Author’s Afterword

Wow.

If you made it this far…just…wow. Thank you, sincerely, for taking the time to read all of Exhuman.

The chapter count is a little misleading, but all told, there were exactly 500 of them. Almost 5.5k pages. And you read all of them, you absolute beast.

And now this. The last page. The story’s already done, this is just…I guess…me wrapping it up a little. A little more.

See, I’ve been writing Exhuman for about two and a half years now. Maybe two years of that, I was writing full-time, I quit my job so I could focus on writing. I can’t say it was a profitable venture, but still a rewarding one. Now that it’s finished, I’m planning to set my sights even higher: to write something and get traditionally published, and see if I can make a living at this sort of thing.

I’ve put in this time to improve my craft and my discipline, and hopefully, I can say I’ve done so; releasing four chapters a week for 26 months. There were some stumbles (like when I dropped my Chromebook), some chapters I’m not quite proud of, certainly. But overall…damn, I did it. And you did it!

I’d solicit your honest feedback. If I’m going to try to write professionally, I want to know everything you felt about this work, good and bad. Criticism and responding to it is the only way to improve as an author, so please, feel free to let me know exactly what you thought. Comments down below, or on previous chapters…wherever you want to tell me, whatever you want to tell me.

And while I usually try to have a discussion in the comments, here I won’t be responding to criticism in any way. A published work needs to be able to stand on its own, I won’t have the chance to explain myself further in comments moving forward. So say whatever you’d like, absolutely, and I’ll take it as it is.

With that call to action out of the way…oh hey, speaking of calls to action, and seamless segues, for the absolute last time, I’d like to plug my Patreon — if you enjoyed Exhuman, please, please consider supporting, even if for a short time. I won’t patronize you by explaining how money is important, but I will say that spending years making very little of it is…uniquely stressful. Your support helps more than you know.

Last time onerously grubbing for cash. Feels good to be done.

If you’ve got any, (like how the timeline in-universe just doesn’t work, or what was with Moon’s backstory that was always alluded-to and never revealed?) I’m happy to answer questions about Exhuman, the process, or the future. Or just to give you a big ol’ e-hug for reading my whole story. Thanks again for doing that, by the way. Have I mentioned how great you are?

Well you are. Thanks.

And I guess this is goodbye. Until next time? I guess we’ll see.

I hope Exhuman made your world a little brighter. I love you all.

–Zoe

14 thoughts on “Author’s Afterword

  1. There was something that happened in the story which didn’t make sense to me at the time, but maybe I understand it now. This seems like a good way to find out. (If you covered this in another Comment thread, my apologies. I didn’t generally read those.)

    Athan lost his powers for a while, and Whitney had them. How did that happen? Was it because they slept in close proximity to each other, during a time when he wasn’t thinking much about electricity but she constantly was (because she’s a tinker), so the muse abandoned him and latched on to her instead? That’s my best guess after Cer’s explanation of how muses attach to their hosts.

    I’m relieved to learn that Saga wasn’t trying to build some sort of undead Lia. :) (Or maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.)

    Speaking of Saga, it seemed a little strange that she ended up essentially developing immortality during her Ramanathan window. Feels like there would be other people around who also have done so. Or that this is something she could engineer to happen to other exhumans, if she wanted to form a little pantheon. (Or maybe she has a second muse responsible for the immortality, and I missed the explanation somewhere?)

    Like

    1. Hiya, dude! Thanks for reading!

      You hit the nail on the head with Whitney. Athan was living a lifestyle where his powers weren’t at the forefront of his, or any of the minds around him, whereas Whitney was almost obsessing over them. When they were both asleep, the hungry muse had its chance…and was basically sucked in by reverse osmosis.

      In my head, it’s a lot easier fora muse to jump ship than to bond in the first place, since a bonded muse is actually pretty spoiled and entitled in general — they’re much more powerful than a free-floating muse, given the proximity and intensity of thought. This is why unbonded muses aren’t randomly burping out reality-shifting powers, while bonded ones do so consistently.

