Top Five things I want fixed about the Sisters of Battle
1. Inclusion of women of color and queer women.
I shouldn’t have to explain why this is my number one thing I want to see changed, but the fact that there is only one official piece of artwork(thus far that I’ve found) that features a woman of color is at best worrying. Also the fact that there has been no mention of any sort of queer women in the 40k universe outside of the Ciaphas Cain novels is also weird as all hell. Even then the depiction there uncannily reminds me of that whole don’t ask, don’t tell idea, that as long as no one notices a queer relationship than it doesn’t matter or count. So yeah, better representation of the wide variety of women that exist is the number one thing I want to see changed about the Sisters of Battle.
2. Show the Sisters of Battle as three dimensional and intelligent
Again this should not be super controversial, but apparently it is. I get that for a lot of nerd culture religion is often seen as inherently anti-intellectual, but the depiction of the Sisters of Battle is just hair-pullingly frustrating. The big example of this for me is again the Ciaphas Cain Novels, where they are depicted as zealous to the point of stupidity, with one notable exception. Contrast that with the Sisters of Battle in their own novel series, it’s rather jarring to say the least. I kinda wish there was a good explanation given rather than what currently feels like a sweaty nerd in a fedora going, “women, amiright?”. I mentioned the Age of Apostasy several times in these sorts of posts and I’ve already mentioned the fix I would implement, but as it is currently, the story just doesn’t make sense.
If it were me, what I’d do instead is have the Sisters of Battle be Foucault-ian in their depiction. For the uninitiated, Michel Foucault was one of the big postmodern thinkers and his understanding/critique of the enlightenment was that a lot of the society reshaping ideas weren’t created from the notion of humans as rational agents, but rather the application of prison strategies to the broader population. This could be a brilliant way of talking both about our current problems with the surveillance state, while also making the Sisters of Battle suitably grimdark for those who thrive on that sort of thing. This could also work beautifully with point number one as it would create a scenario that is different from our m2 existence, in that there would be women of all sorts in all kinds of roles, while at the same time being very understandable in that everything is observed, detailed, and recorded.
3. Show the Sisters of Battle dealing with misunderstandings and the broader culture of the Imperium
Okay this is less about the Sisters of Battle then it is about the 40k universe as a whole. There’s not a lot of stuff unrelated to fighting that we the viewer/reader know about the 40k universe. Especially for me as someone who studies political science, that’s kinda a glaring oversight. I know kind of the formal structure of the imperium and what little glimpses we get of the non-military lives of the 40k universe it seems like on terra and at the imperial level there is no gender discrimination and men and women are regarded as equals(setting aside the fact that it’s the high lords of terra but whatever), though at the planetary level planets can be either patriarchal, matriarchal, or somewhere in the middle.
4. Have the Sisters of Battle resolve things through peaceful means
Seriously they have the Orders Dialogus and the Orders Famulous. I know there are some people who feel that stories about negotiation can’t be as exciting as those about fighting, but I disagree and I think the “audiodrama” (it’s the length of a short story text wise but it’s still 90 minutes of talking) Red and Black kinda bolsters my point. The story is at it’s most engaging when the characters are grappling with the complicated legal, moral, and social issues. It becomes kinda tedious when it’s just about the shooting.
5. Stop Using the Sisters of Battle as a powered armour speed bump.
This problem has been raked over the coals so many times I’m starting to worry that I’m boring people. Bloodtide in the 5th edition Grey Knights codex was heresy at best. I have to admit, the retcon on display in the 6th edition codex of the Sisters of Battle was one of the fast 180 degree turns I’ve seen a writer pull, and I study American Politics. Sanctuary 101 didn’t add a whole lot to either faction(Necrons or the Sisters of Battle), in particular since Hammer and Anvil filled in the blanks and now all we know from that is that the Sisters of Battle can be overwhelmed through sheer numbers, like say every other faction.
Now to be fair, I’ve heard that GW is working on plastic/resin Sisters of Battle, which could mean new models and a greater degree of backstory. I have my doubts, in part because a supposed revival of the Sisters of Battle has been just around the corner for a while now, but I try to stay positive.