Canon Fodder: Auditory Additions
Welcome to the final Canon Fodder issue of 2022!
In today’s end of year celebration, we’ve got new ways to experience last month’s “Vertical Umbrage” short story, new Waypoint Intel to highlight, new art, a quick look at some 2023 goodness, and a farewell tribute to the late Greg Bear.
Last month, we released an online short story in celebration for Halo 4’s tenth anniversary. “Vertical Umbrage” explored a mission that Fireteam Shadow undertook in-parallel with your own in-game experience in the Spartan Ops level “Everything Has Gone Wrong.”
We were very pleased to see such an excited reception for the tale itself and noted your requests for expanded venues in which to experience it, so today we’re excited to bring you an “audiobook” version available on YouTube (narrated by yours truly), as well as a downloadable PDF for those who want a more “bookish” reading experience.
Oh, and—as you can see above—it also comes with an awesome accompanying art piece, brought to you by the one and only William “Pixelflare” Cameron! Will also did the cover for Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, which depicted several members of Fireteam Shadow, so it only seemed fitting that he should get to depict them in their GEN2 armor loadout as well.
Check out the audiobook version of the story on YouTube below:
We had a great time putting this story together. Not only was it a fun way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Halo 4, but the efforts from various teams across the studio to give it these additional treatments was a wonderful confluence of team talent.
We’d certainly love to do more of this kind of storytelling on Halo Waypoint, and you should definitely let us know if you would too!
Next up, let’s dive into some of the details and story connections within “Vertical Umbrage.” That means we're gonna talk about the big man himself. The Didact.
In “Vertical Umbrage,” shipmaster Ryn ‘Alun (we’ll get to him in a bit) recalls the words he heard the Didact speak.
“You are Sangheili. Loyal and strong, even in your second form. You will serve well.”
In the “Composing A Universe” documentary included with the special limited edition of Halo 4’s soundtrack (we hope to give this an independent future release), it is shown that the track Revival from Halo 4 was created in the memory of voice actor David Anthony Pizzuto, who originally played the Didact before he sadly passed away in February 2012.
Pizzuto’s voice is one you’ve likely heard a hundred times over from 1999-2012 without realizing—from Crash Team Racing to Call of Duty, Jade Empire, Star Wars (any Empire at War fans out there?), Fallout: New Vegas, The Incredible Hulk, Guild Wars 2, and beyond.
With this story coming to mark the tenth anniversary of Halo 4, it seemed like a good opportunity to honor his largely unseen portrayal of the character by connecting some of his lines to a new scene.
After all, we established waaaay back in an old Waypoint Bulletin that Jul ‘Mdama was present in the Cryptum chamber itself—that he was the one who called out “Didact!” upon the Forerunner’s awakening.
The Didact then collapsed the core of Requiem after tossing the Master Chief aside and disappearing into slipspace, which naturally begs the question of how Jul and the other Covenant and Promethean forces in the Cryptum chamber escaped.
That’s where Requiem’s Refuge site comes in—a location we visited a couple of times in Halo 4's Spartan Ops campaign.
UNSC scientists (“the eggheads upstairs,” if you prefer) have speculated that the Refuge was a “safe house,” as it was connected to a translocation conduit which could safely deliver the shield world’s occupants to this site in the event of an incursion. As detailed in “Vertical Umbrage,” this was the place the Covenant forces in the Cryptum chamber were sent, where Jul would then forge an alliance with the vengeful Forerunner and be named the Hand of the Didact.
Next up, our new shipmaster: Ryn ‘Alun.
Sangheili society places great value in names—their naming conventions encompass an ever-expanding variety of descriptors, honorifics, lineages, suffixes, and more.
Ryn ‘Alun was conceived as having ties to a certain location that appeared in the novel Halo: The Thursday War, which also turned ten years old this year.
Around the mid-point of the book, Professor Evan Phillips is teleported to Nes’alun keep on Sanghelios. The keep’s warriors had left to join the Servants of the Abiding Truth in the fight against the Arbiter, leaving the noncombatants behind, making this the perfect target for the rival Lacalu keep to seize the land for themselves.
It is also worthy of note that linguistic xenoanthropologists still have only the most rudimentary knowledge of Sangheili naming conventions, in part because the Sangheili are themselves still in the process of rediscovering much of their own pre-Covenant history. As such, Ryn ‘Alun’s exact ties to the history of this keep remains a curious matter of speculation.
With the Winter Update has come the first in a new series of Intel drops, this time focused specifically on Jun-A266—formerly Noble Three, currently Chief of Staff of Spartan Operations, and always something of a man of mystery.
How exactly Jun survived the fall of Reach and escaped the planet after he escorted Dr. Halsey to CASTLE Base remains an open question, and we’re certainly not giving you any definitive answers... but there are stories out there—contradictory whispers amongst survivors from Reach, mismatched UNSC reports to cover any number of things up.
Perhaps one of them is true, or none of them are. Or, maybe we might recognize an element of truth in all of them.