      Really, the only reason powers don’t jump more often is that Exhumans tend to always be worrying over their own powers. Either they live a short life which ends with an event, or a long life constantly trying to hide them. Athan’s role as a sort of day-worker Exhuman is unprecedented.

      As for Saga, nope, no second muse, her powers just took the extreme long way around when it came to adapting to her trauma. It could have given her…I dunno, diamond-hard skin or instant-killing everyone within ten feet, but invincibility was just the way it decided to deal with her shit.

      Torturing the shit outta new Exhumans is definitely a way to bolster their powers, and something Saga will try…but the downside is that you wind up with Exhumans who have been tortured. Kind of a trade-off there, considering Saga wants more immortals who are not braindead like Bob and Our God.

      Thanks again for reading the whole gosh-darn thing! You’re awesome, and I appreciate you!

      Like

  2. Well. Wow. It ended. It really, truly ended.

    May I inquire to the total word count? Just for giggles. 5.5k Pages must be quite the sum!

    I’ve truly enjoyed reading the story. It has been a blast! I think back upon many times I didn’t like certain aspects, and how others were just sublime, yet I can’t seem to pinpoint any in particular. I guess that is just par for the course in a story. There will always be bids you love and hate, and modig those gives it all a great finish.

    The final epiloge in particular I liked. Saga’s quest intrigued me, and her nascent advancement to godhood is just amazing. I had a thought, what if, in the next next big bang, some Mortal got to ask her a question “where you alive before the big Bang?” And she, in all her ancient godhood could answer “which one?”

    … yeah that tiggled my reader-bone right there.

    I do want to ask, regarding the other immortals, quite a few of them are kinda mindfucked or insane. Will they remain as such for all eternity or will they at some point in time be able to seperate the muses’ song from reality and be.. you know, sane?

    Furthermore! Is Athan immortal now? Or is he just hooked up to a machine that’ll Keep him alive until he gets too old and dies naturally?

    Thank you for an amazing story! It has been a joy to read along for so long now!

    The post-reading blues are going to be harsh, I feel.

    Best luck on your future ventures, Zoe!

    Kind regards,
    -Dok

    Like

    1. Well, I had to do some basic arithmetic, but you’re worth it, my dude. The story clocks in at a total of 1,654,418 words, which is slightly inflated because of a couple included chapters which were rewritten/some annotations, but should be in that ballpark.

      A couple other fun stats! 8,914,562 characters (7,320,491 without whitespace). Meaning my average word length was 5.38, which I find confounding in the superlative, given my predilection for ostensibly utilizing the longest possible verbiage, I expected preposterously monumental sums, instead.

      I kinda doubt that the other immortals will ever become more sane or normal. They are very much isolated, and without peers to even give a baseline of “normal” to begin with. It’s entirely possible that being detached and skimming the surface of reality is normal for a being which lives so long.

      Saga’s really still playing on her first life here, but after going through a few dozen lifetimes like this…I can’t imagine her bothering to get close to anyone like she has with Athan and Lia. I think she’ll grow towards what Our God is now, towards the gods of polytheistic myth — removed from the world, but sometimes meddling in it, for the pettiest of reasons.

      Athan is…deliberately ambiguous!

      No, kidding. Kinda. The extent of the powers he gave himself are…unspecified, but it’s very likely that at least one of them gave him something which would make his life carry on. Whether it’s some Soran-like regeneration, or Justice-like self-body-DIY, or just flat out Sagaish, with that many powers bumping around, something probably stuck.

      But yeah. Ambiguous. AEGIS is just gonna stick by him for as long as it takes.

      Thank you for reading and for all the comments you’ve posted throughout, Dok. It’s been a real pleasure writing for you!

      Like

  3. Thank you so much Zoe! It’s been a pleasure reading your chapters every week. I already know I’ll be very sad the next time I check for a chapter and forget Exhumans has ended.

