact, it turns out that the pain-tunnel hazing was semi-officially sanctioned, so when the trio find a Space Marine officer waiting for them they eagerly submit to his attentions.
Yet still, there was to be a branding upon the leather-tough buttocks: an imprint of a clenched fist, no larger than a fingernail. Only, this was indeed to be an honour - for the Sergeant himself personally wielded the electro-iron when Lexandro, Yeremi, and Biff bent over to flex the great gluteal muscles of their rumps.
But enough quotes. I think I've made my point: the first third of the book reads partially like Ender's Game fan fiction, partially like gay S&M porn, and partially like 13-year-old boys sniggering about buttsex. I don't object to the idea of introducing a gay subtext to a story about big burly men blowing up aliens in outer space; given that there are no female characters in the book at all it's the only way to have any sort of romantic subplot whatsoever, and it adds an interesting extra dimension to Lexandro, Yerami and Biff's mutual love-hate relationship. What irks me is the fact that Watson clearly hasn't the faintest idea how to handle it; whenever a homosexual subtext arises, it seems that Watson is either trying to write wank material or is being totally juvenile about the issue, chortling to himself all the way. This is especially jarring since Watson appears to be trying to take the Warhammer 40,000 universe semi-seriously, or at least write military-themed space adventure stories which don't descend into self-parody.

The real shame about the whole thing is that it tends to overshadow the really interesting aspects of the first third of the book, which is the love-hate triangle between Lexandro, Yerami, and Biff which starts developing here, and ends up becoming the major theme of the novel. Plucked out of their homes on Necromunda, the boys still bring their class prejudices with them. Lexandro is, for most of the book, a truly horrible piece of work, convinced to the core that he was born to be on top, and treating everyone he meets who doesn't actually outrank him with contempt as a result. His religious visions of Rogal Dorn in the pain glove and the torture tunnel and elsewhere convince him that he has a special destiny: to master pain and death and become a high officer in the Imperial Fists. To this end, he adopts a death-or-glory attitude, looking to take outrageous risks in battle in order to either martyr himself (thus proving himself a better Fist than Yerami or Biff) or win the honour and recognition he believes is his birthright.

Yerami, meanwhile, is filled with a desire for social justice, having received just enough education to feel discontent with his old station in life. He becomes a strange sort of materialistic idealist, not really believing that the Emperor of Mankind is really a god and therefore not quite able to accept that the Emperor's justice is absolute justice. He despises Lexandro for his high-handed attitude, and yet interestingly does not seem to spare a thought for Biff at all, as if he subconsciously dismisses the underclass Biff comes from even as he condemns Lexandro for his own classist attitudes. Realising Lexandro has a martyr-complex, he decides to do his best to ensure that Lexandro survives, surmising that if he protects Lexandro then Lexandro can't take all the glory, and can be cheated out of martyring himself.

Last but not least, Biff struggles between his atavistic background in the underhive and the new world of learning and knowledge and understanding that has opened to him as a result of his induction into the Space Marines. His main struggle is getting the others to accept that he is an intelligent, thinking man just like they are, and convincing them not to dismiss his opinions out of hand. He comes to realise that he must protect Yerami just as Yerami protects Lexandro, for somewhat more convoluted and nebulous reasons.

Thus, while each of the three (aside from Lexandro) wishes to buck the limitations placed on them by their class origins, they end up in an unwilling mutual protection relationship whereby Yerami shields Lexandro and Biff shields Yerami, reflecting their original pecking order in society. And yet despite the fact that they resent one another, they also come to feel a certain comradeship and intimacy (Watson's word, not mine) through their experiences in battle. The sniggering "Space Marines are gay!" jokes work their way into Watson's depiction of this relationship in the later stages of the book too - there's one memorable bit where they've been chained naked to a sacrificial altar by the villain, who is also for some bizarre reason nude bar for a loincloth, and Yerami manages to work himself partially free and lies on top of Lexandro to protect him, and there's a bit where their boarding pod manages to slip into one of the Tyranids' organic spaceships by slipping into its anus - but in the second two thirds of the book they are less obtrusive, Watson spending more time writing about fighting and less time writing about punishment and cattiness and secret initiation rituals involving the comingling of unspecified bodily fluids.

