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Old 01-29-2017, 10:05 PM   #1
ibskib
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Worm Tabloid By babylonsheep - T - Worm

Title: Tabloid
Author: babylonsheep
Rating: T
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Status: Complete
Fandom: Worm
Summary: PRT photographer by day and cape paparazzi by night, Tabloid explores the effects of parahumans on society with the help of his quirky sense of humor. Each chapter contains original artwork. World-building, slice of life, comedy/drama.
Link: Archive of Our Own

I like how this story tries to expand upon Worm's worldbuilding, it's one of the few non-Taylor Worm fics that I've actually enjoyed. It is an OC for those not into that, but a well-written one, and I enjoyed his cynical and self-interested attitude, it felt real to me in a way that many cape characters' motivations do not.
It is well-written, and quite polished in general, the added art doesn't really do it for me, many of the cape uniforms just look too bulky and clumsy, both compared to how I always pictured the characters, but also it isn't something I could imagine an image conscious PRT would create. Despite that it still adds a nice bit of colour.
The slice-of-life elements probably isn't for everyone, and sometimes the narrator goes into outright essay territory which I enjoyed, but some might find boring.

One thing I find missing in most Worm fics is the role of newspapers, News-databases, blogs etc.
In the Worm-verse it should be teeming with Cape News, I would expect larger papers to have a Cape section or recurring articles. Perhaps even a newspaper or two specializing in such, as well as journalists doing the same. In general just better sources than going to a forum.

I've always gotten the sense that the web isn't quite as ubiquitous in Earth Bet as RL, to me at least it would be a natural consequence of less economic stability, so newspapers should perhaps have a bigger role.
Instead a newly triggered Taylor almost invariably goes to Parahumans Online to get info, which leads to those awful and self-indulgent PHO Interludes.
A sad consequence of having a majority of fanfic authors be from a forum like Spacebattles, I guess the tendency might have sprung from Wildbow also doing the same a bit.
What is missing, is a bit more investigative journalism/Paparazzi going after that scoop.

It is that kind of worldbuilding this story helps flesh out, as well as showing more of what is behind the PR work the PRT and Protectorate do.
One example of this is the mention of a Cape version of the Anarchist's Cookbook, which just made me smile.
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Old 02-04-2017, 04:21 PM   #2
Bernd
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I don't normally read OC-centric fics, but I've seen this recommended a lot as one of the best of the newer, currently updating fics, and as one of the best of the OC stories, and fics that don't feature Taylor as the protagonist. With that in mind, I started this fic with high hopes, and I wasn't disappointed. It was an actually good OC story, exactly what I wanted but was in no ways expecting.

The writing quality was very good, in that after finishing, I can't remember times where there was a mistake in spelling or grammar. And normally I remember things like that, if not where there the mistakes were, but the fact that were mistakes at all. The prose itself was quite readable, in fact, very enjoyable at moments. It really gets across the personality of the narrator, a jaded and very cynical guy, whose internal commentary of snarkiness I thought was clever and thoughtful, in a way that really struck home that the world of Worm is a pretty grim place.

The main character is an original character, which may not everyone's cup of tea, but after all the poorly written and OOC altpowered Taylors I've read, dipping into something different was refreshing. He reads as genuine, and his internal voice and characterization I thought was engaging. At first he seems like the only sane man in the crazy world of Worm, a passive observer voice, but the story unfolds and you begin to find out more of him, and slowly you realize that he's got depths of his own, and he's just as flawed as the rest of the character cast he interacts with.

The character cast is the established Brockton Bay Protectorate heroes. I felt like they stayed in line with their canon personalities, and the character interactions seemed genuine, realistic enough without coming across as contrived. I also didn't notice any egregious errors or fanon characterization, especially in the scenes with Armsmaster and Shadow Stalker, the two capes a lot of fandom writers like taking a dump on.

I didn't notice any glaring mistakes with the worldbuilding either, the other draw of this fic. It fell in line with what we've already seen of the Wormverse, and it expands on the world created by Wildbow, without anything that screamed wrong or unrealistic to me. The author's intro says the fic is canon compliant, and while the story is set in the pre-canon timeline, everything ties in perfectly into the lead up to Taylor's story in Worm. The small details that the protagonist expands on, like his "rules of caping", gave me a sensible chuckle at times. You get a real sense of Worm from the viewpoint of a street level cape, the logistics of it, in a way that the narrator makes interesting.

