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On The Scale of Worm

Discussion in 'Worm' started by apoc, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. apoc

    apoc The Once and Ginger King

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    Well hello there ladies, gents, and other non-specified voyeurs.

    I saw that we had a virginal board here and thought it could do with a nice hard, through posting.

    So, I'd like to talk about what I think is one of the most divisive things about Worm - the scale and how it changes. Or, in normal superhero terms, the scope - street, city, and global.

    Everything up to the Leviathan Arc and a good deal of what is beyond takes place at the "street" or "city" level for example, while the later stuff accelerates to sort of "Justice League" or "Avengers" levels - the global scale. The most common threats faced early on are parahuman gangs, minor villains, and the like. Later on they move up into larger villains and such, and then finally it escalates into fighting Behemoth and Scion and such post-time skip.

    In my opinion, I don't think Worm does this very well. While the Scion Arc is epic and all, in general the way it handled the "global" scale was really really poor, to the point that I view Arc 22 as the actual "climax" of the series. It may not have been as epic, but the lower-scale parts just feel more complete, more detailed, and downright more interesting. I don't think Worm needed a big "save the world" plotline no matter how imaginative and novel it may have been implemented. I think keeping the scope smaller and more detailed rather than moving up to such world-changing events would've made for a much better story.

    There are some really interesting uses of the change in scope, to be sure, like the Leviathan Arc, which is essentially the "global" scale rampaging through the "city" scale and irrevocably changing everything in its path, but that's because its a brief glimpse into that sort of thing specifically meant to be a sudden, unwinnable event that comes out of nowhere like a force of nature.

    But for the most part, Worm would've been a much better story if it never "reached for the stars" so to speak.

    What're people's thoughts on this line of thinking? I know a lot of Worm fans love the epic level of the ending and how different "shards" and other pieces of Worm cosmology are - what are your thoughts on what I've just wrote? Is it just a matter of the latter chapters being poorly paced? How do you defend the later chapters when many people think they're a severe drop in quality?

    And in fanfiction, how is this handled? Many AU fics do away with cosmic elements entirely to focus on the, in my opinion, more interesting low-level conflicts. Is this better? Worse? Does the existing scale of Worm and its ending create pressure on fanfiction authors to at least on some level match it, so as not to make it seem completely alien from Worm?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2015
  2. Jon

    Jon The Demon Mayor Admin DLP Supporter

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    Use the post icon for Worm next time.
     
  3. Luckylee

    Luckylee Top 1 Percent Prestige

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    I think that if the story remained Superheroes vs Villains with the rare teamup against Endbringers, that would of been fine. Towards the end it got a bit ridiculous.

    I don't like Taylor. I think she was a shit protagonist to be honest.

    The verse itself was interesting though, and I actually really liked a lot of the concepts/powers shown.

    The sad thing is though, I liked so few of the characters in general towards the end of the story. Very few of the characters in Worm felt truly "heroic" if that makes any sense.
     
  4. theronin

    theronin Order Member

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    I think everyone agrees that, at the minimum, the transition from the street level to the cosmic level was poorly handled. There were, I think, 2 major reasons for this. The first one, which I think I commented on to WB at some point, was 25.5.

    25.4 ends with Cauldron and the Thanda agreeing to cooperate in the fight against Khonsu (the teleporting endbringer, who just appeared). In 25.5 they get teleported to the battlefield, we get a couple hundred words of action, then they are teleported again following Khonsu to another part of the world. Scene break. Then suddenly it's like 2 years later and Taylor is reminiscing about the endbringer attacks in the interim.

    This transition was really jarring not just because of the timeskip, but because it happened in the middle of an action scene. From there, things move into the S9 re-appearing with the clones and rapidly escalate to Scion level shenanigans, so we get pretty much non-stop action to the end of the story.

    Between 22 and 25, for anyone wondering, we get Taylor navigating Protectorate politics while trying to still do her thing and the Behemoth fight, all of which was interesting, but as apoc pointed out, kind of feels like a different story from the one told in the preceding 22 arcs.

    Then we move on to the endgame, which I agree wasn't handled particularly well. Part of that was that the S9, who had been played up as this big threat that is coming back, ended up being a red herring, and the fights with them weren't really interesting. The other part was that the Scion fight, while epic in tone and scale, again felt really different from the story told in arcs 1-22. I think it could have made a good story, but it doesn't really make sense where it is. If it was a sequel story, with a clear separation to account for the different tone and scale, it would work a lot better.
     
  5. Koalas

    Koalas Dark Lord DLP Supporter

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    That's half the point Lee. It's realistic. Heroing is a career not something they're doing out of the goodness of their hearts, with a very few exceptions.
     
