Monday, September 5, 2016

Worm: Title

So why is it called "Worm"?

Reading it, I initially thought Worm would be the name of the hero, after all she has insect based powers. But she never takes that title, and earthworms are neither prominent in her costume, nor her creature of choice.

Later on, we discover the cosmology of this universe is based on creatures with phenomenal power and intelligence, best described as worms. But their connection to the rest of the story is limited, and the exposition around them is far from the most compelling part of the story.

So why Worm?

The best statement of the themes of this work is given by the insecure villain Cherish in Chapter 24, who has just used her power to understand Taylor.

“Who?” Jack asked.

“When I looked at her with my power, before, I called her the Worm. She spent some time being as low on the food chain as you can get while still being able to move under her own power. As low as someone can get while still having an identity of their own. But she’s realized she’s poisonous, dangerous in her own unique way. She’s useful, like a silkworm we harvest or an earthworm who works our gardens. She’s even realized she’s not alone, so long as she looks for friends among other dirty… contemptible creatures. Speaking of which, I forgot to say hi, little brother.”

“Fuck you, Cherie.”

Cherish smiled and stared at me, “The little worm found a nugget of self-worth, she just doesn’t want to look too closely at what that nugget is made of. If she’s lucky, she’s one of the worms without eyes. They might be keenly aware of their environment, but they’re happier blind.”

Like every sentence of that is a perspective you can use to understand Taylor, humanity, or plenty of other aspects of the story. This is just some great dialogue. Have I mentioned how good the side-characters Wildbow brings in are?

This parallel between Taylor's social status and her insect friends are brought up numerous times, but most dynamically with the state of Brockton Bay itself. The more disasters happen, the more there is a sort of fetid decay that insects thrive in, the more powerful Taylor's toolset is. Society collapses around her and she literally becomes stronger, giving her the ability to interfere and cause even more chaos, linking the vicious cycle.

What's true of Taylor on a supernatural level is true of her on a *social* level, as Cherish says (and she does very well for herself, in the middle of the story). And so in the end times when the world is collapsing, we see people like her come to their power.

(This is all very ironic. Taylor could only come from a chaotic world, yet she herself is obsessed with imposing order. She would deny the conditions which bring her into existence.)

Taylor is of course, a universalizing character. She's someone we are encouraged to identify with, especially in the early arcs. Which is where we get back to the cosmology: the "truth" of the worm - that you are a grubby insect blindly crawling around seeking more power - and that this is reflected in the very building blocks of the universe.

We'll get into what sort of universe this leads to tomorrow.


  1. touches on some of the ways 'Worm' applies.

    1. It does, and his appreciation of the thematic details is a good start. I even wonder if this was written only 1/3 of the way through Worm? Because it concludes too easily along the lines of "the villains are really the good guys, and the heroes are really the bad guys" which is a much more common perspective in postmodern genre subversions. Worm is more nuanced in its moral ambiguity because you really can't group even the capes and villains along even those lines - certainly his reading can't really account for what Regent does to Shadowstalker, or Legend and Milita's "generally upright behavior but also a bit too trusting of their own institutions", or of course, how far Khepri goes eventually. Those sorts of complexities and moral challenges are what makes Worm something you can argue over for hours.

      But it's also possible he wrote that just to get people to read it initially. Which is the problem with reviews that don't want to spoil the audience - they often are very limited in discussing them for people who have read the work as well.

    2. Edit: Chevalier not Legend.

  2. The chapter citation seems wrong. Is it supposed to be 12.4 or something?