    I’ll post a review/critique sometime later, but it might take a while to write.

    Like

  4. Congratulations, Zoe; you wrote a book! Never mind that “it was a web-serial,” or “it was only in electronic form,” or “it wasn’t actually published”; YOU… WROTE… A … BOOK!!!

    And for that, I salute your commitment; you accomplished what a huge number of whining wannabee writers (myself included) never actually manage: You finished what you started. Perhaps the venue (web-posting) you chose helped you, perhaps it hurt; I suspect it’s ultimately a push, as the unfinished stories on the various web-fiction sites do outnumber everything else. For whatever benefit you gained from web-posting, I suspect you also shouldered a cost; the ongoing requirement that you “publish or perish.”

    So aside from everything else, I compliment the self-discipline and perseverence you showed in keeping your story going for two-and-a-half years of regular, reliable updates. Were you “discovering” each chapter as you posted it, or writing from an outline? Did you know where you were going?

    I can’t say I liked “Exhuman.” I didn’t really enjoy reading it… but oddly enough (and I’m not being coy here; I really don’t understand this), I never missed an update. You hooked me — into a “crapsack world,” with main characters I detested, despised, or at best, found exasperating/infuriating; where there *were* a few characters I respected or sympathised with, but they were the most likely to get exterminated offhandedly and dismissed.

    Evidently, you have a talent for character creation; you make characters that “get under the reader’s skin” like a barbed sliver — or perhaps that’s just me. The characters I liked were similarly “indelible,” but in the cases of say, the last Director of the XPCA, they stuck in my mind, not under my skin. And I worried for them and about them, because they were bound to end up interacting with the lethal, narcissistic brutes that were your main characters. “Brutes” is absolutely the appropriate epithet for Athan and his accomplices/ennablers; incredible power without control, might blinkered by character flaws that fatally distort reality, flaws that in most cases, the brutes don’t recognise as such or embrace gleefully as personal virtues.

    Brutes: wild boars, blinded and bleeding, laying waste to everything around them, unknowing and uncaring — or caring but not even *trying* to stop lashing out. Athan was a lazy beserker; he wanted to change the world but he didn’t want to have to *think* about that meant. Too much effort, too frustrating… because Athan really wasn’t very bright, and he was fundamentally LAZY. It was easier to react to frustration with frenzied destructiveness — not losing control but hurling it away — so he wouldn’t have have to think about/ take responsibility for what he was doing/had done. Athan considered himself a “good man” because he had good intentions, and because he excoriated himself with guilt afterwards, when his good intentions produced death and disaster again… over and over and OVER again.

    (TO BE CONTINUED; unless you’d prefer I didn’t)

    Like

    1. Absolutely to be continued! Hell yeah.

      And thank you for your kind words. I super appreciate it. It feels good to finish a thing.

      In my experience, publishing a serial really does push you to write consistently…but it also kind of pushes you away from ever finishing. There’s no impetus to keep it short, there’s no time to tighten or revise…it’s very much a medium of hurling garbage, because even bad writing is better than missing deadlines.

      Which isn’t to say I think Exhuman is garbage (though some parts of it, hmm…) but there’s a definite pull in that direction. I’m looking forward to writing a novel, and being able to properly edit it. I am also prepared to have my ass kicked by this new thing I have never had to buckle down and do before.

      To answer your question, I’m a fastidious planner, and I had at least every arc planned before I began it, as well as knew where the overall narrative was headed. There were still plenty of times when my characters or narrative surprised me, however.

      I kind of want to write a piece on my experience writing Exhuman, but frankly, I’m not sure many people would care. But, I will say, my initial spark in laying out Exhuman was to wonder if I could write a story where every major character was a real piece of shit, and the reader would still like them anyway.

      The answer, I found quickly, was no; or at least, not the way I’d done it.

      Still! I learned you don’t need beloved characters to write a compelling story. A lot of learning. A good experience.

      Thanks for sharing in it with me. I’ve always appreciated you taking the time to read and comment, as I do today.

