It's (usually) more complicated than that.
(posted by chris the cynic)
Pick one or more you’d like. What is it/are they? How would you use it/them? How would your life/the global economy change?
I don’t really want it, and I know in my brain it’s just regular human decency turned up high, but I liked to think Temar Boggs has a superpower, and I hope it’s contagious:
The little girl got to ride on his shoulders, on the bike, away from fear and back to love. I’m pretty sure she’ll grow up believing in superheroes.
If it’s classic comic-book superpowers, then one of the flexible ones like “magic” or “green” — it’s like getting a hundred more wishes.
With my supervillain hat on, I’d like to change human biology so that pregnancies only happen if both partners want them to. (Might as well add sex selection too; the groups that use it too much will die out or have to outbreed.) Every child a wanted child!
Purely selfish: the ability to automatically write my thoughts to paper (or computer). So I could record the stories I think of when I’m falling asleep that I can never manage to write down as well.
Non-selfish: whatever it is that Dr. Manhattan has. Take over the US and make the government listen to experts and pass good laws. Then move to another country and do it again.
Supervillain: Telepathy/mind control. I’d be corrupted by power almost immediately, and well-nigh unstoppable.
Superhero: The ability to temporarily grant personality-appropriate superpowers to others. I’d call myself “Empowerment” and just walk the Earth, giving underprivileged people a leg up wherever I could.
What I never seem to have enough of is time. I’d like to be able to put the world on pause while I worked on things. And not in a way that had me aging when the world was on pause because the point is to have more time not to have the same amount of time just used at an erratic pace that appears very non linear to the outside observer.
Also, teleportation would be useful.
Best. idea. ever!!!
Agreed on both the time-slowing and teleportation. Not sure they make the top of my list, though.
I’d love a reset button, ala Groundhog Day. That’s kind of a Supervillian thing, though it seems less awful than memory erasure or something.
Hmmm, maybe some kind of virtual reality power? I’d mostly use it to make awesome effects-laden movies of my favorite scifi and fantasy stories. Or a money machine; that would accomplish the same end and create jobs when I hired all the people to work on my movies.
Ok, so, it turns out what I want most is power over the narratives focus of stories. I want the ability to choose who gets the Hero Hat and Protagonist Hat. I don’t think I’d be assigning Villain Hats except in truly egregious circumstances. But I reserve the right to step into movies and TV shows and books and demote jerks and promote deserving marginalized extras.
Hmmmm, I think I’ve heard of a device that gives that power. What was it called again? Fanfiction? (And fanart…) So yay, happiness is.
But I want more. I want the ability to make my version equal to canon. Not necessarily destroy canon, but provide an alternative.
Ok, in conversation two superpowers came up and I’m going to do the second first because the first appeared in a Twilight Zone episode the explaining of which takes up too much space since what I really want to get to is the second.
So, the second is something that I mentioned in a previous incarnation of the Slacktiverse. The power would be to pull a pre-evil version of the antagonist into the present so they could help to stop the present (evil) version and avert a down ending. It wouldn’t be time travel, exactly, because you’re not changing the past. You’re just viewing it and at some point conjuring up the person as they were then and explaining, “I can let you go, in which case you’ll slip back into the life and time you know, not remember this, and do everything exactly the same as it was before, or I can pull you over to my side, in which case you’ll appear exactly as you are in my present, your future. If you go back, this is what you’ll end up doing, don’t you want to stop that?” or something like that.
This is a comic book power. It’s not something that would be useful in reality (except for creating matter out of nothing, allowing you to grab those who died early deaths before they died, providing exact knowledge of past events via past viewing…) it’s something for where someone is evil, not more complicated than that (though they probably think they are) but actually evil. Evil on a level their younger self would recognize and say, “Yeah, I’m totally going to fight against that.”
