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GW's Black Library Sales are slumping slightly. (A discussion)


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I've never minded the pulpy aspect of Black Library novels per se, but I do think there is much potential that never gets achieved because the expectations are that Warhammer novels are these pulpy stories about your favourite toy soldier army. And while that in itself is all right and totally valid (like I said, I enjoy reading about 'my dudes'! Lore is a big reason why I gravitate towards certain models or armies), I personally feel certain authors want to one-up each other in terms of how grimdark and hopeless the novels can be. And as already pointed out, that can be really novel and exciting the first few times, but when you read the fifteenth or twentieth novel, novella or short story that ends with even grimmer and darker endings it all gets exhausting. It has been one of the factors I avoided Black Library novels for a long time and still dread reading 40K stories as they all seem to suffer from that~ It all is such a shame, because without hope and without the characters you root for winning, that darkness just feels...bland. Already seen. And why care, when you can guess from page one that the character you're supposed to relate and root for will face some horrible end? This is why I was surprised by Warhammer Horror as my first thought was 'How will this be different from any other Warhammer story?'.

Luckily, I have had good luck with AoS stories in general (Although, to be fair, I have mostly read novellas and short stories). I don't doubt they lack same kind of 'overly grimdark' stories but those I've read have had it in moderation.

I would, however, instabuy any 'Warhammer Romance'. Just give me something to really tug my heartstrings and maybe even have a little cry over!

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46 minutes ago, Public Universal Duardin said:

I've never minded the pulpy aspect of Black Library novels per se, but I do think there is much potential that never gets achieved because the expectations are that Warhammer novels are these pulpy stories about your favourite toy soldier army. And while that in itself is all right and totally valid (like I said, I enjoy reading about 'my dudes'! Lore is a big reason why I gravitate towards certain models or armies), I personally feel certain authors want to one-up each other in terms of how grimdark and hopeless the novels can be. And as already pointed out, that can be really novel and exciting the first few times, but when you read the fifteenth or twentieth novel, novella or short story that ends with even grimmer and darker endings it all gets exhausting. It has been one of the factors I avoided Black Library novels for a long time and still dread reading 40K stories as they all seem to suffer from that~ It all is such a shame, because without hope and without the characters you root for winning, that darkness just feels...bland. Already seen. And why care, when you can guess from page one that the character you're supposed to relate and root for will face some horrible end? This is why I was surprised by Warhammer Horror as my first thought was 'How will this be different from any other Warhammer story?'.

Luckily, I have had good luck with AoS stories in general (Although, to be fair, I have mostly read novellas and short stories). I don't doubt they lack same kind of 'overly grimdark' stories but those I've read have had it in moderation.

I would, however, instabuy any 'Warhammer Romance'. Just give me something to really tug my heartstrings and maybe even have a little cry over!

"In the Grim Dark Future of the 41st Millenium there is only...Love"

Personally, I'm waiting for the story of a naive young teenage Witch Aelf, who's so sick of the limited dating opportunities at her all-girl slaughter temple. "But Agony Auntie, I'm tired of the only men I meet being captured slaves I have to carve the heart out of in our nightly rituals, it's so boring! I want to meet a boy my own age! Someone with their own interests!"

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Just now, Icegoat said:

Another problem that is a foundation of the setting though. It's so big nothing really matters. A city of millions killed there, a billion chaos warriors destroyed over here, what does it matter in the epic scale of the mortal realms? Very little. 

It never matters in any Warhammer lore, it especially stood out with the World-that-was because it was so small but because Status Quo nothing had impact.

Empire loses 80% of it's population to the Black Plague? Immediately repopulate without losing land. Bretonnia lose 10,000 nobles in a battle that should cause rulership turmoil in the country? Glossed over. High Elves besieged for 500 years despite being a dying elder race? Just a scratch.

It's never been about repercussions but just advertising and hyping up "your army".  At least with 40k and AoS they can justify it better while also still adding actual threats like 40k losing valuable defenses that could doom Terra or the insane god magic of AoS that saw Tzeentch nearly absorb Chamon into the realm of chaos or when Nagash nearly rewrote the entire setting with Malign portents.

Just now, Beastmaster said:

Maybe we have to face the fact that the AoS fluff works as a background for a miniature game, but not so well for relatable book stories (or RPGs, for that matter)?

I think it just comes down to tastes. I'll agree with Hallow that there's a lot left unexplored because the writers are confined by the advertising but as novels to just enjoy exploring the setting and army battles they're still pretty good.

Also Shadows over Hammerhal proved Age of Sigmar can make amazing rpg's. There's so much to explore with the interactions of mortals and gods with their growing influences and survival in eldritch lands.

