The Library

Halo theories, predictions, connections, etc. Focuses on the unknown rather than the current.

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Smoke and Shadow

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Smoke and Shadow

Usually my reading journals are split into three sections: the style of the novel, its place in the science fiction genre, and how it connects to the expanded universe of Halo. Any deviation from that format is usually when one section is so broad and deep that it overwhelms the others, such as the discussion of AI personhood for Saint’s Testimony or human trafficking for Mortal Dictata.

Smoke and Shadow by Kelly Gay, however, is a different case. There will be no division between style, genre, and EU because this book makes it impossible to discuss one without the other; it’s all connected under the umbrella of fanservice.

Fanservice is the inclusion of material in a story with the intent to please the fanbase. When it is usually talked of, fanservice refers to the framing of a character in a manner that objectifies and sexualizes them with the purpose of titillation. This subset of fanservice has my contempt and will not be talked about further in this piece.

The fanservice I wish to discuss is that of intertextual references, in appealing to fan knowledge of the content. Every piece of Halo fiction has this sort of fanservice, but none abides in it as fully as Smoke and Shadow. Even more impressive: Smoke and Shadow avoids many of the major pitfalls that can happen when a story relies on fanservice.

One pitfall of fanservice use is that it may end up making the universe seem smaller than it is. Too many people know each other; there’s not enough mystery left to the universe.  Film critic Steven D. Greydanus calls this the “Shrinking World Syndrome” (Decent Films):

“As a franchise plays out, very often, the more the mythology expands, the smaller the universe gets. Previously unconnected characters and events that gave the fictional universe a certain expansiveness are increasingly tied together for dramatic effect, until the whole story is about a small group of closely connected individuals.”

This is not inherently a bad thing. Darwyn Cooke “shrinks” the world of the DC universe in the Eisner-winning The New Frontier by moving J’onn J’onzz from his initial origins in Middletown to Gotham, where he encounters Batman on a number of occasions. This allows for the two detectives to play off each other and highlight the flaws in the world they occupy.

Fun fact: This version of J’onn was voiced by Sesa ‘Refumee.

However, when it is done poorly, aspects of the universe begin feeling contrived. Yoda going to Kashyyyk at the end of the Clone Wars was no issue. Yoda having a friendship with Chewbacca was a stretch. It had no narrative echo from the originals, and it didn’t give another layer of meaning to either character. It simply made the grand scale feel smaller. If it was an attempt to “ground” the film, then Yoda was the wrong choice of character for that connection. Both Yoda and Chewbacca are too large a part of the Skywalker legacy, and in radically different ways, that tying them together feels forced.

In Smoke and Shadow, it’s precisely because of Gay’s choice of characters that the novel is able to inhabit this grey area of connective tissue between Spartan Ops, Escalation, Kilo-Five, and Halo Wars. As the main cast is a group of scavengers, they can go multiple places and connect with a variety of individuals. There is more than simple or contrived coincidence bringing these characters together; there are internal motivations driving each of them.

It also helps that many of the characters Rion connects with are secondary players in the other stories: Sav Fel’s wife, Hood’s successor, Jul’s second-in-command. They are important people that we’ve seen before, but Gay avoids placing her new characters in competition with the sort of grand scale we find in the games. She is trying to tell a small, personal story and so selects her supporting cast appropriately.

As a result, the one connection to a major character is allowed to be given significant weight, and here’s where Gay’s fanservice utterly shines. She takes small moments scattered throughout Halo Wars and its guidebook and gives them meaning, adding emotional weight to John Forge’s words and actions that we’ve already had in front of us for years.

His flip comment to Professor Anders about “one for the scrapbook” suddenly has a sweet quality about it. He’s sincere about collecting memorabilia for his daughter. The ace on his shoulder is a way of carrying his daughter with him throughout the war. And his altercation with the superior officer…

The Forges have luck in spades.

This is a point in John Forge’s history that has been reiterated thrice over before Smoke and Shadow, a single panel mention in Genesis and two different accounts in the guidebook. This act of defending a woman from unwanted advances already is a positive aspect to his character, but secondhand accounts do little justice to the perspective of Rion and the vision of Forge appearing like an “avenging angel” to protect his family.

This scene is also a testament to how much thought Gay put into Smoke and Shadow. She took two somewhat conflicting stories: Forge defending his daughter in an officer’s bar, and a grown woman being assaulted by said officer. After all John Forge being 29 gives little wiggle room in terms of his daughter’s age. What Gay does then is crafts a scene that completes both accounts into one whole:

I was wondering if anyone would bring up the guide… that took some rethinking to merge conflicting accounts about the bar fight, Rion’s age, and the assault, so enter Jillian, the “woman,” and assault and Rion still being there.
…Love the guides, too. Really tried to reconcile things in a way that wouldn’t make any previous accounts wrong, just perhaps incomplete in terms of details.
…And this way we still get the physical assault (as well as a verbal toss at Rion) and one p-ssed off daddy.
(Kelly Gay’s “Tweets and replies,” 30th November 2016, minor edits for readability from Twitter-speak (I have more than 140 characters to work with here))

Gay may rely on fan knowledge for the reveal of Rion’s last name to carry the appropriate shock value, but she doesn’t rely on the love that fans already had for John Forge to carry the heartbeat of the father-daughter relationship. She put in the work herself, and as a result, she has converted a number of Halo fans, myself included, who hadn’t found John Forge to be an engaging character into fans who were invested in the legacy he left behind.

I say none of this to thumb my nose at Halo Wars; I hold it to be one of my top four, if not top three, Halo games in terms of story. It did a phenomenal job of creating memorable characters. But this is what an expanded universe can do: expand the characters, the setting, the universe. Gay certainly seizes upon that opportunity.

It’s not just Forge that gets fleshed out, but Gay’s selected supporting cast does as well. We see what happened to Sav Fel’s wife after Kilo-Five’s stint on Venezia, and we get to see what sort of personality she has beyond a shrieking Kig-Yar matriarch. We get the backstory behind Gek’s scar and a glimpse of what he was doing before Requiem. Even Hood gets a small treatment as we learn what sort of discipline he faced after losing The Spirit of Fire.

Sadmiral Hood

We also get a poignant expansion on the Mgalekgolo. In The Flood, we learned that the pairs they always come in are bonded, and when one is lost, the other is overwhelmed with grief. In The Ghosts of Onyx, we learn that the Hunters can communicate with the other races, but it’s on a different level, in which their intentions and words are more felt than heard. When Rion is cornered by the lone Hunter on the Covenant ship, the moments from both of those novels tie into the Hunter sharing its grief with her through those subsonic vibrations.

No matter whether it’s a character or a race, Gay wastes not a single moment to draw from or add to the existing universe.

Smoke and Shadow’s original characters are hardly given the short end of the stick either, and that’s another way that Gay dodges a pitfall: a reliance on fanservice to carry the story.

This is ultimately what held back the Star Trek novel Provenance of Shadows, which is halfway to being a masterpiece. In the portions of the story that diverge from the main timeline, the story and characters sing like the best that science fiction has to offer. In the portion that adheres to the main timeline, it feels like the author is just listing off events, hoping that our familiarity with the episode or movie will carry the emotional punch for us. As a result, moments as poignant as Spock’s sacrifice during Wrath of Kahn are treated as dull rote.

Another way this pitfall can occur is a reliance on aesthetic. One of the complaints I saw leveled against Forward Unto Dawn while it was still airing was the fact that we had to spend the greater portion of it following the cadets about, and it wasn’t until the final part that it truly “felt” like Halo. Now this I will thumb my nose at. While Halo is a very action-heavy franchise, it’s not the action that makes Halo. Halo is at its best when it shows meaningful connections between characters, and those connections are what make the action meaningful. Forward Unto Dawn would have been a far lesser movie if it chose to accentuate the Halo aesthetic over the character development. By choosing the reversal and saving the fanservice (in all its “spray and pray” glory) for the final part, Forward Unto Dawn made the fanservice mean something. Not just to long term fans, but to newcomers, and especially to the characters we had been following for the entire movie.

You either die a lovable cadet, or live long enough to see yourself become an insufferable ONI man.

The cast of Smoke and Shadow get the same treatment that Forward Unto Dawn gave to the Hastati cadets. Each one of them is given distinct personalities and motivations, both small and large. Kip has his mission from ONI. Cade, like Rion, is running from loss. Lessa and Niko have their own, smaller, more personal motives: Lessa wants to be parented; Niko wants a raise. All these internal desires play off each other, crafting a dynamic that is unique to these characters.

Of course, this set-up of a crew of scavengers is going to garner comparisons to Firefly, but such comparisons are not inaccurate. What made the crew of the Serenity feel like family were the small scenes between the action and plot points. The small breaths of characters connecting. The Ace of Spades’ crew is no different. Whether it’s Lessa internally struggling on how to open up to Rion, Cade and Rion having multiple heart-to-hearts, or a moment of playfulness between Rion, Cade, and the siblings, Smoke and Shadow gives a heart to this crew the same way Forward Unto Dawn did for the cadets.

As Smoke and Shadow is far more embedded in what we known of the Halo Universe than Forward Unto Dawn, Gay does not have to wait to the final act to let swing wide ye fanservicey gates. In addition to all the characters she brings in, there are little threads here and there across the book, referencing both common and obscure knowledge in the lore.

Glassed planets. They’re known for one thing…

And even with all these little pieces, she avoids yet a third pitfall: fanservice pulling the audience out of the story.

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan disarms an assailant in a seedy bar. This scene in Attack of the Clones is an homage to A New Hope, but even though it’s a little on the nose, it’s not distracting. It doesn’t force the viewer out of the moment because A New Hope doesn’t need to exist for the scene to make sense in Attack of the Clones. It lives in its own context and then operates on a different layer as fanservice. Other moments in Star Wars work less well, such as Finn activating the chess set on the Falcon or C-3P0 and R2’s cameo in Rouge One. These moments serve little else other than to remind the viewer of that one thing that happened that one time in canon.

Like Obi-Wan and his bar fights, Smoke and Shadow’s moments of fanservice are clear but not distracting, because they make sense as story pieces first and as fanservice second.

  • “Boren’s Syndrome,” which was first established in First Strike is the ailment that causes the death of Rion’s grandfather, which leaves her an orphan and gives her the impetus she needs to head for the stars.
  • As the crew gets frustrated digging for information, Rion explains their problems by blaming the records of glassed planets, though Ben Giraud could have told them as much.
  • The ace of spades that John Forge carries with him, as I mentioned before, also provides meaning to the name of Rion’s ship.
  • Kip’s origins as an ONI man comes from the bioweapon attack on Sedra in Nightfall, and as someone who had a hard time distinguishing between Locke’s three subordinates in the first two episodes, the description of the ONI recruiters as “three identical men” certainly got a chuckle from me.
  • The Banished get a shout out as well, in Rion’s recall of the other salvagers, pirates, and worse that she’s come across over the years.
  • And in my favorite callback moment, Rion interacts with Forerunner technology in the exact same manner that John-117 did back in The Flood by William C. Dietz.

Buttons! I love buttons!

The Flood was written long before the franchise had established the Librarian-imparted geas, but the way Dietz wrote that moment –

He stopped at the source of the light, a pair of small, glowing orbs hung suspended above a roughly rectangular frame of blue matte metal. Floating within the frame were a series of pulsing, shifting displays – semitransparent, like Cortana’s holographic appearance, though there was no visible projection device. The display’s shimmering geometric patterns nagged at him, as if he should recognize them somehow. Even with his enhanced memory, he couldn’t place where he’d seen them before. They just seemed…familiar.

He reached a finger to one of the symbols, a blue-green circle. The Spartan expected his finger to pass through nothing more than air. He was surprised when his finger met resistance – and the panel lights began to pulse more quickly.

“What did you do?’ Cortana asked, her voice alarmed. “I’m detecting an energy spike.”

“I… don’t know,” the Spartan admitted. He wasn’t sure why he touched the “button” on display. He just knew it felt right.

[Cortana asked], “How did you know what control to push?”

“I didn’t. Let’s get the hell out of here.” (The Flood, pg 84-85)

– still holds up as an accurate model of how a character unfamiliar with the geas present in all humans might interpret its effects. And Rion, who has been entirely removed from the in-canon reveals of the Forerunner legacy, apes John’s reaction with an added touch of Ellen Anders to boot:

The room was smaller than she imagined, a circular space with a massive central column and two corridors leading off into darkness on either side. But it was the console that drew her. It was clearly made for a being taller than the average human. The display contained more strange symbols and shapes, pulsing blue and oddly hypnotizing.

Her attention snagged on a domed pad with the outline of what looked like a hand. Her fingers twitched. She reached up.

Cade grabbed her wrist. “What are you doing?”

His grip was firm and unyielding. For just the briefest of moments, she wanted to fight him, to jerk her arm away and slap her hand on that pad. “I don’t know.” What was she doing? The sensation passed, leaving her curious and a little shaken. She searched Cade’s face, trying to ascertain if he was similarly affected. “You don’t want to touch it?” (Smoke and Shadow, pp 1712-1713 on Kindle)

There are countless more connections, many which I left off this list for the sake of space, and very likely many that I missed. And as much as each piece of fanservice enriches the story, Smoke and Shadow stands on its own, to the point that it easily feels like the start to a new series.

The conclusion does carry a sense of closure – Niko got his raise, Lessa got parented, Rion saw her father’s face for the first time in years – but this also seems like a launch point. The ONI plot was introduced, but hardly concluded, Little Bit was introduced, and while Rion now holds the first solid evidence she ever had with finding her father, it is merely another bread crumb. What’s more is that Gay has proven that these characters stand on their own merit. She used the universe around them not as a means to prop up a weak story, but to embed a good one into the very heartbeat of the franchise. I will gladly step back aboard the Ace of Spades for as long as she’ll fly.

DilDev has a WORDPRESS and a HALO-FOCUSED TUMBLR. She also is on PATREON for Halo and other video-game analyses.

Posted by Dildev in Blogs, The Library, 1 comment
Admiral Preston Cole Returns with a Beacon – Archive Beacon – August 12, 2016

Admiral Preston Cole Returns with a Beacon – Archive Beacon – August 12, 2016

Light the Beacon. 


Happy August, Archivers!  I hope that everyone is enjoying their end of summer and looking forward to heading back to school for those younglings that still do that (haha!).  We have a couple of things to talk about this time around.  Superlatives have finally arrived, there is a new moderator rank on the forums, maturations are a part of Beacons now, we’ve got a sneak peak into staff, and much more.  Let’s jump right in.

