John McCrae, who is more commonly known as “Wildbow” online, is a successful full-time writer who publishes his work as a free web serials on WordPress. Worm is his first and most popular work, and Wildbow has recently started to release its sequel: Ward. Worm ran from June 2011 to November 2013 and totaled 1,682,400 words at its conclusion. Also, as of September 2017, Ward has been in progress with updates every Tuesday and Saturday. Despite weakening my points by not posting any concrete examples, I think that Worm is best experienced without spoilers, so I am mainly going to be talking about the general themes and overall ideas of Worm.
Worm is a modern superhero story which attempts to break apart many of the tropes that define traditional superhero stories. The good guys don’t always win, and the good guys aren’t necessarily the ones with the best intentions. Each character is nuanced and flawed, and the flaws of man are a central theme throughout Worm. Severely bent and broken people are given abilities that allow conflicts to escalate to cataclysmic proportions. Wildbow also uses first-person narration to further show these flaws in both having an unreliable narrator color a story, and in allowing a person’s flaws to be shown naturally. This makes these fantastical, maybe even mythical characters, seem human. I think this is the greatest strength of Worm and the greatest strength of Wildbow as a writer.
Worm and Ward are stories about people first. The setting and the conflict of these stories are interesting in their own right. Figuring out the nuances of Wildbow’s well-developed world and power system alongside the characters is great, but seeing how the characters affect and are affected by the situations they are forced into, the consequences of their actions, and the consequences of the actions of others is what makes Worm great. The characters are shocking, surprising, and dynamic while still maintaining predictability and consistency when it comes to their values and what defines their character.
Lastly, I want to stress that Worm, Ward, and all of Wildbow’s other works are web serials. The stories are alive from the moment they start to the moment they end, and the communities around them get to be there as the story is being created. This is an instance where the author can be a part of the community. He can address the audience’s curiosity, questions and theories, as well as dash potential misconceptions in their writing. Wildbow often interacts with fans by joining community discussions and by generally letting fans see more of the world he created that may have gone unexplored otherwise.
I hope that after reading this, you are willing to read through Worm (or listen to it as the community has made an audiobook of it) and experience the story for yourself.