(Note that when the Winter Update rolls into Season 3 in March, we will indeed be compiling this Intel into a standalone Waypoint blog to be preserved—just as we did with Season 2.)
INITIATION & ESCALATION OMNIBUS
Earlier this year, I was told “Halo: Initiation and Halo: Escalation are going to be released in a single omnibus collection.”
“That’s crazy talk!” I said. How could it be? There are twenty-four issues of Escalation and three of Initiation, which would surely make for a product that is more weapon than book!
But, sure enough, this absolute Mgalekgolo of a compendium released just last month and is available from our friends at Dark Horse in digital and print editions. You can grab your copy here.
For those who may not be familiar with these comics—the uninitiated, you might say (blame Grim for just how much he's enabled the escalation of these terrible puns)...
Halo: Initiation is a comic series that tells the origin story of the SPARTAN-IV program from the perspective of Sarah Palmer—an ODST who is recruited by Jun-A266 (hey, there he is again!) to become part of a new generation of super-soldiers in the wake of the Covenant War’s end and the Master Chief’s disappearance.
The Halo: Escalation comic series ran from 2013 through 2015. Predominantly set in the wake of the events of Halo 4 and Spartan Ops, we follow the crew of the UNSC Infinity as they navigate the dangers of the galaxy—from aiding peace talks with the Arbiter to Admiral Hood’s involvement in the UNSC Spirit of Fire’s disappearance; from the Master Chief reuniting with Blue Team to face the Didact once more on Gamma Halo, to Holly Tanaka’s tale of survival in the glasslands of Minab, and Dr. Halsey’s gambit to claim the Absolute Record while allied with Jul ‘Mdama...
This omnibus contains within it an entire era. It’s like the comic equivalent of MCC for post-Halo 4 stories!
There are some bonus features in the collection as well that have carried over from previous releases, like some early and alternate cover art for several issues—some of which we’ve shared below (along with an additional Waypoint-exclusive special.)
Whether you’re looking to revisit this particular era of the Halo universe, or if you’re discovering it for the first time, the omnibus collection of Initiation and Escalation is worthy of space on your shelf.
That’s right. You’ve heard of “elf on the shelf,” now get ready for “Halo: Initiation and Escalation on the shelf!” It’s a working title.
A FAREWELL TO GREG BEAR
On November 19, we sadly lost the legendary Greg Bear—author of the Forerunner Saga and a giant of science-fiction.
We published a memoriam post for Greg in the wake of the news to commemorate his passing and all that his vast imagination brought to the Halo universe, but this issue of Canon Fodder seemed like an ideal opportunity to speak to that at a more individual level.
Greg Bear was and is to me, among the giants in Science Fiction as a socially meaningful and literarily important art. I am careful to eschew the word “genre” since it does a disservice to an art that has always had to fight its way into mainstream and critical relevance, despite having been—since Jules Verne, since Mary Shelley—a vital and unbound way to envision, predict, paint and portray characters, worlds and ideas. These are ideas of optimism and wonder, sometimes fanciful, sometimes pragmatic and of course, in the pursuit of drama as well as didactic prediction—explosive, scary, disturbing or dreadful.
Greg saw very far. And he didn’t merely predict or propel ideas. He looked into the context that a future technology, or a distant biome, or simply into the vastness of space, and he saw hope, joy, beauty, and peoples and cultures beyond our own assumptions and expectations.
We asked Greg to help us craft, color, and bring to living, breathing reality a time, place, and people that had, until then, existed as mystery, enigma, and the scattered evidence of a civilization as mighty and marvelous as it was flawed and doomed. We saw in it the lesson of millennia and sought Greg out first and by name. His publisher kindly introduced us—and one of the first things Greg did was invite us into his home. We met his incredible family and saw where he’d crafted epic worlds and infinite narratives. Inviting him into our home, the worlds, myths, and monsters of Halo, and giving him the freedom to help us flesh out that history was the least we could do.
Greg lived by a peaceful lake that I pass by several times a month. It’s hard to stumble on by accident, but I’m always drawn to its stillness, beauty, and silent calm. And it always brought Greg to mind—that imagination humming and ticking away beneath his skin like an overwound clock—and the endless time and grace he gave us.
Halo is just one of the many things that Greg touched in a brilliant, insightful, and meaningful life. We’re honored to have known him and gladdened that he helped craft our legacy, even as it becomes a small part of his. Our thoughts are with his family and while his passing is to be lamented and grieved, his body of work and his impact on the people around him are cause only for the brightest celebration.
To say that Greg Bear's contribution to the Halo universe was foundational is a gross understatement.
He took the dark hole that was the Forerunners and filled it with a vast tapestry of galaxy-spanning events, teeming with intriguing characters, extraordinary machines, and fascinating tales, all steeped in deeper and more penetrating mysteries than we could have ever hoped for.
I’m grateful for the prodigious work he accomplished in those three books and the gracious, deft way he navigated a very challenging narrative landscape. He definitively established a legacy that will continue to prove fruitful for Halo for many years to come. And he will be sorely missed.