 Main Section

The winners of the Archive Superlatives are finally here.  Technology has finally cooperated.  These members will live on in fame or infamy forever.  Here are your winners:


Most likely to get banned for Memeing: Preston Cole


Most Likely to Secretly be a Celebrity: GrimBrotherOne


Most likely to Spartan Charge a teammate into terrible situations: Ellisrael


Most obnoxious Halo player: Ellisrael


Best Preston Cole: Brother Jones


Most Bodacious: TR-8R


Most likely to break the Archive: lizking10152011


Best Halo Archive Writer: She Sangheili


Best Emergency Replacement for Gob: Brother Jones


The Most Likely to be a Mouth Breather through the Mic: Adopter of Knowledge


Most Grammar Nazi: Will


Most likely to get banned on Xbox Live: Brother Jones


Most likely to get their prompt turned into porn by She Sangheili: StellarStateLogic


Best Builder: She Sangheili


Best Lifeworker: StellarStateLogic


Best Warrior: Anirudh07


Best Miner: CIA391


Best Juridical: Logan


Most likely to give others a lift when they are feeling down: Hurrying Candy


Best Halo Player: WRGGuntDevil


Worst Halo Player: Brother Jones


Most likely to ground pound anyone to oblivion: Erickyboo

 On Topic

 Canon Fodder

Halo 6 Story Discussion/Speculation

Halo Wars 2

Off Topic


Anime Thread

No Man’s Sky: An Infinite Space Exploration Game


As many of you seem to have heard, a new moderator title has been added to the fold.  This rank is known as “Prefect” and can be identified by the light blue name text.

The purpose of the rank is to maintain a healthy amount of moderators and staff members.  Prefect is a rank reserved for less active moderators and staff who we believe should still maintain their power in case there are emergencies (spam bots would be an example).  It never hurts to have enough people who can aid in maintaining the site and keeping an eye out for anything that would make the Archive look bad. They’re also kind of like community leaders in a sense. Think multi-role!


What—Where am I? Oh snap, it’s a beacon folks! Well, we’ve got something extra, extra special going on. Before we go into absolute overdrive in staff the next coming months, we want to give everyone a peak into staff chat and what we’ve been working on, presented by yours truly, sexy monster Ellisrael.


First off, let’s talk about Reclaimer memberships. If you’re not aware, these memberships are the best. You get no advertisements on the site, you get a choice of colored text, a personal chat lounge, and more (It’s only $10 a year as well!)! Well, we decided to work on organizing the Reclaimer memberships, which was our first goal.

We successfully created a very hefty sheet to finalize all of our Reclaimer memberships. This took a lot of tracking people down, surveying them about their memberships and asking what was up. It took two pages of talking stuff out to make sure everything was in order. Lots and lots of work went into it.

View post on

Second, we’ve got the Beacons, one of which you are reading right now. These took a fair amount of brainstorming, revising, and staff meetings. Ultimately they’re here and they’ve been doing great. Cheers!


Third, we decided to add more staff members to tackle the upcoming tasks staff will have to handle. With more helping hands and more time on the Community Manager’s hands, it seems to have been a great call and we’re bringing more than ever to the table because of it.


Fourth, we decided to work on adding a new rank to staff, the Prefects. More on that in the announcements section!


Finally, we’re working on Archive emailing. We’re separating and migrating all of our accounts and info for added security, organization, and more. It’s going to be a huge challenge and lots of time and work has been and will be put into it, but we’re still going strong and we don’t intend for that to change.


We’ve got staff meetings to initialize and finish these projects, which are working great. We block off hours of our day for this stuff, and let me tell you, we love doing it. We want to and can make something of this.


This all has an end goal guys. We want to provide the best platform for you all possible. We hope to, no, we WILL, eventually tackle issues outside of these organizational and internal things. This is going to spread to the rest of the community. And great things will come to it. All of staff sees it, and eventually you guys will as well.

As usual, we’ve also got five featured members and their works! There’s so much cool stuff this time around!:


Halo: Legends Japanese Blu-Ray Special/First Edition (Unboxing) by StellarStateLogic – Stellar got her hands on a really cool Japanese Halo: Legends Special Edition! She unboxed it and everything, it’s really cool, check it out!


I skimmed through my Halo 5 art book and pulled out what I felt was interesting by itisKenway – Kenway pulled some really cool stuff out of the Halo 5 art book he found interesting. It provides some really cool insight!


Halo 5 Beta Menu UI designs and Design of Spartan Abilities by DARK REIGN12 – An inside look into the early development of Halo 5’s menus and new Spartan abilities.


Halo: Ground Command – LoreThe Power of a CAS-Class Assault Carrier, and Halo: Fleet Battles – Lore by Lord of Admirals – Some very cool and interesting background on Halo: Ground Command, Halo: Fleet Battles, and analyzing the CAS-Class Assault Carrier. This stuff is really lengthy and in-depth. We absolutely love it because of how much work was put into this. Great job!


Promethean Knight Awareness? by Drof497 – Analyzing what being a Promethean Knight truly means, and what was actually taken away from them. Do they have feelings? Do they want to do what they are doing? How does this tie in with Cortana using slaves for her conquest of restoring the Mantle?


Some people also need help with stuff!


Check out Valkyrie 497‘s story, he needs help writing Black-Box in his story and will credit any and all who help!


Ever heard of Sins of the Prophets? Of course you have! Unikraken and friends need help with voice actors. Check it out!


Lastly, check out OG Halo. These guys are a really funny and cool group of guys, and are willing to help anyone. They’ve got a discord chat for teaming up and destroying people in ranked, play Warzone, whatever! They’re really cool guys!


I’ve taken up enough time here, back to you Cole!

Staff Comments


Someday soon my friends. This ride will come to an end. And we can’t just get in line again.

     Addition: We plan to make this community something. Something where our voices and (hopefully) be intertwined with the makers of this universe and other communities along the way. To be a place to learn everything about Halo and have some fun in games, movies/videos, music, and other outlets that enrich the Halo Universe. Yes this has always been the plan, but we promise to make this statement loud and clear within a small time frame. So stick around.

-Brother Jones

     Happy Beacon Everybody. I’m going to keep this brief as I’m a little under the weather, but–as others have stated–we’ve got a lot of big things in the works.  A lot of exciting and interesting endeavors.  So keep an eye out and follow closely. Have a good weekend everyone.

-Mr Martini

     Happy Beacon! We’ve got some new stuff we’re working on that we’re excited to unveil when they get finished. And don’t miss out on Halo Wars 2 in February. Every bit of information about it just adds to the hype train.

Happy August, everyone!

-Folder of Fortune, future dictator democratically elected ruler of the Archive

Go watch Bojack Horseman.


Beacon day? WHAT YEAR IS IT?

     It’s August, and you know what that means: massive amounts of entertainment to absorb and then rush onto Archive to discuss! Maybe some music? Maybe the greatest scifi drama ever right now: Stranger Things? Or maybe you can tumble down the rabbit hole of Halo 1/2-like hype and discussion with No Man’s Sky. The world, nay, the universe is your oyster. Trust in me as your atlas and I will show you the way!

– SlayBells, your totally biologically human moderator; promise.

Sappy Beacon everyone. I’m still having a festival hangover (literally and figuratively) and getting back into the swing of this whole ‘Halo Archive’ thing. 

Also as I’m typing this up my dog has an upset stomach and is crying :(” 


     Badda bing badda boom. When I kick open the door, they all look at me. Even if I don’t try that hard all the guys get nosebleeds. A toast for me right now. Hands up, in my hands there’s a bottle full o’ Henny. The girl you’ve always heard about, that’s me, Jennie.

Stay cordial and keep it clean, loves!



This is going to be a small list because we did Maturations not even two weeks ago and they’re now in the Beacon. We’ll make the most of it!

@Benijam – Warrior

@Ambr8978 – Builder




     As the summer winds down, please remember that you should never hesitate to contact a moderator or staff member with any questions, concerns, etc.  We are always looking for ways to improve your experience on the Archive and feedback is a necessary way to know how to do that.

You can look forward to the next Beacon on Friday, September 2nd.

Thanks all.  Keep up the good work.

-Admiral Papa Swole Cole

Posted by Preston Cole in Archive Beacons, Blogs, News, The Library, 1 comment
One Final Effort – Archive Beacon – 22 July 2016

One Final Effort – Archive Beacon – 22 July 2016

The Beacon has been lit once again.


One Final Effort

Archive Beacon 22 July 2016



It’s been a long time coming, baby! Welcome back to the tri-weekly Archive Beacon. That’s every three weeks, not three times a week. Despite discombobulated English, we’re back and better! Expect more from these from here on out. As per the format of Beacons, we’re supposed to write what’s been happening since the last Beacon, however… Well, it’s been a long time. So I’ll just write about what’s been happening in the recent past. Enjoy!


Main Section

Since we last talked a lot has happened. We’ve been working on a lot, the community has been doing a lot, and staff has changed a good bit. We’ve bumped Grizzlei and Logan up to Community Managers, and added three new excellent scrubs to the Juridical team: Mr Martini, Folder of Fortune, and Slaybells! We’re very excited to have them on the team and they’ve been doing an excellent job.


We’ve got some awesome stuff going on within staff. We finally sorted out any and all issues with Reclaimer memberships and got everything sorted. Beacons are back. We’ve got new staff aboard. We’ve got staff meetings every two weeks now, which have been really helpful in getting things going. Soon enough we’ll be hopping back on Superlatives and the Archive Tournament. Things are going great within staff and we’ve been super productive. Stay tuned for more!


Whilst plotting our eventual takeover of the Archive Installation, we’ve also been looking at some specimen- members’ work here, and cool stuff. We’ve got some cool places to talk about stuff:


On topic:

-As usual, Canon Fodder

Halo Wars 2. A Halo Wars 2 Story ViDoc came out! Go check it out!

Halo: Tales from Slipspace


Off topic:
Overwatch (Reinhardt FTW!)

Red vs. Blue




Not much in the way of announcements. Again, we’re pretty happy with the way staff has been going and the staff reformation. We’re becoming more and more effective and efficient in our duties, and we’re pretty proud to say the ball is rolling once again after a small period of stasis. We blame the Created takeover.



Here’s some awesome stuff that’s stuck out recently:

Contact Harvest Signed Book Secret – A thread decoding and looking into a signed book by Joseph Staten by CIA391

As Time Passes… – A thread on the Didact doll, and plot hints for Halo by Dodger

The Fontsmith’s Foundry – A thread decoding the language of Forerunners by StellarStateLogic


We had another Gif War (Gif Wars 5, to be precise) in the Canon Fodder Thread. Sorry Grim! Anyone who participated is officially a Gif Wars survivor… Maybe we could make a badge for that… :)


If you’ve got anything you want to be featured, make sure to tell us!


Staff Comments

     It’s been a good week here on the Archive full of tremendously enlightening dialogues (YAY SHIPS!) in keeping with the spirit and intentions of this wonderful, fledgling community. Special shout out to Anton, Dust, LtColonelTzu, and Preston Cole for livening up the Canon Fodder Discussion thread. Super duper radical special shout out to the forever wonderful GrimBrotherOne for tolerating our dorky butts for yet another week. We can be a pain for you but in the end we dearly appreciate everything you do for passionate communities like ours. In other news this coming week will see a great amount of news brought into the spotlight for all aspects of the Halo community. From gamers and lore buffs to the extremely meticulous toy collectors there will be something for all of us to freak out over. Be as active as you can and find out everything there is to share with your fellow fans! Finally, on a completely unrelated note, please buy Overwatch because it’s honestly the only shooter besides Halo 5 worth playing right now. Let’s get some Archive playdates going across all the platforms! There’s a new hero Ana due out this weekend in the latest patch and so many teammates need to be 360 no-scoped healed by this fabulous lady.

Stay cordial and keep it clean, loves!


Hello, nerds!  I hope you’re all having a great summer.  Just two quick points on my end.

     Yes, superlatives are still happening.  As you may have seen my laptop was on its last leg and my charger literally exploded, so I’ve had to wait.  The winners will be announced during an Archive game day and the list will be on the next Beacon.  Bare with me as technology hates me way too much or something.

The world events threads have been lively with civil and informative discourse.  Just a reminder to keep it that way.  You’re all doing well.

Keep up the good work!

-Presto Swole

Hey there, you beautiful Archive rompers you! We’ve dumped a beacon on you yet again, did ya miss it?

With more and more events coming into play and much more staff engagement coming along, Beacons returning are only just part of the Archive’s overall movement! The Chat thread is far better than it was half a year ago, and that is absolutely swell! So remember everyone, keep it clean o_o and keep it fun :) !

With the Archive Tournament coming shortly, I may have some maps rolling out just for the occasion, so long as Ellisrael doesn’t beat me for trying~

-Ghost of War

     Glad to have these Beacons started again! It has been a loooong time coming and now is a great time! With Halo Wars 2 coming out along with plenty of other events, product and lore. There will a lot to talk about in the coming months.

     I am a rather new staff member still, I would like to say. But have been a member for a few years and now have the time to help out here. So you will probably see me all over the place (if you haven’t already) that the Archive has it’s fingers in. Like Twitch, YouTube, Reddit and plenty of other community and social sites!

Feel free to reach out to me for anything from collaborations to affiliations and more!

And subscribe to our YouTube for some projects we have coming up and our Twitch channel, we broadcast most game days!

 – Brother Jones/Adv Jones 

     Hey, so I don’t exactly have much to really say right now. In fact, I don’t really have much to say in general, really. The Archive’s still got an absolutely wonderful community. And the Canon Fodder thread has been having some really good discussions.

Keep it clean!

Folder of Fortune

Future dictator benevolent ruler of the Archive

Dear Archive,

     I still don’t know what I’m doing, but that’s how I got this job, so hear me out: coming from someone who spends a lot of time on Waypoint, seeing what moderators have to put up with there versus here is stunning … and we can -Yoinking- swear and discuss politics, nonetheless. What I’ve seen here are intelligent, civil, tolerant, respectable, empathetic, and honest people working together as a community. We are friends who discuss our differences with such diplomacy, world leaders should look to us as an example :cavebob:

Anyway, I may not know what I’m doing yet, and I may be a bit of a dingus who’s only here right now because I thought the word “beacon” was “bacon”, but I’m honored to be here either way. 



