originally posted on Bell of Lost Souls:
Nothing is original.
What makes GW so fabby is the *way* elements are combined. I mean, from a starting point of 'Dune meets LotR IN SPAAAAAACE' they put together the wonderful and beautiful original 40k meta-backstory of the warp, birth of the gods, creation of the Emperor, fall of the Eldar, and it all fits in with the most crucial thing that makes the 40K universe unique in sci-fi - decline. Almost every other bit of sci-fi is about hope, growth, and potential. The intro to every 40K book outlines the fact that *this* universe is the opposite. 'Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
As a result, a lot of the 'sci' in 40k's 'fi' is secondary. Thus, the wonderful IG, pragmatic utilitarians to a fault, who destroy their foes with things that work and can be mass-produced, and billions of lives. You want shiny hi-tech humans, play Elysians - or Battletech.
I like the point Ghost made about the lovability of cliches as well - if it weren't for the easily-summarised '-punk' combinations of archetypes, nobody would get into the game in the first place. It's what they do after that counts.
And Anonymous, my life is a void since Battlestar ended, a void I fill with Dan Abnett's books. To quote Dorrel, and give a link to the above GW quote, "Galactica is a reminder of a time when we literally looked backward for protection." That's something both creations share, and what makes them more believable. To loosely quote an essay on BSG, it's the lack of scientific realism that makes it more approachable. (A space-faring human civilisation that has evolved separately from us for at least 5000 years somehow ends up with a nigh-identical political and military culture? Not likely, but leads to applaud for the show's 'hyper-realism')
If the 40K universe wasn't built on existing historical and cultural archetypes, hardly anyone would give a damn about it, and nobody would be able to relate to it. Hard sci-fi is an obscure niche in the world of fiction, sad to say, and the majority of people still tar all sci-fi as being somewhere between hard sci-fi and space opera. It's BSG and 40K that cheat, say 'sod the sci' and as a result are made of awesome. Totally original things are usually totally obscure.
I think I'm rambling now, so that's me done - apart from to say, everyone should read Ravenor Returns. Hellblazer meets The Bourne Identity in a broken future, where a Brass Thief murders 300 troopers in 15 seconds with his rhyming swords (what's a rhyming sword? Not going to tell you. But it's awesome) only to be detonated by a man called Revoke using Un-words. MADE OF AWESOME.