Wearing the Cape Update and Q & A.

Hollywood Nights, small

When heroes go Hollywood.

So there hasn’t been much news on the game or book front recently, and I apologize for that. As should now be obvious, there was no January Kickstarter. This is because it has been taking longer than I thought to master the intricacies of a second RPG system for the game (as you may remember, my first pick was Cortex Plus). The good news is progress is being made, the major issues have been hammered out, and Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game will still see the light of day in 2016. (The above pic. is piece of art from the background-chapter of the rulebook; brownie points if you can tell me who all of them are.)

And what I suspect is even better news for fans of the books, Wearing the Cape: Crossovers will be out in 2016 as well. The semi-anthology will feature Astra stories interspersed with non-Astra stories, so readers who want to see more of the Post-Event World than is only seen through Astra’s eyes will get a treat. Four of the stories are finished, and as previously mentioned, readers will also get to visit several “extrareality” superhero worlds and meet some amazing heroes in other settings. I hope to have a new edition of the series’ newsletter up soon, with another of the stories from the coming book.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d take this opportunity to throw the blog open for an in-post Q & A; if you have any questions about the current titles, the coming title, the game, or, well, anything, drop a comment here. I’ll fold everything into an Update and Q & A part II.

Marion G. Harmon



55 thoughts on “Wearing the Cape Update and Q & A.

  1. So, Rook, Baldur, Seven, Ceres and Maui. No idea who Fire Woman and the Albino are, which is irksome, since I just recently re-read the series.

    My question is when are we going to see more focus on the Young sentinels? Book three was great, and I definitely want to see more of Grendel, Megaton and Crash.

  2. By ‘as well’, do you mean that we’ll be getting a main series book & Crossovers this year?

    If so, that’s great news and your work ethic is stunning.

    For the Crossovers stories, will they all be set around ‘present day’ WTC? Or will it jump around a bit to interesting, heh, events that may have happened in the past?

    1. The Crossovers stories will be set chronologically in a fairly limited time-frame, all “present day.”

      Not sure yet if there will be a regular novel as well this year (I hope to achieve that). However, Crossovers itself will contain a full-length “serial Astra-story.”

  3. I am very happy to know you’re still busy writing and that’s always good. I just finished Ronin Games and i enjoyed it much better than I had expected. I am looking forward to your next book, which is an anthology. I would think you would have another full Astra/Hope Corrigan story. I will be expecting one of those soon.

  4. I have a question; just how strong is Astra? I vaguely recall a figure of ten tons from somewhere, but is that how much she can lift in flight or with her full body on a solid surface? Are her legs her stronger than her arms? you also mentioned “rolling breakthrough” in the first book, I think, so is she getting stronger over time? Also, doesn’t this impact a lot on just how hard she can punch, since her body weight is so comparatively low. I mean, one of the things about the flying Atlas types vs the non-flight ground pounders is is that Hope can brace her punches with ten tons of mass even in mid-air while a none-flight super can only throw the equivalent of his body weight into it if he can’t brace against something really solid like a concrete floor. Even in a ground fight, a flat horizontal punch from someone with fifty tonnes of compression strength but only three hundred pounds of weight in his body will still only have 300 pounds of mass behind it, just moving really fast; in fact the speed his fist reaches is what defines his hitting power. Astra will have ten tonnes of mass behind a punch.

    For example; a car jack can lift a two or three ton weight. But if you put a three pound car jack on the floor next to you and opened it it slowly it wouldn’t do any damage to human skin, it would just push you along gently with three tons of force. Force depends on mass and velocity together.

    Astra can brace herself in mid-air, thus increasing her effective mass to ten tons and putting a lot of weight into a hit even without having something to brace against. an ajax-type can’t; he only has his own body mass to work with. He needs a HARD surface to push against or a really really high velocity on his fist when he punches someone to make up for his missing mass.

    force = mass times acceleration. (thank you wikipedia)

    found a link that explains this better than me,


    And one more thing; impact depends on the mass of the thing your hitting, as well. Punch a man in the face, then punch a balloon. The man will have a broken jaw, the balloon will bounce away. Having a low mass would result in a lot of flying away tumbling, but no damage, which is another advantage of Astra’s effectively variable mass.

    Thinking about it, I think an Ajax type would have the edge in a ground fight. He can push against the ground and make up for his missing mass that way, although he will be punching people into the air a lot. The firmness of the ground would matter as well, since dirt would adsorb a lot of the impact while concrete would let him put a lot of force into the hit. But once Astra gets him into the air, its a wresting match for leverage against each other’s body.If he can’t get leverage he’s screwed.

    This is also why speedsters should either break the second the touch someone in hyper-time or punch them into orbit. low mass but insane acceleration = really high number as well.

