This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Black Library authors working in the Warhammer fantasy setting are, it’s fair to say, working under far tighter constraints than those working in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. It’s true that in both cases there are things which the authors in question cannot do – the Emperor mustn’t be killed, the Empire must not collapse, Chaos cannot get the ultimate win (well, not unless the story in question is explicitly set in the future of the relevant setting as an account of the End of Days). But there are advantages to having an entire galaxy to play in rather than one planet, especially when you consider that most Warhammer novels are only set in one particular area of said planet (the local Holy Roman Empire equivalent).
The major advantage is that you can just crank everything up to eleven and blow up the world when you’re writing for Warhammer 40,000. Sure, you can’t blow up Holy Terra, that’d be naughty, but except under very particular circumstances (probably involving the Horus Heresy series) you’re almost never going to be setting your 40K novel on Earth, or indeed on a world which plays a major part in the canon. If you’re at all sensible, you’re taking advantage of the extremely large canvas the Imperium provides you with and setting your story in a corner of space you’ve made up yourself. Not only does this give you an opportunity to go to town with your worldbuilding whilst still retaining sufficient connections to the wider Imperium to keep the place feeling like part of the 40K universe, it also means you can blow up a planet or two without treading on someone’s toes. In the more cramped surroundings of the Warhammer universe, however, you really have to work to make sure your story doesn’t really have any big long-term ramifications outside of the immediate area it unfolds in – and if you’re in a major city of the Empire, maybe even that’s too much.