The Exalted rpg does just that and I'm very excited to see what Cubicle7 can do with it. :D

Just now, xking said:

I find  stormcast  to be  relatable, especially the hallowed knights.   

 

Ditto. They're no different than when people relate to chaos warriors or a Grail knight as super powerful paladins but still vulnerable.

Most gripping is the reforging curse that afflicts them so and how they end up coping with it like the hollows out of dark souls. In "Lightning Golem" one's lost humanity leads him to become more mission driven and detached from his wife while in "Sacrosanct" the Incantor kept his great personality and kindness but sacrificed his memories to the point he became a seperate person compared to his former life.

Throw in how they've shown fear, concern, paranoia, humor and bravado and the Stormcast read  just like large pious human knights.

Edited by Baron Klatz
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4 hours ago, HollowHills said:

 

 

Excellent post. As someone with a similar background, I'd just add one caveat to this:t Aaron Dembski-Bowden and to a greater extent Peter Fehervari do offer something more. Something that could stand alone as a good quality fantasy book. Fehervari is truly excellent. Shameful that they don't just put a wheelbarrow of money at his doorstep.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of pulp - Josh Reynolds writes some very nice and easy to read stories - but it is a missed opportunity to not aspire for more..

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4 hours ago, HollowHills said:

So I've got an MA in literature, used to write a bit and am very much an avid reader (maybe more audio books at the moment). Here is my view on black library. 

Bear in mind I've only read one black library novel (the court of the blind King), part of one black library compilation and the malign portents stories. 

Basically the stories are packed with stereotypes and clichés. At no point do they ever subvert my expectations and I can't remember the name of the characters because they just fall into such basic archetypes. 

The court of the blind king took a possibly really cool concept and did nothing with it. Instead of traumatised elves doomed to survive by destroying the very life force of others we got generic fantasy snooty court drama. 

The plot is like a bad mash up between Hamlet and Macbeth with random pulp stories thrown in. People die, there are big battles and schemes blah blah it doesn't matter because you don't care about any of the characters. They have no real personalities and the events of the story don't change them at all. There is no heroes journey because the hero is the exact same person at the end except he has more stuff. There has been no transformation, no emotional advancement, no learning. 

I can think of a million things that could have been more interesting than what we got. 

1) What's it like living with the legacy of slaanesh? Do you have nightmares? Are you afraid to connect emotionally? Do you secretly long for pleasure yet also fear it? How do these things impact the society in which you live? Is it something the protagonist needs to deal with? How will s/he overcome it?

2) what's it like being true souled vs being nemarti? Have you seen loved ones die due to withering souls? Are you afraid of bearing half soul children and losing them? Do the nemarti repulse you? If a nemarti, do you resent your masters or see them as gods and saviours? Do you have memories of another half remembered life? 

3) what kind of society would you have? Do they hate their creator for turning against them? Do they live in fear of his wrath? Are they secular and democratic? What moral norms are there and how did these come about? Are there dissenting voices? 

You start asking questions like this and you start being able to imagine what your characters might think and feel at the start of your story. Then you ask what outside forces might challenge that status quo and you think how your characters might react. Are there any consequences of those reactions? Are there conflicts? 

Black library has none of this stuff. It's just an endless stream of "and then and then and then". 

And then he fought nurgle and then he fought the sylvaneth and then he fought a giant shark. 

It's childlike. 

 

I am quite bummed to see this is the synopsis of The Blind King.  I was hoping Guymer would turn out a book more like The Sea Taketh- which is SO good instead of The Learning, which is not good at all.

But in general I suppose I am generally satisfied with the level of writing in BL books.  Particularly if we are not bound to one sub(sub)genre I think you can usually find some great books to read. 

My issue is that most of them are fine but not amazing, yet BL wants me to pay a premium for them.  As I have said before I really only read eBooks and their prices are outrageous.  And not just for the full length novels, but how often will you see a 20-30 page story for $5? Almost nowhere outside of BL.  Its very bad behavior towards customers, and I have a very hard time thinking that you can be so predatory towards customers and have it pay off long term.

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2 hours ago, xking said:

40k stories are kind of meant to grimdark, the setting  is "in the Grim Dark Future of the 41st Millenium there is only war" and that's why I became  disillusioned with it.  Whats the point if everything is bad and life is just neverending despair. Even the Emperor was terrible person.

In my opinion the Age of Sigmar setting is not grimdark, everything is not dark for the sake of being dark. Sure there are many dark elements, but they are not overwhelming.   Wizards are not  persecuted for being Wizards, there is technological progress and  growth, upward social mobility is possible and life does not suck 24/7.