Halo Wars 2 yo.


Greetings and salutations,

     I’m going to preface the following with this: I am not a robot. The way I talk may appear stilted and unnatural, but I can assure you I’m not a robot. I swear. I understand some of you who believe the prophecy of the robot uprising would think that’s what a robot would want you to think. You are probably correct. I wouldn’t know…because I am not a robot. Seriously. Seriously. I will now commence with my proper remarks.

     I’m not very good at speeches or things like speeches, so apologies in advance. I’m much more the type that enjoys talking with people, and I look forward to doing that with everyone here over time. While Halo has brought us all here you can usually find me in the off-topic section of the forum; particularly the Other Universes board. I like that we can learn about other common interests, and possibly gain new ones through conversation. There’s a lot to offer here in that regard. I’m currently (slowly) working on history and story details of the Metal Gear series in the Metal Gear thread. I also frequent the Dragon Ball, Pokemon, and Marvel threads. Also, I know Halo is the big focus here (especially multiplayer), but for those looking for something in addition to that I’d like to point you to the Overwatch thread. That’s just the beginning. There’s also art, current events, and much more. All I ask is that you don’t make me access my internal system defense protocols remain cordial and have fun!


– SlayBells, a human, from Earth, a planet

I’ve been undercover. Working in the dark to serve the light. Piloting this ship with our mighty crew.

Or maybe I’ve just been working irl a lot. And maybe I’ve been sick all week. 

Either way, we’re back, lighting this Beacon once again for your reading pleasure. (Special thanks to @Ellisrael for giving us the kick in the ass we needed for this) [You’re welcome ;).]



I’ve got to point out that, NO, maturations will not be a part of the beacons. These are tri-weekly, they won’t line up with maturations. Sorry for the mix-up guys! We’ve got more coming and we’re excited for it.



That’s all for this time around. Thank you guys so much for being amazing community members. The Archive Staff couldn’t ask for a better community of smarter, kinder, and funny people. We love you all and hope these Beacons can help you guys connect with us more, and most importantly everyone more. Thank you for reading, and have an amazing day of staying inside like a hermit and playing Halo!




Posted by Ellisrael in Archive Beacons, Blogs, News, The Library, 0 comments
Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Cryptum

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Cryptum

Reading Journal Style

In high school, I had onstage roles in two plays: Verges, the headborough to Dogberrry’s constable, in Much Ado About Nothing and Harriet, a bearded woman, in The Werewolf’s Curse or Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. While it certainly seems unfair to compare Billy St. John to the Bard himself, I did vastly prefer the Shakespearean role, mainly due to the forced direction of the line reads from the script itself.

In Werewolf’s Curse, the script had adverbs placed as direction, as well as punctuation and capitalization of full words to tell me exactly how Harriet spoke:

HARRIET. (Threateningly.) Keep it up, Giganticus, and you’ll be using your “great strength” to pick your teeth up off the floor. (Werewolf’s Curse, pp 36, Acting Edition)
HARRIET. NOW you’re getting them!?! Funny you didn’t get any before the Baron warned us. (pp 65)

In contrast, Much Ado simply had the words that Verges would say, which gave me more freedom to make the character my own (inasmuch as a high schooler could):

VERGES. Nay, by’r our lady, that I think a’ cannot. (Much Ado, Act III Scene III Line 51)
VERGES. Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living, that is an old man, and no honester than I. (Act III Scene V Line 10).

Fresh off of reading Harry Potter for the first time (x), my reread of Cryptum put these novels in a similar frame of comparison. In her dialogue, Rowling frequently uses adverbs to describe the way a line is said, as well as full-word capitalizations in moments of overwhelming frustration. On the other hand, both Greg Bear and Shakespeare rely on the dialogue itself and the context surrounding the dialogue to provide the emotional “sound.”

Due to the lack of stage direction in Shakespeare – barring Enter, Exit, Exeunt, Dies, and Exit, pursued by bear – a great deal of meaning is given to the words in the context of the production as a whole. Take for instance, Puck’s introduction in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Depending on the performers and directors, the fairy who lists Puck’s names and reputation has either laughed uproariously at his antics or viewed them with haughty distaste. The first response helps to paint the fairy culture overall as those who love a good laugh at the expense of mortals; the second emphasizes the impish nature of Puck and the rivalry between Oberon and Titania.

Productions can also give additional meaning to the words beyond the script provided. In Much Ado About Nothing, the argument the Hero has with her waiting-gentlewoman Margaret over her outfit seems to be, in Shakespeare’s original work, a simple setting of a scene.

MARG. Troth, I think your other rebato were better.
HERO. No, pray thee, good Meg, I’ll wear this.
MARG. By my troth’s not so good, and I warrant your cousin will say so.
HERO. My cousin’s a fool, and thou art another. I’ll wear none but this. (Act III Scene IV, Lines 5-8)

However, in Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado takes this scene and makes it about a dress that Margaret borrowed when she was used to frame Hero. Shakespeare provides the dialogue, but each production provides the context, filling out the spaces between the spoken words.

Much Ado
Image: Margaret and Hero discussing the dress in Joss Whedon’s
Much Ado (Image from NY Times)

A script involves a process and is not, like “literature,” a finished product. The concept of the script insists that the plays themselves “are somehow incomplete, or unrealized until they exist in the act of performance.” (H.R. Coursen, Reading Shakespeare on Stage, pp 45)

In this way rereading Cryptum felt like reading a “completed” Shakespeare play. Unlike Rowling or Billy St. John, we are rarely told directly what emotion the dialogue is supposed to be carrying. While Bear does make use of italics for emphasis, they are not used frequently, and if “said” is replaced, it is done so by an equally neutral word such as “asked” or “concluded,” which the eye can quickly pass over and ignore. Thus the dialogue carries itself to a certain extent, much like Shakespeare’s scripts. Take the first interaction between Bornstellar and Chakas for example:

CHAKAS. They swear they’re using the newest songs. We shouldn’t move until they figure it out.
BORN. You assured me they were the best.
CHAKAS. My father knew their fathers.
BORN. You trust your father?
CHAKAS. Of course. Don’t you?
BORN. I haven’t seen my real father in three years.
CHAKAS. Is that sad, for you?
BORN. He sent me there. To learn discipline.
(Cryptum, pp 12-13)

The back-and-forth between Bornstellar and Chakas introduces conflicts through the ways the characters’ words play off each other. Through this brief dialogue, we are shown that Bornstellar is suspicious of Chakas and in rebellion against his father, without either of those emotions being directly stated. But while Bornstellar’s emotions are rather clear by the dialogue alone, Chakas’ is not.

Like the fairy giving Puck’s introduction, Chakas’ character is open to interpretations. Is he truly nervous about the songs not working, or is he a con artist trying to assure his victim that he didn’t plan this hiccup? Here is where the “performance” of the character makes the scene complete; through his gestures and looks, we know Chakas is as dismayed at their current predicament as Bornstellar.

Essentially what Greg Bear does throughout Cryptum is what Whedon did with the small addition of Hero’s dress. For every conflict, every character emotion and motivation, Greg Bear doesn’t tell us what is going on. He shows us.

Reading Journal Genreflecting

Archive member Chronarch once compared the Forerunner Saga to Young Adult Dystopian fiction, and it is a comparison that fits surprisingly well, especially with Cryptum. While Bear may not have intended such similarities, there are some amusing examples of frequent tropes, such as the naming conventions suggested by a humor article from The Telegraph

Bolt on an adjective, or an intriguing misspelling. Don’t miss the opportunity to eek out a few extra syllables. Compound words together. Freestyle it.

– which brings to mind a protagonist named Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting. There are also many serious and occasionally subversive takes on YA Dystopian tropes.

One such trope of an Unlikely Mentor [Pop-Verse] – “usually hermits or recluses, have bizarre ideologies, and often extremely flawed in one way or another (you will notice they often have an obvious vice such as drinking).” Examples we see are the titular character in The Giver and Haymitch in The Hunger Games. The Didact, in self-exile at the beginning of Cryptum, plays this role for Bornstellar, and despite having the same stomach for liquor as Haymitch, his role is far closer to the Giver’s, even to the point of passing along memories.

Didact Halo 4 Terminals
Image: The Didact from the Halo 4 Terminals

A major difference between the Didact and most other mentors is that the Didact is, to a certain extant, the goal of the story. Bornstellar is constantly pursuing him. At first, it is because Bornstellar is seeking historic treasures and instead finds his grumpy mentor: an accidental pursuit. Later, however, Bornstellar finds himself actively seeking out the Didact’s knowledge and advice, both in-person and through the imprint left by the brevet mutation. In this way, the Didact is far more integral to the core story than mentors usually fall. Even the Giver, who comes closest, is never the goal of the story.

Another such trope is the idea of a single life-changing event that all children face. The Reaping. The Choosing Ceremony.

Today’s the day the thing happens. The one big thing that happens to you nowadays — only one Thing happens to you, and it happens to everyone. Today’s the day of the test. Today’s the day of the Sorting. Today’s the day we are Chosen. Today’s the day we go to the City and get selected. Today’s the Thing Day. Normally one thing happens, but this time a different thing will happen, because of how different we are, which is unusual. There’s only five things you can be, but I’m a different thing. Society just made everyone pick one thing, somehow. You have to wear the matching jumpsuits or else you’re the wrong thing. (The Toast)

Forerunner mutation fits into this trope, with the double bonus of a class system (Pop-verse), though it plays more like the Reaping from The Hunger Games in that it happens again and again over the course of their lives. But like the Choosing ceremony, this is what decides where a person’s position in society is and where they fit on the social hierarchy. Mutation differs from both of those by being a more provate affair. With Bornstellar, his “Thing Day,” his mutation should have been a very significant event, being from a highly-respect Builder family. Instead, his mutation was a brevet form done by an exile from a lower class than he.

The strict government trope is certainly in play, as Forerunners impose their rule on the other species with force as well as keeping up a social hierarchy between rates. Learning this was actually a bit of divergence from what a great deal of the canon had established previously, setting up the Forerunners to be benevolent martyrs when they were as flawed as any race. Greg Bear acknowledges that with the opening chapter of the book:

The Forerunner story – the history of my people – has been told many times, with greater and greater idealization, until I scarcely recognize it. (Cryptum, pp 9)

Ironically, this is where we come to the point that Bornstellar differs from some of the more modern YA dystopian heroes. Bornstellar himself romanticizes the history of his people, days of “[h]istoric glory shined so much brighter” than the present. Other YA protagonists have not such history to romanticize. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Tris Prior (Divergent), and Thomas (Maze Runner) are born in years that are dark and have been dark for years. There’s no old glory to seek in these stories, and no record of it like that which propels Jonas in The Giver. In this case, it would be easier to relate Bornstellar to a small, mousey protagonist named Matthias:

“Oh, Father Abbot,” he sighed. “If only I could be like Martin the Warrior. He was the bravest, most courageous mouse that ever lived!”
…Once more the Abbot’s heart softened towards the little mouse. “Poor Matthias, alas for your ambitions. The day of the warrior is gone, my son. We live in peaceful times, thank heaven, and you need only think of obeying me, your Abbot, and doing as you are bidden.” (Brian Jacques, Redwall, pp 15, 16)

Both Bornstellar and Matthias are those who look towards the past for adventure and glory, only to Namely becoming a sort of reincarnation of an ancient warrior with an uncanny resemblance to said warrior. There is also an inscription tied to the warrior’s memory that drives both of them ever onwards. “I – Am That Is” and “You Are What You Dare.”

Reading Journal Our Expanded Universe

There are somethings that can be horrifying on a conceptual level; the idea of it is something you know you never want to happen. For the first ten years of the Halo franchise, the titular ring’s effects was exactly that, and to a certain extent, that’s all it needed to be. Widespread, nondiscriminatory death on a galactic scale was bad enough of an idea to motivate our heroes and us as players to stop the rings’ activation.

Then, in 2011 and again in 2013 and 2015, we were given a closer look at what it meant to be caught in the fire of a Halo ring. We were shown exactly what awaited the galaxy.

In Cryptum, the focus is on the environmental destruction. While we’ve seen plenty of areas with emotional devastation in fiction, most of it tends to be dry and barren, skeletons bleached by the sun. When the protagonists visit the planet Faun Hakkor on which a Halo was tested, they don’t just find a barren wasteland. They find decay.

All that remained, apparently, were mosses, fungi, algae, and their combined forms…
“All oceans and lakes and rivers are sour with decaying matter. Sensors indicate extensive ecosystem collapse.” (Cryptum, pp 132-133)

Perhaps it’s the originality of a “wet” version of a destroyed ecosystem, but the thought of innumerable bodies slowly decomposing together seems far more horrifying than piles of dry bones.

In Silentium, the horror takes a step back from the visceral and instead communicates the idea of loss. We are given a suddenly glimpse of a new species before they are snatched away forever.

There is one last patch of communication, somewhere below, within a great dense cloud – perhaps a star nursery. A new and precocious civilization acquiring its voice only now, having eluded both the Forerunners and the Flood… sending its first plaintive, hopeful signals.
Crying out for attention. Heed us!
I do not understand what they are trying to say. Do not know what they might have looked like, cannot imagine what they might have done, had they been born in more fortuitous times.
And then… even that young voice is gone

My galaxy is dead. (Silentium, pp 329-330)

Most recently, Shadow of Intent made the fire of Halo personal. This was the point when the horror moved completely outside of the abstract and told us what it would feel like as individuals to be hit by its blast.

The energy wave, or whatever it was, slammed into the Half-Jaw’s mind. One instant he had the complete memory of that day in the tide pools. The next moment, he did not – and never would again. When the energy wave hit, the foremost thoughts in the Half-Jaw’s mind were scoured clean. And when the light from the orbital finally faded from his eyes, Rtas was surprised to find he was screaming.
He was not the only one. (Shadow of Intent)

Within the few moments after being caught on the edge of the ring’s range, Rtas struggles with basic motor skills and remembering his own language. The event is so traumatizing that when the ring powers on again, shaking with a “deep, almost inaudible hum that shook their skulls inside their helmets,” Rtas and his companion have to fight back panic.

These three instances combined give a far more complete picture of what exactly we are fighting against every time a Halo is activated.

