Interlude 19 (Nixed Donation Bonus)

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Wildbow here:

I’ve elected to scrap this chapter.  The reaction was fairly negative, but perhaps more importantly, I wasn’t happy with it.  There were a number of flaws with it, on several levels.

If you checked in this Thursday hoping for something to read, you can find the chapter here.  Just be aware that it’s no longer canon and, yeah, there’s some admitted issues with it.

I won’t count this as a donation entry – I’ll upload another one at some point in the future to make up for the fact that this isn’t up ‘for real’.  Some readers said this wasn’t necessary, but I feel it is from a personal, pseudo-professional standpoint.

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185 thoughts on “Interlude 19 (Nixed Donation Bonus)

  1. “T-triangles, or s-s-… domes,” she said. She’d picked up enough information here and there to have a grasp of basic architecture. Pyramids and spheres were the strongest shapes.

    There’s a random link in there.

    Welp. Vista is alive. Oh my.

    • Must’ve accidentally copy-pasted it in. Was working on laptop as I wrote, and there’s some easy key combo (like, pressing shift-insert or something) that pastes stuff from the clipboard in.

      ‘Least it wasn’t something rude/embarrassing.

  2. …Yay. Of all the clones they could have forgotten to kill…

    Who are Gentle Giant and Sanguine? They’re in the tags, but don’t sound like clones of anyone, and don’t seem to show up anywhere else.

  3. “But you can’t escape any more than I could. You’re buying time.”
    “Yes. B-buying safety, too. You hurt me, you’re cheating, and we both know it’s b-because you were losing.”

    Answered twice.

    • Thanks. Sadly, not going to be the last of my dumb mistakes.

      Had writer’s circle last night, and then an unexpected rescheduling of some guys who came over to redo flooring in kitchen/bedroom. Lots of distractions, less time to write. Was a pain, but I managed to get ‘er done.

      If I’d had more time, I might have fleshed out the Vista conversations some, but I wasn’t so fortunate.

    • Annoying and interesting.

      I’d love to see where this goes- especially because it makes me uneasy and concerned for Weld and his group.

    • I don’t know, the Eidolon clone would have been pretty bad. Knowledge may be power, but you still need power backing up the knowledge.

  4. Kill it!!! No fire. It needs to suffer as it dies so its like will not be born again.

    On a more positive note, it is good to see Weld remaining a good guy. Makes me wonder if that can last though.

    • Weld consistently remains awesome even if he’s no longer a superhero. The A-team thing might not work out as well as you would think, though.

  5. So the wormverse now has their own version of MODOK. I am curious about what tactic she is going to use to cause the most damage. Help them open portals, or stop them from getting to close to Cauldron maybe. I think this interlude pretty much confirms that Cauldron’s secret is getting out. A greatly weakened/distrusted PRT will cause alot of damage in the long run. But she is a ticking time bomb for the Undersiders. She can hire someone and give them information on their civilian identities, location so their hideouts, and weaknesses. Like the factoid that Shatterbird gives about heroes in other countries. They seem to be part of the military there, which implies that their aren’t any military parahumans here. She also confirms that the PRT has the strongest heroes in the world.

  6. I think this went up early.

    Also this was less mean and more…

    When I thought you were gonna kill Vista I sighed and kept reading, it didn’t exactly seem surprising. Then they got out and it was clear that the clone was gonna be recurring and honestly I stopped reading and went back to revision for a bit. I feel like that guy always commenting on things they don’t like and I guess I probably just got a different impression of this story from the earlier parts so…I liked this story most of all for not being either idealistic or cynical. My experience has always been that life bounces at random so I liked seeing that. However by now I’m being ridiculous to keep thinking that, this is incredibly cynical and that part feels dull to me.

    Story aside though, what really captured me about this work was the setting and characterisation of aspects within it. Which is (if I am honest with myself) pretty much why I’m still reading this. That being said from that front my feeling is very much one of watching someone craft an incredible work of art and then go at it with a sledgehammer.
    Which I wouldn’t be bothered by if I could just see a point to it. But I don’t. At all. I just don’t see what any of this adds to the story, setting or any other part of things. Not only that but there doesn’t seem to be any overall goal or motivation to it either. Everything in this story is reactive, which just highlights what is being reacted to and this chapter marked the point where that source just felt contrived.

    There are a thousand reasons why Witness doing this, or even existing in the first place, feels unlikely(Echidna for instance seems to have an incredibly variable power level). Of course none of them happening is not impossible. I can just about buy that not one hero was smart enough to keep an eye out for clones, that Weld and co, are being too emotional and so on, but it’s not the first time there’s been a stretch in likelihood in the bleak direction and by now…well…

    Diabolus ex Machina.

    Speaking as a guy whose life went wrong at every turn I can think of, steadily more spectacularly, I still find it easy to point out all the myriad ways things went better then they could of. Things don’t go good or bad that reliably.

    In any case, I am aware that I am being an ass by commenting when it has become clear that this story just isn’t aimed at my chunk of the scatter graph. I do maintain that it’s not just (indeed, with how high on my taste scale stuff like Shingeki no Kyojin ranks I would say taste isn’t even the majority issue) taste issues but that’s a discussion that ranks firmly in the negative parts of the fun scale. So I will cut down on my commenting in spirits of not being that guy, especially given this is certainly an incredible piece of writing in many ways (did I mention how in love with your worldbuilding I am). However I just felt like typing this.

    Ultimately it’s because I feel very disappointed right now.

    • I see where you’re coming from. I’m think that the way wildbow handles this won’t be as awful as your worst fears, though, for two reasons:

      First, bear in mind that Echidna made a *metric shitton* of clones, and, as far as we know, exactly *one* survived — and, like most disasters, it happened because a whole lot of unfortunate chance events coincided.

      Second, wildbow has a good track record so far. I think the odds are good that the way this will play out won’t be a disappointment for that reason alone.

      • I believe I failed to express myself adequately.

        My issue expressed above is not a future one. It’s with the story as it stands up to this point. I don’t have worst fears in this case because at this point I’m mostly apathetic to whatever new horror occurs. It’s very hard to get worked up when it’s entirely obvious that developments will just make things worse.


        Berserk (not the darkest but the best dark story I’ve ever touched) is the example I always fall back to of darkness done right. The Eclipse is the most unrelentingly horrible thing I’ve ever seen happen in the midst of an extended work. If you read from the golden age start as a beginning then it is completely shocking. Then the story continues.

        And the author manages to have a world which is so awful that…I mean there really aren’t words. Yet the spark of life and hope is always there. When the new protagonists appear the stage is truly set. Because now we know that the author could kill them and do far, far worse…but far more importantly we know they might make it. Indeed it’s just as plausible. So every fight comes with the tension of uncertainty.


        Conversely Worm’s direction is blindingly plain. Things will get worse. Characters will die. That’s my issue. Not that I have fears about story direction, in fact the exact opposite. The story played its hand, Darkness Induced Apathy is a trope for a reason.

        • I hear you, Anz.

          I’m not sure what to tell you, though. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying ‘well then, stop reading’ (because I don’t want to say that), but you kind of suggested yourself that you didn’t get the sense that you & the story were a good fit for one another. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d go back to rewrite to make the story lighter (and I think a good few readers would lynch me if I did) and you’re saying that you’ve already suffered from darkness induced apathy to the point that you don’t have any hope for the characters or the story.

          So I guess I don’t quite understand why you’re still reading when it’s fairly clear that you’re not enjoying the story at all, and the story’s actively making you unhappy?

          If you’re sticking around in the hopes of something (be it a change or recognition of your opinion as legitimate and fair) and that something’s in my power to give (without hurting readers as a whole or doing the story a disservice), I’d like to give it to you. But if there isn’t something like that, I suspect it’s not fair to yourself or to me to keep going down this road.

          • Ouch- this definitely feels like “stop reading because things will keep getting worse and worse”

            >”But if there isn’t something like that, I suspect it’s not fair to yourself or to me ?>to keep going down this road.”

            I think Anz does have a fair point. It’s a much more worthy criticism than just “I don’t like bad things happening”- which is what I rather uncharitably thought people were saying at first.

            It’s kind of along the lines of what several of your readers have mentioned about being worn out and exhausted by the constant tension and stress of the last few arcs. A long story like this has to be balanced, and lately Worm has been a little tilted. I can see why people would get apathetic to the tension.

            But so long as you still have chapters that gives the reader hope, gives your characters SOME good news, I think Anz will keep coming back.

            (but don’t trouble yourself too much over the loss of some readers)

      • Also, Berserk has character’s developing and getting stronger, better at stuff and so on. As well as actually working through issues.

        It’s the variation that is key, steps forward and back.

        So we get drama but we also get that empathic sense of achievement.

        • Are we reading the same story? Taylor constantly gets better at using her powers AND dealing with people, she’s not the timid wreck she once was. Tattletale opened up to her, Clockblocker saw some of her ability to be heroic, and I think some of the heroes recognized that she has good intentions even if they can’t condone her methods.

          There is a dark/ horror edge to this series, but there are triumphs and friendships too. There are all kinds of intricate set-ups and possibilities for more events – Grue, Panacea, Witness, Theo, Defiant and Dragon, the Nine, portals, Cauldron, just to name a few.

          I see something that is constantly creative, and the last arc was reactive like dominos, but there are different tones throughout the story. Things “kept getting worse” in that arc but that doesn’t mean they always will. Vista surviving is a sign of that.

          I think Wildbow’s worldbuilding skills give evidence that this is going someplace, and maybe we won’t like some dark alleys, but there’s more to explore here than most stories. It’s rich and textured in ways happier stories aren’t.

        • That does clear it up for me. And thinking on it, the main reason I don’t feel the same is simply that *Taylor’s* arc has been toward the positive, mostly.

          • Something Taylor herself has mused on, that as the city goes more and more to shit, she seems more and more capable and in her element. And that suggests things about herself that TAYLOR doesn’t like. I look forward to that introspection!

      • Dude, that was totally unnecessary. Anzer’ke has a legitimate gripe, even if it’s not one you and I and the majority of readers agree with. Worm is dark as fuck, that’s not in question. The only place I’d say Anz is categorically wrong is where e says there’s no hope and nothing’s getting better for anyone. I’d say as of right now, the Case 53s are a lot better off than they were, Scion is in the right mode to actually kill Endbringers now and Taylor? Sheee-it, becoming a supervillain was the best thing that ever happened to her, violence and murder and all.