And yet, whilst the latter part of Space Marine offers fun interstellar adventure, and an interesting early depiction of the Tyranids (who had only recently been added to the Warhammer 40,000 setting), it is marred somewhat by all of the badly-handled gay space bondage. Like I said before, I don't think the idea of adding a homosexual subtext to a story about Space Marines is completely stupid, but writing it as if you're a troll posting "LOL SPACE MARIENS R ALL FAGG0RTZ" messages on Warhammer 40,000 message boards is. I can understand why Games Workshop chose not to reprint it; whilst I'd be the first to condemn them if they discontinued a book because it contained a gay relationship, I can see why they might object to Watson implying that an entire chapter of Space Marines are butt-branding sadomasochists.

Oh, yes, and there's a sequence where the Space Marines eat some people's brains to get their knowledge. I don't think they can do that any more in canon.
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Comments (go to latest)
Wardog at 10:14 on 2008-07-03
Dude ... just .... dude ...

My gast is flabbered.
Arthur B at 16:35 on 2009-02-26
Update on this: Space Marine has still not been reprinted by the Black Library, but Ian Watson's other Warhammer 40,000 work - the Inquisitor trilogy has. I've got the whole thing, so I'll be doing a Reading Canary review at some point in the future.

I regret to report that (so far at least) there is less butt-branding in the Inquisitor trilogy.
Hmmm...
I've read Space Marine about a year ago and I didn't really see any homosexual stuff.
Actually, it's kinda difficult for me to see anything that asexual beings do as -sexual.
A lot of stuff that Space Marines do may appear gay to some readers, because as asexual beings they are no longer bound by some social conventions. For example, while for someone else a sight of a naked man/boy may have sexual connotations, but not for an asexual marine.

The book never actually shows homosexualism - characters don't get sexually aroused by other men.
Even when non-transformed Lexandro sees the Space Marine his reaction is "genuine awe", not sexual arousal.
Wardog at 16:55 on 2009-11-03
I get that and, of course, I haven't read it ... but to this non-asexual reader it's still kinda funny :)
Arthur B at 17:05 on 2009-11-03
So... erm... when you see a group of men who brand each other on the bum, share unspecified bodily fluids in initiation ceremonies, have vivid fantasies about dressing up in a skintight bodyglove in order to have pain inflicted on them in front of their peers, invade alien ships through the anus, and are physically consumed and drained of their vital essences by mysterious vaginal orifices within said ship...

...you don't consider that to be even a teeny bit Freudian?

I will grant you that in canon Space Marines are sterile (or rather, they can't reproduce conventionally, but must harvest geneseed from their fallen comrades - hurr). But I'd dispute the idea that they have no sexual motivations whatsoever. Watson may have been somewhat coy about it due to GW's editorial policies at the time (then again, he got the butt-branding past his editors, so he probably didn't need to be that coy), but there's no getting around the fact that Lexandro daydreams about taking pain in order to inspire admiration in his fellow men, and there's no denying that a close relationship binds the three protagonists. It never becomes physically intimate, but I very much got the impression that such impulses are diverted elsewhere amongst the Imperial Fists, rather than being entirely absent. After all, it should be remembered that the characters here are recruited in their late teens, at the absolute latest, and Lexandro at least appears to have been something of a hedonist in his youth; it's not as though they were gelded as prepubescents and never developed any sexual urges.
Arthur B at 18:27 on 2009-11-03
Also, even if the Space Marines are asexual and don't see the sexual connotations of their (naked, sweaty) male bonding activities, most of the readership is not asexual, a fact Ian Watson is presumably aware of. It is possible that he depicted the imagery and situations he chose to depict with an eye to telling the readers something about the Space Marines which might elude the Space Marines themselves.
I get that and, of course, I haven't read it ... but to this non-asexual reader it's still kinda funny :)

This reader isn't asexual either and found some stuff like bum-branding a bit amusing, but still didn't detect gayness of Space Marines.

Also, even if the Space Marines are asexual and don't see the sexual connotations of their (naked, sweaty) male bonding activities, most of the readership is not asexual, a fact Ian Watson is presumably aware of. It is possible that he depicted the imagery and situations he chose to depict with an eye to telling the readers something about the Space Marines which might elude the Space Marines themselves.

Well, on the other hand he provides a description of the character's thoughts and feelings that doesn't leave much to reader's imagination.
I would rather say that any homosexual connotations say more about reader than about in-book characters.
I think that such interpretation cheapens the whole book as a study of Space Marine psyche.

While I was warned about the alleged homosexualism/pedophillia of Space Marines before reading the book, I interpret their behaviour differently.

What I saw was all-pervasive religious militarism and extreme focus on discipline and aggression.