I think Warhammer: Romance could be interesting. 

I agree, with the footnote of acknowledging that even grimdarkness has a scale. The Imperium is a dystopian dictatorship ruled by autocrats that spit on the idea of a liberal democracy - that itself could be the 'grimdark' aspect of it, without needing the elderly made into corpsestarch and Space Marines kidnapping minors to be taken to breeding planets 'For the Emperor!' (And yes, that has happened in a BL short story). But the way things are now, when the grim and dark future means turning it to 11, it just got too much. BL doesn't have to make 1984 look like The Hobbit for things to be considered grim and dark enough!

I completely agree on your assesment of AoS, however. It has the width 40K desperately needs. You want to tell horror, be it contemporary or gothic? You can do it. Some Freeguild Sheriff solving a murder like Sherlock Holmes? You could do it. Or as we have been joking here, a sappy romance novel where some long-haired chiseled hero with a chin that would make Bruce Campbell blush saving the day (add a love triangle and a pale vampire and let me tell you, now we're talking the highest grossing BL novel ever). You could do it! It wouldn't feel out of place - and while 40K should have that width, the moment you deviate from the known formula and a vocal chunk of the fandom goes bonkers. Remember the kids' books? The non-canon ones that would just bring in the fans of tomorrow to the IP in a family-friendly way? The outrage was fierce. That is why I really like AoS - it lacks the 40+ years of baggage 40K has and can have that wiggleroom to be experimental.

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Well they actully even have massacare planets where millions of pious worshippers willingly sacrifice to become food, disgusting, but since it's 40k so totally fine for me.

40k is a story of how humanity survive in a extremely dangerous galaxy with every extreme measure, if it is worthy is a problem out of context and debate——as long as humanity survived, it is worthy.

40 minutes ago, Public Universal Duardin said:

 Wizards are not  persecuted for being Wizards

That's actually where lunaghast come from

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Oh right, the moon of dark secrets.

Doesn't that tie-in to why the Loonking targets magic-users/seers/prophets for his asylum because as mushrooms they can whisper/babble to him of the da bad moon's location?

Edit: okay, wow I forgot. That's not on AoS, WE DID THAT!

"This week in the campaign, your actions have attracted Lunaghast to the Mortal Realms, a colossal moon formed of Dark Matter from the Aetheric Void in which the eight realms hang. Thirsty for secrets and hidden truths, the moon has been lured to your kingdoms by the slaughter of your prophets and seers. Across the lands, the peoples of the Realms are attempting to appease it by screaming their darkest secrets and most closely guarded knowledge from the highest peaks."

Love how the article points out that was messed up. Leave it to players to choose a witch hunt, geeze. 😧

Just now, xking said:

If only Chris Wraight would try his hand at a hammers of sigmar story again.  There is a lot more material to work with now and Vandus Hammerhand needs a book.

Seconded. I really enjoyed that book and the Celestant-prime short story after it.

I personally want one for Sureheart as I like his model and his background of being a former chaos slave named "Grub" could be interesting to see through his eyes how he went from a hopeless slave to a noble crusader.

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Indeed, for the Sacrosanct I imagine that's where they learned a dread secret about reforging. "No creature or power can stem the price of being brought back from the grave. Save one, one who gets stronger everytime they arise again- Nagash." (Mentioned in their tome)

He's the key to it and possibly their chambers ultimate goal with the Soul Wars.

 

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Ah, okay. I was going off memory  and mistaken then

I got the tome and reread that part:

"Astreia Solbright

Ultimately, she hopes to one day find a creature that can not only return to full strength after each death, but become even stronger for it-for whatever arcane or spiritual process leads to that ability, she will deconstruct it in the laboratories of Sigmaron and attempt to emulate it for her chamber's future reforgings.

Thus far, to her growing disquiet, Solbright has heard of only one entity in all the realms that can claim to have returned from death stronger and more determined than before.

That being is Nagash."

So he's still the key for the salvation of the Stormhosts on a grand scale if they can reinforce their souls/reforging with his power. Likely what she and her chamber heard from such dark secrets being told.

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I enjoy a lot of the newer BL AoS books. But I think they need to do more to ground small area's of the world. Take the most important cities or places and give us more information. Maps of the areas around these places and give us some idea of how these places relate or not. 

