Warhammer 40,000 is a table-top game that’s (in)famous for its dark, over-the-top, and ultra-violent setting: in the 41st millennium, the dystopic and totalitarian Imperium of Mankind wages a never-ending war against alien races, other-dimensional entities, demonic horrors, and chaos gods. As the game’s tagline puts it, “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.” (Yes, it’s where we get the term “grimdark.”)
The Shape of the Nightmare to Come is an epic fanfiction series that imagines the world of Warhammer in the 50th millennium, and as you might imagine, things have become even worse for humanity and the rest of the galaxy. I’ve never played Warhammer 40,000 but I’ve found its storyline and world-building by turns fascinating, absurd, and disturbing, and the same goes for this fanfiction. It can be an entertaining and imaginative read — if you can stand ludicrous amounts of dystopia and don’t mind getting bummed out, that is. Here’s how it begins, for crying out loud:
There was no great conflagration or calamitous final battle. Across the vastness of the galaxy, the Imperium died. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. The galactic empire of humanity crumbled, its enemies too many, too great and too terrible to imagine. The great conflict of Octavius had no victory, a war without end. In the fiery chasm of strife, the locust and the green holocaust fused, as beast looked upon barbarian and both saw the other as kin. The new entity spread with a speed undreamt of by Ork or Tyranid. War and hunger melded into a singular desire to ravage, rape and remake all in the image of the New Devourer.
There’s also a sequel series, The Age of Dusk, which imagines the world of Warhammer in the 60th millennium in similarly grimdark fashion, if you still happen to possess any glimmers of hope.
On a related note, a Warhammer 40,000 TV series is being developed by the creator of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle series.