Believe it or not, the Gears of War franchise has some of the most fascinating and well-written extended lore. I know it's hard to imagine a third-person shooter that thrives on being a complete brofest blowing up monsters possessing a deep story, but it really and truly does. Not only is it deep, but it's almost required reading for playing Gears of War 3. Three of Karen Traviss' five novels take place between Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3, providing rather crucial information regarding why the Coalition of Governments (COG) has disbanded, who Bernie Mataki is and why Hoffman is holed up with her, and why most of them are living on a ship.
And those aren't the only novels of import. Aspho Fields completely explains Marcus Fenix's distant demeanor. The Slab provides incredible insight into Marcus' personality, Anya's relationship with Marcus, and most importantly, Hoffman's relationship with Marcus. I tell everyone reading The Slab that as soon as they finish, immediately go play the first chapter of the first Gears of War title. You'll never look at any of those initial scenes between Marcus and Dom, Marcus and Anya, and Marcus and Hoffman the same way ever again.
When Gears of War 4 was announced, of course I was excited. I love this series, and I'm curious where they will take it next. With their first trailer, I was happy to see that Marcus has moved on and will not headline this show. However, I wasn't expecting to see another character, JD Fenix.
Okay, so he's Marcus's son. But that blond woman who appears to be his mother; is that really Anya?
While I'm thrilled the two managed to work it out and stay together, how in the world could they have a child? The books make it absolutely clear that Anya cannot have children in two different books from two different character. The first was from Baird in Aspho Fields, who said it in that special, tactless way only Baird can.
"…the choice for women now is breed or do war work. She [Anya] can't have kids. So she does what she's best at."
Adam Fenix also mentioned it in The Slab, as he wondered why his son hooked up with Anya in the first place.
All those awkward talks he'd had with a teenaged Marcus, all the times he'd told him to be careful with girls because he was wealthy and privileged and had to make the right marriage, not accidentally impregnate some gold-digger and ruin his life. Adam had never imagined that Marcus would take that advice so literally and then devote himself faithfully to an infertile woman like Anya.
So how is this possible for Marcus and Anya to have a child? Did Marcus cheat on Anya? Did they adopt? Is that not Anya? Or, even worse, has the new developer retconned Traviss' books? If they retconned that, then how can Gears of War 3 make any sense?
I drove myself nearly insane pondering about this. And then I pestered Microsoft until I could finally talk to someone at Coalition Games and get the full story on JD's parentage. While Narrative Producer Bonnie Jean Mah wouldn't give me all the dirt—she had to save some for the game—she explained more than enough.
For starters, she did confirm that JD Fenix is Anya and Marcus' son. When I pressed about the novels, that it is mentioned Anya is barren and therefore, how is this possible?, she slyly responded:
That's part of the story that we'll gradually reveal to players in the future.
When I asked if this was retconned from the books, she told me to refer to the answer above. She's not going to give this up before the game releases. However, I don't believe she has retconned Traviss' books at all, because when I asked her if she read those novels, she happily responded that she had fangirled a little bit out about Traviss' portrayal of Anya Stroud.
Yes, I’ve read all of Karen Traviss’ novels – more than once!
My favorite Gears novel is Jacinto's Remnant – it starts right after the events at the end of Gears of War 2, and captures the chaos and tension in the days following the sinking of Jacinto. The COG leadership takes over a town that completely missed out on the Locust War, causing all sorts of great conflict between refugees and the community – topped by attacks by the Stranded, which adds a whole new layer of tension.
But the main reason I enjoyed Jacinto's Remnant is that we see Anya go from Control to front-line Gear. It’s not an easy transition for her, but she fights past inner doubt to tackle everything that’s thrown at her. Because…Anya rocks.
I have a hard time believing someone who obviously liked the books as much as I do, if not more, retconned Traviss' work. You can hear her enthusiasm in her statements above. She did explain that they took a scene from the novel Aspho Fields and changed it a bit from the novel to make it "suitable for gameplay," but that can hardly be considered a true retcon. Tweaking a battle scene to make a portion fit in a video game is not the same thing as tossing aside a rather important piece of Anya's character to make an heir happen.
If she could have children, she would not have been near the frontlines or even manning Control. And yes, the same goes for Sam. The only reason why Bernie was allowed to be there was because the time the Locust emerged, she was well past childbearing age.
It's true she didn't confirm or deny anything regarding retconning Anya's infertility. That said, her explanations of what they did change and her evident passion for Traviss' novels (as well as Anya) makes it difficult to believe they have done so.
I'm also guessing that the reason why she wouldn't share how it's possible for Anya to have JD is an important story point for Gears of War 4. If it wasn't, I don't know why she would remain so tight-lipped. We'll find out come October 11, 2016.