  6. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Order Member DLP Supporter

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    Since we'd already discussed it at some length, I'm in near complete agreement with apoc. The street and city scale conflict is great because it's interpersonal, and one of the best things about the world is how many hints we get at the wider situation. Actually showing a lot of the rest of the world got rid of my sense of wonder. I couldnt imagine what such a world would be like within the teasing guidelines that are only barely touched on earlier in the series anymore.

    The execution of the escalation has been addressed, and I agree with the reasoning there. The time skip was handled very poorly from the start.

    One of the things that I disliked about the escalation was that it cheapened a lot of the conflict earlier. The slaughterhouse 9 were terrifying, ruthless, charming, and unstoppable. They were a colorful group that descended on the cast like a whirlwind, all the horror of leviathan amplified by the fact that this is no beast attacking. These are people, and they are all the more monstrous for it. The synergy of their powers allowed for a team of 9 to realistically defy the likes of the Triumvirate, and they served as an excellent challenge for every character in Brockton Bay.

    And then they're cloned. The S9000 were a terrible idea because the slaughterhouse 9's members were no longer special. Killing a member originally was an accomplishment, a struggle that required sacrifice and creativity and cooperation. When there are so many of them running around, killing them becomes routine. They are no longer horrifying or special, they're mooks. The attempt was to escalate the danger posed by the group, but it only served to make them a speed bump on the way to the real conflict with Jack and then Scion.

    The same thing happened with the Endbringers. The introduction of more Endbringers made them less unique, and the threat posed to the world didn't feel as inevitable. The death of Behemoth was a triumphant moment, marked by a celebration by both the cast and the readers. Finally there was a ray of light in the tunnel of grimdark that is Worm. The Eldest, the Herokiller, the worst monster that haunts the dreams of men was struck down.

    Then he is replaced. The difference between ten Endbringers and fifty Endbringers at that point is academic, because now they're just big mooks. They can be killed, and more can show up. They are no longer a force of nature, they are just another speed bump in the face of the real conflict.

    The wonder, the anticipation, the fear, and the interpersonal conflicts were pushed to the wayside in the face of the "real" plot and the series suffered for it.
     
  7. Quiddity

    Quiddity Auror

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    It might be that I read it in 2-3 sessions of 2-3 days of binging it, but I thought it peaked around SH9, and after that the scale, and intensity of it got to be too much. There was a moment, when the Echidna bit went down where I just went "really?" It just got to be too much, that there'd be another veritable "end of Brockton Bay" less than a day after the last.

    I mean, I get they flowed from one another, but that just made it unrealistic to me.


    Timeskip and SH9k were also problematic, and I'll admit the scale of them peaked my disillusionment a bit more, but I think the scale problems start much earlier than that.
     
  8. Insignificature

    Insignificature First Year

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    I really enjoyed the story until the timeskip. My favourite 'scale' was definitely city, when the undersiders were managing the city and fighting off threats to their territory (unless you would still consider this a street level). I really liked reading Taylor balance her villain and civilian lives, and I was very disappointed when she got outed by Dragon and Defiant.

    Weirdly, I felt like there was less at stake during the global phase. Even though the world was in danger, I think Taylor had a lot less on her plate.

    For example, during the Slaughterhouse 9 arc, she was protecting the people in her territory, keeping her father in the dark about her activities, trying to work out a way to save dinah, and (if I recall correctly) still trying to patch things up with the rest of the undersiders following her outing by Armsmaster post leviathan.

    In comparison, she really doesn't have a lot going on after the timeskip. All she cares about is stopping the end of the world.

    I felt like this was a big mistake in the story, as the threat level continued to rise, but the tensions seemed to fall. Even some of the characters seem to reflect this attitude, as they have accepted the end of the world and don't seem to care one way or the other.
     
  9. Jarik

    Jarik Chief Warlock

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    I think what is so good about Worm is there is a large cast of interesting characters, and most of them start off as antagonists. There are no clear good guys and bad guys, and everyone is written as having both likeable and unlikeable traits. Wildbow does a good job of spacing power levels too - Kaiser and Lung early on are portrayed as badass, but above that we're always aware that there's capes like the Triumvirate and Siberian, and even above that the Endbringers. The world does a good job of giving a reason why those top tier powers don't just smite all the lower ones, and the events give a good excuse for why we see a natural progression upwards. The other thing that I love is that the universe gives a good cape culture that allows for enemies to work together under a truce, or even end up changing allegiances. The various interactions you see between enemies or former enemies throughout the fic are some of the highlights to me.

    Without a doubt, there is a natural progression and clear structure from Arc 1 to Arc 22 both in terms of Taylor's character development and the scale of what they were dealing with. The way I viewed it was that everything was escalating too fast and going out of control to the point where it reached a bloody climax, and had to reset back down.