    1. I just had a little niggle posting this and went back to wearing the cape. You do talk about this in the first book a little bit. Sorry, it’s been a while since I read it.

      1. Yes, I was going to point that out… As to the question of “Is Astra getting stronger?” She’s only been a breakthrough for 2 years, but she does “work out” and may be a “progressive breakthrough.” So, maybe. Not so significantly as to move beyond A Class, however.

    2. This is only my interpretation, but as I understand it speedsters don’t actually accelerate to insane speeds or do much to change how they physically interact with the world. All they do it experience it from a slower perspective, meaning that they don’t have any more kinetic energy while “speeding” than they would when they don’t. Which also makes me wonder, how would they see when they (from their perspective) completely stop time, since then the photons reflecting off of objects would be halted in the air and unable to reach the pigments in the eyes. Breathing may also be an issue, in only the air particles touching the speedster would interact with him in his time. Now I feel the sudden urge to research…

  5. Finished Ronin games. Loved it. Want more. MOAR! Also, I saw that you figured out the whole “Autokinetic people would make space launching ridiculously cheaper” thing. Way to go on that. Hope you might throw in a sci-fi short on that, maybe with an autokinetic (a pure flier) or two serving as the drive units on a mars mission or something. Anyway, since it’s apparently ask George to explain things time, here’s a minor item that’s been bugging me every time I read it: Why is Astra’s maul made out of titanium? Titanium is actually considerably LESS dense than steel, and much less dense than say, Tungsten or Iridium, and also a little softer than hardened steel, as well, and density, followed by toughness, is the primary material requirement for a mace or maul.

    1. Good questions. Answer: density isn’t everything. Astra’s maul is a titanium alloy, less dense than steel but with comparable tinsel strength. It has a much higher melting temperature, and is also non-ferrous and a poor conductor (aiding against magnetic and electrical attacks).

  6. I want to know more about Ozma, and how she is going to reconquer Oz with her Army of three at the moment hahahaha, are we going to see more from her?

    1. Cortex Plus remains a proprietary system, and I was not able to negotiate with them to use it in a stand-alone gamebook. So I went with Fate, which is open-source. In hindsight, I’m glad I made the change even though it’s added a lot of time to the project.

  7. Question for you. Seif-al-Din has been martyred TWICE. Could others come back as well if certain conditions were met or existed? If that happens, does it re-open previously closed futures that are mapped out in Shell’s Big Book of future stuff but have been shunted aside and archived because she and Astra and the Oroboros gang are all assuming that the future branch has been closed off?

    Maybe said differently, fighting the future gets both harder and easier – the big California Quake closes off a number of contingencies as far as anyone knows (which makes the road map less and less useful) – but then someone comes back and their story line picks up – but not exactly the same? So the mapping gives clues but everything they think they know is skewed?

    just a thought – love the books, have read all of them at least 10 times already


  8. Very much looking forward to the anthology. Oh, and here’s a number of questions/comments in no particular order. 🙂

    1. Ozma. I’ve been wondering about her origins for a while, and whether or not she’s really from Oz, and I came up with three possibilities. One, she’s simply a delusional break-through, end of story. Two, she’s a break-through, but in attaining her powers, Oz retroactively became real. Sort of like in the tabletop RPG Mage: The Awakening, where sufficiently powerful characters can edit the nature of reality. Three, it’s exactly as she says. What with Hope’s comment in the latest book that she visited Oz at one point, I think I have to strike number one off the list. Do my alternatives seem sound? Is there something obvious I am missing.

    2. Regarding Small Town Heroes, well played good sir. A secret government research project in a superhero setting that doesn’t commit horrific crimes against humanity/gets blown up by the protagonist for well-justified reasons? I was almost shocked when I realized that there was no reason for Hope to bring the whole thing crashing down. Marvel comics have conditioned me to expect the worst. 😛

    3. Is there really no room for succesful batman-esque superheroes in your setting? After all, Artemis got caught eventually. In real life I’m your classical Nordic social democrat who thinks that the government can mostly be trusted, but a superhero setting without prominent heroes not beholden to The Man just feels incomplete to me.

    4. Astra meeting Guanyin: How is she going to process that meeting? She belongs to a monotheistic faith after all, and now she’s met someone her religions says can’t exist. I’m mostly curious since I’m not religious at all, so the reactions of religious characters in these kinds of situations are fascinating to me.

    1. Okay, here we go!

      1.) Oz: Oz is real. Is it real because of Ozma, or is Ozma really from Oz? Yes.

      2.) Thank you. The Evil Government Organization/Project is something so played out in the genre that I intentionally avoided it.