But I'd dispute the idea that they have no sexual motivations whatsoever. Watson may have been somewhat coy about it due to GW's editorial policies at the time (then again, he got the butt-branding past his editors, so he probably didn't need to be that coy), but there's no getting around the fact that Lexandro daydreams about taking pain in order to inspire admiration in his fellow men, and there's no denying that a close relationship binds the three protagonists.

It doesn't mean that it's sexual/gay/whatever.

Lexandro is extremely vain and ambitious - he takes the chapter's religious and militaristic ideals of endurance and sacrifice to the extreme.
He not only dreams about his pain being seen and admired by the whole chapter, but also daydreams about dying in an exploding Titan and his death being noticed by the Emperor himself. Actually, even in the Tyranid ship, he is dreaming about a glorious death.
If anything, I would say that he's a delusional narcissistic megalomaniac, not gay.

Yerami protects him (that includes shielding him with his own body - there wasn't anything sexual about that scene. Unless off course all bodily contact between men is gay and wrestling is in fact a homosexual orgy in disguise, not a sport) because he finds Lexandro's devotion false and wants to make him and everyone see that Lexandro isn't really blessed by Dorn, but just behaves like irresponsible upper-hive brat.
After all, Lexandro's piety offends his logic and his arrogance offends his strong sense of justice. His relationship is with Lexandro is like it is because of Yerami's obsession with justice.

I have found the strong bond between them all - starting out as mortal enemies and becoming brothers and how it affects them to be the best part of the novel. It made me enjoy reading it more than any other Wh40k novel. It's really twisted and amusing.

Watching cadets running through a Tunnel of Terror is used to ease the hormonal tensions of older cadets. The thing is that these aren't sexual tensions.
The nature of these tensions is revealed when the cadets are confronted with a Slann captive and all of them experience xenocidal rage and sense "homicidal/xenocidal pheromones" in the air.
It shows that Space Marines are different - they don't see the world like us. Hatred, violence, endurance, discipline, faith - these are their the purpose of their lives.

As for the nakedness - flogging naked was (and is in some countries) historically used as a punishment.
Public punishment wasn't unusual too.

Much more peculiar was their fascination with excrement and carving bones of their fallen comrades, which wasn't mentioned in the review (BTW. I suspect that the mysterious excretions of their brothers that would be mixed into the ritual drink later would be excrements or phlegm or something equally disgusting).

I think that they main reason why Space Marine isn't reprinted isn't the alleged gayness, but because it takes away the glamour of the tabletop Space Marines.
It explores the implications of the concept of kiddies turned into genetically modified religious fanatics that exist only to kill people/aliens in the name of the Emperor.

It shows how messed-up such people would be. Would kiddies want to collect Space Marine armies if they knew that every Marine isn't a "superman", but a completely messed up psycho?

What strikes me about this book is how perverse (in non-sexual way) is the mind of the Space Marine who is not only conditioned to be a ruthless Space Taliban, but also carries a baggage of his own psychological problems from his previous life.
And he gets worse. He doesn't really inspire awe, but laughter or pity.
Almost every thought of these guys is so off the wall, that I was too busy laughing at them to look for "gay jokes".

Anyway, I don't think it would be so good without exploring the whole obsession with endurance and discipline. It's an integral part of the chapter, just as the scrimshawing thing.
Arthur B at 02:24 on 2009-11-06
Well, on the other hand he provides a description of the character's thoughts and feelings that doesn't leave much to reader's imagination.
And those thoughts and feelings include a fascination with pain that borders on the fetishistic, and which is quite clearly described as a "kink" of the Fist psychology in the text, and which is explored in scenarios in which superior Marines dominate and humiliate their inferiors.

Now, I will grant you that this does not suggest vanilla homosexuality. It does, however, make the Space Marines look an awful lot like bondage ubermensch in space.

While I was warned about the alleged homosexualism/pedophillia of Space Marines before reading the book, I interpret their behaviour differently.

What I saw was all-pervasive religious militarism and extreme focus on discipline and aggression.
The pedophilia is news to me, I don't suppose you know where that idea might have come from?

I agree that the purported purpose of much of the Imperial Fist training was to forge the group into a disciplined military unit. It's when the needless nudity and the joys of spreading one's buttocks for the sergeant come into play that I raise an eyebrow. There is training, there is hazing, and then there is weird S&M branding rituals, and the tunnel of pain turns into the latter.

