Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Literary Influences on Warhammer 40k

Here's a selection of books that have greatly influenced the Warhammer universe that we know and love.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:  This influence is more evident in the Fantasy universe, but 40k still has the archetypical Men, Elves, Dwarves and Orcs in space.

Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe:  This series of 4 books (and its coda, Urth of the New Sun) is set in the far future.  Technology is stagnated in this series and the world is dying.  The similarities seem superficial, but the terms Wolfe used were borrowed heavily by 40k.  Though none of the terms are coined words (Wolfe likes to use archaic terms for things), it's no coincidence that many of them appear in the 40k universe.  They include Carnifex, Lictor, Autarch, Zoanthrope and Terminus Est (the name of Typhus's flagship).  There's even mention of a weapon which suspiciously seems like a power weapon.

Dune by Frank Herbert:  Now we're getting into the heavy influence.  There's enough here for a whole post dedicated to this book alone.  To begin, there is a guild of Navigators who guide ships through interstellar flight.  The word lasgun comes from this book.  Later on there is a God-Emperor.  Thinking machines are prohibited.  At one point, technology and mankind become stagnated.  I haven't read this series in a while so I've probably missed many similarities, this is merely what I can remember.

Honorable mention goes to Starship Troopers.  I haven't read it but from what I hear it's got some similarities.

So what are some other books that have obviously influenced the game that I need to put on my reading list?

All images from


  1. I've read starship troopers and have seen the movie and 40k drew a lot from it for tyranids and some for imperial guard and a little for psychers. Although, the psychers were mearly able to communicate with the bugs from what I remember in the movie.

  2. Starship Troopers definitely influenced Space Marines, power armor, drop pods and the like.

    When asking the question of did something influence 40K, the answer is probably "yes". They drew from pretty much everywhere. Star Wars, Judge Dredd, various religions/mythologies, etc. 40K was sort of a gestalt of the various scifi influences of the day.

  3. here's the poem responsible for the Dark Angels Primarch and a good chunk of their fluff:

  4. Starship Troopers definitely influenced both marines, imperials and nids... if you've only seen the movie, read the book. Every battle is a scale of the outpost where Diz bites the bullet.

    Alien ('79) and Aliens ('86) have to get on the list too, just look at Space Hulk.

    I think it would also be interesting to look at the things that 40k influenced.

  5. Again with the starship troopers. Yes Heinliens "bugs" where essentially the basis for the tyranids, a species that could adapt to new enviorments, bio weapons and a hive mind or brain bug, though in the book Heinlien aludes to some of the bugs having a degree of indipendant thought (the warriors)As for the space marines, I would say actually that very little was taken from starship troopers (the book mainly focuses on the infantry heavy though they may be)Actually if i had to choose any book that may have contributed to the space marines design I would have to say the forever war series gets my vote. Self contained suits of powered armor with a miniature reactor built into a back pack (there are other descriptors aswell but far to many to list here) Also don't forget David Drakes Hammers Slammers (not to much from them but he had some similar concepts involving power weapons which in some ways where similar to las weaponary) Well I should probably stop geeking off.


    BH Senior Editor

  6. @everyone: Thanks for the comments. I am putting Starship Troopers and The Forever War on my reading list. I've read the Dark Angel poem before, and it's interesting how many of the primarchs have some sort of connection to literature, myth or history.

  7. Don't forget Michael Moorcock's Eternal Warrior series - his descriptions of chaos include chaos warriors, mutations, beastmen, chaos gods, chaos worlds with sheets of fire, rains of blood...he even desribed the symbol of chaos (8 arrows arranged in a circle)!


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