If you had a map with Hammerhall in the center it would be nice to know stuff like where is Odessa? A army calling themself Lions of Odessa are mentioned in the first Gotrek audioplay sending troops to Hammerhall. Does the Hammerhall have buffer kingdoms all around it and then maybe wild lands held by Greenskins or still under control of Chaos outside that? There are several major cities in the Realm of Life, are they so far apart they are just kinda aware of each other or are there better relationships between some of them. What kind of leadership is there? In several books there has been hints at problems between the "leadership" of all the people coming out of Azyr and the poor people who managed to survive the age of chaos. There has been time jumps, has that kind of stuff turned into permanent upper and lower classes?

Pick some area's, give them maps and ground them to make us care more. Can still leave 99% of the Realms wild and let the authors play there and explore most of the time. But pick some some places to make us care about, I'm sure some authors could do great work with that. Most books would still explore the wild places of the Mortal Realms, but if 100% of the books are exploring new fantastic places its not the best way to make us care. There are no stakes to a place being overrun by Death or Destruction if its the first time we hear about that place. Take a example like Odessa I mentioned before. If they had bit parts in a couple of books that happen around Hammerhall and then where run over if you make a major story about a Waaargh attacking Hammerhal, people might care. But there is not much impacts if you never heard of them before.

Edited by Silchas_Ruin
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40k makes it a lot easier for writers, though. Of course, nothing matters imperium-wide. But an author can invent  and destroy his own planets without clashing with the lore, just because the Galaxy is so vast. And each planet is a meaningful and relatable chunk worth fighting for and caring about, since we, the readers, are so used to a thinking that’s limited to one planet. 

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Personal opinion — BL books are bad.

I genuinely tried to get into BL. I read the usual novel recommendations (Spear of Shadows, City of Secrets, Shadespire and others), a few novellas and collections (Code of the Skies, Maledictions, a handful of others) and listened to the first Gotrek audiobook. I'm still trying to get into BL — The Dark Harvest is next on the reading list.

I read heaps of fantasy. None of the BL books I've read so far stand up to work by authors like Pratchett, Hobb, Sanderson, Jemisin, etc. Their stories tend to have little to no character growth. They rely on tropes without surprising the reader by subverting them. I've found them tedious and boring.

AOS writing's rife with my pet peeve too — with a few cherished exceptions, everyone speaks the same language. In real life, take a trip across a landmass and you'll likely hear dozens of different languages spoken. If you're lucky, in addition to their native language(s), the people will speak a lingua franca (possibly badly). In AOS, you'll travel across entire worlds and speak to people from a different era WITHOUT ANY LANGUAGE BARRIER AT ALL.

This bothers me enough to caps.

Anyway, given the hype around The Dark Harvest, I'll persevere for at least one more book. 🙂

[EDIT]

Oh, I will say that I've thoroughly enjoyed a number of AOS short stories. They tend to zero in on quirky and interesting aspects of the Mortal Realms. There's not enough room to fall into the usual formula of [travel from A to B; fight; travel from B to C; fight; and so on].

He Feasts Forever was a standout for me — a story about ghouls who have been away from their liege for too long and start to regain their senses. I loved some of the Malign Portents stories, too.

Edited by Towercap
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Just now, Towercap said:

In AOS, you'll travel across entire worlds and speak to people from a different era WITHOUT ANY LANGUAGE BARRIER AT ALL.

This bothers me enough to caps.

Interestingly the era thing is brought up in the 2016 GA:Order book as due to Azyr's strange timeflow sometimes people from the distant past may appear and speak in ancient dead languages no one knows.

As for the rest though it's hand-waved that the Order gods brought up all the fledgling tribes and races together in the Age of Myth and brought about equality. That's why no matter where you go if there's civilization then that means the Order pantheon raised it and taught it's people, be it a distant desert tribe in a Chamon desert or race of Aetar bird people at the tops of sky-towering mountains in Ghur. They worship a member of Sigmar's past pantheon and were taught that order language.

Thus you're only really gonna run into problems outside Order like a chaos tribe speaking the tongue of the dark gods.

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13 minutes ago, Baron Klatz said:

They worship a member of Sigmar's past pantheon and were taught that order language.

It would make perfect sense for High Azyrite (Celestial, IIRC?) to establish itself as a lingua franca. You could even argue it would become prestigious to speak it, since Stormcast Eternals would likely bring jobs with them (builders, cooks, messengers — everything required for army logistics). These jobs would require the knowledge of the language. People would come to associate speaking High Azyrite with greater socioeconomic status.

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

Really, that's besides the point. Common language is a lazy fantasy trope that I'm particularly averse to. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Edited by Towercap
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2 minutes ago, Towercap said:

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

Almost every race worships a god. Almost all gods were part of sigmars pantheon. If your god told you to speak a certain language you probably would do it. 

