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Literature / Anathema (2014)
aka: Anathema

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Those comic books were lying about superpowers.

Anathema is an ongoing Superhero Web Serial Novel created by Chrysalis and originally released on June 2014.

The world of Anathema is pretty much like ours, until 2010. That year, a phenomenon known as The Pulse occurred, causing a worldwide blackout that lasted for around thirty minutes. Afterwards, people around the world began to manifest supernatural abilities.

Anathema examines, somewhat realistically, the effects of a world where a small portion of the population have gained superpowers. The story explores themes like international politics and how the emergence of individuals with superpowers affect them, the influence of religion in a world with Physical Gods walking the Earth, and the reaction of a normal populace who don’t know if they should trust or fear these super humans.

With the use of a Switching P.O.V., the novel explores the stories of three superpowered characters: Mascot, Dancer, and Radiant.

Anathema updates regularly on Sundays. Occasionally, additional chapters are posted on Wednesdays.

This story provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Dancer lived with a junkie mother and abusive foster parents for a few years. She spent most of her childhood and early teenage years being pushed back and forth between institutions and foster parents incapable of handling her.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: There is no black and white. Some villains do good or even act as heroes, and the good guys can screw up. Badly. Instead of focusing on heroes and villains, the story portrays people with superpowers. It's up to the readers to decide whom they consider the good and bad guys.
  • Alternate Timeline: This was our world - until the timeline split off during the year of 2010. The Pulse was a worldwide phenomenon resulting in loss of electricity and one minute of time. Prophet, the first Evolved human, emerged a few days later. After the first deaths caused by powers, worldwide anxiety led to a number of developments including the rise of the United Nations as a major player in Evolved politics.
  • Anti-Hero: The POV characters are the best example of this. All three have strong flaws, and the only one among them who starts out with a hero drive just might be the greatest threat to mankind, without meaning to.
    • Mascot is an antisocial teenager with no great ambitions pushed into a hero role with leadership duties.
    • Radiant is a fallen hero haunted by regrets about the past, abandoned by former allies and wanted dead by a number of factions.
    • Noire is technically a heroine, but feared or even hated by a good portion of the population because of her powerset.
  • Anti-Villain: The Nameless are a group of rogues pushed undercover by unfortunate circumstances. They generally mean well, but their allies involve a number of ambiguous or outright criminal characters. Each of the true villains appears to have a story, ambitions that don't involve ending the world, and often virtues of their own.
  • Anyone Can Die: While still in its early stages, the story has described the deaths of four characters and the insanity of another. In this harsh setting, heroes don't imprison their opponents. There are no secure prisons for powered individuals.
  • Apocalypse How: No doubt about it: this isn't going to end well. The world can't handle superpowers, and the power surges are getting out of hand.
  • Character Development: This affects a number of characters. Some examples that have been revealed to date:
    • Mascot takes charge and responsibility as a hero, becoming much more proactive than she initially was. She develops social bonds and finds friendship.
    • Dancer starts out as a bright-eyed, somewhat naive wannabe hero with ambitions to better the world. Certain events reveal a jaded, dark split personality who doesn't believe in a greater good.
    • Radiant is depressed and near suicidal at the beginning of his story. Eventually, he discovers a new purpose that drives him onward and shapes his future role.
  • Cheap Costume: Checkmate is thrown into a villain terrorist attack before the costume designers finish his outfit. He enters his first battle with a paper cut mask and some standard black and white clothes. In general, costumes are useless except for PR reasons and to alert people of an Evolved presence. Many powered characters don't use costumes at all.
  • Chekhov's News: All of the POV characters occasionally check the news.
    • The Nameless hear about the Traveler's death on the radio, and later face the new hero who acquired the dead rogue's teleportation powerset.
    • Radiant, cut off from his former friends and allies, is informed of Queenie's death and the destruction of the Covenant headquarters by Athena's news sifting software.
    • The POV characters sometimes hear about each other's victories - or failures - though the news.
  • Cliffhanger: Many chapters end with one.
  • Content Warnings: The about page includes a warning concerning harsh language and graphic violence. This story is not intended for young or sensitive readers.
  • Cooldown Hug: In Investigation 4.5, Kid calms Noire (and thus Mr. Black) by offering her one.
  • The Corrupter: One of Gentleman's specialities.
  • Covered in Gunge: In Escalation 5.7, Dancer distracts the heroes from going after her teammates by assaulting them with a high pressurized jet of sewage.
  • Crapsack World: Let's list the reasons.
    • Power surges: Some Evolved develop near apocalyptic levels with their powers, including but not limited to a mile or more radius in range, devastating destructive potential or powerful new abilities. Scientists have found proof of the feedback effect, which causes power surges to affect one another as a chain reaction. The following zero tolerance policy on power surges makes things worse rather than improving the situation.
