The Best Superhero Story Isn’t A Comic Book (or a Film)

TL;DR: It’s actually this, an online serial novel entitled “Worm”.

Taylor Herbert is your average ordinary high school girl. By day, she gets picked on by the mean girls. By night she’s a superhero.

Okay, so not so average ordinary.

Under the alias Skitter, Taylor basically smashes her way through a whole host of villains, making Squirrel Girl and Superman look like elementary school dodgeball players. And she does this with only two powers: 1) she senses all bugs (insects, spiders, worms, &c) within several hundred feet and 2) she can control the bugs she senses within the same radius.

The whole thing is a massive (and I do mean massive) deconstruction of the entire superhero genre. It hits all the standard notes: worldwide superhero league, supervillain prison, a team of incredibly dangerous supervillains, existential monsters that make enemies like Doomsday and Galactus look like tutorial bosses, a multiverse….

But I really shouldn’t say too much, because there are a ton of twists and turns to the story. Suffice to say that this novel takes all those common superhero elements and delves into why they exist at all: where did these superpowers come from? Why are those with superpowers so prone to voilence — either causing it as supervillains or fighting crime as superheroes?

Worm also has hands down the best superpowers in the genre, considering not only just the powers themselves, but the changes to a person’s mind and body that such powers would require. Taylor, for example, gains a huge boost to her ability to multitask to compensate for her need to constantly micromanage the army of bugs under her control.

The author also adds two useful categories for superpowers: Tinkers and Thinkers. Thinkers are supers with great mental powers, such as telepathy and prescience, but also things like super-analysis. One character, Tattletale, is basically Sherlock Holmes. Tinkers, then, have access to advanced technologies so far advanced that no one else is able to even repair the things they build. So in this world, people like Iron Man and Batman are justified in not mass producing their great inventions simply because they can’t.

I should warn that this story gets really dark. Lots of characters die, some in very horrible ways. There’s also quite a bit of cussing and a little sexual content.

That being said, if this post hadn’t already thoroughly implied as much, I very much suggest reading this. It’s amazing and beautiful, and is more than just a good superhero story but a good story in general. The thought put into this is phenomenal.

In case you missed the top, click

here

to read.

Fabrication: Animal Life

So sentient biocrystal.

I plan on there being two varieties: pure biocrystal sentients, and integrated biocrystal sentients. The latter of these two varieties would be far more common, if only because most biocrystal creatures wouldn’t need to move around much and thus would be better categorized as plants, and because the cerulite networks necessary to create sentience would be far more complicated than the biological neural networks necessary.

Pure biocrystal sentients (purists) would only really exist in environments where the nutrients necessary to persist and produce offspring were hard to come by. And seeing as biocrystal creatures feed off of sand and rocks, I can’t imagine many places where such creatures would exist. Perhaps in the depths of the ocean, or in particularly dense vegetation. Though, given biocrystal is supposed to also be able to somewhat feed off of organic matter, they might not even appear in some of these areas.

These purists would be composed primarily of large portions of rosete, and probably they would be generally snake-like in form, or perhaps even lizard-like.

Integrated biocrystal sentients (integrationists) would be far more common, and probably far more interesting. After all, technically these would be composite beings, a symbiotic relationship in a single form; the host would have to find some way to pass on the biocrystal symbiotes on to their children.

Probably all animal kingdoms would contain integrationists, though my primary conception of such creatures are generally reptilian — or more accurately, dinosaurish.

I imagine kinds of stegasaurs or dimetrodons with white albate sails along their spine, or large tortoises covered in black melanite, possibly pattered with albate as well.

I could probably come up with some other kinds of these creatures, but it’s getting late and I have to save *something* for my next post(s).

Questions? Want more details? Comment! Maybe I’ll come up with some answers or something cool in this system!

Fabrication: Manifestations 1

So after a hiatus of like a month or more, I should probably get around to considering devices and creatures that would integrate biocrystal, or else be made more or less entirely of biocrystal.

So I suppose I’ll be giving a few literary sketches of what these constructs would look like. I’ve already considered some such constructs in previous posts, and I’ll probably bring those in as we continue.