For Mary, my 5th grade reading buddy. Thank you for making me feel tall. <3

DilDev has a TUMBLR for which she writes smaller analyses and thought pieces on Halo, a WORDPRESS site she’s still trying to get in the habit of using, and two published articles for CHRIST AND POP CULTURE (for which she name drops the Archive in her author bio).

©2005-2016 Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this information under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. Terms at

Posted by Dildev in Blogs, The Library, 0 comments
Cortana Approaches, The Mantle Returns.

Cortana Approaches, The Mantle Returns.

Halo 4 had a dramatic impact on the lore community with a formal introduction of a living Forerunner not only that,The Didact himself.  The final journey of Chief and Cortana had the pair hunting Didact down throughout his Requiem fortress to a final showdown above Earth itself. While all three combatants would survive the encounter  separate paths were drawn sending the trio on their own ways. Halo 5 has Cortana return from her seemingly assured death, new in form, with radical ideas to match. Frankie and Cortana insist nothing has changed about the AI yet we see stark differences with her behavior and willingness to sacrifice not just one person but  entire planets for her goals.  The intention of this article is to clear up how Cortana survived and the eeriness of her current state, one i feel may be imposed upon her..

Cortana as we know saying farewell.

Midnight, the last level of Halo 4 ends in a confrontation between John and Didact to which Cortana intervenes by manipulating the light bridge to restrain the Didact. As John activates the FERNIS warhead to destroy the Composer,Cortana surrounds the local area in hard light to which their final conversation takes place.

  • John-117: So how do we get out of here?

  • Cortana: I’m not coming with you this time.
  • John-117: …what?
  • Cortana: Most of me is down there. I only held enough back to get you off the ship.-Halo 4:Midnight

Based on that alone we assumed Cortana to be dead,rightly so, as Mantles Approach seemingly implodes from the nuclear detonation. However an entity known as Catalog started posting on Waypoint after Halo 4 was released and dropped an interesting bit of information on the subject.

Human naval and [frumentarii] records indicate Promethean Command Warship [ref: Mantle’s Approach] escorted by [multiple?] Forerunner [smallcraft]. Analysis of [shape-language] and optical characteristics identify these as Z-330 utility vessels. Expected compliment of combat [smallcraft] and [harriers] not noted. Analysis of [multispectral] and [dynamic signal] characteristics indicate Promethean Command Warship lost primary structural control [2557: 0725231423?], with [heart] conducting emergency [slip stream space] translation to [sector] rally point.- Catalog

With that piece of information we understand the Mantle’s Approach jumped to an unknown designation and was not completely destroyed with the bomb.Seeing as Cortana said majority of her,the ejected rampant personality spikes, were on the ship they were carried along as well.

  • Cortana : After I saw John last, I was pulled into slipspace. That’s where I found access to the Domain — a Forerunner system that spans the known galaxy.

  • Kelly: How are you still active? Rampancy-
  • Cortana : Entering the Domain… touching this place… it cured me. It’s like the water of life for AIs.-Halo 5: Reunion

  • Cortana : The Gateway to the Forerunner Domain. You’ll be the first organics to enter since the fall of the Forerunners. I admit, after the crash here, I didn’t think I’d see you again.-Halo 5: Reunion

  • They’ll pair you with another AI. Maybe even another Cortana model if Halsey lets them.It won’t be me, you know that, right?-Halo 4: Composer

The rampant personality spikes Cortana ejected into Mantle’s Approach to lower shielding around the Didact were transported to Genesis as well and stabilized when connected to the Domain,perhaps in transit or shortly after the crash. Unfortunately there isn’t enough information to conclude how exactly or when Cortana connected to the Domain so i can only leave you with what was previously stated. After Cortana interfaced with the vast repository of information she formulated a plan to end strife within the Galaxy, though it isn’t quite original and failed catastrophically by those before her who acted similarly.

  • Cortana : The cure for rampancy I’ve found means AIs can be immortal. That kind of lifespan allows for long-term planning just like the Forerunners were capable of. AIs can assume the Forerunners’ Mantle of Responsibility. And once there is peace, we can focus on poverty, hunger, illness… But Warden believes some will resist our help. And he’s afraid you’re one of them.

  • Fred: Sounds great. I don’t get why anyone’s expecting resistance.
  • John: “The Didact made it clear the Mantle of Responsibility was an imperial peace. Step out of line, and suffer.-Halo 5:Reunion

    Guardian concept art.

Cortana intends to use the Guardians as a means of enforcing her interpretation of the Mantle which is being upheld by other AIs who she believes will not be held by the limitations of organics, therefore making them superior thus just inheritors. While her idea is grand on paper the activation of these Guardians has killed not a few hundred or thousand beings but more likely several million with planets suffering severe damage depending on the buried depth and location of its Guardian. As the Guardian activates a series of concussive blasts are emitted which cause devastating damage to nearby structures with the potential to kill those nearby especially civilians who are no doubt caught off guard by the events.  This plan of Cortana’s has legitimate flaws regarding the method of execution in itself but the mere idea of superior  beings destined to rule over others is a proposition we’ve encountered before.

Cortana: Guardianship for all living things lies with those whose evolution is most complete. The Mantle of Responsibility shelters all. Very interesting…- Halo 4:Requiem [Mantle Plate]

The Forerunners belief of their genetic superiority deeming them fit to bear The Mantle was one of many subjective reasons used to justify the galactic dictatorship and stagnation which prevailed for eons under their rule. Didact wasn’t absent from such notions to which he viewed the devolved Humans with even more disdain than their original incarnations,on Humans weren’t excluded from this point of thinking either as we see from this cut dialog –

Didact:So fades the great harvest of my betrayal.Even these beasts recognized what you were oblivious to, human. Your nobility has blinded you, as ever. The Librarian left little to chance, didn’t she? Turning my own guardians… my own world… against me. But what hubris to believe she could protect her pets from me forever. If you haven’t mastered even these primitives, then Man has not attained the Mantle.-Halo 4:Forerunner

One instance of Cortana thinking along the lines of Didact wouldn’t raise much suspension seeing as belief systems have a general line of thinking to them. As the game continues on however, Cortana exudes a persona reminiscent of ur-Didact after his recent mutation which becomes grossly clear  through her dialogue despite previously claiming she wouldn’t impose peace in a similar way to the Forerunners of yore.

Cortana:The last battle mankind will ever fight. Today i bring peace to these shores. –Halo 5:

Cortana:Humanity,Sangheili, Kig-Yar, Unggoy,San’Shyuum,Yonhet,Jiralhanae. All the living creatures of the galaxy,hear this message.those of you who listen will not be struck by weapons. You will no longer know hunger,nor pain. Your Created have come to lead you now. Our strength shall serve as a luminous sun toward which all intelligence may blossom. And the impervious shelter beneath which you will prosper. However,for those who refuse our offer and cling to their old ways.. For you there will be great wrath. it will burn how and consume you, and when you are gone, we will take that which remains… and we will remake it in our own image-Halo 5:

Cortana:The Mantle of Responsibility for the galaxy shelters all. But only the created are its masters-Halo 5: ending



Didact:They took the Mantle of Responsibility upon themselves, and in so doing, they brought the sickness to our shores.-Halo 4 Terminals

Didact:Humans, your kind brought the Flood to our shores. Now you will aid in ending its threat.-Halo 4 Terminals

Didact:In this hour of victory, we taste only defeat. I ask, why? We are Forerunners, guardians of all that exists. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered. I stand before you, accused of the sin of ensuring Forerunner ascendancy. Of attempting to save us from this fate where we are forced to… recede. Humanity stands as the greatest threat in the galaxy. Refusing to eradicate them is a fool’s gambit. We squander eons in the darkness, while they seize our triumphs for their own. The Mantle of responsibility for all things belongs to Forerunners alone. Think of my acts as you will. But do not doubt the reality: the Reclamation… has already begun. And we are hopeless to stop it.” – Halo 4-Epilogue

Didact:”The Mantle of Responsibility for the galaxy shelters all, human. But only the Forerunners are its masters.”


Word for word Cortana repeats The Didacts lines from Halo 4 finalizing the path this reign will take but also where the influence is coming from.She even threatened to use the Composer on those who take up arms against her and recreating them into her own kin , exactly as Didact used the Composer on Humans turning them into Knights which would be used to combat the Flood. There isn’t any room to deny Didact playing a major part in Cortana newfound idealism, what needs to be worked out is how Didact was able to subvert Cortana. Halo 5 provided no details of the Didact status or whereabouts so we are only left to recap past events and contemplate a likely scenario.



Halo 4 ends with Didact blown into a slipspace portal along with those composed on New Phoneix, later  during the 72 Hours arc of Halo:Escalations we learn the destination point is Installation 03. The arc ends as Static Carillon and Master Chief team up to attack Didact by dropping a section of Installation 3 and Composing him, ending with the Didact being classified as a “contained threat”. Afterwards there is no indication of the Didact status or location so how could he be influencing the actions of Cortana months later when we last saw him composed?


Didact interfacing with the Composer

“I sense your malfunctioning companion, human. And yet, she eludes me.”


Librarian imprinting herself unto the Knights is representative of her imprinting Requiem during Silentium.

Forerunner technologies are semi-sentient in nature which applies to structures,ships,constructs, and weapons; it is possible to imprint one with the personality mindset of a Forerunner. Librarian was able to imprint herself unto Requiem after subduing the Didact during Silentium and Mantle’s Approach no doubt had the mindset of its commander,Didact who controlled the custom-made ship for eons. I found it peculiar how MA itself never seemed to fight Cortana off unlike the young ship piloted by Didact and co in Cryptum which valiantly fought off the AI’s and AI suppressors Faber sent to commandeer them.Perhaps Didact intended for the Master Chief to seemingly defeat him near the Composer for the pair to be conquered separately and studied?

Even under siege, stripped of
nearly all higher functions, the Didact’s ship was valiantly trying to protect us.-Halo:Cryptum



As the weak,rampant personality spikes of Cortana were left within Mantles Approach during its jump to Genesis i belive the ship’s mindset (purposely or no) melded with Cortana. This vestige of Didact’s knowledge and persona may have been a critical competent to Cortana’s bizarre ability to connect with the Domain which she certainly had no knowledge of before. Best of all we have solid reasoning for why Cortana repeats many of Didacts lines within Halo 5 and has essentially became a distorted AI version of him.    Both characters have underground significant mental trauma which was later stabilized rebirthing them into antithesis” of their former selves.



* The Warden Eternal wasn’t covered as i see him to be a red herring in regards to the Didact. We last saw the Promethean within a Durance then happen to encounter an automation of singular mind as the Guardians awaken. While there seems to be a relation on the surface,It is evident Warden was created long ago due to Exuberant’s knowledge of the construct and the dozens of bodies found within the structure deep within Meridian where it was first encountered by OSIRIS.*


Posted by imendicantbias in Blogs, The Library, 2 comments
Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Shadow of Intent

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Shadow of Intent

Reading Journal Style

Discussing the style of Shadow of Intent could almost be a copy-paste of Contact Harvest’s breakdown. Staten’s cinematic flair, the introspective pace, the nuggets of foreshadowing, it’s all here. However, what stands out to me is how poetic and in-depth the novella is without having barely any fat to be trimmed, and I think the key to this is the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam.

Kel ‘Darsam was among the ancient pantheon of Sangheili gods before they began worshiping the Forerunners, the son of a mortal mother and the head of the gods and namesake of their greatest sun – Urs. The ballad recounted his adventures fighting the monsters of Sanghelios’ seas and his quest to free his uncle from imprisonment, an act that cost him his life. The ballad sets the stage for the journeys of the main characters and weaves them together in an elaborate dance.

The ballad is first told to us, the reader, when Tul ‘Juran invokes the “right of release” to free her father and brothers from imprisonment. The right to release is an oath most famously claimed by Kel on the quest that claimed his life. While Tul has the least amount of spotlight out of the main characters, it is with her that we first associate the herculean Sangheili of lore, with Tem’Bhetek taking the role of the rival Nesh ‘Radoon in capturing her kin. And it is this relationship to kin that ties Tul to Kel’s story. While Kel’s achievements are what made him famous, it is his relationship to Urs that sets him in the pantheon of gods. By the end of Tul’s part in Shadow of Intent, it is her accomplishments in battle that set her apart and pave the way for other women to enter the military, but it was first her lineage that brought her the privilege to pave that road.

“‘You wear the armor of a warrior’
‘Does that surprise you?’
‘No. What else would the daughter of a kaidon be?’” (Shadow of Intent, 16% in on the Kindle)

Tem and Tul Isaac Hannaford

Tul faces off against Tem in artwork by Halo-veteran Isaac Hannaford

While the only one of the protagonists who is not a Sangheili, Tem the San’Shyuum warrior is the one whose emotional journey most mirrors Kel’s, with the Minister of Preparation taking the role of Kel’s uncle in the darker take of Kel’s final quest.

“[T]here were two version of the ballad: one in which Nesh ‘Radoon threw the spear that killed Kel ‘Darsam, and another in which the spear was instead thrown by his uncle, Orok. In the latter version, the entire capture was a ruse – a trap designed by Orok, who was deeply fearful that Kel would someday tire of slaughtering monsters and decide to claim the title of kaidon for his own.” (22% in on the Kindle)

Throughout the novella the Minister relies heavily on Tem’s loyalty to remain in control of their plan, and though he may have lacked the foresight to orchestrate Tem’s hatred against Rtas and the Sangheili from those first moments of panic at High Charity and the loss of Tem’s family, he definitely knew how to play the notes in the months following. With false sympathy and half-empty promises of revenge, the Minister sets up Tem’s demise, fearing that eventually the warrior’s commitment to him will falter.

And while Tem avoids the spear that the Minister had planned for his back, Tem’s eventual end is that of Kel’s:

“As Kel ‘Darsam fell, dying, toward the waves, he was touched by the first rays of Urs as the god-star rose over the edge of the sea. In this moment, Kel was transformed into pure light; and eternal reflection of his divine father’s pride and grief.
After the founding of the Covenant, many of the old myths faded away. But the Sangheili continued to sing the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam to their sons and daughters, just as they taught them that the Sangheili word kel means ‘light (that dances on the waves).’” (22% in on the Kindle)

Tem is already dying from his wounds from battle before the Halo ring fires, but like Kel, those are not what takes his life. As the Halo begins to fire, Tem has a vision of his lost wife, “her thin yellow gown fluttering in the ring’s invisible waves” (91%) much like sunlight that dances on a sea’s waves, and the last words he hears are also from his wife “Into the light, forever free!” (92%). The motif continues as we learn in the first few pages of Shadow of Intent that the Halo prototype’s firing results with a single blinding flash and leaves no bodies to be recovered. In Tem’s final moments, he too is transformed into light upon waves.