      Like

      1. Just as a reader, I’d be interested in your experience writing this story. I’m sure there’d be some other authors, prospective or seasoned, who might also be benefited from seeing your thought processes laid out and examined.

        As for the story, I didn’t really like the ending. All the torture that the main characters went through, and it was ultimately all for nothing. I’ll readily admit, I’m a sucker for happy endings, and I’ll put up with quite a bit of tribulation and even horrors for the MC(s), as long as good ultimately triumphs over evil, any morally damaged protagonists can find a chance for healing or redemption, and the evil antagonists are stopped or converted. As it is, though, I feel like this story presents little more than an exercise in a downward spiral of destruction and hopeless futility.

        You say you wanted to write a story where all the characters were terrible people, but towards the beginning especially, Athan and the rest of the main cast seemed like they could form an interesting dynamic of personalities and a thoughtful interplay between various interpretations of good vs. evil. But those eventually faded away until it was just another battle of superpowers against superpowers.

        That’s not to say that I think you’re an unskilled author. You are clearly talented in creating an interesting world with believable characters and engaging interactions. If you were to write another story, I’d probably read it, at least if I could know that it wasn’t going to end like this one did.

        Like

        1. Heya, dude! Thanks for reading through this whole thing and dropping me a comment. Appreciate it.

          Regarding tales of “the process” that might interest you…hmm. That’s quite a big field to cover. If you have any specific questions, I’d be glad to answer them.

          Just to spitball, I’ll talk about things that weren’t planned that really surprised me.

          One of them was Whitney. She was intended to serve a couple of purposes, but…being introduced as a likable character in an arc where there was a mystery killer running around offing people, you might suspect her originally intended role.

          She was added to say everything that Athan needed to hear at the moment, from a source he could respect, and to direct Athan towards a normal lifestyle…originally, Athan was going to keep his powers through his time in college, as well as do his own engineering and repairs on his exoframe. She was written as asexual so that his “charm” would be frustratingly (for Athan) ineffective on her, and unlike most of the other women in the story, she’d have to be won over with proof and ideologies, instead of just I like this guy, and I don’t know quite why.

          The reason she didn’t die was mostly that I grew to like her a little too much, from a group balance perspective. She served a role there as a straight man, an unpowered, and a techie like AEGIS, but without AEGIS’ Athan-centricity. Super useful to keep around, but also…I was worried the plot was becoming predictable, as I introduced and then killed several other characters just prior, and felt like it might be a nice subversion if this character was wearing all kinds of death flags and then didn’t die.

          In the long run, I think she wound up standing around at the end of the book an awful lot, kinda demonstrating her unintendedness, but I don’t regret keeping her. If I needed someone to die for any reason, I had her around for that purpose, but obviously that never seemed necessary.

          I don’t know how visible any of this was to a reader, but hopefully that’s an interesting glimpse into the reasons why things happened, from behind the scenes? Again, happy to answer any other questions you’ve got.

          Like

  5. I don’t have much to say but I love that you actually finished it and it engaged me till the end. Just hope you get the motivation and whatever else you need to keep up and do even better.

    Goodluck

    Like

  6. I finally caught up. I took a break from web serials a couple months ago, but hearing that Exhuman was over gave me a finite goal to aim for, and here I am. And what a journey it was!

    So, criticism and feedback, then.

    I’ll say that I really liked the Aphrodite twist. As a reader, I am conditioned to see harem tropes and sort of just accept them at face value, and that’s a pretty good way to set up a good twist, where the readers should have seen it coming, but didn’t. It helps to explain a lot of what would otherwise have been little quibbles with the narrative for me.

    That said, I’m not sure if the in-universe justification for the twist works. As I understand it, Cer used Athan as a test case for Liev, to see what would happen to a human with multiple muses. But I feel like a single, small-scale experiment (two muses) is insufficient before jumping to a single human with, if I’m understanding things correctly, scores of muses. Cer is absolutely lacking in any ethical compunction, but it is still surprising that he wouldn’t run more than one experiment ahead of this monumental change in operating procedure.