        • Honestly, while it’s violent, I don’t find it any darker than the last few HP books, and certainly not as dark as a lot of Belairs, or Sleator, or other preteen horror. Seems a fair statement to me.

          • Yeah, I think alot of the Darkness in Worm is due to writing style and atmosphere than content. Think about it, what’s the flat out most brutal thing to happen in this story? Brian’s treatment at the hands of Bonesaw, yeah? And what happened to Amy? But it’s pretty explicit in universe that the Slaughterhouse Nine are pretty unique, they’re mentioned in the same level of dread as the Endbringers fer god’s sake. If this story was dark on the same level as Berserk of ASOIAF there would be a ton of more people like this.

            Remember Gregor Clegane? There are hundreds of assholes just like him in Westeros only slightly more sane and alot weaker. Berserk is built on the idea of the universe being inherently built on evil for chrissake. Worm, by contrast, has repeatedly come up on the “humans are flawed” side than the “humans are bastards” side, there’s no real shortage of good people and the setting doesn’t go out of it’s way to break or humiliate anyone showing a trace of decency, which is what I think GRIMDARK stories inherently try to do.

            If Worm we’re anywhere near as dark as we think it is, guys like Jack Slash would be a dime a dozen. I applaud Wildbow for managing to achieve a dark atmosphere without raping or torturing every sympathetic character.

  7. Well, Shatterbird is dead, Skitter is alive and the worst possible clone survived. Two loose ends tied up and another one created….

    I wonder if Witness can be socialised, by the support of her fellow mutants or if she will stay evil. Either she stays evil and sabotages Faultline’s effort or she helps her new friends and risks becoming the mask. The worst possible outcome for her would be that she builds herself a home and a family that she can live with without wanting to destroy them all and then has the real Tattletale discover her and spill her secrets and destroy everything.

    Of course an information broker who knows all the secrets might be very dangerous. She could plant rumours on the net to for example reveal Skitter’s secret identity or simply send a message to Taylor’s father for no other reason than because it would hurt people the real Tattletale cares about. At least there aren’t too many explosive secrets left to reveal at this point.

    I hope that Weld and his comrades won’t end up too poisoned against the Undersiders by Witness. He was always one of the easiest to get along with.

    On a different note, it seems like Regent will need to get another high-powered slave to regain the sort of usefulness he had with Shatterbird. Maybe one of the evil clones survived? Imagine what he could do with a pet Psycho-Alexandria.

    • I’d put forward that killing Shatterbird was kinda necessary, as ‘owning’ her put the Undersiders on the “Too dangerous to allow to live” list as soon as the S-class threat ends. It was always going to come down to her or them, and at least this way Taylor didn’t have to execute her herself.

      Or at least that would be the case were this still canon.

  8. I agree with the other commentators who have said that this is just too much. It really feels like evil Tattletale was just stuck on there at the last moment. I’d rather get back to the main story and not have yet more horrifying loose ends.

    Honestly, it feels exploitative, as if some TV executive said “Let’s keep ramping up the tension…what can we do? Let’s have an evil Tattletale appear randomly!” I can’t really explain it, probably due to tiredness, but it really is the Devil Out of the Machine–nothing ever goes completely right. The only response is apathy for Faultline’s crew and Weld.

    • Hmm. Bummer to get this feedback.

      It wasn’t stuck on at the last minute, though. I did have the notion that a Tattletale clone was created from the moment I described Tattletale covered in vomit partway through the opening of the arc.

      I wasn’t 100% satisfied with this chapter as I was writing it (see above mention of distractions, other appointments; they didn’t help), but I’d promised it and I’d already invested the time to get three-quarters of the way through writing it.

      In the end, I opted to include it because it tied up loose ends (What happened to Vista & Shatterbird, the direction Weld’s people took) and also that it kept Weld’s team on the map with a degree of conflict/connection to the main plot.

      If people are that unsatisfied with it, though, I could scrap it. We pretend it never happened, I figure out another way to involve that group, and it doesn’t count as a donation chapter written (ie. I write another in a future week to make up for this one not staying up).

      • While I can argue against the stuff about loose ends and Weld’s team via this and so on (in summary, are loose ends so terrible in an expansive setting? and why did Weld’s team staying on the map require something bad to happen?) and obviously that’s the case…

        I disagree with the idea of changing your story because of one or two voices of dissent. Or even a thousand of them at that.

        As much as it pains me to say this (again, misjudged story, disappointed as hell, not going to get into a discussion trying to critique it because I’ve been down that road and it’s no fun, art meets sledgehammer) you wrote this and I’m guessing you did so based on your own style and methods and so on. I’d say that sticking true to that is probably most important.

        If this was the direction you wanted to go in…well why let comments stop you? Scrapping a chapter especially seems, I have no issue with the idea of it if you had been the one unsatisfied but…

        Honestly I would love to jump around saying yes, scrap it and let’s pretend the internet ate this post. But that would be a terrible thing to say. Seriously, I really am unhappy about this. But unhappy readers doesn’t seem enough of a reason really. And you seem to have liked this idea (though I have to ask about the vomit thing because it seems a bit much to hide this in an off screen moment) yourself…

        Now excuse me while I go kick myself 😉

        Probably phrased that pretty badly but I think you can probably get what I mean.

        • It’s something like five voices of dissent at this point, and no voices of praise. My concern is that this chapter is actively turning readers off or making them unhappy with the work. Which is bad. I’d rather scrap it and write something at a later date than make readers unhappy, but I’m also concerned that scrapping it makes more readers unhappy.

          It sort of wound up being a lose-lose-lose situation for me:
          * Not releasing the chapter when I had my doubts disappoints readers (and I’ve released chapters I felt were less than stellar to great effect)
          * Leaving up a chapter that readers find annoying and irritating actively bothers readers.
          * Taking it down disappoints & frustrates readers (who didn’t get to see the installment before it disappearered)

          As far as your comment about Tattletale being covered in vomit being hidden in an offscreen moment. I quote from 19.1:
          “Me? Pull something?” Tattletale asked. She was cradling one arm, and covered in vomit.

          • Hey, my first comment was one of praise. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough.

            “I’d love to see where this goes- especially because it makes me uneasy and concerned for Weld and his group.”

            Like, the fact that I find it annoying is sort of good, because characters I am attached to are in trouble and they don’t know it yet. It plays with my emotions- which is a good thing sometimes.

          • I recall that part, I just read it looking for something like that.
            However the issue is that what is mentioned alongside is Bitch’s dogs having taken apart the clones around her. Combined with us having seen absolutely no one get free of Echidna by that point (I’m very curious how that happened with just Lisa and Rachel as well, a dog grabbed her? Weren’t they not as strong as Echidna? How didn’t the tongue’s grip just lead to her getting ripped apart?) it seemed certain to me at least that Echidna had vomited on her.

          • Hunh. I for one loved it. We see what tattletale could be if she TRULY used her power. We get a deformed of body and mind villain with a lot of dangerous knowledge, and the desire to watch the world burn. Shit, I could see her joining the 9 at some point.

      • >If people are that unsatisfied with it, though, I could scrap it. We pretend it never happened

        You shouldn’t feel the need to bow to pressure from your readers. If YOU are unsatisfied, scrap it. There will always be readers who wish X or Y bad thing didn’t/doesn’t happen in your story, and you can’t please everyone.

        Sometimes people will give good advice about a part of the story being “bad” (the Mass Effect 3 ending comes to mind)- but don’t confuse “a bad part of the story” with “a part of the story where something bad happens”. We may not want bad things to happen, but sometimes it makes for a better story.

      • Comments/criticisms: First, I want to point out that I’m personally still smarting from criticizing the tension from before, only to have it so beautifully (partly)resolved (in my opinion) – “should have had more faith in the author” was ringing through my head.

        But this chapter has problems.

        Echidna spawning a clone from just a taste? This raises a lot of questions about her, which are jarring considering you just laid her to beddie-bye. Could Echidna have made clones of every cape she ever ingested, even the ones no longer in her? Was there a time limit? What was it? I don’t really want to think about her. She’s dead, and it was a damned hard thing to do.

        Because this ability was never even hinted at before in descriptions of her, it does feel shoehorned in… in order to establish a character you wanted in the plot. Fine and good, but – what purpose does the Tattletale clone serve, story-wise? Aside from keeping in Weld & Co., which I’ll get to in a moment.

        On to the Tattletale clone. As a character, she’s completely unsympathetic. A major and unwelcome distraction from all the characters I do care about, who already have piles of problems. If you keep this chapter, or keep her in the story, consider making her motives more human. Caring. Someone we could hope to convince not to kill everybody, someone who perhaps adds to the hope instead of to the despair, at least until she cracks and gives in to the dark emotions urging her actions. Or not.

        Weld & Co. – so many possibilities for those prize horses, why do you need a saddle burr to keep them in the story? We like them. We’d like them even if they set up a competing organization to take control of the wormhole (cwutididthere?) We’d like them if they gave a million stables worth of horse shit to dump on the protagonists, and we’d all be terribly conflicted about who to root for. This way, there’s no choice but to root against them; they have a parasite on board, burn them with fire before it gets any further!

        Shatterbird – with a backstory like that, I almost want to keep her around. Sure, she’s killed piles of people, but she almost seems redeemable here, and then she dies. It just doesn’t scan. That said, her backstory is one of the few things about this chapter I entirely enjoy, and I’d miss having it redacted.

        Speaking of “she dies”, that part of the story was pretty thin. I read it twice and I’m still not entirely sure how she dies – it didn’t feel convincing.

        All in all, if you want a takeback I’ll not fuss, and if you want to keep this and run with it I won’t fuss either, but it does feel unright somehow.

        • Thanks Don. Appreciate the input.

          I think issues with the explanation of how the Tattletale clone came to be are more a lack of clarity than me bending the rules (the lack of clarity isn’t helped by the fact that Tattletale being caught/spat out almost right away and the clone being held & spat out as the heroes are leaving are both offscreen). But that’s my fault.

          • I was under the impression from the Traveler Migration arc that she could clone people from a touch. She holds them inside to generate MORE and keep the victim out of her way. No rule breaking, just have to read closer for implications. Stuff happened off screen, Taylor was inside Echidna for part of the fight.

          • Ah. Yep. Well, one of the things to come out of reading Worm and participating in the comments section is an awareness that I’m not the most careful reader in the world… yet. Step one of the cure is acknowledging the problem, etc…

            So take the ‘Echidna did WHAT?’ critique out.