You can take any single element of the novel, examine it, say "well, that isn't necessarily a sex thing" and toss it aside, and then declare the thing to be entirely asexual once you've got through all the features. But for me, it's precisely the fact that all of these things are brought together in the same place which suggests a sexual connotation to at least a portion of the book. It's not the discipline, or the nudity, or the branding, or the pain glove, or any of the other features alone that make the whole thing reek of repressed sexuality, but the way that they all come together (hurr).

In other words, the whole is hornier than the sum of its parts.

I have found the strong bond between them all - starting out as mortal enemies and becoming brothers and how it affects them to be the best part of the novel. It made me enjoy reading it more than any other Wh40k novel. It's really twisted and amusing.
Agreed, and I found the sequence with Lexandro scrimshawing the names of his fallen comrades on his own finger bones to be extremely effective. But how does the Sadean nature of the Imperial Fist training invalidate this?
I think that they main reason why Space Marine isn't reprinted isn't the alleged gayness, but because it takes away the glamour of the tabletop Space Marines.
It explores the implications of the concept of kiddies turned into genetically modified religious fanatics that exist only to kill people/aliens in the name of the Emperor.
I don't buy this, not for a second. What about all the other Space Marine novels out there, at least a few of which remember to regularly point out how fucked up the whole Space Marine concept actually is?

Anyway, I don't think it would be so good without exploring the whole obsession with endurance and discipline. It's an integral part of the chapter, just as the scrimshawing thing.
Same here, it's just that most of the discipline sequences read almost exactly like BDSM scenarios.
I agree that the purported purpose of much of the Imperial Fist training was to forge the group into a disciplined military unit. It's when the needless nudity and the joys of spreading one's buttocks for the sergeant come into play that I raise an eyebrow. There is training, there is hazing, and then there is weird S&M branding rituals, and the tunnel of pain turns into the latter.

Spreading buttocks for the sergeant? Hmm... No such thing happened in the branding scene.
As for the nudity - I have always assumed that it's necessary for the pain glove/Tunnel of Terror to work correctly.

Also, it's not only about forging a disciplined military unit. It's about turning individuals into supermen who will all be able to fight after receiving terrible injuries and who will gladly sacrifice their lives if necessary.

And those thoughts and feelings include a fascination with pain that borders on the fetishistic, and which is quite clearly described as a "kink" of the Fist psychology in the text, and which is explored in scenarios in which superior Marines dominate and humiliate their inferiors.

It's religious, not fetishistic. The latter would require Marines to be sexual beings. It's a fascination with pain itself, with positive values that it represents (survival, endurance, sacrifice, purity, etc.) not sexualization of pain.

I have a different interpretation of the Tunnel of Terror.
While it was a source of amusement for the older cadets, it's also an opportunity for the neophytes to discover their strength/limitations.
Lexandro initially sees it as a humiliation, and the older cadets having fun at his cost and wants vengeance, but when he discovers his superior endurance, and finds out that by enduring, they have earned respect of their elders.
They aren't humiliated by pain, but become superior through enduring it.
As for the "joys" of being branded by a sergeant - initially, they thought that they will be branded by the older cadets which would be just another humiliation, not a reward. They would have a brand that would stay as a mark of that humiliation forever.

In the end, it turned out that the brand is a mark of honour given by a man who respected their deed.

I found the Tunnel of Terror scene very impressive. It was much closer to the forming of a soldier from Starship Troopers than to S&M fiction.

In other words, the whole is hornier than the sum of its parts.

Sadly, books where characters don't get sexually aroused aren't a good "wank material" for me.

As for the other stuff - Chaos dude and the Tyranid ship - both should have sexual connotations due to their source material - real life Chaos Magick is quite perverted and Tyranids are inspired by Aliens which are inspired by H.R.Gigers work, which obviously involves sexual organs.

I don't buy this, not for a second. What about all the other Space Marine novels out there, at least a few of which remember to regularly point out how fucked up the whole Space Marine concept actually is?

I haven't read much SM novels, but almost all the ones I've read (Horus Rising, a few Ragnar novels, Eye of Terror and Bloodquest) present them as heroic noble figures, not as a collection of mental disorders.

Same here, it's just that most of the discipline sequences read almost exactly like BDSM scenarios.