    Moving on, I’m generally fine with the ending. I’m a sap for happy endings, but I’m also a sap for sad endings, and for bittersweet endings. I’m a sap, is what I’m saying. What we get here certainly qualifies as bittersweet. We lose Athan and Lia, but I think any ending where Athan survives after the Aphrodite reveal is too saccharine anyway. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Lia survive her brother’s passing, perhaps with an artificial voice modulator courtesy of Whitney and a lot of counseling from Karen, but her death lends a bit more weight to the finale.

    Saga’s bit in the epilogue is intriguing, but it does beg a question: what happened to Bob? Doesn’t seem like he came along for any of her various journeys, but I didn’t think he was killed in the final confrontation. He’s last mentioned in 459, when Lia notes that he gets stuck in the time stop effect again, and then is mentioned in passing during Epilogue 3. Just a bit of a loose end, I guess.

    More generally, I enjoyed it. With how long it is and how long I’ve been reading, it’s hard to level precise criticism. I have a vague sense of things having been contrived at times, or perhaps overindulgent, but I can’t think of any specific examples that wouldn’t be addressed by the Aphrodite twist. A part of me wants to go back through the narrative with Aphrodite in mind, and see how well it recontextualizes things, but that would be quite the task; I enjoyed Exhuman, but certainly not enough to start a reread immediately after completion. Perhaps in a few years I’ll reply to this comment with a reread under my belt and more precise criticism.

    So I’ll close this out with the elephant in the room. My first interaction with Exhuman a year-and-a-half ago was a friend talking about knowing someone writing a web serial that was a darker take on super heroes and how they would impact society. At the time, I asked him if he knew Wildbow, and he was very confused. When I first learned about technopaths, I complained indirectly to you through my friend that things were straying uncomfortably close to Worm, and you responded (likewise indirectly through him) that it was impossible to write a dark superhero web serial without getting those kinds of comparisons. But with how things have played out, I still think it’s a fair parallel to draw. There’s a lot of world and narrative structure that lines up too closely. All creative works are fundamentally derivative, an amalgamation of our various experiences, but the mark of good author is being able to either obfuscate one’s inspiration, or draw from enough disparate sources so as to cross an ambiguous threshold between “derivative” and “homage” or “inspiration”. Exhuman certainly has some fundamental differences, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to push me across that threshold, and the story feels worse for it, even if rationally I know that the quality of the story isn’t really impacted by this at all.

    Still, I had a good time. One doesn’t generally finish a read of this length if one isn’t engaged by what one is reading. This feedback may seem generally negative, but bear in mind that I had an overall positive experience with Exhuman. It’s just that positive feedback doesn’t stick in the mind as well as negative, and that’s further compounded by how hazy my recollection is of detail, given the year-and-a-half over which I read this. Good show, and best of luck on your next venture.

    Like

    1. Hey dude! Thanks so much for taking the time to jot down your thoughts. I super appreciate it.

      I said above I’m not going to quibble in the comments, so I’ll keep it to a minimum. Heh.

      For Cer; to him, I thought of Athan as a proof of concept. For years now, he’s been making Exhumans the same way, and sticking multiple muses in the same body has never been attempted.

      Bob is still around, sitting under the Earth somewhere, and still Saga’s exclusive bitch. She just doesn’t have much use for him at the moment, as she was trying to go around incognito, but will invariably have a lot of use when the end comes.

      Most important of all, I’m glad you had a good time with it. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters, eh? Well…that and artistic vision. But I finished, you finished, and everyone had a good time. To quote the greatest song of our generation, that’s what it’s all about.

      Thanks again for giving it a shot, seeing it through, and all the comments and criticism along the way. Readers like you are invaluable to the amateur author, often one of the few sources of feedback and motivation we’ll get, so know that you are loved and appreciated!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s