            But put in its place “Evil Tattletale is OMGWTFBBQ”, a truly devastating character to have running around, as some of the other commenters pointed out. Witness knows everything about the protagonists, she’s without any sense of self-preservation or redeeming qualities whatsoever – with her running around, the world going straight to hell is so unavoidable as to be apathy-inducing. at the moment. This is not to say that such a direction would not make for a good story. Just that here, now, she’s goddamned terrifying.

            All of this is said with the awareness that the interlude is no longer canon. I’m not sad – I have faith either way that Wildbow has a steady hand on the helm.

          • Speaking of not reading carefully, I just remembered Witness’s sense of self-preservation was one of the first things we learned about her. Arg! Good critique is hard.

    • That was quick. Hey quick question. Do you know what the procedure is for adding a picture or two from the gallery? Do we need to get permission from the artist, or can we leave a link to their page?

      • If you want to use entire works, you need permission. Using individual bits – a couple panels from a webcomic, the art from a single Magic: the Gathering card – fair use is likely to cover you, but that doesn’t apply to standalone fanart pieces.

        At least, that’s my reading of the image policy page on TV Tropes. As is right and traditional to add, I Am Not A Lawyer.

  9. Honestly, I don’t think Witness is the worst possible surviving clone. I think Alexandria or Eidolon would also be pretty awful. Witness is definitely the SNEAKIEST possible survivor, though, excepting a Skitter clone… Although the skitter clones don’t seem to have been quite as consistently awesome as Skitter herself… Possibly due to them just not having enough resources to work with…

    • Alexandria and Eidolon clones really couldn’t survive. As big physical powerhouses their methods of operation is too obvious and people are too on their guard against them. And truthfully Tattletale is more dangerous than they are. In a world that had a real Superman or Captain America a character like Tattletale could be handled. In this world there are no superhuman characters who can’t be Hannibal Lectured into a rampage or at least self-destruction. The only things limiting the amount of damage Tattletale can do are that what she can do is fairly well known now, and she isn’t all that malevolent.

  10. Given negative reaction thus far (only rivaling one chapter late in Tangle, that I rewrote in an all-nighter), I’ll repeat the offer above here so it’s more visible:

    I could scrap it. We pretend this chapter never happened, I figure out another way to tie Weld’s group into the main story, and it doesn’t count as a donation chapter written (ie. I write another in a future week to make up for this one not staying up).

      • Ah, one chapter where the team got caught by Night and Fog. It was Buzz, not Tangle, now that I think on it. 7.9.

        I released it at a time I was pretty stressed and distracted (my worst semester at University yet, real life stresses, and like today, I think there was an unexpected interruption in my writing schedule – can’t remember what). Anyways, the flow was messed up and there was a lot going on with insufficient description in places and too much description in others (almost a catalogue of all of E88 and New Wave’s powers).

    • I’m going to say that you should keep the chapter as it is. I like the concept of an evil Tattletale running around, especially since the story has repeatedly mentioned Tattletale is potentially terrifying. It’s a cool shift too, from powerhouses like an Endbringer, the Slaughterhouse 9 and Noelle to one that has to rely on subtlety.

      • Indeed. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. If this is what wildbow thinks makes sense to have happened, it can happen. What’s the big deal? The clone getting away? Shatterbird’s death? A vague idea of what’s happening with the assorted hero-53’s?

        • Same here. This was, with the exception of the interlude from the Simurgh afflictee, the most actually creepy chapter in Worm that I can remember. Of course, I have both a very high bar for creepy and a very bad memory, so that may not be saying much. Also, Shatterbird backstory! Pity this isn’t linked in the Table of Contents.

    • I’m in the minority in that I don’t mind not knowing what happened to Weld or Vista. I assumed Weld and the Case 53s would strike out on their own, connected to Faultline vaguely, and it was fun thinking of fan theories in my head. Those are nice loose ends, as they fit with the bittersweet victory that occurred in the “main” story.

      With the introduction of Witness, however, it feels as though the proverbial pot is overflowing with all-consuming malevolence. If Weld and the gang will be relevant later on, fine. But to leave it like this, knowing that things will *still* get worse for them? It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, as though the last shred of hope has been scrubbed away–if I may mix metaphors yet again.

      No need to write another chapter, though.

      • My personal headcannon is that this entire interlude happens and then Cauldron ambushes Witness and wipes her memories. For all we know, she survives the end of the serial as an unusually nasty but mostly sane Irregular.

    • I’m torn about it. I also thought it was kind of a random evil event. But I also kind of like the concept and wonder what you could be planning for her.

      • As Hobbes said, there’s a point when the sheer volume of malevolence just feels overflowing.

        The big goods are all gone or going.

        The big bads are untouchable. Indeed they have only ever gotten stronger.

        The general badness just keeps rising.

        And frankly, Tattletale’s power used for genuine evil is so broken I don’t even know how she could fail to end the world.

        Hey Wildbow, maybe wait a while for more comment flow to come through? If the ratio of good to bad is how you really want to decide this (and given that this puts your story direction somewhat at the mercy of reader population composition, I find that a disturbing idea) then it seems worthwhile to make sure that this isn’t going to be wildly popular with all the other readers.

        Most of the regulars haven’t posted yet.

        • I think he should wait also. I feel a bit guilty complaining about it as it feels kind of nitpicky. In terms of malevolence, Worm is a dark story. Bad things happen to good people, the bad guys are winning overall, and things like genocide/murder/torture take place. But that is part of what attracted me to it because it seems much more realistic than other settings, and the characters feel very real. Bad things happen in real life, and the bad guys can win. I personally thought Jack Slash and Bonesaw seemed a bit like villain sues in that they always get to attack/torture/kill, have never been stopped in years, and everything seems to work out for them. But besides that, things have arguably gotten better. Coil is dead, the danger Noelle represented is gone/the smurf’s plan was stopped, the city is going to be rebuilt, Cauldron’s evil deeds were finally exposed, Armsmaster was redeemed, Dragon has become more powerful, The travelers got to go home, Shadowstalker got what she deserved, and Dinah was rescued. The PRT is in shambles and based on Bizarro Tattletale’s goals, she will reveal the misdeeds of the heroes which could cause it to collapse. I’m leaning toward disliking this chapter, but the PRT may have a chance to be rebuilt as something much better without Cauldron in charge. Things do look pretty bleak, but this is the wormverse after all. At least the Undersiders have grown much closer together and have each other.

        • Honestly, I kinda have to agree.

          I mean hasn’t enough horrible things been going on lately as is? The S9 now have the ability to bring back all of their old members and reclone them on demand and the PRT has been dealt a nasty blow that it’ll be feeling for years to come (if it even survives that long).

          Now their’s the presence and survival of an evil Tattletale that’s free to do whatever she wants, it just leaves their victory over Echidna even more Pyrrhic than it already was. Not to mention she’s in a prime position to screw over Weld and his new crew.

          Their’s also the fact that I found them way too believing of Witness when she literally comes out of nowhere claiming to be a Case 53 when they just left a fight involving dozens of evil, mutant clones. Not even a hint of suspicioun in any of them aside from Faultline.

    • What I’m thinking I might do, since I’m getting a fairly consistent “I didn’t enjoy it” and inconsistent “I found it interesting and want to see where it goes.”…

      Maybe I’ll leave it up, but we won’t count it as a donation bonus. I’ll put another on the schedule. Because I don’t want people to feel cheated (or like they were punished for their generosity).

      • “Maybe I’ll leave it up, but we won’t count it as a donation bonus. Because I don’t want people to feel cheated (or like they were punished for their generosity).”

        I don’t think anyone is thinking like this at all- don’t let that influence your decision. Just make the story you want to make.

      • I don’t mind the chapter itself, but. I just don’t see the Faultline crew actually buying this. Not all of them, but at least certain people there know about the Echidnas mutations. They know they look off sometimes. I just don’t see them accepting that “Oh hey there is a random completely fucked up looking thing that is talking to us, right as we walk away from a battle with someone who could make nasty mutation people.

        It breaks my suspension of disbelief. If you want a mutant Tattle, I would suggest another way of bringing her in. This doesn’t work in my opinion.

    • Honestly? My rating of this chapter would be “merely good, rather than freaking fantastic”. I loved the mindgames that Witness was playing with Shatterbird, and all the infodumping on Shatterbird’s history was really interesting.

      I think the weakest part is Weld’s immediate offer of a management position in the organization. That’s the kind of slot you assign to someone you have strong reasons to trust, not literally the first person to walk in off the literal street. Besides, given that she claimed her power gave her intermittent ranged clairvoyance, I’d have offered something like “remote reconnaissance agent” or “intelligence analyst” or something.

    • I enjoyed the closure in regards to Shatterbird, Vista and the Case 53’s, but like some of the other readers I found leaving the clone Tattletale surviving to be somewhat unsatisfying. Pacing wise, at some point it feels like the tension needs to drop down a notch, and this intermission would be an ideal place to do it.

      Scraping the entire chapter seems like overkill however especially given the effort you put into each installment, and one solution might be to have Faultline recognize the clone for what it is and have Weld or someone else in her crew destroy it. It would still be in character for (clone) Tattletale to get rumbled by Faultline, then die smiling saying that it was still worth a shot.

      This would provide a lull in the tension and pacing of this arc, plus reduce the amount of work you would need to do to satisfy some of your readers.

    • Since I find the breaking of the Protectorate to be mostly a good thing, my despair-o-meter was reset by the end of the last arc and I’m pretty okay, really.

      I don’t yet have any particular love or attachment to this development. I can happily go whichever way, so I’m just going to ruminate from the fence, here. Realizing it was a Tattletale clone, my reaction was more of a playful “FFFFFUUUUUU–“, which was in fact going to be my posting (before seeing that matters with other comments were more serious).

      I would, however, like to point out that there’s a certain… agreeable thematic echo to be found in this. Taylor escapes from bullying, builds a life as a cape, flourishes, and then to keep her new life must confront and actually overcome a super-bully? Niiiiiiiifty.

      On the other hand, timing, and that sense of dread and despair. I seem to be in the minority with my reaction to things. If that’s really so, and all most people are seeing is “won the battle, lost the war” at the end of the last arc, throwing in an Eviltale right atop that might be too much. Maybe a little restructuring would help? Show some light before the dark gets darker? Something unambiguously decent or happy or relaxed, without a backstep or a dun-dun-dun within that chapter, and then this interlude exactly as it is?

