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Creator / Wildbow

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Wildbow (real name John C. McCrae, born in 1984), is a Canadian writer of Web Serial Novels.

His works include:

Tropes commonly found in his works:

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe a major theme of his works is how people can be viewed completely differently by different people based on their relationships with them, with Pact being the most exemplary due to its karma system.
  • Alternate Timeline:
    • Worm: Scion and other superpowered individuals start appearing in the early 1980s.
    • Twig: During the early 19th Century advances in biotech create a Biopunk based world, and the British Empire manages to become even larger than it's real-world counterpart at its height, including reconquering the United States.
    • Technically, Pact, Poke, and Pale qualify, though the "divergence point" is the existence of magic, and in the case of the latter, the absence of the COVID-19 Pandemic despite taking place in 2020.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Both Worm and Pact end on somewhat happy notes for their protagonists, though they lose a lot in the process. Twig is much the same, though the protagonist may only be happy because of the sacrifices he made.
    • This is also true of many individual arcs within those works, though there are also arcs whose conclusions are more or less clear wins or losses.
    • Ward averts this by having an unambiguously happy ending, despite any number of tragedies that occurred on the way there.
  • Body Horror: Extremely common in Wildbow's works. Missing limbs, mutilation, voluntary and involuntary transformations and mutations abound. A list of specific examples would rapidly approach the length of a Wildbow work in its own right. Twig gets a special mention as its Biopunk setting practically runs on this trope.
  • Canada, Eh?: Wildbow hails from Canada, and Pact is set entirely within it.
  • Crapsack World: All of his settings, to an almost ludicrous degree:
    • Worm: A Dysfunction Junction of a world where villains outnumber heroes, an amoral secret organization pulls strings behind the scenes, parts of the world are completely uninhabitable thanks to the Endbringers destroying them, and the Big Good is actually an alien being existing across multiple universes whose original purpose was to use the planet to breed young before blowing it up with his mate before she died, and starts doing it ahead of schedule after being convinced to by Jack Slash.
      • Ward naturally also qualifies, due to being set in the same universe in the aftermath of said Big Good deciding to start destroying the planet ahead of schedule. Though eventually defeated, he rendered the original story's earth uninhabitable, leading most of what's left of humanity spread out throughout the multiverse looking for a place to start over.
    • Pact, Poke, and Pale: The world is being slowly eaten by demons and the Abyss, while an over-legalistic karma system allows horrible people to get off scot-free as long as they have enough good karma to throw at their mistakes. Those with high enough bad karma, whether actually evil or not (And sometimes by virtue of their family's actions), get shat on by the universe, who does its damnedest to kill them.
    • Twig: The Crown Empire, a British Empire that controls most of the world, has turned most of the planet into a playground for their nobles, where genetic experimentation is done without the slightest veneer of ethics. What's more, it is later confirmed that many of the places still not under Crown control were simply wholesale destroyed by intentionally-released horrific plagues and bioweapons.
  • Death of Personality: In every completed novel so far, the protagonists and some others have suffered this to some degree:
    • In Worm, Tayor's transformation into Khepri removes all the limiters on her passenger's influence, leading it to strip her of her ability to understand language, majorly influencing her thought process, and even speaking directly through her.
    • In Pact, Blake has his humanity stripped away piece by piece by the Abyss, turning him into a boogeyman and eventually a bird.
    • In Twig, Sy's hallucinations gradually become worse and worse until they eventually subsume his personality entirely, leaving the Infante construct in control.
      • Additionally, secondary character Jamie suffers a complete deletion of his personality about halfway through the story when the networked brains that enable his perfect memory become overloaded and reset. The loss is complete enough that "Jamie II" (and later Jessie) has to completely re-learn how to walk, talk, and function in general.
    • In Ward, Victoria went through this before the story even starts, accurately describing her experience in Worm as losing herself in body, heart, and mind. Ward is the story of her recovery from this and in a first for Wildbow's writing, she winds up in a better place mentally and physically than where she started, though she has to work her ass off to make it to where she is.
  • Doorstopper: All of Wildbow's "main novels" are extremely long and could easily be used as a doorstop if printed out. Worm is roughly 1.68 million words long, which would be about 7000 pages or about 20 "standard" novels in print. Pact and Twig are somewhat shorter, but still well above the million word mark, and Ward is even longer at about two million words. Interestingly, despite being longer than Worm by sheer word count, Ward actually has ten fewer arcs, significantly fewer chapters, and took less time to complete. This is because while Wildbow has kept to the same posting schedulenote , each chapter is substantially longer in his later works compared to his earlier ones.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: As mentioned above, any Wildbow protagonist or secondary character is going to go through hell if they want a shot at a good ending.
  • Enemy Mine: A major theme of his works are shifting alliances and the compromises that must be made for survival. In Worm this was often combined with the Godzilla Threshold.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Bound to show up eventually in any of his works, often at the hands of a Torture Technician.
