First seminar Origins of the Heresy with Graham McNeill, Dan Abnett, Alan Bligh and Allen Merrit (head of GW IP). This seminar is not a history of the heresy as such but more a history of the product. The idea of the heresy is 25 years old this year.
Please note: This isn't a verbatim transcript, just my summary of what was said!
The Heresy is first mentioned in chapter approved, september 1988 on pp.13, a small paragraph in the bottom right hand corner...Allan Merrit who was there at the time tells us that the reason for this fist appearance was there was a gap on the page - written by Rick Priestly, totally off the cuff. It was viewed as 'pretend history' for 40k, it was birthed to fill an awkward gap on a page...it also has a typo!
Next mentioned in Realm of Chaos, (October 1988) which deals with the darker side of the 40k universe, gave context to the chaos models they were making. It was elaborated with a bit on which legions turned etc.
Adeptus Titanicus mentioned in White Dwarf, October 1988 and released in December 1988 with the tag line 'epic battles between gigantic robots' but why is it set in 30k and not 40k? They basically couldn't afford to make enough tools to produce a range of plastic models so it had to become a civil war game with the same model in each team but some cast in blue and others in red.
August 1989: Space Marine. This was the first time the Dark Angels appeared in green which is of course wrong because they wore black during the heresy. They were never meant to be green they were highlighted with green light and it got a bit lost in translation.
May 1993 - the Horus Heresy boardgame by Jervis, is the first time the endgame battle between horus and the emperor - the battle of terra, appears
2002-2004 Index Astartes books. These were designed to provide some background and character to the space marines.
November 2003: the Horus Heresy collectible card game by Sabertooth Games allowed them to create a product around the central story and required a huge amount of artwork. Sabertooth needed guidance for the complete story but GW didn't really have one so Allan Merrit had to pull all the different snippets together as well as reconcile some of the issues. They needed the story to support the game. The gaming community pointed out that a lot of the stuff Allan came up with was wrong...this is still a problem!
2004-2006: Visions of Heresy books. With Graham Mcneil's proper debut (heresy) story - his true original story was from the HHCCG in the prospero expansion describing the fight between Russ and Magnus. - the story Graham wrote whet his appetite and he went on to write False Gods.
In 2006 there was the idea of turning the heresy into a series of novels. Dan Abnett and a few others were hand picked (they were available) to plan it out. Allan brought in all the references and walked them through it. Their job was to reconcile issues, bring it all together and make it more complicated...it was a task to give areas shades of grey rather than the stark difference between good and evil.
There is a difference in tone that had to be applied to 30k because the story is so different. It took the authors a while to get into this mindset that makes the difference between 40k obvious. "The great crusade is a glorious enterprise, undone by mankind...Whereas 40k is a 5-minutes to midnight, everything's about to end situation " AB
In 2010, FFG returned to the HH Board game and in 2012 GW released betrayal as a FW miniatures based game. AB entirely predicated his work on the novels,he elaborated but it would have been next to impossible to do it without them. AB got the job through his work on the Badab War which is almost a HH in miniature, an echo of the event. AB collated the novels and tried to distill the essence to get something people can play with.
Why are there missing legions?
AM: Mostly to frustrate people...the real reason was creativity, we didn't want to use all 20, we left it open for people to develop their own stories. Over time it become a great piece of characterisation, a mystery that leaves us with 'what if?' Or that we've been told but sworn to secrecy.
What were the hardest contradictions to resolve?
DA: Usually we asked AM. The trick we've tried to do is create story lines that allow for all possibilities by giving a third version that doesn't contradict either but offers a middle line. It is more about alternative explanations. It's not an ambiguous story, it's like titanic, we know where we are heading but it's the journey that's exciting.
AM: the biggest contradiction is two different lists of those involved in drop site.
How difficult was it to portray the Primarchs in a relatable way?
DA: space marines are difficult because they're not human they don't demonstrate typical human characteristics. 30k is more culturally more developed than 40k and so we can embellish stuff. We try not to do too many at once to get the feel of each.
GMN: Primarchs can't really relate to ordinary humans, they are functionally immortal essentially. The best way to get them to relate is to put another primarch in the room. This is where their most human qualities come out, their humanity can come out. It's hard to write about something you have never experienced or can appreciate.