So, four days until the Amazon launch of Recursion. And what’s a new Wearing the Cape book without a costume change for Astra?
So we’ve come to the release of the seventh Wearing the Cape book. This is kind of a banner-moment for me, considering when I self-published Wearing the Cape I wasn’t sure if I could think of that many more stories for Hope/Astra and the Post-Event World. I also wasn’t sure if I could make a career out of this, but today it’s a full-time gig with more milestones coming every day; a translation and publication of the first three books in Germany (first book, Karriere: Superheldin), a well-received tabletop RPG Wearing the Cape: The Roleplaying Game, and more to come.
This is also, in a strange way, the closing of a circle. In the first mostly completed draft of Wearing the Cape, Hope had been a twenty-one-year-old college senior, looking at her final year of school before going out into the world. She was more together than the eighteen-year-old college freshman she turned out to be, though no less driven and optimistic. So after seven books, Hope is finally at the start I’d envisioned for her originally (although far, far more experienced). She’s loved and lost, learned and grown, experienced defeats and wins. She’s become a leader. So to me these seven books together feel thematically whole.
“The series does not end at this time.”
“I’m just saying it now. That last sentence seemed kind of ominous.”
“Oh. Okay, then. Carry on.”
Not spilling any details, Recursion is the most “political” of my books to-date. This isn’t to say that the previous books have been unpolitical. Not by a long shot. I’ve always tried to make the Post-Event World as “real” as our own, and this means that a lot of our political and social real-world issues can and have been read into the stories. Also, issues that aren’t even there.
Occasionally this has gotten ridiculous. One reviewer of Wearing the Cape decided the book screamed “I am white, and anyone non-white I introduce will, in some way, be a stereotype.” He decided this mostly because the villain-groups the Sentinels fought in the first part of the book were street-villains (and presumably not white?), I referenced the US-Mexican border as one of the most dangerous borders in the world (it is), and the terrorists were international. Somewhere along the way he forgot that the Big Bad of the story, who triggered Hope’s breakthrough, tried to undo the Sentinels’ win against the local villain-groups, and destroyed southern California killing tens of thousands, was, um, white. Along with the sociopath who briefly tortured Hope. Bean-counting aside, he objected to my use of the word “black.” As in black hats, Blackout, and black box agency. He did give me credit for “good” use of the color with Blackstone. He noted that Rook was a black superhero, but for some reason forgot about Ajax, the intellectual and academic of the team.
Astonishing. Also a little depressing, and this when I wasn’t trying to make socio-political commentary.
But superhero fiction can’t ever completely escape the commentary, and I haven’t tried. For starters, superhumans are often stand ins for real-world groups just because they’re a) visibly different, and b) a minority. Mutants in Marvel’s X-Men comics have always been treated as an allegory for racial minorities, but more subtle equivalences are valid; superhumans have been used as allegories for social classes, movements, or religious groups.
In Recursion, I more explicitly treat breakthroughs as a racial minority (see their haters, Humanity First), but I also couch opposition in terms familiar to readers following the current gun-control debate. Breakthroughs can be undeniably dangerous and can’t simply be disarmed (and wouldn’t it be an interesting civil-rights debate if they could be). So, what to do about them? How much regulation and restriction is permissible in a free society without society becoming fundamentally unfree? Things get interesting when racism combines with justifiable fears. Lines can become very gray and even good people can be misguided. I don’t argue these questions in detail, I just put them out there and I expect readers to draw their lines.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t have my own lines. For anyone who’s curious, I’m a classical liberal (liberal conservative?). My vision of the Good Society is one with maximal social freedoms consonant with strong individual rights under a fiscally responsible, energetic but limited, federal government. So, party-wise I’m an independent and federalist with a light seasoning of libertarian.
So it will be interesting to see reader-responses to the politics of Recursion. In the meantime, to let you know what’s in the pipeline, I have several projects underway. My next commitment is to finish the sourcebooks for the Kickstarter-backed roleplaying game. Beyond that I want to try and see if I can’t take on two book-projects this year; the next Wearing the Cape book of course (yet to be titled), but also a non-WtC book. I’m currently torn between a fantasy story tentatively titled The Silver Tree, first in a prospective new series, and my long-promised comedy space-opera, Worst Contact. I also intend to produce a “generic” rulebook for the super-powers system I designed for Wearing the Cape: The Roleplaying Game. I would like to see the Wearing the Cape books published in more languages as well, and there’s always the pipe-dream of finding a good writer/comic-artist to translate Wearing the Cape into a graphic novel.
So as I said at the beginning, more milestones to come. Thank you for all your support, and I hope the rest of 2018 is as exciting for you as it will be for me!
Marion G. Harmon
(Also, thanks to Jori Miller, Grayson Judd, Austin Murrey, Jacob Crimin, Spencer Brint, Rick West, and Chase Wayment. You’ll all see why. And thank you, everyone who responded to the opportunity to read the first 6 chapters by sending notes on the grammatical/spelling errors that hadn’t yet gotten caught by the editing sweeps!)