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Literature / Domina

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"I'm saving this city with or without you."
Derek Huntsman

Domina is a novel (originally a web novel published on wordpress) about the title city. The plot revolves around Adam Anders, a newcomer to the city, and his roommate, Derek Huntsman. The first few chapters are just Worldbuilding, setting up the background of the city. But soon enough, things start going in unexpected directions. Derek discovers he has powers, and several of his close friends do as well. Then it turns out that there are super-powered zombies attacking the city, and a gang lord asks them to save it.

One of the biggest things that makes the city of Domina unique is its use of the toy maker, a Bio-Augmentation device. People can use it to remake themselves however they like, and entire cultures have formed based on vampires, demons, and angels. The city's harsh nature means that most of these cultures spend their time killing each other, but the political balance is being upset by the arrival of the screamers.

The story finished in October of 2017 at 335 chapters. It was later published in book form, with two novels so far:

  • The City of Monsters (February 2020)
  • The Composer of Screams (April 2020)

Starting in 2022, the story was re-published on Royal Road (here) under the title Domina City, with minor quality changes.

This web-novel shows examples of:

  • Action Girl: Akane carries around a real katana, which she apparently uses in kendo.
  • Alliterative Name: Adam Andrew Anders.
  • The All-Concealing "I":
    • Every character's first POV chapter starts with "My name is ___" and a few short facts about themselves. The Composer is the sole exception, which means we don't know their name, gender, or anything else other than that they like killing.
    • In the rewrite, while the chapters are no longer first person, the Composer's POV chapters are still carefully worded to avoid any pronouns that might imply they have an identity besides killing.
  • Alternate History: Combined with the 20 Minutes into the Future setting can make it hard to tell sometimes. However, in chapter 233 Silk mentions a Second Space Race. The series actually takes place in 2001. It's been an Alternate Timeline since 1970, when Silk arrived and started changing things, most notably causing the creation of Domina City.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The toy maker can do a lot of things, and we're never quite told how. Most of it is odd, but within the realm of possibility—enhanced muscles, eyes, or bones isn't really that far beyond what we can do right now—but stuff like glowing as bright as a strobe light and bulletproof skin is definitely something you just have to accept without asking too many questions.
  • Big Bad: The Composer is the one creating the screamers and sowing chaos in the city. For the first two books, the characters aren't entirely sure he actually exists, partly because if there is an intelligence behind the screamers, his actions make no sense. The audience, on the other hand, knows from very early on that he does exist, but for some reason is limiting his full capabilities. The Composer is in fact Derek's friend Elizabeth Greene, an immortal psychopath working for her far more benevolent sister. Part of Elizabeth's job was to, eventually, infect the entire city at once, empowering everyone.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: MC can do this with the GPS devices in phones. She's supposed to get permission, but she forgets.
  • Bio-Augmentation: The "toy maker," a body-modification device. It's described as "like stem cells, but without all the moral implications."
  • The Call Put Me on Hold: Lutum informis (means something in the neighborhood of "the misformed clay") can't use the toy maker anywhere near as well as normal people. Adam is one.
  • Childhood Friends: Derek and Laura, until something went wrong when they were eleven, and Laura moved away. All we know is she blames Derek.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The para get nameddropped over two hundred chapters before they actually appear.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: When a man Derek has known for less than an hour is about to get hit by a truck, his first instinct is to tackle him out of the way.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: In scene 222, to Adam, after Elizabeth hit the entire city with her song:
    MC: There are no other survivors. [...] You are currently the last living, sane person in Domina City.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between the various "monsters." The footnote makes clear that technically speaking it's not racism, but more like a gang war.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are many mentions of loudspeakers being installed in the background before the Composer is revealed to have a system of speakers, separate from MC's, that she can use to zombify the entire city at once.
    • MC, Lily, and Robyn all mention their sisters a few times before the reveal that they consider each other sisters.
    • Speaking of MC, in dialogue she is often mentioned as pausing "as if taking a deep breath;" as an AI, of course she can't actually breathe.
    • Whenever someone says Lily is a demon, someone else corrects them.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Quite a bit.
  • Gun Porn: In chapter 10, Adam gets a case of guns, and a good amount of time is spent describing them in detail.
  • Horned Humanoid: Lily and the other demons.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Akane's chapter starts with "My name is Akane Akiyama. Daughter of Akio, son of Yoshrou. I am the last of the honorable samurai house Akiyama, founded in the first days of the Edo period."
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Occasional mention is made of Derek's "strong chin."
  • The Masquerade: Actually averted. One of the first things that happens after the screamers are discovered is Butler goes on TV, explains the situation, and asks the public not to panic.
    • There is still a masquerade in effect to the outside world, however. This is largely through the efforts of such parties as Necessarius limiting the flow of information to and from the outside world. The cultures are played off as loony yet harmless cosplayers, and the toymaker is treated as 'that military buff machine'.
  • Mass Empowering Event: Also known as The Rampage, after the Composer is defeated and the city is reverted to normal, everyone who had become a screamer is now empowered, like the Paladins and Blackguards.
  • Meaningful Name: All three of Adam's names mean approximately "man."
    • Derek thinks Dale Odell Abraham is dead. "DOA" also stands for "Dead On Arrival."
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Humanity hasn't even left the Solar System yet. However, it is still averted by Silk when she mentions traveling to Andromeda when first arriving in the timeline of the story.
  • Mind Rape: In the backstory, Malcanthet, the "Queen of the Succubi," used mundane rape to break people and turn them into her slaves. She was driven out of the city before the story started. By Lily, no less.
