Parahuman Trauma and responses thereto
May 4, 2020 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Ward is the latest long-form serialized superhero web fiction from author Wildbow, aka John McCrae. It is a sequel to Worm (previously), though different characters take center stage. Where Worm was a story of power and the responses thereto, Ward is a story of trauma and - eventually! in some extremely unlikely ways! - rebuilding in the aftermath.

Ward has been running since 2017, and finished today. Wildbow posted episodes twice a week for the entire run; there are a lots of words in this story. I had lots of fun with it; many interesting cliffhangers and inventive problems for the characters to have inventive solutions to.
posted by Fraxas (20 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I liked Worm, but not Ward. The plot in the second half of Ward just stopped making sense to me.
posted by value of information at 12:56 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I loved Worm, but I never finished Pact or Ward.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:19 PM on May 4


Thanks! I was a big fan of worm when it was posted on mefi, to the point that I've even managed a re-read of it. I don't recall if he spent some time working on misc stuff immediately after Worm finished, or if he started right away into Pact, but I quickly lost interest in whatever it was that followed after Worm and never thought to check if he'd done anything new.

I think part of me was still mad at Wildbow on behalf of Taylor. And yet, a strife filled book that ends too happy just pisses me off more. I don't think an author can really win against me if they throw down an ending.

Hopefully I'll like Ward (despite it having an ending). Even more hopefully this comes out in a single epub. That's a significantly easier way for me to read than coordinating across browsers and devices.
posted by nobeagle at 1:20 PM on May 4


I loved Worm, but always hesitated to recommend it to people because the "just one more chapter" serial format sucks you in and the sheer staggering length of it can make weeks of your life disappear.

Ward had its ups and downs. Overall it's certainly good but there are parts where I would have thrown a physical book across the room.
posted by allegedly at 1:26 PM on May 4


I was vaguely aware of this but never followed up after reading Pact. I'll have to go check it out!
posted by Wretch729 at 1:35 PM on May 4


Ward definitely didn't grab me, though I loved Worm.

I liked Pact but after a few dozen chapters I was like, is this ever going to let up and breathe a bit? Apparently the answer is no.

On the other hand, I really loved Twig. I know some people may be a little squicked out by it, since there's quite a bit more body horror and violence, but I found it really really good.

I'm saving recommending Worm to friends for the most part until Wildbow gets it edited. I think as a well-edited 10- or 12-book series it would be phenomenal and might even sell.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:32 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]



I'm saving recommending Worm to friends for the most part until Wildbow gets it edited. I think as a well-edited 10- or 12-book series it would be phenomenal and might even sell.


It’s been years. Is that actually ever going to happen?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:51 PM on May 4


By the way, my 100% favorite online serial SF/F is Practical Guide To Evil. IMO it's as creative and gripping as Worm and has better writing to boot.

(Note that it's only perhaps 4/5 finished.)
posted by value of information at 2:52 PM on May 4 [4 favorites]


The character work in Ward is incredible...or at least has been so far. (Only on arc 12 so no spoilers pls.)

Unfortunately it's starting to go a little off the rails for me - subplots that I don't really care about, focus on aspects of the world that I think the author got way too into, and not enough happening with the main characters who I'm now very attached to.

At least theres plenty of time to get some more of that sweet sweet character development.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 3:28 PM on May 4


By the way, my 100% favorite online serial SF/F is Practical Guide To Evil.

Interesting, I was turned off by the first couple chapters, which seemed very "ooh so grimdark" modern fantasy to me. Does it take off?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:31 PM on May 4


Interesting, I was turned off by the first couple chapters, which seemed very "ooh so grimdark" modern fantasy to me. Does it take off?

I haven't read that much modern fantasy, so maybe I am not as jaded as you. But I think it improves a lot especially in that it builds the setting into a more unique and interesting place than the first few chapters make it seem.
posted by value of information at 3:54 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Practical Guide to Evil is very wink-wink nudge-nudge grimdark, at least from what I remember a few books in. It has been a while, though.

I love me some terribly edited web fiction, but I've been staying mostly on RoyalRoad for my fix. Glad I can come back to these!

Regarding getting these on epub, there's a whole cottage industry of wildbow focused rippers/dumpers (following the author's dictate of epubs bad, epub generators tolerated.)
https://github.com/nicohman/rust-wildbow-scraper is what I've used most recently, as it supports the non-Worm stories as well.

Regarding getting web fiction in general in epubs, see FanFicFare and WebToEpub

Super Minion is another good superpowered web story, but much much lighter than Worm.
posted by Anonymous Function at 3:56 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]


I definitely liked it a lot less than Worm, but I feel that may be somewhat unfair, since it's a sequel and will naturally always be doomed to live in its predecessor's shadow. But I do agree with the above comments about it feeling somewhat disorganized, rife with subplots that I didn't care about/didn't really go anywhere, and not enough really happening at all (sometimes for weeks!).