The first construct I’d like to go over is a literal power plant. I’ve primarily envisoned this as a tree, though it needn’t necessarily be in that shape, rather than, say, a bush. The central trunk would probably have an exterior of stone or incolorite — really, whatever the plant could get its metaphorical hands on — in order to provide protection from predators and the elements. Further up, where the trunk splits into branches, however, this covering would become less frequent or even nonexistant, the inner strands of ianthite blooming out in fractal threads. At the end of these strands, then, would be small melanite flowers, like a fruit tree in the early spring — only if all the flowers were black, rather than some bright/warm color.

I suppose it would be a rather strange sight, black flowers blossoming from violet branches bursting out of a translucent or stoney trunk.

Within the trunk, then, would lay the heart of this creature, a knot of cerulite at the intersection of all the ianthite radiating through the tree.

I initially imagined this tree being built by people for people, but I don’t think I’d be surprised to see it in the wild. Honestly, for that it would only need a few modifications.

In the wild, then, the cerulite core would be wrapped in a coccoon of viridite — not entirely, at least not usually. On regular intervals, probably about once a year or so, or when the tree’s roots bring up more material than usual, rosete tendrils would close the coccoon and another adjacent coccoon (or, more likely, three or more adjacent coccoons), activating the viridite.

Actually, now that I think about it, the regular intervals would probably be however long it took to begin this reproductive process after the completion of the last one.

But anyway, using sand or stone collected in these extra coccoons, probably transformed by some aurantite further below the core into incolorite, the tree would construct fetal copies of its cerulite core. Rosete tendrils would then carry these out of the trunk onto the branches where, probably in a strong breeze, the natal cores would fall away into the wide world.

Of course, using that template, you could probably get a huge variety of biocrystal plants, all varying in their cerulite programming to form different flower shapes, different flower numbers, different heights and widths and volumes, different numbers of branches, different trunk compositions, and different methods of spreading their seeds.

On the one hand I don’t think they’d compete with plants much, since they wouldn’t benefit so much from soil, since they’d receive their “nutrients” from sand and stone, where normal plants wouldn’t grow. It would certainly make deserts and mountains more interesting on worlds with biocrystal, transforming these voids into crystal forests, to complement the biological forests in more welcoming environments. On the other hand, I’m not sure how these biocrystal plants would flourish underwater, though at least the biggest issue for any potential beings of this nature would be the lack of light at lower depths — places that would otherwise be perfect for them, wide plains teeming with silt and sand and stone. At the bare minimum, any biocrystal growing at the lowest depths would have to exchange their standard photosynthetic charge for some other force, or perhaps rely solely on heat charge.

Thoughts? Queries? Ideas?

Hopefully next week I’ll be writing about animals made of biocrystal or integrating biocrystal.

Fabrication: Viridite Addendum

So I’ve been having some issues regarding distinctions between viridite and the other three fabricative biocrystals, given that their roles seem to overlap so much. I think I’ve found a solution to that.

That is, viridite copies the structures or patterns of an object, whereas aurantite, flavite, and cyanite copy the material. So aurantite can transform, for example, a granite block into marble; whereas viridite would transform a granite block into a specific shape. Among other things.

Under the umbrella of “structure” I would also categorize shape, temperature, state of matter, pressure, viscosity, and also things like crystal structure and even molecular structure (given some help from some cerulite).

So viridite would probably be the main biocrystal to use for creating a metamorphosis device; rather fitting, given that viridite parallels with the reproductive system; so by shapeshifting, one is almost literally reborn as a new person.

Wonder Woman Analysis

So this was a film.

It was a good film. I’d watch it again, probably. I’d probably suggest you watch it. It wasn’t bad, that’s for sure. I guess I kinda have mixed feelings about it.

I don’t know. Maybe it was too hyped for me, or I just didn’t notice all the really good parts. I did have quite a bit of criticism for the film, which I’ll get to (a lot of it deals with spoilers, but I’ll put up a tag when we get to that part). I really wanted to like this film, at least.

First, this was clearly made for 3D. I saw it in 2D, so I got a bunch of shots that were like “Isn’t this so awesome in three dimensions? Here, we’ll slow down the action for a shot so you can appreciate how awesome the shot is in three dimensions.” A lot of the action (particularly the action regarding Wonder Woman) felt very CG, a little in the uncanny valley.