      On the other other hand, the “agreeable thematic circle” thing really needs Witness to be a big fixture of the future, and you seem pretty willing to scrap this if need be (if I’m reading right, the critical thing is to tie Weld’s group into future events and Witness is just a potentially-ditchable means to an end?). If that’s the case… hrm. Tattletale is huge. She feels like a more important character than almost anyone save Taylor herself; Grue is an important love interest and the rest of the Undersiders are interesting people, but Tattletale is responsible for our protagonist’s very salvation and an absolutely critical mover and shaker in current events. (Not to be confused with Movers or Shakers). I guess what I’m saying is… that’s a mighty big hammer for that particular nail.

      So…. yeah, that’s what I’ve got. No conclusion. Pros and cons and general babble. Sorry. 🙂

      • Ack! Late to the party, looks like, and I took too long typing. I didn’t mean to pile on after the matter was decided; when I started, things appeared to be in question.

  11. Two things that occurred to me while I was off editing TV Tropes:

    1. Vista is going to realize very quickly that “Tattletale” was lying to her, which means organizations affiliated with the Brockton Bay Wards are going to be aware that a clone escaped and have her general description.

    2. Unless Faultline’s hatred of Tattletale is truly pathological, she really should send TT a quiet note warning her that she saw someone who *looks* like an Echidna-clone of her joining Weld’s crew. Which would mean that the Undersiders and affiliated organizations would know, too.

  12. I’m really hoping that this is the interlude you called a jerk move. I really do.

    Otherwise things are about to get INTERESTING.

    “reputation driven.Reputation driven” Missing space.
    “Her legs were small,” and “her legs burning” in the same sentence, could maybe change the second to thighs or muscles?
    ” like she was at fist,” First.

  13. Wildbow, regarding your thoughts on scrapping it… I actually liked this chapter. I liked that it drew things together AND set things up for the future without an immediate escalation. I certainly didn’t see it the way I now see so many people responding in the comments.

    I think it is good to have badguys working without the immediate story need for things to be instantly resolved. I think that having two such different Tattletales working at odds not only stops Tattletale mark 1 from getting too big a fish in the information pool but also allows for all sorts of directions things could go in.

    Hell, she might even be redeemed. But she doesn’t have to be. I’m curious what Witness’ powers are compared to Tattletale’s.

    And come on, Holmes just got a Moriarty, the only explicit victim so far has been Shatterbird, and everyone is down in the dumps over it.

    • I think it’s more that right when it looked like the story finally tossed the characters some scrap of a bone it was just to distract them from the last shreds of their hope being obliterated.

      Witness is not Moriarty.

      Sorry but I really like the Sherlock home setting and that’s a bit far too go in comparison. Moriarty is a masterpiece.

      Witness on the other hand… There’s no goal or self-preservation. Just a desire to screw over as much and as many as possible before she bites it. Along with information on everyone. Meaning that logically, it’s impossible for any secret to not be used against them. There’s no reason why things wouldn’t now go to hell in a handbasket.

      Taylor’s dad will die. They have no chance at all at civilian lives.

  14. I actually liked this interlude. From the second I realized who the main character of this chapter was, I was like, “Oh, shit! And I thought evil Skitter clones were bad enough!”

  15. I liked the chapter, liked that we got some insight into Shatterbird, not just what happened, but what was up with her in general. The psycho-Tattletale PoV was a fun one, There’s all manner of ways that I could see Weld’s crew going that I’d find interesting.. and I like that they just walked. No dramatics, no bullshit, just.. “so that’s how it is.”

    But that tattletale clone, man, that’s one giant sword of damocles. How does she even fail, unless through massive bad luck? She only needs a few minutes with a smartphone to take a giant dump on the Undersiders anonymously, perhaps even on time-delay, and there’s a dozen or more enemies she could frame for malicious disclosures. And um.. Weld’s crew accepting her right off the bat, minutes after fighting Echidna? When Weld was the one who cottoned to the PHQ break-in, and has seen all manner of messed up clones right up close? It feels like he’s carrying an idiot ball.

  16. I actually liked the introduction of Witness. It seemed a good way to not only create a new possible, ‘world ender’, but also a good way to create a villain the Undersiders can’t necessarily just creatively punch in the face.

    See most of the other big villains were about their strength, their superior direct offensive power, and the Undersiders finding clever ways to overcome that. With Witness it’s the reverse. She has the cleverness, and she has to overcome the superior physical fire-power of the Undersiders. Presumably by manipulating the Case 53’s into doing her dirty work. But how or if she does it has yet to be seen.

    What I did find a bit disheartening was Shatterbird’s Rock Falls, You Die moment. With a backstory like that dropped on our heads (accidentally killing thousands of people, then having to run for your life, and gradually descending into psychopathy) and then with her dying just like that? It was like, “oh character development that’s pretty cool, wow there’s actually a little dept-oh she’s dead. Oh. Alright.”

    But I would say keep the chapter, even if people didn’t like parts of it. It is your story, not ours. If you really want to discard the chapter you should. That’s the freedom of posting on your own website. But you shouldn’t discard a chapter just because the response wasn’t completely positive.

  17. For the record, I elected to scrap it. The text has been replaced with an explanation, including a link to the story on google docs if anyone is keen on reading it.

    In the end, yeah, I wasn’t happy with how it turned out, and I should have trusted that feeling. There were a few holes in logic and too much reliance on things that were badly explained/laid out in earlier chapters. It was a bit forced and the new villain isn’t ultimately necessary.

    • Trying to figure what to say, now.

      First off, although I argued in favor of keeping most or all of it, I support your decision either way. Heck, the biggest single reason I had to believe in the update was my trust in *you* to do right by the story – if you don’t like it, nuke it.

      Secondly … well, actually that covers it. I trust you. Looking forward to Saturday’s update.

      • i agree with Packbat, Wildbow, this is your baby….if this is a still born chapter, then so be it. If not, rework it.

        • Stillborn. I kind of like that.

          I wonder how apt the metaphor is. In some ways, it’s like… you take care of a chapter, youth plan for it, you nurture it as it grows, invest time and make sacrifices to ensure that it happens. It comes to life, and then you’re faced with the task of exposing it to the world at large.

          Very often, I have doubts about chapters. Chapters where I have absolutely no idea what the reader’s reaction will be. I don’t know if they’re ready for the world at large.

          But I make that leap of faith. I release them into the wild, or throw the metaphorical baby in the swimming pool, and I wait to see if they’ll make it or if nature will take its course. Do the wolves tear them to shreds? Does the baby wind up face down and unmoving in the pool?

          Very, very often, it’s the chapters that I have the most doubts about that get the best response. Sometimes that response is polarized, sometimes it’s overwhelmingly positive. But I have people I talk to about my writing who are getting tired of me wondering aloud about a chapter’s fate/reception. (and these people are presently busy with midterms, which helps, perhaps, to explain the issues tonight).

          But I suppose this serves as a good lesson. A (very) humbling moment that reminds me to pay more attention to that nagging, niggling voice of doubt. Sometimes the baby won’t float after all.

          And then you gotta clean up the mess.

          • Rofl. Glad to be your copy editor if you need one. I figure we all are, around here.

            When I read what you wrote up top, I was /really/ hoping this wasn’t going to be a fantastic chapter that you should have fought for. And… it’s not. So, good!

    • Don’t sweat it. While I had some pointed concerns and agree about the tone, there was a lot more good than bad in this chapter. Just the wrong time to drop a bomb like Witness if you’re not going for grimdark. Even just a few chapters later presuming a lull in the action, and I don’t think she’d have felt so unfair, at least not to me.

      Of all the bits I did like, I think my favorite was when Shatterbird got an ignominious death at the hands of the thirteen year old. There was something so right about it, and it put a fat kill order purse in the hands of someone with the will to do something with it.

      Clockblocker: “So… silver linings? Anyone? Bueller?”
      Assault: “Kid, do you really –”
      Vista, from around the corner: “I killed Shatterbird.”

      • Eh, I liked Shatterbird. Not as much as Noelle or Trickster, but she was useful, and her backstory was awesome, if worrying. Not too many people would get that bad, but physical deformities could include the brain, plus my long running theory that Passengers are attracted to aggressiveness…

  18. Hm…

    Personally, I am not quite sure what to make of this, especially it being the first “lost episode” of Worm.

    First of all, I’d say this is not my least favorite chapter or interlude. Not like I have a real list of them or anything, but there was a lot of interesting material. Witness felt like Tattletale and handled her obstacles in a believable way. I enjoyed Shatterbird’s role, and liked Vista being alive, though she felt wasted. I also liked the parts with the Case 53s. I even liked Witness’s voice. I thought it was different and interesting.

    As a consideration, Witness wasn’t described as really being like the other Case 53s. Not a huge deal, but Case 53s have all been described as having weirder and more colorful changes than the deformities of Echidna’s mutant children. I didn’t quite buy her being accepted so quickly partly because of that.

    I don’t have trouble buying Witness surviving and escaping. Plenty of clones could have survived and escaped. She’d just be one of them. Tattletale’s powers do seem well suited for surviving.

    One problem I had was Witness didn’t seem to have a particularly interesting twist on Tattletale. She just copied her powers, which wasn’t as neat as other power sets we saw. I think this MIGHT have gone over better if she hasn’t had quite so similar a power set. Especially if she was actually less dangerous, preventing the “it got worse” element that lots of people criticized.

    I understand removing the chapter, though it seems strange and a bit, how should I put it, out of theme? Doesn’t seem right for Worm to be dropping things.

    Anyway, good luck.

    • Second lost chapter, if you count the first draft of 7.9.

      Your thoughts & feelings on the various pieces are very much in line with my own. The parts I enjoyed writing were the parts you enjoyed reading. The parts you had quibbles, are the parts where I had doubts in the writing process.

      I, too, had doubts about how Weld accepted her, but I told myself that he’s an accepting, trusting guy. He was ok with Skitter from his first appearance, and was respectful when crossing paths with her in the s9 arc. He’s just been hit by a major crisis of faith and a lot of major info, and he’s fallen into a leadership role with the other Cauldron-made. So, I told myself, it sort of makes sense that he’d be eager to accept more into the fold.

      But… yeah. That doesn’t change that they should be more suspicious as a group.

      So there’s significant issues in terms of the conception (Witness being created; it does make sense in-story, it was just poorly explained in two offscreen moments), and in terms of the conclusion (the acceptance of the character) with a handful of issues in between (One of my big problems with the chapter was that Vista was a prop).