    After that though, the structure gets messed up. We go back down to that 'street' level again (with her initiation mission to take down the Adepts) and the scenes of her meeting her new team, only to once again rapidly escalate to world-conspiracy level (Las Vegas mission) and world-ending level (Behemoth fight). We start to see her interacting with her new teammates, only to have a time skip and ignore them completely and never see them developed into real characters.

    (Also, the S9000. Like seriously, that was retarded. The S9 were an amazing villain group and each of their members were portrayed as terrifying. Cloning them completely diminished them, and after all that build up, was an awful way to end it. It broke that consistency in power levels I mentioned above too, since 1000 Siberians should have been unbeatable...)

    While reading the fic, I got very bored about everything post-Cell Arc. But on rereading bits, I realized there it is made up of fantastic scenes. Her talk with Glenn, the Behemoth fight, the truce that saw her working with the likes of Sophia and Lung, her interactions with Amy, Imp being freaking hilarious during the Scion arc, the heartbreaking ending and the epilogue chapters. All were great when read in isolation.

    So the issue was structure. These scenes were haphazardly put together, with no buildup or connection between them.

    Given that we're in a world full of Endbringers and Scion, I think it needed to become that epic at one point. The ending was appropriate to Taylor's development too, with her lack of care for herself and single mindedness making her a monster. The best parts of the story was the struggles for power against other capes and I can't think of an appropriate ending that didn't get to a world ending level.

    The position Wildbow put himself in was hard though. Taylor killing Alexandria was an epic climax, and her then joining the Wards was a good way to reset the intensity back down. However, given the knowledge of the end of the world, and the fact all the threats were still there, it would feel out of place bringing the intensity back down again and he was forced to quickly dial it back up again.

    The other thing that I think was wasted was her going to the Wards. I mentioned before interesting characters and interactions was one of the things I loved about Worm, and her joining the Wards had potential. From their point of view, she was the equivalent of Marquis, Kaiser or Lung - she built her reputation to that point. So I'd loved to have scene a more tense and uncomfortable start to her relationship to her new teammates. It'd have been a good way to slowly build up the tension again and add structure. Maybe have her interact a bit more with Brockton Bay Wards too.

    Given he said he wants to rewrite those bits on edit, I'm hoping that the structure can be added without completely changing the story.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
  10. Quiddity

    Quiddity Auror

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    I like your analysis, Jarik.

    But I'm pretty sure SH9k only had something like 9 clones of each one.
     
  11. Puzzled

    Puzzled Professor

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    The S9000 also had the disadvantage where everyone knew their powers, Siberian was terrifying and implacable, Manton is a man in a van. Add whatever Bonesaw did to make them taking their edge off a little, it's not too surprising they get dropped like chumps.
     
  12. theronin

    theronin Order Member

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    The issue isn't so much that it's unbelievable. In world, it kind of makes sense. The issue is that it feels wrong. It doesn't fit with what you expect (as a reader) from the S9, and it turns out to be a gigantic red herring a few chapters later when Scion shows up. Also, the final confrontation between Theo and Jack Slash (if you can even call it that), was really anticlimatic, given the build-up it had.
     
  13. Quiddity

    Quiddity Auror

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    I actually liked the climax, especially the final moments with Flechet and Grey Boy.

    I think it's because capes, with the awesome individual power and the complexity of following it work better on the individual scale. Even the endbringer fights generally work on the individual level, because the POV isn't dealing with the mess of it, and a lot happens off camera.

    When Taylor is coordinating against the 9k, and coordinating (heh) against Scion, it all gets messy, complex and confused as a result. Besides, it's a bit less involved.
     
  14. apoc

    apoc The Once and Ginger King

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    So, everyone says that the pacing was poorly handled post-Arc 22, but what about beyond that?

    I would contend that, even beyond just personal preference, the story would have been better if it hadn't shot for the cosmic scale and stuck to "mundane" level conflicts of slowly increasing escalation. And I mean this objectively - even if the post-22 arcs were properly paced and written it would be with absolute certainty worse than if the story was written well at a more city-based scale.

    I've heard the argument that "the Worm universe was built on the epic parts", aka that because of the way the universe was written/built ahead of time with the cosmological aspects of it (Entities, shards, multiple universes, etc etc) that at some point Worm had to reach this scale, but that argument always struck me as somewhat weak. The world is ultimately a tool of the narrative, and as the entities and shards were never of particular interest to me and because the parts of the story they were in were worse off for their presence, I never got the feeling they were something the setting needed or that the story couldn't go without.

    Thus, like I said, I contend that no matter how well-written, Worm would be objectively better had it not escalated to the scope it did, and instead was written with the same quality at a scale more in-line with the first 22 arcs. Perhaps somewhat broader with some conflict escalation, but nowhere near the amount from canon.