Overall the plot felt a little cliche, very much like we’ve been here before. I kinda get this, we wanna start at the beginning when a new superhero shows up, but eventually doing a superhero origin story for every superhero gets a little tiring. (I’m looking forward to Spider-man: Homecoming, because that one promises to not be an origin story.) Diana / Wonder Woman herself had character development that oscillated from decent and fun to awkward and cliche, ultimately, unfortunately, ending on the latter.

The characters were a lot of fun, particularly Steve Taylor’s band of misfits (cause of course they’re a band of misfits, but hey, I loved them). The villains were also good, mostly. Most of the Amazons were cool too, though I have some issues with Hippolyta (Diana’s mother).

***Spoilers Begin***

Chronology

I was rather confused with what is supposed to have happened when, especially after the revelations at the end. So in the past, at some point, the gods fought one another, which ended in Ares being cast out and Zeus’s death/the conception of Diana. This is all implied to have happened at some point in the distant past, but by 1918 she’s only physically in her twenties (granted, none of the Amazons seem to age much past beyond that point either — which probably comes with their immortality thing).

So that seems to imply that Diana’s childhood lasted for thousands of years, which seems a little silly. Though I suppose the alternative is that the time between the official beginning training with Antiope and the big practice fight right before Steve shows up takes the vast majority of those millennia. That being said, Diana seems way too naive for someone presumably several thousand years old.

The other possibility is that Diana really is only about in her twenties or thirties, but then that would mean that the war of the gods only happened about 20-30 years ago, so in the 1890’s. Which doesn’t seem very likely, given Ares’s role as warbringer. And the whole Greek aesthetic of the gods and the Amazons.

Hippolyta

I had quite a few issues with this character. On the one hand, she seemed way overprotective of Diana; on the other hand, she was still permitting Diana to learn to fight and to do what she felt she needed to do.

But Hippolyta knew Diana was the god-killer, which makes her reluctance to get her daughter involved in training rather strange. More strange, however, would be the silence of the other Amazons at Hippolyta’s reluctance, since surely they would also know Diana’s origin and purpose. Antiope, at least, seems to be heavily pushing toward Diana’s training, but the others seem content to just follow Hippolyta’s lead.

I mean, I get that Hippolyta would be super wishy-washy on this: even if Diana is the god-killer, Diana’s also her daughter, and any parent wants to make sure their child is safe. So Hippolyta is trying to balance her duty as guardian of the Amazons (and Earth) and her duty as mother. But I guess I feel this internal debate could have been shown better. Perhaps if less focus had been on Diana at the beginning, but I don’t know how you’d balance all that.

I mean, you have ominous comments (which there were plenty of), but none of them hinted at this part of Diana’s nature.

Ares

Ohmigosh Ares.

I have to admit, I did not see that coming. And yet it was pretty brilliant: after all, we know the horrible armistice and the Treaty of Versailles basically directly lead to World War 2, which was even more horrible than the first World War. Though it still seems a little small-minded of him (indeed, for all his talk of bringing humanity to its destruction, Ares doesn’t seem to have really done that much). Perhaps the implication, though, is that WW2 would have been even worse with Ares’s influence.

I really liked Ares, particularly him talking about humanity’s faults. His initial arguments were pretty cool, but then they kinda devolved into “Weak weak weak!” which changed him from a villain I liked to super cartoony.

Diana’s retort “But love!” was also super cartoony, though. I really wanted to see them engage in actual debate, not this really bad cartoony stuff. I guess I wanted something more like this:

Diana: “But love!”

Ares: “Just a device to perpetuate their destruction across the world.”

D: “But dancing! And music!”

A: “Bonding exercises to convince themselves that their lives have any kind of good effect.”

And so on. Cause Ares at least seems to have his argument far better put together than Diana (though she has naive stubbornness on her side).

Linguistics and Isolationism

So as previously mentioned, the chronology of the Amazons seems a little unclear. Diana claims to speak hundreds of languages (okay, given, since she’s lived presumably a very long time), but among them modern Spanish and English.

Okay, but how does she know modern languages when she lives on an isolationist island hidden from the world?