      And to top it off, yeah, Witness isn’t an essential character. She’s someone I might build an entire arc around, and if I wasn’t working steadily towards a conclusion, it’d make sense to introduce a complication like her. But there’s no need for her in the grand scheme of it. I’d intended for her to link Weld’s group to the narrative, but it’s not worth the added complication and the (severe) hit to the story’s tone.

      So I think it’s just better to scrap it and cover the necessary bases in other ways. I wrote the chapter with too little time and too many distractions (flooring people stomping through and asking questions), and in retrospect, I shouldn’t have uploaded it with the doubts I had.

      • So I just found this after finishing the whole story. I think this plot point is definitely something you should include when you publish. An evil tattletale clone could definitely carry an arc. One impression I got once her mutations were fully explained was that the twist on powers was her ACTUALLY BEING psychic since the obstacle described in the beginning was needing an inhumanly large brain, which she had.

        • Heh. Heh. Heh heh heh heh heh. Probably isn’t, but that’s an awesome theory. Also, I would love for one of the arcs Wildbow mentioned adding for the timeskip to be focused around fighting Witness. It would just be so very interesting.

  19. I feel like this was kind of a crucial set-up chapter, in that it provides a new villain to fill in some of the gap from all of the existing ones who’ve died or otherwise been taken off the board over the past few arcs. I also think that confirming Shatterbird and Vista’s fates is crucial, because when all’s said and done this is a superhero story and characters who just disappear are assumed to be in some quantum superposition of alive and dead.

    If it doesn’t seem too presumptuous to say so, however, I think the real potential of this new plot thread is the way it can potentially echo Taylor’s own development up through the end of the Leviathan arc.

    It also will probably nerf Tattletale at least a little bit, since her powers pretty much guarantee that she’ll realize there’s a clone of her running around once Witness starts influencing things. At that point, their powers will get caught in one of those “I know that you know that I know, so let’s see if you know that I know that you know that I know” spirals whenever one of them does something that affects the other.

    This also reminded me that Vista will have missed the whole denouement of the fight. Finding out what happened is not going to be a pleasant experience for her, especially since she’s the most likely of the heroes to try to find some way to reconcile the two halves of the now-shattered PRT.

    • And while I was typing up this reply, the chapter gets pulled.

      Does that still count as being ninja’d, or is there some other term for it?

      • Well you can always create the term. Language is always evolving after all. I suppose it is similar to when I reread the story for the second time, and read the comments. I found a past discussion interesting but couldn’t participate anymore. Poor fatalistic Vista. The PRT will be tainted in her eyes, and the Wards lose ANOTHER member. So that leaves clockie, Kid win, and her since Flechette is going to leave to New York. No wonder she thinks everyone is going to die, look at their track record. Aegis dead, Shadowstalker is in juvie, Gallant dead, Browbeat leaves, and Chariot was a spy. I don’t think it was mentioned, but three members seems a little small for a Ward’s team. With any luck, some of the new Wards we saw will decide to stay in town. They were interesting, and have fought side by side with the Undersiders. I can also see Scapegoat always being the character to hit his forehead and sigh when everything goes to hell. He must have a very interesting trigger event.

        • Kind of hope Flechette ends up staying in town, although that’s also because I’d like to see her and Parian get together.

          • I don’t think we have had a Parian interlude yet. It would be interesting to see her perspective on the team, and how she feels about Flechette. Depending on what the heroes decide to do with Legend, I could see her staying. She does seem to be a little freaked out by Skitter though.

  20. I’ll chime in as well, although I’m only repeating what others have said. Tuesday’s ending of the arc was brilliant. There were a few loose ends (like the notes) that keep the story / our interest moving forward, but most of the tension of the past few weeks (real-world time) was tied up nicely. The only disappointment was the apparent sinking of the Lisa/Taylor ship, but I’m hoping that Lisa was saying “nope, this isn’t the right time to reveal my love”. 🙂

    The pulled chapter felt like kicking a puppy. Yes, Worm is dark, yes it has tension… but there’s just been so much tension over the past few weeks; this one seemed like overkill. That said, it was within limits until Weld showed up. Having Weld and Faultline not being suspicious of the clone was a truly “idiot ball” moment. Granted, maybe Faultline actually *is* suspicious but is keeping those suspicions silent for now… but still, it was a “dude, really?!” moment.

    I don’t think it needs to be scrapped entirely, though. What if you ran 1-2 “lighter” intermissions, let the tension down a bit, and *then* introduce the clone? But instead of immediately running into Weld & crew, what if she just ran off and hid for a while. Spends a week or two doing petty crimes, making disguises, maybe even building a reputation (either positive or negative), and only then meet Weld and Faultline?

  21. I think that this particular style of story—let’s call it adventure fiction? I don’t know—thrives on the author’s cultivated and expressed empathy for the protagonists. I’ve never managed to get one to work when the protagonist was intended to be soulless or completely hollow; it’s always failed for what felt like inexplicable or author-related reasons until I found something empathetic in the protagonist or switched to a magic realism/dreamlike/poetic style instead.

    • And that need for empathy as a driving force extends to interludes/side stories. I’ve had unscrupulous bastards featured before (Jack, Regent), but I suppose there was something to them that made them more relatable.

      As an aside, I was recently made aware of why your name seemed so familiar – I played a few sessions of Nobilis with some people online, and found it pretty neat overall. I can appreciate out-of-the-box thinking, and there’s definitely some in that game.

      Not really going anywhere with that. Just wanted to express respect from one nerd/geek to another.

      • As to why Regent is relatable, he is funny and likes to troll people. While he is pretty broken as a person, he does seem to care about the team. So he is a jerkass, but he’s the Undersider’s jerkass. So while he did something pretty terrible in his interlude, we forgave him because he did it in defense of Taylor. Sophia also had it coming. I look forward to finding out what life is like in the juvenile birdcage for her.

      • To give a fuller answer—


        I don’t want to be misunderstood in my original statement! But I think that to clarify this I’m going to have to drop out of the mode of a writer commenting on techniques and go back to a fan writing theories about the fiction. OK? Because I have to make a ton of assumptions that might not be correct here to expand on my analogy. ^_^


        I think that Witness is actually a lot closer to Amy than to Jack—

        The way I imagine it is, suppose you got into one of those “and what then?” Q&As. “Say you win. What then?” “And what then?” “And what then?”

        Sure, at some point, both Witness and Jack pass through “destroy the world,” and Amy doesn’t.

        But at the end of that chain, when all the words finally run out?

        Witness and Amy are both going to be “I dunno. Whatever.”

        And Jack is going to be laughing.

        . . . well, IMO. I mean, they’re your characters. ^_^ But it seems like the particular weirdness for Jack and Regent is that they’re . . . animalistic, in a way. While the particular brokenness for Amy and Witness and the clones is that they’re . . . machine-like. They don’t take enough joy in their own life. They can’t find it. And Amy’s arc, if she ever has one, has got to be towards finding that (I mean, joy or something.) No? But Witness’ arc can’t be, unless there’s more to the clones’ inner lives than you currently want to let on. Witness is an algorithm for evil, not an ideologue.

        (Because you write an adventure story with empathetic protagonists, I tend to assume that in fact there’s more going on with the clones—but that really only applies if they *do* join the cast as characters. If they’re just scenery for Echidna’s power, then that’s . . . it’s problematic to have scenery that looks like people, because maintaining a good awareness of the difference between scenery and people is important, but more like walking in a bog than *sinking* in a bog, you know, a danger, not a thing.)


        P.S. if you’d like to be in the playtest for the RPG coming after Nobilis, Wildbow, or even just to glance over the documents, you’d be welcome. I’ve been randomly curious at several points during your discussions of RPG content for this what you’d think of it. ^_^ I suspect, having spent a while with a schedule like you have now, that you simply don’t have time, but I wanted to mention.

        • I’d be interested in checking it out when you’ve got it drafted.

          I should stress that I’m not very experienced in the pen & paper stuff. Played some online, when I could manage it, and I enjoy that stuff, but I’ve never found/sought out a group in my city. I tend to peruse it to get a sense of the design philosophy more than I really get a chance to playtest.

  22. This was an interesting piece, and provided some really neat background on Shatterbird. She is (was?) one of those characters with both fascinating powers and personalities, which made for a nice combination. The callback to the scene where Tattletale was temporarily trapped by Echidna and covered in vomit was nice; it made you go “What? When did this clone get made?” And then you think back and realize that, yes, this is a plausible outcome.

    That aside, it doesn’t feel right. Lots of other people have criticized it for being Diabolus ex Machina, and that seems right to me. You mentioned this chapter was a means of closing unanswered questions about Vista and Shatterbird, but it seems like it creates more plot threads than it resolves. It’d be cool if Witness was necessary for the main plot, and her presence served a purpose, but otherwise it seems like yet another steaming pile of shit heaped on a world that’s already buried waste-deep in sewage. Honestly, my biggest qualm was that she insinuated herself into Weld and Faultline’s good graces too easily. Drawing the symbol with permanent marker, of all things? And nobody stepping up to ask the question “Are you a clone?” outright? Much of the appeal of Weld is that he is determined, genuinely good, and not stupid about it. While Witness’s existence seems believable, it felt like good characters were getting warped and pigeonholed into accepting her simply for the sake of shock value or setting up another disaster domino down the road.

    All in all, perhaps it’s good that you scrapped it. It was still enjoyable to read, and hopefully you learned from the feedback. For the sake of the story can we assume that Vista lived and Shatterbird died, as they did here?

  23. Though I’m conflicted, I think I’m happy the chapter got pulled in the end. One great thing about this series is the excellent caliber of the villains: they terrify you, but to an extent you can still sympathize with them. Noelle, Bonesaw, and Shadow Stalker are all deep, three dimensional characters, and whether you like them or hate them its easy to get interested in their part of the story. Witness was basically just a twisted clone, and being a twisted clone was the be all end all of her character. She wasn’t raging at the world for the unfairness of her ruined body or pining the loss of her monstrous master; she just had the bog standard Noelle-clone hate on for everything (not to mention a straight up copy of Tattletale’s power). That’s a fine motivation for boss battle cannon fodder, but for a recurring villain its a little shallow.

    There’s also the problem of a major idiot ball being held by Weld’s group for not recognizing her as a mutant clone when she’s obviously closer to that than a case 53. Even the most warped of the case 53s sort of have a dangerous elegance to their monstrosity (Sveta for example), while Witness was just a ruined cripple.

