After the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn


After the Golden Age probably isn't the first story written about the talentless progeny of celebrity superheroes, but it's certainly the first I've read.

I can see why it's a sub-genre that hasn't taken off; for the protagonist to be relatable, we must encounter the less than heroic side of those superheroes, their lay personalities which are mundane at best, and most likely overblown and arrogant. It's easy to understand why genre fans are reluctant to rip the shiny veneer off of their heroes.

Watchmen shows what happens when the world outgrows their heroes, and After the Golden Age presents a scenario when the heroes outgrow the world and end up dissatisfied at best, and more often a bit warped.

I first encountered the work of Carrie Vaughn in Songs of Love and Death, a surprisingly enjoyable collection of science fiction romance stories curated by Neil Gaiman (my review of that story here: One of the things that made that story stick in my mind was its attention to character. Sure, everyone's living in an age of superheroes, but they still feel remarkably human.

Luckily, After the Golden Age lived up to the bar that Vaughn set with "Rooftops". It's not a long novel, which leaves little opportunity for it to go off the rails. This is the story of Celia West, bumbling through a life without superpowers, even as her parents are alternately revered and reviled for their abilities. She's kidnapped over and over again, until she's actually pretty used to it. Sometimes, it seems like she looks forward to it.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot that's hastily papered over or ignored in order to make the plot work. The whole thing hinges on a bad decision Celia made in her youth, but the impetus for that decision definitely feels told rather than shown.

But she's so real as a person. She's confident and decisive, even when racked by insecurity. Her life isn't defined by her relationship with her parents; they just come butting in at inconvenient moments.

If you love traditional superhero stories, After the Golden Age may not be for you. But if you enjoy character-driven stories with fantastical settings, this should fit the bill nicely.

This entry was posted on and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . You can leave a response .

Leave a Reply

Powered by Blogger.