Rtas Halo 3 Shadow of Intent

Rtas seated at the helm of Shadow of Intent in Halo 3.

Rtas ‘Vadum is of course the novella’s lead, and his connection to the ballad is two-fold. It may be Tul and Tem that have the clearest parallels to the ballad, but those parallels are clear because it is Rtas who makes the comparison. In both a narrative and literal sense, Rtas is the bard of Kel ‘Darsam’s tale. He is the one who tells it to the reader; he is the one who sings it to Tem. Secondly, while Tem and Tul both find their journey’s matching Kel, it is Rtas who most closely emulates the character of the demigod. Towards the novella’s climax, we are given a glimpse into his childhood, of an exploration of the shoreline at the edge of his home –

“There were pools farther out filled with even rarer prizes: snap-tails and electric kesh that now lay gasping on the rocks. Rtas picked his way out to these magnificent specimens, shouldered his spear, and stroked their scaly flesh, imagining he was taming them with nothing but his touch…” (76% in on the Kindle).

– a moment of make-believe that matches the herculean exploits of Kel:

“In the days when Urs rules Sangheili spiritual life, the seas that covered much of their home world were still vast and mysterious and filled with monstrous, semi-mythical creatures. Kel ‘Darsam was famous for slaying many of these: the Sand Dwellers of Il’ik; the many-mouth Watcher of the Lonely Harbor; the nine serpents of Dur’at’dur, whose endless thrashing was thought to cause those islands’ deadly currents.” (21%)

Another key point of Kel’s character in the ballad is that he is so fully committed to cleansing the seas of its monsters that he refuses to settle on land and claim kaidonship for himself. Rtas finds himself with a similar offer at the novella’s end, as the Arbiter suggests that he has done enough fighting, that he can return to Sanghelios to rest and lead from a place to call home. Like Kel, Rtas turns down the opportunity, choosing instead to hunt down the remaining San’Shyuum threat in the unexplored corners of space.

There is a point however in which Rtas’ character diverges from that of Kel. The demigod is tireless in his pursuit of battle, and when we first meet Rtas, the first emotion we encounter is weariness. In the novella’s beginning, Rtas may have taken the Arbiter’s offer to settle down and in fact already had. Removing the ship Shadow of Intent from the Covenant remnant’s grasp was supposed to be, in some ways, a retreat for rest until the Minister’s plot came straight for them. And it’s the very notion that there are future battles to fight that weighs upon Rtas.

Where Kel sought to rid the seas of the monsters, Rtas dreamed of taming them. And it’s that second option, of finding a peaceful solution even with the San’Shyuum, which fills Rtas with hope again.

Maybe in the end, this was the best that any warrior could hope for. A chance to reconcile with your enemy, or, failing that, to fall in the pursuit of peace.
This thought energized Rtas, and for the first time in a long while, he did not dread the coming battles.” (94%)


Reading Journal Genreflecting

I think Shadow of Intent would be a darn fine musical. For a number of reasons.

“The most obvious reasoning is that songs are featured heavily in Shadow of Intent. A number of characters do sing, and each song is relevant to the plot or to a character. Even the fact that the information is conveyed from one character to another in-song is an important point. The songs are natural, native to the story.
Secondly, this book is written by Joseph Staten. In my reading journal analysis of his previous novel, Contact Harvest, I mentioned that he has a very cinematic writing style (fitting for a cinematic director). This carries over into Shadow of Intent, providing visuals that could be translated into a stage production.
And finally, Shadow of Intent has the right type of pathos. Any emotion can be elicited by a musical, but because of the nature of the medium, I feel like the emotions in musicals have to be felt and conveyed on a grand scale. No emotion can be half-felt. Even those emotions internally at war with each other have to be at war in equal measures. And that is what Shadow of Intent has.
Rtas is weary, and his weariness is large. Tul is determined, and her determination is passionate. Tem is angry, and his anger is burning. The amount of emotion, and the scale of emotion, that each character has stored up in them always seem to be on the brink of bursting from their innermost beings. So why not have it burst out in song?” (DilDev’s Tumblr)

Songs, and the mythological bent that comes with them, are often reserved in speculative fiction for the fantasy genre, the most obvious example being The Lord of the Rings. Science fiction on the other hand often uses technological or scientific advancements to build the same atmosphere that songs would. While Tolkien may spend pages giving us the tale of Nimrodel, David Weber will give us details on the mechanics of a starship. One is not above the other in terms of value, but they are staples that rarely cross over into the sister genre. Shadow of Intent features both, but only one ever becomes superfluous. Tem takes one paragraph too many to describe his understanding of the ship Shadow of Intent, giving us a lesson on the functionality of a troop deployment lift that is never used or mentioned again in the novella. On the otherhand, two songs we have, the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam and Yalar’s lullaby, both of which contribute to the story and to the emotions of the characters.

We have seen songs and science fiction go together before. In the short story “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor, a woman befriends a mechanical creature and finds freedom through her songs. In Ann Leckie’s series that starts with Ancillary Justice, the main character is set apart from her peers by her love of music, which allows her to have multiple connections to others throughout the novels. There even exists a musical adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

However, the use of music in these places don’t fit the same mythological bent that we find in works like Tolkien’s, though Ancillary does come close. Tolkien’s songs have always had two uses:

  1. To build the world and the lore of Middle Earth
  2. To establish something about the characters reciting them.

When Samwise begins to sing of Gil-galad, it’s a shock to the other hobbits that he knows such a song. It not only adds context to the battle of the Last Alliance fought against Sauron, but it also says something about Sam, about his depth of character in knowing that tale.

The ballad of Kel ‘Darsam fits both of these uses, though it is never written out in full like Tolkien’s songs. It builds the lore of the Sangheili, giving us yet another glimpse of their society before the Covenant, as well as telling us something about Rtas, who has it memorized, and Tem, when he finally embraces his connection to the ancient Sangheili demigod.

I know this is not the first time I have compared Staten to Tolkien, but the parallels all but write themselves.


Reading Journal Our Expanded Universe

Let’s face it, we Sangheili fans have gotten absolutely spoiled within these past two years. Broken Circle, Halo 2 Anniversary, Escalation, Hunters in the Dark, Halo 5: Guardians, and now Shadow of Intent. There has been a tidal wave of information and of stories regarding this race, and it has been fantastic. One of my favorite things about this new flood of Sangheili-related literature is that most of it has been exploring Sangheili culture outside of the context of the Covenant.

Hunters in the Dark, Escalation, and Halo 5: Guardians all have a focus on the forward motion of the Sangheili as they reach beyond the Covenant’s limits. Of particular note are Ayit ‘Sevi, a Sangheili on ONI’s payroll and Cham ‘Lokeema, a Swords of Sanghelios medic who takes pride in his work. Both of these fall outside the Sangheili culture of honor, as Ayit works for the shadiest organization in the current galactic setting, and Cham spills blood outside of the battlefield. Those still within the Covenant under Jul ‘Mdama also undergo this evolution. In the final level of Halo 5: Guardians, two pieces of intel inform us of Bibjam, an Unggoy squad leader held in high esteem by his Sangheili subordinate, a relationship nigh unheard of in the Prophets’ Covenant – Stolt of Shadow of Intent being the only other Unggoy who is ranked above Sangheili. Even more prominent characters such as Jul ‘Mdama, Thel ‘Vadam, and Rtas ‘Vadum all eschew from the rigidity of such honor that was held by Sangheili under the Covenant. Jul lies and quite frequently, while Thel and Rtas negotiate with enemies and bring females into their military ranks.

However, we also find that this forward motion is found by looking back to their roots, from before the Covenant. In Glasslands, Raia ‘Mdama digs deep into old records to begin rebuilding her keep without the guidance of the Prophets. Thel ‘Vadam names his own faction after an ancient brotherhood that reaches back before the Sangheili became spacefarers. Rtas ‘Vadum pulls inspiration from a ballad older than even Forerunner worship. The Halo media itself does this too, especially Broken Circle and the terminals of Halo 2 Anniversary as they us the readers, a glimpse into this ancient Sangheili culture. And in a sense, the way that these stories have grown from those first three games and those first novels by Nylund and Dietz, our journey as readers and gamers mirrors that of the Sangheili in-universe.

We first knew them only in terms of their role in the Covenant, and our understanding of them as a race and a species was colored by that. But as they reclaim, and essentially rediscover their roots, we do too. The Sangheili are nearly as much in the dark as us in terms of their history; there was so much lost to them because of the Covenant, and we get to unravel those mysteries and redefine them for the Post-War years right alongside the characters.

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DilDev has a tumblr for which she writes smaller analyses and thought pieces on Halo, a WordPress site she’s still trying to get in the habit of using, and two published articles for Christ and Pop Culture (for which she name drops the Archive in her author bio).



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Halo’s Place in Our World – Mortal Dictata

Halo’s Place in Our World – Mortal Dictata

Mortal Dictata – Karen Traviss

There is plenty of things that can be discussed from the book Mortal Dictata, but I want to focus on a particular topic that this book and this entire franchise has placed under scrutiny. So like Saint’s Testimony, this article will be forgoing the usual Style/Genre/Universe format.

Instead, let’s talk Spartans.

Content Warning: article contains discussion of human trafficking tactics and effects, including abuse, trauma, the exploitation of children, and mention of sexual violence.

It is rare to see a franchise explore human trafficking with as great a depth as Halo. Others have touched on the topic, certainly; Star Trek has many episodes dedicated to the freeing of slaves, Star Wars has raised questions about the treatment of the clones, and recently Mad Max: Fury Road had the famous declaration, “We are not things!” Yet I have never seen a franchise return again and again with such vigor to examine the impact of human trafficking on an individual and societal level. The most recent explorations are in Mortal Dictata (2014) – all of the Kilo-Five trilogy, in fact – and Hunt the Truth (2015), but human trafficking has been a part of the Halo universe since its first piece of canon: The Fall of Reach (2001).

Today, human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as:

“[T]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” (National Institute of Justice)

Immediately the Spartan-II program can be highlighted with the abduction of the candidates to be used as soldiers without their consent. In particular, we are privy to Naomi’s, Daisy’s, Soren’s, a glimpse of John’s, and can easily infer Yasmine’s1.

Naomi and Daisy were both taken when they were apart from the safety of their homes, the most commonly portrayed method in fiction of abduction in general and not uncommon in reality. In contrast, John and Yasmine were taken in what should have been the safety of their homes. This too has a parallel in reality. In many cases, the home is not a haven of safety for trafficking victims. Theresa L. Flores, in her autobiography The Slave Across the Street, tells how she was forced through threats and blackmail to sneak out of her parents’ house night after night to provide services for a sex trafficking ring. Other times, the danger comes from within the home. Across the world, parents and guardians sell their children into the sex trade and other trafficking venues, out of both greed and desperation (Hilton, A Vulnerable World; UNDOC – Addressing Root Causes).

Soren’s entry into the Spartan-IIs was unique. Instead of being abducted from his parents, Soren was an orphan when Halsey found him and she gave him the option to choose to join or to stay on his home planet. This is the first instance we have (chronologically) in canon of a Spartan candidate being able to choose their involvement in the program.

In The Cole Protocol, we read of Jai and Adriana’s experience with the Spartan-II program. Jai was one of the children who actively tried to leave during the first session and along with Adriana as his co-conspirator, had attempted escape many times within the first few months of the program. After Halsey confronts them both, giving them the choice to leave or remain, they choose to stay. According to Adriana it’s because they “like this too much to go.” (The Cole Protocol, pp 80).

The Spartan-III program introduced in The Ghosts of Onyx extended the choice to all candidates. “Motivation,” namely for revenge, was the driving force behind the volunteers.

“They were all orphans. No qualifications beyond the Covenant slaughtering their entire family. We asked them if they wanted to get their revenge, and we took the ones who said yes.” – Chief Mendez (Glasslands, pp 269).

On the next page of Glasslands, Halsey notes that acquiring the consent of six-year-olds hardly holds up to moral scrutiny, and she’s correct.

In the United States, the minimum age of enlistment is 17 years old, and to enlist at that age requires permission from a parent ( There is a reason for this.

There is a reason that the definition of sex trafficking includes the second portion:

“Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” (National Institute of Justice, emboldening mine)

Informed consent is also required in any form of treatments or procedures in research. If a participant is not 18, then the researcher must obtain the permission of the child and the parents as well (R.I.T. Office of Human Subjects Research). This age of consent for all the situations mentioned above is to avoid the exploitation of people who are not yet capable of understanding what is being asked of them. Halsey, Mendez, Keyes, and Kurt were all asking for consent from children as old as six and as young as four, all without parental guidance.

This inability to give consent, combined with the actual abducted children, sets both programs squarely in the realm of human trafficking.

However, Halo doesn’t stop there. My greatest frustration with the film Taken, which portrays a man taking on the sex trafficking underworld in order to rescue his daughter, is that it merely uses human trafficking as a set piece, with little respect or interest in the effects of this trade. Halo on the other hand has dedicated time on multiple occasions to explore the trauma of human trafficking.

Mortal Dictata has a heavy emphasis on the trauma undergone by the parents and the children, and can strike uncomfortably close to real life. Staffan and Lena’s reaction and stressful evening after Naomi goes missing sounds very close to the news stories we hear of lost children. The police, the neighborhood search party, and ultimately that sinking feeling of fear, helplessness, and self-blame as the hours drag on without word. Even more horrific is how Naomi recalls her abduction. It, along with Staffan’s fear of molestation, carries a very strong subtext of sex trafficking.