  • First-Person Perspective: His stories are usually told from a first person perspective, save for the Interludes and chapters focusing on someone who isn't the protagonist, which switch to third person. Pale is the first major work written by Wildbow to be written from a third person perspective as opposed to a first person one, and to have the POV constantly shift between protagonists rather than a single main one with occasional interludes.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Wildbow's characters tend to have both positive and negative aspects to them, with very few being unambiguously good or evil. This includes the protagonists, who can have rather unlikable aspects to their personalities while still being overall good (or rather likeable aspects to their personalities while being overall bad, depending on what part of the story we're in).
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • Alliterative Alphabetical Theme Naming-type: All his main works that share a setting also share the first letter of their title.
    • All of Wildbow's serials have arc titles that relate to some part of the work's overall themes, and relate somehow to the action taking place in that arc. Additionally, each chapter is numbered by which arc it belongs to and which chapter it is within that arc, e.g. Taking Root 1.1, Radiation 18.2. Interlude chapters, which are told from a perspective other than the protagonist's, have a chapter letter instead of a number, e.g. Blinding 11.a.
      • Worm: All of the arc titles are biology terms relating to insects and their life cycles. The main character has the power to control insects with her mind.
      • Pact: The arc titles are all legal terms. The magic system revolves around making deals and contracts with supernatural entities and other practitioners in order to gain power.
      • Twig: The arc titles are all common sayings that are also puns that relate to the mad bio-science that defines the setting.
      • Ward: The arc titles are all related to light and darkness, metaphorically relating to the main character's struggles with depression and morality, and more literally alluding to the means by which the world was nearly destroyed at the end of Worm, namely blasts of golden light.
      • Pale: The arc titles are all turns of phrase that reference movement, departures, or arrivals.
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • In Worm Panacea is gay for Glory Girl, her stepsister, which ends in tragedy after the events of the Slaughterhouse 9 arc. Dealing with the ramifications of this is a major theme and plot thread in Ward.
    • In Twig Jamie is gay for Sy, who doesn't reciprocate.
    • In Ward Vista is attracted to Capricorn. If Capricorn were just one person, this might not be an issue, but since he is actually a pair of identical twins, one of whom is gay, who triggered while touching and are stuck in the same body, it's never going to work out. At least until Tristan commits battlefield suicide to prevent himself from becoming a Titan and Byron is left alone, shaken, but able to pursue the relationship if he wishes.
    • In Pale Avery is gay, but discovers through a class-ranking app that there's no other girls that like girls in her school's entire 8th and 9th grade class. She uses some glamour to turn herself temporarily into a boy and kisses her crush but regrets it immediately for having done it under false pretenses.
  • One-Word Title:
    • All of his novels so far are titled as a single word with four letters: Worm, Pact, Twig, Ward, and Pale.
    • Not to mention Boilnote , Face, and Peer, the titles competing for the slot which Pact eventually won. Averted with the stories that would eventually become Worm, which included titles like Guts and Glory and The Events Leading Up To That Thursday.
    • The chapters of many of his works also happen to have one word titles.
    • It can be argued whether the Poke short stories follow this pattern or not, because instead of having arc titles and numbers like the serials, each has a numbering in parentheses before the title to tell the reader which story in the series it is, e.g. (First) Poke.
  • Running Gag: Bland-Name Product mentions skew toward the morbid, the NSFW, or both. E.g. "Miss Treats," a teashop/BDSM emporium favored by Parian in Ward, or the "Gushing Granny Apple" soda mentioned in Pale.
    • Chain restaurants have names that are either weird, funny or kinda gross. Examples include "Fugly Bob's" from Worm, "Roadkill" from Ward, and "Yeast Inception" from Pale. Ward also included "Patty's Patties", which doesn't possess the most disturbing name, but whose walls feature art depicting the anthropomorphic cow (Patty) cutting off pieces of herself to serve to customers.
  • The Social Expert: He uses variations on this character type a lot. Worm had Tattletale and Jack Slash, in Twig the viewpoint character, Sylvester, is designed for this (literally).
  • There Are No Therapists: His works tend to avert this; in both Worm and Ward, the Protectorate employs child therapists for the children in the Ward program, while in Pale, Lucy has a therapist later on to help her deal with some of her mundane issues. Played with in Twig in that the academy has plenty of people studying the Lambs' minds, but the Lambs aren't treated like people, so it doesn't help and actually makes things worse.
  • Villain Protagonist:
    • Taylor Hebert, the main character of Worm, is part of the villain group known as the Undersiders in Brockton Bay.
    • Sylvester aka Sy of Twig is part of a group of child experiments known as the Lambs who work for the amoral Radham Academy.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The main settings of his works tend to be fictional places in the real world US and Canada:
    • Worm is mostly set in Brockton Bay, which is located in the New England area. Ward narrows its location down a bit.
    • Pact is primarily set in Jacob's Bell, which is somewhere near Toronto in Ontario, Canada. This is actually a plot point: Jacob's Bell can't be found on a map because it's been swallowed by the Abyss.
    • Twig is set in an alternate history version of North America in which almost all place names have been changed beyond recognition. The only place setting that we can be sure corresponds to a real world city is New Amsterdam (New York, NY).
    • Ward takes this a step further, being set in about the same place as Brockton Bay, but on an alternate Earth with slightly different geography.
    • Pale starts in Kennet, a fictional small ski town which is somewhere in Western Ontario, Canada near the shore of Lake Superior. Wild Abandon 18.y specifies that it's somewhere in the Riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North.