      3.) It is entirely likely that there are successful Batman-esque superheroes in the Post-Event World. They are successful by being invisible, in the same way that Artemis was successful only so long as she didn’t cross lines that forced law-enforcement agencies to acknowledge her existence.

      4.) Astra has no real problem with meeting a goddess. In the Post-Event World, the literal reification of beliefs through breakthrough transformations or projections means that all religious claims are as open to agnostic skepticism as Ozma’s claim to be the Empress of Oz or the Server of Ganymede’s of being an alien emissary. Since Astra personally knows a vampire who knows she’s not really a vampire, and a magical princess who claims to be from a fairy kingdom, when she meets someone who says they’re a god then she only has a problem with it if they try and demand her belief and devotion. Guanyin required neither. (Note that this rational position is not one shared by everyone in Astra’s world.)

      Anyway, good questions! (And you’ve sparked some ideas for me, so thank you.)

      1. Oooh, thanks. 🙂

        Two more questions, then I’ll have to go make another list:

        1. If I recall correctly, in the latest book Astra had discovered that she is not aging. She is stuck looking like someone who’s almost underage, and death from old age is not on the table. Tabling the whole “outliving everyone you love and going nuts from immortality” part for the moment (since I’m pretty sure the most obvious solution to that problem is against her religion), has she considered seeking out a biomancer/fleshsmith? Would have to be a very reliable and powerful one, but if she found one then couldn’t said biomancer at the very least solve her “I will look like jailbait for eternity” problem? Making her taller, etc.

        2. How to put this in english…(my third language)
        We’ve seen breakthroughs receive powers inspired by a variety of fictional sources (like Artemis’ creator, and all the superhero breakthroughs). Are there any limits to how faithfully said breakthroughs can reproduce the powers of fictional settings? For example, I’m pretty sure a sufficiently powerful and versatile Dungeons and Dragons-style wizard could leave every magic-user we’ve seen in the setting so far in the dust, and a Breakthrough whose powers mimic those of the Solar Exalted from the tabletop game Exalted would break the setting in half if given time to become powerful enough. And if the world’s biggest Lovecraft fan had a breakthrough…

      2. Certainly with both superscience and magic loose in the world, solutions are likely to eventually be available. But there are rarely perfect fixes, and science or magic-wrought changes are harder to impose on breakthroughs like Atlas-Types.

        As to the problem of power limits; it has been mentioned that, so far anyway, Ultimate Power seems to result in complete separation from reality. Thus Omega Class breakthroughs, while godlike, also have less direct effect on the real world than A Class and even Ultra Class breakthroughs (and explains why heroes only encounter such beings as Kabukicho and Guanyin somewhere else).

  9. Seanan McGuire Velveteen Vs … series was over priced( too short for cost) but good I wonder what happened to it. I haven’t read her other books.

    I went back and read your whole series but mostly I just came up with silly questions like did the Tea Time Anarchist not go back and kill Hitler just so he could use it as an example of something you have to do as a time traveler? But I did come up with two I am curious about.

    1.Do you already have fully developed plans for Universe Alpha? And if it’s alpha what designation did they give themselves?

    2. Did Hope get her powers back or did the the wishing pill cause her to re-breakthrough?

    3.Oh, and did you have to retroactively nerf any minor abilities yet? If you did I didn’t notice.

    ps, thanks for doing this. Especially over such a wide time frame, But feel free to skip any of my questions, none of them are bothering me just thoughts. And also in Wearing the Cape……
    love the chapter quotes!!


    1. Yes, that is a silly question; the Teatime Anarchist clearly explained that he cannot actually change history once it has happened. 😉 As to your actual questions:

      1.) “Always changing, is the future.” And yes, they named themselves Universe Alpha.

      2.) The Ascendant’s power-suppression wore off (or the trauma of the wishing pills pushed Hope through it).

      3.) I had to look up “nerf,” but no, not yet.

  10. I just noticed you can read some of Seanan McGuire Velveteen Vs on her site http://seananmcguire.com/velhome.php
    Wearing the Cape fans will probable really like.
    Oh, and thanks for the answers.. You clearly are living by the Chicago Sentinels modo.

    Your fans also.
    Nos Praestolor for your next book release.
    Don’t rush, I am actually sitting down.


  11. Fire lily, starkness, Ceres, baldur (though I was looking for a white suit), seven, maui. Interesting how Astra doesn’t say much about the women in the Hollywood Knights.

    Thanks for the recommendation regarding Grrl Power. Great comic.

  12. Anyone know who the other guy in the briefs is? At least I assume he’s the one Cera didn’t mention.

  13. I would like to see some hero without superpowers in the series (somebody like Arrow or Hawkeye or Batman). A trained guy with the help of Verne stuff that is so good that is able to join a licensed team of breakthrough heroes.

