The wonderful women of Warhammer
The Nuns with Guns are back.

I've never played a single game of Warhammer 40,000 in my life, but I've loved painting and building the models since I was a teenager.

Maybe you've seen them at your local hobby store. Players collect, build and paint miniature armies and pit them against each other. Warhammer's been around for more than three decades, catering to a mostly male basement-dwelling demographic. But in 2020, that seems like it's changing.

Warhammer manufacturer Games Workshop recently released a much-anticipated facelift of some extremely outdated models known collectively as the "Sisters of Battle" or, more affectionately, the "Nuns with Guns."

There have been hundreds of new characters and updates from Warhammer over the last several years. The majority of them have not been women, and none of them have been this badass. There's still much room for improvement, but Games Workshop seems to be making a real effort to add dynamic new miniatures to its range. And behold! Models that aren't just white dudes!

Unfortunately, the Warhammer 40,000 fanbase appears slow to catch on. The Sisters are a generally beloved staple, but many fans in online forums are hostile to some of the other changes, often suggesting that efforts to diversify the model range are motivated by pressure from the "social justice warrior crowd."

The game seems to harbor an unusually large number of these fans compared to other sci-fi franchises. This isn't hard to imagine, considering that its most iconic characters, the Space Marines, form a warrior class of exclusively male religious fundamentalists with a penchant for xenophobia (sound familiar?). And I get it. Hobbies are an escape for a lot of people, and no one wants their every waking moment to be constrained by social conformity.

Yet, a fantasy world where nearly anything is possible seems like a great way to facilitate a discussion on sex — do cyborgs retain gender? I often wonder — or, more in the spirit of science fiction, a discussion on authoritarianism and discrimination. Those discussions are taking place, regardless of the hostility from the fan base, and Games Workshop doesn't appear to be slowing down, either.

The model releases are frequent, and they just get better. In addition to the many novels, video games and an upcoming partnership with Marvel Comics, the company recently announced a new animated series slated for 2020.

The Warhammer 40,000 franchise's slogan has been: "In the grim darkness of the future, there is only war." But the future actually looks pretty bright. ♦

Rafael Soldi: Mother Tongue @ EWU Gallery of Art

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