    Thoughts? Opinions?
     
  15. Callagan

    Callagan Fourth Year

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    Unfortunately, Wildbow introduced the "two years until everyone dies" thing long before Arc 22. With that hanging over the story, there was no way it could remain small-scale all the way through.
     
  16. Jarik

    Jarik Chief Warlock

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    I don't think I've come across many stories that actually do "epic" well. Common issue in anime - they become too big and world-level that it just loses its charm when the conflict becomes more about taking down some faceless monster than villains we can understand. In a lot of these, they didn't need to go to the epic level in the first place.

    But I think the entire Worm world is built around that too much. Even if you don't kill Scion, you can't not have a solution to the Endbringers - they're too much of a mystery not to consider (and simply having them stop after Eidolon dies would be anti-climatic). You can't not have an explanation for where powers come from, or what Scion is. Keeping it at street level just doesn't feel right.

    I mean, let's consider alternatives. Cauldron are the big evil organization manipulating everything, the rest of the series is about Taylor breaking open that conspiracy (you'd probably need to keep them secret for longer then and not have Eidolon's Echidna-clone admit to everything). Or we continue with the theme of the Undersiders getting stronger, Taylor getting more and more vicious until she actually becomes a monster.

    As much as Scion was too much of a faceless enemy who wasn't nearly as interesting as everyone else, but I think there was just too much stuff tied to that which WAS epic. Taylor becoming Khepri, "You needed strong opponents" (that, and the way it was executed was amazing) and all those interesting capes brought together and interacting. I just can't think of an ending that would have had the impact of that. As much as he was the endgame, it was more than just everyone allying to take him down.


    I dunno, can anyone really think of any other ways the plot could have gone to actually make for a worthy ending to such a lengthy story and rich world?
     
  17. Nemrut

    Nemrut The Black Mage Prestige

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    Well, I guess you could just try to keep the Scion thing out. Have the Endbringers be what Cauldron was founded for. There are only three, no more will come but those three, slowly, but surely, are destroying humanity.

    Powers might or might not come from the Endbringers or still tied to Scion, without Scion trying to kill them at the end. Have Scion be this entity that brought powers to Earth, still to test and everything, and also brought the Endbringers to promote more conflict, to force the parahumans to test their powers against such strong enemies, bringing poverty and destruction, thus more triggers.

    So, in a way, I guess I would portray Scion more like Kyubey, only without contracts. It's just alien, and defeating him/it is not really the point. They just have to deal with the shit he brings.

    On Taylor's end, well, following canon, since there is no definitive "world will end" moment with Scion snapping, she will try to hold on her territory. I don't agree that Taylor's inevitable end in that case will be becoming a monster, but more Taylor coming to terms that this will be her life from now on. Taking care of her people, dealing with villains and scum and being hated by the government for it. Maybe try to reintegrate with the government once the area is stable enough.

    Meanwhile, you would have the Undersiders, and with time, they would probably get more and more members and heck, it might span from there. Effort against the Endbringers, still trying to defeat them.

    End plan might just be ditching this earth and trying to start anew somewhere new, for the whole of humanity. Dunno. I just think that that's where most Worm stories fall flat. They lose steam because they either can't deal with the whole Scion issue or they handwave it away because Taylor's new powerset is so amazing and Cauldron is full of idiots.
     
  18. Quiddity

    Quiddity Auror

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    The first ~20 arcs occurred over 3 months. There's a lot you can do in two years - Taylor's story could have resolved over that time, easy.

    I mean, the world was falling apart from the premise - via Endbringer - before there was a specific timetable.


    Personally, I would have preferred it like that, but I do think that the manner of it would have required it to go 'GM' no matter the way he went at it.
     
  19. Jarik

    Jarik Chief Warlock

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    Just sounds dull in comparison to canon to me.

    I mean, having Taylor sit on her throne and see that all is good, or having her form a deal with the government that brings about peace just doesn't have the impact of that scene of her sobbing in front of Contessa as she answers "I… know I’m supposed to say yes, but no. Some-somewhere along way, it became no" to the question "Was it worth it?".

    Maybe I just have a thing for scenes where the good guys win, but at such a great cost that it's gut wrenching. But it was so powerful because the entire story built to that point.
     
  20. Nemrut

    Nemrut The Black Mage Prestige

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    Jarik you don't have to end it like that, it's just one example of dealing with the whole Scion and Endbringer issue. But for your end, you need the Scion thing. Which was fine for canon, and I loved it there, but I thought we were kinda arguing for dealing with this for fanfiction sake without having to go the exact identical way or did I misunderstand?