Such scenarios aren't exclusive to BDSM and are often borrowed from other uses.
Military training, initiation into a group and religious ritual flagellation are a sufficient explanation.
After all, Lexandro is called a martyr wannabe and a flagellant by Yeremi.
Arthur B at 13:58 on 2009-11-06
Spreading buttocks for the sergeant? Hmm... No such thing happened in the branding scene.
I refer you to the quote I present above, in which the branding is "indeed to be an honour - for the Sergeant himself personally wielded the electro-iron when Lexandro, Yeremi, and Biff bent over to flex the great gluteal muscles of their rumps"...

As far as the nudity goes, saying "you need to be naked for the pain glove and the tunnel to work" is an enormous copout. So far as I can tell, both of those things were invented by Watson for the purpose of the book, and the parameters for their function were invented by him. If they need to be naked, it's because Watson decided that they needed to be naked.
Which is relevant to? It's not like readers see the naked characters, or characters are described getting aroused be seeing other characters naked or that there's anything remotely erotic about the pain-glove scene.
The chaplain wouldn't even be able to feel sexual arousal as his body was missing below waist.

As for the reason for nakedness outside the story...
It could be simply, because clothing is associated with protection. It's even called "protective garments" before the Tunnel of Terror.

Nakedness symbolises vulnerability.

The nerve-glove is described as a mesh of electrofibres will stimulate excruciating pain signals in all the nerves in Lexandro's flesh without any physical harm to that flesh.
So, it's no different from attaching electrodes to naked flesh during EKG tests.
It would be a bit silly to leave an uniform between the flesh and the device so that no one would read the dreaded word - "nude".

Anyway, what exactly would change about these scenes if they would enter Pain Glove/Tunnel of Terror in their uniforms? Also, would the book become better if the brand would be put on their foreheads, not on their buttocks?
Andy G at 10:28 on 2009-11-07
It's religious, not fetishistic


Where do you think the word "fetish" comes from? And not without reason ...

Also, would the book become better if the brand would be put on their foreheads, not on their buttocks?


I don't know if it would be better or worse, but it would probably be a *teensy* bit less homoerotic, don't you think?
Arthur B at 15:16 on 2009-11-07
It's not like readers see the naked characters,
By this argument there is no such thing as written erotica. Most large book shops disagree with you on this point.

or characters are described getting aroused be seeing other characters naked or that there's anything remotely erotic about the pain-glove scene.
You... you are on the Internet, right? The pain glove scene wasn't erotic to me either, but that doesn't mean it isn't erotic to anyone.

Look, https://me.yahoo.com/a/6.torC9qnud_LDZSGEJBa.kEzm8-#4baba (do you mind if I call you 6.tor?), you seem to be arguing two things:

- The fun and games in the Imperial Fist training regime aren't homoerotic at all.
- It would be inherently inappropriate to have homoerotic elements in a Space Marine novel, an outright affront to their dignity.

We've backed and forthed on the first point a hell of a lot, but do you think we could look at the second? Personally, I don't see why a gay Marine couldn't also be an honourable, disciplined, impassioned warrior for the Empire. You seem to be suggesting that a homoerotic subtext to any of the training ordeals would inherently wreck the point of them - that it can't be religious and homoerotic, or it couldn't be about martial discipline and men surrendering themselves wholly to other men. What's up with that?
Robinson L at 15:31 on 2009-11-12
I know next to nothing about Warhammer, but it seems to me that 6.tor (if you don't mind us calling you that) is making the fundamental assumption that Space Marines—even trainee Marines—are clinically asexual. You've used this argument more than once as a given fact. So then, my questions are a) how do you know this? b) does your knowledge also extend to how this is achieved (castration, hormone suppression, drugs, magic, etc.)?

You also seem to be assuming that Arthur should know these “facts” already, but it should be obvious by now that he does not. Can you see how it might be possible that he has missed this knowledge?

Unless off course ... wrestling is in fact a homosexual orgy in disguise, not a sport
Is nobody going to make the obvious joke?
Arthur B at 15:47 on 2009-11-12
For what it's worth, my understanding of canon is that Space Marines are sterile as a by-product of the process of becoming a Marine (which involves extensive surgery and implanting various artificially-grown glands, including the geneseed).

Sterility, however, does not imply a lack of sexual drive. Exactly how closely Marines adhere to humanlike psychology is up for debate, and in the novels down to the individual author.