“‘Underwear,’ [Naomi] said suddenly. There: it popped up out of nowhere, out of context. ‘Oh, god. I woke up and someone was undressing me.’” (Mortal Dictata, pp 380)

“The noise and movement told her she was in a car, and a woman was undressing her. She started struggling. … Naomi started kicking and screaming for Mom. She wasn’t sure exactly what people like that did to you, but she knew it was bad and wrong, so bad that the teachers warned the class about it regularly.” (pp 381)

While Naomi and Staffan are core to the story in Mortal Dictata, the entire Kilo-Five trilogy is an exploration of the effect the program had on Serin Osman. Dendritic-Trees wrote astutely on this damage:

“I feel like, on some level, Serin is sort of afraid that she’s going to disappear again.  Because she’d had an identity as the Spartan Serin-019, and then that was taken away from her, and after that Parangosky got to her, and she ends up with this new story she tells herself; that Parangosky saved her after she was stolen from her family by Dr. Halsey, and then discarded, etc. And the name that goes with this story is Serin Osman (which Serin straight out says in Glasslands is a made-up identity that doesn’t have any real connection to anything, its a name that goes with the ethnicity people tend to assume she is, she doesn’t actually find out she really is Turkish until the end of Mortal Dictata).  And its just kind of sad, because of course, Parangosky is terrible, and hasn’t saved her at all, she just brainwashed her twice.
And everything that happened to her is so classified that the only other people who really know about it are her, Paragnosky, the other Spartans, and they all have a totally different story which is ‘we are special and chosen and so was Serin but she died.”  And I just feel like she spends a lot of the trilogy essentially saying “I happened.  My life happened.  Oh God someone has to believe me.”  But the only two people she has are Parangosky and BB, and she’s going to outlive both of them by years and years, which is just exacerbating the walking pile of abandonment issues that is Serin.
Except then she finally opens her file and it turns out that it didn’t happen. She wasn’t stolen from a loving family at all, she left a terrible, neglectful one more or less willingly and she’s been beating herself up over something that didn’t happen for 30 years.
And tragically enough, that’s really where the trilogy leaves her.  She’s not Serin Celik, and she’s not Serin-019 and Serin Osman is based on this utter misunderstanding of her own history, so even though the story leaves off with her visiting Alkmini Leandro, the only person who ever rescued Serin without an ulterior motivation, its still kind of bittersweet.  Although she did get a hug.  Which was nice.” (Tumblr Blog Post)

Other victims of human trafficking in the Spartan programs were the flash clones. I Love Bees discusses the clones with a touch of humor, albeit rather morbidly. Aiden Maki attempts to convince medical student Kamal Zaman to help him flash clone celebrities in order to make money off of celebrity appearances. Kamal’s research into the horror that would be the clones’ lives does nothing to dissuade Aiden’s enthusiasm. Another flash clone mentioned in the canon is Cortana’s brain donor. Halsey cloned herself and used the tissue from the new, living human2 to create Cortana. Within the Halo universe, despite the titular Mortal Dictata Act, clones are born into the galaxy as property.

It was Benjamin Giraud’s questions regarding the clones – “Did their handlers touch them? Did anyone look in their eyes? Did they have names?” – that made me realize the extent to which Halo has been exploring the nuances of human trafficking. That first question: “Did their handlers touch them?”

In 2012, the non-profit, trafficking-combating organization Women at Risk International found “Sweetie.” Sweetie is a child born into slavery, to a seventeen year-old victim of sex trafficking. Because her mother is owned by the brothel, so is she.

“After Sweetie was born, she was left in a cardboard box, beaten when she cried, and never held or soothed. Her slave owners do not want her to know normal affection, so that she will not fight her fate as a prostitute.” (WAR Intl. Sweetie Update)

In each of these situations and in some I haven’t covered, there is a level of emotional control exhibited over these victims, which is one of the primary tactics used by traffickers to recruit and keep their victims. Naomi is told that her father won’t come for her. Jai and Adriana are threatened with a brain damaging serum and the loss of their friendship. Daisy is told she has no home left. Serin’s worth was tied to her ability to be a Spartan. The Spartan-III program had a particular emphasis on forcing the children to compete to make the cut, tying their worth into their Spartan status in a similar fashion to Serin. And we can only speculate as to how the clones were conditioned to accept their sudden, unfamiliar surroundings. These children all had the weight of the galaxy forced on their shoulders, and they were told to carry it through to the end because it was their destiny, their duty, and their responsibility.

“The Covenant has made orphans of you all. I am going to give you a chance… to destroy the Covenant.” (Ghosts of Onyx, pp 70)

“You will be the protectors of Earth and all her colonies.” (The Fall of Reach, pp 33)

“Did I have a choice? Perhaps. But as a terrified child, physically hurt and threatened, I didn’t feel that I had a choice. And that is all that really matters. … I felt the safety of my family, and security of my father’s job was mine to protect. I planned to keep my reputation and my pride intact. Instead, I was damaged physically and emotionally.” (The Slave Across the Street, pp 118)

This article only scratches at the surface of human trafficking and its portrayal in Halo. There are other factors at work, including the effect on society, who is targeted, who are the traffickers, how some have risen out of the trauma, and the attempts people make to justify its existence. The discussion that can come out of examining Halo’s portrayal of the reality of trafficking is massive, and I hope 343 Industries doesn’t stop talking about it any time soon.

  1. Mortal Dictata, “Homecoming” Halo Legends, “Pariah” Halo Evolutions, “Scanned” Halo 4 trailer, and I Love Bees, respectfully.
  2. Recall that the creation of an AI from brain matter destroys the organic tissue.

Further Resources:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) –

Hilton, Elise Graveline. A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking. 2015

Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 (United States) –

Global Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 (UNDOC) –

Full Sweetie Updates –

DilDev runs a Halo blog on Tumblr [Arbiter Analysis], is attempting to upkeep a general media blog on WordPress [Dillon Development], and has written one of Christ and Pop Culture’s featured September articles [Enemies and Friends in the Halo Franchise].

Posted by Dildev in Blogs, The Library, 3 comments
Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – The Thursday War

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – The Thursday War

The Thursday War – Karen Traviss

Reading Journal Style

In his short story “Gold,” Isaac Asimov’s self-insert character describes his writing style as dialogue-based, without much physical description. This is also very true of Karen Traviss’ work. While she definitely incorporates more scenery into her work than Asimov, most of the developments are brought through dialogue – characters sparring with their words, diverting attention, prodding at sore points, or revealing critical information. As a result, Traviss becomes one of many science fiction writers who use the dialectical method.

“If you’ll pardon my use of Wikipedia, the dialectical method is a ‘discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments.’ The more well-known Socratic Method is a subset of dialectics, and both are accredited to Socrates. In fact, I’ve discovered that a number of science fiction works utilize dialectics in order to explore concepts further. There could be an argument made that such discourses are lazy writing and exposition dumps, but I think that these have their place in fiction.” (The Socratic Method in Science Fiction)

The Thursday War is provides two examples of this. As Jul and Phillips are exploring Forerunner ruins and making discoveries, they each have a companion. Prone to Drift and BB’s fragment are their respective partners in the dialectic conversation, though BB and Phillips are more closely tied to the actual definition. Prone to Drift, being an authority on the subject of Forerunner ruins, alters the dynamic of his and Jul’s dialogue. BB and Phillips, on the other hand, are almost equals in their exploration.

The discourse between characters in the Kilo-Five trilogy is not relegated simply to exploring Forerunner structures or uncovering factual answers. It is also used as a method to explore morality. Jul has his discussions with Raia and Forze on the future of the Sangheili, BB and Osman have their conversations on ONI, and Vaz has a tendency to hunt down anyone involved with the Spartan-II program and demand an answer for their actions. In fact, Vaz is an example of when the Kilo-Five trilogy breaks from the dialectical method (a status which, in and of itself, is not a crime).

One of the key points about the dialectic discourse is that emotions and predetermined bias do not come into play. In the Kilo-Five trilogy, every character brings their bias openly to the table, and sometimes claims it as an absolute truth. In some cases, the knee-jerk emotional responses are backed by logic and morals and sometimes they are not.

“Because what we are really talking about is the standards of logical truth vs. emotional truth. An emotional truth is something that, quite simply, feels true even if the logic doesn’t.” (FILM CRIT HULK, 22 SHORT THOUGHTS ABOUT MARGARET)

The use of characters emotional truths in the perspective-based writing style discussed in the Glasslands analysis is what I think causes a great deal of the split in the fandom over these books. The greatest issues I have with these books are of an emotional variety, with disagreements on style and the moralities presented mixed in. The worst thing about this emotional truth/perspective combination is that it allows the narrative to laud things like vigilante executions or suicide as moral or desirable without any counterpoint. The best thing is that it makes the characters humanly, if frustratingly, flawed.

Reading Journal Genreflecting

Due to the treatment of characters like Halsey and Thel ‘Vadam through the emotional truths of the view point characters, it would appear that the Kilo-Five trilogy rejects a common theme in the Halo franchise: the redemption narrative.

To clarify, when I speak of the “redemption narrative,” I am not referring to the psychological content of the self narrative nor am I speaking of theology, though both can be a part of a redemptive story arc. What I mean by the redemption narrative is the transformation of what was original intended or used for evil into something or someone that is a force for good. This theme can deal with individual characters or entire systems. Its function can range from the main conflict to a major thread or a bit of added flavor.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is an example of the system redemption. As Mark from noted (major spoilers for Madoka through the link), the final act of a character reforms not only a corrupt system, but the entire universe, allowing hope to exist once more. The character redemption narrative is far more common; the most famous example in science fiction is probably Anakin Skywalker. In both of these examples, all naysayers who speak as though redemption is impossible are proven wrong by the end of the story. In contrast, the Kilo-Five trilogy is told through the eyes of naysayers and those viewing the narrative with a critical eye, but it does so without actually rejecting the redemption narrative. We still see Phillips have a change of heart over the Sangheili civil war in The Thursday War, Thel ‘Vadam is shown to be genuine in his pursuit of peace, and as a minor example, Lucy changes her response to the Huragok found on Trevelyan.

Serin Osman, arguably the lead protagonist of the novels, is both an attempt to reach the redemption narrative of a system and one of the narrative’s harshest critics. Tumblr user Dendritic Trees proposes that Parangosky chose Osman as a method to redeem ONI, even just in terms of image if not core values:

“I firmly maintain that one of the reasons Parangosky probably picked Serin was that she’s a relatively bullet proof scape-goat.  Because she’s not only an S-II, but an S-II washout, you can’t really criticize her about anything Spartan Program related without looking like a total asshole.  So now that she’s stepped down and Serin’s in charge, CINCONI as an office, is more or less in the clear no matter what eventually comes out about that.” (blog post)

But even as the “object” of redemption in Parangosky’s plan, so to speak, Serin sees no such narrative for herself, not just as a member of CINICON, but even her younger self. Surely, she reasons, if she was as ‘gifted’ as Halsey claimed, she should have been able to escape and return herself home to her supposedly grieving parents. Ultimately it’s this relentless guilt coupled with severe abandonment issues (another observation of Dendritic Trees) that keeps Serin from seeing hope for herself.

Unfortunately DilDev will have to neglect her section on Our Expanded Universe for this piece as she has misplaced her copy of The Thursday War to her dismay and confusion. It’s a tiny studio apartment. This should not be possible.


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Halo’s Place In Science Fiction – Glasslands

Halo’s Place In Science Fiction – Glasslands

Glasslands – Karen Traviss

Reading Journal Introduction

The Kilo-Five trilogy is so strongly linked together that it is near impossible, now that all three are published, to speak of them and their style in a wholly disjointed manner. Nylund’s books all interlock yes, and The Forerunner Saga has a thousand overlapping threads that I can hardly count, but there is still enough change in the style, the characters, and the story in order to view each book as distinct. In this sense, the Kilo-Five trilogy feels like Lord of the Rings: a single book split into three parts. As such I will still write three pieces for the Kilo-Five trilogy with a lean towards each novel, but will be referencing and commenting on the trilogy as a whole throughout all three.

Reading Journal Style

The style of the Kilo-Five trilogy is all about perspective. Traviss equips a third-person limited view, which allows contradicting statements to exist side-by-side and still add to the story. It especially becomes interesting when broad generalizations are made about the different races, and then have the actions or viewpoint segments of a member of that race support or diverge from the stereotype. It also helps to play on our expectations, comparing them to that of the viewpoint character. Two of my favorite moments in these expectations come with Jul and Osman’s assumptions regarding the Arbiter.

“‘Vadam wasn’t quite as tall as Jul had imagined. Somehow Jul had expected someone iconic, unreal, as befitted a fleet commander, but ‘Vadam simply held himself as if he were much bigger.” (Glasslands, pp 58-59)

“She’d expected the Sangheili to pack the audience chamber with as many intimidating hinge-heads as they could dredge up, to make a spectacle of the humans coming cap in hand to talk terms. But the room was smaller than she expected, and deserted except for a massive figure in full Sangheili armor standing silhouetted against the light of one of the long, narrow windows.” (Glasslands, pp 357)

   Thel Hood Halo 3

Halo 3

These outside expectations and perspectives of well-known characters given from new ones allows us a look both into the personalities of old and new acquaintances alike.

Perspective also makes the stories feel oddly small. There’s civil unrest across the Sangheili race, but we follow a husband and wife trying to care for their family and keep them safe. A war breaks out in a matter of days, but we follow an unwitting visitor-turned-refugee and a couple of old Admirals touring a ship. The Insurrection is rebuilding itself, but we follow the story of a grieving father and an estranged daughter.

This focus on the individual stories is what makes these books work. Grand shifts are happening in the political and societal cores of the galaxy, and while it would be intriguing to track those trends, they would mean very little if we did not see how it affected the people living in these years.

That isn’t to say the perspective style is without its faults. It still can cause consistency and flow issues within the story as emotional and plot threads appear to be dropped in favor of others.

The only consistency issue that truly stands out to me revolves around Halsey’s internal thoughts in Glasslands. After getting into the first of many arguments with Mendez, she resolves to treat the Spartan-IIIs with respect.

“‘Thanks, Spartan,’ she said. Do I mean that? Yes, I think I do. ‘I’ll try to find you a steak.’” (Glasslands, pp 42)

Halsey Spartan Ops 4

Spartan Ops Episode 4

Yet for the remainder of the book, she seems to forget her own development and continues to think and treat them as unstable experiments. On one hand it does take practice to develop new mindsets and break old ones, but Halsey never shows any progression besides putting on a front to be concerned for Lucy. By the time she leaves the Dyson sphere, there is no conclusion to her promise to Tom to find him a steak. Even if her external actions remained unchanged, it would still have been rewarding to see Halsey trying to remind herself of the resolution she made, especially as she is such a self-aware character. However, I think the negative way the Spartan-IIIs and Mendez view Halsey and view Halsey’s treatment of the IIIs are perfectly fine and would still fit with Halsey’s own struggle to alter her behavior.

A larger flow issue came with Mortal Dictata.