  24. Well, since I’m such a bad fellow, I suppose I should heap one misery on top of another. There’s a decent chance that, like this interlude, this little tale is going to wind up removed.

    Until then, it’d be nice if it helps you all laugh.

    • Pope Gecko

      Deep below Vatican City, Psycho Gecko was hunting the Pope. Easter approached; it was rabbit season.

      He was hired by a member of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office to track down Benedict beneath the city before his plan could be enacted.

      “Oh yeah, we know he’s up to something,” said Father Randy Poffo, “But he can order us away the minute we get close. That’s why we need someone as clearly unaccountable to the Church as you are to aid us in this investigation.”

      Across from him, dressed in pink leather chaps and a similarly colored cowboy hat, Psycho Gecko leaned forward to ask, “You guys got the money to afford me?”

      “Brother, we got nearly a millennia of gold stored up. If we have to account for it, we’ll just say we set it down in a cellar one day and forgot where we put it,” Father Poffo said with a grin. He held out his hand. Psycho Gecko shook it.

      Father Poffo stood up to leave, “Walk with me, my son.” Resentful of being called anyone’s son, Gecko stood and at least tolerated his new employer’s mannerisms. “If it comes down to it, you’ll want to be sure he’s no longer a problem. We’ve provided automatic life support functions in all of his clothing, so anything that makes it look like an accident probably won’t work…”


      Under the Vatican, Psycho Gecko was surprised to find a laboratory. Sharp knives, microscopes, old computers, the room covered in dust and rat turds, bubbling green liquids eating through the tables, unidentifiable hunks of meat in jars full of formaldehyde. It was either a lab or a McDonald’s. Near him was a large cylinder, one of many in the room. He brushed away the condensation to find…a naked man.

      Well, open and shut. It’s clear ole Benny was just making himself a bride. He ought to at least find the dead brain donor biker in the freezer before calling it quits, but there were no surprises left here.


      Gecko turned towards the shape by the wall. Benedict. The old man was in the act of throwing a switch even as Gecko turned. He heard a whooshing behind him and turned to see the tube now empty. The other tubes were being evacuated as well. He took a step towards the old man in the gold robes, but was stopped as a pipe overhead emptied a load of fresh, wet, naked men on top of him.

      “Help, it’s raining men!”

      “Hallelujah!” proclaimed Benedict.

      “Argh, raining too many men!” Gecko added as a few more flopped on top of him in that floppy way that naked men flop onto other men.

      “Amen,” said the Pope again before shuffling off down the hall.

      While digging his way out from all the bodies, Gecko noticed something. They were all alike. Each and every one was the same. Clones. And according to his facial recognition software, they all bore a striking resemblance to Emperor Palpatine, which could only mean one thing.

      Pope Benedict was cloning himself and building an army.

      Woohoo, he thought, I finally get an excuse to kill the Pope!

      He rushed down the hall Benedict had taken. It was all dark save for a glaring white light at the end of the room. In fact, there, in the circle of light, stood the Pope. Just waiting.

      Come on, how many traps could the old man possibly have that still worked down here?

      Psycho Gecko regretted those words when a glass enclosure fell around him and the Pope both. Murder first, escape second, he told himself. The light was growing more intense, but his visor adjusted enough to keep his aim steady as he drew a knife and threw.

      The light blinded him.

      And a moment later, instinctively, he caught the knife in a wrinkled old hand. A hand coming from under a gold robe.

      Holy mother of shits.

      Across from him stood…Psycho Gecko. The case they were in began to slowly retract upwards as the circle of light turned to darkness.

      “You papal bastard, switch us back!”

      Gecko’s stolen body shook his head no and said “Die Maschine hat keinen Strom genug für, dass, wenn ich es wollte.” and began to simply walk away. Gecko would be damned before he let a Pope walk away in his body. Probably for kill said Pope. He hurried forward as fast as his frail old legs could take him, knife raised.

      Pope Gecko then turned and simply punched him, knocking him to the floor easily where his wrinkled old head smacked the hard stone. He stood overhead, performing last rites in Latin as Gecko faded.

      A computer screen in the lab flickered to life. The words “Pope Life Support Alert” flashed on it for a couple of seconds, before switching to a diagnostic view of the Pope’s robes. “Heartbeat: Nil, Pulse: Nil, Respiration: Nil” then “Level I, Administering C.P.R.”

      Eyes closed beneath Gecko’s helmet as he prayed for the soul of his enemy, Benedict didn’t see the chest of the papal robes pump against the chest that used to be his.

      “Level II: Administering electric Shock” A jolt shook the body.

      The diagnostic view showed a needle moving towards the heart. “Level III: Administering Adrenalin.” A camera view of it showed the organ start again as accompanied by an electrocardiogram showing a heartbeat once more. “Level III: Administering Adrenalin.”

      In front of Benedict, the body of the Pope stood and stretched its arms out towards the man reading the Last Rites. Benedict was shocked to see a man return from the dead, but even more shocked when the fists of his former body shot forth lightning that sent him flying against the now-lowering glass enclosure. The lights brightened briefly.

      “Was ist das?” He said, slow to get up after being half-fried.

      “This? This is merely superconductor electromagnetism. Surely you’ve heard of it. It levitates bullet trains from Tokyo to Osaka. It levitates my favorite bar’s bucking bull, where I ride the saddle of the world, and it levitates…me!”

      Gecko rose into the air as his body crackled with electricity. He drew himself back for a moment before flinging himself at the Pope in his own stolen body. Errant lightning flashed out as they collided and the chamber’s lights went bright once more.


      It was half a day later when the Poffo and the Holy Office, drawn by unusual seismic activity, dug Psycho Gecko from the rubble. A Psycho Gecko in his own body, thank you very much, who handed over smelly and comatose body of the Pope.

      “What happened?” asked Poffo, whose men were busy cleaning up the naked clone bodies. They were sure to find something to do with them.

      “Old fuck was trying to steal my body. He was cloning himself, I think. He was going to come back, maybe be Pope again and again and again.”

      “It looks like we’re going to have to put the Holy Father on a permanent bedrest then. It’s iffy, but we do have a precedent for, how do you say, ‘retirement’”

      “I don’t give a shit. My brain feels like it was violated by a creepy old man.”

      “Anything I can get you for that?”

      “Gold. A metric shit ton. I want so much gold, people are going to be afraid of smelting accidents near my place. Seriously, I need at least enough to fill a new Jacuzzi purchased using the rest of the gold.”

      “We’ll go get you a set of the old drapes then. This way.”

      • Yay for comic relief.

        Small corrections:
        “Die Maschine hat nicht genug Strom dafür, selbst wenn ich es wollte.”; Perhaps even leave the ‘dafür’.
        And while “Was ist das?” is not incorrect, “Was war das?” sounds a bit better.

          • Don’t beat yourself up over it, it’s loads better than some other things I’ve read;
            The only thing strictly speaking wrong is “für, dass,” (should be “für das,”); It’s just that the reordered first sentence and the past form of the second sound more natural and flow better.

        • Figured I’d give people a story. Not the one they wanted to read ever, but a story nonetheless. So looks like you get to find out what happened after dealing with the space marines after all. Just in a somewhat truncated form.

          I like that word. Truncated.

          It’s truncation time, bitches!

  25. Well, I really liked about this chapter that Vista survived and she got to kill Shatterbird – girl deserves some pocket money – but I have to agree with most, Witness doesn’t really fit into the flow of the story and she is just too potentially destructive.

    maybe it’s just my general dislike for the literal evil twin/clone trope, but I agree that she had to be scrapped, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the chapter as a whole was pointless/unfitting. there was definitely some interesting information, some insight into Shatterbird (who I really like simply due to her incredibly awesome power. I can’t even count all the ways in which I find her power and how she uses it awesome. Kudos on those, Wildbow).

    And Vista, of course. Love that girl. We need more hearts in this story.

    Don’t take this and feel like you should start ripping peoples hearts out in-story.

    • “Don’t take this and feel like you should start ripping people’s hearts out in-story.”

      Just what we need. Black Lantern Slaughterhouse 9.

      “The Blackest Night falls from the skies, The darkness grows as all light dies. We crave your hearts and your demise, By my black hand, the dead shall rise!”

      Now let’s not have other people confuse a Lantern Oath with evil alien poetry again.

      • wouldn’t have expected to get a lantern joke…

        don’t you want to come over and read my story? I’d LOVE to see what concoction of utter madness you’d come up with for it (

        • Blackest Night was one of the few DC things I’ve ever read. I especially liked The Flash’s tie-in comic, but that’s because I’m such a fan of the Rogues.

          Everything that happened to Firestorm in that would fit quite well in Worm.

          I’ll take a look when I have some time. If you’d like some concoction of utter madness in the meantime, you might give my name a click and see where you wind up.

  26. I don’t see what everyone was going crazy over. I rather like the idea of a clone surviving. Let’s face it, the fact Echidna spewed out what has to be tens of thousands of fucked up clones the chances of one surviving is pretty high(I think). It was pretty good to me overall. Can’t wait to see the next/replacement interlude.

  27. I have no issue whatsoever with Witness’ existence. as soulpelt said, there were a shitload of clones. One or more surviving past the battle is not only likely but pretty much guaranteed. If I have an issue at al, it’s that Witness didn’t die in this interlude. If she had (either at Shatterbird’s hands or Faultline’s), I’d be quite satisfied with it being canon. The mindgames with Shatterbird were great but Faultline et al not immediately suspecting her of being an Echidna-clone seemed rather … trusting of them considering the battle they just concluded.

    Oh well, that’s what alternate realities are for.

    PS – Actually, another thought: how come Bizarro!Tattletale’s power is identical to Tattletale Prime? Perhaps because she baked too long? The clones all tend to have tight variations on the powers of their original (Clone!Grue’s darkness teleports, one of the Clone!Vista’s could make people/things two-dimensional and so on)

  28. Okay coming rather late to the party and by this point people already commented on both what I found good and bad but there was one thing no one really said so…

    What personally bothered me about the chapter(and the only thing really) is that the clone is just so empty. When Echidna was still alive it made sense since she was commanding them and as such they weren’t actual characters but now? I was expecting her to actually think something beyond what she was doing before especially since the power she has is very suited for that. There is no problem with her goals or mindset just that as a character she falls flat. Every single other character we saw from the point of view of had motivations, goals, desires, etc.

  29. I really enjoyed getting to see a bit more of how someone like Tattletale can manipulate people who could easily destroy them by praying on insecurities and personal foibles! Also great to hear a bit more about what sort of events could produce someone like Shatterbird.