  • Mission Control: MC, for the entire city. She's one of the first people that newcomers talk to, and her programs can help with everything from directions to shopping. Most people don't get a chance to interact with the real MC very often, but the Paladins speak to her pretty often because she is personally overseeing their missions. It is eventually revealed that she is an AI tasked with managing the city; she is fully sapient, but her programs are not.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Adam plays with this. Yes, he enters a Wretched Hive with no training and no idea what to expect, giving plenty of opportunities for him to absorb exposition. On the other hand, it turns out that as a "natural-born killer," he is uniquely suited to thrive in this exact environment.
  • Non-Human Non-Binary: Well, sort of. Angels are human, but they shrug off their gender identity when they join the culture as a show of devotion. In the original version people still mostly used gendered pronouns (sometimes with different people using different pronouns for the same person), but the updated version changed them to gender-neutral pronouns.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Averted. Screamers are called zombies pretty often.
  • Occidental Otaku: Ling, the Chinese girl strangely obsessed with anime.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: A few have been mentioned in the title page, as "cultures built on legends." Apparently, they're groups of people modified by the toy maker.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Angels are light-emitting vampire-haters.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons are just people with horns. Except for the succubi.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are mostly just people with special eyes so they can see in the dark.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies are not undead, fast, and they never stop screaming (hence the name "screamers"). Any body fluid is infectious. Oh, and they have super powers.
  • Penal Colony: What Domina City started out as, but with white collar criminals providing the population. There is a brief mention of a lunar colony which failed due to a prisoner revolt, although it is unclear whether it was also a penal colony. Referred to as the Reiner Gamma Crisis, it lent its name to one of Domina City's Crisis line of weapons: the Crisis 04181976. The revolt took place in 1976, helping to further establish the Alternate History.
  • Point of View: The web-novel was first-person with a rotating narrator, but when republished the novels were third-person.
  • The Rant: A "Behind the Scenes" section at the bottom of each chapter.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Artemis Butler, despite being a gang lord. The second he discovers a threat to the city, he works to stop it, including recruiting college kids (who happen to be immune to the zombie virus).
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Subverted with Lily. She has red eyes, but is gentle and kind.
    • Played straight with Artemis Butler, who is not someone you should cross.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The "rats" are about the size of a dog.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Akamatsu University" is named after Ken Akamatsu.
    • Ling namechecks a number of anime, including Gundam and Samurai 7. Those are so explicit they might not count, though.
    • A reporter is named Eliza Cassan.
    • During that same report, Butler mentions an officer who was dealing with (and soon infected by) a screamer was named John Romero.
    • Kelly describes her immediate superior (a wolf-kemo) as "An ex-Rahu, a warrior wolf." In Werewolf: The Forsaken, Rahu are the warrior auspice.
    • There is a shout out to Artemis Fowl. One character is named Artemis Butler.
    • Two bloodlines of the Nosferatu subculture of vampires are named Niktuku and Guruhi.
    • There's an Orc who calls himself Obould, and his chat handle is Many-Arrows. He is also currently the leader of the Orcs.
    • George the giant is mentioned as being able to cook a mean chupaqueso.
    • The poster who comes up with the name 'The Composer' has the handle 'The Conductor of the Cacophonic Steel Chorus'.
    • Some of the combat drugs used in the setting include: Psycho, Jet, Mentats, Buffout and Slasher. All of which are found and used (by both the player and NPCs) in the Fallout series of videogames.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: The kemos vary on this scale, from people with just ears to full-on anthropomorphic animals called "anthros." For bonus points, "kemo" is explicitly short for "kemonomimi."
  • The Social Darwinist: An attitude held by many citizens of Domina, and championed by the Kongeegen party. They aren't the scariest party, however. That is held by the Granit party, who are jonesing to conquer the world (and have made invasion plans repeatedly; however, none have passed both the House and Senate).
  • Statuesque Stunner: Lizzy. Over six feet, in fact.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Lizzy. She even has the supernatural powers part (though we don't know what power).
  • Theme Naming: More than a few.
    • The angel Archsaints are named after the Dungeons & Dragons Celestial Hebdomad. Likewise, the demon Powers are named after the demon princes, and the vampire Nobles after the Archdevils. Lesser warlords and honored are named after lesser saints and gods.
    • The giants are named after the Norse gods and titans, with some related famous monsters thrown in. Ogres tend to be named after Warcraft ogres, such as Gruul the Dragonkiller.
    • The dragons are named after the dragon-gods of Dungeons & Dragons. Even their subcultures are based on some of the dragon-specific prestige classes from The Draconimicon.
    • The Atlantean cities are named after Greek philosophers, the Dagonite towns are named after famous writers, and the Rahab wrecks are named after emperors.
    • The political parties of the city are named after famous individual trees; Iluvatar (isolationist), the Great Banyan (diplomatic expansionist), Kongeegen (social Darwinists), and the Granit Oak (imperialist expansionist).
  • Time Abyss: The Composer has been in action for a long time. Her sister Silk claims to be well over two trillion years old.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: There's a lot of bad blood between the various gangs and cultures, and they have shown various amounts of unity when it comes to outside threats. One of the characters says it best: "this is the same city where people were perfectly willing to fight a civil war while a zombie apocalypse dropped on their heads".
  • Wham Line: Derek plotted out when the screamer attacks occurred, and found that there was a pattern. More importantly however, it meant that not only does the Composer know who they are, he's close enough to know their schedules.
  • Wretched Hive: According to the title page, anyway. Doesn't get much more explicit than "A blight on the face of the world."

Alternative Title(s): Domina City