  14. I’ve had a free “mini preview” of book one for years sitting on my Kindle. I’d almost forgotten about it. Started reading earlier this week and finished all five books plus Bite Me and Omega Night. Safe to say I’ve fallen in love with the series.

    Biggest two things that drew me. The “true to life” ugliness of A Superhero Story and you’re take on Time Travel (I have a massive hatred of time travel since it generally does nothing more than give me a headache) but your explanation actually makes sense to me and I love that.

    Also, finding out in these comments that your a fan of Grrrl Power is great. I also enjoy the comic and while being introduced to Chakra I couldn’t help but feel echoes of Dabbler, which then made sense as I learned about Chakra’s “power source”

    In regards to questions for the Q&A

    Who was “Verne”? A few of your class types are based off the first hero or villain to take that name. It could be Verne Tech is a phrase I’m not familiar with but has a real world counter part, but I’ve gotten the feeling that this name is attached to a character who we haven’t heard about yet.

    Was Seif-Al-Dein an Ultra class breakthrough? If we assume Atlas was the most powerful “Atlas type” Seif did not seem to have any trouble beating him into submission which makes him ridiculously powerful. If not an Ultra class then did he register as a Supernatural breakthrough and therefore outside of the normal D-U power level system.

    Actually, side note, do Supernatural breakthroughs have a D-A listing? Most Supernaturals we’ve seen seem to simply follow “our belief and ritual is real and has power” without the need to break that down any further though Chakra and Blackstone seem clearly less powerful than Hecate and Dr. Cornelius

    Can’t think of much else off the top of my head (was looking for info on Book 6 or the RPG when I found the page) but I want to thank you very much for a wonderful series about some truly amazing characters. And for Gundam fighting Godzilla which ranks right up with Zombie T-Rex powered by Polka for purely awesome things.

    1. Always great to hear from a new fan, and I hope the books didn’t blow too big a hole in your week! To answer your questions:

      1.) “Verne” is Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to The Moon, and other speculative works.

      2.) Seif-al-Dein could be rated an Ultra Class breakthrough, or just an overachieving A Class; the rating system is somewhat arbitrary. And yes, his supernatural elements do further blur the boundaries. Supernaturals are often rated by answering the question “Could this breakthrough take on an A Class Atlas Type?” But with the paper-scissors-rock nature of powers, this isn’t always a terribly useful question.

      Yes, the giant robot vs. kaiju was a true moment of awesome and one of my favorite scenes. Glad you enjoyed it.

  15. I can’t get enough of these books! The world you have created seems so real sometimes, and actually opened my eyes to how certain superhero tropes might actually work in the real world (fingers crossed for a real Event to happen!), like secret identities in law, etc. Regarding that, what is the status of most superheroes in the books? Because Astra says she opposes registration yet when she is first taken to the Dome after her breakthrough, all her vitals and power set are taken down. Was she registered without her knowledge/consent? Would she have been monitored if she hadn’t joined the Sentinels? Just a few things I’m wondering about. The Captain America: Civil War publicity got me thinking.
    Also, have you ever considered how your books would be if adapted? I can quite imagine something along the lines of an HBO series, like Game of Thrones, with each season adapting a book. If so, any thoughts on who you would cast? I can quite easily picture Jennette McCurdy (from iCarly) playing Astra.
    Thanks again for these great stories! Just one last question: What is up between Astra and Seven? After that kiss she gave him, everything about them just sort of stopped.

    1. Glad you’ve been enjoying the books (it’s always good to hear). To answer your questions:

      The Superhuman Registration Bill that Astra and others oppose is a federal bill calling for compulsory registration in a federal database; it would be illegal for breakthroughs to not register and to not keep their registration information (residence, legal status, etc) current. That is very different from voluntary registration, which is what Crisis Aid and Intervention heroes do in becoming private contractors to local or state governments.

      In Wearing the Cape, the Sentinels tested Hope’s breakthrough abilities, but since they are a private organization their file on Hope is private. When she signed up as a trainee, much of that file had to be shared with the appropriate state agency (while kept classified) in order for her to be provisionally licensed to act as a CAI hero in the state. On the other hand, had Hope chosen not to wear the cape, she would have been under no requirement to tell anybody about her breakthrough. The DSA might have opened an investigation to try and determine the identity of the unknown breakthrough who saved people in the Ashland Overpass Bombing, but the Sentinels would have been under no obligation to tell the DSA what they knew.

      I have considered how my books might be adapted…and I really need to get an agent.

      Astra and Seven are now “just friends.”