    It’s also nice to finally see what happened to Vista. I do agree though that it’s hard to believe Witness would last very long with Faultline’s crew, she’s meant to be at least as sharp as Tattletale is and her lies here are just too hard a sell considering what they’d all just been through.

    Weld is such a bro. ❤

    Even though its non-canon now it was still a really enjoyable read!

    • Well, I’m glad you enjoyed.

      If my readers can enjoy it for what it is and the tidbits of info that are provided, while being ok with the fact that it’s not canon, I think that’s the best case scenario, given the circumstances.

  30. Didn’t comment last night due to having to sleep like an ordinary human being for once, but I have to say, yeah, didn’t really like the chapter.

    I mean, Evil!Tattletale doesn’t have a whole lot of potential as a villain I think. She’s a whole lot of malevolence without much vision and would be abit of a retread of Noelle, who ultimately proved to be a chump. Worm’s best villains are the ones who operate on a level above simple hate or sadism; even Jack had something he was out to do and prove. Not to mention that Faultline and Weld kinda seemed out of character; Fault just last chapter warned Tattletale about messing around with inter dimensional crap but now she wants in on that shit? And Weld seems to be more the kind of guy who would try to fix things from the inside. Though I’m glad to see Vista alive I would have preferred for her to grab the spotlight again.

    That said, I’m not really seeing it when people say that this one was too much in terms of making things dark. Maybe it’s a difference in our readings but I find the comments have been showing a kind of pessimism that hasn’t been reflected in the story that much lately. I thought things have been overall improving a bit since coming off of the fight with the Nine, sure, the shit with Coil and Noelle seemed bleak but after the Nine I didn’t think it was beyond what the Undersiders could handle. Both Noelle and Coil, for all of the nasty they could bring to Dinah was freed, Brockton Bay was outright saved for once, the non-shitty Travelers got to go home, a chunk of the fog of war between the Undersiders and the authorities was lifted providing an opportunity to put an end to the open fighting, and Cauldron was finally outed.

    While that did put the world in a precarious position it also gives the real heroes the opportunity to sow the roots of an organization that isn’t incestuous and built on lies and delusion (Cauldron wasn’t exactly winning the Endbringer was singlehandedly here) and finally the Undersiders now have the means to actually make a difference in the world. Sure Brian took a bad hit, but I get the feeling he’s going to end up alright. Things are uncertain, and there’s alot that can go wrong, but things are sure as hell more hopeful than right after the Slaughterhouse Nine! Yeah, Taylor has to fight tooth and fucking nail for the slightest shred of good news, but that’s one of the reasons I love this series so much, she doesn’t get things handed to her on a silver platter unlike other superhero stuff.

    TLDR: Y’all worry too much, Skitter’s the best there ever was and there ain’t nothin’ the Undersiders can’t handle.

    • I remember saying to some of my RL-friends who love the story that if you trapped Superman, Batman, Squirrel Girl, and Skitter in an arena to fight to the death, the battle would end with Skitter kicking your ass.

      • She’ll use batman’s cryptonite vs superman,destroy batman because,lets face it,she is on par with him as far as strategic abilities go and can snipe him with insects,and then beat squirel girl off panel.

  31. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the chapter, but I’m certainly not going for the torches and pitchforks because it got pulled. Some of the complaints against it seem valid and the ultimate test of “is the author happy with it” being a “no” makes pulling it pretty clearly the right answer.

    I’m often surprised at the directions Worm’s plot goes, nearly always in good ways. In this case though I’m wondering what effect the “happier ending” I was expecting would have had.

    Caveat: Second guessing the story at this point feels a bit weird, so please take this as me simply playing around with ideas to see how things work.

    What if the story went as it did up to the point where Witness tried to join the Case 53’s. She’s in her full on Tattletale manipulation mode there but instead of everything going her way like it did in the chapter as written, have Gully (cause Weld’s had enough crowning moments of awesome lately) say something to effect of “No, I don’t think so, you’re just a clone aren’t you? She look like anyone you guys know?”. Miss Militia takes one look at her and shoots her in the head. With a bazooka.

    That accomplishes a few things. Most obviously it’s a much brighter ending which would please at least some folks.

    Story-wise it also shows that Tattletale’s power isn’t “mind control” and can be defeated fairly easily under certain conditions – the big one being when she tries to lie. Most/all of Tattletale’s awesome stunts have involved her wielding the truth like a deadly weapon, seeing the clone fail hard in trying to sell a lie would give an example of the boundaries that Tattletale’s power works within.

    That ending also eliminates the problem of the Case 53’s trusting Witness too easily and too deeply, while giving a character building moment to Gully or whoever was chosen to “see through the lie”.

    In terms of Witness herself, killing her off in the chapter she’s introduced is kind of a waste of potential, but on the other hand (as is pointed out above), she’s not much a character since she’s (from what we’ve seen of the clones so far) incapable of change and her motivations were simply programmed into her by Echidna.

    One of the other things I’ve liked about Worm that this would have tied into is that *everybody* has bad days. Good guys, bad guys, hell even the Endbringers probably. That ties into why I don’t feel Worm is actually a “truly dark story”. In 1984, Big Brother never has a bad day. In Worm, Cauldron just got a black eye, 2 of its front teeth knocked out and a giant wedgie. In the chapter as written pretty much everything goes right for Witness which is out of character for the setting. Nobody gets to be that lucky, everybody’s got to take their lumps.

    Lastly, Tattletale can be just a wee little bit smug at times. She’s the smartest person in the room and she knows it. Having Witness be taken out because a “normal person” (where Gully is normal in terms of intelligence) outsmarted her would reflect back on Tattletale and show that the risks she takes aren’t guaranteed to turn out well.

    In the end, that might not be any closer to a chapter that Wildbow would feel happy with keeping but hopefully it’s at least interesting to consider.

  32. Good that the chapter was taken down.
    The clone stated that she was hiding, making a life through the internet after:
    a) Finding herself lost in a unknown world and with no memory.
    b) Living in Brokton Bay where internet and hiding places are both a bit scarce at the moment.

    And nobody said anything about it?

    Besides, playing mind games with Shatterbird after the psychopath that killed her own parents lived with Jack Slash for probably a year and wining should be near impossible.
    Certainly it would not be fear of admitting her unrequited love for Jack that would break Shatterbird.

    And, nothing against dark tales, but above a certain point it really becomes “devil ex machina”. And, if it is not one of Terry Prachet books, a world were Murphy`s laws always work gets dull fast.

    Little Spoiler for Game of Thrones (read the five books):

    Even George R Martin is getting complaints because every single hero in his book tends to die or worse.

    End of spoiler.

    Even if, in the end, the world ends and all hope fails, there must be the feeling that the characters could have done it or at least that their actions made a difference.

    Or else this becomes a tale like:
    Five year old girl tried to fight the healthy teenager rapist, she lost and was raped, then killed.

    This I see in the news everyday, thank you.

    “Five year old girl tried to fight the healthy teenager rapist, she lost and was raped, then killed. But the rapist was harmed and his blood was used to identify him, the police got him, marked him as a rapist and threw him in a cell with twelve other men.”

    Is better, dark but our protagonist (the five year old girl) did something, in a sense she even beat the odds.

    OK, this is my opinion, but I will keep reading Worm to its bitter (or not) end since I see Taylor accomplishing things, making progress, harming the real evil on her world. Even if she ultimately fails there is a feeling of accomplishment.

    But, if every step of the way a rock from the sky falls on her head or this tale becomes comic or we stop caring after a while.

  33. I think you shouldn’t take the criticism expressed here to seriously. As Ricky Nelson said: “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

    If you didn’t like it, its fine, but please don’t pull or change stuff just to appeal to your readers.

    Personally I won’t miss Witness too much if she doesn’t appear again. Perhaps in a later chapter when she has made a life for herself with faultline’s group or elsewhere and grown beyond her evil-clone characterization into a more 3D character she might make a re-appearance.

    • I don’t think I’m taking it too seriously. I’m humbled, disappointed, but not upset.

      At the end of the day, if I were writing this all on my lonesome and no audience was seeing it, I suspect I would have given it a second read some time today, after a good night’s sleep, and then deleted it.

    • Professional writers have editors, who push back on a lot of stuff. Wildbow probably isn’t gonna get that quality of feedback from us in the peanut gallery but there’s surely nothing wrong with accepting and acting on feedback. Art isn’t something that emerges fully formed from a void, it’s something we work at.

      That said, I got the impression that it was more that a lot of negative feedback was a red flag that made him review that chapter himself, and found it wanting by his own standards.

      • Editors are potluck – some are good, some are awful. Case in point, *I* was an editor and teacher’s aid for a creative writing class back in the day, and I’ve played editor for several friends who write fiction. I’ll leave it up to you which category I fall into – my own answer to that, given my personal knowledge of success and fails, is “both”.

        According to Patrick Rothfuss, he has an entire army of readers that pick over his stuff before it goes to print. He even has categories of pre-readers, that he calls ‘alpha’, ‘beta’ and ‘gamma’ pre-readers, and never shall reviews from them be mixed.

  34. Interesting…I liked the chapter, even if it wasn’t perfect, and especially enjoyed finding out Shatterbird’s backstory. I guess that and the fact that Vista’s alive will be canon in future incarnations too. Well, even if we won’t see Witness again it was nice to meet her and her oversized head 🙂 good luck writing the next chapter!

  35. unnng I really wish you’d just rework the parts you didn’t like instead of scrapping it based on early commentators .
    Not everyone is going to be able to read it exactly at midnight and post feedback …heck now that I know not reading it at midnight and posting feedback immediately means a story might get scrapped if a handful of folks grumble …I guess I have no choice but to stay up till midnight all the time so my voice can be heard too ….my sleep schedule is hating you a
    lready .

      • I think reading and commenting earlier might have made a difference espescially after reading the comments section where Wildbow seems to be tallying folks that disliked it and noting no one had anything positive to say .

        • It likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I wasn’t happy with it, and having a chapter I’m that unhappy with on the site & knowing a thousand+ people are reading it over weeks or months, it’d bug me.

          I want to produce something decent, not below-par.

  36. I’m… again in shock and awe here.

    It is VERY VERY rare to find authors or creators who realize that a work of theirs is not up to their standards and not only comes right out and says such, but also removes it from the canon so that there is no confusion in the future as to the validity of contents in the purged section.