Quote:
1. Develop your identity before you go out. That doesn't just mean deciding on your stage name and costume. Mannerisms, speech patterns, accent, voice, body language: all basic quirks of appearance and personality that you consider yours must be downplayed or, preferably, expunged. If someone asks why Capeman and Friendly Guy Next Door have never been seen in the same room together, you've already lost. They suspect you. You should probably kill them before it's too late.
I loved the bits like this. They make the setting shine, they show you exactly how the protagonist thinks, and they make the story feel richer. They show a level of awareness that many other protagonists lack, but it never enters meta-knowledge; the OC reads as an OC and never as a SI-type character.

In terms of criticism, some of the narrator exposition moments rambled, and could be cut down or paraphrased without losing anything in the story. The pacing at the beginning of the story starts out slow, the first arc at least, which felt like a prologue. But the story picks up by the second and gets better from there. It never really escalates, and keeps to the street level the whole time. Since it is described by the author as a "slice of life" story, I didn't expect it to. I never found it to be a slog at any point, but it might be for anyone who dislikes OC protagonists and is on the fence about continuing.

The art also wasn't how I thought the characters would look, but I can't complain about its quality, and the non-character art helps with the worldbuilding that happens in the story. And how many other fanfics are illustrated? Even without the art, the prose and polish of the writing stand up for themselves.

My overall impression: I really enjoyed this fic. I liked the slowly building exploration of the setting I know and love from reading Worm. The writing is very good, not just technical proficiency, but there's a unique voice and style that fleshes out the character of the protagonist. I would recommend this, and I now understand why it was recommended to me.

4.5/5 from me.

Last edited by Bernd; 02-04-2017 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 02-04-2017, 07:35 PM   #3
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Ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It has its good points: nice world-building, a protagonist with a cool history, and no character bashing. The dialogue reads right and everyone is likeable.

But.

It’s slow. Each chapter starts with a long narration by the protagonist, Paul, that never held my attention. I don’t like when world-building is info-dropped without prompting. While canon characters were in-character, most of the time Paul was making speeches at them, telling them how to fix their problems while the canon character listens quietly. I kept wanting to go back to his parahuman life, but there are too few of those scenes.

Some inconsistencies bothered me. This fic claims that Lung and Oni Lee only appeared in Brockton Bay in December of 2010, a couple weeks before Taylor is pushed into the locker. Is this canon? I was always under the impression Lung had been in the Bay for years.

I don’t like slice of life, so I’m probably not the right audience for this fic, but it being completely canon compliant sucks the fun out of it. I don’t expect anything interesting to happen. Despite Paul being an cool protagonist, he’s not a strong one. His goal is making money. He doesn’t care about the people he interacts with or has strong emotions in general. In fact, being emotionless and distant is necessary for his power.

I just don’t have a reason on why I should keep reading. I mean, it’s quite a bit above the average wormfic, so if you want something different, try this, but eh.

3.5/5 -> 3/5.
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Old 02-06-2017, 01:09 PM   #4
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True, it is pretty slow, and that is not to everybody's taste, and if you don't like Slice of life then it's definitely not the story for you.

The newest update was an interlude, one of the best I've read in the fandom, or perhaps it is just merely good compared to most I've come across, it is depressingly rare to find one that isn't just a glorified reaction shot.
It shows a bit more of Paul's background and family, and adds to the last flashback to his early cape work.

Last edited by ibskib; 02-06-2017 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 02-06-2017, 07:17 PM   #5
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Yeah, agreed. Slice of life ain't for everyone, no biggie if you don't like it. Most fics I've seen that try to escalate up from street level end up with a Leviathan fight or have the Slaughterhouse Nine show up in town, which either kills the fic or tanks the story. Or both.

The most recent interlude chapter was great. This is how interlude chapters are supposed to be used, which many writers don't seem to realize. It has impact because so far they've been limited to one per arc, not every second chapter. The OC's motivations, which I wasn't fully sold on, started to make more sense to me.

And as someone to whom prose matters a lot, it was also very well-written. Descriptive in the right spots, emotive in the right spots; the mood of the writing left me with a bittersweet impression. Paul from a third person PoV feels recognizably like the Paul of the first person PoV chapters, but also subtly different.

Oh, and this bit made me laugh.
Quote:
Most of his classmates showed up in jeans and casual sweatshirts smelling vaguely of herbs that Paul suspected could not be laundry detergent lavender.
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Old 03-03-2017, 05:04 AM   #6
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Worm

Looks like the story has ended.

Author posted the epilogue and marked the AO3 tag as complete.