6.tor's argument seems to be that the Marines are nigh-inhuman, driven solely by military discipline, a fanatical devotion to the Emperor, and ridiculous amounts of aggression. This is how they are meant to be, but it is indisputable in canon that this is not how they always are. The Chaos Space Marines, for example, started out when a bunch of Marines rebelled against the Emperor. And within the context of Watson's novel, Lexandro is very clearly an extremely bad Space Marine. His attitude is all wrong, narcissistic and obsessed with his own personal glory, and he cares not at all for his battle-brothers. It's only by the end of the novel that he has even the vaguest understanding of what it means to be a Marine at all.
Dan H at 18:33 on 2009-11-12
Also, even if Space Marines *are* asexual, that doesn't change the fact that any situation involving a bunch of muscular young men getting naked and sweaty with each other *is* homoerotic kind of by definition, even if none of the men in question are actually turned on by it.
Rami at 19:04 on 2009-11-12
muscular young men getting naked and sweaty with each other *is* homoerotic kind of by definition
Good point -- and isn't that the definition under which, say, the porn industry operates? Certainly I doubt the actors & actresses in that are particularly turned on by what they're doing...
Dan H at 19:11 on 2009-11-12
Actually, I kinda hope not.

You could go somewhere with really strict pornography laws, and hire a bunch of asexual people to make hardcore skin ficks and make a fortune.
Dan H at 19:12 on 2009-11-12
Also: You could have a campaign with banners saying "IT'S NOT PORN IF THEY DON'T ENJOY IT"
Arthur B at 20:01 on 2009-11-12
Rami:
Good point -- and isn't that the definition under which, say, the porn industry operates? Certainly I doubt the actors & actresses in that are particularly turned on by what they're doing...

I believe there is in fact industry-specific jargon - "gay for pay" and "straight for pay" - to denote performers who are willing to perform acts which they don't personally find appealing on camera.

There was an awesome Louis Theroux documentary where this is explained to him.

Dan:
Also: You could have a campaign with banners saying "IT'S NOT PORN IF THEY DON'T ENJOY IT"

Oh, you mean an ad campaign? For a moment I thought you were contemplating making an Imperial Fist army with "IT'S NOT PORN IF THEY DON'T ENJOY IT" emblazoned across the company standard.
Shim at 20:27 on 2009-11-12
For a moment I thought you were contemplating making an Imperial Fist army with "IT'S NOT PORN IF THEY DON'T ENJOY IT" emblazoned across the company standard.


Yeah, WAY out of canon, Dan. You're thinking of the Emperor's Children.
Dan H at 00:15 on 2009-11-13
The Emperor's Children enjoy *everything*. They have, like, points in it.
Arthur B at 19:18 on 2010-03-18
Space Marine is now available again as a print-on-demand title. Unlike the Inquisitor Trilogy, they've not tampered with the text to bring it into line with current canon. So, uh, Pain Gloves and butt-branding all round.
Shim at 07:58 on 2013-09-03
A recording from Eastercon (available here, this isn't the recording I heard but should of course be identical) sheds some interesting and fairly definitive light on the subject.

Ian Watson specifically states:
* he agreed to write some GW books because there was lots of money in it
* he ended up with 40K because all the fantasy had been bagged already
* he was baffled how to introduce individuality to anyone like space marines:

"Apart from the Library of Babel madness, there were also Citadel miniatures of these space marines, who looked identical, and how on earth could these have personalities in the slightest? I decided to introduce a homoerotic subtext... Bum-branding and various other things"

*He was told he'd have to change it quite a lot from the initial submission, but just then Games Workshop Books collapsed. There was a nine-month interregnum until Boxtree took over, during which time everyone forgot about the changes and it got published as-was.
* Once the print run ran out, GW punished him by effectively banning it for 15 years, and it's only now available as a print-on-demand "if you know where to look"
* "Anyway, victory was mine!"

"You can't republish anything by Games Workshop. Games Workshop owns every word. 'And' is registered by Games Workshop."
Arthur B at 09:18 on 2013-09-03
This just makes it even more amusing that the Pain Glove scene in Sons of Dorn is a not-quite-transcription of the Watson original.
Craverguy at 09:10 on 2015-02-13
Oh, yes, and there's a sequence where the Space Marines eat some people's brains to get their knowledge. I don't think they can do that any more in canon.

They can. In the rulebook for the Black Crusade RPG, there's a sidebar listing all the enhancements and implants that Chaos Space Marines have, and that's on the list. They call it "Omophagea."
Arthur B at 10:44 on 2015-02-13
Yes, I believe it's in the Space Marine-based Deathwatch RPG too.

Though I think as written you just get vague memories and flashbacks and stuff, rather than the in-depth knowledge you need to pilot a Titan.
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