  16. I love the series and, since I’m not a game player, I’m extremely excited for Crossovers. The only question I have is if you would do a full crossover between Wizard of Oz and Wearing the Cape for if Hope ever makes good her promise to Ozma. (The though of Hope dealing with L Frank Baum’s eccentric characters make me chuckle 🙂 )

  17. Mr. Harmon, just a heads-up that I’ve begun a re-read of all five Astra books, and I’ll be making notes as I go along. There. Will. Be. Questions. “Thunder flashes in the background.” 😀

  18. Here are my questions and observations from book 1:

    1. I recently watched The Incredibles, so the opening bit in Wearing The Cape about…capes, kind of stuck out. Have any superheroes in your setting bit it because their capes tripped, snagged or betrayed their wearers in some other way?
    “Tries to forget how Dr. Strange got head-sploaded by his own cape in Ultimatum.”

    2. I was thinking that Atlas was awfully quick to let a new and apparently powerful breakthrough he knew nothing about into the heart of the Sentinel’s operation. Sure, she’d been helping people trapped in the rubble, but still. Then I remembered that he knew her dad. What do they do with breakthroughs they know nothing about? Have Ajax and Nimbus hide behind a false wall just in the one in a million chance it turns out to be a maniac?

    3. The paper-scissor-rock workout was fun, but…
    If I recall correctly, you said you’ve read the webcomic Grrlpower. What if they were to face a muscle wizard like Vehemence who could counter multiple types of powers? Verne and magic-type breakthroughs with the time to prepare seem the most dangerous to me.
    Oh, and how would you classify/rank Vehemence? 😀

    4. About the supervillain belief that they need to “bag” a hero: This seems, to put it bluntly, stupid. I suspect a villain who is known to be a hero-killer gets treated the same way by the authorities as a common criminal who’s a cop-killer, i.e. the chances of them being taken into custody alive plummet off a cliff. Sure, your peers will think you’re cool, but how long until some hero A-class energy projector “accidentally” melts your face off while you were “resisting arrest” ?

    5. Did you actually sit down and figure out how Atlas can have safe sex? I mean, I know it’s a concern, “man of steel, woman of kleenex” and all…

    6. Interesting insight from Harlequin on all the PR stuff. They lucked out with Astra since she’s so photogenic, but how would they handle a new trainee who is an amazing asset in the field, but a disaster waiting to happen if subjected to endless interviews?

    7. “Okay, so why don’t you just carry a really big gun?”
    “Because superheroes don’t. Old fashioned weapons, like swords, warhammers, maces, those are traditional. Guns are for soldiers and the police. And bad guys.”
    So a breakthrough whose power takes the form of a super-gun that they can will into existence, like the Mother Of All Desert Eagles, and who wants to be a hero, is shit out of luck?

    8. Seven seems like he hit the jackpot (ha!) but I worry for him. I get the feeling that one day he’s going to run into a villain who is a really strong reality warper, bad-luck generator, or some other kind of breakthrough who can short-circuit his luck.

    9. At the part where the Sentinels go to the Christmas Ball, and I got this idea in my head that I just can’t shake: what if they recruited some hard-core Leftist who makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate Republican? Watching him/her grit their teeth at being in close proximity to so many “bourgeoisie vultures” would be hilarious, and I say that as a Leftist myself. 😀

    10. After California, are there super-ninjas watching over the Yellowstone volcano in case some nutbar inspired by the disaster decides to re-enact the Ashfall trilogy?

    11. Just how fast was Nimbus? I have this impression she could go to light-speed, but I can’t find a quote. Even so, if she’s fast enough to go from Chicago to California in seconds, did she ever leave the planet? Walk on Mars or Mercury? Explore the solar system?

    Gah! I finally started writing seriously at the end of September (first book sent to test readers, halfway through first draft of second book), and the more I write, the harder it gets to just enjoy a book instead of trying to mine it for storytelling lessons. 😀

    1. 1.) No. Capes on professionally designed costumes are detachable (accounting for the strength and toughness of the wearer); a good hard yank will separate it from the costume. As mentioned, most capes don’t wear capes anyway, but it would be humorous to write a short-story about a newbie hero or villain who encounters unexpected wardrobe problems.

      2.) The vast majority of breakthroughs—especially of Astra’s demonstrated type—are not psychotic so it was a pretty safe bet on Atlas’ part. If Atlas hadn’t known her dad he would have still taken her to the Dome, however. Let’s just say that most of the Dome’s security is invisible to the casual visitor (Hope didn’t think about it, but she was in one of the most high-security environments outside of prison).

      3.) I’d have to rank Vehemence as an Ultra-Class.