On my first day at 343, back in 2011, I was handed a copy of Halo: Cryptum.
I devoured the book, captivated by the world Greg Bear’s words created. Learning that I would be working with him on a regular basis was very exciting. In my first in-person brainstorm, around a very long table of talented and experienced men, everyone deep in discussion, Greg noticed how I was equally enraptured and intimidated. He paused, called out my name, and asked what I thought.
Such a simple act, but I remember being very grateful and awed that he made room for the only lady in the room. I am so honored that I had a front row seat to his creative process, and working with Greg on the Forerunner Saga was truly a pleasure.
The last time we saw each other in 2019, I was enthralled yet again to hear all about his wonderful experiences working on other properties. Around a table of Halo authors, his wisdom and charm was—as always—captivating, and I am sorry we won’t be able to meet again.
Mystery is a delicate dance. A precarious balance must be struck between enigma and exposition. But nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum—and for storytellers it’s important that in an effort to provide payoff for long dwelled upon questions, you must also layer new riddles in its place, new mysteries to capture the imagination and evolve the course of a narrative’s journey.
Faced with the monumental task of pulling the glistening curtain back on the secrets of the Forerunners, Greg Bear did just that. Every answer spawned new curiosities in its wake. A civilization was unearthed, motives explored, actions debated, and what we assumed might be the end of a single road was in actuality the start of many others.
Through deft command of both language and legend, he gave us a new lens through which to view the Halo universe, both past and future, and his work is still a functioning foundation of Halo storytelling.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the inspiration he’s provided so many of us, and for the comfort in knowing that his infinite imagination is still always ready to revisit with just the flip of a front cover.
One hundred thousand years ago, the galaxy was populated by a great variety of beings. But one species—eons beyond all the others in both technology and knowledge—achieved dominance.
And then they vanished.
It’s a premise that sounds nothing short of magical, and that is the precise word that comes to mind whenever I read Halo: Cryptum—not just the first time, nor the fifth, nor whatever number of rereads I’m on over a decade later...
I remember reading the previews for the first few chapters when they were originally released on Halo Waypoint. They told of a young, rebellious Forerunner—clad in little but an improvised straw hat and sandals gifted by his two strange human companions—searching for an ancient treasure. Even then, I knew this would be among my favorite works of fiction ever.
Greg Bear took us on a cosmic odyssey. His imagination encompassed not just a corner of the universe, but the very foundations of the universe itself. There are simple sentences that carve out thousands of years of suggested history as we drive towards the Forerunner Saga’s inevitable conclusion. It's a story that didn’t just create pathways for the next ten years of Halo (somehow, we’re already at that point), it feels like it would take millennia to mine the full extent of the depth and breadth of the worlds and wonders he conceived.
And that’s just the contributions Greg made to Halo. He was one of the architects of San Diego Comic-Con, which brings millions of people together in celebration of countless beloved stories every year. His wider body of work remains a pillar of science fiction, and his words and wisdom will go on to inspire new generations of storytellers.
Thank you for everything, Greg. And farewell.
COMING IN 2023
As we bring the final issue of 2022 to a close, let’s take a look at some of the things that are coming next year for fiction fans.
For Halo Infinite, we will see the launch of Season 3 (“Echoes Within”) on March 7, as we revisit the Spartan Academy. We’ll have more to say about this closer to release, but there’s a lot to look forward to on this front as we turn our attention to Spartan Dinh and what the Banished AI Iratus is up to.
Season 3’s SPI-inspired armor core is coming as well, and as always, each armor piece will have its own bit of lore flavor. I got to play around with this armor at a studio playtest back in October, and I gotta say... it’s my favorite set in all of Halo. This glass is being raised to all the Ghosts of Onyx fans out there who have been waiting with unmatched patience for this armor to make its in-game debut.
Oh, and remind me to have a word with you all about how our next Fracture will be a little… different from what’s come before...
Earlier this year, we announced Halo: Outcasts, the next novel by Troy Denning which will see the return of the Arbiter and Olympia Vale. Troy has been recovering well after his open-heart surgery and work continues on the book, which we have formally slated for release July 25.
Halo: Epitaph, the next novel by Kelly Gay, which we announced at the Halo World Championship back in October, is also scheduled for release in late-2023.
And throughout the year, as stated at the start of this issue, we’ll be exploring the Halo universe through elements like Canon Fodder, Intel, and other avenues.
That’s a wrap for 2022, which also means... my goodness, I’ve also just wrapped my first year as the steward of Canon Fodder.
And what a year it’s been! The Halo Encyclopedia, The Rubicon Protocol, canonized elements from some of the cutting room floor’s most ancient goodies, multiplayer map and high value target backstories, never-before-seen concept art, book announcements, machine pistol lore, Q&As, in-depth narrative insights... what a pleasure and privilege this collaboration is.
We’ll see you in 2023. Aya, the Didact awaits!