    *solid applause* You’re just re-affirming faith in your story-telling by admitting that yes, you’re human after all.

    Piece of advice: Take all those folks who distracted you and make sure they don’t disrupt your cognitions in the future!

  37. One of the first rules of any art is that the artist must be proud of their work. In this case, i am glad that you pulled it, not because some of your readers were dissappointed in it, but because you were dissappointed in it. I am impressed though, a million words in and only two sections that you couldn’t stand? It is a feat deserving of a ballad to be sung by the bards of the northern internet.

    • Far more than two I couldn’t stand. Even when I wrote the Thursday bonus that featured Blasto – I was partway through a draft that had Assault as the focus, it got to about 2pm, realized it wasn’t up to snuff and scrapped it. Wrote the Blasto chapter (all 8k-ish words) in something like 7 hours.

      That’s… not uncommon. What’s more uncommon is me being tired/distracted enough that I settle for uploading a chapter of that caliber – one I’m not thrilled with, and then belatedly realize what I’ve done. That, I’ve only done twice.

      With 7.9, I said ‘screw it’ and rewrote from scratch, from 1am to something like 6am.

      With this… I wasn’t really able/prepared to do that. Would’ve turned out worse.

      • >” What’s more uncommon is me being tired/distracted enough that I settle for uploading a chapter of that caliber – one I’m not thrilled with, and then belatedly realize what I’ve done.”

        Mmmm, I’ll remind you that you mentioned releasing some chapters you weren’t happy with that received very positive responses.

        • Normal day, I can make a judgement call. I bug friends via. instant messenger, agonizing over it, talk it out without spoiling anything, then consider all the issues and make a call. Three quarters of the time I’m not sure about the response, it’s because it’s controversial, or I’m wondering if I’m pushing things too far. The other half the time, it’s a question of quality.

          Busy/distracted day, can’t make that judgement call. Don’t have the time to consider the readership, the overall flow, the various aspects of the chapter. Less time to fact check, less time to discuss it or ruminate.

          So I’ll have days where there’s an unexpected 3 hour road trip with a 2 hour errand in the middle of it (road trip with immediate family post-Christmas, not my car, other people in car want to go shopping, screw my writing schedule, right?), and it winds up being 10pm and I have only 2 hours to transcribe all the text I’ve handwritten in my notebook, finish the conclusion and proofread, and it’s a chapter that has some not-unnoteworthy stuff in it. And I know there’s a minor inconsistency at the end that could use more work for verisimilitude’s sake. (I’m talking about Interlude 16.z – Donation Bonus #3, btw). My awesome aunt, though, gives me permission to borrow her study and be totally unsociable for the rest of the night, and brings me tea and cookies, and I hammer that chapter out (Seriously, she gets an acknowledgement in the ebook/print copy). Do I have doubts about the chapter? Definitely.

          But I release it, and people like it. Someone points out the inconsistency, but it passes.

          And then I have a day like Wednesday, where there’s an unexpected rescheduling and I wind up with eight or nine flooring guys at my place, replacing the kitchen floor and replacing the carpet in my bedroom (long overdue – I moved here roughly around the time Worm started and it was awful then). Tons of questions, lots of noise, and no place to kick back and write because every room is adjacent to a room where there’s work going on and I can’t run off to a quiet library because I have to watch [the project in progress]). I write the chapter, I note inconsistencies, but I hope the content will hold it’s end up and that they’ll be forgivable. I have my doubts (as mentioned in another comment on this page) but I rationalize them away, telling myself I’ll go over it in a quiet moment. Except I don’t have time in the crunch to get it done.

          And I release it, and people don’t like it. The inconsistencies aren’t the sort that slide. And I reread it, and I realize that, hey, I was glossing over a bunch of issues, not just one minor one, and I really didn’t think it all through. Whoops.

          Unlike the car ride, where there were actually some moments to think things through and ruminate, the distractions were more persistent, and I didn’t have those ten minutes to turn it over in my head and think it through.

          I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s easy to confuse a day like the one with the car trip with a day like this Wednesday.

          • I’ll say this, just in case you ever find yourself feeling rushed in the future:

            I would rather have a delayed chapter that you are happy with than no chapter at all.

            (but at the same time, I’d rather have a chapter you are unhappy with than no chapter what so ever- I only include this because I’ve seen too many interesting stories get abandoned on the internet due to authors being too critical of themselves and giving up)

          • Err, didn’t say the right thing (alcohol, sorry).

            I would rather have a delayed chapter that you are happy with than an on time one that you feel isn’t up to par.

            That’s what I meant to say.

          • I should note, Fake Name, and I think this has come up in the comments…

            My initial motivation for starting Worm was to break myself of a habit. For years (and years and years) I was writing but making no headway, because I was caught up in a trap of rewriting and editing and polishing and fixing up the beginning (the most important part) to the point that I rarely got more than three pages in before getting burned out and frustrated.

            Prompted by my studies in University (applied language & discourse), I started analyzing the what & why of it, recognizing the problem for what it was, and I started writing a serial to force myself to keep moving forward. The idea was that I knew how much I hated it when a web writer (be they a webcomic author or serial writer or otherwise) missed an update, and I’d feel obligated to avoid making the same mistake. It would be a driving force to keep me writing.

            I went in with zero expectations, assuming I’d never get above double-digit views in a day, I’d be lucky to have 2-3 comments a chapter, and I’d be ok with that. Even with an audience of 5 people, I’d keep writing and write to avoid disappointing them (and avoid being a hypocrite if/when I missed an update).

            With that in mind, maintaining my forward momentum and producing -something- when I say there’ll be something is kind of a big deal for me. Especially now that I have an audience of 1-1.5 thousand (I can’t gauge the number of people reading this by email, or account for the people who view Tuesday’s update on a Wednesday, so I can only ballpark).

            I’m not happy with taking this update down, but I can at least tell myself I produced something for you guys to read and made a full-fledged chapter, albeit with flaws, by the deadline I stipulated for myself. With that, I’m keeping t my original goal.

  38. Late to the party, here. Anything I want to say about the former chapter has probably already been said, and I don’t know if anyone will read this, but here it goes.

    Wildbow, if you weren’t happy with the chapter and scrapped it for that reason, good for you. Doing so must have been tough, since the format of a serial makes it so much harder to “take back” what’s already been put out there, especially if one believes in the “death of the author” thing. I hope negative criticisms, including mine if I had been on time, would not put you off too much from our suggestions, or overly influence your creative process.

    I think what went wrong, and why the audience reacted this way, is the placement. The chapter was written as great as you usually do it. However, all of the things the characters were put through – from Dragon suits, to mayoral bombing, to the Coil-betrayal, to the Echidna disaster, to the reveal of Cauldron – left both the readers and the characters winded and drained, emotionally and physically. After the frenetic pace and high tension of the past chapters, the ending of chapter 19.7 was a welcome break. We saw story threads tied up, but with just the right balance of hints of more to come.

    The ex-Interlude, place right after here, would just be a gut-punch, suddenly tightening that strained cord to the breaking point. Readers finally got to unwind, just to see this happening, and realize nothing was really solved. In my opinion, this was what hurt the most.

    There were many other ways this chapter could have worked, with miniscule changes other than placement later in the story. For example, we didn’t need a reason to stay connected to Weld and co. The story never truly focused on Faultline’s crew that closely, and readers still connected with them. Furthermore, Tattletale and Skitter could continue communicating with them in-story, especially on the Cauldron issues. Hints of trouble going on, like news about people being blackmailed to do horrible things, or Tattletale having trouble with bank accounts and property, would help build things up without readers’ foreknowledge. Meeting up with Weld’s crew could show him with a bunch of never-before-seen Cauldron-born, with one keeping in the background all covered-up and named Witness. Fighting a new growing conspiracy along with dealing with the Cauldron conspiracy would have been interesting. The grand reveal about Witness, using this chapter as the flashback, would have been a great climax.

    Ultimately, this is just what could have been. Readers just weren’t ready for the chapter at this precise moment. We needed a rest-stop and a glimmer of hope; we thought we got one, and then saw that it was just an illusion.

    You’re still a great writer, Wildbow, even if you say you’re just a novice. You just need more betas or a good editor. Hey, since Worm is a serial, we commenters are kinda like that, for when you later get to compile these into books. So don’t worry, and keep doing what you’re doing.

    Just let your characters, and yourself, get a moment of fun and peace sometimes, ‘kay?

    • This. All of this. Brava.
      I also think that it wouldn’t have hit such a wrong note if the threat didn’t seem credible. If you introduce a character that seems like a complete joke when put up against unrepentant badasses like the Undersiders, and have them use a cliche “Hate everything. Ruin everyone.” motive, nobody is going to think “Oh my god, another threat?”
      Pfft, they’d get a laugh at best. If Witness had the ability to prevent people from telling lies, and was unable to make herself speak as a result, the conversation with Shatterbird would’ve been hilarious. Wait, this seems to be taking random tangents.
      There. That.

    • Ahhh. That’s what’s been nagging at me. Yes. Interlude mechanics gone wrong, here. It’s nice when the interludes provide an alternate POV for ongoing story, but this interlude read like hamfisted storytelling, and that’s never been a characteristic of Worm. Kudos to Wildbow for the persistence and will to stick to publication schedule, and for the insight and lack of stupid author ego that might have meant keeping it up anyway…and even more for the class to have taken in down in this particular fashion – preserving fan comments, leaving the imperfect work to be seen. I hate it when chunks of the ‘net are erased. This was awesome.

        • Am I that rude? 😦

          Also, I think it’s less that my takedown notice was written in a stellar fashion, and more that it’s just common to get more donations as an arc draws to a close.

          • You’re not rude at all – you remind me a little of a guy my father and I would play boardgames with, in fact. Friendly, generous, gracious – always the first to offer his codolences for the savage beatdowns he has just given you and assure you that it was all luck. 🙂

          • “Am I that rude?”

            Nope, I’m just that annoying.

            If anything, it’s meant in more of a self-deprecating manner. Some of us fans will donate for anything. Save me, due to lack of sufficient funds. As soon as you start to get ahead, here comes someone else needing to borrow money…

            But you go have fun with your fancy money. Here’s a suggestion, maybe you can buy some happiness so Worm becomes a little less “All the kittens must be bludgeoned.”

  39. Quick request that will probably take a bit longer to fix.

    Could the “Next Chapter” links at the top and bottom of the explanation…not be broken? And for that matter, why are they when the one right below the banner works?

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