      4.) Yes it is stupid, and most supervillains settle for “tagging” a cape (beating the cape in a fight or at least losing with style) rather than bagging one. And of course whatever they say inside their circles, they deny everything to the law… “It wasn’t me! I was out with my buddies at Finnegan’s all night!” That said, most criminals are not known for making smart life-choices.

      5.) No.

      6.) All Sentinels are chosen for their power-sets, skills, and PR qualities. Rush doesn’t give many interviews. Artemis doesn’t give any.

      7.) This reflects superhero tropes more than superhero reality. Artemis, The Harlequin, and Seven sometimes use guns. In the Fort Whittier Attack half of the team unpacked guns. The hero image, hewing as closely as possible to the comic-book image, discourages routine use of guns but there are certainly exceptions.

      8.) Yes, Seven is lucky. Good thing he doesn’t just rest on his luck; he trains hard since the more mad skills he has, the more material his luck has to work with.

      9.) Lei Zi’s parents were CPC (Communist Party of China) members, and although she is now a retired US Army officer and American Citizen she is not what you would describe as a political conservative or a big fan of capitalism. I imagine she bites her tongue a lot at elite social gatherings.

      10.) The DSA will not discuss its security measures regarding the Yellowstone Caldera.

      11.) Yes, Nimbus could move at light speed. And made many moon trips. Deep space? Not so much; too easy to get lost between planets.

      Good luck on your writing. Yes, I found that writing professionally does make it harder to enjoy reading (I tend to pick plots and scenes apart or critique the writing style).

  19. Book 2 Hoooooo:

    1. I’m confused about the whole “America’s skank” thing. Now I’m not American, and I don’t read tabloids in the first place, so there’s probably something cultural I’m missing, but for the life of me I don’t get why Hope’s engagement to Atlas would be a scandal. Is it the rumors about the underage thing? Are there really that many people out there who think that the Sentinels would turn a blind eye to possible statutory rape?

    2. I’ve been pondering Mal Shankman, and my petty sense of humor suggested that it would be funny as hell if he got so emotionally wigged out during one of his speeches that he had a breakthrough. Just know that if you decide to go that route, there’s at least one reader who’ll be laughing his ass off. 😀

    3. My, Shankman really is a piece of work, is he? Has Astra ever been tempted to ask Shelly to mess with him? There’s bound to be lots of untraceable ways for her to hit back at Shankman – show him he’s not the only one who can engage in information warfare.

    4. I’m trying to figure out how Hecate thought she could get away with all of her nonsense. Blackstone even points it out; gangsters who want to survive co-opt the authorities, they don’t go to war with them. Let’s say Astra hadn’t smelled her bomb. “Congratulations, Hecate. You’ve successfully killed most of the world’s most famous superhero team. Your face and name will shortly feature in the international news. Have fun.”

    5. Mr. Early seemed fairly competent to me, so it came as a shock when his own bodyguard was a spy for Hecate. Looks like I overestimated him.

    6. Ah, the gutter press having a field day with Artemis/Astra. For someone so straightlaced, there sure are some salacious rumours circling around Hope.
    …Come to think of it, are there any LGBT characters in the series? Off-hand, I can’t think of any.

    7. Hecate dying off-screen felt a bit underwhelming, but then to paraphrase The Dude, that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    Luckily, I don’t get that bad of a nitpicking urge, when reading your books, since they’re first-person, and so far I’ve only written in third person. I have no idea if I’ll ever make money with it, but the stories are banging around in my head, demanding to be let out, so what the hell. 😀

    Plus, I read on several writing sites and author blogs that 97% of the people who want to write a book never get it finished, and here I am halfway through my second. Pretty good ammunition to fight the Goblin of Discouragement with.

    1. 1.) Although it’s not spelled out explicitly in the book (and perhaps it should have been), the public never learned of Atlas’ and Astra’s “engagement”; they learned of Astra’s clothing/lingerie expedition just before disappearing with Atlas for a three-day furlough. Astra then admitted to the just-started romance, while swearing “nothing happened.” Which might have been a mistake, considering Atlas’ romantic reputation regarding disposable groupies. The “underage” claim didn’t factor into the public’s reaction so much as the problematic nature of romance within a mentor/trainee, teacher/pupil, boss/employee relationship, although Astra’s obvious youthfulness didn’t help. And of course the tabloids absolutely would not let it go. Lastly, cape-followers have passionate opinions, and those are the opinions Astra would most often have heard (remember that this is a first-person narrative and Astra may not always be a reliable narrator).

      2./3.) Yeah, Shankmans’ a piece of work. No, Hope has never even thought of covertly messing with him (if Jacky suggested it, she’d be tempted for half a minute, but she just doesn’t think that way).