And what it provides is a way to get out of any outnumbered situation (no one is born evil, grab everyone on the other side from a time before they were) in order to turn down endings into up ones and a way to get something resembling redemption. Maybe actual redemption when the villain sees their younger self fighting tooth and nail against them, but I wouldn’t count on that, instead “I’m taking a different path and not making those mistakes,” redemption. “I’ve seen what I could become gone wrong, now I’m determined to see what I will become gone right,” redemption.
And the interesting thing about a character with such a power is that by themselves they’d be mundane (no laser eyes/super strength/whatever here) but always (well, usually) be able to get their hands on someone who, in potential at least, has the powers of their enemy.
But more than that it’s a Ship of Theseus power. It’s: these will all seem like little changes at the time but they add up and eventually you’ll be a completely different person, I can show you the net effect of all these little things over all this time and, having armed you with that foreknowledge, allow you to take a different path.
And it was inspired, as I recall, by the not-very-good movie X-Men: First Class and it having me think, “Mystique, if I could show you what you’re going to become you yourself would fight against it. If only we could take you as you are right now and let you try to right the things future you will wrong.” Or something like that. It was a while ago.
The first power was to be a perfect gift giver.
As I said, there was a Twilight Zone episode on this. The perfect gift giver appeared to be an eccentric old man who was selling useless junk. So the people who got the perfect gifts were people who thought, basically, that they were doing charity. Helping out a poor old man who had strange ideas about what they’d need.
Which seems like a wonderful filtering process. Only nice people get the perfect gifts. He didn’t charge much so class, at least theoretically, shouldn’t have been much of an issue. We didn’t really see him in poor places so we don’t know. We only see him, really, in one place.
From memory here, he sells a man tickets to a place the man thinks he’ll never go, he sells a woman (who with the man will make a perfect couple) something to remove ink stains from fabric. The man suddenly gets the offer of his dream job and, surprise, the tickets are just what he needs to get to it. His pen breaks staining his shirt with ink and the woman, who otherwise would never have approached him, helps out with her purchase thus completely altering both their lives for the better.
The episode is tragic because a jerk sees all this, correctly deduces magic, and determines to use the power for personal gain.
The perfect gift giver first sells him seemingly useless scissors that end up saving the jerk’s life (tie, elevator, loose clothing can be lethal) but is visibly wary of the jerk.
The jerk tracks down perfect gift giver again and, while gift giver tries to get the man to leave him alone eventually gives him a pen. The pen leaks on the name of the horse that will win. The jerk is initially happy until he finds out it was one use only.
He tracks down the perfect gift giver a final time and after threats and whatnot finally gets given a pair of shoes. When the shoes appear to do nothing he gets enraged and begins to cross the street to kill perfect gift giver. The shoes are slippery, he falls in the street, gets run over, and dies.
The perfect gift giver sadly explains to the now dead jerk that he can see people’s futures and see what they need, but when he looked into the jerk’s future all he could see was his own death, and so what the jerk needed was slippery shoes.
I note that he initially saves the jerk’s life meaning he thought he could escape the episode with the jerk alive. … I’m just going to quote myself from the conversation here:
So the old guy was definitely hoping he could escape the episode with the jerk alive, but then the twilight zone hit him like broken glasses after you’ve gathered a library post-nuke apocalypse.
And skipping a bit forward:
Though I still say library guy could have stumbled his way to an optometrist’s office, found lenses that approximated his prescription in the rubble, and improvised glasses with which he could live happily ever after (until the radiation killed him.)
The perfect gift giver should have been able to find a solution that pushed the jerk onto a less murderous path. A way that left both of them alive rather than forcing the old man to choose between not-quite-murder and being murdered.
I think The Twilight Zone underestimates the superpower or the old man had a less than perfect implementation of it.
This one’s courtesy of my son:
The power to turn anything into dirt. Not glamorous, but useful when facing weapons of various kinds and sizes.
He also suggested the power to vacuum anything up. So basically, you could create Sharknados at will. That too could be great, and suitable for stylish supervillains.
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