I had the same issue with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, that after a few examples of speech, suddenly the Atlanteans are able to speak fluent English. Like, no, linguistics don’t work that way. I mean, you can get a good idea of how a language works from a small sample, but it’d have to be a very specific sample — not just any sample will do.

Does this mean there’s a squad of Amazons that keep tabs on the rest of the world? But as an isolationist culture, why would they find it necessary to learn so many languages? Or keep tabs on the world? (Perhaps to keep a watch for Ares?) But even then, why would they teach Diana so many languages? Surely she doesn’t need that many for fighting Ares? Unless Hippolyta and Antiope were expecting her to journey out into the world eventually. Or it was part of the standard education.

Further complicating this is that Diana’s read classical Greek texts, but doesn’t seem to have read anything more recent.

And then despite knowing modern languages, the Amazons don’t seem to have upgraded ever to modern weapons. Like, you know, guns. I mean, granted, they have crazy fighting skills and bullet-stopping armor (probably magic), but that doesn’t suddenly make guns obsolete or less useful than their bows and swords.

Anyway, those were my thoughts. Responses, things I missed?

Fabrication: Shapes

At last I finally have to get around to this, rather than worry about classes.

I’d here like to talk about not the colors of the various biocrystal strains, but their crystalline shapes and three-dimensional forms. I won’t be drawing them out, as cool as that would be, since at least, as a writer, I ought to be able to describe their shapes.

Colorless incolorite would grow in blocky formations, forming square or rectangular cyrstals.

White albite would be generally rather flat, rather than creating its own crystal form, growing in a sheet over any surface it touched, rather like a kind of cyrstal mold, I guess.

Pink rosete would grow in crystals in a shape not unlike that of rope, in series of two to five cords wrapped around each other. As previously noted, this one in particularly, unconnected to any other biocrystal (and perhaps even then) would be prone to roving around at random, more or less, unless one of the ends are somehow latched to a surface.

Red rubrite would grow in wiry, coral-like crystals.

Orange auranite would grow in flower-like formations which, similarly to albite, would then wrap around any object that somehow entered the interior of this formation to form a mold.

Yellow flavite would grow similarly to auranite, though it would react to liquids rather than solids.

Lime green pallidite would grow in small pebbles, attaching themselves to anything that came within range, breaking off from one another as they grew (probably they would repel one another). So a very old piece of pallidite would probably look like some kind of coral bush — perhaps like broccoli — which, upon interaction, would then burst into a myriad of small stones, ovular in shape, about an inch or two in diameter at the most.

Green viridite would grow as auranite and flavite — that is, in flower-like shapes.

Cyan cyanite would grow as auranite, flavite, and viridite, though it’s flowers would quickly close around the empty air before it.

Blue cerulite would grow in long, thin wires that, upon intersecting, would begin forming complex weaves. I think, perhaps, the ends of a cerulite wire would be very sharp, sharp enough to pierce itself or just about anything else, allowing these weave intersections to literally intersect and cut through one another. Or something like that, at least.

Violet ianthite would form as rubrite, in long wires.

Black melanite, finally, would form into medium-sized crystals — in this case meaning crystals that could fit in one’s hand or smaller — preferring to branch far out rather than cluster together, probably, if left alone long enough, creating long chains of roughly cylindrical or conical crystals.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get to some wildlife integration next time, create some plants and animals and other lifeforms that might use these.

Fabrication: History #11

For the final installation of the histories, I’ll be considering the last biocrystal, ianthite.

This is the biocrystal of communication, or rather of sending signals — whether they be visual, audial, or by other means (the exact means would be determined by cerulite attached).

The best use I can think of for this would be as a kind of wire between different biocrystals, allowing for circuitry and some programming for coordinating biocrystals. Though the first uses that people would find for it would be for signals, like flashlights or smoke signals — not exactly smoke signals, that is, but probably beacons of some kind that could be used in about the same way as smoke signals — or alarms.

Potentially, the medium of the signal could be modified and concentrated into a weapon, or for uses other than communication. Ianthite that emits light could be modified to shoot a laser; ianthite that emits sound could shoot rays; perhaps even ianthite could be made into guns or other projectile weapons.

Thoughts?