      4.) In Hecate’s mind, the Sentinels started it by coming after her. And no, escalating with bombs isn’t exactly rational. Neither was she, by the end. Power corrupts. It also corrupts judgement.

      5.) Good!

      6.) There are. You just haven’t learned about them yet.

      7.) Sorry.

      Keep going. 95% of those who finish a book give up before they sell it or one of its successors to a publisher.

  20. Book 3 ahoy! By all means, tell me if I’m assaulting you with too many questions/comments. 😀

    1. Is it only humans who can have Breakthroughs, or are our closest relatives, like chimps and bonobos, also on the list? And if not, could Verne-tech enhance their sapience to the point that they’re viable candidates? Currently reading the superhero manga My Hero Academia (the main character’s mentor is pure Silver Age; it’s awesome), and the school principal is an animal who gained a boost in intellect when he got powers.

    2. Do your speedsters age while speeding up their time? For example, Rush spends one hour in hypertime while only one second passes for everyone else. When he comes out of it, has he aged one second or one hour? Think there was an x-man recently who suffered from that problem.

    3. Surely there would be more productive ways for the Green Man to spend his time? Maybe help reforest the Amazon basin, or the Indonesian rainforests, with crushing illegal loggers a happy bonus (for him). The US seems to mostly have its shit together when it comes to protecting the environment; aren’t there countries who are far worse sinners?
    …Great, now I’m envisioning Japanese supers protecting the whaling fleets against some Sea Shepherd fellow who lucked out and got the powers of Namor the Submariner or Aquaman.

    4. Expanding on the Namor front, Atlantis popped up in my head and I got to thinking. Are there supers out there who have banded together to create their own civilizations, in places inaccessible to people without powers? Like high up in the mountains, deep underground, or at the bottom of the Mariana trench? Get the right combination of supers, especially Verne-types, and we could have some interesting stuff. Maybe the Godzilla plague would be far worse than it is, but NeoAtlantis is the first port of call for most of them? 😛
    “Those surfacers have no idea how much they owe us.”

    5. Ozma kind of reminds me of Thor in Marvel’s Ultimate universe. Everyone believes he’s a mentally ill hipster with powers…and then it turns out he was telling the truth about being the god of thunder.

    6. “It wasn’t fair. John had died saving the President of the United States, his friend, and the city had dedicated the Atlas Memorial just last month, but the book practically insinuated he’d been a sexual predator.”
    …Hope Corrigan is a better person than I. After all of this, I wouldn’t be able to resist enlisting Shelly for some untraceable payback.

    7. New character assessment: Megaton is well-rounded enough, but next to the grey warcraft orc/miniature hulk oath-sworn to the deposed ruler of a magical kingdom, with an epically tragic backstory and a homicidal doll sidekick? Well and truly overshadowed by awesome, I believe is the name of the trope.

    8. “I never told any of my “friends” — they’d have laughed themselves sick at how fast I got out of there. “A hot cougar mom offered me some afternoon delight and I ran like hell” doesn’t make a good story.”
    Yeah, I’d put the “friends” in quotation marks too if they thought a story about narrowly avoiding statutory rape was funny.

    9. I must be ridiculously easy to please, because Grendel’s narration made me giggle:
    “Her serene Highness ignored Galatea’s laser glare as I did my best looming monster impression. I loom, therefore I am.”

    10. I’m really bad at picking up subtext, but were you laying the groundwork for Grendel/Astra? Grastra? I’m bad at portmanteaus…Some paragraphs sure gave that impression.

    11. “Five minutes later, I had the freaking tie on. Andrew nodded and Ozma and The Harlequin smiled while Nix squealed, and Reese stopped smirking. What?”
    Like I said, I’m bad at subtext, so for clarification: Does their reaction indicate that Grendel looks preposterously good in the formal clothing?

    12. “I crouched, pulled up a wall-shaking roar that dropped into infrasound depths to shake their nerves and share that feeling of existential dread that unheard sound beats can give, pounded the floor with my fists, and charged.”
    Goddamn, I wonder how many inmates pissed themselves? The monkey parts of their brains must have lit up like crazy.

    13. I’m against the death penalty, but after what happened to Grendel’s family, I find it hard to muster any moral objections against him twisting Pellegrini’s head right off the next time they meet.

    1. 1.) Only humans so far.

      2.) Yes. But since he doesn’t spend that much time in Hypertime, it really hasn’t affected him much.

      3.) Yes. Humans are stupid, that way.

      4.) There haven’t been that many aquatic breakthroughs yet, and of course their traits are not inheritable, so I can’t see a big undersea community popping up. But it’s a cool idea.

      7.) I do like Grendel. He was fun to write.