    • International politics: The Shanti incident triggers worldwide protests and a political chain reaction. More and more countries drop out of the UN to enforce their own individual ideas on how to handle powers. The loss of trust in UN supervision and control leads to more tension, maybe even armed conflicts.
    • Godkin fanatics vs Evolved haters: As established control mechanisms begin to fail, more and more average citizens feel provoked to take matters into their own hands. Some side with the Evolved they see as Godkin, others would prefer to cleanse the world of powers entirely.
    • Evolved death effects: Powers bounce back if an Evolved human is killed, either as a new transition of a similar classification or a power surge. Villains may specifically target certain power classifications, hoping to recruit their replacement after death before anyone else does. Guardians and teleporters are in high demand. As a side effect, heroes may refrain from killing villains for fear of a power surge.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Several characters have one.
    • Samael experienced an assault on his Dad's farm when he was sixteen, shot two of the perpetrators and relieved his mother of her misery (at her behest).
    • Radiant lost his faith when his wife was raped and killed. He is also haunted by the execution order he had to carry out on Shanti, and the brooding suspicion that he may be responsible for the creation of the Antithesis.
    • Dancer experienced drug addiction, a junkie mother and abusive foster parents during her childhood and early teenage years.
  • Darker and Edgier: Without the sex.
  • Differently Powered Individual: Powered humans are referred to as Evolved. Heroes exist, but most Evolved prefer to live as rogues to avoid the restrictions and often traumatizing side effects of hero life. Villains tend to have short life spans unless they are very cautious (however, this changes after the fifth arc.
  • Description in the Mirror: Done in Samael's interlude, 5.8
  • Dirty Business: A recurring theme, so far shown in:
    • The Prologue, where Radiant is forced to carry out an execution order that nearly breaks him.
    • The fifth Arc, where Dancer agrees to hijack a TV channel despite wanting to be a hero.
  • Divided We Fall: Another recurring story theme. Some examples include:
    • The fights and power struggles of Samael and Radiant cause friction within the Covenant.
    • After Radiant's split from the Covenant, he is cut off from friends and former allies without a means of communication.
    • International politics result in conflict and flaring tempers rather than cooperation efforts, despite overarching threats.
  • The Dreaded: We haven't seen much of them yet, but they appear to be on the rise.
    • Legion was mentioned by one of the Oracle's older prophecies and has caused the disappearances of numerous Evolved on the American continents. They may have been around since shortly after the Pulse, but have recently become much more active.
    • The Sleepwalker is listed as the number one individual considered an apolyptic threat if his powers surged. He wanders around on the Eurasian continent, caught in a waking dream that also removes him from any reality in which he may be killed. Any settlements ahead of his path are evacuated; his aura forces anyone caught in it to follow him until they die.
    • The Antithesis, Anathema to the Healer, was prophesied as a potentially word ending threat.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Any of Legion or the Sleepwalker's victims. Saint, after the Counselor - protected by Saint's power - was disappeared by Legion.
  • Flying Firepower: Samael and Radiant, numbers two and three on the UN's list of potential apocalyptic threats.
  • Foreshadowing: This trope has both been used and Averted. Examples of each include:
    • In 1.5, Athena asks Mascot to consider hero life because the Oracle has made some disturbing statements concerning the near future. The Oracle was moved to a secret location without media presence to avoid mass panic.
    • In 2.6, Gentleman specifically looks at Dancer while explaining that power categories of dead Evolved bounce back into the world.
    • In 5.4, Ace receives a call with a warning about Legion's emergence. Legion does not, however, make a showing in this arc.
  • From Bad to Worse: Things start out somewhat okay. Then power surges and the Shanti incident happen. Radiant drops out of the Covenant, Legion emerges and gains the ability to leave the American continents, Saint goes insane and is no longer capable of maintaining the Covenant's immortality. Dancer manifests her darker self with devastating potential and Queenie gets killed. This results in an effective shutdown of the Covenant and the first true emergence of villains. Hint: It gets worse from here on.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Anyone with a Technician classification.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Heroes aren't necessarily nice people. They can be selfish, trigger happy, hide dark secrets and ambiguous motives. Or they might simply be driven towards the opposite end of the alignment spectrum by story events. Various instances of this trope are present throughout the story, but only a couple of them have been revealed so far. Samael and Dancer are worth mentioning.
  • Hero of Another Story: The side characters have their own plots and goals that influence the main cast in a number of ways. At this point, the following characters have been featured in interludes:
    • Carol Clarence, the psychological counselor of the Wardens: Interlude 2.7
