Jeffrey R. DeRego’s ‘Union Dues’ series on ‘Escape Pod’
If you’re a speculative-fiction fan and aren’t plugged in to Escape Pod, shame on you.
There’s a great series of stories you’re missing by Jeffrey R. DeRego. DeRego’s Union Dues series is sort of the Revisionist Western of the superhero world, imagining all the mundane details of superhero recruitment, training, and PR spin that go along with a legion of “supers” trying to live among—and apart from—us “normals.”
Think of it as Studs Terkel’s Working meets Watchmen (minus the epic arc of that Alan Moore alternate-history superhero story).
The most recent tale, “All About the Sponsors” (published on Escaped Pod on Jan. 2) finally gives us the origin story of “The Union.” And while it answers some long-burning questions, it’s not the best of the Union Dues series.
My favorite so far has been “All That We Leave Behind”, in which Megaton, a “superstrong” is charged with recruiting a bullied teenage boy whose own superstrong powers are just starting to manifest. The Union’s policy is to remove manifesting supers from normal society, give them an “identity,” write them into comics, and send them on missions that are often little more than glorified disaster relief—all to create and preserve a fragile, self-serving myth that allows the morphed characters to coexist (however tenuously) with a public that doesn’t always appreciate their “help.”
“All That We Leave Behind” sees Megaton wrestle with a crisis of conscience over what to do with a teen superstrong whose single-parent mom is dying of cancer and needs him as her sole caregiver. It’s a touching story that perfectly illustrates DeRego’s antihero universe, touching on all the themes—doubt, frustration, a sense of pointlessness—that are hallmarks of this world in progress.
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