      10.) A bit of a subtext. In high school Hope was forever finding herself falling for guys, at least a little. Her “type” has included Atlas (first crush and later), Ajax (she loved his deep, rumbly voice), Seven (what girl wouldn’t?), and Grendel. So far she’s only seriously acted on one of them, and one earned some experimental kissing. So subtext, but nothing serious.

      11.) Imagine a grizzly bear, looming right in front of you. Scary, right? Your brain is screaming at you to run like hell. Now imagine the grizzly bear wearing a college-prep suit, complete with vest and tie. Your brain goes “What?” as your fear-response is short circuited by the mismatch of deadly predator and preppy uniform. That’s what Grendel’s outfit does.

  21. 1. …Did the reality showers purposely start a super-fight…with children near? Were their lawyers stoned out of their minds, or just ignored?

    2. “Told you so. He’s a guy. You’re a gurrrrl. He could be completely weirded out from starring in his own production of Jonah and the Whale, St. George and the Dragon, whatever, and he’s not going to tell you about it.”
    There are times I’m thankful for being on the Autism spectrum (diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 10). Not feeling as great an urge to fit in with certain of society’s sillier rules (like boys aren’t allowed to talk about their feelings, especially with women) has helped me cope. I’d give Brian the advice that finding someone to talk with if he’s going dark in the head is the wise course of action. Otherwise it can…fester.
    Oh, and I’d stick my tongue out at Shell. 😛

    3. “But complete strangers now knew Megan was gay and got to comment on it. Not that she’d kept it in the closet, but she didn’t exactly fly her gay flag or join the campus clubs or demonstrations.”
    “Megan sipped her soup. “Julie and I are together now. We picked tonight to tell you.”

    Huh, I completely forgot that one…but so did you. 😀
    Max: …Come to think of it, are there any LGBT characters in the series? Off-hand, I can’t think of any.
    George: There are. You just haven’t learned about them yet.

    4. “We didn’t know why he engineered the Detroit prison-break, or why he’d mainly freed younger breakthroughs incarcerated there.”
    Because vulnerable teenagers are easier to brainwash into serving The Cause?
    Of course, I could be overlooking something really obvious.

    5. Confession time: I kind of rolled my eyes when I first read about the Caliphate…then reality, I’m sorry to say, took an almost equally cuckoo turn. Did the Tea-time anarchist sneak you some files?

    6. I’ll eat my shoelaces if Ozma being able to get into Littleton just like that didn’t cause at least one Very Important Person to choke on their bagel.

    1. 1.) In their defense, the first move did take the fight out into the parking lot. And yes, it was still stupid.

      3.) I didn’t forget about Julie and Megan; I just forgot that this wasn’t your first read-through of the books.

      5.) No time travel was involved. 😉 I simply assumed that any Middle Eastern Islamist/nationalist movement would name itself the Caliphate in an attempt to unite Muslims internationally. Read the history of the actual Caliphate and you’ll understand why it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

      6.) Yes, she did precipitate a small security-crisis.

      1. …Drat. I was hoping I’d caught an authorial slip-up. 😀

        Related side-story: Back in 2011 I posted a series of questions on Kim Harrison’s website about her latest novel, Pale Demon, and I kind of got the sense that at least one of the things I asked about was something she’d overlooked. At least, after answering my questions, she said “you should write a book. Make it smart. Make it political.” To this day I don’t know if she meant it as honest encouragement or “go away and stop nitpicking me.”

  22. Huh, think I asked most of my Ronin Games questions when the book came out, so for the moment I only have two:

    1. Did Astra’s (mis)adventures in Japan have a lasting cultural impact beyond the festivals we heard of in the chapter openings? I’m thinking mainly about the ronin subculture. For example after they saved Tokyo, was there a statistically measurable impact in new breakthroughs choosing to go ronin rather than become proper government drones?

    2. Has Astra considered asking Ozma to bring Malleus to life the same way she did Cutter? Seems like a cool idea so long as it doesn’t start shouting “burn the witch!” like its literary namesake. 😀

    Also, I have an art question: When a self-published author releases a book with cover art, interior illustrations etc, what kind of agreement with the artist is most kosher? Does the artist receive a one-time payment, or do they get a share from each book sold?

  23. Late to the party – but I’m on my third reading through, love the world and ideas. I’ll have to find your RPG when it comes out so I can read some more of the back story (or maybe you could put the back-story up (Amazon?) separate to the RPG?).
    Lastly, with such a rich world and an RPG game, you are massively inviting people to write fan-fics! I hope you’re prepared for this 🙂

    1. Always good to hear from a happy reader! Thank you. And as one who has committed acts of fan-fic himself, I cannot throw stones at anyone writing in the Post-Event Universe.

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