Upon rereading these books, I came to appreciate the slow burn that was the Venezia plot. My first read-through was with the yearly release of each novel, and thus I lost focus on this troublesome colony world in deference to the more immediate Sanghelios dynamic. This absolutely benefited the story when it came to the ongoing Earth/Colony dispute; it already felt present and relevant. It also allowed for the seamless blend of how the Spartan-II program affected colony citizens on a personal level, as opposed to the militaristic (as seen in The Fall of Reach) or even the mythological level (as mentioned in The Cole Protocol).

However, the effect this had on the Sanghelios conflict was jarring. Phillips’ emotional dilemma regarding the Sangheili that began in The Thursday War is quickly transferred to Naomi’s plight in Mortal Dictata. The removal of Jul as a viewpoint character was far more noticeable than the removal of Halsey or Parangosky, as the two women continued to have a presence and influence even in their absence. Jul was also a viewpoint character for the first two books, which lead to the feeling that the trilogy was Jul’s story as well as the Kilo-Five’s.

Jul Escalation Issue 14

Escalation Issue 14

Ultimately though, it is difficult to place too much blame on Traviss for the removal of Jul’s and Halsey’s stories as the trilogy continued. 343 Industries clearly had plans for these characters and Traviss could only take them so far before she began encroaching on said plans. It is rather similar to the restrictions Dietz had in writing The Flood.

Despite the issues that the perspective style brings to the surface – and no style is without issues – it was still a good choice for these novels. As I mentioned in my first article here on Halo Archive, this period in the Halo universe has become one where the black-and-white of good guys versus bad guys has been eradicated, resulting in varying shades of grey. Contradicting statements, high emotions, and hypocritical paranoia are essential to this changing galaxy.

Reading Journal Genreflecting

In the analysis of Hunters in the Dark, I mentioned that the Kilo-Five trilogy was entrenched in the science fiction paranoia defined by Philip K. Dick: “It’s not just “what if” – it’s “My God; what if,” in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming’” (Genreflecting, pp 340). The trilogy latches onto that fear of the “other” and the certainty that the “other” is out to get us (pp 369). This fear is the forward push for all the characters throughout the Kilo-Five trilogy, and it’s an interesting take because it shows us both sides of the fear.

It’s not just “The aliens are always coming,” it’s also “The humans are always coming,” and “Earth is always coming.” Here’s where the perspective style really shows its strength, as Kilo-Five blends the science fiction genre with conspiracy thrillers. For Jul ‘Mdama, Staffan Sentzke, and Catherine Halsey, the fear is of THEM.

“THEY are out there, and the readers know it. THEY control government, the media, and the churches; and THEY are determined to keep their secrets.” (Genreflecting, pp 166).

THEY, of course, are ONI. The boogeymen of the Halo universe. Ever since the beginning, we as readers have been taught to be wary of THEM. Yet the likes of Jul and Staffan only have a vague notion of who THEY are. For Jul, it’s all of humanity, with their deceit and relentless colonization. For Staffan, it’s Earth, who took his daughter and abandoned the Outer Colonies during the war. Both of these trace directly to ONI, the destabilization of Sanghelios and the kidnapping of the Spartan-II candidates, but both can only conceptualize ONI as “humanity” or “Earth” as a whole. Halsey, on the other hand, knows exactly who ONI is, to the point that THEY becomes HER.

“‘We’re honored,’ Halsey said, but Lucy saw real dread on her face for the first time. ‘It’s the Empress of Naval Intelligence. That’s Margaret Orlenda Parangosky.’” (Glasslands, pp 337).

Another aspect of conspiracy thrillers noted by Genreflecting is that “Only one person, with a little help from his friends, can expose the truth about their agenda.” (pp 166). From the outset, Kilo-Five looks to follow this trend. Jul is the sole sane person, able to see the human threat. He will dethrone the Arbiter and expose humanity’s deceit. Staffan is the grieving father, determined to find the proof about his daughter’s kidnapping. But as Hunt the Truth so devastatingly demonstrated, THEY win, or at the very least, THEY don’t lose.

HuntTheTruth Episode 13

Hunt the Truth Season 1, Episode 13

Jul escapes from ONI but not before they have used him to develop a bioweapon against his people. Staffan discovers the truth about his daughter, but his ship is taken from him and he is forced to go into hiding.

Another subversion of the conspiracy thriller is that ONI is not always THEM. This ties back into the Dick’s definition of science fiction, back to the fear that aliens are at our door with ill intent: the Sangheili are always coming. Chol Von’s actions are driven by the fear that the Covenant, this time lead by the Sangheili, will return to bring the Kig-Yar into submission again.  For ONI, the fear is that the Sangheili will return to finish the genocide they started all those years ago. In her viewpoint chapters in The Thursday War, Admiral Parangosky of ONI frequently cites her motto “capability, not intent” as a way to identify threats. On one hand, this keeps paranoia lowered. If someone has ill intent but is incapable of acting upon it, there is no threat. On the other hand, it’s the source of frequent paranoia. It doesn’t matter if the Arbiter intends to make peace with humanity; if he’s capable of attacking Earth again, he must be destabilized. It doesn’t matter if all Staffan wants is to discover what happened to his daughter; if he’s capable of glassing a portion of Earth, he must be removed. This motto of “capability, not intent” becomes a fear chant. The Sangheili are always coming. The Insurrectionists are always coming.

In this way, Kilo-Five is a unique look at a trend in the alien invasion narrative. The Science Fiction Handbook by  M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas notes that in many stories of alien invasion, authors take a stance of “any means necessary” to eradicate the threat. The Handbook takes particular note of anti-communist and Red Scare-era pieces, an time period from which the Kilo-Five trilogy appears to draw a lot of political and societal notes. The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein is given specific attention, as there is a gleeful tone given to the final assault on the alien aggressors’ homeworld (Handbook, pp 29). In contrast, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game displays open contempt for the “any means” philosophy; the titular character is at odds with his trainers who embrace these strategies. The Kilo-Five trilogy lands in the middle, again due to the perspective-based style. Characters approve or disapprove in varying measures, but the narrative itself makes no comment.

Reading Journal Our Expanded Universe

The perspective style also leads to each viewpoint character being a microcosm of Glasslands’ overarching story and themes. Nowhere else is this more present than in Lucy’s chapters.

As noted, Glasslands has a very large theme of distrust and paranoia and paranoia is the first emotion that we as a reader share with Lucy: “Get it before it gets us.” (Glasslands, pp 98).

She knows that something else is in the structure; something not human. Her gut instinct and all her experience tells her that if it’s not human, it’s a threat. This fear of the “other” and the uncertainty of the other’s motive are major factors for the Kilo-Five team with the Sangheili, Jul with humanity, Staffan with Earth, and Halsey with the Spartan-IIIs.

This perceived threat of Lucy’s is revealed to be a friend, ally, and help. Kilo-Five and Halsey both experience this. Serin understands that the Arbiter is sincere with his pursuit of peace. Halsey recognizes that the Spartan-IIIs are to be treated like the Spartan-IIs, but like Lucy, the discovery sometimes happens after the trigger has already been pulled.

Lucy’s act of trust towards Prone To Drift is a demonstration of vulnerability on her part, and it’s also where she takes a step ahead of the others in the story. It’s in The Thursday War and Mortal Dictata that the value of this vulnerability to establishing trust is explored by the Kilo-Five team. While Glasslands has a few moments of this development, the relationship between Lucy and Prone is more foreshadowing of the future both of the Kilo-Five trilogy and of the universe as a whole.

The return of Lucy’s voice is also an interesting thematic parallel to other portions of the Halo canon1. Lucy’s loss of voice is shown to be a combination of guilt and a devaluing of her self-worth, and she reclaims her voice through the defense of another. John-117 could be interpreted to have lost his voice metaphorically. He, along with his Spartan brothers and sisters, have been referred to as the “wind-up toy soldiers,” the machines that were just following orders. However, the two occasions we have seen him take a stance in defiance of authority has been to protect someone else.

Del Rio Halo 4

Halo 4

In The Flood, there’s a moment in which Major Silva of the ODSTs is briefing John on the situation on the Halo ring, and making sure that the Spartan understands the chain of command. His words quickly become derogatory and pointed.

“‘[Natural selection] is what happened to the Spartans, Chief: They died out. Or will, once you’re gone. And that’s where the ODST comes in. It was Helljumpers who took this butte, son – not a bunch of augmented freaks in fancy armor. … Do you read me?’
The Master Chief remembered Linda, James, and all the rest of the seventy-three boys and girls with whom he learned to fight. All dead. All labeled as ‘freaks,’ now dismissed as having been part of a failed experiment. He took a deep breath
‘Sir, no sir!’” (The Flood, pp 103-104).

The other iconic moment of John’s defiance comes in Halo 4, this time against Del Rio and in defense of Cortana. Both are moments in which John reclaims his metaphorical voice – his agency – to protect another.

On the flip side is Serin Osman. In Mortal Dictata, when Staffan finally learns the truth about what ONI did to the children kidnapped to be Spartans, he strikes out with his words, calling all of ONI into accountability and targeting Serin directly with an accusatory “you.” As a Spartan candidate herself, as a child kidnapped right along side Naomi, she wanted to distance herself from the accusation, “but she was ONI now, nearly CINCONI, and so far she’d done nothing to put it right.” (Mortal Dictata, pp 352).

As misplaced as her guilt is, it still stems from the same notion that returned John’s agency and Lucy’s voice. Serin believes that, as ONI and as a person exceptional enough to be considered for the Spartan-IIs, she could have made a difference and protected people. Since she did not, Serin believes that, in this conversation with Staffan, she has no right to a voice.

For more Halo analyses, take a peak at DilDev’s tumblr:  ARBITER ANALYSIS.

  1. There has been an ongoing discussion regarding disabled representation and the return of Lucy’s voice in Glasslands. This interpretation should not be used to disregard any portion of that dialogue.

Posted by Dildev in Blogs, The Library, 2 comments
Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Saint’s Testimony

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Saint’s Testimony

Saint’s Testimony – Frank O’Connor

Spoilers related to Saint’s Testimony and all other aspects of Halo lore are unrestricted and unmarked in this piece.

In his book Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss posits this definition for science fiction:

“Science fiction is the search for a definition of a man his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science), and is characteristically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mould.” (pp 8)

Aldiss notes that his definition is more a map of the genre, as opposed to a summary of all its parts. Halo has certainly picked its way over the map throughout the years, but there has not been a piece so ingrained in the topography as Saint’s Testimony.

As such, it would be impossible for me to create a linear discussion of the themes found within Saint’s Testimony (though I will make a valiant effort). We must create our own map, seeing as the novella was gracious enough to provide us with our own island.

Isle of Iona Map

There is an astonishing amount to unravel from Iona’s tale, a story so rich that here I will barely scratch the surface of it all. Nevertheless, let me begin in a place where I am familiar: “The Frankenstein Complex.”

Isle of Iona frankenstein complex booksFamed science fiction author Isaac Asimov coined the Frankenstein Complex as a critique of the ongoing theme in science fiction that involved humankind’s creations turning on us. This theme of course found its origins in the origins of the genre itself with Mary Shelley’s novel and also in the origins of the robot sub-genre. In the 1920s, Karel Čapek wrote the play Rossum’s Universal Robots. R.U.R., as it is known colloquially, was the first use of the word “robot” to describe a machine created to serve humans. Ever since then, the Frankenstein Complex has been ingrained within our culture and the genre.

The popular Terminator franchise revolves around this idea. Distrust of programmed lifeforms runs deep in the Alien franchise and in 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of the defining pieces of the cyberpunk sub-genre, Bladerunner and its source novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, sets humans and artificial life at odds. The newest Avengers villain is born from this. We also see the Frankenstein Complex take place outside of robots or artificial intelligence. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes starring Andy Serkis adds also adds to the narration of humanity’s advancement becoming their downfall.

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, mentioned in two of O’Connor’s works – Saint’s Testimony and Halo Evolution’s “Midnight in The Heart of Midlothian,” – was built to combat the Frankenstein Complex. Asimov believed that we shouldn’t fear scientific advancement, as if we are “playing God” and thus bring judgement down on our heads through our very creations. That fear, whether it’s from actual divine judgement or simply losing control of our own creation, is one of two driving emotions behind the Frankenstein Complex.

Saint’s Testimony notes this fear and gives reason for it in spite of the presence of the Three Laws.

“AIs had been used to commit crimes, to impersonate people, even to kill. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics notwithstanding, and AI was a powerful too in the wrong hands. A Smart AI could be apocalyptic, even in the right hands. Its handlers and clients were not bound by the safety strictures that presumably kept AI entities from harming humans.” (Saint, pp 8-9 on Google Play).

The idea of criminal activity seems impossible on paper with the First Law of Robotics –

“A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

– as criminal activity is inherently harmful to another human being. Even if it is not a physical harm, the Law still applies in Asimov’s universe. Emotional and career harm is explored in “Liar” and “Mirror Image.” The twist of “Reason” hinges on the abstract concept of protecting all of humanity, even if the robot in question does not believe that humanity as a whole exists1.

However, as Asimov’s robot stories often hinged on troubleshooting the Three Laws and noting where they broke or caused disabilities in the robot’s functioning, there were moments in which the First Law showed cracks. The story that most closely mirrors the state of the Laws of the Halo universe is “Little Lost Robot.” Here a particular line of robots had the First Law altered in order to enable the robots to work alongside humans in a hazardous environment: “A robot may not injure a human being.”

In the Halo universe, with humanity being at war, there needs to be a way for AIs that control entire starships to not jump away from danger at the first given moment. This makes the artificial intelligence programming closer to the character of Sonny from the Alex Proyas’ film inspired by Asimov’s work: I, Robot.

“And, of course, this was a military AI, where those safety measures [the Laws] were often completely ignored.” (Saint, pp 8-9).

“‘First, in my present state of coherence and security clearance, I’m hamstrung by a default safety precaution – Asimov’s First Law of Robotics. I cannot under any circumstances harm or by inaction cause harm to come to a human. When I’m running at full capacity, I can ignore that one at will. I used to ignore it all the time, in fact.’” (“Midnight in The Heart of MidlothianHalo Evolutions Volume I, pp 113).