I liked the ending, and to me the story qualifies as one of the best in the fandom. Just by virtue of being actually finished instead of dead or on life support the way most other fics end up is enough to push it to the top 10% of Worm fics. Actually, make that 3%. The prose quality, where the writing is not only spell checked and written by someone who knows how the English language works, is better than the majority of fanfic writers, especially ones who don't know how to balance the ratio of prose to dialogue. At certain points I feel like it's better than even motherfucking Wildbow.

Additional thoughts: the story tied up the right plot points, hit the right emotional beats, and knew when to stop when it was ahead instead of dragging on into mediocrity. There's a quote that I read somewhere that's something like, "Good fics die early or live long enough to become Amelia", and it's so true that it hurts.

This story ended where it was supposed to.

The story might not be to everyone's taste, or have characters that everyone likes. I was iffy about starting an OC story and didn't pick this up until it was recc'd by someone else. But as a character focused story, it's solid. The story does what it sets out to do. The unfolding of the plot read like the author knew what they were doing and where they were going from the beginning. Again, another rarity in the sea of painfully average fanfiction.



Final thoughts: Would I recommend this story?


Yes.

It's good. It's well written. It's thoughtful, has clever points, and poignant moments. It's creative and different from most other Worm fics I've read. I didn't notice it slipping into fanon, and it handled the stations of canon well for a canon compliant fic.

Man, I sound like I've read way too many shit Worm fics.
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Old 03-03-2017, 09:35 AM   #7
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I greatly enjoyed this story. Paul is an interesting character that I feel has been expertly crafted. Once you have an understanding of his character and personality, he always acts how you would expect, and its all very understandable and totally reasonable when you learn about his childhood and what drives him. I like Paul's constructed pragmatic blandness, and enjoy it even more when he deviates from it slightly; its about the author is skilled enough to show varying shades of character as opposed to where a more amateur author would end up flanderising and making a one-note character, resulting in general boredom.

As someone who in the vast majority of cases vastly prefers to read stories about the main character (e.g. Harry in HP, Taylor in Worm, Naruto in Naruto, etc.) and pretty much avoids non-MC fanfiction, this story is just that good enough for me get into.

It is not without its faults, Vira mentions how each chapter starts with Paul proselytizing and telling us how the world works, it has very little interaction and can feel like it drags on a bit.

The good far outweighs the bad, I rate this story 4.5/5.
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Old 03-13-2017, 05:43 AM   #8
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It is now finished, though I can't edit my post to show it as complete.

I would have liked more chapters, but the ending worked well, a few things are tied up in the epilogue that I didn't expect, and some things are left a tad too vague. Overall it is a satisfying conclusion for what the author intended.
For those on the fence because of the slice of life elements, I think it would be a more satisfying narrative now that it can be read in one go.
For there is actually an overarching plot, it's just in the background a lot of time, and it takes a fair bit of time before the reader learns the protagonist's underlying motivations.
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Old 03-13-2017, 07:47 PM   #9
Bernd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibskib View Post
It is now finished, though I can't edit my post to show it as complete.

I would have liked more chapters, but the ending worked well, a few things are tied up in the epilogue that I didn't expect, and some things are left a tad too vague. Overall it is a satisfying conclusion for what the author intended.
For those on the fence because of the slice of life elements, I think it would be a more satisfying narrative now that it can be read in one go.
For there is actually an overarching plot, it's just in the background a lot of time, and it takes a fair bit of time before the reader learns the protagonist's underlying motivations.



What was vague in the ending?


I meant it was kind of obvious that a bunch of people died, including
 
Josephine's (ex?) fiancé/boyfriend and Paul's parents
but I'm kind of glad that the story didn't dwell on it or angst over it, and quickly moved on to dealing with the present problems. One of the things I liked about this story was the lack of angst.

I thought it was a very solid ending, much better than 90% of the average Worm fanfic, which is abandoned before it is completed. And better than 75% of completed Worm fanfics where the ending feels shoved on because the author was losing interest and wanted to finish the story for the sake of finishing. It was satisfying because of the way it came as the natural end of Paul's story; it felt meaningful because I could see through Paul's character with a level of understanding that I didn't have at the start. I could see where he'd changed.

When I finished it on AO3, I had that same feeling of wanting to read more. More because the story was that good rather than the ending being bad or unsatisfying. I went to the Spacebattles thread to see if there was anything I was missing, and the author wrote in their notes what would have happened after the epilogue. Scroll down, it's at the bottom.