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1 minute ago, Eevika said:

Almost every race worships a god. Almost all gods were part of sigmars pantheon. If your god told you to speak a certain language you probably would do it. 

Christian missionaries were highly successful in spreading a religion, but they hardly wiped out languages in their wake.

The other thing that tends to happen to languages — given time and separation, they'll drift apart. Without constant communication between communities, High Azyrite spoken in one community will eventually become a different dialect to High Azyrite spoken in another community. Add realms and you'll multiply this effect a thousandfold.

There's a story in Maledictions I find particularly jarring. It's got an Idoneth Deepkin aelf washing up on strange shores. Of course, when a villager finds him, they're able to have a conversation, as if they're from the same village. 🤦

Again, lazy tropes, personal pet peeves.

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1 minute ago, Towercap said:

Christian missionaries were highly successful in spreading a religion, but they hardly wiped out languages in their wake.

The other thing that tends to happen to languages — given time and separation, they'll drift apart. Without constant communication between communities, High Azyrite spoken in one community will eventually become a different dialect to High Azyrite spoken in another community. Add realms and you'll multiply this effect a thousandfold.

There's a story in Maledictions I find particularly jarring. It's got an Idoneth Deepkin aelf washing up on strange shores. Of course, when a villager finds him, they're able to have a conversation, as if they're from the same village. 🤦

Again, lazy tropes, personal pet peeves.

I get what you mean but damn would it suck to read a book where the characters spend 75% of the time trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say. 

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Just now, Towercap said:

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

They're not colonial, Stormcasts are natives going back to their lands to liberate them.  They are those builders, cooks, messengers from distant lands that thanks to the order pantheon are able to come together and only find differing accents in all their languages like Azyrite is more musical sounding while Aqshy is gruff and quick.

Eevika said it best that it's how the gods brought every individual together.

Basically Sigmar perfected the tower of Babel before chaos broke it.

Fine though if it annoys you but it's just not a problem the realms have as it's not civilization dependent but God dependent. Everyone literally speaks the language of the Gods.

Edit: Another thing to consider is how King Fisher the gods are upon their people and realms. They can see through the eyes of all their followers, speak with them and even affect them in strange ways. Regulating all speeches for a more connected Order would not be out of the realms of possibility.

 

 

Edited by Baron Klatz
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1 minute ago, Eevika said:

I get what you mean but damn would it suck to read a book where the characters spend 75% of the time trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say. 

Each to their own, for sure! Some books handle this well. The Goblin Emperor and Kushiel's Dart come to mind. Tip the hat to having an interpreter or speaking a lingua franca like High Azyrite (pretty sure it's called Celestial, right?), and consider my disbelief suspended. 🙂

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Old World fantasy and 40K both have alternative languages, however in the vast majority of stories most of the characters speak a common tongue. It's a little bit like how in the modern world you can go to many countries and most will have some form of access to speaking english - either directly or through a translator. 

 

In fact even in many fantasy stories the whole "they don't speak my language" comes up less often than you'd think. Many times there's a common tongue. I think its one of those things where unless the language barrier is a major part of the story, its something that could be a huge barrier to story progression and getting side-tracked. Stargate TV series also showed the other end which is if every BL story had a language barrier then eventually they all end up using similar tropes and tricks to try and get around it to the point where, in the end, it gets forgotten about (somewhere along the way everyone in the SG universe started speaking American). 

It's one of those immersion things that can get left to one side at times and only tends to rear its head in the extreme. For example Flesheaters appear to have their own language and don't really "talk" to other races (granted they mostly just eat other races). Skaven also have their own language, however most Skaven that interact with characters tend to be "smarter" skaven which means they likely have some basic understanding of the most common language. Plus when you read a story from their perspective its all translated for us by the writer. 

 

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17 minutes ago, Baron Klatz said:

Fine though if it annoys you but it's just not a problem the realms have as it's not civilization dependent but God dependent. Everyone literally speaks the language of the Gods.

It's about the suspension of disbelief. If that's the explanation they choose to provide for using this (lazy, overused) trope, it's their prerogative. I find it jarring because it goes against what we know about real world linguistics, and it goes about it in such a lazy manner.

A language changes all the time. Only dead languages stay the same. English you speak now is drastically different to English spoken a couple of hundred years ago. Unless Sigmar himself talks to you every day to make sure something like the Great Vowel Shift doesn't happen, the "language of the god" explanation is rubbish.

Not to mention that, say, Christians don't speak the language their holy text was written in originally.

Edited by Towercap
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