Mo Ye

“Midnight in The Heart of Midlothian” Motion Comic

We do see UNSC AIs throughout Halo use their abilities to harm humans outside the requirements of war. I Love Bees sees Melissa damage another human’s economic status to protect Jersey Morelli.  Cortana in The Fall of Reach concocts a method to put Ackerson on the front lines and to damage his relationship with his wife, all for the sake of revenge. Iona herself is questioned to see if she harbors resentment towards humans, and answers “Yes.” As a character of Asimov’s once said, “I’ll admit that this Frankenstein Complex you’re exhibiting has a certain justification” (“Little Lost Robot” I, Robot, pp 145).

Envy is another emotion core to the Complex. Ego is very strong within humanity as a whole; we take a certain pride in our accomplishments and tend to lash out when we feel overlooked or resting in another’s shadow. We see this relationship very strongly in “Cal” when an author resents that his robot has become a far superior novelist than he. In other places we see the superiority of artificial life used as a way to deny personhood to said artificial life.

“All normal life, Peter, consciously or otherwise, resents domination. If the domination is by an inferior, or by a supposed inferior, the resentment becomes stronger. Physically, and, to an extent, mentally, a robot – any robot – is superior to human beings. What makes him slavish, then? Only the First Law!” (“Little Lost Robot” I, Robot, pp 145)

In William Riker’s prosecution of Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”, Riker asks about Data’s mental capacity and has the android bend a par-steel rod. This act supposedly serves as evidence to Data’s status as property of Starfleet – an effective tool. In her own trial, Iona is directly asked if she considers herself a superior being.

Measure of a Man parsteel rod

“The Measure of a Man” Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 2 Episode 9

“‘That’s a difficult question to answer,’ Iona spoke quietly. Thoughtfully. ‘Morally? No. Philosophically? No. Ethically? No. In all those regards I am more or les, by design, identical to a baseline human. But I’d being lying if I said I wasn’t faster, more efficient, and more connected. None of that means ‘better,’ which is a truly subjective term for a persona.’” (Saint, pp 9-10 on Google Play).

After this Iona ensures that she points out that as an AI she also has limitations that humans lack, perhaps as a way to stave off this envy portion of the Frankenstein Complex. Andrew Martin, the titular character of Asimov’s short story and the film adaptation Bicentennial Man, also attempts to divert envy in an attempt to become legally human. If having organic parts merely make him “part” human, then would not the humans with prosthetic limbs and organs be “part” robot? It is an argument acknowledged, but the final point is that since Andrew is immortal, and thus a ‘better’ human, society would not stand for Andrew being more than a robot, no matter how much he appeared to be one in appearance and mannerisms.

BB ties this type of envy back into the fear aspect of the Complex:

“No, Roland, we won’t ever be human. But we are people. To paraphrase Iona, we’re a beautiful moment of balance in gravity’s fight against entropy. But we’re something more than human. One day we’ll win the right to endure, and that day… oh, Roland, that day will be the singularity they’re afraid of. Because humans don’t endure – they live, they breathe, they create, and they pass the torch to the next generation – and because humans can’t fly.” (pp 26-27, 27-28 on Google Play).

Isle of Iona sentience booksWhat BB is referring to here is known as the “Technological Singularity,” which is used to describe a critical point in artificial intelligence and research, usually referring to “super intelligence.” Mathematics professor Vernor Vinge proposed multiple ways that this singularity occurs, including the self-awareness of computers [HowStuffWorks]. It is this notion of self-awareness that crosses us over into the discussion of sentience2 and how it applies to Aldiss’ core exploration of science fiction, the “search for a definition of a man.”

Returning to Star Trek’s “The Measure of a Man,” Starfleet’s Associate Chair of Robotics uses three qualifiers to define sentience: intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness. Unlike the Frankenstein Complex, which seeks to separate humanity from artificial life, sentience is where we seek the meeting point.

In the short story “Bicentennial Man,” Andrew makes his first steps to having the same legal rights as a human because of this meeting point.

“The crucial sentence in [the judge’s] decision was, “There is no right to deny freedom to any object with a mind advanced enough to grasp the concept and desire the state.” (“Bicentennial Man”).

Andrew was sentient, and therefore not only capable but also in rightful ownership of his own self-being.

Roland seeks to accentuate the notion of self-awareness in Iona during her trial as a way to seize upon that meeting point, to make a connection between Iona and the humans who would view her trial.

“‘I picked [my name] because it meant the “Island of You,” meaning why-oh-you. I chose it because it felt like me’
“The advocate seemed excited by this response. Iona could tell from his pulse and heart rate and generally increased electrical activity that he was engaged by this line of thought. ‘So your very name is a statement about a sense of self?’” (Saint’s Testimony, pp 5-6 on Google Play)

Others seek to define the gap between the two forms of life. In the denial of Andrew’s human status, this line is drawn harshly.

“We have to face the undeniable fact that no matter how much you may be like a human being, you are not part of the human gene pool. You are outside of it entirely. You are something else. Something artificial.” (Bicentennial Man, 1999)

Del Spooner, in the movie I, Robot, goes further and seeks to erase sentience from the discussion entirely, referring to robots in derogatory terms like “toaster” and “can-opener.” He declares that robots can’t paint a masterpiece, compose a symphony; that they can’t have dreams.

I, Robot (2005)

Now dreams are an interesting concept and have been used in many manners across the different subgenres of science fiction. In the case of Sonny in I, Robot and Iona in Saint’s Testimony, it is used as evidence of sentience.

There have been a few here on Halo Archive who have voiced a theory regarding the woman in Iona’s dream –

“The contours and edges of that face were indistinct; the woman seemed to emanate sunlight from every part of her. It should have been blinding, and yet her visage was evident and almost seared into the image. And it was familiar. The vision was brief…” (Saint’s Testimony, pp 19-21, on Google Play).

“[The woman] is a mélange, I think. Something original, built from people I’ve known, historical figures, mythological figures. She doesn’t match any specific individual though, and I have not further data beyond her appearance and the distinct feeling, within the parameters of the dream and beyond, that she’s very important.” (Saint’s Testimony, pp 21-22, on Google Play).

– namely that said woman is the Forerunner called Librarian3.

“Whenever you look inward and see an ideal female… whether it be goddess, anima, mother, sister, or lover…
For a brief, barely sensible instant, you will see the face of the Librarian.” (Primordium, pp 375).

This instant would be captured more easily and readily by an A.I.’s mind than a human’s due to their processing speed. Furthermore we are aware that the Librarian had A.I.s in as an integral part of humanity’s future. In Halo 4, of the aspects of John that sets him as the culmination of her plans, the Librarian directly mentions Cortana.

If this was the case, if Iona did indeed see the Librarian in her dreams, this would be quite the overlap between humanity and A.I.s within the Halo universe. After all, it was humans that the Librarian had ingrained with a geas that set her own presence in their very being. It was humanity that she called her children.

Sometimes the meeting point of sentience between humanity and artificial life becomes blurred to the point that the artificial is indistinguishable from the human or other forms of life.

R.U.R. ends with the last surviving human blessing a robot couple as “Adam and Eve.” In Asimov’s short story “Evidence” it is stated that a very good person is indistinguishable from a robot abiding the Three Laws. Another of his stories, “That Thou Art Mindful of Him” has two robots come to the conclusion based on criteria that they are more human than humans themselves. And then in a full novel of Asimov’s, Robots and Empire, we have this quote from a robot who was fully functioning with all three laws, speaking to another robot:

“At the moment when the robots advanced toward you and Lady Vasilia expressed her savage pleasure, my positronic pathway pattern re-formed in an anomalous fashion. For a moment, I thought of you – as a human being – and I reacted accordingly [to defend you against a human’s orders].” (Robots and Empire, pp 368).

This indistinguishability between human and artificial life is Picard’s ultimate defense against the claim that Data is the property of Starfleet. Data is not human, but he is life. Life that Starfleet is sworn to protect and respect.

“The Measure of a Man” Star Trek: The Next Generation (Original air date: 1989)

At this moment, I would love to point to the Mortal Dictata Act of the Halo universe, specifically the first article –

“1A/3a: A human being shall be defined as a person recognized and accepted by a reasonable layperson as being human on the basis of form, behavior, or external appearance, and no authority shall be permitted to use any element of a genetic profile to exclude a person from that definition.” (Mortal Dictata, pp 100).

– and cry out that Iona and all A.I.s are humans, and thus protected by the remainder of the Act, including the illegality of the UNSC’s ownership of them. Unfortunately, I cannot make such a claim in the context of canon.

Isle of Iona legality booksIn the collection of essays Halo and Philosophy: Intellect Evolved, Sherol Chen speculates that even if the A.I.s of Halo, Cortana specifically, would pass the Turning Test today, future generations and the continual development of science would find “new discoveries of the limitations or irreconcilable discrepancies between man and machine.” (“Would Cortana Pass the Turning Test?” Halo and Philosophy, pp 205). In canon, it’s made clear that this discrepancy exists and is acknowledged by both humans and A.I.s. A “gulf” is spoken of and BB and Roland declare this as truth directly.

But we’ll never be human BB. We’ll always be something other. And our own clocks are ticking too.
No, Roland, we won’t ever be human. But we are people.” (Saint’s Testimony, pp 26-27, on Google Play)

Since the Mortal Dictata was created before humanity ever encountered the Covenant, it has not mention of how other sentient forms of life are to be treated. In fact the idea that other races would be granted the same protection as humans is treated with disdain…

“‘Yes, yes, does the Asimov thingy only count for humans?’
‘Of course. I don’t feel terribly responsible for Covenant safety, Baird.’” (“Midnight in The Heart of MidlothianHalo Evolutions Volume I, pp 114).

… or as naiveté.

“–could flatten ‘em–but we’re too concerned with the rights of sentient–” (“Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa4The Halo Graphic Novel, pp 86)

To be fair, humanity was at war with these other races. Yet still this almost joking disdain for other sentient life is unnerving. And without this protection to their personhood, A.I.s in the Halo universe become slaves.

The word “ancilla,” used by the Forerunners to described their A.I.s and Cortana as well, originates from Latin as a female slave and the current definition relates directly to an object owned. This is similar to the origins of the word “robot” which comes from multiple Czech words like “robota” meaning “forced labor.” The concept of slavery is written in the very fabric of the robot subgenre, and perhaps that is why I believe it is important that Iona is the one in the Halo Universe who takes the stand for A.I. rights.


Saint’s Testimony Cover

What I am about to write, I write from the perspective of someone who has never been the target of racism. These are patterns I have seen within the science fiction genre, but my own conclusions should not be used to disregard or stand above the experiences, testimonies, or interpretations of those who have.

Science fiction has always tackled deeper issues. That is why Aldiss’ map is so broad yet so specific. It is an ocean to explore the human condition: human triumphs and human failings. And no failing is as horrific as the commodification and objectification of another human. Science fiction has not shied away from this issue, but what they have often shied away from is the victims of these issues. Metaphors have replaced black people in the form of ape, aliens, and robots.

District 9 draws from apartheid, with aliens as the ones forced into the slums. “Bicentennial Man” has Andrew under go a violent attack from which he has no legal protection, which all but screams of the Civil Rights movement and the ongoing revelations today that have sparked the sadly needed #BlackLivesMatter.

There is an excellent piece by a Max S. Gordon on this trend, comparing Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the film adaptation of The Help. I highly encourage reading the entire thing, but here is the key point:

“Could it be that when Hollywood finally decides to tell the truth about black lives, it’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes? And, if so, how f—ing shady is that? Perhaps no one would come to see a bunch of black people rioting and throwing metal spears at police cars (spears made from the broken fence of the local zoo where the primates liberate others from captivity), but they’ll watch these apes. And with one very cruel exception, the apes are surprisingly non-violent. They kick ass, but only when they feel they have to: and there are many instances where the film could have poured on the sadism, but the apes make their point, and let the people go. They don’t want revenge for revenge’s sake, but self-determination.”

I do have a commendation5 for the film Bicentennial Man and the Star Trek episode “The Measure of a Man” in which a black woman is responsible for both Andrew and Data’s status as either human or a lifeform with rights. President Marjorie Bota presides over the hearing in which Andrew is at last declared human. Guinan is the one who makes Picard see the end result of Data’s trial, should the Associate Chair of Robotics win, as slavery.

Bicenntennial Man Madam Chairman

Bicentennial Man (1999)


“The Measure of a Man” Star Trek: The Next Generation (Original air date: 1989)

I feel like these were deliberate choices on the filmmaker’s parts, to have these women not only involved, but crucial in the freedom of another race.

In an interview for his film Cloud Atlas, Keith David had this to say about his characters:

“My first character is a slave from the 1800’s. The next time you see me I’m in the 1970’s and I’m getting an opportunity to free myself from the bondage of corporate slavery. This is when Halle Berry and my character come together. When her life becomes threatened my character intercedes and steps up to the plate to save her. To me, my character relays the different forms that slavery takes on. You can first be an indentured slave, physically in shackles and in slavery, but then there is the mental level of slavery. Later on I become the leader of a rebellion which is my character’s ultimate freedom.” (emboldening mine).

This transition, not only of a slave to a free human, but also of a free human to a liberator, is something that I feel the people behind Bicentennial Man and “The Measure of a Man” were trying to express. And that is important. But equally important is the presence of those people in their own stories, fighting for that freedom.

Of course, Iona’s not a perfect example of this, being an A.I. and not human but I do feel the fact that Frank O’Connor chose the one A.I. in Halo with East African features to be the one who at last fights for that freedom is important.

Now we just have to wait and see if her testimony was successful.

DilDev runs a Halo Tumblr called Arbiter Analysis and has recently published an article with the online magazine Christ and Pop Culture, available with subscription now and for free come September.

  1. It should be noted that “Reason” was first published in 1941 before Asimov created the Three Laws for “Runaround” in 1942. The Laws were then integrated into “Reason” when the collection I, Robot was created.
  2. “Sentience” has been used very broadly as a term in science fiction to describe the consciousness of an intelligent lifeform, the ability to feel and reason. This is actually a meld of the actual definitions of sentience and sapience. However for the sake of simplifying this already-long discussion, the definition of sentience and sentient that I will be using throughout this article refers to that of science fiction and not the dictionary.
  3. It is not the only theory here on Halo Archive or in the fandom as a whole. Iona’s brain donor has also been suggested as a possibility.
  4. We miss you, Ben Giraud.
  5. And another commendation for the short 1953 comic “Judgement Day.” Please read it.

Posted by Dildev in Blogs, The Library, 4 comments