I have the feeling that this author will become one of those authors known for churning out good stuff. To me, at least. I look forward to reading anything else they write, since they proved they can sell an OC main character convincingly and make him fit seamlessly into an established setting.

That's hard as fuck.
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Old 03-14-2017, 05:56 AM   #10
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maybe 'vague' was not the best word choice, I just felt a bit too much was glossed over, but I agree that it was a good conclusion to Paul's story.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing what the author will do next, he did very well at slotting Tabloid into the Worm-verse and adding to the world-building. I think of Tabloid a bit like "Worm: An untold tale", if that makes sense?

What I hope to see from him next if he ends up writing more fics, is one where he tries to shake things up instead, and have a character that stands out, rather than meshes with Wildbow's world.
Not that I would complain if he wrote more stuff like Tabloid

Last edited by ibskib; 03-18-2017 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 03-16-2017, 05:45 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ibskib View Post
maybe 'vague' was not the best word choice, I just felt a bit too much was glossed over, but I agree that it was a good conclusion to Paul's story.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing what the author will do next, he did very well at slotting Tabloid into the Worm-verse and adding to the world-building. I think of Tabloid a bit like "Worm: And untold tale", if that makes sense?

What I hope to see from him next if he ends up writing more fics, is one where he tries to shake things up instead, and have a character that stands out, rather than meshes with Wildbow's world.
Not that I would complain if he wrote more stuff like Tabloid



That's what happens when there's a 2.5 year timeskip, stuff gets glossed over, same problem as Wildbow's Worm had. I could see why it was necessary, in Worm as well, since it would make the story two or three times as long, and not add that much plot. But I would have no complaints if the time skip was written in detail.



My disappointments with Tabloid, which don't necessarily detract from the story's quality, had to do with the timeskip.

  • There was no Leviathan arc. I wanted to see Paul's reaction to Armsmaster and Dauntless, since he spent so much time working with them, only for it to be a wasted effort.
  • There was no Taylor at all. No Skitter, or Weaver. It would have been plausible for Paul to meet Taylor in person when she joined the Wards. Worm is written from Taylor's PoV and readers love her, but the PRT know her as a teenage warlord. Paul's honest and snarky commentary on what he thought of her was something I was looking forward to.
  • How did the breakup of the Protectorate affect Paul? Alexandria was outed as the Chief Director. Wouldn't there be testing for more parahumans in the PRT? How did Paul get out of that? This was never addressed.
  • There was no Khepri either. She was mentioned and implied, and it was obvious that it happened, but I think this would be one of the biggest things that was glossed over in the epilogue.
     
    What was the deal with his reaction post Gold Morning? Did Paul second trigger?




I can see why the author ended the story where he did. The story was canon compliant, but to avoid boring readers and having a predictable plot, it stops before it begins to overlap with any of the stations of canon. If a Taylor MC Worm fanfic doesn't diverge immediately from the stations of canon, I will probably drop it. That's how bored of it I am. Especially those fucking lockers. Why do so many people write those fucking locker scenes. Even motherfucking Wildbow skips it.

What I don't get bored of is Paul's commentary. I enjoy his sense of humor, which never lowers the story to a crack fic. It's... dark? Dry? Hard to describe, but you get the impression that Paul is an intelligent and a sarcastic observer. The author nailed the characterization. Even when the bad side of Paul's personality was revealed, I still liked him because of how well he was presented from the beginning. So even though I know the canon plot, I would have liked to see his view on it.





Overall: Humor, character, plot, and writing all tick my boxes.


I rated 4.5/5 but I rounded up and voted it 5/5 stars on the poll thing.
It has 11 votes right now, and looks like other people are voting it between 4-5 stars. Tabloid definitely belongs in the DLP library.

The small things I could point out that I didn't like, or could be better, didn't ruin the experience for me. They weren't in any way dealbreakers.

I think the last time I enjoyed a Worm OC as much as I did this story was Dire Worm, another exceptionally likeable, morally gray protagonist.

Last edited by Bernd; 03-16-2017 at 05:47 AM. Reason: fix spacing
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Old 04-03-2017, 08:54 AM   #12
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Update notification!

The author has posted an omake update to the story, in the Spacebattles thread. The AO3 version of the story has not been updated, so I assume this is a SB exclusive. Don't click the link if you are planning to read the story, or are reading and haven't finished.

The bonus chapter takes place 2 weeks after the end of the epilogue, and
 
answers some questions about what happened to Paul after he was Khepri'd.