I also just never cared about the new characters in Ward as much as I did with those in Worm, with the exception of maybe Victoria. They were just more boring in general.

I loved Worm, but always hesitated to recommend it to people because the "just one more chapter" serial format sucks you in and the sheer staggering length of it can make weeks of your life disappear.

I've also struggled with this, but my brother asked for some reading recs when the pandemic lockdown started and Worm seemed like the perfect fit. It worked, he's hooked and just finished it.

It’s been years. Is that actually ever going to happen?

I saw some comments on a recent r/parahumans thread that he is actually currently working with editors so I think it's still something that's being worked towards. He's also said that if an edited version came out, it would feature significant rewrites of a certain section that seems universally-acknowledged as the weakest part of Worm.
posted by star gentle uterus at 4:17 PM on May 4


Fancy seeing this post here on mefi. Some thoughts on Worm and Ward for your consideration.

Ward is, in many ways, a work set in opposition to Worm. Both have protagonists wracked by trauma, but the way they respond to it is different. Worm was an exercise in constant escalation by a protagonist who you root for but realise has actually handled things in a brutal, unaccommodating fashion. Ward, in contrast, is an exercise in constant de-escalation by a protagonist bending over backwards to try and be heroic and accommodating.

In both, the author takes full advantage of first person storytelling. What the character doesn't see, whether due to bias, denial, or not being at the right place at the right time, doesn't exist. And since the story is mostly told in the first person, readers don't see it either, except in implied form. This makes it fun to look at a scene and decipher other character's actions through the lens of the POV character. This does, however, make some of the more subtle cues challenging to follow.

The author has other weaknesses. His ability to convey spatial awareness or numbers is, as he himself admits, not the best. Don't expect a good sense of direction. Some of the environments and settings are bare bones. Sometimes he describes a thing and I can't visualise it.

Set off against that, the author has some absolutely incredible strengths. His character work is top notch, and the world is filled with richly detailed, believable, PTSD-suffering human beings. His character interactions also go beyond the dialogue - like in great movies, where the acting, music, camera work, all bring out more subtext and flavour to add on to the words being said. It makes the interactions rich, believable, and high stakes - often a single gesture or a single line of dialogue convey so much. The sheer breadth and scope of the powers in Worm and Ward are incredible, as is the twisted irony that every power brings to its poor wielder (parahuman powers are usually a reflection of the user's very personal trauma).

Some warnings are also in order. Powers derive from trauma, and both Worm and Ward have lots of it. Trigger warning for many kinds of human suffering are in order.

Ward just ended. I was deeply moved by how optimistic a story it is, given how absolutely miserable everything in the universe is. But if you want an easier read, pick up Worm. It's a bit rough around the edges, but great for a casual binge, because many conventions will be familiar to you (Worm is a superhero deconstruction / reconstruction).
posted by theony at 8:28 PM on May 4 [7 favorites]


Ward just killed my suspension of disbelief. He made a really interesting world and the end of Worm set things up to expand it greatly, and then... more of the same with a slightly different viewpoint, even when it didn't make any sense.

I mean, it was one thing when Danny Hebert was the world's most gormless union officer, but the spontaneously generated city of however many millions of people that somehow recreated the internet from scratch before they bothered to figure out food was a step to far. Never mind the author's bizarre issues with authority.
posted by pan at 9:26 PM on May 4


Wow, Wildbow isn't taking any time off. Here's the first chapter of his next book, which appears to be another story in the setting of Pact.

Here's a blog post he just made retrospecting on Ward.
posted by value of information at 9:47 PM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Thanks for that link. He seems to acknowledge and largely agree with the general criticisms people have for Ward. I think the guy just needs to take a break and recharge for a while. He's written an unbelievable amount of material non-stop for 9 years or so. That's got to take a toll on anyone.
posted by star gentle uterus at 12:20 AM on May 5


I still love to daydream about a big budget series version of Worm, but it does have that “500 episode anime series” problem with recommending it. There are so many amazing moments that kinda need the long world building lead up to fully hit, but it’s hard to demand that much time from someone.
posted by lucidium at 4:28 AM on May 5


ohhhh gosh. i wanted to say i spent last year being absolutely obsessed with wildbow's works but then i rethought about ward starting in 2017... i might've lost a lot of years, actually, to him, lol. fell in love with worm in college. learning about ward was like ten christmases for me. i only kept up with it for a few months, because it was the first time i'd been able to follow one of his works serially. it turned out to be confusing to my brain, so i thought i'd check back in once there was more. and then i just .. forgot about it. now i have to decide if i want to binge the whole thing now!!

i've recced worm and twig to an embarrassing amount of people considering it always has to be prefaced with, uh, well it's wild ridiculous long, and also you'll need trigger warnings for a concerning and offputting amount of things, and the protag is very morally questionable, but it's so good!!!
posted by gaybobbie at 8:24 AM on May 6


Whoever recced Practical Guide to Evil upthread, I have spent hours and hours burning through it in the last couple weeks. Good stuff.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:38 PM on May 25


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