    • Jasper Davis (DJ): Interlude 3.6
    • Jordan Steyn (Samael): Interlude 5.8
  • Hopeless War: Powers are here to stay, and no amount of conflict will restore the world to its pre-Pulse state.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: This is true for many, if not most, Evolved. Very few actually want to deal with all the strings attached to powers.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Dancer uses this to gather all of the heroes in one spot and prevent them from going after her team.
  • I Work Alone: In 4.7, Mascot orders her team to stay inside knowing she's the only one with any chance of surviving Legion. She is most comfortable working alone, but eventually learns what it means to be a leader.
  • Killed Off for Real: It's highly unlikely the dead can return, and the heroes pulled a major case of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero by killing the only real healer in the Prologue.
  • Killed Offscreen: the Counselor, revealed in Investigation 4.7, and Queenie, revealed in Escalation 5.6. More are sure to follow.
  • Militaries Are Useless: While conventional weapons can kill most Evolved, they stand no chance of stopping the Sleepwalker and Legion.
  • Mood Whiplash: Several examples exist to date. Samael's interlude 5.8 starts with violent crime horror, followed by heart wrenching drama (it made the author cry, at least). The last part includes a gentle scene between Samael and Athena.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Happens more than once.
    • One example kicks off the story with the Shanti incident in the prologue.
    • In Investigation 4.5, the Wardens Athmake negative headlines by getting into a fight with Canadian youths that almost ends with several deaths.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: the Nameless take Dancer in, allowing her to experience her powers and reality checks within a (mostly) supportive environment. They also hide her presence from would-be killers and try to warn the world about the cause of power surges.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The world will never return to a clean slate. However, something new might emerge from all the chaos.
  • Odd Friendship: Forced to bond together by Mascot's decision to take responsibility for Noire and avert her execution order (Emergence 6.1), the two antisocial girls develop an odd friendship.
  • Oh, Crap!: Some mentions to date include:
    • The Wardens, after Legion appears in Investigation 4.6
    • The Nameless, when Raven and his crew bust their TV hijacking stunt with unexpected news.
  • Open Secret: All of the Nameless - and some others - are aware that Dancer is the new manifestation of Shanti's powers. No one tells her about it.
  • Origins Episode: Both Dancer and Mascot enter the story with chapters that explore their transition events.
  • Police Are Useless: A trope mentioned in Samael's interlude, 5.8.
  • Power Born of Madness: A few mentions, namely
    • The Oracle, a comatose, paraplegic woman who whispers powerful prophecies while confined to a hospital bed.
    • The Sleepwalker, who attempted to commit suicide with sleeping pills during his transition
    • Dancer, whose dark split personality holds more power than anyone else.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Dancer's first two arcs.
  • The Reveal: So far, a couple of those have changed the direction of the story.
    • In 3.5, Athena reveals that Dancer manifested Shanti's powers, and may very well be the Antithesis rather than the Healer.
    • In 5.6, Raven reveals that Queenie is dead and the Covenant crippled. A new era of chaos begins, and villains become a reality.
  • Serial Escalation: Related to FromBadToWorse and TheReveal, continuous escalation serves as a story driving trope.
  • Slave to PR: This is true for many heroes and American Wardens in particular. For the longest time, they weren't actually allowed to fight crime out of fear that they might screw up and create a political nightmare. Noire in particular is feared by most average Americans because of her power, some even refer to as "Demon Bitch." She resorted to calling herself Monster Momma out of spite. Mascot suspects that Kid was added to the team for PR reasons.
  • Start of Darkness: Samael's interlude 5.8 portrays his development into a villain (posing as a hero). Other examples have yet to be revealed.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: Averted. No one wears them. Absolutely no one.
  • Super Power Lottery / Superpower Russian Roulette: Both are true. The distribution of powers appears to be random and not balanced in any way, though chapter 1.6 suggests that the number of Evolved belonging to a particular power category never exceeds a maximum number. Some powers are nearly useless or even harmful to their user (examples: Morpher, Newal), others get lucky enough to get a rare teleportation power or an overpowered combination of abilities that work very well together (Samael, Radiant).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted - until the cause of power surges is revealed. Afterwards, it applies in some cases and may even be (ab)used in psychological warfare.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: This isn't true for everyone, but Mascot's transition very much fits into this category.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: One of Dancer's specialities.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Samael and possibly others, yet to be revealed.
  • Wham Episode: Multiple examples related to The Reveal, most notably 3.5 and 5.6 / 5.7.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Both Dancer and Mascot are affected by this. In Mascot's case, the reasons are internal. The opposite is true for Dancer.

Alternative Title(s): Anathema