It's relatively short, but has some good characterization moments. It also includes some character artwork and an animation at the end. The chapter artwork is one of the highlights of reading the story.


If you read Worm fics and haven't read Tabloid, you should give it a go. It has an OC protagonist, but the story is just too well-written to pass up. It's a great look at canon from a different perspective, humanizes some of its minor characters in a realistic, non-fanony way, and reads like a natural exploration of street-level Worm. Street level Worm was always strongest part of the setting.
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Old 06-03-2017, 07:31 AM   #13
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The author has added a new omake to the story. SB only, hasn't been updated on AO3. It's a side story to the main plot, good world building. Reads like an interlude.

Summary: Drama in Boston from the Wards finding out about Aegis's impending transfer from Brockton Bay.


Can I review an omake? I see people on the internet reviewing fast food in the drive through. You know what, why the fuck not.



I liked this chapter. The art was good, the writing was good. Excellent on a mechanical level, didn't notice any typos or grammatical errors. "Wards" was capitalized where it should be, which so many authors are inconsistent about. Chapter was dialogue heavy, scenes were built around the talking instead of around the action. But Tabloid isn't an action-focused story, so I can let it slide. Character-driven stories are about the characters.

The characters were well-written; each character shown was distinct, and they were in-character from what I know of them and had seen of them before, Weld and Paul specifically. Reynard is the new character to the story, a bit part from Worm who gets author expansion. Credit to the author here for being able to write characters with realistic flaws and weak powers, who are interesting because they have strong, well-developed personalities. Reynard isn't a likeable protagonist at first, but the author slowly builds him up and it's easy to warm up to him by the end. He might be a closet furry, but he's just so human. If this was a first chapter for a full story, I'd consider it a strong start and look forward to reading more.

The way the power was written was pretty creative. It's not obvious, but it makes sense in hindsight, and I liked the way it was described. It took a second read-through for it to click.

Quote:
He'd leap, and the slow seconds would be sectioned into a hundred SI sub-units in which he lived every single one.
Quote:
A second passed. Another second passed. Then another. The gap between each continuous and unfolding iteration of Now widened, growing ever wider, if only in the depths of his own mind.

I thought it was clever. An explanation of powers, without the power testing/info dumping scene. One of the reasons why I enjoy reading the author's prose.



Other thoughts:


Reading this omake as an interlude, I could see why the interludes in Tabloid were so limited. From a third person perspective, when you can't see into Paul's thoughts the way he's written in first person, he's not so likeable. If this chapter had been in Tabloid, as an interlude in the middle of the first arc, I don't think I would have liked him as much. Goes to show how important it is that interludes be used sparingly in OC fics.

Paul is in-character here. As usual, he's not the good guy, and it's much easier to see that without being distracted by Paul's inner dialogue explaining the scene and figuring out an angle to get what he wants. The scene where he tries to pressure Reynard into leaving the Wards echoes how his mother treated him in the Arc 3 interlude. Without Paul's narration, you don't see if it was intentional, of if he's aware of the parallels. It didn't occur to me until now, and I'm still not 100% sure, but I suspect that Paul is a sociopath. I graduated from the school of Grey's Anatomy, and minored in Armchair Psychology, so don't quote me on this. This doesn't make the story bad, not at all. It takes skill to write a likeable, sympathetic sociopathic protagonist. Just thought it was worth pointing out.

Overall, I liked this, and it has a few funny situational comedy moments that are great in context. You don't have to read it, since it's not part of the main plot, but it's fun and has some good insights on the Worm world and life in the PRT. However, I do note that it's light on conflict, and that the character tension that is introduced in the beginning is resolved by the end. Which is perfect for a one-shot chapter that doesn't need a cliffhanger ending, but it does repeat the episodic, low stakes feel of Tabloid, where most of the chapters read like a "Monster of the Week" episode.

It could be a quirk of the serial publishing format, or a quirk of the genre, this being a slice-of-life fic. It just doesn't have the nail-biting, edge of the seat tension I got from Worm, with the strong conflict-driven protagonist motivations in "Taylor vs. Authorities" or "Saving Brockton Bay". Tabloid's overarching conflict tends toward being so subtle that it doesn't lend itself well for thrilling plot hooks. Not saying that Tabloid needs fights and action, it's just that most of the things it deals with are low-key problems and self-contained dramas.

All in all, it's an enjoyable supplementary to Tabloid, centered on genuinely interesting characters and character interactions, and artwork that creates the impression of a richer, wider world. It gets my approval.
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